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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Politics of Hypocrisy

by Meir Haija

Raging Liberal

As the world is coming to learn, the mantra of “fighting terror” does not necessarily mean avoiding participation in it. While the Bush Administration has convinced much of the American public that they are the antithesis of terror, a wanted terrorist is now comfortably resting under the bosom of the U.S., even with a sovereign democratic nation requesting his extradition. Fugitive terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, mastermind of the October 6, 1976 Caracas-departed Cuban Airlines bombing that killed 73 now sits on U.S. soil, despite numerous legal requests by the Venezuelan government for his extradition. Thus far the White House has denied each of Venezuela’s political and legal appeals to return Posada Carriles to Caracas to face trial.

One would think that the U.S. would welcome this extradition with fervor; after all, Posada Carriles is wanted for international terrorism and Venezuela has been trying to nab him since he escaped from a national prison in 1985. Unfortunately, this case isn’t so simple. Posada Carriles has a long history of friendly ties with the U.S., most notably with the CIA. In the mid-60s Posada Carriles was a CIA operative in Venezuela while he simultaneously worked for the Venezuelan Secret Service. Throughout his initial CIA tenure he held clandestine positions in Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile and Argentina, all the while working as a U.S. operative.

Declassified CIA documents released by the Washington-based, National Security Archive, have directly linked Posada Carriles to the airliner bombing. In these documents it is written that Posada Carriles is overheard by a CIA source as stating, “We are going to hit a Cuban airplane.” Posada Carriles’ made this statement only a few short months before the Cuban Airliner was hit. Despite this forewarning given to the CIA there is also no indication within these declassified files that the U.S. made any attempts to alert Cuban officials of the threat of an attack to one of their civilian airliners. Posada Carriles was a known Castro opponent and many officials in the U.S. dismissed his attack on the Cuban civilian airliner as an act of political resistance rather than an act of terrorism.

Upon his escape from a Venezuelan prison Posada Carriles immediately found refuge and work as a CIA operative in El Salvador, helping channel money and arms to the U.S. backed Nicaraguan Contras, a pet project of the Reagan Administration that led to the Iran-Contra scandal. During the late 1990s Posada Carriles became troubled with the growth of the Cuban tourism commerce and in an effort to damage the industry he began organizing terror attacks on Cuban tourist sites, one which resulted in the death of an Italian tourist. In The New York Times Posada Carriles boasted of his involvement in the attacks and told the reporter that he “slept like a baby” regardless of the damages and death that these attacks caused.

Despite all of this, the U.S. Department of Justice has repeatedly refused to arrest Posada Carriles on charges of terrorism, nor will they extradite him to Venezuela for arraignment. Instead the U.S. has directed the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) to detain Posada Carriles for entering the country illegally, allegedly by sneaking off of a fishing boat. Posada Carriles has requested that he be granted political asylum in the U.S. and for the time being his request is being granted.

An alarming precedent is being set here. While the U.S. and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez are not on ideal terms, Venezuela has made clear their commitment to fighting the war on terror and extraditing Posada Carriles to Venezuela is the only logical, ethical, and moral action for the U.S. to pursue here. Eradicating terrorism can not be achieved through a policy of political opportunism and aggression; it must be done through a system of consistency and universal ideals in cooperation with governments everywhere.

The case of Posada Carriles highlights an important difference between the terror that we justify war with, and the terror that is either tacitly or directly approved of by Washington. The U.S. stance on Posada Carriles is a blatant form of hypocrisy and arrogance that makes fighting all terror that much more difficult to succeed at. To continually surrender the moral high ground because the U.S. approves of some flavors of terror and declares war on others leads us not to victory, but to perpetual war with no clear objective, to a confused and divided world approach to terror issues, and to an alienation of potential allies.

There are means by which we can significantly reduce the incidence of terror that afflicts us, but somehow these strategies continually evade our policies. Terrorism must be defeated by simply avoiding any sort of participation in it. The terrorist ideology cannot be crushed through the show of military might or the favorite U.S. quick fix, pseudo-democracy. What is baffling is that many policymakers remain deaf to this argument. While the response, “fighting terror” seems to be the Bush Administration’s answer to every question, the position taken in the case of Posada Carriles is undermining the U.S. terror policy in a most hypocritical manner.


Meir Haija writes for The Raging Liberal on issues related to policy and government

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