As a U.S.-backed effort to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro continues, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Wednesday that Hezbollah "has active cells" in Venezuela—a claim that was immediately scrutinized and compared with the second Bush administration's lies to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Hezbollah, a political and militant Shi'ite Muslim group based in Lebanon, has been on the U.S. State Department's "Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations" list since 1997. In the interview with Fox Business, Pompeo, who previously served as President Donald Trump's CIA director, also charged that Iran and Cuba are strongly influencing the country.
"The Cubans invaded Venezuela. The Cubans have been controlling the security apparatus, protecting Maduro, and destroying the way of life for the Venezuelan people for an awfully long time," he said. "People don't recognize that Hezbollah has active cells—the Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America. We have an obligation to take down that risk for America."
— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) February 7, 2019
While scholars and some American lawmakers—even those critical of Maduro—have called for the U.S. to stop its anti-democratic meddling in Venezuela, the Trump administration has thrown its support behind self-declared "Interim President" Juan Guaidó, imposed economic sanctions, and repeatedly threatened military action if Maduro does not soon step down.
Pompeo's latest claims on Wednesday were met with sarcasm, skepticism, and concern for how they may be used to justify further American intervention—including military action that hasn't been authorized by Congress—in a country already enduring political and economic crises:
So, #Lebanon's population is 4 million, only a fraction of whom are Shia, less than half of whom are male, only a fraction of whom are Hezbollah members, only a fraction of whom are military age...Yet #Hezbollah apparently has a NATO-sized armed force that operates globally. Lol. https://t.co/Hm0jeBZm0S
— Sharmine Narwani (@snarwani) February 7, 2019
i immediately accept this as true https://t.co/GxP5ABLg2d
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— Paul Blest (@pblest) February 7, 2019
“We have an obligation to take down that risk for America.” Pretty aggressive rhetoric. Fortunately, America's Constitution provides a way to do this: Come show Congress the evidence and seek authorization. https://t.co/CCSHvi1ZSt
— Matt Duss (@mattduss) February 7, 2019
Some even drew comparisons to the Bush administration claiming that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction preceding the U.S. invasion of Iraq:
“We have an obligation to take down that risk for America". It's no coincidence that this seems copy/paste from Bush's lies to justify his wars. https://t.co/ljAHRFgAyR
— Nahia Sanzo (@nsanzo) February 7, 2019
You don't have to be that old to remember this same bullshit from the 2002 invasion of Iraq.
They can say a lie and act on it even if nobody actually believes it. https://t.co/6GIYSfgEcj
— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) February 7, 2019
Congrats to @JeffreyGoldberg & The @NewYorker: after your propaganda proved useful for a US regime change war in 2003 (https://t.co/6m9YkSQ9xr) (https://t.co/D2y2zHHPiI), looks like it may be useful again for a US regime change effort in 2019: (https://t.co/eVx9BmPcKz) https://t.co/2udd6mrh3L
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) February 7, 2019