Al Qaeda scrambles chavismo's ideological circuits

Quico says: This Al Qaeda threat thing has thrown the Chávez government completely for a loop. This one was definitely not in their play-book, they seem to have no idea how to react. In the last 24 hours, we’ve seen four different, mutually incompatible official reactions, three of them totally loony. It’s all great fun to watch.

Over at the National Assembly, Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Saúl Ortega is playing it safe: the whole thing, he says, is – wait for it – a giant gringo conspiracy. A psy-ops job designed to prepare the ground for upcoming CIA covert operations to destroy Venezuelan (and Mexican, and Canadian) oil installations. Because, as we know, nothing threatens US interestsdd quite so much as foreigners selling them oil…

Sounding slightly less deranged – but every bit as stupid – Navy Rear Admiral Luis Cabrera was genuinely confused that such a thing could happen. On state TV he came within a whisker of declaring Al Qaeda an ally, saying he thought it "sounds illogical" for Al Qaeda to threaten a country that’s just as committed as they are to ending US hegemony merely because "we use different methods." To relieve this heavy burden of cognitive dissonance, he couldn’t help but refloat the old 911-was-an-inside-job cannard. Classy stuff! (Note to Al Qaeda: if you attack by sea, this is the caliber of opposition you’ll be facing.)

Moving on, Interior Minister Pedro Carreño preferred to play it cool. As far as he can see, Venezuela already has all the state security it needs – who’s afraid of Al Qaeda? No need to change anything as far as he can see…obviously, those guys are no match for Disip.

Only Defense Minister Raúl Baduel had a relatively reasonable reaction, saying Venezuela would step up security around its oil instalations. On the upside, his shtick wasn’t as batty as his colleagues’. On the downside, his reaction implicitly accepts that the threat is real…with all the implications such an acknowledgment carries. "Yes," Baduel implicitly admits, "the real enemies of the United States could well target us, just as they target all countries that help prop up American power." Undoubtedly, a true thing to say – undoubtedly, a dangerous thing to think.