The Bush Administration should also strive to keep at bay, with the facts, the factually-challenged Washington, DC lobby and other supporters of the Cuban Communist Party.
I have been a staunch supporter of hard line U.S.-Cuba policy for as long as I have been involved in politics and public policy. For those of you that do not know me well, that means a long time. As with all protracted issues in politics, there are patterns in the U.S.-Cuba policy that emerge every so often, especially during a presidential campaign cycle. Sensing a political opportunity, opponents of the current approach shall wax tall tales and use policy fissures to weaken sanctions and legitimize a state sponsor of terrorism. Indeed, the U.S. presidential campaign cycle is prime time for the Cuban Communist Party, its supporters, and its de facto lobbyist brigades in Washington, DC.
For example, one of the Cuban Communist Party’s primary supporters in town in the Latin America Working Group (LAWG), a leftist non-profit organization that opposes any U.S. foreign policy in Latin America that advances the U.S. national interest. The LAWG opposes U.S./Colombia efforts to rid Colombia of drug dealers and terrorist groups such as the FARC-People’s Army. They engage on other issues as well, but Cuba remains one of the LAWG’s pet project. On a positive note, they’ve had little success in recent years. At least on the books, U.S. laws have modernized sanctions rules and made it tougher, not easier, for U.S. businesses and Americans to deal with a state sponsor of terrorism just ninety miles from our shores.
When the Bush Administration announced last week that North Korea would be coming off the state sponsors of terror list, LAWG wasted no time in seeking to exploit the announcement and apply it to Cuba. LAWG sent an e-mail alert simply stating, could Cuba be next? Rest assured that a campaign of misinformation about Cuba’s status on the list will surely begin in very short order. Even before the North Korea announcement other supporters of the Cuban Communist Party had already started to cast doubt on the wisdom of the designation. It has been going on for years.
Another supporter of the Cuban regime, the Center for International Policy (CIP), issued an op-ed grossly misrepresenting why Cuba is even on the terrorist list implying, through a very selective use of facts, that it is some recent phenomena. It even waved a “John Bolton Talisman,” i.e., if Bolton said it has to be false, to make its point, so they quote him to make a point, albeit incorrectly. As with LAWG, the CIP opposes Plan Colombia; criticizes the overall mission and purpose of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC); and opposes any effort that would expand U.S. military cooperation in the Americas (even if that means that the Chinese, the Russians, the Europeans or other powers fill the gap by selling their military hardware or provide training to regional powers).
Let’s take a quick review on Cuba’s designation as a terrorist state. Cuba has been on the state sponsors of terrorism list, and for good reason, since 1982. Cuba’s long-history of exporting terrorism, providing training and support to leftist radical groups, and aiding terrorist fugitives is well documented. In the most recent Country Reports on Terrorism, the State Department details how Cuba remains opposed to U.S. counter-terrorism policy as well as Cuba’s actively and publicly condemning U.S. policies and actions to stem terrorism in the Americans and beyond. Cuba does not track, block, or seize terrorist assets, it does the opposite it attracts, hides and profits for them.
Cuba does not bring terrorist groups to justice, it provides haven and protection to terrorists groups such as the Colombian FARC or Spain’s ETA. Cuba maintains close relations with other terror states such as Iran, Syria, and, notwithstanding the recent announcement, North Korea. There are over 70 fugitives from U.S. law, including cop killers, living under the “Cuban Witness Protection Program.” And all of this is just the more recent things that Cuba has done, or failed to do, that keeps it on the states sponsors of terror list.
We could also list many more bad acts, including how Cuban agents helped torture American soldiers in Vietnam, assisted the Palestinian Liberation Organization terrorize Israel during the Cold War, or the 1996 murder of three American citizens on a humanitarian mission in international waters. We could also how Cuba stole U.S. military and intelligence secrets for decade through a mole it had recruited in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). And then there is one of the most troubling aspects of the designation, weapons of mass destruction. It is this sticky widget that really irritates the pro-Cuba lobby in Washington, DC.
Cuba’s chemical and biological weapons capabilities, that a former Soviet defector has claimed is a full-blown chemical and biological weapons program, should be an issue of concern for any American, yet the pro-Cuban Communist lobby in Washington, DC ridicules, minimizes, or outright discards even the possibility. Even within the Bush Administration this issue remains a sensitive topic and not widely discussed. Of all the things that Cuba has done, and continues to do to the U.S., its robust pharmaceutical program has always been suspected of doing a lot more than researching cancer cures.
As the Presidential election season gets into full swing, the Cuban Communist Party and its Washington, DC lobby once again sense the political chum in the Potomac. It will use the few legislative days remaining on the Congressional work schedule to ease travel restrictions and liberalize trade rules to sell food to Cuba. On this latter point, if they would focus on the more than 30 free market economies in the Hemisphere, or even support the free trade agreement for Colombia, they could sell a lot more food at market prices than to a terrorist regime that ignores democracy, freedom, and rule of law. Rather, they will focus on their long-term goal of securing for the Cuban Communist Party what it has so desperately wanted for decades, political legitimacy through easing of U.S. sanctions and, ultimately, normalization of relations with the U.S. with the Communists at the helm in Havana.
The Bush Administration has done a better job than the Clinton Administration at fending off efforts in the Congress to ease sanctions on the island, but it can do better. While time is short, it can begin a more robust application of U.S. law to force a peaceful transition to freedom in Cuba. This process should include our partners in the region, but if not, the U.S. can and must go at it on its own. Now that Fidel Castro has stepped down as head of state, we should indict Fidel Castro in U.S. federal courts, as we did in the case of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. We should also demand that Cuba come clean on its biological and chemical weapons program and agree to international inspectors. What do they have to hide?
In the long run, North Korea’s removal from the state sponsors of terrorism will prove to be a mistake. North Korea has broken every agreement it has made with the U.S. on nuclear proliferation. Lying and breaking promises is what terror states do best. It will be no different with Iran, Cuba, Sudan, or Syria. With regards to Cuba, in the few months it has left the Bush team should, at a minimum, lay a foundation for the incoming McCain foreign policy team to quickly act upon the Cuba matter once and for all. It should also strive to keep at bay, with the facts, the factually-challenged Washington, DC lobby and other supporters of the Cuban Communist Party.