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On the U.S. List of State Sponsored Terrorism

The U.S List of State Sponsored Terrorism has been a historic joke, in fact, a sick joke. Let’s take a look at the history of the terrorist list.

Up until 1982, Iraq — Saddam Hussein’s Iraq — was on the terrorist list. In 1982, the Reagan administration removed Iraq from the terrorist list. Why? Because they were moving to support Iraq.

Iraq was removed from the list so that they could provide Saddam with a flow of badly needed aid (and weapons) while he carried out his worst atrocities like the Halabja massacre — and others. In fact, the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration strongly supported Iraq right through its worst.

This empty spot on the terrorist list had to be filled, so they added Cuba.

Cuba’s probably the target of more terrorism than any country in the world, back from the Kennedy years. In fact, just at that time, there had been a rash of major terrorist acts against Cuba. So Cuba was added to the terrorist list to replace Saddam Hussein, who was removed because the U.S. wanted to support him. [1]

Why Cuba?

There was of course an official pretext for condemning Cuba as a terrorist state in 1982: Cuba was allegedly supporting Central Americans who were resisting the “war on terror” declared by the Reagan administration as it entered office—in reality, an extraordinary terrorist assault on Central Americans that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and left much of the region in ruins, handed down in history as a grand victory of American idealism and promotion of democracy. The other standard official reason, until today, is Cuba’s human rights record, a pretext that can only inspire ridicule outside of deeply indoctrinated circles, in the light of the human rights records of Washington’s favored clients, not to speak of its own.

The real reasons were explained in secret documents 40 years ago, when the Kennedy administration sought to bring “the terrors of the earth” to Cuba, as Arthur Schlesinger recounted in his biography of Robert Kennedy, who ran the terror operations as his highest priority. State Department planners warned that the “very existence” of the Castro regime is “successful defiance” of US policies going back 150 years, to the Monroe Doctrine; no Russians, but intolerable defiance of the master of the hemisphere.

Furthermore, this successful defiance encourages others, who might be infected by the “Castro idea of taking matters into their own hands,” Schlesinger had warned incoming President Kennedy, summarizing the report of the President’s Latin American mission. These dangers are particularly grave, Schlesinger elaborated, when “the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes … and the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living.” The whole system of domination might unravel if the idea of taking matters into one’s own hands spreads its evil tentacles. [1]

But let’s go back to the Terrorist List. According to the State Department, countries on the list “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”…”Once a country has been designated, it continues to be a State Sponsor of Terrorism until the designation is rescinded in accordance with statutory criteria. A wide range of sanctions are imposed as a result of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, including:

  1. A ban on arms-related exports and sales.
  2. Controls over exports of dual-use items, requiring 30-day Congressional notification for goods or services that could significantly enhance the terrorist-list country’s military capability or ability to support terrorism.
  3. Prohibitions on economic assistance.
  4. Imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

Currently there are four countries designated under these authorities: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria.” [3]

CountryDesignation Date
CubaMarch 1, 1982
IranJanuary 19, 1984
North KoreaNovember 20, 2017
SyriaDecember 29, 1979

Why is this accepted as a legitimate category to be in? Why is it not even questioned? How is this list even established?

It’s established by some executives without any meaningful justification provided. Those on the list can’t object to it or make a case to be removed. The U.S. Government says someone is on the Terrorist List, period. End of discussion.

We really ought to think why we even tolerate the concept of a “Terrorist List”.

Thanks for reading,

UPDATE: May 29, 2015 – U.S. removes Cuba from list of state sponsored terrorism.

UPDATE #2: January 11, 2021 – U.S. Puts Cuba Back On List Of State Sponsors of Terrorism


  1. With Liberty and Justice for Some, Oct 29, 2011:
  2. Doctrines and Visions: Who Is to Run The World, and How?, Noam Chomsky, Talk at the University of Oxford, May 4, 2004:
  3. State Sponsors of Terrorism:
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