Sunday, January 18, 2009

Airbus crash in New York sinks US-Venezuela relations

Airbus in HudsonNew York, USA. Former USAF fighter pilot Capt Chesley Sullenberger who ditched an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River off Manhattan may have been offered the keys to New York. But, his "masterful landing' to avert a huge tragedy has fuelled a lot of controversy in the media. Even as he was praised by Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his heroism, he may have unwittingly triggered a disastrous war in the American continent.

First reports indicated that minutes after the US Airways plane with 155 on board took off, a flock of geese came in the flight path knocking off both engines. Sullenberger decided to exploit his wartime expertise and go for a risky maneuver and pulled it off excellently. Although the plane was a wreck, there were no human victims.

However, the geese involved in the suicide attack predictably became martyrs. Where these geese hailed from has become a billion dollar question now.

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice started her sabre-rattling soon after the media flashed images of the plane crashing into the frozen river. She squarely blamed Venezuela for the tragedy, ruling out the probability of the jihadis being home-grown or belonging to other unfriendly neighbors. She demanded that the masterminds controlling geese from Venezuela be caught and handed over to US to face justice.

President Bush, who will have been mercifully faded into oblivion next month, broke his silence after keeping quiet for hours. He appealed to all governments to rein in Venezuela, which along with Cuba, was destabilizing the whole world.

Venezuelan President Hugo Rafael Chávez in turn accused the US of attempting to sabotage his vision of Latin American integration. He promptly condemned the war-mongering by US and dispatched his deputy Ramón Carrizales to garner international support against the bullying neighbor. Soon, dignitaries from major superpowers like Cuba, Iran, Spain and India came calling to both Washington and Caracas.

Major newspapers including the New York Times and Washington Post as well as the TV channels including CNN and Fox endorsed Rice’s contention that the geese must have received nourishment in Venezuela. They were aghast at the state of denial by Venezuela, whose President, they consider, is the gravest threat to democracy in Latin America. They projected the statement of India’s Defense Minister AK Anthony - “I don't want to jump to any conclusions myself on this, but I do think that this is a time for complete, absolute, total transparency and cooperation” – as victory for US diplomacy.

The State Department demanded that all the lakes in Venezuela must be drained and filled with solid waste to make them inhabitable for the geese - or maybe seagulls or eagles or vultures. After all, bureaucrats were convinced that the lakes were obviously acting as breeding grounds of the birds. They faced vociferous disapproval from activists in both countries, who countered that the real problems of the birds must be addressed for suicide attacks to end.

After US went on a diplomatic offensive and appealed to responsible international leaders to defuse tensions, foreign minister Yang Jiechi of China held telephone conversations with his US and Venezuelan counterparts. Yang said that China was willing to work both the belligerents and the rest of the international community to jointly safeguard airspace in the American continent. However, US analysts sniffed Beijing’s sinister designs and politely turned ignored the offer.

Basmati RiceThe news channel 'Till this Instant!' meanwhile mounted its own investigation into the authenticity of Capt Sullenberger's "double bird strike." It presented several airline pilots in its show to bolster the suspicions. Most of them discounted the possibility of an Airbus encountering birds in the flight path at La Guardia airport, though it is not rare in JFK airport. The last crash of an Airbus A300 of American Airlines shortly after takeoff, killing all 260 on board in November 2001, they recalled, was at JFK.

Chavez meantime pointed out that both the engines of the plane had gone missing. He said that according to Venezuelan law, that crucial piece of evidence must be probed before implicating ducks and geese of his country. He said the ‘information’ by US must not be confused with ‘evidence’ and the country was not obliged to extradite any bird caught in its soil or sky.

The ‘aggressive diplomacy’ of US suffered a big jolt when King Juan Carlos I of Spain considered it as his moral burden to save the Latin countries from war. After all, both had once been colonies of the Spanish empire. The US optimism rested on the fact that the King had publicly chided Chavez in the Ibero-American summit and asked him to shut up.

The setback forced Rice to take a U turn. After all the tough talking, US gave up its insistence that Venezuela hand over all accused birds involved in the attempted carnage at New York. Rice said to 'Till this Instant!', “There should at least be a fair trial of these accused in that country. It should not be a mock trial. It should be transparent and demonstrated.”

This ‘volte face’ gave a fresh handle to the opposition Republicans. “Democrats have betrayed the nation by changing the stance against Venezuela and agreeing to have trials of conspirators and handlers of suicide birds,” said McCain who had hoped against all odds to lead his country. This unleashed a surge of national rage.

Taken aback by groundswell of support to the political hawks, Rice took a U turn yet again. “There is no question of that or climb-down,” she told other reporters – “We have never given up our original demand. There are many international instruments that make the position quite clear and there is no question of dilution in position.”

Ordinary mortals struggled to make out what Condi meant by this statement, except that the repeated U turns only amounted to running in circles. However, people in the know recall that Rice was on a whistle stop visit to South Asia in December in the wake of belligerent noises from the region. She had been presented with a designer goggles at New Delhi, celebrity-endorsed by the country’s foreign minister. The fashion-conscious American had taken a fancy to it and was spotted wearing it on a few occasions.

(This exclusive scoop has been brought to you by chhuchhundarbaba)


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