Even before the attack on the homeland of the weather balloons,
the Havana Syndrome tested America’s mettle.
The Havana Syndrome was first reported in Cuba in 2016. The mysterious malady initially afflicted US embassy staff in Havana, especially those attached to intelligence missions. It then spread to Canadian embassy officials. The sudden headaches, debilitating dizziness, and hearing excruciatingly painful sounds struck both at work and at home. Oddly, the Cubans themselves appeared immune to the pathology.
By Roger D. Harris
Soon other cases of what the US Defense Department called “anomalous health incidents” (AHIs) were reported in Russia, China, Colombia, Uzbekistan, and then even in the US. This mass psychogenic illness was experienced mostly by US government spies, diplomats, and military personnel all over the world, according to Wikipedia. A “government-wide response” was precipitated with “support groups” established.
The US State Department announced that it considered attention to the Havana Syndrome “an absolute priority.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken believed “there’s nothing we take more seriously.”
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) concluded in a December 2020 report that the most likely probable cause of the AHIs was pulsed microwave energy.
Inferring blame to Cuba and Russia for the “sonic attacks”
White House chief of staff John Kelly commented: “We believe that the Cuban government could stop the attacks on our diplomats.” In September 2017, non-emergency US embassy personnel and family members were evacuated from Cuba.
President Trump blamed the Cubans and in retaliation for the alleged attacks expelled most of their embassy staff from Washington. His Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the expulsions were “made due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats.”
The Cubans, who had no incentive to provoke their powerful neighbor, denied any culpability. They offered to fully cooperate with US authorities in their investigation of the syndrome.
The Cubans deployed 2,000 scientists and law enforcement officials in their investigation, which was hampered by the refusal by the US government to share medical information on those supposedly afflicted by the Havana Syndrome. Access to residences in Cuba that were purportedly targeted by the “sonic attacks” was also blocked.
But the Yankees had bigger fish to fry. Could the evil foreign adversary beaming the invisible energy waves be none other than the one blamed for stealing Hillary Clinton’s election victory? The so-called “free press,” exemplified by this message from CNN, incessantly reminded us regarding the Havana Syndrome: “The list of known, and suspected, aggressions Russia has carried out against US democracy and American personnel is vast.”
In May 2021, Politico breathlessly reported that unnamed US government officials believe “a notorious Russian spy agency [GRU] may be behind alleged attacks.” “It looks, smells and feels like” the Russians, according to an anonymous “former national security official involved in the investigation.” What more conclusive evidence could one possibly want?
The New Yorker, meanwhile, warned the Havana Syndrome had spread to the White House. “Top officials in both the Trump and the Biden Administrations,” they reported, “privately suspect that Russia is responsible for the Havana Syndrome.”
CIA chief William Burns called the incidents “attacks.” When the bipartisan HAVANA (Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks) ACT of 2021 unanimously passed, the incidents were officially designated as “attacks.”
CNN reported on the act: “Its signing comes as cases continue to rise worldwide,” floating the theory that “Russia is behind” these attacks. In September 2021, the CIA even recalled one of its station chiefs for expressing “skepticism” about the veracity of the “attacks.”
Mysterious sounds associated with the Havana Syndrome
Top State and CIA officials who had gone to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health with the Havana Syndrome complained that the doctors treated them as if they were “crazy.”
Recordings of sounds associated with the Havana Syndrome were publicly released after the noise analysis by the US Navy could not “significantly advance US knowledge about what is harming diplomats.”
Former MIT researcher and sound expert Joe Pompei told NBC News that the reported sound waves could not cause the alleged symptoms. “Unless they had transducers in the bathtub and had the diplomats submerge their heads for a long time, it’s just not possible.”
Biologists Alexander Stubbs at UC Berkeley and Fernando Montealegre-Z at the University of Lincoln scientifically analyzed the recordings, which they identified as the song of a cricket (Anurogryllus celerinictus). Even The New York Times, reporting on the scientific findings, admitted “the sounds linked to the initial complaints may have been a red herring.”
An earlier panel of Cuban scientists similarly concluded that stressful conditions, not a “sonic weapon,” sickened the Yankees. They too identified crickets as a possible source of the mysterious noises.
Case cracked: cognitive impairment is an occupational hazard for US cold warriors
A little over a year ago in January 2022, an interim assessment by the CIA suggested that the Havana Syndrome was NOT a product of “a sustained global campaign by a hostile power.” Stress, environmental conditions, and cognitive impairment were the more likely culprits in the 1000 cases investigated with “analytic rigor, sound tradecraft, and compassion,” in the words of CIA Director William Burns.
However, the interim investigation continued. Finally this month, all seven US intelligence agencies found “available intelligence consistently points against the involvement of US adversaries in causing the reported incidents.”
Still, anti-Cuba zealots did not accept this explanation for the selective pandemic. Senator Marco Rubio rejected the intelligence community’s assessment, tweeting, “it’s hard to accept…it didn’t happen.”
US’s Cuba policy
Cuba may have been exonerated for the Havana Syndrome, but the socialist country is still targeted by the empire for regime-change. The 61-year-old asphyxiating US blockade continues, which puts Washington at odds with the 185 countries that voted in the UN against the unilateral coercive measures with only Uncle Sam and apartheid Israel voting in favor.
In a parting gesture of ill will, Trump re-designated Cuba as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” eight days before he left the presidency. Obama had rescinded the designation in 2015, originally imposed in 1982 by Reagan.
In 2021, Biden renewed Trump’s designation, ironically citing Cuba’s efforts to broker a peace in Colombia between the government and a guerilla insurgency. Biden backtracked on his campaign promises to reverse Trump’s harsh sanctions against Cuba and return to a process of normalization of relations.
Inclusion on the terrorist list bars Cuba from access to most international finance. “The real purpose of slandering Cuba as ‘terrorist’ is to justify the criminal blockade on Cuba,” according to the National Network on Cuba (NNOC).
Among the grassroots organizations working to get Cuba off the terrorist list are ACER (https://acere.org/) and the NNOC (https://nnoc.org/). The latter observes: “Despite the devastating impacts of the US economic blockade, Cuba still has a longer life expectancy, lower infant and maternal mortality rates, better health outcomes, higher literacy, more education, and less violence than in the US.”
The Havana Syndrome, used to falsely accuse Cuba of attacking US personnel, exemplifies how distorted US policy is. Like drug peddlers hooked on their own supply, the spooks and kooks who populate the US governmental apparatus suffered literal physical damage believing the paranoic false propaganda that they push on the populace to justify the empire’s forever wars and brutal regime-change intrigues.
Roger D. Harris is with the human rights group Task Force on the Americas, founded in 1985.