Monday, March 8, 2010

Keeping Hope Alive--first published in Islam Times

By: Cindy Sheehan

Recently, I was given the honor of going to Venezuela to interview its President, Hugo Chavez, and I also had some extraordinary experiences and interviews along the way.

I was able to travel to Uruguay with Chavez and his team to attend the inauguration activities of President Jose Mujica. I traveled with and got to know some amazing revolutionaries and dedicated public servants.

Trust me, these people work hard and they are extremely dedicated to the revolution and devoted to President Hugo Chavez. We were constantly on the move and things changed by the minute. Spending two days traveling with this crew was exhilarating but also extremely fatiguing—I can’t even imagine doing it everyday!

Anyway, one of the people we traveled with was Temir Porras, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of Asia and the Middle East. I asked Temir if he would sit down with us for an interview. When I made the request I said, “Temir, I would love to interview you to ask you what you would do differently in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Palestine if you were president of the United States.” He agreed to the interview but said the answer to that question was easy, “Everything!”

Temir speaks perfect English, so no interpreter was required and we sat down with him for about 40 minutes in my hotel room in Caracas.

The entire, wonderful interview will be broadcast on my radio show: Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox soon, but I wanted to write about the highlights.

I asked him some easy questions to begin the interview to highlight the difference between an aggressive and violent foreign policy, like the US has, and the foreign policies of a so-called Dictatorship.

ME: Temir, how many illegal foreign wars of aggression is Venezuela currently involved in?

TEMIR: None.

ME: Thank you. Temir, how many countries has Venezuela invaded lately?

Temir: None.

ME: Temir, how many wars of any kind is Venezuela involved in?

Temir: Zero.

In stark contrast to the Empire where I was born and currently reside—the US is presently in the midst of two very illegal and immoral invasions and is regularly bombing in Pakistan and Yemen—Venezuela has a foreign policy based on “respect for sovereignty.” The only time the US Empire respects a nation’s sovereignty is if that nation carries water for the corporations, IMF or World Bank.

Not only is the US involved in its own military misadventures, but it is also the foundation and support for Israeli aggression and occupation against Palestine. Again, Venezuelan policy on this issue is, in my opinion, the more principled one.

In 2006 when Israeli invaded Lebanon, (with military hardware purchased by and through the US), Venezuela recalled its Ambassador in Tel Aviv. Then when Israel slaughtered Gazans at the end of 2008, Venezuela expelled Israel’s Ambassador and totally closed its embassy in Tel Aviv. There was not even a peep from official US channels against this aggression—as a matter of fact, we have officially supported the atrocities with giving trite li-service to “human rights.”

Vice Minister Porras was very generous with his time and very articulate in explaining Venezuelan foreign policy to us, but I was particularly interested in its Middle Eastern views.

The policies of Venezuela and my own are very similar—Nations should completely honor and respect the sovereignty of other nations.

Troops and independent contractors should be immediately and totally withdrawn from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Palestinians deserve their own sovereign state within Palestine.

Temir was also very concerned with US aggression towards Iran and did not support sanctioning Iran saying that it is up to the government of Iran whether it should have nuclear power and even a nuclear bomb. No one likes nukes, but Iran’s close regional neighbor is Israel, and everyone knows that Israel has many nuclear bombs—the only way to forestall that problem would be if every nation disarmed and conformed to IAEA regulations, inspections and controls.

Towards the end of the interview, I asked Temir if he felt that the US occupations all over the world, but especially in Afghanistan, would cause the collapse of the US Military Empire as it did the Soviet Union’s—his answer was immediate and brief:

“I hope so.”

I hope so, too—the only unfortunate thing is that when the Empire collapses it will cause turmoil and sorrow all over the world.

Temir had (in my opinion) unfounded optimism in the people of the United States that we will be able to turn this trend around before the collapse of the Empire takes the rest of the world down with it.

In solidarity with our children and the children of the world—I HOPE that Temir is correct.

© Islam Times

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