Hospital Ships and Military Exercises: War Games in the Venezuelan Maritime Playground

Misión Verdad

After the US Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, concluded his Latin American tour, with Venezuela the theme of the agenda, he authorized the transfer of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, the second in importance of the Pentagon Navy, to the banks of Colombia for a supposed “humanitarian aid” operation.

The objective, according to Mattis, is to serve Venezuelans who have crossed the border in the context of “migratory crisis”, for which the Santos ddministration and the administration of Iván Duque blames the government of Nicolás Maduro.

The maritime ship would leave the Naval Station of Norfolk, Virginia for the waters of the Caribbean, during a time of geopolitical dispute between emerging Eurasian powers (China and Russia) and the United States for greater influence in the Caribbean region, while Venezuela is in the midst of a structural economic reconversion crucial for the future of the country.

In this scenario, a war game is being played, a tactical simulation of a real confrontation, a key aspect for conventional armies when planning offensives and military defenses. Caribbean maritime territory is the game board, while several actors – Americans, Colombians,  Russians,  Chinese and Venezuelans – are in the midst of a militarized geopolitical dispute,  unprecedented in the history of the region.

USNS Comfort

Tactically speaking, this ship does not carry offensive weapons, but it does have defensive weapons.  As the ship is backed by the Geneva Convention, any attack would be  considered a war crime . vessel was built by the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO), a division of General Dynamics Corporation, one of the largest military contractors for the United States government. It was launched in 1976 and is in service for the US Navy. Previously it served as an oil transport, and its original name was SS Rose City.

Usually the Comfort is used for assistance for US Army fighters, but it also attends other operations.

She is the sister of the USNS Mercy, another hospital ship with almost identical characteristics in terms of operability. According to the Navy, “it contains 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital facility, digital radiography services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry laboratory, a tomography plant and two oxygen plants. ship is equipped with a heliport for large military helicopters.

The Comfort has participated in major wars in the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf (1990-91) and Iraq (2002-03), and its last mission was in Puerto Rico, in October last year, after Hurricane Maria.

The Comfort constantly traverses the waters of the Caribbean, especially in juridical terms of the partner countries of the United States, as a symbol of the “good will” of the Pentagon, of protection when confronting belligerents and medical aid in times of natural catastrophes.

In fact, a retired captain and a commander of the US Navy claimed in an article published on the Center for International Maritime Security website that the operations of “humanitarian aid” underpinned on the ships-referred to as hospitals “are a vital part of the strategy of the US Navy, guaranteeing regional stability through the construction of alliances with partners and the expansion of our influence.”

At this time the Comfort is preparing to run aground in Colombian waters, close to Venezuelan territory,  however the decision of the Pentagon, linked to plans of its military high command, coincides with military excercises that Venezuelawill participate in with Eurasian allies, China and Russia, according to joint military cooperation agreements.

Geopolitics, the Pentagon and war games

The 2018 doctrine of the Pentagon contemplates reinforcing the areas that have been surpassed by powers that dispute American military hegemony, specifically, Russia and China. The latter has become the major economic-financial competitor, demonstrated by military technological capabilities it currently possesses.

But it is Russia that has the greatest defense dominance in the world, demonstrated in part by the Syrian war, where with air assistance and field commanders providing military advice,  the Syrian Arab Army tipped the scales in favor of the Assad government and allied forces,  to the detriment of terrorist groups backed by the West.

Thus, James Mattis presented before Congress at the beginning of this year,  a plan whose specifications are classified, yet which does not conceal the desire of the US military elite to justify a bigger budget for the Pentagon in order to increase the technological capabilities of the military.

The National Defense Strategy document states that “without a sustained and predictable investment to restore the operation and modernization of our Armed Forces, according to current times, we will lose our military advantage, resulting in a force whose defensive system could become irrelevant to the defense of our country.”

That includes a deepening militarization in Latin America and the Caribbean, since the Eurasian powers also move in their interests in the region. Not by coincidence, the  agreements between Mattis and his partners in the continent preceded the combined military exercises Russia and Venezuela will celebrate in September. countries participated in the multinational UNITAS 2017 maritime exercise,  including Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Mexico, Spain and the United States, all governments hostile towards Venezuela. In the coming weeks, the UNITAS 2018 exercise will be carried out with Colombia being its host, near the Venezuelan maritime border. According to the US Southern Command, this exercise aims to stabilize countries in the context of natural disasters and/or humanitarian crises. The military movements coordinated by the Pentagon project that it is through humanitarian means that they would seek to carry out a possible intervention against Venezuela.

The importance of this exercise, commanded by the Pentagon, lies in the objectives established by the US military high command, which call for protecting the region from humanitarian catastrophes at a timne when it is stirring up, both in the media and through official spokespersons of some governments, especially those  in the Lima Group, the propaganda of the “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela that would force the “international community” to take forceful action – a euphemism for military intervention against the country.

On the other hand, the secretary of the Venezuelan Defense Council, Major General Angiolillo Fernandez, reported that the Chinese Navy is preparing to run aground in Venezuelan waters by order of President Nicolás Maduro, confirmed in turn by the operational strategic commander Admiral in Chief Remigio Ceballos as part of a Comprehensive Combined Strategic Operation between China and Venezuela.

It would not be the first time that China sails in Latin-Caribbean waters. The Peace Ark vessel, similar to the Comfort in its hospital and military capabilities, has toured countries such as Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in 2011 , and Barbados, Mexico and Peru in 2015.

The Chinese government led by Xi Jinping aims, through its Navy, to show itself geopolitically as “a power in rapid military development, a responsible power”.

The Pentagon notes these objectives  in a region it considers its “backyard”,  while  Venezuela is under a commercial and economic siege, responding internally to the situation caused  by aggressions from abroad.

That is why,  for James Mattis and his representatives, the acute militarization of the continent within the framework of the advanxment of the Monroe Doctrine, in defense of US economic interests in the region, is of utmost urgency.

The war games, at a geopolitical level, that surround the Caribbean, happen at a moment of tension due to the desperation of the United States military elite and the  growing influence that China and Russia are having at the regional level.

It is precisely the pro-western media, inserted in the Pentagon’s agenda, that supports the supposed need to send military-hospital ships for the “humanitarian crisis” in Venezuela.

We must not forget the new Colombian government, which has  as its foreign policy agenda priority, regime change in Venezuela. This was stated by President Iván Duque, with Bogotá involved in the assassination attempt against Nicolás Maduro.  The Venezuelan president has warned of a possible false flag operation on the border, especially on the Táchira-Norte de Santander axis, suggesting that the US Navy would be ready to act in extreme cases of belligerency.

Taking into account the list of false flags orchestrated by the CIA, the Pentagon and the White House, is it possible for the United States to insert an operation of this magnitude with the Comfort decoy, taking into account the Geneva Convention, to fire on Venezuela? The scenario must be be considered. Venezuela, specifically its maritime playground,  is where the current geopolitical confrontation will take place,  between consolidated regional powers and global actors that seek to break the current system in the midst of war games.

Translation by Internationalist 360°