When is force against Latin American terrorism morally correct?

For those of you not following Latin American politics closely, you may have missed some important developments that could soon lead to U.S. military intervention in Latin America against Venezuela. The purpose of this post is to discuss when (if ever) that intervention is the morally correct course.

Please read this story.

To summarize: the Venezuelan government is led by a virtual dictator named Hugo Chavez. He hates the United States and is rallying leftists in Latin America and elsewhere, and he has increased ties with Iran and other terrorist states.

Right next door to him in Colombia is a U.S.-backed president named Alvaro Uribe. He is democratically elected and a hero in Colombia for forcefully taking on two large guerrilla groups called the FARC and the ELN. It is worth pointing out that both of these guerrilla groups started out as 1960s leftists but have basically become narco-terrorists, financing themselves with kidnappings and drug dealing. They control vast areas of the Colombian countryside, where they have created their own terrorist mini-states. Uribe is the first Colombian president to send the armed forces to effectively combat the narco-terrorists.

To the south of Colombia is Ecuador, where a Chavez ally named Rafael Correa was recently elected president. The FARC has a large camp just across the border in Ecuador where it retreats to escape the Colombian military.

Just a few days ago, the Colombian military entered Ecuadoran territory to pursue a FARC leader. They killed him and his followers and captured a significant amount of documentation that seems to prove that Chavez and Correa are allying themselves with the FARC to help overthrow the Colombian government. In addition, there is proof that the FARC was pursuing a “dirty bomb” weapon of mass destruction. There is also proof that Chavez is directly financing terrorism through the FARC. Chavez, feigning outrage, has said he will mobilize the Venezuelan army to “protect” Venezuela against Colombia.

This is a case straight out of the Book of Mormon. Gadiantons against innocent people. Terrorism and unrighteousness.  Lots of lying and secret combinations.

Up until now, U.S. policy has basically been to 1)oppose the FARC and ELN and try to stop drug trafficking 2)support the Colombian government and 3)give moral support to democratic opponents of Chavez. On Dec. 2, Chavez lost a vote that would have allowed him to become a complete dictator (similar to Putin in Russia). Many Venezuelans fear Chavez is drumming up nationalistic fervor to overturn that vote and, claiming a “national emergency,” cede himself the unlimited power he craves.

There have been some calls for the U.S. to consider overthrowing Chavez because proof has come out that he is financing terrorists who are trying to buying nuclear dirty bombs and is trying to overthrow a neighboring country. The purpose of this post is to consider when if at all such a course is moral.

On one hand, there are those of you who will think that military action in Latin America is almost never moral. The U.S. has intervened in Latin American literally dozens of times, taking away Mexican territory, warring with Spain over Cuba and Puerto Rico, propping up various dictators. One of the most recent cases, of course, was the 1989 invasion of Panama, which I covered as a journalist. Noriega was very similar to Chavez. He made money by running drugs and guns and he had his thugs attack several U.S. citizens. Noriega was captured by U.S. forces and is currently in jail in Miami. Non-interventionists will argue that the most moral policy is to just let Latin Americans resolve their own problems, come what may.

Non-interventionists are somewhat short-sighted, however. Latin American policy does affect the United States. In addition to oil concerns, it is worth noting that the FARC and ELN were clearly founded as Communist groups devoted to worldwide imposition of Communism, starting with Colombia. They are by their very nature anti-U.S. terrorists. At the same time, Chavez, regardless of our policy, has been devoted to creating an anti-U.S. alliance in Latin America.

It is worth pointing out, again purely on a moral basis, that Panama today is a functioning democracy.  The people in Panama are better off in every possible way than they were under Noriega.  Our intervention served the greater good, getting rid of a ruthless killer and drug runner and replacing him with a democratic government that has brought prosperity to Panamanians.

Still, non-interventionists could argue quite cogently that the current conditions do not warrant any military intervention in Latin America. But they could not argue with any basic logic that there are never conditions that would justify U.S. action against Chavez. For example, what if the FARC did succeed in getting a dirty bomb and, working with Chavez, smuggled it into the United States? What if the threat was that, unless the U.S. convinced Colombia to set free hundreds of FARC prisoners, the dirty bomb would kill tens of thousands in New York? Clearly, there are some conditions that argue for some kind of military action in basic self-defense.

Moral interventionists, of which I am one, will argue that there are certain cases in which it is appropriate for U.S. forces to intervene. We will point out that our foreign and economic policy must be guided by moral concerns and try to support the greatest good for Latin Americans. Colombia is led by a popularly elected clearly democratic government that is fighting a “good war,” purely defensive, against narco-terrorists who kidnap, murder and extort. Two of its neighbors are helping those narco-terrorists. Now, evidence has surfaced that a nearby quasi-dictator is trying to overthrow a neighboring democratically elected government and financing a terrorist group to do it.

There are significant humanitarian concerns.   Innocents are kidnapped and killed in Colombia today nearly every day by the FARC.   The FARC is planning on using terror to kill even more innocents through the purchase of a dirty bomb.  At the same time, there are obviously grave moral concerns with Chavez’s growing dictatorship.  Correa has also taken measures toward creating his own dictatorship in Ecuador.  From a moral perspective, promoting true democracy in Latin America is clearly the correct policy.

If Chavez declares war on Colombia and invades, the United States has a moral responsibility to try to negotiate a peaceful solution.  If negotiations fail, I am in favor, purely on humanitarian grounds, of intervening militarily against Venezuelan troops inside Colombia, if we are invited by the Colombian military.

At the same time, we must ask ourselves when the most moral policy may be to detain and/or overthrow Chavez.  His ties to the FARC have shown that he is clearly financing terrorism.  He is trying to set himself up as a ruthless dictator in Venezuela.  He is trying to spread terrorism throughout South America.

I am not convinced the time to do this is now.  But I do feel that, purely on a moral basis, the time may be coming when such an action would be for the greater good.  I am open to respectful, on-topic comments.

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

82 thoughts on “When is force against Latin American terrorism morally correct?

  1. If we intervene it only strengthens populists like Chavez. It strengthens nationalism to have the nosy US intervening in their affairs. More than diplomatic affairs, there are economic and political sanctions that could be tried but we intervene, I guarantee it would blow up in our face. That is not to say we can’t strongly support Columbia, giving aid, hardware, whatever they need for defending themselves. If what you say is right, certainly this would be justified. Even this runs the risk of making Columbia look like a US puppet.
    If Valdez and the drug cartels took over Columbia, they would lose a lot of allies. Totalitarian regimes isolate themselves, causing suffering to be sure, but they don’t last.
    Also, One thing I have learned from the current administration, take any talk of dirty bombs and WMDs with a big, big grain of salt. My government has lost my trust on that call. Were he stupid enough to support terrorists who actually set one off, reprisals ala Afghanistan would probably be in order.

  2. Having made it thus far, I find exception with the author’s characterization of the current situation in latin america.

    He uses a lot of scaremongering terminology such as “terrorists” and “dictator” which are entirely subjective terms here. He compares the FARC to the Gadianton robbers in the BOM and suggests that there is a black and white situation in Columbia with the government being pure white and the Leftist rebels being evil black.

    For example, you said this: “Colombia is led by a popularly elected clearly democratic government that is fighting a “good war,” purely defensive, against narco-terrorists who kidnap, murder and extort.” Hmmm. This is problematic. I personally know a physician in the US who is an ex-member of the Columbian military. He told me how he used to go through, after the military massacre of peasant villagers, and make the situation appear as if there was a battle between guerillas and the military, instead of there being a massacre by the military against defenseless villagers.

    Also, will you recall how the FARC tried to take their issues to the ballot box in 1985 and won some victories and ended up getting 4000 of their elected officials, and others on their side assassinated? It is a vibrant democracy that kills any leftists who try to do things legitimately and end up getting killed. Is it little wonder that FARC has to resort to less desireable methods?

    Calling Chavez a dictator is another problem. He was elected by large majorities in all of his elections (far more democratically than Columbias elections) and quietly accepted his recent defeat regarding proposed changes to the Constitution.

    Columbia murders people in Ecuador, especially one who was instrumental in releasing the hostages recently, apparently giving the shaft to Chavez’s attempts at reconciliation between Uribe and the FARC.

    I think that it is obvious that we shouldn’t intervene in this situation and it is obvious that Columbia should not be attacking other people’s countries. If Chavez is helping the FARC, let Columbia produce the evidence. If he is, then what of it? We all help our own causes. In the US we support all sorts of terrorism and harbor terrorists (Jose Luis Posada Carrilles for one). One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. We should stay clear of this incident all together.

  3. For some background information on the situation in Columbia (rather than the usual unidimensional traditional US view) see the Columbia Support Network at:

    http://www.colombiasupport.net/background.html

    Then decide if you want to go to war against two democracies in Latin America to defend this country which has launched an attack on another country’s land.

    Of course this attack is a learned trick from Columbia’s master, the USA who just a few days ago, bombed a village in Somalia (did you even hear about it?) killing 3 cows and a donkey and apparently injuring 8 villagers according to one source.

  4. By the way, the scaremongering technique of the mention of FARC ambitions of a uranium dirty bomb mentioned here are probably a lie according to ABC News:

    “U.S. intelligence officials, while they did not comment directly on the possibility of FARC engaging in the illicit uranium trade, cautioned that reports of FARC attempting to acquire materials for a radioactive dirty bomb should be treated with extreme skepticism.”

    http://www.abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4395397&page=1

  5. I apologize to Dan and Clark that your comments got deleted. Our software still has some hangups. It is on the list of things to be fixed. (Hmm, this sounds suspiciously like what I used to write when we were using the other platform).

  6. I think intervening in Venezuela would be an unusually bad idea – sort of like invading Iraq with a much weaker causus belli and without any of the latter’s potential strategic advantages.

    However, Colombia is fully justified in going after terrorists who seek safe harbor just across the border. National sovereignty does not preempt the right to self defense. We certainly do not have any qualms about occasionally killing known terrorists in other countries.

    In 1916 Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, killing twenty four. In response we sent 10,000 troops into Mexico to search for him for a full year. I can’t say Mexico was too happy about that, but what else were we supposed to do?

  7. There it goes again. This isn’t a wordpress problem. What’s going on?

    Dan, we believe it is a server issue, which is affecting our WP database. We have a ticket in with our hosting company to move our domain to a new server with fewer domains on it. We believe this will go a long way to fix the issue with disappearing comments (this issue has also affected M* permabloggers.

    M* Administrator, 3/6/2008

  8. I would ask anybody interested in this situation to carefully read the following article:

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/columnists/andres_oppenheimer/story/445805.html

    There is an extremely important point that many people may not be thinking through and considering: the new development here is that Chavez, who had sworn he would never support any subversive movement, is now openly supporting one and encouraging his allies, including Correa in Ecuador, to do the same. This has not happened in modern-day Latin America. Let’s stop and think for a second. Let’s leave aside ideology. Let’s say that the United States were harboring a guerrilla group that was dedicated to overthrowing the democratically elected Canadian government. Let’s say that this guerrilla group would make attacks across the border into Ontario and retreat back to Detroit. And let’s say we publicly said we supported this group and encouraged its efforts. Wouldn’t this be a huge scandal? Wouldn’t everybody on this board be denouncing the United States government and clearly placing the blame on the U.S. (and rightly so)?

    Well, this is what Chavez is doing. He is actively encouraging a violent guerrilla group that has been fighting for decades to overthrow a democracy. So, let’s place the blame for this situation where it belongs.

  9. Geoff,

    The United States has much blood on its hands in terms of supporting groups that fought against democratically elected governments (including in Iran). Iran is a particular case, because it is a democracy. They do elect their leaders. It is not as fully developed a democracy as other countries (due in large part to Operation Ajax and the reinstalling of the monarchical shah).

    And in terms of Latin America, as much as Reaganites and Bushies may not love the Sandinistas, they were democratically elected to rule Nicaragua. That didn’t stop the United States to fund a rebellion to militarily overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua.

    Doubly ironically, the funding of the Contras came on money from arms sold to Islamic fundamentalists in Iran. Truly, truly ironic.

    Sorry Geoff, but your arguments fall flat. You justify the United States to take action on Chavez over things that Chavez is doing that the United States has previously done. Hypocrisy does not begin to truly explain the position of the United States that you espouse.

  10. For one thing, the USA is doing the exact crime you are accusing Chavez of! We are harboring one of the biggest terrorists in the western hemisphere in Jose Luis Posada Carriles! He is responsible for bombing a passenger airliner in the 70’s and killing the 70 some people on board. He lives free with his co-perp in Miami right now with the US’s blessing.

    We have also supported terror around the world at different times during this century, such as the murders of Suharto against his own people in 1965, and the occupation and massacre of 200,000 people East Timor 1975-1998. The US gives support to terrorists in Iran too, including the MEK, which bombs and kills innocent civilians.

    The degree of support of Chavez for the FARC is not known. The alleged 300 million dollars support is not corroborated and comes from the same laptop as the doubted dirty bomb allegations.

    On the other hand, that Chavez was just recently able to negotiate the release of FARC hostages and was working toward a viable peace between Columbia and the FARC, is an undisputable fact.

    Your villainization of Chavez on this point is wrong. It would behoove us all to study why Chavez and Correa are ticked at the US in the first place rather than to jump on the media bandwagon and condemn them. There are plenty of good reasons for Chavez to be upset with the US.

  11. OK, another important point that deserves its own comment.

    The article linked in the above comment mentions that the Ecuadorans (Chavez’s allies in trying to overthrow the Colombia government) were harboring FARC leaders, one of whom was caught in his pajamas in a well-equipped camp.

    Now, who are the FARC? They have been fighting against the democratically elected governments in Colombia for decades. Please see the following for more information:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FARC

    They started as a Communist group and now are simply thugs. They have killed tens of thousands of people and have caused incredible misery in Colombia. Today they hold dozens of people hostage demanding ransom money from their families.

    To put this in perspective, the FARC is hundreds of times worse than Osama bin Laden from a Colombian perspective. The FARC has set up its own territories within Colombia where it imposes thug-style rule. The misery caused by this terrorist organization is hundreds of times worse than Osama bin Laden’s one attack on the United States because it is a continuing misery that has gone on for decades.

    So, the Ecuadorans and Venezuelans are working together to support the FARC. The Ecuadoran military allowed the FARC to set up its own base in Ecuadoran territory, from which it has attacked Colombia for months if not years.

    Now, imagine that Osama bin Laden were in a military camp aided by the Mexican government just across from El Paso. He made occasional attacks into the United States and then retreated back into Mexico, where the Mexican army helped him hide and allowed him to operate with impunity. Would the United States be justified in attacking this base in Mexico and killing Osama bin Laden?

    Well, there will be some people who might say no. I would remind them that we did much more than this in our invasion of Afghanistan. We traveled halfway across the world to overthrow another government in an attempt to kill Osama bin Laden and Taliban leaders. And this invasion is regularly cited by intelligent people as a “just war” because it was a defensive war. To this day, the Afghanistan action has wide bipartisan support.

    From the perspective of Colombia, their small, temporary incursion into Ecuador was nothing in comparison to our massive invasion of Afghanistan. People who are going to condemn the Colombian government in any way are going to have a very big problem being consistent on this issue.

  12. Oh, and the Contras who were working to subvert the democratically elected government in Nicaragua, yeah, they were working out of El Salvador and Honduras. Hmmm, isn’t that what FARC is doing out of Ecuador?

    Why is it okay for the Contras to undermine a democratically elected government and run off into another sovereign nation but it is not okay for FARC?

    Could it possibly be ideology and NOT the tools or methods used by the group? Because the Contras are fascist rebels, they get a break and are not only allowed to disrupt democratically elected governments and steal away into another country, but are actually funded! Meanwhile socialist rebels only get the mean stick.

  13. Geoff,

    Your point about Columbia making incursions into Ecuador are fine. But, well, how does that justify the United States entering into the picture? The United States is not nominally involved in this (we are of course heavily involved because of the Monroe Doctrine, and we think that Latin America is our backyard and we can do what we please with it).

    while Columbia may justifiably enter into Ecuador to try and attack FARC, Columbia also must be cautious and prudent about such incursions. As is showing now, most countries in Latin America are looking unfavorably on Columbia’s actions. No one looked unfavorably on the United States going into Afghanistan (in fact everybody welcomed it because everybody assumed the United States would finally work to fix up that poor backward state—alas we shifted our focus to another country and now Afghanistan is worse off).

    Instead of incursions into Ecuador, Columbia should have been, and should start to, work with Ecuador instead of surprise violations of Ecuadorian sovereignty.

  14. Dan, if you would like to have meaningful dialogue on this issue, it’s going to have to start with respectful, calm discussion.

    OK, the first point. I didn’t support the Contras in the 1980s nor do I think it was justified U.S. policy. They were operating in Honduras (not El Salvador) with the acquiescence of the Honduran government. Your comparison is a valid one. I don’t think two wrongs make a right, and I don’t think ideology justifies doing something that is morally wrong. So, arguments that say, “the United States did this in XX date” have absolutely no validity with me. If the United States did something that is wrong, and we agree it was wrong, why aren’t we being consistent about what a moral policy should be instead of making meaningless comparisons?

    The Sandinistas were not democratically elected. There was one election in 1984, which was a farce. I personally interviewed Daniel Ortega and he admitted the election was rigged. During a fair election in 1990, Ortega lost to Violeta Chamorro. Ortega was elected last year in a fair election but he got only about 37 percent of the vote.

    Having lived and worked in Latin American for 22 years now, I can tell you that I know literally thousands of people from different countries in Latin America. I have visited every country in the region and traveled by bus all over the place. My only wish, and I say this with the most sincerity possible, is to bring the greatest amount of happiness and peace and love to the greatest number of people in Latin America. I truly believe that the Gospel is the greatest joy possible you can bring to people in Latin America, and I truly believe the Gospel flourishes when there is peace and prosperity. I hope you will put ideology aside and read my comments as a truly heartfelt desire to pursue a moral policy in Latin America. Thanks.

  15. I’m not yet up to speed on the goings on in South America, but Dan’s comments remind me of a thought I’ve had for a long time. We’re so quick to spread Democracy- outwardly under the guise of human rights, inwardly out of faith in the international relations theory of democratic peace (the idea that no two constitutional democracies have never gone to war with each other in recent history- thus more democracy should equal less war)

    But what happens when democracies elect tyrants? Need I list recent democracies gone bad? So what when they go bad? How do we justify military action? Even if these states are DINO’s (Democracies In Name Only).

    History has repeatedly demonstrated that the short-term “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” rational comes back to bite us in the butt every time.

    I’m not informed enough on the matter to form an educated opinion on this one, but whatever we do, we need to think, plan, think, before we take any action.

  16. Dan, please re-read the last three paragraphs on my original comment. I call for two possible justifications for possible future U.S. involvement. One is if Venezuela invades Colombia. Not likely to happen, but if it were to happen, and after negotiations, Venezuela refused to leave, we have a moral obligation to enter and restore peace. This is exactly what the United States has done over the years in many different conflicts, and this is what UN peace-keeping forces do all of the time.

    I also say we should study the possibility of taking out Chavez. I do not say we should do it now. In fact, now is probably not the right time. But as the attached article from Andres Oppenheimer points out, this problem is not going to go away. There may come a time when the moral course is to take him out. The purpose of this post is to consider under what conditions that may take place.

  17. Geoff,

    If you wish to pursue a moral policy in Latin America, then you must set aside any desire to pursue military action in Latin America. They will not bring you the desired results. You wish for a peaceful and prosperous Latin America. That will not come by war. War only brings destruction and devastation.

    You want to challenge the rule of men like Chavez, then you must give supporters of Chavez an incentive to no longer support him. Threatening them with military destruction will not change this. It never has and it never will.

  18. Geoff,

    You say:

    “There may come a time when the moral course is to take him out. The purpose of this post is to consider under what conditions that may take place.”

    There is NO moral course to take him out. There are no conditions where this is morally warranted. Or let me state it more correctly, there are no possible, realistic conditions where this is morally warranted. We have no moral obligation to “take him out.” Let Venezuelans choose out of their free will and choice to take him out as they so choose.

  19. Dan, are you saying that military action has never been and cannot ever be moral?

  20. Geoff,

    Your assertions about Nicaragua’s elections cannot go unchallenged here. Under Wikipedia’s entry for Ortega can be found the following showing the 1984 election to be judged as fair by everyone except for Reagan:

    “In November 1984, Ortega called national elections; he won the presidency with 63% of the vote and took office on January 10, 1985. According to the vast majority of independent observers, the 1984 elections were perhaps the freest and fairest in Nicaraguan history. A report by an Irish parliamentary delegation stated: “The electoral process was carried out with total integrity. The seven parties participating in the elections represented a broad spectrum of political ideologies.” The general counsel of New York’s Human Rights Commission described the election as “free, fair and hotly contested.” A study by the U.S. Latin American Studies Association (LASA) concluded that the FSLN (Sandinista Front) “did little more to take advantage of its incumbency than incumbent parties everywhere (including the U.S.) routinely do.”

    Thirty-three percent of the Nicaraguan voters cast ballots for one of six opposition parties – three to the right of the Sandinistas, three to the left – which had campaigned with the aid of government funds and free TV and radio time. Two conservative parties captured a combined 23 percent of the vote. They held rallies across the country (a few of which were disrupted by FSLN supporters) and blasted the Sandinistas in terms far harsher than Walter Mondale’s 1984 critiques of incumbent U.S. President Reagan. Most foreign and independent observers noted this pluralism in debunking the Reagan administration charge – prominent in the U.S. press – that it was a “Soviet-style sham” election.[8] Some opposition parties boycotted it, under pressure from U.S. embassy officials, and it was denounced as being unfair by the Reagan administration.[9] Reagan thus maintained that he was justified to continue supporting the Contras’ “democratic resistance”.

  21. As for the 1990 elections in Nicaragua, Noam Chomsky says the following of it:

    “As the election campaign opened, the US made it clear that the embargo that was strangling the country and the contra terror would continue if the Sandinistas won the election. You have to be some kind of Nazi or unreconstructed Stalinist to regard an election conducted under such conditions as free and fair — and south of the border, few succumbed to such delusions.”

    “If anything like that were ever done by our enemies… I leave the media reaction to your imagination. The amazing part of it was that the Sandinistas still got 40% of the vote, while New York Times headlines proclaimed that Americans were “United in Joy” over this “Victory for US Fair Play.”

  22. Dan, philosophers have recognized for millennia that there are times when war is morally justified and in fact occasionally necessary. War to stop genocide and peace-keeping wars are just two examples. So, if Venezuela invaded Colombia and began killing thousands of people at random, clearly the moral thing to do would be to intervene to prevent genocide.

    So, statements like “war only brings destruction and devastation” certainly sound nice, but they do not consider all of the moral complexities involved.

    As I feared, we are just heading to one of those useless discussions where no new ground is covered. I’m very reluctant to continue this discussion.

  23. I agree with Dan in that taking Chavez out (if we respect democracy in Venezuela) should be left up to the people of Venezuela as they have a vibrant and participatory democracy and are perfectly able to do this themselves. For now though, his popularity numbers among his own people make Bush turn green with envy.

  24. Tossman,

    You say,

    “Dan, are you saying that military action has never been and cannot ever be moral?”

    Not at all. But realistically, there are no scenarios where military action in Latin America by the United States can be considered morally justified.

  25. Geoff,

    UN peacekeeping forces do not go in to break up wars as you suggest above. And, saying that the US has done this in the past does not make it right.

  26. Thanks for the clarification, Dan. You have a point, but I still wouldn’t rule out the possibility.

    Geoff- I actually find this conversation meaningful, as I don’t know as much as I should about that part of the world. The sparring hasn’t been as aggressive in this thread as it has in others.

  27. Geoff,
    What if Columbia invaded Venezuela and didn’t leave after negotiations (they would be more likely to succeed in such a venture with their much larger military and massive financial and military aid from the USA)? Would that then be time for the US to invade Columbia in order to keep the peace?

    As Dan points out above, this is a question of which ideology is being attacked. The Contras were supported by the US because they were attacking the enemies of US imperialism. Suharto was supported by the US in East Timor because he was committing genocide against a people who stood in the way of US corporate dominance in the region. Venezuela challenges US dominance in South America. Columbia does not. Which ideology do you choose? That will determine the merits of invasion or other hostilities from the viewpoint of the USA, and not pure judgement of right and wrong.

  28. A comment has been deleted for violating the M* comment policy. I would remind all commenters to be respectful of others. There will be zero tolerance on this issue. Thanks.

  29. Dan,

    One of your misconceptions here should be rectified though. You said:

    “No one looked unfavorably on the United States going into Afghanistan (in fact everybody welcomed it because everybody assumed the United States would finally work to fix up that poor backward state”

    When in reality what did the world think of the Afghanistan war at the time?

    “World opinion

    “The biggest poll of world opinion was carried out by Gallup International in 37 countries in late September (Gallup International 2001).

    “It found that apart from the US, Israel and India a majority of people in every country surveyed preferred extradition and trial of suspects to a US attack. Clear and sizeable majorities were recorded in the UK (75%) and across Western Europe from 67% in France to 87% in Switzerland. Between 64% (Czech Republic) and 83 % (Lithuania) of Eastern Europeans concurred as did varying majorities in Korea, Pakistan, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

    “An even more emphatic answer obtained in Latin America where between 80% (Panama) and 94% (Mexico) favoured extradition. The poll also found that majorities in the US and Israel (both 56%) did not favour attacks on civilians. Yet such polls have been ignored by the media and by many of the polling companies.

    “After the bombing started opposition seems to have grown in Europe. As only the Mirror has reported, by early November 65 per cent in Germany and 69 per cent in Spain wanted the US attacks to end (Yates, 2001).”

  30. It is a bad idea to justify Columbia’s attacks against FARC “terrorists” in Ecuador any way you look at it.

    There are two terrorists living in Miami named Posada-Carriles and Bosch. They are charged with blowing up a passenger airliner in the 70’s and killing 72 people, Cubans and Venezuelans. If we justify the killing of FARC on Ecuadoran land, then by the same token, we shouldn’t be too surprised when Venezuela or Cuba bomb Miami to get the terrorists harbored there.

    The US goes about bombing whereever it pleases in search of its terrorists. We just bombed Somalia a few days ago trying to hit a terrorist. The effects of this attack range from the deaths of 6 villagers in one report, to no villager deaths and the deaths of 3 cows and a donkey in another report. Somalians are marching in protest today, condemning the attacks.

    This breach of sovereignity by such attacks should not be allowed to be the norm and a return to legal channels for extradition should be sought after.

  31. For open-minded people who want to know what is really going on in Venezuela, here are a few links:

    Rise in anti-semitism:

    http://www.adl.org/PresRele/ASInt_13/4925_13.htm

    Chavez destroyed judicial independence and packed the Supreme Court. Human rights watch worried.

    http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/12/14/venezu9864.htm

    Corruption is worse than ever:

    http://www.economist.com/World/la/displayStory.cfm?story_id=6749208

    Crime is worse than ever:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/09/AR2006050901803.html

    Chavez has destroyed virtually all opposition media:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/wtMostRead/idUSN2723008820070528?pageNumber=1

    Chavez’s horrendous economic policies are causing food shortages similar to Cuba. Venezuela was once one of the richest countries in Latin America.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/story/430874.html

    I could go on and on. Any person who actual cares about Latin Americans should realize Chavez has been a disaster for the country. The result was that his attempt to set up a complete dictatorship with absolute power was soundly rejected by the people of Venezuela on Dec. 2, 2007. Since then, Chavez has been whipping up nationalistic feelings against Colombia in an attempt to justify what I feel will inevitably be an attempt to complete his power grab in Venezuela.

    This does not mean we should take out Chavez. I repeat that the time is not right for that. But we should be aware that Venezuela will be a much better place without him.

  32. The OAS sides with Venezuela and Ecuador on this issue as follows:

    “Caracas, March 5, 2008 – In a special meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Tuesday to mediate the conflict sparked by Colombian attacks on encampments of the Revolutionary Forces Armed of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuadorian territory, the OAS formally declared that Colombia`s actions violated Ecuador`s national sovereignty and broke international law, both of which the OAS affirmed are “inviolable…directly or indirectly, for whatever reason, even temporarily”.

    Ecuador also achieved unanimous backing of its petition for an urgent meeting of foreign relations ministers in the hemisphere, which is scheduled to take place March 17th in Washington, D.C.

    A special committee headed by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza was created to investigate the attacks and prepare a report for the meeting in Washington. The proposal for this investigation was originally rejected by Colombian Ambassador to the OAS Camilo Ospina, who considered the theme impertinent and said “the internal affairs of Colombia will be resolved by the Colombian government.”

    Claims by the Colombian government to have acted in self-defense have been refuted by survivor testimonies and Ecuadorian government investigations which reveal evidence that it was a pre-planned “massacre” of a sleeping encampment.”

  33. See what Latin American Leaders are saying about this incident. Somewhat different from the tone promoted by Geoff here:

    “In response, Correa declared that “Colombia is a sovereign nation, and so are we, and international law demands that they inform us, and that it be the public forces of Ecuador which carry out the capture, as has occurred on multiple occasions in the past, always with absolute respect for human rights,” and reiterated that Ecuador does not support the FARC and disapproves of the insurgent`s “actions and methods”.

    Ecuadorian Ambassador to Venezuela René Vargas Pazzo declared on the Venezuelan government television channel (VTV) that Colombia`s attack on the sleeping guerrilla encampment had “no military justification,” and that it was rather “a provocation by people or governments who do not want peace, who do not want integration, who want war and that is the path that all South American must oppose, all Latin Americans who want peace, union, and integration.”

    The Andean Parliament, a diplomatic organization of the community of Andean nations, echoed Pazzo`s analysis, asserting that Colombia`s military apparatus is being manipulated in the interests of the Pentagon, and that the violations of trust by Colombian officials impede “the creation of unity among southern peoples.”

    The attacks were “at odds with the most elemental principles of International Humanitarian Law,” according to the Latin American Association for Human Rights (ALDHU), a 28 year-old international NGO based in Ecuador that works with over 20 nations and is a principle component of the Andean Parliament. Juan de Dios Parra, the general secretary of ALDHU, called the events an “invasion” and a “massacre” which “violated all the international norms regulating the respect for borders”.

    In addition, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, told the Chilean press that “we cannot be in agreement with the non-respect of borders and we lament that Ecuador has been assaulted.” She personally spoke with President Correa and asserted that “borders between countries are based on international agreements,” which is why their transgression for “whatever objective, legitimate or illegitimate” is “extremely delicate”.

    Statements were also released by the Brazilian administration, which announced its initiation of a multi-national diplomatic effort to “maximally reduce tension and renew initiatives to achieve a humanitarian accord.” Brazilian president Lula da Silva has reportedly consulted with the presidents of Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. Brazilian Foreign Relations Secretary cancelled diplomatic activities scheduled in Sao Paolo this week to attend to the conflict, which presidential envoy Marco Aurelio García says “has influence on regional destabilization,” therefore “our principle of non-interference cannot mean indifference.”

    Statements released from the Argentine foreign relations department expressed that “Argentina is dismayed and very worried about what is evidently a violation of the territorial sovereignty of a country in the region,” and that the country will remain “active and in constant contact…in order to coordinate a common position.”

    Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte declared, “Paraguay vindicates the sovereignty of nations, the self-determination of peoples, and condemns all external aggression, all usurpation, all forsaking of the territorial sovereignty of nations.”

    Similarly, Peruvian President Alan García expressed “enormous preoccupation” and condemned Colombia`s incursion into Ecuadorian territory as “unacceptable,” calling for urgent action by the Organization of American States (OAS).

    Immense concern was also expressed in a statement released by the Bolivian Foreign Relations Ministry which called any act of violation of national sovereignty “unjustifiable,” and called for a “peaceful, long lasting, humanitarian” solution based on “a climate of understanding and mutual respect.” In addition, Bolivia offered to mediate the conflict in line with “peaceful tradition expressed in Bolivian Constitutional Precepts.”

    In similar fashion, Mexican President Felipe Calderón urged dialogue and communicated directly with Uribe and Correa to offer his mediation if both countries agree.

    Cuba`s former president Fidel Castro unabashedly diagnosed the situation as a “consequence of the genocidal plans of the Yankee empire,” and declared that once again, after a long history of such attacks from the U.S. and its allies, “the trumpets of war are heard mightily in the South of our continent… this is nothing new! It was foreseen!”

  34. I suppose it is morally okay when the US intervenes against a country that allows freedom of religion and is decidedly anti-communist and in no way aligned with Cuba. The also must be doing something to interfere with the free flow of narcotics to the crackhead country (US)

  35. A comment has been deleted for violating the M* comment policy. The person who posted the comment is invited to re-post with a more respectful tone. Thanks.

  36. With all objectivity thrown out the window, I guess I’m out of this conversation if my comments will be deleted due to lack of respect.

    Your villainization of Chavez above shows the true purpose of your post. You obviously have an agenda and if you feel the need to delete this post too, go right ahead. If you all want a more balanced view of Chavez and Venezuela, there is a lot of it out there. Please don’t think Geoff’s views are the truth.

  37. Curtis,

    When I was in Venezuela lo those many years ago–twenty-five or so–the Bolivar was 4.3 to the dollar. Now it’s around 2150. I’d like you to explain to me how Chavez intends to revitalize the Venezuelan economy by doing more than throwing chump-change at the poor.

    Chavez is a military dictator cut from the same cloth as Fidel Castro–who, incidentally, tried to establish himself first in Venezuela but failed and fled to Cuba. If you want to get a look at Venezuela’s future with Chavez as it’s dictator then look no further than Cuba. Cuba touts state funded education and heathcare–and yet I don’t see a lot of Cuban expatriates in a hurry to get back to their homeland.

  38. For your question on what Chavez is doing about inflation please see this article:

    http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3236

    As far as your assertions about Chavez, he actually attempted a coup against a corrupt President in the early 90’s. He was jailed for the attempt and I don’t remember hearing that he fled to Cuba. You’d have to provide a source for that.

    There are some really big differences between Chavez and Castro. One of those things is called democracy. Chavez has the people behind him. He has never lost an election for office and enjoys huge popular approval ratings. He is not a military dictator. He is not part of the Military now. He is a democratically elected leader.

    For more on the differences between Castro and Chavez see this article:

    http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2221

    Why look to Cuba’s expatriots for their opinion of Castro’s government? Why not look to Cuban patriots?

    Chavez does not throw a lot of chump change at the poor. He has developed a vibrant grass roots democracy where each community has significant say in local and national government. The original constitution adopted during his presidency was created by the people with individual components of it voted up or down in the communities. He has empowered the people and that’s why they love him there. He is not another Castro by a longshot.

  39. For your question on what Chavez is doing about inflation please see this article:

    http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news/3236

    As far as your assertions about Chavez, he actually attempted a coup against a corrupt President in the early 90’s. He was jailed for the attempt and I don’t remember hearing that he fled to Cuba. You’d have to provide a source for that.

    There are some really big differences between Chavez and Castro. One of those things is called democracy. Chavez has the people behind him. He has never lost an election for office and enjoys huge popular approval ratings. He is not a military dictator. He is not part of the Military now. He is a democratically elected leader.

    For more on the differences between Castro and Chavez see this article:

    http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/2221

    Why look to Cuba’s expatriots for their opinion of Castro’s government? Why not look to Cuban patriots?

    Chavez does not throw a lot of chump change at the poor. He has developed a vibrant grass roots democracy where each community has significant say in local and national government. The original constitution adopted during his presidency was created by the people with individual components of it voted up or down in the communities. He has empowered the people and that’s why they love him there. He is not another Castro by a longshot.

  40. Just a reminder to many here, the Latin American country is “Colombia”, not “Columbia”.

  41. Jack, many of my friends in Miami are Venezuelans who have fled Latin America’s latest tyrant. On the simplest, most basic level, if you want to see if a country is improving or getting worse, just watch the flow of people. Cubans are desperate to leave, and so are Venezuelans. The saddest thing is that the first wave always includes the best educated and best trained. That’s certainly the case in Venezuela, where an entire future generation of teachers, professors, technicians, doctors and lawyers is fleeing in droves. Many of them hope to return one day, but not with Chavez in power.

  42. Jack, I have a melancholy story to tell about a Mexican friend of mine. This was in the late 1980s. He was a big Communist sympathizer who loved to quote figures on how health care and infant mortality and illiteracy had improved in Cuba. He loved Castro, thought he was a great hero, etc. So, one day he got a chance to go to Cuba on a typical trip where useful fools are taken around by a government agent to see the wonders of the Cuban revolution. He saw a cigar factory where the workers were doing nothing. He saw a hospital without any medicine, stores with literally nothing in them. And all the time the government agent is extolling all of the virtues of the revolution. Reality is slowly starting to sink in on my Mexican friend.

    So, he begins talking to actual Cuban people. And once he gains their confidence, they begin to open up to him and they tell him about the torture chambers, the political prisoners, the stifling lack of basic freedom to move from one house to another, to choose what kind of career you can have. After a week, my Mexican friend is feeling a bit claustrophic. Cuba is starting to feel like one big prison cell to him.

    So he loses his passport (or most likely it is stolen). He goes to the Mexican embassy and is told it will take two weeks to get a new one. He is desperate now, he begs the people at the embassy to expedite the process. He can’t stand Cuban any more. The place is stifling, the lack of freedom and the ability to express yourself is getting to him.

    Finally, he gets his passport and escapes back to Mexico on the first possible plane.

    His epiphany: “I don’t like everything the United States does, but Cuba is a prison and Castro is the worst tyrant in the history of Latin America. People need to know the truth.”

  43. Hey there. Taking a closer look at the situation, it seems like we should be invading Colombia instead of Venezuela! Check out the following facts:

    “Back in the day Senator Uribe was considered to be one of the world’s top drug dealers, working for the Medellin cartel and being—how did U.S. intelligence put it?— “a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar.” But that was 1991, this is now, and surely we couldn’t hold a grudge going back to the early 90s (sorry just a little laptop humor!) Haha here at BoRev, we don’t need any miracle computer to tell you what a liberal democracy is made of. We’re kicking it analog after the jump.”

    “For the record, Colombian paramilitaries are also listed as a terrorist group in the US and Europe. With that in mind, Uribe’s political allies alone make the FARC look like boy scouts. Por ejemplo:
    >>> Fourteen of Uribe’s closest congressional allies remain behind bars for their terrorist links, and are slowly revealing where bodies have been dumped, leading to discovery of mass graves last spring.

    >>> His foreign minister was forced to resign a year ago when her brother (a senator) was arrested for overseeing the killing of thousands of peasants. (Yeah that’s “thousands” with a “thu”)

    >>> His campaign manager/secret police chief was jailed that same month for “giving a hit list of trade unionists and activists to paramilitaries, who then killed them.”

    >>> His Army chief “collaborated extensively” with illegal death squads and, back in 2002, colluded in the massacre of 14 people for their supposed leftist politics.

    >>> His police intelligence unit illegally wiretapped the phones of journalists and opposition figures for two years

    >>> His Defense Minister “tried to plot with the outlawed private militias to upset the rule of a former president,” and

    >>> In last fall’s elections, a whopping 30 major candidates turned up murdered.”

    “And of course our little hero gags newspapers from reporting on corruption, jails journalists without trial, gave himself the power to rule by decree, overrides Supreme Court decisions by fiat, refers to human rights monitors as “political agitators in the service of terrorism,” and amended the Constitution to give himself a new term.”

  44. Well it looks like the three big wigs have talked it out (or shouted). I hope it sticks. But then my hopes are a little thin. We’ll see whether or not Chavez’ goals really have nothing to do with uniting Venezuela, Colombia, and Equador (and then Bolivia and so on) into one grand Colombia–and crowing himself the modern King Simon Bolivar.

    I agree with you, Geoff, about tracking the flow of people–though I wonder about the folks who don’t have the means to get out. There’s a Venezuelan gal at my work who gives me regular updates about the situation there–mostly having to do with her family. While it’s a rather subjective report I get from her, it’s still pretty sad–one of utter depravity. She’s very nervous about the situation–her father (who has lost his profession because of Chavez’ economic equalization) and other family members and friends are stuck there with nary a way out.

  45. Well, the three have settled this incident as men should, with a handshake rather than a war. Somewhat different than the USA preferred method of solving things.

    Jack and Geoff seem to be taking things out of perspective here. There are those who flee Venezuela when their livelihood is affected by the governments policies, but there are those who try to flee latin american nations when cruel dictators rule who step on the faces of the poor as with Haiti before Aristide when all of those refugees were turned away from American shores.

    In the meantime, the best indicator of how things are in Venezuela is the popularity of the man. For every malcontent you guys can drudge up an anecdote about, the numbers don’t support your assertion that the place is going downhill fast. The man has approval numbers about 3 times as large as Bush’s approval numbers and he keeps getting elected over and over again by large majorities over more capitalist types of candidates. Chavez is there to stay not because he’s a dictator, but because he rules for the people, not for the corporations. Remember, that’s what governments are supposed to be there for. By the people, for the people, of the people.

    In any case, any talk of what would constitute good criteria for invading Venezuela should go out the window. Instead, we should be seeking for peace. Renounce war and proclaim peace, say the scriptures. It is the wicked who destroy the wicked. The righteous need not fear. War is for those who are not content with themselves. Instead we should set out on a mission to make ourselves better. Latin America can get along without our imposition, without our ways of blood and horror. We’ve given too much of that to them this last 100 years. It’s time to take a different path.

  46. If the best indicator of how Chavez is doing is his popularity numbers, I have bad news for you, Curtis. The latest poll from mid-February has him at 38%.

    http://elobservador.rctv.net/Noticias/VerNoticia.aspx?NoticiaId=231508&Tipo=14

    What you call grass-roots democratic initiatives old-fashioned Latin American leftists call asistencialismo. Or if you prefer, gato pardismo, that is handing out goodies to poor people in order to allow other conditions–in this case gross corruption–to continue. There is a reason that most of Chavez’s allies from his early days have left him, and that is the main reason that true revolutionaries like Teodoro Petkoff never supported him to begin with.

    I find your support of Chavez’s 1992 coup attempt puzzling. By your logic–coups against corrupt governments are OK–the coups in 1973 in Chile and 1976 in Argentina were justified. And while Chavez has won elections, he continues to behave as if his 1992 attempt had been succesful; shutting down TV stations, jailing opponents, and turning Venezuelan society into a nation of enemies.

    At the same time he’s doing all this, as Geoff mentioned, crime has sky-rocketed, as has inflation. His ham-handed economic policies have resulted in shortages of even basic food-stuffs.

    Also curious is your characterization of Raul Reyes as someone who is instrumental in the release of the hostages held by the FARC. Only problem is that the organization that the late Raul was the second in command of had taken the civilians hostage in the first place. He deserves no commendation for the release of kidnap victims he was instrumental in kidnapping. Let’s not forget the civilian hostages still in the FARC’s power who have not been released.

    Equally problematic is this characterization of the FARC being murdered in their sleep. They are an armed organization in a state of war with the Colombian government. They have attacked Colombian soldiers, police, and civilians in their sleep numerous times. As combatants in a state of war–and BTW, I agree with Chavez that they should be classified as belligerents–they have no right to expect safe quarter at night.

    To the main point addressed in the OP, I disagree that armed force in justified in Venezuela. I disagree that US intervention is either required or helpful, even in the event that Colombia and Venezuela go to war. A senseless war like that would essentially mean the end of Chavez’s government, as all polls show ordinary Venezuelans opposed to any type of military conflict with Colombia.

  47. Chavez is pretty successful with the socialist message of buying anything you want with money. The problem is that he is destroying his country’s resource base to buy off the poor and the lazy. Wait until the money runs out.

    FWIW, Venezuelan crude oil is a particularly heavy kind that requires special refining capability. They can’t sell it just anywhere. Most of the refining capacity for V. crude is in the US. This has rather interesting implications for Venezuela.

  48. Curtis,

    Chavez’ approval rating is a reflection of the poor feeling after what little hope they think they have. Many (and I mean MANY) live in little “ranchitos” — homes made of whatever scraps they can find; dirt floors; no sewage; no postal addresses; and many with no power. And then there are those who are fortunate enough to live a step up from that–a lifestyle that would be comparable to the slums of Chicago. And a step up from that–the most fortunate poor–live in homes the size of a small to moderate trailer. (There was a fairly robust upper class when I was there in the early eighties, but that has been diminishing quickly.) It’s these folks–the poor–who are casting there vote for Chavez–and sadly, the only thing their going to get from him in the long run is more poverty.

    The problem is that Chavez’ is not promoting economic growth–the real key to overcoming poverty. His socialistic methods will only equalize all at a poverty level. His current trajectory suggests that we’ll see the same thing we’ve seen elsewhere where socialism was thought to be the salvation of the poor: hopelessness and depravity. In the meantime Chavez will, no doubt, continue to augment the Venezuelan military thus creating a military dictatorship a la Senor Saddam.

    History would suggest that Chavez’ approach is rather Stalinist.

    Just for clarification — in my first comment I meant that it was Castro who fled to Cuba after his failed attempt in Venezuela, not Chavez. I didn’t word it very well.

  49. Captain Jack,

    I didn’t say I supported the coup in 1992. Also, I don’t know where you get the idea that the coups in Chile and Argentina were good coups. Pinochet was one of the biggest criminals this hemisphere has seen (at least in the southern half).
    Chavez has shut down no television stations. He allowed the license to run out on one station which used its influence to support the coup against him in 2002. The rest of the news media are as biased as ever down there and they act with impunity. Even RCTV continues to broadcast, just not on the public waves. Your characterization of Chavez just does not match with reality.

    I do not support the FARC any more than I support the Colombian government with its bloody past and present. As far as Reyes death is concerned, it is obvious that Uribe had him killed because Chavez was having success with him in gaining freedom for hostages. Would any sane leader kill the source of future success in releasing hostages?

    As far as approval ratings go, I think that these numbers are more consistent with the historical record during his presidency:

    67.3% of Venezuelans approve of Chavez’s management

    Agencia Boliviariana Noticias
    February 27, 2008

    Caracas 67.3% of Venezuelans approve of Hugo Chavez’s record as president,
    according to a survey conducted by the Venezuelan Institute of Statistics
    (Ivad) and published by the daily newspaper Panorama.

    The results also show that 54.3% of Venezuelans believe the situation in the
    country has improved. This figure is higher than last year’s result of 41%.

    Although 53.7% of Venezuelans regard food shortages as a serious problem,
    53% of those surveyed indicated that they believe the situation will
    improve.

    Meanwhile, insecurity remains the single biggest problem for 72.1% of
    Venezuelans, despite the fact that this concern has decreased by 9.3% from
    last year’s figure of 81.4%.

    The missions continue to receive the highest approval ratings, with 73.1% in
    favour, against 15% opposed.

    The survey was conducted nation wide from the 8th to the 20th of Februray
    2008 and has an accuracy rating of 90%.

  50. Curtis:

    You’re going to have to do better than quoting polls taken by Chavez’s own polling agency. The fact is that Chavez’s mismanagement of the economy and neglect of domestic affairs has put a serious dent in his popularity.

    You brought up the fact that Chavez’s coup attempt was against, and I quote, ” a corrupt president”. From the tone, and context, it appears you’re defending his coup. I merely pointed out that the same defense–that they were carried out against “corrupt presidents”–could be said about the Argentine and Chilean coups of 30 years ago. I didn’t say they were “good coups”; I was merely pointing out the fatal flaw in your defense of Chavez.

    It isn’t obvious Uribe killed Reyes to prevent more hostages being freed; it is obvious that Reyes was killed because he is a self-proclaimed commander in an armed organization in a state of war with the government and people of Colombia. The Colombian government has been attempting to kill FARC commanders and soldiers for the last 40 years; last Saturday’s strike was nothing new.

    As to Uribe’s sanity, I’d say he’s taking the only approach any government in the world would and should take–that he isn’t going to negogiate with hostage takers. Negotiations in this case mean nothing less than exchanging 750 captives for 40 million.

    Responsibility for the hostages needs to be placed squarely where it belongs–on the FARC. The Colombian government is not in the wrong on this one. It is the FARC who kidnapped and continues to keep as prisoners men and women guilty of nothing more than having money in the bank, being politicians, or being stopped at a FARC roadblock.

    My “characterization” of Chavez doesn’t match the reality his government wishes to convey, but it does match the reality that independent news sources both in and out of the country have been reporting for years.

  51. Capt Jack, I agree that obviously the situation now does not warrant any kind of U.S. intervention. Everybody has made up, and that’s a good thing. So, let’s say Chavez continues to harbor the FARC in Venezuela. And let’s say they carry out a massive bombing in Bogota or Medellin, as they have done before. And let’s the Colombians have intelligence that the bombers have escaped across the border into Venezuela. And let’s say the Colombians decide to take out a rebel base in Venezuela, just as they did in Ecuador.

    In response, Chavez launches an invasion into Colombia and takes over the eastern third of the country, including some of the Colombian oil fields. Let’s say he announces that as part of his Bolivarian revolution he is annexing this territory for Venezuela. Meanwhile, in Colombia Venezuelan troops are raping and pillaging and killing. We negotiate for six months and nothing happens — Chavez refuses to leave. Colombia asks for U.S. and worldwide assistance. We put together a multi-national force including troops from other Latin American countries, British, Australians, etc. The usual dictators are on Chavez’s side, but most of the world is either neutral or on the U.S. side. Then, would intervention be justified morally?

    That’s really one of the questions I’m trying to explore.

    Another possible scenario. Chavez’s popularity continues to fall. Because of the continuing problems and food shortages in Venezuela, unrest starts. Anti-Chavez demonstrations are taking place all over the country. He sends in the police and breaks up demonstrations. The police begin busting heads. Chavez throws thousands into prison as political prisoners.

    Meanwhile, he begins to pursue U.S. citizens at random and arrest them and/or have them beaten (just like Noriega in Panama). He announces that he is assuming for himself the dictatorial powers that he couldn’t get in the Dec. 2 referendum through democratic means. He begins openly arming the FARC and openly providing them a safe haven and funding them.

    At what point is military intervention justified against this tyrant? Never, no matter what he does?

    Again, I am not saying that military intervention is justified today. I’m trying to explore the possible future conditions that would make military intervention justified.

  52. Even given your nightmare scenarios, I wouldn’t think US military intervention was warranted. I might support arming Colombia to a greater degree than we do today; I’d also consider providing greater intelligence, but I wouldn’t support “boots on the deck”.

    As for the likelihood of your scenarios, I doubt either one would happen. First, because I’ve had dealings with both the Colombian and Venezuelan militaries–in the event of an armed conflict, my money is on Colombia. Second, as someone else pointed out earlier, Chavez is heavily dependent on US dollars to advance his agenda and on US refineries. I don’t see him jeopardizing either one. Sure, he’ll rattle sabers and make noise, but I don’t see him doing much more than that.

    The only time I would consider intervention justified would be a direct attack against the US itself that could be linked back to Chavez.

  53. Pinochet is a 20th century hero. When a situation gets totally out of control it takes courageous men like Pinochet to get them back under control. When he finished the job he stepped down and turned the country back to civilian government. That took courage that you’ll never see from the castros or the chavezes. And you only see it from the Sandinistas because they haven’t really stepped down.

  54. Pinochet was no hero. He was a back-stabbing politician who happened to wear a uniform.

    Pinochet was brought into the Popular Unity goverment as chief of staff of the army because it was felt he was a constitutionalist.

    He wasn’t involved in the preparation of the coup against Allende; he was only made aware of the plans the Sunday before Sept 11. The generals and admirals who went to his home to let him in on the plot had made arrangements for his arrest and detention in the event he decided against proceeding.

    Only when he realized the coup was inevitable did he decide to support it. After the coup, he went to great lengths to pacify those who had doubts about his loyalty–those lengths including summary execution of political prisoners that other courts-martial had already sentenced to prison.

    Pinochet also went the extra-mile to murder his former mentor in Buenos Aires.

    The only unique thing about him was that he was felt to be honest–that is, it was believed that he and his family didn’t get rich from his time in power. Even that legacy has disappeared after the discovery of the Riggs Bank accounts.

  55. Sometimes a Teancum and his servant have to sneak into the camp and take care of the Amilickiahs. We live in a constitutional democracy where that (for now) isn’t necessary. Allende had ended all that and desperate measures were in order.

    Pinochet may have been no daily saint but “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” (George Orwell)

  56. Even assuming that Pinochet was in the right–and I’m only stipulating to that for the sake of argument–he was no Teancum. Nor was he some “rough man ready to visit violence”.

    He was a politician who only decided to end the Allende presidency because he had no other way out. Had he thought for a second that the Allende camp would’ve prevailed, he would’ve remained loyal to the president.

    The violence he caused to be inflicted was done by others; he insulated himself from any blame and threw his subordinates–who were indeed rough men with no qualms about doing violence– to the wolves when the political heat was turned up.

  57. Captain Jack,

    You said, “You’re going to have to do better than quoting polls taken by Chavez’s own polling agency. The fact is that Chavez’s mismanagement of the economy and neglect of domestic affairs has put a serious dent in his popularity.”

    Well, I wouldn’t trust the opposition controlled media outlets in their polling for his popularity either. Remember in the recall referendum, their exit polls were showing Chavez losing 40-60%, when in fact he won 60-40%.

    You also said, “Responsibility for the hostages needs to be placed squarely where it belongs–on the FARC. The Colombian government is not in the wrong on this one.”

    I should say that I don’t sanction everything the FARC does. However, they are fighting with what tools they have against a murderous and corrupt government which has exceeded or matched the brutalilty of the FARC in every instance. Uribe is up to his elbows in planning the extrajudicial executions of his own people and many in his government are serving time or are under investigation for involvement in murder of journalists or union leaders etc.

    In general, church members don’t like anything leftist or socialist, so they naturally attack Chavez or Correa, and especially Chavez who strikes at the heart of every USA patriot for calling our actions for what they are in Latin America… imperialism. Additionally, anyone who knows the history of our support of coups in Latin America of democratically elected leaders (ie. Salvador Allende, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman etc.) and our involvement in murders of left leaning peoples (ie. Operation Condor etc.) throughout the region should know that Chavez has good reason to speak ill of the USA in general. However, this ill-speaking of the USA stabs at the heart of the average joe-patriot-mormon and thus we get Geoff writing posts like this where we are asked to consider the criteria for violent intervention in the South. Of course, we were never asked to consider this sort of thing for Pinochet? Why wouldn’t we have intervened there when his situation was not that much different than Geoff’s above scenario? Because he was an SOB, but he was our SOB to quote FDR in the case of Nicaragua’s leaders in his day. I’m not saying we should have intervened in Pinochet’s crimes. I should say that we should have followed Hippocrates admonition and first do no harm, which we did in instigating the coup and supporting it, which we also did when we spent more money per capita in their elections than we did in our own elections in the USA etc. We are not asked to consider the criteria for invading Colombia. Instead the crimes of the Colombian government are completely ignored here. Why, the question is even out of the spectrum of discussion, because again, Uribe and his government are our SOBs.

    We have no moral authority to be deciding when we should invade or not invade to intervene. Most of our interventions are not based on humanitarian reasons though that is often the stated reason for intervention. Look at the murders we supported with Suharto of Indonesia. We gave him names so he could more easily find people suspected of being communists in his country when he massacred upwards of 1 million landless peasants in 1965. We gave him the famous green light and supported him in every way imagineable when he invaded East Timor and committed genocide there killing 200,000 people, a quarter of the population. Our military/financial/industrial complex is like a massive secret combinations in these latter days where we murder for gain and the glory of the world, and we are for the most part not awake to our awful situation. This is why I react strongly why Geoff posts such nonsense as asking us to decide what criteria fit for invading Latin America and committing more murder, bloodying our hands further. War is usually not in the program when it comes to the Gospel of Christ. I don’t know if you are a member of the Church or not, but I speak from that point of view. I cannot bear to see our worship of the gods of steel and military might as Spencer W. Kimball put it, while the love of our enemies, as Christ taught us to love them, is thrown out the window.

    You can debate Chavez until the cows come in. I think he has made some major mistakes in his reign, but the villainization of Chavez by the “independant sources in and outside of Venezuela” is not the absolute truth. The virtues of Chavez or his weaknessess don’t matter to me. I have studied him quite well and I know the opposition arguements quite well as well and find not a whole lot of credibility to what they say upon investigation. For example, the Uribe claim of the 300 million dollars support from Chavez to FARC that Chavez vehemently denies: Totally baseless. Greg Palast has put out a nice refutation of that one. I’ll give you the link if you’re interested. Ciao.

  58. Curtis:

    The fact that you’re defending the FARC by stating they’re “fighting with the tools they have”–in this case, the tools being the kidnap and maintenance in captivity of of innocent civilians–pretty much torpedoes the rest of your statements about human rights. Kidnapping is wrong when Pinochet, Videla, Galtieri, and yes, Manuel Marulanda and Raul Reyes do it. Period, full stop.

    As far as the poll I posted, it was done by an independent polling agency in Venezuela which has been used by both pro and anti-government politicians. The newspapers I read aren’t supported by either the government or the opposition. Take it for what it’s worth.

  59. Captain Jack,

    Yes, kidnapping is wrong, but isn’t it also wrong when the Colombian government does it as well? This post criticizes the illegitimate use of violence by the FARC, but condones the equally illegitimate violence of the colombian government with its thousands and thousands of murders of innocent civilian life. Any defense of that torpedoes the credibility of the speaker right out of the water Captain.

  60. Geoff, I recognize you want to raise the ethical issue independent of the practical issues. But I’m not sure one can separate them easily. The fact is that there is a lot of baggage that the US has in South and Central America. Some of it is quite deserved and some undeserved. (There is a tendency to perceive the US as having far more power over nations than I think is reasonable) However what these perceptions do is affect how American intervention would be perceived and the consequences of such action.

    Then one has to add in the mess of Bush action around the world of the last six years.

    So ethically I think that one has to be very hesitant to take direct action in South and Central America. If action is necessary I think trying to apply to other nations would be much better.

  61. An excerpt from a First Presidency message in June of 1976 by President Kimball that may be interesting:

    In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had — in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people — a condition repugnant to the Lord.

    We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
    “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).

    We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us — and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Nephi 1:7) — or he will fight our battles for us (Exodus 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many). This he is able to do, for as he said at the time of his betrayal, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). We can imagine what fearsome soldiers they would be. King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered by such a troop (see 2 Chronicles 20), and when Elish’s life was threatened, he comforted his servant by saying, “Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16). The Lord then opened the eyes of the servant, “And he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (vs 17).

    What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative: to forsake the things of the world as ends in themselves; to leave off idolatry and press forward in faith; to carry the gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies.

    We must leave off the worship of modern-day idols and a reliance on the “arm of flesh,” for the Lord has said to all the world in our day, “I will not spare any that remain in Babylon” (D&C 64:24).

  62. Wow, it sounds like this post should have been about the criteria for invading Colombia instead! Though I advocate no invasion of anyone at all here, I think at least rethinking the 600 million dollars a year in military aid to Colombia is in order. Read this and weep:

    “– Colombia is an internally repressive narco-state;

    — it practices state terrorism;

    — its foreign minister, Maria Consuelo Araujo, resigned last year after her brother, a senator, was jailed for colluding with paramilitary death squads; Colombia’s Supreme Court also urged federal prosecutors to investigate her father – a former governor, federal lawmaker and agriculture minister on kidnapping charges;

    — its democracy is a sham; in last year’s regional elections, 30 mostly left of center candidates were murdered; news reporting is censored; journalists are arrested and killed; civil liberties are debased; and the rule of law is tenuous at best under a president who roguishly suspends it; he also packed the country’s Supreme Court and bribed and bullied enough legislators to amend the constitution to allow him to run for a second term – the first time in over 50 years an incumbent president did it;

    — its government is riddled with scandal; over one-third of his party members are allied with paramilitary death squads; eight pro-Uribe congressmen were arrested last year for their paramilitary ties, and dozens of national and regional politicians are under investigation and fled the country; in addition, Colombia’s attorney general arrested Uribe’s campaign manager and secret police chief, Jorge Noguera, for having supplied paramilitaries with trade unionist names to murder; another former secret police official is serving an 18 year sentence for purging police records of paramilitaries and drugs traffickers;

    — around two-thirds of Colombians are impoverished;

    — many thousands of its people are restless and leaving;

    — many cross into Venezuela with several hundred thousand now there;

    — wealth concentration is extreme and worsening; and

    — in the wake of his blatant aggression, Council on Hemispheric Affairs’ Director, Larry Birns, calls Uribe “Latin America’s most disgraced president.” He says he’s “scorned throughout (the region) for being Bush’s favored hemispheric figure (but his) legacy (of aggression) will be a heavy cross for (him) to bear.” He calls his presidency “catastrophic,” and his Ecuadorean incursion effectively dooms it and his influence “on the hemisphere….Metaphorically speaking, (Paul) Reyes….scalped Uribe and….hung (his) tattered presidential sash upon a pike and walked the macabre sight through (Latin American) streets.” Uribe will pay an “excessively high” price for “gunning down Reyes.”

    — over 2.5 million peasants and urban slum dwellers displaced;

    — more than 5000 trade unionists murdered from 1986 to 2006, by far the most anywhere in the world;

    — “30,000 peasants, rural teachers, and peasant and indigenous leaders have been killed with impunity;” and

    — “land seizures by paramilitary leaders, cattle barons and military officers (that’s) concentrating land ownership to an unprecedented level.”

    http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/16838

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