Hear me out on the title. The day before yesterday ended the General Debate of the General Assembly this year. I wish I’d had more time to watch all of the speeches and critique them properly, but I can’t complain. At least I got to catch some. I know a few days ago, I half-jokingly lamented the lack of dictators this year to provide more…colorful moments. BUT WAIT.
Thankfully I had time to actually catch the Venezuela’s speech to the GA, always a crowd pleaser. Mr. Red Beret himself, President Hugo Chavez, was absent this year, due to his undergoing cancer treatment which, despite my opposition to almost all of his polices, I hope goes well. President Chavez’s illness didn’t mean that his speechwriters were unable find time to pen a marvel of a work for the Minister of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs Nicolás Maduro Moros. It was a doozy. Which leads me to make the analogy in the title, that Venezuela is basically the Lady Gaga of the United Nations. I’ll explain after a bit, but first I want to cover just some of the things that Mr. Moros went over in his speech.
Once I realized I needed to write about this, the first words I put to paper were “Oh man, this is ridiculous”. So that I hope sets the tone for the rest of this. In one of his more sensible phrases, Mr. Moros insisted that the capitalist forces of the West are “marching towards ecocide”. From there he suggested that the West still follows the ideology of the conquistadors, incredulous that despite the energy crisis, the financial crisis, and food crisis, that capitalism continues to reign.
Mr. Moros then, like a high school senior giving a valedictorian speech, pulled out a quote from US scientist Linus Pauling:
“I believe that there is a greater power in the world than the evil power of military force, or nuclear bombs–there is the power of good, of morality, or humanitarianism. I believe in the power of the human spirit.”
Nothing wrong with that quote, per se. It just seemed like an odd choice. Or maybe not, because he continued on, saying it is “imperative to unleash a great counter political offense to prevent global war”. Venezuela called for the establishment of a broad peace-based alliance against war, saying that warmongers and especially the military-financial leadership must be vanquished. In a particularly fun point, he managed to call NATO “the military arm of the American empire”.
And here’s where it gets fun, and proves that someone at the Venezuelan mission has not done their homework. The Foreign Minister railed against NATO ‘violating’ the no-fly zone imposed in SC/Res/1973:
“What has become of the no-fly zone of 1973? How could NATO undertake more than 20,000 missions if there was a no-fly zone? Is this not a complete denial?”
So. I actually have read SC/Res/1973. And it clearly says that the no-fly zone does not apply to those Member States that are acting to enforce the no-fly zone. This being a Chapter VII resolution and all, acting under Article 42, this effectively means that so long as countries give the Sec-Gen a heads-up, they can fly as many sorties as they want to enforce the no-fly over Libya. The resolution also authorizes Member States to “to take all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”. As anyone who actually pays attention to the UN knows, “all necessary measures” means military force. So while the argument could be made that NATO should technically be bombing the NTC forces attacking Sirte right now, Mr. Moros doesn’t quite manage to make a valid point.
Another buzz on the truth-meter is Mr. Moros’ claim that NATO introduced heavy weapons to Libya’s rebels. I have found absolutely no reporting of this anywhere except the hilariously anti-NATO Centre for Research on Globalization which I’m not even going to bother linking to. All of NATO’s actions, according to Venezuela, were “meant to prevent the Libyan government from protecting its sovereignty”. …Against its own people. I haven’t signed onto R2P in blood or anything, but I do believe that once you have to protect your sovereignty against your own citizens, something has gone horribly awry, especially when that protection involves lethal force and promise to hunt everyone down like rats.
The real crux of his argument about Libya is that the reason for the intervention was to recolonize Libya and take over its wealth. This stands out as insanely stupid on our part if that really was the plan. First of all, say we actually had invaded Iraq for its oil back in 2003. We have seen that it ends pretty poorly for everyone involved, so why would we attempt it a second time in Libya? Second, up until Gaddafi’s forces started marching their way east, Libya was back in the fold of the international community and especially well-loved by its neighbors to the south for its generosity. The West was getting Libyan oil just fine, until we sanctioned it. Logic doesn’t seem to apply during the speechwriting process in Caracas. All of this added up to the obvious conclusion that Syria is next on the West’s Regime Change Tour 2011. Luckily for Al-Bashar though, he has the full weight of Venezuela behind him.
The next part of his speech turn to Horn of Africa, which is, you know, a legitimate concern, being the most widespread famine in decades in the region. Unfortunately, this too turned into a case of West-bashing. Citing the ever reliable source Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) saying at the start of the Libyan intervention that the excursion would cost the US $500M in its first week Mr. Moros insisted that the amount spent in the first three weeks to massacre the Libyan people could have been used to prevent the deaths of dozens of hundreds of thousands in Horn of Africa. Again, I’m almost willing to give him a pass on what seems like a legitimate concern. He then called it part of a Malthusian policy to lower the world population as a conspiracy to raise revenue for capitalists. And we’re back on track with crazy.
The rest of his speech was devoted to railing against the United Nations system as a whole, including, but not limited to, the Secretary-General, the P-5 members of the Security Council, the Security Council itself, the Charter, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and I’m pretty sure he spoke out against the cafeteria at one point. Okay, not really on the last one, but I wouldn’t have been surprised by this point.
So after all of that, where does the Gaga analogy come in? Look at it this way. The UN General Assembly is a huge event, where the world comes together to talk about the issues it faces and celebrate its achievements and challenges ahead for the next year. And every year, there are certain countries that people look forward to hearing from, knowing that it may well top the spectacle of the previous year, and that’s really what they pay attention for. So too it is with the MTV Video Music Awards and basically every awards show in the industry. It certainly was not for the tension of the “Best New Artist” that 12.4 million people tuned into the VMAs this year. No, the VMAs have become a showcase for the outrageous, and nobody represents that better than Lady Gaga. She’s the main event and has been for the last few years. Everyone wonders just what she’ll do and say on stage at her next appearance. It’s a pretty easy line to draw between her and Venezuela at this point, especially now that Qaddafi is out of power.
So I’ll rank this year’s performance as a “Bubble Dress” on the Gaga Crazy scale, far below the Meat Dress, but still more out there than what many others are doing at the same time. This year was no “The Devil Has Been Here”, but really, what is? And they say showmanship is dead.