Friday, May 4, 2007

"Shockingly profound ignorance"

Here’s the statement released yesterday by Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, all Republicans from Florida:

By asking a state sponsor of terrorism for “evidence” regarding terrorism, the Bush Administration Justice Department demonstrates a shockingly profound ignorance of the nature of terrorism, of its origins, and its state sponsors. The only “evidence” that the terrorist regime in Havana could provide the United States with regard to the twice-acquited-in-Venezuela-Mr. Posada [sic] or anyone else, would be fabricated evidence. The evidence that the Bush Administration Justice Department needs to bring forth and stop ignoring is of the murder of U.S. citizens and other crimes committed with impunity by the Castro brothers and their henchmen.

Quite a mouthful. What to make of it?

First, it shows the political value of the “state sponsor of terrorism” designation that the Administration applies to Cuba each year without really offering information to indicate any Cuban link to terrorist operations. In addition to triggering economic sanctions, the designation is an all-purpose rhetorical bludgeon employed in opposition to any initiative to advance U.S. interests through any form of engagement with Cuba. The legislators’ statement is a prime example.

Second, it shows open contempt for U.S. law enforcement professionals and seeks to substitute the legislators’ political judgment for the investigators’ professional judgment. It assumes that the FBI and federal prosecutors lack professional skepticism, and have no eye for evidence that is phony, weak, or otherwise not worth bringing to court.

Third, it is contemptuous of President Bush, and makes no attempt to hide it.

Fourth, it is inscrutable. An investigative trip to the scene of a crime betrays “shockingly profound ignorance” of the “origins” of terrorism? What does that mean?

Fifth, its underlying idea is miles outside the mainstream of U.S. foreign policy. They seem to be implying that we should not try to advance U.S. interests on specific issues by dealing with countries like Cuba. Thankfully, that is a principle that was never applied, to take just a few examples, toward China and the Soviet Union, and it is a principle that the Bush Administration just abandoned in its effort to contain the North Korean nuclear weapons program.

Sixth, it ignores recent history. Any approach toward Cuba should be skeptical and there is nothing to take for granted. But Cuba has rendered a few American fugitives to the United States, it recently arrested and expelled to Colombia of a drug lord wanted in the United States, and it cooperates in limited bilateral contacts on drug interdiction through the Coast Guard officer posted at our Interests Section in Havana. Cuba also cooperated in the 1996 case of the Limerick, a ship loaded with tons of cocaine, where U.S. officials traveled to Cuba to investigate and Cuban officers later traveled to the United States to testify at trial, where a conviction was obtained. Again, there’s nothing to take for granted, but when a case such as Posada’s comes along, there is precedent for exploring whether Cuba might cooperate constructively. The fact that the FBI made three trips to Cuba, and the high-octane words in the legislators’ statement, indicate that the contacts may have been fruitful.

Seventh, the statement begs the question, to say the least, of whether the Representatives believe Posada should be investigated at all. In 2005, when their 2003 letter requesting a Panamanian presidential pardon for Posada became public (Posada was convicted for possession of explosives in Panama), they expressed confidence that the subsequent U.S. “immigration law case” would proceed fairly, but no more. They cite Posada’s acquittal in Venezuela but not the fact that he escaped jail while awaiting retrial on a prosecutor’s appeal. And the acquittal, in any event, was in regard to the airline bombing in 1976, which is irrelevant to the current U.S. investigation, which reportedly focuses on the Havana hotel bombings two decades later.

Finally, while the statement is carefully worded, it seems to tell the Administration to lay off Posada entirely. That leaves me wondering whether they believe the hotel and airliner bombings, two acts plainly aimed to kill Cuban civilians and sow terror, were acts of terrorism. Do they have a different definition of terrorism than the rest of us?

1 comment:

leftside said...

I hope you don't mind I copies this excellent analysis to my blog.