Reminiscent of Ronald Reagan declaring Grenada a national security threat in 1983, President Obama has recently done the same with regard to Venezuela, citing deep concerns about human rights violations.
Mark Weisbrot draws the eery parallel to the Reagan administration as well, with regard to his statements on the threat posed by Nicaragua and his subsequent terrorist campaign attempting to overthrow the Sandinista government.
Like the White House today, he was trying to topple an elected government that Washington didn’t like. He was able to use paramilitary and terrorist violence as well as an embargo in a successful effort to destroy the Nicaraguan economy and ultimately overturn its government.
It does seem that labeling Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat,” in Obama’s words, is more of a matter of procedure, however, as the label is being used to justify imposing yet another round of sanctions on Venezuelan officials.
And this is coming in the midst of reports that an unspecified number of U.S. citizens have been arrested in Venezuela for charges of espionage, and for inciting opposition to the current government.
The notion that the United States is tampering with the Venezuelan government should not be dismissed lightly, as it is by State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki: We should remember that, in 2002, the U.S. backed a coup that briefly ousted then-President Hugo Chavez. Not to mention their far more ruthless and explicit actions, utterly contemptuous of democracy, in countries outside of Latin America. Here’s a list, if you’re interested.
With these facts in mind, as Dave Lindorff suggestively asks, “isn’t it the U.S. that is a national security threat to Venezuela?”
So, back to President Obama’s justification for labeling Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat”: This should be seriously questioned, if not immediately rejected.
As Glenn Greenwald points out in his excellent piece in The Intercept, human rights typically isn’t high on the government’s list of priorities when it comes to deciding which regimes to support and which to condemn; it has far more to do with following orders:
Supporting the most repressive regimes on the planet in order to suppress and control their populations is and long has been a staple of U.S. (and British) foreign policy.
‘Human rights’ is the weapon invoked by the U.S. Government and its loyal media to cynically demonize regimes that refuse to follow U.S. dictates, while far worse tyranny is steadfastly overlooked, or expressly cheered, when undertaken by compliant regimes, such as those in Riyadh and Cairo.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the accusations of human rights violations are valid (they may well be): would this mean that the U.S. government is justified in labeling them an “unusual and extraordinary” national security threat?
Does that mean they are justified in “considering tools that may be available that could better steer the Venezuelan government in the direction that they believe they should be headed” (in the words of White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest)?
Just imagine for a moment if Iran, for example, decided that they were “deeply concerned” about human rights violations taking place in the United States, and about their treatment of whistleblowers, so much so that the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, made a statement about considering “tools” to help “steer” the U.S. government in the right direction.
Pure, unprecedented hysteria would be the result, and war would be waged in a matter of hours.
And further, this “deep concern” on the part of Iran would be seen within the U.S. as blatant hypocrisy. Yet the U.S. government doesn’t see the hypocrisy (or simply doesn’t care, which is more likely) when they are the ones holding the stick.
No one within the government seems to be willing to question whether or not they have the right to “steer” the Venezuelan government, and the reason is pretty obvious: this right is tacitly assumed.
The U.S. government works on the assumption that it owns the world, and that it gets to decide who is a threat (now Venezuela), and who is an ally (the brutal regime in Saudi Arabia).
So what are the real reasons behind the sanctions and the ludicrous new label for the Venezuelan government, now that we can reasonably assume that human rights is not one of them? Could John Pilger be correct when he writes that, “What is inexcusable is Venezuela’s independence”?
Could he be right in observing that the U.S. must block independence, before the government commits the unthinkable crime of using its oil reserves and revenue “to improve the quality of ordinary lives” instead of using it to adhere to the interests of the global superpower?
Professions of noble intent, as Noam Chomsky never hesitates to point out, are expected, and therefore carry no meaning. Of course the U.S. is going to claim that their concerns are sincere and that they want the best for every country in the world.
But these rhetorical flourishes rarely match reality. The U.S. is the mafia boss, and the mafia boss cannot, and will not, tolerate the slightest disobedience.
I do not believe, of course, that the United States should commit to ignoring human rights issues in other countries. I do, however, believe that they should be consistent, and that they should look themselves in the mirror and work to address their own human rights issues, and those of the regimes which they directly support.
Until they decide to do so, every profession of concern for human rights will be seen by the international community for precisely what it is: Yet another case of shameless hypocrisy.
The closing lines of Glenn Greenwald’s article sum this up quite well:
If Obama and supporters want the government of Venezuela to be punished and/or toppled because they refuse to comply with U.S. dictates, they should at least be honest about their beliefs so that their true character can be seen. Pretending that any of this has to do with the U.S. Government’s anger over suppression of political opponents – when their closest allies are the world champions at that – should be too insulting of everyone’s intelligence to even be an option.