Revisiting CUBANA 455
Submitted Caleb Pilgrim
Assassins and murderers ply their craft every day. Motive, means and opportunity vary, but from the victims’ perspective, the outcome is usually the same.
May 23, 2020, would have been two years since the passing of a certain Luis Posada Carriles in Hollywood, Florida, USA.
Perhaps a younger generation might not know, far less care, who he was, and any possible practical relevance he might have had to Barbados’ history. Nor will they know of his comrade in arms the late paediatrician, Dr. Orlando Bosch. Nor will their passing have been noticed this Memorial Day by patriots in these United States, except perhaps for some extremist fringe elements in the Cuban expatriate community in the US.
Their undisputed relevance, however, lies in the bombing of the Cubana 455, and the murder of the 73 souls on board as the plane left Barbados in the afternoon of October 6, 1976; reportedly the most destructive act of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, before 9/11.
Some say that “every man has his price”. One of Posada’s henchmen, Freddy Lugo, I believe, indicated that he and his accomplice, Hernan Ricardo Lozano, were each paid US $25K to blow up the Cubana Airline with the 73 persons on board. They had allegedly used a tube of Colgate toothpaste filled with explosives and detonated shortly after the plane’s departure.
But, which “normal person” blows up a civilian airline for US $25K, or for that matter, for any sum of money, whatsoever? And how does a paediatrician, like Dr. Bosch, come to engage in such atrocities? Such atrocities endanger us all.
In the final analysis, therefore, there appears to have been nothing heroic or redeeming in any of these gentlemen. Rather, based on their actions, they appear a certain species of lowlife naturally inclined to acts of intolerable barbarism and unnatural perfidy, despite their being given “sanctuary” under various US administrations notwithstanding their classification as “terrorists” by the C.I.A and the U.S Government. (But, then again we would routinely deny the rights of some – states and churches – to grant sanctuary to those who flee murderous violence and poverty in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, etc).
In the words of one eye witness manning his small ski boat in the vicinity of the downed Cubana aircraft, that evening, “I was with two other chaps, and we went to see if there were any survivors. Unfortunately there were none”, he said. Surrounded by a strong smell of fuel, “I saw suitcases seats and personal effects. I saw bodies: only one or two of them intact. The others were not full bodies”…. “they were suspended at the level of the sea. Perhaps the seatbelts cut them off, I could not tell. It was just striking that two or three of the bodies were perpendicular under the sea. Trousers, but no top. Top, but no bottom”.
And then there was little Sabrina, a 9 year old Guyanese child, travelling to Cuba with her family. (See “Murder in Paradise”, by Jose Pertierra, October 11, 2011).
The forensic report prepared by the Barbadian coroner described the condition of her body “Brain missing, only facial bones, scalp, and hair remaining. Lung and heart destroyed. Liver and intestines shattered. Buttocks missing on the right lower limb. Compound fracture of tibia and fibula” …
Understand that I do not enter an apology for all actions by the Cuban Government since 1959. But, perhaps some ever errant freedom croaker can explain the inexplicable, in their ramblings. What crimes did young Sabrina commit? Ditto, the athletes and students on board?
The position of Dr. Bosch, the paediatrician, was that innocent people are killed in war. His hatred for the Castro Regime blinded him from distinguishing between deliberately targeting innocent civilians (he called them “dogs”) versus the more impersonal, incidental “collateral damage”, as former U.S Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld termed it. What desperation, what disappointment, led a paediatrician to countenance and condone such atrocities? How did he come to so deviate from the path of all rectitude? How did he become so abominably corrupt and depraved, and indifferent to human life, despite the Hippocratic Oath he once swore to “do no harm”?
Suffice it that there are solid reasons why The Rules of International Civil Aviation clearly prohibit all such bombings of civilian aircraft. We fly routinely. We take the relative safety of civil aviation as a given. We expect to arrive safely at our journey’s end. Terrorists such as Posada Carriles and Bosch are enemies of all of us and all mankind.
It is today the case that few still deny U.S complicity in the Cubana Bombing. They were, Posada Carriles and Bosch, on the C.I.A’s payroll for decades. Many reports detail their relationship and activities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Per sundry reports, Dr. Kissinger’s Office had been made aware of the plans to bomb the Cubana airline. (See The National Security Archives; also the works of others such as the late Christopher Hitchens, and John Pilger, the journalist).
Similarly, George Herbert Walker Bush, erstwhile Head of the C.I.A, Congressman, Senator, Ambassador to China, PRUN, a Yale man, must also have been privy to these plans to blow up the Cubana … perhaps difficult to reconcile with “the ethos of dignified service” that the Wall Street Journal wrote about in December 2018. (“George Bush was the last true WASP in the White House”). The only questions would have been what did he know, and when exactly did he know it.
Small wonder that Carriles would have been selectively prosecuted then acquitted by a Texas District Court on a minor charge of lying to U.S Immigration. He was not prosecuted in the U.S for his role in planning and executing the destruction of Cubana 455 and the related mass killings.
Arguably, terrorism might be defended on a basis of self-defence; on the basis of the pursuit of a legitimate right to self-determination (Algeria, Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, South Africa); and even as a reprisal. However, as a general rule, the Slaughter of Innocents is never justified. (“In Defence of the Partisans: Terrorism in National and International Law”; Penn State Law Review, Winter 1990).
But, what gives anyone – say a Posada Carriles and his henchman, Dr. Bosch – the moral right to pluck John Citizen as he goes about his daily business, and sacrifice him on the altar of their particular political conviction(s)?
A “democratic” society does not have to commit suicide. We might therefore compare the late Israeli P.M’s Golda Meier’s “Operation: Wrath of God”, wherein Meier, and the Mossad, over a period of 25 to 35 years, as reprisal, went about eliminating members of Black September and other PLO members suspected of involvement in the Massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in September, 1972.
It is left to others to determine the extent to which the PLO and Black September, unlike dissidents like Carriles and Bosch, lacked a powerful patron state.
The idea that there is no wrong without a remedy is standard legal fiction. Just ask any Jew imprisoned in the concentration camps and those Nazi camp guards who escaped justice for decades. Ask any relatives of the fallen, those who perished on October 6, 1976. Thus, political expediency saved Carriles and Bosch – they lived to a ripe old age – rather than any principled respect for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.