A bomb explodes aboard a plane, downing the airliner and killing all on board. At a hotel in a busy tourist section of the city another bomb explodes, killing and wounding vacationing Europeans. These acts were committed by those wishing to topple a form of government they hold in contempt, a form of government whose leader is often referred to as the great Satan.
We have come to define such violence, where innocent civilians die horrible deaths, as acts of terror. We find ourselves as Americans engaged in a global War on Terror.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
Fortunately the mastermind of the above-mentioned terrorist actions sits in a <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />U.S. cell. Yet ironically, during a time when our president is about to sign a bill that will deny enemy combatants basic international human rights, this same president is doing everything in his power to attempt to set this one terrorist free.
President Bush is frantically attempting to find a third country to deport him to so that he can regain his freedom without having to give an account for his actions. He sits not in a cell in Guantanamo but a detention center in El Paso.
Furthermore, he is neither a Muslim nor has any connections with Al Qaeda. He is a Cuban exile named Luis Posada Carriles.
Mr. Posada, 78, first claimed responsibility but subsequently denied the 1997 bombings of tourist locations in La Habana, which killed an Italian tourist, wounded seven, and caused extensive property damage.
And while denying involvement in blowing up Cuban Airline flight 455 in 1976, records show that he may have notified the CIA of the explosion before it occurred. Posada allegedly was trained by the CIA in the 1960s, was the centerpiece of the Reagan administration’s efforts to supply arms to Nicaraguan Contras, and has been linked to assassination plots in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, La Habana and Honduras.
During his 1998 New York Times interview, Posada alleged a financial relationship of over $200,000 with the deceased cofounder of the Cuban-American National Foundation. Posada chuckled the money would arrive with a message from Jorge Mas Canova, “This is for the church.”
Ultimately, Posada absolved CANF of any responsibility in bankrolling his activities and publicly renounced terrorism.
Regardless, for those who participated in or are rumored to have participated in such activities, they become mÃ¡rtires de la lucha (martyr of the struggle) when convicted. They are not martyrs because they were falsely accused by the United States. They are martyrs because they fought against “evil.” As such, they become sacred heroes of the Exilic Cuban community.
As JosÃ© Basulto, cofounder of the rafter-rescue group Brothers to the Rescue, said: “Violators of the Neutrality Act [which forbids U.S. citizens from taking hostile actions against a foreign country] are, in my eyes, patriots.”
MÃ¡rtires de la lucha as patriots is evidence of how the Exilic community venerates Orlando Bosch.
According to the United States, Bosch was linked to scores of terrorist attacks throughout Latin America. Such alleged terrorism included a 1963 aerial strike at a Cuban refinery that killed three children, the shelling of a Polish freighter in the Port of Miami (convicted of federal charges in 1968), and involvement in the 1976 bombing of an Air Cubana jetliner that claimed the lives of 73 passengers, most of whom were teenage members of Cuba’s national fencing team (acquitted in Venezuela in 1986).
Yet the Miami City Commission, recognizing Bosch as a mÃ¡rtir de la lucha, declared March 25, 1983 to be “Dr. Orlando Bosch Day.”
The only difference between the activities of terrorist cells trained by Al Qaeda and Mr. Posada or Mr. Bosch trained by the CIA is that the latter are our terrorists. Yet, a terrorist by any other name is still a terrorist.
The question here is not the legitimacy of the Castro regime, but rather the legitimacy of the means employed to bring about political change. If terrorist activities are morally indefensible, this means then that the activities are reprehensible regardless of who committed them. The end can never justify the means.
And even if violence can bring about a desired political end, we lose our Cuban soul in the process, becoming no better than those whom we abhor.
Some would argue that words like these in effect provide comfort to the “enemy.” They obviously are unacquainted with the intellectual mentor of Cubans, JosÃ© MartÃ, who simply fought against all forms of injustices, even when the abusers were his own people.
Miguel A. De La Torre is director of the Justice & Peace Institute and associate professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.