Austin Bay

Anti-Americanism energizes numerous dictatorships. Check the miserable roster. Iran's noxious mullahs have invoked the anti-American liturgy since 1979. Mass murderers despise America, with Cambodia's (thankfully deceased) Pol Pot, Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and Sudan's genocidal junta as examples.

Three particularly long-lived dictatorships make "America hate" the staple gruel in their propaganda diet: the Assads' Syrian Baathist regime, the Kims' gulag of North Korea and Fidel Castro's communist slum, otherwise known as Cuba.

This week, after suffering another bout of illness, Castro announced he is resigning his presidency. Is the slum getting a new landlord?

Not really. The world has seen little of Fidel since 2006, when he turned the day-to-day task of running Cuba over to his brother, Raul. Get the pattern: Bashir Assad followed his father, and Kim Jong Il got North Korea from his dad. Hereditary fascism and communism -- keep it all in the family, and blame America in the process.

Don't listen to what they say, watch what they do. The America-haters practice the politics of distraction, and the distraction begins with their co-optation of democratic political language. A "presidency" suggests electoral politics and democratic governance. We all know otherwise. Fidel is a dictator, a military monarch with a fatigue cap rather than a crown. He is, however, a consummate spin-meister -- the entire anti-American crowd is, to some degree. Media posturing and word manipulation veil their reigns of terror, corruption and crime.

Fidel and Raul, like their kaput revolution, are old. Combat fatigues don't hide Fidel's paunch. His face sags. He doesn't look like the future he claimed to be in 1959.

In the 1990s, Fidel declared a "Period of Emergency" in Cuba. The emergency still persists. During this long emergency, Cuban agriculture has moved from tractors to oxen; transportation from buses to bicycles. And the Cuban Army (reminiscent of Guatemala?) has become a larger presence in the economy.

Yet in his decline, Castro continues to style himself as The True Believer in communism. More likely, he is the last romantic communist revolutionary, faithful despite the ugly reality of national poverty and fascist repression, his own handiwork.

International "progressives" -- those sad cases -- still venerate Fidel Castro. If Raul does indeed become the face of the regime, we may catch something of a break. Raul Castro lacks his brother's charisma and pizzazz. He isn't a personality capable of jiving mass audiences with the rhetoric of "hope" and utopianism. Raul, in fact, has the dull snake eyes of a secret policeman who gets his jollies with a truncheon.


Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
 
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