CAQ CovertAction_Quarterly

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Covert_Briefs by
Terry Allen
& Sanho Tree

When Coast Guard members boarded a disabled Miami-registered yacht near Puerto Rico last October 27, they probably expected to discover fishing gear, cocktail shakers, and relieved passengers. Instead, they found four nervous Cuban-American crew members, two .50-caliber long-range sniper rifles, ammunition, night vision equipment, portable radios, a satellite telephone, and other military supplies. At first, the men claimed they were on a fishing trip. But as the agents were mirandizing them, one of the rescued sailors, Angel Manuel Alfonso, kept interrupting to affirm his dedication to the cause. According to US Customs Special Agent Ismael Padilla, Alfonso blurted out that his only mission in life was to assassinate Castro. One prosecution affidavit noted that the ship's navigation computer had been set for the Venezualan Island of Margarita where, Alfonso claimed, he was going to shoot Castro at the Ibero-American Summit. Cuba's president has escaped dozens of assassination attempts, plotted by or from the US. According to FBI records, the paper trail for one of the sniper rifles led directly to Francisco Hernandez and implicated the longstanding cabal of Miami anti-Castro Cubans. Hernandez is president of the Cuban American National Foundation (canf) - a position second only to that of the late Jorge Mas Canosa. The gun was sold to Hernandez in 1994 by Juan Ramon Lopez de la Cruz, a Bay of Pigs veteran and retired US Army colonel. The ship, La Esperanza (hope), belongs to Juan Antonio Llama, a board member of the Miami-based canf and veteran of Brigade 2506, an exile unit that participated in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Neither Hernandez nor Llama was among the four men arrested on the yacht. Rather than facing charge of conspiracy to commit murder, the sailors were indicted on a Customs violation: failure to report the guns. Imagine if the conspirators had been Black Panthers instead of right-wing Cubans.

Paul Belaga, a Clinton aide who devises "communications strategies" for the White House, commented for the Washington Post on the film Wag the Dog. Set just before a presidential election, it features an incumbent facing a breaking sex scandal who enlists a Beltway spin doctor and a Hollywood producer to create a fictional war to divert the nation's attention. The propaganda campaign that follows calls up images of Reagan's grotesque invasion of Grenada right after the bombing of the US base in Lebanon. It barely outdoes Hill (&) Knowlton's promotion of pro-Gulf War fever. (In 1991, on the eve of the bombing of Baghdad, the PR firm manufactured an account of ravaging Iraqi soldiers throwing Kuwaiti infants out of incubators. The daughter of a Kuwaiti UN representative was persuaded to give Congress a fabricated "eyewitness account" of the heinous baby slaughter.) Reducing the public to its essential role as consumers of propaganda, Belaga noted: "It's either 1994, and they_re not buying our party's bull, or it's 1996, and they are buying our party's bull."

Gore Vidal, reviewing Seymour Hersh's Dark Side of Camelot, for the December 1 New Yorker, gave his own assessment of the unseemly union of news, propaganda, and entertainment: "Remember back in the eighties, [they thought]: wouldn_t it be wonderful if you could own a network and a studio that made films to show on it as well as magazines and newspapers to praise them in and a publishing house for source material and ... ? Well, now we have the marvelous comedy of Hersh's book having been published by Little, Brown, which is owned by Time Warner and reviewed negatively-nervously nervously-negatively by Time (same ownership); while Newsweek (owned by the Washington Post Company and still, perhaps, influenced by Kennedy's old friend Ben Bradlee) denounces Hersh; while ABC (owned by Disney) prepares a TV documentary that is tied in with it. "Many years ago, there used to be something called conflict of interest. No longer, I'm afraid. Tday, we all bathe in the same river. It will be a relief when Bill Gates finally owns everything and there will be just one story."

* White House speech writers have been told to limit use of the term "fast-track." The replacement phrase is "renewal of traditional trading authority." The label, "Nafta expansion" is to be avoided completely. * The State Department also has a way with language. It describes Uganda, where Yoweri Museveni has held unelected power for 12 years as a "uni-party democracy," but excoriates Cuba as a "one-party totalitarian state." * Meanwhile, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces the embargo against Cuba, now oversees sanctions against Jonas Savimbi's CIA/apartheid-backed unita army. It seems the US now regards the Marxist mpla as the legitimate government of Angola. Yet, one of the main reasons the US used for the embargo against Cuba was to punish Havana for coming to the aid of mpla in the 1970s and 1980s when it was under attack by unita. Not even Maytag can spin that one.

Referring to US ascendancy as the world's only superpower "in an age of unrivaled dominance," William Drozdiak of the Washington Post Foreign Service announced an astonishing new trend: The rest of the world is not only ungrateful, but actually annoyed at US dominance. "Over the past few months," Drozdiak notes, "irritation and anxiety have begun to overshadow sentiments of admiration among America's closest allies. Across Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa, convictions are growing that the accumulation of so much political, economic and cultural clout by the United States is breeding an arrogance that is unpleasant and possibly dangerous." With the wide-eyed title "Even Allies Resent US Dominance," Drozdiak explains that "Washington's efforts to compel other nations to embrace its policy of isolating Cuba, Iran, Iraq and Libya as pariah states have also provoked annoyance among US friends. When South African President Nelson Mandela visited [Qaddafi], he delivered a pointed rebuff to Washington's attempts to impose its views." Annoyance barely describes the reaction of Nelson Mandela after Washington criticized his visit with Libya's Qaddafi. "How can they have the arrogance to dictate to us where we should go or which countries should be our friends' Qaddafi is my friend. He supported us when we were alone and when those who tried to prevent my visit here today were our enemies. They have no morals. We cannot accept that a state assumes the role of the world's policeman."

Even Newt Gingrich, whose sharp intellect and ethical commitment in matters of foreign policy are renowned among snake handlers and used car dealers throughout his district, took note and offered his own modest solution: "If we do not learn to chane our leadership style, we will eventually have enormous resentment across the planet," said the House speaker in a speech at Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. "We are so large that unless we adopt a more learning and listening leadership style, we will have a lot of resentment." Madeleine Albright appeared to have been listening as this tide of Newtonian wisdom broke on the shores of the Potomac with a resounding plop. On her trip to Africa in December, she took up the call: "I talk less and listen more," she promised. And, said one member of her party, "We don't do Mary Robinson," referring to the emphasis the UN high commissioner for human rights put on curbing abuses. The "new" US policy is a cunning melange of fiction, farce, and condescension just guaranteed to win hearts and minds in Africa. As senior aides explained to the Post, it "means allowing national leaders whose security forces may seem excessively vigorous an opportunity to explain the need for force, rather than lecturing them about their tactics." [emphasis added] And when the children act up, Albright recommends engagement without judgment - as in the Congo. The Post's State Department source described the US approach as "recogniz[ing] that Congo is economically and politically bankrupt and that Kabila and other members of the new government are political amateurs who need help not lectures." Picture the scene: Madeleine, helmet hair quivering slightly as a small frown marks her brow, approaches Laurent Kabila, military-backed head of the Congo's "transition" government: I would really like to understand, Mr. President, why you felt the need to massacre all those civilians. I_m not judging, mind you, I_m just curious and the US would like to help. More arms perhaps?

On December 27, NPR's Susan Stamberg, introduced an interview about the 45 Zapatista supporters massacred in Chiapas: "Looking at further foreign news, just a wretched situation in Mexico, more than 40 people killed in Chiapas. Unheard of before this, that sort of violence, in the civil dispute between Indian guerrillas and armed militias." Perhaps she wasn_t aware of frequent and loud denunciations by human rights groups of four years of military harassment and repeated attacks by government aligned or sponsored paramilitary groups against the indigenous population.

On December 12, reacting to the danger of mad cow disease, Washington placed a ban on imports of not only beef, but of all lamb from Europe. In 1996, Americans had bought 375,000 tons of beef and veal from Europe and 112,000 tons of lamb and mutton. Eating meat or oher body parts from diseased animals has been linked to the fatal brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Although the US has no reports of cow or sheep transmissions to humans, in Europe, outbreaks of the spongi-form ence-phalopthies have occurred in England, France, Portugal, Ireland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, while two animals in Belgium and Luxembourg have been diagnosed with mad cow disease. And even as the government is banning imports, a group of cattlemen is suing the Oprah Winfrey show for disparaging hamburgers and warning the public of the potential hazard. This suit is the first constitutional test for the "food disparagement laws" that the food industry has introduced and lobbied into law in 13 states. In a highly unusual move, the judge in the case has imposed a gag order on all parties until after the jury verdict.

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