While delegates to the GOP convention were congratulating themselves for their candidate's tough stand against terrorism, the Bush administration was creating an international incident-little publicized in the United States-by harboring a notorious group of international terrorists on U.S. soil.
Three anti-Castro Cuban exiles flew to Miami last week from Panama, after serving four years in prison for "endangering public safety." They were arrested in 2000 for plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro by planting explosives at a meeting the Cuban dictator planned to hold with university students in Panama.
The average convicted terrorist does not just waltz past U.S. immigration authorities in this post-9/11 age of orange alerts, "no fly" lists and shoe searches. Senator Edward Kennedy reportedly gets stopped by airport authorities every time he tries to make a flight, allegedly because the "Kennedy" name appears on a database of suspects.
Only political influence exerted at the highest level could account for terrorists reentering U.S. borders without impediment, despite rap sheets extending back as long as forty years:
Pedro Remon, sentenced to seven years for the bomb plot in Panama, pleaded guilty in 1986 to bombing Cuba's mission to the United Nations and later conspiring to murder its ambassador to the UN. A New York detective also fingered Remon for the machine-gun murders of two political opponents.
Gaspar Jimenez, sentenced to eight years for the Panama bomb plot and falsifying documents, had previously served time in Mexico for the attempted kidnapping and murder of Cuban diplomats there. He was also indicted in Florida for blowing the legs off a liberal Miami radio talk show host in 1976. (The indictment was eventually dropped for insufficient evidence, even though the main witness passed several lie-detector tests.)
Guillermo Novo, sentenced to 7 years for the Panama terror plot, was arrested in 1964 for firing a bazooka at the United Nations, where Che Guevara was speaking. In 1978, he was convicted of participating in one of the worst acts of terrorism ever committed on U.S. soil, the car bombing in Washington, D.C. of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier. (The conviction was later overturned on a technicality, though Novo was convicted of perjury.)
A fourth Panama conspirator, Louis Posada Carriles, left Panama for Honduras. He is still wanted in Venezuela on charges of bombing a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing all 73 passengers. In 1998, in an interview with the New York Times from a hideout in Central America, Posada admitted taking part in numerous acts of terrorism, including a wave of Havana hotel bombings in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist. He said his violence was funded by prominent U.S.-based supporters in the Cuban exile community.
The release of these terrorists from Panama-ordered by its outgoing president-has caused a furor in Central America. Venezuela recalled its ambassador and Cuba severed diplomatic relations with Panama.
Honduras also protested. "I will . . . demand that the United States and Panama explain how Posada Carriles used a false U.S. passport," declared Honduran President Ricardo Maduro. "How did that airplane leave Panama with Posada Carriles, reach Honduras, and wind up in the United States?"
"We know we're dealing with important international influences," the president added.
Those influences no doubt include the fact that Posada was trained by the CIA in the 1960s in sabotage techniques, remained on the CIA payroll into the 1970s, and in the mid-1980s (after escaping from a Venezuelan jail) assisted the Reagan administration's covert supply operation on behalf of the Nicaraguan Contras.
Then there's the undeniable fact that Cuban exile terrorists enjoy strong political support in the swing state of Florida, thanks to organized lobbying by such groups as the Cuban American National Foundation. That explains why President Bush, in 2001, rejected the advice of the FBI and freed from INS custody two convicted colleagues of Guillermo Novo in the Letelier assassination.
Conservatives have long (and rightly) derided the glib phrase, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." The incoming Panamanian president, Martin Torrijos, likewise stood on principle when he rejected his predecessor's decision to pardon the terrorists, saying, "For me, there are not two classes of terrorism, one that is condemned and another that is pardoned. . . . It has to be fought no matter what its origins."
Three years ago, after 9/11, President Bush appeared to draw the same line in the sand. Addressing members of the 101st Airborne Division, he declared, "If you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist."
Today, Americans should ask whether those tough words were only rhetoric, quickly forgotten when political convenience dictates.
William Marina is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., and Professor Emeritus of History at Florida Atlantic University.
The US has a long history of collosal incompetence in foreign policy. We cannot do anything right in the world, mostly because we let our mouth over load our brains, we don't stop and think before we do anything. We have this weird notion that the enemy of our enemey is somehow our friend, and give no regard for our "friend's" own agenda.
Until we, as a nation, give up this notion that we are the center of the universe, we will continue to be a danger to ourselves and others.
Until that day, I pray for all of us.
Who ever heard of a xenophobic empire, anyway? The mere concept of such a thing is simply absurd. At least, that's my view.
I find this article most alarming. More people need to know about this sort of thing.
Apparently its wrong to kidnap Americans, but its perfectly A-ok to invade countries, murder millions, torture, rape and gut those who've survived the initial "shock and awe." Welcome to American logic : We can kill others under any phony pretext we want but if somebody attacks us, its terrorism.
rewards violence, abuse and murder. Not my
view of Islam, but it IS much of the world's."
Hypocritical when you advise Muslims not to complain. Education through our actions obviously is futile....you are still ignorant to the charity of 2.2 billion peace-loving people.
Think my friend, it doesn't hurt.
Reality. This website is all about the
perception of Islamic people. And, folks -- I'm
here to tell you -- It's not good. And, there are
no "Lessons to be Learned" which seems to
be a common theme: Lessons learned from
9/11. Lessons learned from the Madrid and
Chechnya murderers. What lessons
learned?? The lesson that keeps getting
reinforced every time this happens is that
rewards violence, abuse and murder. Not my
view of Islam, but it IS much of the world's. I'll
tell you the real lesson learned that Islamic
people throughout the world should learn: You
will not improve your status, nor will you
change the view the world holds of you
through violence. Slicing off someone's head,
killing children will only underscore the
perception that Islamic people are ignorant
uneducated, miserable, impoverished,
vengeful people who worship a God that
sanctions killing people in his/her name. For
those of you who are peaceful Muslims, your
job is to educate others through your actions.
It does you no good to constantly complain
about humiliation and defeat.
What happended to the 'terrorists in business suits' who organized a coup against Hugo Chavez in Venzuvela couple of years ago. Well, they are living in Miami.
Does anybody remember 'terrorists' which Reagan Administration supported in Nicaragua?
US has been sponsoring and supporting 'state terrorism' for a long, long time and is a well known fact which is forgotten easily by the public.