Monday, December 3, 2012

Responsibility for Alan Gross

The attorney and wife of jailed USAID contractor Alan Gross held a press conference last week in which they pressed the point that the U.S. government should negotiate for Gross’ release.  “I urge [President Obama] to privately have an honest and open discussion with the Cubans and to do whatever is necessary to secure Alan's release,” Mrs. Gross said, as quoted by AFP.

“President Obama needs to send a high-level envoy to Cuba, who has the authority to discuss the range of issues in the bilateral relationship and to take whatever decisions are necessary to bring Alan home,” attorney Jared Genser said.

At an event yesterday, Mrs. Gross put it this way: “What has happened or not happened between our government and the Cuban government is over, it is the past and neither country should dwell on it… [It is] the duty of the U.S. government to bring Alan home.”

Or, as she put it to the Baltimore Sun, describing her last visit to Mr. Gross: “He feels that the government sent him on a project, it didn’t work, and that’s the end of their responsibility.  So he feels like a soldier left in the field to die.” 

NBC reports today that Mr. Gross himself told a visitor, Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive, that (in Kornbluh’s words) “the United States and Cuba have to sit down and have a dialogue without preconditions… He told me that the first meeting should result in a non-belligerency pact being signed between the United States and Cuba.”

With Mr. Gross in captivity for three years now, he and his team are arguing that the Administration has a responsibility to get him back because he was working as a U.S. government operative.  This is a new twist in the public discussion of the case.  It is also one that begins to separate Mr. Gross and his team from the Obama Administration, which has seemed so far to view its responsibility as to demand Mr. Gross’ unconditional release, and to defend the USAID program.  

Today’s State Department statement continues along that line.  It doesn’t acknowledge the new appeals being made by Mr. Gross and his team.  Reading it, you wouldn’t even get the idea that Mr. Gross is our guy, i.e. a U.S. government operative attempting to escape detection in Cuba.  Instead, he is once again portrayed as a lifelong international humanitarian who was “simply facilitating communications.”

Having been over this ground a few times before (e.g. here and here), I’ll just say once again that this seems much more like a defense of the USAID program than an attempt to secure Mr. Gross’ release.

On the subject of U.S. government democracy programs, I just came across this provocative article by David Rieff published in The National Interest magazine, which is not a left-wing journal.  It’s well worth reading.  Rieff recounts some of the difficulties that U.S. democracy programs are encountering among governments that believe that Washington is trying to weaken them and to strengthen their opponents.  It doesn’t mention the Gross case, perhaps because it’s such an extreme and unique example.  

Only in the case of Cuba are the U.S. programs built on an explicit regime-change premise contained in the 1996 Helms-Burton law.  We can like or dislike the law, and we can like or dislike the Cuban political system, but we can’t avoid the operational consequence: a program like that is going to be hard to operate within Cuba if the Cuban government cares about its own survival and if it cares to defend Cuban sovereignty.  As Mr. Gross found out too late, it cares about both.   


brianmack said...

The Alan Gross case is becoming more
incredible each day. Why the US
continues to pander to so many obscene regimes and won't even discuss this matter formally is
a travesty. The man was sent to assist in disrupting the Cuban
regime and was arrested. The sad
part of this story is if we had normalized relations with Cuba, there never would have been a need
for Mr. Gross' services. Cubans would already have the equipment
and capability to make up their minds as to who has the better world.

Nico said...

Sorry I don't mean to spam your Blog, but I think this is a very receptive place for a level-headed new approach to the cuba conflict, so with that, please consider signing/sharing this petition for a new honest approach to the Cuba?AlanGross impasse

Anonymous said...

What is so difficult about finding an adequate solutiono for the Alan Gross -Cuban Five imbroglio?

This is not rocket science?

Make an even five for five swap, Alan Gross and four other Cuban political prisoners or CIA spies for the five Cuban agents.

Both governments would save the expenses of keeping five people imprisoned and stop the suffering of five of their citizens and assets.

It is a win win situation for both involved and it would make possible the reinitiation of a negotiating process to:
1- Better the relations between both countries
2- Lift the embargo.
3- Promote in Cuba:
a- Human rights.
b- A democratic transition.
c- Private enterprise and a market economy.

Trying to covince the Cuban government to release Gross without getting their five agents back or the US government to trade the five agents for Gross is like a dialogue between two deaf person who shout at each other but are unable to hear what the other side has to say.

Neither side will force the other side to yield to its demands.

Serious negotiations based on the desire to find a rapid fair solution and the willingness to compromise are necessary.

And a five for five swap is the obvious solution.

Please hurry up and do it so that both govrnments can focus on the serious problems that exist between them!