About that stench from Turtle Bay...
"We are extremists."
By AcademicElephant Posted in Contra Tyrannum — Comments (5) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Venezuelan "president" Hugo Chavez addressed the United Nations General Assembly today, and he predictably made headlines by proclaiming that the President of the United States is "The Devil," mentally unbalanced, and that the stench of sulfur still clings to the podium of the United Nations, where Mr. Bush spoke yesterday (see Reuters and the AP for examples of such MSM reporting; Fausta has a great blog roundup, including live-blogging links). Like Pejman and streiff, I found this rhetoric more amusing than provoking--after all, Mr. Chavez has a flair for the dramatic, and I generally find his efforts good for a laugh. This one was no exception, and I particularly liked the part where he hawked Noam Chomsky's book to the assembled delegates. But if Mr. Chavez hoped to insult George Bush he missed his mark, for to be insulted by such bombast, you need to in some way respect its source, and if nothing else Mr. Chavez demonstrated today that he is below Mr. Bush's contempt. So let him show his true crazy colors--let him rant and rave about "El Diabolo" and let the failing and dependent nations under his thrall clap away. As White House spokesman Frederick Jones said, it's not really "worthy of reaction." Sticks and stones, in other words, Mr. Chavez, which can't really hurt us. This speech was just more sticks and stones.
Or was it?
There was another passage in Mr. Chavez' speech I considered much more worthy of note and indeed of serious concern. This would be when Mr. Chavez cast in his lot with the groups Mr. Bush categorized as "extremists" in his speech on Tuesday, which began:
Last week, America and the world marked the fifth anniversary of the attacks that filled another September morning with death and suffering. On that terrible day, extremists killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, including citizens of dozens of nations represented right here in this chamber. Since then, the enemies of humanity have continued their campaign of murder. Al Qaeda and those inspired by its extremist ideology have attacked more than two dozen nations. And recently a different group of extremists deliberately provoked a terrible conflict in Lebanon. At the start of the 21st century, it is clear that the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle, between extremists who use terror as a weapon to create fear, and moderate people who work for peace.
Mr. Chavez apparently was listening to the President's speech pretty carefully. He responded:
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.
I have the feeling, dear world dictator, that you are going to live the rest of your days as a nightmare because the rest of us are standing up, all those who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations.
Yes, you can call us extremists, but we are rising up against the empire, against the model of domination.
Mr. Chavez deliberately used the same term as the President, and he deliberately used the first person plural. "We are extremists," he said in what was the true meat of the speech. Do not be blinded by the theatrics: Mr. Chavez today used the bully pulpit of the United Nations General Assembly to publicly embrace the terrorist forces of the Middle East, to claim common cause with them, and to suggest that they have a legitimate grievance against an intolerable aggressor. In this context, Mr. Chavez' apparently nutty remarks about the 9/11 attacks make perfect sense. He is rallying the likes of al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas, and offering them justification, protection and support in the western hemisphere. More overtly and blatantly than any other world leader, he is hanging out his shingle as a state sponsor of terrorism. There have been rumors swirling recently of Islamic extremists finding haven in Venezuela. Mr. Chavez confirmed them today. Come to Venezuela, he might have well said. We can help you out. And look how much closer you'll be to Miami. Or to Washington and New York, for that matter.
Mr. Chavez, for all his vaunted respect for Noam Chomsky, has no post-modern hang-ups about defining good and evil. These concepts are not "relative" for Mr. Chavez, who lives in a black and white world. He has defined the United States, its leadership and its mission to spread democracy to the oppressed peoples of the world as evil, for those oppressed peoples are his territory. And so while Mr. Bush speaks with respect to the people of the Middle East, and talks to them of political empowerment, Mr. Chavez tells them that they were better off before Mr. Bush's armed forces toppled the tyrants of Afghanistan and Iraq. That the 50 million people now free to chart their own destinies should return to the tender ministrations of the Taliban and Mr. Chavez' true role model, Saddam Hussein. This is the world Mr. Chavez envisions with the United States properly humbled and unable to act.
Mr. Chavez certainly grabbed my attention this morning, but not with the incendiary statements that have gotten the most press. Once you look past the "devil" rhetoric, he employed a method chillingly similar to that of his good friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who not coincidentally addressed the General Assembly last night. Mr. Ahmadinejad loathes the Jews far more than he does the United States, so he retrospectively exonerates the Nazis of any war crimes by denying the Holocaust ever occurred, while tacitly condoning their mission to exterminate the Jews. Mr. Chavez, for his part, denies the 9/11 attacks were even attacks, and at the same times expresses solidarity with the America-haters who perpetuated them. Is it being alarmist, or for that matter extremist, to extrapolate from Mr. Chavez' speech today that just as Mr. Ahmadinejad's primary objective is the obliteration of the Zionist state of Israel, so Mr. Chavez' is the destruction of the imperialist United States of America? Or that they would work together to achieve their goals?
There was certainly a rancid odor emanating from Turtle Bay this week. I fear it did not come from Mr. Bush, but rather had a far more alarming source that we dismiss or ignore at our peril.