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Robertson's call to ice Chávez
Bush's favorite right-wing cleric

By Eric Ruder | September 2, 2005 | Page 2

AMERICA'S BEST-known right-wing cleric issued a call last week for a political assassination. But George Bush's White House didn't even issue a statement condemning televangelist Pat Robertson for suggesting that Washington murder Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," said Robertson on the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club show. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop...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 war 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."

A few days later, after Robertson's initial assertion that he had been "misinterpreted" was laughed off, he offered what the media reported was an "apology."

In truth, it was more of a justification for the initial death threat. Robertson compared Chávez to Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and then asked, "When faced with the threat of a comparable dictator in our own hemisphere, would it not be wiser to wage war against one person rather than finding ourselves down the road locked in a bitter struggle with a whole nation?"

Though the White House fell mute, newspaper editorials across the U.S. denounced Robertson. "Robertson's remarks should be taken for what they are: the ranting of a TV preacher who relies on controversy to keep the coffers full," wrote the Chicago Tribune.

"And remember that Robertson's moral indignation is selective," the Tribune continued. "In 2003--a busy year for him--he slammed the Bush administration's calls for Liberian President Charles Taylor to resign. A UN-backed tribunal had indicted Taylor for war crimes in Sierra Leone. You see, some of Robertson's financial investments happened to be tied up in Liberia. Ah, morality is in the details."

Robertson shouldn't be so quickly dismissed as an irrelevant crackpot. His show, the 700 Club, averages about 1 million viewers each day. The Christian Coalition, which Robertson founded, has some 2 million members and commands respect from politicians who regard it as an important base of support--politicians like George W. Bush.

And, of course, the U.S. has already sponsored a coup against Chávez--which might have led to Chávez's death if a popular uprising hadn't overturned the coup two days later and restored him to power.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed Robertson's threats against Hugo Chávez with the comment that assassination of state leaders is "illegal." "Our department doesn't do that kind of thing," Rumsfeld said. "It's against the law."

Actually, there is no federal statute outlawing assassinations--only a 1976 presidential order issued by Gerald Ford after embarrassing revelations that the U.S. had repeatedly attempted to murder Fidel Castro and was also involved in the 1963 murder of South Vietnamese President Ngo Binh Diem. Any president can overturn orders issued by their predecessors--and they don't even have to disclose it when they do.

The U.S. has a long record of assassinating--and trying to assassinate--other world leaders.

Before 1976, some of the most prominent figures assassinated by U.S. agents or their proxies included Iran's Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, Congo's Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in 1961, Cuban Revolution leader Che Guevara in 1967 and Chile's socialist Prime Minister Salvador Allende in 1970.

After 1976, the U.S. tried to assassinate Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi between 1980 and 1986, targeted Somali clan leader Mohamed Farah Aideed, and made multiple attempts on the life of Iraq's Saddam Hussein as well as his two sons.

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