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The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

'Axis of Evil' gathers in Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba -- This city is festooned with signs and banners welcoming foreign leaders to a gathering that looks like a reunion of President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil." Cuban officials tell me the point is not to attack America, but many of the billboards here tell a different story: they portray President Bush with fangs, call him an "assassin" and even compare him to Adolf Hitler. (The Castro government is accusing the U.S. of harboring a man known here as the Osama bin Laden of Cuba  -- a Cuban exile now jailed in Texas on immigration charges, but accused in Havana of terror plots. It's part of the backdrop for the angry rhetoric against the U.S.)

Brian will be anchoring from here tomorrow night, which is a very big deal. Cuba TV -- part of the government here -- has already talked about his anticipated arrival.

WHY ARE WE ALL HERE?
For one thing, Havana is always interesting, and Cuba has not permitted any foreign journalists in since Fidel Castro turned over power -- he said temporarily -- to his brother Raul and a triumvirate of officials on July 31st. This is our first chance to talk to Cubans about how they view this change after a half century of Fidel's rule.

We've found some unease, but less than you might think. It's clear that Fidel prepared well for a succession. Even five years ago, after he fainted during a mid-day rally, he had told me his brother would succeed him and that the revolution would live on. This is not what the current White House hopes, or expects. It has set aside $80 million to encourage anti-Castro dissent. Interestingly, I interviewed a prominent dissident yesterday who said that she and her friends don't want money from the U.S. government. Taking American support would undermine their credibility here and help the regime portray them as tools of the U.S. By the way, representatives of the Communist Party visited here last weekend and told her not to organize any protests this week while the summit is in session. Their warning did not stop her and the other "women in white" -- wives and other supporters of 60 men jailed three years ago for criticism of the government -- from donning their white dresses and conducting their silent protest by attending Sunday mass.

Of course, we are also here to cover the summit, a meeting of so-called "non-aligned nations." It is an artifact of the Cold War, of countries seeking power for themselves outside either the East or the West. When they first gathered in Belgrade in 1961, Fidel Castro was 35, a revolutionary leader admitting that he was a communist. In 1979, at the peak of the Cold War, he hosted the annual gathering. Now 80 and ailing, Castro was supposed to be greeting the 50 heads of state arriving here today to talk about world poverty and criticize U.S. policy. Instead, he's in his hospital room, but his aides say he is recovering and giving orders by phone. That said, there is a real sense here of the passing of an era. No one in government says Castro will be back in charge. Friends, like an Argentinian author who visited him yesterday, are trying to perpetuate the legend. This visitor described Castro as looking like Don Quixote, especially after losing so much weight since his surgery. Another visitor today -- Venezuela's Hugo Chavez -- described Fidel as looking like the Man of La Mancha, but "victorious and invincible" (unlike Cervantes' dreamer).

Buoyed by billions in oil revenues which have helped Cuba offset the crippling affects of the U.S. economic embargo, Chavez was greeted as a hero when he arrived today. With Castro offstage, Chavez is asserting himself as the next leader of the movement. But he isn't the only focus of attention: Iran's President Ahmadinejad is also in Havana and will likely get an endorsement for his nuclear standoff with the West.

In many ways, this summit will rehearse next week's arguments over Iran, Iraq and North Korea at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The U.S. is not without some support here -- from Iraq, Pakistan, and India, among others countries -- but behind the scenes or not, Fidel Castro is still orchestrating this performance. And even if he only shows up for a curtain call, if he's physically able, he will not pass on one last opportunity to hammer away at his nemesis to the north.

Editor's note: Andrea discussed the scene in Cuba today on MSNBC-TV. You can watch her report here. She'll also talk with Brian on tonight's broadcast.

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COMMENTS

We shouldn't call Bush stupid? Then call him someone who is educationally, morally, and ethically challenged, but who has a good handle on "truthiness." He was a cheerleader at Yale, a C or D student on a good day, a member of Skull and Bones (as are many of our leaders in business and politics today), and his family contributed very generously to the school. He didn't go to Harvard.

I´d like to see, for once, a journalist like Andrea Mitchell put the blame of the economic disaster that is Cuba not on the ineffective (in a global perspective) American embargo but on the mismanagement of the Cuban resources by Castro and his crew of incompetents AND the intrinsic backwardness of a centrally (and dictatorially) controlled economy.

Dear Andrea: Please do not make the mistake many foreign journalists make when arriving to Havana, they follow whatever the Cuban government tells them to do. As an american who have been around the globle it is inexcusable, that their open eyes and ears of their profession remain shut. Please go to the independent journalists who are risking their lives to show the real Cuba. Thank you and a warm greeting from a free cuban. Manuel

I was just a little girl when the Cuban Missile Crisis was in the news. I didn't understand, but I knew something very serious was happening. I remember seeing President Kennedy and Cruschev (sp) on the news and that Momma and Daddy didn't seem the same. And now to see so many leaders of countries who are certainly not our friends all together in Cuba, so close to us, is eerily frightening. I'd say it was a nightmare, but I'm wide awake.

Dear Brian & Andrea:

I'd love to see either one of you walk off the beaten journalistic path allowed to foreign correspondents in Cuba. Why not seek the voices of courageous Cuban dissidents? Why do you adhere to the Cuban government rules? What are you afraid of? I'd like to see you reporting from an undisclosed location in Havana while discussing Cuba's real issues with those who dare oppose the Castro regime. Believe me when I say that it does take guts to do so in a place like Cuba. I lived there for 15 years, I should know.

Andrea, the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez, among many others at the XIV Summit of Non-Aligned Nations, do indeed merit the moniker "Axis of Evil." I can assure you that if any of these characters had access to the kind of military might we have in the USA, they wouldn't hesitate to use it against us. All you need to do is read up on the history of the October Cuban Missile Crisis. If it were up to Castro, we would have been blown to smithereens a long time ago. I wouldn't be here writing this comment, and possibly many other people in the USA wouldn't be here reading it.

I agree with everything said by H. Forcelledo from Howard Beach NY. Furthermore, I'd like to add that whether Republican or Democrat, conservative, moderate, or liberal, we here in the USA would do well to institute a more cohesive foreign policy approach to dealing with what I call "Castro & Co." The propagation of the socialist-communism agenda in Central and South America, in particular Fidel's brand of hatred for the USA, is a real threat to our country. One day we'll have to finally wake up and smell the 'café con leche.' I just hope that when that day arrives, it won't have to be to a 9/11 type of rude awakening.

Sincerely,

Ritzy Cubanita

Andrea –
You will be shown that which the government of Fidel Castro wants you to see. The only thing Castro’s government is better at than repression is Public Relations and propaganda. As they show you the glories of the revolution, bear in mind that there has not been erected ONE single new Hospital in La Habana since 1959!

If by chance you see those buses burning diesels, where men and women hang on for dear life you will be told that is because of the “embargo”. But when you ask for a Heineken or a Coca Cola or a place to buy replacement batteries for your laptop, you will be directed to anyone one of several “TOURIST” only shops. At the hotel where you will probably stay you will wonder how you can get a Hershey Bar or a bottle of Dom Perignon or even buy an HP computer under this embargo. The “EMBARGO”, drilled into the consciousness of the Cuban people is the means to an end, that of maintaining them subjugated , fearful and at the point of starvation.

A nice exercise is to talk to a couple of Cubans OFF the beaten path. I recommend you go to Marianao specifically Ave 21 and 78 St , There you will find a hole that has been there for over 8 years and that can swallow a mini-cooper in one gulp. Several small children have drowned in that “pond” and while you look at the devastation of that corner and compare it to the well kept street only one block to the north – a street that is a major artery to some of the tourist sections – invite a couple of Cubans to come with you to your room in the hotel and have some drinks. Don’t worry about inviting stranger your room they will not be let in tourist ONLY facilities. This is the Cuban apartheid. An Apartheid without precedent in the history of Latin America. An Apartheid as criminal and subjugating as that in South Africa but with none of the glamour of the usual celebrities crying for an end to this most despicable practice. Someone already mentioned 1984 – In 2006 Cuba you can see the tangible consummation on that fictional story

You dear Andrea will be encircled by a reverse ghetto. You, the foreigner with the money, the knowledge and the freedom will be surrounded by an invisible cordon of separation. They the Cubans who work for $10.00 a month will be on the other side of that cordon, foreigners in their own Revolutionary paradise
Another good question would be to ask why Cubans unlike any one else in the world , need a VISA to get out of the country and why that visa costs up to $3,000 USD in processing “fees”.
I will not dwell on the clear risks that are getting closer to the USA everyday from the South . The possible annexation of Cuba and Venezuela , the funneling of endless amounts of weapons and money to destabilize the region and that the head of it all a man who during the October crisis DEMANDED that Nikita Kruschev launched an atomic attack against the USA is leading this convention you are covering.
I wish you luck and also plead with you that you look into the eyes of the Cuban people you will be able to meet. They and only they will be able to tell you the true story


Something else ironic...back when the Non-Aligned Movement was founded in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, it truly was non-aligned--now, we all know whose side they're on.

"This is our first chance to talk to Cubans about how they view this change after a half century of Fidel's rule."

Oh please, try to talk to the "real Cubans" and not those who have learned a script handed to them by the communist party....Then you will see up close and personal what happens to foreign reporters who deviate from the guidelines, your tape will be confiscated and you'll be on the next plane out....Wake up and smell the coffee my dear, Cuba is still a totalitarian regime controlled by a couple of nazi-like madmen.

Andrea,

While youre there in the island paradise, do take the time to visit the Kilo 8 prison where journalists, just like yourself only with much more integrity, grit and courage, languish in jails simply for reporting the truth. Take a camera crew out to Pinar del Rio, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and other small towns where you might be able to garner a relistic glimpse on what life is really like for the average Cuban.

Then, maybe, when you get back to the states, try to remember that the five dollars you spend at your local Starbucks for a cup of fancy coffee is half the monthly salary of the average cuban.

It was the press that helped put castro in power. It's been the press that has helped maintain his position and unfortunately it will be the press who sings his praises when he finally begins his journey to hell. And the only people that suffer from your support of the bearded dictator, have been and are and will be the Cuban people.

"Elizabeth, don't make it sound like that. The person that reads your post will think that the cuban people say that and only Cubans on camera say that. Remember that cubans are controller by terror. Do you remember "1984" (Big Brother)? That is Cuba. They have to say what they are told to say and they have to do what they are told to do. If you say something different, you just face the consequences. You play, you pay. You don't want to go to jail for an indetermined number of years just for disagreeing with the cuban government. People believe everyone is free to say whatever and if someone say something, that is what they think, and that is not true. Facts!!! Does anoyone think, really does anyone think, that people would risk their lives the way they do crossing the sea between the US and Cuba if that place were so good and they were happy there?
Go to Cuba, but don't go to a hotel. Go to a family house and just experience for a week what they have to experience day by day. You will jump into the sea and will not care for the sharks. I always remember what my sister told me once: "I'm not afraid to die any more even when if I have to go to hell, because hell can not be worst than this"

What ever happen to "courage under fire in this nation" We technically are at war, whether or not people believe that, accept that or support it, we are in a war. It's a dangerous war and it is a dangerous time in the world because we are fighting a faceless enemy backed by an ideology we barely understand. For those who say that the troops must come home and we should pull out, I saw HOGWASH! I don't want war, death and destruction just as most of this nation does not want it however if we were to pull out now sating, "well sorry we got this far and not you're on your own", i believe it would be open season on the US, Britian and the majority of our allies. The insurgency would prevail, terrorism would have another Middle Eastern safe haven and all hell (for lack of a better term) would break loose.
The subject of these secret prisons is also troubling. The thought of being humane and dignified when dealing with suspected combatants and POW's is extremely important and should fall in line with the Hauge/Geneva Conventions. However, does anyone think that the insurgency, the taliban and those who organized/committed the 9/11 attacks, the bali bombings, the london bombings and countless others are doing the same thing? Did people in those cities have their rights thought of and the Geneva convention considered before they were mudered? What kind of a fiasco is Washington trying to put on here? Why aren't we putting up "our dukes" and fighting a little dirty to get the intelligence we need? And why are top secret military programs constantly being brodcasted (and in some cases leaked) into the media? This is insane! All the enemy has to do is turn on CNN, NBC or the BBC and see all the intel they need on us. This nation is giving away it's darkest, strategic secrets all for one thing, which is to fight a very dirty political war here at home. I am sick of this election junk and would like our elected officials to stop worrying about how to keep their jobs, and start worrying about how to protect the citizens who gave them their jobs! Roll up the sleeves, grow a little muscle, fight for the security of this nation as a whole and not just for the security of a congressional seat!
And to all who are comparing Bush to Hitler, you all should be ashamed of yourselves! How dare you. I may not agree with all his policies but how dare anyone compare the leader of the free world to one of the greatest tyrants and murderers of all time! Shame on all of you and if you call yourselves honest, decent Americans, then I am ashamed for what this great nation has become!

Andrea,

Koffi Annan has been asked by serveral of the well known Cuban dissidents (i.e. Ladies in White - They are the wives of the political prisoners in Cuban jails) to meet with him and discuss human rights.

Is he going to grant this group the same respect he has granted castro? He wasted no time to go and see the "ailing" castro. I think it would be a slap in the face if he does not meet with the dissidents of Cuba. Many of castro's human right violations have gone unpunishable.

As a matter of fact the UN has rewarded Cuba for the last 30 years with a seat in the Commission on Human Rights (http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/2/chrmem.htm). Keep up the good work Mr.Annan.

I hope NBC will use tonight's opportunity to show the world the damage that 47 years of castro's totalitarian rule over a beautiful island has caused. Show the apartheid in place in Cuba separating the tourists from the Cubans in their own country! Show the political prisoners in jail for simply tryng to speak their mind!
Don't just show two corrupt traitors (Kofi and fidel) embracing warmly, etc..

The Non-Alignment movement has become irrelevant as a world movement, unless we are talking of the new alignment, that is, of the new litlle Fidel wannabees in Latin America with Cuba. After Fidel sided with the USSR when he looked the other way in every occassion (Checkoslovakia,Afghanistan,Poland) the Ruskies acted imperially it is hard to understand what credibility he has left other than this is a gathering of the usual suspects of "blame the U.S. for everything wrong in their countries" crowd.

The meeting of NOAL has become a mutual commiserating group therapy for little tyrants around the world whose population wish their countries were aligned with some country with money!

This Summit is a joke. If the foreign media visiting Cuba is permitted to walk among the regular people in Cuba, they will see the misery and absence of the most basic of human rights, such as freedom of speech. They will not come out and speak on camera. I still have family there, and they have to make believe that everything is wonderful or else. We are surprised and confused with the fact that reporters are allowed to visit Cuba, while the fact is that there is no freedom of speech in Cuba. You may remember the 75 political prisioners encarcerated for having a diferent political view. I am happy here in US, but I would love to see Castro be brought to justice and to see Cuba become a free country that I can visit.

To the person that wants to pass the "high school senior" law, have you forgotten the President is a graduate of both Yale and Harvard? It amazes me how President Bush is characterized as being unintelligent. What other Harvard and Yale grads are characterized this way? Disagree with the man if you choose, but don't call him stupid.

Hi Andrea,

Please make sure you do a balancing act. Try to go unannouced to where the regular cubans live, interview them , visit the real cuba ( www.therealcuba.com) ( www.babalublog.com). Press Cuban Government officials about Fariñas, please visit him at the hospital. Talk to the ladies in white. Thanks Andrea

**This was submitted several times due to server problems**

Way to go Mediabloodhound! If that is an accurate quote from the Nazi Hermann Goering (showing how the "threat of attack" can force the public into a fascist state and war), you should spread that up and down the net like there was no tomorrow! Where did you find it? The worst part of it is they still have two and a half years to run this country (and the world) right into the ground. By not sending enough troops to secure Iraq I believe they were/are deliberately trying to PROVOKE a broader war in the Middle East. They seem to have no problem in using nuclear weapons so any such plan of theirs could “theoretically” never backfire. Fortunately, I don’t think the world would allow the US to invade Iran, as that would give the US a virtual monopoly on the world’s oil. However, since the Bush admin. was provoking even China (before 9/11 – with spy plane and supposed oceanographic missions 20 miles off their coast), that may not seem like much of a problem to them either.

We also must remember that added to all of this is the fact that the Bush Admin. “broke” the Salt I strategic arms treaty (in place since the ‘70s) when they decided to develop a missile defense shield. This could potentially give the US “nuclear immunity” and although it might be wise when considering rouge attacks, it is horrible to think of how such a system would allow a fascist US state to hold the world hostage.

I don't quite remember, but wasn't Iranian and US relations actually coming around back during the Clinton administration? Threatening them and consistently trying to falsely imply that they are behind IEDs and what the admin. called “Iraq insurgency” (which is largely an internal struggle) is the EXACT kind of rhetoric used to get people prepared for another war – in Iran. Any wagers as to how long after the election a draft takes place? Just don’t be surprised…

P.S. I'd also agree that the media isn't helping matters when they go from a serious and shocking interview with Amnisty international about prisoner abuse, to who has the best new "rap CD" without blinking an eye. Their tone has to remain unbias, but - after a certain point - the lack of feeling on their part becomes a conveyance of acceptance.

The President of the United States came out last week and admitted he's running secret prisons, Andrea. Tens of thousands (to hundreds of thousands, depending on estimates) of people have been killed because of his illegal war in Iraq, over 2,600 of whom are our young men and women. Bush is fighting like hell to pass legislation that would not only give him the capacity to continue such secret prisons and torture practices during interrogations but also prevent anyone in his administration from being prosecuted for these very same war crimes in the future. For the moment, he's been stopped by today's vote in Congress. But he vows to not give up on this.

Is he Hitler? No. Of course not. At least, no yet. Maybe if he declares Marshall Law and, as Rockey the Shill suggested, winds up not leaving office when his second term expires.

But Bush does use some tactics right out of Hitler's playbook. Specifically, like Hitler, Bush has led through spreading as much fear as possible. His strength has been our fear.

This quote by Hitler henchman Hermann Goering pretty much sums up the Bush-Cheney doctrine of ruling on the domestic front:

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

Generally speaking, though, the comparisons of Bush to someone like Hitler are a distraction, in a similar way (though used for different ends) that Bush comparing Osama bin Laden to Hitler or Lenin (btw, odd choice instead of Stalin, don't you think?) are a distraction as well. Bush compares Osama bin Laden to Hitler so we all just go, "Well, Bush might be horrible, but do we really want to be on the side of a man who's like Hitler?" But should that be our choice? Support Bush; he's not as bad as Hitler.

Moreover, you guys use such comparisons to distract, too. Why not at least acknowledge to your viewers why so many people, not just in Cuba but here at home and around the world as well, think Bush rules like a despot, if not like Hitler. Scoffing at suggestions that Bush is like Hitler without further contextualization undermines the reality of the egregious acts Bush and his administration have committed. And makes you appear either intellectually dishonest or out of touch with what people the world-over, as well as here at home, are thinking.

Hi Andrea! I was amazed (but, at the same time very pleased)to see you in Havana. Now I learn that Brian will be there tomorrow. How times have changed!! The non aligned meeting is a big deal and we need some good reporting from there. Thanks!!

I'm Cuban; born there and happy to have my freedom; something a lot of people that are born here take forgranted. No, I'm not one of those that awaits Castro's death to go celebrate. Everything I consider important is in this country.
While researching everything I could on Castro's Cuba for a novel I'm writing; I realized that this man will be dangerous to his last breath. But what I'm really afraid of is that when that happens; how would he want to go? He's never been the type to stay quiet even when he's dealt a losing hand. He was willing to sacrifice himself and the island during the Cuban Missile Crisis. What would he do once he knows that his life is ending?
These are facts that you could find in any Cuban Revolution books. So the question I ask is; how would a man that has nothing to left in him except a hatred for this country wants to go when he dies?
As for all of you that think those anti-US rallies are a new thing...please! Cuba and other anti-US contries have done this for years. I have families in parts of thw world that have seen this first hand even during the 90's where the burn pictures of Clinton instead of Bush. Why, because they don't know better and sometimes they're even forced to do it. Freedom is something that we take forgranted but many people around the world cannot imagine how it feels.

This is another clear message from the world. 70-80% of the real world (outside the Texas Ranch) is not exactly aboard the "they hate our freedoms" war. Moreover, just recently a senate vote of 15-9 against bush's interrogation law is another clear message from fellow republicans. How long before the other nine people give up on this 6th grade educated town idiot. I would love to go before the senate and Supreme Court (who by the way elected him for us) and try to get a new law passed. It is called the "high School senior" law, which basically consists of anyone in charge of the free world has to be at least able to pass a high school equivalency test. Back to the whole 15-9 vote thing, it was a vote intended to make legal rougher interrogations, all the while we are hated for our freedoms & liberties.

Why do all countries that choose not to agree with the U.S. have to be "evil" Do they not have the right to disagree without being attached? Must we always behave in words and deeds like childish, ill-tempered schoolyard bullies? I am a patriotic American and embrace American values - including the right to differ in opinion. Aren't you?

Sounds to me like a gathering of the "Cosa Nostra" Who's the godfather in charge?

Whereas traditional US foreign policy has been to disregard its neighbors to the south, some of those neighors, such as Cuba and Venezuela, take the US very seriously.

The US better pay attention. A hurricane is brewing down south. Chavez' ambition is to fulfill Simon Bolivar's dream of having one great nation encompassing Venezuela, Colombia, Perú, Ecuador, and Bolivia. This is what Chavez means by the "Revolución Bolivariana". He is slowly succeeding. His support of the FARC guerrilla in Colombia is to distabilize that pro-US democracy, and support socialist-marxist dictators for Colombia, Ecuador, Perú, and Bolivia. This may take years, but with him fully in control of Venezuela, he can build on creating those coalitions. Do not be surprised when Chavez invades Colombia after Colombia's Uribe's second presidential term is over (around 2010). The US should be way more involved in supporting and creating democracies close to home rather than in places such as the Middle East where such attempts are entirely irrational, and where democracy has never had neither a cultural nor philosophical foundaiton. Democracies need to be strengthened in South America. The US as always has turned its attention away from its neighbors to the south thinking they are not powerful nor important enough economically. Global warming is going on, and that just doesn't mean the weather. A strong curtain against terrorism means strengthening this continent. Chavez' sidling up to Iran, North Korea, China, Syria means he is opening doors for Al Qaeda, Hisbollah, and the Taliban to make their way to South America. Can't anybody in the CIA see these subtleties in international politics? Where are their anaylists? We in South America who love democracy can see this brewing like a huge hurricane. The summit of non-aligned nations in Cuba is not just a little thorn in the flesh just south of the Florida Keys. It's the eye of a Cat 7 hurricane forming...

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