President Trump used to attack President Obama as being weak with regard to Syria for not being more ruthless in the American led war of aggression against Syria, a prelude to war with Iran; that he had drawn red lines in the sand and dared the Russians to cross. That the Russians had called his bluff and nothing happened, he said, as if the death of hundreds of thousands and destruction of entire cities are nothing. Trump bragged that when he was in power and America “was great again” Russia would be forced to dance to the American tune because, of course President Putin would respect him more, making the mistake of thinking that Vladimir Putin respects brutality and arrogance rather than good intentions and intelligence.
But now, in Venezuela, Trump is in the same position as Obama, having drawn red lines in the sand only for them to be ignored by the Venezuelan government and people and by the Russians and the Chinese. In a feeble fury the American government has issued one warning after another against “Russian intervention” forgetting that Venezuela can have any friends it wants, and forgetting that the United States is not the ruler of the planet. The warnings are issued the more sternly the less effective their plans and actions become. They hope every day for the Venezuelan army to change sides. They hope their selected hand puppet Juan Guaido will somehow catch on with all the people who hate him. They hope God is on their side. They have no hope.
When 100 Russian military technicians arrived in Caracas with tons of equipment last week, Trump’s national security adviser, that is, war adviser, claimed that Russian support of a popular and legitimate government to guarantee its peaceful development was “a direct threat to international peace and security in the region,” an astounding claim from a man who had just conducted an attempted armed coup against the government of Venezuela and whose boss was threatening to bombard and invade it if their economic war and sabotage was not enough to destroy the country. When he made this absurd statement Bolton echoed the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, which was just as much a statement of American arrogance then as Bolton’s statements are now.
The more President Maduro proves his resilience, against rising economic warfare and sabotage of the electricity grid, and other infrastructure, and the more Russia and China increase their support of the government of Venezuela, the more frustrated the Americans become. There is no indication that a big military action is planned, nevertheless the “all options are on the table” card is still being played in statements and the media. “We may not do it, but let’s scare the hell out of them anyway” is the type of psychopathic thinking we are dealing with. But the main strategy is not a direct military one. Instead they are intending to conduct a long hybrid war on Venezuela to wear the people down. Elliott Abrams, a notorious American war criminal, the State Departments’ special representative for Venezuela, whose crimes span Latin America, stated, ‘I don’t imagine that Juan Guaido is deeply worried because the Maduro regime, while it may be around in 15 days, is not going to be around in 15 years.” He threatened to cut oil sales and threatened Russia by saying “It would be a mistake for the Russians to think they have a free hand here-they don’t.”
But of course they do. Russia will conduct its affairs as suits its interests and that means support of Venezuela. It is instead the Americans who are making the mistake, because it is a fact that they no longer have a free hand in the region. Trump’s opponents in the Democratic Party and their allied media, still dazed and confused about the Mueller investigation’s inability to produce any evidence at all of Trump being a Russian agent, are still calling him weak on Russia because he is not doing enough to oppose Russia.
But the truth is they have tried to oppose Russia in every way at every possible opportunity, from Germany to Ukraine, to Turkey, from Syria to Venezuela, and failed at every point. Trump is the scapegoat for the real decline in American power and prestige and all they can do is fall back on their nuclear threat, to demand more nuclear weapons and fight wars they cannot pay for and cannot win in the vain hope, that somehow, just by brute force, they can regain their former power ad prestige. But they can’t because brute force is not enough to win the ultimate political objectives of the war. Power means little if everyone thinks you’re a thug.
In August 2011, Obama declared that “for the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside’ Yet Obama is now history while President Assad leads his people still. It was Obama who stated “the use of chemical weapons” is a changer, and then had his proxy and special forces stage several chemical attacks to be followed by big attacks on the Syrian forces. But he was stopped every time by the skills and resistance of the Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces resisting the American aggression. Obama was accused of stepping back from decisive action, the old “stabbed in the back” claims made by the Germans to explain their defeat in World War One and used by many American to explain their defeat in Vietnam, and Trump was one of those to make that claim.
But the truth was not about having the moxy to confront the Russians. It was about what the Americans knew would happen to them if they did. The Americans have suffered defeat in Syria though they still cause trouble for example for the refugees they hold hostage at the Rukban refugee camp, located in the American occupation zone at Al Tanf near the Jordanian border, where they block food and medicine from relieving the suffering of the Syrians held hostage there, and where they refused access to senior dignitaries of the UN and Red Crescent to inspect conditions in the camp. They try to cause trouble among the tribes and other groups with the few remaining forces illegally in the country, The Russians report the French and Belgian special forces are plotting to stage yet another chemical attack provocation and British lawyers, with close links to British and NATO intelligence, are attempting to have the ICC label President Assad a war criminal. These actions are planned with the USA. So Trump and his men can still cause a lot of trouble in the pain of their Syrian defeat.
They have suffered another defeat in Venezuela but their war goes on. They intend to cause a lot more trouble. The Americans are going to apply, besides all types of sabotage, political and economic pressure, as well as quasi-legal actions. They think they have a strength the Russians do not have, their proximity to the regions against Russia’s distance. But again, they misjudge the situation and Russia has demonstrated that it is in the region to stay not only being able to fly in aircraft from great distances, but has expanded military training and flight schools, S300 missile battery training, and other areas of cooperation.
The coup attempt failed. Guaido has failed. Sabotage and sanctions have failed. Political pressure has also failed, despite the fact that Canada led the Lima Group in support of the US aggression against Venezuela. But they do not have Mexico on their side and it is making them furious. President Obrador has proven more independent than they expected. He refused to join the Lima Group, refused to condemn Maduro, and has demanded reparations on behalf of the Mexican people from Spain and The Vatican for all their crimes committed during the colonial period. There is already talk in Washington about what actions to take against him. The Americans seem to have lost the art of making friends and know only how to make enemies for now Trump has cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, as if he wants the entire region to be opposed to the USA and in support of the Venezuelan people.
President Trump, on behalf of the United States of America, keeps drawing red lines in the sand. He has paralyzed the US government to build one along the Mexican border, a hostile act towards Mexico, he has drawn them in Ukraine, in Turkey, in Syria, in the Pacific, in Korea, and now Venezuela but the trouble with red lines is they’re never the right lines. Red lines issued by a nation that acts as a neo-colonial power are violations of international law. They are ultimatums. The peoples of the world rejected this type of aggression from militaristic, chauvinist powers at the end of World War Two when the militarism of Germany and Japan was destroyed, the United States claimed it’s role in the world was to “bring democracy,” the United Nations was formed. A Charter was adopted, to which they agreed, which makes everything the USA is doing a crime against peace. We don’t need more red lines, we need the leaders of the American state to read and understand and adhere to the lines written in the Charter of the United Nations, to join the society of nations that wants to live in peace and respect with each other, instead of standing outside the society of nations; a threatening monster everyone fears.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”