Is a government guilty of terrorism if it harbors known terrorists? What should one say about a country that permits open fund-raising on behalf of a terrorist implicated in the mass killing of civilians?
What about a government that secretly arms a guerrilla army that wantonly kills and abuses civilians while seeking to overthrow an elected government?
If your answer to those questions is to recite George W. Bush’s dictum that a government that harbors or helps terrorists should be punished just like the terrorists, then you must turn your wrath on the U.S. government and the Bush family -- guilty on all the above points.
But the U.S. political/media system continues to view the world through a cracked lens that focuses outrage on “enemy” regimes while refracting away a comparable fury from similar actions by U.S. officials.
So, while President Bush ponders whether to add Venezuela to the terrorist list – because of a captured Colombian guerrilla computer that appears to implicate Hugo Chavez’s government in weapons smuggling – Bush would broach no criticism of Ronald Reagan who armed Nicaraguan contra guerrillas in the 1980s.
Reagan continued that covert war even after the ruling Sandinistas won an election in 1984 that most outside observers praised as free and fair and even after the facts of the contras’ human rights abuses – kidnapping, torturing and murdering civilians – became widely known and were acknowledged by some senior contra leaders.
Though Reagan was well aware of the contras’ cruelty (he privately called them “vandals”), he hailed them publicly as “freedom fighters” and equated them with America’s “Founding Fathers.”
Reagan kept arming the contras even after Congress ordered him to stop and the World Court ruled against the CIA’s secret mining of Nicaragua’s harbors.
Reagan also backed vicious rebel forces in Angola and Afghanistan (including foreign Islamic fundamentalists who later coalesced into al-Qaeda) and supported state terror against civilian populations in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands.
By any stretch of the imagination – if any other country had so brazenly violated international law and human rights standards – that government would be condemned by civilized nations and would be treated as a terrorist pariah.
However, the vast majority of Republicans and many Democrats view Reagan as a political icon deserving of honors, such as having Washington’s National Airport renamed Ronald Reagan National Airport.
To suggest that the late President was a war criminal or a sponsor of terrorism is unthinkable within the U.S. political mainstream. [For details on Reagan’s war crimes, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]
Bush Family Terrorism
Similarly, it is unacceptable to note how the Bush family has protected Cuban-American terrorists – from 1976 when George H.W. Bush ran the CIA to the present when George W. Bush balks at an extradition request for Luis Posada Carriles, wanted on Venezuelan terrorism charges for blowing up a Cubana airliner and killing 73 people in 1976.
On May 2, 2008, more than six years into President Bush’s “global war on terror,” there was a remarkable scene in Miami as Posada, now 80, was feted at a gala fundraising dinner. Some 500 supporters chipped in to his legal defense fund as he remains free facing half-hearted U.S. government litigation on a minor immigration charge.
Posada, who has had plastic surgery to repair damage to his face from a shooting in the late 1980s, arrived to thundering applause. Then, in a bristling speech against the Castro regime in Cuba, Posada told his supporters, “We ask God to sharpen our machetes.”