By Michael Brenner for VT
What do you do when you hold a coup and nobody shows up? When it’s you’re third flop inside of a month? When your rival across the street holds his wing-ding the next day and the overflow crowd is jumping? Humiliation? Look for a new bunch of friends? Move back to your old neighborhood?
None of the above. This is 21st century America! Great again! So, first you blame the Russians for refusing to strong-arm Maduro onto that plane to Havana. Then there are the Chinese who undercut your sanctions strategy of starving the Venezuelans into submission by shipping in food and medicine. Finally, you desperately pin it on the subversive pinkos/closet terrorists – Ilhan Omar, Rashida what’s her name, Alexandra Octavio-Cortes (isn’t Pizarro from that part of the world) who encouraged Caracas to resist by criticizing our patriotic policy-makers at home – the ‘stab in the back’?
In the end, you did manage to keep your reputation intact as the world’s coup master by audaciously denying that anything went wrong. The willing flacks in the media can be counted on as the parrot chorus that certifies the lies you tell. Photos? Forget about it – they just don’t print them. Crowd counts? The NYT and the WP swear that many thousands turned out to cheer our puppet: Guaido; and that only 500 attended the Chavist shindig. How did they get that number – simple, you take the former estimate and divide by 4. It’s the new Washington math. The boys and girls on West 43 St. and 16th St. NW add a few creative touches. Who were those 500 bedraggled souls? Public employees forced out of their offices and into the street like the Bolshies did in the old days; senile retirees misled to worry about their pensions; illiterate peasants bussed in from the countryside – so many busses that Caracas traffic was brought to a standstill. How many buses do you need to bring in 500 people (minus a few hundred capital government employees). 5? 6? Well, it’s common knowledge that Caracas traffic is easily snarled because of all the Chavista potholes and the donkey carts.
See – it’s a piece of cake. Simply observe the motto: “All The News That’s Fit To Print” – and make sure you decide what’s ‘fit’!
Diplomats are paid to lie for their country – or so it is said. These days, when it comes to foreign policy, all of our elites seem prepared to lie for their country. Top policy-makers, politicos, pundits, and most certainly the MSM have become habitual liars who deceive through systematic misrepresentation– supposedly in the national interest. But what is that interest? In regard to Russia, the fearful emotions stem from the uncritical sense that this is the same menacing enemy we remember from in the last movie.
As to China, there exists the deeper dread that the Chinese will puncture the keystone American myth that we are destiny’s child fated to be Number One forever. Then there is the Greater Middle East where for 18 years we have sought revenge for 9/11 against a host of menaces, real or imagined. All that is explainable, if not admirable. At least, there is a discernible reason for the uniform readiness to accept whatever fable our rulers spin for us – to live in a fairytale world of untruths, whether dispensed and repeated wittingly or not.
But Venezuela? Chavez/Maduro – who never have done Americans any harm other than calling us names at the UN, who are reliable suppliers of their abundant oil? Who won genuine elections certified by the Carter Center and others; who greatly improved the lot of millions of their poorer citizens exploited by “our guys” for centuries; who threaten no legitimate American interests; who tolerate a violent opposition who plot to overthrow them in full view; who turned the other cheek when we instigated a failed military takeover in 2004. Their alleged mortal sin is that they at times have deviated from the straight path of republican democracy. Compared to whom, though? Who are those paragons of virtue we vaunt? Honduras – where we helped overthrow a legitimate President to install our favorite who turned into the world’s murder capital? Guatemala? Panama?, Paraguay?, Bolsonaro’s Brazil?, Saudi Arabia whose homicidal war against its political foes in neighboring Yemen we participate in (and whose chainsaw approach to opponents pales compared to Leopardo Lopez’s house arrest)? Our Yemeni puppet, Mansur Hadi , whose nominal rule is propped up by the Saudis and the local al-Qaeda franchise? Bahrain? The United Arab Emirates? Israel? Egypt? Jordan? Libya where our guy in Tripoli keeps his fingerhold on down town Tripoli thanks only to the protection of jihadist militias? Turkey? Ankara’s statelet in Idlib, Syria which, despite being run by al-Qaeda and friends, we vowed to defend even at the risk of war with Russia? Orban’s Hungary? Ukraine? Autocratic Poland? Tajikistan? Mauretania – the last outpost of slavery (except for the Gulf where South Asian manual workers are treated as helots by our friends and allies). The genocidal rulers of Mynamar?
Let’s be entirely honest and look at ourselves, too. Has Venezuela invaded sovereign countries on a false pretext and with no legal authority, creating a vast human tragedy in its wake? Has Venezuela’s government proclaimed its right to murder its citizens anywhere in the world without due process? Has it snatched foreign nationals off the streets of European cities and set them to be tortured in black sites from Poland, to Jordan, to Thailand- and then dumped their broken bodies by the roadside in Albania? By objective standards of public ethics, is Venezuela’s Minister of Justice more of an enemy to the rule of law than William Barr? Are the Supreme Court justices in Caracas less honorable than Bret Kavanaugh?
Has Venezuela’s foreign minister stated publicly his belief that God placed Maduro in the Presidential Palace to protect the Palestinians from Joshua’s Israelites? Has Venezuela demanded the extradition of an American journalist resident in Australia on trumped up charges of spying and is prepared to railroad him into solitary confinement for life somewhere in the Orinoco jungle? Has the Venezuelan government violated the most elementary standards of ethical conduct by kidnapping thousands of young children (at its border and/or within the country), strewn them around the country with no records of their placement, and pushed a large fraction into the greedy hands of abusive combines among whom are human traffickers? Has Caracas spent hundreds of millions arming al-Qaeda in Syria, providing air support for Daesh around Deir ez-Zor or facilitating the latter’s oil commerce?
One further charge against the Maduro government is that it has mismanaged the national oil company. I do not know whether there is any truth to this allegation; anyway, why should that be any of our business? It only might have affected Venezuelans. By contrast the United States’ mismanagement of its financial industry brought the entire world to the brink of economic collapse. The persons to blame were all native born Americans: Clinton, Rubin, Summers, Greenspan, Bernanke, Paulson, Blankfein, Dimon, Mnuchin. Isn’t the case for their mortal sins dictating intervention with the aim of regime change far more compelling?
Don’t bite your tongue waiting for the MSM, the moribund Mass Ave think thanks, or our brave politicos to ask these questions – much less provide answers. We no longer are capable of doing that sort of thing.
America’s entire political class, its foreign policy community in particular, agrees that Maduro ‘has to go.’ Just as Assad ‘had to go’, Gaddafi ‘had to go,’ and before them Saddam ‘had to go.’ With the Ayatollahs high on the to-do list. The only debate is on the method. Tactics are discussed endlessly on op ed pages, on the talk shows, on think tank row without any reference to why he ‘must go’ – with what implications. It’s little different from the agitated post-game yapping about an NBA play-off game: why did team ‘X’ fail to execute their pick-and-roll as planned, why this match-up rather than that, what adjustments will the coach make before the next game.
Not one or these officials or expert commentators considers the question: what will the world look like if every state modelled its behavior on the United States? We already see the emulation of Donald Trump by autocrats and neo-Fascists everywhere. Washington is the political fashion leader par excellence.
It is especially dispiriting to see respected scholars who are long-time critics of America’s misadventures abroad join the chorus.
What are the roots of this arrogance, this conceit, that America has the power, the right – indeed, the duty – to decide who rules in other countries? The right to make these judgments based on its own parochial interests and hypocritical standards? Some of the elements that compound this perverted mindset are identifiable: devout American exceptionalism; the corrupting effects of overweening power; the unholy coupling of American idealism with American ultra-realism whose bastard offspring shape our thinking about foreign relations. Then there is the strategic plan to turn all of Latin America into a safe playground for predatory financial capitalism.
We have been down this road before, of course – in 1848, in 1898*, in policing the Caribbean, globally during the Cold War. There is an important difference, though. Cold War coups at least had the strategic rationale of the global contest with Soviet-led Communism. There is no counterpart today, except for the contrived “war on terror” in the Islamic world. The Mexican land grab and the war on Spain were straightforward wars of conquest – energized by the adrenalin flow of a young country feeling its oats. In each of those instances, there was fierce domestic opposition – in the former instance, led by Congressman Abraham Lincoln. Today, by comparison, there is virtually no opposition to our intervention in Venezuela or most of the other places where we have arrogated to ourselves the role of king-maker.
That reality points to two disturbing truths. One, the American people have become much more prone to group think and group feel. If they don’t respect themselves enough to question the b.s. doled out to them, they will not be respected by their leaders. Two, the absence of debate means that the attitudes that animate/enable an extreme ego-centric foreign policy will become even more deeply entrenched.
- For anyone interested in what Filippinos were experiencing before Admiral Dewey and the marines arrived to ‘liberate’ them, see the excellent Spanish film 1898 which caused quite a stir in Spain for being ‘ too soft’ on the native rebels.