US: Colonel Wilkerson Censures "Amateurish Foreign Policy"
News from Cuba | Thursday, 11 November 2010
By Deisy Francis Mexidor for Prensa Latina
The protection afforded by the US government to confessed Cuban-American terrorists, while it includes Cuba on a list of terrorist states, exemplifies Washington's amateurish foreign policy, admitted retired army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005.
Wilkerson gave an exclusive interview to Prensa Latina, in which he spoke on many issues, including his opinion on the connection between the paid Central American terrorists captured in Cuba and Venezuela and Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, who enjoy the protection of the US government.
New evidence is coming to light concerning the criminal aggressions carried out against Cuba by mercenaries of Central American origin in the 1990s, financed and organized by terrorists and anti-Cuban groups that receive protection in the United States.
In particular, the arrest last July of Salvadoran citizen Francisco Chávez Abarca in the Venezuelan airport of Maiquetía, and his subsequent transfer to Havana in accordance with a red alert from INTERPOL, provide the evidence of a plot that sought to sow chaos and that caused the death of Italian tourist Fabio Di Celmo in 1997.
Chávez fingered Posada Carriles, a fugitive from Venezuelan justice, among the principal persons responsible for those actions. Bosch and Posada Carriles directed the operation that ended in the attack on a Cubana de Aviación aircraft in which 76 persons died.
"These men, it seems to me", said Wilkerson, "are terrorists as surely as are many of the people whom we officially label as terrorists throughout the world. They terrorized and killed innocent civilians for political purposes".
Nevertheless, the United States, the most aggressive nation on earth, once again this year included Cuba, the most besieged country, in a list that has no merit concerning the supposed sponsors of international terrorism.
Powell's former chief of staff noted that this is "another indicator of the amateurish foreign policy that U.S. administrations seem increasingly to produce".
Wilkerson was born in June 1945 in South Carolina. He describes himself as "a soldier and a citizen -and the citizen always comes first". He is a Vietnam War veteran and of Republican origins.
Referring to Abarca's declarations, he said that "if there is a way of confirming what Abarca claims, then Posada Cariles should be extradicted or tried for his full crimes in the U.S.".
In fact, Posada is merely required to appear before a tribunal in the US for minor immigration charges, and he carries on his life in Miami, from where he has not stopped inciting terrorist actions against Cuba.
Meanwhile, the Venezuela government's request for his extradition is a just one that dates from more than five years.
Indeed, Cuba also had the right to demand his extradition. Perhaps many do not know that there are two extradition treaties between the US and Cuba, one signed in 1904 and the other in 1925, although on this occasion Cuba publicly declined to invoke the treaties, ceding the right to Venezuela.
It should be recalled that as early as 7 January 1959, a few days after the victory of the revolution, Cuban authorities requested of the United States the extradition of known murderers and torturers of the defeated dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who had fled to US territory, and this was denied.
The south of Florida became, from that moment until today, the favorite hideout of fugitive criminals, because they have been assured impunity there. The White House never did act in accordance with the treaties. It is that Miami where Posada Carriles and Bosch continue to have shelter.
Wilkerson says that "when I was chief of staff of the Department of State from 2002-2005, I noted several reports -on human rights, on corruption, on state sponsors of terrorism- that were completed and issued as much for political reasons as for the reasons purported in the explanatory prefaces to the reports".
He adds that "these political reasons quite frequently had nothing to do with genuine criticism and everything to do with special interest groups to whom politicians were pandering. I believe Cuba's inclusion on the terrorism list is a glaring example of such a report".
Further on he confesses that "I sometimes felt a considerable degree of shame with regard to my country's issuing certain of the reports without listing itself as a violator. It always seemed to me to be both arrogant and hypocritical".
In that connection, data provided by researcher José Luis Méndez indicate that over 40 years, between 1960 and 2000, 49 aircraft were hijacked and taken to the US, and that 37 of them were civilian aircraft.
In total, there were 54 acts of piracy, while of the 49 aircraft stolen, only 16, or 34 percent, have been returned to Cuba.
"VERY UGLY PRECEDENTS"
Asked about the situation of Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, political prisoners in US federal prisons, Lawrence Wilkerson expressed his support for the struggle to free them.
He explained that he "first heard about the nature of their offenses, their trial, the draconian sentences meted out to them, and the actions of the court of appeals in Atlanta" through a briefing at Howard University in Washington, DC.
From that time, he says, "I continue to be interested in the case's I believe any U.S. citizen who is concerned with justice should be. After all, the next victim of such injustice could be one of us".
The case of The Five, as these anti-terrorist fighters are known internationally, has created "very ugly precedents," said the former Pentagon official.
"The history of U.S. jurisprudence is marred by several low points where anything but justice was carried out -the U.S. Supreme Court's Dred Scot* decision, for example, which dealt with slavery".
"The failure to grant a change of venue alone, in the case of the Cuban Five, makes the case a blatant injustice," he emphasized.
Furthermore, he declared that the secret payment "of journalists and other agents" to create a climate of opinion against the Cuban Five "constitutes criminal behavior on the part of certain U.S. government officials". In response to another question he replied: "As a citizen and a soldier I have spent 35 years working for the U.S. government. I know the depths to which it can on occasion sink, including tolerating unfair trials".
"I know that if concerned, informed, and intelligent citizens don't protest injustice, injustice will be sustained and will recur. I'm not na?ve enough to believe that it can be eliminated entirely," commented Wilkerson.
He explained further that he always remembers the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. that "the rule of law is what is achieved in the courtroom-justice we leave to a higher authority".
"But in the case of the Cuban Five, we had the rule of special interests and their dedicated politicians, not the rule of law,, he affirmed.
With regard to President Barack Obama he said he felt "increasingly disappointed, although I campaigned and voted for him". According to Wilkerson, the head of the White House "shows a decided lack of political and moral courage in his decision-making to this point".
"From his failure to be more forceful with the government in Tel Aviv in halting settlement construction, to his failure to talk with Iran's leaders, to his entrapment by his generals with respect to the war in Afghanistan".
"Likewise, he has not managed even to return to the policies of the Clinton administration with respect to U.S.-Cuba relations, another sad development", he indicated.
Wilkerson believes that "a U.S. president, intent on doing the right thing and not fixated on his or her own reelection, could in fact free the Cuban Five; after all, they have served more than sufficient time for the one illegal act they did perform, i.e., act as foreign agents on U.S. soil".
Reflecting on the possibilities of a solution to the case, he states that "I don't believe there is -nor will there ever be- the political courage in Washington to reverse the decision of the courts or to demand a retrial through allowing the Supreme Court to hear the case and rule on what clearly were very bad decisions by the lower courts".
"So, a political quid pro quo is all that I believe is obtainable. In that regard, I would like to see an exchange of the Cuban Five . . . or, at a minimum a major reduction in their sentences for such an exchange".
What Wilkerson is indeed sure about is that the best thing would be to secure the freedom of Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René, because "whenever there is gross injustice, the struggle to correct it is always just".
*The Dred Scott case was a crucial one in US history, resolved unjustly by the Supreme Court in 1857. Dred Scott (app. 1795-1858) filed a suit to establish his right as a free man. The Supreme Court ruled against him and sought to use the case to impose slavery in all the states of the Union. The case unleashed a struggle between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists with very serious consequences. The Court ruled against Scott's freedom by alleging, among other things, that because he was a black man he could not be considered a citizen of the United States, and therefore he had no right to a federal trial.