The Terror Network

THE OPEN MIND
Host: Richard D. Heffner
Guest: Claire Sterling
Title: “The Terror Network”
VTR: 4/2/1981

I’m Richard Heffner, your host on THE OPEN MIND. My guest today is Claire Sterling, American foreign correspondent, who’s been based in Italy for three decades now, where she has reported on European, African, Mid-Eastern, and Southeast Asian affairs for The Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Harper’s, and many other publications. I’ve asked her here today to discuss the topic of her new book, The Terror Network, which deals with international terrorism, and makes considerable reference to the relationship between the Soviet Union and the rampant international terrorism that President Reagan and Secretary of State Haig have recently excoriated.

Thanks for joining me today, Claire.

STERLING: Thank you.

HEFFNER: And I think that I’d like perhaps to refer to an item that appeared in The New York Times to begin our program with, on February 9th, 1981. And it said that Secretary of State Haig said on January 28th in his first news conference, that “The Soviet Union, as part of a conscious policy, undertook the training, funding, and equipping of international terrorists”. He asserted that “Moscow fostered, supported, and expanded that activity”. That seems to be the basis for your new book, too. Is that a fair interpretation?

STERLING: Yes, it is. I may point out, however, that I finished my new book in August, before the new administration was elected, let alone installed. So I wasn’t exactly an advance man for the Secretary of State, but I think it was a remarkably courageous step for him to take, for Haig, and also for the President, to come and publicly say what I believe every Western government has known for some time and has been unwilling to say; and has, in fact, concealed from the public because of the complications from the relations with the Soviet Union and the surrogate forces used by the Soviet Union to give aid and support, to provide the wherewithal to the international terrorist network. I was a little unhappy that when Secretary of State Haig, he did make the statement, he didn’t present along with it a dossier to indicate in what way the Soviet Union was responsible for this kind of assistance. And also, he has not yet indicated the kind of policy that we should now adopt now that we brought this question out into the open, we the United States. And there, of course, remains a very large area for difficulty and perhaps great controversy. I might not find myself on the same side of the fence as our Secretary of State once the policy question goes further.

Nevertheless, I did welcome, and I do, the fact that the administration representing the most powerful country in the Western world should have begun to call publicly to the attention of people in the besieged area of the West, that there has, in fact, been, since the middle of the 1960s, more precisely, since 1966, what I believe to be a deliberate policy by the Soviet Union not to create, engender and direct terrorism in its own…in direct contact with the terrorists; but to make use of emerging terrorist forces in the democratic countries of Western Europe especially, the strategic arc going from Turkey, Iran – which is not a democratic country, obviously – but it was a thoroughly de-stabilized state by the time that the policy was carried out – Turkey, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Great Britain, Germany…circling the Western side of the continent…and stopping short always, at the Soviet frontier of the continent. That is, the growth of terrorism since 1968, let’s say, has struck at the Western side of Europe, the side…or the Western side of the world, where the remaining democratic states may be found, but have not once struck at the Soviet side.

HEFFNER: You say…it’s very interesting to me…you say you’re sorry that Secretary of State Haig didn’t present a dossier, listing as you do, the various connections between the Soviet Union and terrorism. But that same Times report said that “officials with access to United States intelligence services say that they have little evidence to substantiate the Secretary’s allegation that the Soviet Union trains, equips and provides funds for international terrorists. Officials in the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Department asked to document the Haig charges, said that they were unable to do so. There’s just no real evidence for it”. Now how do you explain that? That’s different from not presenting it.

STERLING: Yes, quite. Now, I can’t explain it, frankly, as I say in the book. Because I ran into the same problem while I was gathering material for this book. And as you can see, if you look through the chapter notes, there are 35 pages of documented notes about what I say in this book, and I haven’t said any sensational revelations in this book. I have put together information gathered while traveling as a trained professional reporter, political reporter, from 10 countries…putting together the documentation collected in each country, speaking, yes, with secret services, but certainly not depending on secret services for my information. I don’t think even 15 or 20 percent of…at most 20 percent…of the documented sources I cite in this book depend on intelligence sources. They come from sources accessible to the public; from courtroom trials, from confessions of terrorists who have been arrested but have repented, from interviews given by these terrorists to newspapers in Europe, or Arabic newspapers. Carlos himself has given a most extraordinary revealing review. The great celebrated or infamous “Carlos the Jackal” gave an extraordinary review to an Arab weekly called Al Watan al Arabi in which he, himself provided links with his own involvement with the Soviet Union. Intelligence agencies in Washington now seem to know nothing about it, which is really quite baffling, I must say.

HEFFNER: Now if I were a good reporter, as you are…

STERLING: I hope so!

HEFFNER: …I would leave it that way and ask you…well, now, what guesses would you make as to the reasons why the State Department and the intelligence agencies, even after the Secretary of State has made this charge, so there’s no evidence…

STERLING: Well, I would like to say, first of all, that…to make it clear…there is an enormous amount of evidence indicating…it depends on what question you ask to get the answer…and I have been watching, to be fair, questions put to the administration…Russian diplomats who have appeared in the most extraordinary way on television – I think they must have been stoned to the quick by the charges. The reporter stopped before asking the question that really matters. They’re not getting the answers now.

HEFFNER: What are the questions?

STERLING: If you say “Has the Soviet Union directly aided the development of international terrorism?” it is relatively easy for the Soviet spokesman to say “No”, and to defy you, to prove to the contrary; because what the Soviet Union has done, it has provided a “do-it-yourself” kit for terrorist warfare – the kit, instructions included. It has provided the training, it has provided the arms, the protected arms routes, the sanctuary; the protection, the shelter when somebody has to make a fast getaway; a good deal of diplomatic protection over the next 15 years; the know-how – not the money, because very quickly all terrorists have learned how to raise their own money in the millions by hijacking and kidnapping and bank robberies. But, of course, the technique of hijacking has got to be learned, and that too has been included in this enormous network of training camps. They have trained tens of thousands of people, including the major terrorist groups of all Europe and the democracies as well as the Palestinian forces, which are terrorist forces. I’m not saying that everybody in the Palestine resistance is a terrorist. But certainly they are very open, and there are very (???) terrorist formations. Now, the training is first in Cuba and then in the Arab arc backing the Palestine resistance from Lebanon and Syria and for a while, Iraq – not so much now – to South Yemen, which is a Soviet Satellite state – to Libya, about which we have heard something, but not enough, and its relations with the Soviet Union, for one thing, and its twelve billion arms deal with the Soviet Union. And its 20 camps, or its 30 camps for some twenty-thousand terrorists at a time within Libya; with the Cubans coming in to provide the more sophisticated training, guerilla warfare training for sabotage, for disguise, for map work, for communication, for karate; for the techniques of urban guerilla warfare; for hijacking, kidnapping and so on.

HEFFNER: Is this a left-wing terrorist…

STERLING: This is a left-wing terrorist group. Right-wing terrorism is an older phenomenon. It was going on through the sixties, and has been much written about. And it has been, I won’t say entirely understood, but at least has had a good deal of exposure in the press. Left-wing terrorism, which developed in the seventies, ’78 onward, has had very little exposure relatively, in a political sense, because so many people have refused to believe that it could be left-wing. They have continued…that is…In Europe, where you have a very large intellectual…a legitimate left…I’m not talking about terrorist efforts; social, social democratic…intellectuals pride themselves on having leftist views in Europe. And they have, until the last year or two, the greatest part of them have refused to believe that a genuine left-wing person can be a terrorist.

HEFFNER: Has that been difficult for you to believe?

STERLING: Yes, it was difficult for me when I started, which is why I felt it was necessary for me to do this book, when I began to discover the evidence before me, in Italy, which is when I began to move out into other countries. And in Italy, especially when terrorism in the seventies reached such menacing, terrifying levels…until ’78 or ’79 the left-wing press or left-wing intellectuals kept on insisting that these were fascist provocateurs who were infiltrating and provoking the terrorism and trying to blame it on the left. And only by the end of the decade has it become more or less expected that there is such a thing as left-wing, extreme left-wing terrorism, just as menacing as extreme right-wing terrorism. Every bit as menacing, sharing the objectives of right-wing terrorism. Evidently the first is the destabilization of democratic government.

HEFFNER: You said that you yourself had difficulty in accepting the fact that this was left-wing terrorism initially, until you began your interrogations. Why?

STERLING: Well, I’ve always been an anti-fascist. From the time I was in school, the first cause that was important to me in world politics was Spain. For my generation Spain meant what for my children’s generation Viet Nam meant. And when I went back, and I went back to Spain many times as a political reporter over the years, for over 20 years…and I was there when Franco died. And I was there again, working on material for this book, watching what happened to the Spanish Basques, who had been my heroes…the first anti-Franco forces I had met when I was a girl fresh out of Columbia University journalism school, just starting out in Europe…and slipped over the border into Spain. The first opposition to Franco I met was in the Basque north, in San Sebastian, my Basque heroes…remaining my heroes, my political heroes all that time…until I saw what they were doing after Franco died. They fought Franco gloriously all through the 40 years of rule, the present generation included because he only died five years ago. But they killed very little, perhaps four or five people in all. It was supposed to be the successor to Franco and assure continuity to the regime…with his death, admittedly, the continuity was broken and the regime died. What happened is that in the year after Franco died these same Basque separatists (???) killed more people in the name of liberty than they had killed in all the forty years of living under Franco’s oppression, under a dictatorial system, a fascist system. And I couldn’t understand this phenomenon. I traveled a good deal in Basque and I spoke with Basques, and I watched over the next two years, three years. The escalation of terrorism was terrifying. And it was unmistakable, which I think I show with very strong evidence in the chapter on Spain, that the objective of the Basque militia was to force the return to a military dictatorship, and we have seen in the last month how close they have come to destroying the fragile structure of democracy in Spain.

HEFFNER: And this evidence that you put together is still seemingly not available to our own intelligence agencies, at least in public.

STERLING: I just can’t understand why there should be such resistance among our intelligence agencies to conceding these basic facts, because, as I say, they’re not secret.

HEFFNER: Claire Sterling, what would you…given the fact that the President and the present Secretary of State recognize what you have recognized and documented in The Terror Network, what would you suggest American policy be in relation to Soviet aided terrorism?

STERLING: Well, yes, of course I don’t think we ought to make war on the Soviet Union because they’re helping the terrorists. They, of course, are making war on us by using the terrorists. There’s no question. It’s an indirect war, a proxy war if you like, which costs them very little. They provided the training and the weapons. Through the Cubans or the Palestinians…they themselves have had very little direct contact with terrorists, although they have been caught in the act of (???) meeting with leaders of Spanish Basques Etat Militia two years. Apart from that they have let the others do it, letting the transfer of technology go on, training the Palestinians inside Russia, letting them go back to South Yemen, which is a Soviet satellite, and there train the IRA provisionals, the Italian Red Brigade, the German Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Spanish Basques, the Turkish Peoples’ Liberation Army, and so on and so on. It’s true…in my opinion they have been waging a war on the Western democratic states. Of course, I think it would be suicidal and entirely wrong for us to think in warlike terms of response. I think we must think in political, diplomatic and economic terms. This must become an important part of our instrument of diplomatic policy. We must consider it an issue at least as important as a major issue…I don’t say have a Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union…on which we must…deal with the Soviet Union. Therefore we must understand the role played by…if we are to have any prospects of coming out with a successful diplomatic deal of any kind.

HEFFNER: (tries to interject)

STERLING: I’ll get back to that…There is serious danger involved, also, in raising this issue publicly…first of all to confuse…anybody who picks up a gun against any regime is a terrorist. Obviously I don’t agree with this concept. I think there must be some situations…I don’t like…I haven’t tried to draw a line. And my inclination, after studying the subject as long as I have, is to say that anybody who picks up is a terrorist, or at least he’s a killer. Whether the cause is good or bad, a killer is a killer, bad or good…he’s a killer. Nevertheless, I believe one must be careful in distinguishing situations where one has (???) dictatorship with no possibility, no instrument for political expression, no possibility of political opposition outside the use of force. And I would like to see an American policy which tries to help such a situation by averting the use of force. What I would totally disagree with and angrily oppose would be an attempt to use the extreme right to flog the extreme left. I think that could be a tragically mistaken policy.

HEFFNER: Don’t misunderstand my motives in raising this question, but wouldn’t the terror network, the secret war on international terrorism, with all the documentation that you offer of the role that the Soviet Union has played, won’t it lead to what you just said you were concerned about?

STERLING: Ah…

HEFFNER: … (???)…is it for you?

STERLING: It makes me very nervous to be identified with people who think we ought to get into South America and pick up any right-wing dictator who’s willing to shed a lot of blood and to crush left-wing opposition. It makes me extremely nervous because I couldn’t support such a position.

HEFFNER: Well an awful lot of people who will read The Terror Network, a lot of people like me who will read it and say “My Gosh, this IS war, as you say to yourself…

STERLING: That’s right. The war I’m talking about, first of all…I believe that we must not allow ourselves to be backed into a corner because of the war being waged on us. What the terrorists want most is for us to behave like a fascist state. They say so. I cite over and over again from Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, to Curcio, who founded The Red Brigade to the IRA Provisional, all of them…they all say the same thing. They want democratic societies to behave like police states, because they believe that this will encourage the masses to rise up and create revolution. Of course…nothing could be more tragically misleading and deceptive…self-deceptive, if you like, but that’s what they want. And I don’t think that’s what we should give them. I just don’t think we should let ourselves be trapped that way. I believe you can resist terrorist forces within a democratic framework without having to behave like a police state if you fight on political terms as well as police terms. That is, you have to have good police work, obviously, when you’re dealing with terrorists, when you define your terms, but you also have to have the kind of political argument that wins the population over to your side.

HEFFNER: You want us to say we don’t provoke.

STERLING: We don’t provoke.

HEFFNER: Ah. What will happen, if as some people have estimated, that circle, that line you drew as to the length and breadth of terrorism begins to reach the United States? Is there any reason to assume that it won’t?

STERLING: Oh, no. I think there is a good deal of reason to assume that it will.

HEFFNER: Then what will happen?

STERLING: Well, as I say, we must watch it. Are we talking about terrorists…when I’m talking about the situation in South America, for example, and I’m talking about…I don’t discuss in my book. It’s not the area I cover. We have several situations in Latin America where brutal right-wing dictatorships are in power, and where there are no political instruments to oppose them, of course, or very few. It’s also true in several of these cases, that the military regimes have gotten there because of the provocation of left-wing terrorists, who have gone beyond the bounds of legitimate political revolt, as in the case of Uruguay, which is the model, the…Uruguay, the model for every terrorist group in the world, and they, in two years, destroyed one of the only existing democracies in South America and then replaced it with a military dictatorship which banned all political parties for the following fifteen years. And they were terrorists; they were not liberation fighters, they were terrorists. In democratic countries, where the instruments do exist for political change, where the machinery exists…although it’s very difficult admittedly, and there are many sins and flaws in democratic societies…but nevertheless, where there are the means, peaceful means to bring about change, people who use violence against the state are to me, terrorists, whether they come from the right or the left. Therefore, in this country, if it comes to this country, and I hope it doesn’t but I fear greatly that it will, I believe people who use bombs, assassinations, other forms…uh, kneecapping…other forms of political, military tactics to oppose political will, and they are more minorities representing only themselves in many cases, or very small groups in society…these people must be treated as terrorists. They are not liberation fighters. Like the Puerto Ricans who are Cuban-trained, who have for years been receiving training in Cuba, have for years been continuing attacks of violence in this country…and in Puerto Rico represent, I’m sure, less than 5 percent, as far as I can determine.

HEFFNER: Claire Sterling, let me ask this question: In your researches, in your familiarity with the origins of terrorism, what have you unearthed about the likelihood that there will be that kind of action extended in this country? You said you fear it greatly. You fear that it will happen, you hope that it won’t.

STERLING: Yes.

HEFFNER: What indications are there that we are a prime target ourselves?

STERLING: Well, I think that we’ve been very fortunate in this country in that the Viet Nam War finally ended one way or another; not perhaps, very happily for the people concerned; nevertheless, it was ended and we got out of it. And the great corrosive factor among the young people in this country, the alienating factor that was used, that became the tremendous cause of rebellion on the left, was gone. And for a long time after that…there has been no comparable cause in the United States. The terrorists I’m really concerned about are those who have had continuing contact with tiny groups since the Viet Nam War in America, are…the ones I’m talking about come from Europe. I’m talking about terrorists groups…the ultra-left in democratic societies, where there’s no problem of liberation, where they don’t have a colonial problem, where they are trying to destroy constitutional democratic states. Now, they have maintained contact with small groups of every kind in this country. They could emerge from any set of circumstances: The Basques, because they have an ethnic issue; in Ireland there’s a Catholic/Protestant issue, plus a terrible poverty issue on the Catholic side; in Turkey you have terrible slums and…

HEFFNER: But in the two minutes we have remaining…

STERLING: Uh huh…

HEFFNER: …is there any evidence that people are being trained here…

STERLING: Oh, yes. In the early years of the seventies the Panthers, Weathermen, SDS people were being trained in Cuba, certainly, and to a degree, in the Middle East.

HEFFNER: With Soviet funds, with Soviet help, though?

STERLING: Well, the Soviet control is direct over at the Cuban DGI, the Intelligence Service camp, and the Soviet Colonel sits next to the Director of the DGI in Havana, and the office is next door, so it has total surveillance over the training in Cuba. The same goes in South Yemen, which is a Soviet satellite state under total military control of the Soviet Union, where every major terrorist group in the world has been trained in the last five or six years. And just to conclude: My fears for America are that if we are going into a period of economic difficulty and social tension, of increasing social tension, whether they be racial or economic; Hispanic, Black; problems of budget cuts that could arouse certain sentiments, these people will have legitimate grievances, absolutely legitimate. As in these other cases, there are always legitimate grievances. And they will also, but they will also be peculiarly vulnerable to the kind of penetration and manipulation that we’ve seen elsewhere by parties that don’t have the same cause, and are not disinterested parties, trying to do something else, as in the case of the Soviet Union, or groups around the Soviet Union who are trying to press for permanent Marxist revolution.

HEFFNER: What do you think will happen in the next year or two?

STERLING: I think much depends on what happens economically to this country. Certainly in Europe the pressure points have changed. At the moment the most serious problem is Spain, I believe, where they have come very close to destroying a fragile, new democracy and may actually do it very soon.

HEFFNER: Claire Sterling, I do appreciate your joining me today for this discussion. I’ll admit it’s scary.

STERLING: Yes.

HEFFNER: Scary to me.

STERLING: Yes, it is scary.

HEFFNER: Scary to me. Thanks for talking about it.

STERLING: Thank you for letting me.

HEFFNER: And thanks, too, to you in the audience. I hope that you will join us again on THE OPEN MIND. Meanwhile, as an old friend used to say, “Good night, and good luck”.

This is Richard Heffner, your host on THE OPEN MIND. We would like to know your ideas and your opinions about the subject we discussed. Please send your comments to me in care of this station.

VOICE: Join Richard Heffner on THE OPEN MIND next Friday morning when his guest will be Osborne Elliott, Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and former Editor of Newsweek, who will discuss the quality of today’s journalism and the recent Pulitzer hoax.

THE OPEN MIND
Host: Richard D. Heffner
Guest: Claire Sterling
Title: “The Terror Network”
VTR: 4/2/1981

I’m Richard Heffner, your host on THE OPEN MIND. My guest today is Claire Sterling, American foreign correspondent, who’s been based in Italy for three decades now, where she has reported on European, African, Mid-Eastern, and Southeast Asian affairs for The Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Harper’s, and many other publications. I’ve asked her here today to discuss the topic of her new book, The Terror Network, which deals with international terrorism, and makes considerable reference to the relationship between the Soviet Union and the rampant international terrorism that President Reagan and Secretary of State Haig have recently excoriated.

Thanks for joining me today, Claire.

STERLING: Thank you.

HEFFNER: And I think that I’d like perhaps to refer to an item that appeared in The New York Times to begin our program with, on February 9th, 1981. And it said that Secretary of State Haig said on January 28th in his first news conference, that “The Soviet Union, as part of a conscious policy, undertook the training, funding, and equipping of international terrorists”. He asserted that “Moscow fostered, supported, and expanded that activity”. That seems to be the basis for your new book, too. Is that a fair interpretation?

STERLING: Yes, it is. I may point out, however, that I finished my new book in August, before the new administration was elected, let alone installed. So I wasn’t exactly an advance man for the Secretary of State, but I think it was a remarkably courageous step for him to take, for Haig, and also for the President, to come and publicly say what I believe every Western government has known for some time and has been unwilling to say; and has, in fact, concealed from the public because of the complications from the relations with the Soviet Union and the surrogate forces used by the Soviet Union to give aid and support, to provide the wherewithal to the international terrorist network. I was a little unhappy that when Secretary of State Haig, he did make the statement, he didn’t present along with it a dossier to indicate in what way the Soviet Union was responsible for this kind of assistance. And also, he has not yet indicated the kind of policy that we should now adopt now that we brought this question out into the open, we the United States. And there, of course, remains a very large area for difficulty and perhaps great controversy. I might not find myself on the same side of the fence as our Secretary of State once the policy question goes further.

Nevertheless, I did welcome, and I do, the fact that the administration representing the most powerful country in the Western world should have begun to call publicly to the attention of people in the besieged area of the West, that there has, in fact, been, since the middle of the 1960s, more precisely, since 1966, what I believe to be a deliberate policy by the Soviet Union not to create, engender and direct terrorism in its own…in direct contact with the terrorists; but to make use of emerging terrorist forces in the democratic countries of Western Europe especially, the strategic arc going from Turkey, Iran – which is not a democratic country, obviously – but it was a thoroughly de-stabilized state by the time that the policy was carried out – Turkey, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Great Britain, Germany…circling the Western side of the continent…and stopping short always, at the Soviet frontier of the continent. That is, the growth of terrorism since 1968, let’s say, has struck at the Western side of Europe, the side…or the Western side of the world, where the remaining democratic states may be found, but have not once struck at the Soviet side.

HEFFNER: You say…it’s very interesting to me…you say you’re sorry that Secretary of State Haig didn’t present a dossier, listing as you do, the various connections between the Soviet Union and terrorism. But that same Times report said that “officials with access to United States intelligence services say that they have little evidence to substantiate the Secretary’s allegation that the Soviet Union trains, equips and provides funds for international terrorists. Officials in the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Department asked to document the Haig charges, said that they were unable to do so. There’s just no real evidence for it”. Now how do you explain that? That’s different from not presenting it.

STERLING: Yes, quite. Now, I can’t explain it, frankly, as I say in the book. Because I ran into the same problem while I was gathering material for this book. And as you can see, if you look through the chapter notes, there are 35 pages of documented notes about what I say in this book, and I haven’t said any sensational revelations in this book. I have put together information gathered while traveling as a trained professional reporter, political reporter, from 10 countries…putting together the documentation collected in each country, speaking, yes, with secret services, but certainly not depending on secret services for my information. I don’t think even 15 or 20 percent of…at most 20 percent…of the documented sources I cite in this book depend on intelligence sources. They come from sources accessible to the public; from courtroom trials, from confessions of terrorists who have been arrested but have repented, from interviews given by these terrorists to newspapers in Europe, or Arabic newspapers. Carlos himself has given a most extraordinary revealing review. The great celebrated or infamous “Carlos the Jackal” gave an extraordinary review to an Arab weekly called Al Watan al Arabi in which he, himself provided links with his own involvement with the Soviet Union. Intelligence agencies in Washington now seem to know nothing about it, which is really quite baffling, I must say.

HEFFNER: Now if I were a good reporter, as you are…

STERLING: I hope so!

HEFFNER: …I would leave it that way and ask you…well, now, what guesses would you make as to the reasons why the State Department and the intelligence agencies, even after the Secretary of State has made this charge, so there’s no evidence…

STERLING: Well, I would like to say, first of all, that…to make it clear…there is an enormous amount of evidence indicating…it depends on what question you ask to get the answer…and I have been watching, to be fair, questions put to the administration…Russian diplomats who have appeared in the most extraordinary way on television – I think they must have been stoned to the quick by the charges. The reporter stopped before asking the question that really matters. They’re not getting the answers now.

HEFFNER: What are the questions?

STERLING: If you say “Has the Soviet Union directly aided the development of international terrorism?” it is relatively easy for the Soviet spokesman to say “No”, and to defy you, to prove to the contrary; because what the Soviet Union has done, it has provided a “do-it-yourself” kit for terrorist warfare – the kit, instructions included. It has provided the training, it has provided the arms, the protected arms routes, the sanctuary; the protection, the shelter when somebody has to make a fast getaway; a good deal of diplomatic protection over the next 15 years; the know-how – not the money, because very quickly all terrorists have learned how to raise their own money in the millions by hijacking and kidnapping and bank robberies. But, of course, the technique of hijacking has got to be learned, and that too has been included in this enormous network of training camps. They have trained tens of thousands of people, including the major terrorist groups of all Europe and the democracies as well as the Palestinian forces, which are terrorist forces. I’m not saying that everybody in the Palestine resistance is a terrorist. But certainly they are very open, and there are very (???) terrorist formations. Now, the training is first in Cuba and then in the Arab arc backing the Palestine resistance from Lebanon and Syria and for a while, Iraq – not so much now – to South Yemen, which is a Soviet Satellite state – to Libya, about which we have heard something, but not enough, and its relations with the Soviet Union, for one thing, and its twelve billion arms deal with the Soviet Union. And its 20 camps, or its 30 camps for some twenty-thousand terrorists at a time within Libya; with the Cubans coming in to provide the more sophisticated training, guerilla warfare training for sabotage, for disguise, for map work, for communication, for karate; for the techniques of urban guerilla warfare; for hijacking, kidnapping and so on.

HEFFNER: Is this a left-wing terrorist…

STERLING: This is a left-wing terrorist group. Right-wing terrorism is an older phenomenon. It was going on through the sixties, and has been much written about. And it has been, I won’t say entirely understood, but at least has had a good deal of exposure in the press. Left-wing terrorism, which developed in the seventies, ’78 onward, has had very little exposure relatively, in a political sense, because so many people have refused to believe that it could be left-wing. They have continued…that is…In Europe, where you have a very large intellectual…a legitimate left…I’m not talking about terrorist efforts; social, social democratic…intellectuals pride themselves on having leftist views in Europe. And they have, until the last year or two, the greatest part of them have refused to believe that a genuine left-wing person can be a terrorist.

HEFFNER: Has that been difficult for you to believe?

STERLING: Yes, it was difficult for me when I started, which is why I felt it was necessary for me to do this book, when I began to discover the evidence before me, in Italy, which is when I began to move out into other countries. And in Italy, especially when terrorism in the seventies reached such menacing, terrifying levels…until ’78 or ’79 the left-wing press or left-wing intellectuals kept on insisting that these were fascist provocateurs who were infiltrating and provoking the terrorism and trying to blame it on the left. And only by the end of the decade has it become more or less expected that there is such a thing as left-wing, extreme left-wing terrorism, just as menacing as extreme right-wing terrorism. Every bit as menacing, sharing the objectives of right-wing terrorism. Evidently the first is the destabilization of democratic government.

HEFFNER: You said that you yourself had difficulty in accepting the fact that this was left-wing terrorism initially, until you began your interrogations. Why?

STERLING: Well, I’ve always been an anti-fascist. From the time I was in school, the first cause that was important to me in world politics was Spain. For my generation Spain meant what for my children’s generation Viet Nam meant. And when I went back, and I went back to Spain many times as a political reporter over the years, for over 20 years…and I was there when Franco died. And I was there again, working on material for this book, watching what happened to the Spanish Basques, who had been my heroes…the first anti-Franco forces I had met when I was a girl fresh out of Columbia University journalism school, just starting out in Europe…and slipped over the border into Spain. The first opposition to Franco I met was in the Basque north, in San Sebastian, my Basque heroes…remaining my heroes, my political heroes all that time…until I saw what they were doing after Franco died. They fought Franco gloriously all through the 40 years of rule, the present generation included because he only died five years ago. But they killed very little, perhaps four or five people in all. It was supposed to be the successor to Franco and assure continuity to the regime…with his death, admittedly, the continuity was broken and the regime died. What happened is that in the year after Franco died these same Basque separatists (???) killed more people in the name of liberty than they had killed in all the forty years of living under Franco’s oppression, under a dictatorial system, a fascist system. And I couldn’t understand this phenomenon. I traveled a good deal in Basque and I spoke with Basques, and I watched over the next two years, three years. The escalation of terrorism was terrifying. And it was unmistakable, which I think I show with very strong evidence in the chapter on Spain, that the objective of the Basque militia was to force the return to a military dictatorship, and we have seen in the last month how close they have come to destroying the fragile structure of democracy in Spain.

HEFFNER: And this evidence that you put together is still seemingly not available to our own intelligence agencies, at least in public.

STERLING: I just can’t understand why there should be such resistance among our intelligence agencies to conceding these basic facts, because, as I say, they’re not secret.

HEFFNER: Claire Sterling, what would you…given the fact that the President and the present Secretary of State recognize what you have recognized and documented in The Terror Network, what would you suggest American policy be in relation to Soviet aided terrorism?

STERLING: Well, yes, of course I don’t think we ought to make war on the Soviet Union because they’re helping the terrorists. They, of course, are making war on us by using the terrorists. There’s no question. It’s an indirect war, a proxy war if you like, which costs them very little. They provided the training and the weapons. Through the Cubans or the Palestinians…they themselves have had very little direct contact with terrorists, although they have been caught in the act of (???) meeting with leaders of Spanish Basques Etat Militia two years. Apart from that they have let the others do it, letting the transfer of technology go on, training the Palestinians inside Russia, letting them go back to South Yemen, which is a Soviet satellite, and there train the IRA provisionals, the Italian Red Brigade, the German Baader-Meinhof Gang, the Spanish Basques, the Turkish Peoples’ Liberation Army, and so on and so on. It’s true…in my opinion they have been waging a war on the Western democratic states. Of course, I think it would be suicidal and entirely wrong for us to think in warlike terms of response. I think we must think in political, diplomatic and economic terms. This must become an important part of our instrument of diplomatic policy. We must consider it an issue at least as important as a major issue…I don’t say have a Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union…on which we must…deal with the Soviet Union. Therefore we must understand the role played by…if we are to have any prospects of coming out with a successful diplomatic deal of any kind.

HEFFNER: (tries to interject)

STERLING: I’ll get back to that…There is serious danger involved, also, in raising this issue publicly…first of all to confuse…anybody who picks up a gun against any regime is a terrorist. Obviously I don’t agree with this concept. I think there must be some situations…I don’t like…I haven’t tried to draw a line. And my inclination, after studying the subject as long as I have, is to say that anybody who picks up is a terrorist, or at least he’s a killer. Whether the cause is good or bad, a killer is a killer, bad or good…he’s a killer. Nevertheless, I believe one must be careful in distinguishing situations where one has (???) dictatorship with no possibility, no instrument for political expression, no possibility of political opposition outside the use of force. And I would like to see an American policy which tries to help such a situation by averting the use of force. What I would totally disagree with and angrily oppose would be an attempt to use the extreme right to flog the extreme left. I think that could be a tragically mistaken policy.

HEFFNER: Don’t misunderstand my motives in raising this question, but wouldn’t the terror network, the secret war on international terrorism, with all the documentation that you offer of the role that the Soviet Union has played, won’t it lead to what you just said you were concerned about?

STERLING: Ah…

HEFFNER: … (???)…is it for you?

STERLING: It makes me very nervous to be identified with people who think we ought to get into South America and pick up any right-wing dictator who’s willing to shed a lot of blood and to crush left-wing opposition. It makes me extremely nervous because I couldn’t support such a position.

HEFFNER: Well an awful lot of people who will read The Terror Network, a lot of people like me who will read it and say “My Gosh, this IS war, as you say to yourself…

STERLING: That’s right. The war I’m talking about, first of all…I believe that we must not allow ourselves to be backed into a corner because of the war being waged on us. What the terrorists want most is for us to behave like a fascist state. They say so. I cite over and over again from Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, to Curcio, who founded The Red Brigade to the IRA Provisional, all of them…they all say the same thing. They want democratic societies to behave like police states, because they believe that this will encourage the masses to rise up and create revolution. Of course…nothing could be more tragically misleading and deceptive…self-deceptive, if you like, but that’s what they want. And I don’t think that’s what we should give them. I just don’t think we should let ourselves be trapped that way. I believe you can resist terrorist forces within a democratic framework without having to behave like a police state if you fight on political terms as well as police terms. That is, you have to have good police work, obviously, when you’re dealing with terrorists, when you define your terms, but you also have to have the kind of political argument that wins the population over to your side.

HEFFNER: You want us to say we don’t provoke.

STERLING: We don’t provoke.

HEFFNER: Ah. What will happen, if as some people have estimated, that circle, that line you drew as to the length and breadth of terrorism begins to reach the United States? Is there any reason to assume that it won’t?

STERLING: Oh, no. I think there is a good deal of reason to assume that it will.

HEFFNER: Then what will happen?

STERLING: Well, as I say, we must watch it. Are we talking about terrorists…when I’m talking about the situation in South America, for example, and I’m talking about…I don’t discuss in my book. It’s not the area I cover. We have several situations in Latin America where brutal right-wing dictatorships are in power, and where there are no political instruments to oppose them, of course, or very few. It’s also true in several of these cases, that the military regimes have gotten there because of the provocation of left-wing terrorists, who have gone beyond the bounds of legitimate political revolt, as in the case of Uruguay, which is the model, the…Uruguay, the model for every terrorist group in the world, and they, in two years, destroyed one of the only existing democracies in South America and then replaced it with a military dictatorship which banned all political parties for the following fifteen years. And they were terrorists; they were not liberation fighters, they were terrorists. In democratic countries, where the instruments do exist for political change, where the machinery exists…although it’s very difficult admittedly, and there are many sins and flaws in democratic societies…but nevertheless, where there are the means, peaceful means to bring about change, people who use violence against the state are to me, terrorists, whether they come from the right or the left. Therefore, in this country, if it comes to this country, and I hope it doesn’t but I fear greatly that it will, I believe people who use bombs, assassinations, other forms…uh, kneecapping…other forms of political, military tactics to oppose political will, and they are more minorities representing only themselves in many cases, or very small groups in society…these people must be treated as terrorists. They are not liberation fighters. Like the Puerto Ricans who are Cuban-trained, who have for years been receiving training in Cuba, have for years been continuing attacks of violence in this country…and in Puerto Rico represent, I’m sure, less than 5 percent, as far as I can determine.

HEFFNER: Claire Sterling, let me ask this question: In your researches, in your familiarity with the origins of terrorism, what have you unearthed about the likelihood that there will be that kind of action extended in this country? You said you fear it greatly. You fear that it will happen, you hope that it won’t.

STERLING: Yes.

HEFFNER: What indications are there that we are a prime target ourselves?

STERLING: Well, I think that we’ve been very fortunate in this country in that the Viet Nam War finally ended one way or another; not perhaps, very happily for the people concerned; nevertheless, it was ended and we got out of it. And the great corrosive factor among the young people in this country, the alienating factor that was used, that became the tremendous cause of rebellion on the left, was gone. And for a long time after that…there has been no comparable cause in the United States. The terrorists I’m really concerned about are those who have had continuing contact with tiny groups since the Viet Nam War in America, are…the ones I’m talking about come from Europe. I’m talking about terrorists groups…the ultra-left in democratic societies, where there’s no problem of liberation, where they don’t have a colonial problem, where they are trying to destroy constitutional democratic states. Now, they have maintained contact with small groups of every kind in this country. They could emerge from any set of circumstances: The Basques, because they have an ethnic issue; in Ireland there’s a Catholic/Protestant issue, plus a terrible poverty issue on the Catholic side; in Turkey you have terrible slums and…

HEFFNER: But in the two minutes we have remaining…

STERLING: Uh huh…

HEFFNER: …is there any evidence that people are being trained here…

STERLING: Oh, yes. In the early years of the seventies the Panthers, Weathermen, SDS people were being trained in Cuba, certainly, and to a degree, in the Middle East.

HEFFNER: With Soviet funds, with Soviet help, though?

STERLING: Well, the Soviet control is direct over at the Cuban DGI, the Intelligence Service camp, and the Soviet Colonel sits next to the Director of the DGI in Havana, and the office is next door, so it has total surveillance over the training in Cuba. The same goes in South Yemen, which is a Soviet satellite state under total military control of the Soviet Union, where every major terrorist group in the world has been trained in the last five or six years. And just to conclude: My fears for America are that if we are going into a period of economic difficulty and social tension, of increasing social tension, whether they be racial or economic; Hispanic, Black; problems of budget cuts that could arouse certain sentiments, these people will have legitimate grievances, absolutely legitimate. As in these other cases, there are always legitimate grievances. And they will also, but they will also be peculiarly vulnerable to the kind of penetration and manipulation that we’ve seen elsewhere by parties that don’t have the same cause, and are not disinterested parties, trying to do something else, as in the case of the Soviet Union, or groups around the Soviet Union who are trying to press for permanent Marxist revolution.

HEFFNER: What do you think will happen in the next year or two?

STERLING: I think much depends on what happens economically to this country. Certainly in Europe the pressure points have changed. At the moment the most serious problem is Spain, I believe, where they have come very close to destroying a fragile, new democracy and may actually do it very soon.

HEFFNER: Claire Sterling, I do appreciate your joining me today for this discussion. I’ll admit it’s scary.

STERLING: Yes.

HEFFNER: Scary to me.

STERLING: Yes, it is scary.

HEFFNER: Scary to me. Thanks for talking about it.

STERLING: Thank you for letting me.

HEFFNER: And thanks, too, to you in the audience. I hope that you will join us again on THE OPEN MIND. Meanwhile, as an old friend used to say, “Good night, and good luck”.

This is Richard Heffner, your host on THE OPEN MIND. We would like to know your ideas and your opinions about the subject we discussed. Please send your comments to me in care of this station.

VOICE: Join Richard Heffner on THE OPEN MIND next Friday morning when his guest will be Osborne Elliott, Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and former Editor of Newsweek, who will discuss the quality of today’s journalism and the recent Pulitzer hoax.

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