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Who is a terrorist? (Read 3819 times)
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Who is a terrorist?
Jun 2nd, 2002 at 9:58am
 
By Wayne S. Smith
Posted May 31 2002
www.sun-sentinel.com


President Bush's speech in Miami on May 20 was new evidence that he is determined at all costs to win the votes of the hard-line exiles. Whatever policies and actions they want, he will try to give them.

But that has serious implications for the credibility of his war on terrorism. He describes for us, for example, a Manichaean world in which there are the good guys and the bad guys, the "terrorists." And as he has said over and over again, anyone who supports a terrorist, anyone who harbors a terrorist, is a terrorist.

But if we go by that definition, there may be terrorists right in the Bush family. In 1989, for example, the first President Bush went against the advice of his own Justice Department and canceled the deportation of arch-terrorist Orlando Bosch. Shortly thereafter, he set him free. Bosch was a Cuban exile who had been convicted in the U.S. of terrorist activities and spent four years in prison. Released in 1972, he then violated parole and fled to Latin America, ending up eventually in Venezuela, where in 1976 he was imprisoned for masterminding the bombing of a Cuban airliner with the loss of 73 lives, including virtually the entire Cuban fencing team.

The hard-line exiles in Miami loved it. In 1983, the Miami City Commission declared a "Dr. Orlando Bosch Day," apparently to honor him for his acts of terrorism.

Released from Venezuelan prison under strange circumstances in 1987, Bosch returned to Miami in 1988 without benefit of a visa and was almost immediately arrested for his earlier parole violation. The Immigration and Naturalization Service began proceedings to deport him. As the associate attorney general put it in 1989: "For 30 years, Bosch has been resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence."

This was not an idle statement. The Justice Department had information linking Bosch to more than 30 acts of sabotage and violence in the United States, Puerto Rico, Panama and Venezuela. As the associate attorney general pointed out: "The security of this nation is affected by its ability to urge credibly other nations to refuse aid and shelter to terrorists We could not shelter Dr. Bosch and maintain that credibility."

The logic was unassailable, but , unfortunately, the case was not decided on the base of logic. Miami congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the usual bevy of hard-line Cuban exiles weren't going to have it. They lobbied unrelentingly for Bosch's release. Among those in the forefront of the lobbying effort was Jeb Bush, then managing Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's election campaign. In the face of all this pressure, coming even from his own son, the first President Bush decided it was politically expedient to harbor a terrorist. Bosch was released and still lives freely and unrepentant in Miami.

And the case of Orlando Bosch is not an isolated one. Ros-Lehitnen has also urged the release of Valentine Hernandez, whose principal crimes were the murder of other exiles -- exiles who dared to advocate a dialogue with the Castro government. But Ros-Lehtinen thinks he should go free. And neither she nor Gov. Bush, by the way, have ever backed away from their support of Orlando Bosch.

And then there is the case of Luis Posada Carriles, who along with Bosch master-minded the 1976 bombing of the Cuban airliner. He, too, spent time in a Venezuelan prison, but escaped in 1985 and turned up in Central America working in Oliver North's secret Contra operation, along with Felix Rodriguez, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal with close ties to then Vice President Bush.

In 1998, Posada Carriles acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that he had directed the bombing of a number of hotels in Havana the previous year which had resulted in the death of an Italian tourist. Though Posada Carriles confessed his culpability, no charges were ever filed against him in the U.S. Today, he is in prison in Panama, accused of involvement in a recent assassination plot against Fidel Castro.

These elements in Florida who have helped to harbor terrorists are President George W. Bush's closest political allies in the state. Indeed, some months ago, he nominated Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's chief of staff, Mauricio Tamargo, for an important position in the federal government. And Otto Reich, one of the hardest of the hard-line Cuban-Americans and a close associate of the Cuban American National Foundation, has been appointed assistant secretary of state for Latin Americans affairs. Roger Noriega, formerly of Sen. Jesse Helm's staff, is now our ambassador to the OAS. In short, those who have condoned terrorism now seem to be running our Latin American policy.

President Bush's admonition should be rephrased, now to read: "Anyone who has harbored a terrorist we don't like, is a terrorist. But anyone who harbors terrorists we do like is OK. In fact, we may have a place for them in our administration!"

Wayne S. Smith is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C. and former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Copyright 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/sfl-
31forum31may31.story?coll=sfla%2Dnews%2Dopinion
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