There are mounting signs of military planning for Venezuela

The idea of a U.S. push for “regime change” in the oil-rich South American country may be gaining momentum in the White House.

Source: There are mounting signs of military planning for Venezuela

President Donald Trump has been talking about ordering a military operation targeting Venezuela since 2017.

At first, that was widely dismissed as a rash threat, but the idea of a U.S. effort to force“regime change” in the oil-rich South American country may be gaining momentum in Washington.

“It’s a regime that, frankly, could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military decides to do that,” Trump said in September.

In January, National Security Adviser John Bolton flashed a notebook that read “5,000 troops to Colombia.”

And on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered all U.S. diplomats to leave Venezuela, saying their presence there “has become a constraint on U.S. policy,” hinting at opening potential military options.

Speculation about a military assault on Venezuela was also fueled by Trump’s recent appointment of a former George W. Bush administration official who was an architect of the Iraq War, Elliot Abrams, to be the new “Special Representative for Venezuela.”

Heightened concerns prompted the Democratic-led House Foreign Affairs Committee to meet Wednesday to debate a bill that would prohibit Trump from taking military action in Venezuela without congressional approval.

White House officials say “all options on the table,” including a military intervention or military support of allies in the region.

Supporters point to the short, successful 1989 invasion of Panama.

But critics say that’s a bad analogy and caution that such a move could result in something resembling the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, in which anti-U.S. factions faced protracted insurgencies.

An invasion of Venezuela would require between 100,000 and 150,000 U.S. troops, who would face as many as 356,000 Venezuelan troops in a country twice the size of Iraq, said Rebecca Chavez, senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, during testimony at the House hearing.

“It would be prolonged, it would be ugly, there would be massive casualties,” Chavez said.

Secretary Pompeo

That nightmare scenario may be farfetched.

Many experts believe the White House’s hawkish statements are not a sign of an imminent military attack but instead a signal to the Venezuelan opposition that the U.S. would support an internal coup.

“They’re not trying to provoke a war,” according to Fulton T. Armstrong, a former CIA analyst with significant Latin American experience.

“They’re trying to provoke the Venezuelan military to rise up and overthrow Maduro,” he said.

There appears to be very few advocates for military action outside the White House and many experts believe it is highly unlikely that the Trump administration would follow through on its seemingly threatening rhetoric.

“It would be completely counter-productive,” said Larry Korb, a former Pentagon official who is now at the Center for American Progress.

“This is a no-win situation if you go in. The damage would be much worse than any gains we might get.”

Nevertheless, the crisis is deteriorating rapidly. Refugees and defecting military troops are flowing into Colombia. Maduro recently blamed a massive electricity blackout across the capital city of Caracas on a U.S. cyber attack.

White House officials say the recent election of Maduro was a sham, fraught with corruption, and renders him an illegitimate leader.

Maduro and his allies in the government and military have plundered the nation’s cash from its vast oil reserves, watching its population starve and flee by the millions.

The U.S. has imposed economic sanctions against banks, canceled visas for Venezuelan government officials and taken other economic or political measures to pressure Maduro to exit.

Should Venezuela descend further into chaos, the White House could call upon traditional military operations, like targeted strikes, covert actions and fires, logistical and humanitarian support by U.S. troops in Colombia, Panama or in ships offshore.

“Desperate civilians always turn to the military, and say ‘solve my problems,’” Armstrong said. “And the military often doesn’t push back.”

While Maduro often talks about “a war of all the people,” involving mass resistance, a protracted war would be unlikely, said Armstrong, who is now a senior fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies.

Armstrong added that an American invasion would certainly face snipers and bomb-makers, and it would be costly. But local Venezuelan groups like the colectivos — various gangs, some of which support Maduro — are mainly thugs who wouldn’t stand in the streets against the U.S.

Maduro is likely not the “key symbol that would unify people to resist U.S. military action and lead to a sustained insurgency,” Armstrong said.

“But the U.S. has selected in Juan Guaidó and others, people who have sworn to reverse ‘Chavismo,’” Armstrong said, referencing the poorly defined ideology of the deceased Hugo Chavez, which has at least on paper given the poor a voice.

“[It] may be a perverted voice, but they do have a voice,” Armstrong added. Some in Venezuela may fight to retain that.

So far, neither the White House nor the Pentagon has signaled what approach the U.S. might take to end the crisis.

“They keep saying ‘all the options are on the table,’ but they refuse to articulate them. That’s kind of weird, and we’re left to speculate,” Armstrong said.

‘All options’

One such speculation is that the administration will try to create a “humanitarian corridor” that would let U.S. troops enter a small area of Venezuela, possibly along the border with Columbia.

“The publicly stated purpose of that would be to rescue people and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian supplies. The real purpose of that, however, would be to intimidate and provoke [a coup],” Armstrong said.

Another option could be a surgical strike on the presidential palace.

“But still, to achieve that you would have to provoke Maduro into doing something that you could say threatened U.S. interests,” Armstrong said. “The problem with U.S. military intervention in all of this is that none of this matters at all to U.S. national security.”

Among the other options would be covert tools or special operations missions that have been used before, and in particular by the current special envoy to Venezuela, Elliot Abrams.

The London Observer reported in 2002 that Abrams “gave a nod to” a failed Venezuelan coup attempt against Hugo Chávez that same year.

In August 2018, two drones allegedly carrying explosives detonated prematurely near a stage in Caracas where Maduro was giving a speech. Maduro’s regime alleged that it was the result of foreign meddling, while others have suggested it was a false flag operation.

“That sort of stuff, with the imagination of people like Elliot Abrams, who have engaged in and launched covert action, who misrepresented those covert actions to the U.S. Congress … in my humble opinion … would seem to be the more likely thing,” Armstrong said.

The Pentagon deferred questions beyond aid support to U.S. Southern Command. SOUTHCOM told Military Times that their assets devoted to Venezuela have been mostly moving humanitarian aid through airlift missions to Colombia via Miami.

“Since Feb. 4, 2019, the United States has pre-positioned hundreds of metric tons of critical relief supplies in Colombia and Brazil — procured both locally and internationally — to help tens of thousands in Venezuela,” according to an official response.

The Pentagon also put Marines assets on stand-by in case the embassy staff needed assistance during evacuation.

CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command standby on the flight line aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, before departing for Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, June 8, 2016. (Sgt. Adwin Esters/Marine Corps)

CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command standby on the flight line aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, before departing for Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, June 8, 2016. (Sgt. Adwin Esters/Marine Corps)

SOUTHCOM officials did not comment on accusations by Russia that U.S. special operations forces were staging in Puerto Rico in February for a possible military option.

The Army’s 7th Special Forces Group and the Air Force’s 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, as well as a bevy of other Air Force Special Operations Command aircraft, are located in Florida.

Ana Quintana, senior policy analyst on Latin America for the Heritage Foundation, applauded Abrams’ appointment as envoy.

She told Military Times that having Abrams in that position puts pressure on Maduro, because Abrams signals a willingness to oust dictators.

The United States has had a checkered history in Latin America that dates back centuries, including a series of campaigns to control natural resources and covert actions that resulted in assassinations and coups or attempts across the region, the recent history has a different look.

Former SOUTHCOM commander from 2006 to 2009, retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis, now operating executive for The Carlyle Group, has written multiple times and spoken out about the Venezuelan crisis while also writing in January in Time magazine that, “a full-blown invasion by the U.S. would foment rage in the region and internationally.”

“There may come a time for more dramatic military activities, perhaps an international peacekeeping force. But for the moment, our efforts are best served by supporting the brave Venezuelans fighting the Maduro regime through the overall efforts of the international community,” he wrote.

Members of the Chilean navy special operations forces and U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group clear a building during Emerald Warrior in Apalachicola, Fla., April 28, 2015. (Staff Sgt. Kenneth W. Norman/Air Force)

Members of the Chilean navy special operations forces and U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group clear a building during Emerald Warrior in Apalachicola, Fla., April 28, 2015. (Staff Sgt. Kenneth W. Norman/Air Force)

The Navy’s longest running multinational maritime exercise is hosted by allies in the area. The UNITAS — Spanish for unity — exercise has been running since 1960 and partners a dozen or more nations a year for military training, sharing technology and best practices.

Currently, the United States has dedicated training and advising partnerships through the Pentagon with Panama, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Mexico.

Last year saw the fourth consecutive Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force deploy during hurricane season while also assisting in military training and humanitarian missions in Honduras.

The task force is one piece of an early effort to create a Multinational Maritime Task Force for the region that would be on standby for missions ranging from disaster relief to security.

Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey led U.S. Southern Command from 1994 to 1996 and oversaw operations in Panama handling more than 10,000 Cuban refugees. He continued a focus on the region non-militarily when he served as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy from 1996 to 2001.

He remains engaged as a sometimes adviser on the region.

McCaffrey said the best options if military moves were going to be considered would be for a coalition of regional partners, such as the Organization of American States, to take the lead.

Though he doubted that OAS would get involved in any armed intervention within Venezuela, he said he could see their role in protecting neighboring borders and perhaps assisting in peacekeeping after Maduro is out.

And that is the best role, McCaffrey said: supporting Colombian and other regional allies through training, advising and logistical support within those borders, but not in Venezuela.

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Doughface



This is The President & The Constitution,” a Friday feature segment of The Dave Bowman Show

Today we turn the pages of history to 1852 when one of the most forgotten men in American History won election to the highest office in the land. How he got there isn’t as important as what he did. Franklin Pierce hated the 1st Amendment and its protection of Free Speech. And for the first time in our history, the Federal Government threatened to execute people who disagreed with its president policies…


Longtime, beloved Ogden barber gone, but friends say he won’t be forgotten 

I used to walk past it almost every day. He was an icon.

OGDEN — An icon of Historic 25th Street who moved from Ogden five years ago is now gone for good — but those who knew him best say he won’t ever be forgotten.

Source: Longtime, beloved Ogden barber gone, but friends say he won’t be forgotten | Business | standard.net

Beloved Ogden barber Willie Moore died earlier this week at his home in Maryland. He was 95.

Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Moore moved to the Ogden area in his teens, according to his granddaughter, Cara Robinson. For decades, Moore ran the popular Moore’s Barber Shop on the northwest corner of 25th Street and Lincoln Avenue. A pillar of 25th Street and the Ogden community in general, Moore cut hair six days a week into his 90s. In 2013, after his wife of 65 years — local community leader Betty Moore — died, Moore moved to Maryland to live with his daughter, Carol Moore Scott.

In a 2013 Standard-Examiner profile, Moore expressed his love for the city where he made his life.

“I think Ogden is the greatest place,” Moore said in 2013. “This is where I made my living, where I met my wife. Make sure you tell people that Ogden is the place.”

Apparently, the feeling was mutual.

Cindy Simone, who owns the Kokomo Club on Historic 25th Street with her husband Eddie, said more than 500 people showed up to Moore’s going away party in 2013, which was held at Simone’s 25th Street bar.

“I loved, loved, loved Willie and so did a lot of other people,” Simone said. “He belonged to Ogden. Everyone always knew, Willie Moore was in the corner store. Well, he was a cornerstone in Ogden and he always will be.”

Simone said she’s working with Ogden City to get some kind of historical marker, paying tribute to Moore, on the barber shop’s exterior.

Local Blues musician and radio DJ “Bad” Brad Wheeler connected with Moore years ago, soaking up the barber’s knowledge on music and culture, as it related to Ogden.

“He would tell stories about Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, even Eleanor Roosevelt, stopping on 25th Street,” Wheeler said. “People who were really part of creating some of the culture in America — and they came through Ogden, which probably not a lot of people realize. Willie was kind of one of the last, great vessels of knowledge in Ogden.”

Wheeler said Moore was a renaissance man of sorts, always doing or saying something that would astonish him. Wheeler recalled one such instance in particular, when after having already known Moore for years, he learned the barber spoke Spanish.

“One time, I was in his barber shop and he was talking to a customer,” Wheeler said. “And he just started rattling off Spanish. I was like, ‘Willie, I had no idea you spoke Spanish.’ And he just looked at me and said, ‘I learned a long time ago you gotta be able to do business with everybody in the neighborhood.'”

Wheeler said Moore’s relationship with the Ogden community was different than most other business owners along 25th Street.

“Everybody needs to get their haircut — even bald guys need to get a shave every once in a while,” Wheeler said. “So Willie would be cutting little kids’ hair, adults, people from every walk of life imaginable. He knew everybody and he could relate to them in some kind of way.”

Frankie Ortega, who bought the shop from Moore just before the elder barber retired, said he views the man as a father figure. He kept the Moore name on the shop, despite the change in ownership, as a way of paying tribute to the icon.

Ortega concurred with Simone and Wheeler about Moore’s legacy in Ogden.

“I remember being in the shop and there was a man in there who had to have been at least 75,” Ortega said. “And the guy said, ‘Yeah, Willie used to cut my hair when I was a little kid. And I was just thinking, ‘How is that even possible?’ But then you start doing the math and realize, yeah, Willie is in his 90s, so he did cut this guy’s hair when he was a kid. That’s when I realized how connected Willie was to the community.”

Robinson said Moore’s funeral is set for 10 a.m. March 29 at the St. Rose the Lima Catholic Church, 210 Chapel Street, Layton. A viewing will be held at 7 p.m. March 28 at Lindquist Mortuary, 3408 Washington Blvd., Ogden.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

 

Leno’s Lament


 


At long last, the Virginia Delegates to the States Ratification Convention arrive in Richmond. Unlike other States, the Virginia Convention will be open to the public. It will be raucous and passionate and it will feature some of the biggest names in American history.

The Federalists initially outnumber the Anti-federalists by a slim margin with at least four delegates undecided. Everybody already knows what everybody’s position is on the matter of Ratification. But the debates must go on, and those who oppose ratification, led by the greatest orator in America, Patrick Henry, will state their position with clarity and firmness.

And when it is all over and done, Virginia will become the 10th State to ratify the Constitution. It’s what happens after that which makes Jay Leno’s lament all the more poignant…


$ailing Into College



A mere twenty-four hours ago I had no clue – none – as to the question: “Who are Felicity Huffman or Lori Laughlin? I still don’t know anything about them, other than they are actresses (people who pretend to be other people) and both in big trouble for cheating to get their kids into “elite” colleges.

And why did they do this? Can we drop the b.s. about giving their kids the best chance in life? It’s all about themselves and the perception that they want you to have of them. Period.