Disturbing 2008 Global Peace Index Report: U.S. v. Venezuela

The Global Peace Index claims to be
the first study of its kind ranking nations according to their
peacefulness, ranking the U.S. higher than Venezuela. However, in reality, the U.S. should rank lowest on peace. It
keeps sinking lower. It alone threatens planetary survival.

By Stephen Lendman
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The Global Peace Index (GPI) was launched in May 2007 and claims to be
the first study of its kind ranking nations according to their
peacefulness. Last year's report covered 121 countries. The latest
increased it to 140. Australian entrepreneur Steve Killelea conceived
the idea and won some dubious endorsements. Among them, the Dalai Lama.

He served as a CIA asset from the late 1950s until 1974 and may
again be in tow if the Bush administration's awarding him a
Congressional Gold Medal last year and closeness to him now is an
indication. Other endorsers include Jordan's Queen Noor; another member
of her royal family; four members of the British House of Lords; Ted
Turner; Virgin Group's Richard Branson; other business and community
leaders; Australia's former Prime Minister JM Fraser; other former
high-ranking government officials; academics; a former BBC war
correspondent and MP; plus six Nobel Laureates, including Jimmy Carter.
In fairness, a few distinguished names join them, including Helen
Caldicott and economics professor James Galbraith.

These
organizations prepare GPI's report - The Economist Intelligence Unit,
an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think
tanks, and the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict
Studies. Their stated purpose is to "highlight the relationship between
Global Peace and Sustainability (stressing that) unless we can achieve"
a peaceful world, humanity's major challenges won't be solved. No
argument there, but does GPI's statement belie its real interest?

GPI uses 24 indicators to rank nations according to their relative internal and external peacefulness. They include their:

-- military expenditures as a percent of GDP and number of armed service personnel per 100,000 population;

-- relations with other countries;

-- respect for human rights;

-- potential for terrorist acts;

-- number of homicides per 100,000 population, including infanticide;

-- level of violent crime;

-- aggregate number of heavy weapons per 100,000 population and ease of access to small arms and light weapons;

-- number of jailed population per 100,000 population; and

-- number of internal security officers and police per 100,000 population.

Conspicuously
absent is a measure of outside influence causing internal violence,
instability and/or disruption. Venezuela ranked an implausible 123rd
behind America at 97th. Something is amiss, and the above rating raises
suspicions that angered Venezuelan National Assemblyman Jose Albornos.
He stated:

"Sometimes things tip over into irrationality just
like they're doing just now....(it's) part of a plan....there are
sectors who decide that they want to get rid of Chavez, who have seen
that they cannot (do it by) coup d'etat and are trying to penalize the
whole country in a campaign of attrition."

He then added that the 2008 GPI "doesn't correspond with the truth," and plenty of evidence backs him. It's examined below.

By
GPI's criteria, scoring Venezuela high and America lowest should be
no-brainers. The US hands down is the world's most violent nation and
primary reason for Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel's bottom rankings. The
same holds for Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, Colombia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka,
Uganda, the Philippines and a host of other nations.

By
comparison, Venezuela is placid and tranquil but GPI's criteria don't
show it. It certainly ranks above Rwanda, Albania, the Dominican
Republic, Mexico, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras,
Turkmenistan, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, China, Jordan,
and other countries outscoring it. Why not is the question? Think
politics for an answer in spite of America's low ranking and Israel
near the bottom. It's not low enough. It should be last hands down.

The
US alone endangers global stability, world peace and the planet's
survival. It alone wages permanent war, targets peaceful nations, and
claims a unilateral right to use first strike nuclear weapons
preemptively. It also has over 800 military bases (perhaps 1000 or more
with secret ones) in 130 or more countries, hundreds more at home, and
still more troops deployed in other countries throughout the world. It
further spends more on its military than all other nations combined. It
uses it aggressively, supports Israeli repression against Palestinians,
assassinates foreign leaders, installs more "friendly" ones, and backs
despots like Colombia's Uribe, Egypt's Mubarak, the Saudi royal family,
Mexico's Calderon, and various installed stooges like Afghanistan's
Karzai and Iraq's al-Maliki.

America ranks lowest on peace. It
keeps sinking lower. It alone threatens planetary survival. Failure to
register that in a "peace index" is unimaginable. It makes the entire
project suspect.

Under Chavez in contrast, Venezuela's record is
envious. It embraces its neighbors, offers no-strings aid, and engages
in mutually beneficial trade, political relations, and other alliances;
it also:

-- assassinates no other leaders;

-- doesn't seek regime changes abroad;

-- has no nuclear weapons and seeks none; and

--
spends less than one-half of one percent of the Pentagon's (grossly
understated) military budget (around $1 to $2 billion) and less half of
that, in fact, of America's total defense spending - in FY 2008: a
conservatively estimated $1.1 trillion with all military, homeland
security, veterans, NASA, debt service and miscellaneous related
allocations included; according to Chalmers Johnson, it's not only
"morally obscene," it's "fiscally unsustainable" and is heading the
nation for probable "insolvency and (the world for) a long depression,"
or potentially worse.

-- In addition, Venezuela doesn't export
weapons to neighbors or incite conflict; in contrast, America is the
world's leading arms and munitions supplier by far - and to many
belligerent states with disturbing records of using them internally
and/or against neighbors; Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, Ethiopia and
Israel to cite five;

-- Chavez is socially responsible at home;

-- doesn't practice torture;

-- has no secret prisons;

-- threatens no other nation;

-- wages no wars;

-- is a model democracy;

-- governs peacefully;

-- supports human rights and social justice;

-- affirms free speech;

-- bans discrimination; and

--
uses his resources responsibly - for his people, yet is friendly to
business as well. He's earned world class stature and immense
popularity at home as a result. Under George Bush in contrast, America
is feared and hated worldwide. Growing numbers don't trust him at home
either, and it shows in his poll ratings - some of the lowest ever for
a US president with vice-president Cheney and Congress scraping rock
bottom.

A stunning (but long known) fact came out as well.
It's in a US Justice Department Inspector General's 370 page report. It
revealed that the FBI opened a "War Crimes" file documenting witnessed
systemic Guantanamo Bay torture. It's so inflammatory that the
administration suppressed it. It asserts that orders came from the top,
including the White House, Pentagon, DOJ and NSC. It implies but
doesn't state that this practice goes on in all US military prisons
plus ones outsourced to in rogue states for some of the most barbaric
treatment anywhere - and mostly to innocent victims.

Some GPI-Reported Comparisons - America v. Venezuela

Prisons
everywhere are harsh, and Venezuela's are no exception. But consider
America. It has the largest prison population in the world by far at
2.3 million, greater than in China with four times the population. It
also adds over a 1000 new prisoners a week. It's justifiably called a
gulag, so imagine what goes on offshore. No remediating efforts are
planned. Reforms are off the table. America's prison-industrial complex
is burgeoning. Prisons are being privatized. Profiting on human beings
is big business, and consider who they are. Most are black, hispanic,
poor, unempowered, nonviolent, and imprisoned for offenses like drugs
possession.

In contrast, Venezuela is humanizing its prisons.
It's no simple task, and no miracle cures are expected. Nonetheless,
positive steps are being taken for a prison population numbering 20,000
that's down from its 1992 31,400 high. The National Assembly is
"committed to giv(ing) priority to (revising) the Penal Code and the
Criminal Procedure Code." It's to make it more just and improve prison
conditions in health care, food, access to education and more. Reducing
incarceration lengths is also planned as well as tackling root causes
of crime such as poverty and lack of opportunity. Doing this in America
is impossible. Things keep worsening. The nation is uncaring. It shows
across the board. That highlights the problem, but GPI didn't notice.

Number
of homicides per 100,000 population is another category. GPI ranks
America low (in number) and Venezuela high. It's unjustified. From it's
beginning, America has been violent at home and abroad. It's been at
war with one or more adversaries every year in its history without
exception. It's called a "gun" and "rape culture" and has the highest
homicide rate among all western nations. Violence is endemic, pacifism
sinful, legal and illegal drug use out of control, young children
introduced to violence through films, television and video games that
should be outlawed. They're exported everywhere to make all societies
like America. Venezuela is no exception but nowhere near to matching
the US.

Implausibly, America also scores well on the following:

--
its number of internal security officers and police; it refers to
"civil police" only; omitted are National Guard forces, Coast Guard,
Homeland Security, FBI, CIA,16 spy agencies, drug enforcement, and
since October 2002 the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) that preempts
Posse Comitatus limitations that no longer apply; no nation on earth
has more internal (or external) security, spends more for it, and no
country uses it more aggressively;

-- ease of access to "weapons
of minor destruction;" Venezuela ranks below America; impossible as
guns in the US are as accessible as chewing gum even in cities where
they're banned; the Second Amendment (on right to bear arms)
practically equates it with religion even though the law's original
intent bears no relation to its current interpretation that's promoted
by the gun lobby;

-- "likelihood of violent demonstrations;"
Venezuela scores high; unconsidered is why any take place and who's
behind them - America, not Venezuelans except for those recruited and
well-paid to cause trouble to destabilize an otherwise peaceful country;

-- violent crime; Venezuela scores high again and America low; wrong as violence in the US is endemic; GPI understates it;

-- political instability; Venezuela scores moderately high; again no mention why there's any or who instigates it;

--
human rights; America and Venezuela get equal scores; preposterous
again and insulting to Venezuelans; America's disdain for human rights
is unmatched; Venezuela's is excellent by comparison; the Constitution
mandates it; GPI ignores it;

-- political democracy; America
outranking Venezuela is impossible; the US's democracy is illusory; in
Venezuela it's real and should be highest rated relative to other
countries;

-- the electoral process; America besting Venezuela
is false and insulting; Venezuela has a model participatory democracy;
all Venezuelans are enfranchised; the Constitution's Article 56
mandates it; it affirms that "All persons have the right to be
registered free of charge....after birth, and to obtain public
documents" so stating;

-- US elections, in contrast, are
deeply corrupted; big money runs them; candidates are pre-selected;
machines do our voting; no recounts are possible; losers are declared
winners; independent candidates are shut out; the media ignore them;
they keep people uninformed; issues aren't addressed; just "horserace"
theater ad nauseam; voter disenfranchisement is rife; election theft
common; mountains of evidence document it; none reported in the
mainstream; it's why half or more of the electorate opts out; it mocks
democracy in a nation having little; it's exemplary in Venezuela; not
according to GPI;

-- "functioning of government" defined to mean
freely electing representatives and effective checks and balances; the
US wins again completely belying the facts; America's democratic
governance is a sham; Venezuela's is real; GPI has things backwards;

--
civil liberties; America on top here, too; it's outrageous in a growing
police state climate; post-9/11 repressive laws, executive and military
orders, directives and other measures are in force that would make any
despot proud; presidential authority is unchallenged; Congress is mere
rubber-stamp; Homeland Security is a national Gestapo; FBI and CIA
also; internal spying is pervasive; dissent stifled; human rights
disdained; and the rule of law is now consigned to the dustbin of
history; Venezuelan society is mirror opposite; GPI failed to notice;

--
"corruption perceptions;" America scores high and Venezuela low, and
indeed there is a problem; yet it's minor compared to the US's
all-pervasive kind - in government, business and throughout high levels
in society; it involves trillions of dollars; again it didn't register;

--
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) is the source for GPI's comparative
"freedom of the press" assessment; RWB no longer publishes an index
with assigned country rankings; instead it rates them: No. 1 good, No.
2 satisfactory, No. 3 noticeable problems, No. 4 difficult situation,
and No. 5 very noticeable problems;

-- RWB's reputation is
tainted; it lacks credibility; it disgraced itself last year by
baselessly criticizing Chavez's justifiable decision not to renew
RCTV's VHF license and accusing him of violating free speech and press
standards; not surprisingly, it showed in its 2007 survey with rankings
still used; it rated America somewhat low at 48th but Venezuela far
lower at 114th - below Chad, Morocco, Uganda, Indonesia, Albania,
Congo, Liberia, Kuwait, the Central African Republic and numerous other
questionable higher-ranked choices; in 2008, Venezuela jumped
considerably; GPI scored it 36.9 (an apparent 37th in the world); the
US fared much better at 14.5; tops were Iceland and Norway at 0.8;

--
GPI and RWB should be embarrassed; consider the facts; no country
outranks Venezuela in press freedom; outlandish dissent is tolerated;
censorship banned, and the law affirms it; RCTV lost its VHF license
for backing insurrection against the government; its officials avoided
prison for their lawlessness; they were merely slapped on the wrist
instead;

-- America is mirror opposite; RCTV type broadcasting
would be illegal, an act of sedition or treason; those responsible
would be prosecuted; but it's not how major media operate in the US;
they "filter" news; one-sidedly support a state and corporate agenda;
shut out opposition to it; keep the electorate uninformed by operating
no differently than a state-controlled ministry of information and
propaganda; RSW approves; so does GPI;

Its data is suspect
throughout. Adult literacy (unrelated to violence) is another example.
It scores America at 99%. It's laughable. Even the US Department of
Education estimates it at 80% tops, and their number way overstates it.
It's far lower based on inner-city math and English test scores plus
painfully low computer literacy levels.

Other Questionable Rankings

GPI
isn't alone in targeting Venezuela. Transparency International (TI)
does as well. It calls itself "politically non-partisan" and a "global
civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption (with
a) mission....to create change toward a world free of corruption."
Consider its 2007 "Corruption Perceptions Index." To achieve its aim,
it better tighten its standards that fall far short of "transparency."

America
easily outscores other nations in corruption. It's broad, deep and
extends throughout government, business, and high levels of society in
the trillions of dollars. But it's not how TI sees it. It ranks the US
No. 20, just behind France and ahead of Chile. In contrast, Venezuela
scrapes bottom at 162nd - behind Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Sierra
Leone, Liberia, Kazakhstan, Congo, Pakistan and dozens of other dubious
choices. Venezuela (like all countries) has corruption problems. But
nowhere to the degree TI suggests. Its April 2008 report is rife with
errors and why not. According to Calvin Tucker in a May 22 article, it
was prepared by "an anti-Chavez activist who backed the 2002 military
coup against democracy." His full account can be accessed by the
following link:
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/calvin_tucker/2008/05/seeing_through...
 
The
Fraser Institute is a right wing, business-backed, Canadian-based think
tank. It prepares an annual Economic Freedom of the World Index that
has nothing to do with freedom. It's not kind to Venezuela and
sidesteps facts in its assessment. Following the country's 2002-03 oil
management lockout, growth has been impressive and remains so. Business
has profited hugely. All economic measures are strong and improving
except for inflation. It remains stubbornly high, but efforts are being
made to curb it.

Nonetheless, Fraser reports with blinders. It
ranked Venezuela practically at the bottom - 126th out of 130 nations,
only besting Congo, Zimbabwe and two other countries. It's the sixth
consecutive bottom-scraping rating and mirror opposite those for
pre-Chavez years. Since then, Venezuela prospered. Chavez is friendly
to business. Fraser turns a blind eye. It's part of a corporate-led
conspiracy to crush democracy and reempower capital. It raises
questions on whether GPI, RWB, TI, Fraser and others are part of a
larger scheme.

Iran is America's top target. Venezuela is next.
Both countries are nominated for regime change. Continued efforts work
toward it. It's no secret why. Each is oil rich, their leaders
independent, and they refuse to be US clients. For Washington, that's
sinful and unforgivable. The media are on board. They relentlessly bash
both countries and report fiction as fact. Destabilization efforts
continue. Anything may erupt anytime. GPI and the others may be
helping.

Their low Venezuelan rankings are suspect. Washington
may be behind them. Corporate backers as well. They get what they pay
for. In this case, vilifying Chavez. GPI's facts are bogus. So are
RWB's, TI's and Fraser's. It discredits their Venezuela v. America's
rankings. Their entire reports as well. View them with caution.
Understand what's likely going on. Part of a greater scheme to
destabilize Venezuela and end its model democracy. Exposing them is the
best way to prevent it.

Global Research Associate Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].

Also
visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global
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