Thursday, May 09, 2002

The Manchester Guardian is wondering whether the prominence of revanchist cold warriors in the Bush administration had something to do with its apparent support for the abortive Venezuelan coup. So is the perhaps more respectable Brad DeLong.

But the official line from the Bush administration, you'll recall, was that they didn't support the coup at all. They acknowledge that members of the administration were talking to the coup plotters and well-informed of their activities (to the point of knowing of, for instance, $100,000 payments from obscure sources in Florida), but claim that they were always careful to say that the United States supported democratic institutions and was opposed to any irregularity, particularly a coup.

So, evidently, these months of conversations were necessary in order to explain exactly how the United States would disapprove of a coup, and convey all the subtle nuances which would have been drowned out by a simple, final, "No". Wouldn't it be fun to have been a fly on the wall during these conversations?

"We're really sick of Chavez."

"So are we, but we can't support a coup."

"Oh, come on. A good old-fashioned junta would really clean things up."

"No, no, no. We can't support that at all. Very bad publicity."

"Ah, so publicity is the issue."

"Well, we can't be seen to support people who reject democratic institutions."

"Ah, so if we promised to hold elections in a year or two, that would be all right, then?"

"Well, that sort of promise has certainly helped our relations with our guy Musharraf, even if he is just promising a rigged plebiscite to justify his continued suspension of the constitution."

"So, if we staged a coup..."

"We cannot support a coup."

"What was that about Musharraf?"

"Well, he's the guy in power, so he's who we have to deal with."

"And if we were in power?"

"We'd deal with you, of course. But we cannot support a coup."

"You know, not everyone has the same scruples you do."

"Of course not. Plenty of my friends would love to get rid of Chavez, and they're not fussy at all. My pal Antonio was telling me just the other day he'd be happy to write a big fat check to anyone with a chance of pulling it off..."

"Yeah, right. I talk to blowhards like that all day."

"No, really, this guy has real money."

"What's his phone number?"

"305-555-1617. But remember, that's his position, not mine. As an official of the United States government, I cannot support a coup."

"So, let me get this straight. First off, you cannot support a coup."


"But if a coup happens, you are willing to deal with those in power."

"Depending on how they behave. It helps if they show some support for the restoration of democratic institutions."

"You mean the whole constitutional thing, or ..."

"I guess that's kind of a drag. But it certainly helps, particularly in your part of the world. After all that hairshirt stuff from the Clinton crowd which we have to live down, it plays much better in the OAS."

"So, if we stage a coup..."

"As an official of the United States government, I cannot support a coup."

"But your friend Antonio..."

"... is not an official of the United States government."

"And you wouldn't necessarily oppose a coup."

"We have to deal with the people we find in power. Reality isn't always as we would ideally like it."

"Well thanks. I'm glad we had this little chat."


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