Cuba has been designated a state sponsor of terror since 1982 by the US Government. The nation is one of four that remain on the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. When you click on the link it is obvious the case against Cuba is exceedingly thin and flimsy compared to the other three nations currently on the list, Sudan, Iran and Syria. It is also flimsy when compared to North Korea who was removed from the list not long ago and Pakistan who has never been classified by the United States as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.
The influence of southeastern Florida politicians in both parties and the desire to win the electoral votes of the nation’s fourth largest state (now third) kept Cuba on the list without real justification. We will get back to Florida political considerations below but first let’s compare Cuba to Pakistan.
In 1993, the Clinton Administration indicated that Pakistan was involved in some degree of state sponsored terrorism particularly in Kashmir. During that period much of Indian-administered Kashmir was in rebellion against the central government wanting either independence or to join Pakistan. Kashmir is a muslim-majority region in a Hindu-majority country.
After the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which collaborated closely with the CIA and Chinese intelligence service in the 1980’s began funneling help to multiple terrorist organizations that were aligned with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. One of these organizations was Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Pakistan has never been on the official state list of terrorist sponsors. Yet the reaction to Lashkar-e-Taiba in the west has been decisive. In March 2001 the UK added Lashkar-e-Taiba to its official terrorist list and the US did so in December 2001 after the organization was involved in the bombing of the Indian Parliament bombing.
President Bush had shrewdly used the threat of Pakistan being included in the US-sponsored War on Terror as Afghan War forcing the Pakistani’s to temporarily behave. But the reality was the country was always two-faced. Official communication with the west indicated a desire to crackdown on militants yet organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba grew stronger after 9/11 and evidence exists that the ISI was more intimately involved than ever in the planning of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and India.
After numerous terrorist serious attacks in 2003, 2004, and 2005 Lashkar-e-Taiba was responsible for the bombing of seven trains leaving busy Churchgate Station in Mumbai during the summer of 2006. The Indian Government indicated it had uncovered proof that the ISI was involved in the bombings in coordination with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Despite protestations from the Indian Government Lashkar-e-Taiba essentially operated legally in Pakistan and was not banned there. The Bush Administration paid lip service to this but did not bring real pressure on the Pakistanis.
It wasn’t until the 2008 Mumbai attacks which included a savage attack on the Chabad House in the city that Lashkar-e-Taiba was banned in Pakistan under intense US pressure in the dying days of the Bush Administration. Today many Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders are still essentially at large in Pakistan.
Georgetown Professor Dr. Daniel L. Byman stated recently that
“Pakistan is probably today’s most active sponsor of terrorism. Following the terror massacres in Mumbai, Pakistan may now be the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism, beyond even Iran, yet it has never been listed by the US State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism”.
Pakistan has done a great deal in the past for the United States – for example they were instrumental in the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980’s. But the reality is the nation has sponsored significant acts of terrorism through its intelligence service since at least the 1980’s. Yet they remain off a list that Cuba is still on.
Why is Cuba on this list? Other nations like North Korea, China and Russia have all sponsored more serious terrorist acts in recent years. Prior to the Good Friday Agreement in 1997, it could have also been argued the US’ closest ally the United Kingdom had at least in part at times sponsored the terrorist activity of Ulster Unionists. But the idea of the UK being placed on this list was never seriously contemplated, meaning the list is in fact a political instrument.
Who better to exploit a political instrument than some Miami and Broward County-based politicians and their allies across the rest of the state? These “leaders” like Senator Marco Rubio seek to place personal political considerations above that of national security. They have taken a list that was derived for the protection of Americans and our national interests and used it for cynical political purposes. The same sort of cynical reasons the embargo against Cuba remains in place.
This cynicism has denied Floridians the ability to grow our economy and has similarly given European nations and Canada open and uncontested access to a market where Florida should be a dominant force. In short these policies have hurt Florida. Worse yet as the case of Pakistan shows us, they are completely hypocritical. Pakistan is perhaps the largest state-sponsor of terror in the world, yet because most Indian-Americans aren’t obsessive or even aware about terrorism back home or like me have a soft spot for Pakistan’s people and don’t want them to suffer (this is because I consider Pakistanis and Indians the same people that were divided cynically by religion thanks to British policy including “set-asides” in Parliament and also due to some Indian politicians), no constituency in the USA exists to place Pakistan onto the list.
If you look carefully at the four nations on the official state-sponsors of terrorism, each as a constituency in the United States that wants them on the list. This having been said, the other three nations on the list ARE state sponsors of terrorism and should remain on the list. These nations should be joined by Russia, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. But Cuba does not belong on the list.
Protecting Florida and promoting our economy and new markets for our products should be the foremost concern of our political class. But thanks to the rhetoric and political gamesmanship of so many leaders in both parties, we continue to lose out. Let us hope President Obama makes good on his promise to truly end this inane policy.