Monday, October 01, 2007

An Empire of NGOs

On the question of Western "NGO"1 interventions in nations of the global South and their relations to the US-led multinational empire, there regrettably is no consensus on the broadly defined Left. The lack of consensus even among leftists makes it impossible to raise the consciousness of the Western public about the roles of "NGOs" in the empire's "regime change" campaigns, which negate the essence of democracy in the name of "democracy assistance."

Take a look at a recent series of exchanges over the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict2 in the Green Left Weekly:
I doubt that Eva Gollinger or Michael Barker has been able to persuade Stephen Zunes that leftists shouldn't be serving as "chair of the board of academic advisers" of the ICNC (Zunes, 31 August 2007) or otherwise supporting it or any other institution like it. Can anyone?

1 I put the term "Non-Governmental Organizations" between quotation marks, for some of the "NGOs" in question are wholly or largely funded by the United States government and other governments of the multinational empire. The Solidarity Center is a good example: "A well-kept secret about Solidarity Center is that it received 90% (nearly $30 million) of its annual revenue from the U.S. State Department and other government agencies of the Bush administration, but it got less than 2% ($600,000) from the AFL-CIO. These figures are from Solidarity Center’s 2003-2004 Annual Report" (Harry Kelber, "How Sweeney Won Three Sham Re-elections; His Role in ULLICO Scandal and Elsewhere," Labor Educator -- downloadable in PDF at

2 For information about the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, see, also, Tom Barry, "The New Politics of Political Aid in Venezuela," Right Web Analysis (Silver City, NM: International Relations Center, July 18, 2007), though all you need to know is probably that it lists Freedom House as one of the "Related Organizations" on the ICNF Web site's "Resources" page. As for its method, get it from the horse's mouth -- check out the "Discussion Guide" that accompanies Bringing Down a Dictator, a film that functions as a how-to manual that teaches you to pull off a "regime change" with the support of the government of the United States and other "democracies." The executive producer of the film is Peter Ackerman, Founding Chair of the ICNC and Chairman of Freedom House, and "Special Thanks" in the film's credit go to the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and the United States Institute of Peace. The guide encourages the film's audience to debate intriguing questions such as the following:
  • A number of factors contributed to the overthrow of Milosevic, especially financial assistance and training from the United States. Based on information in the film, discuss the role of each of the following in bringing down the Milosevic regime:
    Aid from the United States and European countries
    The NATO bombing
    Street marches and protests
    The strike at the Kolubara Coal Mine (p. 6)
  • The United States government gave over $25 million dollars in aid to Otpor and other opposition groups during the movement against Milosevic. Some of these groups declared themselves to be anti-American. What is the purpose of the US funding of anti-American groups overseas? Does accepting US funds weaken a group's anti-American stance? If a group is fighting for justice, does that automatically mean that the group is a good group? Do the methods they use in their fight have any effect on whether the group is "good" or not? Explain your answers to the last three questions. (p. 10)
The film is "available on DVD in both the NTSC and PAL television systems," in "Arabic, Burmese, English, Farsi, French, Indonesian, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish." Very thorough -- all relevant languages for the most urgent US "regime change" campaigns are covered. Needless to say, the ICNC, as well as other members of the empire of NGOs, is working on Iran:
In choosing Freedom House as the venue for a foreign policy address this week, President George W. Bush has stepped into an intense debate among democracy activists in the US and Iran on how US dollars should be used to carry out the administration's policy of promoting freedom in the Islamic republic.

Few in the Washington audience on Wednesday realised that Freedom House, an independent institution founded more than 60 years ago by Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady, is one of several organisations selected by the State Department to receive funding for clandestine activities inside Iran.

Peter Ackerman, chairman of the board of trustees, who introduced Mr Bush, is also the founder of a separate organisation that promotes non-violent civic disobedience as a form of resistance to repressive regimes. His International Center on Non-Violent Conflict has organised discreet "workshops" in the Gulf emirate of Dubai to teach Iranians the lessons learned from east European movements.

A separate organisation, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre based in New Haven, Connecticut, has also received US funding and organised a Dubai "workshop" for Iranians last year that was not made public.

Mr Ackerman, who is very wealthy from an earlier career as a financier, says he does not accept government money. Questioned by the FT, Freedom House confirmed it had received funding from the State Department for activities in Iran. It declined to give details but said it was not involved in Mr Ackerman's work in Dubai.

Freedom House also disclosed that it received $100,000 (€83,873, £57,500) from Mr Ackerman last year and a further $100,000 from his organisation.

In a research study, with Mr Ackerman acting as chief adviser, Freedom House sets out its conclusions: "Far more often than is generally understood, the change agent is broad-based, non-violent civic resistance - which employs tactics such as boycotts, mass protests, blockades, strikes and civil disobedience to de-legitimate authoritarian rulers and erode their sources of support, including the loyalty of their armed defenders." (Guy Dinmore, "Bush Enters Iran 'Freedom' Debate," Financial Times, 31 March 2006)
It should be noted that Mr. Jack DuVall himself visited this blog to defend the ICNC, merely because I cited the same Financial Times article in an entry whose focus was Freedom House, not the ICNC: "Queering Freedom House," Critical Montages, 24 September 2007 (be sure to read his comment). It looks like opinions of leftists are a sensitive spot for the organization.

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