by Farooque Chowdhury
Posted at Monthly Review
Aug 14, 2017
The Empire’s unhappy mood with Venezuela is old news. It is now showing its teeth to the peoples of Latin America by threatening military intervention.
The mainstream media—e.g., the AP, CNN and Miami Herald—parroted the U.S. line in one of their latest dispatches. President Trump said on August 12, 2017 that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a military intervention in Venezuela in response to (in Empirespeak) the power grab by Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela. Trump declared that all options remain on the table including a potential military intervention. “We have many options for Venezuela and by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option. A military operation and military option is certainly something that we could pursue,” declared the U.S. president. “This [Venezuela] is our neighbor,” he added. “[W]e are all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away…. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.” Mr. Trump was speaking to reporters at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey. (See “Trump Says ‘Military Option’ Possibility in Venezuela,” NBC, August 11, 2017)
The White House later released a statement that said, “Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country.”
The U.S. president’s comment is an open threat to a sovereign Latin American country. The comments come just after of a series of sanctions were slapped on more than 24 Venezuelan public officials and political leaders (including Maduro); and just before U.S. vice president Mike Pence is set to embark on a six-day trip to the region later this week. His stops include Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama City.
This is how the U.S. responds to the Venezuelan people’s constitutional initiative—installing a Constituent Assembly—to restore peace in their country rocked by violent protest organized by the local bourgeoisie.
A dangerous sign
Confusion is one of the messages that the Empire now-a-days regularly conveys to the broader world. Venezuela is one of the latest examples.
General H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, owns a different opinion. Gen. McMaster cites resentment stirred in Latin America by the long U.S. history of military interventions in the region, and he doesn’t like people blaming the “Yankees”. The general passed the comment on tactics in an interview that aired last Saturday on MSNBC. McMaster told military intervention from any outside source was not a possibility.
Ted Lieu, an outspoken Democratic congressman denounced Trump’s comments. “Military force must be the last option, not the first. Provocative statements by @realDonaldTrump on North Korea and Venezuela are reckless”, said Rep. Ted Lieu.
Leon Panetta, former CIA director of the CIA and secretary of defense under Obama, stated “Considering the number of flash points we’re dealing with in a very dangerous world, the last thing we need is another flash point where we may possibly use military force.”
The veteran U.S. military leader added an interesting comment:
When you’re president of the United States, when you’re the commander and chief, this is not reality TV. This is a situation where you can’t just talk down to everybody in the world and expect them to do what you think is right. These are leaders in these countries. They worry about their countries. They worry about what’s going to happen. And they take the president of the United States literally. Words count. I just think that the president needs to understand, and the people around the president need to make clear, that when we are facing the kind of crisis we are facing now, this is not a time for loose talk.
News from war fronts is not encouraging for the Empire. It’s not an easy job to count the number of wars the Empire is currently waging. On only one, Ivan Eland writes in Newsweek on August 10, 2017:
In a recent meeting, President Trump correctly told his generals that they were ‘losing’ the war in Afghanistan…. President Trump has partially accomplished this first step by recognizing what has been obvious for years, but an even more enlightened conclusion would be that the war has been ‘lost.’ (“We Have Lost the War in Afghanistan. We Should Get Out Now”)
But, this is not the only conclusion.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, on August 10, 2017 unveiled his own strategy for the war-torn Afghanistan—a plan that provides U.S. military commanders with broader authority to pursue militant forces. McCain urged the Trump administration for months to submit to Congress a new Afghanistan strategy due to the worsening security situation in that country. Internal debates among the president’s chief advisors have delayed a White House strategy, according to U.S. officials. (Los Angeles Times, “McCain issues his own military strategy for Afghanistan war amid White House delay”)
Pulls from or pushes to different directions are evident in the incidents and pronouncements cited above.
The same contradiction exists with respect to Venezuela. A group of U.S. politicians prefer punitive measures against Venezuela while U.S. industry has a different opinion. A number of U.S. oil companies oppose a ban on petroleum imports from Venezuela, the third-largest supplier to the U.S. They have written two letters to Trump. A number of influential U.S. lawmakers have echoed the position of the oil companies, arguing the ban would hurt U.S. jobs and drive up gas costs. The oil companies have put billions of dollars in the refineries processing crude oil from Venezuela.
The situation is dangerous regardless of the side that prevails. Adventurism has the potential to raise its ugly head still further in this situation. Moreover, the Empire needs war. Its economy pushes it to a state of perpetual war around the globe.
The Bolivarian project
The Empire is frightened by the successes of the Bolivarian project in Venezuela, which has continued to overcome obstacle after obstacle imposed on it by the imperial system, surviving now for almost two decades in the face of coup attempts, sanctions, and nearly every kind of military and economic pressure—everything, in fact, short of direct military intervention. The newly elected Constituent Assembly is trying to consolidate people’s position on the map of Venezuelan politics within the existing reality. Its successful constitution through the recently concluded election is also haunting the Venezuelan bourgeoisie. The reactionary classes are being stalked by specter of Fidel. They are getting unnerved with their imagination: another Cuba in the Hemisphere. The reactionaries’ disparate political coalition has lost speed and appeal. Now, their only option is adventurism. Imperialist military intervention now appears the most lucrative business to them. This reality suggests taking Mr. Trump’s pronouncements expressed from the golf course—on a military option in Venezuela—seriously.
In this context, the Secretariat of Social Movements Towards ALBA—Brazil, and the Secretariat of the International People’s Assembly made an appeal on August 9, 2017 from Sao Paulo. The appeal, addressed to the Peoples’ Movements from Latin America and the World, calls for “Actions of Solidarity with Venezuela and against external interference.” The appeal to support Venezuela, addressed to social movements around the world, is partially reproduced below (with minor edits to improve readability). Download the PDF version.
Actions of Solidarity with Venezuela and against external interference
We are all following the gravity of Venezuela’s social and political crisis. We are following the degree of violence adopted by the rightist forces that have already caused the deaths of many people. There was the audacity to attack a barracks, trying to cause more victims, by civilians trained in Miami and Colombia, by right-wing forces.
Maduro’s government and the progressive forces of Venezuela sought in the Constituent Assembly a way to renegotiate the country’s social agreements, which showed broad support from the Venezuelan people…
Right-wing Deputies have publicly said that their tactic is to produce more violence, more chaos, with wide international media coverage, to provoke foreign intervention in the country. Regrettably, this tactic was also explained by the former Spanish president, Mr. Felipe Gonzalez.
Trump’s government, without any moral basis or legitimacy, is trying to influence Venezuela’s course by enacting sanctions…
The Brazilian coupist Government hastily called for a Mercosur meeting to suspend Venezuela’s rights. Soon an illegitimate government and with support of only 3% of the Brazilian population, dares to sanction the Venezuelan government, for lack of democracy!
In the face of all these consultations made in various movements in Brazil and Latin America, we [are issuing a] call.
ALL PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS OF BRAZIL, LATIN AMERICA AND THE WORLD TO EXPRESS unrestricted solidarity to Venezuelan people, for the government and the process of the constituent assembly, as the sovereign and legitimate right of the Venezuelan people to define the course of their country.
ORGANIZE ‘COMMITTEES FOR PEACE IN VENEZUELA’…in as many cities and countries as possible. The character of the committees is that they are Broad and Unitarian, with popular and political organizations, activists, artists, intellectuals, etc. The Committee can organize various types of solidarity actions.
ORGANIZE PUBLIC MANIFESTATIONS AGAINST THE INTERVENTION OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IN OTHER COUNTRIES: As denounced by Julian Assange, the Trump government wants to create a new Iraq in South America, we cannot be silent.
USE the Most VARIOUS FORMS OF MANIFESTATIONS/PROTESTS in sending this message to U.S. government and the people of the United States, through street actions, political acts, cultural acts and also communication actions in all possible vehicles.
WE PROPOSE TO OBSERVE an ‘INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH VENEZUELA’ ON AUGUST 22: Which we’ll make simultaneous actions in cities of the world, directing us to the embassies, consulates and companies of the U.S.A to deliver our letter(s) and to express our indignation with the actions practiced against the government and the Venezuelan People.
[ORGANIZE a] “PUBLIC LETTER FOR COLLECTION OF SIGNATURES: Send a letter to the government, parliamentarians and organizations of the United States. We count on the support of all to:
- Disseminate in your print media and on the web / social networks;
- Sign and Collect Additional Signatures through Popular Movements, Political Organizations, Parliamentarians, intellectuals, artists;
- Send Complete Names, Organization / Profession and Country of the subscribers until August 20, 2017 to the email: secretaria@ asambleadelospueblos.org
We count on the contribution of everyone in this endeavor that will require of us a lot of commitment and generosity to maximize the process of unitary construction centered on the defense of the Bolivarian Revolution, the Government of Nicolás Maduro and the new National Constituent Assembly installed in the country.
—APPEAL SIGNED BY
Joao Pedro Stédile, Operative Secretariat of People’s Movements Toward ALBA (Brazil);
Jaime Amorim, MST International Via Campesina; and
Paola Estrada, Secretariat of the International People’s Assembly
About Farooque Chowdhury
Farooque Chowdhury is a freelance writer based in Dhaka. His books in English include Micro Credit, Myth Manufactured (ed.), The Age of Crisis, and The Great Financial Crisis, What Next?: Interviews with John Bellamy Foster (ed.), Dhakha: Books (2012), 190 pp.