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Kiriakou writes: "Chavez and Maduro styled themselves as populists and liberals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Democracy has become a meaningless word in the Bolivarian Republic."

John Kiriakou in the documentary Silenced. (photo: AFI Docs)
John Kiriakou in the documentary Silenced. (photo: AFI Docs)

Opposing Tyranny From Both the Left and the Right

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

09 December 15


am a lifelong progressive. I’m proud to say it. My parents were progressives. And while my paternal grandparents, immigrants from Greece, weren’t sophisticated enough politically to classify or categorize themselves, it didn’t keep them from displaying a photo of Franklin Roosevelt on top of the television. Nor did it keep my grandfather from attending a Sacco and Vanzetti rally in Pittsburgh in 1921. For my parents and grandparents, one of the hallmarks of progressive politics was concern for the downtrodden. That has always been important to me.

Another thing important to me, and passed down from my grandparents, is a deep respect for human rights. The Ottoman Turks kept much of Greece enslaved for some 400 years. Indeed, my grandparents were born Turkish citizens because the Turks occupied our ancestral island of Rhodes from 1522 until liberation in 1917. Over those centuries, the Ottomans had sold many thousands of Greeks into slavery in North Africa and the Middle East and sent Greek children back to Turkey to be raised as Turks. So that respect for human rights was learned and developed first-hand.

When I was assigned to the American Embassy in Manama, Bahrain, from 1994 to 1996, on a rotation from the CIA, I volunteered to serve as the human rights officer, in addition to my duties as the economic officer. For the two years I was there, I wrote the human rights report, mandated by Congress, and I pulled no punches. The Bahraini government was killing demonstrators in custody, holding people indefinitely without charge, and denying people who had been arrested access to an attorney. My writing did not endear me to the Bahrainis, although I liked many of the government officials with whom I worked, but that’s not why I was there. I was there to tell the truth and to report the facts.

I returned to the CIA in the fall of 1996 and went back to work on Iraq. I recalled reading a lot about the British politician George Galloway, a leftist and peace activist who had initially opposed Saddam Hussein, but who came out in support of him when the U.S.-led coalition pushed the Iraqi army out of Kuwait and the United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq. Galloway even visited the dictator in 1994 to express his solidarity.

I simply could not understand this. Galloway was a well-known peacenik. He was a longtime supporter of human rights. Why would he ally himself with one of the most brutal dictators of the second half of the 20th century? Could he hate U.S. policy enough to flip-flop on his own core beliefs? Apparently, yes.

Similarly, in 1996, then-senator Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) made a private trip to Nigeria to meet with dictator Sani Abacha. The U.S. and the United Nations had imposed sanctions on Nigeria because of Abacha’s dismal human rights record. Moseley Braun did not notify the State Department or the Senate Ethics Committee of her trip, and, upon her return, she spoke out in favor of Abacha’s human rights record. (Moseley Braun’s fiancé at the time was a registered lobbyist for the Nigerian government.) Was Moseley Braun’s own commitment to human rights worth less than a personal relationship? Did she, too, hate U.S. policy more than she loved human rights?
The same thing is happening today. Many of my own friends and associates openly support the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro. Maduro took control of the country upon the death of its previous leader, Hugo Chavez. Chavez and Maduro styled themselves as populists and liberals. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Maduro has consistently blamed everybody but himself – the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and wealthy Venezuelans – for his country’s economic and political problems. Democracy has become a meaningless word in the Bolivarian Republic. Anytime an opposition politician begins to gain traction with the populace, he or she is jailed on charges of conspiracy, treason, and other trumped-up crimes. Even politicians who are able to successfully evade arrest end up participating in fake elections that result in improbable majorities for Maduro.

Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, a Venezuelan opposition leader and democrat, is currently in solitary confinement and serving 13 years on charges of conspiracy, arson, inciting violence, and damaging public property. His real crime? He was polling even with Maduro. He had the misfortune of appearing in court before a judge who was no more than a puppet of Maduro.

Pete Seeger once said that a true liberal opposes tyranny from both the left and the right. He was correct. Progressives need to stand up to dictators, murderers, crooks, and corrupt politicians on the left and the right. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be progressives at all.

John Kiriakou is an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies. He is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+29 # LionMousePudding 2015-12-09 11:12
Why does he bring Chavez's name into this? Maduro is the anti-Chavez. Chavez was democratically elected 13 times. He did everything to lift the poor from poverty, give them free education, nutrition.. Even free gas. He even gave free gas to the poor in the US.

I have no idea how accurate the rest of this is but that is an egregious and ignorant error.
+1 # LionMousePudding 2015-12-09 11:16
One rare example of intelligent and honest reporting on Chavez.
+12 # Anne Frank 2015-12-09 12:30
But it's hard to understand Kiriakou's endorsement of Leopoldo Lopez who was convicted on the basis of overwhelming evidence of inciting the murder of 43 Venezuelan citizens.
0 # politicaleconomist 2015-12-09 14:07
Are you referring to this article or the one you cite with your link? Your meaning is unclear.
+10 # dsfingers 2015-12-09 11:36
So it's not OK to be ashamed of our governments international policies? Should we supprt neo-liberal, neo-con "regime change" policies, resulting in horrific and destabilizing conditions or worse? I'm sorry but this smells a bit of trojan horse Dulles/CIA/Waws hington "insider" think. I however do think right and "left" can lend themselves to Tyrany (ok, well DOH!) We must recognize pople of good will and recognize too much power concentrated by too few for too long corrupts even those who set out with intentions of good will.
+25 # Helga Fellay 2015-12-09 11:52
This piece of reactionary propaganda starts out with a lie:
" I am a lifelong progressive." You can't be a lifelong progressive and work for the CIA - it's not possible. Everything this writer states about Venezuela is the official State Department propaganda piped through FOX News and the other usual suspects of our MSM.
I am deeply disappointed in RSN to sink to such levels. If I wanted to read such nonsense, I could turn to the MSM. I expected better from RSM
+8 # EternalTruth 2015-12-09 15:03
Agreed. If he wants to come around here, making accusations like this against Chavez, he needs to cite some credible evidence.
+2 # Radscal 2015-12-09 23:50
John Kiriakou entered the public spotlight when he leaked documents showing that CIA was torturing "some folks" (as President CareBear put it). He did 2 years in a minimum security prison for that.

I have wondered about how sincere he was from the start, for the reason you cite. I grant that the Bolivarian government has at times reacted heavy-handidly to CIA and US NGO subterfuge to "regime change" their democratically elected and wildly popular government. But especially Chavez did much to help the great majority of Venezuelans.

The families that had profited for generations from colonial/neo-co lonial practices have hated the revolution. Largely, Kiriakou seems to be speaking for them.
+18 # guomashi 2015-12-09 12:16
We are supposed the take the word of a CIA operative about what is or is not a democracy?
Polish your mirror scumbag.
America is not a democracy.
America blames everything and everyone but itself.
And you are part of the mechanism that is destroying it.
+5 # Helga Fellay 2015-12-09 12:21
I couldn't have said it better myself.
+14 # reiverpacific 2015-12-09 12:45
@ guomashi".
I was down there just after Chavez's election and FELT the jubilation, then did a mini-tour on the Oregon coast with a Venezuelan group, who couldn't get out before Chavez and they were ecstatic that they could move back and forth, a bit like the more famous Inti-Illimani, who couldn't go back to Chile until Pinochet croaked.
The author's credentials are built on a shaky resumé. He went obediently and unashamedly to Iraq and did Dimwits-Cheney' s bidding.
He can call himself a "progressive" all he likes. If it quacks like a duck but acts like a wolf, guess what it really is!?
And how dare this CIA tool of the Military-Corpor ate aggressors and invaders of the "homeland" Oligarchy, quote a TRUE progressive hero Pete Seeger, who defied the McCarthy witch hunts and prodded the establishment relentlessly all his fruitful, rebellious, creative life.
If you want a more first-hand portrait on Chavez, read Greg Palast, who considered him a close friend and visited him often. Maduro was no Chavez, who survived an attempted coup by the Oligarchs supported and armed by Kiriakou's lovely CIA.
But he was also faced with plunging oil prices, increasing pressure and hate campaigns by an increasingly powerful right-wing ruthless and divisive opposition much like the 113th US Congress.
Still, it'll turn around and the blowback won't be pretty.
I just hope that Venezuela doesn't go the same tragic path as Guatemala post 1954: same forces, same potential brutality!
+7 # Helga Fellay 2015-12-09 12:20
If you are interested in an excellent analysis of Venezuela's current situation by a qualified journalist, please read "What next for Venezuela" published in The Hill by Mark Weisbrot, Weisbrot is a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington and the president of Just Foreign Policy.
+8 # Anne Frank 2015-12-09 12:25
The election in Venezuela last Sunday proves Kiriakou is lying. Perhaps he is trying to ingratiate himself with the U.S. fascist establishment, in order to obtain his own release from prison.
-1 # Thomas0008 2015-12-09 20:31
or, they tortured him to get him to say what he said
+7 # Dale 2015-12-09 13:18
This totally off based analsis is what one would expect from a long time CIA operative.
There was no more democrtic regime anywhere for the last 15 yers than in Venezuela, not the forces of dark reaction are gaining ground, in part thanks to this kind of bullshit disseminated around the world.
+1 # elkingo 2015-12-09 13:41
Hell of a thing hearing an ex-CIA guy citing Pete Seeger! Maybe there is some light in the darkness after all.
+7 # EternalTruth 2015-12-09 15:07
It's called camouflage.
+4 # elkingo 2015-12-09 13:45
Well, Kiriakou went to jail for some kind of differences with the CIA. Doesn't that establish some kind of street-cred for him?
+2 # EternalTruth 2015-12-09 15:12
When it comes to the CIA, credibility doesn't come so cheap. I don't remember enough about the case, but I wouldn't put it past the CIA to put an agent in jail for a couple of years just to establish such credibility.
+1 # Radscal 2015-12-09 23:53
He did 2 years in a minimum security federal "prison." Or at least, that's what the records show.
+5 # munza1 2015-12-09 16:15
He blew the whistle on CIA torture notably water boarding. They do not forgive. While the torturers and enablers have been promoted, published books, and received awards, John Kiriakou served two and a half years in Federal Prison. As this government has done with other persecuted whistleblowers, their lives have been ruined financially not to mention the cost on families and any possibility of future employment. He is a progressive democrat with a small d.
-1 # Thomas0008 2015-12-10 13:56
so, did they give him some promise in exchange for him to lie in this article?
+4 # lfeuille 2015-12-09 19:27
Really no. He is still a CIA agent. In one case he spoke out when he knew from personal experience that the CIA was wrong. But he could not have personal experience of all the ways the CIA was wrong. In the absence of contrary personal experience he is following the CIA/State Dept. line.
0 # Thomas0008 2015-12-09 20:30
+6 # pinkmondy54 2015-12-09 14:43
Wait a minute, where's the rest of the story? There are holes in this piece, in my opinion of course, that are gaping. It's left me with questions and a case of 'what the hell?'
+17 # Bjorn 2015-12-09 15:14
It is evident from these two statements in the article that the author is ill-informed/mi sinformed about the reality in Venezuela and really has no business offering up an opinion as if he were an expert; these statements show that he is clueless; they would also lead one to conclude that this is a paid-for "op" piece, which is common practice by the CIA; the statements:

"Even politicians who are able to successfully evade arrest end up participating in fake elections that result in improbable majorities for Maduro." (All elections have been free and open and it has been documented over and over again that the Electoral Commission has a high level of integrity; the election on December 6th is the last example); pants on fire on this one.

"Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, a Venezuelan opposition leader and democrat," (Mr. Lopez and his cousin Lorenzo Mendoza, one of the wealthiest men in Latin America, are well known as fascists who want to sell out their country to multinational banks and corporations for personal profit. For someone to characterize Mr. Lopez, who is documented on video provoking violence and was involved in coup d'etat against democratically elected Chavez, as a democrat is ridiculous). Double pants on fire.

If someone in the U.S. were responsible for what Mr. Lopez did in Venezuela,he would be sentenced to death or life in prison; his acts were responsible for the deaths of 43 individuals and many more injuries. This article is doublespeak.
+8 # Radscal 2015-12-09 23:57
Exactly. Former President Jimmy Carter and his international election monitoring organization called Venezuela's elections the fairest and most open in the world.
+5 # progressiveguy 2015-12-09 19:17
I still appreciate the sacrifice of Kiriakou in exposing the torture program of the CIA and I have enjoyed his other articles on this website but I'm very disappointed in this article. Chavez might not have been perfect but he was a good and decent man that uplifted the lives of the poor and average citizen of his country. But then what does the CIA know about decency? Not very much!
0 # progressiveguy 2015-12-09 20:16
I sincerely hope that Obama will pardon Kiriakou and the other whistle blowers but I wouldn't bet money that he will.
+1 # Thomas0008 2015-12-09 20:27
so it seems John Kiriakou is more in love with his views than the truth
0 # davehaze 2015-12-18 10:51
Whine whine whine. Armchair leftists who voted for Obama who put Kyriacou in prison, the whistleblower in prison instead of the torturers. Then belittle him for only being sent to a medium security prison and pretend that a medium security prison is easy -- as if you had experience. Look at everything in black and white that everyone who works for the CIA is bad, that the leftist government running Venezuela is only good. Don't read up on what is happening in Venezuela. There is truth to what he wrote. Democracy Now coverage of the Venezuelan election will give you some insight. Don't just kill the messenger.

You RSN commenters are tough guys not afraid to give those thumbs downs.

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