Neighborhood threat

America’s next target in the war on terror lives a little closer to home

Illustration By robert armstrong

You’ve heard it all before. An anti-democratic dictator harbors and supports terrorism, destabilizing the countries around him and threatening the entire free world. The mainstream media runs unverified reports that said bully is indeed fomenting armed rebellion in the region. U.S. politicians wring their hands in agony and clamor for the tyrant’s head. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. This evil despot just happens to be sitting on an ocean of oil.

Saddam Hussein? Sorry; we took care of that little problem, sort of. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? We’re working on it, but you’re getting colder. This time the object of our ire is a little closer to home: Hugo Chávez, president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who since taking office in 1998 has had the audacity to nationalize Venezuela’s oil wealth in order to provide housing, education and health care to his nation’s vast lower class, which until his arrival had suffered for decades under kleptocratic rule.

Giving power to the people? Standing up to Big Oil? Thumbing his nose at the United States? Who the hell does this guy think he is?

Congressman Darrell Issa thinks he knows the answer to that question. Chávez must be a terrorist! In February, the San Diego County Republican penned House Resolution 965, “Condemning the actions and statements of Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias.” The 30 co-sponsors of the bill, which seeks to designate Venezuela as a “terrorist sanctuary,” include local Reps. Dan Lungren and John Doolittle, so Issa is in good company, relatively speaking.

Never mind that the Venezuelan people have chosen Chávez three times in transparent, democratic elections that shame our own process. Never mind that the United States backed the unsuccessful coup against Chávez in 2002, spent millions promoting a failed attempt to recall him in 2004 and spent millions more to barely defeat constitutional reforms he proposed last year. The gist of Issa’s resolution, which offers not a shred of evidence that Venezuela is sponsoring terrorism anywhere, is that Chávez won’t do our bidding; therefore, he’s a terrorist.

Evidence? We don’t need no stinking evidence! But just in case someone does, The New York Times is more than happy to produce the same sort of fabricated nonsense that helped lead us into the Iraqi quagmire. At issue is a laptop computer said to belong to Raúl Reyes, a longtime leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who was assassinated in early March by Colombian troops who illegally crossed the border to attack a FARC stronghold in Ecuador. The Colombian government released to the Times 20 files that allegedly came from the laptop, and reporter Simon Romero, reprising the role played by Judith Miller during the run-up to Iraq, uncritically declared that the files appear to confirm suspicions that Chávez is a terrorist.

Never mind that such evidence is easily faked. Never mind that FARC has been fighting the Colombian government’s death squads for four decades, long before Chávez came on the scene. Never mind that according to our own intelligence services, Álvaro Uribe, the president of Colombia, our closest ally in the region, “has worked for the Medellin Cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar.” With characteristic scorn, Chávez himself made short work of this so-called evidence.

“The main weapon they have is the computer, the supposed computer of Raúl Reyes,” he told a group of reporters in Caracas. “This computer is like à la carte service, giving you whatever you want. You want steak? Or fried fish? How would you like it prepared? You’ll get it however the empire decides.”

However the empire decides. That simple statement unveils the secret to the success of the Bolivarian revolution that’s sweeping South America. For more than a century, multinational corporations, aided and abetted by the U.S. government and South America’s ruling class, have plundered the continent. Time and time again, we’ve supported the region’s most reprehensible dictators and assassinated those who refused to play ball with us. We’ve had our way, until Chávez.

There’s no reason to expect all of this to end peacefully. Venezuela, a member of OPEC, is the eighth largest oil exporter in the world. It sits on the largest reserves of “heavy oil”—petroleum that is harder to refine than light crude—known to exist. As the world’s supply of light oil is depleted, petroleum producers will have no choice but to turn to refining heavy oil. To do so, they’ll have to deal with Chávez, or in lieu of that, rub him out. There can be no doubt where the desires of Issa and his ilk reside.