Home > Miguel Iturria Savón > The Legacy of War

The Legacy of War

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Sunday, December 6, I read in the newspaper Juventude Rebelde, a story by José Alejandro Rodríguez in which he evoked Operation Tribute, that macabre event in December 1989, when crowds of Cubans filed past the mortal remains of thousands of compatriots who fell in the wars in Angola, the Congo, Ethiopia and other parts in Africa, where they had gone to support one of the warring parties on the orders of the former Soviet Union.

In Warriors of the Legacy, the reporter echoed the official version that justified the invasion of Africa with more than 300,000 Cuban soldiers, now classified–as they were then–as liberators who came in veneration of their ancestors, “the genetic vindication our our Mandingo and Bantu ancestors.”

According to J.A. those warriors, young men for the most part, “fell for us and paved the way to African liberation,” for which they fell at “the frontier of glory” and we must “ask them to enlighten us in these battles of today, so subtle and misleading.”

In contextualizing Operation Tribute and other events of the so-called Cold War, the Cuban media embellish the past and forget certain readings of history to legitimize the promotion of violence in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  The international landscape has changed, but the fabrication of tricks to justify real and imaginary battles is the same, the specters of yesterday use the same arguments.

We are not warriors by inheritance.  The inheritance is terrible and is not summarized with metaphors nor concealing images.  Cuban soldiers and officers did not go to the African wars voluntarily, they were following orders.  The vast majority were serving their Obligatory Military Service.  The liberation of Africa is a myth.  Are Angola, the Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique or Namibia free?  Free of whom? Of Dos Santos, of Mengistu Halle Marian, of Mugabe, or of the Castros?

The young Cubans who embarked for Angola and Ethiopia were following the siren song of an ideology they were taught in school.  More than internationalists, they were pieces in a political chess game, cannon fodder to glorify the puppeteer controlling the board.

The martyrs of our military presence in Africa were Odysseus no return.  They left on the island the brides without veils, Penelope without palace or loom, children without fathers, mothers and widows without consolation.  Death, desertion, insanity and divided families were part of this inheritance this which involved a nation that lost its innocence.

Two decades after the burial of thousands of Cubans involved in colonial wars in Africa it is childish to wrap the intervention in the same litany, although the vindication of the ancestors, as if all Cubans were of African origin, the blood spilled, the patriotic glory, the liberation and proletarian internationalism adorn the old story of the discourse of power.

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