Oliver Stone accompanied Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez down the red carpet this week at the Venice film festival for the premier of Stone’s newest propaganda film on the wave of “left” authoritarianism sweeping across Latin America.
Just keep in mind that the film is likely as accurate about current Latin American politics as was Stone’s explanation of the Kennedy assassination.
When will the American stalinoid left learn that the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend? The race to embrace figures like Chavez (or even worse, Ahmadenijad or Hussein) by certain segments of the “left” is a mirror image of the policies of the US government for so many decades in Latin America and other parts of the developing world. There the US frequently chooses to back hardline violent and authoritarian forces like the Nicaraguan contras or the recent coup against the Honduran president or the failed coup attempt against Chavez himself a few years ago. This senseless policy only creates the political conditions that fuel the rise to power of pseudo-left authoritarian groups like the Sandinistas or Chavez.
People like Ramsey Clark and Sean Penn are trapped in a political paradox. Instead of thorough independent analysis they fall back on the old saw: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Thus, both of these very public figures rushed to Iraq to shake the hands of its brutal and illegitimate leaders while failing to meet with dissidents or to mention any of the terrible crimes of the regime.
Clark uses his legal skills to hand pick cases that serve his political causes, thus a figure like Saddam Hussein who was in desperate need of very skilled counsel likely did not hire the best lawyer for his case.
Regarding Venezuela: is Fox my source? I never cited Fox – you did. It’s your source. Are they wrong? Then why cite them?
On Clark and Hussein there are good articles out there like one by John Judis and another by Manny Goldstein. One needs no additional research to understand Sean Penn – if you do, then I will simply chalk it up to not being an American, but believe me he is a well know quantity here.
Regarding ANSWER, I really do not know what to say – they defend Iran as a peaceful middle eastern neighbor and other absurdities. They are run by the International Action Center which is controlled by a stalinist sect that includes Clark as one of its affiliates.
It is conceivable that poverty was reduced for a period of time in Venezuela. So what? Yes that’s a good thing but it depends on the overall social cost. Prisoners can get good health care – Michael Moore no doubt thinks that Cuban prisoners get good health care, better than in the US, even. But they are still prisoners.
Similarly, while the Weisbrot study might be valid and it might be true that the Gini coefficient declined in Venezuela it may have come at a social cost that is not worth paying. I never argued that Venezuela – which, by the way, was the beneficiary of high oil prices that made many people in the world poorer over the last few years – has not increased the incomes of the poor. I argued that it is an authoritarian regime. Your comments about poverty are a non sequitur.
Thanks for the reply.
I have a confession, I am not from the US, so didn’t follow what was said by the individuals and organisations that you accuse of defending Hussain at the time. All I have to go on regarding the matter is what I can absorb using Google.
On searching for: “Ramsey Clark defend Hussain”,
the first item at the top of the results was an article by Clark titled “Why I’m Willing to Defend Hussein”. On reading the article I tended to agree with Clark that Hussain should (have) receive(d) a fair trial. Clarks reasoning is principled and admirable: he writes… “No power, or person, can be above the law. For there to be peace, the days of victor’s justice must end.
The defense of such a case [that of Hussain] is a challenge of great importance to truth, the rule of law and peace. A lawyer qualified for the task and able to undertake it, if chosen, should accept such service as his highest duty.”
Defending Hussain’s rights with regard to the law is something quite different from defending Hussain in the sense you seem to imply, which would amount to defending his crimes.
This could be something entirely separate from what you are accusing Clark of. If so, could you be more explicit?
Most of the results for “Sean Penn Hussain” where links to mocking conservative stuff. I couldn’t find anything incriminating as regards him defending Hussain (Could you quote something he said, or give an example of something he did?) On reading a reuters report by Alistair Lyon I found that he had visited iraq on a three day trip. This might be something to do with your accusation. from the article:
“Asked if his three-day trip to Baghdad might expose him to charges of lack of patriotism, Penn said he would be happy to debate anyone who made such accusations.
“I’m here for a simple reason, which is because I’m a patriot and an American who has benefited enormously from being an American, and because I had areas of personal concern and conscience that led me to come to Iraq. ”
Regarding ANSWER, Google doesn’t help. Would you be able to provide a link to something? With no information, I can’t reply.
Chavez set up Neighbourhood spies? I googled this amazing claim, and found that a report actually exists that claims “President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has passed an intelligence law that could force people to spy on their neighbors as part of an attempt to divert attention from evidence linking his government to the leftwing Colombian rebel group FARC, experts claim.”
Who are these experts? I think it is reasonable to assume they are U.S spokespersons. Why do I think that?
Fox news is the source of the article.
Is this your source?
In your final paragraph in your reply you say “even if true, so what?” to the improvements made in Venezuela in the past ten years regarding poverty and inequality reduction. You then talk about china and russia’s advances in industry and income and there being a “terrible cost to human life and freedom”
Could you please explain the possible costs that might arise from poverty reduction (-extreme poverty was reduced by more than half!), and reducing inequality?
People like Ramsey Clark and Sean Penn defended Hussein. Others (like ANSWER) cloaked their political support in anti-war rhetoric (though, let me be clear, I opposed the war). Defenders of the Iranian regime among the western “left” during the recent election were all over the place, just google it.
The “left” authoritarianism I refer to includes Chavez, Morales and others who I think try to appear as leftists in support of the poor and working class but actually are more interested in their own power or the power of a new bureaucratic class.
I am not sure what you mean by participatory democracy since I find that term ambiguous. But if you are referring to the neighborhood spies set up by Chavez then no they do not have any positive political value but if you are referring to efforts by workers in Argentina to turn closed factories into cooperatives then they do have some value.
I have not seen the Weisbrot report and question that kind of statistical measurement generally but even if true, so what? Stalin vastly increased the industrial capacity of the USSR and the maoist regime in China has also increased the incomes of large numbers of people – both at a terrible cost to human life and freedom. A genuine democracy in both countries could have done much better and still can.
I have a few problems with your piece.
Which segments of the “left” you hint towards, raced to embrace Hussein and Ahmadenijad?
Could you define a little more precisely what you refer to as the “wave of “left” authoritarianism sweeping across Latin America”.
Do you think the projects in participatory democracy and economics appearing across Latin America have any worth?
According to a report authored by Mark Weisbrot and others at cepr looking at the last 10 years in Venezuela
“… the percentage of households in poverty has been reduced by 39 percent, and extreme poverty by more than half.
Inequality, as measured by the Gini index, has also fallen substantially. The index has fallen to 41 in 2008, from 48.1 in 2003 and 47 in 1999. This represents a large reduction in inequality.”
Do you think this should be commended and supported?