I remember the launching of the War on Terror, and the mixed feelings of shock and horror generated by the carnage of 9/11, versus the quietly sad hope that something good could come out of it-namely, the elimination of the international terrorist organizations, which would have been a service to all of humankind. So it was then, in the attempt to understand the scope of the problem, that I began and have pursued a study of these networks, their origins, their support structures, and the conditions that ensure their survival.
I did not find what I expected.
In the immediate post-World War 2 enviroment, amid the fear of a Soviet invasion of Europe, there was implemented a NATO plan in Western Europe called "Operation Gladio". Gladio was a "stay-behind" covert network of paramilitary groups, set up in the late 40's and early 50's, ostensibly to form the infrastructure and nucleus of a guerilla army that would fight the Soviets in the event of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. There were cells, weapons caches, recruiting operations, and networks set up in both NATO and non-NATO countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Greece ,Austria, Finland, The Netherlands, and Belgium. In the absence of a Soviet invasion, however, Gladio had adopted by 1959 a new mission: fighting "subversion", which it proceeded to do through bombings, assassinations, and false-flag terrorist operations, which were blamed on left-wing organizations and used to justify right-wing security policies in the affected countries. Some examples, just from Italy:
1969 Piazza Fontana, bombing.
1970 Golpe Borghese, attempted coup.
1972 Peteano, massacre.
1973 Argo 16, airliner bombing.
1973 Piazza del Loggia, bombing.
1973 Italicus Expresses, train bombing.
1980 Bologna massacre, bombing.
The Supreme Commander of NATO (the aegis under which Gladio functioned) from 1963-1969, was US General Lyman Lemnitzer. Lemnitzer is justly infamous for his creation of Operation Northwoods, a 1962 plan to run false-flag terrorist operations against US citizens and cities, to include bombings, shootings, sabotage of aircraft, and the sinking of US ships, in order to provide justification for a US invasion of Cuba. The plan was approved by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and sent to the White House for approval, where it was allegedly killed by either Robert MacNamara or President Kennedy (the record is unclear)-although an uncomfortable resemblance is borne by the 1967 Israeli air and naval assault on the USS Liberty, a US Navy intelligence ship operating in the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Liberty was, over a three-hour period, bombed with both conventional explosions and napalm, strafed with machine-gun and cannon fire, hit with rockets, and finally torpedoed by Israeli patrol boats. Aircraft scrambled by US aircraft carrriers in the Mediterranean were recalled not once but twice, on the specific orders of Lyndon Johnson, who allegedly told Admiral Lawrence Geis, the commander of the Sixth Fleet, "I want that goddamn ship on the bottom." The official Israeli explanation was mistaken identity, although this is widely disputed by people ranging from US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Thomas Moorer, the JAG official ordered to cover it up, the surviving crew of the Liberty, and even one of the Israeli pilots ordered to carry out the attack. Casualties: 34 dead, 172 wounded. The Captain was awarded the Medal of Honor, secretly, and then he and the surviving crew were ordered to keep the attack secret. Note that this was 13 years after Operation Suzannah, aka "the Lavon affair", which was comprised of Israeli false-flag attacks in Egypt against Egyptian, British, and American targets, designed to prevent the impending British withdrawal from the Suez Canal, which Israel feared would strengthen Egypt's Pan-Arab nationalist leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Now, we have entered into what I call the "overlap" period, where Operation Gladio overlaps with another of the large-scale terrorist networks in the Western hemisphere, Operation Condor. Operation Condor was a campaign of terror and assasination carried out by an alliance of intelligence agencies and paramilitary groups from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, ostensibly set up to fight left-wing and Communist subversion, and responsible for the disappearance, torture, and death of literally tens of thousands of people. In fact, these operations were far more often targeted at trade unionists, reformers, socialists, and political enemies of the regimes in question. Condor's reach, actually, extended into the US, where elements of the Condor operation, including Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, assassinated Orlando Letelier with a bomb in Washington DC. Condor also attempted or carried out bombings and assassinations in Venezuela, Cuba, and Panama, bombed a Cuban airliner, and provided operatives for reciprocal operations in Europe, under the auspices of...wait for it...Operation Gladio. Many were graduates of the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, GA. Many were veterans of the CIA covert action apparatus that participated in everything from the Bay of Pigs invasion (Operation Zapata) and the overthrow of the government of Guatemala, to the Contra War in Nicaragua ( with its associated Iran-Contra Scandal) and the right-wing death squads that operated in El Salvador, to the anti-Castro operations (Operation Mongoose) based in south Florida, which employed violent paramilitary organizations like Operation 40 and Alpha 66, which maintains an office in Miami, FL, to this day, as well as a presence on the Internet.
Of course, before both of these, there was Operation Ajax, the CIA operation run by Theodore Roosevelt's grandson in Iran, which overthrew (with the encouragement of the British, whose oil concessions had been nationalized) the elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh and installed the government of Reza Pahlavi-the Shah, who ruled using the methods of a brutal secret-police organization-SAVAK, and thus set the stage for the Islamic revolution of 1979. Notice, we have not even touched on the creation of al-Queda, with the tacit approval of the CIA for the purpose of fighting the Soviets, or the nuclear proliferation network of Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan.
So there you have it. A worldwide alliance of right-wing terrorist groups, operating with the tacit or even overt support of complicit governments, unified by a common purpose, and utterly ruthless.
Which brings us to the present. Are we fighting a "War on Terror"? Or a "War of Terror?"
Orlando Bosch was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush on July 18th, 1990.
Luis Posada Carriles was released from prison in Texas in April 2007, and escorted to Miami, where he received a hero's welcome and remains on house arrest, awaiting trial on immigration charges. Requests by Cuba and Venezuela for his extradition have been denied.
UPDATE: On May 8th, 2007, US District Judge Kathleen Cardone, El Paso, Texas, dropped all charges against Luis Posada Carriles. His defense attorneys announced that he was elated, and returning to Miami as a free man.