Castro in Vietnam: A forgotten chapter

Recently, author Jamie Glazov reposted a 2016 article of his about one of the lesser-known chapters of Communist history: the involvement of Cubans in the torture of American prisoners of war in Vietnam. On the occasion of Fidel Castro’s death, Glazov called attention to what he called “the direct and instrumental role Castro played in the torture and murder of American POWs in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.” As Glazov noted, America’s mainstream news media – which have tended to soft-pedal the evil of Castro’s regime and more than a few of which (as we’ve pointed out at this website) have celebrated Communist Cuba for the supposed quaintness and charm of its broken-down buildings and infrastructure – have virtually ignored this dark episode.

Fidel Castro

We’re not talking here, mind you, about a couple of Cubans who were sent over to Vietnam to help run POW camps. No; in fact, at the height of the Vietnam War, the number of Cubans in North Vietnam numbered in the thousands, and at least some of them were part of what Castro called the “Cuban Program” at the Cu Loc POW camp in Hanoi, which came to be known to inmates as ‘the Zoo.’” Among the goals of the “Cuban Program” was “to determine how much physical and psychological agony a human being could withstand.” For this purpose, Castro’s minions picked out US servicemen as “guinea pigs” to be worked on by a torturer, who like his comandante was named Fidel, and who was “trained in psychology and prison control in Russia or Europe.” Among the victims of Fidel’s brutality was a F-105 pilot, Lt. Col. Earl Cobeil, an F-105 pilot, whom a fellow POW, Col. Jack Bomar, described as follows:

Lt. Col. Earl Cobeil

The man could barely walk; he shuffled slowly, painfully. His clothes were torn to shreds. He was bleeding everywhere, terribly swollen, and a dirty, yellowish black and purple from head to toe. The man’s head was down; he made no attempt to look at anyone. . . . He stood unmoving, his head down. Fidel smashed a fist into the man’s face, driving him against the wall. Then he was brought to the center of the room and made to get down onto his knees. Screaming in rage, Fidel took a length of black rubber hose from a guard and lashed it as hard as he could into the man’s face. The prisoner did not react; he did not cry out or even blink an eye. His failure to react seemed to fuel Fidel’s rage and again he whipped the rubber hose across the man’s face. . . . Again and again and again, a dozen times, Fidel smashed the man’s face with the hose. Not once did the fearsome abuse elicit the slightest response from the prisoner. . . . His body was ripped and torn everywhere; hell cuffs appeared almost to have severed the wrists, strap marks still wound around the arms all the way to the shoulders, slivers of bamboo were embedded in the bloodied shins and there were what appeared to be tread marks from the hose across the chest, back, and legs.

Barbara Walters

Cobell died. So did many others. Of course, no one who is remotely familiar with the systematic, sadistic violence perpetrated by Che Guevara and others on behalf of the Castro regime could be terribly surprised that Castro was capable of arranging such a violent project. At the same time, one never quite gets accustomed to the fact that a popular current presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, is a lifelong Castro fan; ditto the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain; that the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, honeymooned in Havana; that Barbara Walters, the longtime host of American housewives’ favorite TV show, The View, had a cozy relationship with Fidel, whom she described as “charming”; that network reporter Lisa Howard had a veritable romance with him. It is one of the enduring, and sick, facts of life that some people who are lucky enough to live in liberty are capable of an irrational attraction to totalitarian tyrants.

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