Tuesday, February 06, 2007

If Venezuelans Have a Dictator, What Have We Here?

This is a letter to the editor of the Eureka Reporter that I wrote last Thursday night. It was published today, Tuesday Feb. 6, 2007. This letter is in response to this editorial:


The letter can be found here:


Failure to seek accountability has left citizens confused
by Dave Berman, Eureka, 2/6/2007

Glenn Franco Simmons recently described Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a dictator, tyrant, strongman and authoritarian. If Simmons can support this by citing stacked courts and monopolized rule, what should we conclude about Supreme Court Justices Alito and Roberts, six years of a rubber-stamping one-party legislative branch and only one veto but more than 1,000 signing statements?

If we can't claim ignorance of the Chavez regime's ruthlessness, as Simmons asserts, what is it that enables us to look the other way from those responsible for torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, willful neglect in New Orleans and depraved indifference to the constitutional role of the Congress in making war?

If Chavez is guilty of intimidating the media, as Simmons reported the U.S. State Department had determined, what are we to make of reporting so unquestioning that it continues to leave the unanswered questions of 9/11 unasked? So un-skeptical that it was completely wrong about the threat of WMD in Iraq (despite millions protesting in the street who knew better)? So cowed that even when felonies (warrantless wiretapping) are openly admitted there is still no call for accountability?

Chavez's "presidency" was referred to in quotes, as can often be seen in reference to another leader first appointed by the Supreme Court and later "re-elected" with voting equipment that could never be recounted or otherwise verified.

Simmons goes on to use many other colorful words, such as "disappearances," "extrajudicial killings" and "increased militarization of public administration." Should these words make Americans uncomfortable? Last fall, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act eliminating habeas corpus, meaning we can be jailed without charges, thus enabling "disappearances." U.S. military forces are augmented by paid mercenaries from Halliburton and Blackwater, making a living doing "extrajudicial killings." And last fall, Congress nullified Posse Comitatus, a 19th century law prohibiting the use of the U.S. military for domestic policing, yet another step toward "increased militarization of public administration."

I'm not so much interested in Chavez or anyone's opinion of him, really. What is more important is that newspaper editors acknowledge what is in plain sight. Reticence is tacit approval, a rather insidious way to throw in one's lot. The failure to question and seek accountability has left many good citizens understandably confused, or even "certain" with knowledge that is false. If Venezuelans are ruled by a dictator, tyrant, strongman and authoritarian, what have we here?


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