How do they keep getting away with it?

The great saviour of democracies, the United States of America, has staged another ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Latin America. Unsurprisingly, the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Canada, the Sancho Panzas of liberal democracies, have once again supported their Don. The guardians of democracy have given an eight day ultimatum to a democratically elected president, Nicolás Maduro, to have another election or face consequences. The Democratic party, which for the last two years have cried of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, now fully endorses the American meddling in Venezuela. The fifth pillar of democracy, the media, which has rightly criticised Trump for many of his policies, is fully endorsing Trump’s position on Venezuela.

When the US decided to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq, I was still doing my matriculation and intermediate studies in Pakistan. This was pre-smartphones, pre-Facebook, pre-Youtube, pre-social media, and many may wrongly believe, the pre-fake news, era. Watching the detrimental effects of American imperialistic policies enfold, I always used to wonder how come people living in old liberal democracies, like the United Kingdom and the US never stopped their politicians from committing these heinous crimes.

Now, having lived in the UK for the last twelve years, I understand why the citizens of old-liberal democracies seldom send their leaders to trial for their crimes. In the book, Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky describe filters through which the corporate media, owned by big businesses, creates consensus among citizens along the lines that benefits the interests of the one percent. Venezuela is just the most recent example of how this consent is manufactured.

In May 2018, liberal media outlets in the US and in the UK pronounced the Venezuelan elections as rigged. However, four independent reports comprised by 150 members published after the elections pointed out that the ‘independence of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela are uncontestable’. Another report said that the ‘the will of the citizens, freely expressed in ballot boxes, was respected.’ This report was seldom referenced in the mainstream media.

One of the major reasons for the collapse of the Venezuelan economy are the sanctions imposed by the US

Even if the elections were rigged, what right do these self-appointed protectors of democracy have to intervene in Venezuela? Perhaps some would say this is another case of ‘humanitarian intervention’. Some would argue that the situation in Venezuela is getting worse, and it could become ‘security threat’ to the region. Therefore, the US, and its allies, are worried about Venezuelans.

One of the major reasons for the collapse of the economy are the sanctions imposed by the United States. Alfred de Zayas, the first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela in 21 years thinks that the US sanctions would be crimes against humanity under international law. As he told the media outlet, The Independent, that sanctions ‘practiced by the US, EU and Canada are significant factors in the economic crisis’. Mr De Zayas said that “the key to the solution of the crisis is dialogue and mediation’. Mr De Zayas, along with more than 70 academics, experts have condemned the US intervention in Venezuela.

The open letter, signed by academics, experts, journalists and intellectuals including Noam Chomsky, says that ‘for the sake of the Venezuelan people, the region and for the principle of national sovereignty, these international actors should instead support negotiation between the Venezuelan government and its opponents’. The letter condemns the US and its allies for they ‘have pushed Venezuela to the precipice’.

Mainstream media in the US, and in the UK ignores calls from these experts. The examples are plenty but let’s take some recent reportage. In the Washington Post, Siobhan Grady informs the reader about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela. No mention of economic sanctions imposed by the United States government. At the end of this piece, Grady outlines what Juan Guaidó aims to do. Guaidó wrote an op-ed in which he wished to hold ‘free and fair elections’. In the article, Grady does not question Guaidó’s motive, his political history, his ideology, his connection, his wealth, or his associations. Grady does not ask whether the US has any right to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign country. Continuing with the Washington Post, the newspaper gave space to the voice of Lilian Tintori, wife of the opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who sits in house arrest. Tintori wants all parties to recognize Guaidó as the new leader of the country. She requests the ‘international community’ (read the US) for financial aid. She hopes that the ‘international community’ supports this ‘democratic transition’. The op-ed is an open call for foreign intervention in Venezuela. Similar support for regime change is found in the articles of the New York Times. Eighteen months ago, journalist Jeremy Scahill, writing for the Intercept magazine, said that Trump and NYT stand on the same page ‘about the unfolding crisis in Venezuela’. The recent episode confirms Scahill’s point. Op-ed columnist for the NYT, recently tweeted ‘praise’ for Trump for ‘standing with the people of Venezuela’. Two days later, writing an op-ed, Bret Stephens once again reaffirmed his position on Trump: “The Trump administration took exactly the right step in recognising National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s constitutionally legitimate president.”

Reading the coverage on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, coverage on Syria, coverage on Yemen, coverage on Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, coverage on Brexit, I have realised how powerful, strong and entrenching the hold of this consent it. Regardless of how you feel about Maduro or corruption in Venezuela, one should still be certain that in the context of Venezuela, foreign intervention has no legal basis in international law. Despite that, it is the power of this manufactured consent, that even now, in 2019, the past American interventions are pronounced as, according to one NYT article, ‘years of misadventures overseas’.

Since the Second World War, these ‘years of misadventures overseas’ have ‘affected’ China, Greece, Korea, Iran, Vietnam, Guatemala, Lebanon, Panama, Haiti, Cuba, Laos, Ecuador, Panama, Brazil, Indonesia, Cambodia, Chile, Libya, Nicaragua, Grenada, Honduras, Philippines, Iraq, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and many other countries. No wonder, Chomsky asserts that every single post second world war US president could be indicted for war crimes under the Nuremberg laws. American interventions in the past are not ‘misadventures’ but war crimes. In a free democracy, free from ‘manufactured consent’, these ‘misadventures’ would be called war crimes, and those who commit these crime held accountable.

Published in Daily Times, February 11th  2019.