We have needed something to feel righteous about, and the Crimea situation affords us a righteous opportunity to demonize “Putin” — who is no longer President Putin, but just plain “Putin.” But before we get too carried away with our purity, we should pause to reflect that President Putin has lots of precedence for this kind of action; precedence that we have set. Begin with Guantanamo, Cuba.
As Jonathan Hansen wrote in an article in the New York Times in January 2012 way before Crimea, ”Give Guantanamo Back to Cuba”: “From the moment the United States government forced Cuba to lease the Guantanamo Bay naval base to us, in June 1901, the American presence there has been more than a thorn in Cuba’s side. It has served to remind the world of America’s long history of interventionist militarism.”
In actuality, the United States has bombed, invaded, occupied or intervened in other significant ways in more than 70 countries since World War II, and this does not count the ongoing drone strikes that the United Nations has questioned with respect to their conformity with international law.
But to get back to Guantanamo, Hansen says, “The circumstances by which the United States came to occupy Guantanamo are … troubling. … In April 1898, American forces intervened in Cuba’s three-year-old struggle for independence when it was all but won, thus transforming the Cuban War for Independence into what Americans are still wont to call the Spanish-American War. American officials then excluded the Cuban Army from the armistice and denied Cuba a seat at the Paris peace conference.”
Then, the Platt Amendment guaranteed the United States the right to intervene at will in Cuban affairs as well as providing for the sale or lease of naval stations. Hansen quotes one Juan Gualberto Gomez, a leading delegate to the Cuban Constitutional Convention, who said the amendment would render Cubans “a vassal people.” And U.S. Marines have since repeatedly invaded Cuba to protect America’s interests.
“Putin” stands not alone as an invader and occupier. He is in good company!