What are you supposed to do when the world's most over-armed, belligerent
and dangerous nation, which outspends all the rest of the world combined on
arms, and which is the major arms supplier to the rest of the world, tells a
little country like Venezuela that it is guilty of spending "too much"
on its military?
The initial response is laughter. What a joke, right? Venezuela, awash in oil
revenue and feeling a little threatened by threats from the United States to
assassinate its leader and by U.S. funding for groups that are trying to foment
a coup, wants to spend a few hundred million bucks on planes from Spain and
Brazil to modernize its airforce, and the U.S. State Department gets all worked
The transactions are something "we would consider an outsized military
buildup," says State Department flak Sean McCormack.
"Outsized military buildup?"
What does McCormack call the $441 billion US military budget for 2006 (up four
percent from last year)? Note that Venezuela has a population of 25 million,
about 1/12 of the size of the U.S., yet its military budget, which actually
declined in recent years while U.S. military under Bush soared to Cold War levels
in real dollar terms, is just over $1 billion--less than 0.25% of the American
So which country, the U.S. or Venezuela, is guilty of an "outsized military
Of course, none of this is pointed out in the US media stories reporting U.S.
efforts to block Venezuela from buying the planes from Spain and Brazil. The
accusation that Venezuela is "spending too much" on military equipment,
and that the country's military spending could "contribute to destablization"
in Latin America are simply quoted and allowed to stand.
For the U.S. to complain about countries "destabilizing" Latin America
is of course an even bigger joke than the State Department complaining about
Venezuela's outsized military spending. After all, how many Latin American countries
has Venezuela overthrown the governments of lately? None. How about the U.S.?
Well, let's see, in recent memory, there's Grenada, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua
and...oh yes, the U.S. hand was behind the coup that briefly toppled Venezuela's
elected president Hugo Chavez from power--a coup the Bush administration initially
endorsed publicly, until public mass demonstrations in the country brought Chavez
back from arrest and into the Presidential palace again.
So let's have a good laugh at this latest complaint from the State Department.
How do these guys say things like this with a straight face?
And yet, it's pretty tragic too, when you start thinking about it.
It's certainly true that Venezuela could put that $200 million it wants to
spend on fighter jets to better use helping to build houses and schools.
It's even truer that the U.S. could help alleviate the suffering of the 30-40
million Americans living in poverty and attending schools with 40+ kids in a
class, if it weren't wasting $442 billion on arms.
Maybe President Chavez should say something about that.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing
Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His
new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This
Can't be Happening!" is published by Common Courage
Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org