Double Standard: Four decades of US-sponsored terrorism

by Simon Wallers

Havana, Sept 20 (NY Transfer) --Well, it took a little over a week but as expected the anti-Cuba rightwingers in Miami have weighed in against Cuba by accusing the island of maintaining contact with today's most hated man in the world, Osama Bin Laden.

The accusation is so ridiculous that it's not worth addressing as such, but it prompts this reminder of the terrible terrorist attacks suffered by this country over the four decades of its Revolution. And in our case, it wasn't one individual's maniacal crusade in opposition to the foreign intervention policies of the world's biggest power, but the world's biggest power in opposition to the internal socio-political system of a small island neighbor.

The list of attacks against Cuba is so long that I had to turn to Jane Franklin's chronological history of the Cuban Revolution [1] for dates and to place things into proper context.

From the outset of the Revolution, barely days after Washington recognized the new government of Fidel Castro in January of 1959, the CIA began a campaign to overthrow Cuba's new leader. It is a campaign that has lasted through today, and is replete with anecdotes and tragedy. From as early as March 10, 1959 the US National Security Council met in secret to discuss ways to replace the new Cuban government by any means necessary. In August two Cuban planes were destroyed in Miami in an attack against air travel to Cuba. Fortunately, no one was hurt. A small plane that originated in the US was intercepted by Cuban authorities with a US citizen on board intending to assassinate Fidel Castro. In October, the first of a wave of attacks on sugar mills by planes flying in from the US began; a plane from Miami bombed Havana; and a train was machine-gunned in Las Villas -- again from a light aircraft that had originated in the United States. All this happened in the first year of the Revolution. The message from Washington was clear and Cuban lives had already been lost in the process.

The following year the Belgian ship, Le Coubre, blew up in Havana's harbor killing some 100 sailors and dock workers. Although sabotage was never proved, it was very likely. In March of 1960 US President Eisenhower ordered CIA director Allen Dulles to organize and train Cuban exiles for an invasion of Cuba. By August of the same year the CIA was recruiting members of US organized crime, including Santos Traficante and Sam Giancana, to assassinate Fidel Castro who was then Prime Minister. The FBI under Hoover was fully aware of the plots and provided logistic support. The assassination attempts were later published in a damning report by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the late seventies.

By the end of 1960, 17 former Cuban police/army members under the Batista dictatorship were arrested for throwing sticks of dynamite into stores and theaters, and the year was seen out with a fire that destroyed a famous Havana department store -- all done with money and support from terrorist groups operating openly in Florida as they do to this day.

By this time Cuba had obviously got the message and was aware of the plans to invade the island. However, although the island presented ample evidence of Washington's intention to the United Nations, the General Assembly rejected a debate on the issue. Clearly Cuba was on its own. The year 1961 brought on further bombings, as well as the despicable torture killings of a number of 17- and 18-year-olds who were teaching Cubans in the provinces how to read. They were murdered by groups funded by the CIA in an attempt to destabilize the government in Havana and destroy a massive literacy campaign underway across the nation.

By April, and the fatal blowing up of another Havana department store, the pending invasion was obvious to Cuban authorities. It began on April 15, with B-26 bombers attacking the island's defenses, killing a number of civilians. Two days later the Bay of Pigs invasion began. Cuba defeated the US backed forces with the loss of yet more Cuban life: 176 people.

The attacks, the bombings, the assassination attempts went on. Over 600 plans or attempts on Fidel Castro's life alone are known to authorities -- from exploding cigars, to his wet suit lined with poison, to a pistol hidden in a camera. Two of the most recent have been the snipers arrested before attempting to kill the president on Venezuela's Margarita Island in 1997, and the bombing plot in Panama City in 1999 which netted international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who awaits trial in a Panamanian jail. Things got to the point where the US allowed ships at sea to openly shell residential districts in Havana, as on August 24, 1962.

Who outside Cuba knows of the slaughter of half a million pigs after African swine fever was introduced into the island by the CIA in 1971? Who knows of the deaths of 81 children after their deliberate infection with dengue fever ten years later in 1981? Both instances were proven to be as a result of CIA operations in later declassified documents. And who can forget the bombing of a Cubana flight in 1976 with the loss of all 73 passengers and crew and the subsequent freeing of Orlando Bosch in 1990 by a US court after he was found to be the principal terrorist responsible for the crime?

More recently, in 1997, came the bombings of tourist hotels in an attempt to destroy the tourist industry in Cuba. An Italian tourist was killed in one of the explosions. Subsequent investigation uncovered the hand of Posada Carriles with the financing of US government-sponsored organizations based in Miami.

These Cuban exile terrorists have been allowed to operate openly within the United States, where they are presented as heroes who are to be emulated. When Cuba legitimately attempts to defend itself by infiltrating these organizations to prevent further terrorist acts against it, the United States government punishes those they catch with long prison sentences for combating the very same kind of despicable terrorism that has so stupefied the world after its use against the World Trade Center.

If there's to be a serious effort made to bring an end to terrorism, it needs to be based on broad ethical and moral principles. Many in the world today ask how the US government can complain of Afghanistan harboring terrorists, when this very same government allows terrorists to operate openly on its own soil.

Havana, Cuba
September 20, 2001

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