Bill Totten's Weblog

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The World's Warmonger

by Garry Leech

Colombia Journal (February 21 2005)

According to the Bush administration, it is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's desire to purchase weapons from Russia that threatens to destabilize the Andean region, not the $3 billion in military aid that Washington has provided to Colombia over the past five years. Likewise, in the Middle East, it is Syria's efforts to obtain purely defensive anti-aircraft missiles that pose a threat to that region, not the $1 billion a year in US military aid to Israel. And on the nuclear front, while there is no evidence that Iran is intending to build nuclear weapons, it is the regime in Tehran that is threatening to further destabilize the region, not President Bush's apparent pledge to support any future Israeli attack against Iran. Meanwhile, North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in order to develop nuclear weapons makes the Asian nation a "rogue state", but Washington's abandonment of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) to build its missile defense system, which could lead to the weaponization of space, apparently does not justify the same anti-multilateralist label being applied to the United States.

In December 2004, the Bush administration sent a letter of protest to the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, and also expressed its concern to Russia's defense and foreign ministers about Moscow's decision to sell AK-47 automatic weapons to Venezuela. The Bush administration claims that President Chavez's arms purchases pose a threat to neighboring Colombia and could lead to a regional arms race, destabilizing the Andean region. The Bush administration failed to note the possibly destabilizing consequences of Colombia's recent massive US-funded military build up.

One US State Department spokesman stated: "Venezuela's plans to purchase various types and large quantities of weapons are extremely troubling. And we believe that Venezuela should consult with its neighbors on such armament acquisitions." Which raises the obvious question: Has the United States ever suggested that the Colombian government consult with President Chavez or other regional leaders regarding the massive amounts of military aid it has received from Washington over the past five years? This answer is definitely not.

The Bush administration also contributed to increasing instability in the Andean region by supporting Colombia's flagrant violation of Venezuelan sovereignty in December 2004. The US Ambassador to Colombia William Wood stated that the United States supported the Uribe administration "100 percent", even after the Colombian government admitted lying when it initially announced that FARC guerrilla representative Rodrigo Granda had been arrested in the Colombian city of Cucuta. Instead, the Colombian government had paid mercenaries to kidnap Granda in the Venezuelan capital and smuggle him across the border.

The Bush administration's confrontational rhetoric has also included repeatedly labeling President Chavez as anti-democratic. Such accusations reek of hypocrisy given the Bush White House's immediate endorsement of the military coup that temporarily overthrew the democratically-elected Chavez in April 2002 - not to mention the likelihood of a US role in the coup itself. Not surprisingly, Colombia was the only other country in the hemisphere to follow Washington's lead and immediately recognize the coup government.

Clearly, Venezuela poses no military threat to the United States. However, given the horrendous history of US military intervention in Latin America, the Bush administration's anti-Chavez rhetoric and the close military ties between the United States and Colombia, the Chavez government has plenty to fear from Washington. And yet, Bush administration officials would have us believe that it is the United States that is being threatened by Venezuela, whose only weapons are social policies aimed at helping the poor and words that criticize US imperialism in the region.

The Bush administration has not only criticized Russia's arms sales to Venezuela, but also Moscow's recent announcement that it intends to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. The United States has threatened Russia with sanctions because it considers Syria a state supporter of terrorism. The Bush White House has not addressed Syria's legitimate concerns with regard to defending itself against acts of aggression by the better-armed Israeli military. In September 2003, Israeli agents carried out a car bombing in the Syrian capital of Damascus and the Israeli Air Force has violated Syrian sovereignty on numerous occasions by bombing alleged Palestinian training camps.

According to the Bush administration, Syria's purchase of purely defensive anti-aircraft missiles to defend itself against blatant Israeli violations of its airspace poses a threat to the region. While some Syrian policies may contribute to the turmoil in the region, the Bush White House refuses to entertain the possibility that the provision of $1 billion a year in US military aid to Tel Aviv and Israel's repeated use of US-supplied weapons to attack neighboring countries such as Syria, Lebanon and the Occupied Territories may also be a significant destabilizing factor.

President Bush also recently pledged to support Israel if it decides to turn its US-supplied weaponry against Iran. The Bush administration's threatening rhetoric towards Iran is intended, as is the case with Venezuela and Syria, to make the country an international pariah and to eventually achieve regime change. The Bush administration has repeatedly accused Iran of violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) because US officials believe Tehran intends to build nuclear weapons. Astoundingly, Washington is not threatening the Iranian government because it is developing nuclear weapons, but because it might develop them. This is clearly a case of the Bush administration taking its new pre-emptive strike doctrine to the extreme.

US officials are most concerned about Iran's plans to enrich uranium, which is a necessary ingredient for nuclear energy but can also be used in nuclear weapons. However, neither the building of nuclear power plants nor the enrichment of uranium constitute a violation of the NPT. In fact, while the International Atomic Energy Agency admits that it would like to more closely monitor Iran's nuclear energy project, it has definitively stated that Tehran has not violated the NPT. Furthermore, Article 4 of the treaty states that nothing should impede a country's "inalienable right" to develop nuclear energy.

The fact that Iran has not violated the NPT has not discouraged the Bush administration from continuing its propaganda campaign intended to convince the US public and the world otherwise. At the same time it is propagandizing against Iran, the Bush administration is itself violating the NPT by developing a new generation of nuclear weapons called "mini-nukes" and "bunker busters". These new weapons violate Article 2 of the NPT, which calls on states "not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices". The Bush government has also failed to live up to its obligations under Article 6 of the treaty calling on nuclear powers to commit themselves to nuclear disarmament.

Washington's propaganda alleges that Iran's intentions to build nuclear weapons pose a threat to the Middle East. It fails to recognize the destabilizing effects of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq or President Bush's outspoken support of possible Israeli aggression against Iran.

The hypocrisy of the Bush administration is also evident in its relations with North Korea. While the United States is busy developing a new generation of nukes, the Bush White House has tried desperately to politically isolate North Korea because of its nuclear weapons program. However, unlike Iran, North Korea is no longer beholden to the NPT, having pulled out of the treaty in April 2003. As a result, North Korea is now in the category of non-NPT states that possess nuclear weapons along with Israel, India and Pakistan.

Apparently though, Israel, India and Pakistan are permitted to possess nuclear weapons because they are allies of the United States, or so goes Bush administration logic. In contrast, North Korea has long been an enemy of the United States and has had to confront increasingly threatening rhetoric from Washington and more than 30,000 US troops and scores of US Air Force bombers stationed on its southern border.

Bush administration attempts to force North Korea, even after its withdrawal from the NPT, to refrain from developing nuclear weapons is clearly hypocritical given the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in order to develop its missile defense system, or "Star Wars" project. While the Bush White House is accusing North Korea of destabilizing Asia with its nuclear weapons program, the United States is attempting to establish an anti-missile system that could include basing weapons in space. The placement of weapons in earth's orbit by the United States, as some defense planners have called for, would go far beyond destabilizing one region of the globe, it would threaten the entire planet and beyond.

While global nuclear disarmament is clearly the desired goal of many nations, the United States is undermining such a possibility by developing its own new generation of nukes and selectively targeting some countries that are developing nuclear weapons while ignoring others. At the same time, it is the Bush administration that is threatening nations in every corner of the world, particularly those regimes critical of the US global military and economic project. While there are valid reasons to be concerned about some of these countries targeted by the Bush administration, they are no more a destabilizing factor than some US allies, or the United States itself for that matter.

The hypocrisy of the Bush administration is clearly evident in its targeting of alleged rogue states - Venezuela, Syria, Iran and North Korea - while supporting non-democratic and repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, among others. The Bush administration's militaristic rhetoric and actions have not only resulted in increasing numbers of people around the globe viewing US foreign policy as a significant destabilizing factor in international relations, it has also made clear exactly who is the world's principal warmonger.

Copyright 2005 Colombia Journal. All rights reserved.

Bill Totten


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