The Different September 11

By José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez on September 10, 2021

Vigil in honor of the victims of terrorism against Cuba, Plaza de la Revolución, Photo: Ismael Francisco

This September 11 people around the world will remember the victims of the attacks against the Twin Towers in New York. More than 3,000 lives were lost, several of them of Cuban origin. Their families are still recovering from the loss and in some cases have not even been able to receive the physical remains of their loved ones.

Thanks to the media and the nascent Internet, that local event twenty years ago became global in an instant and an image of the United States as a unique victim of attacks was created, which did not correspond to the historical background.

That event marked a watershed in terms of the definition of the term Terrorism in the American political heritage and was used as a justification for the White House to launch a group of military actions against several countries, at human and economic costs that multiplied hundreds of times the weight of the tragedy of that morning in Manhattan.

Paradoxically, this year’s commemorations will have as a backdrop the debate generated by the hasty withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, which constitutes the fall of the curtain on a conflict that lasted for 20 years and has redefined the capacity (or lack thereof) of the United States to launch and sustain large-scale military conflicts abroad.

Two decades later, U.S. jurisprudence is now preparing to prosecute the individual considered to be the main person responsible for the attacks, an action that will add more doubts to those already existing in relation to the official version of the facts, which in summary stated that: a small number of foreigners of Arab origin were trained in the United States, outwitted U.S. Intelligence for months, then in a single day bypassed the security controls of several airports and were capable of flying highly complex technical aircraft and then crashing them into their targets with millimetric accuracy.

It has yet to be explained how an airliner took off from National Airport (now Ronald Reagan Airport) in Virginia to project itself at the angle it did against the side of the Pentagon building nearby, leaving no traces on the surrounding lawn or on the surrounding roads. Despite being an area of heavy automobile traffic, not a single photo or any other record of parts and pieces of the aircraft, which must have been scattered all over the area after the explosion, have been left for history.

This is still an open wound in US society, which may never close, not the least of which is the lack of a credible and definitive explanation.

September 11 already had a very painful connotation for Cubans 21 years earlier, when on the same day, but in 1980 and in New York City itself, the diplomat Felix Garcia Rodriguez was assassinated by the counterrevolutionary organization Omega 7.

In Cuba and Latin America, the September 11, 1973 assassination of Salvador Allende and the coup d’état against a socialist government elected by the people are also remembered in a very present way.

In both events, US federal agencies were involved and responsible, despite the fact that one took place in the national territory and the other abroad, and neither of them was recognized as terrorist acts.

With the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and the first wave of emigrants to the United States, it took just a few days for the first terrorist organization to be created under the name of Rosa Blanca, headed by former Batista senator Rafael Diaz Balart and former police officer of the dictator Merob Sosa. This was just the beginning of a long list of groups and individuals who used violence as their main political weapon against Cuba for years.

The members of those groups were part of the social sample from which the Central Intelligence Agency and other entities recruited personnel for the Bay of Pigs invasion, for Operation Mangoose and for so many other plans that were successively developed against the island.

The CIA had as many as 400 officers and operatives working with terrorists in Miami in the 1960s, amassing an incalculable fortune that justified to a certain extent the “Cuban business success” in that city, until the massive arrival of narcotics in the 1980s took the enterprise to other levels.

The purchase and sale of terror in Miami reached unimaginable extremes, publicly acknowledged by former CIA executives in Havana in 2001, in the sessions of the 40 Years of Playa Girón event. Absolutely anyone who presented a plan to assassinate Fidel Castro, to attack a sugar mill, or a children’s circle in Cuba received an immediate budget. Only the principle of plausible deniability had to be complied with: no traces could appear to connect the executing terrorist with the US executive branch.

Those were not the years when there was talk of votes, programs, scholarships, dissidents, opposition, alternative currents, pseudo-artists, or alternative press. That paraphernalia came later. The Cuban counterrevolution was born out of dynamite and ammunition, no matter how much it now pretends to deny its antecedents and pretend to be refined.

Terrorists of Cuban origin had as much value for domestic use by US politicians (Richard Nixon-Watergate) as for executive foreign policy actions (Ronald Reagan-War in Central America). They helped foment domestic terror in the United States, as in the 1976 car bombing assassination of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier in downtown Washington, or the brutal murder of Cuban activist Carlos Muñiz Varela in Puerto Rico in 1979.

Although Reagan promoted some of the top Cuban terrorist operatives to the rank of political activists, nucleated in the Cuban American National Foundation, many of them still wore the camouflage uniform under the coat and tie.

Even on his deathbed in the 1990s, the leader of the CANF financed and organized terrorist acts in Havana, which caused great material damage and the loss of the life of an Italian tourist. Very close to 9/11, a group of dynamite veterans planned in 2000 to blow up the auditorium of the National University of Panama, where the Cuban President was to speak. The list of similar events is endless and are well documented both by Cuban research centers and declassified U.S. documents.

It should also include the judicial and media process carried out in Miami against Five Cubans who infiltrated terrorist groups of Cuban origin. In order to protect the latter, U.S. federal agencies committed all kinds of legal violations to sell as espionage an act that was not espionage and to bury for life in remote prisons men who were only defending the national security of their country.

And then came those terrible images of the World Trade Center falling apart.

Security budgets in the United States were abruptly increased, procedures were changed, police were further militarized, access to federal buildings that were previously totally public were closed, hundreds of new security protection companies were created to protect property and people. But the FBI also visited door to door several people of Cuban origin to tell them clearly that there was a fundamental change in the rules of the game and that they had to use other strategies.

In power at the time was the George W Bush administration, a family that had structural links with the terrorist leadership of Cuban origin, ranging from Bush Sr.’s ties with them from the time he was a CIA operational officer to the director of the agency. The youngest of the brothers, Jeb Bush, who began his political training as an intern in one of the congressional offices of representatives of Cuban origin, was at that time the governor of Florida.

After that fateful September 11, although there were still isolated acts of violence against Cuba, there was a tendency to reduce them, given the contradiction that the United States could not openly appear as a state sponsor of terrorism, while at the same time supposedly waging an international campaign to eliminate the scourge. It was a change in appearances, nothing more.

These new rules provoked fissures and changes among the main organizations of Cuban origin based in the United States. On the one hand, the hardliners split from those organizations that accepted the federal mandate, while others practically left the public scene and devoted themselves to writing poetry or collecting old cars.

Regime change programs against Cuba had emerged in the U.S. Congress long before 2001, but since then they have been strengthened. Bush himself articulated possibly the most complex of all those spawns in a long time, with the creation of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. Although the armed terrorist actions against Cuba diminished, the actions to strangle the Cuban economy and the attempts to isolate the country at the international level increased at a dizzying rate for eight years.

So, this September 11 will once again have different meanings for everyone, but at a time when extreme measures against Cuba are still in force, it is worth reminding everyone that today’s lambs are the sons of yesterday’s wolves.

Some of those who today occupy positions on the island or abroad that have the façade of academia, culture, or other noble social sectors, who are now softly promoting a social explosion in Cuba, are simply trying to achieve the same objective as those terrorists, but by other means. They are riding on an option that has no after, except scorched earth. They have made a transition from the electric chair to lethal injection, it’s just that.

Those who advocate for supposed freedoms in Cuba from South Florida should show that they enjoy them at least once and try to go out to the streets to shout: Down with Batista (at least for the first time), Down with terrorism, No to War, Down with the hate industry, No to police violence, Medical Security for all, Long live the Cuban family agenda, End unemployment, Free vaccines against COVID19 for all, or some other similar slogan.

We can bet that the invisible and refined terror of that environment will act against them immediately: they will not find a job, they will be asked to change their child’s school, unpaid bank debts will appear, they will be told that there is no reservation in any restaurant, posters will be written on the doors of their houses, their vehicles will have their tires punctured frequently, they will feel noises near the house every night, the cat will stop meowing, not to mention summary judgments on social networks.

This September 11, we in Cuba regret all the deaths and damages caused by terrorism, anywhere in the world, and we will do our utmost to ensure that events like these never happen again. We will also make an effort to learn more about history, so that we are not sold a future that does not interest us.

José Ramón Cabañas Rodríguez is the former Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to the United States

Source: Cubadebate, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English