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NGOs: The Missionaries of Empire [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2012-3-3 21:07:50 |Display all floors
This post was edited by Mariot at 2012-3-5 11:24

Non-governmentalorganizations are an increasingly important part of the 21st centuryinternational lanscape performing a variety of humanitarian taskspertaining inter alia to issues of poverty, the environment and civillibertites.However, there is a dark side to NGOs. They have been andare currently being used as tools of foreign policy, specifically withthe United States. Instead of using purely military force, the US hasnow moved to using NGOs as tools in its foreign policy implementation,specifically the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, andAmnesty International.

National Endowment for Democracy

Accordingto its website, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is “aprivate, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengtheningof democratic institutions around the world,” [1] however this is sweetsounding description is actually quite far from the truth.

Thehistory of the NED begins immediately after the Reagan administration.Due to the massive revelations concerning the CIA in the 1970s,specifically that they were involved in attempted assassinations ofheads of state, the destabilization of foreign governments, and wereillegally spying on the US citizens, this tarnished the image of theCIA and of the US government as a whole. While there were manycommittees that were created during this time to investigate the CIA,the Church Committee (led by Frank Church, a Democrat from Idaho) wasof critical importance as its findings “demonstrated the need forperpetual surveillance of the intelligence community and resulted inthe creation of the permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.” [2]The Select Committee on Intelligence’s purpose was to oversee federalintelligence activities and while oversight and stability came in, itseemed to signal that the CIA’s ‘party’ of assassination plots andcoups were over. Yet, this was to continue, but in a new way: under theguise of a harmful NGO whose purpose was to promote democracy aroundthe world- the National Endowment for Democracy.

TheNED was meant to be a tool of US foreign policy from its outset. It wasthe brainchild of Allen Weinstein who, before creating the Endowment,was a professor at Brown and Georgetown Universities, had served on theWashington Post’s editorial staff, and was the Executive Editor of The Washington Quarterly, Georgetown’sCenter for Strategic and International Studies, a right-wingneoconservative think tank which would in the future have ties toimperial strategists such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. [3] He stated in a 1991 interview that “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” [4]

Thefirst director of the Endowment, Carl Gershman, outright admitted thatthe Endowment was a front for the CIA. In 1986 he stated:

We should not have to do this kind of work covertly. It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA. We saw that in the ‘60s, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment was created. [5] (emphasis added)

It can be further observed that the Endowment is a tool of the US government as ever since its founding in 1983, it “hasreceived an annual appropriation approved by the United States Congressas part of the United States Information Agency budget.” [6]  

Nosooner than the Endowment was founded did it begin funding groups thatwould support US interests. From 1983 to 1984, the Endowment was activein France and “supported a ‘trade union-like organization that forprofessors and students’ to counter ‘left-wing organizations ofprofessors,’” [7] through the funding of seminars, posters, books, andpamphlets that encouraged opposition to leftist thought. In the mid andlate 1990s, the NED continued its fight against organized labor bygiving in excess of $2.5 million to the American Institute of FreeLabor Development which was a CIA front used to undermine progressivelabor unions.

Lateron, the Endowment became involved in interfering with elections inVenezuela and Haiti in order to undermine leftwing movements there. TheNED is and continues to be a source of instability in nations acrossthe globe that don’t kneel before US imperial might. Yet the Endowmentfunds another pseudo-NGO: Freedom House.

Freedom House

FreedomHouse was originally founded in 1941 as a pro-democracy and pro-humanrights organization. While this may have been true in the past, in thepresent day, Freedom House is quite involved in pushing US interests inglobal politics and its leaders have connections to rather unsavoryorganizations, such as current Executive Director David Kramer being aSenior Fellow to the Project for the New American Century, many ofwhose members are responsible for the current warmongering status ofthe US. [8]

Duringthe Bush administration, the President used Freedom House to supportthe so-called War on Terror. In a March 29, 2006 speech, President Bushstated that Freedom House “declaredthe year 2005 was one of the most successful years for freedom sincethe Freedom House began measuring world freedom more than 30 years ago”and that the US should not rest “untilthe promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation” because“In this new century, the advance of freedom is a vital element of ourstrategy to protect the American people, and to secure the peace forgenerations to come.” [9]

Later,it was revealed that Freedom House became more and more supportive ofthe Bush administration’s policies because of the funding it wasgetting from the US government. According to its own internal report in2007, the US government was providing some 66% of funding for theorganization. [10] This funding mainly came from the US Agency forInternational Development (USAID), the US State Department, and theNational Endowment for Democracy. Thus, we see not only the politicalconnection of Freedom House to US government, but major financialconnections as well.

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Post time 2012-3-3 21:08:55 |Display all floors
This post was edited by Mariot at 2012-3-5 11:36

Itshould be noted, however, that Freedom House was not alone insupporting the government. Under the Bush administration, the USgovernment forced NGOs to become more compliant to their demands. In2003, USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios stated in a speech given at aconference of NGOs that in Afghanistan the relationship between NGOsand USAID does affect the survival of the Karzai regime and thatAfghans “believe[their life] is improving through mechanisms that have nothing to dowith the U.S. government and nothing to do with the central government.That is a very serious problem.” [11] On the situation in Iraq, Natsios stated that when it comes to NGO work in the country “proving results counts, but showing a connection between those results and U.S. policy counts as well.”[12] (emphasis added) NGOs were essentially told that they were toolsof the US government and were being made part of the imperialapparatus.

Mostrecently, Freedom House was active in the Arab Spring, where they aidedin the training and financing of civil society groups and individuals“including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center forHuman Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youthleader in Yemen.” [13]

Whilethe Endowment and Freedom House are being used as tools of US foreignpolicy that does not mean that the US government isn’t looking for newtools, namely Amnesty International.

Amnesty International

The human rights organizationAmnesty International is the newest tool in the imperial toolbox of theAmerican Empire. In January 2012, Suzanne Nossel was appointed the newExecutive Director of Amnesty International by the group itself. Beforecoming to Amnesty, Nossel already had deep connections to the USgovernment as she had “served as Deputy Assistant Secretary forInternational Organizations at the U.S. Department of State.” [14]

Nossel is known for coining the term ‘smart power’ which she defined as knowing that “US interests are furtheredby enlisting others on behalf of U.S. goals, through alliances,international institutions, careful diplomacy, and the power ofideals.” [15]While this definition may seem harmless, ‘smart power’ seems to be anenhanced version of Joseph Nye’s ‘soft power,’ which itself is definedas “the ability to obtain the outcomes one wants through attractionrather than using the carrots and sticks of payment or coercion.” [15]A possible example of this ‘smart power’ is the war in Libya, where theUS used the UN as a means to get permission to engage in ‘humanitarianintervention.’

Yet,even before Nossel was appointed to Amnesty, the group was unwittinglyaiding in the media war against Syria. In a September 1, 2011 Democracy Now interview, Neil Sammonds, the researcher and one of the author’s for Amnesty’s report Deadly Detention: Deaths in Custody Amid Popular Protest in Syria, spoke about the manner in which the research was done for the report. He stated:

I’ve not been into Syria. Amnesty International has not been allowed into the country during these events, although we have requested it. Sothe research for this report was done mostly from London, but also fromsome work in neighboring countries and through communications with alarge network of contacts and relatives of the families, and, you know,other sources. [16] (emphasis added)

Howcan one write a report with any amount of authority if their onlysources are through second-hand sources that may or may not have a biasor an agenda to push? How can you write a report using sources whoseinformation has no way of being verified? It is reminiscent of themedia war against Gaddafi, where it was reported in the mainstreammedia that he was bombing his own people and had given Viagra to hissoldiers as so they could rape women, but absolutely none of this wasverified.

WhileNGOs can have a positive influence on society at large, one must beaware of their backgrounds, who is in charge of them, and from whomthey are getting funding from because the nature of the NGO ischanging, it is being more and more integrated into the imperialapparatus of domination and exploitation. NGOs are fast becoming themissionaries of empire.


4: William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, 3rd ed. (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2005) pg 239
5: Ibid, pg 239
7: Blum, pg 240
12: Ibid

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