Bombs set off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15 killed three and wounded over 200 people. The metropolitan area became a virtual war zone. Officials at every level let loose with doomsday-style retaliatory proclamations. For some, however, the clamor served to resurrect memories of U.S. terrorism — against Cuba for instance — reminding them that U.S. anti-terrorist verbiage was full of contradictions.
Almost one year before the Marathon bombings, on April 27, 2012, the office of a tourist agency in Coral Gables, Florida that promotes charter flights and legal travel to Cuba was firebombed and destroyed. A local blogger said of owner Vivian Mannerud: “Too bad she was not inside the office.”
Ms. Mannerud pointed out recently that, “to this day, not one elected official — and in particular, James Cason, mayor of Coral Gables — has ever come out to denounce this act of terrorism.” There are still no suspects and few signs of ongoing investigation. The Boston and Florida situations are very different, and perhaps the lack of deaths and injuries in the Florida case account for some of the muted response there. But in the past, even when Cuba and its supporters were beset with chaos and calamity reminiscent of the Boston experience, impunity prevailed.
Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada engineered the murderous downing of a fully loaded Cuban airliner at sea in 1976. Posada also arranged for hotel bombings in Cuba in 1997. They found safe haven in Florida.
The U.S. government itself is a purveyor of terrorism. Its wars, drones, economic sanctions, puppet insurgencies, torture regimens, and prison abuses terrorize peoples throughout the world. The United States exports spies and informants and supports the militarized police forces and national armies of puppet governments. Terror fostered by the United States aggravates hostilities and swells enemy ranks. Vicious cycles ensue and conflicts expand. Openings then multiply for the U.S. government to claim victimization and to rationalize its own terror attacks.
Cuba, however, stands apart from this deadly interchange seen elsewhere. Terror strikes in only one direction — against Cuba. Cuban sources indicate that U.S.-based terrorists have killed almost 3,500 people over 50 years, either Cubans or friends of Cuba. By contrast, U.S. military and intelligence officials now and then reiterate that Cuba represents no military or economic threat to the United States.
Yet the U.S. government maintains Cuba on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. Apologists point to Basque separatists welcomed in Cuba and to sanctuary given leftist Colombian guerrillas. But Spain asked that Cuba take in the Basques, and Colombia embraced Cuba’s offer to host government negotiations with the guerrillas. So, political refuge provided for Assata Shakur has long been cited. Having escaped from a U.S. prison, the black liberation combatant moved to Cuba.
The United States recently simultaneously announced that Cuba will remain on its list of terror-sponsoring states and that, conveniently enough, Assata Shakur was being placed on the FBI’s ten “most wanted terrorist” list, as well as that the bounty for her capture and return to the United States was raised to $2 million. Many legal observers, however, remain highly critical of the prosecution and trial in 1977 through which she was convicted of murdering a New Jersey policeman.
Considering that Cuba is quite blameless, refusing to engage in tit-for-tat, one may ask: Why have terror attacks against Cuba continued?
One answer is that the U.S. government, as minder of an empire, is serious about its duty to counter revolutionary and anti-imperialist movements from their earliest stirrings to their takings of power and beyond. U.S. governments have been dealing with Cuban revolutionaries for almost 150 years. In reaction to anti-annexationist, anti-racist independence struggles led by Jose Marti and Antonio Maceo, the United States ended up invading Cuba. U.S. troops helped beat down an Afro-Cuban uprising in 1912. Then in the early 1930s came Cuban student and labor mobilizations, anti-imperialist in nature — harbingers of a socialist revolution that took charge in 1959. Special treatment for Cuba may stem, in part, from enmity to an anti-imperialism that never quits.
Cuban anti-imperialism is not all U.S. power brokers have to worry about. Despite bashings, Cuba poses the threat of a good example. The socialist state has ensured long life expectancy, low infant mortality, ready access to high quality education, jobs, adequate nutrition and housing, and inculcation of ethical, communitarian values and cultural heritages. Cubans even weather natural disasters in exemplary fashion. Cuba’s adventures in international solidarity add insult to injury. Beleaguered Cuba contested apartheid in southern Africa, cares for the sick and injured throughout the world, and educates young people from all over.
And annoyingly Cuba defends itself against terror in targeted, non-violent ways. Cuban volunteers moved to Florida to monitor U.S.-based terrorists so that Cuba could prepare against attacks and maybe prevent them. For their pains, the Cuban Five, as they are known, were subjected to a biased trial and long, cruel sentences. A worldwide movement is demanding that U.S. President Obama release them.
Because the Five targeted violent private organizations operating from bases in Florida, their activities and their trial highlighted the general role of proxy warriors. Use of proxies frees central authorities from having publically to take responsibility for state-sponsored terror campaigns. In effect, the Five helped elucidate similarities among a variety of non-state perpetrators, specifically between private paramilitary groups in Florida and autonomous terrorist groups and individuals elsewhere, even those at war with the United States. That bit of political education may have earned the Cuban Five a good part of their wildly excessive penalties.
W. T. Whitney Jr., a retired pediatrician, is a Cuba solidarity activist and member of Veterans for Peace. He writes on Latin American issues.