A Popular Vote For Chavez
A front page headline in today’s Washington Times reads ”Chavez survives recall; observers find no fraud.” Now, why should anyone be surprised by this? As the link to Greg Palast’s article, provided by William Marina directly below, points out the rule of Hugo Chavez has provided tangible benefits to the poor Venezuelans who make up the overwhelming majority of the population. No need for fraud or intimidation on the part of Chavez existed and any distortion of the vote that occurred most likely went in the other direction.
In an earlier post Pat Lynch takes a much more hostile view of Chavez’s victory comparing it to the most recent electoral triumph of Saddam Hussein. He states that “Elections were held in the Soviet Union and we all know the results of those exercises in freedom and liberty. I suspect Chavez to be only a shade better than the Kremlin when it comes to managing vote counting and the like.” I strongly disagree with the implications of this statement and believe the Venezuelan election results to be a genuine expression of the will of the people involved. Although, I think that a comparison with the last election in Iraq is apt.
Both elections were referendums in the sense neither leader faced an opponent and in each case the leader won an overwhelming victory. As I have stated above, I credit Chavez’s victory to his popular policies but I do acknowledge that fear played a role in Hussein’s over 90% win. The question is, how big a role?
Since weapons of mass destruction and revenge for 9-11 have disappeared as reasons for our invasion of Iraq, there has been a great deal of ink spent on the evils of Saddam Hussein’s regime. All other dictators pale in contrast, even the ones in Zimbabwe and North Korea who are systematically starving their people to death. However, almost all the prose concerning Iraqi mass graves and torture chambers ignore two salient facts: the people in the mass graves got there largely because they responded to a call for an uprising by the first Bush Administration who then left them hanging and that only a tiny minority of politically active people were ever subject to arrest and torture. My wife grew up in Taiwan when it was ruled in a very dictatorial fashion by Chiang Kai-Shek She has told me that almost all people simply did not have anything to do with politics and were therefore left alone.
I remember seeing a PBS special on the career of Saddam Hussein a while back and it pointed out that when the oil money started coming in Hussein acted like Chavez is acting now, he spread it around in the form of roads, hospitals, schools and other items that the people wanted. He became very popular with the Iraqi equivalent of Joe Sixpack because up until the Gulf War life continually got better under Hussein’s rule and he saved the Iraqis from rule by the Iranian Mullahs. Any anger about the decline in conditions after the Gulf War was directed towards the U.S., not Saddam Hussein, because we imposed sanctions.
Our biggest intelligence failure before this most recent invasion was to look at that 90% plus vote for Hussein and write it all off to intimidation. We failed to see that the large majority of the Iraqi citizens still supported him and hated us. Therefore, there would be no roses strewn at the feet of liberators only the resentment, revenge, and violence reserved for conquerors. So far, over 900 hundred American soldiers have paid for that mistake with their lives.
If all of the people who wax so eloquent about what a wonderful thing regime change has been for the Iraqi people really cared about those people, they would be arguing that we give the Iraqis the only thing they have ever really wanted from us, that is to be left alone by us.
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