Amidst all the buzz around new U.S.-Cuba relations, Chris Matthews found a way to sound the old Cold War alarm. Avoiding the messy details of real history, Mr. Matthews criticized President Obama’s call for a new U.S.-Cuba relationship:
Well, I just am not a Castro fan. You know, he [Castro] bought the wrong ticket. He bet on communism. He bet on the Soviet Union. If that side had won, he would be marching through Fifth Avenue, overseeing the executions in Central Park….So, I don’t really want to help Castro.
Summoning ghosts from the 80’s flick Red Dawn, Matthews revealed a history of Cuba that never existed. There was never such a “bet” to be made. In the period of time before Fidel Castro’s ascent to power, Cubans didn’t get a choice between U.S.-style democracy and Soviet communism. Their choice was to either stick with the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, or side with future dictator Castro. In the final days, the U.S. did attempt to promote a third possibility, but by then it was too late.
It is true that Castro could have pushed for a pro-democracy revolution during his climb to power. But had that been his ideological path, it is worth noting that he would have been pushing for democracy against a U.S.-backed dictator.
It matters less what we say the alternative to communism should be. What matters more is what the U.S. government actually supported when it had a chance — a corrupt dictatorship.