Castro: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

 The Good

Castro to Ahmadinejad: Stop denying the Holocaust

09/08/2010 11:20
In rare interview, retired Cuban dictator tells Jeffrey Goldberg, "The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours."
 Israel and the Jewish people found an unlikely defender in Fidel Castro, the retired dictator of Cuba, on Tuesday,  when he came out strongly against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and supported Israel's right to exist.

In a rare interview with Jewish-American reporter Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the ailing 84-year-old leader said he sympathized with the Jews who have suffered from repeated persecution over the course of history.

 "The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours," Castro said. "There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust."

Asked by Goldberg if he could relay the message to Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust and called for Israel to be wiped off the map, he was quoted as saying: "I am saying this so you can communicate it."

Castro also spoke lengthily about his first experience with anti-Semitism as a youth growing up in Catholic Cuba.

"I remember when I was a boy - a long time ago - when I was five or six years old and I lived in the countryside," he said, "and I remember Good Friday. What was the atmosphere a child breathed? `Be quiet, God is dead.' God died every year between Thursday and Saturday of Holy Week, and it made a profound impression on everyone. What happened? They would say, `The Jews killed God.' They blamed the Jews for killing God! Do you realize this?"

 He added: "Well, I didn't know what a Jew was. I knew of a bird that was a called a 'Jew,' and so for me the Jews were those birds.  These birds had big noses. I don't even know why they were called that. That's what I remember. This is how ignorant the entire population was."

Castro spoke to Goldberg because he recently wrote a piece about the prospects of Israel launching a strike against Iran. Fearing a regional flare up in the Mideast, the leader called for Israel and the US to back down from Iran over its nuclear program.

"This problem is not going to get resolved, because the Iranians are not going to back down in the face of threats," he said. "That's my opinion."

In 2006 Castro was forced into retirement after 47 years in power due to poor health. Since then the leader famous for his lengthy speeches has kept a relatively low profile. His support of Israel's right to exist and criticism of Iran's Holocaust denial is surprising given his iconic status among the leftist movement in Latin American which has allied itself with the Islamic Republic.


 Havana — Fifty years after the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro has admitted the country’s economic model no longer works.

The former Cuban president also said he was wrong to urge the Soviet Union to launch nuclear weapons against the United States during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

“After I’ve seen what I’ve seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn’t worth it all,” he told Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly magazine during a wide-ranging interview.

On his blog for the Atlantic, Mr. Goldberg reveals how he was phoned while on vacation a few weeks ago by the head of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington who said Mr. Castro wanted to discuss with him a recent article he had written on Iran and Israel. After flying to Cuba he was met by a “frail and aged Fidel ... wearing a red shirt, sweatpants and black New Balance sneakers.”

During the course of their first five-hour discussion, Mr. Castro warned the United States and Iran that they were heading for nuclear confrontation and urged Israel to give up nuclear weapons.

“The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated,” he said. “Men think they can control themselves, but [U.S. President Barack] Obama could overreact and a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war.”

He also criticized Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and said the Iranian leader’s anti-Semitism did not help the cause for peace.

“I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything,” he said.

The Bad

Castro's Cuba was a possession. In true Stalinist style, Cubans could not leave the island and of the 2 million who did via rafts, boats etc. many perished at sea and those caught by the regime were executed.

The Ugly

This U2 photo shows the location of Soviet nuclear armed missiles, which posed more then a hypothetical threat to the destruction of many American cities. In fact one missile was destined to hit Ottawa, Canada. 

Castro knew that such an event would elicit a massive response, so severer that all of Cuba would be vaporized. Yet this is what he wanted and when Krushev wisely decided to remove the threat, Castro erupted into a massive display of temper and anger. This is what he wanted, this is what he prepared for, this is what he was led to believe would happen.