Friday, January 21, 2005

Bay of MiGs

The internet is awesome. It can be time-consuming like crazy, but it's awesome. If I think I've been lied to - or had some wingnut spew some off-the-wall-sounding propaganda at me - a la Warner Wolf - let's go to the in-ter-net. Yeah - doesn't work - but you get the point.

I was perusing the net tonight looking for some good Amy Goodman video. The more I get to know her work the more respect I have for her as a journalist. Chomsky and West have both heaped lavish praise on her skills - so that counted for a lot with me. I listened to her show this morning before heading out to the protest and then saw her interviewing some folks at the protest - couldn't figure out who - was killing me. But, in any case, I was curious to know what this chick was really all about.

I came across some vido clips on the Democracy Now! home page. One clip featured an impromptu interview of then-president Bill Clinton on election day 2000 - when he was pimping Gore and Lieberloser and Hillary. So, he calls into Democracy Now! thinking that Amy Goodman was going to treat him like the king - like th rest of the SCLM - only she treated him like a guy who was collecting a paycheck, just like the rest of us. She got to ask him all sorts of questions, and in all the rambling, there was an exchange about a February 24, 1996 shoot-down of two U.S.-based planes in or around Cuba, supposedly by the Cubans. I thought that was very interesting - it was before my political time, but I wanted to check it out.

Amy Goodman's question was to ask Clinton for his justification for the Cuban embargo. Clinton said, basically, that his hands were tied because of this shoot-down - he just couldn't do that much about the situation because Castro had really messed things up.

So, I do some Googling, some reading, some linking, and stumble into a few interesting articles and slowly, but surely, the truth starts to emerge. First, I Google 'castro shot planes down' and find this article stating that there 2 U.S. civilian aircraft shot down - 1 got away. The planes were owned and run by a group called 'Brothers to the Rescue', described in the article as a Miami-based group of Cuban exiles funded by private donations, has flown hundreds of missions to spot Cuban rafters attempting to flee their island nations. Sounds reasonable, I thought.

Then, I stumble across this near the end of the article:

Jose Hernandez, president of the Cuban-American National Foundation, call the shootdown "an act of war" by Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Act of war?! Whoa, doggie!! This article was posted on the net at 9:55 p.m. EST on the day of the incident, and already someone is declaring war? Sounds a little fishy...sounds a little like...the self-inflicted sinking of the USS Maine. The U.S. elites still coveted Cuba - prompting JFK to launch terrorist attacks against the tiny island nation - a.k.a. the Bay of Pigs Invasion - and it should be no surprise that some U.S. big business wanted access to Cuba bigtime. What was really going on here?

So, I continue to dig. At this point, I'm thinking one of two things - either some CIA-sponsored American terrorists got killed while making another illegal/terrorism run, or some powerful Republicans group of lawmakers with some shady contacts pulled it off. In both cases, the idea would be to drag the U.S. into a war with Cuba - or, more appropriately, the idea would be to give the dumbass American people some reason for conquering Cuba. The American people don't need much to go on - any fig leaf will do (just witness this past invasion of Iraq) - so, I thought the stars might be aligning. The question was, did they pull it off cleanly enough to be able to drum-up support from the gullible U.S. public?

The other possiblity was that some CIA-sponsored American terrorists just bumbled their operation somehow, and got killed as a result. I wasn't about to form opinions too quickly - I just wanted to continue reading and hyperlinking until the truth, hopefully, fell out.

Next stop - the website of Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Rescate). Nothing too out of the ordinary. Lots of Spanish. I hate Castro. Etc. Find a link in English titled 'SHOOTDOWN OF BTTR AIRCRAFT'. [BTTR = Brothers to the Rescue] We get this:

After careful review of the available information and data, obtained by Brothers to the Rescue from expert independent sources and the U.S. government itself, we have enough evidence to prove that the Clinton-Gore Administration:

1. Had prior knowledge of the attack,

2. Consented to the shootdown,

3. Collaborated with Castro’s Cuba to make the crime possible,

4. Covered up its own participation, by using misinformation and efforts to remove evidence and potential witnesses, and

5. Refused to indict and obstructed the criminal indictment of Fidel Castro and others responsible for the crime.

So here's this anti-Castro group saying that Clinton had foreknoledge of the attacks. Interesting. I wonder if the Fox News crowd would have been screaming 'conspiracy theory' at these guys back then? [It was launched on October 7, 1996, so seems it was just a bit late for this little flag-waving, war-inducing incident.] No matter. Did Clinton have prior knowledge? Wow - this rabbit hole is getting deep. Before looking further into these allegations, which I don't have a feeling about one way or the other, i decide to broaden my search - let's get an overview of the evidenciary landscape, first.

One of the interesting things about U.S.-led assassinations/coups/black ops is that they're pretty good at it, on the whole. [Either that, or they just seem pretty good because nobody has the power to stop them/us when they pull something off - even if it's out in the open.] Not everybody will be in on the loop. Or maybe this is the pro-Big Busines, pro-Republican, anti-Clinton brigade trying to force Clinton's hand.

Reading some more I find this article on the 'Brothers' site. It's a letter from then right-wing-racist-Republican-Clinton-hating Senator from North Carolina, Jesse 'KKK' Helms. He's demanding an investigation. Maybe this is just a right-wing nutjob case? Maybe it wasn't even a planned nutjob case, it just turned into one when the opportunity presented itself?

But then I hit this article again, the original from CNN, and in it, the sole survivor of the expedition to Cuba (or the Bahamas, or 'international waters' - more on that in a minute), Jose Basulto, the lone pilot/passenger of his place, oddly enough, doesn't at all seem to make a convincing case, if a case at all, that his boyz were shot down by Cuba:

Group founder Jose Basulto was on a third plane that escaped the gunfire and returned to Miami.

Basulto said all three planes had radioed Cuban air traffic controllers to identify themselves and report their intentions to search international waters for Cuban refugees who may be on rafts.

Basulto described seeing two Cuban MiG fighters approach them while they were at least 20 miles north of the Cuban coast, 8 miles into international waters. Shortly after that, he lost radio contact with the other two Cessnas.

"I kept calling them both and heard no answer," Basulto said. "At that time we decided to proceed north and go into the clouds for cover, because we feared that something dreadful had happened."

Basulto said he has given U.S. officials the recording of the radio exchanges with Cuban authorities, which he said would confirm his story.

OK - I'll buy that Cuba shot down the other two planes, but why does this account sound so unconvincing. It's just...fishy. Was there actually gunfire? If so, why no account in the CNN story? Not even an extremely limited version of events - like a maybe from one of the two downed planes - unless they were literally blown to pieces in mid-air? And were the planes not traveling together? Maybe Basulto took off for Miami and the other two scattered as well, hoping that at least two of them would get away? Maybe they all headed home at the same time and only two got dinged? Or maybe they decided to push their luck with Castro - not taking his warnings seriously? Warnings?! Yes.

This article says the U.S. was searching for four people known to have been on board the missing flights. I remember reading that only three U.S. citizens had been killed. Which is the correct number? This aricle sheds a little light - only three were U.S. citizens. What nationality was the fourth? Cuban? Who was he? And why was he in the United States? And what was he doing flying with the anti-Castro Hermanos? Interesting.

This supposed Helms release says three planes were shot down, not two. Probably just a typo, but you can see how people were struggling to find the 'right truth'.

Finally, we come across an article that doesn't let the Hermanos off so easily:

Two small planes of the right-wing, Miami-based group Brothers to the Rescue were shot down by Cuban air force fighters off the island’s coast February 24, killing all four occupants. Cuban officials said the planes had invaded the nation’s air space, while the crew of a third plane in the convoy claimed they had not.

Brothers to the Rescue, ostensibly a group of volunteer pilots looking for Cuban raft emigrants, has focused on overtly political actions against the Cuban government this year. Group planes flew over Havana on January 9 and 13, dropping half a million leaflets urging “non-violent direct action” against the government and prompting Cuban warnings that future flights would meet a strong response.

Now, it's much more of a he-said/she-said. There will still be political implications, but I feel we're getting closer to the truth. Things are starting to add up.

The Virginian Pilot tells us that the planes, although shot down in international airspace, were under Cuban air traffic controller jurisdiction. I presume that means the planes were a heck of a lot closer to Cuba than to the United States - just to make sure we maintain some perspective here.

This article lends credence to my hypothesis that maybe there were no mayday calls because the planes that were brought down were more blown to pieces in mid-air than they were 'shot down'.

This article talks about how the Hermanos had made at least one propaganda run into Cuba before.

This independent media report cites all sorts of good stuff, like the repeated FAA warning to the Hermanos, the investigation that was at least opened, if not closer or conducted, by the U.S. if not the FAA regulation rule-breaking that the Hermanos were doing, and some other stuff.

This article shows that the U.S.-led UN Security Council voted unanimously (13-0) to condemn cuba for breaking international law. The kicker is that there was no punishment - e.g. sanctions - attached to the vote. It was just a war of words. One the U.S. seems to have won. It looks to me like everybody knew the U.S. was lying, but they just didn't care. China and Russian abstained. Why? They didn't want to condemn a fellow Communist country? OK - I can buy that. But they say they abstained because the resolution didn't include any verbal rebuff to the U.S. for allowing the illegal flights to have continued in the first place. OK, I can buy that, too.

Still, the unanswered question is, where were the planes shot down?

Here's a document (PDF) from the permanent representative of Cuba to the United Nations listing all of the known U.S. terrorist operations against Cuba from 1990 until about 2000.

Here's on interesting listing from the document on Mr. Basulto:

15 May 1991. José Basulto, former Bay of Pigs mercenary, known terrorist and CIA agent, founded the so-called “Brothers to the Rescue” and for that purpose asked the United States President, George Bush, for three United States Air Force 0-2 aircraft,
the military version of the Cessna, which had been used during the war in El Salvador. Congresswoman Ileana Ros campaigned publicly and lobbied for the three aircraft to be provided. On 19 July 1992, the first photos appeared in the press of the aircraft provided to this counter-revolutionary group with the acronym USAF clearly visible, in an article by the publisher of The Miami Herald, who had flown in them.

True? No idea, but I'm inclined to believe a document submitted to the UN Security Council. Breaking promises and treaties and spoken words are one thing, but it seems like written words take on a whole new meaning - no country wants to get caught with their pants around their ankles - their lies exposed for the world to see. It's not that a country can't stand once it's caught in a lie, it's just that it's embarrassing - so, most seem to try their best to avoid it.

Here's the incident in question:

24 February 1996. “Brothers to the Rescue” launched another foray. Three light
planes violated Cuban airspace very close to the centre of Havana; two of them were
shot down. In the 20 months preceding that incident there had been at least 25 other
violations of Cuban airspace.

More? Here's an interesting article from the BBC on some lady who is the daughter of a U.S. terrorist who went to Cuba to overthrow/kill Castro, but was killed himself. So what does his daughter do? She sues! And wins!

Here's an article on the family of the three shot-down American pilots who were able to successfully sue Cuba for money because they were shot down while supposedly on a humanitarian mission.

If the U.S. and UN have said it was in international waters, then I'll probably have to side with them. This article from the Miami Herald says two important things, according to me: 1)

The report most significantly concluded that a Cuban MiG-29 jet shot down two of the Brothers' Cessna 337 aircraft in international airspace and not over Cuban waters, as Havana claims.

and 2):

U.S. radar data in the ICAO report show Costa also overshot his assigned lane by five miles and that Basulto flew 7.5 miles past his lane and penetrated 1.7 miles into Cuban airspace. At his cruising speed of 150 mph, it takes about 41 seconds to fly 1.7 miles.

So, the planes were shot down in international waters/airspace, but at least one of them did, in fact, fly into Cuban airspace before being shot down. So, were the Cubans justified in shooting them down? Of course. If a Cuban plane flew into U.S. airspace intentionally I'd chase down it if it took me chasing it all the way to China to accomplish the task. Sounds like there are lots of deatils in this reports, so read up if you're into it.

So, we really need some source documents. Here is Resolution 1067 (1996) (Shooting down of two civil aircraft on 24 February 1996) (PDF). Check out the language they use in these docs - so absurd - like one long, run-on sentence:

Noting the resolution adopted by the Council of ICAO on 6 March 1996 which strongly deplored the shooting down of the two civil aircraft and which directed the Secretary-General of ICAO to initiate an immediate investigation of the
incident in its entirety in accordance with the Security Council Presidential
Statement of 27 February 1996 and to report on that investigation,

Commending ICAO for its examination of this incident and welcoming the resolution adopted by the Council of ICAO on 27 June 1996, transmitting the report of the Secretary-General of ICAO (S/1996/509, annex) to the Security Council,

Welcoming also the report of the Secretary-General of ICAO regarding the
shooting down of civil aircraft N2456S and N5485S by Cuban MIG-29 military
aircraft, and noting in particular the conclusions of the report,

The investigation document from ICAO is here (PDF). This reads differently than I expected starting out:

The Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
yesterday concluded its consideration of the report on the 24 February 1996 shooting down of two United States-registered private civil aircraft with a resolution (see Attachment A) reaffirming the principle that each contracting State shall take appropriate measures to prohibit the deliberate use of any civil aircraft registered in that State for any purpose inconsistent with the aims of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

The wording is a little confusing to me, but let me see if I can sum up what I think it says:


All these articles we've been reading haven't really come out and said anything about the importance of the U.S.'s sponsorship of these terror flights - it's like, they existed, and it's somewhat important, but what's more important is that Cuba didn't follow the rules once it caught the U.S. breaking the rules. But this report from ICAO makes no mistake - first sentence, boom, rightful condemnation of the U.S. Not bad. Didn't mean that truth would ever see the light of day in the U.S. media, but I still gotta give it to the ICAO - they did more than I thought they would.

This report also doesn't hide the fact that the U.S. knew something was going to go down, if not exactly how and exactly when. [Shades of 9/11???] So that corroborates the Brothers' testimoney/complaint about the U.S. government having prior knowledge. The question is, how much did they know, and when did they know it? That question, my friend, will not be answered in full - I promise - not for a little embarrassing incident like this. And it was an embarrassment for the U.S. - no doubt. That's why Clinton and Burton and Helms and Albright had to work so hard to cover it up. The U.S. was complicit in, at a minimum, attempts to overthrow the government of Cuba - not necessarily an idea you want floating around on the open market. It could tend to ... destabilize things in more areas than you intended.

The UN Security Council apparently issued a press release on the matter - a.k.a. Press Release SC/6247.

Why does Dan "Scumbag" Burton's name show up in some places around here? Apparently, the dude gets a lot of cash from the Miami area - even though he's an Indiana congressman. Go figure.

But you thought that was it? No way, man! Espionage mf! That's right - what international terror-plot is complete without a spy trial?

Noting the Herald's early report on ICAO's findings, check out this little tidbit:

In an intriguing aside, ICAO noted the previously unreported presence of a U.S. Navy plane, a P-3 Orion, usually used for submarine-chasing duty, in an area north of Havana on Feb. 24, though far to the north of Cuban airspace.

Pro-Havana sources in the United States have said a ``U.S. spy plane'' was somehow involved in a plot to use the Brothers pilots to embarrass Cuba.

Without saying whether the Orion was involved in the incident, the ICAO report includes a statement from the unidentified Orion pilot, who said the crew was performing routine tests with an air-dropped acoustic receiver -- a sonar buoy that listens for subs in the area.

I mean, that is some bizarre stuff. That brings us back to USS Maine/Bay of Pigs/Operation Mongoose stuff all over again. Unreal. Just when you think you're starting to get to the bottom of something - boom - the rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper! Now wonder we could never figure out conclusively that LBJ killed JFK! U.S. spies, double-agents, covert ops, international law. Wow.

Want more connections? The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act is the law passed to institute the embargo against Cuba - whatever exactly that means - i.e. this law is the embargo. Well, let's just say it's also known as the Helms-Burton Act. That Helms and that Burton - the ones making all the war on Cuba speeches? Yep - those clowns.

ICAO got a brand new building in October of 1996? Wow. Interesting. Hey - I'm just saying it's the kind of thing that could make a guy go a little easier on his sugar daddy. The U.S. pays 22% of the UN budget, followed by Japan (19.63%), Germany (9.82%), France (6.50%), the U.K. (5.57%), Italy (5.09%), Canada (2.57%) and Spain (2.53%). The bazillion other countries make up the other 25% or so of required funding. [Why is the U.S. still in arrears to the U.N.? i.e. why do we have a debt to the UN? That's not right-wing, holier-than-thou, elitist, ethnocentrist snark - it's just a question.]

To make this international crime-thriller espionage incident all the more real, this CNN article includes a video clip that a cruise ship passenger caught of the aftermath of the shootdown. Video doesn't really show anything - just a black trail of smoke on the horizon - but still, interesting.

What's a MiG? Check it. Ummmm...don't think I'd want that, or any jet, raining pellets down on my village. I remember all the MiG talk in movies like Iron Eagle back in the day.

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