Nel's New Day

January 26, 2019

Venezuela: Is DDT Planning for 2020?

Following a long history of supporting Latin American coups by right-wing military leaders who destroy democratic process and law, the United States has involved itself in the recent Venezuelan presidency. VP Mike Pence declared that Venezuelan Nicolás Maduro, elected on May 20, 2018, is a “dictator with no legitimate claim to power [who] never won the presidency in a free and fair election.” The night before his announcement, Pence called Juan Guaidó to pledge U.S. support for him “if he seized the reins of government from [elected President] Nicolas Maduro by invoking a clause in the South American country’s constitution” after the attempted coup had been planned for several weeks. Over 70 academics and experts signed an open letter demanding that the U.S. “cease encouraging violence by pushing for violent, extralegal regime change.” Behind the push to oust Maduro are national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) along with the right-wing governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia. DDT got more support from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

DDT says that “all options are on the table,” including “strong” ones, insinuating military action. Eighteen months ago, DDT wanted to “just simply invade” Venezuela, a suggestion that “stunned” then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Explanations about how DDT’s suggestion could lose support from Latin American governments to keep Venezuela from a dictatorship failed to persuade DDT, who pointed out successful invasions of Panama and Grenada. He brought his idea of his military overthrow with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in August 2017 and a month later with other Latin American leaders. Now he has supporters for a coup from people like his new Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

As the U.S. has done in other countries, it declares disliked government illegitimate and dictatorial and tries to empower opposition groups it determines favorable. Thomas Carothers, director of the Carnegie Endowment Democracy and Rule of Law program, is the foremost academic on Washington’s democracy promotion efforts. In his research he concludes:

“Where democracy appears to fit in well with U.S. security and economic interest, the United States promotes democracy. Where democracy clashes with other significant interests, it is downplayed or even ignored.”

In 2009, the U.S. supported a military coup in Honduras deposing the elected president to keep access to the U.S. military base in the country and support U.S. business interests in Honduras. When the pro-business government winning the elections privatized Honduran natural resources, the U.S. recognized the election as “generally free and fair.” In 2013, the U.S.-supported Honduran president lifted the constitutional ban on re-election and then won after he stopped publishing the vote count. The U.S. accepted the election despite protests from 20 Latin American countries in the OAS and 28 in the European Union. Honduran authorities used violence to silence the protesting Hondurans, the U.S. gave Honduras millions in foreign aid, and DDT is facing thousands of Honduran asylum seekers at the U.S. border.

In Venezuela, U.S. officials called Maduro’s government convening of a National Constituent Assembly a “sham” and “another step toward dictatorship.” The Assembly is an elected body able to amend the Venezuelan constitution outside the legislature—much as conservatives have called for in the United States. Then the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela won 18 out of 23 races, as the Democratic United Roundtable had predicted, and the U.S. “condemned the lack of free and fair elections” and vowed harsh reprisals “as long as the Maduro regime conducts itself as an authoritarian dictatorship.” Only one governor’s race was in question, and the rest of them were accepted by most opposition parties.

The U.S. charged that the Constituent Assembly dissolved the opposition-controlled congressional branch, but the legislative branch still exists. It cannot perform its function unless it answers charges of wrongdoing from the Supreme Court when the opposition parties disobeyed a direct order. The opposition party was trying to get a supermajority used to unseat Maduro.

According to UN representative Alfred de Zayas, the U.S. is attempting an illegal coup much like the forerunner to the 2003 Iraq invasion. His concern is the U.S intention for creating a regime change in Venezuela, to “topple the government” that could result in a civil war. He described the media campaign in the U.S. that promotes the usual solution of violence to an economic crisis and humanitarian crisis of hunger and suffering. De Zayas reported seeing victims of brutality by Maduro’s opposition, depicted in the media as peaceful.

The U.S. has tried other coups in Venezuela, but the country is much worse off after the drop in oil prices and the recent election of right-wing governments in South America. Yet there is no legal justification for this coup: Guaidó’s party boycotted the election, and no one voted for him.

The U.S. will probably impose heavy sanctions on the country’s oil to increase hunger and suffering, especially with DDT’s newly appointed special envoy to Venezuela. Neocon hawk Elliott Abrams, part of Reagan’s Iran-Contra affair, will oversee policy toward Venezuela despite Abrams’ rejection as deputy secretary of State for criticizing DDT. As deputy national security adviser for George W. Bush, Abrams supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq and a failed military coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002. In 1991, Abrams pled guilty to withholding information from Congress about his secret efforts to aid the rebels but was pardoned by DDT’s AG appointment, Bill Barr. He also strongly disagreed with DDT’s claim that he wasn’t seeking regime change in North Korea.

DDT’s approach toward opposing Venezuela is unlike the other proclamations that he has made. He made no tweets about his position about Venezuela, and his claims to “make America first” never extolls democracy or human rights, and his closest allies are dictators—i.e., Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Roderigo Duterte, Saudi Arabia’s royalty, and Brazil. In order to send the U.S. military into Venezuela without congressional approval, however, requires that it be on a humanitarian basis.

One answer for DDT’s focus on Venezuela may come from his low ratings and desire to be re-elected. Just as Bush’s Iraq made him temporarily successful, so could military action in Venezuela, or so DDT might think. He would also believe that an attack against a weakened country surrounded by right-wing countries would be easier than an attack in the Middle East or Asia.

Every action DDT has taken since he was inaugurated—all of them in opposition to President Obama’s policies—has taken the United States farther from world leadership. DDT may see his control in Venezuela as a method of moving back into control.

Venezuela is oil-rich—and easier to take over than Middle Eastern countries.

DDT has used Venezuela as the poster child for the failure of socialism to batter the Democrats despite the fact that “socialism” and “democratic socialism” are highly different. He also objects to Venezuela’s alliance with Cuba, most likely the reason that he followed Rubio’s direction to depose Maduro.

Another reason for deposing an elected president might be his fear of losing his election in 2020. He might believe that success in Venezuela could set the example for using his sycophantic Senate to depose an elected president in favor of him.

Whatever the reason, Venezuela has many parallels with the United States. The man in the Oval Office may have been illegitimately elected, he is trying to erase freedom of the press and ignores the rest of the U.S. Constitution, and his administration suffers from massive corruption and the officials’ attempts to become even wealthier. Income inequality in the U.S. geometrically increases every day. DDT constantly lies to terrorize people into following him. Millions of people are marching against DDT’s policies, and he puts only cronies into the administration. Congress is no longer independent from the executive branch as the GOP Senate takes its directions from DDT, for example its refusal to reopen the government until DDT gave them permission. The U.S. does not suffer as much from the hunger and economic problems as Venezuela does, but DDT’s policies are creating economic problems—especially with the rapidly ballooning deficit caused by moving money to the wealthy. DDT and GOP policies will also increase hunger, poverty, and lack of healthcare.

Opposing Maduro could create problems for DDT because of the support for Maduro from most countries, including Russia, China, and Turkey. If DDT caves in to Putin after setting up Venezuela for civil war, Guaidó could lose, and DDT is not known for keeping his promises. Thus far, the only dedication that DDT exhibits is to “wall,” and even that project has evolved during the past three years depending on its lack of popularity. Without DDT’s interference, Venezuela might find its own way from Maduro, but DDT will probably not give the country a chance to work out their own problems if his interference benefits DDT.

September 10, 2013

Still No Evidence to Attack Syria

President Obama delivered his pro-forma speech promoting war tonight if Russia can’t arrange a deal with Bashar Assad to turn over chemical weapons. The speech was well-delivered but highly misleading with unsupported statements.

The president’s statement that “everyone knows” that Assad used chemical weapons is wrong. The rebels and Israel told Secretary of State John Kerry that was true, and he appears to have believed the people who want the U.S. to attack in their benefit.

The president’s statement that over 1,000 people were killed with sarin is wrong. The opposition has identified only 678 people who died—a long way from the 1,400+ originally given, and no proof thus far exists that they died from sarin. Even Kerry used the term “signature” of sarin which could be from chemicals in pesticide.

The president’s statement that the U.S. would solve the whole problem by just sending in drones is wrong. He cannot be sure that it won’t continue, and the drones will continue to kill innocent people. The only difference in the deaths is that the U.S. will be killing people in Syria if this country decides to attack.

There is no proof that Assad used chemical weapons. Even White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough admitted on his whirlwind tour of interviews last Sunday that there is no concrete evidence Assad was responsible for the chemical attacks. He said, “The common-sense test says he is responsible for this.” A German newspaper reported that Assad had denied Syrian military permission to use chemical weapons for almost five months. According to Bild am Sonntag, this intelligence came from phone calls intercepted by a German BND-operated surveillance ship off the Syrian coast,

The United States is attack-happy. The last five presidents have ordered 20 different military actions against other countries, many of them condemned by the U.N.:

  • Ronald Reagan: Lebanon, Grenada, and Libya
  • George H. W. Bush: Panama, Iraq, and Somalia
  • Bill Clinton: Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq (again), and Kosovo
  • *George W. Bush: Afghanistan and Iraq
  • *Barack Obama: Libya
  • *These don’t include the deadly drone strikes killing people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen

If Sen. John “Bomb Bomb Iran” McCain (R-AZ) had his way, we would have attacked far more countries. His past attitudes fit with his declaration, in between playing poker on his iPhone during a Senate hearing, that he won’t support anything less than an extensive aerial assault. Even after he heard about the possibility of Syria giving up chemical weapons, he stressed an alternative should be highly punitive against the country.

McCain wants to attack

This map shows where McCain wants to escalate international conflicts, asking for airstrikes, ground war for regime change, open military confrontation, unspecified aggression, and a new Cold War in dealing with Russia. The chart below is from a Mother Jones article that has other great graphics.

Mccain chartOn the rational side is Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who has asked Congress to reject warmongering. In an interview on Democracy Now!’s September 5 broadcast, Grayson directed at Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about the media report “that the administration has mischaracterized post-attack Syrian military communications and that these communications actually express surprise about the attack.” Grayson asked for the transcripts confirming the existence of an attack. Hagel didn’t seem to be aware of the media reports and then covered by saying that the transcripts were probably classified.

Grayson asked Secretary of State John Kerry about reports that members of the Syrian opposition had said that they didn’t want an attack. Kerry said he hadn’t heard of that. Grayson continued:

“Let’s talk about what our responsibilities are not. Our responsibilities are not to ignore the United Nations. Our responsibilities are not to ignore NATO or the Arab League. Our responsibility is not to ignore the international court of The Hague. Our responsibility is not to make vague remarks about red lines and to follow them up with equally vague remarks about violating international norms, which is a cover for saying that they have—that the Syrians have not violated international laws. I’m very disturbed by this general idea, this notion, that every time we see something bad in the world, we should bomb it….

There is substantial evidence right now, which the Russians have chosen to actually present to the United Nations, unlike the United States at this point, of the rebels using poison gas. Are we going to bomb both sides?”

Grayson also said that no member of Congress has seen the underlying document to the evidence. They have merely received a four-page unclassified document and, in “the bowels of the congressional facility here,” a 12-page classified document citing 300 intelligence reports that have not been released to anyone in Congress. As Grayson wrote in an op-ed published in the New York Times, “The first enumerates only the evidence in favor of an attack. I’m not allowed to tell you what’s in the classified summary, but you can draw your own conclusion.” He said he asked the House Intelligence Committee staff whether there was any other documentation available, classified or unclassified. Their answer was “no.”

According to Grayson, the administration expects members of Congress to support its play to attack Syria without any evidence. He compared this problem to his experience with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who made every relevant classified e-mail, cable, and intelligence report about the Benghazi attack to every member of Congress. In refusing to allow legislators access to Syrian underlying data, members of Congress cannot possibly independently judge the veracity of the material.

Grayson also pointed out that the House, is failing in dealing with nation’s business:

“We are three weeks away from the government shutting down. We are five weeks away from the government running out of money. And we’ve already spent two weeks engaged in a subject where almost everyone feels it’s simply not our responsibility. I said on MSNBC recently that the entire U.S. government, both Democratic and Republican, seems to be suffering from a very bad case of attention deficit disorder. We’re not showing any ability to focus on the things that actually matter in the lives of our constituents. And it’s not getting better; it’s getting worse….

“We have 20 million people in this country who are looking for full-time work. We have almost 50 million people in this country who rely upon the government to feed them. We have almost 40 million people in this country who can’t see a doctor when they’re sick. That’s what actually matters in the lives of Americans.”

About 70,000 people have been killed by the Mexican drug cartels in the past seven years. Over 100,000 people were killed in Syria during the past year. In the past decade, 400,000 people were killed in Darfur. Over 1,000 innocent Bangladesh garment workers were killed in just one accident, but Wal-mart won’t do anything about factory conditions. Almost 400 women have been killed just in Ciudad Juarez in the past 20 years. In 1994 almost 1 million people were killed in Rwanda. Tens of thousands of people in the United States died each year because they lack health insurance, the benefit that the House will be voting to take away from them for the 41st time this coming week. Why aren’t these people as important as the 678 people who could cause another world war?

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker may have said it best: “If your mind has wandered to the playground, where little boys get in fights over taunts and fragile pride, welcome to the sandbox. What say we all brush off our britches and think this one through? … The measure of one’s credibility … is also whether a nation is willing to be wise.”

September 4, 2013

Attacking Syria, A Very Bad Idea

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:46 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Congress took its first step toward military action today when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 to pass the resolution giving the president limited authority to use force against Syria. Three Republicans voted for the resolution—Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ), and John McCain (AZ). Evidently McCain spent enough time from playing poker on his smart phone to cast a vote.  Two Democrats, Chris Murphy (CT) and Tom Udall (NM) voted against it and Ed Markey (MA) voted present. The White House assumes that the full Senate will vote next week, followed by the House the week after.

Speaking at a House committee hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry argued that the U.S. had to strike to stop extremist groups fighting against the Syrian government from becoming stronger. If the U.S. doesn’t punish the Assad government, Kerry said, Arabs will provide arms and financing to the rebels. “We will have created more extremism and a greater problem down the road.”

The politicians trying to push the country toward military action keep referring to the videos of the dead people and worrying about the poor children. Children have died in Africa and Asia—even in the United States—but these legislators demonstrate no concern for anyone in those areas. The only area of concern is the home of oil. The U.S. wants continued access the Middle East countries that pump the black goo into our nation. We gone into Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria in only 13 years to keep the fuel supply freely flowing.

President Obama admitted as much in an interview on PBS: “If we are clear about the free flow of energy throughout the region that affects the entire global economy…,” then one can understand the need for dealing with Syria. This greed goes back over 100 years when the UK took over oil in the Middle East to power their fleet; in that way the country emerged victorious in the first two world wars.

Congress and the president sat by as 100,000 Syrian people were killed and another 7 million displaced. With unsupported intelligence that under 1,500 people were maybe killed with chemicals, the administration and some legislators want to attack Syria.

The president has promised that his only intention is to “degrade” Syrian weapons through a few bombings. Any misplaced attack or counterattack would result in escalation into a huge military action causing trillions of dollars. We watched this happen just ten years ago.

No one is talking about the danger to civilians from trying to destroy chemical weapons through bombing that can release toxic chemicals. In addition to killing civilians, bombing can also create an environmental catastrophe. Under the best of conditions, at least 20 to 30 percent of poison would remain in lethal form after the use of explosives. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nonprofit Arms Control Association, said, “It’s a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease.” Some of the suspected storage sites are in or near major Syrian cities like Damascus, Homs and Hama, cities with a combined population of well over 2 million people, according to Kimball.

The president has promised “no boots on the ground,” but even if he changed his mind, sending in soldiers to seize and destroy chemicals would not ensure its destruction, according to Ralf Trapp, a French chemical weapons consultant and longtime expert in the field. Temperatures would have to be up to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Environmental damage and deaths from the attempted destruction would come from such factors as wind, heat, time of day, strength of the storage unit, and quantity and type of chemicals.

The only precedent for bombing a chemical weapons storehouse was in 1991 when the U.S. bombed a bunker in Iraq that may have contained 2,500 artillery rockets filled with sarin. Over 20 years later, no one can go near the site because of the contamination. “An entry into the bunker would expose personnel to explosive, chemical and physical hazards,” according to a 2012 report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

U.S. intelligence no longer knows who controls some of Syria’s chemical weapons supplies. “That’s a very real risk,” said Susannah Sirkin, international policy director for the Physicians for Human Rights, which has been monitoring weapons of mass destruction for more than two decades. “You would risk dispersing agents into the environment,” she said. “Given that sarin is not seen or smelled, that’s terror.”

Another issue is that by bombing storage sites that are near contested areas in the civil war, the chemical weapons can fall into others’ hands, including extremist rebels or pro-Assad militia, Kimball said. “What we’re looking at in Syria is an unprecedented situation.”

There are more reasons that military action in Syria is a very bad idea:

  • A US military attack would be illegal: The U.N. Charter prohibits using force against another country or intervening in an internal or domestic dispute in another country. The only exemptions are when a country is directly being attacked or the U.N. Security Council specifically authorizes force because all peaceful means have been exhausted. The U.S. has ratified the charter, meaning that attacking Syria is against U.S. law even if Congress does authorize such action.
  • There is no reason for military action in Syria: The president doesn’t want to change military balance or overthrow the regime, but attacks will cause great damage and death in Syria. In fact, the attacks could accelerate the regime’s missile strikes. Punitive airstrikes have rarely worked and often lead to greater retaliation. The more the U.S. terrorizes people in the Middle East, the greater the number of members in their terrorist organizations.
  • Military intervention would likely lead to greater death and destruction: Beyond the guaranteed civilian causalities, foreign military interventions increase the length of civil wars because both sides are less likely to compromise.
  • The U.S. doesn’t know that the Syrian government is responsible for any chemical attacks: In addition, the U.S. has tried to undermine control of weapons and weaken enforcement agencies such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Its director general, Brazilian diplomat Jose Bustani, oversaw the destruction of 2 million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world’s facilities, but the George W. Bush administration got him dismissed. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have threatened to withdraw the organization’s financial contributions, more than 20 percent of the organization’s budget. The U.S. has also continually opposed a U.N. ban on chemical weapons and other non-conventional weapons because it chooses to use weapons such as napalm and white phosphorous against civilians and supported Saddam Hussein when Iraq used chemical weapons to kill up to 5,000 Kurdish civilians. In fact, the U.S. even provided Iraq a key chemical for mustard gas.
  • A military attack likely would strengthen the Syrian regime: Attacks from outside always result in nationalism, particularly true in Syria because millions of them believe that they are the last country resisting both Islamist extremism and Western imperialism.
  • A military strike likely would reduce the chances of successfully ending the war: The only ways to reduce bloodshed is through negotiation or broad-based nonviolent pro-democracy struggle.
  • The U.S. has no support from the international community: Only France, which occupied Syria for much of the early twentieth century, has shown any interest in supporting U.S. attacks. Military action against Syria will increase the world’s anti-U.S. sentiment and decrease any diplomatic influence of the U.S.
  • People in the U.S. oppose military intervention in Syria. 

Attacking Syria is a lose-lose situation. If Assad stays in power, we have a bad relationship with the country because we tried to beat up on it. If the rebels take control, it could be even worse because they are anti-U.S., anti-Israel, and anti-Western while being pro-al Qaeda.

For days, pro-war politicians and pundits have puffed themselves up and said that we need a military action against Syria to maintain credibility. According to them, our reputation is on the line. That’s what they said about Vietnam. And Iraq.

After a summer hiatus, comedian Jon Stewart is back and answers the credibility question: “We have to bomb Syria because we are in 7th grade. The red-line that they crossed is actually a dick-measuring ribbon. The only way to keep America’s penis from looking small is to conduct a limited operation designed to fail. We’ll call it Operation Just the Tip.”  No one escaped Stewart’s scalpel, including the “parade of idiots,” the cabal from a decade ago who took the nation into the disaster called Iraq. You can check out this clip.

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