Bodybags over breakfast? Not a likely American option…

Mayo 17, 2019

By Earl Bousquet

The coup d’etat promised by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton not having fructified, the war hawks doing the bidding of the military industrial complex in Washington are going heads over heels to press still-reluctant Pentagon officials to agree to quick and direct deployment of US troops to implement regime change in Caracas.

But, never mind the latest (May 13, 2019) direct appeal by beleaguered opposition National Assembly leader Juan Guaido for direct US intervention ‘to restore democracy’, the military top brass are resisting firmly – and pressing back hard.

Following the failure of the April 30 coup attempt in Venezuela, the likes of Pompeo, Bolton and Special US Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams upped their pressure arguments for direct military intervention, even while fanning new wars a world away in the Middle East.

At one testy meeting in the first week of May, top Pentagon and US Armed Forces officials were reported in the US mainstream media as having raised voices and pounded tables to tell the warmongering neocons that sending American soldiers into Venezuela has always been a very bad idea.

The reports suggested the warriors gathered had all agreed that ‘the military option’ should always be left on the table as a psychological factor, but they loudly and strongly differed on whether or when to take it off, or exercise it.

The ground has long been laid for military intervention in Venezuela: the US Southern Command fleet said in early April it was ‘standing by’ for orders from the Commander in Chief; the White House announced it had closed Venezuela’s airspace (citing possible aerial bombardment) and its shipping lanes (through oil sanctions); Washington had sufficiently choked the Venezuelan economy to 'make it scream' (like in Chile under President Salvador Allende and Jamaica under Prime Minister Michael Manley); increased crippling US sanctions resulted in increasing exodus, decreasing national income and growing frustration over resulting created conditions; water and electricity systems were sufficiently paralyzed by sabotage; and military defectors were being gathered at its borders.

But the April 30 ‘Operation Freedom’ plan failed and Guaido had failed to deliver the popular insurrection with army backing that he’d promised early that morning while most Venezuelans were in bed.

Besides, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Pompeo and Bolton had loudly and repeatedly voiced Washington’s full support for Guaido’s invitation to the army to overthrow elected President Nicolas Maduro, but again to no avail

Now that yet another US-backed coup attempt has failed and President Trump sounds like he’s feeling like he’s been led up a thorny garden path by Pompeo and Bolton, the warmongers are now even more prepared to accept and propose  ‘the Blackwater option’.

This refers to mercenary intervention, as recommended by Eric Prince, founder of the controversial American company named Blackwater, that provided military contractors for services in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theatres of war involving US troops -- until it was folded-up following exposure of its many underhand operations, some of which resulted in the killing of many Iraqis by Americans in its employ.

The Venezuelan army has remained loyal -- and that’s Washington’s problem.

During the failed coup attempt, armed protesters shot and wounded several senior military officers on duty in areas of conflict where protesters had the upper hand.

The army having again ejected open and direct, public invitations and enticements to engage in an armed coup, Guaido’s supporters on the streets were encouraged to treat loyal soldiers and other military and uniformed forces as enemies, openly stoning and setting fire to army vehicles, attacking soldiers with and Molotov cocktails, using improvised weapons and assorted small arms.

The top army and other military defections promised by Guaido, Pompeo and Bolton did not materialize, their only 'victory' being the facilitated escape of a major opposition figure, Leopoldo Lopez, who was serving a jail sentence under house arrest.

Lopez is seeking political asylum in Spain, the intelligence chief who facilitated his escape -- the only high-profile defector -- has been given asylum and stripped of all US sanctions and Guaido is left without wind in his sails.

But Maduro is still in office and the Venezuelan army is still loyal to their Commander in Chief and their country’s constitution – and this problem the warmongers agree is very real.

Now that Washington has exposed all its cards and hands, the war hawks are arguing that ‘it's too late to turn back now’ and US troops should be deployed.  

They still blame Russia and Cuba for having been unable to overthrow Maduro -- even though the rest of the world knows their hands are really tied by the extent of global opposition by Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, Cuba and North Korea, most African, Asian and Arab states, as well as the steadfast opposition of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) to use of any form of external military intervention against Venezuela.

The OAS and CARICOM nations are divided on Venezuela, but most would not support direct military intervention from their territories.

The situation facing President Trump ahead of the 2020 election is similar in some respects, but also different to that faced by President Reagan ahead of the 1984 US presidential elections.

Back then, the US-led Grenada invasion of October 1983 provided an electoral fillip for Reagan a year ahead of the elections. But in this case, President Trump is in 2019 facing a mountain of possible popularity problems that can seriously affect his re-election campaign over the next year-and-a-half.

But the 2020 Presidential polls also present other constrains, with some of the Commander in Chief’s top Pentagon and military chiefs advising him that deploying thousands of American soldiers to fight strong and well-equipped Venezuela army in months leading to an election will be too politically risky.

Trump’s backers with military experience certainly do not believe it would be in his interest to have American voters, head of a crucial re-election bid, seeing broadcasts and social media images over breakfast of body bags and draped coffins returning to the US.

Trump badly needs to avoid the political and potential electoral costs of invasion Venezuela with a two-million-strong army in 2019, which is quite different than Reagan’s ordered invasion of Grenada with a 500-strong army in 1983.

Should the warmongers fail to achieve regime change by November 2020, they may eventually force the White House to move to that undesired military option, as traditional US prestige and power to coerce other governments will have been seen as destroyed.

The numerous, bungling missteps during the first four months of 2019 have not enhanced the fear-power or credibility of the Trump regime in its attempts to intimidate other nations.

Caribbean observers with experience from the Grenada era feel that if bribery or other forms of coercion fail to sway powerful forces within the Venezuelan military to abandon the constitutional government, then a ‘Contra’ style terrorist intervention (as used against Nicaragua in the 1980s and 90’s with Abrams playing a leading role) can also be entertained, with Latin American states like Brazil and neighboring Colombia possibly being encouraged to allow covert operations from their skies and shores.

Or, as has happened in other recorded cases long past and more recent, US Special Forces and air power can even be used to decapitate the political and military leadership of Venezuela, in the name of protecting US national security.

This can be a distinct possibility before the U.S. presidential elections, especially if it looks like Trump is losing the election and if he’s convinced by the likes of Pomeo, Bolton, Abrams, the war hawks at the White House, in the Pentagon and the CIA that this ‘long shot’ to repeat the Reagan playbook would work out, but without the danger of large-scale US troop losses.

Since most wars are launched on the basis of miscalculations and it’s always impossible to predict casualties, President Trump, after spending nearly two hours on the phone with Russian President Putin with Venezuela also on the agenda sounds (though not yet seems) prepared to back away from direct military intervention.

But since maximum military preparedness is also the first option of and country with an army dedicated to defense and protection of the homeland, President Trump is still being duly warned by cooler heads in Washington that the military option will not come without casualties on both sides, including the nightmare of US military aircraft landing with body bags and coffins draped with Stars and Stripes, frequently landing at American airports.


***ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Earl Bousquet is a Saint Lucia-born veteran Caribbean journalist. With over four decades experience, he was in 2016 honoured by the Government of Saint Lucia with a top national award, the Saint Lucia Medal of Honour (GOLD) ‘for his sterling and lasting contribution to journalism and media development in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean.’