NGOs: The newest arm of American Imperialism
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
As the Abba song said, "Money, money, money...its a rich man's world"
December 6, 2003
When NGOs Attack
Implications of the Coup in Georgia
By JACOB LEVICH
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' état: "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