The 1970s as a Context for Terrorist Violence

EvAlthough Bush never would say so, the mid1970s serve as background for today’s “war on terrorism.” That’s the time his dad led the CIA and anti-Castro Cubans bombed and shot their way through the hemisphere. The leading star of the 1970s terrorist show, and still performing, was Luis Posada Carriles.

Posada, currently leader of the fabled GAS (Geezers Assassination Society), enjoys his newly achieved freedom living in the Miami area. A federal judge dismissed charges against him by rightfully concluding that the U.S. government had played games with his case by charging him with minor immigration offenses and then purposely prolonging the legal processes so as to avoid confronting the nature of Posada’s crimes: blowing up a Cuban passenger plan in 1976, planning numerous assassination attempts over three decades and bombing Cuban tourist sites, which resulted in the death of an Italian tourist.

Good reasons abound for Justice Department officials to feel reluctant to charge Posada with terrorism. As soon as they open the files, they discover the U.S. government had trained and encouraged him to practice terrorism as a vocation, had sworn repeatedly to use violence to overthrow the Castro government and was deeply involved in many of his and his close associates’ plots.

The problem originated in early 1960, when President Eisenhower first formally agreed to initiate a covert operation to train and finance Cuban exiles to invade the island and overthrow the revolutionary government. When the invasion failed a year plus later, what should the new President do with these thousands of people?

President Kennedy followed Eisenhower and kept some of the CIA Cubans busy with terrorist activities in the post Bay of Pigs era, a policy that inadvertently led to the Missile Crisis. Indeed, the intensity of attacks on Cuban personnel and property led Castro to offer concessions. In August 1961, he dispatched Che Guevara to Uruguay to hold a secret talk with Kennedy Latin America adviser Richard Goodwin. If Washington would call off the terrorist attacks and relax the embargo, Cuba would not push “any political alliance with the East.” Che also implied that Cuba might “discuss the activities of the Cuban Revolution in other countriesâ€_ (exporting revolution). Che went further, indicating that Cuba would be willing to compensate expropriated U.S. companies. Che also emphasized that “we do not have, nor intend to have, any political or military alliance with anyone unless we are pressed toward it.”

The Cuban revolution is “irreversible,” Goodwin understood from Che. By maintaining an outward veneer of defiance, Che clearly communicated that he was negotiating, not surrendering. Goodwin, and more importantly his boss, JFK, saw the concessions offer as signs of weakness.

Kennedy turned up the heat, the terrorist attacks escalated. Castro gave the Soviets the green light to place intermediate range nuclear missiles on the island and by October 1962 the world trembled under the impending mushroom cloud.

After Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev resolved peacefully the Missile Crisis, the issue of “what to do with all the rabid Cubans?â€_ became troublesome for successive U.S. presidents. The CIA reduced drastically the number of Cubans on its payroll and began to try to retract. Some Cubans took such policies as treason.

In 1967, Orlando Bosch, who teamed up with Posada on the Cuban airliner job, showed his rebelliousness at U.S. government restrictions by firing a bazooka at a Polish freighter anchored in the Miami harbor. Paroled after serving a few years, Bosch tried to find other sponsors for violence against Cuba. He found the most compatible spot in Venezuela where his friend Orlando Garcia ran intelligence, DISIP, along with his number two Rafael Rivas Vazques. But even with openly violence-loving and Castro-hating allies in such positions, Bosch pushed the terrorist envelope over the edge. In 1973, he plotted to assassinate Henry Kissinger for signing an anti-hijacking treaty with Cuba and staged two bombings, while offering $3 million to the person who would assassinate Castro. He had not only violated the terms of his parole, he had made the U.S. government very uncomfortable. This translated into his old confreres having to arrest him, albeit apologetically. Venezuela asked the United States to allow him back. Washington said no and Bosch went to Chile, where he expected General Pinochet to throw down a red carpet for him.

In March 1976, Bosch tried and botched a contract for Pinochet: to assassinate exiled Chilean left leader Andres Pascal Allende, the nephew of Salvador and his companion Mary Anne Beausire.

Bosch then initiated an umbrella organization of terrorists who gathered in June 1976 in Bonao, the Dominican Republic, assembling murderers of different types, all of whom pledged to assassinate Castro. He called the new group the Commando of United Revolutionary Organizations (CORU).

Apparently, the gang of hoodlums all agreed that murderous action would bring down Castro — although the absence of an articulate theoretician was painfully obvious. “Those guys were thugs,” a former FBI Special Agent told me. “I knew them all, interrogated them. They were criminals hiding behind some flimsy ideological screen. Bosch was a mad man. The others weren’t much saner.”

A former Miami police officer said years ago that the “The Cubans held the CORU meeting at the request of the CIA.” They were “running amok in the mid-1970s, and the United States had lost control of them. So the United States backed the meeting to get them all going in the same direction again, under United States control. The basic signal was “Go ahead and do what you want, outside the United States’.” (Assassination on Embassy Row, p. 251)

After the Bonao meeting concluded in mid June, a series of violent anti-Cuban acts occurred, for which CORU members claimed credit. On July 9, a bomb exploded in the baggage cart that was in the process of loading onto a Cubana airliner. Had the plane left on time, the luggage would have exploded in mid air.

On July 14, the British West Indian Airlines office in Barbados got bombed (they had started flights to Cuba) as did a car owned by a Cuban official in Barbados. Three days later, machine gunners opened fire at the Cuban Embassy in Bogota. Air Panama offices got hit in that city as well, presumably because they handled Cubana Airlines business in Colombia.

On July 22, kidnappers in Merida, Mexico, tried unsuccessfully to grab the Cuban consul. They did, however, kill a Cuban fisherman in the attempt.

On July 24, three anti-Castro Cubans got busted trying to place a bomb at the New York City Academy of Music, where an event celebrating Cuba was taking place.

On August 9, CORU claimed credit for kidnapping and murdering two Cuban diplomats with Argentine secret police help. In August and September, CORU members bombed Cuban targets twice in Panama. In Trinidad-Tobago, bombers hit the Guyanese Embassy, presumably for Guyana allowing Cuban aircraft to refuel on route to Angola.

The violence escalated when Omega 7 (a name used by the ultra right Cuban Nationalist Movement) bombed a Soviet ship anchored in New Jersey and five days later assassinated Orlando Letelier in a car bombing in Washington, D.C., killing his IPS colleague Ronni Karpen Moffitt as well. The orders to kill Letelier came from the Chilean government, but the assassins hired by Chile’s secret police sprang from the same pool of crows that had met in Bonao. These crows — Bosch and Posada — then hit the Cuban commercial airliner over Barbados on October 6, killing 73 passengers and crew members.

For those spooks that still retained memory, the old Spanish refrain should have echoed loudly. “Train crows and they return to peck your eyes out.” Posada has joined his old comrade in bombs Orlando Bosch, who apparently enjoys his dotage in Miami where he still boasts to reporters that he ships explosives to Cuba. These violent exiles used their intolerance for U.S.”policy changes” toward Cuba to become literally loose cannons.

An investigator would find the bloody trail of these men and their acts traced back to a decision made in the Oval Office. Eisenhower condoned violence. Kennedy escalated. President Lyndon B. Johnson placed a tempering hand. But Richard Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger re-opened Pandora’s Box of terrorists. This ugly container of death merchants emerged from the initial illegal policy designed to destroy the Cuban revolutionary government through violence and economic strangulation. Once created and trained, the crows returned — and continue to do so — to peck out the eyes of those who cultivated them.

President Bush now has his “Posada problem.” He said after the 9/11 attacks: “He who harbors a terrorist is as guilty as the terrorist.” It’s lucky we have a president for whom words are meaningless!

Maybe some aspiring candidates for the presidency will reflect on recent “ terrorist history” and reject “covert” means to achieve policy ends. The world already has more than enough crows.

SAUL LANDAU’s new Counterpunch Press book is A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD. His new film WE DON’T PLAY GOLF HERE is available on DVD:


SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.