It’s getting ever tougher to tell hard news from satire, especially with headlines such as “Obama backs Venezuela’s right to nuclear energy” — this atop a story in which the AFP this week went on to report that President Barack Obama says he’s OK with Russia building a nuclear plant for Venezuela, as long as Venezuela doesn’t go and do something irresponsible with it all (such as maybe, well, you know… use the project as a cover for pursuing or installing nuclear weapons in America’s backyard).
Obama’s eye-popping line, quoted in this story, is: “We have no incentive or interest in increasing friction between Venezuela and the U.S., but we do think Venezuela needs to act responsibly.”
File that under the gazillion hollow U.S. statements of “concern” and “disappointment” which in recent years have punctuated Iran’s proliferating adventures with enriched uranium, and North Korea’s two nuclear tests. There are a great many things with which America would have no problem, if the predatory tyrants behind them would just act “responsibly” — the problem is that they have no intention of doing so, and they don’t.
In this case, Venezuela’s deal for a nuclear reactor emerged from a visit just paid by President Hugo Chavez to Moscow, as part of a ten-day trip to Belarus, Russia, Iran, Syria, Libya and Portugal. Setting aside Portugal, does anyone in the White House notice a common theme to this itinerary? Chavez is making yet another tour of an axis of despotisms. This gang runs the gamut from weapons dealers to sponsors of terrorism to nuclear proliferators — past, present and future. This is not the itinerary of a democratic leader shopping for technology to enhance the electricity supply of a free and happy citizenry back home. If your grandmother were to take off on a 10-day deal-making spree through Minsk, Moscow, Tehran, Damascus and Tripoli, you’d be right to wonder what she was really up to. When Hugo Chavez does it, it is head-spinning irresponsibility of the first order for the White House to entertain even for a split second the idea that this has anything to do with “peaceful” nuclear power.
Chavez has beggared his own oil-rich country, wrecking its economy and crushing domestic freedoms in the name of his “Bolivarian revolution.” He has made common cause for years with Iran, visiting there nine times since 1999, and three times in the past 18 months, including his visit there this week. Chavez and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year declared their plan to build, jointly, a “nuclear village.” This year, they announced plans to eliminate Western influence and replace it with a “New World Order,” providing “humanity and justice” — Caracas and Tehran style.
For a further sampling of the Venezuelan-Iranian axis, recall the briefing given in Washington last year by former New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, in which, invoking the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Morgenthau (a Democrat) warned that the Iran-Venezuela axis has the makings of the next nuclear missile crisis, in America’s own backyard.
But Obama doesn’t want to increase U.S.-Venezuelan “friction” by drawing any inferences about Chavez’s real purpose in launching a Russian nuclear-plant project in Venezuela. For Chavez, it’s a marvelous cover for bringing in nuclear experts and equipment. For Obama, apparently, it’s just one of those wait-and-see things — we’re now supposed to let Chavez build his nuclear plant, to find out what’s in it?
And wouldn’t you know it — poor Obama. Like last year’s handshake for Chavez, this year’s nod for Venezuelan “peaceful nuclear power” earned Obama no real credit with Caracas. It seems that even Obama’s toadying addendum about the need for Venezuela to act “responsibly” was a caveat too far. On Thursday, Chavez was busy denouncing Obama for trying to “sow doubt” about the project. If only.