In September, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made one of the most difficult decisions that a Secretary of State can make and withdrew the vast majority of personnel and their families from the United States Embassy in Cuba. Tillerson made this wave-causing decision following reports in August 2017 that multiple American and Canadian diplomatic personnel suffered unusual health issues related to a possible sonic attack.
Altogether, 22 different American personnel reported suffering from unusual health symptoms, which the state department described as ‘health attacks,’ prompting Rex Tillerson to remove all but the essential personnel from the Cuban embassy. Tillerson and other government officials still have not decided whether to return personnel to Communist Cuba or to shut down the embassy, which opened in 2015 under the Obama administration.
The ‘attacks’ are strange, to say the least. Some experts have suggested that infrasound may be the cause of the issues, while others have pointed to a similarity to Wind turbine syndrome, a psychosomatic affliction. Tillerson did not seem convinced by certain explanations.
An infrasound attack is entirely plausible, and it would fit the symptoms that the personnel displayed, according to medical experts. There already exist weapons that are designed to impact individuals utilizing infrasound, which is below 20Hz and thus impossible for the human ear to hear.
On the other hand, the idea that it is psychosomatic is a difficult one to support. It is hard to believe that 22 separate American personnel, along with an unknown number of Canadian personnel, would suffer similar ‘health attacks’ without a shared connection, and it would be extremely strange to see so widespread an example of the nocebo effect among so diverse a group.
Some in the scientific community have attempted to say that the illnesses were the result of a mass psychogenic illness, which suggests that the afflictions are a result of mass hysteria. However, that also makes no sense, as there would not normally be long-term health issues stemming from psychogenic illnesses. Many of the 22 U.S. personnel experienced long-term health problems, requiring one individual to need hearing aids.
Shortly before the new year, investigators discovered a common link between the victims, all of whom show changes in the white matter of their brains. Although investigators are not sure if (or how) infrasound would be able to effect such a change in the composition of brain matter, it is possible that the change in the white matter of the brain could have caused the personnel to perceive a sound that others couldn’t or even one that doesn’t exist.
In a report released on January 4, after four investigative trips to Havana, the FBI has still not uncovered the source of the sounds, or if they even exist. However, the investigation continues and Tillerson stands strong in his refusal to return non-essential embassy personnel until the investigation concludes.
In a statement made on January 5, Rex Tillerson defended his decision to remove embassy personnel from Cuba, saying that he has no evidence that the attacks, whatever they may be, are finished. He also displayed concerns for his personnel, pointing out that without a cessation of the attacks or proper identification of the source, he would be “intentionally putting [embassy personnel] back in harm’s way. Why in the world would I do that when I have no means whatsoever to protect them?”
For those in the U.S. who want to see Cuban relations continue, however, the removal of personnel from the American embassy, as well as the expulsion of a handful of Cuban diplomats from the United States, does not bode well. However, if the Cuban government is attacking embassy personnel in both the American and Canadian embassies, it does not seem that they’re interested in diplomatic relations.
Cuba is worried about the possible loss of tourism from the recently-opened American market. The Cuban government was also hoping to see trade relations restored, allowing their cigars, sugar, and fruit to flow back into the United States so that the government could attain greater wealth to prop up its communist policies.
However, the Cuban government may have its own issues in the near future. With the death of long-time dictator Fidel Castro, the Cuban communist government lost the leader that ruled the nation for half a century. Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother, took the reigns for a short stint as ruler of the island nation, but he plans to resign from that position on April 19th, 2018, leaving the future leadership of the island in question.
There do not appear to be many rulers in the Communist Party of Cuba who are capable of uniting the country the way that Fidel did, and without the dictatorial leadership of a Castro, Cuba may begin to find capitalism more appealing than their current dictatorial regime.
Rex Tillerson acted in the best interest of his employees (something that cannot be said for Hillary Clinton or John Kerry). In the long run, American objectives in Cuba may be accomplished, even with a lessened diplomatic relationship in the short term.