Despite his 2008 pledge “to quash fear and promote dignity” among nations as opposed to the belligerency of the Bush years, the administration of President Barack Obama has seen the U.S. empire’s sanctions regimes continue unabated, and in some cases even expand. Whether it’s taking further steps to economically isolate North Korea over the unverified hacking of Sony Pictures (which exposed the film company as being staffed with racist jerks), taking measures to send Russia’s economy into recession as retaliation for its efforts to thwart NATO’s Ukraine-takeover, or sanctioning Venezuela for resisting another American-backed right-wing coup, truly fair and balanced diplomacy on behalf of the United States is simply D.O.A. Thus the imperialists resort to what they do best: arm-twisting, threatening and causing as much pain and suffering as possible to break the will of those who resist.
According to the 3rd edition of Economic Sanctions Reconsidered, “By far, regime change is the most frequent foreign policy objective of economic sanctions“, and nowhere is that clearer than in Latin America, where Cuba has faced more than half a century of a U.S.-imposed blockade for daring to resist the will of the imperialists and engaging in a revolutionary struggle for its independence. Taking this history into account, it should come as little surprise that in the very same month the President announced a formal diplomatic end to the nearly 55 year-long freeze in Cuba-U.S. relations, he would sign into law a bill imposing sanctions on anyone in Venezuela “accused of carrying out acts of violence or violating the human rights of those opposing the South American nation’s socialist government.” Never mind the fact that in the United States authorities meet demonstrators opposing corporate dictatorship with far more violence and brutality than Venezuela’s police could ever dream of, or that in the U.S. a police officer can literally strangle a person to death for allegedly selling loose cigarettes and be granted complete immunity by the legal system. America is a place where one can be jailed for feeding a homeless person or, god forbid, being a homeless person. Yet U.S. politicians want to wear the banner of ‘human rights’ when it comes to chastising nations whose governments they want to see crumble under external and/or internal pressure. This stands in stark contrast to the stances they take regarding countries perceived as being U.S. strategic allies but are guilty of some of the worst human rights abuses, like Saudi Arabia and Israel for example. In fact the position taken on Venezuela’s human rights record is inconsistent with the stance America has taken with other countries that are within the same hemisphere. As Al Jazeera reports:
Washington’s focus on human rights abuses in Venezuela is in stark contrast to its aid to Honduras, Mexico and Colombia, which face grave human rights situations…
Similarly, the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico has drawn renewed attention to the country’s rampant human rights abuses, including those perpetrated by or with the complicity of the Mexican government, which the U.S. supported with nearly $3 billion in military aid through the Mérida Initiative and other bilateral programs since 2008. Colombia, another U.S. ally, also boasts an abysmal human rights record, but the country has received more than $8 billion in U.S. military and police assistance since 2000. Yet instead of imposing sanctions on these countries and its leaders, the U.S. continues to extend tens of millions of dollars in security aid.
Furthermore, the Venezuelan opposition is not exactly what the American media portrays it to be. Venezuela has been in the cross-hairs of American imperialism for over a dozen years now since the socialist candidate Hugo Chavez won the democratic elections in 1998 and instituted societal and economic reforms which were greatly beneficial to the overwhelming amount of Venezuelan people instead of instead of being subservient to foreign national oil companies. The intense animosity the U.S. establishment held for Chavez was evidenced by the unrestrained tide of glee that met the news of his death in the corporate media. A decade prior to his death, the U.S. secretly organized a coup to oust Chavez and his socialist government from power in Venezuela in favor of the nation’s oligarchs, a coup that ultimately proved unsuccessful. The latest moves, including suspected manipulation of oil prices on the part of the Saudis at the urging of the U.S., are alternative methods of achieving the same goal. The violent opposition in Venezuela consists of elite oligarchs who wish to institute a counterrevolution in the country, and there is some evidence that they’re getting marching orders directly from Washington. In a sick twist of irony the U.S. House of Representatives passed the sanctions bill the day immediately following the long-overdue public revelation of the Senate Torture Report summary, which demonstrated once again that the only thing “exceptional” about the U.S. is its extreme hypocrisy.
Not satisfied exerting as much damage to the economies of Venezuela, Russia and Iran as possible, the U.S. Military Industrial Complex in collision with its friends in Hollywood decided the time was ripe to ratchet up hostilities with North Korea. (*) After a group of hackers managed to hack into the private emails of several Sony Motion Pictures execs, claiming the attack was in retaliation for a despicable juvenile comedy flick starring Seth Rogen (The Interview) in which a gruesome assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is depicted onscreen. The warmongers at the Pentagon, Congress and the White House immediately seized the opportunity to verbally assault Korea by pointing the accusatory finger at Pyongyang, an accusation North Korea denies (though they certainly aren’t bothered by the leaks, nor should they be expected to be). President Obama, citing FBI ‘Intelligence’, declared he had “no doubt” the Koreans were responsible and threatened retaliation. (**) Soon after the internet was almost completely down in North Korea, and this was followed by additional sanctions on top of the numerous sanctions already piled against the small nation. In addition, the President said the United States would be considering whether it’s once again appropriate to add the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea onto the U.S.’s list of “state-sponsors of terrorists”. If this were to happen, North Korea would effectively take the place only recently evacuated by Cuba and would stand alongside just 3 other nations: Iran, Sudan and Syria. Of course the fact that the U.S. even has such a list is nothing short of astonishing considering how U.S. ally Saudi Arabia is nowhere on that list, even though in 2009, according to a State Department cable later made public by Wikileaks, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referred specifically to Saudi Arabia as the lead exporter of terrorism worldwide. This assessment notably fails to take account of course the many armed terrorist groups which have been armed and trained by agents of the CIA who continue to wreak havoc across Syria, Libya and Iraq day by day. Add to that the troubling fact that a known Cuban terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles – responsible for orchestrating a number of deadly terrorist attacks against civilians in Havana – is currently living in Miami under U.S. protection despite killing scores of innocent lives. Not surprisingly, Carriles is a former CIA agent, and by association that makes the U.S. without a doubt a “state sponsor of terrorism”.
What is the difference between Saudi Arabia and Israel on one hand, and Venezuela and North Korea on the other? It’s simple. States such as Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea have not bowed down before the alter of Yankee imperialism and have instituted policies that are socialist, egalitarian and beneficial to their people without making them subservient to capitalist enterprise. Any nation that charts a path seen as antithetical to the interests of Washington D.C. and global hegemonic capitalism is automatically designated a target for the United States. The grotesque inequalities which are an inherent part of capitalism have only been exasperated as the U.S. has become the world’s sole remaining superpower following the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Resistance to empire and the determination of a people to set up a path of their own choosing have not diminished, however. No amount of invasions, sanctions or foreign-backed coups will ever be enough to extinguish a peoples’ fight for self-determination.
- Rapprochement Between the United States and Cuba and Sanctions Against Venezuela
- Is US Supporting Oligarch Coup in Venezuela?
* The amount of consulting that went on between the The Interview’s producers and high-ups at the State Department was revealed in a number of the emails leaked by hackers:
Sony Pictures co-chairman Michael Lynton is on the board of trustees of the Rand Corporation, a leading private consulting firm for the CIA and Pentagon, and it was Rand’s North Korea specialist, Bruce Bennett, who pushed hard for the Sony film to focus on the assassination of North Korea’s ruler.
An email from Bennett, the Rand analyst, to Lynton suggested that the film could actually help unseat the North Korean regime. “I have been clear that the assassination of Kim Jong Un is the most likely path to a collapse of the North Korean government,” Bennett wrote. “I believe that a story that talks about the removal of the Kim family regime and the creation of a new government by the North Korean people (well, at least the elites) will start some real thinking in South Korea and, I believe, in the North once the DVD leaks into the North (which it almost certainly will).”
Lynton responded, “Bruce—Spoke to someone very senior in State (confidentially). He agreed with everything you have been saying. Everything. I will fill you in when we speak.”
Other emails name two State Department officials—Assistant Secretary Daniel Russel and Ambassador Robert King, US special envoy for North Korea human-rights issues—as providing input to the film.
** Such “intelligence” is doubtful at best, considering how the U.S. government has a way of fabricating evidence to fit a preconceived narrative. Take for example the supposed “Gulf of Tonkin” incident which was fabricated and used to justify further involvement in Vietnam, or the fictional WMDs the Bush administration insisted were about to be used by Saddam to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.