The Cuban Hostage Crisis, Day 401

Can American Alan Gross be rescued from Fidel's gulag before it's too late?

On December 3rd 2009, Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen distributing cell phones and  computer equipment to Cuba’s Jewish community for the U.S. Agency for International Development, prepared to board a plane homeward at Havana’s International Airport. Hovering nearby, but unnoticed by Mr. Gross, were plainclothes officers of Castro’s KGB-trained secret-police.

As the boarding order loomed, Castro's goons rushed up and grabbed Mr. Gross -- and he's been languishing in Castro’s dungeons ever since. He suffers in limbo without any formal charges, although the Stalinist regime informally charges him with “spying.”

“Alan has suffered tremendously while incarcerated," reported Mr. Gross’ lawyer Peter J. Cahn this December. “He has lost almost 90 pounds and his health has deteriorated significantly. Alan's incarceration for a year without clarity of the legal process he will face or its timing is a travesty.  It violates every international standard of justice and due process.”

Precisely, Mr. Kahn. Violations of every international standard of justice have reigned in Cuba for over half a century. It’s a shame that the workings of a Stalinist legal-system in place for over 50 years, just 90 miles from U.S. shores, should finally come to the attention of so many. Che Guevara, who co-founded the regime that jailed Alan Gross, laid down the rules early in the game:  “Judicial evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail,” he sneered in January 1959 while kicking off a Caribbean version of the Katyn Massacre. “We execute from revolutionary conviction.”

His boss, Fidel Castro, (a lawyer who abolished habeas corpus immediately upon assuming power) followed up: “Legal proof is impossible to obtain against war criminals. So we sentence them based on moral conviction.”

This “moral conviction” saw Castro and Che’s secret police jail more political prisoners as a percentage of population than the Stalinist police, and execute more people (out of a population of 6.5 million) in its first three years in power than the Third Reich executed (out of a population of 65 million) in its first six years.

Enlightened opinion, including most “liberal,” “human-rights” and “peace” groups worldwide, either yawned or actually applauded these cumulative travesties. Harvard Law School merits special attention regarding the latter.

By April 1959, approximately 800 Cubans had been “judged” (see above) and murdered by Castro and Che’s firing squads. Cuba’s prisons were packed to suffocation with ten times the number of political prisoners as during "the Tyrant" Batista's reign. Among Castro and Che Guevara’s prisoners were hundreds of women, a Stalinist horror utterly unknown in our hemisphere until introduced by the Cuban revolutionaries (who were, incidentally,  swooned over by Barbara Walters, Andrea Mitchell and Diane Sawyer).

Furthermore, the death penalty was being applied retroactively (it had not existed under the Batista regime). Habeas corpus had been abolished. Cuban defense lawyers attempting to defend the accused were jailed themselves.

This is precisely when Fidel Castro received a fawning invitation from Harvard Law School to address the university. It seems that both the student body and faculty were smitten with the Cuban Revolution's shinning judicial record. Castro accepted on the spot, making Harvard the last gig on his 1959 U.S. tour.

"Castro Visit Triumphant!" headlined Harvard's Law School Forum for April 30, 1959. "The audience got what it wanted, the chance of seeing the Cuban hero in person."

“Viva Fidel!” roared these fervent foes of capital punishment and double jeopardy. In fact, the adoring crowd was too enormous to fit or contain in any campus facility. But it was worth is, apparently, "[e]ven if we didn't see him at as close a range as might have been desired," an attendee was quoted as saying in the Harvard Forum.

Interestingly, Fidel Castro had actually applied to Harvard Law School in 1948. This was brought to light by Harvard's Arts and Sciences Dean, McGeorge Bundy (who later served as JFK's Kissinger). "Caught up in the exuberance of the event," continued the Harvard Law Forum, "Harvard Dean, McGeorge Bundy, declared that Harvard was ready to make amends for its mistake in 1948. 'I've decided to admit him!' declared Dean Bundy."

The Dean’s quip again brought the house down and shook the very roof.

Alas, given the law of averages, an independent thinker was bound to pop up-- even among ten thousand Harvard students and faculty. Wonders will never cease. One such wiseacre brought up the questionable legal procedures preceding those hundreds of executions in Cuba.

"If the defendant has a right to appeal," answered Castro."Then so do the people! And don’t forget, Cuba's is the only people’s revolution in Latin America!”

The assembly erupted over the bearded prime minister's brilliant riposte. “Viva Fidel!—Viva Fidel!” they chanted again, roaring and whooping at the mass-murderer's incontestable rejoinder. This creme de la creme of America’s ratiocinators found the Stalinist’s logic not only perfectly airtight, but positively dazzling in its ingenuity and completely sound in its principle of justice.  A delirious pandemonium swept the hall as America's most best-tutored law students (along with their tutors) overflowed with veneration and joy at this point-blank elucidation of Castroite justice.

Similar receptions had come at the National Press Club, Overseas Press Club, United Nations, and on Meet The Press.

Not one heckler from among America’s brightest and cheekiest college kids. Not one rebuttal from America’s biggest assemblies of top journalists. Not one snicker or frown from the top cut of America’s adversarial press. Not one raised eyebrow or discreet snicker from the nations' most hard-boiled investigative reporters. The Cuban "prime minister," as they all called him, was on a serious roll on that tour.

And remember:  The Iranian Hostage Crisis was not solved on day 444 when President Reagan, in office mere hours, pledged a financial rescue of Iran. Something else seemed to motivate the Iranian kidnappers. Alas, Obama has just pledged a rescue of Castro.

Update: On February 4th, Alan Gross was finally charged by Cuban prosecutors for "acts against the integrity and independence" of Cuba. They are seeking a 20-year sentence for the 60-year-old captive.