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War on Venezuela?

Mix a little socialism in with the oil and war may be unavoidable.

Thus, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, talking about Venezuela: “The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do.”

He goes on, demonstrating how we lie about war in the 21st century: “We’re trying to do everything we can to avoid violence. We have asked all the parties involved not to engage in that kind of activity. We’d prefer a peaceful transition of government there, where (President Nicolas) Maduro leaves and a new election is held. But the president has made clear, in the event that there comes a moment — and we’ll all have to make decisions about when that moment is, and the president will ultimately have to make that decision — he is prepared to do that, if that’s what’s required.”

With our trillion dollar military budget, threatening (and waging) war is pretty much the only thing we know how to do as a nation, and by “we” I mean the ones in control, publicly and/or secretly — the ones whose egos have expanded to the size of the nation, who mean themselves when they say “that’s what the United States will do.” There’s something about “becoming” a nation that allows you to value your so-called interests far more than you value life — a monstrous paradox to which the whole planet is hostage.

So we have oil-rich, socialist Venezuela on the verge of economic and social collapse, partly due to the corruption and incompetence of the Maduro government but very much helped along by the sanctions the United States has imposed on the country for the past two years, for the purpose of ousting Maduro and regaining political and corporate control over the defiant nation.

The sanctions are for the country’s own good, of course, according to Trump, who lamented on Fox (quoted on Democracy Now!): “It’s a terrible thing. People are starving. People are dying. There’s no food. There’s no water. It’s just a terrible situation. . . . And we’re doing everything we can do, short of, you know, the ultimate.”

Presumably “the ultimate” is war — military invasion — but sanctions are a form of war and they cause precisely the sort of harm Trump anguished over in his fake spew of empathy for the people of Venezuela.

According to a study by economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, published in April by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, the sanctions, having reduced the availability of food, medicine and other necessities of life, have so far caused an estimated 40,000 deaths, with many more likely to come.

“Venezuela’s economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela,” Sachs said. “But it is much more than that. American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela’s economy and thereby lead to regime change. It’s a fruitless, heartless, illegal and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.”

Too bad. U.S. interests are at stake here. And if sanctions don’t do the trick — which is to say, produce a cooperative leader, “the ultimate” may be necessary, whatever that may mean. Of course, the U.S. has pursued the ultimate throughout the Middle East and Africa during the 21st century, virtually to no apparent benefit even to its stated interests or “mission,” which raises the possibility that the only one really in control here is war itself, and war’s silent, corporate beneficiaries.

But we interrupt these words for an important message. Maybe the (eventual) war in Venezuela could be privatized!

According to Reuters: “Erik Prince — the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump — has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela’s socialist president.”

Prince, brother of Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, was, as Reuters put it, “a pioneer in private military contracting during the Iraq war, when the U.S. government hired Blackwater primarily to provide security for State Department operations there.” Alas, Blackwater crashed and burned in 2007, when several of Prince’s mercenaries murdered 17 civilians in Baghdad, creating all sorts of bad publicity for his operation.

A lesser businessman might have given up, but not Prince, who has never stopped looking for ways to profit from national conflicts. His latest plan, for which he is traveling the world seeking funding and support, is to put 4,000 to 5,000 mercenaries at the disposal of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who will, according to the logic of war, need his own army in order to claim power.

The Reuters story adds, somewhat perplexingly: “One of Prince’s key arguments, one source said, is that Venezuela needs what Prince calls a ‘dynamic event’ to break the stalemate that has existed since January.”

This is essentially what Pompeo was saying: “But the president has made clear, in the event that there comes a moment . . .”

War needs a trigger, something that ignites public support. Or maybe that’s putting it too dramatically. War needs an excuse.

Here’s one possibility, as described by Medea Benjamin, who writes about the struggle for control over the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C., which was evacuated by its diplomats after the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with the Maduro government: “Determined to avoid another war, a group of U.S. peace activists sought and received permission from the legitimate Venezuelan government to form an Embassy Protection Collective. Since April 15, a group has been living in the Embassy, sleeping on couches and floors, while outside supporters have been providing supplies and joining them for meals and educational events.”

However, as of May 1, Guiado supporters — aided by the Secret Service, whose job is to protect the embassies — have surrounded the building and prevented food and medical supplies from reaching those inside, in an effort to occupy the embassy themselves.

“The inflammatory act of handing over the Venezuelan Embassy to Guiado supporters would also have the potential to dramatically escalate the conflict between the United States and Venezuela,” Benjamin writes. “If the Trump administration were to allow this, the Maduro government would likely reciprocate by taking over the U.S. embassy. This could be just what warhawks John Bolton and Elliot Abrams are looking for as a justification for a U.S. military intervention.”

And war would find another excuse to perpetuate itself.

More articles by:

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

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