Cuban “sonic attacks”: A case of political theater?
The U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, one of the sites of alleged sonic attacks. | Desmond Boylan / AP

A long cherished right of U.S. citizens and residents to travel to Cuba and meet with friends, family, and colleagues in peacetime appears to be endangered—that is if forces in the Trump administration get their way.

A Nov. 3, 2017 exposé by the Cuban newspaper Granma International (GI) cast doubt regarding the source of supposed “sonic attacks” targeting U.S. and other diplomatic personnel in Cuba. A recent Scientific American article also shoots down theories about the bizarre event. Certainly, the irrational decision by the State Department to pull 60 percent of U.S. embassy staff from Havana last September and expel 17 Cuban officials from their Washington, D.C. embassy followed U.S. precedent in its treatment of Cuba, but what reasons could motivate such extreme political overreach?

When one considers that U.S. bilateral trade relations exist with other socialist nations with the sole exception of Cuba, it’s already clear that there is a double standard in existence whenever the U.S. deals with the island. With this in mind, one can’t help but entertain the possibility it could have been an inside job orchestrated by a Trump administration of billionaires, a fabricated a pretext to rollback advances in the diplomatic arena and sabotage the Dec. 2014 initiative by Presidents Obama and Raúl Castro to renew relations. Obama’s change in tactics posed the possibility that the time had arrived for a new era in U.S.-Cuba relations which threatened the power of anti-Cuban politicians in South Florida.

Although alleged sonic attacks in Cuba were noted Feb. 17, 2017 by the U.S. State Department, sometime later, when U.S. officials informed the Cuban Foreign Ministry of sonic attacks on April 25, it was reported by Cuban investigators that the head of the U.S. Embassy’s Security Department “had no knowledge of the incidents in question.”

Capitalist apologists and every U.S. administration since the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 have focused their disdain and contempt for the country’s government via a strangling economic blockade. Antagonistic U.S. policy, which has never respected Cuba’s right to self-determination, continues to obstruct positive change in political relations today. The U.S.’ refusal to share information with Cuban authorities concerning the alleged attacks was a provocation.

That CIA agents were the primary victims of the supposed attacks by unknown assailants explains how a lack of cooperation with Cuban experts was designed to throw their investigation of sonic attacks off track. A combination of prima facie and circumstantial evidence by both sides would have put the issue to rest.

To be sure, Cuba took the challenge of alleged sonic attacks very seriously, due to the potential harm that public fear might cause to their economy—especially the tourism industry. Responding to Cuba’s requests for information, the U.S. embassy in Havana resorted to platitudes about “increased security and protection measures” put in place by the Ministry of the Interior.

At the same time, internationally recognized scientists grappled with facts to determine whether U.S. allegations that were heavy on supposition, but light on proof, provided a motive that could indicate guilt. Various Cuban specialists—including Dr. Manuel Villar Kuscevic, an otolaryngologist and expert on head and neck surgery—were unable to confirm health problems attributed to any sonic device. Villar Kuscevic noted, “We haven’t really had any scientific or credible information to be able to arrive at any kind of conclusion.”

Forgetting the story of sonic attacks now that the story seems to be fading from the front page is like forgetting the blockade exists. The recent $20 million payoff from Congress to fund a further campaigns against Cuba with taxpayer money under the guise of supporting “democracy programs” is a reminder that it is still going strong.

The ability of anti-Cuban reactionaries to influence Cuba policy also continues to be significant, given their control over campaign contributions—essentially bribe money—to gain lawmakers’ support for “riders” that subvert any U.S. legislation favorable to Cuba. In this connection, a group of Cuban entrepreneurs from the non-state sector recently wrote a letter to Sen. Rubio, R-Fla., inviting him to visit their country and witness how improved U.S.-Cuba relations benefit the Cuban economy. They are still awaiting an answer.

Months after the Senate Foreign Relations hearing on sonic attacks in January 2018, we are still no closer to a resolution than before. Blaming Cuba for human rights violations and using scare tactics to discourage U.S. travel to Cuba reflect the misguided blockade policy based on a Cold War mentality.

Allegations of sonic attacks seem nothing more than a desperate attempt to grab headlines in order to return political favors and destabilize Cuba at a time when it is in the midst of a domestic political transition.

Cuba remains one of the safest destinations for tourists in the world. It has earned the admiration of its neighbors for quality of life indicators like education, healthcare, culture, and science for people. There is no justification to reverse course on U.S.-Cuba relations, and there is no justification for the citizens of the United States and other countries to not visit and see the island for themselves.


Richard Grassl
Richard Grassl

Richard Grassl is a member of the Carpenters union in Washington state.