By Pat Elder, World BEYOND War, May 6, 2019
A fortified door inside the Venezuelan Embassy.
I’ve been studying the Pentagon’s use of psychological tactics in the way it recruits youth into the armed forces for 20 years, so I have a sense of the lack of boundaries practiced by the US government through its military. Now I can report on the psychological tactics employed by the State Department through the Secret Service Police. I spent a week in the besieged Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, and I was exposed to a relentless psychological operations campaign (psy-ops) orchestrated by my government to drive peace activists like myself from the embassy.
Our attorney, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, addressed the severity of the threat to us in her May 3rd letter to the Secret Service Police, in which she wrote:
“At this moment, the violent mob that you have allowed to continually commit acts of violence against persons and property at the Venezuelan embassy is actively working to smash in the doors while your officers give permission to the assault and explicitly refuse to intervene.
“As you know, and your officers have witnessed, members of this mob have physically attacked and made death threats to the peace activists who are inside and around the embassy. This presence inside the embassy, as you also know, is lawful, as the peace activists were invited inside the embassy by those lawfully in charge of the premises.
“There has been no action that has divested them of the right to be inside the embassy or lawful process that could authorize removal.
“Instead you are authorizing a vigilante group to attack the peace activists inside.
“You must take action immediately to cease this assault and ensure that there is no violence against the persons inside. They are in grave danger from the mob you have facilitated and authorized to besiege the embassy.
“You are responsible for any acts of violence that will be committed against these peace activists inside the embassy.”
Physical harm and the fear of death stir the greatest terror in our hearts. These kinds of operations are designed to frame the image of an impending disaster, like being pummeled to death by an angry mob. You think it can’t happen here, but you quickly correct yourself, realizing the United States under Donald Trump is capable of orchestrating such a scenario.
There are apparently no enforced audio level limits in the District of Columbia from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm. The decibel level from the outside cacophony rattle the windows. I feel badly for the residents of the adjacent James Place Condominium who endure the same audio onslaught.
The psy-ops campaign is being directed by one individual who arrived several days before the orchestrated onslaught began on April 30. That was the day when fake ambassador Carlos Vecchio arrived to claim the embassy for Juan Guaido, the make-believe president, designated by the U.S. government. The Vecchio embassy coup attempt was foiled by a poor turnout and a surprisingly strong showing of those who support our mission and adherence to international law.
I spoke to the man in charge of this psy-op campaign on several occasions, before he took command after the Vecchio visit. It’s best not to divulge the name he gave me. He stood a little taller than 6 feet, likely of Spanish/European descent. He was perhaps 55 with leathery skin, a three-day beard, with seriously graying hair and dark sun glasses. He wore black jeans and a tattered, green military jacket. He sat for hours alone, writing on a yellow legal pad what he said were philosophical responses to deep questions. For several days, he was camped with peace activists at the main entrance to the embassy.
He spoke of philosophers and history from the early colonial period and he ran down a brief overview of political philosophers. His politics seemed muddled, even contradictory. I pulled away from him after our second 15-minute exchange, wondering where he was coming from. What he said didn’t fit. I was puzzled. He was accompanied by a screaming, seemingly crazy lady who only shouted at the top of her lungs and repeated the same lines over-and-over again. “Maduro is a criminal.” “This is not your fight.” “This is our embassy.” She screamed for four or five twelve-hour days before Vecchio arrived when she was joined by three or four dozen protesters who took orders from the tattered general and stayed on the premises for long hours and returned every day.
I witnessed three women wearing designer clothes emerge from a late-model Mercedes to join the fracas and take on tasks delegated by the general.
Once the operation got under way, lieutenants would report, and he would dispatch the necessary tools to carry out various operations.
The first line of attack in this military campaign was the emergency siren. Four of these torturous devices were allowed to blare on each side of the building, with the intensity of a passing ambulance. Odysseus of old ordered his men to use beeswax to plug their ears from the potentially lethal wales of the Sirens, while some of us used ear plugs and others retreated to interior rooms. Wee-ooh wee-ooh, from 6:00 am to 10 pm.
The second assault used air-powered cans that emit an amazingly loud, piercing noise often heard after touchdowns are scored at high school football games. They’d point their blasters at us when we looked out the window. Several of these have been continuously employed since Vecchio’s visit. I spotted a box full of these devices on the embassy grounds.
Several bull horns were activated to emit a grating, high pitched noise. The well- dressed women, after inserting earplugs, took on these jobs, at least for part of one evening.
There were always two or three outside who used bullhorns to constantly repeat a few lines of their propaganda. “You must leave the embassy now.” “You are violating the law!” Maduro is a criminal.” “This is not your fight.” It was irritating, but it didn’t move us. One lady, with a loud, shrieking voice, sounding hysterical, screamed repeatedly at the top of her lungs, “You are with the criminals.” “You are with the murderers!”
Rarely did more than a few hours go by before one of our supporters outside was assaulted. The police allowed the assaults to occur. After one attack, when a man in his 70’s, who was attempting to deliver toothbrushes to us, was knocked to the ground semi-conscious, a crowd of 50 cheered his injury and all of the sirens came together to celebrate his writhing body. Each time there’s a beating, chaos reigns and hell breaks loose. It’s an attempt to orchestrate chaos, intending to instill panic and terror. It’s textbook stuff.
The mob covered up all of the first-floor windows with anti-Maduro/ pro Guiado posters, blocking our view. They smashed the security cameras to knock out our ability to see what was going on. It never affected us, though, because we were confident of the security improvements we improvised around the doors, windows, and large vents. The place is a fortress. Thankfully, the embassy has a large machine tool workroom with an array of power tools and materials. We boarded up doors and secured bottom floor and 2nd story windows with 4-inch screws, while the attacking force relentlessly pounded away, demanding we leave immediately.
The loudest decibels were probably registered by the incessant pounding on several bottom-floor metal doors with hammers, rocks, and large iron frying pans. The right-wing insurgents worked in groups of a half dozen or so, taking turns pounding on several doors.
At one point on Friday evening about 50 vigilantes converged at a basement door while their incessant banging shook the door frame and the walls. There were no DC Metropolitan Police or Secret Service visibly present. The police had retreated into the adjacent James Place Condominium. Several of us called 911 and were immediately referred to the Secret Service Police when we provided the address of 1099 30th St., NW Washington, DC. Apparently, the DC police have jurisdiction over the streets and sidewalks, while the Secret Service Police are responsible for maintaining the security of the embassies. I explained to the Secret Service officer on the phone that the mob was damaging the door while there were no police present. I explained that they were using rocks and hammers and a frying pan. “A frying pan?” said the Secret Service officer. “Were they cooking up anything good?” I said, “Let’s cut to the heart of the matter. Are you guaranteeing our safety or not?” he replied by asking under whose authority we were in the building and I responded that we were invited in by the government of Venezuela and he said we were not. He said we were illegally trespassing. I again asked him if it was the intention of the police to protect our safety and he replied that we were there illegally, and he again asked what they were cooking in that frying pan.
I am an American citizen, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, from a family of professional federal workers dating back to the 19th century. In the heart of Georgetown, I was subjected to a dystopian psychological operation that would have horrified my ancestors who helped create the federal structures dedicated to a separation of powers, governmental transparency, and the rule of law. I tremble for the fate of the world as fascism takes hold in the United States of America.
President Trump’s Yemen Veto Turns Our Constitution Upside-down
The Green Party Peace Action Committee calls on the US House and Senate to overturn the President’s veto by the required two-thirds majority to not only end our involvement in the immoral war in Yemen, but to reclaim congressional authority over the imperial presidency. “This war is yet another in a string of illegal wars carried on by the US without the declaration of war by Congress, as required under the US Constitution in Article I Section 8,” said B. Keith Brumley, Secretary of the Wisconsin Green Party, “Congress has not declared war since 1941.”
Green Party of the United States
For Immediate Release:
April 24, 2019
Gloria Mattera, Co-chair of the Green Party of the United States, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rita Jacobs, Co-chair, Green Party Peace Acton Committee, email@example.com
Wesson Gaige, Co-chair, Green Party Peace Acton Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org
Media Committee, email@example.com,
Despite his claimed opposition to endless US involvement in foreign wars, President Trump has vetoed a congressional resolution to end US participation in the Yemen war. In earlier comments, Trump brazenly declared that the value of Saudi arms sales is the most important consideration influencing his decision to continue supporting the Saudi war on Yemen. Thus, the murder of Khashoggi, the torture of human rights activists, and the creation of the worst ongoing civilian wartime suffering in the world is tolerable to Trump as long as Saudi blood money for weaponscontinues to flow to US defense contractors.
A bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate voted to end our involvement in this undeclared and illegal war. “Trump’s veto flies in the face of our Constitution that requires a simple majority to declare war, and should require a simple majority to end a war,” said Logan Martinez, a member of the Green Party of Ohio.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is an absolute monarchy that uses its vast oil wealth to enrich and empower the US Military-Industrial Complex which feeds on regional wars, international tensions, and public fear. In addition to massive spending on US weapons, the KSA has directed millions of dollars in campaign contributions to US politicians through lobbying agents.
The war in Yemen is primarily a one-sided, genocidal war against the poorest country in the Middle East. It is fully supported by the US government with weapons & targeting by our military. The people of Yemen have suffered four years of unimaginable violence and are now in a deep famine in which tens of thousands of people are starving.
The Green Party Platform states that “We demand repeal – not amendment — of the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, and oppose any other measure purporting to ‘authorize’ preemptive or illegal military action. In passing the AUMF, Congress abdicated its exclusive authority under the Constitution to declare war. It further violated the Constitution and betrayed its responsibility to the American people by delegating to the president – one person – virtually dictatorial power to commit acts of war whenever he or she chooses.“
Fifty-two years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of his most important speeches at Riverside Church in New York City. It was a big boost to the peace movement but divided the civil rights movement between the hawks and the doves. It is still important today as the US is involved in another endless war. King was assassinated exactly one year later in Memphis, TN.
Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam
Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City:
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.
I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.
Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.
Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.
The Importance of Vietnam
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.
For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:
O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath– America will be!
Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the “Vietcong” or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?
Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.
This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.
Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.
For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.
Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.
After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators — our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change — especially in terms of their need for land and peace.
The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy — and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Vietnamese –the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go — primarily women and children and the aged.
They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong”-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them — mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force — the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?
Now there is little left to build on — save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.
Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front — that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the north” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them — the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.
When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.
Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.
This Madness Must Cease
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:
“Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.
The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.
In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
- End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
- Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
- Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
- Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
- Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.
Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.
Protesting The War
Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.
As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisers” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.
The People Are Important
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:
Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.
We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.
And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
When we talked with Venezuelans they told us how pleased they were people from the United States were in Venezuela and could see what was really happening in their country. They wanted us to return to the United States and tell the truth about Venezuela — that is exactly what we will be doing.
There is more false information in the US mass media than there is the truth. The people of the United States are being misled in order to create support for the Trump intervention in Venezuela which includes the economic war, an attack on the electrical system and the threat of war and militarism.
We will report on what we saw in Venezuela. When the US was claiming there was widespread civil unrest when in fact there was calm. When the US claimed there were people starving and homeless, we saw healthy people, food distribution programs, urban food gardens and millions of social housing units built in the midst of an economic war. There were no starving Venezuelans.
While the US pushed the farce Juan Guaido as a coup president, the reality was Guaido’s self-appointment violated the Constitution of Venezuela. Guaido is the butt of jokes in Venezuela with very little support among the population while Maduro is seen as working for the necessities of people and fighting against US imperialism.
The peace delegation was organized by the US Peace Council and COSI (the Committee for International Solidarity). We spent time in the barrio’s, shantytowns, on the streets, food cooperatives and at rallies and talked to many Venezuelans.
We will also report on a 90-minute private meeting our delegation had with President Maduro, as well as meetings with the National Electoral Council, the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Urban Farming, Ministry of Peace and the Health Ministry.
Join us so you can learn what is really happening in Venezuela and share the information widely.
The panel will include:
Margaret Flowers, co-director of Popular Resistance
Kevin Zeese co-director of Popular Resistance
Joe Lombardo, national organizer of the United National Antiwar Coalition
Original Article: https://popularresistance.org/venezuela-report-back-livestream-thursday-7-pm/
Another report direct from Kevin Zeese: https://independentpoliticalreport.com/2019/03/greens-report-on-their-peace-delegation-to-venezuela/
The Green Party Peace Action Committee (GPAX) has endorsed back-to-back anti-war demonstrations in DC. (see below.) These actions are important and we would like to have a strong Green Party presence. There will also be local peace actions we need to support and help organize.
I have proposed that the party members help organize Anti-War Teach-Ins:
“From Yemen to Venezuela US Aggression Must End”.
There is a great need for peace education and outreach. Most Americans have little understanding of why we are at war and are fatigued by how long these wars have been going on. The peace movement needs to reach out to new constituencies..
I propose that we encourage peace groups to organize anti-war teach-ins on college campuses and in communities in the coming months.
- HANDS OFF VENEZUELA!
NATIONAL MARCH ON WASHINGTON
SATURDAY, MARCH 16: See below.
- Mobilization to Oppose the North American Treaty Organization(NATO).
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Lafayette Park (across from the White House)
Washington, DC1:00 PM ET
Historically, massive protests have taken place in major cities during NATO meetings and summits. 2019 will be no exception.
Additional actions will take place on April 4, 2019 at the opening of the NATO meeting. April 4th marks the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a grotesque desecration of King’s dedication to peace and his fight against racism, poverty and war, military leaders will gather and celebrate NATO’s 70th anniversary at their annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
This is nothing short of a deliberate insult to King.
Since its founding, NATO has succeeded in being the world’s deadliest military alliance. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once correctly asserted, the U.S. government is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” Hundreds of thousands of people have died in U.S./NATO-led wars in places like Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yugoslavia.
March on the Pentagon invites you to join us in opposing NATO with UNAC. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
So let’s be loud. No to NATO. U.S. and NATO wars must end.
Learn more at No2NATO2019.org.
The Steering Committee for the March 30th Anti-NATO Mobilization:
- Bahman Azad, Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases • Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace • Leah Bolger, World Beyond War • Alison Bodine, Mobilization Against War and Occupation • Gerry Condon, Veterans For Peace • Miguel Figueroa, Canadian Peace Congress • Sara Flounders, International Action Center • Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance • Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ • Madelyn Hoffman, U.S. Peace Council • Tarak Kauff, Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases, Veterans For Peace • Marilyn Levin, UNAC • Joe Lombardo, UNAC • Tamara Lorincz, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace • Jeff Mackler, West Coast UNAC • Alfred L. Marder, U.S. Peace Council • Sarah Martin, Women Against Military Madness • Nancy Price, WILPF-US Section • Paul Pumphrey, Friends of the Congo • Cindy Sheehan, March on the Pentagon• Paki Wieland, CODEPINK • Phil Wilayto, Virginia Defenders • Ann Wright, Veterans For Peace, CODEPINK • Rev. Bruce Wright, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign and Refuge Ministries • Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance
NATIONAL MARCH ON WASHINGTON SATURDAY, MARCH 16:
HANDS OFF VENEZUELA
White House, Washington, D.C.
By Coalition of Signers, ANSWER Coalition
“People Of The U.S., I Ask For Your Support To Reject The Interference Of Donald Trump’s Government In Making My Homeland A Vietnam In Latin America. Don’t Allow It!” President Nicolas Maduro, January 31, 2017.
On Saturday, March 16, thousands of people will march in Washington, D.C. against the Trump administration’s effort to engineer a coup in Venezuela and a new devastating war there. The aggressive policy against Venezuela repeats the ugly pattern of wars for regime change in the oil-rich countries of Iraq and Libya. National Security Advisor John Bolton is reading from the same script, declaring a “troika of tyranny” in Latin America (like the “axis of evil”) as a precursor for regime change first in Venezuela, and then Cuba and Nicaragua. Trump has always said that the “mistake” of the Middle East wars was that the U.S. didn’t “take the oil.”
It is time to stand up and with a clear voice say NO to the newest example of the “Monroe Doctrine,” which the U.S. government has used for over two centuries to repeatedly invade Latin America and Caribbean, control its politics and extract its resources.
The White House aims to overthrow the government of President Nicolás Maduro and replace him with Juan Guaidó. Guaidó is a U.S.-trained operative who was unknown to the vast majority of Venezuelans before he proclaimed himself president — at Vice President Mike Pence’s urging. Although Guaidó has the backing of Trump, the CIA, and the Republican and Democratic Party leaderships alike, huge numbers of Venezuelans have marched to reject this coup and defend their independence.
On March 16, the people of the United States will come together to say:
- U.S. hands off Venezuela!
- NO to the coup — the U.S. does not have the right to select other country’s leaders!
- NO to the sanctions, oil embargo and economic war on Venezuela that aims to cause suffering for ordinary people in the country.
- NO to intervention and war from the U..S. and their proxies in the region.
- ANSWER Coalition
- Black Alliance for Peace
- Alliance for Global Justice
- Popular Resistance
- Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee
- Haïti Liberté
- International Support Haiti Network
- Popular Education Project
- Abby Martin, journalist, The Empire Files
- Dr. Jill Stein, 2016 Green Party presidential candidate
- Dr. Jared Ball, Prof. of Communication Studies, Morgan State Univ., imixwhatilike
- Medea Benjamin, activist and author, CodePink
- Cindy Sheehan, activist and author, Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox
- Berthony Dupont, Director, Haïti Liberté
- Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, constitutional rights attorney
- Max Blumenthal, journalist
- Ajamu Baraka, National Organizer, Black Alliance for Peace
- Mike Prysner, Iraq War veteran, producer, The Empire files
- Dr. George Ciccariello-Maher, author
- Dr. Anthony Monteiro, Saturday Free School
- Dr. Jodi Dean, author, Prof. of Political Science, Hobart & William Smith Colleges
- Gloria La Riva, National Coordinator, Cuba and Venezuela Solidarity Committee
- Kim Ives, journalist
- Anoa Changa, host, The Way With Anoa
- Dan Cohen, journalist and filmmaker
- Chuck Kaufman, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice
- Eugene Puryear, Stop Police Terror Project
- Jeanette Charles, International Solidarity Liaison, Venezuela Analysis
- Lucas Koerner, Editor and Analyst, Venezuela Analysis
- Margaret Flowers, Co-Coordinator, Popular Resistance
- Kevin Zeese, Co-Coordinator, Popular Resistance
- Dan Kovalik, author and human rights lawyer
- Mahdi Bray, National Director, American Muslim Alliance (AMA)
Brian Becker, National Director, ANSWER Coalition
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance
Above photo: John Zangas, DC Media Group.
Two things stand out about the US coup in Venezuela. First, it is unusually open. Typically, the US tries to hide its coups. Second, the coup is built on a series of obvious falsehoods, yet the bi-partisans in Washington, with a few exceptions, keep repeating them.
First, we will correct the falsehoods so readers are all working from the same facts. Second, we will describe how this coup is being defeated. It will be another major embarrassment for the Trump administration and US foreign policy.
It is important to understand Venezuela has become a geopolitical conflict as Russia and China are closely allied with Venezuela. China and Russia coming into the backyard of the United States challenges the antiquated Monroe Doctrine.
Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and the second largest gold reserves, as well as diamonds and other minerals such as coltan (needed for electronic devices). And, Venezuela is taking over as president of OPEC and will be in a position to push for oil payments in non-dollar currencies or in cryptocurrencies, a major threat to the US dollar.
Correcting the Record
There are a series of false statements repeated by DC officials and corporate media to justify the coup that are so obvious, it is hard to believe they are not intentional. In his two-paragraph comment on the coup, even Senator Bernie Sanders repeated them.
1. Truth: President Nicolás Maduro is the legitimate president.
President Maduro was re-elected on May 20, 2018, in response to the opposition demanding an early election. The legitimacy of the election of Maduro is so evident that it must be assumed those who say he is illegitimate are either intentionally false or ignorant. The election was scheduled consistent with the Venezuelan Constitution and in consultation with opposition parties. When it became evident that the opposition could not win the election, they decided, under pressure from the United States, to boycott the election in order to undermine its legitimacy. The facts are 9,389,056 people voted, 46% of eligible voters. Sixteen parties participated in the election with six candidates competing for the presidency.
The electoral process was observed by more than 150 election observers. This included 14 electoral commissions from eight countries among them the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America; two technical electoral missions; and 18 journalists from different parts of the world, among others. According to the international observers, “the elections were very transparent and complied with international parameters and national legislation.”
Venezuela has one of the best electoral systems in the world. Voter fraud is not possible as identification and fingerprints are required for each voter. Voting machines are audited before and immediately after the election. Venezuela does something no other country in the world does — a public, citizen’s audit of a random sample of 53% of voting machines that is televised. All 18 parties signed the audits.
Maduro won by a wide margin, obtaining 6,248,864 votes, 67.84%; followed by Henri Falcón with 1,927,958, 20.93%; Javier Bertucci with 1,015,895, 10.82%; and Reinaldo Quijada, who obtained 36,246 votes, 0.39% of the total.
This same voting system has been used in elections that Maduro’s party has lost in governor’s and legislative elections. Venezuela is a real democracy with transparent elections. The United States could learn a good deal about real democracy from Venezuela.
2. Truth: The economic crisis is caused by outside intervention, internal sabotage and the decline in oil prices.
There is no doubt the economic situation in Venezuela is dire. The cause is the economic war conducted by the United States, the major decline in oil prices and economic sabotage by the opposition. In essence, the United States and opposition created problems in the Venezuelan economy and now say Maduro must be replaced because of problems they created.
Oil was discovered in Venezuela in the early part of the 20th Century and has dominated the economy since then. The Dutch Disease, the negative impact of an economy based on one natural resource, causes a sharp inflow of foreign currency, which raises the value of the country’s currency, making the country’s other products less price competitive. It is cheaper to import products rather than create them. This makes it more difficult for segments of the economy like agriculture and manufacturing to develop.
Chavez/Maduro sought to diversify the economy. They put in place thousands of communes and hundreds of thousands of people working in cooperatives to build agriculture and manufacturing. When the global price of oil was cut by more than half, it collapsed Venezuela’s public finances undermining these efforts. The economic war by the US made it difficult for Venezuela to borrow and trade with some countries.
Economic sanctions against Venezuela began under President Obama, and the Trump administration escalated them with financial sanctions. United States sanctions cost Venezuela some $6 billion since August, according to an October analysis. Measures against the nation’s oil industry have prohibited the Venezuelan majority-owned company, CITGO, from sending profits back to Venezuela, a $1 billion loss to the government yearly. Now, the Bank of England is refusing to return $1.2 billion in gold reserves after US officials, including Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, lobbied them to cut Venezuela off from its overseas assets.
The US economic war and sabotage of the economy by business interests has been exposed as part of the effort to remove Maduro by creating social unrest and lack of confidence in the government. This has included hoarding of goods, storing essentials in warehouses and selling Venezuelan goods in Colombia.
In September 2018, Venezuela pointed to a false media campaign exaggerating migration from Venezuela. They highlighted statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to affirm that Venezuela has the fewest volunteer migrants in the continent. They pointed out 5.6 million Colombians have fled violence in their country and live in Venezuela. Venezuela has programs that have helped thousands of Venezuelans return home.
Socialism strengthens economies, as demonstrated in Portugal. Indeed, one criticism of Venezuela is that the Bolivarian Process is moving too slowly to put in place a socialist economy. There is a need for more sectors to be nationalized and put under democratic control of the people.
3. Truth: The opposition is violent, not the Maduro government.
Opposition protesters have been extremely violent. One tactic of the opposition was to be violent and then film the government’s response to make the government look violent. When Abby Martin was confronted by opposition protesters, they told her, “Do not film anything that we do. Just film what the government does to us.” She reported on the violence saying, “the vast majority has been caused by either indirect or direct violence by the opposition.”
Martin reports the opposition attacked hospitals, burned down the Housing Ministry, assassinated Chavistas and attacked citizen communes such as an art commune that gave free dance and music lessons to local children. Afro-Venezuelans were burned alive. Protesters pulled drivers out of buses and torched the buses. When photos and videos of opposition violence were put on social media, Martin and her colleague, Mike Prysner, became the target of a false media campaign on social media. The opposition did all they could to prevent them from reporting the truth using hundreds of death threats and threats they would be lynched.
In 2017, Venezuela Analysis reported that violent opposition protests included an attack on a maternity hospital endangering the lives of more than 50 newborn babies. Another report described the opposition using snipers to shoot government officials and civilians. Opposition newspapers urged that blunt objects be used to “neutralize” pro-government protesters, resulting in serious injuries and death.
Steve Ellner also reported that violence was coming from the opposition. He pointed to attacks at grocery stores, banks, buses, and government buildings. Other commentators described specific incidents of violence by the opposition including killing people. Maduro ordered the arrest of a retired general who tweeted how to use wire to decapitate people on motorcycles, which happened, and how to attack armored vehicles with Molotov cocktails.
Documents show that violence was the opposition’s strategy. They sought to “Create situations of crisis in the streets that will facilitate US intervention, as well as NATO forces, with the support of the Colombian government. Whenever possible, the violence should result in deaths or injuries.”
The tales of government violence are rooted in lies. The government’s response was Maduro calling for a peace conference describing it as “a national peace conference with all the country’s political sectors … so we Venezuelans can try to neutralize violent groups.”
4. Truth: The National Assembly acted in violation of the law and is in contempt of court.
The National Assembly is not the only democratic body in Venezuela. Indeed, its actions since the opposition won a majority have violated the law and protected the violence of the opposition with an embarrassing amnesty bill.
On December 6, 2015, the opposition won a parliamentary majority in the Assembly. There were allegations of vote buying in Amazonas state that were investigated by the National Electoral Council, another branch of the government. The Supreme Court barred four legislators from Amazonas taking office, two from the opposition, one allied with the opposition and one from the ruling party. The National Assembly allowed three candidates to take office. The Assembly has been held in contempt of court since July 2016 and their decisions were nullified.
Before the court ruling, the Assembly passed an amazing amnesty law, which granted amnesty for crimes the opposition has committed since 1999 (Chavez’ election). The law is an admission of guilt and provides a well-organized catalog of crimes including felonies, crimes committed at public rallies, terrorist acts involving explosives and firearms and undermining the economy. They essentially admitted exactly what Chavez/Maduro have claimed — crimes to overthrow the government for 17 years. Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled the amnesty law was unconstitutional. Inaccurately, the Trump administration calls the Assembly Venezuela’s only remaining democratic institution.
This January, a subsidiary of the state oil company asked the Assembly to intervene claiming the president cannot make reforms to mixed public-private oil businesses without the prior approval of the National Assembly. On January 16, the court ruled that the Assembly was still in contempt of court and could not act. This is also when the Assembly elected Juan Guaidó as their president, who would later appoint himself President of Venezuela, as part of the US-led coup. Guaidó’s election to head the legislature was illegal and nullified by the court.
The Assembly still exists but remains in a state of contempt of the judiciary. It can rectify the situation by removing the lawmakers accused of electoral fraud. The Assembly refuses to do so because their goal is to remove Maduro from office and they need a super-majority to do so.
A Timeline of the US Coup in Venezuela
In “Anti-Maduro Coalition Grew from Secret Talks,” the Associated Press explains the coup was “only possible because of strong support from the Trump administration, which led a chorus of mostly conservative Latin American governments that immediately recognized Guaidó.”
Since August 2017, Donald Trump has been saying that military interventionagainst Venezuela was a distinct possibility. AP describes this as a “watershed moment” in the coup planning. They report Trump pressuring aides and Latin American countries to invade Venezuela. In September, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration had been meeting with coup plotters since mid-2017.
The Wall Street Journal reports Trump has long viewed Venezuela as one of his top-three foreign policy priorities, with Iran and North Korea. Trump requested a briefing on Venezuela on his second day in office, talking of the immense potential of Venezuela to become a rich nation through its oil reserves. AP reports that Trump “personally sparked” this as he brought up regime change in Venezuela in every meeting with Latin American leaders.
After Maduro was re-elected, administration plans began taking shape, driven in part by key members in the National Security Council and anti-Maduro advocates in Congress like extreme interventionist Senator Marco Rubio.
On November 1, John Bolton zeroed in on Latin America, calling Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela a “troika of tyranny.” On January 2, Bolton met with his Brazilian and Colombian counterparts to collaborate to “return Venezuela to its democratic heritage.”
On January 10, Maduro was sworn in for his second term, Pompeo spoke with opposition leader Guaidó, pledging support. Canada also played a key role, AP reports that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke to Guaidó the night before Maduro’s inauguration offering Canada’s support. This was 13 days before Guaidó announced he was president of Venezuela.
On January 12, the State Department backed Guaidó’s move to invoke his authority as president of the assembly, saying, “It is time to begin the orderly transition to a new government.” On January 15, the National Assembly declared Maduro as illegitimate. The Trump administration worked to get allies lined up to support Guaidó’. By January 18, the Venezuela Foreign Minister was describing a US coup in progress.
The night before Guaidó’s announcement on January 23, Vice President Mike Pence put out a video message encouraging Venezuelans to overthrow their government, saying, “We are with you. We stand with you, and we will stay with you.” Guaidó also received a phone call from Pence the night before he appointed himself president where he pledged that the U.S. would back Guaidó.
Guaidó declared that Maduro’s government was illegitimate and he was assuming the presidency. In a well-coordinated charade, almost instantly, Trump recognized Guaidó as the country’s rightful leader. To further demonstrate the preconceived, tightly coordinated and efficiently carried out the coup, US allies, among them Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Peru, quickly recognized the coup president.
The Trump administration is claiming Guaidó represents the lawful government and is entitled to all Venezuelan revenues. The State Department notified the Federal Reserve that Guaidó is the agent for access to Venezuelan assets in US banks.
Nearly as quickly, Maduro drew statements of support from Russia, China, Turkey, Mexico, Cuba, Bolivia, and others. The Venezuelan Supreme Court called for an investigation into the National Assembly and Guaidó, regarding the illegal usurpation of Executive power. The Venezuelan military announced it supported Maduro and Russia warned the US not to intervene militarily.
On January 25, the Organization of American States, which is traditionally a US tool, rejected a resolution to recognize Guaidó. Medea Benjamin of CODE PINK interrupted Pompeo at the OAS holding a sign that said: “a coup is not a democratic transition!” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza thanked Benjamin, saying, “With her protest, she revealed the macabre coup plan against Venezuela, we will always prevail, thank you!” Eighteen countries defeated the proposal.
At the UN Security Council meeting on January 26, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of attempting “to engineer a coup d’etat.” He demanded to know whether the Trump administration “is ready to use military force” against Venezuela. European countries gave Venezuela eight days to hold an election, a suggestion Venezuela rejected. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Venezuela an “illegitimate mafia state.” He accused Russia and China of trying “to prop up Maduro.”
Both China and Russia have told the US not to intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs. In December, Russia sent two nuclear-capable strategic Tu-160 bombers to Venezuela along with an An-124 heavy military transport plane and an II-62 long-haul plane. As of December, Russia has one brigade in Venezuela and was discussing sending a second military brigade to Venezuela even before the coup due to the continued threat of intervention from the United States.
China has lent over $50 billion to Venezuela through oil-for-loan agreements over the past decade and has become a partner in the Venezuelan oil industry. In December, seven months since signing a financial business venture with China, Venezuela’s oil production has doubled to 130,000 barrels per day. The take-over of Venezuela’s oil would also be an attack on China. China and Venezuela signed 28 bilateral strategic cooperation agreements on September 14 in the areas of oil, mining, security, technology, finance, and health.
Demonstrating the nature of the coup president, the first acts that Guaidó took were to seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund, which would put Venezuela in debt to western bankers and under their control, and to privatize the Venezuelan oil industry, which would rob Venezuela of the funds being used to lift up the poor and working class.
The appointment by Mike Pompeo of Elliott Abrams as the person in charge of overseeing operations “to restore democracy in Venezuela” is an ominous sign. It is scandalous and demonstrates the most extreme elements of the US establishment are leading the charge. Abrams was convicted during the Iran-Contra scandal, supported US-backed death squads in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s, played a key role in the Reagan administration support for the murderous Contras in Nicaragua and was the person who gave approval for the US-backed coup in Venezuela in 2002.
Analyst Vijay Prashad writes the coup violated the charters of the United Nations and of the Organisation of American States and describes efforts to call on the military to rise up against the government have failed. The Trump administration is now threatening a total oil embargo on Venezuela and is leaving the “military option” open.
The concerted campaign by the US and Canada to install Juan Guaidó as the new ‘self-declared’ interim President of Venezuela has been met with initial failure. Unfortunately, the illegal and undemocratic attempts to destabilize the country and overthrow the democratically-elected President will continue with harmful consequences. The people of Venezuela are rising once again to defend their country against hostile foreign intervention. It is essential that we support them in this fight. Many groups are holding solidarity rallies and issuing statements of support. Find rallies and protests here and here.
While Sanders got all the facts wrong about Venezuela, he did reach the right conclusion: “The United States has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American countries. We must not go down that road again.” People in the United States have an important role to play in supporting Venezuela and defeating the coup.
By David Swanson, Director, World BEYOND War
Remarks at Rally outside White House, January 7, 2019.
There are a number of problems with the idea that maintaining and expanding giant military bases in other people’s countries protects freedom in the U.S. or in the occupied land.
For one thing, the United States maintains these bases in everything from the most brutal dictatorships to the most liberal so-called democracies. Are the U.S. troops in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia protecting the same freedoms as those in Italy and Germany? What freedoms might those be?
For another thing, few, if any, nations occupied by U.S. bases are actually credibly threatened with invasion and overthrow. For North Korea to effectively invade and occupy either Japan or the United States, much less both of them, even if those countries were unarmed and completely unaware of nonviolent resistance tactics that have become mainstream (boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, etc.), would require the complete abandonment of North Korea by a population universally recruited into the military and multiplied by some sort of rapid cloning.
China has also expressed zero interest in occupying and reducing freedoms in Japan or the United States, would eliminate hundreds of millions of customers for its products in the process, and has responded in kind to reduced or increased U.S. militarism and hostility. In other words, occupying Okinawa with tens of thousands of armed U.S. troops does nothing positive for freedom.
But it does do something negative. The people of Okinawa are denied the freedom not to be a prime target for attack, the freedom not to have their water poisoned, the freedom to live without noise pollution and crashing airplanes and drunken vandals and rapists and massive environmental destruction. Over and over again they tell pollsters and elect governments to shut down these bases. And over and over again more bases are built in the name of spreading democracy.
The people of Okinawa don’t just vote; they organize and act nonviolently; they risk prison and injury and death. They pull in activists from around the globe to help them in their cause — a struggle against the U.S. government whose people imagine it is protecting democracy, while polls find global opinion to be just the opposite.
And of course, during all of this military buildup and the counterproductive wars and threats of wars, the people of the United States see their own freedoms eroded in the name of the militarism that is supposedly aimed at protecting their freedoms.
Okinawa ought to be independent and not Japanese, but Japan claims ownership of Okinawa, and the people of Japan are more accepting of the U.S. occupation of Okinawa, though many of them seem to be getting tired of it or at least of paying for it financially. And a lot of them are protesting in solidarity with the people of Okinawa. But the people of Japan have never been allowed to vote on the U.S. occupation of Okinawa. Nor have the people of the United States. Lay out for either population the counterproductive, endangering nature of these bases, the environmental cost, the financial cost, and the risk of provoking nuclear apocalypse, and I’d be willing to go with the resulting public vote.
But what of the idea that the bases protect not freedom but safety, that the threat is not invasion and freedom reductions but deadly attack? There are two main problems with this idea, either of which is sufficient to reject it. First, the evidence is overwhelming that this sort of militarism is counterproductive, that it generates hostility rather than deterring it. Second, even if you believe in the logic of deterrence through the threat of mass murder and destruction, current technology allows the United States to accomplish that anywhere on earth without nearby bases. This means both that the bases in Okinawa are not needed for what they claim to be for, and that they are actually kept there for some other reason or reasons. Combine this fact with the revelations made by Edward Snowden that the United States has sabotaged Japanese infrastructure in order to be able to extensively damage Japan should it choose to, and I will leave it to the people of Japan to reason out what the bases are really for.
In reality there is no upside to these bases that can be weighed against poisoning the groundwater of Okinawa with cancer-causing chemicals, raping Okinawan girls, or destroying coral that protects us all from an actual danger while creating another. Environmental collapse and nuclear war are the twin catastrophes we face. Militarism is a top cause of the first, the sole cause of the second, and the pit into which unfathomable resources are dumped instead of being put to actually protective use.
Of course, U.S. military bases poison ground water all over the United States as well, and poison U.S. troops at foreign bases, but my friend Pat Elder has noted that some people are far less accepting of being given cancer than Americans are. We cannot afford, any of us, to be accepting of increasing the risks of global catastrophe. There is no such thing as isolated climate destruction or isolated nuclear war.
We need the people of Japan and of the world to change course, uphold Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, and renounce the idea of wars, militaries, and bases. You may have heard the U.S. government is shut down. Not a single war or base or ship has been shut down. Open up the non-military U.S. government! Shut down all the military bases!
Calls for Withdrawal of All Military Forces From the Region
The Green Party Peace Action Committee supports the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, consistent with its broader call to end all U.S. acts of military aggression, occupation, and intervention in the internal affairs of all sovereign nations.
A chorus of commentators in the corporate media, leaders of the military-industrial complex and members of Congress from both corporate parties were quick to condemn President Trump’s announcement of the planned withdrawal last month. Although the criticisms were framed as opposition to President Trump for his poor judgment, which made the criticisms more politically palatable, the real reason for this opposition is that the U.S. ruling class has long pushed for the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria — especially after President Bashar Al-Assad rejected Western plans for a $10 billion pipeline to ship natural gas from Qatar to Turkey in 2009.
Some Americans who ordinarily oppose U.S. war and intervention may find themselves persuaded to oppose the withdrawal because the initiative came from Trump. However, such opposition is ill-founded. To support a particular action by the president does not imply support for the president himself, trust in his judgment or motives – or even that he will make good on his promise. Such actions must be evaluated on their own merits. In this particular instance, for whatever reason, President Trump has announced an action that merits support by the peace movement and all Americans. He should be encouraged to take further like actions, not criticized simply because so many of his other policies and statements merit criticism.
Criticisms of the proposed withdrawal are based on the flimsiest of pretexts. Many critics cited Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis’s resignation in protest after Trump’s announcement, lauding Mattis as a “stable figure” in the administration. In aligning themselves with the likes of Mattis, critics are making common cause with a sociopathic warmonger who dismissed reports of civilian casualties in Iraq, and once remarked that it was “a hell of a hoot” and “fun to shoot some people” in Afghanistan.
Other critics feigned concern over the fate of Kurds in Syria, ignoring the long U.S. history of using the Kurds as a surrogate force and political football, repeatedly courted and rejected as U.S. ruling class interests dictate. Although Kurds in Syria were concerned about being attacked by Turkey, they were savvy enough to see which way the wind was blowing and are already reaching a rapprochement with the Assad government to ensure their security.
Finally, critics raise the specter of a resurgence in ISIS if the United States leaves – a criticism made ridiculous by a tremendous body of evidence showing that the rise of ISIS was itself a product of U.S. intervention in the region.
More importantly, critics of the withdrawal overlook two fundamental facts. First, U.S. funding of insurrection in Syria, and its bombing, drone strikes and military occupation of a large swath of Syrian territory are all utterly illegal under international law. Like all U.S. attacks on other sovereign nations, these acts are in violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Nuremberg Charter and the United Nations Charter, all treaties to which the United States is a signatory. These acts, ordered in the first place by former President Obama, were also patently unconstitutional, made possible by an abdication of Congress’s exclusive constitutional authority to declare war.
Second, the attacks on Syria, like all U.S. attacks on other sovereign nations, do not in any respect serve the interests of the working-class majority of the United States. Rather, they represent the designs of Big Oil, the military-industrial-congressional complex, the Deep State, and other ruling-class interests that profit immensely from U.S. domination of the globe and perpetual warfare.
These acts of war do not enrich working-class people. They represent an enormous theft of financial resources badly needed to combat climate change, provide health care for all, higher education for all who desire it, and economic security for all. Military spending does not create jobs; it destroys jobs. Every bomb dropped and every drone strike represents millions of dollars less for schools, health care, affordable housing, public transportation, infrastructure repair, and essential services.
And of course, every bomb dropped and every drone strike on working men, women and children in nations like Syria is a thoroughly immoral and inhumane act, causing mass death, incalculable human suffering, and contributing to a global refugee crisis.
We stand with the people of Syria in demanding an end to all foreign intervention in Syria, restoration of its national sovereignty, and an end to the seven-year nightmare the people have been living. An end to “intervention” must include not only the removal of all U.S. ground troops, but the removal of all occupying forces, mercenaries, private contractors, an end to CIA and other covert intervention, an end to support for surrogate forces in Syria, and end to attacks on Syria staged from Iraq or other countries, and an end to aerial assaults on Syrian territory.
We further call on the peace movement and all concerned Americans to demand that the Trump administration and Congress put an end to all U.S. acts of military aggression, occupation, and intervention in the internal affairs of other sovereign nations, close all U.S. foreign military bases, and conduct U.S. foreign policy in a peaceful manner, in compliance with international law.