Next to exit Russia should be the National Endowment for Democracy
Russia’s decision to shut down the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Moscow, starting October 1st, was immediately followed by Washington’s “pledge to maneuver around the Kremlin,” according to a New York Times report.
Indeed, State Department Press Secretary Victoria Nuland assured: “We will continue to be vigilant in supporting democracy, human rights, civil society in Russia. We’ll just do it another way.” Other US officials named possible avenues for such maneuvering: The National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and others.
Let’s take a closer look at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an umbrella organization that includes the two aforementioned institutes. It came to existence in quite a peculiar a way: US Code Title 22, ‘Foreign Relations and Intercourse,’ section 4411, ‘Findings,’ states, “The Congress finds that there has been established in the District of Columbia a private, nonprofit corporation known as the National Endowment for Democracy which is not an agency or establishment of the United States Government.”
How exactly did this happen, that Congress found this agency suddenly established?
The Reagan administration, after coming to power in 1981, was looking for a civilian cover for conducting subversive operations in the USSR after a vast plot involving the CIA funding of public organizations was uncovered by investigative journalists. As President of NED Carl Gershman stated in 1986, “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.” (The New York Times, June 1, 1986.)
One of NED’s architects was Walter Raymond, Jr. According to the Washington Post, “From 1970 to 1982, he worked for the CIA, becoming an authority on overseas media operations.” In 1982, Raymond transferred to the National Security Council as Senior Director of International Communications and Information. In Gershman’s doublespeak, that reads as: “He was the democracy person at the White House, and his job, among other things, was to help the NED family take its first steps.” (Carl Gershman’s tribute to Walt Raymond, April 24, 2003, http://www.ned.org)
This new ‘private’ corporation was concocted in other ‘private’ circles as well. The establishment of NED was recommended by the Democracy Program, a project of the American Political Foundation that consisted of a “broad cross-section of participants in American politics and foreign policy making.” The seed funding for the Democracy Program came from, naturally, USAID.
NED has been funded by the US Congress ever since, initially through the US Information Agency. After 1999, NED got its funds through the Department of State’s Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act. In 2011, the NED budget totaled $118 million, and $104 million this year. Just like any other government agency, NED directs its annual reports to the president and Congress. And one of NED’s founding fathers, Allen Weinstein, even confessed to the Washington Post in 1991 that, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
Who is running NED? Carl Gershman has held this position for almost thirty years, since 1984. What better shows to show Washington’s continuity, where “people is policy.”
NED is supervised at the State Department by an Assistant Secretary in charge of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Barry F. Lowenkron held this position and oversaw NED from 2005 to 2007. According to his official biography, prior to this appointment Mr. Lowenkron served in the intelligence community, including two tours as Director of European Security Affairs on the National Security Council (1988-89, 1991-93 – both critical times in Russia); Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence; Director of the National Intelligence Council’s Analytic Staff; Civilian Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and other similar positions,
Michael Posner currently supervises NED at the State Department. Previously, Mr. Posner was president of Human Rights First, whose stated mission is to “advance universal rights and freedoms.” Every year, Human Rights First presents their ‘Next Generation of Human Rights Defenders’ award. In 2008, Posner gave this award to a coordinator of Oborona, a leading Russian movement in the effort to foment a color revolution and oust Vladimir Putin.
NED is so clearly part of the US government that legislators had to pass a specific law stating that it was not. ‘Private’ organizations like NED are nothing but funding channels for activities that used to be run by the CIA under the title of ‘subversion.’ The fact that Washington is planning to redirect USAID funding through ‘private’ organizations reflects an outrageous level of disrespect for the decision of the Russian government.
Russia needs to enforce its decision and shut operations of NED and its all four mandated grantees, namely the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS). The process of concealing an institution’s income or funding is called money laundering, and is forbidden by international law.
- Pro-Israel Groups Support Malaysian Opposition (alethonews.wordpress.com)
As Malaysia approaches its highly anticipated 13th General Elections set to take place at some point before late June 2013, a tense political climate and a sense of unpredictability looms over the nation. The significance of these upcoming elections cannot be understated. During Malaysia’s 2008 General Elections, the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which held power continuously since the nation’s independence, experienced its worst result in decades, while the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition won 82 parliamentary seats. For the first time, the ruling party was deprived of its two-thirds parliamentary majority, which is required to pass amendments to Malaysia’s Federal Constitution. As the United States continues to militarily increase its presence in the Pacific region inline with its strategic policy shift to East Asia, Washington’s leaders would like to see compliant heads of state who will act to further American interests in the ASEAN region.
The outcome of the approaching elections could have significant ramifications for Malaysia’s foreign policy, economy, and trade relations. While allegations of corruption and economic mismanagement hinder the credibility of ruling Prime Minister Najib Razak, foreign organizations affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and funded by the United States government, have contributed support toward bolstering the influence and status of the Malaysia’s opposition groups, in addition to the controversial Bersih coalition for electoral reform, led by Ambiga Sreenevasan. Opponents of this information may dismiss these claims as the “propaganda” of Barisan Nasional, however the validity of these accusations have been highly documented, and constitute an attempt by foreign governments to undermine Malaysia’s independent political process. On June 27th, 2011, Bersih coalition leader Ambiga Sreenevasan conceded that her organization received financial assistance from two private American organizations:
Ambiga admitted to Bersih receiving some money from two US organisations — the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Open Society Institute (OSI) — for other projects, which she stressed were unrelated to the July 9 march. 
However innocuous such contributions may seem, a more critical review of these organizations and their affiliations is necessary. Hungarian-American philanthropist and financier George Soros founded the Open Society Institute in 1993, whose principle aim sought to “strengthen open society principles and practices against authoritarian regimes and the negative consequences of globalization,” with an emphasis on countries in transition from communism after the fall of the Soviet Union.  Although OSI has emphasized its commitment to “human rights” and “transparency” by heavily sponsoring organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Soros was convicted of insider trading in 2002 regarding French bank Société Générale and was ironically denied an appeal by the “European Court of Human Rights.”  Although Soros has appeared to be publicly critical of capitalism, he has disingenuously profited from predatory trading in many instances, most prominently in 1992 when he earned an estimated $1.1 billion by short selling sterling while the British government was reluctant to adjust its interest rates prior to devaluing the pound.
Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute, an organization that supplies electoral observers and promotes governance reform, widely seen as an attempt to foster foreign political systems compatible with American interests by assisting civil society groups in mounting pressure on national governments. NDI President Kenneth Wollack served as the legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, widely considered to be Israel’s most prominent lobbyist organization, one that influences American legislation to exert aggressive Israeli policy and viewpoints.  The National Democratic Institute is one of four organizations funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), in addition to the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity.
Alan Weinstein, one of the founders of the National Endowment for Democracy was notably quoted in 1991 as saying, “A lot of what we (NED) do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA.”  The National Endowment for Democracy receives its funding entirely through an annual allocation of funds from the United States Congress within the budget of the development assistance agency USAID, a branch of the US State Department.  Although the NED receives public funding from the US taxpayer, the activities of its four satellite institutes are not reported to Congress, making funding trails and their final recipients difficult to identify. Although the organization boasts of “promoting democracy” and “fortifying civil society” around the world, history had proven that these tired euphemisms have been used in numerous countries to mask funding to various political forces opposed to their national governments and aligned with American interests. American historian and former employee of the US State Department William Blum writes:
NED’s Statement of Principles and Objectives, adopted in 1984, asserts that “No Endowment funds may be used to finance the campaigns of candidates for public office.” But the ways to circumvent the spirit of such a prohibition are not difficult to come up with; as with American elections, there’s “hard money” and there’s “soft money”. As described in the “Elections” and “Interventions” chapters, NED successfully manipulated elections in Nicaragua in 1990 and Mongolia in 1996; helped to overthrow democratically elected governments in Bulgaria in 1990 and Albania in 1991 and 1992; and worked to defeat the candidate for prime minister of Slovakia in 2002 who was out of favor in Washington. And from 1999 to 2004, NED heavily funded members of the opposition to President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to subvert his rule and to support a referendum to unseat him. 
NED President Carl Gershman was formerly a member of the Governing Council of the American Jewish Congress and Vice-Chairman of the Young People’s Socialist League, and in 1968, he was employed in the research department of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, considered the most prominent Jewish service organization in the world, committed to the security and continuity the State of Israel.  The Anti-Defamation League is a US-based human rights group committed to the “security of Israel and Jews worldwide,” and was implicated in 1993 by the District of Attorney of San Francisco for overseeing a vast surveillance operation monitoring American citizens who were opposed to Israel’s policies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, prior to passing their personal information to the Israeli government in Tel Aviv. 
In addition to providing funding to the Bersih coalition through the National Democratic Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy’s Malaysian operation provides $100,000 (RM 317,260) for political news website Malaysiakini, considered to be the nation’s most pro-opposition news outlet.  Premesh Chandran, Malaysiakini CEO, is a grantee of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and launched the news organization with a $100,000 grant from the Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), a recipient of funds from the Open Society Institute, the NED, and Freedom House, an organization reliant on US federal government grants for a significant percentage of its funding.  NED also provides $90,000 (RM 285,516) to SUARAM, an organization promoting human rights. 
The most significant recipient of NED’s Malaysia programs is the International Republican Institute (IRI), who annually receives $802,122 (RM 2,544,670) and is tasked to “work with state leaders in Penang and Selangor to provide them with public opinion research, training and other resources to enable them to be more effective representatives of their constituents.”  IRI’s mention of these specific regions is unsurprising, as Penang is held by the Malaysian Democratic Action Party, while Selangor is held by Parti Keadilan Rakyat, two of the three organizations comprising the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat, led by Anwar Ibrahim. US Senator John McCain, an ardent supporter of American militarism who boasts of being “proudly pro-American and proudly pro-Israel”, chairs the International Republican Institute, whose mission statement in Malaysia reads:
Since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, the country has experienced a series of national elections, but never a change in national government. The ruling coalition, known as Barisan Nasional (BN) since 1973, has held power continuously during Malaysia’s post-independence era. In the 2008 general elections, for the first time, the BN lost its two-thirds majority in parliament and control of five state assemblies to the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Subsequently, in April 2011 in Sarawak (the only state holding assembly elections before national elections occur) the BN retained control of the state assembly but suffered a reduction in its majority. It is in this context that IRI provides technical assistance, training, and consultation to political parties to build knowledge and impart skills that enable both ruling and opposition Malaysian political leaders to more effectively address citizen concerns. IRI’s current work in this area started in 2009 when the Institute began a groundbreaking series of training sessions designed to assist political parties in developing the in-house capacity to conduct and analyze focus group discussions. These sessions were followed by workshops which allowed focus group moderators to present their findings to their colleagues and craft messages that were used to recruit new political party members and retain existing ones. 
It comes as little surprise that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim talks boldly of a “Malaysian Spring,” as the same organizations bolstering the opposition in Kuala Lumpur have successfully fomented events that led to the series of uprisings across the Arab World in 2011. Such organizations rely on the passive impressionability of their followers, while inflaming the legitimate grievances of the subject population to pressure a change in government. This is accomplished by the formation and propagation of dissident news media organizations, and by leveraging police misconduct and human rights abuses to discredit targeted governments in the eyes of the international community. Such agitation is not intended to promote a genuine democratic framework; its purpose is the gradual installation of national governments friendly to American interests by coaxing popular uprising and social unrest. In an April 2011 article published by the New York Times titled, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” it was stated:
A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington. The Republican and Democratic institutes are loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic Parties. They were created by Congress and are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which was set up in 1983 to channel grants for promoting democracy in developing nations. The National Endowment receives about $100 million annually from Congress. Freedom House also gets the bulk of its money from the American government, mainly from the State Department. 
In the Egyptian context, these organizations have experienced “blowback” from their activities training and funding dissidents, and fomenting Egypt’s popular revolution. In a December 2011 article published by the Los Angeles Times, it was said:
Egyptian security forces on Thursday raided the offices of 17 nongovernmental organizations, including three U.S.-based agencies, as part of a crackdown on foreign assistance that has drawn criticism from the West and threatened human rights groups and pro-democracy movements. The move appeared to be part of a strategy to intimidate international organizations. The ruling military council has repeatedly blamed “foreign hands” for exploiting Egypt’s political and economic turmoil. But activists said the army was using the ruse of foreign intervention to stoke nationalism and deflect criticism of abuses. Egyptian soldiers and black-clad police officers swept into offices, interrogated workers and seized computers across the country. Those targeted included U.S. groups the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House, which are funded by Congress to monitor elections and promote democracy overseas. 
While the Los Angeles Times frames its report to insinuate that Egypt’s security forces have intrusively aimed to “intimidate” international human rights groups, one must examine the case of Egypt’s newly drafted constitution. After the overthrow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, democracy advocates called for the constitution to be rewritten from scratch. Reuters published reports citing a pro-opposition judiciary official, who said Egypt’s new constitution would be drafted by civil society groups, namely, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, a recipient of funds directly from George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, financed by the National Endowment for Democracy.  Undoubtedly, the conduct of foreign nations and their relationship with opposition organizations and civil society groups is incompatible within any authentic democratic framework.
In the Malaysian context, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim maintains close ties with senior US officials and organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy. In July 2006, Ibrahim chaired the Washington-based Foundation for the Future, established and funded by the US Department of State at the behest of Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who was recently convicted in absentia for war crimes for his issuance of torture during the Iraq war by Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, chaired by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed.  In 2007, Ibrahim was a panelist at the National Endowment for Democracy’s “Democracy Award” event held in Washington.  These questionable affiliations raise strong concerns over the legitimacy of the candidate and the administration he would lead if winning the 13th General Election.
It would be advisable for Malaysia to follow the example of Russia; President Vladimir Putin recently approved a new law that tightens controls on civil rights groups receiving funded from abroad, forcing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaging in “political activity” to register with the Russian Justice Ministry as “foreign agents,” requiring such organizations to file a report to officials every quarter.  While such a law would inevitably be criticized as a suppression of dissent, it must be understood that such legislation would not hamper legitimate activism. Malaysia, like Russia, must take the initiative to address the legitimate grievances of activists by bolstering its own indigenous institutions and civil society organizations. Foreign organizations with questionable affiliations attempting to tip the balance of power in their favor is the very antithesis of an authentic democracy. A quote from a recent Op-Ed penned by Russian journalist Veronika Krasheninnikova sends a strong message to the people of Malaysia:
Building a patriotic civil society cannot be outsourced. Democratic processes and national security cannot be outsourced – all the more so to openly hostile governments.
 Bersih repudiates foreign Christian funding claim, The Malaysian Insider, July 27, 2011
 A Global Alliance for Open Society, Soros Foundation Network, 2001
 Report and financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2010, Amnesty International, March 31, 2010 (Page 10)
 Partners, Human Rights Watch, 2012
 Soros Loses Case Against French Insider-Trading Conviction, Bloomberg, October 6, 2011
 Kenneth Wollack, National Democratic Institute, 2011
 Democracy promotion: America’s new regime change formula, Russia Today, November 23, 2010
 History, National Endowment for Democracy, 2011
 Trojan Horse: The National Endowment for Democracy, The International Endowment for Democracy, 2003
 Who is Who, Annual Conference on World Affairs, 1971
 The ADL Spying Case Is Over, But The Struggle Continues, Counterpunch, February 25, 2002
 Malaysiakini Blog: Donors, 2011
 Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Southeast Asian Press Alliance, 2010
 2007 Annual Report, Freedom House, 2007
 Malaysia | National Endowment for Democracy, National Endowment for Democracy, 2011
 Malaysia, International Republican Institute, 2011
 U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings, The New York Times, April 14, 2011
 Egypt raids foreign organizations’ offices in crackdown, The Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2011
 Rewrite Egypt constitution from scratch, say critics, Reuters, February 16, 2011
 Acknowledgements, Arabic Network For Human Rights Information, 2004
 Egypt | National Endowment For Democracy, National Endowment For Democracy, 2005
 Foundation for the Future Holds its First Board Meeting in Doha, Qatar, Foundation for the Future, July 15, 2006
 2007 Democracy Award, National Endowment for Democracy, 2007
 Russia’s Putin signs NGO “foreign agents” law, The Star, July 21, 2012
 West’s battle for Russian ‘hearts and minds’: NGOs on steroids, Russia Today, July 13, 2012
The following article is from the Summer 2012 issue of the NACLA Report on the Americas, “Latin America and the Global Economy.” It was published alongside Jeremy Bigwood’s expose of Freedom House’s role in clandestinely nurturing and organizing the opposition to Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez over the last eight years.
Freedom House offices in Washington (credit: Jeremy Bigwood)
Freedom House is the oldest Washington-based NGO working in the international arena. It was founded just before the beginning of the U.S. entry into World War II and blossomed during the Cold War. Freedom House today positions itself as a nuanced, liberal, or even left-of-center organization, obscuring its real agenda: to destabilize foreign governments whose policies challenge U.S. global hegemony. Since the 1980s Reagan revolution, its Board of Trustees has been largely composed of neoconservatives, including R. J. Woolsey, the former director of the CIA; Donald Rumsfeld; Paul Wolfowitz; Jeane Kirkpatrick; and Samuel P. Huntington.1 Although it likes to call itself “independent,” it receives about 80% of its funding from the U.S. government, either through the State Department, USAID, or the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).2 As such, it is clearly an instrument of the U.S. government.3 The rest of its funding is underwritten by foundations that pay for its annual Freedom in the World report, which ranks countries according to how free they are—as perceived through the eyes of Freedom House’s main office in Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. This report is widely cited as gospel in the news media but has been heavily criticized by academics for its biased methodology.4
During the Cold War, Freedom House acted as the principal U.S.-based intellectual organ for attacking the ideologies and policies of Soviet and Chinese communism. But it almost always artfully avoided any discussion of the embarrassing inconsistencies between U.S. ideals and practices, such as the U.S. government’s Cold War activities in Latin America, Africa, and South East Asia, and its domestic racial policies. Even so, few NACLA readers would find fault with all of Freedom House’s work during the Cold War or after. As such, the organization belongs to a gray area of U.S. foreign policy.
Freedom House underwent a significant shift toward promoting neoliberal economic and political policies after the 1973 coup in Chile against the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende.5 Since the end of the Cold War, Freedom House has adjusted to the new geopolitical environment by shifting its attention from attacking Communism to undermining what Washington considers to be “authoritarian” and “populist” countries. Freedom House now quietly funds projects in those countries that the United States considers to be economic or ideological threats, or more openly in allies that the United States wants to keep in line. Freedom House tends to stay away from U.S.-friendly totalitarian regimes and monarchies.
Freedom House arrogantly holds that it has the right to operate anywhere in the world with or without the permission of the local government. In response to queries about its activities in other countries, an online Freedom House fact sheet explains: “Language in the annual State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill states that U.S. democracy and human rights programming shall not be subject to the prior approval by the government of any foreign country.”6 In other words, Freedom House believes that, with the permission of the U.S. Congress, it has the right to decide when and where it can meddle in any other government on the planet. … Full article
1. Diego Giannone, “Political and Ideological Aspects in the Measurement of Democracy: the Freedom House Case,” Democratization 17, no. 1 (January–February 2010): 68–97, available at tandfonline.com.
3. Ibid., 75.
4. Gerardo l. Munck and Jay Verkuilen, “Conceptualizing and Measuring Democracy: Evaluating Alternative Indices,” University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Comparative Political Studies 35, no. 1 (February 2002): 5–34; Scott Mainwaring, with Daniel Brinks and Anibal Perez Liñán, “Political Regimes in Latin America, 1900–2007,” available at kellogg.nd.edu.
5. David Harvey, “Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 610 (March 2007): 26, as quoted in Giannone, “Political and Ideological Aspects in the Measurement of Democracy.”
6. Sarah Trister, “Fact Sheet: Freedom House in Egypt,” January 2012, available at freedomhouse.org.
See Jeremy Bigwood’s article in the Report, “Freedom House in Venezuela.”
A German news website has revealed that the German government has been pushing for Eurozone countries to adopt a more active role in backing the current Venezuelan opposition coalition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), in the run up to this year’s presidential elections.
In an article published by Amerika21 earlier this week it was revealed that German diplomats had taken advantage of a recent European Union Council meeting on Latin American affairs to call on members to offer “greater and more open support” to the MUD and its candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, who will stand against incumbent President Chavez in October.
According to the website, German delegates at the meeting in April had said that support for Venezuela’s opposition “should not be hidden from the public”, despite calls from other European nations such as France and Portugal who argued for a “more discreet” approach.
The news was disclosed as a team of representatives from the German Parliament took part in a governmental delegation to Venezuela, where they met solely with members of the country’s political opposition.
According to Prensa Latina news, which had access to the delegation’s agenda, the diplomats met with leading figures from the Venezuelan political opposition such as MUD Secretary General, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, and other leading figures from opposition parties such as Democratic Action (AD).
The representatives are also reported to have met with anti-government NGOs during their stay, including organizations such as the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, which has previously been accused of carrying out acts aimed at sabotaging the national government and receives funding from the US government.
Meetings with the head of Venezuela’s business federation, Fedecamaras, and the head of Venezuela’s chamber of commerce, were also amongst the delegation’s agenda. “In Venezuela we met almost exclusively with opposition forces, while in Chile, our next stop, we met with people from the government”, reported German representative Heike Hansel from the German Socialist Party, Die Linke, in an interview with Prensa Latina.
The German government currently led by Angela Merkel has recently come under fire for its open backing of French rightwing candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost his bid for reelection to socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, earlier this month.
The MUD currently receives direct financial support from US institutions such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), although President Chavez has warned that the US government may expand its support for the opposition into other areas as the elections draw nearer.
The Venezuelan President has also stated that the MUD is developing a strategy to contest this October’s election results in league with the US government.
- US Shelters Venezuelan Fugitive, Criticises Existence of “Drug Kingpins” in Venezuela (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- CNN: The Latest Outlet for Roger Noriega’s Paranoid Speculations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Non-governmental organizations are an increasingly important part of the 21st century international landscape performing a variety of humanitarian tasks pertaining inter alia to issues of poverty, the environment and civil liberties. However, there is a dark side to NGOs. They have been, and are currently, being used as tools of foreign policy, specifically by the United States. Instead of using purely military force, the US has now moved to using NGOs as tools in its foreign policy implementation, specifically the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, and Amnesty International.
National Endowment for Democracy
According to its website, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is “a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world,”  however this sweet sounding description is actually quite far from the truth.
The history of the NED begins immediately after the Reagan administration took power. Due to the massive revelations concerning the CIA in the 1970s, specifically that they were involved in attempted assassinations of heads of state, the destabilization of foreign governments, and were illegally spying on the US citizens, this tarnished the image of the CIA and of the US government as a whole. While there were many committees that were created during this time to investigate the CIA, the Church Committee (led by Frank Church, a Democrat from Idaho) was of critical importance as its findings “demonstrated the need for perpetual surveillance of the intelligence community and resulted in the creation of the permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”  The Select Committee on Intelligence’s purpose was to oversee federal intelligence activities and while oversight and stability came in, it seemed to signal that the CIA’s ‘party’ of assassination plots and coups were over. Yet, this was to continue, but in a new way: under the guise of a harmful NGO whose purpose was to promote democracy around the world – the National Endowment for Democracy.
The NED was meant to be a tool of US foreign policy from its outset. It was the brainchild of Allen Weinstein who, before creating the Endowment, was a professor at Brown and Georgetown Universities, had served on the Washington Post’s editorial staff, and was the Executive Editor of The Washington Quarterly, Georgetown’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, a right-wing neoconservative think tank which would in the future have ties to imperial strategists such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski.  He stated in a 1991 interview that “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” 
The first director of the Endowment, Carl Gershman, outright admitted that the 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.  (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 “has received an annual appropriation approved by the United States Congress as part of the United States Information Agency budget.” 
No sooner than the Endowment was founded did it begin funding groups that would support US interests. From 1983 to 1984, the Endowment was active in France and “supported a ‘trade union-like organization that for professors and students’ to counter ‘left-wing organizations of professors,’”  through the funding of seminars, posters, books, and pamphlets that encouraged opposition to leftist thought. In the mid and late 1990s, the NED continued its fight against organized labor by giving in excess of $2.5 million to the American Institute of Free Labor Development which was a CIA front used to undermine progressive labor unions.
Later on, the Endowment became involved in interfering with elections in Venezuela and Haiti in order to undermine left-wing movements there. The NED is and continues to be a source of instability in nations across the globe that don’t kneel before US imperial might. Yet the Endowment funds another pseudo-NGO: Freedom House.
Freedom House was originally founded in 1941 as a pro-democracy and pro-human rights organization. While this may have been true in the past, in the present day, Freedom House is quite involved in pushing US interests in global politics and its leaders have connections to rather unsavory organizations, such as current Executive Director David Kramer being a Senior Fellow to the Project for the New American Century, many of whose members are responsible for the current warmongering status of the US. 
During the Bush administration, the President used Freedom House to support the so-called War on Terror. In a March 29, 2006 speech, President Bush stated that Freedom House “declared the year 2005 was one of the most successful years for freedom since the Freedom House began measuring world freedom more than 30 years ago” and that the US should not rest “until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation” because “In this new century, the advance of freedom is a vital element of our strategy to protect the American people, and to secure the peace for generations to come.” 
Later, it was revealed that Freedom House became more and more supportive of the Bush administration’s policies because of the funding it was getting from the US government. According to its own internal report in 2007, the US government was providing some 66% of funding for the organization.  This funding mainly came from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US State Department, and the National Endowment for Democracy. Thus, we see not only the political connection of Freedom House to US government, but major financial connections as well.
It should be noted, however, that Freedom House was not alone in supporting the government. Under the Bush administration, the US government forced NGOs to become more compliant to their demands. In 2003, USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios stated in a speech given at a conference of NGOs that in Afghanistan the relationship between NGOs and USAID does affect the survival of the Karzai regime and that Afghans “believe [their life] is improving through mechanisms that have nothing to do with the U.S. government and nothing to do with the central government. That is a very serious problem.”  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.”  NGOs were essentially told that they were tools of the US government and were being made part of the imperial apparatus.
Most recently, Freedom House was active in the Arab Spring, where they aided in the training and financing of civil society groups and individuals “including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen.” 
While the Endowment and Freedom House are being used as tools of US foreign policy that does not mean that the US government isn’t looking for new tools, namely Amnesty International.
The human rights organization Amnesty International is the newest tool in the imperial toolbox of the American Empire. In January 2012, Suzanne Nossel was appointed the new Executive Director of Amnesty International by the group itself. Before coming to Amnesty, Nossel already had deep connections to the US government as she had “served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations at the U.S. Department of State.” 
Nossel is known for coining the term ‘smart power’ which she defined as knowing that “US interests are furthered by enlisting others on behalf of U.S. goals, through alliances, international institutions, careful diplomacy, and the power of ideals.”  While this definition may seem harmless, ‘smart power’ seems to be an enhanced version of Joseph Nye’s ‘soft power,’ which itself is defined as “the ability to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than using the carrots and sticks of payment or coercion.”  A possible example of this ‘smart power’ is the war in Libya, where the US used the UN as a means to get permission to engage in ‘humanitarian intervention.’
Yet, even before Nossel was appointed to Amnesty, the group was unwittingly aiding 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. So the research for this report was done mostly from London, but also from some work in neighboring countries and through communications with a large network of contacts and relatives of the families, and, you know, other sources.  (emphasis added)
How can one write a report with any amount of authority if their only sources are through second-hand sources that may or may not have a bias or an agenda to push? How can you write a report using sources whose information has no way of being verified? It is reminiscent of the media war against Gaddafi, where it was reported in the mainstream media that he was bombing his own people and had given Viagra to his soldiers as so they could rape women, but absolutely none of this was verified.
While NGOs can have a positive influence on society at large, one must be aware of their backgrounds, who is in charge of them, and from whom they are getting funding because the nature of the NGO is changing, it is being more and more integrated into the imperial apparatus of domination and exploitation. NGOs are fast becoming the missionaries 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
Devon DB is a 20 year old writer and researcher. He is currently majoring in political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
- What do the Israel lobby, human rights, and democracy promotion have in common? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- NGOs in Egypt: Promoting Democracy or Destabilization? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Strange Contours: Resistance and the Manipulation of People Power (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Who will watch the watchdog? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Good question. Perhaps we need to ask the well-connected Committee to Protect Journalists. Here’s the very revealing bio (emphasis added) of one of their staff members:
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Mohamed Abdel Dayem
Before joining CPJ in December 2008, Mohamed Abdel Dayem was a research analyst at the Save Darfur Coalition, where he was responsible for researching and producing all of the coalition’s written materials. Abdel Dayem was also involved in increasing the coalition’s outreach and coordination with activists, governments, and the media in the Middle East and Muslim world at large. In late 2006 and early 2007, Abdel Dayem worked at the National Endowment for Democracy, where he managed the Endowment’s Iraq portfolio. Prior to that, he spent nearly five years at Human Rights Watch, conducting research and media outreach on countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Abdel Dayem has also worked at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He has also been a consultant to a variety of NGOs, including the International Center for Transitional Justice, the Open Society Institute’s Iraq Revenue Watch, the Fund for Global Human Rights, and the InternationalCenter for Journalists, among others. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, where he majored in political science and anthropology, Abdel Dayem also has an M.A. from the School of Advanced International Studies at the JohnsHopkins University, where he specialized in international law, conflict management and international economics. Aside from English, Abdel Dayem is fluent in Arabic and German. He has lived and traveled extensively in the Middle East.
>> Read Mohamed Abdel Dayem’s blog.
- Fikra: An Israeli Forum for Arab Democrats (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Who will watch the watchdog? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- UN Watch statement on Syrian human rights situation reveals pro-Israel motivation (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In a sneering report on the Egyptian investigation into foreign “democracy-promoting” NGOs, the Wall Street Journal opines:
In describing their evidence, most of which came from raids on the NGO offices in late December, the judges seemed to allude to a well-worn Egyptian conspiracy theory, often peddled by populist politicians, that the U.S. hopes to stoke sectarian conflict in Egypt as a prelude to an armed invasion.
The justices said they had found maps of Egypt marked with four divisions—a thinly veiled reference to supposed American plans to divide the country into competing religious and ethnic fiefdoms.
It appears that the writer is not familiar with the Yinon Plan. Back in 1982, Israeli strategist Oded Yinon wrote “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s,” which advocated the dissolution of all existing Arab states along ethnic or sectarian lines:
Egypt, in its present domestic political picture, is already a corpse, all the more so if we take into account the growing Moslem-Christian rift. Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel in the Nineteen Eighties on its Western front. Egypt is divided and torn apart into many foci of authority. If Egypt falls apart, countries like Libya, Sudan or even the more distant states will not continue to exist in their present form and will join the downfall and dissolution of Egypt. The vision of a Christian Coptic State in Upper Egypt alongside a number of weak states with very localized power and without a centralized government as to date, is the key to a historical development which was only set back by the peace agreement but which seems inevitable in the long run.
Two of the NGOs — the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute — are affiliated with the National Endowment for Democracy, which also funds a third, the International Center for Journalists. Carl Gershman, the longtime president of the National Endowment for Democracy, formerly worked in the “research department” of the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League. The fourth NGO, Freedom House, has no shortage of pro-Israelis on its board of trustees, including its vice-chair, former AIPAC executive director, Thomas Dine.
Perhaps the Egyptians have good reason to be wary of so many Israel partisans “promoting democracy” in their country.