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NGOs: The newest arm of American Imperialism

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  • Tarek Fatah
    Friends, The word NGO has assumed a sort of respectability that deserves some critique. Who are these NGOs and who are they accountable to? From Palestine to
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 20, 2004

      The word NGO has assumed a sort of respectability that deserves some
      critique. Who are these NGOs and who are they accountable to?

      From Palestine to Pakistan, those who used to turn to politics, now turn to
      NGOs. As if changing society's ills is possible through charity and grants
      from 'funding agencies'; almost always from West Europe or North America.
      Hundreds of millions of dollars are today corrupting the Left and
      undermining the sovereignty of developing nations.

      Here is an article written just after the US-backed coup in Georgia that
      overthrew the government of Edward Shevardnadze. For many Muslims, who have
      been conned into believing that NGOs, not political parties, is the answer,
      here is an eye-opener. Maybe they know the implications, but choose to look
      the other way to keep the funding in good standing.

      BTW, this was overheard in Karachi. An uncle visiting from overseas asked
      his 10-yeald old nephew the perennial question: "What do you want to be when
      you grow up?". The nephew raised his fist and said, "NGO". The kid's mum
      sighed, "Inshallah".

      As the Abba song said, "Money, money, money...its a rich man's world"

      Tarek Fatah
      December 6, 2003

      When NGOs Attack
      Implications of the Coup in Georgia


      Nongovernmental organizations--the notionally independent, reputedly
      humanitarian groups known as NGOs--are now being openly integrated into
      Washington's overall strategy for consolidating global supremacy.

      Events surrounding last month's coup in post-Soviet Georgia, read in light
      of recent State Department documents, suggest that seemingly innocuous NGOs
      now play a central role in the policy of US-engineered "regime change" set
      forth in the notorious National Security Strategy of the United States.

      The November 24 Wall Street Journal explicitly credited the toppling of
      Eduard Shevardnadze's regime to the operations of "a raft of
      non-governmental organizations . . . supported by American and other Western
      foundations." These NGOs, said the Journal, had "spawned a class of young,
      English-speaking intellectuals hungry for pro-Western reforms" who were
      instrumental laying the groundwork for a bloodless coup.

      Astute commentators have correctly noted connections between these
      provocateur NGOs and mega-philanthropist George Soros, but the billionaire
      speculator did not act independently. Georgia's so-called "Velvet
      Revolution" appears to have been a textbook case of regime change by
      stealth, carefully planned and centrally coordinated by the US government.

      Thanks to first-rate reporting by Mark McKinnon in the Toronto Globe & Mail
      and Mark Ames in the Moscow-based online journal The Exile <www.exile.ru>,
      the Georgian coup can be understood as a virtual scene-for-scene rerun of
      the overthrow of Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic--right down to the role of
      US Ambassador, played in both cases by spooky career diplomat Richard Miles.

      But while foreign-funded NGOs played a significant minor part in the
      Yugoslavian operation, in Georgia they were granted star billing. This bold,
      all but overt, deployment of NGOs in service of US imperialism represents a
      new wrinkle in regime change, reflecting adjusted post-9/11 priorities at
      State and in the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

      Illuminating background is available in a watershed USAID report, Foreign
      Aid in the National Interest: Promoting Freedom, Security and Opportunity,
      released in January 2003 but ignored by a press swept up in pre-invasion
      hysteria. In the report, USAID vows that development programs will no longer
      be directed primarily toward alleviating human misery, but will be committed
      to "encouraging democratic [i.e., US-friendly] reforms." This policy shift
      is explicitly linked to the National Security Strategy of the United States,
      the 2002 White House blueprint for a new, openly aggressive phase of US

      Henceforward, the report promises, only friendly regimes will be rewarded
      with development money, while hostile (or merely independent) states will be
      punished by NGO-driven "reform" programs that sound suspiciously like
      old-fashioned destabilization ops.

      The document notes with approval the explosive growth of NGOs worldwide and
      points to the NGO network as an attractive conduit for the strategic
      distribution of dollars. Of course, not every NGO is controlled by the US
      foreign policy establishment, and many rank-and-file aid workers continue to
      perform thankless but essential relief work in countries decimated by
      capitalism and war. But there's no mistaking which way the wind is blowing
      in the development community: "NGOs used to work at arm's length from donor
      governments," the USAID report smugly observes, "but over time the
      relationship has become more intimate."

      To be sure, the vast global network of privately-funded foundations and NGOs
      has done enormous damage in its own right over the past two decades. With or
      without direct US assistance, NGOs continue to prop up immiserating
      neoliberal reforms, abet the schemes of transnational finance and
      agribusiness, and thwart the struggles of Third World people to claim better
      lives as of right. (The broader case against NGOs has been exhaustively set
      forth by James Petras, among others, and is powerfully advanced in the
      current issue of Aspects of India's Economy.)

      But USAID's new emphasis on "building strategic partnerships" with
      humanitarian groups promises far worse to come. In thinly coded language,
      Foreign Aid in the National Interest touts NGOs and other private donors for
      their ability to lay groundwork for coups d' ├ętat: "Assistance can be
      provided to reformers to help identify key winners and losers, develop
      coalition building and mobilization strategies, and design publicity
      campaigns. . . . Such assistance may represent an investment in the future,
      when a political shift gives reformers real power."

      As summarized by Hoover Institute fellow Larry Diamond, a self-described
      "specialist on democratic development and regime change" who contributed to
      the report: "Where governments are truly rotten, the report suggests
      channeling assistance primarily through nongovernmental sources, working
      with other bilateral aid donors and multilateral aid agencies to . . .
      coordinat[e] pressure on bad, recalcitrant governments."

      Shevardnadze, for many years a reliable US client, seems to have become
      truly rotten at around the time of his perceived tilt toward Russia, a
      development which potentially threatened US military access to the region
      and control of the $2.7 billion Baku-Ceyhan pipeline.

      Per script, coordinated pressure began immediately. An interlocking network
      of development-oriented foundations, think tanks, and NGOs was mobilized to
      disseminate propaganda, recruit opposition leaders, and fund an ex nihilo
      "student resistance movement" modeled on Yugoslavia's CIA-connected Otpor.
      Meanwhile, NGOs like the Liberty Institute--a USAID subcontractor managed by
      Mikhail Saakashvili, the US-approved candidate for Georgian
      leadership--worked hand-in-glove with the US Embassy (and presumably the
      CIA) to destabilize civil society.

      Even the coup's immediate pretext--allegations of electoral fraud --
      conveniently emerged from an "election support" operation run by USAID in
      consort with a Soros-connected NGO, Open Society Georgia Foundation.
      TV-friendly street demos and orchestrated international outcry followed in
      due course. Shevardnadze accepted the inevitable and agreed to go quietly.
      Within two weeks, Donald Rumsfeld was in Tbilsi as guest of the coup
      leaders, discussing a timetable for Russian troop withdrawals.

      In the near future, the smashing success of the Georgia operation may be
      expected to lead to similarly coordinated attempts on independent-minded
      governments worldwide--Cuba, now doing its best to cope with an invasion of
      foreign-sponsored "reform" organizations, is an especially likely candidate.

      Meanwhile, as the US continues to assimilate worldwide humanitarian
      endeavors to its imperial ambitions, the heavy hitters of the NGO
      establishment are preening for another round of mediagenic self-celebration
      at the upcoming World Social Forum. Suggested new slogan: "Another Coup is
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