According to our new favorite not-so-useful idiot, "the Gulf Coast of the United States can thank Cuba for lessening the force of Hurricane Gustav" and sparing it its worst effects. Is that right? Did Cubans willingly consent to take the blunt of the storm's fury so that the U.S. could be spared the worst of it (and to whom exactly did they address their consent)? Did Castro's santeros raise prayers and make sacrifices at his behest for such an outcome so that the Republican Convention might not be preempted or President Bush blamed again for an act of Nature? Or did Castro himself, like a superannuated Moses, order the winds and waters to bypass the U.S. Gulf Coast and they obeyed him?
That, at least, is a more plausible scenario than Castro asking that the hurricane spare Cuba. Castro welcomes every hurricane and natural disaster as a vote of confidence from the dark forces that favor him. Anything that adds to the misery of the Cuban people increases his power over them and perpetuates his tyranny. Communist Cuba does not accept humanitarian assistance from other countries because that would loosen Castro's stranglehold on the Cuban people and indicate to them that they are not alone in the world despite his efforts over 50 years to isolate them. Only if we consider Cubans as Castro's hostages, beholden to him for even a gulp of water or crust of bread, can we understand their plight and his ruthlessness. Worst infinitely than the ravages of Nature, which it also compounds and exploits, are the man-made disasters the regime inflicts on the Cuban people both as a function of its incompetence and as a means of control.
The claims which are made on behalf of the regime by its apologists become more outrageous in proportion to their disposition to serve the regime and the perceived needs of the regime itself. Ironically, however, what is claimed in this case is only far-fetched because the character of the regime itself precludes it. Cubans did endeavor, more than a century ago, to allay the greatest natural disaster that ever befell this country, not through superhuman agency, but by sharing our own experience and expertise on hurricanes with the United States.
The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 killed more Americans than the Johnstown Flood, the San Francisco earthquake and the Great Chicago Fire combined. You could add the casualties of 9/11 as well to that total, and the Galveston Hurricane, which killed between 8000-12000 people in one day, would still be the worst peacetime disaster (natural or man-made) in U.S. history. It could have been averted if U.S. officials had listened to repeated warnings from Father Lorenzo Gangoite, director of Cuba's Belén Observatory, who correctly predicted the trajectory of the hurricane and warned that it was headed straight in the direction of Galveston island. The U.S. Weather Bureau did worse than ignore him: it suppressed the telegraphs which Father Gangoite had sent by military wire and banned him from sending any more. If they had heeded his advice and evacuated the area, not one life would have been lost. Instead, convinced that the hurricane would curve northward towards the Eastern seaboard and away from the Gulf Coast, the Weather Bureau's official forecast for Galveston called for "rain followed by clearing" on the day the hurricane hit with 135 mile per hour winds and tidal waves which swept away half the houses and sank most of the island underwater.
It was not unknown to the Americans that Cuban meteorologists, led by Father Benito Viñes, had pioneered the science of charting hurricanes two decades before the U.S. Weather Service was organized in 1900. They failed to act on Father Gangoite's timely warnings because they "hated the Cubans" who "were extremely good at predicting cyclones -- way better than the U.S. could hope to be." Rather than, as in the case of yellow fever, follow the advice of the leading Cuban expert if only to steal the credit from him, they chose to ignore Father Gangiote with consequences as calamitous as if they had ignored Dr. Carlos J. Finlay.
The city of Galveston, incidentally, was named in honor of General Bernardo Gálvez, hero of the battles of Mobile and Pensacola during the American Revolution. The troops which Gálvez commanded in those engagements were derived principally from the Havana garrison. Our history is linked in a thousand ways to that of our more northerly neighbor (Cuba, too, is part of North America). And it is always Cubans who have contributed to the greatness of this country selflessly and anonymously (for all practical effects). In turn we have seen our country destroyed and enslaved because of the sometimes well-meaning (and sometimes not) interference of the U.S. in our affairs. If Cubans had only to contend with Nature we would have been alright. It was unnatural forces that produced the denatured monster that has raged and rages still in our country. There has never been a hurricane "Fidel." That name was taken a long ago.