Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Adam Larson
Caustic Logic/Guerillas Without Guns
Posted 5/8/07

In the last yeas of the Cold War and afterwards, efforts in Washington mushroomed to help further the USSR’s decline and usher the suddenly-nations shaken loose away from Moscow and into the Western system. Over time, many of the individuals, governmental, non-governmental and semi-governmental groups and think tanks would take up and champion Sharp’s and Helvey’s strategies in their quest for spreading “democracy,” “human rights,” and “open markets” around the world.

Neither the revolutions of 1989 nor the “color revolutions” of the early 21st Century would not have gotten far without the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), founded in 1983 to assist fledgling democracy movements in the Third World. One of the arcitects of the legislation establishing the NED, Allen Weinstein, pointed out in 1991 “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” As the NED was created, the CIA had been wounded and sidelined by the revelation of its clandestine operations, its powers and reach limited. So ironically, attempts to gain influence abroad were shifted over to a more overt approach by the Reagan Administration. William Blum wrote in Rogue State [2000], the hope was that this would “eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities. It was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations, and of cynicism.” [1] While it describes itself as a private non-profit organization, the NED is in essence a government agency, staffed by high-profile politicians and receiving the majority of its funding from Congress, allocated by the State Department as their policies see fit. The NED’s government funding was $40 million in 2004, roughly doubled in 2005 at the request of the once non-interventionist president Bush. [2]

NED co-founder and prominent CFR member Mark Palmer is a key figure in this story; he boasts a long bi-partisan record as a presidential speechwriter and as a diplomat, from Nixon’s administration to the 1990s promoting “freedom” and “people power” abroad. Starting with work for the SNCC during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Palmer “has witnessed and practiced the power of organized nonviolent force in achieving freedom and justice,” as his State Department bio reads. He put this training to work as ambassador to Hungary in 1989, “helping persuade its last dictator to leave power” by stepping out of his office and “demonstrating in the streets of Budapest” along with the masses. [3] After leaving government proper Palmer became a venture capitalist, investing in liberalized media in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, arguing for the democratizing force of a free media floated with US dollars. He’s written a book called Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025 [2003], and continued to advise the Clinton and Bush regimes, helping persuade them to initiate new democracy policies, including for the first time promoting Western-style Democracy in the Arab world. [4]

The NED Palmer helped launch spends a large portion of its budget on grants to two organizations: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), and the International Republican Institute (IRI). They are the global wings of the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, and NED support, critics point out, has allowed the two parties to pursue their own foreign policy agendas under the radar of government oversight. Yet despite their respective parties’ heated shows of disagreement for the home audience, the two agencies usually work side-by-side in their overseas freedom-building exercises, though often focusing on different aspects.

Many of the Republican Party’s top internationalists do some work with the International Republican Institute; chaired by John McCain, the IRI’s ranks also include Lawrence Eagleburger, Chuck Hagel, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Brent Scowcroft. The majority of its funding comes from the federal government via the NED to “support the growth of political and economic freedom, good governance and human rights around the world” and to “strengthen free markets and the rule of law.” The IRI claims credit for helping organize and maintain a unified political bloc that won elections and held the reins of power in Poland from 1997 - 2001 and was thus able to help steer Poland into joining NATO during that window. [5]

The IRI has had its hands in some decidedly anti-democratic operations, like the 2002 Venezuelan coup that removed the elected Socialist president Hugo Chavez, replacing him with American-friendly free-market supporters. The Venezuelan population in fact used something like Sharp’s tactics – mass strikes and demonstrations - to demand the re-instatement of Chavez, thus dramatically re-affirming his popularity and strengthening his grip on power. It was a debacle for the American plotters and president Bush, whom Chavez called “an asshole” for allowing the plot, and the IRI was strongly criticized by its NED benefactors for the episode. The IRI is also accused of funding activities connected to the successful and only slightly violent 2004 Coup d’etat that had Haiti’s elected president Aristide deposed and allegedly kidnapped away to Africa by US soldiers “to prevent bloodshed.” [6] Perhaps due to the success of this campaign, putting the US effectively in control of the interim government, the NED issued no vocal criticism of the IRI’s role.

On the other side of the aisle, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) is headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and also includes Tom Daschle and a roster of former Democrat White House hopefuls – Bill Bradley, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, and Geraldine Ferraro. Boosted by their constituency’s greater acceptance of foreign interventionism, the NDI maintains a global network of “volunteer experts” who help them provide “assistance” on every continent “to build political and civic organizations, safeguard elections, and promote citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.” As far as supporting coups and the like, the NDI seems to have a cleaner record than the IRI, and by my research seems relatively true to its name. Or perhaps they just can’t handle getting their fingernails dirty like the Republicans do?

In 2004, the NDI and its Republican counterparts joined forces in Iraq, jointly helping to form political parties and monitor the January 2005 elections for the National Assembly. The Washington Post explained how the NDI “focused on organization while IRI, in a division of labor, focused on message.” [7] The effort was orchestrated from NDI office in Baghdad where a multinational staff delivered training to selected activists and political leaders to get out the vote. [8] American politicians have the skill sets necessary to read and manipulate public opinion, essential as they are to American political survival. Their support and advice would be highly useful in a country like Iraq, unaccustomed to the ways of electoral politics. But only approved parties could benefit from this useful training; the NDI-IRI program had no competition, remaining “the only game in town” as the Post put it. [9]

The spread of democracy via direct people’s action has been supported by various foundations and think tanks outside the government proper but staffed with influential elites, a nexus that journalist Trish Schuh calls “the regime change industry.” [10] The most enthusiastic support for Sharp’s post-military weapons system came from specific think tanks like the Albert Einstein Institution itself and from dedicated individuals like CFR Director Dr. Peter Ackerman. Ackerman is the founding chairman of the Washington-based International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (CNC), another key supporter of the Sharp approach. Ackerman helped define the subject with his 1994 book Strategic Nonviolent Conflict, his Emmy-nominated 2000 documentary series A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, and his companion book of the same name co-authored with former US Air Force officer Jack DuVall. At the time, Duvall was president of CNC, and along with Ackerman has worked side-by-side with Colonel Helvey in spreading the word.

Freedom House is a widely cited monitor of the various levels of freedom worldwide, serving as a guide to where the Sharp approach would be desirable to use. Chaired by former CIA Director and key Rumsfeld policy Adviser R. James Woolsey, and vice-chaired by the illustrious Mark Palmer, Freedom House has also been involved in hosting seminars and training opposition leaders (see [link-chapter III]) and has reportedly been approved for “covert action” inside Iran. [11] Together with CNC’s DuVall, Woolsey is also a director at the Arlington Institute, a “futurist” organization created in 1989 by former Chief of Naval Operations advisor John L. Peterson “to help redefine the concept of national security in much larger, comprehensive terms,” it boasts, through introducing “social value shifts into the traditional national defense equation.” [12] In other words, AI wants to put the peace movement to work in the war industry.

Next: Soros Money and the Open Society

[1] Blum, William – Rogue State. Page number lost...
[2] Duncan, Benjamin. “Venezuela: What is the National Endowment for Democracy up to?” Al Jazeera, via Venezuelanalysis. May 04, 2004 http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1169
[3], [4] “Mark Palmer.” Wikipedia. Last modified August 17 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Palmer
[5] “Solidarity Electoral Action.” Wikipedia. Last modified June 21 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akcja_Wyborcza_Solidarnosc
[6] Kurlantzick, Joshua. “The Coup Connection.” Mother Jones. November/December 2004. http://www.motherjones.com/news/outfront/2004/11/11_401.html
[7], [9] Vick, Karl and Robin Wright. “Coaching Iraq's New Candidates, Discreetly: U.S.-Funded Programs Nurture Voting Process.” Washington Post. January 26, 2005; Page A01 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36582-2005Jan25.html
[8] Ashkenaz Croke, Lisa and Brian Dominick. "Controversial U.S. Groups Operate Behind Scenes on Iraq Vote." New standard. Dec 13, 2004. http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/1311
[10] Schuh, Trish. “Mehlis's Murky Past; US and Isreali Proxies Pushing the Next Neo-Con War
Faking the Case Against Syria.” Counterpunch. November 18, 2005. http://www.counterpunch.org/schuh11182005.html
[11] Dinmore, Guy. "Bush enters Iran 'freedom' debate." Washington Post. March 31 2006. Accessed from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2006/03/31/BL2006033100695_pf.html
[12] The Arlington Institute. http://www.arlingtoninstitute.org/

No comments: