The case for the list of state sponsors of terrorism
Posted in The American Conservative comments section.
The first question to ask Daniel Larison, author of the December 30, 2020 essay “Cuba and Washington’s Absurd Overuse of Sanctions” are there any economic sanctions that he could cite that are not “absurd” or “overused”?
Without economic sanctions policy makers are left with two options: ineffectual statements that mean nothing or going to war. Economic sanctions are a non-violent method of pressuring an outlaw regime without having to send in the Marines.
The list of terror sponsors came into existence on December 29, 1979 during the Carter Administration, and began part of a toughened anti-terrorism strategy during the Reagan Administration. It was a response to worsening terrorism sponsored by foreign states. Key items in Ronald Reagan's arsenal to combat terrorism were economic and political sanctions.
On March 1, 1982 the Cuban dictatorship was placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. less than three months after the US State Department confirmed that the Castro regime was using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to the Colombian M19 terrorist group then battling to overthrow Colombia’s democratic government.
The claim made by Mr. Larison that placing Cuba back on the terror sponsors list would politicize the list is simply wrong. He also doubles down by criticizing the “re-addition of North Korea” on November 20, 2017 by the Trump Administration.
Removing both Cuba and North Korea were political decisions not based on the merits of whether or not they were sponsoring terrorism, and the objective for doing so did not materialize.
Consider the following:
In October 2008, the George W. Bush Administration took North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism in the hope that it would “salvage a fragile nuclear deal.” This approach failed and on May 25, 2009 North Korea conducted a second underground test with an explosion that was the equivalent to U.S. bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. North Korea had also tested a long-range missile in April of 2009. In 2013, North Korea conducted a third nuclear test claiming to have miniaturized the bomb in order to place it on a long-range missile with ability to reach the U.S. mainland.
On January 6, 2016 North Korea announced that it had detonated a hydrogen bomb. This wasn't supposed to happen. North Korea had been cheating on a deal it had made over 20 years earlier and brazenly announced nearly a decade earlier on October 9, 2006 that it had conducted its first underground nuclear test. Removing it from the list did not improve its behavior, or serve U.S. interests.
Bruce Klingner Senior, Research Fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, who specializes in Korean and Japanese affairs gives a summary of Pyongyang’s actions and how they fit into the designation of a state terror sponsor.
“The United States placed North Korea on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list in 1988 after North Korean agents blew up a South Korean commercial airliner, killing 115 people. Twenty years later, the Bush administration removed Pyongyang from the list in a failed attempt to improve the atmosphere for progress in the Six-Party Talks nuclear negotiations. But the talks collapsed soon afterward over North Korea’s rejection of verification protocols."
"U.S. law, such as 18 U.S. Code § 2331, defines international terrorism as acts that:""involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States… appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States."
"Kim’s regime has checked every box."
"Since being dropped from the terrorism list, Pyongyang has conducted, repeated cyberattacks against government agencies, businesses, banks and media organizations. It has also engaged in: threats of “9/11-type attacks” against U.S. theaters and theatergoers; assassination attempts against North Korean defectors, human rights advocates and South Korean intelligence agents; and numerous shipments of conventional arms bound for terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Earlier this year, North Korean agents used VX, a deadly nerve agent, to kill Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in a crowded civilian airport."
"Returning North Korea to the terrorist list enables Washington to invoke stronger financial transaction licensing requirements under 31 CFR Part 596 and remove North Korea’s sovereign immunity from civil liability for terrorist acts. Redesignation also requires the U.S. government to oppose loans to North Korea by international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank.”
It is amazing that all this is left out of Mr. Larison’s essay. The same holds true for Cuba.
Raul Castro conditioned “re-establishing diplomatic relations and upgrading their so-called interests sections in Havana and Washington into full-blown embassies” on ending Cuba’s “designation as a state terrorism sponsor.” This was not difficult for Havana because the interests sections had been operating as de facto embassies since 1977.
The White House had to ignore a number of bad actions by Havana to achieve its diplomatic goal.
Consider that the Castro regime was caught smuggling Soviet era fighter jets and weaponry to North Korea in July 2013, in violation of international UN sanctions.
In June 2014, a U.S. Hellfire missile used in NATO exercises in Europe ended up in Havana’s possession instead of being sent back to the United States. Although U.S. officials said this was the result of a shipping mishap by Lockheed Martin, the missile’s manufacturer, this was at a time during which Obama staffer Ben Rhodes was already secretly negotiating with Havana.
On Dec. 17, 2014, when President Obama opened what he called “a new chapter” in U.S.-Cuba relations, he commuted the sentence of Cuban spies who planned terrorist acts on U.S. soil and freed Gerardo Hernandez, who was serving a double life sentence for espionage and murder conspiracy, as part of a prisoner exchange. [The murder conspiracy charges were for his role in the killing of three American citizens and a Cuban national with residency in the United States on February 24, 1996. The four were shot down by Cuban fighter jets as they flew small aircraft with Brothers to the Rescue, a group that searched the seas for Cuban refugees in trouble. Hernandez’s spy group had infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue.] Hernandez returned to Cuba and became tasked with spying on Cubans on a national level.
Cuba was removed from the terror sponsor list on April 14, 2015 to re-establish diplomatic relations.
Omitted by Mr. Larison is what happened next.
Relations were officially reestablished in July 2015, and yet, the United States was unable to obtain the return of this weapon, despite repeated requests, until the story went public in January 2016. The Hellfire missile, filled with sensitive technology, was returned in February 2016, after over a year and a half in Havana’s possession.
Beginning in November 2016, on President Obama’s watch, scores of U.S. diplomats began being identified as suffering neurological injuries, and Havana failed in its duty to protect them on their territory, and claimed it was “mass hysteria” and “crickets” at different times. This was the reason for the reduction in personnel.
Mr. Larison fails to mention that on January 2, 2017, Raúl Castro presided over a military parade in which Cuban soldiers chanted: “Obama! Obama! With what fervor we’d like to confront your clumsiness, give you a cleansing with rebels and mortar, and make you a hat out of bullets to the head.”
The New York Times reported on December 29, 2020 that Raul Castro refused "request by Colombia, an American ally, to extradite 10 leaders of the country’s National Liberation Army living in Havana after group claimed responsibility for a bombing of a Bogotá police academy in January 2019 that killed 22 people."
|Gerardo Hernandez conspired to murder Americans and carry out terrorism|
Oh yes, and Gerardo Hernandez, who President Obama commuted his double life sentence, the same Mr. Hernandez who planned terrorists acts on U.S. soil and successfully conspired to murder Americans, on December 17, 2020 was promoted to the Castro dictatorship’s Council of State, the 31-member body that governs day-to-day life on the island.
Despite all of this, and a Cuban presence in Venezuela that engages in repression and trains Venezuelan officials in torture techniques, and played an important role in the rise of the Soles drug cartel, Mr Larison has the chutzpah to claim otherwise.
Returning both Cuba and North Korea to the list of terror sponsors is to undue politicization of the list. The Castro regime has a long track record of both terrorism and training and sponsoring terrorists around the world.
Furthermore, the Trump Administration should declassify the communications and meetings carried out secretly by the Obama Administration from 2010 through 2017 with Havana, and especially the meetings between White House staffer Ben Rhodes and General Raul Castro’s son, Alejandro Castro Espin, a Colonel in the Ministry of the Interior that reportedly began in 2013.
The American people should know what went on and how it has advanced or impeded U.S. interests. The Castro dictatorship and its spy apparatus already does.