harbouring terrorists who bears the guilt

This year will mark the fifth anniversary of the US-led war in Afghanistan. As yet, Osama Bin Laden remains unaccounted for, the Taliban are still a…

This year will mark the fifth anniversary of the US-led war in Afghanistan.

As yet, Osama Bin Laden remains unaccounted for, the Taliban are still a force to be reckoned with and the country is, if anything, more unstable than when the American bombers first began destroying camps and villages in 2001.

This five-year War on Terror into which Canada has now leapt with both feet is a project of the Bush administration, and was at first wholeheartedly backed by the American people.

Here in Canada the Afghan portion of the war enjoyed great public support. In fact, a world appalled by the atrocities of September 11 poured out its sympathy and support for the attempt to root out the al-Qaeda terrorists and punish their Taliban supporters.

To most, it seemed a fairly obvious idea at the time.

America had been attacked and had a right to defend itself. Terrorists are a threat to innocent civilians and to the stability of the free and democratic societies we cherish.

Afghanistan under the Taliban had harboured the 9/11 killers, and was therefore a legitimate target of the War on Terror.

By leaving aside the collective delusion that it is worse to be murdered by a hijacker than by an F16, and that acts of terror are therefore distinct from and more evil than acts of war, it was possible to justify the 2001 invasion and the thousands of civilian deaths that went with it.

After all, Afghanistan was a country that harboured terrorists.

In a curious case of selective blindness, Western media has almost completely ignored the fact that for more than three decades the US has harboured, encouraged, supported and even at times financed a network of terrorist organizations which is guilty of murder, air piracy and repeated attacks on civilians.

With names like Alpha 66, Omega 7, Brothers To The Rescue, and Commandos L, Cuban anti-communists based in Florida stage murderous attacks on Cuban soil.

The worst of these occurred in 1976, when Cuban-American terrorists blew up an airliner in flight from Venezuela to Havana, killing all 73 people on board, including all of the teenage members of the Cuban national fencing team.

This was the fist time that air-piracy had been carried to the level of mass murder. It set the stage for Lockerby, Air India, September 11, and dozens of other atrocities.

The plot was planned and organized by two Cuban Americans, Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch.

US president George H. W. Bush pardoned Bosch. Bush’s son, the current president, is still resisting Venezuelan efforts to extradite Posada Carriles.

Cuba found itself in a position which would come to look familiar to the US some 25 years later, under attack from terrorists who were harboured by a foreign country, one which knowingly permitted terror training camps on its soil, and refused to hand over the group’s leaders to face justice.

Cuba didn’t send MIG fighters to attack Florida, possibly because this would have constituted the ultimate suicide bombing, and may well have provoked a nuclear war.

The 1976 bombing was only one in a long list of US-backed terror attacks on Cuba.

In 1997, Florida terrorists bombed hotels and restaurants in Havana, killing one Italian tourists and injuring dozens of people.

Countless other attacks have killed and injured Cuban civilians, and several plots to assassinate the Cuban president have been foiled.

In September 1998, five Cuban men were arrested in Florida by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, and charged with espionage.

Their crime was to have infiltrated the Florida-based terrorist organizations that were targeting Cuban civilians and the burgeoning Cuban tourist industry.

The so-called Cuban Five are all in American prisons today. Their trials were highly suspect affairs.

They were conducted in Miami, the world centre of anti-Castro sentiment, and lawyers for the defence were denied access to the evidence that would be used to gain convictions.

While it was clear that the five had engaged in espionage against a network of terror groups, and never against the US government, all were found guilty and are now serving sentences from 15 years to life in prison.

In the US there is no serious debate about harbouring terrorists, so long as those terrorists target America’s enemies.

Any public discussion about Cuba can only be framed in criticism of “Castro’s prisons,” or of the repressive communist regime.

No doubt many of these criticisms are valid, though there is less discussion around the extent to which they are a function of life in a tiny nation under constant siege by a great power and its terrorist allies.

This year, the UN Commission on Human Rights once again condemned Cuba for holding prisoners of conscience, and for restrictions on freedom of expression, association and movement.

Unless you believe that one evil calls for another, neither the terror threat from Florida nor the harsh US embargo excuse these violations of human rights. No matter what America does, Cuba is responsible for its own behaviour.

Curious that the same simple proposition doesn’t seem to apply to the US and its satellites.