Necessary Illusions Copyright 1989 by Noam Chomsky
Appendix V Segment 5/33
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Anti-Cuban terrorism was directed by a secret Special Group established in November 1961 to conduct covert operations against Cuba under the code name "Mongoose," involving 400 Americans, 2,000 Cubans, a private navy of fast boats, and a $50 million annual budget, run in part by a Miami CIA station functioning in violation of the Neutrality Act and, presumably, the law banning CIA operations in the United States.29 These operations included bombing of hotels and industrial installations, sinking of fishing boats, poisoning of crops and livestock, contamination of sugar exports, blowing up of civilian aircraft, etc. Not all of these actions were directly authorized by the CIA, but we let no such niceties disturb us when condemning officially designated terrorist states.

Several of these terrorist operations took place at the time of the Cuban missile crisis of October-November 1962. In the weeks before, Raymond Garthoff reports, a Cuban terrorist group operating from Florida with U.S. government authorization carried out "a daring speedboat strafing attack on a Cuban seaside hotel near Havana where Soviet military technicians were known to congregate, killing a score of Russians and Cubans"; and shortly after, attacked British and Cuban cargo ships and again raided Cuba among other actions that were stepped up in early October while Congress passed a resolution "sanctioning the use of force, if necessary, to restrain Cuban aggression and subversion in the Western Hemisphere" and voted to withhold aid from any country trading with Cuba. At one of the tensest moments of the missile crisis, on November 8, a terrorist team dispatched from the United States blew up a Cuban industrial facility after the Mongoose operations had been officially suspended. In a letter to the U.N. Secretary General, Fidel Castro alleged that 400 workers had been killed in this operation, guided by "photographs taken by spying planes" (referring to testimony by the captured "leader of a group of spies trained by the CIA and directed by it"). This terrorist act, which might have set off a global nuclear war, was considered important enough to merit passing reference in a footnote in an article on the missile crisis in the journal International Security, but no media attention, to my knowledge. Attempts to assassinate Castro and other terror continued immediately after the crisis terminated, and were escalated by Nixon in 1969.30 There is no known example of a campaign qualifying so uncontroversially as terror that approaches this one in scale and violence.

Turning to the second major example of the pre-Reagan period, in southern Lebanon from the early 1970s the population was held hostage with the "rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that affected populations would exert pressure for the cessation of hostilities" and acceptance of Israeli arrangements for the region (Abba Eban, commenting on Prime Minister Menachem Begin's account of atrocities in Lebanon committed under the Labor government in the style "of regimes which neither Mr. Begin nor I would dare to mention by name," Eban observed, recognizing the accuracy of the account).31 Notice that this justification, offered by a respected Labor Party dove, places these actions squarely under the rubric of international terrorism by any reasonable definition, unless, again, we consider them to fall under the more serious crime of aggression -- as of course we would if an enemy state were the agent of the crimes.

Thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes in these terror attacks. Little is known about them because it was a matter of indifference that Arabs were being murdered and their villages destroyed by a Western state armed and supported by the United States. ABC correspondent Charles Glass, then a journalist in Lebanon, found "little American editorial interest in the conditions of the south Lebanese. The Israeli raids and shelling of their villages, their gradual exodus from south Lebanon to the growing slums on the outskirts of Beirut were nothing compared to the lurid tales of the `terrorists' who threatened Israel, hijacked aeroplanes and seized embassies." The reaction was much the same, he continues, when Israeli death squads were operating in southern Lebanon after the 1982 Israeli invasion. One could read about them in the London Times, but U.S. editors were not interested. Had the media reported the operations of "these death squads of plainclothes Shin Beth [secret police] men who assassinated suspects in the villages and camps of south Lebanon," "stirring up the Shiite Muslim population and helping to make the Marine presence untenable," there might have been some appreciation of the plight of the U.S. Marines deployed in Lebanon. They seemed to have no idea why they were there apart from "the black enlisted men: almost all of them said, though sadly never on camera, that they had been sent to protect the rich against the poor." "The only people in Lebanon they identified with were the poor Shiite refugees who lived all around their base at the Beirut airport; it is sad that it was probably one of these poor Shiites...who killed 241 of them on 23 October 1983." If any of these matters had been reported, it might have been possible to avert, or at the very least to comprehend, the bombing in which the Marines were killed, victims of a policy that "the press could not explain to the public and their information officers could not explain to the Marines themselves" -- and which is now denounced as unprovoked Arab terrorism by George Shultz and the commentators who admire his "visceral contempt for terrorism."32

The effect of removing Egypt from the conflict at Camp David was that "Israel would be free to sustain military operations against the PLO in Lebanon as well as settlement activity on the West Bank," Israeli strategic analyst Avner Yaniv observes ten years later; the point was obvious at the time, but remains an unacceptable insight in the euphoria about American "peace-making."33 Predictably, then, Israeli terror in Lebanon continued after the Camp David agreements, probably escalating, though reporting was so scanty that one cannot be sure. There was enough to know that Palestinians and Lebanese suffered many casualties. Sometimes the Israeli operations were in retaliation or alleged retaliation; often there was no pretext. From early 1981, Israel launched unprovoked attacks which finally elicited a response in July, leading to an exchange in which six Israelis and several hundred Palestinians and Lebanese were killed in Israeli bombing of densely populated civilian targets. Of these incidents, all that remains in the collective memory of the media is the tragic fate of the inhabitants of the northern Galilee, driven from their homes by katyusha rockets.34

After a cease-fire was arranged under U.S. auspices, Israel continued its attacks. The Israeli concern, according to Yaniv, was that the PLO would observe the cease-fire agreement and continue its efforts to achieve a diplomatic two-state settlement, to which Israel and the United States were strongly opposed. In the following year, Israel attempted with increasing desperation to evoke some PLO response that could be used as a pretext for the planned invasion of Lebanon, designed to destroy the PLO as a political force, establish Israeli control over the occupied territories, and -- in its broadest vision -- to establish Ariel Sharon's "New Order" in Lebanon and perhaps beyond. These efforts failed to elicit a PLO response. The media reacted by urging "respect for Israel's anguish" rather than "sermons to Israel" as Israel bombed targets in Lebanon with many civilian casualties.35 Israel finally used the pretext of the attempted assassination of Ambassador Argov by Abu Nidal -- who had been at war with the PLO for years and did not so much as have an office in Lebanon -- to launch Operation Peace for Galilee, while the New York Times applauded the "liberation of Lebanon," carefully avoiding Lebanese opinion. "Calling the Lebanon War `The War for the Peace of Galilee' is more than a misnomer," Yehoshafat Harkabi writes. "It would have been more honest to call it `The War to Safeguard the Occupation of the West Bank'." "Begin's principal motive in launching the war was his fear of the momentum of the peace process."36

It was clear enough at the time that the perceived threat of the PLO was its commitment to a political settlement and renunciation of terror. PLO terror, in contrast, was no problem, in fact was desirable as a means for evading political settlement.

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29 Raymond L. Garthoff, Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis (Brookings Institution, 1987, 17).

30 Ibid., 16f., 78f., 89f., 98; International Security, Winter 1987-88, 12. For more on these terrorist operations, see the references of chapter 5, note 25; also U.S. Army Captain Bradley Earl Ayers, The War that Never Was (Bobbs-Merrill, 1976); Warren Hinckle and William Turner, The Fish is Red (Harper & Row, 1981); William Blum, The CIA (Zed, 1986); Morris Morley, Imperial State and Revolution (Cambridge, 1987).

31 Jerusalem Post, Aug. 16, 1981; see Fateful Triangle, chapter 5, sections 1, 3.4, for further quotes, background, and description.

32 Glass, text of talk at Middle East Studies Association Conference, Los Angeles, Nov. 4, 1988, published in Index on Censorship (London), January 1989.

33 Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security, 70. The October 1973 war brought home the lesson that Egypt could not be disregarded. The U.S. then turned to the obvious strategy: remove it from the conflict. See my 1977 article reprinted as chapter 11, Towards a New Cold War. Camp David consummated this strategy.

34 See Towards a New Cold War and Fateful Triangle on the events, and Pirates and Emperors on how they have entered into memory. For a brief review from an expert Israeli perspective, see Schiff and Ya'ari, Israel's Lebanon War. It is difficult to know just what their original manuscript might have contained, since much was excised by the Israeli censor; 20 percent according to Ehud Ya'ari, 50 percent according to a "respected correspondent" cited by Middle East historian Augustus Richard Norton of the West Point Military Academy (Kol Ha'ir, Feb. 10, 1984; Middle East Journal, Summer 1985).

35 Editorial, Washington Post, April 22, 1982; see Fateful Triangle for further background; and Yaniv, op. cit., for justification of these operations. See also appendix I, section 2, above.

36 Harkabi, Israel's Fateful Hour, 100-1. See appendix I, section 2.