Kathryn-Jean Lopez interviewed Rick Santorum recently. Fortunately, most of the interview doesn’t touch on Santorum’s Venezuela obsession, but it is still there:
CNA: Are we completely unaware of what’s going on in our backyard in this regard?
Sen. Santorum: Almost completely. I was talking about Venezuela and Hugo Chavez long before most. In fact, I was criticized in my 2006 race for being alarmist by raising the possibility that Iran might be working with Venezuela to plant terrorist cells in our back yard [bold mine-DL]. You look at his alliances with Iran now, you look at Hezbollah in Latin America now, and then you look at the weakened state of our border, yes. If we don’t wake up ourselves we are going to be woken up by others. I have been saying this for years now, and working to wake Americans up. My weekly alert was called “The Gathering Storm” for a reason.
It’s true that Santorum was talking about Venezuela and Chavez long before most, because no one else feels compelled to exaggerate the threat from Chavez’s Venezuela. He used the phrase “The Gathering Storm” because he wanted to pretend that he was like Churchill warning against a new Nazi-like menace, and he was attacked as alarmist because he said crazy things about Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba forging a military empire that was going to dominate Latin America. Santorum is referring to one of the least alarmist things he said in 2006 as if that were one of the most controversial, when he routinely littered his speeches and op-eds with absurd and unhinged claims about the existential threats facing America and the world. Here is Santorum in 2006:
Did you know that Venezuela is the leading buyer of arms and military equipment in the world today? Did you know that Chavez is building an army of more than a million soldiers and the most potent air force in South America-the largest Spanish-speaking armed force in history?
Did you know that Venezuela will shortly spend thirty billion dollars to build twenty military bases in neighboring Bolivia, which will dominate the borders with Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil? The bases will be commanded by Venezuelan and Cuban officers. This is what the brilliant Carlos Alberto Montaner-a survivor of Castro’s bloody regime-calls “a delirious vision of history,” and it is driven by a new alliance of dictators from Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.
It is part of the grand design so proudly announced by Ahmadinejad: the destruction of our civilization
The only one delirious in all of this was Santorum. Two years after Santorum made these dire warnings of Venezuelan military build-up, Chavez had to back down from his saber-rattling against Colombia in the recognition that Venezuela stood no chance in a military conflict with its neighbor. Back in 2006, Santorum also made overblown claims about the dangers coming from Venezuelan-Iranian cooperation, and made some flatly ludicrous claims about Iran’s government:
Ahmadinejad , like Hitler and Mussolini, intends to conquer the world. This is not a hidden agenda. His goal is to establish a Caliphate.
Not only is this is obviously not true, but why exactly would Venezuelan socialists and Cuban communists be interested in advancing this goal? During his re-election campaign, I criticized Santorum quite a bit for saying foolish things about Iran’s goals of world conquest and throwing around the nonsensical phrase “Islamic fascism” in the process. His alleged prescience about the activity of Hizbullah in Latin America is exaggerated, and it is more than outweighed by the sheer number of preposterous, alarmist claims that he made five years ago and in the years since then.