Cuba on the “Terrorist” List: Miami Rides Again

  • Cuba finds itself once again included on the State Department’s list of “terrorist-sponsoring” states, despite an appalling lack of evidence to support such a charge
  • Compilers of the Cuba terrorism document are stand-ins for P.T. Barnum, rather than ethical researchers
  • This archly political “terrorist” classification only further damages the credibility of the annual certification reports, which already have been widely discounted as little more than rightwing weapons to achieve the Bush administration’s ideological goals
  • In Cuba’s case – unlike the far more benign position in which Moammar Qadhafi now finds himself as a result of the State Department’s oil-driven policy towards the Libyan strongman of forgive and forget – the Miami exile community has successfully wielded its congressional influence in order to ensure that Havana is never left off any list of miscreant nations, even if Fidel Castro manages to consort with the angels.

Selling a Foreign Policy to Miami Fat Cats
In the State Department’s near-universally discredited series of annual certification reports, Cuba found itself once again lumped in with Iran, Libya (only briefly), Syria, North Korea and Sudan as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Yet logic and a sense of proportionality seems to have once again been trampled by raw ideology, and the charges reveal the alarming extent to which Condoleezza Rice and the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs has allowed a Miami-based cabal of Cuban-American extremists to continue their de facto control over U.S. policy towards the island. Cuba, which originally was included in the listing of state-sponsors of terrorism in 1982, as a result of its purported support for guerrilla insurgencies around the world, in any case has done nothing to merit such a designation today, even if you use the State Department’s own definition of the concept. Removing the island from the Bush White House’s list of rogue nations would require a certain degree of political integrity (or a suicidal personality) sure to irritate the digestive tract of the powerful South Florida anti-Castro bloc: simply put, there is no prospect that this will happen. In fact, the State Department, knowing that it had no hard case, had tried once before to drop Cuba from its terrorist list, but hurried back to its desk to reinvent the document after Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and her Miami colleagues raised the roof over its legitimate finding.

Making a Fake Case
The State Department has now sought to justify its archly politicized designation of Cuba as a rogue state by pointing to contrived allegations – both recent and ancient – which were even then usually more apparent than real, if not downright phony. For example, the State Department will tell you that Castro has provided hospitality to several FARC and ETA (Basque) guerrillas, but doesn’t bother to inform you that the invitation specifically came at the request of the Colombian and Spanish governments to Havana authorities in order to resolve hostage situations back in their countries on neutral grounds. Castro was only assisting in a solution to problems not of his own, which, in fact, Washington was covertly backing.

Getting down to the State Department’s pitiful collection of zircons being passed off as diamonds, it is true that Cuba has harbored members of various terrorist groups such as ETA and FARC, as well as maintained links with North Korea and Iran, but so what? Washington had no difficulty the other day rehabilitating Moammar Qadhafi, who had ordered the downing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie which killed scores of Americans. Fidel Castro, on the other hand, has never committed a comparable crime against this country in his entire history.
While Washington is correct in claiming that Cuba invests heavily in biotechnology, even the State Department now admits that it has no evidence to substantiate the totally invented charges of former high official (now U.S. ambassador to the UN) John Bolton, regarding Cuba’s alleged bioweaponry exports to its sister “rogue” nations, acknowledging that “there is some dispute about the existence and extent of Cuba’s offensive biological weapons program.” That Washington, after first disowning it, has now managed to rouse the temerity to use Bolton’s characteristic prevarications to support part of its hardscrabble case against Cuba, is tantamount to tacitly admitting that that its annual terrorism document is a massive fraud, and well deserves its moon begotten reputation. Additionally, it should be noted that Washington has done the Colombian peace process no real service by supporting a discredited and scandal-ridden paramilitary demobilization formula in which it was forced to give up its coveted ability to have Colombian authorities extradite indicted local drug traffickers to the U.S. where they would stand trial. Cuba, however, was serving Bogotá in a much more helpful manner. It did this by accepting the invitation of both sides several years ago to serve as a site for negotiations between Bogotá’s rightist government and Colombia’s leftist guerrilla force, the ELN.

Feigning Ignorance
Equally stunning is Washington’s pharisaic attempt to wield an anti-terrorism truncheon against Havana at a time when no major nation is more systematically being condemned as a global moral leper than the United States – another State Department achievement. Speaking of terror, since torture is generally viewed as at the core of terrorism, it must be acknowledged that torture is practiced in Cuba, but not necessarily by the Castro regime. Rather, as has just been charged by the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture, the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo, on Cuban territory, has been the site for torture and should be immediately shut down. As the Bush administration patches together a series of illusions and fantasies about Cuba’s spurious ties to terrorist groups, Washington perpetuates an outrageous double standard of condoning, or worse, ignoring, the anti-social actions of a number of Miami anti-Havana plotters and terrorist agents, while harshly punishing those who had attempted to prevent such assaults because the Bush administration refused to do so.

It is no secret that Miami has often been used as a launching pad for a variety of anti-Castro exile sorties against the island. Such endeavors, which have ranged from intentionally provocative propaganda campaigns to outright acts of terrorism and violence – at times with Washington’s complicity – have resulted in the deaths of which scores of Cuban civilians, as well as foreigners. Washington, cognizant of these outrightly illegal initiatives, chose to accommodate, rather than confront, them, largely because of the oversized influence wielded by Miami zealots in Congress, the State Department, and the White House.

Such support for U.S. initiatives that do not in any way aid the war against terrorism, has included the White House’s refusal to extradite – to either Cuba or Venezuela – an acknowledged terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, whose huge dossier of violence includes the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight that killed 73 civilians. Posada currently remains detained in El Paso on immigration-related charges, and since no other country has come forth to offer him asylum, it is unlikely that Washington will get around to prosecuting him for more serious offenses. In fact, there is every reason to believe that on some slow news day – likely on a rainy weekend – the Bush administration (just like the first President Bush did with Posada’s compadre Orlando Bosch) will release him into the general public.

Bosch secured sanctuary in this country as a result of a presidential pardon partly at the behest of then U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Otto Reich, with undoubtedly an assist from anti-Havana ultra Jeb Bush – both of them tireless advocates on the terrorist’s behalf. Once back in the U.S., Bosch lived the life of a free man, even though he continued to plot against Cuba. As for Posada, he was one of the self-acknowledged leaders in a lethal scheme to cripple Cuba’s all-important tourist industry by commissioning bombing and machine gun attacks on tourist destinations in downtown Havana. Other exile sorties included repeated attempts to infiltrate the island in order to assassinate Castro or propagate other acts of violence. While, on rare occasions, U.S. authorities assisted in blocking the plans, the authors of these plots were never indicted. The reason for this was that they had been granted a virtual immunity from prosecution by the White House. So much for Washington’s hubris over sanctioning other countries for not being faithful enlistees in the War Against Terrorism, when itself was a faithless servitor of its cause.

A Disgraceful Double Standard: The Sad Case of the Cuban Five
Washington’s selective indignation when it came to Cuban issues has always been on display. This led Havana to come to a fateful decision to attempt to check these repeated U.S.-sanctioned or tolerated acts of terrorism from its territory by sending five agents to South Florida to monitor and report back to Havana the plots about to be hatched by extreme members of the Cuban community. These men were not counter-espionage professionals and their activities did not include attempting either to acquire classified information or penetrate secure government facilities. Rather, their mission was to prevent future attacks on the island from the exiles’ safe havens on the U.S. mainland.

Their punishment was hardly commensurate with their relatively mild offenses. Their draconian treatment began with a patently biased and grossly incompetent Dade County judge, Joan Lenard (who was later overruled), who presumably had concluded that the right ruling could further her career. She therefore proceeded to hand out unprecedented sentences that added up to four life sentences and 75 additional years (one defendant received 2 life terms, another, life plus 18 years, a third, life plus 10 years, one simply 19 years, and one received 15 years). Lenard’s service to Miami’s politicos extended to the degree that she also denied them standard family visiting privileges. All of this was based on a crime – operating as a foreign agent without notifying the government – which at worst would have merited deportation, as had been the case for other crimes in this category. Yet when it comes to Castro Cuba, terrorism is defined not necessarily by its misdeeds, but by Washington’s political rant of the day.
The relationship between the U.S. and Cuba exemplifies the grossly unprofessional behavior of State Department diplomats – Otto Reich, Roger Noriega, James Cason, and Michael Parmly. Tom Shannon, who, for a few brief moments after being appointed to the State Department’s chief Latin America position, seemed to be relatively immune to tawdry policy making, like the others, got in line to be an enthusiastic and loyal Bushista. This can hardly provide a source of pride for those who have committed their careers to seeking a rational and high-minded role for U.S. diplomacy regarding this hemisphere. Historically, the reason for such an illogical policy is that both Democrats and Republicans tried to outbid each other in pandering to Miami’s extremist exile leadership, both for campaign donations and electoral support. The State Department confesses that it is “not aware of specific terrorist enclaves in [Cuba].” However it cannot make the same claim about the ones operating out of Miami.