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Hillestad ’15: America supports terrorism

Opinions Columnist

In 1998, five Cuban counterterrorism agents were arrested in Miami and held in solitary confinement for 17 months. Then — after a dubious seven-month-long trial in which no hard evidence was ever presented — the group was convicted and given the equivalent of more than four life sentences.

The agents were then shipped off to five different maximum-security prisons spread across the United States so as to eliminate any possibility for communication.

What did these five Cubans do to deserve this sentence?

The Cuban Five, as they have become known, were in pursuit of known terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who was responsible for the 1997 hotel bombings in Havana.

But as it turned out, Posada was a CIA operative. In order to protect its valuable asset and cover up the job, the U.S. government arrested the Cuban Five and denounced them as spies.

Exiled Cubans like Posada have a long and bloody history of terrorism against Cuba. Likewise, America has a long and bloody history of actively supporting those terrorist attacks.

After Posada escaped from Cuba, the CIA trained him in explosives and sabotage. He remained a CIA operative for many years, even helping to organize the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

Posada is also widely assumed to be the mastermind behind the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner. Seventy-three civilian passengers died on that plane. Posada was eventually allowed to walk free.

Meanwhile, three of the five Cubans who were trying to catch Posada remain locked in maximum-security prisons.

None of this guarantees that the Cuban Five weren’t spies. It’s possible that their imprisonment was entirely justified, and that the sensitive nature of the case warranted classifying the incriminating evidence.

But the more likely explanation is that since the United States had an economic and political interest in toppling the Castro regime, and since terrorism from Cuban exiles advances that goal, the U.S. government had made it a priority to thwart Cuban counterterrorism agents at any cost.

And so it goes for U.S. foreign policy around the world. America picks and chooses which terrorists to condemn and which to support, often wavering between the two depending on the prevailing incentives.

The case of the Cuban Five was not an isolated incident. The United States supports terrorism wherever and whenever it’s strategic to do so.

Back in 1959, some sources say, the CIA hired a young Iraqi assassin to eliminate Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim. The assassin was a then-unknown thug named Saddam Hussein. When Hussein botched the job, the United States supposedly set him up with money and protection within the Ba’ath Party. Then in 1963, the Ba’ath Party organized a CIA-backed military coup that would eventually place Hussein in power. At the time, America sought to bolster its position in the Cold War by exerting control over Iraq, even if it may have meant forging an alliance with Hussein, a known terrorist and newly established dictator.

America was consistently one of the staunchest supporters of the Hussein regime, even going so far as to provide Iraq with vital military intelligence that was used to administer chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War. Not only did the U.S. government know Hussein was using lethal chemical weapons like nerve gas and sarin, we actively supported him. With the help of American intelligence, Hussein’s wanton usage of chemical weaponry killed thousands and won the war for Iraq.

The alliance with Hussein ended abruptly once he invaded Kuwait. Hussein became more useful as an enemy than an ally, so the American propaganda machine took Hussein and turned him into the terrorist and dictator we know him as today. Though America’s aim in aiding terrorist activity is often regime change or political upheaval, U.S. politicians are sometimes willing to support terrorism just for the extra campaign money.

Iranian terrorist group Mojahedin-e-Khalq has largely been beyond reproach from American politicians, despite the widely held belief that the group was responsible for the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists. A host of top-ranking U.S. officials, including the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Frances Townsend and Howard Dean, have all publicly defended MEK. Why? MEK has been funneling tens of thousands of dollars into their pockets in exchange for their support. And following America’s lead on the issue, Israel’s secret service has also provided MEK with extensive financing, training and weapons.

Which leads me to what is perhaps the most well-documented and notorious case of U.S.-sponsored terrorism: funding for Israel’s military.

By America’s own definition, Israel is perpetrating acts of terrorism against Palestine. Israeli airstrikes have purposefully targeted Palestinian hospitals and schools in a crusade to crush the Palestinian people in a barbaric war of expansion. This is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets,” as the U.S. State Department defines terrorism.

While there is no doubt that Palestine also commits acts of terrorism, as Noam Chomsky has put it, Palestinian terrorism is “very small as compared with the U.S.-backed Israeli terrorism. Quite typically, violence reflects the means of violence. It’s not unusual. State terror is almost always much more extreme than retail terror, and this is no exception.”

To date, Israel’s aggressive invasion of the Gaza Strip has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians — around 75 percent of whom were civilians — while fewer than 80 Israelis have died.

And behind the scenes is America: Israel’s generous benefactor who watches from the sidelines as Palestinian women and children are brutally murdered.

In 2013 alone, the United States gave a whopping $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel. That amounts to nearly a quarter of Israel’s entire defense spending, which includes F-16 fighter jets, smart bombs, Apache helicopters and white phosphorous munitions.

America has no moral justification for this, only a political motivation. Simply put, American politicians support Israeli terrorism because American voters are overwhelmingly pro-Israel.

These examples are by no means the only instances of U.S.-backed terrorism. If the price is right, the United States has shown that it will support any amount of terrorism, anywhere in the world. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In America, it’s not dictators and tyrants that are supporting terrorism. It’s elected officials, and their power is vulnerable every election year. So while they’re the ones bankrolling terrorism, we’re the ones keeping them in office.

But, as of right now, the evidence is undeniable: America supports terrorists. Unless we do something about it, America will continue to support terrorists. And at some point, the lines start to blur, and if you squint just right, it starts to look an awful lot like America itself is the terrorist.

Sam Hillestad ’15 is squinting just right. He can be reached at

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  1. talmid chochem says:

    “American voters are overwhelmingly pro-Israel.” Maybe the overwhelming majority of Americans have more brains than you. also, Entitled college students tend to have a somewhat simplistic, immature outlook.

  2. Except the schools and hospitals are not “noncombatant targets.” Hamas has stockpiled weapons in a number of these places and used them as bases to enter and exit their tunnels. In addition, the number of civilans killed is greatly overstated. It is more like 50% than 75%.

  3. Ian Georgianna says:

    Fantastic piece.
    And pretty timely about the Cuban Five as today is the anniversary of their arrest.

  4. Reality Check says:

    This is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets,” as the U.S. State Department defines terrorism.

    Noncombatant targets have stockpiles of weapons and missiles being launched from them?

  5. While Saudis repress all their people (other than the royal
    family whom have private $500 million dollar private airplanes) we focus our
    angst on Israel for deep down we are really just anti-Semites pretending to be

    While Pakistanis ethnically cleanse that once Hindu country
    of its remaining Hindus we focus our angst on Israel for deep down we are
    really just anti-Semites pretending to be humanitarians.

    While Egyptians ethnically cleanse that country of its
    ancient Coptic community we focus our angst on Israel for deep down we are
    anti-Semites masquerading as humanitarians.

    While Mali Islamists turn Mali into the next Sudan we focus
    our angst on Israel for deep down we are really anti-Semites dressed up in
    humanitarian’s clothes.

    While Yemenis turn that bread basket of the Arabian
    Peninsula into a place of starvation we focus our crocodile tears on Israel for
    deep down we are really anti-Semites dressed up in fancy humanitarian clothes.

    While Islamists in Southern Thailand kill off over 5,000
    Buddhists in the span of a few years we ignore their plight and turn our focus
    on Israel for we are anti-Semites pretending to be concerned humanitarians.

    While Hezbollah kills off what remains of the Christian
    leadership in Lebanon we turn the spotlight on Israel for they are just Jews
    and we all know nobody has ever defended the Jews. They’re easy pickings and we
    are really just Brown Shirts pretending to be humanitarians.

    • So yay Israel destroying the OT is ok? Wow your sense of moral relativism is disturbing. Also — I just learnt you troll the DP too. Sheesh.

      • Stephanie, you have proven you care not a wit for facts and are, in fact, simply a water-girl for Islam. Your shoulders must get very tired.

        • And good ol’ troll you’ve proved you’re nothing but an irrational apologist for Israel 🙂 It’s mind-blowing that you think calling you out on your anti-Islam sentiment (which y’know is just as bad as anti-Semitism) equals being a water-girl for Islam.

          Yeah my shoulders are tired weeping for those who suffer throughout the Middle East, including Mizrahi Jews who suffer from racism in Israel btw. I think yours must be more tired from defending Israel in the face of many dead children, broken-hearted parents, and a devastated Gaza. I pity you, honestly. I think if I were a Jew I’d be feeling very tortured.

          • Stephanie, what is it like to defend those who teach kindergarten children to wear suicide belts?

          • Arafat, what is it like to defend those who believe Palestinians are dogs?

          • Palestinians have served on Israel’s Supreme Court, there are many Palestinian parliament members, Palestinians serve in the highest positions in Israeli hospitals and elsewhere.

            You are a hideous person, an anti-Semite and a Muslim apologist. You are today’s version of a Nazi supporter. (Am I allowed to write this – even if true – or has Brown gotten too PC to permit the truth?)

          • I support the Nazis as much as I support Israel’s actions towards minorities on its soil and Palestinians. That is, not at all.

            Hey don’t knock my school. I’ve been speaking the truth and it hasn’t been censored. Your propaganda hasn’t been either!

            Name those Palestinians. Will you also name the hundreds of children who died for naught?

  6. I think we should help Abbas and his dear friends and allies
    Hamas create a Palestinian state. Since
    Hamas is more popular than Abbas let’s call it Hamasistan. It could be based on all the other Islamist
    states. Women would have zero
    rights. Gays would be hung. Jews would be verboten. Non-Muslims would be killed unless they
    convert to Islam or pay a crippling tax that is designed just for them.

    I think this makes a lot of sense and is something college
    punks should march for, shout about, and pretend they care about. The world needs another Islamist state. What will we do without another one?

    In Hamasistan criminals will be punished by being tied to
    the back of jeeps and skinned to death on dirt roads until they die. The lucky criminals will simply be pushed off
    rooftops, and if they’re really lucky the rooftop will be very high.

    In Hamasistan they will blame all their problems on Israel
    that way the politicians can line their Swiss Vaults with endless international
    aid money and not be held accountable.

    In Hamasistan they will shoot rockets into Israel during
    rush hour and when schools get out.
    That’s the way they do things in Hamasistan. Then they will blame Israel for making them
    do it.

    Yes, this will solve all the problems just ask any leftist,
    liberal, dreaming moron and he will scream it at you as if there is no doubt
    about it.

  7. Your article on America’s support of terrorism left me
    baffled. I was fine until you began
    to describe the U.S. support of Israel’s military as “the most well-documented
    and notorious case of U.S.-sponsored terrorism.” Like you, most Israelis were greatly disturbed by the loss
    of civilian lives in the recent conflict in Gaza this summer. But before you can condemn Israel’s
    actions as a “terrorist act”, you need to be able to distinguish why this
    occurred and who the real terrorists are in this conflict. Since the start of the conflict on July
    8th, Hamas terrorists fired over 4,500 rockets into Israel. This was an unprovoked attack on Israel
    where Hamas militants used hospitals, schools, private homes and mosques to
    fire these rockets into populated areas of Israel as far as Tel Aviv where the
    majority of Israelis reside. In
    retaliation, Israel’s military, the IDF, sent airstrikes to locations where
    they identified weapon caches or command centers. But even before these airstrikes, the IDF would warn Gaza
    residents that a military strike was coming through phone calls, leaflets and
    other non-lethal means. Hamas, in
    turn, would publicly demand Gaza residents that they ignore these evacuation
    warnings and remain in their homes.
    Even the UNRWA, no friend
    of Israel, confirmed that at least three weapons caches were stored in its Gaza
    schools in July. In order to protect Israeli civilians from the barrage of
    rockets fired by Hamas, Israel sounded air sirens, built bomb shelters and
    operated the Iron Dome missile defense system. You compare the number of Palestinian deaths versus Israeli
    deaths to support your contention that Israel is a “terrorist state.” However, had Israel not taken these
    measures, the death count among Israeli civilians would have likely been in the
    tens of thousands. Would this have
    been more palatable to you?

    I too was deeply disturbed with the images we saw this
    summer of dead Palestinian children.
    But this was a tragedy that was entirely created by Hamas. They initiated the conflict; they broke
    every cease-fire; they even prevented Gazans from entering Israel via the Erez
    Crossing where the IDF where operating a field hospital! I haven’t even mentioned the dozens of
    Palestinian civilians that were summarily and publicly executed in Hamas for
    allegedly cooperating with Israel. Finally, the discovery of the tunnel network in Gaza intended
    by Hamas to carry out raids into civilian centers in Israel to murder as many
    men, women and children as possible, confirms the true nature of Hamas. This tunnel network was built with
    funds (much of which came from the European Union) diverted from materials that
    were intended to help the well-being of Gaza residents by building homes,
    schools and hospitals.

    Israel is not a perfect country; far from it. But it is the
    only democratic state in that region and one which absolutely has the right to
    defend itself. Many innocent
    Palestinians died this summer but before you call Israel a “terrorist state”
    you really need to understand why this happened. You may not agree with anything I’ve said as I vehemently
    disagree with the contentions in your article but if you do one thing before
    you write a similar piece to your readers at Brown, I would urge you to read
    the Hamas Charter. Don’t take my
    word for it, take theirs.

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