To the Editor:
Though I am pleased to learn that Mark Falcoff found my book, Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana, edifying [Books in Review, October 2002], a few points of clarification are in order. Mr. Falcoff’s comment that I wrote “pejoratively” of former UN ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick is not true. No opinion whatsoever is offered in my book about Kirkpatrick or her politics; I mention only the fact of her relationship and partnership in a minor business deal with the late exile leader Jorge Mas Canosa, verified by Miami city records and the accounts of mutual friends.
Mr. Falcoff complains that my indictment of the Cuban exile leadership “is rich in half-truths, near-truths, and untruths,” but he does not support this charge with any specific citation or documentation. Indeed, no one, to date, has pointed out a verifiable error in my book (which offers 44 pages of notes and research indexes).
I am also baffled that Mr. Falcoff can describe some of my comments about today’s Cuba as “among the most devastating I have ever read,” and then say that I am not tough enough on Castro apologists. For the record, I do not subscribe to the notion, ascribed to me by Mr. Falcoff, that “Communism may be bad, but anti-Communism is much, much worse.” I tried to steer away from the ideological ranting that has reduced the Cuba debate to a hopeless 44-year stand-off.
Clearly, Castro’s transition from “Communist” to the Caribbean’s premier wheeler-dealer capitalist demonstrates how flimsy and plastic his underlying ideology is. I also emphasize that though the erosion of tolerance and democratic values in the Miami exile community has been serious and is worthy of our attention, it is not comparable to state-sponsored repression.
Ann Louise Bardach
Mark Falcoff writes:
There are various ways of being pejorative. One is to call people names. Another is to arrange a narrative in such a fashion as to depict people as villains or stooges. This is essentially what Ann Louise Bardach does—in consistently hysterical and overwrought prose—to Cuban-Americans and some of their American political friends (Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Governor Jeb Bush, etc.)—in her deeply flawed book.
I am frankly astounded that Ann Bardach seems to think that she has somehow managed to “steer away from the ideological ranting that has reduced the Cuba debate to a hopeless 44-year standoff.” Not at all: she adds a good deal of ranting of her own. Despite what she says in her letter, I would regard her book as perhaps the best example of the ideology of modern American journalism as she and others practice it—“Communism bad, anti-Communism much, much worse.” If, just to pick three names out of the “authorities” she relies on in her book, she does not think that Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, or Rev. Joan Brown Campbell of the National Council of Churches, or Sandy Levinson of the Center for Cuban Studies is a Castro apologist, then I am forced to conclude that she does not know one when she sees one.
I could have bored my readers with endless citations of distortions and misinformation in this book; I chose the greater mercy of not doing so. But to satisfy Ann Bardach, let me just list four that immediately come to mind even without having the volume immediately at hand.
One, I am misquoted, even though the remark attributed to me appeared in the Spanish-language edition of the Miami Herald, presumably available at its website archive. In fairness, I suppose I should add that Ann Bardach did phone me when her book was in proof, possibly to check on the quotation, but I did not give her a chance, since I spent the entire call taking her to task for her irresponsible journalism.
Two, the political alliance between Congressman (later Senator) Robert Toricelli of New Jersey and the Cuban-American leader Jorge Mas Canosa came about not on Mas Canosa’s initiative but quite the other way around. When the lines of Toricelli’s congressional district were redrawn after the 1990 census, ladling the largely Cuban community of Union City into his bailiwick, it was the congressman—heretofore known as one of the more, shall we say, sympathetic members of the House of Representatives on the subject of “revolutionary change” in the Caribbean—who immediately went to Mas Canosa, asking, “What can I do for you?”
Three, contrary to what she writes in Cuba Confidential (and has apparently reiterated at a recent book forum in Miami), the Miami Herald advocated the return of Elián González to his father in Cuba. Whatever one may think of this position, it hardly suggests Cuban-American domination or control of that newspaper.
Finally, in spite of what Ann Bardach says, Jeane Kirkpatrick assures me that she is not and never has been a business partner of Jorge Mas Canosa. I choose to believe Ambassador Kirkpatrick over Ann Bardach, for reasons that should, by now, be understandable.
I do want to commend Ann Bardach, however, for seeing through Castro’s Communism. This is no small achievement, given the way he has hoodwinked so many of her confrères in the journalistic, cultural, and entertainment community. And I am somewhat reassured that in this forum, at least, if not in her book, she declines to regard the political situation in southern Florida as roughly comparable to the one that unfortunately prevails on the island.