Seriously? Venezuela is a “national security threat”?
That is what President Obama has reportedly declared today in a new executive order.
And how exactly is poor Venezuela, a nation of 29 million, with a small military upon which it spends just 1% of GDP, one of the lowest rates in the world (the US spends 4.5% of GDP on its own bloated military), a threat to the US?
Well, according to the new executive order, some of Venezuela’s leading officials have “criminalized political dissent” and are corrupt. That’s about it. There’s nothing in there about Venezuela threatening military action against the US, or promoting terrorism, or threatening Americans.
But hold on. I remember reading in documents obtained through Freedom of Information petitions by the Partnership for Civil Justice from the FBI, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security, that back in the fall of 2011, during the Occupy movement that swept the nation, the US national security apparatus, including the NSA and the 72 so-called Fusion Centers that had been set up to link federal, state and local intelligence organizations in all major US cities devoted most of its domestic intelligence and police resources to spying on, infiltrating, and ultimately crushing a purely peaceful wave of political protest against the rampant corruption of the political class and the banking industry.
And what about the National Security Agency, which Edward Snowden and others have exposed as being focused, in its unprecedented monitoring of all possible forms of communication among the American people, not as claimed on preventing terrorism but on simply gathering dossiers on millions of law-abiding citizens?
What about the FBI and other national intelligence agencies, which have been labeling anti-war activists, environmental activists and even animal rights activists (and this news site!) as “terrorists” in their files?
Looked at objectively, isn’t it the US that is a national security threat to Venezuela?
After all, there is no indication that the government of Nicolás Maduro Moros in Caracas, or the Chavez government before it, both popularly elected, have ever sought to foment violence in the US, or to subvert a US election. But there is plenty of evidence that the US has sought to undermine elections in Venezuela. Back in 2002, for example, there was a brief, failed military coup attempt, which went so far as to arrest and detain Hugo Chavez, the country’s elected president. During the short period he was detained, then US President George W. Bush’s administration offered a promise of quick recognition of the coup plotters, hailing them as saviors of Venezuelan democracy. But before Washington could further embarrass itself by formally recognizing this subversion of yet another Latin American democracy, a mass uprising of Venezuelans and of the broad ranks of the country’s military led to Chavez’s release from captivity and his triumphant return to the presidential palace. The coup attempt failed abysmally.
More recently, the US, through its Congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy (sic), and USAID (a known State Department and CIA front operation), helped fund and foment political unrest last year and appears to have encouraged a failed coup attempt last month, which Venezuelan police disrupted, leading to the arrest of a number of right-wing civilian and retired military leaders as well as a few Americans.
President Obama’s latest attack on Venezuela, in the form of an executive order declaring that country to be a “national security threat” is nothing but a formality needed in order for the US to impose economic sanctions. And those as yet unspecified sanctions, let’s be clear, constitute very real “threats to national security” against Venezuela.
This is just the latest example of how the US, which once at least felt the need to act as if it were a part of the world family of nations, now just brazenly and unapologetically interferes in other nations at will, economically, militarily, and politically. Back in the days of the Cold War and earlier, the US least pretended to adhere to international norms by working through the United Nations to win international support for its actions. At least back then it felt the need to hide its more depraved acts of subversion and aggression, whether by creating false flag incidents like the alleged but fictional attack by North Vietnamese gunboats in 1964 on a US destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin to justify a war against Vietnam, or by orchestrating a coup behind the scenes, as in the case of the military overthrow and murder of Chile’s elected President Salvator Allende Gossens in 1973.
Now it just openly works to overthrow elected governments, as it did in Ukraine last year. Now it openly works to stoke chaos and unrest, as again it is doing now in Ukraine, brazenly undermining the Minsk cease-fire negotiated between the nations of Europe and Russia and the two sides battling in eastern Ukraine by unilaterally offering weapons and military advisors to Kiev’s military and encouraging Kiev’s fascist leaders to continue battling the separatist rebels in the Donbass region.
Where in years past, the US might subvert a government it didn’t like, such as the democratically elected Iranian government lead by Mohammad Mossadegh, now it openly finances, trains and arms Islamic fighters in Syria whom it hopes will topple the government of Syria. And it openly operates killer drones that terrorize many nations, and kill hundreds of innocents while attempting to rub out individuals that the US in its “wisdom” deems to be “terrorists.”
The real threat to national security in Venezuela and around the world today is the government in Washington. And the US is not just a threat to the security of the peoples of the world, whether in third-world nations, in Russia and China, or in the ostensible allied nations of Europe. It is a threat to the national security of the people of the United States too.
History has shown us again and again that repressive and anti-democratic tactics used abroad inevitably find their way home, where they are then turned against the people of the home country. We’ve seen this happening with the militarization of US police, who now operate in most US communities as if they were occupying troops in a foreign country, carrying military weapons, shooting to kill, breaking into homes in night raids and using brutal force to make the most minor of arrests, treating ordinary citizens as criminals who have no right to speak or to challenge how they or a family member or friend are being treated. We’ve seen it in the massive expansion of domestic spying, and we’ve seen it in the corruption of the courts, where judges in national security trials now deny defendants even the right to present a real defense to a jury, and where higher courts give the government permission to violate almost every Constitutionally guaranteed right in the name of “combatting terrorism” or defending “national security” interests.
And by the way, where does Obama get off claiming that Venezuela’s politicians are corrupt? Corruption is now so prevalent in Washington that it isn’t even hidden. It’s the new normal.
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).