One of the weirdest news stories in recent years has been the so-called ‘Havana Syndrome’ when US embassy personnel in various parts of world, starting in Havana, reported hearing buzzing, having headaches and nausea, and other medical complaints. Aided by US government sources and egged on by anti-Cuban forces, the media quickly assumed that this was caused by a new kind of weapon developed by Cuba or possibly Russia or China.
While this was always far-fetched, Branko Marcetic writes that a secret government study concluded back in 2018 supported one theory that it was psychosomatic and caused by crickets. The cricket theory was postulated by some scientists two years ago but dismissed as preposterous. The new government study was classified and only released this week.
In news that won’t be news for many observers of US-Cuba relations, Buzzfeed reported Thursday that a thorough scientific investigation completed in 2018 by an elite government science advisory body determined that the so-called Havana Syndrome that US spies and diplomats have suffered in recent years was most likely caused by crickets.
The report, commissioned by the State Department and kept classified until last week, backs up what various observers have been saying from almost the very beginning: that the neurological injuries reported around the world by US personnel, including dizziness, headaches, and hearing loss, were most likely psychosomatic. In other words, they were probably caused by stress or emotional strain, and spread to others through the power of suggestion.
What’s critical to understand here is that since mid-2017, anti-Cuban hawks, using the establishment press as their megaphone, have baselessly and incessantly claimed that the illness was actually the result of “attacks” carried out by Washington’s geopolitical adversaries, and using a mysterious, never invented microwave weapon. This campaign began on August 9, 2017, when the Associated Press, in a report republished everywhere, from CNBC and CBS to Politico, regurgitated the supposed conclusions of nameless “US officials” that “the diplomats had been exposed to an advanced device that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences,” for which Washington expelled two Cuban diplomats as retaliation.
Within days, nameless US officials were popping up in a variety of trusted liberal-leaning mainstream outlets like CNN and the Guardian to make the same assertions or, as in the Washington Post, to tell the public they were investigating it as an attack.
Despite constant statements from scientists and other experts that the symptoms seemed like classic cases of psychosomatic illness, that the sounds recorded sounded suspiciously like crickets, and that there was no evidence such a microwave weapon had ever actually been invented, mainstream outlets continued broadcasting these unsubstantiated charges from anonymous US officials for the next four years.
He goes on to point to a consistent stream of comments from anti-Cuban hawks and anonymous sources, all pushing the same line that US embassy and CIA personnel were being targeted by enemy nations. Mainstream media, even supposedly liberal ones, dutifully and uncritically repeated these claims. He says that this follows a similar pattern of misinformation by those who want to keep the US in a state of perpetual war or at least war-readiness. There were similar unsubstantiated stories by war hawks who were trying to nullify some of the good moves that Trump made, such as improving relations with Russia and North Korea. This resulted in a spate of stories about Trump and his allies being compromised by Russia, that Russia had attacked the Vermont power grid, and stoking conflict with Iran.
This is one of those stories where all the explanations, that this was a never-before-seen microwave weapon, that it was caused by crickets, or that it is psychosomatic, have problems.
Trust me, this story is not over.