When I was growing up in Bellflower, Ca., I never, as a child with a goodimagination, could have ever imagined that my life would take thepeculiar turn that it has. I could not have foreseen giving birth to achild that would eventually be wrongfully and devastatingly killed inwar or that I would be meeting with world leaders or be nominated forthe Nobel Peace Prize.
Along with the Vice President of Spain, Foreign Minister of Ireland, AttorneyGeneral of Australia and countless parliamentarians from all over theglobe, one of the world leaders that I have met and spent a good amountof time with on my journey is President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Dueto the propaganda media and the ignorance of many of my fellowAmericans, I have been heavily criticized for my visit. I would like toremind my neighbors all over the country that we do have diplomaticrelations with Venezuela and we are not at war with that country.
On arecent appearance that I made on MSNBC's Hardball which was being guesthosted by Norah O' Donnell, she introduced me as someone who has beenphotographed with "dictator" Hugo Chavez. After the introduction and ina very short subsequent break, I looked at her and said: "You knowPresident Chavez is not a dictator. He has been democratically electedto his office 8 times."
Towhich she replied: "We had a big discussion about that and we decidedthat he ruled like a dictator." That statement really shocked, yetirritated me, because I can't believe that MSNBC and Norah O'Donnellwould perpetuate the myth that President Chavez is a dictator andmislead and misinform their viewers, because contrary to facts, they"decided that he ruled like a dictator."
"Then you should call George Bush a dictator." I said right before we were given the signal that the interview was beginning.
Duringthe segment which Norah called an interview and I would like to betterterm as an "attack," (I gave her a hug after the attack: it seemed likeshe really needed one) we got on the subject of Hugo Chavez and I endedup admitting that I would rather have him as a leader than George Bush.Since this truthful admission, which comes from experience andresearch, my life has been threatened several times and the hate mailto the GSFP website has increased dramatically.
Thereare many brilliant pieces written from a more scholarly point of viewdefending the administration of President Chavez and trying to educateour corporate owned media-misled citizenry about the politics,economics and civil society of Venezuela. Most recently and notably anarticle by Jeff Cohen entitled, "Go to Venezuela, You Idiot."So, instead of writing a scholarly piece, I would like to make somepersonal observations about the regimes of George Bush and Hugo Chavez.
Firstof all and most importantly and as far as I can recall, Hugo has notinvaded any countries in baseless wars of aggression justified by lies.George has. As a matter of fact, instead of using "Cowboy Diplomacy"and "Bring 'em on" rhetoric, President Chavez has skillfully used hiscountry's resources as a diplomatic tool to make friends and coercegood behavior from other countries. George uses our children in theArmed Forces to strong arm his way into other countries making enemiesfor the USA and leaving death and destruction wherever he goes.
Secondly,Hugo is an effective orator who can lecture on any topic for hours(believe me!). He is smart, personable, has a great sense of humor, andtakes the time to get to know people on a human level. (He never calledme "Mom" once the entire time I was with him---unlike George). I waswith him three times in Venezuela and each time he gave lengthyspeeches about American (North and South) history never using a singlenote: tying our histories together with the present in very meaningfulways. On the other hand, George Bush can barely speak when he isreading from a teleprompter and looks like a deer caught in headlightswhen he has to speak off the cuff or answer a question that he hasn'tbeen well prepared for. He thinks that people want to put food on theirfamilies and if he doesn't know a word, he can just make one up.
WhenMs. O' Donnell called President Chavez a dictator, I bet she didn'teven know that our CIA orchestrated a coup attempt against PresidentChavez in 2002 and in the last electoral referendum that Chavez agreedto submit to in 2004, he was re-confirmed as President with 60 percentof the vote which was certified by an international election commissionheaded by "left-wing, nutcase," Jimmy Carter. George Bush attained hisoffice by two heavily tainted elections that should more rightly becalled coups. To steal two elections and say and act like you have amandate to destroy the world; to circumvent Congress at every turn with"signing statements" and just not telling them things; to wiretappingAmericans without proper warrants; to reading our emails and looking atbank records without warrants; to illegally detaining people andtorturing them; to insisting on staying a course in Iraq that iskilling nearly more innocent people per month than were killed in ourcountry on 9/11; to authorizing the leak of covert agents' names; toselling our democracy to the highest bidders such as the likes of JackAbramoff; to appointing avowed U.N. hater John Bolton to the U.N. in arecess appointment because he knew that a normal confirmation processwould fail; to allowing the neocons to take over our foreign policy tothe detriment of our nation; to etc, etc---I ask Norah O' Donnell andMSNBC who is the dictator here? George or Hugo?
Themedia is far freer in Venezuela than it is here in the US. Stationsafter station are hostile to the Chavez government even openly callingfor his over throw at times. Our corporate owned media are either veryill-informed about world affairs or current events, thereby keeping usill-informed, or they are complicit propaganda tools of thisadministration. Heaven forbid that one of the outlets, such as the NewYork Times, should truthfully report that BushCo did something illegal,then the outlet will be accused of doing something wrong! Conversely,we have cheerleaders in the same outlet such as Judith Miller whoconspired with Scooter Libby to out CIA agent Valerie Plame. I wouldlove to see a segment where MSNBC show hosts are brought together todiscuss such subjects as the high-jacking of our democracy and/orGeorge's lies and war of terror on the world, instead of me.
Oneof the reasons that President Chavez is demonized and threatened byBushCo is that he has forced American companies in his country to paytheir fair share of taxes and do business properly in Venezuela. Hugois resisting the corporate colonialism that has characterized US forcedrelations with South America since the USA has been a country. And onething that we all know, or should know, BushCo is especially beholdenand subservient to the corporations.
HugoChavez also wants to finally realize Simon de Bolivar's vision of aunited South America which can be together stronger to live morepeacefully with the US and stand in solidarity against the constantmeddling of all of our regimes in their affairs. North Americans shouldknow about the despicable history of US interference in South Americabefore they throw stones at people who want to have fully autonomouscountries with control over their own natural resources.
Hugois also doing something that George would never think of doing: he istaking from the rich to help the poor. Literacy is currently almost100% in Venezuela and social programs in health and education havedramatically improved since he took office and while the poverty rateis still high, it has made vast improvements. George is a reverse RobinHood and even steals from our grandchildren's future to further enrichthe already obscenely rich of the present. I would rather live under aPresident like Hugo who tries to improve living conditions in hiscountry than someone like George who is demolishing our socialstructures and making the poor, poorer.
Iwill readily admit that I did say that I would rather have PresidentChavez than President Bush, but I didn't say that I would rather livein Venezuela. I am an American and I love my country which I believe ison a distinctly disordered course right now. I also believe that mycountry can do better and I am willing to fight to realize a vision forAmerica where the rich share with the poor and we achieve 100% literacyand schools, day care centers, parks and clinics are built instead ofprisons and the already bloated military industrial war complex.
Whilethe world seems to be coming apart at the seams, it is also importantfor our main stream, corporate owned media to get their facts straightand report the news truthfully and with integrity instead of beingtools for war and greed. Thousands of people are dying while the mediaare carrying out vendettas for Karl Rove.
Yes,I would rather have President Chavez than George Bush. But truthfully,I would rather have countless numbers of people as my president thanGeorge Bush. George Bush is an out of control criminal that needs to beimpeached for his lies; removed from office for his transgressions; andimprisoned for his crimes against humanity.
George should never have been President in the first place and he has been president of my country for far too long already.
CindySheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan who was KIA in Iraqon 04/04/04. She is a co-founder and President of Gold Star Familiesfor Peace and the author of two books: Not One More Mother's Child andDear President Bush. She is currently on Day 12 of the Troops HomeFast.