a round of applause at
an Indianapolis speech on March 24, 2006, when he declared “one
of the lessons learned after September the 11th is that we must hold
people to account for harboring terrorists. If you harbor a terrorist,
if you feed a terrorist, if you house a terrorist, you’re as equally
guilty as the terrorist.”
Similarly, Vice President Dick Cheney roused
an American Israel Public Affairs Committee crowd on March 7, 2006,
when he declared that “since the day our
country was attacked, we have applied the Bush Doctrine: Any person or
government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit
in the murder of the innocent, and will be held to account.”
much else from the post-9/11 period – when frightened Americans put
their faith in Bush’s tough talk – this supposedly clear-cut rule
applies differently when a Bush ally is implicated in terrorism and the
Bushes are the ones doing the harboring.
anti-harboring principle is cited when invading Afghanistan and Iraq,
the Bush administration continues to turn a blind eye to the presence of
right-wing Cuban terrorists living in the United States.
double standard was underscored again in early April when a
Spanish-language Miami television station interviewed notorious Cuban
terrorist Orlando Bosch, who offered a detailed justification for the
1976 mid-air bombing of a Cubana Airlines flight that killed 73 people,
including the young members of the Cuban national fencing team.
Bosch refused to admit guilt, but his chilling defense of the bombing –
and the strong evidence that has swirled around his role – leave little
doubt of his complicity, even as he lives in Miami as a free man.
Cuban exile, Luis Posada Carriles, also has been tied to the bombing,
but the Bush administration has so far rebuffed Venezuela’s extradition
request for him, since he sneaked into the United States in 2005.
Bush Family Ties
there’s really nothing new about these two terrorists – and other
violent right-wing extremists – getting protection from the Bush family.
decades, both Bosch and Posada have been under the Bush family’s wing,
starting with former President George H.W. Bush (who was CIA director
when the airline bombing occurred in 1976) and including Florida Gov.
Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush.
evidence points to one conclusion: the Bushes regard terrorism –
defined as killing civilians for a political reason – as justified in
cases when their interests match those of the terrorists. Moral clarity
against terrorism only applies when the Bush side disagrees with the
hypocrisy often has been aided and abetted by the U.S. news media, which
intuitively understands the double standard and largely ignores cases in
which the terrorism is connected to U.S. government officials.
stunning TV interview with Bosch on Miami’s Channel 41 was cited in
articles on the Internet by José
Pertierra, a lawyer for the Venezuelan government. But Bosch’s comments
have received almost no attention from the mainstream U.S. press. [For
Pertierra’s story, see
Counterpunch, April 11, 2006]
Juan Manuel Cao interviewed Bosch, who had been jailed for illegally
entering the United States but was paroled in 1990 by President George
H.W. Bush at the behest of his eldest son Jeb, then an aspiring Florida
down that plane in 1976?” Cao asked Bosch.
tell you that I was involved, I will be inculpating myself,” Bosch
answered, “and if I tell you that I did not participate in that action,
you would say that I am lying. I am therefore not going to answer one
thing or the other.”
But when Cao asked Bosch to
comment on the civilians who died when the plane crashed off the coast
of Barbados, Bosch responded, “In a war such as us
Cubans who love liberty wage against the tyrant [Fidel Castro], you have
to down planes, you have to sink ships, you have to be prepared to
attack anything that is within your reach.”
“But don’t you feel a little bit for those who were killed there, for
their families?” Cao asked.
“Who was on board that plane?” Bosch responded. “Four members of the
Communist Party, five North Koreans, five Guyanese.” [Officials tallies
actually put the Guyanese dead at 11.]
Bosch added, “Four members of the Communist Party, chico! Who was
there? Our enemies…”
“And the fencers?” Cao asked about Cuba’s amateur fencing team that
had just won gold, silver and bronze medals at a youth fencing
competition in Caracas. “The young people on board?”
Bosch replied, “I was in Caracas. I saw the young girls on
television. There were six of them. After the end of the competition,
the leader of the six dedicated their triumph to the tyrant. … She gave
a speech filled with praise for the tyrant.
“We had already agreed in Santo Domingo, that everyone who comes from
Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks as those men and
women that fight alongside the tyranny.” [The comment about Santo
Domingo was an apparent reference to a strategy meeting by a right-wing
terrorist organization, CORU, which took place in the Dominican Republic
“If you ran into the family members who were killed in that plane,
wouldn’t you think it difficult?” Cao asked.
“No, because in the end those who were there had to know that they
were cooperating with the tyranny in Cuba,” Bosch answered.
In an article about Bosch’s remarks, lawyer Pertierra said the
answers “give us a glimpse into the mind of the kind of terrorist that
the United States government harbors and protects in Miami; terrorists
that for the last 47 years have waged a bloody and ruthless war against
the Cuban people.”
The Posada Case
Not only did the first Bush administration free Bosch from jail a
decade and a half ago, the second Bush administration has now pushed
Venezuela’s extradition request for his alleged co-conspirator, Posada,
onto the back burner.
The downed Cubana Airlines flight originated in Caracas where
Venezuelan authorities allege the terrorist plot was hatched. However,
U.S. officials have resisted returning Posada to Venezuela because its
current government of President Hugo Chavez is seen as friendly to
Castro’s communist government in Cuba.
At a U.S. immigration hearing in 2005, Posada’s defense attorney put
on a Posada friend as a witness who alleged that Venezuela’s government
practices torture. Bush administration lawyers didn’t challenge the
claim, leading the immigration judge to bar Posada’s deportation to
Theoretically, the Bush administration could still extradite Posada
to Venezuela to face the 73 murder counts, but it is essentially
ignoring Venezuela’s extradition request, instead holding Posada on
minor immigration charges of entering the United States illegally.
In September 2005, Venezuela’s Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez called the
77-year-old Posada “the Osama Bin Laden of Latin America” and accused
the Bush administration of applying “a cynical double standard” in its
War on Terror.
“The United States presents itself as a leader against terrorism,
invades countries, restricts the civil rights of Americans in order to
fight terrorism, but when it is about its own terrorists, it denies that
they be tried,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez also denied that Venezuela practices torture. “There isn’t a
shred of evidence that Posada would be tortured in Venezuela,” Alvarez
said, adding that the claim is particularly ironic given widespread
press accounts that the Bush administration has abused prisoners at the
U.S. military base in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.
Declassified U.S. documents show that after the
Cubana Airlines plane was blown out of the sky on Oct. 6, 1976, the CIA,
then under the direction of George H.W. Bush, quickly identified Posada
and Bosch as the masterminds of the Cubana Airlines bombing.
But in fall 1976, Bush’s boss, President Gerald
Ford, was in a tight election battle with Democrat Jimmy Carter and the
Ford administration wanted to keep intelligence scandals out of the
newspapers. So Bush and other officials kept the lid on the
investigations. [For details, see Robert Parry’s
Secrecy & Privilege.]
Still, inside the U.S. government, the facts were
known. According to a secret CIA cable dated Oct. 14, 1976, intelligence
sources in Venezuela relayed information about the Cubana Airlines
bombing that tied in anti-communist Cuban extremists Bosch, who had been
visiting Venezuela, and Posada, who then served as a senior officer in
Venezuela’s intelligence agency, DISIP.
The Oct. 14 cable said Bosch arrived in Venezuela
in late September 1976 under the protection of Venezuelan President
Carlos Andres Perez, a close Washington ally who assigned his
intelligence adviser Orlando Garcia “to protect and assist Bosch during
his stay in Venezuela.”
On his arrival, Bosch was met by Garcia and Posada,
according to the report. Later, a fundraising dinner was held in Bosch’s
honor during which Bosch requested cash from the Venezuelan government
in exchange for assurances that Cuban exiles wouldn’t demonstrate during
Andres Perez’s planned trip to the United Nations.
“A few days following the fund-raising dinner,
Posada was overheard to say that, ‘we are going to hit a Cuban
airplane,’ and that ‘Orlando has the details,’” the CIA report said.
“Following the 6 October Cubana Airline crash off
the coast of Barbados, Bosch, Garcia and Posada agreed that it would be
best for Bosch to leave Venezuela. Therefore, on 9 October, Posada and
Garcia escorted Bosch to the Colombian border, where he crossed into
The CIA report was sent to CIA headquarters in
Langley, Virginia, as well as to the FBI and other U.S. intelligence
agencies, according to markings on the cable.
In South America, investigators began rounding up
suspects in the bombing.
Two Cuban exiles, Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo,
who had left the Cubana plane in Barbados, confessed that they had
planted the bomb. They named Bosch and Posada as the architects of the
A search of Posada’s apartment in Venezuela turned
up Cubana Airlines timetables and other incriminating documents.
Posada and Bosch were
charged in Venezuela for the Cubana Airlines bombing, but the men denied
the accusations. The case soon became a political tug-of-war, since the
suspects were in possession of sensitive Venezuelan government secrets
that could embarrass President Andres Perez. The case lingered for
almost a decade.
After the Reagan-Bush
administration took power in Washington in 1981, the momentum for fully
unraveling the mysteries of anti-communist terrorist plots dissipated.
The Cold War trumped any concern about right-wing terrorism.
In 1985, Posada escaped
from a Venezuelan prison, reportedly with the help of Cuban exiles. In
his autobiography, Posada thanked Miami-based Cuban activist Jorge Mas
Canosa for providing the $25,000 that was used to bribe guards who
allowed Posada to walk out of prison.
Another Cuban exile who
aided Posada was former CIA officer Felix Rodriguez, who was close to
then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and who was overseeing secret
supply shipments to the Nicaraguan contra rebels, a pet project of
After fleeing Venezuela,
Posada joined Rodriguez in Central America and was assigned the job of
paymaster for pilots in the contra-supply operation.
When one of the
contra-supply planes was shot down inside Nicaragua in October 1986,
Posada was responsible for alerting U.S. officials to the crisis and
then shutting down the operation’s safe houses in El Salvador.
Even after the exposure
of Posada’s role in the contra-supply operation, the U.S. government
made no effort to bring the accused terrorist to justice.
By the late 1980s,
Orlando Bosch also was out of Venezuela’s jails and back in Miami. But
Bosch, who had been implicated in about 30 violent attacks, was facing
possible deportation by U.S. officials who warned that Washington
couldn’t credibly lecture other countries about terrorism while
protecting a terrorist like Bosch.
But Bosch got lucky. Jeb Bush, then an aspiring
Florida politician, led a lobbying drive to prevent the U.S. Immigration
and Naturalization Service from expelling Bosch. In 1990, the lobbying
paid dividends when Jeb's dad, President George H.W. Bush, blocked
proceedings against Bosch, letting the unapologetic terrorist stay in
the United States.
In 1992, also during
George H.W. Bush’s presidency, the FBI interviewed Posada about the
Iran-Contra scandal for 6 ½ hours at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras.
Posada filled in some
blanks about the role of Bush’s vice presidential office in the secret
contra operation. According to
a 31-page summary of the FBI interview,
Posada said Bush’s national security adviser, Donald Gregg, was in
frequent contact with Felix Rodriguez.
“Posada … recalls that
Rodriguez was always calling Gregg,” the FBI summary said. “Posada knows
this because he’s the one who paid Rodriguez’ phone bill.” After the
interview, the FBI agents let Posada walk out of the embassy to freedom.
[For details, see Parry’s
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & Project Truth.]
Posada soon returned to
his anti-Castro plotting.
In 1994, Posada set out
to kill Castro during a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Posada and five
cohorts reached Cartagena, but the plan flopped when security cordons
prevented the would-be assassins from getting a clean shot at Castro,
according to a Miami Herald account. [Miami Herald, June 7, 1998]
The Herald also described
Posada’s role in a lethal 1997 bombing campaign against popular hotels
and restaurants inside Cuba that killed an Italian tourist. The story
cited documentary evidence that Posada arranged payments to conspirators
from accounts in the United States.
“This afternoon you will
receive via Western Union four transfers of $800 each … from New
Jersey,” said one fax signed by SOLO, a Posada alias.
Posada landed back in
jail in 2000 after Cuban intelligence uncovered a plot to assassinate
Castro by planting a bomb at a meeting the Cuban leader planned with
university students in Panama.
arrested Posada and other alleged co-conspirators in November 2000. In
April 2004, they were sentenced to eight or nine years in prison for
endangering public safety.
Four months after the
sentencing, however, lame-duck Panamanian President Mireya
Moscoso – who lives in Key Biscayne, Florida, and has close ties to the
Cuban-American community and to George W.
Bush’s administration – pardoned the convicts.
Despite press reports
saying Moscoso had been in contact with U.S. officials about the
pardons, the State Department denied that it pressured Moscoso to
release the Cuban exiles. After the pardons and just two months before
Election 2004, three of Posada’s co-conspirators – Guillermo Novo Sampol,
Pedro Remon and Gaspar Jimenez – arrived in
Miami to a hero’s welcome, flashing
victory signs at their supporters.
While the terrorists
celebrated, U.S. authorities watched the men – also implicated in
bombings in New York, New Jersey and Florida – alight on U.S. soil. As
Washington Post writer Marcela Sanchez noted in a September 2004 article
about the Panamanian pardons, “there is something terribly wrong when
the United States, after Sept. 11 (2001), fails to condemn the pardoning
of terrorists and instead allows them to walk free on U.S. streets.”
Post, Sept. 3, 2004]
Posada reportedly sneaked
into the United States in early 2005 and his presence was an open secret
in Miami for weeks before U.S. authorities did anything. The New York
Times summed up Bush’s dilemma if Posada decided to seek U.S. asylum.
“A grant of asylum could invite charges that the
Bush administration is compromising its principle that no nation should
harbor suspected terrorists,” the Times wrote. “But to turn Mr. Posada
away could provoke political wrath in the conservative Cuban-American
communities of South Florida, deep sources of support and campaign money
for President Bush and his brother, Jeb.” [NYT, May 9, 2005]
Only after Posada called
a news conference to announce his presence was the Bush administration
shamed into arresting him. But even then, the administration balked at
sending Posada back to Venezuela where the Chavez government – unlike
some of its predecessors – would be eager to prosecute him.
Now, Bosch’s stunning defense of a terrorist attack that killed 73
people drives home the point again that the Bush administration has two
standards for terrorists – one for its allies and one for its enemies.
Suddenly harboring terrorists isn't quite the heinous crime that it is
when President Bush and Vice President Cheney are denouncing it to
applause from American audiences.