The idea that terrorism is on the eye of the beholder is not new. It just became more evident after the September 11 attacks.
US was demanding, and for the most part receiving absolute condemnation of the abhorrent attacks; but soon enough it began to hear, from the rest of the world, an emphasis on context and root causes of terrorism. There were people in the US saying similar things, but those were termed traitors or worse.
There is a sad truth US government and many of its citizens have trouble coming to terms with: the rest of the world does not appreciate double standards. Does that mean other countries do not violate the rules? Of course they do. What bothers them is the US arrogance and presumption of perfection that never measures up to, speaking in military terms, the facts on the ground.
For instance, the US government denied a visa to Dora Maria Téllez, one of the best-known figures in recent Latin American history, who has frequently visited the US in the past, and who epitomized the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution that overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza.
Téllez, now a famous historian, was appointed as the Robert F Kennedy visiting professor in Latin American studies in the divinity department at Harvard.
The US told Téllez she is ineligible for the visa because she was involved in “terrorist acts,” which, as a professor of Harvard puts it, place her in the same category of George Washington: people fighting for freedom, and against 'bloody dictators'. Remember Saddam? But Téllez was doing that against US interests, and that's where US draws the line.
Coincidentally, this happens around the time when John Negroponte, also a famous figure very involved in the defense of the military regimes of Central America, in the 70s and 80s, was appointed by the President Bush to be the intelligence zar.
It's worth remembering that, under late President Ronald Reagan, US opposed the Sandinistas movement even after they had been elected in 1984, and kept supporting the contras and keeping alive a savage civil war, despite repeated condemnations and resolutions from the UN and many other international institutions. Remember when Bush said that Saddam did not obey UN resolutions?
In fact, the Iran-contras scandal that did not manage to stain the pristine image of Reagan, needs no introduction. It's certainly very ironic: in Iran and in Nicaragua US managed both times to opposed, and help bring down, democratically elected governments, only to later go to Iraq to help establish a democratically elected government, and took down a “bloody dictator.”
With Luis Posada Carriles, an anti Castro militant who has a nice history of violent conspiracy, US is presented with the opposite case. The documents of his link to the CIA and of being on the agency's payroll are now public. At the peek of his career, Posada killed, in his own words, “73 dogs,” and had those been actual dogs he would has been prosecuted for cruelty against animals, but these were 73 teenagers members of a fencing team, returning home to Cuba. Posada Carriles bombed their plane. No survivors.
Interestingly enough, the Bush administration wasn't sure what to do with this one: should he be considered a freedom fighter like... Osama? Or someone fighting against a dictator like... Téllez? Should innocent civilians be killed to make a point like Osama believes? Or should anyone who does that should be considered a terrorist and be brought to justice?
Again, terrorism seems to be on the eyes of the beholder, but in this hearts and minds crusade US has embarked, we better begin setting our record straight and making our glossary of terms public.
For instance, what's exactly the difference between innocent civilians and collateral damages?
Monday, August 08, 2005
Terrorism is not terrorism, is not terrorism...
From the Washington's Voz newspaper.