Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Miami Herald, November 14, 1984, Editorial: "Arocena's Fallacy."

Seldom do closing arguments highlight as starkly the guts of an issue as did those in the New York trial of convicted terrorist Eduardo Arocena, the founder of Omega 7. Arocena's conviction for murder and bombings in Miami and New York and his sentence to life in prison plus 35 years are significant. But even the seriousness of the crimes and the severity of the penalty pale in comparison to the weight of the issue that was debated in the Federal trial: Can ideologically motivated terrorism be condoned in the United States?

The answer is No. Terrorism is not an acceptable way to seek change in the United States, no matter how holy the cause may seem. U.S. District Judge Robert Ward summarized the issue well when he said: "The court has no doubt that Arocena steadfastly believes" . . . in his anti-Castro, anti-Communist campaign. "The problem is that the means Arocena followed to achieve his end are in violation of the laws of this country."

The judge's comments are important because Arocena, while maintaining his innocence of the specific charges, reiterated his conviction that the acts themselves -- among them the murder of a Cuban diplomat -- are justifiable for political reasons.

Arocena's attorneys argued that their client's actions were akin to those by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin when he fought to oust the British from Israel after World War II. The lawyers argued that the distinction between a terrorist and a freedom fighter depends exclusively on the perspective from which the events are analyzed.

The fallacy of the argument is obvious. Mr. Begin was carrying out his missions in Palestine, directly against those he considered the oppressors of his people. Arocena, in contrast, acted in the United States on behalf of foreign political goals and imperiled innocent Americans in the process.

To agree with Arocena's defense would be to justify Arab terrorists in carrying out their war against Israel in the United States, or to condone an attack in the United States by an Irish Republican Army partisan against a British official.

Fortunately most international terrorist organizations that struggle against foreign governments decided decades ago that violent acts in the United States would damage their cause. This is a lesson that freedom-loving Cubans should learn. Their crusade against Castro is harmed severely by acts such as those carried out by Arocena and other members of Omega 7. Neither American public opinion nor American courts are intimidated by these despicable acts of terrorism that insult the concept of democracy by perverting American freedom to break American laws and endanger American lives and American property.

Copyright (c) 1984 The Miami Herald