Hugo Chávez and Tibet: our readers write
Our June issue featured the story "Enough With the Hugo Chávez Hero Worship" by Nikolas Kozloff, in which he calls out the Venezuelan leader for supporting Beijing's position on Tibet and dismissing the protests against the Olympic Torch as an example of the US "empire" "going against China." Kozloff writes that it is "time for left to repudiate Chávez over China—while supporting the overall goals of Bolivarian Revolution." Our June Exit Poll was: "Should the left repudiate Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez over his public backing of China's crackdown in Tibet—while still supporting the overall goals of the Bolivarian Revolution?" We received the following responses:
From Joe Wetmore of Autumn Leaves Used Books in Ithaca, NY:
Why does it have to be all or nothing? Can't we support the decisions we agree with and denounce those decisions we disagree with?
World War 4 Report replies: You appear to have not understood the question. We called for exactly that. We proposed that Chávez be repudiated over his public backing of China's crackdown in Tibet. We proposed that it was possible to do this while still supporting the overall goals of Bolivarian Revolution—the wealth redistribution, the extension of public control over resources and corporate power, the literacy programs, the agrarian reform, the general struggle to break free of the US imperial orbit.
From Geoffrey Gardner, somewhere in cyberspace:
Yes, we should repudiate Chavez.
From Russ Hallberg, somewhere in cyberspace (who slugs his e-mail "don't repudiate chavez"):
Hugo Chavez should be criticized for his support of China's occupation of Tibet. However, Tibetan nationalists and the Dali Lama are backed by the CIA. It is unlikely a "free" Tibet would be anything more than a puppet for Western interests. Tibetan nationalism is a psyops to solicit the support of the US left for CIA agendas.
World War 4 Report replies: You know, that's pretty paranoid, dude. But we're heartened that at least you think Chávez should be criticized (if not "repudiated").
From Michael G, somewhere in cyberspace:
No leader ever gets close to being right on all the issues. However, name one head of state who is more progressive than Chavez. For a man of his prominence, in a country sitting on that much oil, you can't always say what you want.
World War 4 Report replies: So you think he really sympathizes with the Tibetans but is compromising his true sentiments in the interests of realpolitik? Is there any evidence to support this? And what about his coziness with Saddam, Ahmadinejad and Lukashenko? We hate to say it, but there appears to be a pattern here...
From Nicholas Levis, somewhere in cyberspace, adopted from comments he left at Rigorous Institution:
Imagine this exact same article without the same headline: the all-caps imperative (ENOUGH!) the strawman accusation (HERO WORSHIP) or a subhead that admonishes another strawman ("the Left") and a phrase that could come straight from the State Department ("repudiate Venezuelan leader"). This from a US writer during the end stages of the Bush regime, with Iran and Venezuela both targeted for attack. Yeah, the Left's big problem right now is not the paralyzed antiwar movement, but its unacknowledged man-love of Chavez.
Well, even with a headline like,
"Chavez Enters into Questionable Alliances"
it would still be full of shite, a blinders-on screed against the Officially Designated Enemies (ODEs) of the American empire, but I could have certainly read it without immediate anger.
In his quest to rattle the US, Chávez has courted some other rather unsavory leaders. The Venezuelan leader for example has solidified ties with Iran and calls fundamentalist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "one of the greatest anti-imperialist fighters." Chávez added, unbelievably, that Ahmadinejad was "one of the great fighters for true peace."
Context and dates of these quotes and presumably meetings would be a journalistic minimum. But Kozloff's propaganda piece doesn't bother with attributions or details; "human rights campaigners say" will apparently suffice, as in the Belarus section. (Amateur. Judy Miller would at least call Curveball.)
Venezuela, Iran and pre-invasion Iraq did not choose to be targets of US-led violence. They were chosen, and logically they found each other as they maneuvered to defend. That doesn't make any of them good regimes, but it is what it is. North Korea didn't choose to be added to an axis of evil with Iran, but as a result of the threat of war evident in the phrase, Iran and NK have forged a propaganda alliance of sorts to show up the United States as both inflexible and powerless. "Authoritarian" Belarus is targeted by the international noise machine, pretty much dictatorial US ally Uzbekistan is not. And so it goes.
As for China, it exists both in practical symbiosis and a war of words with the US, with both sides wishing they could quit each other; they cannot. The rhetorical techniques employed by Kozloff are so transparent. Wanting to sell more oil to China (instead of to the American regime that tried to OVERTHROW HIM) smoothly turns into "support for China" and in turn translates into support for labor camps. But did Chavez issue a statement supporting Chinese labor camps? No, he's doing nothing different from what everyone who does business with China does.
Hey, Kozloff, presumably you're in the US. You want to boycott China, there's Wal-Mart down the block. Take your posters and go!
Kozloff at no point specifies the US "machinations" against Venezuela, as to do so would make it clear that Chavez's government has been targeted in a war by the Bush regime that is covert only to American citizens. Venezuela therefore has a right of defense - and if that means selling oil to China or pumping up Ahmedinejad, tough. It's up to the US to make peace and amends for what it has done to Venezuela, not for Kozloff to wring his hands over Chavez's necessary international alliances and yet claim he's defending the Bolivarian revolution.
World War 4 Report replies: So much disingenuous garbage here, we hardly know where to begin. If "hero worship" is a strawman, why do you hold Chávez above criticism? All our feature story headlines are in caps, and you added the exclamation point after "enough." (Trying to pull a fast one, are we?)
Go ask Amnesty International about Lukashenko's human rights record.
"It is what it is" is a meaningless tautology.
It is this kind of cynicism about human rights that costs the left so much credibility in the US and around the world.
Finally, in future readers are encouraged to keep their responses to no more than 500 words.