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Bush, Posada & Terrorism Hypocrisy

By Robert Parry
May 10, 2005

The New York Times has finally put the case of fugitive terrorist Luis Posada Carriles on Page One, observing that the violent anti-Castro Cuban’s presence in Florida “could test” George W. Bush’s universal condemnation of terrorism. But that principle already has been tested and failed.

Without doubt, Posada – who reportedly has been hiding in South Florida for six weeks – is getting the benefit of a conscious U.S. policy of benign neglect, a Bush version of the “I know nothing” approach made popular by Sgt. Schultz, the German prison guard in the TV comedy “Hogan’s Heroes.”

If Posada were a suspected Islamic terrorist – not a CIA-trained right-wing Cuban exile – there’s no question that the Bush administration would be showing zero tolerance for his presence inside the United States. Certainly, the U.S. government wouldn’t be waiting around patiently for the terrorist to check in with immigration authorities.

All legal niceties would be swept aside. The Bush administration – and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s state police – would be leaving no stone unturned in searching for the fugitive. There would be a manhunt with every known associate hauled in for questioning while the national news would be giving the story around-the-clock coverage.

‘Waterboarding’

Indeed, there’s a good chance that if a lawyer for, say, an al-Qaeda terrorist had publicly announced that his client was hiding in the United States – as Posada’s lawyer Eduardo Soto did last month – the lawyer himself would be detained and put under intense pressure to give up his client’s whereabouts. He’d be lucky not to get “waterboarded.”

But no such effort is underway to locate the 77-year-old Posada. The Bush administration even remains equivocal on the possibility of granting asylum to protect him from an extradition request lodged by Venezuela, where Posada is wanted to face charges he masterminded the in-air bombing of a Cubana Airliner that killed 73 people in 1976.

Posada also has admitted to plotting a lethal bombing campaign against popular Cuban restaurants and hotels in 1997, which killed an Italian tourist. In April 2004, Posada was convicted in Panama for another bombing plot aimed at a meeting in 2000 between Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Panamanian students.

But Posada has always had the benefit of influential friends. In 1985, he got help from Cuban-American associates to bribe his way out of a Venezuelan jail. He was then put to work in El Salvador, handling munitions and finances for the secret White House-run supply operation for the Nicaraguan contra rebels.

Last year, while in jail in Panama, another powerful ally intervened. In August 2004, outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso – who lives in Key Biscayne, Florida, and has close ties to the Cuban-American community – pardoned Posada and his co-conspirators on the Panamanian bombing plot. At the time, there was press speculation that the move was a political favor to George W. Bush, who was in a tough battle for Florida’s electoral votes.

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. [Washington Post, Sept. 3, 2004]

Nonchalance

Now, with Posada’s reported arrival in Miami – possibly by a boat that ferried him from Mexico – the Bush administration continues its nonchalant attitude toward these right-wing terrorists from the Cold War.

According to the New York Times, the Bush administration claims near-total ignorance of Posada’s whereabouts. “Roger F. Noriega, the top State Department official for Western Hemisphere affairs, said he did not even know whether Mr. Posada was in the country,” the Times reported.

Bush’s posture apparently is to wait until Posada decides to show himself and make an asylum request, before doing anything.

Describing Bush’s dilemma, the Times article added, “A grant of asylum could invite charges that the Bush administration is compromising its principle that no nation should harbor suspected terrorists. 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]

Yet, Bush’s inaction appears to have already settled the question of whether Bush is applying a consistent principle of intolerance toward the harboring of terrorists. If he had wanted to set an example for other nations facing the tough decision to arrest and deport terrorists – even when they may have domestic popular support – Bush would not have waited six weeks to even determine whether Posada is here.

Media Disinterest

The U.S. news media also has not distinguished itself as a paragon of consistent outrage toward terrorism.

The Posada case has attracted considerable interest from foreign news media and on the Internet. [Consortiumnews.com posted a story about the Posada case on April 25.] But major American news outlets have largely cooperated with the Bush administration’s desire to play the Posada case down.

Newsweek magazine did post a brief story on May 5, noting that the Posada case presents “a terror conundrum for Bush.” The article added that Posada’s expected asylum request was “provoking intense scrutiny at the highest levels of the Bush administration.”

The New York Times did follow up its May 9 article with an editorial on May 10, declaring that “in the name of credibility, consistency and justice,” Posada “should be arrested and extradited for trial.” The Times added, “Washington would offend American principles and set an extremely dangerous precedent by making a special exception for an admitted terrorist.”

Still, despite the belated Times articles and other scattered coverage, the U.S. news media has soft-pedaled both the facts of the Posada case and the hypocrisy over terrorism that tolerating his presence represents.

Without far more intensive coverage, Posada may have the luxury of choosing his own timetable for stepping out of the shadows – and the Bush administration will have demonstrated once again its most consistent principle, “do what we say, not what we do.”


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His new book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

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