The WSJ and "the facts" on Cuba and "bioterrorism"

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Sep 6 09:03:16 MDT 2002


(Sorry for the repetition, but this just
was received shortly after the WSJ
comment was sent out this morning.

(Historian Nelson P. Valdes provides
this background to the Wall Street
Journal's replaying of the "Cuba and
bioterrorism" allegations. They are
all being recycled again in the Cuban
exiles and ultra-rightists' desperate
efforts to maintain the blockade.

(It's a textbook example of what the
"freedom of the press" means as the
Wall Street Journal practices it.)

Much more material on Cuba can be
found at the CubaNews website:

============================
From: Nelson P. Valdes nvaldes at unm.edu
Sent: Friday, September 06, 2002 6:35 AM
Subject: 09/06/02-WSJ-Castro Has Germ Weapons


The author of this WSJ contacted me and requested that I
provide information
on the "elusive quote" that John Bolton had used where he
claimed that Fidel
Castro stated that he wanted to bring the United States to
"its knees."

In a series of emails I explained to the editor of the
"Americas" section of the
WSJ that the quote was bogus. I also noted that AP a few
hours later used a
somewhat different quote, and that the AP version was
inaccurate as well.

I also offered to supply Mary Anastasia O'Grady with all the
transcripts of
all the statements that Fidel Castro made while he was in
Iran. The WSJ
writer was not interested. In my email to her I noted that
what Fidel Castro
did say was to point out the importance of ideas, including
religious ideas,
in addressing U.S. power. She noted that that was odd, how
could Fidel
Castro make references to religious ideas? I then
communicated to her, that
this was not unusual and explained why, and the history of
such. She
promptly replied, that, well - Fidel Castro was against
"freedom of
conscience."

Realizing that the WSJ editor could not be given a crash
course
on Cuba over email, I asked her if she was so supportive of
freedom of
conscience - why not publish my piece on the "elusive
quote." Her answer?
"i'll have to pass but thanks for the offer. best."  Ah, the
powers of the
"free" press to misinform and to choose what to report...
Thus, we again
have the rightwing version of Fidel in Iran plus the
inanities of the most
extreme rightwing charges coming out of Miami.

Nelson Valdes
-----------

Wall Street Journal
September 6, 2002

BUSINESS WORLD
Washington Debates Whether

Castro Has Germ Weapons
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY

Is Fidel Castro busy cooking up viruses in Cuban labs to
share with Islamic fundamentalists? To the pro-Castro lobby
in America this is nothing more than a crackpot conspiracy
theory devised by Miami's right-wing extremists. But to some
reputable intelligence experts, the case is not so open and
shut. It would be alarmist to warn of an impending attack
but it would be irresponsible to ignore some disconcerting
signals and not remain vigilant.

Exhibit A in the case is Castro's warm relationship with
sworn enemies of the U.S. In May the Cuban dictator went to
Iran, which the U.S. labels as the world's most active
supporter of terrorism. He was received by Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, who declared that "U.S. grandeur can be broken,"
and that if it is "it will be a service rendered to mankind
and even the American people."

Not to be outdone, Castro told the Iranians, according to
the Associated Press, that the U.S. is an "imperialist king"
that "will finally fall, just as your king was overthrown."
Other AP reports said that the maximum leader, as Castro
calls himself, received an honorary doctorate from a Tehran
university in recognition of his struggle against the U.S.
Upon his departure, he declared that he had made new friends
and left "with optimism about future ties."

In July Castro sent his close confidant Rodrigo Alvarez
Cambras -- a congressman and the head of the Cuban-Iraqi
Friendship Society -- to Iraq as an envoy. According to BBC
reports from Iraqi TV and Iraq Radio in Baghdad, Alvarez
Cambras met with Saddam Hussein to convey a "verbal message"
on behalf of Castro and also with Deputy Prime Minister
Tariq Aziz. His meetings were boilerplate Fidelismo: Down
with Yankee aggression and up with solidarity with Iraq.
During an April visit he had included commentary on the
Middle East. "Condemning the Zionist crimes against our
people in Palestine, Cambras described them as Nazi crimes,"
reported the BBC, monitoring the Iraqi News Agency.

Exhibit B in the case by those who claim that the Cuban
regime is up to nefarious biological projects is testimony
from U.S. intelligence. Carl Ford, Jr. is Assistant
Secretary for Intelligence and Research at the State
Department and as such deals regularly with the Central
Intelligence Agency and other U.S. intelligence bodies. On
June 5, Mr. Ford told a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee -- as he told the full committee on
March 19 -- that the U.S. "believes that Cuba has at least a
limited developmental offensive biological warfare research
and development effort. Cuba has provided dual-use
technology to rogue states. We are concerned that such
technology could support BW [bioweapons] programs in those
states."

Mr. Ford said there is no "smoking gun" but also explained
how difficult it is to ascertain the truth about such
efforts. "The nature of biological weapons makes it
difficult to procure clear incontrovertible proof that a
country is engaged in illicit biological weapons research,
production, weaponization and stockpiling. Cuba's
sophisticated denial and deception practices make our task
even more difficult." He later said that, "If you have the
facilities to do medical, biotechnological research, you
have facilities to build a biological weapon,
unfortunately."

Mr. Ford said "We feel very confident about saying that
they're working and have been working on an effort that
would give them a BW -- limited BW offensive capability.
And that's serious enough to tell you about it." When
Virginia
Sen. George Allen asked Mr. Ford whether the U.S. believes
Cuban assistance to Iran is "simply helping Tehran's public
health program," Mr. Ford said, "We don't know," but also
requested an opportunity to answer the question more fully
in a closed session.

The classified nature of so much of the intelligence
surrounding this question may be making it harder for the
Bush administration to make its case. In a letter to Florida
Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart on July 22, the Undersecretary of
State for Arms Control and International Security, John
Bolton, wrote that he raised the issue because "of numerous
references I have seen to a Cuban BW effort in classified
CIA and DIA analyses."

There are also a number of allegations from Cuban defectors
who, like the State Department, have stopped short of
proclaiming certainty about a Cuban biological weapons
program but have assigned high probabilities to it. Sorting
out whether they are telling the truth or simply trying to
create new opportunities for themselves will take time and
effort. But in the interest of homeland defense, it would
seem that their stories are worth listening to.

There is also Ken Alibek, once the deputy director of
research and production for the Soviet biological weapons
program. He has written that his boss back in the U.S.S.R.
had been convinced that Cuba had a bioweapons program after
he returned from a trip there in 1990.

The anti-embargo lobby in Washington appears to have been
quite taken aback by Mr. Bolton's May 6 speech at the
Heritage Foundation, when he first spoke publicly about the
issue. Not surprisingly, there was a tone of concern about
whether he might have made the speech for political
purposes, as a favor to the Bush administration's Cuban
exile constituency. But Mr. Bolton has defended his actions,
pointing out that he was only repeating what Mr. Ford had
said in his March testimony.

Furthermore, in his July 22 letter, he said this: "Cuba
continues to seek to undermine U.S. national security
through the use of espionage. So the question policymakers
must answer is whether there is sufficient information to
alert the American public and the Congress about the
potential threat Cuba's BW effort poses to the United
States. We strongly believe that the answer to that question
is 'yes.' The American people deserve to know. Particularly
in light of the terrorist attacks of September 11, we feel
obligated to tell the public about Cuba's BW effort. The
intelligence community has known about this threat for
several years, as have the intelligence oversight
committees."

Having experienced terrorism first-hand, Americans want to
take fewer chances with tyrants who live by fomenting
hatred. That shoe certainly fits Fidel Castro, even if it's
not convenient for foes of the embargo.


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