The Posada conundrum


IN THE case of Luis Posada Carriles, the United States is once again transmitting to the world a hypocritical message: When it comes to terrorism, do as we say, not as we do.

Posada, 79, a Cuban exile with CIA ties that go back to the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, has been turned loose despite being wanted internationally for his role in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner over the Caribbean that killed 73 people and a string of Havana hotel bombings in the 1990s.

Last week,a friendly federal judge was found in Texas to scotch the government's immigration case against Posada, who has been in the U.S. illegally since 2005.

Why is such inexplicable deference being shown by the Bush Administration to a man our own Justice Department has branded "a dangerous criminal and an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots"?

The answer lies in seamy CIA history, South Florida politics, and the considerable skill Posada has shown in calling in chits earned over more than 40 years as an anti-communist enemy of Cuban President Fidel Castro and a gun-runner for contra rebels in Nicaragua during the Reagan Administration.

In Miami's Little Havana, where any enemy of Castro is automatically a friend, he's lauded as a freedom fighter. In the rest of the world, however, he's just a terrorist, and international scorn has grown over the obsequious treatment the U.S. has accorded him.

The Los Angeles Times reports that declassified CIA communications shows Posada to have been part of the "operation" in which a Cubana airliner was blown up over Barbados 31 years ago.

In addition, he has boasted publicly of masterminding the hotel bombings, which were intended to hurt Cuban tourism. One tourist was killed in a 1997 blast.

Whoever is orchestrating Posada's escape to freedom apparently is of a Cold War mind that extremism in defense of virtue is no vice, especially when Castro is the enemy.

But that view contrasts sharply with the U.S.'s hard line against terrorism elsewhere and can only expose this nation to a charge of hypocrisy that further erodes American credibility on the world stage.