In 1998, five Cuban counterterrorism agents were arrested in Miami and held in solitary confinement for 17 months. Then — after a dubious seven-month-long trial in which no hard evidence was ever presented — the group was convicted and given the equivalent of more than four life sentences.
The agents were then shipped off to five different maximum-security prisons spread across the United States so as to eliminate any possibility for communication.
What did these five Cubans do to deserve this sentence?
The Cuban Five, as they have become known, were in pursuit of known terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who was responsible for the 1997 hotel bombings in Havana.
But as it turned out, Posada was a CIA operative. In order to protect its valuable asset and cover up the job, the U.S. government arrested the Cuban Five and denounced them as spies.
Exiled Cubans like Posada have a long and bloody history of terrorism against Cuba. Likewise, America has a long and bloody history of actively supporting those terrorist attacks.
After Posada escaped from Cuba, the CIA trained him in explosives and sabotage. He remained a CIA operative for many years, even helping to organize the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.
Posada is also widely assumed to be the mastermind behind the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner. Seventy-three civilian passengers died on that plane. Posada was eventually allowed to walk free.
Meanwhile, three of the five Cubans who were trying to catch Posada remain locked in maximum-security prisons.
None of this guarantees that the Cuban Five weren’t spies. It’s possible that their imprisonment was entirely justified, and that the sensitive nature of the case warranted classifying the incriminating evidence.
But the more likely explanation is that since the United States had an economic and political interest in toppling the Castro regime, and since terrorism from Cuban exiles advances that goal, the U.S. government had made it a priority to thwart Cuban counterterrorism agents at any cost.
And so it goes for U.S. foreign policy around the world. America picks and chooses which terrorists to condemn and which to support, often wavering between the two depending on the prevailing incentives.
The case of the Cuban Five was not an isolated incident. The United States supports terrorism wherever and whenever it’s strategic to do so.
Back in 1959, some sources say, the CIA hired a young Iraqi assassin to eliminate Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim. The assassin was a then-unknown thug named Saddam Hussein. When Hussein botched the job, the United States supposedly set him up with money and protection within the Ba’ath Party. Then in 1963, the Ba’ath Party organized a CIA-backed military coup that would eventually place Hussein in power. At the time, America sought to bolster its position in the Cold War by exerting control over Iraq, even if it may have meant forging an alliance with Hussein, a known terrorist and newly established dictator.
America was consistently one of the staunchest supporters of the Hussein regime, even going so far as to provide Iraq with vital military intelligence that was used to administer chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War. Not only did the U.S. government know Hussein was using lethal chemical weapons like nerve gas and sarin, we actively supported him. With the help of American intelligence, Hussein’s wanton usage of chemical weaponry killed thousands and won the war for Iraq.
The alliance with Hussein ended abruptly once he invaded Kuwait. Hussein became more useful as an enemy than an ally, so the American propaganda machine took Hussein and turned him into the terrorist and dictator we know him as today. Though America’s aim in aiding terrorist activity is often regime change or political upheaval, U.S. politicians are sometimes willing to support terrorism just for the extra campaign money.
Iranian terrorist group Mojahedin-e-Khalq has largely been beyond reproach from American politicians, despite the widely held belief that the group was responsible for the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists. A host of top-ranking U.S. officials, including the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Frances Townsend and Howard Dean, have all publicly defended MEK. Why? MEK has been funneling tens of thousands of dollars into their pockets in exchange for their support. And following America’s lead on the issue, Israel’s secret service has also provided MEK with extensive financing, training and weapons.
Which leads me to what is perhaps the most well-documented and notorious case of U.S.-sponsored terrorism: funding for Israel’s military.
By America’s own definition, Israel is perpetrating acts of terrorism against Palestine. Israeli airstrikes have purposefully targeted Palestinian hospitals and schools in a crusade to crush the Palestinian people in a barbaric war of expansion. This is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets,” as the U.S. State Department defines terrorism.
While there is no doubt that Palestine also commits acts of terrorism, as Noam Chomsky has put it, Palestinian terrorism is “very small as compared with the U.S.-backed Israeli terrorism. Quite typically, violence reflects the means of violence. It’s not unusual. State terror is almost always much more extreme than retail terror, and this is no exception.”
To date, Israel’s aggressive invasion of the Gaza Strip has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians — around 75 percent of whom were civilians — while fewer than 80 Israelis have died.
And behind the scenes is America: Israel’s generous benefactor who watches from the sidelines as Palestinian women and children are brutally murdered.
In 2013 alone, the United States gave a whopping $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel. That amounts to nearly a quarter of Israel’s entire defense spending, which includes F-16 fighter jets, smart bombs, Apache helicopters and white phosphorous munitions.
America has no moral justification for this, only a political motivation. Simply put, American politicians support Israeli terrorism because American voters are overwhelmingly pro-Israel.
These examples are by no means the only instances of U.S.-backed terrorism. If the price is right, the United States has shown that it will support any amount of terrorism, anywhere in the world. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In America, it’s not dictators and tyrants that are supporting terrorism. It’s elected officials, and their power is vulnerable every election year. So while they’re the ones bankrolling terrorism, we’re the ones keeping them in office.
But, as of right now, the evidence is undeniable: America supports terrorists. Unless we do something about it, America will continue to support terrorists. And at some point, the lines start to blur, and if you squint just right, it starts to look an awful lot like America itself is the terrorist.
Sam Hillestad, The Brown Daily Herald