By John Levine
and David Walsh
24 August 2005
Robertson, the Christian fundamentalist politician and broadcaster with
close ties to the Bush administration, has publicly called for the assassination
of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.
his Mafia-like appeal for the US government to take out
Chavez on his television show The 700 Club, broadcast to
over one million viewers on his own Christian Broadcast Network and
Disneys ABC Family Network. After a ten-minute news clip aimed
at portraying Chavezs Venezuela as a major threat to the United
States, Robertson proceeded to make the case for assassination:
He has destroyed
the Venezuelan economy, and hes going to make that a launching
pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.
I dont know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks
were trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to
go ahead and do it. Its a whole lot cheaper than starting a war...
and I dont think any oil shipments will stop. This man is a terrific
danger, and this is in our sphere of influence.
He continued, [W]ithout
question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge
pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take
him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.
We dont need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know,
strong-arm dictator. Its a whole lot easier to have some of the
covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.
Robertson is not
simply a crackpot. He was a candidate for the Republican presidential
nomination in 1988 and is a major force within the Republican Party.
Robertson and his ilk on the fundamentalist right, like James Dobson
of Focus on the Family and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council,
hold de facto veto power over the Bush administrations policy
decisions, such as which individual to nominate for the Supreme Court.
The Venezuelan government
denounced Robertsons comments, describing them as terrorist.
Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel told a news conference
in Caracas, Its the height of hypocrisy for the US to continue
talking about the war against terrorism when at the same time you have
someone making obvious terrorist declarations in the heart of the country.
This type of statement justifies the Venezuelan governments
worry about preserving the life of its president... President Bush said
yesterday that his government rejects all forms of terrorism. The reaction
of the US to this presumably religious man will put to the test US rhetoric.
Chavez told reporters
before boarding an airplane in Havana, where he met with Cuban President
Fidel Castro, I dont know who that person is. I dont
care what he said. I prefer to talk about life, about the things weve
been working on. Castro, standing beside Chavez, commented, I
think only God can punish crimes of such magnitude.
In June, Chavez
asserted that the Venezuelan government had a lot of evidence,
not just rumors, that there are people [referring to the US] who think
the only solution is to kill Hugo Chavez. Weve increased our security
and intelligence a lot. If that madness happens, they will regret it.
Such an action by
the US military or intelligence apparatus would violate an assassination
ban instituted by President Gerald Ford in 1976.
Since Chavez was
first elected in 1998, Washington has repeatedly sought to undermine
and topple his government. A mass outpouring of popular support allowed
the Venezuelan president to survive a US-backed coup attempt in 2002.
After numerous attempts to unseat him through a presidential referendum,
a vote was held in August 2004, with Chavez winning a landslide victory
that was certified by international inspectors, including former US
president Jimmy Carter.
According to polls,
Chavezs popularity has soared in recent months, buoyed in part
by a rally in the price of oil that has allowed him to increase government
spending. The percentage of Venezuelans saying they back Chavez rose
to 71.2 percent in May from 67 percent in April, according to the latest
poll by Caracas-based pollster Datanalisis.
Washington is hostile
to the left-nationalist government of Chavez because it has become an
obstacle to the drive to privatize Venezuelas considerable oil
resources as a step towards their takeover by American-based energy
In response to Robertsons
appeal, a US State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, blandly told
a press conference in Washington that the incendiary remarks do
not represent the policy of the United States. He continued, Any
allegations that we are planning to take hostile action against the
Venezuelan government are completely baseless and without fact.
The White House
remained silent, refusing to condemn Robertson. While certain evangelical
groups criticized Robertson, noted the New York Times, other conservative
Christian organizations remained silent, with leaders at the Traditional
Values Coalition, the Family Research Council and the Christian Coalition
saying through spokesmen that they were too busy to comment.
US Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, who has been at the center of provocations against
Chavez, told a press conference that the government cannot control what
Americans say. Robertson is a private citizen, he added,
Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time.
This is the sheerest
hypocrisy. If Robertson had been an Islamic cleric calling for the assassination
of a Western political leader, he would have been quickly indicted or
seized and placed in military detention. Only a month ago, Dr. Ali Al-Timimi,
a scientist and Islamic fundamentalist preacher, was sentenced to life
in prison without parole plus 70 years in Virginia on charges that he
urged Muslim followers to leave the US and support Islamic military
efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Indonesia and Russia.
Yet Robertson faced
only a mild rebuke following his comments. No prominent Democrats came
forward to denounce his statements or his influence within the Republican
Party and the Bush administration.
Senator Norm Coleman, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee
on the Western hemisphere, told reporters that Robertsons statement
was incredibly stupid and has no reflection on reality.
On the contrary,
the comments have a definite bearing on reality. What irks Coleman is
that Robertson has blurted out what Bush administration officials would
prefer to discuss and plan behind closed doors. The call for Chavezs
murder, delivered in the language of a gangland boss, has brought into
the open the criminal mindset of a large section of the American ruling
With a net worth
of hundreds of millions of dollars, obtained in part from a diamond
mining empire in Africa, and control over a number of media and political
institutions, most notably the Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson
exercises considerable influence on American politics. His activities
pass under the radar because the media and the Democratic
Party have given him political amnesty, letting previous comments of
a similar character to his call for a hit on Chavez go by
without a response.
During the conflict
between the White House and State Department in the lead-up to the war
in Iraq, Robertson on two occasions suggested someone nuke
the State Department. He once described feminism as a socialist,
anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their
husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism
and become lesbians.
During the 2000
election campaign, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain quite rightly
labeled Bush a Pat Robertson Republican. Robertsons
Christian Coalition contributed heavily to Bushs election and
to placing religious fundamentalist policies at the forefront of Republican
ran in the 1988 Republican primaries, winning the Washington primary,
and seemed on course to a possible victory. He pulled out of the race
after a number of scandals, urging his supporters to rally behind George
H.W. Bush. The resources and organization of his 1988 campaign formed
the basis for the creation of the Christian Coalition.
According to Robertsons
website, In 1992, Robertson was selected by Newsweek magazine
as one of Americas 100 Cultural Elite... In July 2002, Robertson
was presented with The State of Israel Friendship Award by the Chicago
chapter of the Zionist Organization of America.
His books and sermons,
combining extreme right-wing politics and apocalyptic theology, have
contributed to the political atmosphere which nurtures right-wing terrorist
elements and actions such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and attacks
on abortion clinics.
The call for Chavezs
assassination is a serious threat coming from a leading Republican and
close ally of the Bush administration. It is in line with the previous
attempts of the Bush administrations to destabilize and unseat the Venezuelan
government. As is evident in Robertsons comments, the main issue
for the US ruling elite is not tyranny or terrorism, but Venezuelas
oil and the preservation by any and all means of the US sphere of influence
in Latin America.