Originally published 6 March
Do you believe this?
In early March Colombia invaded Ecuador, killed a guerrilla chief in the jungle, opened his laptop â€“ and what did the Colombians find? A message to Hugo Chavez that he sent the FARC guerrillas $300 million â€“ which theyâ€™re using to obtain uranium to make a dirty bomb!
Thatâ€™s what George Bush tells us. And he got that from his buddy, the strange right-wing President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe.
So: After the fact, Colombia justifies its attempt to provoke a border war as a way to stop the threat of WMDs! Uh, where have we heard that before?
The US press snorted up this line about Chavezâ€™ $300 million to â€œterroristsâ€ quicker than the young Bush inhaling Colombiaâ€™s powdered export.
What the US press did not do is look at the evidence, the email in the magic laptop. (Presumably, the FARC leaderâ€™s last words were, â€œListen, my password is â€¦.â€)
I read them. (You can read them here) While you can read it all in espaÃ±ol, here is, in translation, the one and only mention of the alleged $300 million from Chavez:
â€œâ€¦ With relation to the 300, which from now on we will call “dossier,” efforts are now going forward at the instructions of the boss to the cojo [slang term for â€˜crippleâ€™], which I will explain in a separate note. Let’s call the boss Ãngel, and the cripple Ernesto.â€
Got that? Where is Hugo? Whereâ€™s 300 million? And 300 what? Indeed, in context, the note is all about the hostage exchange with the FARC that Chavez was working on at the time (December 23, 2007) at the request of the Colombian government.
Indeed, the entire remainder of the email is all about the mechanism of the hostage exchange. Hereâ€™s the next line:
â€œTo receive the three freed ones, Chavez proposes three options: Plan A. Do it to via of a â€˜humanitarian caravanâ€™; one that will involve Venezuela, France, the Vatican[?], Switzerland, European Union, democrats [civil society], Argentina, Red Cross, etc.â€
As to the 300, I must note that the FARCâ€™s previous prisoner exchange involved 300 prisoners. Is that what the â€˜300â€™ refers to? Â¿Quien sabe? Unlike Uribe, Bush and the US press, I wonâ€™t guess or make up a phastasmogoric story about Chavez mailing checks to the jungle.
To bolster their case, the Colombians claim, with no evidence whatsoever, that the mysterious â€œAngelâ€ is the code name for Chavez. But in the memo, Chavez goes by the code name â€¦ Chavez.
Well, so what? This is what . . . .
Colombiaâ€™s invasion into Ecuador is a rank violation of international law, condemned by every single Latin member of the Organization of American States. But George Bush just loved it. He called Uribe to back Colombia, against, â€œthe continuing assault by narco-terrorists as well as the provocative maneuvers by the regime in Venezuela.”
Well, our President may have gotten the facts ass-backward, but Bush knows what heâ€™s doing: shoring up his last, faltering ally in South America, Uribe, a desperate man in deep political trouble.
Uribe claims he is going to bring charges against Chavez before the International Criminal Court. If Uribe goes there in person, I suggest he take a toothbrush: it was just discovered that right-wing death squads held murder-planning sessions at Uribeâ€™s ranch. Uribeâ€™s associates have been called before the nationâ€™s Supreme Court and may face prison.
In other words, itâ€™s a good time for a desperate Uribe to use that old politicoâ€™s wheeze, the threat of war, to drown out accusations of his own criminality. Furthermore, Uribeâ€™s attack literally killed negotiations with FARC by killing FARCâ€™s negotiator, Raul Reyes. Reyes was in talks with both Ecuador and Chavez about another prisoner exchange. Uribe authorized the negotiations. However, Uribe knew, should those talks have succeeded in obtaining the release of those kidnapped by the FARC, credit would have been heaped on Ecuador and Chavez, and discredit heaped on Uribe.
Luckily for a hemisphere on the verge of flames, the President of Ecuador, Raphael Correa, is one of the most level-headed, thoughtful men Iâ€™ve ever encountered.
Correa is now flying from Quito to Brazilia to Caracas to keep the region from blowing sky high. While moving troops to his border â€“ no chief of state can permit foreign tanks on their sovereign soil â€“ Correa also refuses sanctuary to the FARC . Indeed, Ecuador has routed out 47 FARC bases, a better track record than Colombiaâ€™s own, corrupt military.
For his cool, peaceable handling of the crisis, I will forgive Correa for apologizing for his calling Bush, â€œa dimwitted President who has done great damage to his country and the world.â€ (Watch an excerpt of my interview with Correa here.)
Amateur Hour in Blue
We can trust Correa to keep the peace South of the Border. But can we trust our Presidents-to-be?
The current man in the Oval Office, George Bush, simply canâ€™t help himself: an outlaw invasion by a right-wing death-squad promoter is just fine with him.
But guess who couldnâ€™t wait to parrot the Bush line? Hillary Clinton, still explaining that her vote to invade Iraq was not a vote to invade Iraq, issued a statement nearly identical to Bushâ€™s, blessing the invasion of Ecuador as Colombiaâ€™s â€œright to defend itself.â€ And she added, “Hugo ChÃ¡vez must stop these provoking actions.â€ Huh?
I assumed that Obama wouldnâ€™t jump on this landmine â€“ especially after he was blasted as a foreign policy amateur for suggesting he would invade across Pakistanâ€™s border to hunt terrorists.
It’s embarrassing that Barack repeated Hillaryâ€™s line nearly verbatim, announcing, â€œthe Colombian government has every right to defend itself.â€
(Iâ€™m sure Hillaryâ€™s position wasnâ€™t influenced by the loan of a campaign jet to her by Frank Giustra. Giustra has given over a hundred million dollars to Bill Clinton projects. Last year, Bill introduced Giustra to Colombiaâ€™s Uribe. On the spot, Giustra cut a lucrative deal with Uribe for Colombian oil.)
Then thereâ€™s Mr. War Hero. John McCain weighed in with his own idiocies, announcing that, â€œHugo Chavez is establish[ing] a dictatorship,â€ presumably because, unlike George Bush, Chavez counts all the votes in Venezuelan elections.
Watch Greg Palastâ€™s reports from Venezuela and Ecuador for BBC Television Newsnight and Democracy Now! compiled on the DVD, â€œThe Assassination of Hugo Chavez.â€