Yellow-Bellied Swapsucker

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

I’m afraid I now have to add my voice to those others critical of the Obama administration. But my particular objection concerns an issue not extensively raised heretofore: his spy-exchange policy.

The inspiration here comes – as it so often does these days – from a tweet:

RT @news_suisse Let's swap: Fidel #Castro will only free spy suspct in xchng 4 5 #Cuba spies held by US "like w/Russns"

The reference is to this article in the Swiss paper 24 Heures about ancient Cuban strongman Fidel Castro recently emerging in public to rail against his old bugbear, the US. Turns out the authorities there have been holding an American businessman for eight months now, whom they are still “investigating.” How convenient: maybe to get him back the US government would be willing to exchange five already-convicted Cuban spies, namely the so-called “Cuban Five” who were dispatched to Florida to infiltrate Cuban exile organizations, one of whom was then found guilty of “conspiracy to commit murder.”

Any six-year-old marble-trader (not to mention The Doors) could tell you what’s wrong with that deal: they want five of ours for just one of theirs! And why would Fidel believe that the US would even consider such an unequal transaction? Because no less than a month ago the Obama administration did accept precisely that in sending ten suspected spies back to Russia in exchange for only four in return! Shortly thereafter, VP Biden tried to downplay this disparity by asserting that “[w]e got back four really good ones.”

But anyone can see that that is far from true. In fact, all you need to do to disprove Biden’s assertion is examine the case of but one of those Russians, Anna Chapman (which, strangely, is precisely what Biden and his talk-show host Jay Leno then proceeded to do!). From the considerable value-added that has been derived from her already – like this, and also this – it’s clear that, in fact, Ms. Chapman alone should have been worth the return of ten of our own spies from Russian jails – at least.

But apparently Obama has rather less trading-savvy than any man-on-the-street, so the Russian spy exchange went through and Anna Chapman was gone – oh so irretrievably gone! That’s what makes Fidel think he can dangle a similarly lopsided sort of deal in front of US authorities and that they’ll go for it as well, but this sort of soft-headedness in the spy-horse-trading market has got to stop!

P.S. Interestingly, the latest English-language coverage I’ve been able to find so far on this Cuban spy issue, like this recent piece from the Associate Press, completely misses the agent-exchange point by focusing instead on Castro’s characterization of the treatment of one of those imprisoned Cuban spies by US authorities as “torture.”

That’s ridiculous! The United States does not “torture” – not like they do on the island of Cuba! Why, I can distinctly remember the last President, George W. Bush, saying precisely that.

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