Pablo Bachelety / Miami Herald – 2005-11-07 07:57:43
Pentagon: US-Venezuela Conflict Plan
Pablo Bachelety / Miami Herald
WASHINGTON (November 3, 2005) — Pentagon spokesmen Wednesday reacted with deep skepticism to an American defense analyst’s claim that the Department of Defense is drawing up plans for a potential military conflict with Venezuela’s leftist President Hugo Chávez.
William Arkin, a former Army intelligence officer and author of more than 10 books on military affairs, posted a story on his Internet blog Tuesday saying the Pentagon has begun ”contingency planning” for Venezuela as part of a broad review of defense strategy.
Arkin cited ”internal documents” used to plan for the Quadrennial Defense Review, a road map prepared every four years to guide defense planners on future capabilities and needs.
If true, Arkin’s report would add fuel to Chávez’s repeated allegations that the Bush administration is planning to assassinate him or invade his country because of his leftist policies. U.S. officials routinely deny the complaints as lies put out by Chávez to promote his image as a leftist populist.
While the Pentagon initially said it believed Arkin’s report was not true, one Defense Department official later told The Herald ”thousands” of documents go into the Quadrennial review process and that it was possible one of them could mention a possible conflict with Venezuela.
The Quadrennial Defense Review seldom mentions countries by name or sets out new policies, said James Carafano, a national security expert with the Heritage Foundation. ”I’m skeptical,” he said, noting that many documents ”get floated around” in the internal debates over the review. “To me, it’s an empty source.”
Arkin could not be reached immediately.
Separately, the State Department Wednesday confirmed it has been taking a hard look at all Venezuelan arms purchases from the United States, including spare parts for F-16 fighters.
Chávez said Tuesday the United States was refusing to sell Venezuela spare parts for its 21 F-16 fighters and was blocking similar sales from other countries to Venezuela.
”Given the increasingly authoritarian direction of the Venezuelan government, combined with its substantial efforts to acquire new weapons systems, these licenses are being thoroughly reviewed,” one State Department official said.