Saturday, September 23, 2006

Enemies out of Friends

Americans who regard Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's remarks at the U.N. General Assembly as a rant are missing the point, and the important lesson, of the event.

You have to read the entire remarks -- not just the soundbites about the "devil" President Bush. Chavez masterfully shows just how well he understands the United States and how little the reverse is true.

Alluding to Bush's assertion that "my country wants peace," Chavez stated:

That's true. If we walk in the streets of the Bronx, if we walk around New York, Washington, San Diego, in any city, San Antonio, San Francisco, and we ask individuals, the citizens of the United States, what does this country want? Does it want peace? They'll say yes.

The speech also shows just how completely U.S. government obduracy concerning Chavez has galvanized the Arab League, Latin American nations and even Europe into a bloc so utterly annoyed as to support granting Venezuela a seat on the U.N. Security Council -- just to irritate the U.S. delegation.

The odd thing is that Venezuela, which was for years little more than the Latin American country estate of the Rockefeller family, was historically the staunchest of U.S. allies in its region. Well handled, the country could have remained close enough, even under Chavez.

The problem is that the U.S. foreign policy establishment just won't take a potential lukewarm friend if a passionate enemy can be had.

The saga of Chavez's Venezuela brings to mind the country of another past demonizer of the United States, Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini's Iran -- just as it recalls Osama bin Laden's Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's Iraq -- all formerly allied countries turned battlegrounds.

This is the work product of the pinstriped diplomats at Foggy Bottom and their spy colleagues across the river in Langley, Virginia -- not jihadists.

Iran was a peaceable, Western-friendly kingdom in the early 1950s, when a democratic-minded nationalist, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, nationalized what was then called the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (later changed to British Petroleum and now BP).

In a move that in hindsight seems deliciously ironic, the CIA paid Iranians to create disturbances disguised as Muslim clerics to set the climate for the 1954 coup that installed the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The secularist Shah modernized industry but remained in power until 1979 thanks to the CIA-trained secret police SAVAK, known for decades after for its torture chambers.

Without the Dulles brothers running the State Department and the CIA at the time of the 1954 coup, Iran had every prospect of evolving into a parliamentary democracy, albeit influenced by the local Islamic culture. Instead, 25 years of smoldering wrath brought the mullahs and ayatollahs and their radicalized agenda.

Radicalized by whom, you ask? By the U.S. government's stupid disregard for cultural subtleties and its disdain for democracy abroad. In 1954, Iran could have satisfied its pride by owning its oil; now it wants nuclear weapons.

Will Iranian nuclear weapons go to Iraq's rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr or to Osama bin Laden? It's not in Teheran's interests to provide such power to loose cannons.

But leave it to the Ugly Americans at State and the torturers at the CIA and, hell, Iran will help Al Sharpton go nuclear -- just to show it can.
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