Do You Know What I Idi Amin, Amin


About a decade ago, I picked up a copy of John Follain's wonderfully entertaining potboiler Jackal: The Complete Story of the Legendary Terrorist, Carlos the Jackal, a precise catalog of the brutal murders and pointless "commando operations" masterminded by the former Venezuelan revolutionary. Even by the standards of 1970s terror groups—think the PFLP, Red Brigades, RAF—Carlos's brutality stood out. But as he withers away in a French prison, having predictably transformed himself into a warrior for Allah, he will be happy to discover that he still has fans in the land of his birth:

Hugo Chavez has defended the alleged terrorist mastermind Carlos the Jackal, saying the Venezuelan imprisoned in France was an important "revolutionary fighter" who supported the cause of the Palestinians….Ramirez gained international notoriety during the 1970s and 80s as the alleged mastermind of a series of bombings, killings and hostage dramas. He is serving a life sentence in France for the 1975 murders of two French secret agents and an alleged informant.

"They accuse him of being a terrorist, but Carlos really was a revolutionary fighter," Chavez said during a televised speech to socialist politicians from various countries, who applauded.

In his speech, Chavez also sought to defend other leaders he said are wrongly labeled "bad guys" internationally, including Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Chavez called both of them brothers and said he now wonders whether Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was truly as brutal as he was reputed to be.

If Carlos isn't exactly to your taste, how about a different lunatic anti-Semite that terrorized people?

"We thought he was a cannibal," the Venezuelan leader said, referring to [Ugandan dictator Idi] Amin, whose regime was notorious for torturing and killing suspected opponents in the 1970s. "I have doubts. … I don't know, maybe he was a great nationalist, a patriot."

A fairly large quibble with the Associated Press writer Ian James, who writes that Chavez "defended the alleged terrorist" Carlos the Jackal. Alleged? At what point does a man convicted of three murders, who has been forthcoming about his involvement in terrorism ("When he was in front of me, I shot him between the eyes. When he hit the ground, I shot him in the left temple."), who released a book from prison praising Osama bin Laden and defending terror as an "anti-imperialist" tactic, qualify as an actual terrorist? And why isn't Amin the alleged dictator of Uganda?

Lefty blogger and expert-in-everything Matt Yglesias provides us with the dumbest argument of the day, writing that having been defanged by the brilliant Obama administration (!) "seems to have left Chavez a bit adrift and looking to push the envelope. How else to explain the idea of praising Idi Amin in a speech."

Yes, the normally sedate and statesman-like Chavez, who in those dark pre-Obama years praised Robert Mugabe, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Chairman Mao, Bashar Assad, Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Carlos the Jackal (this wasn't the first time), Daniel Ortega, the FARC, Hezbollah, and Muammar Gaddafi, was pushed into a corner by Washington and is most likely acting out by saying outrageous things he couldn't possibly believe.