Sanders glosses over Cuba, hoping you've forgotten its aggressive history

In his 60 Minutes interview, Bernie Sanders praised Cuba, giving its detested communist regime props for its vaunted literacy program and free health care, two propaganda points the Castro oligarchy has dined out on for decades among the lefty shills.  Sure, they beat and imprison dissidents, but big deal.  Look at all that "literacy" they enacted — a pathetic lie, given that the nation was already literate in 1959, and irrelevant in any case, given that Cubans aren't allowed to read anything worth reading.  "Free" health care is another pathetic lie, given that locals are taxed so intensely for it that they make about $18 a month.  Plus, they bring their own Band-Aids and bedsheets for the "free" health care, done in rooms full of cockroaches. 

That's not stopping Sanders from playing propaganda shill for the dictatorship with some supposedly qualified praise.  Here is what he claimed on 60 Minutes:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the frontrunner for the Democrats' presidential nomination, doubled down on his support for some of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's policies, saying in an interview that aired Sunday, "it's unfair to simply say everything is bad."

Unfair!  Unfair!  Castro's gotten a bum rap?  A lot of freedom-loving Cubans and American aviation heroes will tell you that what is actually unfair about Cuba is its communist oppression. 

It is not well known outside the Conch Republic of Key West, Florida, but Cuba's regime is not just oppressive; it's also aggressive.

A mini–"hot war" between Castro's Air Force and the Navy raged on and off between Key West and Cuba for decades.

Ever since Castro came to power, America has kept a watchful eye on his workers' paradise.  But the shining moment of President Kennedy's administration was the successful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which, while it repaired the debacle of his green-lighting the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion by free Cuban forces, effectively entrenched the regime and enabled it to attack the U.S. under the radar.

As America and Cuban forces maneuvered diplomatically and militarily during the Cold War, the U.S. Navy established a hot pad at its Boca Chica military airfield near Key West (and 90 miles from Havana).

Navy and Marine fighter squadrons rotated assignments with the requirement that two fighters always stood fully ready for combat, capable of being scrambled and airborne and heading for trouble inside five minutes.

For years, the "Hot Pad" at Boca Chica Field, Key West launched fighters and recce aircraft to take on Cuban MiGs and Patrol Boats.  The base has an illustrious history:

NAS Key West was to become a focal point during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which posed the first doorstep threat to America in more than a century. Reconnaissance and operational flights were begun 22 October 1962, in support of the blockade around Cuba. During the Missile Crisis, Key West cemented its claim to the title "Gibraltar of the Gulf", coined a hundred years earlier by Commodore David Porter.

Sadly, the Key West Hot pad was no more when a tragic moment in aerial combat killed innocent pilots only trying to help courageous Cubans fleeing the so-called "workers' paradise."

In the 1990s, the sea between Key West and Cuba was filling with freedom-loving Cubans putting themselves and their families' lives at risk by fleeing to the U.S. on leaky rafts.  A beautiful ocean as seen from Mach 1 or from the deck of a cruise ship can also mean death from exposure, sharks, and storm-tossed rafts that break apart with everyone drowning.

Something had to be done to save lives.  Enter Brothers to the Rescue, a group of unarmed and unafraid pilots who put their lives on the line to help those in peril on the sea.

It is easy to be fearless when strapped in a USMC fighter jet loaded for bear, but it takes undaunted courage to go up against the Cuban Air Force in a Cessna 337 Skymaster, a twin-engine, unarmed civilian plane.

Sanders's remarks, in fact, came on the eve of the anniversary of that 1996 atrocity — today — so I will recommend some reading about the reality of what happened. 

Betrayal by Matt Lawrence and Thomas Van Hare tells with absolutely clarity how Cuban MiGs, in an act of cold-blooded murder, shot down two Brothers to the Rescue humanitarian planes in international airspace, killing four.  Here is what Florida retired congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart had to say about it:

"Matt Lawrence and Thomas Van Hare have written an important book detailing an infamous chapter in the history of the Castro dictatorship and a weak United States Administration. By documenting the Cuban regime's espionage activities and the calculated, cold-blooded murder of four humanitarian pilots, BETRAYAL: Clinton, Castro & The Cuban Five is a timely reminder that the United States must be vigilant against repeating the mistakes of the past. To anyone interested in gaining insight into the utter malevolence of the Cuban dictatorship and the hazards befalling U.S. Administrations who coddle it, I recommend this book[.]

There is no glory for a Cuban MiG pilot in murder. "Betrayal" tells the tale from the authors' first-hand account; Thomas Van Hare could have easily been the pilot and Matt Lawrence flying with him that day. Fighter support was too far away to stop the shoot-down because the hot pad had been moved from Key West to mainland Florida.

A Cuban spy network that influenced America policy over Cuba had made significant inroads during both Republican and Democrat administrations. Van Hare and Lawrence put the story in a bigger context by fingering as a spy the most senior Cuba authority within the U.S. government, the DIA's top Cuba analyst Ana Belen Montes. She was an agent of Castro's and she influenced U.S. Cuba policy for years. The FBI arrested her and the authors call her and the Cuban spy network an "extraordinary risk to U.S. national security."

As Castro's funeral procession taking his remains to his final resting place broke down, there still may be an opportunity for a free Cuba to be born.

But not if "Feel the Bern" Sanders is elected president.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece misstated the name of the author.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo, Bonnie White, public domain.

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