Classifying Terrorists

The good, the bad and the crazy
Wednesday, 03 August 2011

By Saul Landau

The political elite and its stenographic media don’t classify types of terrorists. If they did we would get the good, the bad and the crazy.

Since no one is perfect, the virtuous purveyors of death and destruction naturally need flexibility. Mistakes occasionally occur. For example, when U.S. drones – a basic weapon for virtuous terrorists – routinely whack civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and other remote areas, the Pentagon occasionally admits its honest mistake. The drone directors, of course, had every reason to believe that the corpses, when alive, were terrorists and not school children and housewives.

Similarly, in late July when NATO bombs destroyed a hospital in Libya, the spokespeople for that once anti-Soviet defense organization admitted to yet another well-meaning error. Had the bomb hit the evil (everyone knows that!) Col. Gadaffi’s troops or supporters, they inferred, a humanitarian cause would have been served. After all, look what that the treacherous Gadaffi had done to the United States and Western Europe! (Why he had even cut deals with Western oil companies and abandoned his nuclear weapons program; not having learned the lesson from Iraq, he made himself vulnerable.)

While the world followed Libyan and Afghan wars in which “good-terrorist” bombs blew away scores of bad people and bad-terrorist bombs blew away additional scores of good ones, few paid attention (certainly not the mass media) to the June celebration in Hialeah Florida. Mayor Carlos Hernandez invited the media to “join us at our next City Council meeting where Cuban activist and artist Luis Posada Carriles will receive the Key to the City of Hialeah, along with a proclamation naming the day Luis Posada Carriles Day in Hialeah.”

The invitation explained that Posada “is being honored for his unwavering dedication towards advancing democracy and demanding freedom in Cuba and the western hemisphere.”

How exactly Posada – a freedom fighter, thus a good terrorist – “advanced democracy” by masterminding, with fellow Cuban exile Orlando Bosch (who recently died after being honored multiple times in Miami), the bombing of a Cuban airliner over Barbados, almost 35 years ago, never became clear. Everyone, however, agreed on the facts: 73 passengers and crewmembers perished. Trinidad police arrested Posada’s and Bosch’s henchmen who named the two as masterminds of the act. Venezuelan authorities then arrested the dynamic duo. (The price good terrorists must sometimes pay!)

Bribes from rich exiles and pressure from U.S. government officials got the two heroes released. To advance the cause of freedom, authorities occasionally look the other way.

Let’s not carp on the nature of Cuban exile violence. In 1976, exiles seeking freedom for Cuba bombed the Miami FBI headquarters and Post Office; big deal that in that same year five members of the Cuban Nationalist Movement worked with the Secret Police of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to car bomb Orlando Letelier, Chile’s former Ambassador to Washington, and his colleague Ronni Moffitt, less than a mile from the White House. Letelier was a socialist and Ronni – well, collateral damage, as they say.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, anti-Castro freedom fighters, the media rarely remind us, detonated hundreds of bombs, killed scores of their enemies on U.S. territory, not in Cuba. Max Lesnik, a magazine publisher and writer who disagreed with the violent exiles, got repeatedly bombed, but miraculously survived. He never grasped the logic of those whose aim was to bring down the Cuban government exploding bombs in U.S. cities. Often times, the good terrorists’ methods seem to defy ordinary human reason and seem to be nothing more than insane acts or means of extorting money. But the media and key Florida politicians always explain that these well-meaning bombers are passionate and will do anything for freedom.

Their bombs sometimes get exploded just to make a point. In 1970, the New York’s Fifth Avenue Cinema announced it would run my “Fidel” documentary. Public Television had broadcast it a year earlier, an act of provocation to Cuban exiles. Why else would they bomb the station except to demonstrate the moral perfidy of portraying ideas contrary to their own.

Shortly before the screen lit up, bombs exploded in the theater, canceling the opening. Weeks later they torched the Los Angeles movie house, which had announced the next showing of the film.

None of the hundreds of bombings, deaths by shooting and other violent acts by Cuban exiles should qualify as examples of bad terrorism since they had no Muslim connections.

Bad terrorists, like those who did the World Trade Center and regularly detonate themselves in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and the weirdos who hid explosives in shoes and knickers, have caused our government to reduce our freedoms. That’s how dangerous they are.

The cuckoo category, however, emerges every so often, the latest being in Norway. The first reports from “experts” on Anders Breivik’s massacre blamed Muslim jihadists – as they did some 20 years earlier when ex GIs bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. When big-time violence occurs, the media turns to people like Stephen Emerson, self-dubbed “expert”, who immediately blamed the Oklahoma bombing on Muslim extremists – as did other “experts.”

As the Norway assassin carried out his “mission,” the media gave less attention to a man shooting eight people at a Seattle car show and another killing his ex wife and five members of her family at a Texas roller rink. More crazies! Another loony shot Rep. Gabby Gifford and a dozen others in Tucson. Shocking because a Christian did them!

Christians with guns have helped Oakland, California, earn the name “Little Iraq” among the locals. The Unabomber, from whom the Norwegian slaughterer borrowed passages for his 1,500 page manifesto, and MacVeigh of Oklahoma fame from whom the Norwegian got his explosives formula also belong to the crazy category. They claimed their violence was part of a larger mission, just as do those who order drones and B52s to kill.

When the categories get confusing turn to another section of the newspaper and find out if Angelina has adopted another orphan.

Saul Landau’s new film, WIL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP is available in DVD from Cinema Libre Studio. He’s an Institute for Policy Studies fellow.

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