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A Convenient Refuge: Review of "Will The Real Terrorist Please Stand Up"

April 29, 2011 ·

The new film by IPS fellow Saul Landau is an effective and at times chilling portrait of one of the last Cold War conflicts still playing out.

As the curious life and career of Luis Posada Carriles illustrates, justice is wielded when it is convenient for the institutions tasked with enforcing it. The 83-year-old has had a horrifyingly prolific career, including participating in the Bay of Pigs invasion, blowing up Cubana Flight 455 and its 73 passengers, and planting a series of bombs in Havana hotels that killed one and injured 11. He has dodged justice numerous times, always slipping by on his CIA connections.

Contrary to the stern declaration by George W. Bush that the United States would "make no Poster of Landau's film, distinction between terrorists and the nations that harbor them – and hold both to account," Carriles has found sanctuary in this country. Saul Landau’s new film “Will the Real Terrorists Please Stand Up?” explores the sordid history of U.S. support for violent counter-revolutionaries and regime change in Cuba, explaining why someone like Carriles could end up inside the United States.

Landau grabs some startlingly candid interviews with the major players in the bloody drama. What emerges is a portrait of men who are accustomed to a culture of total impunity and who operate solely through the application and threatened application of violence.

A perfect example of these characters is Orlando Bosch a former CIA backed operative and head of Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations. In an interview, Bosch – described by the FBI as an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization – dismisses his killing of innocent civilians as “unfortunate”. Declassified documents in 2005 show Bosch likely collaborated with Carriles to carry out the airline bombing. Landau turns the camera on Carriles, showing him strutting through the Cuban exile community in Miami, treated like a hero and grinning from ear to ear.

Throughout, Landau keeps things interesting and quickly paced. He narrates, relating how his personal history intersects with the history of Cuba (the set of his film Fidel was even bombed by members of a terrorist group). It helps to give the documentary structure and a relatable point of view. There is a large cast of characters, but effective titles help to keep everyone identifiable.

By the time the Cuban Five come into play, Landau has made the case that these men were responding to a legitimate threat coming from the exile community in Miami. Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up? is an effective and at times chilling portrait of one of the last Cold War conflicts still playing out. 

Zach Kreinik is an intern at the Institute for Policy Studies and an undergraduate student at Evergreen College.