Ever since the advent of the Cold War, U.S. officials have told us that it was necessary for the United States to adopt the totalitarian structure known as the national-security state in order to combat communist totalitarianism.
We are now witnessing a similar spectacle with respect to President Obama’s exercise of dictatorial powers to deal with the socialist regime of President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela. Obama’s justification for his embrace of dictatorial powers would undoubtedly be the same as that of the old Cold Warriors — that in order to combat the dictatorial powers of Maduro, it has become necessary for Obama himself to assume and exercise dictatorial powers here in the United States.
Yesterday, President Obama issued an executive order declaring the Venezuelan government “an extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States.” According to the New York Times, as part of his executive order Obama froze the American assets of various Venezuelan law enforcement and military officials.
Imagine that — an “extraordinary threat to U.S. national security.”
What is the exact nature of this “extraordinary threat to national security”? According to the New York Times, the Obama administration said in a statement, “We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents.”
Pray tell: How in the world does the Venezuelan government’s intimidation of political opponents constitute a grave threat to the “national security” of the United States? That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Is Obama saying that Maduro might begin intimidating the U.S. Congress or the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Or is he saying that Maduro’s socialist philosophy might spread to the United States and result in an even bigger expansion of Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and other socialist programs here at home? Or is he saying that Maduro might start mobilizing his army to begin sweeping up Central America and up through Mexico with the aim of invading and conquering the United States and taking over the public schools, the IRS, Social Security, the Interstate Highway System, and other socialist institutions here in the United States?
I suppose that in the long history of the U.S. national-security state since 1947 there have been more ridiculous notions regarding so-called threats to “national security,” but certainly this newest one has got to rank in top 5 of the most ridiculous.
Obama justified his arbitrary seizure of assets belonging to Venezuelan officials by claiming that such officials have “links” to human rights violations in Venezuela.
Really? How does Obama know that the people whose property he has seized are guilty? Did he file a legal action, either civil or criminal, against those officials before he seized their property? Did he produce competent evidence in a court of law establishing that they were guilty of violating the law? Did he secure a court order authorizing the asset seizure? Did he provide argumentation to a U.S. judge as to why the U.S. Empire has jurisdiction to enforce the laws of Venezuela? Did he provide notice and hearing and other aspects of due process of law to the people whose property he seized, enabling them to defend against his actions in a court of law? Indeed, did Obama even go to Congress to seek authorization for his extraordinary action?
The answer is: Obama did none of those things. Instead, in the battle against his personal nemesis, Nicolas Maduro, he has adopted and exercised the same type of dictatorial powers embraced and exercised by Maduro and, for that matter, other Latin American dictators. No legislative authorization. No judicial approval. No due process of law. Just raw dictatorial power manifested by a decree that is no difference from decrees issued by totalitarian dictatorships. (The dictator Pinochet called his decrees “decree laws” while Obama calls his decrees “executive orders.”)
Responding to Obama’s dictatorial action, Diosdado Cabello, the Venezuela National Assembly speaker, said, “We are a threat to the United States? What is being planned are attacks against our land, against our country, military attacks.”
Cabello might have a point. After all, the U.S. national-security state has a long history of targeting socialist regimes in Latin America whose rulers refuse to kowtow to the U.S. Empire with regime change, including ones where the country’s president has been democratically elected. Guatemala, Grenada, Panama, Chile, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Brazil come to mind.
Is this what we want for America? Dictatorship in the name of combatting dictatorship? It’s bad enough that Venezuelans have to experience this type of thing. Why make it worse by having Americans experience the same thing? Obama’s dictatorial actions are just one more perverse outcome of having grafted a national-security state apparatus onto our federal structure and of having adopted a way of life based on the ludicrous and meaningless notion of “national security.”
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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