An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire at the US facility in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012 (Getty Images)
The September 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead has been the source of much controversy and speculation. Many critics have gone so far as to characterize the Obama administration’s response to the attack as worse than Watergate or Iran-Contra. And some have even called for the commencement of impeachment proceedings.The truth is that attacks on U.S. diplomats and diplomatic missions are an unfortunate reality that have occurred with frightening regularity over the years, but, in fact, have been on the decline since the mid-’90s. During the George W. Bush years, there were 13 attacks on embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world, killing around 100 people. And throughout the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, attacks were even worse.
An official investigation into the Benghazi attack by the State Department’s Accountability Review Board released a report, concluding, “Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department … resulted in a special mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.” While there is no doubt that much criticism is deserved surrounding this tragic incident, many of the popular claims about the attack range from inaccurate hyperbole to outright falsities.
The Obama administration, as well as most of the media and punditry, have consistently referred to the facility that was attacked in Benghazi as a “consulate” housing a U.S. diplomatic mission. But you’ll notice here on the State Department’s website that, while there is an American embassy in Tripoli, Benghazi is not listed as one of the U.S. embassies, consulates, or diplomatic missions around the world.
The reality is that the facility was a U.S. intelligence outpost operating under State Department cover and that most of the 30-plus people working there were employed by the CIA.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal back in November of last year, “The U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation, according to officials briefed on the intelligence. Of the more than 30 American officials evacuated from Benghazi following the deadly assault, only seven worked for the State Department. Nearly all the rest worked for the CIA, under diplomatic cover, which was a principal purpose of the consulate, these officials said.”Gregory Hicks, who was deputy chief of mission in Tripoli and the so-called whistleblower who spoke before Congress recently, testified that the reason Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi, as opposed to Tripoli, was because he was hoping the State Department would soon announce a permanent diplomatic mission there. But it is still unclear what exactly the CIA was up to there.
Myth No. 2: The Attack Had Nothing to do With the anti-Islam Video
Protesters rip apart the US flag during a protest against the anti-Islam film, “Innocence of Muslims,” in front of the U.S. embassy in Malaysia, part of the protests that occurred in dozens of countries against the film. (Getty Images)
While it has since proven true that there was not a protest outside the facility precipitating the attack, the notion that the attack had absolutely nothing to do with the YouTube video (a clip showing an excerpt from the anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims” that sparked protests and riots in dozens of countries, many of which outside U.S. diplomatic missions) is simply not supported by the facts. In reality, many witnesses who were interviewed shortly after the attack said that the militants from the Ansar al-Sharia brigade were chanting about the video during the assault on the facility.
As reported in the L.A. Times, “Witnesses said members of the group that raided the U.S. mission specifically mentioned the video, which denigrated the prophet Muhammad.”
The Associated Press reported, “There was no sign of a spontaneous protest against an American-made movie denigrating Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. But a lawyer passing by the scene said he saw the militants gathering around 20 youths from nearby to chant against the film. Within an hour or so, the assault began, guns blazing as the militants blasted into the compound.”
The New York Times reported the month after the attack: “To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck the United States Mission without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier.”
This doesn’t mean that the video served as the only reason for the attack. There is some evidence to suggest that perhaps the attack also served as retaliation for the death of Libyan militant and al-Qaeda associate Abu Yahya al-Libi who was killed in a U.S. drone strike three month earlier. But the claims that the attack had nothing whatsoever to do with the video do not comport with the evidence.
Myth No. 3: The Attack Was Pre-Planned and Not Spontaneous
A picture shows the interior of the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi (Getty Images)
A reporter from Foreign Policy arrived in Benghazi on Sept. 13, spoke with locals, surveyed the facility site and concluded that the “attack was haphazard, poorly planned, and badly executed,” and points out that most of the Americans were able to get away by simply using an armored jeep to escape through the front gate and take off down the road which was not blocked—not exactly the hallmarks of a carefully planned assault.
Bloomberg reported that “accounts from U.S. intelligence officials and Benghazi residents, along with evidence in the burned-out American diplomatic compound, point to a hasty and poorly organized act by men with basic military training and access to weapons widely available in Libya.”
And the Washington Post quoted an intelligence source, saying, “There isn’t any intelligence that the attackers pre-planned their assault days or weeks in advance,” adding, “The bulk of available information supports the early assessment that the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”
In fact, the official position of the U.S. intelligence community today is still that the attack wasn’t pre-planned. As State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell recently said of UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s much-maligned comments after the attack that she was simply giving the “best assessment that there was not any evidence of months-long pre-planning or pre-meditation, which remains their assessment.”
Myth No. 4: Changing the Talking Points Amounts to a ‘Coverup’
The administration recently released a trove of more than 100 pages of emails showing internal discussion of the talking points concerning the attack going through a dozen different revisions by the State Department and CIA. These are not the emails that were doctored by Republicans and leaked to ABC News, but the actual emails.
In the emails it is clear that the CIA insisted the attack be referred to as spontaneously inspired by the protests in Cairo and following a protest outside the facility. The State Department wanted references to “Al Qaeda” and “Ansar al Sharia” removed. However, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland explained the reason for this in the emails, stating, “Why do we want [Congress] to be fingering Ansar al-Sharia, when we aren’t doing that ourselves until we have investigation results?”
Ben Rhodes, who was then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications, also stated in the emails, “We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.”
While there certainly may have been some politics at play here, all of the evidence in the emails suggest that this was the best assessment of the intelligence available at the time and that the State Department and White House were concerned about saying too much before the facts of the investigation were available, while also expressing some concern over Republicans in Congress making political hay out of the attack. All of this is totally not indicative of a cover-up, but simply politics as usual.
In fact, when Rice spoke on the Sunday shows, she prefaced her comments with the statement, “First of all, it’s important to know that there’s an FBI investigation that has begun and will take some time to be completed. That will tell us with certainty what transpired.”
And, “So we’ll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions.”
So, in hindsight, perhaps it would have been prudent had Rice not said anything at all, but her comments are not indicative of a cover-up. And it now seems the only thing Rice stated that was incorrect concerned the notion that a protest precipitated the attack. Everything else she said, from the attack being inspired by the video to the attack being spontaneous and not pre-planned, is still supported by the evidence.
Also, it was the administration itself that called for the FBI investigation into the attack and released the complete unclassified findings of the Accountability Review Board’s critical report — not exactly the actions of people wanting to engage in a coverup.
Myth No. 5: There Were Military Response Teams That Could Have Reached Benghazi in Time to Save Those Who Were Killed
Transfer cases are carried into a hangar during the Transfer of Remains Ceremony for the return of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three Americans at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, after they were killed in the attack on the Benghazi facility. (Photo by Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images)
Some have claimed that a response team was at the-the-ready to respond to the Benghazi attack while Americans were being killed but were told to stand down, implying that perhaps the stand-down order was politically motivated—though to what end is unclear.
Gregory Hicks testified that a four-person team was ready to fly to Benghazi but was unable to get the proper clearance for the mission. However, even Hicks acknowledges that the team would not have reached the attack site in time, and Stevens and the other three Americans were already dead at that point.
In fact, according to the ARB report, the U.S. embassy in Tripoli immediately began to mobilize a response once they received word of the attack and did send a seven-person team to Benghazi. Unfortunately the team arrived just as the second attack began at the nearby CIA annex, as mortar rounds struck the roof and killed Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
The four-person team to which Hicks was referring was a second team that would have arrived hours after the first, at a time when the four Americans had already been killed. Hicks believes the second team could have helped with the wounded and prevent any further attacks, which is perhaps true.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates under both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama also recently admitted that, had he been in charge at the time, the response would have been the same, saying, “Frankly, had I been in the job at the time I think my decisions would have been just as theirs were. We don’t have a ready force standing by in the Middle East.
“Despite all the turmoil that’s going on, with planes on strip alert, troops ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. And so getting somebody there in a timely way – would have been very difficult, if not impossible … The one thing that our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm’s way. And there just wasn’t time to do that.”
The administration may deserve criticism for the inefficient response, but the notion that the second team could have saved the Americans who died or were told to stand down for political reasons is not supported by the evidence.
Bonus Myth: The Attack Was Carried Out by al-Qaeda
Armed masked men stand guard as Osama bin-Laden (center) and Ayman Al-Zawahiri (left) address a news conference in Afghanistan in 1998. (Photo by Getty Images)
The reporting on this issue is varied, but most agree that the attack was carried out primarily by members of the Ansar al-Sharia militant group, which is a Libyan organization made up of former anti-Gaddafi rebels with limited, tangential connections to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Part of the confusion here perhaps stems from the fact that there are two organizations that go by the name “Ansar al-Sharia”, and the other one operates out of Yemen and has direct connections to AQAP.
CNN reported that at least 3 attackers of the 150 men who stormed the facility were AQAP members, though how exactly they were involved has not been determined. The article reads, “Another source briefed on the Benghazi investigation said Western intelligence services suspect the men may have been sent by the group specifically to carry out the attack.But it’s not been ruled out that they were already in the city and participated as the opportunity arose.”
Another CNN report provides vague details of a phone call placed shortly after the attack from the area near the facility to members of AQIM offering congratulations. Although, the article concedes, “There is no proof that the call was specifically about the attack.”
However, it is not true to say that al-Qaeda carried out the attack. Al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks, is now an organization operating out of Pakistan and led by Ayman al-Zawahiri. There is zero evidence whatsoever that this organization had anything to do with the Benghazi attack. And even though Ansar al Sharia’s connections to so-called al-Qaeda “franchise” or affiliated organizations, such as AQAP and AQIM, are tenuous, there is little evidence to suggest such “franchise” groups take their marching orders from al-Zawahiri.
As Steve Coll points out in a recent New Yorker piece, “A franchise is a business that typically operates under strict rules laid down by a parent corporation; to apply that label to Al Qaeda’s derivative groups today is false.”
A report from CNN’s Jake Tapper has reintroduced “Benghazi-Gate” to the US media spotlight. The report claims that “dozens” of CIA operatives were on the ground in Benghazi on the night of the attack, and the CIA is going to great lengths to suppress details of them and their whereabouts being released. The report alleges that the CIA is engaged in “unprecedented” attempts to stifle employee leaks, and “intimidation” to keep the secrets of Benghazi hidden, allegedly going as far as changing the names of CIA operatives and “dispersing” them around the country.
One suspects this has a single and defined purpose – to hide the CIA’s culpability in supplying arms to known extremists in Libya and Syria.Moreover, the CNN report alludes to the CIA supplying “surface-to-air missiles” from Benghazi to rebels in Syria, but this may only be the tip of the iceberg. The report goes on to state: (my emphasis)
Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.
Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations,according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency’s workings. The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress. It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.
Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.
Although Saudi Arabia have recently been kindly given “the Syrian card” by the United States – with Prince Bandar once again becoming “Prince of the Jihad”; it has become common knowledge that since the onset of the Syrian crisis, it was Qatar at the forefront of supplying arms and funds to both the political and militant elements of the so-called “opposition”. This has undoubtedly included tacit support of the dominant radical elements among the plethora of brigades on the ground in Syria; with Jabhat al Nusra being the most obvious beneficiary of Qatari largesse. Earlier this year it was reported that the CIA had been in direct “consultation” with the Qatari Monarchys’ network of arms smugglers – run primarily from the Emir’s palace in Doha.Accordingly, it seems certain that both the CIA and Qatari intelligence were involved in an operation to ship arms stockpiles from “rebels” in Libya; to the “rebels” in Syria: both varieties of which are inextricably linked to Al Qaeda affiliatesand radical Salafi-Jihadi militants.
A New York Times report from 30th March 2011 reveals that the CIA had been active in Libya “for weeks”, to “gather information for [NATO] airstrikes, and to contact and ‘vet’ the rebels battling “Gaddafi’s forces”. The New York Times report also states that Obama had signed a presidential finding in the weeks previous, which gave authority to the CIA to arm and fund the rebels. Furthermore, the Independent revealed in March 2011 that Obama had requested Saudi Arabia supply arms to the Libyan militants. Obama had also given his blessing for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to ship arms into Benghazi, urging them to supply non-US manufactured arms to avert suspicion– in violation of the No-Fly Zone and arms embargo he helped to enforce, and all in total violation of the US Constitution and International Law.
The current Libyan authorities have made little effort to disassociate themselves from reports of large-scale arms shipments bound for Syria, leaving from the port of Benghazi. As stated in a UN Security Council report; the sheer size, monetary and logistical requirement to organise such delivery would almost certainly require at least some local government knowledge and assistance, one Libyan congress-member has openly admitted as such. Moreover, in a Telegraph report from November 2011, it is noted that the post-Gaddafi Libyan military commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj – widely regarded as the former leader of Al Qaeda affiliate: the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and a lead figure in the militant uprising against Gaddafi – visited members of the Syrian opposition “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) in Turkey to discuss sending “money and weapons”, and also discussed “Libyan fighters to train troops”.
In a Fox News report from December 2012 an “International Cargo-Shipper” candidlyrevealed that arms shipments from Libya to Syria commenced “almost immediately after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi” (Oct 2011) and had continued on a weekly basis from multiple ports including Misurata and Benghazi. Some of the “sources” shipments were reported to be in excess of 600 tons.The report goes on to quote anonymous “sources” on the ground in Benghazi as alleging that:
“Weapons and fighters were absolutely going to Syria, and the U.S. absolutely knew all about it – though most shipments have stopped since the attack on the American Consulate,”
Furthermore, an extensive UN report from the Security Council group of experts, from April 2013, also highlights the rife lawless proliferation of arms throughout Libya, and seeping beyond its borders. The report stated that arms were fueling conflicts from Syria to Mali, and arms were spreading from Libya at an “alarming rate”.Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were singled out in the UN report for blatant violations of the arms embargo during the 2011 “uprising” against Gaddafi; the report revealed that multiple Qatari arms shipments had been allowed to flow into Libya with the full knowledge and acquiescence of NATO – in much the same way they have been allowed to flow into Turkey from Qatar, with Syria being the final destination.
Elements of the Libyan “military” leadership undoubtedly have strong links to former Al Qaeda affiliates, and were brought to power via Qatari largesse and special forces, CIA coordination, and a NATO airforce. Considering this, it is not hard to imagine the same actors would be willing to at least “turn a blind eye” to what has become an overt and unabated Libyan arms-smuggling route into Syria, as is once again demonstrated in this June 18th 2013 report from Reuters, titled: “The adventures of a Libyan weapons dealer in Syria:
Abdul Basit Haroun (former comander of “February 17th brigade”) says he is behind some of the biggest shipments of weapons from Libya to Syria, which he delivers on chartered flights to neighboring countries and then smuggles over the border…. A Reuters reporter was taken to an undisclosed location in Benghazi to see a container of weapons being prepared for delivery to Syria.It was stacked with boxes of ammunition, rocket launchers and various types of light and medium weapons.
Haroun says he can collect weapons from around the country and arrange for them to be delivered to the Syrian rebels because of his contacts in Libya and abroad. “They know we are sending guns to Syria,” Haroun said. “Everyone knows.” His weapon dealing activities appear to be well-known, at least in Libya’s east. Senior officials in Libya’s army and government told Reuters they backed supplying weapons to the Syrian opposition, while a member of Libya’s congress said Haroun was doing a great job of helping the Syrian rebels.
Furthermore, according to a recent New York Times report from June 29th 2013, Qatar have been carrying out arms shipments to “rebels” in Syria from Libya, since at least the same time they “stepped up efforts” to oust Colonel Gaddafi. Consequently, this can only be interpreted as Qatar commencing shipments of arms to Syria – from Benghazi – before Gaddafi had been killed, which means before October 2011.
It is highly plausible that Benghazi was indeed a CIA-run, arms “buy-back” program – with the further “possible” intent of forwarding those arms to Syria. As the State Department has confirmed, it allocated $40 million dollars for the purchase and “collection” of arms used during the conflict in Libya, including a “missing” stockpile of up to 20,000 MANPADS – which at least 15,000 are still unaccounted for. A report written by former US special forces operatives who served in Libya titled “Benghazi: the definitive report”, alleges that the “consulate” and weapons stockpile program was entirely run by John Brennan – Obama’s National Security Advisor at the time and now Director of the CIA – and outside the usual CIA chain of command with the sole purpose of “moving the stockpiled weapons to the another conflict – possibly Syria”. Furthermore, it should also be noted that several prominent US government figures (Clinton, Brennan, Patreaus, et al) were openly lobbying for that precise policy; this adds the possibility that certain players within the government or the many factions of the Military Industrial Complex may have been acting outside of the Obama administrations specific consent – or building the logistics to fulfill such policy in the future. Thus, a possible explanation of the attack on the “consulate” – which we can now assume was a CIA operated arms cache – was the Obama administrations’ public reluctance to supply MANPADS or other specific heavy weaponry to the rebels fighting in Syria. Moreover, the authors of “Benghazi: the definitive report” claim that John Brennnan was targetting hardline Islamist militia in Libya via drone strikes and special operations, which may provide another pretext for the attack. Certain rebel factions, their regional donors, or their Libyan affiliates may have felt aggrieved and decided to act against the CIA and attempt to seize the weapons under their own volition.
The Libyan weapons route to Syria has quite possibly been ongoing since Qatari (and Western) special forces and their Libyan Al Qaeda affiliated proxies took a hold of Benghazi. In turn the shipments to Syria have gradually increased as Gaddafi’s stockpiles became available and the lawless possibilities inside Libya expanded. These developments could also explain fighters of Libyan origin representing a large percentage of foreign fighters within the oppositions ranks; with a recent study finding Libyan fighters making up over twenty percent of foreign fatalities. If Qatar were indeed coordinating arms shipments from Libya to Syria during the early stages of the Syrian crisis in 2011, and the CIA have also been “consulting” the Qatari shipments and their follow-on transit points through Turkey; then the simplistic mainstream narrative and timeline of the conflict in Syria merely erupting from the suppression of peaceful protesters, and in turn spiralling into full-blown civil-war, is again brought into doubt.
Uncovering the chain of events that led to the attack on the US “consulate”,and the variety of militia the US and its allies were arming in Libya; could in turn reveal the full extent of the Obama administrations’ support of extremist proxy-forces in Syria. Which may explain the administrations’ zealous attempts to stifle any debate or serious questioning of the events that surround Benghazi.
It’s now becoming clear that members of the Boston bomb squad had advanced noticeof the horrific bombing that took place at the marathon today. As an eyewitness reports, once the bombs went off, officials began announcing, “this is just a drill!” This logically means they were all informed of the “bomb drill” beforehand. Otherwise, why would they respondwith, “this is just a drill” ?
According to Local15TV.com, a University of Mobile’s Cross Country Coach said there were bomb-sniffing dogs at both the start and finish lines, long before any explosions went off. He said:
“They kept making announcements on the loudspeaker that it was just a drill and there was nothing to worry about. It seemed like there was some sort of threat, but they kept telling us it was just a drill.”
The official story of the bombing is that terrorists detonated two bombs at the marathon finish line and that the Boston bomb squadmagically located a third bomb one mile away, identified the bomb, rigged it with explosives and initiated a “controlled explosion” all in less than an hour!(Absurd.)
The official story sounds like nothing more than a cover story.
Here are some of the facts we know so far
1) Bomb-sniffing dogs were present at the start of the race and the finish line, even before bombs went off.
2) The reported arrest of a “Saudi national” has now been retracted. Apparently that was a mistake published by the NY Post.
3) Instead, the mainstream media is pushing a new narrative that blames “right-wing extremists” for the bombing, even without a shred of evidence to back that up.
4) It is impossible for a bomb squad to have located, analyzed, rigged and detonated the third bomb in under an hour,especially when it was located one mile away, at the Kennedy Presidential Library.
See the map, below:
Why did the Boston bomb squad know all this in advance?
Given these facts, ask yourself: Who is the most likely culprit in the bombing?
The Boston bomb squad clearly had advanced notice of the presence of the bombs at the marathon, and they also had advanced notice of the location of the bomb at the Kennedy Presidential Library.
There are two reasonable explanations for this:
1) Someone called in a warning and threatened to bomb the event, which is why the bomb squad was on scene.
2) The bomb squad carried out the bombingas a false flag operation to achieve a political goal(unleashing TSA on the streets, blaming right wingers, increasing the bomb squad budget, etc.).
For explanation number one: If a credible threat had been called in, why didn’t theBoston police cancel the marathon or try to warn runners about the security threat? Is it their policy to allow people to jog right into a massacre they’ve already been warned about?
For the second explanation, there are all sorts of reasons why the Boston bomb squad might have placed the bombs at the marathon. It could have been a drill that went terribly wrong (i.e. no explosions were planned but they accidentally went off), or it could have been a deliberate attempt toterrorize the American people and justify armed TSA agents on the streets for all future sporting events.
This looks more and more like a planned event to justify a TSA lock down
Although it’s still a bit early to know for certain, this looks more and more like aplanned event that was deployed by the Boston bomb squad, called a “drill,” then used as a pretext for the President to call for TSA agentsto be on the streets at all future sporting events.
And that, in turn, is the run-up to the TSA occupation of America, which has always been the goal of Obama. Remember that back on the campaign trail, he announced he wanted to build a “civilian national security force.”
where Obama says:
“We’ve gotta have a civilian national security force that’s just a powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded…”
The fastest way to build a domestic national security force is to stage domestic bombings as a pretext. More and more, that seems to be what unfolded today in Boston.
Regardless of what you might think is behind this right now, the real proof will be found in what Obama calls for in responseto the bombings.
If he calls for TSA on the streets of America to “keep everybody safe” at sporting events, then it’s all clearly a false flag rolled out for a political purpose. It was all a pretext to justify a TSA lock down.
If the bombing is used to frame and blame veterans, patriots or “right-wing extremists,” then it’s clearly a false flag, too. Veterans and patriots have been severely demonized by the Obama administration as well as the leftist media.
If the administration avoids using the bombings to roll out its political agenda, then it might have legitimately been a random terrorist attack by a deranged individual. We’ll have to wait and see what Obama calls for in reaction to the attacks in order to know their true political purpose.
Once a day we’ll all gather in a single room to get inspired, feel the energy of our fellow conference-goers and demonstrate our power as a movement working to change the media and build a better democracy. On day one, we’ll look back at the history of the media reform movement — and how we got to where we are today. On day two, we’ll celebrate our victories and achievements. And on the final day, we’ll look to the future and plot our roadmap for change.
These sessions will feature award-winning artists, Hollywood luminaries, visionary activists and organizers, veteran journalists, D.C. heavyweights and more. Look for can’t-miss performances, rousing speeches, musical interludes and other surprises.
Palast Tuesday, March 5, 2013 For BBC Television, Palast met several times with Hugo Chàvez, who passed away today. As a purgative for the crappola fed to Americans about Chavez, my foundation, The Palast Investigative Fund, is offering the film, The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, as a FREE download. Based on my several meetings with Chavez, his kidnappers and his would-be assassins, filmed for BBC Television. DVDs also available.
Venezuelan President Chavez once asked me why the US elite wanted to kill him. My dear Hugo: It’s the oil. And it’s the Koch Brothers – and it’s the ketchup.
Reverend Pat Robertson said,
“Hugo Chavez thinks we’re trying to assassinate him. I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.” It was 2005 and Robertson was channeling the frustration of George Bush’s State Department. Despite Bush’s providing intelligence, funds and even a note of congratulations to the crew who kidnapped Chavez(we’ll get there), Hugo remained in office, reelected and wildly popular.
But why the Bush regime’s hate, hate, HATE of the President of Venezuela?
Reverend Pat wasn’t coy about the answer: It’s the oil.
“This is a dangerous enemy to our South controlling a huge pool of oil.”
A really BIG pool of oil. Indeed, according to Guy Caruso, former chief of oil intelligence for the CIA, Venezuela hold a recoverable reserve of 1.36 trillion barrels, that is, a whole lot more than Saudi Arabia.
If we didn’t kill Chavez, we’d have to do an “Iraq” on his nation. So the Reverend suggests,
“We don’t need another $200 billion war….It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.”
Chavez himself told me he was stunned by Bush’s attacks: Chavez had been quite chummy with Bush Senior and with Bill Clinton.
So what made Chavez suddenly “a dangerous enemy”? Here’s the answer you won’t find in The New York Times:
Just after Bush’s inauguration in 2001, Chavez’ congress voted in a new “Law of Hydrocarbons.” Henceforth, Exxon, British Petroleum, Shell Oil and Chevron would get to keep 70% of the sales revenues from the crude they sucked out of Venezuela. Not bad, considering the price of oil was rising toward $100 a barrel.
But to the oil companies, which had bitch-slapped Venezeula’s prior government into giving them 84% of the sales price, a cut to 70% was “no bueno.”Worse, Venezuela had been charging a joke of a royalty – just one percent– on “heavy” crude from the Orinoco Basin. Chavez told Exxon and friends they’d now have to pay 16.6%.
Clearly, Chavez had to be taught a lesson about the etiquette of dealings with Big Oil.
On April 11, 2002, President Chavez was kidnapped at gunpoint and flown to an island prison in the Caribbean Sea.On April 12,Pedro Carmona, a business partner of the US oil companies and president of the nation’s Chamber of Commerce, declared himself President of Venezuela– giving a whole new meaning to the term,“corporate takeover.”
U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro immediately rushed down from his hilltop embassyto have his picture taken grinning with the self-proclaimed “President” and the leaders of the coup d’état.
Bush’s White House spokesman admitted that Chavez was, “democratically elected,” but, he added, “Legitimacy is something that is conferred not by just the majority of voters.”I see.
With an armed and angry citizenry marching on the Presidential Palace in Caracas ready to string up the coup plotters, Carmona, the Pretend President from Exxon returned his captive Chavez back to his desk within 48 hours. (How? Get The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, the film, expanding on my reports for BBC Television. You can download it for free for the next few days.)
Chavez had provoked the coup not just by clawing back some of the bloated royalties of the oil companies. It’s what he did with that oil money that drove Venezuela’s One Percent to violence.
In Caracas, I ran into the reporter for a TV station whose owner is generally credited with plotting the coup against the president. While doing a publicity photo shoot, leaning back against a tree, showing her wide-open legs nearly up to where they met,the reporter pointed down the hill to the “ranchos,” the slums above Caracas, where shacks, once made of cardboard and tin, where quickly transforming into homes of cinder blocks and cement.
“He [Chavez] gives them bread and bricks, so they vote for him, of course.” She was disgusted by “them,” the 80% of Venezuelans who are negro e indio (Black and Indian)—and poor. Chavez, himself negro e indio, had, for the first time in Venezuela’s history, shifted the oil wealthfrom the privileged class that called themselves “Spanish,” to the dark-skinned masses.
While trolling around the poor housing blocks of Caracas, I ran into a local, Arturo Quiran, a merchant seaman and no big fan of Chavez. But over a beer at his kitchen table, he told me,
“Fifteen years ago under [then-President] Carlos Andrés Pérez, there was a lot of oil money in Venezuela. The ‘oil boom’ we called it. Here in Venezuela there was a lot of money, but we didn’t see it.” But then came Hugo Chavez, and now the poor in his neighborhood, he said, “get medical attention, free operations, x-rays, medicines; education also. People who never knew how to write now know how to sign their own papers.”
Chavez’ Robin Hood thing, shifting oil money from the rich to the poor, would have been grudgingly tolerated by the US. But Chavez, who told me, “We are no longer an oil colony,”went further…too much further, in the eyes of the American corporate elite.
Venezuela had landless citizens by the millions – and unused land by the millions of acres tied up, untilled, on which a tiny elite of plantation owners squatted. Chavez’ congress passed in a law in 2001 requiring untilled land to be sold to the landless. It was a program long promised by Venezuela’s politicians at the urging of John F. Kennedy as part of his “Alliance for Progress.”
Plantation owner Heinz Corporation didn’t like that one bit. In retaliation, Heinz closed its ketchup plant in the state of Maturin and fired all the workers. Chavez seized Heinz’ plant and put the workers back on the job. Chavez didn’t realize that he’d just squeezed the tomatoes of America’s powerful Heinz family and Mrs. Heinz’ husband, Senator John Kerry, now U.S. Secretary of State.
Or, knowing Chavez as I do, he didn’t give a damn.
Chavez could survive the ketchup coup, the Exxon “presidency,” even his taking back a piece of the windfall of oil company profits,but he dangerously tried the patience of America’s least forgiving billionaires: The Koch Brothers.
How? Well, that’s another story for another day. [Watch this space. Or read about it in the book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits. Go to BallotBandits.org).
Elected presidents who annoy Big Oil have ended up in exile—or coffins: Mossadegh of Iranafter he nationalized BP’s fields (1953), Elchibey, Presidentof Azerbaijan, after he refused demands of BP for his Caspian fields (1993), President Alfredo Palacio of Ecuador after he terminated Occidental’s drilling concession (2005).
“It’s a chess game, Mr. Palast,” Chavez told me. He was showing me a very long, and very sharp sword once owned by Simon Bolivar, the Great Liberator. “And I am,” Chavez said, “a very good chess player.”
In the film The Seventh Seal, a medieval knight bets his life on a game of chess with the Grim Reaper. Death cheats, of course, and takes the knight. No mortal can indefinitely outplay Death who, this week, Chavez must know, will checkmate the new Bolivar of Venezuela.
But in one last move, the Bolivarian grandmaster played a brilliant endgame, naming Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, as good and decent a man as they come, as heir to the fight for those in the “ranchos.” The One Percent of Venezuela, planning on Chavez’s death to return them the power and riches they couldn’t win in an election, are livid with the choice of Maduro.
Chavez sent Maduro to meet me in my downtown New York office back in 2004. In our run-down detective digs on Second Avenue, Maduro and I traded information on assassination plots and oil policy.
Even then, Chavez was carefully preparing for the day when Venezuela’s negros e indios would lose their king—but still stay in the game. Class war on a chessboard. Even in death, I wouldn’t bet against Hugo Chavez.