Byline: Roger F. Noriega, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
U.S. Gen. Douglas Fraser on Tuesday backed up President Obama's appraisal that Venezuela does not represent a threat to U.S. security. The only thing that statement proves is that both men refuse to acknowledge a menace that has grown worse on their watch.
Gen. Fraser is the last in a long line of regional commanders who have refused to mud-wrestle with Hugo Chavez. I have profound respect for men and women who are willing to risk their lives fighting our enemies or ordering others to do so, and I understand fully why they want to keep such conflicts to a minimum. However, the best way to prevent such confrontations is to kick over rocks to find the hidden threats and to take careful measure of our foes.
On Gen. Fraser's watch, Mr. Chavez has consolidated a narco-state in Venezuela. U.S. law enforcement and federal prosecutors have gathered fresh, compelling evidence implicating Venezuela's National Assembly president, minister of defense and Mr. Chavez himself in narcotics trafficking. If a foreign military using its personnel, vehicles and aircraft to shovel cocaine onto U.S. streets and schoolyards is not a national security threat, what is? If such activities by Venezuela's government are not a threat, why do we spend billions of dollars to counter the problem? Why does Gen. Fraser's own command website call drug trafficking a significant threat to security and stability in the Western Hemisphere ?
On Gen. Fraser's watch, Mr. Chavez and his senior military commanders have provided material, financial, logistical and political support for Colombian drug traffickers who are branded terrorists by the U.S. government. American authorities know Mr. Chavez's regime has issued Venezuelan passports or visas to thousands of Middle Eastern terrorists and offered safe haven to Hezbollah trainers, operatives, recruiters and fundraisers. During a March visit to Southern Command headquarters in Miami, now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin E. Dempsey said, [W]e recognize the threat that transnational organized crime presents, not just because of what they transport to our shores, but what they could also transport - terrorists and weapons and weapons of mass destruction.
On Gen. Fraser's watch, a half-dozen Iranian companies sanctioned by United Nations, U.S. or European authorities have built suspicious industrial installations at various sites in Venezuela. Those facilities were important …