In early December 2001, I was searching through my files looking for a column topic. At the time I was writing on foreign policy for the San Francisco Examiner, one of the town’s two dailies. A back page clip I had filed and forgotten caught my attention: on November 7 the National Security Agency, the Pentagon, and the U.S. State Department had convened a two-day meeting on U.S. policy toward Venezuela. My first thought was, “Uh, oh.”
I knew something about those kinds of meetings. There was one in 1953 just before the CIA and British intelligence engineered the coup in Iran that put the despicable Shah into power. Same thing for the 1963 coup in South Vietnam and the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende in Chile.
Chavez had reaped the ire of the Bush administration when, during a speech condemning the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, he questioned whether bombing Afghanistan in retaliation was a good idea. Chavez called it “fighting terrorism with terrorism”—not a savvy choice of words, but in retrospect, spot on. The invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent Iraq War have visited widespread terror on the populations of both countries and proved utterly disastrous for the United States. Upwards of a million Iraqis died as a direct and indirect effect of the war, and 5 million were turned into refugees. And the bloodshed is far from over. Much the same—albeit on a smaller scale—is happening to the Afghans.
Would that we had paid Chavez some attention.
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Chavez: Washington Nemesis,
Latin American Hero
You could almost hear the sigh of relief coming out of Washington at the news of Hugo Chavez’s death on March 5.
President Obama issued a brief statement that failed even to offer condolences, forcing a senior State Department official to patch over the evident callousness and breach of diplomacy by offering his personal condolences the following day.
Within moments of Chavez’s death, commercial media and mouthpieces for the U.S. government were verbally dancing on his grave and predicting the imminent demise of Chavismo—Chavez’s political legacy in Venezuela and abroad.
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