Congresswoman Barbara Lee Was the Only House Member to oppose the Bush administration’s idiotic — and endless — “War on Terror,” as detailed here in this brilliant piece by Gregory D. Johnsen.
“Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks,” read the sub-headline for the story in BuzzFeed. “But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world. Here’s how it came to be, and what it’s since come to mean.”
Now, with President Trump seemingly on the verge of supporting a coup against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, a few members of congress have written an important letter to Trump’s Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Of course, Maduro opposes his own removal from power. “People from #USA, I ask for your support in order to reject the interference of Donald Trump’s administration which intends to turn my Homeland into a “Vietnam war” in Latin America,” he tweeted today. “Don’t allow it!”
I’m with Maduro and I am not a shill for him, or for any other government official. As I wrote here yesterday, “I have a lot of problems with Maduro. I’m not sure if it was his intention or whether he’s been pushed towards authoritarianism by U.S. pressure—in addition to support for the opposition, economic sanctions that are bleeding the country and starving its people—but I oppose many of his policies and actions. I also feel badly for the Venezuelan people. Whether because of U.S. policies or Maduro’s, no doubt both, they’re suffering.”
But I believe what the great journalist I.F. Stone once wrote: “All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.” Sadly, most American journalists believe that only foreign governments lie and are remarkably credulous about their own leaders. I guess that’s how they get ahead.
Please read what I wrote yesterday, the story focuses on how the New York Times published a story by Wil Hylton about a cravenly corrupt and sinister — but handsome! — Venezuelan opposition leader that was fed to him by a Washington lobbyist. I also said, “I have problems with Maduro, but at times like this you take sides and right now there are only two. I’m for him and against the U.S. and the rancid old oligarchy, as Chavez called the opposition, which is masquerading as a democratic force only with the help of Hylton and other media accomplices.”
In any case, Congresswoman Lee has opposed the Trump administration’s regime change effort in Venezuela and thankfully she has company. Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have written Pompeo to oppose war on Venezuela. As I understand it, and I may have some details wrong, Representatives Ro Khanna, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Raul Grijalva, Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal have signed. Two more signers are needed in order to get to get the letter officially published.
Here is the letter, which I obtained:
Dear Secretary Pompeo:
We write to express our deep concern regarding the Trump Administration’s handling of relations with Venezuela, particularly its suggestions of military intervention, imposition of unilateral sanctions, and recent anointing of an opposition leader as the “interim president” of the country. President Donald Trump and other senior United States (U.S.) officials have generated alarm in Venezuela and throughout the region with actions and statements – such as the recent threat that “all options are on the table” – which indicate a pursuit of regime change. Furthermore, the President’s broad economic sanctions – recently expanded to target the country’s oil industry – have exacerbated the country’s grave economic crisis, causing immense suffering for the most vulnerable in society who bear no responsibility for the situation in the country.
We reject many of the Maduro government’s actions, including repression of Venezuelan civil society, the killing of unarmed protestors, disregard for the rule of law, and the holding of unfair elections. However, Threats of military intervention and military coups against a government that poses no conceivable threat to our national security are simply unacceptable. U.S. military action in Venezuela would be unconstitutional without congressional authorization and illegal internationally without approval from the United Nations. We were deeply troubled to learn that President Trump, after having spoken publicly about a “military option” for Venezuela, reportedly pushed for military intervention in Venezuela in meetings with other senior officials in the White House.
Unilateral sanctions and threats of military action are making life worse for ordinary Venezuelans. According to the United Nations, at least 3 million Venezuelans have fled the country because of the ongoing economic crisis. Rather than pursuing misguided policies which run counter to our own national interests, the U.S. should instead join other countries in promoting Venezuelan efforts to achieve constructive dialogue and democratic solutions to the current political crisis. Uruguay has already proposed a “new process of inclusive and credible negotiations” to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and Mexican President Lopez Obrador has declared his support for, and potential participation in, dialogue. Latin American nations undoubtedly still remember how the Bush Administration supported a short-lived military coup in Venezuela in 2002, an event that cost dozens of human lives and deeply polarized the country.
The U.S. stands alone in its decision to impose economic sanctions against the Venezuelan government. An August 2017 executive order, based on the questionable determination that Venezuela represents “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security […] of the United States,” prohibits U.S.-based financial entities from purchasing new Venezuelan government debt. A May 2018 executive order prohibits U.S. persons and entities from buying debt owed to the Venezuelan government.
The Venezuelan government’s own economic mismanagement and misguided economic policies are in large part to blame for the horrific economic crisis that has unfolded in the country. Yet today Venezuelan government officials can claim – with considerable justification – that the U.S. is waging an economic war and laying groundwork for direct confrontation, which threatens chaos and mass migration from Venezuela that will be felt throughout the region. The sanctions are already hurting ordinary people and contributing to the ongoing outbound migration of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans, which could also result in a dramatic increase in refugees to the U.S.
An active and strong opponent of Venezuela’s government, Francisco Rodriguez – Chief Economist at the New York investment bank Torino Capital – has opposed U.S. sanctions on economic and humanitarian grounds. Rodriguez, widely seen as the leading expert on Venezuela’s economy, has shown that the sanctions have seriously worsened the country’s economic crisis and made it very difficult to improve the situation. As a result, many Venezuelans have died due to lack of access to life-saving medicines, and in some cases food. Rodriguez has detailed how the sanctions have had these lethal effects on innocent people for several reasons: credit from foreign entities is often denied for vital imports because financial institutions are afraid of punishment for running afoul of U.S. sanctions (even for credit that would technically not be prohibited); the sanctions’ crippling effects cut off money for essential imports; and most importantly, the economic destruction that is caused by the sanctions deprives millions of Venezuelans of income. Much as ordinary Cubans resent the misguided, 58-year old U.S. embargo against their country, polls have shown most Venezuelans strongly oppose these sanctions.
Further, threats and involvement in Venezuela’s domestic affairs by the U.S. are counterproductive as they play into the Venezuelan government’s narrative that the opposition is a proxy for the U.S. These actions help shore up Maduro’s support base and take attention away from urgent domestic issues. Respected Venezuelan pollster Datanalysis has carried out a survey showing that the vast majority of Venezuelans are opposed to foreign intervention as a means of removing Maduro.
Our government should immediately change course in its policy toward Venezuela. Unilateral measures and violent threats only threaten to stoke chaos and instability. Instead, the U.S. must abide by its obligation under the Organization of American States (OAS) Charter to abstain from using armed force or “any other form of interference or attempted threat” against another state. We urge you to support efforts by Uruguay, Mexico, and the Vatican to promote dialogue and help Venezuelans resolve their own problems.
We appreciate your attention and consideration of this request.