The Anti-Empire Report #114: Hugo Chávez
By William Blum
March 13, 2013 - williamblum.org
I once wrote about Chilean president Salvador Allende:
Washington knows no heresy in the Third World but genuine independence. In the case of Salvador Allende independence came clothed in an especially provocative costume – a Marxist constitutionally elected who continued to honor the constitution. This would not do. It shook the very foundation stones upon which the anti-communist tower is built: the doctrine, painstakingly cultivated for decades, that “communists” can take power only through force and deception, that they can retain that power only through terrorizing and brainwashing the population. There could be only one thing worse than a Marxist in power – an elected Marxist in power.
There was no one in the entire universe that those who own and run “United States, Inc.” wanted to see dead more than Hugo Chávez. He was worse than Allende. Worse than Fidel Castro. Worse than any world leader not in the American camp because he spoke out in the most forceful terms about US imperialism and its cruelty. Repeatedly. Constantly. Saying things that heads of state are not supposed to say. At the United Nations, on a shockingly personal level about George W. Bush. All over Latin America, as he organized the region into anti-US-Empire blocs.
Long-term readers of this report know that I’m not much of a knee-reflex conspiracy theorist. But when someone like Chávez dies at the young age of 58 I have to wonder about the circumstances. Unremitting cancer, intractable respiratory infections, massive heart attack, one after the other … It is well known that during the Cold War, the CIA worked diligently to develop substances that could kill without leaving a trace. I would like to see the Venezuelan government pursue every avenue of investigation in having an autopsy performed.
Back in December 2011, Chávez, already under treatment for cancer, wondered out loud: “Would it be so strange that they’ve invented the technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?” The Venezuelan president was speaking one day after Argentina’s leftist president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This was after three other prominent leftist Latin America leaders had been diagnosed with cancer: Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff; Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo; and the former Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
“Evo take care of yourself. Correa, be careful. We just don’t know,” Chávez said, referring to Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, both leading leftists.
Chávez said he had received words of warning from Fidel Castro, himself the target of hundreds of failed and often bizarre CIA assassination plots. “Fidel always told me: ‘Chávez take care. These people have developed technology. You are very careless. Take care what you eat, what they give you to eat … a little needle and they inject you with I don’t know what.” 1
When Vice President Nicolas Maduro suggested possible American involvement in Chávez’s death, the US State Department called the allegation absurd. 2
Several progressive US organizations have filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA, asking for “any information regarding or plans to poison or otherwise assassinate the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who has just died.”
I personally believe that Hugo Chávez was murdered by the United States. If his illness and death were NOT induced, the CIA – which has attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders, many successfully 3 – was not doing its job.
When Fidel Castro became ill several years ago, the American mainstream media was unrelenting in its conjecture about whether the Cuban socialist system could survive his death. The same speculation exists now in regard to Venezuela. The Yankee mind can’t believe that large masses of people can turn away from capitalism when shown a good alternative. It could only be the result of a dictator manipulating the public; all resting on one man whose death would mark finis to the process.
It’s the end of the world … again
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) recent convention in Washington produced the usual Doomsday talk concerning Iran’s imminent possession of nuclear weapons and with calls to bomb that country before they nuked Israel and/or the United States. So once again I have to remind everyone that these people – Israeli and American officials – are not really worried about an Iranian attack. Here are some of their many prior statements:
In 2007, in a closed discussion, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that in her opinion “Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel.” She “also criticized the exaggerated use that [Israeli] Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is making of the issue of the Iranian bomb, claiming that he is attempting to rally the public around him by playing on its most basic fears.” 4
2009: “A senior Israeli official in Washington”, reported the Washington Post (March 5), asserted that “Iran would be unlikely to use its missiles in an attack [against Israel] because of the certainty of retaliation.”
In 2010 the Sunday Times of London (January 10) reported that Brigadier-General Uzi Eilam, war hero, pillar of the Israeli defense establishment, and former director-general of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, “believes it will probably take Iran seven years to make nuclear weapons.”
January 2012: US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a television audience: “Are they [Iran] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No, but we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability.” 5
Later that month we could read in the New York Times (January 15) that “three leading Israeli security experts – the Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, a former Mossad chief, Efraim Halevy, and a former military chief of staff, Dan Halutz – all recently declared that a nuclear Iran would not pose an existential threat to Israel.”
Then, a few days afterward, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in an interview with Israeli Army Radio (January 18), had this exchange:
Question: Is it Israel’s judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?
Barak: People ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now … in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible. Apparently that is not the case.
In an April 20, 2012 CNN interview Barak repeated this sentiment: “It’s true that probably [Iranian leader] Khamenei has not given orders to start building a [nuclear] weapon.” 6
And on several other occasions, Barak has stated: “Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel.” 7
Lastly, we have the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, in a January 2012 report to Congress: “We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” … There are “certain things [the Iranians] have not done” that would be necessary to build a warhead. 8
So why, then, do Israeli and American leaders, at most other times, maintain the Doomsday rhetoric? Partly for AIPAC to continue getting large donations. For Israel to get massive amounts of US aid. For Israeli leaders to win elections. To protect Israel’s treasured status as the Middle East’s sole nuclear power.
Listen to Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at America’s most prominent neo-con think tank, American Enterprise Institute:
The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, “See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately.” … And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem. 9
Osama bin Laden, Bradley Manning, & William Blum
Bradley Manning has the charge of “Aiding the enemy” hanging over his head. This could lead to a sentence of life in prison. As far as can be deduced, the government believes that the documents and videos that Manning gave to Wikileaks, which Wikileaks then widely distributed to international media, aided the enemy because it put US foreign policy in a very bad light.
Manning’s attorneys have asked the prosecution more than once for specific examples of how “the enemy” (whoever that may refer to in a world full of people bitterly angry at the United States because of any of many terrible acts carried out by the US government) has been “aided” by the Wikileaks disclosures. Just how has the enemy made use of the released material to harm the United States? The government has not provided any such examples, probably because what really bothers Washington officials is the embarrassment they have experienced before the world resulting from the documents and videos; which indeed are highly embarrassing even to genuine war criminals; filled with violations of international law, atrocities, multiple lies to everyone, revelations of gross hypocrisy, and much more.
So our splendid officials are considering putting Bradley Manning in prison forever simply because they’re embarrassed. Hard to find much fault with that.
But now the prosecutors have announced that a Navy Seal involved in the killing of Osama bin Laden is going to testify at the court martial that bin Laden possessed articles about the Wikileaks documents that Manning leaked. Well, there must be a hundred million other people in the world who have similar material on their computers. The question remains: What use did the enemy make of that?
The Iraqi government made use of the material, inducing them to refuse immunity to US troops for crimes committed in Iraq, such as the cold-blooded murders revealed by the Wilileaks videos; this in turn led the US to announce that it was ending its military engagement in Iraq. However, Manning was indicted in May 2010, well before the Iraqi decision to end the immunity.
In January, 2006 bin Laden, in an audio tape, declared: “If Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book ‘Rogue State’ [by William Blum], which states in its introduction … ” He then went on to quote the opening of a paragraph I wrote (which appears actually in the Foreword of the British edition only, that was later translated to Arabic), which in full reads:
“If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize – very publicly and very sincerely – to all the widows and the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America’s global interventions – including the awful bombings – have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but – oddly enough – a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings and invasions. There would be more than enough money. Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.
“That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.”
Thus, Osama bin Laden was clearly making use of what I wrote, and the whole world heard it. And I was thus clearly “aiding the enemy”. But I was not prosecuted.
The United States would like to prove a direct use and benefit by “the enemy” of the material released by Wikileaks; but so far it appears that only possession might be proven. In my case the use, and presumed propaganda benefit, were demonstrated. The fact that I wrote the material, as opposed to “stealing” it, is irrelevant to the issue of aiding the enemy. I knew, or should have known, that my criticisms of US foreign policy could be used by the foes of those policies. Indeed, that’s why I write what I do. To provide ammunition to anti-war and other activists.
The Department of Justice and socialism
For many years when I’ve been asked to explain just what I mean by “socialism” I’ve usually replied simply: “Putting people before profits”. There are a thousand-and-one details that would have to be considered in a transformation from a capitalist society to a socialist society, but rather than going into all that it’s much simpler to leave it with just that motto, which expresses the essence of my socialist society. In any event, in that glorious future world things will evolve in ways that could not be wholly predicted. The structure could take any one of many forms, but the essence must remain the same if it’s going to be called socialist.
Thus was I both surprised and amused in reading a news article about the current trial in New Orleans which is attempting to determine, amongst other things, the extent of blame of various companies, particularly BP, involved in the 2010 historic accident which took the lives of 11 workers and dumped an estimated 172 million gallons of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The US Justice Department attorney declared in his opening statement: “The evidence will show that BP put profits before people, profits before safety and profits before the environment.” 10
Well, imagine that. The Justice Department certainly captured the essence of corporate behavior. The attorney chose such words because he knew that the sentiments expressed would appeal to the average American sitting on a jury. The members of the jury would understand that BP had blatantly ignored and violated certain cherished ideals like people, safety and the environment. Prosecuting the corporation would sound fair and just to them.
Yet, when someone like me expresses such sentiments – and I have used the exact same words on occasion – I run the risk of being written off as an “extremist”, a “radical”, and other bad-for-you labels; not long ago it was “commie”.
The irony runs even deeper. If a corporation flagrantly ignores putting profits before everything else, stockholders can sue the executives.
This just in! The real reason the Pope resigned!
He’s losing his mind.
In January, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met with Pope Benedict XVI to receive his blessing. Afterward, Panetta said the pontiff told him, “Thank you for helping to keep the world safe.” 11
The precious art of assassinating legally
Obama hopeium addicts can soon be expected to call for support of the president’s increasing use of drones for assassination on the ground of their being good for the environment. My White House agent informs me that Obama is going to announce that all American drones will soon be composed 85% of recyclable material and will be solar-powered. And each drone missile will have the following painted on its side: “He was a bad guy. Just take our word for it!”
William Blum is the author of:
- The Guardian (London), December 29, 2011 ↩
- Huffington Post, March 7, 2013 ↩
- http://killinghope.org/bblum6/assass.htm ↩
- Haaretz.com (Israel), October 25, 2007; print edition October 26 ↩
- “Face the Nation”, CBS, January 8, 2012 ↩
- Washington Post, August 1, 2012 ↩
- Iran Media Fact Check, “Does Israel Consider Iran an ‘Existential Threat’?” ↩
- The Guardian (London), January 31, 2012 ↩
- Political Correction, “American Enterprise Institute Admits The Problem With Iran Is Not That It Would Use Nukes” ↩
- Associated Press, February 26, 2013 ↩
- Washington Post, January 17, 2013 ↩