Means Without End: A Paroxysm of Praxis

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. Nietzsche

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Chavez Ally, Not Foe

This guest editorial was published in the Kentucky Kernel on 9/25/06
I read with interest the Kernel's 9/22/06 Letters to the Editor section, which chastised the "madman" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for calling George W. Bush "the devil" in front of the United Nations last week. The "madness" of Chavez pertained to his speaking against Bush on US soil. Much media attention has been given to those "smells of sulfur" comments by Chavez (along with his plug for Noam Chomsky), but I encourage others to read the full text of his speech before making an ill-informed judgment of the Venezuelan leader.

In his speech before the UN, Chavez correctly asserted that this Administration approaches the world as if they were imperialists: "As the spokesman of imperialism, Bush came to share his nostrums [at the UN], to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world."

Chavez was critical of Bush's model of democracy: "It's the false democracy of elites, and, I would say, a very original democracy that's imposed by weapons and bombs and firing weapons."

"What kind of democracy," Chavez wonders, "do you impose with marines and bombs?"

Chavez also had words for Bush's penchant for creating an environment of fear: "Wherever Bush looks, he sees extremists. And you, my brother -- he looks at your color, and he says, oh, there's an extremist. Evo Morales, the worthy president of Bolivia, looks like an extremist to him. The imperialists see extremists everywhere. It's not that we are extremists. It's that the world is waking up. It's waking up all over, and people are standing up."

These comments by Chavez merit reflection, not only because of their accuracy, but more importantly because it lets Americans know how they are understood in a volatile world.

I do want to point to what I consider to be madness, and it is not Hugo Chavez the person, but rather his actions. I consider it to be madness that our society provides such little protection for it’s poor (e.g., Katrina victims) that Chavez has to provide free oil to lower-income families within the United States so that they can heat their homes in the winter.

As the New York Times reported last week (9/21/06): "Mr. Chavez offered to double the amount of heating oil Venezuela donates to poor communities in the United States."

"CITGO," New York Times notes, "is owned by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., and delivered free and discounted oil to Indian tribal reservations and low-income neighborhoods in the United States, including the Bronx."

Indeed, this is madness. It is madness that this nation's resources go to making war on people across an ocean instead of maintaining levees or providing heat for the nation's poor, while relying free resources from other countries. It is madness that funding for education is in crisis, yet the military receives an annual budget of $440 billion a year.

Despite this madness, it is little surprise coming from an Administration which seeks to re-interpret international human rights agreements in order to justify torture; or seeks to cut taxes for the rich while incarceration rates have doubled in urban poor areas since 2000; or refuses to acknowledge the health care crisis where 1 in 3 people between 18 and 35 are without health insurance. All this in the richest nation in the world.

That is madness, not a South American president who is popularly elected and donates resources to the urban poor in the United States.


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