Imagine that the lead article in Pravda reported a study by the KGB that reviews major terrorist operations run by the Kremlin around the world, in an effort to determine the factors that led to their success or failure, finally concluding that unfortunately successes were rare so that some rethinking of policy is in order. Suppose that the article went on to quote Putin as saying that he had asked the KGB to carry out such inquiries in order to find cases of “financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.” So he has some reluctance about continuing such efforts.
If, almost unimaginably, such an article were to appear, cries of outrage and indignation would rise to the heavens, and Russia would be bitterly condemned – or worse -- not only for the vicious terrorist record openly acknowledged, but for the reaction among the leadership and the political class: no concern, except how well Russian state terrorism works and whether the practices can be improved.
It is indeed hard to imagine that such an article might appear, except for the fact that it just did – almost.
On October 14, the lead story in the New York Times reported a study by the CIA that reviews major terrorist operations run by the White House around the world, in an effort to determine the factors that led to their success or failure, finally concluding that unfortunately successes were rare so that some rethinking of policy is in order. The article went on to quote Obama as saying that he had asked the CIA to carry out such inquiries in order to find cases of “financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.” So he has some reluctance about continuing such efforts.
There were no cries of outrage, no indignation, nothing.
The conclusion seems quite clear. In western political culture, it is taken to be entirely natural and appropriate that the Leader of the Free World should be a terrorist rogue state and should openly proclaim its eminence in such crimes. And it is only natural and appropriate that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and liberal constitutional lawyer who holds the reins of power should be concerned only with how to carry out such actions more efficaciously.
A closer look establishes these conclusions quite firmly.
The article opens by citing US operations “from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba.” Let us add a little of what is omitted.
In Angola, the US joined South Africa in providing the crucial support for Jonas Savimbi’s terrorist UNITA army, and continued to do so after Savimbi had been roundly defeated in a carefully monitored free election and even after South Africa had withdrawn support from this “monster whose lust for power had brought appalling misery to his people,” in the words of British Ambassador to Angola Marrack Goulding, seconded by the CIA station chief in neighboring Kinshasa who warned that “it wasn’t a good idea” to support the monster “because of the extent of Savimbi’s crimes. He was terribly brutal.”
Despite extensive and murderous US-backed terrorist operations in Angola, Cuban forces drove South African aggressors out of the country, compelled them to leave illegally occupied Namibia, and opened the way for the Angolan election in which, after his defeat, Savimbi “dismissed entirely the views of nearly 800 foreign elections observers here that the balloting…was generally free and fair” (New York Times), and continued the terrorist war with US support.
Cuban achievements in the liberation of Africa and ending of Apartheid were hailed by Nelson Mandela when he was finally released from prison. Among his first acts was to declare that “During all my years in prison, Cuba was an inspiration and Fidel Castro a tower of strength… [Cuban victories] destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa … a turning point for the liberation of our continent — and of my people — from the scourge of apartheid. … What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?”
The terrorist commander Henry Kissinger, in contrast, was “apoplectic” over the insubordination of the “pipsqueak” Castro who should be “smash[ed],” as reported by William Leogrande and Peter Kornbluh in their book Back Channel to Cuba, relying on recently declassified documents.
Turning to Nicaragua, we need not tarry on Reagan’s terrorist war, which continued well after the International Court of Justice ordered Washington to cease its “illegal use of force” – that is, international terrorism -- and pay substantial reparations, and after a resolution of the UN Security Council that called on all states (meaning the US) to observe international law – vetoed by Washington.
It should be acknowledged, however, that Reagan’s terrorist war against Nicaragua – extended by Bush I, the “statesman” Bush -- was not as destructive as the state terrorism he backed enthusiastically in El Salvador and Guatemala. Nicaragua had the advantage of having an army to confront the US-run terrorist forces, while in the neighboring states the terrorists assaulting the population were the security forces armed and trained by Washington.
In a few weeks we will be commemorating the Grand Finale of Washington’s terrorist wars in Latin America: the murder of six leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests, by an elite terrorist unit of the Salvadoran army, the Atlacatl Battalion, armed and trained by Washington, acting on the explicit orders of the High Command, and with a long record of massacres of the usual victims.
This shocking crime on November 16, 1989, at the Jesuit University in San Salvador was the coda to the enormous plague of terror that spread over the continent after John F. Kennedy changed the mission of the Latin American military from “hemispheric defense” – an outdated relic of World War II – to “internal security,” which means war against the domestic population. The aftermath is described succinctly by Charles Maechling, who led US counterinsurgency and internal defense planning from 1961 to 1966. He described Kennedy’s 1962 decision as a shift from toleration “of the rapacity and cruelty of the Latin American military” to “direct complicity” in their crimes, to US support for “the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads.”
All forgotten, not the “right kind of facts.”
In Cuba, Washington’s terror operations were launched in full fury by President Kennedy to punish Cubans for defeating the US-run Bay of Pigs invasion. As described by historian Piero Gleijeses, JFK “asked his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to lead the top-level interagency group that oversaw Operation Mongoose, a program of paramilitary operations, economic warfare, and sabotage he launched in late 1961 to visit the 'terrors of the earth' on Fidel Castro and, more prosaically, to topple him.”
The phrase “terrors of the earth” is quoted from Kennedy associate and historian Arthur Schlesinger, in his quasi-official biography of Robert Kennedy, who was assigned responsibility for conducting the terrorist war. RFK informed the CIA that the Cuban problem carries “[t]he top priority in the United States Government -- all else is secondary -- no time, no effort, or manpower is to be spared” in the effort to overthrow the Castro regime, and to bring “the terrors of the earth” to Cuba.
The terrorist war launched by the Kennedy brothers was no small affair. It involved 400 Americans, 2,000 Cubans, a private navy of fast boats, and a $50 million annual budget, run in part by a Miami CIA station functioning in violation of the Neutrality Act and, presumably, the law banning CIA operations in the United States. Operations included bombing of hotels and industrial installations, sinking of fishing boats, poisoning of crops and livestock, contamination of sugar exports, etc. Some of these operations were not specifically authorized by the CIA but carried out by the terrorist forces it funded and supported, a distinction without a difference in the case of official enemies.
The Mongoose terrorist operations were run by General Edward Lansdale, who had ample experience in US-run terrorist operations in the Philippines and Vietnam. His timetable for Operation Mongoose called for “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime” in October 1962, which, for “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention” after terrorism and subversion had laid the basis.
October 1962 is, of course, a very significant moment in modern history. It was in that month that Nikita Khrushchev sent missiles to Cuba, setting off the missile crisis that came ominously close to terminal nuclear war. Scholarship now recognizes that Khrushchev was in part motivated by the huge US preponderance in force after Kennedy had responded to his calls for reduction in offensive weapons by radically increasing the US advantage, and in part by concern over a possible US invasion of Cuba. Years later, Kennedy’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara recognized that Cuba and Russia were justified in fearing an attack. “If I were in Cuban or Soviet shoes, I would have thought so, too,” McNamara observed at a major international conference on the missile crisis on the 40th anniversary.
The highly regarded policy analyst Raymond Garthoff, who had many years of direct experience in US intelligence, reports that in the weeks before the October crisis erupted, a Cuban terrorist group operating from Florida with US government authorization carried out “a daring speedboat strafing attack on a Cuban seaside hotel near Havana where Soviet military technicians were known to congregate, killing a score of Russians and Cubans.” And shortly after, he continues, the terrorist forces attacked British and Cuban cargo ships and again raided Cuba, among other actions that were stepped up in early October. At a tense moment of the still-unresolved missile crisis, on November 8, a terrorist team dispatched from the United States blew up a Cuban industrial facility after the Mongoose operations had been officially suspended. Fidel Castro alleged that 400 workers had been killed in this operation, guided by “photographs taken by spying planes.” Attempts to assassinate Castro and other terrorist attacks continued immediately after the crisis terminated, and were escalated again in later years.
There has been some notice of one rather minor part of the terror war, the many attempts to assassinate Castro, generally dismissed as childish CIA shenanigans. Apart from that, none of what happened has elicited much interest or commentary. The first serious English-language inquiry into the impact on Cubans was published in 2010 by Canadian researcher Keith Bolender, in his Voices From The Other Side: An Oral History Of Terrorism Against Cuba, a very valuable study largely ignored.
The three examples highlighted in the New York Times report of US terrorism are only the tip of the iceberg. Nevertheless, it is useful to have this prominent acknowledgment of Washington’s dedication to murderous and destructive terror operations and of the insignificance of all of this to the political class, which accepts it as normal and proper that the US should be a terrorist superpower, immune to law and civilized norms.
Oddly, the world may not agree. An international poll released a year ago by the Worldwide Independent Network/Gallup International Association (WIN/GIA) found that the United States is ranked far in the lead as “the biggest threat to world peace today,” far ahead of second-place Pakistan (doubtless inflated by the Indian vote), with no one else even close.
Fortunately, Americans were spared this insignificant information.