History was made at the U.S. State Department on Feb. 13. Asked about U.S. efforts to topple the Venezuelan government the day after Venezuela had thwarted the plot and revealed the evidence to the world, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki responded: “As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by nonconstitutional means. Political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful and legal.”
But it wasn’t Psaki who made history with that absurd remark. After all, if there’s anything “longstanding,” it’s the practice of U.S. officials standing before the world and telling bald-faced lies. Whether it’s Adlai Stevenson telling the United Nations that the planes which bombed Cuba the day before the Bay of Pigs invasion were not American planes, or Colin Powell making claims about Iraqi WMD [weapons of mass destruction] that he knew in advance were “bulls—,” or George Bush insisting that “the U.S. government does not torture people,” lies like the one Psaki told are all too common.
No, it was AP correspondent Matt Lee who made history, when, in a rare show of courage and honesty, he sputtered in reply, “How longstanding is that?”
Lee could have been a lot more specific in his reply, though. Because the policy Psaki announced wasn’t even in place as she spoke; at that very moment, the U.S. was busy training and arming rebels in Syria aiming to topple the Syrian government. Indeed, since December 2012, the U.S. government has recognized a group known as the Syrian National Coalition as the “sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” despite its having not the slightest legal or constitutional claim on such a status.
The Feb. 12 coup wasn’t even the first U.S.-supported coup in Venezuela; in 2002, one briefly toppled the previous President, Hugo Chávez. Not only was that coup supported by the U.S., but it was immediately hailed by The New York Times as a victory for “democracy”!
But we don’t have to go back to 2002 to jog Psaki’s memory, after all, she was only 24 and just barely out of college. How about last year, then, when the U.S. supported an armed coup (led by fascists, no less!) in Ukraine? Or perhaps Psaki can remember the events of 2011, when she was already working in the White House, when a U.S.-led bombing campaign was the decisive factor in overthrowing the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Not exactly a “peaceful” transition by anyone’s definition.
The list is almost endless. In 2009, it was Latin America again, where a coup ousted elected President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. Evidence of U.S. support for that coup isn’t strong, but the U.S. was quick (and nearly alone in the Western Hemisphere) to recognize the results of the fraudulent election that followed, thereby legitimizing the coup post-facto at the very least.
And then there were the ultimate “undemocratic, unconstitutional (theirs and ours), unpeaceful and illegal” political transitions which occurred in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, both as the result of massive assaults by the U.S. armed forces. Psaki may not have been part of those wars, but thousands of American men and women who were her age at the time died as a result, as did hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. Hundreds of thousands of Americans (and millions of Iraqis and Afghans) are still suffering the effects of those wars, both of which are still ongoing. Could Psaki possibly have forgotten those as well?
On the most recent episode of “Madam Secretary” (in which a fictional secretary of state manages to solve international crises every week, proving that it is indeed fiction), the secretary of state’s press spokesperson resigned rather than stand up in front of reporters and tell a bald-faced lie. It’s too bad Psaki doesn’t have the same scruples although, as in the TV show, no doubt some junior spokesperson would have been eager to take her place. U.S. imperialism depends on it, because without the constant stream of lies it would be impossible to maintain the support of the American people for its policy of endless war. As one of he greatest revolutionaries of the last 100 years, Fidel Castro, has said, “The truth must not only be the truth, it must be told.” It is up to us to do just that.