This Associate Press report is almost two weeks old, but it reinforces my impression that the alleged ‘sonic attacks’ on the U.S. embassy in Cuba are imaginary:
New details learned by The Associated Press indicate at least some of the incidents were confined to specific rooms or even parts of rooms with laser-like specificity, baffling U.S. officials who say the facts and the physics don’t add up.
“None of this has a reasonable explanation,” said Fulton Armstrong, a former CIA official who served in Havana long before America re-opened an embassy there. “It’s just mystery after mystery after mystery.”
As I said yesterday, sonic weapons are not a plausible explanation for the range of (often contradictory) reports and health complaints of the affected diplomats.
Suspicion initially focused on a sonic weapon, and on the Cubans. Yet the diagnosis of mild brain injury, considered unlikely to result from sound, has confounded the FBI, the State Department and U.S. intelligence agencies involved in the investigation…
And no single, sonic gadget seems to explain such an odd, inconsistent array of physical responses.
“Brain damage and concussions, it’s not possible,” said Joseph Pompei, a former MIT researcher and psychoacoustics expert. “Somebody would have to submerge their head into a pool lined with very powerful ultrasound transducers.”
So two weeks ago, AP was saying that a sonic weapon was implausible. Sources like The Houston Chronicle and McClatchyDC, however, continue to credulously refer to ‘sonic attacks’. CNN was still reporting sonic attacks on September 23rd, a week and a half after AP called that idea implausible. That is recklessly irresponsible.
The Chicago Tribune at least tones it down to “attacks”, in quotes:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting with Cuba’s top diplomat, U.S. officials said, as the United States is seeking answers about mysterious “attacks” on its diplomats in Havana.
It should be in quotes, because at this point, we don’t know that there have been any attacks!
What we have is a wide range of health complaints by American and Canadian embassy personnel. That’s it. The range of health complaints is so broad, and so variable from person to person, that a single cause is unlikely.
The plausibility of any kind of attack is further weakened by the fact that some of the ‘victims’ were Canadian. Cuba has had diplomatic relations with Canada since 1945. Cuba frigging loves Canada. There’s a damn Labatt’s in Cuba!
So there’s zero plausibility to the ‘sonic weapon’ explanation of the diplomats’ health complaints. There’s very little plausibility to any kind of Cuban attack on embassy personnel at all. Yet our foreign policy is being affected by this nonsense. McClatchy DC reports,
The White House does not believe the Cuban government is behind the mysterious sonic attacks against U.S. personnel but plans to pull American staff out of Havana as the number of cases climbs, according to multiple U.S. sources familiar with the investigation.
“No one believes that the Cubans are responsible,” said one source, echoing comments from others who are closely involved in the situation. “All of the evidence points that they’re not.”
Stop calling them sonic attacks! There are no sonic attacks; it’s bullshit that has been debunked multiple times. If “No one believes that the Cubans are responsible,” then why are we pulling diplomats out of Cuba?
I have an idea. Presidential candidate Donald Trump promised to roll back Obama-era warming of relations between the United States and Cuba. Some people in Cuba got sick, for reasons we don’t understand. Maybe it was the water. Maybe it was the fucking heat.
It doesn’t really matter what it was; what matters is what it probably wasn’t, namely an attack by the Cubans. Whatever it was, press outlets from CNN to the New York Times credulously reported that the health complaints were likely due to a weapon no one had ever seen, no one had ever used, and no one who knew what they were talking about actually believed in. Their irresponsible lack of skepticism gave now President Trump the perfect excuse to do what he intended to do all along.
Would it be so surprising if President Trump decided to strike while the iron was hot and start breaking diplomatic ties with Cuba while the press was reporting mysterious high-tech weapons being turned on embassy personnel? I’m not even suggesting dishonesty on the part of the President; he’s never struck me as having a particularly skeptical mindset. Why would he ask hard questions when the media was telling him what he wanted to hear?
But the likelihood remains that United States foreign policy is being affected by a story that is almost certainly bullshit. The Cubans have no reason to attack U.S. and Canadian embassy personnel, and they probably don’t have a sonic weapon to begin with.
It may seem the stuff of sci-fi novels, of the cloak-and-dagger rivalries that haven’t fully dissipated despite the historic U.S.-Cuban rapprochement two years ago that seemed to bury the weight of the two nations’ Cold War enmity.
The stuff of sci-fi novels is exactly what it seems like. Science fiction is exactly what it is.