Reflections on U.S. Double Standard on Terrorism

Cuban expatriate Luis Posada Carriles, an old U.S. terrorist chicken, has come home to roost in Bush’s nest, exposing the president’s anti-terrorist policies as a hoax. Posada, 77, unabashedly embodies violence as Gandhi stood for nonviolence. His resume contains a long list of terrorist “accomplishments,” including the bombing of a Cuban commercial airliner over Barbados in which all 73 people aboard died.

Yet this year he returned surreptitiously to the United States, where he had not resided regularly since the mid 1960s. After reports of his presence began to embarrass Homeland Security, he turned himself in and requested political asylum. Because U.S. judges and the government have refused to extradite him to Venezuela to face charges to the crimes he admits to having committed, he’s likely to be allowed to live freely and legally in this country within a few months.

His return to the U.S. in the midst of the President’s war against terrorism embarrasses the Bush administration. Posada has forced it to decide on terrorist criteria: “acceptable” acts of terrorism carried out against Cuba versus unacceptable ones undertaken against the United States and its allies.

It is indeed a double standard. And it puts these comments Mr. Bush made in a recent speech in an awkward light: “The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they’re equally as guilty of murder.”

Posada has confided to journalists and others that for four decades he had worked on and off with the CIA to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. In 1976, Posada teamed up with Orlando Bosch, another obsessed Castro-hater, and hired two Venezuelan killers to detonate a bomb on board a commercial Cubana flight over Barbados. Seventy-three passengers and crew members died. This was a blatant terrorist act. The hired weasels ratted on Posada to the police, landing him in a Venezuelan prison.

After a decade of inconclusive judicial proceedings, Posada’s Miami buddies bribed the prison officials and Posada “escaped” to Central America, where he worked for Lt. Col. Oliver North in supplying the Contras in their CIA-backed attempt to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.

In 1990 in Guatemala, an unknown gunman shot Posada in the face. He recovered, but didn’t regain full use of his voice. Even that didn’t stop him. In 1997, he recruited a Salvadoran to bomb hotels in Cuba. One bomb killed an Italian tourist. Cuban cops grabbed the Salvadoran, who named Posada as his employer.

Posada even boasted about his violence against Cuban tourism to two New York Times reporters in July 1998. How did he feel about killing the innocent civilian, they asked? “I sleep like a baby,” he replied. In 1999, beginning to feel age and frustration as the ever elusive Castro still rode high, Posada planned another hit. With three seasoned assassins, he traveled to Panama with explosives that he planned to detonate under the platform where Castro would be speaking. Again, someone informed the police. He and his cronies got caught, tried and convicted — but not of conspiring to assassinate. Rather, with Miami money pulling Panamanian judicial strings, a judge found them guilty of threatening public security and falsifying documents. In 2004, more Miami money bought off Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, who pardoned Posada during her last week in office.

Despite Posada’s terrorist past, the Bush Administration has refused to extradite him to Venezuela to face trial for the airline bombing.

Following his arrival this year, Posada hid in Miami for several weeks. Neither President Bush nor Florida Governor Jeb Bush tried toarrest him. Only after Posada called a press conference did humiliated Homeland Security agents arrest him — which they did gently.

Even in custody, Posada continued to weaken Bush, who owes huge debts to Cuban-Americans. They would scream “treason” if he delivered Posada to Venezuela, a friend of Cuba. What a dilemma. On September 27, a U.S. immigration judge denied Venezuela’s request to extradite. The U.S. government lawyer offered no opposition to the judge’s ruling, although it carried heavy implications.

Posada, a notorious terrorist who Hugo Chavez’s government labeled “the Osama bin Laden of Latin America,” is getting a free ride — thanks to President Bush’s policies.

Saul Landau is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. His latest book is “The Business of America: How Consumers Have Replaced Citizens and How We Can Reverse the Trend” (2004 Routledge).