H. Patricia Hynes: Venezuela and the war racket


GREENFIELD — "Hope and U.S. aid at the Border," the title of a recent New York Times video, deodorizes the U.S. attempt to overthrow President Maduro of socialist Venezuela and replace him with a hand-picked member of the Venezuelan elite, capitalist class.

As the major media presents it, the U.S. is altruistically rushing to feed a people in economic crisis. And, of course, our government knows what is best for the Venezuelan people (just as we did for Afghan, Iraqi and Vietnamese peoples). Yet, photos of mass rallies reveal that millions of darker-skinned indigenous and mixed-race Venezuelans of poorer classes support their elected president, while smaller numbers of white descendants of early Spanish colonizers back the U.S.-selected and -designated new president, a legislator named Juan Guiado. Our troops and aid anywhere near Venezuela smell like regime change.

How to make sense of this?

First, let's acknowledge a major contradiction at the heart of our Trojan horse of "humanitarian aid" at the Venezuelan border. Trump has fixated on pulling the U.S. out of U.N. treaties, U.N. agencies, maybe NATO, Syria and Afghanistan, with the mantra that we need to stop fixing the world. Why then stir up a new conflict in South America? If we want to give aid, give it through the Red Cross, already in Venezuela.

Second, what menace is Venezuela to us? None at all, but as with Cuba, the U.S. government is struck apoplectic by socialism, as if it were a threat to our national security. Well maybe it is, if we consider national security in its truest sense of human well-being and security. Venezuela, like Cuba and the social democratic countries of Europe, dramatically lowered child poverty, infant mortality, illiteracy and homelessness when compared to the wealthier U.S. Here youth poverty, infant mortality, incarceration, income inequality and obesity are highest of all the developed countries.

Further, if the Trump administration cares so about the looming economic crisis in Venezuela and the growing need for food and medications, why has it assisted Saudi Arabia in its war on Yemen, which has generated the worst humanitarian crisis in the world? Why has it left Puerto Rico to wither and waste away from the devastation of Hurricane Maria? Why has it callously separated migrant children fleeing violence in Central America from their parents? And why has our government compounded its crushing economic sanctions on Venezuela, while offering crumbs in humanitarian aid?

Finally, it's not possible to dissociate our intrusion into Venezuelan politics from oil, given that country has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. Have we learned nothing from our war in Iraq and the CIA-induced overthrow in 1953 of the democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, after he nationalized Iran's oil?

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The arc of U.S. militarism across the 20th century and into the 21st is neither moral nor does it bend toward justice. At each end of this ongoing arc, the words of two military veterans of U.S. foreign wars distill and corroborate the U.S. history of imperial reach. Brigadier General Smedley Butler, born in 1881, began his career as a teenage Marine combat soldier assigned to Cuba and Puerto Rico during the U.S. invasion of those islands. He fought next in the U.S. war in the Philippines, ostensibly against Spanish imperialism but ultimately against the Philippine revolution for independence. He gained the highest rank and a host of medals during subsequent U.S. occupations and military interventions in Central America and the Caribbean, popularly known as the Banana Wars.

As Butler confessed in his iconoclastic book "War Is a Racket," he was "a bully boy for American corporations," making countries safe for U.S. capitalism. He nailed the war profiteers — racketeers, in his unsparing lexicon — for the blood on their hands. War is the oldest, most profitable racket, he wrote — one in which billions of dollars are made for millions of lives destroyed.

Making the world "safe for democracy" was, at its core, making the world safe for war profits. He proposed an "Amendment for Peace": In essence, keep the military on the continental U.S. for the purpose of defense against military invasions here.

In the 21st century, Major Danny Sjursen, who served tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan, proposes that the Department of Defense should be renamed the Department of Offense. His reasons: American troops are deployed in 70 percent of the world's countries; American pilots are currently bombing seven countries; and the U.S., alone among nations, has divided the six inhabited continents into six military commands. Our military operations exceed U.S. national interests and are "unmoored" from reasoned strategy and our society's needs, he concludes.

The enlightenment of another Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, Kevin Tillman, pierces the benighted world of Washington. "As one of the soldiers who illegally invaded Iraq I know an illegal coup/invasion when I see one if Venezuelans believe [their president] Maduro has mismanaged the nation's most valuable asset [oil], it is their right to seek change, but this is not a right enjoyed by Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi or Elliott Abrams."

H. Patricia Hynes, a retired professor of Environmental Health and Boston University, directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in Western Massachusetts.


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