[Venezuela]’s the country we should be going to war with. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door.” — President Donald Trump according to former FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s new book, The Threat.
Let’s just start here, with an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times on May 19, 1987:
Oliver L. North and other Reagan Administration aides deliberately used a 1986 program of “humanitarian aid” for Nicaraguan rebels to help support the secret effort to deliver military aid to the contras, U.S. officials said Monday.
Under the congressionally approved humanitarian program, which spent $27 million on non-military aid for the rebels, the State Department hired a consultant who was secretly working for North, then a National Security Council official, and paid for airplanes that later delivered secret military aid.
“The humanitarian aid program saved (North’s network) hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said an official who has reviewed records of the State Department effort. “It was a piggyback operation…North and the CIA used the program wherever they could get away with it.”
The “humanitarian” aid dispensed in Nicaragua was overseen by Elliott Abrams—initially famous over his documented war crimes in the 1980s and recently famous for new Representative Ilhan Omar’s grilling of said war crimes in his confirmation hearing. Just like he did in Nicaragua, Abrams is overseeing Trump’s “humanitarian” convoy to Venezuela, and yet no mainstream outlets are seriously challenging the State Department’s characterization of this aid as strictly “humanitarian,” despite longstanding U.S. foreign policy demonstrating that this is a very traditional cover for military intervention (plus, actual humanitarian aid organizations have gone on the record against this move in Venezuela, but we’ll get to that later).
This isn’t some paranoid fantasy rooted in historical bias either. The U.S. government line here is not subtle. We have already called for regime change.
Historical examples of this “humanitarian” cover for war include the Spanish-American war, the United States’ 1915 occupation of Haiti, our 1965 intervention in the Dominican Republic, the 1992 Unified Task Force in Somalia, our excursion into Libya this decade (that wound up creating a safe haven for ISIS just across the Mediterranean from Europe) and our ongoing quagmire battling ISIS in Iraq and Syria. “Humanitarian” aid has long been used as a Trojan Horse by the U.S. government into a U.S. media that buys it hook, line and sinker every single time, because major media’s business model is centered around access to power and not rocking the boat with their viewers. There is simply no topic with a bigger consensus amongst the mainstream media in this country than being pro-war.
Here is an example in the current Venezuela crisis of how American media quite literally repeats the official U.S. state line in a country where just 35% of its people want a foreign government to remove a leader that most people do want to push out of power (just not with our “help”). Both of these excerpts are the ledes to reports about the U.S. “humanitarian” convoy, but one is from The Associated Press and the other is from one of our state-owned media channels, Voice of America.
Which one is which?
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido left Caracas with some 80 lawmakers on Thursday on a 500-mile trip to the Colombian border where they hope to receive food and medicine to alleviate shortages in defiance of President Nicolas Maduro.
Crowds formed alongside a main highway out of the capital, waving Venezuelan flags and whooping in support, as the convoy of buses departed.
Guaido, recognized by dozens of countries as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, has pledged to bring in the humanitarian aid by land and sea on Saturday. Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency on January 23 and denounced Maduro as an usurper.
And number two:
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro ordered the vast border with Brazil to be closed on Thursday, just days before opposition leaders plan to bring in foreign humanitarian aid he has refused to accept.
Maduro said he’s also weighing whether to shut down border with Colombia.
Maduro made the announcement on state TV surrounded by military commanders.
Opposition leaders led by Juan Guaido are vowing to bring in U.S. supplies of emergency food and medicine to dramatize the country’s hardships under Maduro, who has said the country doesn’t need such help.
Two is the AP—it’s probably a little more obvious, but the “surrounded by military commanders” imagery got me to raise an eyebrow. Regardless, the point is that both open by uncritically calling this humanitarian aid and shaping the entire story around that very unproven “fact.”
Why in the world is U.S. media uncritically accepting the Donald Freaking Trump Administration’s line that only “humanitarian” aid is being sent to a country that “has all that oil and they’re right on our back door”—especially when it’s being overseen by the exact.same.guy. who oversaw perhaps the most notorious “humanitarian aid” lie in American history? Trump opened his campaign calling Mexicans rapists and refused to give Puerto Rico the aid they needed and now all of a sudden he’s taking up a humanitarian cause for the Venezuelan people? Why is it forever 2002 in major American media when it comes to war? What the hell is going on? Where am I? Why does no one learn anything ever?
The reason is obvious: war sells. If we invade Venezuela tomorrow, NBC Nightly News’ ratings go up and everyone gets more money. It also ingratiates the press with the perpetual pro-war community that has immense political and financial clout in our nation’s capital. The result of this conflict of interest is getting absolutely no serious reporting on what is happening in wildly complex foreign disputes where there is a clear American government interest (oil, duh), and in a worst-case scenario, the press can cheerlead us into a Vietnam-like quagmire in Iraq.
We don’t know for certain what is going on (although Venezuelan authorities said they intercepted U.S. weapons shipments), but given the actors and the history, it is the height of naivete to uncritically believe the Trump Administration line that this is purely a “humanitarian” mission. Want to know what good coverage looks like? Read NPR. This is how you begin a story about this “humanitarian” convoy:
The U.S. effort to distribute tons of food and medicine to needy Venezuelans is more than just a humanitarian mission. The operation is also designed to foment regime change in Venezuela — which is why much of the international aid community wants nothing to do with it.
That’s why the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations agencies and other relief organizations have refused to collaborate with the U.S. and its allies in the Venezuelan opposition who are trying to force President Nicolás Maduro from power.
“Humanitarian” aid directed by a main player in Iran-Contra’s “humanitarian” aid debacle is showing up on Venezuela’s border while American mercenaries loaded with guns and ammo were arrested at a protest in Haiti (and allowed to go home immediately) and yet the AP, WSJ and everyone on cable news is uncritically parroting the Trump Administration’s line that Venezuela is refusing humanitarian aid today.
Venezuela’s not. They’re accepting some aid, just not ours. As the journalists over at NPR explained, independent international aid organizations are not joining U.S. “humanitarian” aid because of the very public support we have demonstrated for regime change. The United Nations is not accepting our explanation at face value, yet major media mostly is. What really makes this blind spot infuriating is that major media has demonstrated they understand the Trojan Horse “humanitarian” concept when it comes to Russia’s activity in Ukraine, yet every single headline about Venezuela uncritically parrots the Trump “humanitarian” line.
Major U.S. media’s coverage of Venezuela so far would fail History of U.S. Interventions in South and Central America 101. It is a fact that food, medicine and supplies are on their way to Venezuela, but it is also a fact that food, medicine and supplies were on their way to Nicaragua in one of the biggest presidential scandals of all time. You do not need a degree in history to be skeptical of this move by any U.S. administration, let alone Donald freaking Trump’s—led by a guy with a documented past of using humanitarian aid as a cover for military operations. Major American media’s inability to communicate these present and historical facts in their Venezuela coverage is either willing or not, and neither rationale improves their already very low journalistic credibility on the topic of foreign interventions by the U.S. government.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.