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Thursday, Apr 15, 2010, 1:25 pm

The Real Death Panels

By Pete Karman
By Pete Karman

In fact our government does have them. But they have nothing to do with health care or the blitherings of Sarah Appallin. They consist of high-level committees ensconced deep in the bowels of our national security apparat that decide which of the world’s 200 or so governments should be euthanized for the convenience of our empire. These politicide panels then determine whether the fatal dose should be administered by war, assassination, coup d’etat, destabilization and/or economic strangulation.

Their most recent application was Honduras, where last summer the elected president was removed at gunpoint and death squads were loosed on legitimists, leftists and such. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton celebrated this ongoing bloodbath as a victory for democracy.
Still topping the list for what is bureaucratically dubbed ‘regime change’ are Iran and Venezuela. They got up there by insisting that the vast oil and gas deposits under their lands belong to them and not to Exxon, Chevron or Shell.

Funny, our pols and pundits are forever predicting future “resource wars” with nations scrambling for everything from aluminum to zinc. But they never admit to the ones already happening. Its 31 years now that we’ve scheming to take back “our” oil in Iran and 10 that we’re plotting to do the same in Venezuela. We don’t admit to the obvious, of course. Rather, we accuse the two countries of seeking nukes, having aggressive designs on their neighbors, oppressing their people and, to be sure, committing the ultimate sin of “anti-Americanism.”

What we omit is that if they turned over their oil to us they could do all of those things with our blessings--and that we’d give them good prices on weapons and torture instruments to boot.

Iran and Venezuela have very different governments. The former is a theocracy like our good buddy Saudi Arabia. Unlike the Saudis, Iran overthrew its pro-Washington royal family back in 1978. It also allows more freedom, especially for women, than do the medievals in Mecca.

By contrast, Venezuela is a raucous democracy. The poor and middle class majority have wrested power away from the old elite and are working to develop bottoms-up governance against vicious opposition from that elite and its Washington patrons. Few nations today have as open and interesting politics.
What the two share in common is peace. Venezuela has never fought a foreign war, while Iran hasn’t attacked anyone in 250 years, or since the course of history put the 5,000-year-old Persian civilization out of the empire business just as it was admitting the nascent United States.

I mention Venezuela this week because its people have just celebrated the eighth anniversary of their victory over one of our ‘death panels.’ In April 2002, a cabal of local military and business types, coordinated, advised and backed by our CIA, Naval Intelligence and such, seized power in Caracas, taking the president prisoner and commencing a reign of terror.

They issued a single decree that read like the CliffsNotes for Fascism 101. It shut down the courts, the legislature and all other elected institutions from the local to national levels. It promised new elections within a year--but gave the cabal veto over candidates.

Meanwhile, the coup’s cops began firing on protesters and rounding up supporters of the legitimate government. The Bush administration lost no time in recognizing the new “government” and praising it for “restoring democracy.” The rest of world all but universally condemned the coup and demanded restoration of the elected government.

Washington and its compradors had badly misjudged. Literally millions of Venezuelans poured into the streets in defense of their real democracy. They were backed by loyal military, who quickly retook the Miraflores (Venezuela’s White House) and freed the president from his island prison. It was all over in less than 48 hours.
The result: the right wing opposition in Venezuela was utterly discredited as dictatorial rather than democratic. The lawful government was strengthened. Latins learned yet again that when Uncle Sam talks about democracy, it means bullets rather than ballots.

The battle goes on. The empire won last summer in Honduras (we’ll see for how long). But attempted coups in Bolivia and Paraguay were thwarted. Venezuelans will be voting in September for their congress. Your tax dollars and ‘death panels’ are still hard at work destabilizing and demonizing the elected government in the name of democracy.

PS-An Irish film crew made a terrific documentary on the 2002 Venezuelan coup that, amazingly, covered the occupation of the presidential palace by the coup plotters. It's called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and is viewable at You Tube.

Pete Karman began working in journalism in 1957 at the awful New York Daily Mirror, where he wrote the first review of Bob Dylan for a New York paper. He lost that job after illegally traveling to Cuba (the rag failed shortly after he got the boot). Karman has reported and edited for various trade and trade union blats and worked as a copywriter. He was happy being a flack for Air France, but not as happy as being an on-and-off In These Times editor and contributor since 1977.

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