Bush, Rev. Robertson and Chavez

We check manslaughter and isolated murders; but what of war and the much vaunted crime of slaughtering whole peoples?

Seneca, Epistles

Pat Robertson is the man whose website commends to the reader his booklets that describe Age-Defying Antioxidants, Age Defying Protein Pancakes and Age-Defying Protein Shakes the latter two having been described here recently. Given Mr. Robertson’s love of the Lord it seems curious that he would sell products that will delay the advent of that happy day when his followers meet the Lord, something that age-defying products presumably postpone. As curious as that may seem, it can’t hold a candle to his other activities. In addition to selling age-defying products, Mr. Robertson is a professional Christian who invokes the Lord’s aid in getting rid of those he dislikes.

Addressing the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy a few weeks ago he suggested that his followers use the following prayer: “Take control, Lord. We ask for additional vacancies on the court.” That prayer seemed relatively harmless because one assumes the Lord will exercise discretion in deciding whether to respond to the supplicant’s plea and distinguishes requests made by the nut case supplicant from the other kind. Nonetheless, it seems odd that a man of the apron (who when not hawking his foodstuffs is a man of the cloth) would be invoking the Lord in that way. It would be more seemly for him to enjoin his followers to pray that the pancake recipe sold on his website will always produce light and fluffy pancakes.

His call for a vacancy on the court pales by comparison to his dabbling in foreign policy in which he solicited an unidentified someone to commit murder. Speaking of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, on the 700 Club program on August 22, 2005, Mr. Robertson said: “We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another $200 billion to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.”

Responding to the reverend’s suggestion of murder, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said: “Our department doesn’t do that kind of thing. It’s against the law.” He’s right. That is why in all probability the U.S. had nothing to do with the assassination of South Vietnam President Ngo Binh Diem in 1963 and why tales of keystone cop attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro are nothing more than a figment of someone’s imagination. That does, of course, still leave us with Venezuela.

If not against the law, it was a violation of the charter of the Organization of American States for the United States to encourage those who wanted Mr. Chávez removed (not murdered) in 2002 prior to the expiration of his term by holding early elections. According to reports senior members of the Bush administration met repeatedly with Chávez opponents plotting his ouster in early 2002 and supported their efforts. According to one anonymous spokesman, the administration was sending subtle signals that it didn’t like Mr. Chávez. The disliked stemmed in part from the fact that he appeared to threaten the independence of Venezuela’s state owned oil company, the third-largest supplier of American oil. Press secretary Ari Fleischer said that the United States “is convinced that the only peaceful and politically viable path out of the crisis is through the holding of early elections.” (Under the Venezuelan Constitution an early election could not be held until August 2003.) Two days later, perhaps having read the constitution, the administration announced that it was not calling for early elections after all. Ari Fleischer said that: “We call for the will of the people to be heard through the provisions of the Constitution, in the manner that the Venezuelan people deem most appropriate.”

In April 2002 there was a coup that briefly ousted President Hugo Chávez. On the day of the ouster Mr. Fleischer said the ouster was Mr. Chávez’ own fault, he having provoked the crisis that led to his ouster. The State Department promised full cooperation with those who had sponsored the short-lived coup. Within two days Mr. Chávez was back as president. Mr. Fleischer expressed the hope that Mr. Chávez would respond by “governing in a fully democratic manner.” Then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice expressed the hope he’d be less “highhanded” in dealing with his opponents. Whether the administration thinks he has been less highhanded is unknown. Whether it does or does not, it’s unlikely Mr. Bush would follow Mr. Robertson’s advice. He has too much respect for international law. He would not have invaded Iraq had Iraq not had weapons of mass destruction. He would never follow the advice of a crazy Christian pancake maker that he sponsor murder-unless he thought he could get away with it.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu or through his website: http://hraos.com/





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