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May 11, 2005

Pop Quiz for President Bush

Guest: cntodd

If it so chooses, the Bush administration now has a golden opportunity to silence critics and to reveal its sincerity on the so-called “war on terror.”

First, a well-known Cuban exile now resides within our borders – an anti-Castro exile suspected of bombing a civilian aircraft in the mid-1970s that killed 73 passengers. Although he was never convicted, National Security Archive documents reveal that he attended at least two meetings with the conspirators of the bombing.

But now this anti-Castro terrorist is living in Florida where he has requested asylum. Despite the fact that the Cuban-American population seems cognizant of his presence, federal authorities say not only that they have no idea whether or not he is in the country, but they also deny that they are even looking for him.

Here is a chance for President Bush to impugn the claims of his critics. Many in Washington and throughout the country have not taken President Bush seriously when he claimed he wanted to fight a global “war on terror.” Given that during his first term he remained focused entirely on Islamic terrorists, ignoring completely the right-wing paramilitary groups now raging terrorist campaigns in Latin America as they battle Marxist rebels, one seems more than justified in that belief. Indeed, every country on Bush’s list for the war on terror conveniently have one thing in common: oil.

What’s a guy to do? Its very simple, really. Known terrorists who blow up civilian airliners should not be allowed refuge in our country. Period. It does not matter if some consider the guy a hero for his anti-Castro attacks. If the word “terrorist” is to have a legitimate use, it must be decided by action and not ideology.

A second opportunity has also surfaced for President Bush to show his seriousness towards reforming our country’s security. In a panel discussion yesterday, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said that during his tenure in that department, he felt pressure from the administration to raise the terror warning to orange, even when the intelligence suggested only a minor threat. Ridge at one point said:

Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). … There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?' [AP]

Such comments by Ridge suggest two things that many Americans already feel: 1) The color coded system does not work; and 2) The terror warning level was raised for reasons other than genuine threats to national security.

Such evidence seems rather damning for a President whose security record has already been challenged by members of his own party and whose ratings have sunk to an all time low for any second-term president.

What’s a guy to do? Its very simple, really. Given that the color warning system is costly, ineffective, and capable of being exploited for political reasons, President Bush needs to step up to the plate and abolish it. By dismantling the terror warning system, President Bush has the opportunity to say, “Hey, we tried it out, and I admit it didn’t do what we had hoped, but I am committed to national security and so we will continue to devise new strategies.”

How President Bush decides to handle these two situations – the anti-Castro terrorist now in Florida, and the further evidence that the color-warning system does not work – should send a very clear message to Americans. If he does nothing, stubbornly defending the color-system and ignoring the terrorist seeking asylum, President Bush will leave little doubt in the minds of his opponents that the “war on terror” has been an opportunistic political venture to justify the unjustifiable.

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]


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Both ideas are quite reasonable and logical. They are also a good use of resources. However, neither is politically expedient (ex-Cubans vote), so neither will be done.

Very true - the last thing Republicans want to do is piss of the Florida Cuban community.

This has been known for a long time in fact:

Bosch was allowed to leave Venezuela not long after then-U.S. ambassador Otto Reich voiced concerns about his safety in a series of cables to the State Department. He flew to Miami in December 1987 without a visa and was promptly arrested. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh described Bosch as an "unreformed terrorist," who should be deported. But Bosch had a powerful advocate in Jeb Bush, who at that time was managing the campaign of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban exile to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. In an unusual presidential intercession on behalf of a convicted terrorist, President George H.W. Bush overruled the FBI and the Justice Department and in 1990 approved the release of Bosch, who won U.S. residency two years later.

Posada is gambling that he will have Bosch's luck and is banking on the same supporters. But Bosch's presence in Miami has often proved to be an embarrassment to the Bush family. When Bill Clinton was questioned by a Newsweek reporter about his pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, he snapped, "I swore I wouldn't answer questions about Marc Rich until Bush answered about Orlando Bosch." Few Republicans raised the issue again.

In November 2000, Posada was arrested again, along with three other anti-Castro militants for plotting to assassinate Castro during the Ibero-American summit in Panama. All of the arrested men had impressive rap sheets and had been charter members of the terrorist groups CORU or Omega 7. In April 2004, Panama's Supreme Court sentenced Posada and his associates to up to eight years in prison, but in August the quartet was sprung by a surprise pardon from departing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, who maintains good relations with Miami's political leadership. Her pardon outraged U.S and Latin American law enforcement officials.

Three of the men were flown to Miami and met by their jubilant supporters just days before the 2004 presidential election. But Posada disappeared -- until his emergence here last month.

The quartet are not the only unsavory characters to be given the red carpet in Miami. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen, with the backing of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, wrote letters on behalf of several exile militants held in U.S. prisons for acts of political violence. Some were released in 2001, including Jose Dionisio Suarez Esquivel and Virgilio Paz Romero, both convicted for the notorious 1976 car bomb-murder of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and his American assistant Ronnie Moffitt, in Washington. Once released, instead of being deported like other non-citizen criminals, they have been allowed to settle into the good life in Miami.

South Florida's politicians have also tried, unsuccessfully so far, to convince the Justice Department to release Cuban-born Valentin Hernandez, who gunned down fellow exile Luciano Nieves in 1975. Nieves' crime was speaking out in support of negotiations with the Cuban government. Nieves was ambushed in a Miami hospital parking lot after visiting his 11-year-old son. A year later, Hernandez and an accomplice murdered a former president of the Bay of Pigs Association in an internecine power struggle. Hernandez was finally captured in July 1977 and sentenced to life in prison for the Nieves murder. Exile hardliners, though, continue to refer to him as a freedom fighter.

Polls show that Miami's political leadership and its radio no longer speak for most exiles. The majority of Cuban exiles, like other Americans, abhor terrorism, whether in Cuba or Miami, left or right. But as one convicted killer after another is allowed to resettle in Miami, the political climate there has chilled and few dare to speak out. And when they do, it seems that nobody is listening.

Since 9/11, the administration's double standard on terrorism, with its Cuban exception, is even more glaring. Just before the Justice Department announced a post-9/11 sweep of those "suspected" of terrorism, it had quietly released men who had been convicted of terrorism. Last Thursday, the administration congratulated itself on a sweep that netted 10,000 fugitive criminals, yet somehow Posada eluded it.

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