September 29, 2006

Al Kagan’s IFLA report

IFLA and SCECSAL Report to SRRT
September 29, 2006

By Al Kagan

Diverging from my usual report, this time I am reporting on two meetings held in the summer of 2006. This report includes my usual comments on the conference of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and also on the SCECSAL meeting, the Standing Conference of Eastern, Central & Southern Africa Library & Information Associations. SCECSAL is held every two years and is the largest meeting of librarians on the African continent.

The World Library and Information Congress, 72nd IFLA General Conference and Council, was held in Seoul, South Korea, August 20-24, although meetings were held both before and after the official dates. The Koreans claim that they have the most Internet penetration of any country and my experience validates the claim. I even had a computer with broadband Internet access included in the cost of my hotel room. Seoul is a large but manageable city, lively at all hours, with a great subway system (even for foreigners). It is also one of the safer places one might go. The conference was well-organized and included the usual lavish receptions and cultural events. The main cultural evening was quite phenomenal with performances of the best musical and dance groups in the country. The drumming was indeed magnificent.

The guest of honor and keynote speaker was former political prisoner, Nobel Prize laureate, and former President of the country, Dae-jung Kim. He is usually known in the US as Kim Dae-jung. The wife of the President also made an appearance.

The political drama around the IFLA Council once again centered around Cuba. Robert Kent prevailed upon the Latvian and Lithuanian Librarians’ Associations to introduce another resolution well before the meeting in support of the so-called “independent librarians,” who are neither independent nor librarians. Interesting, the Lithuanians withdrew their support before we got to Seoul, presumably after learning that they were being used in the service of US foreign policy. That left the resolution without a second and so it did not come up for a vote. I have heard that the Latvians were committed to follow through because of a vote at their own conference but that they were also relieved when the item was taken off the agenda. Not even “New Europe” is going along with this charade anymore. Let me give special thanks to Ann Sparanese who’s recent paper was very well received and helped explain things to a number of our colleagues. (“Fact and Fiction about the ?¢‚ǨÀúIndependents” of Cuba: ONCE AGAIN”). There were no other substantive resolutions.

IFLA has now adopted a three pillars model: Membership, The Profession, and Society. I think we can be proud of the work of several of our members working with an international group in motivating the Society Pillar. My own involvement now is chiefly as a member of the Free Access to Information and Freedom Expression (FAIFE) Committee, an IFLA core program. FAIFE has increasingly embraced social responsibility issues as part of the Society Pillar. As Chair of the FAIFE Program Committee, I organized a panel on “Access to HIV/AIDS Information: A Life and Death Issue.” It went quite well and we are organizing a similar panel as well as a performance and a film at next year’s meeting in Durban, South Africa. FAIFE also sponsored a discussion around the issue of the Danish cartoons portraying Muhammad as a terrorist. Unfortunately, it just got going around the time that it was scheduled to finish, after only one hour.

SCECSAL XVII was hosted by the Tanzania Library Association and held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 10-14, 2006. The theme was “Librarianship as a Bridge to an Information and Knowledge Society in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa.” The Standing Conference of National and University Libraries of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (SCANUL-ECS) met on July 9-10. There were also several pre-conference sessions, including: “Making Library and Information Associations Functional: Some Practical Experiences form the Eastern, Central and Southern African Countries;” “Workshop on Freedom of Information, Knowledge Management and Libraries;” “Workshop on Licensing and Negotiation Skills for the Digital Libraries;” “Electronic Resource Solution: Find Out How Millions of Researchers Are Doing Their Research More Efficiently;” and “SPRINGLINK Usage and Training Session for Librarians, Researchers and Students.” Note that the last two were organized by vendors, Elsevier and Springer.

I was invited to give a paper at the small pre-conference workshop on library associations. This was an opportunity to talk to the key people who are motivated to try to revitalize the mostly very small and underfunded library associations in Africa. My remarks were basically an update of the article that I published in the 2005 IFLA World Report discussing what we do in SRRT and similar activities in IFLA. It was titled, “The Role of Library Associations in Civil Society.” Amongst other resolutions, six were adopted under a social responsibilities framework asserting fundamental principles that SRRT and ALA as a whole would be find quite familiar. We also agreed to try to link the rich country library associations with the struggling African associations for possible grant proposals. Keith Fiels was there representing ALA and he gave his enthusiastic support along with Winnie Vitzansky, the Director of the Danish Library Association.

The conference theme was operationalized to connect almost everything discussed to “knowledge management.” This resulted in some very academic and even boring presentations that seemed to have little to do with the critical day-to-day problems of librarianship in most of Africa. One must question such a theme focused on high tech and inward looking techniques when most Africans lack access to even basic library services. Obviously, this is especially true in the rural areas. Of course, there were also some high points including a panel on “Knowledge Management and Prevention of HIV/AIDS Pandemic.” One of the speakers at that panel even addressed “library colonialism.” The Conference passed resolutions on capacity building for knowledge management, the development of an interactive SCECSAL website to share knowledge, the creation of knowledge management partnerships, and strengthening library associations through strategic planning and better communications through the mass media and with policy makers.

The term “library colonialism” is particularly apt for describing the U.S. Department of State’s campaign to establish “American Corners” in libraries around the world and now in African libraries. I learned that one was established and opened by the American Ambassador at the State University of Zanzibar Library during the conference. Furthermore, the American Corner was initially offered to the Zanzibar Public Library, the Zanzibar Archives, and the Zanzibar Department of Education, all of which refused the offer. I also learned that the University administration, and not the head librarian, made the decision to take the American Corner.

Along with Shiraz Durrani (who some of you may know), I got a chance to visit this library and my assumptions were verified. The State University of Zanzibar is only about five years old and has quite a small library. In fact, there was no room for an American Corner so they had to find a separate space. So the “Corner” became an entirely new room in another building dedicated to US materials. Of course, the main attraction for the local students is the six computers with access to the Internet. The materials include multiple copies of books and videos on American government and culture. During my visit, the computers were being used but none of the materials. What I find most disturbing is that a library with only three professionals would have to dedicate one-third of its staff to a new space divorced from its primary focus, serving the curriculum needs of the students. Library colonialism is alive and well.

As usual, I would be happy to try to answer any questions.

Al Kagan, SRRT Councilor
akagan@uiuc.edu

Torture

In literature and film, we are drawn into a story and care about it because we believe, at some level, in the truth of the narrative. This requires what’s called a “suspension of disbelief.”

Of course, we also know about what is actually going on in the world through media that present us with narratives. We are drawn into these stories and care about them because we believe in the reality of them.

Part of the difficulty with the present period is that the political realities with which we are presented make it difficult, psychologically, to suspend our disbelief in the truth of the narratives we read.

So when we see that our government is not only engaging in torture secretly, which is horrible but consistent with historical precedent, but debating and passing legislation that permits us to engage in torture out in the open, there is a certain surrealistic effect, and we tell ourselves, in some part of our souls, that it is “only a movie.” The real world consists of our friends, family, coworkers, shopping, and entertainment; the world of news broadcasts, though it may be “real” in some way, is psychologically in the same category as fiction – all the more so the more unbelievable it becomes.

This phenomenon, which is perhaps related to what Hannah Arendt called the “banality of evil,” leads the world slowly into an increasing state of horror, as the human response of the world’s citizens is dulled and neutralized.

The answer is to pay attention to the political reality of the world as reality.

So, here are just a few links relating to US torture, which I encourage readers to approach with reality in mind:

American Library Association: A Resolution Against the Use of Torture as a Violation of the American Library Association’s Basic Values

Center for American Progress Action Fund: Torturing Democracy

NPR: “Morning Edition” broadcast on torture from this summer

Ariel Dorfman editorial in the Washington Post: Are We Really So Fearful?

United Nations: Convention Against Torture

Are you proud of our “National Book Festival?”

There’s a brief article in Counterpunch about the National Book Festival, which features our very non-warlike First Lady. It is intended as a happier source of news than the complete disaster we have created in the Middle East, from which news consumers and election-hopeful Republicans would understandably like some relief.

The main things that Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman point out in this article are that the “National Book Festival” is heavily corporate sponsored, that it is not a transparent operation at all but handled by a PR firm, that the books celebrated are all vetted by the organizers of the affair and don’t include anything critical of the government, and that though it is advertised as a Library of Congress event, Library of Congress staff have little or nothing to do with it.

September 22, 2006

Aga Khan: Not a clash of civilizations, but a conflict of ignorance…

Today the Reuters news service is reporting on the message of Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims, delivered to a group of journalists in New Delhi. His message? That today’s world conflict is not a clash between Muslim and Western civilizations, but a conflict of ignorance, to which the answer is to promote education for pluralism and tolerance (on both sides of the divide), as well as to combat poverty in those regions where violent extremism is born.

I find it somewhat notable that Reuters is putting out this story, because there isn’t much of a news event behind Aga Khan’s message, as valuable as it is. On Friday Aga Khan opened a new high school in Hyderabad that is part of an international network of schools that promote tolerance and pluralism.

Kudos to the journalists behind this story and much gratitude to Aga Khan for saying what needs to be said.

September 21, 2006

International Day of Peace

Today is the International Day of Peace, as declared in United Nations General Assembly Resolution UN/A/RES/36/67 in 1981. It is meant to be a global day of ceasefire as well as a day for considering and promoting the ideals of peace…

September 18, 2006

Laura Bush appropriates title of IMLS grant for librarians

For years the IMLS has been offering grants for LIS research and the education of librarians not appreciably different the one announced today on the IMLS website, except that this year’s grant program (and last year’s?) is called the “Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grant,” as though the grant were her idea or funded by her personal wealth. This is a shameful appropriation of the good will of the public toward librarians. How false, how fraudulent, and how desperate.

FCC study on media ownership ordered destroyed

From the AP story:

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.

The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report “indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public,” according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.

Adam Candeub, now a law professor at Michigan State University, said senior managers at the agency ordered that “every last piece” of the report be destroyed. “The whole project was just stopped – end of discussion,” he said. Candeub was a lawyer in the FCC’s Media Bureau at the time the report was written and communicated frequently with its authors, he said.

In a letter sent to Martin Wednesday, Boxer said she was “dismayed that this report, which was done at taxpayer expense more than two years ago, and which concluded that localism is beneficial to the public, was shoved in a drawer.”

Full story and FAIR Action Alert.

Following US Senator Barbara Boxer’s protest of this action, the FCC posted the report on its website.

September 17, 2006

Myspace: the business of Spam 2.0

Really interesting reading about myspace at Valleywag: Myspace: The Business of Spam 2.0 (Exhaustive Edition). This article points out a number of things about myspace that I wish I had known about or noticed much earlier. For example, did you know that Tom Anderson (everybody’s friend Tom) didn’t create Myspace, but was hired for PR purposes to give it a friendly feel? The real creators were at the peak of a successful career as spammers. Very nice read, a bit of an exposé. Found thanks to Michael Zimmer.

September 10, 2006

Library Juice Press website

I’ve replaced the simple one-page placeholder with a true website for Library Juice Press, LLC. Explore the site for an idea of what we’ll be publishing in the next few months.

Library Juice Press is accepting manuscripts, by the way.

September 9, 2006

10 Miami Herald journalists on US gov’t payroll

In a way I think it is unfortunate that this story is about Cuba, because being about Cuba means that a lot of people just aren’t going to want to hear it. But it is something that should be well understood.

10 journalists working for the Miami Herald and its Spanish-Language sister paper were discovered to be accepting large sums of money from the US government to write articles aimed at undermining the Cuban government. Now it is good to get more definitive news about US activities in this area, but don’t let the Cuba angle obscure the fact that this is a story about the US government directly interfering with the press. Now I suppose you could say that freedom means being able to accept money from whomever you want for whatever purpose you want, but the expression “free press” generally means something a little different.

Editor and Publisher covered the story well. The BBC’s coverage pointed out the fact that the Cuban government has claimed for many years that US journalists covering Cuba were in the pay of the US government. An interesting tidbit from this article: on Argentine television, Fidel Castro directly confronted his interviewer, Juan Manuel Cao, then a a reporter for a Miami television station, asking him if he were in the pay of the US government. Cao denied the allegation, certainly making Castro look a little batty. Now Cao has admitted being in the pay of the US government for his Cuba reporting, saying, “I would do it for free. But the regulations don’t allow it. I charge symbolically, below market prices.” Reporters were paid tens of thousands of dollars for their service to the US government.

September 2, 2006

Fiction and Fact about the “Independent Librarians” of Cuba: ONCE AGAIN

Fiction and Fact about the “Independent Librarians” of Cuba: ONCE AGAIN

Prepared by Ann Sparanese, MLS
ALA Councilor
August 6, 2006

THE ISSUE:
A version of this paper was prepared for the June 2006 ALA Annual conference. At that time the ALA Council was being pressured by a group of anti-Cuba activists, led by Robert Kent, to require the ALA President to vote affirmatively on a controversial resolution against Cuba coming to the floor of the August 2006 IFLA conference in Seoul. This demand, which never made it to the ALA Council or any membership meeting, was another attempt by Robert Kent and his “Friends of Cuban Libraries” group to convince ALA to do what it has refused to do in prior years: condemn Cuba for persecuting the so-called “independent librarians” and to demand the freedom of those in prison. The FCL had maneuvered certain other library associations to do what they have not been able to get the ALA to do, and this issue is scheduled to come to the floor in IFLA — and will hopefully be rebuked. The justifications that have been made for years by the FCL are answered below.

The bottom line is this: these people are neither “independent” nor “librarians.” They were convicted of taking money and support from the United States toward the goal of destabilizing their own country. They are a paid political opposition, but they are not librarians. They are pawns in the game of the unending quest by the United States government for “regime change” in Cuba.

FICTION: ALA needs to come to the defense of “our colleagues” in Cuba.

FACT: Not even one of the “independents” has ever been a librarian, library worker or has even been associated with libraries in any way. Not one genuine Cuban librarian or library worker has joined the “independent librarians.”

The demand, therefore, is really that ALA – and IFLA — come to the defense of anti-government political activists in Cuba, who have been convicted and imprisoned for activities that are also illegal in the United States. These activities include taking money, equipment and political direction from an enemy foreign government. These activities are crimes in most sovereign nations, including the U.S., for obvious reasons. This is not a question of “credentials”. If you committed this crime in the US, it would not matter if you called yourself a “librarian” and ALA and IFLA would likely not defend you or demand your release from prison. Furthermore, even their defenders do not actually deny that these so-called “independent librarians” actually did take money and materials from the U.S. They like to argue that it is irrelevant that they did so.

The recent “Report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba,” issued by the Bush Administration on July 10, 2006 ( www.cafc.gov/cafc/rpt/2006/68097.htm ) documents the fact that not only have these dissidents been supported by the U.S. over the years, but that the U.S. intends to increase funding, ( www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/ 2006/07/20060710-1.html ). This will be done despite the fact that some of the most outspoken leaders of the Cuba opposition have denounced this practice as counterproductive to their goals and have refused funding from the U.S. As Wayne Smith, former Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (in effect, the U.S. Embassy), says, “?¢‚Ǩ¬¶when the U.S. says its objective is to bring down the Cuban government, and then says that one of its means of accomplishing that is by providing funds to Cuban dissidents, it in effect places them in the position of being paid agents of a foreign power seeking to overthrow their own.” ( http://www.ciponline.org/cuba/ Commission_Response.pdf .)

The hypocrisy of the US government on the issues of “meddling” is breathtaking. (Remember the flap over the Chinese contributions to the Democratic Party some years ago?) Unless we are prepared to ask the US government to change it’s laws against foreign subversion by funding, why would we demand it of Cuba?

We do indeed have “colleagues” in Cuba; they are the real librarians with whom we can profitably interchange on all issues of mutual concern, including intellectual freedom.

FICTION: This is about bringing “uncensored information” to the Cuban people.

FACT: Press reports profiling these private book collections frequently note that there is little found on the shelves of the so-called “independents” that could not be found in real Cuban libraries – except perhaps some reprints from the US Interest section (embassy) in Havana. There are, however, expensive fax machines and computers which most Cubans cannot afford to personally own. We should also ask ourselves the question: how many political tracts and reprints from the Cuban Interest Section (embassy) in Washington, DC do American public libraries have in their collections? International delegations, with members from the US, have found Kent’s alleged “banned books” (which include works of George Orwell, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cuban dissident writers) in the catalogs of Cuban public libraries, as well as on the shelves and recently checked out. http://www.ifla.org/faife/faife/cubareport2001.htm

FICTION: Robert Kent and his “Friends” group are “independent human rights activists.”

FACT: This “library” campaign is part of the broader, well-funded strategy, outlined in documents of the US State Department — only most recently in the Commission report cited above, to bring about “regime change” in Cuba. It is given the nicer sounding name of “transition” but it is a regime change offensive. Millions of dollars are spent each year by we, the US taxpayers, towards funding these so-called “independent” institutions in Cuba (“independent journalists,” “independent trade unionists,” etc.) The cofounder with Kent of the “Friends of Cuban Libraries” is a Cuban expatriot economist, Jorge Sanguinetty, who himself is on the payroll of the USAID (United States Agency for International Development (one of the main recipients of regime change funding) as a “consultant.” (NY Times, June 28, 2003 p. B7). When Kent says that the FCL only receives money from its “members,” is he referring to Sanguinetty, who receives income from the US State Department? Kent has admitted that he himself has been involved in anti-Cuba activities for quite awhile: he served as a courier for Freedom House (one of the earliest recipients of Helms Burton money) which paid for his trips to smuggle money and equipment to Cuban dissidents (not “independent librarians” at that time, because they did not yet exist). After Kent was discovered and deported from Cuba, he and Sanguinetty founded the so-called “Friends.” His organization is a front for the stated US policy of attempting to destabilize Cuba by openly and covertly funding anti-government activity there.

The idea of calling longstanding political oppositionists “librarians” was brilliant; it is a strategy that trades on our good name to gather sympathy and solidarity for people who have never had anything to do with libraries in their lives. (This includes Ramon Colas, the “founder” of the “Independent Library Movement” – a psychologist by education, who then migrated to the US and was immediately employed by the rightwing Cuban American National Foundation – and not as a librarian.)

FICTION: The issue is intellectual freedom and freedom of expression, which is all we librarians should be concerned with – not foreign policy.

FACT: Anyone in the US being funded by a hostile foreign power to actively oppose our own government would probably be in jail. There are people serving time in US prison for just that: including an Iraqi American “journalist” to whose defense the ALA did not come. e.g. LA Times, April 1, 2004, p. A17.) The US protects the sovereignty of its political processes with laws, even though we are the most powerful and wealthy nation in the world, not a small island like Cuba with a long history of domination by and conflict with the US. The US has several federal statutes to insure that no US citizen takes so much as a pencil or a dollar from the Cuban government, without being subject to criminal prosecution. US citizens and residents can even be fined and/or criminally prosecuted for simply traveling to Cuba (that is, contributing money to the Cuban economy!) which is surely a violation of intellectual freedom and Constitutional rights. The new Bush Cuba Commission Report cited above also strongly recommends intensifying criminalization of “unlicensed” travel to Cuba, and this may very well happen.

Any American seriously wishing to see dissidents in Cuba freed from prison would begin by putting pressure on our own government to repeal the Helms Burton Act, which makes funding the political opposition a mandate of US law, and the true source of the problem. We would focus on ending the US embargo against Cuba, condemned annually at the United Nations. We would focus on our own government’s action rather than on Cuba, where our opinions do not carry the weight that they presumably do in our own country.

Elizardo Sanchez and Osvaldo Paya, two prominent and acknowledged leaders of the political opposition in Cuba, have also acknowledged the problem of US funding of the opposition. They have criticized this US policy and called for its end for the sake of legitimate political opposition in Cuba. Sanchez and Paya (and others) are not in prison. ( http://www.luxner.com/cgi-bin/view_article.cgi?articleID=996 , http://www.ciponline.org/cuba/opeds/last%20throes.htm , http://www.cubaupdate.org/cu0404_12.htm )

FICTION: Because Amnesty International has taken a position on this case, ALA must follow the lead of Amnesty International.

FACT: Even Amnesty International does not refer to the people in question as “independent librarians,” but calls them “private librarians.” If ALA has the obligation to do as Amnesty does in this case, does it also have the obligation to do so in ALL cases, even those involving the US — of which there are now many? AI has lately identified the US as a major violator of human rights, especially in Cuba at the Guantanamo prison. While we should have respect for the opinions of AI, their sphere is different from ours, unless the ALA has now decided to become a human rights organization with the same mission as AI. AI’s purpose is to identify prisoners of conscience throughout the world, regardless of political or economic context. AI itself has analyzed the contribution of the US embargo ( http://web.amnesty.org/library/ Index/ENGAMR25017200 ) and the Helms Burton Law on restricting political space in Cuba over the years. Before the Helms Burton Law was passed, AI was reporting a broadening of political space in Cuba. As soon as large-scale funding of “transition” activities began, that space narrowed. AI has never had a complete analysis of how economic blockades, such as the one against Cuba, impacts on human rights situation. That is not their purpose. But as US citizens, it certainly should be ours.

FICTION: Cuba burns books.

FACT: Cuba prints books, Cuba sells and promotes books through island-wide festivals that are international in scope and travel around the island. Cuba is a literate nation, full of readers and has just lately won the 2006 UNESCO literary prize for its literacy programs which have been used in many countries of the developing world. ( http://portal.unesco.org/fr/ ev.php-URL_ID=33384&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC &URL_SECTION=201.html ) Anyone who has traveled in Latin America knows that Cuba arguably has the best system of public libraries in all of Latin America. One of the continually repeated allegations claimed by Kent is that Cuba has “burned” the collections of the “independent libraries.” He cites an anonymously funded site of mysterious provenance called “Rule of Law in Cuba” ( http://www.ruleoflawandcuba.fsu.edu ) that claims to have sentencing documents that prove their claims. But even this site claims only two of the dissidents as having something to do with independent libraries! Not one is claimed to be in jail because he had books! The proof that Cuba does not “burn” the collections of “independent libraries” and that such libraries are not illegal in Cuba, is that many still exist and are publicly identified on websites. They still have their collections. Wouldn’t they all be closed if they are illegal? Can it be that the Cuban police can’t find them? Why aren’t all the “independent librarians” in jail? Because having a library is not the crime for which they were convicted. For example Gisela Delgado, the “director” of one of these libraries, is not in prison. But her husband, Hector Palacios, is, because he was found with thousands of dollars in his closet and actually signed a receipt for funds! It is not against the law to have a shared private book collection in Cuba; it is a crime to take money and equipment from an enemy nation to carry out anti-government activities in Cuba – no matter what you call yourself. The same is true in the US.

It seems that we have our own cases of book removal to contend with. Recently a children’s book about Cuba created quite a furor in Miami and was removed from all school libraries in Florida’s Miami-Dade County. So much for the freedom to read in south Florida! Were those books to be “burned,” dumped, stored (in anticipation of saner times) or offered to other libraries as donations? A judge has ordered them back on the shelf temporarily, as the case continues in the courts.

FICTION: ALA has pushed aside the case of the “independent librarians” and refuses to consider it.

FACT: This issue of Cuba has probably been among the most studied and seriously
considered in ALA history. ALA has spent significant energies since 2001
( http://www.ala.org/ala/iro/iroactivities/ alacubanlibrariesreportcuban.htm )
and throughout numerous conferences considering this case. ALA arrived at its final statement at the San Diego Midwinter conference in 2004. ( http://www.ala.org/ala/pr2004/ prjan2004/alacounciladopts.htm ) Two high level ALA committees, the International Relations Committee and the Intellectual Freedom Committee formed a joint task force to consider it. They investigated deeply, listened to many members, considered all the aspects and their context, to come to a statement that expressed our concern with the imprisonment of those who call themselves librarians, but stopping short of saying that they are librarians and demanding their immediate release. It was the correct position and should not be altered because of the strident objections of others.

ALA does not routinely demand the release of US political prisoners either, of which there are some calling themselves journalists and poets, if not librarians, at this moment. ALA has never made a commitment to defend, or campaign for, librarians who break US law – even the USA PATRIOT Act, which we opposed! — there is no reason for us to do so regarding the citizens of a foreign country, who broke their country’s laws regarding foreign funding of their activities, and whose imprisonment is directly related to US foreign policy for which we are, indirectly, responsible.

FICTION: Those who have opposed ALA action against Cuba are a small group of left-wing “extremists” in “control” of ALA and who support dictatorships.

FACT: ALA Council which adopted the 2004 report consists of 170 members. There were only three dissenting votes on the issue. ALA is obviously not controlled by “extremists,” but Kent/FCL are one-issue extremists with an agenda that has nothing to do with libraries or intellectual freedom. They have never been active in ALA on any other issue. They have no interest in the Association on any level other than coercing a condemnation of what they perceive to be a “communist dictatorship” that needs to be overthrown. (This is also true of the library association who is bringing the resolution coming before IFLA this month.) They never champion the opposition leaders who also call for an end to US intervention in the internal opposition in Cuba; they only support those who are jail because they on the receiving end of that strategy.

Those of us who have come to the defense of real Cuban libraries and librarians do not do so because we believe that Cuba has all the political democracy it needs. On the contrary, we believe that the political space that Cubans need will only be able to be realized once the threat of US aggression is ended. We take no pleasure in seeing presumably “non violent political opposition” in prison. But as Americans with some knowledge of history, we are painfully aware of the violent nature of US policy towards Cuba over 50 years. The latest Cuba Commission report reiterates the intention of the US to impose a totally different economic and political system on the Cuban people, as if these people and their sovereignty do not exist at all. That the US would attempt to buy a “fifth column” of dissidents – such as the so-called “independents” of every stripe — ready to assist in any way necessary in these plans for “transition” should not be in doubt. Self-defense is not only the right of some nations in this world; it is the right of all nations.

FACT: AND LET US HOPE IT REMAINS SO:
So far the ALA has not allowed our good name as the largest library association in the world to be used as an instrument of US foreign policy toward Cuba.

I hope this can be said of IFLA as well, as events unfold this summer.