Tuesday, January 29, 2019

January 29, 2019


MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey

Venezuela, the Deep State, and Subversion of the Trump Presidency

Friends,

There he was, right there on the stage to the right side of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was briefing the press on America’s position concerning the recent coup in Venezuela. I rubbed my eyes—was I seeing what I thought I was seeing?

It was Elliot Abrams. What was HE doing there? After all, back in February 2017, after then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had pushed for his nomination as Deputy Secretary of State, it was President Trump himself who had firmly vetoed his appointment.

Here is how the anodyne account in Wikipedia describes it:
In February 2017, it was reported that Abrams was Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's first pick for Deputy Secretary of State, but that Tillerson was subsequently overruled by Trump. Trump aides were supportive of Abrams, but Trump opposed him because of Abrams' opposition during the campaign. [emphasis mine]
Abrams during the 2016 campaign had been a NeverTrumper who vigorously opposed Donald Trump and who had strongly attacked the future president’s “Make America Great Again,” America First foreign policy proposals.
Abrams, a zealous Neoconservative and ardent globalist was—and is—one of those foreign policy “experts” who has never seen a conflict in a faraway country, in a desert or jungle, where he did not want to insert American troops. He was deeply enmeshed in earlier American interventionist miscues and blunders in the Middle East, even incurring charges of malfeasance.
Apparently, President Trump either did not know that or perhaps did not remember Abrams’s activities or stout opposition. In any case, back in 2017 it took an intervention by a well-placed friend with Washington connections who provided that information directly to Laura Ingraham who then, in turn, placed it on the president’s desk  And Abrams’ selection was effectively stopped, torpedoed by Donald Trump.
But here was Abrams on stage with the Secretary of State.
What was that all about?
Again, I went to Wikipedia, and once again, I quote from that source: On January 25, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Abrams as the United States' Special Envoy to Venezuela.”
Despite President Trump’s resolute veto back in February 2017, Abrams was back, this time as a Special Envoy, right smack in the department that President Trump had forbade him to serve in. Did the president know? Had he signed off on this specially-created appointment? After all, the very title “Special Envoy on Venezuela” seems something dreamed up bureaucratically by the policy wonks at State, or maybe by Mike Pompeo.
Then there was the widely reported news, accompanied by a convenient camera shot of National Security Adviser John Bolton’s note pad (which may or may not have been engineered by him), with the scribbling “5,000 troops to Colombia.”
What gives here?
Last week suddenly there was a coup d’etat in Venezuela, with the head of the national assembly, Juan Guiado, proclaiming himself as the country’s new and rightful president, and the deposition of then-current President Nicolas Maduro. And we were told that this action was totally “spontaneous” and an “act of the Venezuelan people for democracy,” and that the United States had had nothing to do with it.
And, if you believe that, I have an oil well in my backyard that I am quite willing to sell to you for a few million, or maybe a bit less.
Of course, the United States and our overseas intelligence services were involved.
Let me clarify: like most observers who have kept up with the situation in oil-rich Venezuela, I heartily dislike and find despicable the socialist government of Maduro, just as I did Hugo Chavez when he was in power. I have some good friends there, one of whom was a student of mine when I taught in Argentina many years ago, and he and his family resolutely oppose Maduro. Those socialist leaders in Caracas are tin-pot dictator wannabees who have wrecked the economy of that once wealthy country; and they have ridden roughshod over the constitutional rights of the citizens. My hope has been that the people of Venezuela, perhaps supported by elements in the army, would take action to rid the country of those tyrants.
And, in effect, I wish for the success of Juan Guaido in his struggle with Maduro, and I support American diplomatic and economic pressure on Maduro to step down. After all, Venezuela is in our back yard with huge oil reserves.
But potentially sending American troops—as many as 5,000—to fight in a country which is made up largely of jungle and impassible mountains, appears just one more instance, one more example, of the xenophobic internationalism of men like Bolton and the now state department official, Abrams, who believe American boots on the ground is the answer to every international situation. Experience over the past four decades should indicate the obvious folly of such policies for all but the historically blind and ideologically corrupt.
While we complain that the Russians and Chinese have propped up the Maduro government and invested deeply in Venezuela, a country within our “sphere of influence” in the Western Hemisphere (per the “Monroe Doctrine”)—we have done the very same thing, even more egregiously in regions like Ukraine that were integrally part of historical Russia, and in Crimea, which was never really part of Ukraine (only for about half a century) but historically and ethnically Russian. Did we not solemnly pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev, under George H. W. Bush,  that if the old Soviet Union would dissolve and let its some fourteen socialist “republics” go their own way, leave the Russian Federation, that we, in turn, would not advance NATO up to the borders of Russia? And then we did the exact opposite…almost immediately go back on our word and move our troops and advisers right up to the borders of post-1991 Russia?
From mid-2015 on I was a strong supporter of Donald Trump, and, in many ways, I still am. In effect, he may be the only thing that stands in the way of a total and complete recouping of power by the Deep State, the only slight glimmer of light—that immovable force who stands up at times to the power-elites and who has perhaps given us a few years of respite as the managerial class zealously attempts to repair the breach he—and we—inflicted on it in 2016.
My major complaint, what I have seen as a kind of Achilles’ Heel in the Trump presidency, has always been in personnel, those whom the president has surrounded himself with. And my criticism is measured and prudential, in the sense that I also understand what happens—and what did happen—when a billionaire businessman, a kind of bull-in-the-china shop (exactly what we needed), comes to Washington and lacks experience with the utterly amoral and oleaginous and obsequious political class that has dominated and continues to dominate our government: both Democrats and, most certainly, Republicans.
The wife of a very dear friend of thirty-five years served in a fairly high post during the Reagan administration. Before her untimely death a few years ago, she recounted to me in stark detail how the minions and acolytes of George H. W. Bush managed to surround President Reagan and subvert large portions of the stated Reagan Agenda. Reagan put his vice-president effectively in charge of White House personnel: and, as they say, that was it, the Reagan Revolution was essentially over.
In 2016 a number of friends and I created something called “Scholars for Trump.” Composed mostly of academics, research professors, and accomplished professionals, and headed by Dr. Walter Block, Professor of Economics at Loyola-New Orleans, and Dr. Paul Gottfried, Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, in Pennsylvania, we attempted to gather real professed believers in the stated Trump agenda. We received scant mention (mostly negative) in the so-called “conservative” press, who proceeded to smear us as “right wingers” and “paleo-conservatives.” And, suddenly, there appeared another pro-Trump list, but this one composed largely of the same kinds of professionals, but many if not most of whom had not supported Donald Trump and his agenda during the primary campaigns.
What was certain was that many of the amoral time-servers and power elitists had decided that it was time for them to attach themselves to Trump, time for them to insinuate themselves into positions of power once again, no matter their distaste and scorn for that brash billionaire upstart from New York.
Remember the (in)famous interview that the President-elect had with Mitt Romney who desperately wanted to be Secretary of State? Recall the others also interviewed—some of whom we remembered as Donald Trump’s opponents in the campaign—who came hat-in-hand to Trump Tower looking for lucrative positions and the opportunity once again to populate an administration and direct policy?  And, yes, work from within to counteract the stated Trump agenda?
It would be too facile to blame the president completely: after all, the professional policy wonks, the touted experts in those along-the-Potomac institutes and foundations, were there already in place. And, indeed, there was a need politically, as best as practical, to bring together the GOP if anything were to get through Congress. (As we have seen, under Paul Ryan practically none of the Trump Agenda was enacted, and Ryan at every moment pushed open borders.)
Our contacts did try; we did have a few associates close to the president.  A few—but only a few—of our real Trump Agenda supporters managed to climb aboard. But in the long run we were no match for the machinations of the power elites and GOP establishment. And we discovered that the president’s major strength—not being a Washington Insider—was also his major weakness, and that everything depended on his instincts, and that somehow if the discredited globalists and power-hungry Neoconservatives (who did not give Trump the time of day before his election) were to go too far, maybe, hopefully, he would react.
And he has, on occasion done just that, as perhaps in the case of Syria, and maybe even Afghanistan, and in a few other situations. But each time he has had to pass the gauntlet of “advisers” whom he has allowed to be in place who vigorously argue against (and even undercut) the policies they are supposed to implement.
Donald Trump, for all that and for his faults and miscues, is in reality the only thing standing in the way of the end of the old republic. The fact that he is so violently and unreservedly hated by the elites, by the media, by academia, and by Hollywood must tell us something. In effect, however, it not just the president they hate, not even his rough-edged personality—it is what he represents, that in 2016 he opened a crack, albeit small, into a world of Deep State putrefaction, a window into sheer Evil, and the resulting falling away of the mask of those “body snatchers” who had for so long exuded confidence that their subversion and control was inevitable and just round the corner.
President Trump will never be forgiven for that. And, so, as much as I become frustrated with some of the self-inflicted wounds, some of the actions which appear at times to go flagrantly against his agenda, as much as I become heartsick when I see the faces of Elliot Abrams—and Mitt Romney—in positions where they can continue their chipping away at that agenda, despite all that, I pray that his instincts will reign and that he will look beyond such men, and just maybe learn that what you see first in Washington is usually not what you’ll get.
In the meantime, I pass on Pat Buchanan’s latest column on Venezuela…an excellent and thoughtful read.

If the Army Stands With Maduro, What Is Plan B?

By Patrick J. Buchanan  Tuesday - January 29, 2019

"Pay the soldiers. The rest do not matter." This was the deathbed counsel given to his sons by Roman Emperor Septimius Severus in A.D. 211.

Nicolas Maduro must today appreciate the emperor's insight. For the political survival of this former bus driver and union boss hangs now upon whether Venezuela's armed forces choose to stand by him or to desert him and support National Assembly leader Juan Guaido.

Wednesday, Guaido declared Maduro's election last May to a second six-year term to be a sham, and had himself inaugurated as acting president.  Thursday, the defense minister and army chief General Vladimir Padrino Lopez, with his top brass, dismissed the 35-year-old Guaido as a U.S. puppet, and pledged allegiance to Maduro.

Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the U.N. Security Council: "Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. ... Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem."

By Friday, however, the world had already taken sides. Russia and China stood by Maduro, as did NATO ally Turkey, with President Erdogan phoning his support. Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia were also with Maduro.
Backing Guaido are Venezuela's neighbors Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia, the U.S. and Canada, and the Organization of American States.

Britain, France, Germany and Spain have sent Maduro a diplomatic ultimatum: Agree in eight days to new elections or we back the 35-year-old Guaido, who, until this year, was an unknown.

All options are on the table, says President Donald Trump. But Russia called Guaido's action a "quasi-coup" and warned that intervention could result in "catastrophic consequences." Vladimir Putin also phoned Maduro with his support.The stakes for all sides here are huge. Russia has contractors in Venezuela and has lent the regime billions. In a show of solidarity, Putin recently flew two strategic bombers to Venezuela.

China has loaned Venezuela tens of billions, with Caracas paying Beijing back in oil. Cuba has sent military and intelligence officers to maintain internal security. Hugo Chavez had seen in Fidel Castro a father figure and modeled his new Venezuela on Castro's Cuba — with similar results.

Where hundreds of thousands fled Castro's revolution in the 1960s, three million Venezuelans have fled to Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia and other South American countries and the USA.

The economy is in a shambles. Though Venezuela has the largest oil reserves on earth, production is a fraction of what it once was. Cronyism and corruption are endemic. Inflation has destroyed the currency. There is poverty, malnutrition and shortages of every necessity of modern life.

Yet, still, the crucial question: What will the soldiers do? And if the military stands with Maduro, and Maduro refuses to go, what do the Americans do to force him out? Invade? That would invite disaster. Venezuela is not Panama, Haiti or Grenada. Larger than Texas, its population is more than 30 million. And U.S. forces are already committed around the world.

A blockade and sanctions would magnify and deepen the suffering of the people of Venezuela long before they would bring down the regime. Would our allies support a blockade? And if years of suffering by the Venezuelan people have not shaken Maduro's hold on power, what makes us believe more of the same would persuade him?

Maduro and his army are being offered amnesty if they peacefully depart. But what would Maduro's fate be if he flees?

If he gives up power under U.S. threat, he is finished and disgraced as a coward. Would he not prefer to go down fighting?

And if the leadership of the army should abandon Maduro, there are younger ambitious officers who would surely see a rewarding future in fighting to save the regime.

Are we inviting a civil war in Venezuela? Should the shooting start in Caracas, what do we do then?

Did anyone think this through?

Maduro is an incompetent brutal dictator whose ideology has helped to destroy a nation. But if he can change the narrative from a confrontation between a tyrant and his persecuted people to that of an embattled defender of Venezuela being attacked by Yankee imperialists and their domestic lackeys, that could resonate among the masses in Latin America.

And from all indications, Maduro intends to defy the U.S. and rally the radicals and anti-Americans in the hemisphere and the Third World.

Guiado's constitutional claim to the presidency of Venezuela was a scheme cooked up in collusion with Washington, made in the USA, with Secretary of State Pompeo, John Bolton and Sen. Marco Rubio signing on, and President Trump signing off. This was Plan A.

But if Plan A does not succeed, and Maduro, with America's prestige on the line, defies our demand that he yield, what do we do then? What is Plan B?

"Assad must go!" said Barack Obama. Well, Assad is still there — and Obama is gone.

Will the same be said of Maduro?

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