Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Cuban Five will not soon be released

Fourteen years ago this week, five Cubans were arrested by the FBI and charged with conspiracy to commit espionage. They were tried and ultimately sentenced to life sentences. This case remains one of the worst examples of judicial malfeasance in US history.

The facts are these. The five Cubans came to the US from Cuba to infiltrate Anti-Castro groups engaged in terrorist activities against Cuba. Among the terrorist acts committed by these groups were murder, assassination, and the bombing of Cuban Flight 455, a commercial airplane carrying 73 passengers. By any definition of terrorism--except one--those are terrorist acts.

Funeral for 73 people who died on Cuban Flight 455 (NYTimes)
The one exception is that a person or group of people can commit with impunity terrorist acts against governments the US doesn't like, like Cuba and Venezuela. The US arrested and convicted the Cuban Five of conspiracy to commit espionage and murder without ever producing evidence of a single act of violence. At the same time, the US government refuses to extradite suspected terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles, who has admitted to placing bombs in public places in Cuba.

Posada-Carriles, alleged terrorist
This is the topsy-turvy world of US espionage. When a US agent tortures a captive, he is a hero. When another country's agent tortures a captive, he is a terrorist. This is the inevitable consequence of the US open-ended war on terror. The US has declared war on acts of violence. The UN declarations of human rights not only condemn such acts but also provide mechanisms to punish them. The US wants no part of peaceful methods. It has declared war instead.

So now the US holds the Cuban Five in prison. They have been held in solitary confinement, at one point for 17 months as they awaited trial, an act condemned by the Geneva accords as a war crime. They have been denied visits with their wives. The rest of the world has taken up their cause. Amnesty International considers them political prisoners and has documented their abuse. Their attorney, Leonard Weinglass, stated that it was customary in espionage cases to return the captured spies to their home country, usually within 30 days.

But the Cuban Five will not soon be released.

The Cuban Five will only be released if the people who sympathize with them join together and create a public outcry against injustice. But the groups who want this to happen hardly even talk to each other. The Cubans do not understand English. The American progressive groups do not understand Spanish. The Socialist groups speak a Marxist-Leninist dialect that they alone understand.

Tom Hayden has said that reconciliation of opposites is only possible if the interested parties give up their broader interests and limit their goals to the one at hand, in this case the liberation of the Cuban Five. But the Cubans want an end to the embargo and normalization of relations with Cuba. This will take years, perhaps decades. In the meantime, the Cuban Five are in prison.

The American progressives want to reform the US prison system and punish US war criminals. This will take years, perhaps decades. In the meantime, the Cuban Five are in prison.

The Marxist-Leninists want to overthrow capitalism. This will take years. Perhaps they may never succeed. In the meantime, the Cuban Five are in prison.

The American people are fair-minded. They hate injustice when they know about it. But unless the other interested parties overcome their selfish concerns long enough to publicize the Cuban Five and petition Obama for their release, the American people will not learn about this injustice and will not demand that it be stopped.

The progressives, the Cubans, the Marxist-Leninists, must set aside their selfish, long-term goals and work exclusively for the release of the Cuban Five.

Otherwise, the Cuban Five will not soon be released.

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