To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “there he goes again.” Jimmy Carter wasn’t in Cuba twenty-four hours before he had once again embarrassed his government and himself. True to form, Carter took the side of his new friend, dictator Fidel Castro, in an on-going war of words between the U.S. and Cuba about Castro’s bioterrorism program.
Cuba’s biological weapons program and the export of this capability to rogue states, including Iran and Iraq, was revealed recently by Under Secretary of State John R. Bolton. Bolton’s speech was carefully crafted and, no doubt, thoroughly vetted by the White House and the national security bureaucracy. Bolton said: “Here is what we know: The United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort. Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states.”
Speaking anonymously, other officials told reporters that Cuba has been experimenting with anthrax and “other deadly pathogens.” No one disputes that Cuba has a very advanced biotechnology industry, especially in genetic engineering. A former Soviet biological weapons program scientist has told Congress that he thinks Cuba could make genetically modified germ weapons that could defeat our vaccines and antibiotics. All this makes Carter’s statements in Havana more remarkable.
He claims that he was briefed by the State Department, the “intelligence agencies of my country” and the White House prior to his trip. Speaking to an audience that included Fidel Castro, Carter said that “experts on intelligence” had told him that there was no evidence Cuba is providing bioterrorism assistance to “any other country on Earth.” Carter said that Cuba’s biotechnology research center director had assured him that no technology had been transferred that could be used for weapons production.
Bush officials couldn’t seem to remember which “intelligence experts” had actually briefed Carter. Reportedly, the State Department’s intelligence chief told Congress of the administration’s worries about Cuban bioterrorism exports in March, so it probably wasn’t the State Department. The White House sent Condi Rice out later in the day to reinforce Bolton’s revelations.
The coverage of Carter’s remarks revealed the fault lines between the administration and the elite media on combating terrorism, however. The New York Times reported Colin Powell as “cast[ing] doubt on assertions” made by Bolton. Powell did nothing of the kind, saying in fact that he stood by Bolton’s statements. The Los Angeles Times, which had already dismissed these revelations as “politics,” agreed that Powell softened allegations against Cuba and continued its theme that the Bush Administration is appealing to anti-Castro Cubans in order to assist presidential brother Jeb Bush in his reelection race this fall. Carter maintained his record of using his foreign trips to embarrass every sitting president since Ronald Reagan. From Leonid Brezhnev through Kim Il Sung to Fidel Castro, Carter has never met a communist dictator that he didn’t like.