Venezuela and the Middle East after Chavez

The foreign policy of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez imagined that socialism and anti-imperialism are the same thing, and that he could lead a new sort of socialist international. (He also seems not to have distinguished between anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism.) These considerations shaped his Middle East policy in ways that were contradictory and hypocritical. Chavez, supposedly a man of the people, stood against Iran’s 2009 Green Movement, against the Libyan Revolution to overthrow the erratic Muammar Qaddafi, against the Syrian Revolution.

Iran, while it is a profound critic of the United States, is not a socialist country. Its gini coefficient or measurement of social inequality now is probably worse than in the days of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the monarch overthrown in 1979. As with all oil states, its public sector is large, but it also has a lively private sector, which is dominated by wealthy oligarchs, including some of the ayatollahs and institutions like the Revolutionary Guards. Iran is a right wing theocracy, not a left wing socialist state. If Chavez could embrace a repressive theocracy run for the benefit of wealthy oligarchs, merely because it is anti-American, then of what logical acrobatics was he incapable?

Likewise, Chavez’s support for the Ghaddafis in Libya was based on an extremely superficial reading of Libyan political, economic and social system. The Ghaddafi family looted the country of its wealth, wasting it on ruinous African adventures or squirreling it away in Western banks and real estate. Libya was not a socialist country but a post-Soviet, Russian-style oligarchy. Ordinary Libyans, especially in the east of the country, were increasingly cut out of any share in the country’s oil bonanza. I was shocked last year on my visit there how dowdy and relatively undeveloped Benghazi is; Ghaddafi had clearly punished the country’s second largest city by declining to spend much money on it. Nor was Ghaddafi of 2010 even particularly anti-imperialist. He had welcomed European investment in his oil and gas industries and had much improved relations with the Bush administration. Far from being anti-American, Ghaddafi had a thing for Condi Rice and called Barack Obama his African son. Chavez’s own ally, Iran, largely supported the struggle of the Libyan people against what one ayatollah called “this shell-shocked individual,” though of course Iran condemned the NATO air intervention.

Syria is also no longer a socialist country. The relatives and hangers-on of the ruling al-Assad family transformed themselves into billionaires, using their government contacts to gain lucrative contracts and establishing monopolies. Working Syrians were facing declining real wages in the past decade and very high youth unemployment. Poverty was increasing. Nor was Syria particularly anti-imperialist. In the 1970s and 1980s in Lebanon, Baathist Syria had gladly helped defeat the Palestine Liberation Organization and its Druze and Muslim allies on behalf of the pro-American, right wing Phalangist Party supported by some Christians. After 9/11, the Syrian government tortured al-Qaeda suspects for the Bush administration. It was the US congress that cut Syria off in 2003, not the other way around. And when Obama reopened the US embassy and sought better ties in 2009, al-Assad was perfectly happy to accept.

Whatever one thought of Chavez, he did genuinely improve the lot of the Venezuelan working classes. He won elections and was genuinely popular for this reason. He appears not to have been able to imagine that Khamenei, Ghaddafi and al-Assad are rather less interested in an ideal like the public welfare.

Unable to perform a basic political-economy analysis that would demonstrate that Iran, Libya and Syria had abandoned whatever socialist commitments they once had (Iran of the ayatollahs had never been progressive), Chavez in his own mind appears to have thought that they were analogous to the Bolivia of Eva Morales or the Ecuador of Rafael Correa. Emphatically not so.

He also imagined these countries as anti-American (only Iran really is), and appears to have believed that such a stance covers a multitude of sins on the part of their elites– looting the country, feathering their own nests, and authoritarian dictatorship and police states that deploy arbitrary arrest and torture. In the case of Libya and Syria, the regimes showed a willingness to massacre thousands of their own citizens with bombings from the air and heavy artillery and tank barrages fired into civilian neighborhoods. US imperialism has been guilty of great crimes in Central America and often backed right wing dictators in Latin America generally. You understand how it made a bad impression on Chavez. But the US supported Algeria and many other decolonizing countries in the 1960s and “imperialism” is a thin reed as an all-encompassing analytical tool. There is a sense in which capitalist Russia is seeking a superpower supremacy in parts of the Middle East. Chavez was happy to align with that development.

Venezuela’s stances on the Middle East under Chavez were not usually important in any practical sense. Despite a lot of verbiage, its economic cooperation with Iran has been minor for both countries, and Chavez did no more than make angry speeches about Libya and Syria. Good Iranian-Venezuelan relations provoked a great deal of hysteria in the US, but they don’t actually appear to have been consequential, either in the sphere of economics or in that of security. Despite dark predictions by US hawks, it is probably not very important whether Venezuela keeps its current foreign policy or alters it.

But Chavez did sully his legacy as a progressive with his superficial reading of what ‘anti-imperialism’ entails and his inability to see the neo-liberal police states of the Middle East for what they had become.

59 Responses

  1. I agree Chavez was capable of an apostate and complex if not confusing diplomatic contortionism, and that this was the case because of his seeing the United States as the current linchpin/mainstay of a gargantuan international imperialism and hegemony, but the United States IS the linchpin/mainstay of a gargantuan international imperialism. It seems Chavez is guilty of oppositional behavior writ large, and he supported some bad causes, but I seem to remember you mentioning re Iran’s elections and its Green movement that perhaps the Iranian reform movement, though authentic and huge, still didn’t outnumber or outweigh the majority of Iranians, especially those from places of less population; so in this case Chavez could at least be seen as supporting democracy (despite its repressive excess – hey, the U.S. itself has issues here too). That doesn’t excuse supporting tyrants like Gaddafi and Assad, which support betrays his monomania, but I think he felt and understood that without a common front against the primary hegemonist, that all would fall before its continuing aggressive strategies and the full strength of its powerful interests and alliances. Still, maybe an occasional studied neutrality and quiet support (such as arming the “right” people; heh) would have been more beneficial to Chavez’s own cause than his very public displays of support. However, what IS the template for opposing an uber-hegemony of planet-dominating oligarchs? How does one deal with the Death Star? Is time and attrition the only proper response? Hmm, I guess these thoughts make me a bit of an old malcontent lefty, but I can live with that.

  2. “Whatever one thought of Chavez, he did genuinely improve the lot of the Venezuelan working classes. He won elections and was genuinely popular for this reason. He appears not to have been able to imagine that Khamenei, Ghaddafi and al-Assad are rather less interested in an ideal like the public welfare.”

    Huge!

    Otherwise he sounds as if he played the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” card. Or at least thought that was what he was doing

  3. Chavez, to me, was an enigma. Somewhat of a socialist, he nevertheless survived by wooing the business class or at least keeping them satisfied. Venezuelan expert Javier Corrales probably sums it up best: Chávez has skillfully relied on a mix of both strategies to win the love of his people — strident anti-americanism and largess for the poor on the one hand, and kickbacks to big business and billions of dollars in oil sales to the United States on the other.

      • I don’t think there is a nation in the world you could truly ally with if you were following an “ethical foreign policy”

        though his support for gadaffi was sickening…

      • Cheney didn’t say America was weak and surrounded. He said that it was a superpower, that it was special, that it should not have to ask when it was born to demand.

        In fact, Kissinger had to be careful to which audience he’d admit America needed allies, when he was playing the China card against the Soviets. Privately, he and Nixon were declinists, believing that relative US power would inevitably decline and that the US would have to submit to playing diplomatic power games, but that has never been acceptable to the GOP.

        • Cheney didn’t say America was weak and surrounded. He said that it was a superpower, that it was special, that it should not have to ask when it was born to demand.

          I’m talking about the Cold War. Dick Cheney had a career in politics before 1991. He was a Nixon administration staffer and a Congressman from Wyoming. During that period, Cold Warriors like Cheney certainly did cite the threat to the United States from an expansionist global superpower as justifying some shady alliances.

  4. Professor Cole: Chavez´s operating context was broader than what you suggest – and the context you seem to operate, (or publish) which includes, among other things, the way you use “9/11”.

  5. Like many populist “revolutionary” leaders, Hugo Chavez was a mass of contradictions brought on, in part, by a lack of extensive education, in part by his own zeal and, partly, by a lack of critical thinking about the cause he espoused.

    That said, on occasion he was quite clever in poking a stick in the American eye occasionally. As one example, back in the early ‘Oughts the northeast US was having a terribly cold winter and many people in New England found themselves struggling to pay for heating oil. Through Citgo, which is owned by the Venezuelan government, Mr. Chavez offered the United States free heating oil for distribution to poor people who were cold. The Bush Administration turned down the offer cold, so to speak.

    So Mr. Chavez repeated the offer to governors in the affected states, and several of them accepted. A large number of Americans were kept warm that winter thanks to Venezuela and despite George W. Bush.

    • “….Hugo Chavez was a mass of contradictions brought on…by a lack of extensive education.”

      Chavez finished near the top of his military academy class.

      If anything could be positively said about his tenure of office, it would have to be his commitment to the poor. The heating oil example is one of many where he espoused genuine concern for those in need.

    • I think your description of the sort of leader Chavez was is very discerning. They are the best their beleagured populations can do against wealthy oligarchies, but they’re a terribly weak reed for US radicals to hang their hopes of world revolution on. But when those impoverished populations take matters into their own hands, like the mass Indian movements of modern Latin America, that’s when progressives need to start taking notes.

    • Wow, isn’t it amazing that the Islamic Republic isn’t ranked even in the Top 100 among countries in either life expectancy or infant mortality despite having the world’s 2nd largest natural gas reserves and 4th largest oil reserves and despite making as much in oil revenues in the past 8 years than Iran had in the preceding almost 100 years. How impressive is it to not even make the Top 100 among states in those measures!

    • According to the latest Human Development Index @
      link to hdrstats.undp.org
      Iran is ranked 89, w/ Brazil & Turkey at 85 & 92, respectively. Iran is lower than almost all other Persian Gulf countries. E.g., Bahrain is at 42, Saudi Arabia at 56, Kuwait at 63 & UAE at 30. For comparison, Mexico is at 57.

  6. I usually agree Juan, but this time I think he missed the point. Not because I agree with Chavez’s erratic foreign policy, but because I think he misses the point of it. During the cold war, the US loudly supported any leader who was anti communist from the Shah in Iran to Mubarak in Egypt the military right wing in Guatemala and other Latin American countries. The US supported dictators who were truly evil, looted their countries and slaughtered their people and acted contrary to all American values because we (or at least our government) thought that opposing communism was the overriding issue and the primary test of US support (why do we now support the despot in Bahrain?). Chavez was a lousy manager and caused economic chaos in Venezuela (with , I am sure ,the help of lots of covert US activity) and his foreign policy, even by his own standards, was erratic, but he was following the same path since he believed that stopping US imperialism was the most important world goal.

    • “…he believed that stopping US imperialism was the most important world goal.” Jack: you almost hit the nail on the head.

    • he believed that stopping US imperialism was the most important world goal

      Alan Dulles and Henry Kissinger believed that stopping Soviet imperialism was the most important world goal.

      You can’t advance or defend humane and liberationist principles by abandoning them.

      • “Alan Dulles and Henry Kissinger believed that stopping Soviet imperialism was the most important world goal.”

        That’s was their rhetoric, however in reality they were just competing for resources.

        • >That’s was their rhetoric, however in reality they were just competing for resources.

          And in turn we could just claim that “stopping us imperialism” was just rhetoric.

        • “That’s was their rhetoric, however in reality they were just competing for resources.”

          No, the US was not just competing for resources. The Cold War was genuinely about ideological differences. And stopping Soviet imperialism was a laudable goal. It was a question of stopping the Soviets from assisting (imposing, in some cases) a communist system that demanded obedience to the state and absolute conformity from its subjects. There have been many books and articles on this subject, but I recommend a recently published one by Anne Applebaum entitled “Iron Curtain.” It goes into great detail how the Soviets achieved their goals, starting, naturally, with a country’s security organs and secret police. That continued throughout the Cold War in the Third World.

        • That’s was their rhetoric, however in reality they were just competing for resources.

          I think you vastly underestimate the degree to which both ideology and military/security concerns drive foreign policy thinking. It’s really not all about resources.

      • Everything, every action, is a compromise, JfrLowell. You still can’t compare the evil Hegemon Death Star to one lone semi-revolutionary figure without losing all credibility and context in the process, and ideals are not how ANY government runs in this world; though I wish it they were the basis too.

        • Bill,

          Are you seriously suggesting that Kissenger & Dulles were
          actually fighting tyranny by assistaing in the murder of 2,000,000 vietnamese or overthrowing democracies in indonesia, chile, brazil, turkey, greece just to name a few?
          The America were (and are) trying to dominate the world in order to enable the exploitation of its peoples and resources for the benefit of their ruling classes. American leaders will say anything to justify their actions.
          The soviets weren’t any better but they never had the muscle.

          If you want to read about this start with chomski…

        • Everything, every action, is a compromise, JfrLowell.

          It’s amazing how the most doctrinaire, purist “idealists” are willing to toss everything they’ve ever claimed to believe in aside when it’s “their guy” doing it.

          Also, I love the way “everything is a compromise” doesn’t apply to the U.S. We’re just the Death Star, the inexplicable, Iago-like evildoer.

  7. Chavez was looting the oil wealth of Venezuela and basically giving it to Cuba. The right wing there must really be horrible for people to see Chavez as a better alternative.

    • Chavez was looting the oil wealth of Venezuela and giving it to poor people in his country & many others : )

  8. To address the topic of this post, “Venezuela and the Middle East After Chavez,” what happens in Venezuela will depend on what the army eventually does. Chavez was a typical throwback to Latin American Leftists of yesteryear, who wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they did not have the United States to use as an excuse to explain their own political and economic immaturity (a result of their blinkered ideological stance). Chavez no doubt would have agreed with the over-the-top description, posted above, of the United States as the “linchpin/mainstay of a gargantuan international imperialism and hegemony.” Such bloated hyperbole suggests a sophomore first discovering Antonio Gramsci while reading in his dorm room.

    Chavez nationalized banks and other industries and scared away foreign investment. His policies have led to high inflation, many wealthy Venezolanos transferring their wealth out of Venezuela into banks in Miami, and shortages of everything from food to durable goods. If Venezuela did not have oil, Chavez would have run the country into the ground long ago. Nikolas Maduro Chavez’s hand-picked successor (who will no doubt win the upcoming election, which will be rigged in his favor), will be worse than Chavez, as he is nothing but a “yes man” who lacks the charisma that Chavez possessed. Nevertheless, in the long run everything will depend on what the army does.

    Chavez’s death will have no impact whatsoever on the Middle East, just as his fawning embrace of Ghaddafi, Assad, and Akhmadinejad had no impact when he lived (although I’m sure he flattered himself by thinking it did).

    • I can’t help but think, when reading US-based criticism at Chavez’s “polarizing” politics and supposedly “allowing” the rise of drug related violence: What about the civil war years in Central America, when Reagan funded the communist witch-hunt? Wasn’t that the epidemy of polarization (and a very lethal one, since it was actually a war)? And regarding drug violence, what about Mexico and Colombia – two staunch US allies which are the thoroughly documented originators of the cartels and drugs that plague the US? I also find it very telling how most political economy text-books single out various forms of “instability” as enemy # 1 of FDI (foreign direct investment), yet Mexico is a case study of how that convention is pure bunk: Corruption in Mexico is legendary, as anyone who has done business there will tell you. Similarly, the drug war in Mexico is the very definition of instability. So do we see capital flight from Mexico? Au contraire! We see capital flocking to Mexico in huge quantities; especially US capital. The “conventional wisdom” on this is therefore mere illusion.

      • “So do we see capital flight from Mexico? Au contraire! We see capital flocking to Mexico in huge quantities; especially US capital.”

        Thank you for making my point. The difference between Mexico and Venezuela is Mexico has not expropriated foreign businesses and it welcomes foreign direct investment. Venezuela, on the 0ther hand, has expropriated businesses and its rules do not favor foreign direct investment. Thus, foreign direct investment flows to Mexico, but it does not go to Venezuela.

        • You willfully ignore the fact that the act of expropriating capital is not the only contributor to “instability”; the latter encompasses much more. Mexico is corrupt and is wracked by a virulent drug mafia. If that doesn’t make for an unstable society, then I don’t know what does. What your point really implies is that capital cares only for its self preservation and perpetuation. It is oblivious to the stability and well-being of he surrounding society which is living (in Mexico’s case) a veritable hell. What does the destruction of Mexico’s agricultural patrimony mean for stability?

  9. Hugo Chavez was certainly passionate about social justice, but I don’t think he choose the best road to achieve his goal. On the long run, socialism has always been detrimental to the people it was supposed to help. Besides that, I dont understand why Chavez hated the US so much. By the way, I noticed that countries whose leaders hate the US are usually countries where atrocities are commited on a regular basis…

    • “…socialism has always been detrimental to the people it was supposed to help.”

      Categorical statements tend to be nonsense and this is no exception. Check the history of, for example, Britain during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and you’ll find those with socialist leanings did a lot of good for the working people. Continued study will help you find the faults you would like to know about, but “always” just doesn’t cut it.

      “Besides that, I dont (sic) understand why Chavez hated the US so much.”

      Hugo Chavez, when he first met President Obama, gave the president a copy of “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent” by Eduardo Galleano. I doubt that our president read it, but I would recommend it to anyone perplexed over hostility from Latin America towards the United States.

      What I can’t understand is why Latin America didn’t breed al-Qaida-type terrorists to wage attacks on American soil. Perhaps, it is because of cultural and religious differences in Latin American and Muslim religions – at least of the fundamentalist sects.

  10. It is a pity Juan criticises much more than praises Chavez. What he did for the majority of his people (see angry arab blog for some hilarious examples of NYT etc faint praise)was hugely benefivial and effective, and the USA fought against him all the way. Juan, your support for the “rebels” in Libya, Syria, Iran is NOT universally agreed with by your readers. Many are completely against “humanitarian intervention” in the affairs of other nations. Jack’s point (above) is valid; the USA supports, in so many cases, the most retrograde and dictatorial régimes, yet you castigate Chavez for his choices.

    • Chavez diverted oil wealth to social welfare spending, which is good; but his policies discouraged investment and economic growth, which is bad (and bad for the poor and workers). Also, security plummeted– it is dangerous just to walk in the streets. Mixed picture. Brazil doing a better job.

  11. Chavez was no saint or superman, but he made life a little better for many in the lower economic strata of his country, an example our president would do well to follow. It is, however, absurd to expect Chavez to have fought according to the Marquis of Queensberry rules when his opposition was apparently prepared to do worse than hit him below the belt with brass knuckles.

    Kathleen beat me to it, so I’ll second her point about the enemy of my enemy, etc.

    • It is, however, absurd to expect Chavez to have fought according to the Marquis of Queensberry rules when his opposition was apparently prepared to do worse than hit him below the belt with brass knuckles.

      the enemy of my enemy

      These are the two classic excuses of dictators and human-rights violators across the world. They define the foreign policy worldview of the Nixon/Dulles/Kissinger set, and such reasoning should be roundly denounced by anyone who purports to care about humanitarian values, political liberalism, or human rights. Even when it’s “your guy.”

      • Chavez may not have been a saint but he certainly wasn’t a dictator or even a human-rights violator. He did not have secret prisons where prisoners were tortured and the majority of the voting population voted him in office.

  12. Dr. Cole really reaches with the line: ” There is a sense in which capitalist Russia is seeking a superpower supremacy in parts of the Middle East.”

    What sense is that?

    Or is this an unfounded sentence simply trying to tap into the ever enduring anti-Russian sentiment to warrant on-going US crimes in the Middle East?

  13. Geoff Thale of the Washington Office on Latin America described Chavez’s support of Libya et al. as “rhetorical”. This was on WAMU’s Diane Rehm Show this morning and was meant to parry Tom Gjelten’s citation of Chavez’s support as evidence that Chavez had no real interest in human rights.

    One thing that surprised me which came up in that conversation and again later in the day during a radio interview with The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson is that Chavez very much considered himself a Christian. No value judgment on that. I just didn’t expect it.

  14. ” These considerations shaped his Middle East policy in ways that were contradictory and hypocritical.”

    And, what are we to say of US and UK Middle East policies? Models of rectitude?

  15. Stalin was willing to work with the murdering bastard Churchill to defeat Hitler.
    Can all problems can be solved simultaneously? The worst problems have to be fixed first

    • Yes, and Churchill chose to work with Tito rather than Mihailovic, because even though Mihailovic was more concerned about saving Yugoslav lives, Tito was killing more Nazis. There can be a ‘realpolitik’ motivated by humanitarian concerns.

  16. I fail to see how any American can criticize anything about Hugo Chavez after the revelations just made by the Guardian (UK) and BBC Arabic about American involvement in torture in Iraq.

    “From El Salvador to Iraq: Washington’s man behind brutal police squads: In 2004, with the war in Iraq going from bad to worse, the US drafted in a veteran of Central America’s dirty wars to help set up a new force to fight the insurgency. The result: secret detention centres, torture and a spiral into sectarian carnage” – link to guardian.co.uk

    • You fail to see how Americans who had nothing to do with torture in Iraq, and who actively opposed it, can criticize Chavez?

      Why is that? Because we all look alike, or something?

  17. ot but know Prof Cole likes to post Stewart and Colbert periodically
    link to mondoweiss.net
    Did Oren’s iron dome of affability stop Colbert’s brilliant strikes?

    My response to Colbert’s interview with Oren
    Colbert played softball with Oren. Either his choice or he froze. I think choice. Would have been so easy to have had all of the efforts Bibi made to sway the election on a list. And would have been so easy for Colbert to have been ready for the Israeli talking points “there is no distance between the US and Israel” “we have the same interest” yada yada. Colbert could have so easily said “the US and Israel are so similar. Both stole land from native peoples, pretended they did not exist while systematically exterminating them. Both or our countries love to attack people before they have done anything to us, ignore the International criminal court, the UN. Both countries seem to love to torture” SO MUCH IN COMMON.

    But the very worst thing Colbert did was allow Oren repeat the falsehood “Iran threatens Israel weekly and want to wipe Israel off the map” Colbert shout have been ready for that one and shut it down or at the very least have said sounds like you are describing Israel who threatens Iran weekly. Could not believe Colbert allowed him to repeat that bs. So disappointing. Ok he poked some fun at the “chosen people” hooey. Colbert played softball.

    Colbert knows how to play hardball
    Colbert Correspondent dinner roast of Bush
    link to youtube.com

  18. The focus of this site is the Middle east, so I guess its natural that this post and comment thread has overlooked Chavez’s role in helping Latin America preserve a high degree of independence in the post cold-war era.
    There’s no doubt that he emboldened the Latin left and helped to restrain the savage drive to impose the Washington Consensus on South America, which was gathering pace in the late 90′s.

    The IMF’s former chief Economist, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, spells out in some detail just how crippling its effects were, and how it was intended to replace the gunboat diplomacy and puppet dictators of old.

  19. “Stalin was willing to work with the murdering bastard Churchill to defeat Hitler.”

    You, of course, have that exactly backwards. It was Churchill (and Roosevelt) who were willing to work with the murdering bastard Stalin in order to defeat Hitler.

  20. America is Imperialist. It supported and continues to support dictators and despots around the world. Chavez help to stager the US in Latin America by allying himself with the likes of Morales and Ortega and other leaders in the region giving confidence to the mass there is an alternative. Libya, Syria and Iran is a side show to call attention to the fact the US is upto no good in its agenda.

  21. There was an attempted right-wing coup in Venezuela that failed. Another right-wing coup in Honduras succeeded. Unlike Venezuela, in Honduras any inclination to support civil or humanitarian rights can get you murdered.

    • Chavez’s Venezuela was (still is) in a defense war, therefore Chavez had to act as a dictator, a normal president’s role in a war: the General dictates.
      Gabriel Garcia Marquez has an interesting commentary on Chavez: link to revistaanfibia.com

  22. “It was Churchill (and Roosevelt) who were willing to work with the murdering bastard Stalin in order to defeat Hitler.”

    look up: Churchill, Bengali Holocaust 1943-1945

    • “look up: Churchill, Bengali Holocaust 1943-1945″

      I am well aware of the Bengal famine of 1943-1944. (by 1945, the British had begun relief efforts in earnest.) Anywhere from two to three million Bengalis perished. It certainly is a blot on Churchill’s record that he did not act. But it was nowhere near the murderous policies of Stalin against his own people. Stalin himself stated that ten million kulaks died of famine and executions during his program of forced collectivization during the 1930s. And Hundreds of thousands died in his Gulags, and as a result of his campaigns to liquidate his perceived enemies by execution, and during the Great Terror of 1937-38.

      To suggest that Churchill was the “murderous bastard” and Stalin was the saintly humanitarian is laughable. It also demonstrates a preference for bumper-sticker shibboleths over a substantive grasp of history.

  23. So… his hypocrisy was superficial, immaterial, and inconsequential. OK.

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