What are the historical precedents for this?
Operation Just Cause. In 1989, the United States invaded Panama and arrested its President Noriega on drug charges, as described in detail by Wikipedia. According to a video by Telesur, over 2,000 people were killed and 20,000 displaced in the extensive military operation. Apparently there was little resistance by the Panamanian military. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution stating that the U.S. invasion was a “flagrant violation of international law.”
Bay of Pigs. In 1961, over 1400 paramilitaries invaded Cuba at a point called the Bay of Pigs. The operation, covertly financed and directed by the U.S. government, was a failure. The invading force were defeated within three days by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces.
Wag the Dog In 1997, the film “Wag the Dog” portrays a “war” that is fabricated inside Hollywood sets to distract voters from a presidential sex scandal and covered by the mass media as if true. In the film the trick works and the President is re-elected as a result.
Which of these precedents most resembles the present situation?
For the moment, it would seem most similar to Wag the Dog. One month after Trump’s announcement, Venezuela captured a small gang of mercenaries led by an American that tried to invade Venezuela. It seems that the invasion attempt was not a very serious attempt in the sense that it had no chance to succeed. However, it captured the attention of the mass media as if Trump was actually attacking Venezuela. And certainly the political problems of President Donald Trump are as great or greater than those of Bill Clinton that inspired the 1997 film. Trump has even more reason to stage a fake war in order to divert attention from his failures.
If there is going to be an invasion of Venezuela like that of Operation Just Cause, we should expect the approach of the US Navy’s warships in the region, especially the Aircraft Carrier Strike Group Truman and the Amphibious Assault Ship Iwo Jima. As of this moment (end of May), according to the internet fleet tracker, they have not moved towards Venezuela, and in fact they are hampered by the potential for an epidemic of coronavirus in their crew, according to the head of the Southern Command.
But there is a long time between now and the elections scheduled for November. And the threats continue. In addition to the invasion by mercenaries mentioned above, consider the following. If you search the internet for “Vigo cocaine”, you will find many articles dating from the beginning of May about the interception of a boat off the coast of Vigo, Portugal, that was loaded with cocaine said by some sources to be coming from Venezuela. But look carefully at the sources. The articles saying that the cocaine came from Venezuela quote unnamed US sources, or, in some cases, they quote James Story, director of the Venezuela Affairs Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. This information (misinformation?) seems designed to support the Trump administration’s claim that Venezuela is heavily involved in the drug trade which is their excuse for threatening military action, despite the fact that independent studies contradict Trump’s claim.
Finally, if Trump does order an invasion of Venezuela, it may resemble the Bay of Pigs more than Operation Just Cause. The Venezuelan military, aided by Russian equipment and advisors, and backed, at least verbally, by China, is a force more similar to the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces in 1961 than the Panamanian forces in 1989.
The Bay of Pigs preceded by a year the Cuban Missile Crisis which threatened a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. As for an invasion of Venezuela at this time, could it not also threaten escalation into a nuclear war even more dangerous that a nuclear war would have been in 1962!
At CPNN, following the April 1 announcement by Trump we sent an email to our mailing list saying the following in part: “The threat of Trump to make war against Venezuela demands a special and unique response from all of us. . . . If you are in a country that is in NATO or the UN Security Council, I suggest you contact your government with a message similar to the following: Please use your influence in the [UN Security Council] [direction of NATO] to prevent Trump from starting a war with Venezuela which could lead to World War III because of the support to Venezuela from Russia and China. Trump is trying to divert attention from the medical and economic crisis but he is producing a crisis that is even more dangerous.”
We don’t yet know if this is a case of Wag the Dog, or an April Fool’s joke, but the danger still exists that this could be a repeat of Operation Just Cause or the Bay of Pigs, which demands that we do all we can to prevent it.
Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace. Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.