Don't Panic

Which -vez should bother Americans more, Cha or Per?

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There are many political and military lessons to be learned from the escalating leadership crisis in Pakistan. They're being discussed at length in various print and broadcast media, so I won't rehash them here.

I will instead focus on what I think is the most important emotional lesson of the current crisis in Pakistan — namely, that Americans should quit hating Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez so much.

What the heck do Pakistan and Venezuela have to do with one another? Not a lot.

Venezuela is a predominantly Catholic country in South America. Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country in South Asia.

Venezuelans love baseball and beauty pageants. Pakistanis love cricket and, I've come to learn while researching this column, fried chicken. According to, Pakistan is, "the ultimate Chicken Loving Nation." It's capitalized, so it must be true.

The biggest difference between Venezuela and Pakistan is our relationship with their —vezes.

The United States supports General-President (or is it President-General?) Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and hates President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Since taking power in free and fair elections in 1999, Hugo Chavez has steadily climbed the United States' list of foreign bogeymen. Last year, ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld compared him to Hitler. The U.S. media denounces Chavez as a dangerous enemy. I've received countless spam e-mails telling me to boycott Citgo (which is owned by Venezuela's government). One talk-radio station in Atlanta even displays Chavez's face on a billboard next to Axis of Evil alum Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-Il.

When Chavez was briefly deposed in an illegal coup in 2002, the United States openly cheered the coup leaders. According to some reports, the United States actually helped the coup leaders. Keep in mind, this was at the same time the United States was promising to spread democracy throughout the Middle East.

What has Chavez done to earn United States and Bush administration hatred?

Chavez has become increasingly autocratic since 2002, but that's not the problem. The United States supports a long list of leaders who are way more undemocratic and vicious than Chavez will ever be to his people.

The United States hates Chavez for two primary reasons — his economic policies and his confrontational attitude.

Chavez has grabbed control of Venezuela's formerly businesslike state oil industry. He has converted it from a profit-seeking enterprise into a funding mechanism for a variety of social-welfare programs in Venezuela. In the process, U.S. oil companies doing business there have lost or had to renegotiate very profitable contracts.

On top of this, Chavez is an adolescent, loudmouth prick. He has insinuated that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is itching for an encounter with Lil' Hugo. And of course, there was the whole "President Bush is the devil and stinks of sulfur" thing at the United Nations.

General-President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, on the other hand, has spent the last six years in a full-on lovefest with the U.S. government and the mainstream media.

We've handed him roughly $10 billion in aid, the president has called him a friend and ally, and Jon Stewart even had him on The Daily Show for a jokey interview promoting his memoir.

What has the United States gotten in return for its affection?

A military dictator who: propped up the Taliban before 9/11, evacuated retreating Taliban fighters from Afghanistan after 9/11, nudged the world toward nuclear war by supporting terrorists who bombed the Indian parliament in 2001, allowed Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan to sell nuclear weapons to our enemies, protected A.Q. Khan from U.S. interrogation once he was discovered, failed to stop a weakened al-Qaeda from reconstituting itself in Pakistan, and signed a peace treaty with the Taliban in 2006, thus allowing the Taliban to use Pakistan as a safe base to launch attacks into neighboring Afghanistan.

In short, the Pakistan of Pervez Musharraf is guilty of nearly every crime the War On Terror™ is supposed to stop, while Chavez is guilty of denting American oil-company profits and being slightly less vulgar than a typical FM shock jock.

You tell me which —vez should bother Americans more.

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