What are you supposed to do when the world's most over-armed, belligerent and dangerous nation, which outspends all the rest of the world combined on arms, and which is the major arms supplier to the rest of the world, tells a little country like Venezuela that it is guilty of spending "too much" on its military?
The initial response is laughter. What a joke, right? Venezuela, awash in oil revenue and feeling a little threatened by threats from the United States to assassinate its leader and by U.S. funding for groups that are trying to foment a coup, wants to spend a few hundred million on planes from Spain and Brazil to modernize its air force, and the U.S. State Department gets all worked up.
The transactions are something "we would consider an outsized military buildup," says State Department flak Sean McCormack.
"Outsized military buildup?"
What does McCormack call the 1 billion US military budget for 2006 (up four percent from last year)? Note that Venezuela has a population of 25 million, about 1/12 of the size of the U.S., yet its military budget, which actually declined in recent years while U.S. military under Bush soared to Cold War levels in real dollar terms, is just over billion--less than 0.25% of the American military budget.
So which country, the U.S. or Venezuela, is guilty of an "outsized military buildup"?
Of course, none of this is pointed out in the US media stories reporting U.S. efforts to block Venezuela from buying the planes from Spain and Brazil. The accusation that Venezuela is "spending too much" on military equipment, and that the country's military spending could "contribute to destabilization" in Latin America are simply quoted and allowed to stand.
For the U.S. to complain about countries "destabilizing" Latin America is of course an even bigger joke than the State Department complaining about Venezuela's outsized military spending. After all, how many Latin American countries has Venezuela overthrown the governments of lately? None. How about the U.S.? Well, let's see, in recent memory, there's Grenada, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua and...oh yes, the U.S. hand was behind the coup that briefly toppled Venezuela's elected president Hugo Chavez from power--a coup the Bush administration initially endorsed publicly, until public mass demonstrations in the country brought Chavez back from arest and into the Presidential palace again.
So let's have a good laugh at this latest complaint from the State Department. How do these guys say things like this with a straight face?
And yet, it's pretty tragic too, when you start thinking about it.
It's certainly true that Venezuela could put that 0 million it wants to spend on fighter jets to better use helping to build houses and schools.
It's even truer that the U.S. could help alleviate the suffering of the 30-40 million Americans living in poverty and attending schools with 40 kids in a class, if it weren't wasting 2 billion on arms.
Maybe President Chavez should say something about that.
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