The past week saw the anniversaries of two major acts of international terrorism pass in virtual silence – in the U.S., that is. The victims, Cuba and Libya, have yet to forget these terrorist acts, however.
Forty-five years ago President Kennedy launched the Bay of Pigs invasion, killing at least 2,200 Cubans. Twenty years ago President Reagan bombed the two biggest cities in Libya, killing at least 40 Libyans, including Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi’s adopted daughter.
Although each was a clear violation of international law, the U.S. media, like the U.S. school system, has never described them as such.
From April 15 ?” 19, 1961, about 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles attacked Cuba in an effort to prompt a regime change, as it is now called. In one aerial attack, according to a 1984 study by the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, “planes used bombs and rockets and also delivered napalm,” resulting in 1,800 casualties.
The worst the U.S. media has ever said about the Bay of Pigs, however, is that it was a tactical mistake, that “groupthink” prevented President Kennedy from seeing that the plan would fail, which prevented him from creating a plan that would succeed. In other words, the U.S. had and has every right to invade countries to achieve political ends.
It was groupthink that led Kennedy and the CIA to believe that, following an invasion, the Cuban people would rise up against their new government, headed by Fidel Castro. They believed this despite intelligence showing that “Castro was secure, and he was beloved by millions in Cuba,” according to Howard Hunt, a former CIA operative. Hunt was sent to Cuba to determine Fidel Castro’s popularity to see if Cubans would support Castro over an invasion. Hunt talked to common people in Havana, and “all I could find was a lot of enthusiasm for Fidel Castro,” he said in a 1997 interview with CNN.
Naturally, Hunt concluded that the invasion should proceed, and that for it to succeed, “Castro would have to be neutralized” first.
The invasion’s planners disagreed, however, and assumed that Cubans would gladly aid the invading forces to help return their country to its former status as a good source of investment and cheap labor, and tropical pleasure island for U.S. businessmen.
With “Operation El Dorado Canyon,” President Reagan bombed Libya on April 15, 1986, 7 p.m., just as New York’s nightly news went on air, in what Noam Chomsky calls “the first bombing in history orchestrated for prime-time TV.”
The bombing lasted half an hour, and Larry Speakes, the White House spokesman, wrapped up his 7:20 press conference just as the nightly news ended.
In the press conference, Speakes said that with the bombing, the U.S. had “chosen to exercise its right of self-defense.”
The “self-defense” was a reaction to a bombing, 10 days earlier, of a West Berlin discotheque frequented by American servicemen, which killed one U.S. soldier and a Turkish woman while wounding more than 200 people, including 50 other servicemen.
Although he provided no evidence for Libyan involvement in that bombing, President Reagan declared that he had “solid evidence” that Libya was behind the West Berlin attack and that “Libya’s agents planted the bomb.” Whether or not Libya had been involved in the West Berlin attack, the U.S. bombing of Libya was still illegal, and an illogical response. In fact, U.S. intelligence at the time, and since, has determined that Iran was responsible for the bombing. A 1991 National Security Agency intelligence document, declassified in 1997, stated exactly that.
Nevertheless, President Reagan told Americans that the bombing, which was a combination of 500-pound and 2,000-pound laser-guided weapons as well as precision-guided delayed gravity bombs, had “succeeded” in retaliating against Libya for the “reign of terror” waged by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi against the United States. It was a “pre-emptive action” that would “not only diminish Col. Qaddafi’s capacity to export terror,” but also “provide him with incentives and reasons to alter his criminal behavior,” Reagan said. That is, if killing 40 Libyans, including his adopted daughter, wasn’t enough to make Qaddafi change his ways, maybe the next time the U.S. would kill even more.
It is easy to forget the significance of these events, or to ignore the suffering of the victims of U.S. terror and aggression. But next week the U.S. State Department will release a report to help remind you. The State Department refers to the primary victims of U.S. violence, including Cuba and Libya, as “state sponsors of terrorism.” The victims are referred to as the aggressors. Now you know.