The mainstream media portray Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (photo below) as a Communist, which he could be, and as a raving maniac, which he certainly is not. I listened to Chavez last night on C Span, and while he rambled in an annoyingly stream-of-consciousness manner, much of what he said made sense. His warnings that the planet is endangered by a lack of the “political will” to address global warning seemed eminently sensible. And his complaints about America’s involvement in Latin America over the years were more than justified.
Among the many injustices that have taken place in Latin America is the recent military coup in Honduras. The country’s powerful elite (which Chavez quaintly describes in Marxist terms as the bourgeoisie) has reacted to President Manuel Zelaya’s populist policies by overthrowing his government. And, according to Chavez, representatives of the U.S. military enabled the coup.
Chavez wondered how U.S. President Barack Obama could speak so eloquently at the UN General Assembly about the rule of law and the right of sovereign nations to self-determination, yet accept this blatant disregard for those very principles by his own military. And he mused: “Are there two Obamas?”
I am not a Communist, and I don’t think I am a raving maniac, but I must admit I have wondered the same thing myself. How can the U.S. President give such moving speeches about human rights yet continue policies that reek of ex-President George W. Bush and ex-candidate John McCain?
Well into the first year of the Obama Administration I have reached the sad conclusion that our idealistic new President is held hostage by the American political system and the entrenched interests that control it. As he battles to try and salvage something – anything – from the health care reform debacle, he is turning a blind eye to other evils that could be just as important in the long run.
While Congress spins its wheels on climate change legislation, the world hurtles toward catastrophe. While the national deficit snowballs, America is spending close to a trillion dollars on “defense” this year (not including the budget for “intelligence”). Inexplicably, the war in Iraq drags on, the war in Afghanistan escalates, and numerous bases are maintained around the globe – even in such unlikely countries as Colombia. (Chavez wondered why America needs to maintain six bases next door to his country.)
I wonder why, too. And the words of former U.S. President Eisenhower echo disturbingly at the back of my mind:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Eisenhower issued that warning in 1960. Think how much more power the military-industrial complex has gained in the ensuing half century. And think of the power that the financial establishment – that other pillar of the hidden global power structure – also wields. And you might gain some insight into Obama’s predicament. In the cynical culture of Washington, where politicians routinely sell their votes in exchange for campaign contributions, the power elites grow ever richer. And with more and more money to spend, they grow ever more powerful.
Comedian Bill Maher made fun of President Obama in a recent Huffington Post piece. Here’s a sample:
I want to know what happened to “Yes we can.” Can we get out of Iraq? No. Afghanistan? No. Fix health care? No. Close Gitmo? No. Cap-and-trade carbon emissions? No. The Obamas have been in Washington for ten months and it seems like the only thing they’ve gotten is a dog.
And as President Lincoln is supposed to have said, I laugh because I must not cry. But the people of Honduras cannot afford to laugh. While the U.S. military slyly collaborates and the UN chamber echoes with inspirational speeches but does nothing, the leaders of the coup in Honduras have suspended constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties in “a preemptive strike against widespread rebellion.”
According to an Associated Press report today, Zelaya supporters said they would ignore the decree and march in the streets as planned (photo at right). Protesters say at least 10 people have been killed since the coup, and the government puts the toll at three. Now, the prospect of many more deaths looms large.
Zelaya is holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, and interim “President” Roberto Micheletti has given Brazil 10 days to turn Zelaya over for arrest or grant him asylum and take him out of Honduras. Micheletti did not specify what he would do after the 10 days were up. And Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva responded that his government “doesn’t accept ultimatums from coup-plotters.”
I would be surprised if Brazil and Venezuela watch the Honduran protesters being massacred without intervening. And where would that lead? What would Obama do? Which of the “two Obamas” would step up to the plate?