Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Rogue States

On occasion, little things catch the eye that give cause for a second look. (aka wtf!) This for instance, catching my eye in the dead tree version of that scurrilous rag, the Daily Mail.

Gaddafi himself was earlier said to have left for his home town in the south of the country – or even the rogue South American state of Venezuela, according to British Foreign Secretary William Hague. 22 Feb

– or even the rogue South American state of Venezuela, Dependant on your political leanings, WTF indeed, and slipped in so nicely you would hardly notice, well maybe not. And maybe not at all for someone not unfamiliar with the workings of said rag, n' slag editor, Paul, I'm such a cunt, Dacre.

Slipped in with ease, and with the same ease, the same article, slipping off into that big cyber hole that the Mail has been known to make use on the rarest of occasions. (Shurely shome mishtake?)

But disappeared nonetheless, given the date and the headline, written by 'Chief Reporter David Williams,' Libya protests: Gaddafi may have fled to Venezuela after air force attacks civilians perhaps not altogether surprisingly.

Disappeared as I say, but cached here, not that it matters in the slightest I must add, other than giving attribution to our phrase du jour: Rogue State.

I had a little feeling in me bones, this before I went of in search of examples for and what actually constituted a Rogue State. And me old bones said to me, in only the way old bones can, hegemony! refusing to succumb to American hegemony, I'll bet that is the first prerequisite before you can join the Rogue State Club.

I can hear your brain ticking now, your thinking, the next thing this bugger will be telling us, is that rocks fall to earth! Yes I do apologise, but a fellow has to indulge himself in at least a bit of rhetoric of his own now and then; you'll grant me that, surely?

And I think at this point, it might not be a bad idea to split this post in two, particularly in light of my decision to up the complete article, Of “Dictators” and “Rogues”: Media Give Clinton a Free Pass on Anti-Venezuela Rhetoric on this here page. It's not a unworthy thing to have it featured here, not at all at all it isn't.

More later, unedited.

Ah! dear Hillary, ever the shrinking violet.

Of “Dictators” and “Rogues”: Media Give Clinton a Free Pass on Anti-Venezuela Rhetoric
by Alejandro Reuss
Mar 27 2008

On February 25, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) made a major foreign-policy speech at George Washington University, in which she vowed that, as president of the United States, she would not meet with the “dictators” of various countries without “preconditions.”1 “I will not be penciling in the leaders of Iran or North Korea or Venezuela or Cuba on the presidential calendar without preconditions,” Clinton said, “until we have assessed through lower level diplomacy, the motivations and intentions of these dictators.” She also stated that she would not “legitimize rogue regimes … by impulsively agreeing to presidential level talks that have no preconditions.” Evidently, Clinton considers the countries on her list, including Venezuela, “rogue regimes” ruled by “dictators.”

Numerous major news organizations carried news stories or commentary on the speech. The Wall Street Journal2, the Boston Globe3, CBSnews.com4, CNN.com5, FOXnews.com,6 the Miami Herald7, USA Today8, Bloomberg,9 and Agence France-Presse10 specifically quoted Clinton’s remarks about “preconditions,” “dictators,” or “rogue regimes”— remarks widely interpreted as a rejoinder to Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) statement, in a debate in July, that if he were elected president he would meet, without preconditions, the leaders of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela (The Guardian)11.

None of the news organizations commented on, nor appear to have inquired with Clinton or her staff, whether she is aware that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez won presidential elections in 1998, 2000, and 2006, survived a recall referendum in 2004, and accepted defeat in a constitutional reform referendum last year. Neither do the news organizations appear to have asked for Clinton’s definition of “dictator” or “rogue regime,” or by what definition Chávez or Venezuela would qualify.

Whether a head of government has come into and remains in power via competitive elections—as opposed to force, family succession, or other means—is a common criterion for judging if that leader is a “dictator” or not. The Carter Center (founded and led by former President Jimmy Carter) sent election monitors to all the recent Venezuelan elections mentioned above. Its reports frankly criticize some of the votes as “flawed,” but they do not report widespread violence, intimidation, or fraud. They do not conclude that Chávez’s victory in any of the presidential elections was stolen.12 The Carter Center’s findings are publicly available and, in fact, HuffingtonPost.com reported them in a critique of Clinton’s speech focusing specifically on Venezuela.13 None of the mainstream news organizations, however, mentioned the Carter Center reports or any other findings on the conduct of Venezuela’s recent elections or referenda in their reporting on Clinton’s speech.

None asked whether Clinton believes (contrary to the Carter Center’s findings) that Chávez achieved his election victories by force or fraud, or whether she had other criteria for this characterization, unrelated to the validity of the polling results. This suggests that reporters and editors themselves are either unaware of the contrary facts about Venezuela (by the Carter Center and others) or share some underlying view in which Clinton’s characterizations of the country and its government are uncontroversial.

During the same speech in February, Clinton referred to Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf not as a “dictator,” but with his self-granted title of “president” (even while criticizing the Bush administration’s uncritical support for his regime). She did describe him as moving “further and further away from democracy,” a rather understated description of someone who came to power via military coup, overthrowing an elected government. She did not call Pakistan a “rogue state.” Along with her characterization of Venezuela, this suggests that Clinton was using the terms “dictator” and “rogue regime” much as U.S. leaders have in the past. That is, heads of government perceived as “friendly” to the United States (e.g., anti-Communist, supportive of U.S. foreign policy, welcoming to U.S. investors) are not tagged with these labels, regardless of how they came to power or the means they use to retain it. The terms “dictator” or “rogue regime” are reserved for those who impinge on the interests of U.S. corporations or oppose U.S. foreign policy. By those criteria, Clinton’s characterizations of Chávez and Venezuela are not at all puzzling.
The mainstream media’s failure to raise these issues, even from the narrow standpoint of effective electoral reporting, is a serious failing. Reporters should certainly care whether a major presidential candidate knows if the government of another country—especially a major actor in regional politics and a country with which the U.S. government has a recent history of conflict—is a dictatorship or not. They should inquire as to whether the refusal to have certain kinds of relations (in this case, top-level talks, at least without “preconditions”) with certain kinds of countries (here, “dictatorships”) is meant as a general foreign-policy principle. Would the U.S., under a Clinton administration, impose “preconditions” for top-level talks with any non-democratic government—including such stalwart U.S. allies as Egypt, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia? Would a Clinton administration, as a general principle, change other kinds of policy stances (e.g., military aid, or foreign aid generally) with respect to such governments? Above all, the media should demand to know whether labeling a country a “rogue state” or “dictatorship” may signal future aggression by the U.S. government.

The possibility of future U.S. aggression against Venezuela is hardly speculation. The current administration is known to have conspired with coup plotters who attempted to overthrow the Venezuelan government in 2002. Britain’s the Observer reported just days after the coup, in April 2002, that “officials at the Organization of American States and other diplomatic sources . . . assert that the US administration was not only aware the [Venezuela] coup was about to take place, but had sanctioned it, presuming it to be destined for success.” Coup plotters were received repeatedly at the White House in the months preceding the coup. “The coup was discussed in some detail,” the newspaper reported, “right down to its timing and chances of success, which were deemed to be excellent.”14 None of the coverage of Clinton’s recent speech raised the question of whether a future Clinton administration would follow a similar policy of “regime change.”

Presumably, almost all summit meetings between countries require prior negotiations (e.g., on what topics will be discussed), and so involve some “preconditions.” The current invocation of “preconditions,” however, sounds above all like an assertion of U.S. superiority and entitlement: The United States lays down “preconditions” before it deigns to meet with the leaders of other countries, like a lord who will only grant an audience to a peasant who appears hat in hand. The mainstream news media, unfortunately, have done nothing to question the premise of U.S. superiority, which pervades U.S. political discourse on foreign policy, especially with respect to poor countries.

If countries that engage in aggression against their neighbors are “rogue” nations, then is the United States a rogue nation? (Its attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government being only one recent example of a long pattern of such behavior.) Isn’t it the government of Venezuela, therefore, that is entitled to demand “preconditions” from the United States government—such as a pledge that it will make no further such attempts—before its representatives will engage in talks with the U.S. president (rather than the other way around)? These are the kinds of questions that news reporters should be asking U.S. politicians and candidates for high office—but aren’t. mediaaccuracy

And of course, no show without punch.

2002 Hugo Chavez UN six minute version, Hugo smells sulphur. Full speech below.

Previous: South America tag in side bar.

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