Building a Case for War with Venezuela?

I hope not.  But this US News post (via Jesus’ General) suggests the administration is looking for a link between Chavez’s government and middle eastern terrorists.  Some sections of the article feel a bit off (emphasis mine):

The oil-rich but politically unstable nation of Venezuela is emerging as a potential hub of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, providing assistance to Islamic radicals from the Middle East and other terrorists, say senior U.S. military and intelligence officials.

“We are not disinterested spectators,” says Roger Noriega, the new assistant secretary of state for Latin America. “Any actions that undermine democratic order or threaten the security and well-being of the region are of legitimate concern to all of Venezuela’s neighbors.” U.S. officials are monitoring three sets of developments:

Middle Eastern terrorist groups are operating support cells in Venezuela and other locations in the Andean region. A two-month review by U.S. News, including interviews with dozens of U.S. and Latin American sources, confirms the terrorist activity. In particular, the magazine has learned that thousands of Venezuelan identity documents are being distributed to foreigners from Middle Eastern nations, including Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, and Lebanon.

Venezuela is supporting armed opposition groups from neighboring Colombia; these groups are on the official U.S. list of terrorist organizations and are also tied to drug trafficking. Maps obtained by U.S. News, as well as eyewitness accounts, pinpoint the location of training camps used by Colombian rebels, a top rebel leader, and Venezuelan armed groups.

Cubans are working inside Venezuela’s paramilitary and intelligence apparatus. The coordination between Cuba and Venezuela is the latest sign that Venezuelan President Chavez is modeling his government on Castro’s Cuba.

Supporting and Operating In are two very different realities.  While the documents are very worrisome, is there anything to suggest the Venezuela government is actually helping the terrorists?  I mean, I get the whole “all foreigners are bad, especially from those awful terrorist countries” vibe, but is there any critical consideration of the facts?  The only thing we have to go on from the article is:

U.S. officials believe that the Venezuelan government is issuing the documents to people who should not be getting them

That’s right.  The government says some people getting the documents should not get them.  Who are these people, and why shouldn’t they be getting the documents?  Is there anything to show the Venezuelan government is doing this deliberately to provide cover?

The lead in to this article, and the context (discussing official support for Columbian groups and Cuba) make it seem as though it is the Venezuelan government that is directly supporting terrorists.  Yet nothing in the article supports that possibility beyond the documents.  And even there, questions remain.

What bothers me the most is this line from the end of the article:

Given all that is happening in Chavez’s Venezuela, some American officials regret that terrorism is seen chiefly as a Middle East problem and that the United States is not looking to protect its southern flank. “I’m concerned that counterterrorism issues are not being aggressively pursued in this hemisphere,” one U.S. intelligence official said.

As Jesus’ General observes, a case is being built for opening yet another front in the War on Terror.  If Chavez’s government has really decided to help terrorist groups get into the US, then that is a serious matter we need to deal with.  But the last thing we need, while already stranded in a quagmire in Iraq, is yet another costly war built on questionable intelligence.

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11 Responses

  1. What does Venezuela have in common with Iraq? It has a leader who doesn’t suck up to His Chimpiness, and it sells its oil in Euros.

    As to the matter of Chavez supporting anti-US terrorists, I call BS on that one. Chavez is a staunchly Catholic socialist. Al Quaeda is a conservative Muslim terrorist group. Not two things that go together!

    Even saying ‘If…’ in response to this invites the same sort of neocon scare-mongering that led some misguided fools to think that Saddam had links to Al Qaeda (in fact, they had tried to kill him several times).

  2. The relationship between Chavez and DC is, to say the least strained but l doubt that the USNWR article is the beginnings of a case for war.

    As of mid 2006 scholarly magazines like International Affairs and Foreign Policy were still asking whether or not Chavez was a dictator or not. I think this story is just one more in a long line of articles designed to sway the public goodwill away from Chavez for one important reason (to follow)

    While I like Chavez’s in-your-face-but-not-as-crazy-as-Kim-Jong-Il stance the bottom line is that he is caudillo of the worst kind who has redirected public funds away from the poor and into his political power machine. And while he may be a thorn in the side of Bush (et al) this is more to gain populist support from the anti-US base in Venezuela. Unfortunately he is (overly) liked by anti-Bush citizens here and I think that this USNWR article is really designed to associate Chavez supporters in this country to terrorist networks in general.

  3. David, I also suspect that this is more political than anything else, and that concerns me greatly.

    bigporch, I love when Chavez makes his anti-Bush speeches, to be sure. But the man is a dictator. That being said, his government is a solid candidate for real diplomatic efforts. I think if we stopped supporting coups, and started opening lines of trade and dialog, we’d see things improve. Both for our relations with the country, and for Venezuelans.

  4. Oh, no doubt, but diplomacy is a complicated game. As long as Chavez can safely move US public sentiment his way, despite his war against real democratic reform in Ven, then he has more power than the US State Dept would prefer.

    Chavez isn’t doing himself any favors by allying himself with other anti-US powers in the southern hemisphere. The more powerful he makes himself in that regard the less willing this administration is going to be to work with him. It would be presented to all of Latin America as a model for future behavior. Bush et al can’t agree to any arrangement that would convince more Latin nations that they should act aggressively or negatively to American needs.

    I expect two things. 1) Washington will deal more sympathetically with Ven if they stabilize their economy (possibly with increased FDI from China) and calm their rhetoric. 2) Chavez will calm his rhetoric because,while his Bolivaran campaign has had some successes, it has probably just about reached its climax, diplomatically speaking. Chavez desperately wants to be considered a major Latin player and as of now he isn’t being allowed in to the big agreements with Mexico, Argentina, or Brazil (the real economic powehouses of the southwestern part of the globe) and he didn’t make a lot of friends in the Caribbean with his lambasting of DR-CAFTA.

    The Bush admin won’t budge on this issue, I’m sure, but I look forward to positive step in Latin America being undertaken regardless of who wins in ’08.

    Good write-up on the article btw. The connection between terrorists and Ven is no more or less strong than between terrorists and any other Latin nation for exactly the reason you mention. Terrorists are looking for a back door into the US in any country with a dysfunctional bureaucracy. If we could navigate successfully in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, etc, I’m sure we would find that “people are getting documents that shouldn’t be getting them.”

  5. What really worries DC is that Chavez has a real opportunity to break the strangle hold of American Empire of the rest of the Americas, since he has oil revenues to back up his rhetoric. My biggest fear is that he is turning into another Napoleonic figure.

    As for Noriega, his Wiki is interesting as it shows that he keeps some dark company such as the AEI and Senator Jesse Helms.

  6. 4. bigporch,
    Indeed, and his efforts with heating oil and anti-Bush rhetoric definitely help.

    He is doing himself wonders by his alliances. He is making himself appear more diplomatic to the rest of the world than the US. Bush’s administration, realistically, isn’t likely to be more diplomatic towards Venezuela.

    I also look forward to positive steps in ’08, and I think strengthening our relationship with countries like Brazil, and through them with Venezuela will also be of great benefit.

    Thanks!

    5. Rafael
    Hopefully not. The man could become a truly great leader if he dropped his dictatorial pretensions and pursued a more free and open society, while continuing to stand firm and tall for what he believes in. He can do both.

    Not building up his military couldn’t hurt, either.

    On Noriega, at least its not PNAC. But yeah, interesting company to keep.

  7. Well he has to build up his military, sadly enough, because he like any other in the Americas has to look over his shoulder for American attempts at intervention. As for becoming a great leader, no can’t say that because he is already following in the footsteps of Castro and while Cuba has made a lot of achievements in education and health care, it is still under a Socialist dictatorship. The phenomenon is called “Caciquismo” which roughly translate to “Rule by Chief” or strongman.

  8. Rafael, I can see that argument for military build up.

    I think it is possible for a dictatorship to move back towards a democracy. It is highly unlikely, but it is not something I am ready to discount. Even a strongman can move himself, and his people, towards a free and open government. If we were no longer a useful enemy for him to use, it would definitely help efforts in that direction.

  9. I don’t get it? Why don’t we just sit here till something happens? Then we go wipe these countries off the map?If you want to be a dictator then you must know your fate.You will be isolated and if you try to arm to harm them so be it.We are well equiped to do about anything at anytime.I believe in our elected government.We are the United States.Yes we have problems but we fix them.Sometimes not the way we want but we are safe and happy.Now if some asshead wants to scare my children I have no pitty for an entire country that needs to be sent back to the stoneage.Protest your mindless leaders or we will choose your destiny for you.Call me mean or inhumane but think about the other leaders before you label me.And if you like their ways so much pack up and get the hell out of my country.It’s really easy to become another national and leave the United States.trust me..I won’t miss you.Don’t ever show up to a gun fight with a knife!

  10. Jason,
    Sitting here until “something happens” then aiming to “wipe these countries off the map” is a fantasy. Wars cost lives and resources. They devastate the invaded countries. Not the best solution.
    Who is scaring your children? Why is that in any way related to the death and suffering of an entire country?

  11. And Imperial mind breeds imperial thoughts. We are right, they are wrong, might makes right, etc.

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