Supporting Rancid Old Oligarchs: Code Pink, Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and other “Revolutionary Heroes” Travel to Venezuela on Government-Sponsored Junket, Feted by Corrupt President Maduro

Plus: A mild dissent from the esteemed Louis Proyect's recent brilliant dismantling of Blumenthal in our pages

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I oppose U.S. efforts at regime change because they are doomed to failure and always, without exception, represent American efforts to win natural resources and geopolitical advantages over its global rivals.

Saddam Hussein was a very bad man. What came next for the Iraqi people has been, thus far, horrifically worse.

Muammar Gaddafi was hardly a role model but Libya is now in chaos. A Western businessman who lived in Tripoli for many years and who still travels there recently told me, “Every Libyan goes to bed at night and dreams Gaddafi was still their leader.” (In fact, Libyans may well find that Saif Gaddafi, the former leader’s dimwitted son — and not nearly as appealing as his father despite his bogus degree from the London School of Economics and Western training — is their future leader, which would still be an improvement over the existing situation.)

I don’t like Vladimir Putin but I find his demonization in the U.S. media idiotic because he’s far better than the heads of many U.S.-allied regimes, like Thomas Friedman-endorsed Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

I’m glad Bashar al-Assad’s regime won the war in Syria because as loathsome as he is, he’s better than the radical Western-backed jihadists who nearly overthrew him.

I don’t like Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro — who, along with his cronies, has stolen billions from his suffering people, as anyone with a kindergarten education can easily confirm — but I prefer him to the leaders of the U.S. opposition and hope his government is not overthrown by the Trump administration. I also supported the occupation of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington over the spring by activists who opposed the Trump administration’s regime change plans.

And I consider former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Che Guevara, despite their flaws, to be the most inspiring revolutionary leaders in Latin American since Simon Bolivar because they were both charismatic figures and internationalists who sought to free not just their countries, but the continent, of the malign foreign interference of the United States.

Our hero. Swoon. The Grayzone indeed.

But it’s one thing to oppose regime change. It’s another thing to kiss Maduro’s ass. But there are American “journalists,” like Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton, and activists, like representatives from Code Pink, Vets for Peace, Popular Resistance and ANSWER, who are happy to do so. These and other disgraceful hypocrites just flew down to Venezuela for the “Foro de Sao Paulo,” a hideous suck up affair organized by the government and solidarity activists featuring a host of corrupt crooks addressing Western Sandalistas with 1950’s-style jeremiads against Western imperialism.

The didactic, intellectually-shallow claim that any critique of a foreign government that is targeted by American imperialism is a tacit endorsement of imperialism is garbage non-thinking by clueless hacks who are more court scribes than actual journalists, not to mention un-critical thinkers. To claim that “the government and leadership of Nicholas Maduro = the government and leadership of Hugo Chavez” is a direct and blatant insult to Chavez, his legacy, and the tremendous benchmark of good government he set for his successors to aspire for. It is a permanent Get Out of Jail Free card for governance of diminishing returns.

While Leon Trotsky wrote The Revolution Betrayed about the Stalinist Thermidor, these hacks collaboratively author The Revolution Brayed, passing off nepotistic jackass corruption as the vanguard of the Global South’s revolution. Meanwhile, real poor people get screwed.

Furthermore, explore this logic to its conclusion, if you will: Claiming that all governments that share certain geographical and phenotypical features, resulting in a claim of absolute beatitude as opposed to nuanced differences between the different state leaderships, is pure and simple racism. During the years when Jew hatred was a deadly force in the world, philo-Semitism was a strange but still potentially dangerous inversion of anti-Semitism. It claimed that Jews played a special role in human events, making a fetish of the group over superficial features rather than valuing members of the group because of their basic humanity. Hack journalism like this edges dangerously close to the same patterns of behavior.

I flew to one solidarity event earlier this year and walked out in disgust, as I wrote about here. Gosh, I’m so sorry I missed Diosdado Cabello, first vice president of the ruling socialist party, give a talk entitled, “The Revolution Has the Face, Name, Form and Force of Women.” (Cabello, by the way, is the power behind the throne in Venezuela and a man with extremely close ties, and experience, with the military and intelligence agencies.)

Hey Max, Ben, Code Pink and Anya Parampil (formerly of RT and who was also along for the ride), if Trump decides to declare war on Germany — which given Trump’s state of mind is not out of the question — maybe you can go to the White House and praise the president and secretary of state and former CIA director Mike Pompeo for their blows against NATO and Western imperialism.

Look, Maduro is better than the opposition but he’s a crook, even if a big part of the problems in Venezuela are caused by cruel U.S. sanctions that don’t hurt the leadership but starve the people. Maduro, meanwhile, is notoriously corrupt, and plenty of independent observers confirm that, not just the U.S. State Department.

He went to Turkey while his own people are suffering and dined at a famous steakhouse. In videos, “he can be seen puffing on a cigar from a personalized box while he and first lady Cilia Flores watch owner Nusret Gokce, clad in dark aviator glasses and a bicep-busting T-shirt, rhythmically sway his hips while cutting into a juicy steak with a long knife.”

A few years ago he got out of his motorcade to walk amongst the people to demonstrate his popularity and was chased through the streets.

Maduro at Istanbul steakhouse. A true man of the people.

If the man had any decency, he would resign, turn power over to a younger, genuine socialist and the country would hold real elections in a year.

But he doesn’t. Maduro could walk away with his stolen million, or billions, and spare his country further suffering by giving socialist reformers a chance to undo the damage to their party, and to Chavez’s legacy.

But he and the crooks around him prefer to retain power and the privileges it gives them.

I’m a democratic socialist and I believe those two words are not incompatible. I am not a bootlicker for corrupt authoritarians — even if Maduro is by no means in the same league as Assad or Putin, and Venezuela is not a dictatorship, that is U.S. media garbage — who voice anti-American rhetoric to manipulate their own people, cover up their excesses, and win praise and favorable coverage from clowns like Norton and Blumenthal, whose father happens to be one of the most vile men in Washington. And as I have said previously, in Max’s case, the apple did not fall far from the tree.

Separated at birth? Is that Ben Norton or Marty Feldman?

Again, opposing U.S. intervention and a U.S.-led coup is one thing.

Sucking up to Maduro is wrong.

LeBron James said he wouldn’t go to the White House if his team won the NBA championship and multiple athletes have refused to meet with Trump.

So why did this group meet with Maduro?

To help the people of Venezuela? Or perhaps to get 15 minutes of fame and bask in the glow of their admirers in the corrupt Venezuelan government?

How much money did the Venezuelan government spend on this trip, even as it refuses to pay government workers and people struggle to survive? Whatever the cost, it would have been better to send the money straight to the barrios and write a nice email to the activists who defended the embassy.

Are the Venezuelan people getting anything out of this visit?

No.

The only beneficiaries are Maduro and his inner circle, and the advocates and “journalists” who get to brag about their heroism.

Hugo Chavez had a word for people like this: Esqualidos.

What a disgrace.

Meanwhile, Blumenthal apparently went on a junket to Moscow in 2015 and he’s traipsed around Syria apologizing for Assad., as Louis Proyect brilliantly detailed here last week in this story and this one.

One has to wonder, how many times has Blumenthal (and his sad sidekick Norton) traveled abroad on the dime of regimes he covers favorably?

I have spent years exposing the RussiaGate fraud but I’ve never been to Moscow or been offered a free trip there by the government.

I tried to get an interview with Maduro in February but he declined.

I tried to get an interview with Assad in April and just this month — I even offered to leave my phone at the Syrian embassy in Beirut, drive to Damascus with a person approved by the Syrian government, and have the president’s office record the interview and send it on to the magazine that had commissioned the interview — and that was declined too.

Why do the Russian, Syrian and Venezuelan governments trust Blumenthal and treat him as a friend?

And why can I not get interviews with anyone in those governments?

Just a guess, but maybe they trust him and they don’t trust me (which is understandable, I confess).

I wouldn’t ever meet with Donald Trump at the White House nor attend the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, which is a truly revolting event where rich lapdog Washington journalists pat themselves on the back for being so fiercely independent.

Nor would I ever meet with Maduro, Putin or Assad, except to ask them difficult questions about the way they rule their countries. I don’t care about their stance towards the U.S. government, whose foreign policy I have condemned for decades, I care about how they treat their own people.

But the enemy of my enemy is not my friend, and I am not a bootlicker to governments simply because they offer anti-U.S. rhetoric.

The Soviet Union was a disaster for socialism and it was right to denounce it from the left. The same goes for Putin — who along with Trump heads perhaps the two most savagely capitalist regimes on the planet — and Maduro and Assad.

I.F. Stone one said, “All governments are liars.” Correct, and no “journalist” under any circumstance should be feted by a foreign government unless it is comprised primarily of angels, and I don’t know many that are.

On a quick note to the Unrepentant Marxist….

I do want to note that I disagree with part of Louis Proyect’s critique of Blumenthal and I think Proyect’s application of class analysis to a country like Syria — where class is important but not a more useful prism than, for example, religion, family and clan — is misguided.

Unlike Proyect, I agree with Blumenthal that the opposition to Assad very quickly became led by radical jihadists, funded by the West, because they had more weapons than secularists, and because it served the West’s purpose to support them, no matter how devastating an impact that would have on the Syrian people. (And indeed, the jihadists near triumph devastated the country…)

But there’s a difference between Proyect and Blumenthal.

The former is rigorously honest, even if I don’t always agree with him.

Blumenthal is a hack.

The Grayzone is the perfect title for his “journalism” entity because nothing he writes can be trusted, he is an ideologue and not a reporter, he professes to be independent but takes free trips from cruel foreign governments, and he has frequently served as a mouthpiece for Democratic Party policies that his daddy favors, as Andrew Stewart described here.

When confronted about his visit to Russia, Blumenthal whined that he didn’t care what the mainstream media thought of him nor craved its approval.

But he does apparently crave Maduro’s.

In February, he and Norton bagged an interview with the vice president. This time they got the great man himself, and were featured prominently on pro-government TV as they walked up to greet him along with anti-intervention activists.

Blumenthal and Norton come out of this looking worse than anyone. After all, they claim to be journalists.

But the activists who went along also deserve to be condemned.

I’m glad you occupied the Venezuelan embassy in Washington — though I have some serious questions about that as well, especially what motivated you more, glory or solidarity, and if the latter your solidarity now appears to be more with the corrupt Venezuelan government than with the people — but either way your conduct in Caracas is a disgrace.

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