BI-PARTISAN Team of Berman and Lugar Call for End to Cuba Travel Ban


obama lugar.jpgSenate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) have jointly written a compelling case to end the travel ban for all Americans desiring to go to Cuba.
In fact, their piece, titled “Lift the Ban — Let Americans Visit Cuba” really calls for ending travel restrictions on Americans going anywhere since Cuba is the only place in the world where America’s democratic government restricts the travel freedom of its citizens.
It is a remarkable but true fact that the US government cannot stop regular Americans from traveling to North Korea, Burma, Iran, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Congo, or any other complicated place in the world — except the one spot where the Cold War still freezes time — Cuba.
The Lugar-Berman piece reflects a sensible bipartisan realism about the fact that five decades of an embargo have dramatically hurt US interests and have only perpetuated a dysfunctional status quo in US-Cuba relations.
President Obama constantly calls for serious bipartisanship in national security matters — and he can pluck this Lugar-Berman prize off the tree easily if he has the will (and time on his overcrowded calendar). The House bill to end the travel ban to Cuba has been led by Congressman Bill Delahunt (D-MA) on the Dem side and Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who often says that it’s supposed to be Communist governments, not Democratic ones, that impose restrictions on their citizen’s choices to travel. The House Bill now has 180 cosponsors comprised of both Republicans and Democrats.
The companion Senate bill has 34 Senate cosponsors. Informal whip counts put the House bill at 205 votes — within striking distance of the 218 needed, and between 61-64 in the Senate.
But thus far Barack Obama’s team continues to condition any further openings to Cuba with a requirement that Cuba begin to demonstrate key political reforms on top of the fact that Obama’s presidency has done the ironic thing of opening up travel for a “class” of Americans (those with Cuban relatives) while excluding all other Americans from that legal privilege — I would actually say, “legal right”. This exclusion of some but not all is something Obama should not want too long on his legacy sheet.
Lugar and Berman open:

U.S. law lets American citizens travel to any country on earth, friend or foe — with one exception: Cuba. It’s time for us to scrap this anachronistic ban, imposed during one of the chilliest periods of the Cold War.
Legislation to abolish restrictions on travel to Cuba has been introduced in both chambers of Congress. And on Thursday the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing examining the rationale for the travel ban.
This ban has prevented contact between Cubans and ordinary Americans, who serve as ambassadors for the democratic values we hold dear. Such contact would help break Havana’s chokehold on information about the outside world. And it would contribute to improving the image of the United States, particularly in Latin America, where the U.S. embargo on Cuba remains a centerpiece of anti-Washington grievances.
While opponents argue that repealing the travel ban would indicate approval of the Cuban human rights record, many human rights organizations — among them Freedom House and Human Rights Watch — have called for abolishing travel restrictions.

They go on to make the same point, namely ” “isolation from outside visitors only strengthens the Castro regime,” that former AEI neoconservative staffer and current Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw “Radek” Sikorski made in his own 2005 essay on Cuba in National Review. Bush Institute for Public Policy Director and former G.W. Bush administration Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy James Glassman has also argued that the travel ban and embargo undermine American interests.
It is through people to people exchange that both Cubans and Americans will become exposed to each other’s worlds and political realities. They argue that more financial flow inside Cuba will strengthen the underground economy, a source of independence and potential liberalism inside Cuba.
Berman and Lugar state flat out with regard to the notion that restricting US travel to Cuba generates any leverage at all after five decades of failure on this track: “Conditionality is not leverage in this case.”
The White House National Security Council staff reading this really should articulate a believable counter-point to Senator Lugar’s and Chairman Berman’s compelling argument if it is going to continue to ‘cling to conditionality’ before making further moves. What is the empirical basis for believing that putting Cuban responses before American interests will have any impact or makes sense?
Others who Barack Obama respects — including former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and Secretary of State and Treasury George P. Shultz — have said that both the travel ban and the embargo make no sense as foreign policy. Shultz has called the travel ban “lunacy”.
There are not many occasions when there is such a large squad of Democrats and Republicans in the same space.
Howard Berman is on board. Richard Lugar is on board. Many others are as well. Call John Kerry — and I bet he’s on board too.
It’s the only course that ultimately makes sense. As David Rothkopf said at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting just before this past year’s Summit of the Americas, US-Cuba relations are the “Edsel of US foreign policy.”
It’s time for Barack Obama to wake up on this and realize that he and his team are the outliers in a hefty and healthy bipartisan move in the Latin America portfolio.
— Steve Clemons


6 comments on “BI-PARTISAN Team of Berman and Lugar Call for End to Cuba Travel Ban

  1. charlie says:

    can someone please explain to me how a ban that allows cuban-
    americans (however defined) to travel to cuba not everyone else can
    possibly pass a strict scrutiny test under the equal protection


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Here we have the actions of people that HAVE NO RIGHT to claim themsdelves as “Representatves” of American ideals and interests. This includes Berman, in a very large way……
    On November 4, the House of Representatives voted 344-36 (22 voted present) in favor of a resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, which chronicled the war crimes committed during last year’s Gaza war. Not only that, in a break with normal procedure, the House refused to agree to Rep. Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) request to publish the Goldstone Report in the Congressional Record. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) objected to publication and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman (D-CA) agreed with her. Bottom line: the American people will not be able to access the Goldstone Report on a US government website.
    ….continues…..end excerpt.
    And here we have those kinds of people that the coward Berman should aspire to be, (but won’t)…
    Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA),
    “The tragic deaths of innocent civilians in Gaza and the devastation brought upon their homes, schools, and infrastructure has worsened a humanitarian crisis that cannot be ignored. Residents of Gaza and the West Bank continue to lack appropriate access to the most fundamental needs, including food, fuel, water, sanitation, education, health care, and the basic materials needed to rebuild their communities.”
    Congressman William Delahunt (D-MA),
    “This resolution came to the floor on suspension without a hearing, despite the willingness of Judge Goldstone to come before the United States Congress and answer any questions that we might pose to him.”
    Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA)
    “My friends who have described the Goldstone Report, as a colleague just did, I’m not sure if they have read it.”
    “Unlike most of my colleagues here, I have been to Gaza and I have read in its entirety the Goldstone Report. And I will tell you he says many things that, though unpleasant, are true and must not be obstructed.”
    “Do not pass this resolution. Support this fine jurist. Give justice, true justice, a chance to be heard.”
    Congressman John Dingell (D-MI)
    “Neither Israel nor Hamas, nor any other country or other non-state political actor is exempt from international human rights laws or free of consequence for violations of them. If nothing else, the Goldstone Report should serve as a document that Israel, Hamas, and the rest of the international community can use to ensure that future human rights violations do not take place in civilian areas…”
    Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
    “Almost as serious as committing war crimes is covering up war crimes, pretending that war crimes were never committed and did not exist.”
    “Because if this Congress votes to condemn a report it has not read concerning events it has totally ignored about violations of law of which it is unaware, it will have brought shame to this great institution.”
    Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN)
    “This resolution seeks to hide the ugliness of the Gaza war by covering up violent excesses committed against innocent civilians by both Hamas and the Israeli Defense Forces. Why does the U.S. House want to reject an accounting of Hamas’ terrorism against Israeli civilians, as if thousands of rockets were not fired at Israel? And why would this resolution want to deny that hundreds of Palestinian women and children and elders were needlessly killed?”
    Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA)
    “I think that in this body’s haste, we’ve overlooked some of the depth of unspeakable tragedies that have occurred during the war on Gaza. Innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives were lost.”
    Congressman George Miler (D-CA)
    “I fully support efforts to provide clarity, honesty and accuracy to the debate about the conflict in Gaza, just as do many of my constituents who have contacted me this week urging me to oppose this resolution.”
    ….continues…end excerpt.
    Like I said, whats in this Cuban stance that Berman profits by? Because obviously we can rule out “national interests” as a motive.


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Gosh, I thought that scumball Berman was so busy hiding the Goldstone Report that he wouldn’t have time for smaller issues. But thank God he got that nasty thing banned from being posted on any government sites, for we all know the uninsured and ignorant masses wouldn’t be able to handle the ugly truth about what Israel does with the obscene amount of money we shovel in their direction.
    Yeah, Bermans a real effin’ hero. Everyone knows you only BBQ Muslims, so lets get those Cuban gates popped open and embrace our latin brothers.
    Whats the hitch? Hows this fatten Berman’s bank account? Because God knows its not out of altruism or concern for his fellow man.
    Berman’s actions in regards to the Goldstone Report are despicable, and polar to everything we stand for. I hope he doesn’t consider himself a patriotic American, because such people do not condone, or seek to conceal, war crimes. He makes THIS American ashamed.


  4. Steve Clemons says:

    …, I would endorse that sentiment.
    all best from rome — where it’s unseasonably hot today….
    more later,
    steve clemons


  5. ... says:

    steve quote out of context…”It’s time for Barack Obama to wake up…”
    how about we go for the ordinary american waking up too while we are at it???


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