I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The reality of Latin American reaction to Bush

George Bush is here in Latin America this week, visiting Brazil and Argentina, and the standard reports of the American media are trying to depict a handful of isolated, juvenile socialist-organized "demonstrations" as some sort of sweeping, popular mass protest against Bush’s visit, thereby suggesting, yet again, that the Administration’s policies are flawed because people in other countries dislike Bush. As usual, the truth is vastly different than what the U.S. media is reporting (see UPDATE below) .

It is true that in this region (as is true for the U.S.), there remains a small, fervent band of left-wing fanatics with crazed enthusiasm for the worn-out, socialist/collectivist policies which have condemned millions upon millions of people throughout Latin America to poverty unimaginable to even the poorest Americans. These putative "mass demonstrations" in Argentina and Brazil are, in reality, nothing more than a few isolated spray-painting incidents of trite pacifist slogans in Brasilia, and a Cindy Sheehan-like "rally" of hard-core Socialists in Argentina led by an obese, Castro-idolozing, retired soccer player who found time away from his decade-old cocaine addiction to show up wearing an oh-so-clever t-shirt showing Bush's name spelled with a swastika.

Hardly the stuff of mass demonstrations and popular anti-Bush uprisings, New York Times reports and breathless television correspondents notwithstanding.

In some countries, most notably Venezuela, this vintage left-wing, anti-American fervor is not small, but is predominant, which is what has led that country to be under the repressive thumb of Fidel Castro-copy Hugo Chavez, whose primary interest in attending this Latin American regional summit seems to be to lure Bush and the U.S. into some sort of game of childish taunts rather than doing something constructive to aid his impoverished, unstable country.

Unsurprisingly, the attention-craving Chavez’s principal ally in these escapades seems to be the American reporters and correspondents reporting on Bush’s trip. They instinctively regurgitate stories of supposedly widespread anti-Bush sentiment based upon nothing but a handful of socialist stragglers defacing public property with anti-war cliches and jobless Latin American hippies gathering for some music, celebrity-gazing and chants. The American media is accustomed to misleadingly translating such isolated 1left-wing antics as some sort of symbol of widespread public opinion, and they have obviously packed their reportorial laziness in their suitcases with them as they travel with Bush to Latin America.

As is true in U.S., the Latin American socialist agitators who have captured the attention and affection of the American media are as substance-less as they are inconsequential. They are lovers of Fidel Castro. The insist that the source of their severe economic woes is not their collectivist policies or national character, of course, but the evil economic policies of the U.S. At the same time, of course, they are furious that the evil U.S. is not providing them with greater economic aid.

During Hurricane Katrina, newspapers in Brazil were filled with left-wing Op-Ed columnists and letters proclaiming, with a straight face, that Katrina happened because Bush did not sign the Kyoto Treaty and, as a result, Americans were getting what they deserved. That is the intellectual and moral level of this small crowd.

There is no denying the fact that much of the world is opposed to the war in Iraq, and Latin America is no exception. That is hardly a surprise. Whatever one thinks of the Iraq war, it is always the case that threats to the national security of one country are going to be taken far more seriously by the people of that country, and far less seriously by the people in other countries.

The September 11 attacks did not take place in Sao Paolo and Al Qaeda is not declaring war on Peruvians. It is therefore perfectly understandable, but equally irrelevant, that Latin Americans do not perceive the need to change the Middle East as being as critical and urgent as Americans perceive that need to be. It should be axiomatic that the risks posed to American national security will best be understood and appreciated by Americans, not by those in other countries.

And yet, the American media refuses to understand what American citizens understand quite well: particularly as to matters of American national security, the fact that people in other countries are opposed to what we are doing does not mean that what we are doing is misguided or wrong. That seems like a simple concept to grasp, and yet a central argument of the American media, vividly re-appearing with Bush’s Latin American trip, is that the "people in other countries dislike Bush, therefore he is a bad President."

The overwhelming majority of people here in Brazil, and throughout Latin America, are not spray-painting walls or leaving their jobs and children to attend anti-Bush rallies. Only a tiny number of Che Guevera worshippers are doing that. But none of that will stop the American media from depicting reality here much differently, because large-scale anti-Bush rallies are exciting, fun and consistent with their ideology.

UPDATE Buried in this morning's New York Times account of the "demonstration" -- submerged underneath the initial, typical paragraphs depicting this depraved demonstration as proof that "Bush's troubles trailed him to an international summit meeting here" -- is this passage, which really tells you all you need to know about the protesters and the sentiments motivating them:

As Mr. Chávez spoke, he was interrupted by chants from the crowd mocking Mr. Bush. Every mention of Fidel Castro, in contrast, was cheered, as were frequent references by Mr. Chávez to his desire to unite all of Latin America in a new wave of socialism.
. . . .
The thousands of protesters carried banners calling Mr. Bush a "fascist," "child-killer" or "genocidal beast," some with the "s" in his named replaced by a dollar sign or a swastika.

Fidel Castro has been one of the world's most repressive, spirt-slaughtering dictators for the last 40 years. Is it really a sign of "trouble" for Bush if a crowd which worships Castro protests against him? Only in the eyes of lazy, mindless reporters would this affirmatively pro-Castro crowd and its behavior be seen as something meaningful, credible and noble.

UPDATE II: Photographs of the demonstration speak volumes about what really went on there and about the truly odious nature and authoritarian viewpoints of the "protesters."

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