WITH the arrival of President Obama of the USA in India in early November, we can expect the ‘War on Terror’ to be highlighted in even more strident terms than ever before. It is logical that the government of India is concerned with the issue. It is at the receiving end of both cross-border and home-bred terrorism. But it seems that its “strategic ally,” the USA, is less concerned about the reality of the ‘War on Terror’ than its theatrical value.
DUBIOUS US ROLE
This is evident from the manner in which Pakistan, the major strategic ally of the USA in our region, has pussy-footed in its efforts to deal with the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which its ally the USA publicly says is a threat second only to Al Qaeda. So much so that its leaders hide under other umbrellas and get away on the basis of legal loopholes. The David Headley affair is even more surprising, if one follows up on how it happened.
Headley, an American citizen of Pakistani origin, who had been arrested on charges of drug peddling, was not only released but had been frequently touring Pakistan and India with impunity. We must know whether he was recruited as an undercover agent in jail. Later, he was rearrested in the USA when India’s search for the masterminds of the Mumbai blasts became hot enough to probably blow his cover. Yet, cover or not, it is evident that the US authorities did not give their Indian counterparts even the basic information they had on the impending attacks on Indian soil. They even covered up for him --- if his wives’ information is anything to go by.
Once arrested, he was, on the basis of legal loopholes, not allowed to meet Indian detectives. Later, after he had been allegedly tutored, they were allowed to meet him in the USA. Even so, he appears to have let on that the whole Mumbai bombings were masterminded in Pakistan by the ISI. But that confession does not appear to have hardened the leaders of the global ‘war on terror’ enough to punish Pakistan’s ISI for its misdeeds. On the contrary, India is being pressured to soften its position on bilateral talks with it. Worse, not only has the ISI been given a clean chit by the USA; Pakistan has been granted 2 billion dollars in arms aid. It is also alleged that the mass murder of Sikhs in Anantnag district of Kashmir was planned by the ISI, but a man no less than President Clinton provided the cover-up by refusing to state who had done it.
This appears to be a strange way of dealing with a terrorist state. But it is not so strange if one looks at how the USA has turned blind eye to numerous acts of terrorism by another of its allies, Israel, which has been committing such acts over decades. In fact, its role in destabilising West Asia seems parallel to that of Pakistan in Central and South Asia. The parallel extends to the manner in which both states became clandestine nuclear powers and consistently practise international terrorism, as is evident from Israel’s murderous attacks on individuals in other states, as in Dubai recently, the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear facility and many other such actions all over West Asia and Africa. Pakistan’s use not only of militant bases in its occupied territory in Kashmir, but even its Karachi and Punjab based operations involving both Nepal and Bangladesh, remind one of how close the parallel is between the actions of these two states.
What is even more shocking is how the man who blew the whistle on Israel’s secret nuclear weapons programme, Mordechai Vanunu, is still in jail for well over a decade in Israel for having exposed that state’s illegal and criminal activity in the field of nuclear arms production.
SAVAGE SENTENCES AGAINST CUBAN FIVE
One may not be too surprised if a rogue state like Israel does such a thing. But what if it happens in the “Land of the Free,” like the USA? This is exactly what happened to five patriotic Cubans now in jail in the USA for over twelve years. Their sole crime is that they set up a fact-finding team to expose Cuban exile terrorists: Luis Posada Cariles and Orlando Boseh Avila. These men are wanted for a series of terrorist crimes including the blowing up of a Cuban passenger plane with 73 people on board in 1976. In all, 3,478 Cubans have been killed in terrorist attacks and 2,099 have been maimed. So it is not surprising that young and intelligent Cubans have been forced to try to stop such activity by nipping it in the bud.
What is the crime of the five patriots in jail in Cuba? They exposed these criminals. And who are they? Unlike the drug-running criminals who are the terrorists, they are well educated young men who have lost the most productive years of their lives in US prisons, suffering every sort of privation and torture to ensure that their countrymen can live lives free of terrorism.
There is Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo, born in 1965, a graduate in international political relations and a well-known cartoonist who has published a book of his drawings in 2002. He has been sentenced to two life terms and 15 years. Ramon Labanino Salazar, born in 1963, graduated with the best performance in economics. He was sentenced to a life term in prison and 18 years. Rene Gonzales Sehweret, born in 1956 in Chicago, is a pilot and flight instructor; he has been sentenced to 15 years. Fernando Gonzales Llort, born in 1963, graduated with high marks in international political relations. He has been sentenced to 19 years. Antonio Guerrero Rodriguez, born in 1958 in Miami, is an airfield construction engineer trained in Kiev in the Ukraine, a poet and artist. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment and 10 years.
It is amazing that such savage sentences have been passed against those who have committed no act of violence, by violating judicial procedures in the USA, by suppressing evidence and rejecting the right to appeal given to them by the court. On the other hand, Orlando Bosch and Lusada Cariles are both free in the USA with presidential support by George Bush senior and junior. President Obama had won on the slogan of change. But throughout this period he has done nothing to give justice to the Cuban Five. Let it be clear that the people of India will find his call for ‘War on Terrorism’ less than credible if justice is not done.
We who are at the receiving end of both state-sponsored and individual terrorism from across our borders cannot see sense in allying with such an unreliable and double-faced entity in a matter of life and death for our people. We are aware that imperialism offers many blandishments, but it has only its interests to serve and no friendship to offer. We demand the immediate release of the Cuban patriots and will continue our struggle against those who have illegally imprisoned them, until they are released.
*Article published in www.cpim.org written by Suneet Chopra