This incident earlier this month will probably go down in the annals as the most stupid diplomatic foul-up ever:
President Trump on Tuesday expelled 15 Cuban diplomats, escalating his response to a mysterious affliction that has stricken American Embassy personnel in Havana in a move that cast a Cold War chill over relations between the two countries.The US diplomats were hearing strange noises at night. This within certain parts of their embassy as well as in some homes. Lots of mischief was suspected - from huge infrasound weapons to food poisoning. But no technical or medical explanation was found. The State Department described the noise as "specific attacks" on its diplomats. At least 21 were affected and half of the US staff in Havana was ordered home. Cuban diplomats were expelled from the US
American diplomats and their spouses began reporting symptoms that included hearing loss, dizziness, balance and visual problems, headaches and cognitive issues last December. By late January, the State Department realized that the illnesses were related and might have resulted from some sort of attack, perhaps by a sonic device, toxin or virus.
Recordings of the mysterious sound were made available to AP. The agency noted:
It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what?A Cuban investigation now found the obvious answer to the AP's "but what?" question - 'crickets':
The sound seemed to manifest in pulses of varying lengths — seven seconds, 12 seconds, two seconds — with some sustained periods of several minutes or more. Then there would be silence for a second, or 13 seconds, or four seconds, before the sound abruptly started again.
Officials with Cuba’s Interior Ministry said that US investigators had presented them with three recordings made by presumed victims of sonic attacks and that analysis of the sounds showed them to be extremely similar to those of crickets and cicadas that live along the northern coast of Cuba.Crickets can make noise as loud as 100 decibels, loud enough to cause health problems. The US diplomats in Cuba were "attacked" by Cuban crickets which made enough noise to cause discomfort or even symptoms of illness. As someone only exposed to crickets when traveling abroad I can confirm that night-long cricket noise can be extremely unsettling to those who are not used to it.
“It’s the same bandwidth and it’s audibly very similar,” said Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Molina, a telecommunications specialist with the Interior Ministry. “We compared the spectrums of the sounds and evidently this common sound is very similar to the sound of a cicada.”
But why did the State Department not know this? Why did the diplomats not recognize the noise for what it was? Cicadas and crickets are not uncommon in southern US states.
Presumably some in the CIA and in the State Department do not want better relations with Cuba and resisted the 2016 reopening of the embassy. It is possible that they used the cicada "attacks" to sabotage the relations.
Whatever. The incident leaves the US State Department looking extremely silly. Imagine all the "crickets" jokes diplomats from other countries will make about their US colleagues.
The mighty US was defeated! Its diplomats retreated in panic! ... because ... 'crickets'.
Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.