1) The let the scoundrel speak tactic was used.
The WSJ article provides a kind of fake balance that is very common in the corporate media. You could call it the “let the scoundrel speak” approach. An official from a government that has been widely ridiculed and demonized by the media for years is quoted rejecting US government allegations. Venezuelan General Motta Dominguez is quoted by the WSJ as saying “We all know that whoever wants his green card and live in the US to visit Disney can just pick his leader and accuse him of being a narco. DEA tours will attend to them.”
This tactic helped the media sell the Iraqi WMD hoax to the US public while claiming its reporting was balanced. Officials from Saddam Hussein’s government were regularly quoted denying US claims that they were hiding WMD – truthfully as many people would learn only after a war was waged that would kill at least half a million Iraqis. Critics whom most readers would have found way more credible – like former weapons inspector Scott Ritter or leaders of the anti-war movement – were simply ignored.
2) Highly relevant history was buried.
Years before US troops kidnapped Haiti’s democratically elected president (Jean Bertrand Aristide) in 2004, US prosecutors had been targeting officials around him – the same tactic they are now using against Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela. As I explained here, long after those allegations against Aristide’s government were exposed as baseless they continue to resurface from time to time – when the US fears that Aristide or his Lavalas movement may be mobilizing. The WSJ – through its reporter Mary Anastasia O’Grady – was especially aggressive in promoting those allegations.
Imagine if the Venezuelan government had kidnapped the democratically elected president of another country. The only thing the western media would debate is how quickly and heavily to bomb Venezuela in retaliation, but the US government perpetrates a coup and the western media notices nothing. Never mind remembering that US prosecutors contributed to the coup in Haiti. The entire coup and its gruesome aftermath have been erased from history.
3) Key facts about US prosecutors were ignored
I asked Brian Concannon, a US attorney who has prosecuted landmark human rights trials in Haiti during the 1990s, to comment on the WSJ article’s claim that “The Obama administration isn’t directing or coordinating the investigations, which are being run by federal prosecutors who have wide leeway to target criminal suspects.”
Concannon replied “The US Attorneys for each judicial district are appointed by the President, and can be removed by the President for almost any non-discriminatory reason. It is true that the prosecutors have wide leeway, but it is equally true that they take direction from the Attorney General and President. The Bush Administration got in trouble in 2006 for firing seven US Attorneys who either investigated Republican candidates for election malfeasance or failed to adequately pursue Democrats. There was a scandal and some DOJ people were forced to resign, but no one was prosecuted and I believe that none of the fired Attorneys got their jobs back. “
Some partisan bickering highlights the facts Concannon mentioned. For example, Republicans were irate when Bill Clinton fired almost all US Attorneys in 1993. However, in the case of Venezuela – as in the case of foreign policy in general – the differences between Republican and Democrat presidents have been negligible. It may be true that the Obama administration is not “directing or coordinating the investigations” because, under both Bush and Obama, prosecutors who target Venezuelan officials are giving their bosses exactly what they want: ammunition they can use to try to discredit and isolate the Venezuelan government.
Recalling the debunked allegations against Aristide, Concannon said “There was such a bi-partisan antipathy towards Aristide, especially in the intelligence and DOS [State Department] communities, that the prosecutors didn’t need a big push to take the case up. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies could just hand over evidence (manufactured or not), the DOS could pass along its ‘reports’, etc. “
4) Colombia and the USA are depicted as regional good guys who are above suspicion.
The WSJ article said “Under pressure in Colombia, where authorities aggressively battled the drug trade with $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2000, many Colombian traffickers moved operations to neighboring Venezuela, where U.S. law-enforcement officials say they found a government and military eager to permit and ultimately control cocaine smuggling through the country.
Venezuela doesn’t produce coca, the leaf used to make cocaine, nor does it manufacture the drug. But the U.S. estimates that about 131 tons of cocaine, about half of the total cocaine produced in Colombia, moved through Venezuela in 2013, the last year for which data were available.”
Colombia produces cocaine for nearly all the US market, but the governments of the USA and Colombia are assumed to be squeaky clean by the WSJ and their claims are reported with deference. What the Colombian government did with billions of dollars in U.S. aid since the 1990s is amass a horrific human rights record – the worst in the region if you exclude USA whose foreign aggression puts it in a separate category. As for drug related corruption within the US government, the tragic tale of Gary Webb illustrates how the corporate media can destroy journalists who dare to explore the wrong kind of suspicions.
5) One can’t even assume the WSJ will convey publicly available information accurately.
This piece of mine exposes the extremely deceptive reporting one of the WSJ article’s authors, Juan Forero, did regarding Venezuela’s health care system. To the extent his work could be checked by readers, it didn’t check out. It is worth remembering while reading an article that quotes anonymous US officials.