Meet the Terrorist International
by Stephen Schwartz
On Aug. 11, at the international airport in Bogota, Colombia, a news story with vast repercussions began unfolding. Three Irishmen were arrested while traveling on fake Irish and British passports, using false names. They had just flown into Bogota from San Vicente de Caguan, in the southern Colombian wilderness, a region demarcated as a demilitarized zone by the Bogota authorities and the communist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
The Colombian government declared that the three had spent five weeks with the FARC -- reputedly the country's largest network of armed leftists -- training their fellow-radicals in bomb-making and other military techniques. Charged with that crime as well as with passport fraud, they remain in jail in the South American country.
Their real identities were soon revealed. They are leading figures in the Irish Republican Army, its political satellite Sinn Fein, and its underground subculture. James Monaghan, in his fifties, has been identified by British and Irish media as the top explosives engineer for the terrorist movement. Martin McCauley, 38, is a Sinn Fein political worker who was shot by Northern Ireland's police while he was in the vicinity of a weapons dump. He is also an expert on terrorist bombings.
The most interesting of the trio is Niall Connolly, in his mid 30s, and the only one of the three who happened to speak fluent Spanish, which we can surmise he did not pick up at any of the run-of-the-mill IRA/Sinn Fein pubs that litter (a word not used metaphorically here) Belfast, Dublin, or Boston, Massachusetts. Sinn Fein representatives back on the Emerald Isle admitted knowing Mr. Monaghan and Mr. McCauley -- but denied a current connection with them -- while they disclaimed any knowledge of Mr. Connolly. Which, of course, was the clue that he is the big fish.
And big he is. The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs came forward and with the insouciance -- or blind arrogance -- for which the Castro regime is known, identified Mr. Connolly as Sinn Fein's representative in Cuba. He has, it seems, lived in Cuba for five years, and even fathered a child there. He was serving, at the time of his Colombian arrest, as an advance man for a tour of Latin America to be undertaken by IRA leader Gerry Adams. The tour of course includes a stop in Cuba to see Fidel.
As the three Irishmen began their progress through the Colombian legal system, more fascinating details of their mission, their hosts, and their international associations emerged. As of this week, the Colombians had named a fourth suspect in the terrorist training team, Paul Damery, 40, who has recently resided in the Western Hemisphere's newest hive of Castroism: Venezuela, now run by apprentice dictator Hugo Chavez. Mr. Damery is wanted by authorities in Ireland for the 1996 murder of a Southern Irish garda (police) detective.
Indeed, the arrest of the three was something like turning over a rock and exposing a colony of ugly, fetid insect life. British and Irish media reported that the IRA team had assisted FARC in testing a massive firebomb. Northern Irish moderate Catholic politician John Hume demanded to know whether the Irish terrorists shared
FARC's well-established propensity for dealing in drugs, especially cocaine. Colombian government representatives had mentioned the drug probability from the beginning, but notwithstanding the democratic nature of the Bogota government, its investigations were treated with contempt by media in the U.S. and Europe.
Then the circle of complicity was extended, as it was disclosed that the Colombians had picked up the three Celtic warriors almost accidentally. They were originally tipped off by the Spanish police to watch out for traveling terrorists from ETA, the Basque murder machine, who would train FARC in car bombings. The Colombian authorities had observed the Irishmen from the first moment they arrived on their soil. Colombian media reported they had brought with them a portion of a three-ton load of the explosive Semtex presented to them by Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But in an example of the grim comedy to which such political adventurers increasingly lend themselves, Manuel Marulanda, the 69-year old longtime head of FARC, declared that the IRA wayfarers had come to Colombia purely to "exchange opinions," with no war games involved.
In a further exercise in surrealism, the three Irishmen alleged, in their Colombian court filings, that they had come to the country to visit the Amazon rainforest, "write about nature, rivers, the jungle, and animals," study the "Colombian peace process," and practice speaking Spanish.
As the visible connections widened, so did reactions. A top-level U.S. mission, headed by Marc Grossman, the third-highest official at State, will arrive in Colombia today to emphasize Washington's support for the courageous struggle of Colombian civil society against drug gangsterism and leftist terror, and Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit next month. Something more is needed, however. There are many lessons to be drawn from this IRA misadventure in the tropics.
The first is the complete discrediting of the policies adopted by the Clinton administration, under which the IRA, like the Palestinian terrorists led by Yasser Arafat, were granted credibility as sincere participants in a peace process. Mr. Adams, in other words, should have his White House privileges revoked.
Gangster impulses long ago replaced any legitimate advocacy for the Irish nationalist cause in the IRA. Its Basque partner ETA has been recognized by Spanish citizens of the left as well as the right with having become something close to a neo-Nazi movement. Leftist propagandists throughout the world assail U.S. support for Bogota's antidrug war, and concentrate fire on rightist paramilitaries as the worst human-rights offenders in Colombia. But FARC cannot lay claim to be defending anybody's rights. It is a cold, Leninist movement organized by Colombian communists.
Democratic governments must also find the best ways to undermine, isolate, and discredit the groups that currently make up the terrorist international, which were supported by the Soviet Union and the Yugoslav regime of Slobodan Milosevic and now by Cuba and Libya. Thus, the London Sunday Times has reported that ETA handed off detonators obtained from Serbia to the "Real IRA," the ultra-extremist faction that recently placed bombs in London. The web of terrorism extends to Kurdish, Armenian, Tamil, and, of course, Arab conspirators. The IRA-FARC connection has even stirred panic among its leading apologists in mainstream U.S. politics. The Bush administration may be compelled to take a decision the U.S. has long avoided: including the IRA in the list of terrorist organizations forbidden to raise funds in the U.S.
It is also high time that gullible journalists, nostalgic for the radical '60s, stop granting these criminals a break. In places like Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and Colombia, where democracy is fighting for its life, the time has come to call the terrorist international and its supporters to account.