Latin America & the Caribbean

Who’s the Liar: Ilhan Omar or Mike Pompeo?

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Mike Pompeo in Brussels, Belgium on7/11/2018 © Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

May 06, 2019 00:16 EDT

Mike Pompeo wants Americans to understand two essential things: what he and John Bolton have to say about Venezuela is true and his skillset includes the art of lying, cheating and stealing.

The US-supported coup attempt in Venezuela has failed. Even US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recognizes it. But in an attempt to save face, Pompeo promises that, given one more chance, the US will succeed.

As he explained, “[T]he military didn’t fracture in the way that we would hope, but it is just a matter of time.” Of course, he didn’t say that it’s the US that will succeed, but observers of the events of this past week agree that the White House was busy stage-managing the entire operation. Ultra-hawkish White House adviser John Bolton did his best to make this crystal clear. The Guardian concludes: “[W]hile the official line was that the uprising was the work of the Venezuelan masses, everything the Trump administration did reinforced the message that it had been made in Washington.”

Aware of the long history of US interference in Venezuela, Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar — President Donald Trump’s favorite bête noire — made the simple observation: “A lot of the policies that we have put in place has kind of helped lead the devastation in Venezuela.” Pompeo reacted to the incontrovertible truth of what Omar said with these words: “The nicest thing I can say is, it is unbelievable ignorance. It’s just factually wrong … The problems in Venezuela have been years in the making.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:


Failure to repeat the official narrative, combined with the impertinence of relating actual facts

Contextual note 

Pompeo correctly reminds us that the crisis was “years in the making.” The failed US-led coup against Hugo Chávez in 2002 takes us back 17 years. But that isn’t what Pompeo wants us to remember. To prove his point about Venezuela’s problems having a history, he explains: “It has been a socialist regime, first with Chavez, now with [Nicolás] Maduro.”

Case closed. It was socialism, not sanctions, embargos, CIA stealth or the freezing of assets that undermined Venezuela’s economy and political institutions. All those US-initiated actions were simple measures of public salubrity offered by Venezuela’s North American neighbor. Only the ignorant could suppose that they have contributed to the population’s suffering.

President Maduro deserves most of the criticism leveled at him by his critics. Lacking Chávez’s charisma, he followed the pattern of most Latin American heads of state, relying on strongarm tactics and corruption to consolidate his hold on power. In Western eyes, he has transgressed the rules of democracy. But the vulnerability of Venezuela’s economy and political system, which was exposed to both open and clandestine operations conducted by the United States over two decades, not only left him with little choice, but may have been designed to do so.

Pompeo’s reasoning, as he condemns Omar for being “factually wrong,” depends on accepting the dominant US government and media narrative that includes not just the idea that the choice of socialism explains all of Venezuela’s problems, but also that the upstart Juan Guaidó is a popular personality chosen by a majority of the people of Venezuela to lead them into a bright, new future. In reality, at the time of his declaring himself president in January, less than 20% of Venezuelans had ever heard of Guaidó.

Secretary Pompeo wants the public to accept the following narrative: 1) Maduro is a despotic socialist, meaning he is twice guilty of inflicting misery on his people; 2) The 2018 election was rigged and, therefore, his victory is invalidated; 3) Because he won the election by rigging, someone opposed to his regime should be declared the legitimate acting-president, even without a popular mandate; 4) Guaidó is that man because the US proclaimed his legitimacy and numerous other nations followed suit.

Historical note

Ever since President James Monroe invented in 1823 what came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine, the US has assigned itself the geopolitical task of managing the affairs of the Americas in opposition to the Europeans, which has essentially meant Spain and Brazil, but also Britain, France, the Netherlands and Russia. Since there was no such thing as international law at the time, the US set its own precedent by claiming to be the custodian, economic mentor and cultural guide of a region dominated by a great majority of non-English speaking people. They called it “manifest destiny.”

Throughout the 20th century, the US continued to act on this principle, with little serious reference to the framework of international law and a rules-based economy that it and other nations sanctimoniously promoted after World War II. If the US wasn’t organizing a coup, it was “managing” political movements in Guatemala, Honduras, Chile, Panama, Nicaragua, to name just some of the more obvious ones. Contrary to the proclaimed strategy in Venezuela, the US usually paved the way for dictators rather than democracy because, when it worked — as in Guatemala and Chile — democracy more often than not proved inimical to US business interests. Which may lead any reasonable person to speculate whether replacing a president who was officially elected by an upstart politician may not also be a recipe for installing yet another US-friendly dictatorship.

Juan Guaidó was groomed by the Venezuelan opposition, assisted by the US, to destabilize if not overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution. Guaidó learned his radical activism from his mentor, Leopoldo Lopez, who “was born to a wealthy and politically connected family, and … graduated from Harvard University in 1996 with a master’s degree in public policy.” His profile defines the cultural, economic and, to some extent, ethnic gap between the two sides.

The Argentine sociologist Marco Teruggi describes Guaidó as “a character that has been created for this circumstance” who “oscillates between laughable and worrying.” According to Venezuelan journalist Diego Sequera, “Guaidó is more popular outside Venezuela than inside, especially in the elite Ivy League and Washington circles.”

In such circumstances, should anyone outside the Beltway be surprised that last week’s coup failed?

Furthermore, should anyone believe what Pompeo says about either Venezuela or Omar? In a Q&A session at Texas A&M University, Pompeo, with an obvious sense of pride, not only revealed his ethical stance and methodology — “I was the CIA director; we lied, we cheated, we stole” — but he also earns the applause of the audience for saying this.

Pompeo’s fellow Republican, Ron Paul, who posted the YouTube clip comments: “I just hope there’s another few Americans besides us to get a little bit annoyed.” Ilhan Omar seems to be one, but of course Secretary Pompeo has told us that she spoke with “unbelievable ignorance.” In obvious contrast to Pompeo’s propension for telling the truth.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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