The State Department’s annual terrorism report, a long, informative report, was issued yesterday.
Ours is the only government that issues report cards on the rest of the world: on human rights practices, on efforts to stop human trafficking, on anti-terrorism efforts. Many people and governments around the world find this U.S. practice somewhere between tedious and arrogant. Congress mandates the reports, the Administration complies.
All the reports are informative, and I have always thought the human rights report to be pretty objective.
I haven’t read the entire terrorism report this year, and I don’t doubt that its information is solid.
I did pay attention to the part that is diplomatically most important, the “state sponsors of terrorism” section, since it amounts to an accusation by our government that other governments are promoting the killing of civilians, to be blunt about it. This section is simply bizarre.
Four countries get the “state sponsor” designation.
The reports on Syria and Iran allege that these governments provide direct political and material support, including providing weapons, to terrorist groups.
The Sudan report indicates that the government works to fight terrorism and cooperates with others in doing so, despite limited capabilities and information.
The Cuba report chides Havana for not severing ties to Colombia’s FARC, but maintains that the contact is “limited” and “there was no evidence of direct financial or ongoing material support.” It cites “media reports” that ETA members are present in Cuba; no mention of any activity. “Cuba did not sponsor counterterrorism initiatives or participate in regional or global operations against terrorists in 2010,” the report says. It does not mention Cuba’s longstanding offer to engage in talks on anti-terrorism matters, nor does it say whether Washington views this offer as serious. Cuba is not mentioned in the review of terrorism in our hemisphere, except for this: “In July, Venezuelan officials arrested and extradited the Salvadoran Francisco Chavez Abarca in connection with the bombings of Cuban hotels in 1997.”
In other words, two of the “state sponsors” are actually sponsoring terrorism, two are not.
North Korea was taken off the list for reasons having nothing to do with terrorism, so it is beyond me why Sudan would remain on the list, given the good efforts the report describes. In Cuba’s case, it seems clear that the evidence is not there, but the Administration doesn’t feel like taking the political heat it would face if it tried to remove Cuba from the list. It is also bizarre to see Cuba and Sudan on the list, and Venezuela not, given what the report says about Venezuela.
The report explains that countries remain on the list until they meet the statutory requirement for removal. Fair enough. But it’s also fair for readers overseas to see the inconsistencies and judge the U.S. approach to be political, and less than serious. That hardly helps the cause of fighting terrorism.
For a contrary view, here’s Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.