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WHAT WE THINK
A bipartisan slander campaign against Hugo Chávez for...
Speaking truth to U.S. power

September 29, 2006 | Page 3

U.S. POLITICAL leaders and the mainstream media alternated between denouncing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez as a dangerous fanatic and making fun of him for calling George Bush the "devil."

But for the growing opposition to U.S. imperialism around the globe--including among those in the U.S. who want a real challenge to the Bush agenda--Chávez's address to the UN General Assembly spoke for them.

The speech (see CounterPunch.org for a full transcript) was a breath of fresh air amid the hypocrisy, lies and hot air that dominate the mainstream "debate" about U.S. foreign policy.

"The hegemonic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very survival of the human species," Chávez began. "We continue to warn you about this danger, and we appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our heads."

He quoted Bush's claim to be promoting democracy, but described this as a "false democracy of elites...imposed by weapons and bombs."

Hugo's required reading list

AFTER HUGO Chávez held it up and recommended it in his UN speech, Noam Chomsky's book Hegemony and Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance shot to the top of the Amazon.com bestseller's list.

In any serious discussion of world politics, Chomsky deserves this central place. But he has been effectively shut out of the U.S. media.

Chomsky's many books and articles over nearly half a century have meticulously documented the crimes of U.S. imperialism and its allies around the world--chief among them, the Israeli government--as well as the distortions and myths propagated by the U.S. media.

Anyone who reads them will have their eyes opened to a sordid history of oppression and repression that is kept hidden from the U.S. public.

One magazine that regularly publishes articles by and interviews with Chomsky is the International Socialist Review. Check out the ISR Web site to see which can be read online, or for information on subscribing.

There are plenty of great books by Chomsky to choose from. Hegemony and Survival is one of his most recent, surveying the long record of U.S. imperialist intervention from Cuba and Nicaragua to the Middle East and Far East.

Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World is a collection of interviews (some published first in the ISR) with Chomsky conducted by David Barsamian. Chomsky's Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians definitively documents the lies of the Israeli state and its U.S. sponsor.

In Failed States: The Abuse of Power and The Assault on Democracy, Chomsky shows how the U.S. government is the most lawless and aggressive in the world, and Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, coauthored with Edward Herman, is a classic indictment of the corporate media.

 

Chávez skewered the Bush administration for not only supporting several anti-democratic coup attempts against him, but harboring Luis Posada Carriles, an admitted terrorist wanted by Venezuela for masterminding the midair bombing of a Cuban commercial airliner 30 years ago this month, killing 73 people. The U.S. refuses to extradite Posada to Venezuela, and a federal judge may even set him free from federal detention, where he has been held for entering the U.S. illegally.

"The imperialists see extremists everywhere," Chávez said. "It's not that we are extremists. It's that the world is waking up. It's waking up all over. And people are standing up.

"I have the feeling, dear world dictator, that you are going to live the rest of your days as a nightmare because the rest of us are standing up--all those who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations. Yes, you can call us extremists, but we are rising up against the empire, against the model of domination."

Chávez's searing criticism was bound to draw angry denunciations from the Republican cheerleaders for war. But it was telling that the most ferocious condemnations came from Democrats--and not Bush-clone Democrats like Joe Lieberman, but liberal icons like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Charles Rangel.

"Hugo Chávez fancies himself a modern day Simon Bolivar, but all he is is an everyday thug," Pelosi declared. Rangel told a press conference: "You do not come into my country, my congressional district, and you do not condemn my president. If there is any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans, whether they voted for him or not."

Rangel, of course, has never spoken out about Bush's insults and abuse directed at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who Bush called a "pygmy"--or Chávez himself, for that matter. Apparently, the restrictions on criticizing world leaders are restricted to the one Rangel calls "my president."

The bipartisan slander campaign against Chávez highlights how much the U.S. political establishment has come to fear the developing left-wing alternative in Latin America. The Bush administration's revised National Security Strategy document, released in March, calls Chávez "a demagogue awash in oil money who is undermining democracy and seeking to destabilize the region."

For "destabilize the region," the appropriate translation is "challenge U.S. power." Chávez has survived two U.S.-backed coup attempts and continuing threats because he has the mass support of Venezuelans, whose mobilization in the streets was necessary to reverse the first attempt to topple him. His government has used the country's growing oil wealth to fund programs for health, economic development and literacy that serve millions.

Socialists in Venezuela are critical of Chávez for attempting to bridge the free market with ideas about "socialism of the 21st century." But Chávez is clearly setting an example of defiance--one with roots in a popular rejection of U.S. power and neoliberal policies throughout almost all of what U.S. politicians call "America's backyard."

Elsewhere, the deepening problems facing the U.S. imperialist project underline the accuracy of Chávez's critique. The U.S. attempt to impose its will on the Middle East in the guise of the "war on terror" is sparking greater and greater opposition.

This fact was emphasized at the end of September by revelations that the secret National Intelligence Estimate document written by U.S. spy agencies concludes that the invasion of Iraq "has made the overall terrorism problem worse," in the words of one U.S. official.

Last week, the head of U.S. Central Command Gen. John Abizaid said that White House hints of troop withdrawals by the end of the year were inaccurate, and that the Pentagon would need to keep 140,000 troops on the ground until at least next spring.

The U.S. is shifting troop deployments into the capital of Baghdad itself and taking a more aggressive posture toward militant Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, but the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite political leader installed in office at the U.S.'s insistence earlier this year, is showing increasing signs of independence. Meanwhile, the U.S. drive to war against Iran has run into opposition both from allies in Western Europe and rivals like China and Russia.

Yet in the face of all this, Bush himself has no answers but to repeat the same tired lies that the war on Iraq was essential in "combating terrorism"--and hope that scapegoating and racist rants about "Islamofascism" will be enough for Republicans to maintain control of Congress in the November elections.

As the official opposition in Washington, the Democrats ought to be mopping up. But the Democratic leadership is thoroughly committed to its me-too strategy of trying to talk tougher than Republicans on national security issues--limiting its critique of the Bush war on Iraq to tactics rather than substance.

In his UN speech, Chávez rightly pointed out that "if we walk around New York, Washington, San Diego, any city" and ask people if they want peace, "they'll say yes. But the government of the United States doesn't want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war."

The growing sentiment against the war on Iraq shows the potential for an antiwar movement in the U.S. But that movement will have to reject the two parties of war that dominate the Washington political system--and look to the spreading resistance to the U.S. war machine around the globe that Chávez gave voice to.

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