Glenn Greenwald | November 11, 2010
Panel discussion. Glenn speaks at 30 minutes into the discussion.
At roughly 53:00, the Q-and-A session with the audience began, and the first questioner was NPR’s national security reporter Dina Temple-Raston, whose Awlaki reporting I had criticized just a couple days earlier for uncritically repeating claims told to her by anonymous Pentagon officials. She directed her rather critical multi-part question to me, claiming, among other things, that she had seen evidence of Awlaki’s guilt as a Terrorist (which she had not previously reported or described in any detail), and that led to a rather contentious — and, in my view, quite revealing — exchange about the role of journalists and how Awlaki can and should be punished if he is, in fact, guilty of any actual crime:
Friends of the Earth denounces algae biofuel development
Pressure group Friends of the Earth has declared war on the development of new strains of algae and bacteria to produce biofuels. The group released a report last week warning of the dangers that genetically-modified microbes could pose if released into nature.
With warnings of “devastating results” if organisms escape into the oceans, including formation of “large dead zones”, Friends of the Earth demanded a moratorium on work to produce synthetic algae strains.
The group suggested that based on the previous spread of genetically-modified crops in the environment, the public health could be at risk. Friends of the Earth also cast doubt on the efficiency of producing biofuels from algae.
Friends of the Earth Biotechnology Policy Campaigner Eric Hoffman said: “Synthetic microbes have no natural predators, and if they escape they may disrupt ecosystems and harm public health. Our report concludes that the federal government should put a complete moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organisms… Full article
Study evaluates prospects for boosting carbon sequestration from the atmosphere by modifying natural biological processes and deploying novel food and fuel crops
Forests of genetically altered trees and other plants could sequester several billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year and so help ameliorate global warming, according to estimates published in the October issue of BioScience.
The study, by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, outlines a variety of strategies for augmenting the processes that plants use to sequester carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into long-lived forms of carbon, first in vegetation and ultimately in soil.
Besides increasing the efficiency of plants’ absorption of light, researchers might be able to genetically alter plants so they send more carbon into their roots–where some may be converted into soil carbon and remain out of circulation for centuries. Other possibilities include altering plants so that they can better withstand the stresses of growing on marginal land, and so that they yield improved bioenergy and food crops. Such innovations might, in combination, boost substantially the amount of carbon that vegetation naturally extracts from air, according to the authors’ estimates.
The researchers stress that the use of genetically engineered plants for carbon sequestration is only one of many policy initiatives and technical tools that might boost the carbon sequestration already occurring in natural vegetation and crops.
The article, by Christer Jansson, Stan D. Wullschleger, Udaya C. Kalluri, and Gerald A. Tuskan, is the first in a Special Section in the October BioScience that includes several perspectives on the prospects for enhancing biological carbon sequestration. Other articles in the section analyze the substantial ecological and economic constraints that limit such efforts. One article discusses the prospects for sequestering carbon by culturing algae to produce biofuel feedstocks; one proposes a modification of the current regulatory climate for producing genetically engineered trees in the United States; and one discusses societal perceptions of the issues surrounding the use of genetically altered organisms to ameliorate warming attributed to the buildup of greenhouse gases.
The major Dutch pension fund Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW), which has investments totaling 97 billion euros, has informed The Electronic Intifada that it has divested from almost all the Israeli companies in its portfolio.
PGGM, the manager of the major Dutch pension fund PFZW, has adopted a new guideline for socially responsible investment in companies which operate in conflict zones.
In addition, PFZM has also entered into discussions with Motorola, Veolia and Alstom to raise its concerns about human rights issues. All three companies have actively supported and profited from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip.
Over the past few years, activists in the Netherlands have questioned the two largest pension funds PFZW and ABP about their holdings in companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In September 2009, the Norwegian State Pension Fund decided that it would no longer invest in companies that directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law. By February 2010, ABP, the largest Dutch pension fund, informed The Electronic Intifada it had also divested from the Israeli company Elbit Systems. At the same time, PFZW confirmed that it held shares in Elbit Systems worth 1.6 million euros.
However, the pension fund was reevaluating its investments in Israeli companies. At the time, PFZW held shares in thirteen Israeli companies, including four banks, several telecommunication companies, construction companies and Elbit Systems. In November 2009, PGGM informed The Electronic Intifada that the fund would approach divestment decisions on “Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi and other [Israeli] companies” in a structural manner. This was based on a “new policy on how to deal with investments in companies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” That month, PGGM announced that PFZW was divesting from Africa-Israel for “technical reasons.” Owned by Lev Leviev, Africa-Israel has been involved in the building of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
On 8 November, PGGM spokeswoman Diana Abrahams confirmed in a telephone conversation PFZW’s divestment from almost all Israeli companies. Abrahams could give no further details and referred to PFZW’s 2010 annual report, which will be published next year.
During this period, PGGM has also contributed to the development of guidelines for the United Nations Global Compact. The Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to sustainability and responsible business practices which started in 2000. The initiative is endorsed by chief executives and seeks to align their operations and strategies with ten universally-accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. Last year PGGM was involved in developing a guideline for business operations in combat zones.
The decision by the Dutch pension funds to divest from Israeli companies is yet another indicator for the success of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. It is likely only a matter of time before these funds and others divest from the international corporations which profit from Israel’s occupation.
Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.
Guus Hoelen, secretary of Werkgroep Keerpunt, involved in divestment campaigns in the Netherlands.
A bully or a mafia godfather would never run out of excuses to punish an insubordinate soul in “his territory.” Accordingly, U.S. imperialism has been very creative in invoking all kinds of excuses to punish Iran for its aspirations to national self-determination.
To justify the criminal economic sanctions against the Iranian people, the U.S. has for years insisted that Iran is supporting terrorism, threatening U.S. national interests, and pursuing a program of nuclear weapons manufacturing. As these harebrained allegations are increasingly losing credibility, the United States is now invoking a new ploy to justify its decision to further tighten the sanctions on Iran: “military dictatorship” and “human rights abuses,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has occasionally grumbled about in recent months.
There are a number of obvious problems with this latest U.S. excuse for escalating sanctions against Iran. To begin with, it is a blatant interference in the internal affairs of Iran.
Second, considering the fact that the U.S. has armed its “allies” in the Middle East (and beyond) to the teeth, its condemnation of the rise of Iran’s military power is clearly hypocritical. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), cited in Wikipedia, while Iran’s military spending in 2009 was $9.174 billion (or 2.7% of its GDP), that of Saudi Arabia was $39.257 billion (8.2% of its GDP), that of Israel was $14.34 billion (7% of its GDP), and that of the United Arab Emirates was $13.5 billion (or 5.9% of its GDP).
Third, in light of the fact that the U.S. is the most militarized country in the world, it’s belly-aching about “militarization of Iran” (whose military spending is less than one percent of the U.S.) is patently ironic; it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Again, while Iran’s military spending in 2009 was $9.174 billion, that of the U.S. was $663.255 billion. However, the official $663.255 billion includes neither the Homeland Security budget, nor the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, nor a number of supplemental expenditures added to military spending during the fiscal year. Once these omitted (or hidden) expenditures are added to the official Pentagon budget, total U.S. military-security expenditures would easily amount to $1000 billion, or one trillion dollars. Even in relative terms, Iran’s military spending is infinitesimally small compared to that of the United States. For example, while Iran’s per capita military spending is $131 (9,174,000,000 : 70,000,000), that of the U.S. is $3333 (1,000,000,000,000 : 300,000,000). And whereas Iran’s military spending as a share of its GDP is 2.7% (9.174 billion : 340 billion), that of the United States is nearly 7% (1 trillion : 14 trillion) [Ibid.].
Fourth, in light of the fact that the U.S. is altogether silent in the face of heinous human rights violations under the rule of the regimes it calls “allies,” its alleged concern for “human rights abuses” in Iran is hypocritical and utilitarian: it uses the lofty ideal of defending human rights to disguise its nefarious intentions to impose economic sanctions or to embark on military aggression against that country. Hypocritical defense of human rights is often used to justify wars of aggression as humanitarian operations, or “just wars,” as they were called in times past. Just as this ruse was used in 1999 to wreak carnage on Yugoslavia, so it is now used to pave grounds for committing similarly heinous crimes against Iran.
Regrettably, many left/liberal/antiwar individuals and organizations often fall for this hoax, thereby endorsing (or remaining silent in the face of) U.S. wars of aggression on ethical grounds, that is, on grounds of fighting dictatorship or terrorism in the hope of achieving liberation and democracy. Of course, to make the ruse credible, champions of war and militarism usually start with demonization and distortion, and then proceed to aggression and invasion.
It must also be pointed out that the purported U.S. support for human rights tends to be narrowly focused on purely cultural issues such as life style and identity politics, that is, the politics of race, gender and sexual orientation. As such, it is largely devoid of basic economic needs for survival. Even a cursory comparison with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms (UDHRF), adopted on 10 December 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, reveals some fundamental shortcomings of the U.S. human rights protocol. Human rights according to UDHRF include basic economic or survival needs such as:
“the right to work … to protection against unemployment … to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. . . . Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, and housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. . . . Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection. . . . Everyone has the right to education.”
Human rights a la USA does not include any of these basic human needs—all the nauseating propaganda of championing human rights notwithstanding. Indeed, many of the basic economic rights, which came to be known as the New Deal reforms, and which were achieved through long and heroic struggles of the working people and other grassroots efforts, are now systematically undermined in order to pay for the gambling losses of the Wall Street financial giants.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, to the extent that there has been an undeniable rise in the power of armed forces in Iran, as well as a corresponding curtailment of civil liberties there, such unfortunate developments have evolved as a direct consequence of the constant threats posed by U.S. imperialism and its allies. Iran’s strengthening of its armed forces has become a virtual necessity in self-defense against threats of war, destabilization, sabotage, sanctions and other kinds of covert and overt operations engineered by the imperialist-Zionist forces.
By dividing the world into “allies” and “enemies,” the powerful war profiteering interests in the Unites States, the military-industrial-security colossus, compel both “allies” and “enemies” to militarize. While “enemies” such as Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea are forced to strengthen their defense capabilities against imperialistic aggressions, “allies” such as the regimes ruling Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Colombia are driven to militarization against their own people, since regimes loved by U.S. imperialism are hated by the overwhelming majority of their own citizens.
Critics tend to bemoan the rise in the power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Iran without bothering to explain how the IRGC came to existence, or why it has expanded to where it is today. Who is to be blamed for the ascendancy of its influence in the Iranian politics and economics?
Those even faintly familiar with the history of the IRGC would recall that it came into existence as a resistance force against counter-revolutionary forces in Iran, which have always been supported by U.S. imperialism and its allies. Although it was formed in the spring of 1979 as a small paramilitary revolutionary force in the fight against the Shah’s rule, it remained for the U.S.-instigated invasion of Iran by Saddam Hussein to expand it to a fully-fledged military power in defense of Iran’s territorial integrity. The ensuing brutal 8-year Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in which the U.S. and its allies wholeheartedly supported Saddam Hussein, and the Guards’ legendary sacrifices and heroic defense of Iran’s independence drastically enhanced their size, their prestige and their power.
Although Iraq’s war with Iran ended in 1988, other forms of U.S. wars against Iran have continued to this day. These have included destabilizing “soft-power” operations in the name of democracy, covert operations through all kinds of NGOs and fifth-column groupings, promotion of and support for terrorist operations such as those carried out by Jundullah and Mojadeen Khalgh (MKO, or MEK), constant military threats, psychological warfare, and economic sanctions. Not surprisingly, the role and the influence of IRGC and other security forces in Iran have increased accordingly. Also unsurprisingly, as the political power of Iran’s armed forces has thus increased, so has their economic power.
I say “unsurprisingly” because it is altogether in the nature of things that large standing armies gradually extend their military-security power to the realm of economics. The fully-fledged and the best example of this phenomenon is the rise of the monstrous military-industrial complex in the United States—which, contrary to the defensive nature of Iran’s military force, represents an offensive imperialistic force.
It is of course a truism that maintaining large standing armies will sooner or later lead to authoritarianism. It is equally obvious that by the same token that militarization of the world can be blamed largely on imperialistic U. S. foreign policies, so can the rise of many authoritarian regimes around the world be attributed to those oppressive policies.
When a country (whose only sin is its aspiration to national self-determination) is labeled by U.S. imperialism as “our enemy” and is, therefore, encircled and threatened by the U.S. military monster, that country’s political, economic and democratic growth is bound to be distorted or derailed from a path of a healthy, natural or spontaneous evolution. Finding themselves in the bull’s eye of the menacing U.S. war juggernaut, security forces of such beleaguered countries are bound to react nervously/harshly in the face of protest demonstrations of domestic opposition, even when such demonstrations are for legitimate reasons. The shameful history of covert U.S. operations abroad, including the violent overthrow of many democratically elected leaders through military coup d’états, shows that expressions of indigenous opposition or grievances in such “enemy” countries are often subverted by well-financed and well-armed U.S. agents, either penetrated from outside or recruited from within, thereby warping the development of a “healthy” political/democratic process in those countries.
What is utterly demagogical is that, having thus perverted the politico-democratic process in such countries, the U.S. propaganda machine then turns around and blames the religion or culture or leaders of those countries as inherently incompatible with democratic values. Regrettably, not only do most of the American people but also many people elsewhere, including in the countries targeted for destabilization, fall for this ruse—in effect, blaming the victim for the crimes of the perpetrator.
Viewed in this light, the rise in the influence of the military-security forces in the Iranian politics and economics is a direct result of the menacing imperial policies of the United States and its allies toward that country.
Thus, President Obama’s or Secretary Clinton’s or other U.S. policy makers’ bellyaching about the rise of the power of the armed forces in Iran represents a case of gross obfuscation, that is, a case of barking up the wrong tree: instead of blaming IRGC they should blame their own imperialistic foreign policies, which nurtures militarization and curtailment of civil liberties not only in Iran but also in many other parts of the world. Indeed, militarization of the world and the resulting proliferation of many (relatively smaller) military-industrial complexes around the globe are unmistakable byproducts of the monstrous U.S. military-industrial complex. The inherent dynamics of this monster as an existentially-driven war juggernaut compels other countries around the world (both “allies” and “enemies”) to embark on paths to militarism and authoritarianism.
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh, author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.
Vandana Shiva doesn’t mince words. Food safety is food fascism:
“Risk Assessment in the hands of centralized corruptible agencies is no protection for consumers as the disease and health epidemic in the U.S. linked to over processed, industrial foods show. Even while the U.S. is at the epicenter of the food related public health crises, the U.S. government is trying to export its Food laws which deregulate the industry and over regulate ordinary citizens and small enterprise. This deregulation of the big and toxic and over regulation of the small and ecological is at the core of Food Fascism …”
The Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, is equally straightforward:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
What’s the truth?
Michael Taylor, the Monsanto executive who gave this country rBGH, deregulated GMOs, and kept GMOs all unlabeled, thanks to Obama, is “The Food Safety Czar” at the FDA.
That Czar, “[t]he person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history,” has been using “food safety” as a weapon against small local farms and local food co-ops. (For any who missed the Rawesome Raid, here’s the video on youtube.)
The consequences of the lie can no longer be hidden. They are showing up in Missouri, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Vermont, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Wisconsin, and most recently in Washington.
The places being shut down are providing the most wholesome and nutritious food available and their tests come back clean, but the places are closed down regardless, often with no means of reopening. The problem is they are not within a just or even rational legal framework but one run by Monsanto, a company which devised a means to sue farmers for labeling their milk honestly, as rBGH-free.
Requirements farmers are being asked to meet include such violations of civil and human rights as keeping the names, addresses and phone numbers of customers and limits of on how much milk they can produce (If the milk is safe, on what basis does the state limit how much can be produced? And what other food has limits on production?). They face closings over missing a single page of pasteurization information, and shutting down of a food club with demands for paper work and names of customers even without charges being filed.
There are no “food safety” violations here, only the violation of a corporation shutting people down who are providing safe food and cutting off people depending on them for that food.
The list of raids since Obama came in is incomplete. It comes on top of SWAT team raids that occurred under Bush – also without reasonable cause, and repeatedly against a single farmer, and sometimes without any cause.
Food (especially milk products), equipment and personal computers are seized by state agents without a warrant and destroyed (sometimes running into hundreds of thousands of dollars of losses) which is followed by destruction of the farmers’ own food, stored for the family for the year. None is replaced and the farmer is not compensated.
Under such an FDA regime, “food safety” has lost all meaning. It is a farce of paperwork and a complex, irrelevant (to true safety of food) regulations which allow for governmental discretion in how standards must be met or maliciously assuring they can never be met, and in how penalties are applied. It is an arrangement that keeps doors wide open to willful government injustices. Lost in this complicated, pretense-filled, science-sounding bureaucratic system is the fact that “food safety” has nothing whatever to do with the actual safety of the food.
When it comes to literal food safety, the FDA, tasked to protect food, has illegally allowed antibiotics, hormones and slaughterhouse waste (all banned for years in Europe) to enter the food supply, along with pesticides and GMOs, with none ever having been tested for safety in humans. And those toxic items remain there today despite decades of studies (by scientists outside the FDA) proving their danger conclusively. How many people have died from this exposure, and not from acute infections but from chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more?
Those toxic substances are all corporate products and the bases of the immense profits to Monsanto, agribusiness in general, the food industry, and especially to the pharmaceutical industry which both sells the toxins and many of the food “additives” and then, after the food is consumed, swoops in like a vulture to pick the bones clean from perhaps the most profitable aspect of all – the steadily increasing diseases it and its brother corporations are assuring.
America does produce safe food but it is produced outside of the industrial [model] based on drugs chemicals, animal confinement, and GMOs. It comes only from the farms Monsanto is working to shut down.
That the FDA is concerned with “food safety” is a fiction propped [up] by propaganda. This is perhaps best exemplified by the raids occurring now, most of them involving raw milk.
The “food safety” stage was set by a long standing government smear campaign around raw milk’s alleged threat to health, giving the public the impression that the FDA was on the job protecting them from dangerous pathogens on farms. The public was unaware of how often the government accused farmers of producing milk with salmonella or another pathogen, shut the farmer down for a few weeks, and put that scare-mongering news in the media. But when the tests came back clean, that did not make the news. In the meantime, the farmer’s reputation was damaged and weeks of income were lost. Farmers, to defend themselves, began taking samples at the same time the government did, and having independent labs quickly confirm the milk was safe, undermining the government ruse.
In any case, the false accusations did not dampen the rapidly growing demand for raw milk. Perhaps because the milk is clean and the rigmarole of testing wasn’t offering a means to shut down dairy farmers Monsanto is now shutting them and food buying clubs down anyway, dropping all pretense of cause.
This becomes yet more absurd and unjust since the reality is that raw milk is the cleanest milk in the country whereas pasteurized milk in supermarkets contains pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, pus and GMOs. And pathogens. For while the FDA is accusing raw milk of being unsafe, in truth, the FDA is ignoring 5 to 20% of pasteurized milk in supermarkets, coming from the dairy industry, can be cultured for the Crohn’s bacterium. It is contaminated with a disease bacterium. The FDA has known this for more than a decade and done nothing about it, not even informing researchers and doctors searching for the cause that pasteurized milk is a likely source.
And to make the FDA’s actions more ludicrous in terms of “food safety,” the raw milk they are trying to get rid of is sought after by many in order to treat Crohn’s disease.
“Food safety” under Monsanto is Orwellian regulations enlarged to the specter of a Howitzer, easy to swing around and aim at small farms and food co-ops providing incontrovertibly safe, nutritious food, in order to shut them down. But somehow the big gun is permanently jammed when it comes pointing at giant corporate facilities sending out contaminated food to millions, sickening and even killing people. Those facilities, despite deaths, have not been closed for a single day.
The FDA (Monsanto) claims it can’t deal with the big corporate offenders without more fire power, so it wants a much, much bigger weapon and total discretion to act whenever and however it decides. The farmers and local food producers, wide-eyed, call out to the country, “Look who their target has been! Look who their target is now!” Given Monsanto overriding existing legal constraints to shut down people doing everything right, their intent is clear as is their drive. With the force and scope of what the “food safety” bills contain, Monsanto would be freed up to obliterate small farming and all local food systems in the US.
Colbert has done a show on the armed FBI raid in LA, and Olbermann did a show on a proposed Miami law that would use “food safety” to criminalize donating to the homeless. Word is starting to get out that something serious is occurring around food and Americans’ rights to produce it and use it freely. Monsanto would probably agree, since it has been appearing in court (as FDA’s “food safety” division) to try to remove human rights around food and health.
Realizing that who is behind FDA “food safety” (Monsanto of documentary fame) begins to lift the veil from the FDA’s claims that it must have more power to go after corporate violators, to reveal the Howitzer beneath, one which Monsanto is using only against hard-working people providing exactly what the country says it wants – a local food economy, safe food, local jobs, food security, and little carbon footprint.
Vandana Shiva says this partnership between the state and corporations is corporate rule. Is that the truth about “food safety”?
Millions of dollars are being channeled to opposition groups in Venezuela via USAID, while the Pentagon has established a new PSYOP program directed at Venezuela, including a “5-day a week television program in Spanish broadcast in Venezuela” during 2011
The 2010 annual report of the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), a division of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), regarding its operations in Venezuela, evidences that at least $9.29 million USD was invested this year in efforts to “support US foreign policy objectives…and promote democracy” in the South American nation. This amount represents an increase of almost $2 million over last year’s $7.45 million distributed through this office to fund anti-Chávez political activities in the country.
The OTI is a department of USAID dedicated to “supporting US foreign policy objectives by helping local partners advance democracy in priority countries in crisis. OTI works on the ground to provide, fast, flexible short-term assistance targeted at key political transition and stabilization needs”.
Although OTI is traditionally used as a “short-term” strategy to filter millions of dollars in liquid funds to political groups and activities that promote US agenda in strategically important nations, the case of Venezuela has been different. OTI opened its office in 2002, right after the failed coup d’etat against President Hugo Chavez – backed by Washington – and has remained ever since. The OTI in Venezuela is the longest standing office of this type in USAID’s history.
OTI’S CLANDESTINE OPS
In a confidencial memo dated January 22, 2002, Russell Porter, head of OTI, revealed how and why USAID set up shop in Venezuela. “OTI was asked to consider a program in Venezuela by the State Department’s Office of Andean Affairs on January 4…OTI was asked if it could offer programs and assistance in order to strengthen the democratic elements that are under increasing fire from the Chavez government”.
Porter visited Venezuela on January 18, 2002 and then commented, “For democracy to have any chance of being preserved, immediate support is needed for independent media and the civil society sector…One of the large weaknesses in Venezuela is the lack of a vibrant civil society…The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has a $900,000 program in Venezuela that works with NDI, IRI and the Solidarity Center to strengthen political parties and the Unions…This program is useful, but not nearly sufficient. It is not flexible enough, nor does it work with enough new or non-traditional groups. It also lacks a media component”.
Since then OTI has been present in Venezuela, channeling millions of dollars each year to feed the political conflict in the country. According to the 2010 annual report, OTI is now operating “out of the US Embassy and is part of a larger US diplomatic effort to promote democracy in Venezuela”.
The principal investment of the $9.29 million in US taxpayer dollars in 2010 went to the opposition’s campaign for the legislative elections, held last September 26 in Venezuela. “USAID works with several implementing partners drawn from the spectrum of civil society…offering technical assistance to political parties…and supporting efforts to strengthen civil society”.
In Venezuela, it’s widely known that the term “civil society” refers to the anti-Chavez opposition.
A SECRET FLOW OF FUNDS
Despite revealing its overall budget, the actual flow of funds from USAID/OTI to groups in Venezuela remains secret. When OTI opened its offices in 2002, it contracted a private US company, Development Alternatives Inc (DAI), one of the State Department’s largest contractors worldwide. DAI ran an office out of El Rosal – the Wall Street of Caracas – distributing millions of dollars annually in “small grants of no more than $100,000” to hundreds of mainly unknown Venezuelan “organizations”.
From 2002 to 2010, more than 600 of these “small grants” were channeled out of DAI’s office to anti-Chavez groups, journalists and private, opposition media campaigns.
In December 2009, DAI began to have severe problems with its operations in Afghanistan, when five of its employees were killed by alleged Taliban militants during an attack on their office December 15 in Gardez. Just days earlier, another DAI “employee”, Alan Gross, had been detained in Cuba and accused of subversion for illegally distributing advanced satellite equipment to dissidents.
When an article written by this author titled “CIA Agents assassinated in Afghanistan worked for “contractor” active in Venezuela, Cuba”, published December 30, 2009 on the web, evidenced the link between DAI’s operations in Afghanistan, Cuba and Venezuela, and their suspicious nature, the CEO of DAI, Jim Boomgard, was alarmed. Days later, he attempted to coerce me into a private meeting in Washington to “discuss” my article. When I refused, he threatened me by claiming that my writing was “placing all DAI employees worldwide in danger”. In other words, if anything happened to DAI employees, I would be personalIy responsible.
But Boomgard, who claimed little knowledge of his company’s operations in Venezuela, understood that what DAI was doing in Venezuela was nowhere near as important (to his company) as what DAI was doing in Afghanistan and other countries in conflict. Weeks later, DAI abruptly closed its office in Caracas.
Nonetheless, OTI continues its operations in Venezuela, and although it has other US “partners” managing a portion of its annual multimillion-dollar budget, such as IRI, NDI, Freedom House and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), there is zero transparency regarding funding to Venezuelan groups.
A report published in May 2010 by the Spanish think tank FRIDE assessing “democracy assistance” to Venezuela revealed that a significant part of the more than $50 million annually in political funding from international agencies to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela was entering illicitly. According to the report, in order to avoid Venezuela’s strict “currency control laws”, US and European agencies bring the monies in dollars or euros into the country and then change them on the black market to increase value. This method also avoids leaving a financial record or trace of the funds coming in to illegally finance political activities.
If DAI is no longer operating in Venezuela and distributing “small grants” to Venezuelan groups, then how are USAID’s multimillion-dollar funds reaching their recipients? According to USAID, they now operate from the US Embassy. Is the US Embassy illegally dishing out funds directly to Venezuelans?
OTI’s 2010 report also reveals the agency’s ongoing intentions to continue supporting and funding Venezuelan counterparts. In the section marked “Upcoming Events”, OTI makes clear where energies will be directed, “December 2012 – Presidential elections”.
USAID isn’t the only US agency intervening in Venezuela’s affairs. In the Pentagon’s 2011 budget, a new request for a “psychological operations program” for the Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), which coordinates all US military missions in Latin America, is included. Specifically, the request refers to the establishment of a “PSYOP voice program for USSOUTHCOM”.
PYSOP are, “planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups and individuals. The execution of PSYOP includes conducting research on various foreign audiences; developing, producing and disseminating products to influence these audiences; and conducting evaluations to determine the effectiveness of the PSYOP activities. These activities may include the management of various websites and monitoring print and electronic media”. Or, as the 2011 request indicates, running a radio or audio program into a foreign nation to promote US agenda.
USSOUTHCOM’s new PSYOP program in Latin America will complement a new State Department initiative run out of the Board of Broadcasting Governors (BBG), which manages US propaganda worldwide. BBG’s whopping 2011 budget of $768.8 million includes “a 30-minute, five-day-a-week VOA [Voice of America] Spanish television program for Venezuela”.
This increase in PSYOP and pro-US propaganda directed at Venezuela evidences an escalation in US aggression towards the region.
And the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is still running a special intelligence “mission” on Venezuela and Cuba, set up in 2006. Only four of these country-specific “mission management teams” exist: Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan/Pakistan, and Venezuela/Cuba. These “missions” receive an important part of DNI’s $80 billion annual budget and operate in complete secrecy.