Venezuela's president continued his criticism of President Bush after the pro-Chávez legislature declared that the 9/11 attacks were `self-inflicted.'
PHIL GUNSONThe Miami HeraldSaturday, November 11, 2006
CARACAS - When Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chávez called President Bush ''the devil'' in a U.N. speech in September, many thought his ''anti-imperialist'' rhetoric had reached rock bottom.
But fresh depths have since been plumbed. The Venezuelan government, to judge from recent events, officially regards Bush as a genocidal Nazi who arranged the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to justify aggression against other nations.
In a speech Tuesday, Chávez criticized the decision of an Iraqi court to sentence former dictator Saddam Hussein to the death penalty. ''If sentencing is to be done,'' Chávez said, ``the first one to be given the most severe sentence this planet has to offer should be the president of the United States, if we're talking about genocidal presidents.''
RESOLUTION ON 9/11
His comments, which were fairly typical of his recent attacks on Bush, came shortly after the publication of a resolution by Venezuela's legislative National Assembly describing the 9/11 attacks as ''self-inflicted'' and after an exhibition at the Foreign Ministry building in Caracas in which Bush was portrayed as a Nazi storm trooper.
The resolution, which appeared in the official government gazette in mid-October, primarily criticized Washington's decision to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out.
But in its fourth paragraph, it calls on the U.S. Congress to ``demand that the government of President Bush explain the self-inflicted attack on the World Trade Center and its victims, the supposed aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon and the links between the bin Laden family and the Bush family.''
The resolution, drafted by the deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs Commission, Carlos Escarrá, was passed unanimously by the 167-member assembly, all of them Chávez supporters after an opposition boycott of elections last December.
Both Chávez and Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro have referred several times in the past to suspicions that the 9/11 attacks were planned by the Bush administration, and have called for an inquiry.
But this appears to be the first time that the term ''self-inflicted attack'' has been used without qualification.
Asked how the legislature had reached that conclusion, Escarrá said that ''evidence and testimonies'' had emerged in the United States and that ''for the rest of the world, there is no longer any question'' that 9/11 was not an al Qaeda attack.
About the time the lawmakers were approving the resolution, an exhibition called ''Truths About the Empire'' was on display in the foyer of the Foreign Ministry. It included a photo montage showing Bush dressed in the uniform of the German SS.
The exhibition was removed after a reporter for a U.S. newspaper asked to photograph it. A U.S. diplomat, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record about the issue, said the display was ``an insult to the 400,000 Americans who died in World War II fighting the Nazis.''
Escarrá said the comparison might indeed be considered unfair -- but to Hitler, not to Bush. ''Hitler was a babe in arms compared to Bush,'' he asserted. He added that just like Hitler, Bush had ``an extermination plan.''
U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield told a Venezuelan radio station last week that differences between the two governments were ''large, broad and deep'' and were unlikely to disappear.
It is a view shared by Escarrá, who told The Miami Herald that Bush ''defends the most outdated, the most radical form of capitalism'' and added that it was evident to the whole world that the U.S. ``empire is in decline.''
Chávez insists that it is Bush, rather than the main opposition contender, Manuel Rosales, who is his true adversary in the Dec. 3 presidential election. The opposition, he argues, is merely puppets of the United States.
He has also often claimed that Washington has plans to invade Venezuela, assassinate him and install a government more in accordance with U.S. interests. Washington has dismissed his allegations as fabrications.