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The REAL Syria Civil Defence Exposes Fake ‘White Helmets’ as Terrorist-Linked Imposters

21st Century Wire

September 23, 2016

by Vanessa Beeley

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“I am a director not only of a Syrian Civil Defence Unit, but of brave human beings, volunteers who risk their lives, despite the terrorism that is invading Syria, to maintain security for Syria. I give thanks from my heart for the courage of my men who have lost their comrades in terrorist attacks but they keep working despite the risks. They are true soldiers, their equipment and their spirit are their only weapons”
~ Director of Tartous’ REAL Syria Civil Defence

Did I hear a pin drop?  The real Syria Civil Defence? Are the west’s iconized ‘White Helmets’ not the only emergency first-responders inside Syria?

For the REAL Syria Civil Defence you call 113 inside Syria.  There is no public number for the White Helmets.  Why not? Why does this multi-million dollar US & NATO state-funded first repsonder ‘NGO,’ with state of the art equipment supplied by the US and the EU via Turkey, have no central number for civilians to call when the “bombs fall”?

Before we introduce the real Syria Civil Defence, who are Syria’s real ICDO certified civil fire and rescue organisation, let’s first take a closer look at the imposters; terrorists in white hats, and agents of war – NATO’s pseudo ‘NGO’ construct, embedded exclusively in terrorist-held parts of Syria…

We’re told that the White Helmets routinely scale the walls of collapsed buildings and scrambling over smouldering rubble of bombed out buildings to dig a child out with their bare hands. Of course, never without a sizeable camera crew and mobile phone carrying entourage in tow.

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Screenshot from one of the multitude of NATO’s White Helmets promotional videos, as per usual – with fans and camera crew in attendance.

So who, and what exactly are the White Helmets?

“Founded in 2013, the White Helmets, officially called the Syria Civil Defense, are often the only emergency first-responders available in rebel-held areas of Syria and claim to have saved more than 58,000 lives.” ~ The Slate

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White Helmets ‘Team’ Photo: Screenshot from recent Soros funded, Netflix promotional documentary.

The western media mythology goes as follows:

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British Military officer James Le Mesurier

They are made up of former bakers, builders, taxi drivers, students, teachers, pretty much anything apart from rescue workers,” according to the much repeated phrase used by their British ex-military, USAR (Urban Search & Rescue) trainer, James Le Mesurier who specialises in outsourcing warfare – the kind of private security operations exemplified by the likes of Blackwater (now known as Academi) and DynCorp, and other well-known global suppliers of mercenaries and CIA outreach assassination experts.

“Running operations through Blackwater gave the CIA the power to have people abducted, or killed, with no one in the government being exactly responsible.” ~ The Atlantic, 2012

White Helmets founder Le Mesurier, who graduated from Britain’s elite Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, is said to be an ‘ex’ British military intelligence officer involved in a number of other NATO ‘humanitarian intervention’ theatres of war, including Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, as well as postings in Lebanon and Palestine. He also boasts a series of high-profile posts at the UN, EU, and UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Not to mention his connections back to the infamous Blackwater (Academi).


The White Helmet network showing primary funding sources and James Le Mesurier connections back to deep state  (Image: UK Column)

The streaming giant, Netflix, recently launched the documentary meant to elevate the White Helmets to a Hollywood level of Madison Avenue-styled demagoguery. As an interesting aside: a major shareholder in Netflix just happens to be the Capital Research Global Investors who hosts a number luminaries of the military industrial complex on its books including Lockheed Martin and Boeing. In 2015, George Soros, billionaire, criminal hedge-fund manager, bought up 317,534 shares in Netflix said to be worth $32.79m.  Curiously in 2016 Soros, dissolved those shares.

For further information on the George Soros role as the anti-Syria NGO impresario read 21WIRE article: George Soros: Anti-Syria Campaign Impresario

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Variation on the Netflix promotional poster for the NATO White Helmet documentary. Poster by: Cory Morningstar of WrongKindofGreen.

Later, in Part III of this article, we will go into depth concerning the recent awards, including an objectionable nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, that have been bestowed upon this group of US, UK, EU backed fifth columnists, or as they would have you believe, “first-responders.”

With over $60 million in their back pocket courtesy of USAID, the UK Foreign Office and various EU nations like the Netherlands, this group is possibly one of the most feted and funded entities within the west’s anti-Syrian NGO complex, a pivotal part of the clandestine shadow state building enterprise inside of Syria.

Like many other ‘NGOs’, the White Helmets have been deployed by the west to derail the Syrian state, first  by undermining existing civic structures and by disseminating staged PR to facilitate regime change propaganda, through western and Gulf state media outlets. Despite the fact that they were started, and are still generously funded by NATO members states, particularly from the US and UK, the White Helmets’ official statement still claims categorically that they are somehow “fiercely independent” and “have accepted no money from governments, corporations or anyone directly involved in the Syrian conflict“. This is both farcical and deeply misleading.

RELATED: ‘Aleppo Media Centre’ Funded By French Foreign Office, EU and US

They claim they are not “tied to any political group in Syria, or anywhere else”, yet they are embedded with Al Nusra Front, ISIS and affiliated with the majority of US allied terrorist brigades infesting Syria.  In fact during my recent trip to Syria, I was once again struck by the response from the majority of Syrians when asked if they knew who the White Helmets were.  The majority had never heard of them, others who follow western media noted that they are a “NATO construct being used to infiltrate Syria as a major player in the terrorist support network.”

For further details on the White Helmets and their role in supporting US & NATO state-sponsored terrorism in Syria please refer to the compilation of articles contained in the 21WIRE article: WHO ARE SYRIA’S WHITE HELMETS?

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The REAL Syria Civil Defence

Let us now focus upon the very real heroes inside Syria, the real Syria Civil Defence that have been usurped by the NATO mountebank White Helmets who also call themselves the “Syria Civil Defence” – a mere simulacra of the REAL Syria Civil Defence who have been saving lives in Syria, and further afield for decades.

The REAL Syria Civil Defence was established as an organisation, in 1953, some 63 years before the White Helmets were a glimmer in the eyes of CIA and MI6 operatives.

The REAL Syria Civil Defence is a founding member of the ICDO (International Civil Defence Organisation). Other ICDO partners include the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Secretarian of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations of Geneva (UNOG), Red Cross and the Red Crescent.

To our knowledge and according to the Head Quarters of the REAL Syria Civil Defence in Damascus, the White Helmets are NOT a member of the ICDO. The REAL Syria Civil Defence have received awards for their participation in the training of other member states in USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) and for their contributions to the Civil Defence community, prior to the NATO dirty war on Syria that began in earnest, in 2011.

Later in Part II, we will go into further detail regarding this affiliation with the ICDO and the role the REAL Syria Civil Defence has played in global civil defence developments for the last 63 years – which is tremendous, and something the White Helmets could never lay claim to in reality, despite all the superficial accolades being rained down upon them by the US and NATO fueled organisations, foundations and cosmetic award bodies.

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This is an introduction to the unsung heroes who, unlike the counterfeit White Helmets, do truly risk their lives every day, working not only in government controlled areas, but forging deep into terrorist strongholds to rescue civilians living under the brutal US-NATO-backed terrorist siege and occupation that engulfs all of Syria.

When Syrian civilians are at risk, injured, or buried under the rubble of homes, schools and hospitals destroyed by terrorist mortar showers, it’s not Le Mesurier’s White Helmets who rush to their aid – it’s the REAL Syria Civil Defence, a real civic organization who, up until the publication of this article, have never been mentioned by any western media outlets.

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The REAL Syria Civil Defence, stationed in Syrian government held West Aleppo (Photo: Vanessa Beeley August 15, 2016)

The REAL Syria Civil Defence: Aleppo

My first stop on my investigation to discover the REAL Syria Civil Defence units in as many Syrian governorates as I could during my time in Syria, was Aleppo. I focused on those units that were in closest proximity to the terrorist held areas of Syria, particularly, Aleppo and Idlib. Damascus which is the home and headquarters of the REAL Syrian Civil Defence was my last port of call, and is surrounded on two sides by Jaish Al Islam, another US-NATO protected terrorist clique.

Because of the the encroachment of the US Coalition terrorist entities, Aleppo city has been carved into two cities with the major occupier of the eastern portion being the universally feared Al Nusra Front. Spurious attempts by the US to rebrand this organisation as a lesser evil in an attempt to separate them from their Al Qaeda affiliation, have failed. People in Syria from all walks of life refuse to accept any differentiation between the titles accorded the terrorist brigades, insisting there is no difference in the way they all kill, maim, torture, rape, behead and destroy at the behest of their paymasters and controllers in the US, NATO states, Turkey, Gulf States and yes, Israel.

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Decimated areas of Sheikh Maqsoud, the northernmost, Kurdish held, entry point into the government held West Aleppo (Photo: Vanessa Beeley August 14, 2016)

For further information about the real situation in Aleppo, my journey to this terrorist besieged city and the debunking of the fictional US-NATO narrative, please read Part I of my article published at Mint Press: Journey to Aleppo: Exposing the Truth Buried under NATO Propaganda.

On the 15th of August, I entered the work yard of Aleppo’s REAL Syria Civil Defence and was greeted by an exhausted team of about fifteen crew-members.  That morning from 11am until around 3 pm, just before our visit, they had been fighting a fire in a cement and plastics factory which had been ignited by Al Nusra Front mortar fire.

They were understandably wary, but they still gathered around us (my colleague and independent journalist, Eva Bartlett and our translator) in the searing arid summer heat. Over the course of this 5 years and 6 months of this dirty war against Syria, not one western media journalist had ever asked to speak to them.

This extraordinary omission and failure to follow the most rudimentary journalist text book rules by the western media is staggering, but hardly surprising considering the level of spin and propaganda employed daily by the likes of the BBC, CNN, FOX News, The Guardian, New York Times, and Washington Post. Sadly, western media lap dogs end up simply wagging their tails to their masters voice and turning somersaults with the truth to merit reward.

Unfortunately for the Syrian people, western pundits have only reported on crucial and pivotal events in the war on Syria based largely on ‘evidence’ supplied by the US-UK-NATO construct, the White Helmets, who are ensconsed only in Al Nusra Front aka Al Qaeda and ISIS held areas.

As a result of western media outlets not bothering to make contact with the volunteer Syrians in the REAL Syria Civil Defence, western audiences never received a balanced view of the situation. Instead, western media only disseminates what amounts to a biased, one-sided view which mirrors anti-Syrian state and Syrian Arab Army rhetoric issued by the US State Dept and British Foreign Office.

I explained in detail, why I had come to talk with them, that my objective was to find out who were the real heroes inside Syria, the multi million NATO funded White Helmets created in 2013 or the Syrian Syria Civil Defence established in 1953.

Aleppo’s REAL Syria Civil Defence informed us there are 150 volunteers working across all units in Aleppo, the headquarters are in the Hamadaniya area which is one of the most severely targeted civilian areas, by Al Nusra Front Hell Cannon mortar fire and explosive bullets. The volunteers ages range between 25-45 years old, and the minimum age for training is 18.

All members of the crew were genuine volunteers. They spoke proudly of the intensive training process they undergo before they can be accepted into the unit. They are fully trained in urban search and rescue techniques (USAR).  They are also fully qualified paramedics.

A glance around their yard revealed that their equipment is tired and worn. The fire trucks were gleaming in the sun but showed signs of heavy use. Tattered jackets hung from the fenders and wing mirrors of the trucks and a Syrian flag had been draped across the radiator of one truck, perhaps in honour of our visit.

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West Aleppo REAL Syria Civil Defence unit (Photo: Vanessa Beeley August 15, 2016)

I was told immediately, that I would not be able to photograph the crew themselves or to use their names. Aleppo is a city under siege, not by “Assad and his army“, as the western media would have you believe, but by an assortment of up to 22 different terror brigades many of whom are armed, funded, and trained by the US, UK, France, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, to name only a few of the west’s ‘coalition.’ The REAL Syria Civil Defence crew-members are under constant threat of being targeted by any one of these terrorist brigades – including the White Helmets, as they later explained to us.

Chemical Attacks

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MODERATE WEAPONS: ‘Rebel’ Terrorists in East Aleppo shell civilians indiscriminately with their crude munitions, and then blame it on “The Regime” via misleading social media imagery. 

The crew told us about a call out they had responded to on the 2nd August. There had been a terrorist Hell Cannon attack on the Old City of Aleppo, which lies right on the border with the Al Nusra front lines and is a regular target for their indiscriminate attacks. Terrorist Hell Cannons use an assortment of containers – gas canisters, water heater tanks packed full of explosives, glass, metal and any other limb-shredding materials.

As the crew entered the area, they said there was a pungent smell in the air that suggested the use of a toxic gas by Nusra Front, possibly chlorine. The concentrations were so high that they immediately experienced breathing difficulties and their flimsy paper oxygen masks were not sufficient to prevent the devastating effects of inhalation.

One of the crew, 36 year old Mohammed Ahmed Eibbish, succumbed to the fumes and eventually died while trying to rescue one of the 25 affected civilians. Both civilians and crew suffered with dizziness, nausea, burns on their body, spasms and respiratory difficulties. Four civilians died that day too, all women. This attack and many others like it, are being intentionally ignored by the western media agencies, politicians and partisan UN officials, desperate to attribute any such attacks to the Syrian government and its national army.

A very salient fact so often mislaid in the stampede to produce lies, is that the only chemical factory in Aleppo (producing chlorine among other substances) was actually captured by the Al Nusra Front coalition in 2012. It is located about 10km east of Aleppo’s airport on the road towards Raqqa.

“The chemicals factory was taken over by Nusra Front and allies three years ago, they emptied everything out of it including potential ingredients for use in chemical weapon attacks. Part of the facility was shipped to Iraq.  They destroyed the factory completely.” ~ Voice from Aleppo

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Painful skin blisters caused by an ISIS chemical weapon attack in Northern Aleppo 17/9/2016 (Photo: Press TV article)

The crew told us that the worst injuries they have ever witnessed, are children who have been hit by the terrorist Hell Cannon mortars. Their little bodies are eviscerated and literally torn apart. At least 54 children had been killed and many others maimed by the Hell Cannon attacks in a two-week period alone, between the July 31st and August 14th. These figures were provided by the Aleppo Medical Association during our time in West Aleppo. In total, 143 civilians, 23 women, 54 children and 66 men, were killed by US-backed “rebels” occupying East Aleppo.

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Aleppo REAL Syria Civil Defence Fire Engine parked in their yard (Photo: Vanessa Beeley August 15, 2016)

The West Aleppo crew is forced to attend missions without the standard issue equipment and to deal with situations like chemical weapons attacks with only the ineffectual paper breathing masks.  This is another result of the EU-US sanctions being enforced against Syria, and effectively against the Syrian people. The REAL Syria Civil Defence is unable to replace equipment or replenish supplies, unlike the NATO White Helmets who enjoy an endless stream of kit and replacement materials via the Turkey supply chain that has remained unbroken for much of the four years that Aleppo has been under terrorist siege.

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US EQUIPPED: White Helmets showing off their brand new equipment in Idlib (on borders with Turkey) supplied by US Equipment company, Bobcat (Photo: screenshot from White Helmet promotional video)

The White Helmets: Criminals, Kidnappers and Killers

When we got on to the subject of NATO’s White Helmets, the West Aleppo REAL Syrian Civil Defence crew became animated.  One of them, stepped forward and began to talk excitedly to our translator. He had been stationed in East Aleppo at a REAL Syrian Civil Defence unit based in an area that has since been overrun by Al Nusra Front and their associate terrorist gangs.

Again, we are unable, as we have said, to provide names of the men we spoke with. They are prime targets for the Al Nusra Front and company in East Aleppo. This crew member, lets call him ‘Khaled,’ described what happened when the terrorists (western media still call them “opposition” or “moderate rebels”) started to invade East Aleppo in 2012.

“They came in and they drove us out of our homes and they came to the Syria Civil Defence yard and they killed some of my comrades, they kidnapped others.  They wanted to force me to work with them.  I escaped at night.  I was forced to leave my teenage sons behind. They burned my house to the ground and they put my name on all the terrorist checkpoints so if I go back, they will kill me.”

Khaled went on to explain how those men who later became the White Helmets were among this first wave of terrorists:

“They are terrorists, not rescuers.  They stole our ambulances and three of our fire engines. They don’t do any rescue work.  They drive round with guns in the back of their car like any other terrorist.  Some are from East Aleppo, some are from Syria but not from Aleppo and some are even coming in from abroad.”

Granted, this might come as a shock to anyone who has already bought into the public relations image of the group that’s already been developed over three years by various agencies in New York, Washington DC and London, but these are the real accounts regarding what one might say is the true unmasked nature of the west’s White Helmets.

At this point other crew members interjected and told me that they had watched the White Helmet “rescue” videos.

“They are fake.  They don’t carry out any correct procedures, either as paramedics or as search and rescue experts.”

They described how the White Helmets use a heavy-duty power drill to dig down for civilians buried under the rubble of homes allegedly targeted by “Syrian or Russian airstrikes.”

“It’s the wrong equipment to use.  It is not sensitive enough and because it vibrates powerfully,  it can displace the rubble which is dangerous if anyone is genuinely buried beneath it.”

They went on to describe other aspects of the White Helmet videos that they believe contravene all standard procedures that are followed by genuine search and rescue experts, paramedics and first responders.

In the following very recent video made by a White Helmet camera crew, men pretending to be genuine rescuers attack an area of rubble where they seem to know where a body buried. They start with a mint condition JCB digger, which attacks the heap of rubble with gusto.  Then, alarmingly, they begin to pound the rubble with a heavy duty mallet without employing any devices to actually determine where the body is located, under the impenetrable concrete blocks. Finally, the JCB digger returns to the mound of rubble and enters the teeth of its bucket into the rubble without any hesitation, surely not standard procedure if there is a chance of a body being under the debris.

Miraculously, as with all White Helmet videos, they seem to find exactly where the bodies are, despite having displaced the majority of the rubble in the process. They also, miraculously, avoided staving in the first body’s head with the mallet. There is no intention to downplay or belittle the deaths that have obviously occurred but we do ask the questions:

1.  How did the White Helmets know the bodies would be exactly where they found them?

2.  Where is this rescue being filmed?

3.  “Activists”, “citizen journalists”, the White Helmets and western media would have us believe that East Aleppo is under almost constant Russian or Syrian aerial attack yet the White Helmets make, on average, 4 or 5 films per day and we never see or hear any sign of an attack, only the “aftermath”. 

4. Where do these bodies come from? Are they victims of air strikes as we are told by these NATO funded “activists” and “first responders” or are they taken from among the thousands of “disappeared” that have been kidnapped by Nusra Front and other terrorist gangs in East Aleppo? Are they gruesome props being used inhumanely, to polish the image of this faux NGO embedded in East Aleppo, HQ for Al Nusra Front.

I would not ask these questions without good cause and that cause was given to me by the crew members of the REAL Syria Civil Defence, in West Aleppo, some of whom were driven from their homes in East Aleppo and whose families, left behind, remain under threat, while they are unable to return, for fear of being assassinated by the Al Nusra terrorists and their associates the White Helmets.

A further cause for this question is the previous proven use of props and crisis actors by the BBC (just one example) in one of their most dubious reports on Syria, Panorama’s piece entitled, “Saving Syria’s Children”.  Robert Stuart’s quite brilliant investigation into this chilling charade revealed some very disturbing evidence of the lengths to which, the mainstream media are prepared to go, to produce the propaganda required to execute yet another war on false pretenses. Propaganda that best serves the NATO and US intelligence agencies who continue toiling away to facilitate regime change and a ‘No Fly Zone.’

“Why do you do it?” I asked an obvious question of the REAL Syria Civil Defence, essentially, volunteers who survive on a paltry government salary or public donations, who work with dilapidated equipment, under terrorist, indiscriminate, shell, mortar and explosive bullet fire, and with no recognition for the heroic work they do from western media or ‘humanitarian’ NGOs.

“It is humanitarian work for our country. We were there in the good times, and we are here when the times are bad and we are needed most. It’s our duty”

No emotive, Manhattan based PR agency #hashtag headlines for these firefighters and life savers. Instead, we get simple words to convey a simple message.  They told me they often work 24 hour shifts, without sleep. One man sat on the wall behind me told me he had broken both legs falling from a collapsing building after terrorists had shelled the area. Another showed me that he had lost an eye in a Hell Cannon mortar attack. In the background, their uniforms billowed on the washing line ready for the next shout.

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The badge of honour, the REAL Syria Civil Defence badge sewn on to the sleeves of the uniforms in West Aleppo (Photo: Vanessa Beeley August 15, 2016)

My final question to the REAL Syria Civil Defence in West Aleppo,  was to ask them for their message to the outside world.  The world that is unaware they even exist, many of whom are blinded by the propaganda glare that surrounds the White Helmet media circus. They responded thus:

1. Please lift the sanctions so we can keep working and saving lives.

2. Stop the terrorists from entering Syria, and stop funding and arming them.

3. If terrorists keep entering Syria, eventually it will affect the world, not just Syria. There has been enough bloodshed. It needs to stop now.

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The staple equipment of fire crews and first responders. Visit to the West Aleppo REAL Syria Civil Defence (Photo: Vanessa Beeley August 15, 2016)

The REAL Aleppo Medical Association

One of the other meetings we had during our time in Aleppo, was with the Aleppo Medical Association.  We met with the Director, Dr Zahar Buttal and Dr Bassem Hayak, who is in charge of the medical teams assessing refugees from East Aleppo who fled to West Aleppo via the Russian and Syrian state humanitarian corridors, created on the 29th July, which have allowed over 2000 people to escape the terrorist strongholds to safety, food and medical care in government-protected West Aleppo. These figures were given to us by the Aleppo Medical Association on the 15th August 2016.

One of the questions I asked Dr Hayak, who spoke good English, was what he knew of the White Helmets.  His response was concise and without preamble.  His family is still in East Aleppo and although he has not been able to get back into East Aleppo for the last year, his family have told him that the White Helmets are not known in East Aleppo.  I asked again to be sure, and was told again, people, civilians do not know of the White Helmets in East Aleppo. Any actual first response work is carried out by foreign workers from various countries, Pakistan and the Gulf region among them. These foreigners work with Syrian people who are not properly trained in first response. They might only receive 2 or 3 months training before being allowed to work.

Dr Hayak says, “Even with our relationship with WHO (World Health Organisation) and the UN, we still didn’t hear about the White Helmets.”

Are the White Helmets, NATO ghosts?

Dr Hayak also states quite clearly, he has a cousin, working as a surgeon in East Aleppo. ISIS and other terrorist factions have forced her to stay in East Aleppo by threatening to kill her family, should she leave for West Aleppo.

Dr Hayak also said that the majority of civilians in East Aleppo are “hostages”of the NATO/US allied terrorists.

In East Aleppo, civilians living under Al Nusra Front occupation, do not know the White Helmets. Watch:

It is not unreasonable to speculate that the White Helmets are not first responders at all, except when required to don the white hats for a staged photo or promotional video, or to produce western news propaganda for the likes of CNN or the BBC, courtesy of their ever-present film and media crew.

It is not unreasonable, based upon the statements given by eminent members of the Aleppo medical fraternity and crew members of the REAL Syria Civil Defence in Aleppo, to draw the conclusion that the White Helmets are nothing more than common terrorists, being paid to present themselves as respectable first responders when the need arises for “reports from inside Aleppo” or elsewhere in Syria.

Later, in Part II of this story, we will travel to the northwest Syria regions of Lattakia and Tartous and speak to REAL Syria Civil Defence units there, before finally visiting the Syria Civil Defence Headquarters in Damascus, right in the heart of Jaish Al Islam, terrorist strongholds in Jobar and the surrounding suburbs of Damascus.

Every one of these units has a tale to tell about NATO’s White Helmets and each tale is a further nail in the coffin of the west’s multi-million dollar White Helmet mythology – nails which can’t be extracted by any number of NATO sponsored prizes, awards or accolades.

In the end, the REAL Syria Civil Defence will be recognised as extraordinary “ordinary” human beings who deserve the title “Hero” and whose service to their people and their country will be applauded by all those who are not taken in by the by the obscene parody of terrorists dressed-up as saviours and saints.

The REAL “saints” do indeed come marching in….

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The REAL Syria Civil Defence, Lattakia, next stop on the tour of the true heroes inside Syria. Photo: Lattakia Fire Brigade FB page

 

[Vanessa Beeley is a contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement, and a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.]

 

WATCH: The CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy

Video (1995) published March 1, 2012

Excerpt from the book Rouge State by William Blum:

“How many Americans could identify the National Endowment for Democracy? The NED was set up in the early 1980s under President Reagan in the wake of all the negative revelations about the CIA. Seemingly every other day there was a new headline about the discovery of some awful thing the CIA had been mixed up in for years. The Agency was getting an exceedingly bad name.

Something had to be done. What was done was not to stop doing these awful things. Of course not. What was done was to shift many of these awful things to a new organization, with a nice-sounding name – The National Endowment for Democracy. The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades – and thus eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities.

Thus it was in 1983, the National Endowment for Democracy was set up to “support democratic institutions throughout the world through private, non-governmental efforts.” In actuality, virtually every penny of its funding comes from the federal government, as is clearly indicated in the financial statement in each issue of its annual report.

Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, declared in 1991: ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.'”

 

 

Gloria Steinem Discussing Her Time in the CIA:

 

The Nonprofit Industrial Complex: an Accessory to the Crime of Imperialism

Syrian Support Group: CIA Outreach Agents & Terrorist Arms Suppliers

The Wall Will Fall | PINKINDUSTRY

January 7, 2016

Excerpts from original article

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“This is an open-ended exploration [carried out by PinkIndustry] of some of the outside figures offering assistance to the Syrian Support Group (SSG).

These figures have assisted in the granting of a license that enabled the Group to effectively send arms and money to the ‘Free Syrian Army’. The license was provided by the US State Dept’s oddly named ‘Office of Terrorism Finance and Economic Sanctions Policy’.

Part of the Office of Terrorism Finance’s stated remit is to coordinate: “efforts to create, modify, or terminate unilateral sanctions regimes as appropriate to the changing international situation, such as Iran, Syria, and Libya.” The license was granted in July 2012, based on a May application letter—a remarkably short time considering the nature of the SSG’s objectives and the complexities of the situation.

With the license the SSG can now bypass laws restricting trade with Syria and it is free to pay the wages of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and enable them to buy weapons. The arrangements also seems to include chemical weapons training. From its onset Louay Sakka, the SSG spokesman stated: “Right now we’re only asking them to provide more sophisticated weapons which nobody is willing to do” (Agence France Presse, June 8, 2012).

 

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The Outside Figures

A range of outside figures have been said to appear because they are connected “to the Anglo-American opposition creation business.” Examples are given such as those around western-elite connected figures such as Bassma Kodmani, formerly of the Syrian National Council (now with the Oxford Research Group).

Together with other groups the SSG ostensibly lobby the US government to provide support to the resistance against Assad.  But part of the State Dept’s deal with the SSG is that it reciprocally provides them with reports on who the money is going to. The idea is that this will help them to turn the FSA into a more organized group that could then receive intelligence and so forth from Western security agencies. Essentially this is the formation of a proxy force at arm’s length from the State Dept., so that it can retain the fiction that it is still opposed to providing direct lethal aid.

According to the New York Times, the SSG set up a base in Washington (it also has offices in London, Paris, and eastern Turkey) in April 2012 but had come together earlier in 2011; and even then the group was:

The Syrian Support Group, incorporated here in April as a non-profit, has few resources and, so far, few donations, and whether it succeeds in its larger goal remains to be seen. But it is already serving as a conduit between the United States and the armed forces seeking to topple Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and having an effect on American policy.

To further their cause and advise the Syrian Opposition Coalition in April 2013 (the dates are imprecise) the SSG hired Carne Ross and his New York-based firm, Independent Diplomat. This describes itself  as the “world’s first non-profit diplomatic advisory group.”  The idea was that the firm would:

…meet with key officials and desk officers in the State Department and other U.S. agencies to gather their views [on the Syrian civil war] and advise the Syrian Coalition how best to tailor their own approach to the U.S. Government.

In May 2012 (possibly months earlier) the SSG (or its advisers) also hired Brian Sayers, supposedly after finding him through an online employment agency. At this point the license was applied for and then approved.  Technically it was applied for by Mazen Asbahi, a lawyer who, when President Obama first ran for office, was appointed as his national coordinator to raise millions from Muslim Americans.

By granting such a license, according to a law expert, the US government has breached the UN Charter’s article 2(4), the prohibition on the threat and use of force in international relations: “the basic principle of customary international law prohibiting the interference into the domestic affairs of another state.” But no one seems interested, even although exactly who the FSA are remains a mystery: for the Russians “America’s Syrian friends and Afghan foes are same people.”

The SSG’s lucky find, Brian Sayers is said to have been an ex-NATO Advisor in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Libya—what he advises on we can only guess at.  Some say he was a ‘Political Officer for the International Secretariat at NATO’, others say he worked for the ‘Defense Operations Division at the US State Department,’ or he was the ‘Civilian Representative of the Secretary of Defense’.

He was also said to have run a company called ‘Private Digital Limited Corporation’.  Information on all this is scant, but the State Dept’s records have a Brian Neil Sayers, the husband of Mrs Adeline Hinderer Sayers, the second secretary for Trade at the US’ K Street Delegation of the European Union.  Sayers previously studied at the University of St. Andrews and then Georgetown University—who else found him useful one wonders?

What is peculiar here is that Sayers’ output has been given a remarkably sympathetic airing in the Israeli press.  Elsewhere we find him quoted as setting out the FSA as the lesser evil:

“We believe that if the United States does not act urgently, there is a real risk of a political vacuum in Syria, including the possibility of a dispersion of chemical weapons to rogue groups such as Hezbollah.”

This type of framing and commentary has a familiar ring about it: a private group being given tax-deductible status to raise money for an armed rebel group trying to overthrow a government in a country with which the US is not at war: the outsourcing to the private sector of the sort of thing the CIA used to do.

carnage

The Spook

Carne Ross’ International Diplomat (ID) reports to Najib Ghadbian, who co-ordinates the SSG. According to Ross’ firm, with SSG he will:

meet with key officials and desk officers in the State Department and other U.S. agencies to gather their views [on the Syrian civil war] … and advise the Syrian Coalition how best to tailor their own approach to the U.S. Government.

The acknowledged (thanks to Wikileaks) State Dept. funding of a Syrian opposition dates back to at least 2006. Ross started to advise the ‘National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces’ at the point were concerns were publicly raised that the rebellion was “being hijacked by Islamists linked to Al Qaeda” according to the New York Times.

But the rebellion has never really been in the ascendency, nor has its rebels been homogenous: in 2012, when the US blacklisted the Al-Qaeda-linked group Al-Nusra Front in Syria, the measure was initially criticized by the opposition. Of his firm’s role Ross was quoted as saying:

We’re not lobbyists, we’re an advisory group.

But he openly advocates intervention, arguing that similar fears of a perceived Islamist threat were used to justify non-intervention in Bosnia two decades ago.  This was parroted by Johnathan Freedland in the Guardian (seemingly before Ross was hired).  Ross’ other pronouncements in favour of escalating the conflict, include the inflamatory ‘Let’s call Russia’s bluff on Syria,’ also in the Guardian.  Independent Diplomat, as a private firm, clearly perceived an opportunity to shakedown the émigré groups that would emerge and be supported by the West.

After he resigned over Syria, Kofi Annan wrote in the Financial Times that peace was never given a chance by the UN: multipleplayers were responsible for the failure of diplomacy in Syria, and he said that Assad was not solely responsible for peace in the region.

For Al Jazeera the UN’s Security Council is engaged in a hegemonic power struggle over the Syrian conflict.  The legend which has been put around Carne Ross is that he is some saintly liberal interventionist helping the underdog, somehow at a remove from these machinations and the sanctions on, and then invasion of Iraq.  But he was not. Now that he has ‘resigned’ Ross has availed himself of the situation whereby governments outsource aspects of ‘diplomacy’.

This privatisation of diplomacy is a return to the pre-League of Nations’ secret diplomacy: it will not tackle the problem whereby wars are run by sinister vested interests.

Ross was head of the  according to the Jerusalem Post (September 5, 1995) and it is mentioned far and wide that he was the chief drafter of a key December 1999 UN Security Council resolution easing sanctions against Iraq in return for restarting weapons inspections (The Cairns Sun (Australia) January 5, 2001).

Less put-about stories include when John Pilger met Ross, and described him, more accurately, as the British official responsible for the imposition of sanctions.  To confront him Pilger read to him a statement Ross had made to a parliamentary select committee in 2007:

“The weight of evidence clearly indicates that sanctions caused massive human suffering among ordinary Iraqis, particularly children. We, the US and UK governments, were the primary engineers and offenders of sanctions and were well aware of this evidence at the time but we largely ignored it or blamed it on the Saddam government. [We] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.”

Ross’ reply was:

“I feel very ashamed about it… Before I went to New York, I went to the Foreign Office expecting a briefing on the vast piles of weapons that we still thought Iraq possessed, and the desk officer sort of looked at me slightly sheepishly and said, ‘Well actually, we don’t think there is anything in Iraq.’ “

Pilger’s story is really about another individual, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, who for 13 years with his ‘Help the Needy’ organisation had raised money for food and medicines for sick and starving Iraqis who were the victims of Ross’ sanctions. US officials told Dhafir his humanitarian aid was legal and then arrested him. Today, Dhafir is serving 22 years in prison for aiding terrorism.  Remember the State Dept. gave the SSG a licence to fund who knows who after looking at them for just over four or so weeks.

As chance would have it Ross has explained exactly how a false case for war is constructed using émigré and/or defector groups.  He has also outlined further how he and his colleagues pretended to delude themselves, when he was Blair’s Iraq expert at the UN security council, and was responsible for liaison with the weapons inspectors and intelligence on WMD. This was accomplished:

…not by the deliberate creation of a falsehood, but by willfully and secretly manipulating the evidence to exaggerate the importance of reports […] and to ignore contradictory evidence. This was a subtle process, elaborated from report to report, in such a way that allowed officials themselves to believe that they were not deliberately lying —more editing, perhaps, or simplifying for public presentation.

One of many witnesses at the Chilcot enquiry bent on self-exoneration, Ross was involved in all that he condemns, i.e. he was involved in the initial preparation of Blair’s dossier on WMD, and kept quiet about it until it was too late.  He even claims to have discussed the Number 10 WMD dossier at length with David Kelly in late 2002, who told him it was overstated.  There are reasons to doubt that his resignation was particularly motivated by his experience engineering the war—as he claims. Before, when on sabbatical leave in the US, he was happily extolling the virtues of his employers in the Guardian in March 21, 2002, claiming that:

I’ve never had a problem with motivation. I always thought that this job was worthwhile and work that needed to be done. One of the great things about the Foreign Office is that nearly everbody feels like that […] I didn’t feel unvalued a year ago.

Ross was also the UK’s Afghanistan “expert” at the UN Security Council after September 11th, 2001, and also briefly served in the British Embassy, Kabul, after the 2002 invasion.

Independent Diplomat’s name comes from one of his books: ‘Independent Diplomat, Dispatches From an Unaccountable Elite’. But we are not far away from this elite in his firm’s make-up.

It has a prestigious board of directors including Kieran Prendergast, who is also a member of the advisory board of another ‘British business intelligence’ firm, Hakluyt (Intelligence Online, January 8, 2009). Its advisory board, includes Sir David Manning, who was Tony Blair’s principal foreign affairs adviser in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

The company has been found to have engaged in activities such as employing an operative to infiltrate environmental groups on behalf of BP and Shell; it was the firm that hired the subsequently murdered British businessman Neil Heywood as a consultant in China—he was said to be

part of a global network of consultants who use local connections to provide intelligence for Hakluyt clients.

Haykluyt’s parent company is the Holdingham Group who’s Advisory board are beyond a shadow of a doubt an unaccountable elite. Its other organisations are H+ described as:

“An insight-driven consultancy providing independent and objective advice to senior executives at leading international corporations who face major strategic challenges and decisions”

and Pelorus Research which says:

Government intrusion into the commercial space is on the rise, and this is an increasingly important investment consideration. This weighs heaviest on industries most exposed to regulatory action, including telecoms, financial services, tobacco and natural resources”. 

Yes governments are way down the pecking order here—just another palm to cross with silver in the process of money making.

lob

The Lobbyist

In April 2013, along with Carne Ross, the SSG also hired professional lobbyist Andrew Gifford as co-director with Sayer, together with UK Ambassador Donald MacLaren as a political Consultant and Ian Griffiths (in charge of operations). 

According to a 1991 study of the firm: in the 1980s GJW’s three founding partners worked in the offices of David Steel, James Callaghan and Edward Heath (an original partner was to be Peter Mandelson). Its Finance director, Nigel Clarke, is the nephew of former defence secretary Tom King. Gifford is known for manipulating the press, e.g. for the arms industry (such as GEC’s bid to retain an MoD contract for heavyweight torpedoes).

Gifford’s firm, GJW Government Relations, also hired the young Nick Clegg and was known for its work aiding Colonel Gaddafi with Lockerbie. Other clients included Enron, Lady Shirley Porter and the Kuwaiti ruling family.

[Edit:  term “aiding” is perhaps, misleading.  Here is actual quote from the Independent article:]

The Libyan account, which even Ian Greer, a lobbyist whose name has become synonymous with political sleaze said he rejected, required GJW International to present Colonel Gadaffi’s position on the Lockerbie bombing. The Tripoli regime maintains that it is being made a scapegoat by the West for the destruction of the Pan-Am airliner in December 1988. It also wanted the trial of two Libyan nationals, alleged to be the bombers, to be held at a neutral venue rather than in Britain and or the United States as London and Washington demand.”

But according to PR Week(April 29, 1993) the biggest account GJW handled was with ‘Citizens for a Free Kuwait’ (similar to the SSG).

But let me back track a little bit here. Gifford is an associate of ex-SAS officer, Tony Buckingham who was “linked to a series of mercenary military operations launched on behalf of governments in power or exile and multinationals, in return for cash.” The New Statesman noted that:

Executive Outcomes was registered in the UK in September 1993 by Simon Mann, a former troop commander in 22 SAS specializing in intelligence and South African director of Ibis Air, and Tony Buckingham, an SAS veteran and chief executive of Heritage Oil and Gas.

The Heritage Oil and Gas board of directors includes former Liberal Party leader David Steel, and Andrew Gifford of GJW Government Relations, an influential parliamentary lobbyist. The company, originally British, now registered in the Bahamas, is associated with a Canadian oil corporation, Ranger Oil.

Both Heritage Oil and GJW are subsidiaries of Sandline International, another international security company.  Their own testimony states that together they brokered the arms into Sierra leone that met with the approval of the British Government and MI6In the mid 1990s EO blended into Sandline International.

The military companies operated from Buckingham’s offices in King’s Road, Chelsea, with the premises operated by Heritage Oil and Gas, and Branch Energy.  GJW, City PR firm Financial Dynamics and pollster Gallup joined forces to bankroll a new public affairs agency called Matrix Public Affairs Consultants.  Gifford and Tony Buckingham also share ownership with Guardian Newspapers of a publishing company called Fourth Estate.

If I turn back to GJW’S big account, Citizens for a Free Kuwait (CFK) this was a front group, established with the assistance of another large public-relations company, Hill & Knowlton. Other groups: e.g. the Council of American Muslims for Understanding were funded by the US State Dept. The Iraqi National Congress, was also a front organisation funded by the US government—all echoed the call for intervention and war.

After his 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein was accused of removing Kuwaiti premature babies from incubators and leaving them on the floor to die. The charges were made during testimony given before a meeting with a front group the ‘Congressional Human Rights Caucus’ designed to resemble the US Congress in October 1990. As John McArthur put it:

The Human Rights Caucus is not a committee of congress, and therefore it is unencumbered by the legal accoutrements that would make a witness hesitate before he or she lied [ …] Lying under oath in front of a congressional committee is a crime; lying from under the cover of anonymity to a caucus is merely public relations.

Nevertheless the story was widely circulated in the media and cited by political leaders (including George Bush and Amnesty International) as a justification to launch the invasion three months later.

After the Gulf War was over, the false testimony was revealed to have been by the teenage daughter of Saud bin Nasir Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington as part of an elaborate propaganda campaign devised by Hill & Knowlton and financed by the Kuwaiti government via CFK.  GJW was hired by the Association for a Free Kuwait to lobby Westminster and Brussels.

The Kuwaitis paid GJW more than £400,000 in fees and expenses while the Association’s US equivalent paid $5.6 million to Hill and Knowlton for the work in Washington (PR Week, January 17, 1991).

73-MACLAREN-1

The Ambassador

The SSG also hired Ambassador, Donald MacLaren, who can be seen at rallies in Whitehall that call for intervention in front of 10 Downing St. He joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1978 and served until 2008, after posts in Berlin and Moscow he became Ambassador to Georgia from 2004 to 2007, but he was seconded to Oxford Analytica from 1998-99.  Their assessment of the situation in Syria as of May 16 (2013) was:

“Syrian regime forces have managed to turn the tide in central and southern Syria by adopting a new counter-insurgency strategy. Despite slow but steady rebel advances in the north and east, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is now in a position to exploit international developments, such as the US-Russian diplomatic initiative, Saudi-Qatari divisions over the opposition, and Jordanian reluctance at hastening regime change in Syria.”

Oxford Analytica is a private intelligence company advised by Sir Colin McColl the ex-Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service amongst others that includes John Negroponte who was involved in supervising the Nicaraguan Contras, and according to Michel Chossudovsky:

“Negroponte’s mandate as US ambassador to Iraq [together with, now US Syrian Ambassador, Robert S. Ford] was to coordinate out of the US embassy, the covert support to death squads and paramilitary groups in Iraq with a view to fomenting sectarian violence and weakening the resistance movement. Robert S. Ford as “Number Two” [Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs] at the US Embassy played a central role in this endeavour.”

OA also have Peter Woicke, former CEO of the International Finance Corporation and Managing Director of the World Bank Group and other high flyers (and David Milliband). It was started by David Young after he fled from the Nixon administration after working with the White House Special Investigations Unit, the ‘Plumbers,’ and was miraculously granted immunity from prosecution.  OA believe that the Syrian conflict is a proxy war involving the regional actors and the US and Russia.

+++

 

Also SSG connection to Israel lobby and CIA mentioned in this Acronym TV report on the NPIC [Not for Profit Industrial Complex]

 

WKOG OP-ED: THE NIHILISTS

Wrong Kind of Green Op-Ed

December 23, 2015

by Jay Taber

nihilists agents of chaos

Illustration remixed from an original image by andres.thor under Creative Commons License – Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0

When it comes to the annals of shady people in the U.S. federal bureaucracy, few figures in American history figure so prominently, if obscurely, as Richard Armitage. As U.S. Deputy Secretary of State under George W. Bush (2001-2005), Armitage was deeply involved in events surrounding 9/11 and the Plame affair. As Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush (1983-1989), he was connected to the Iran-Contra affair.

In part of his taped March 24, 2004 testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Armitage noted that getting arms to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan was not so difficult: “It was making sure that we wouldn’t be, one, embarrassed by what they were. And no matter the charismatic nature of Ahmed Shah Massoud – and he was quite charismatic – that doesn’t make up for raping, drug dealing, et cetera, which many of the Northern Alliance had been involved with. So it’s not easy.”

As Deputy Secretary of State, Armitage was responsible for outing undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame in retaliation for her husband Ambassador Wilson’s refusal to go along with the fraudulent Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) campaign promoted at the UN by Secretary Powell.

One of the myths deposed by the 2010 Wikileaks U.S. State Department embassy cable cache is the notion of diplomacy as a benign exercise, above the fray of dirty dealing that takes place at the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. With the revelation of spying on UN officials — authorized by Secretary of State Clinton — the continuity of malpractice under the previous White House by Secretary Powell, with help from his long-time associate at the Department of Defense, Richard Armitage, proceeded seamlessly under the Obama administration.

As documented by Jerry Sanders in his book Peddlers of Crisis, Cold War hawks in Washington made their bones by producing and disseminating misperceptions about the Russian threat, that in turn justified the inordinate military buildup by the US and NATO. In essence, says Sanders, the national security military industrial complex, while perhaps warranted at some level, was nevertheless a colossal fraud concocted by Washington insiders at Langley and the Pentagon.

Deliberately falsified information and wildly exaggerated threats were, in fact, not only used to enable looting of the U.S. Treasury to meet these false threats, but also to promote some notorious characters into the halls of power. People like Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney, and Richard Armitage.

Today, through agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID, lessons in psychological warfare learned by Cold War hawks and private sector friends like George Soros are still being applied in the interest of US hegemony, albeit in more creative ways. As noted in this 2011 article about NED-funded political opposition groups in Russia, the exaggerations, while containing an element of truth, are leveraged to perpetuate popular myths that can be capitalized on by US interests.

 

Further Reading

9/11 As Sequel to Iran-Contra: Armitage, Carlucci and Friends

Amnesty’s Shilling for US Wars

Wag the Dog: Campaigns of Purpose

Welcome to the Brave New World — Brought to You by Avaaz

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

Empire’s “Mimic Men”

Zero Anthropology

October 24, 2015

by Maximilian Forte

mimicmen

Imperialism by Invitation or Imitation?

US efforts in remaking the international system according to an image reflecting the US are not usually in complete vain since the track has already has already been cut. To continue with the analogy, US policy planners and military analysts are concerned about widening and then paving the track so that it becomes a permanent highway. None of the military or diplomatic documents consulted, not even those with the highest of scientific pretense, ever bothers to go into any detail about the origins, development, and constitutions of the actual people who are constructed as force multipliers. On the other hand, Harvard historian Charles S. Maier addressed these ideas under the lemma of “empire by invitation” or “consensual empire” (Maier, 2002). While US leaders speak in terms of “partners,” “alliances,” and “coalitions,” Maier is not convinced that any of these adequately describe the nature of the US as “a major actor” (in his minimalist terms) in the international system. Instead, it is more accurate to speak of “the subordination of diverse national elites who—whether under compulsion or from shared convictions—accept the values of those who govern the dominant center or metropole,” Maier maintains. What distinguishes an empire from an alliance is the inequality in terms of power, resources, and influence between leaders at the centre of empire and the national subordinates who are, at most, their nominal counterparts. Political, economic, and cultural leaders in the periphery “hobnob with their imperial rulers”. Even those who organize resistance, Maier argues, “have often assimilated their colonizers’ culture and even values”. Maier endorses the Cultural Imperialism thesis in explaining these deep ties between the US core and what V.S. Naipaul (1967) called “the mimic men” of the periphery:

“Empires function by virtue of the prestige they radiate as well as by might, and indeed collapse if they rely on force alone. Artistic styles, the language of the rulers, and consumer preferences flow outward along with power and investment capital—sometimes diffused consciously by cultural diplomacy and student exchanges, sometimes just by popular taste for the intriguing products of the metropole, whether Coca Cola or Big Mac”. (Maier, 2002, p. 28)

As for Naipaul’s “mimic men,” these tend to be members of the new national elites in “formerly” colonized territories, who have acquired the tastes and prejudices of the colonial master, who aspire to the culture and identity of the colonizer, while cringing from the culture of the colonized. Mimic men ultimately find themselves displaced, disenchanted, and alienated, not able to fully join the ranks of the master class in the colonial mother country, but divorced from the culture into which they were born and which causes them shame. It is also important to note that Naipaul’s protagonist in The Mimic Men, Ralph Singh, is a politician, and was educated in the UK.

Elsewhere I wrote in similar terms to Maier’s about the relationships between the domestic and international versions of the US (Forte, 2014). As I outlined there, one can discern what we might call a National United States of America (NUSA) and a Globalized United States of America (GUSA). NUSA is a simple reference to the current political geography of the US, filled in by places that can be specified with geographic coordinates, inhabited by people in relatively dense relations with one another. Most of the inhabitants of NUSA refer to themselves as “Americans,” or are “Americans in waiting” (immigrants awaiting eventual citizenship). GUSA is not so neatly geographic, but it can still be found and seen, concretely. GUSA’s existence can be observed (in no particular order of importance) in the adoption of US consumption patterns and standards by local elites around the world, who may also be dual US citizens. The existence of a transnational capitalist class, a large part of which is US-educated, also manifests this globalization of US power. Military leaderships formed by funding and training by the US military, must also be included, as should the tens of thousands fighting in US uniforms with the promise of getting Green Cards. Political parties funded by the US and often led by people who spent some time living and studying in the US, and who adopt the US as a model, form a part of GUSA. GUSA includes upper-class neighbourhoods, districts, and gated communities, and those whose life patterns, choices, and personal orientations have been seriously influenced or remade by US cultural imperialism, in a process commonly referred to as “Americanization”. One of my working hypotheses is that it is GUSA which is now largely responsible for sustaining and extending the imperial reach of NUSA. Leaving the critique of scientism behind, we should now move from this overview of the instrumentality of imperialist logic to consider some of the practices, tools and devices used to multiply, mirror, and extend US power globally.

Neocolonial Cargo Cults

That the so-called force multipliers of US dominance can comprise, to a significant extent, dependent and mimetic bourgeoisies in former colonies is something deeply problematic for scholars and critics such as Ali Shari’ati. As he argued, these elites consist of what has long been known and referred to as the “comprador bourgeoisie,” the functionaries who benefit from the distribution of Western imports and the export of local resources, but also those who are among the most assimilated and who encourage a “modernization” of local tastes and thus expand the market for foreign imported goods (Manoochehri, 2005, p. 297). In Shari’ati’s terms, assimilation applies to,

“the conduct of the one who, intentionally or unintentionally, starts imitating the manners of someone else. Obsessively, and with no reservations he denies himself in order to transform his identity. Hoping to attain the goals and the grandeur, which he sees in another, the assimilated attempts to rid himself of perceived shameful associations with his original society and culture”. (Shari’ati quoted in Manoochehri, 2005, p. 297)

The issue of dependency is also useful in another sense, one related to the broader, critical literature on the political economy of underdevelopment. Since the force multiplier idea is inherently an expression of the cost function of foreign action, it is appropriate to understand it in the terms of political economy as an extractive process. Extraction, and the accumulation of capital (understood in all senses) at the core, is an essential outcome of any formula that posits the use of the most strategic resources at the least expense.

Speaking of the Bulgarian case (see chapter 4), as just one example, the force multiplication of increased “Americanization” in the early 1990s could be viewed as taking on another facet, this one being a specialty of anthropologists who studied cargo cults. As explained better by Eleanor Smollett, an anthropologist with twenty years of research experience in Bulgaria,

“The thought that keeps coming to me is cargo. A mechanical analogy to cargo cults is meaningless of course. There is no cargo cult in Bulgaria. There is no charismatic leader. We are not seeing a revitalization movement (though some monarchists have appeared) or a millenarian religious movement. But still, in this secular, highly educated, industrial society, there are echoes that say ‘cargo’. The wealth that is coveted exists somewhere else, in an external society. The structure of that external society and the manner in which the wealth is produced are poorly understood. The young people who covet what they imagine is the universal wealth of the West were not suffering from unemployment, poverty or absolute deprivation under socialism (although, in the present situation, they are beginning to experience all of these). They were and are, however, experiencing relative deprivation, as compared with their external model. It is this relative deprivation that moves them, as David Aberle made clear long ago in discussion of cargo cults. And as Eric Hobsbawm pointed out in contrasting these movements with revolutions, the leadership of such movements has no clear programme or plan of implementation for a new social system. The expected improvement to society is based on faith. If we strip away the old institutions, then the foreign aid, the investment, the development, the cargo will come”. (Smollett, 1993, p. 12)

The Mexican philosopher of liberation, Enrique Dussel, like Shari’ati, wrote on the fabrication of culture in the image of imperial culture that is represented by the new national elites, those he sees as historically the most assimilated. Dussel notes that imperial culture is,

“particularly refracted in the oligarchic culture of dominant groups within dependent nations of the periphery. It is the culture that they admire and imitate, fascinated by the artistic, scientific, and technological program of the centre….On the masks of these local elites the face of the centre is duplicated. They ignore their national culture, they despise their skin color, they pretend to be white…and live as if they were in the centre”. (quoted in Manoochehri, 2005, p. 294)

Dussel, however, does not see this culture as being confined to the oligarchic minority alone. Instead, a “pop” version is produced, “the kitsch vulgarization of imperialist culture,” one that is encouraged, reproduced and distributed by the elites who thus help to expand the imperialist economy by supplying a willing market for its goods—which resonates in the research of Smollett in Bulgaria. The process then is one where the imperial culture is “refracted by oligarchical culture and passed on for consumption. It is by means of the culture of the masses that ideology propagates imperialist enterprise and produces a market for its product” (Dussel as quoted in Manoochehri, 2005, p. 294).

Shari’ati described the culmination of assimilation as being the creation of monoculture. However, we can add that matters do not stop there, since there is also the growth of something resembling a “monoeconomy” under neoliberal tutelage, and a “monopolitics” that absorbs the nation-states of the global periphery as the new wards and even outright protectorates under UN, EU, and NATO auspices. Thus are US strategists able to speak of growing “alliances” and the spread of “universal values”—monoculture is the smoothest path to acquiring the most efficient machines: the force multiplier.

On the other hand, in US military and diplomatic papers there is no exegesis, no treatment, description or interpretation of the nature of those reduced in their roles to functional force multipliers. One wonders who US writers think these people are, what image of these human beings exists in their minds. It would appear, from the unspoken assumptions, that the average force multiplying person is conceived as being idealistic, one who associates the US with his/her highest ideals, and thus one who suspends judgment, and defers questioning. Above all, the force multiplier, being on the front line, is willing to sacrifice. These are to be sensed then as the perfect Christian Soldiers, in the Church of American Divinity, and the reader’s job is to have faith in these force multipliers.

There is also an “ecological fallacy” at work in US writings about “civil society” and “youth” or other social collectivities as force multipliers. The ecological fallacy is, “a confusion of the forest and the trees or, more accurately, the observing of one and the drawing of inferences about the other” (Stevenson, 1983, p. 263). One result of this fallacy is drawing conclusions about individuals, on the basis of their membership in social groups. Specifically, this fallacy emerges as such in State Department documents that automatically cast “civil society” worldwide as opposed to the state, as pro-US democracy, and as a natural ally of the US. In the writings and speeches that emanate from the State Department, there never can be a “civil society” that comprises ideological adversaries of US power–no such thing exists, they would have us believe.

The Instruments of Imperial Practice

Both the US Departments of State and Defense have created multiple programs for “targeting” foreign audiences and “winning hearts and minds”—a subject that is far broader than what is presented below (or even in previous volumes in this series). Hillary Clinton’s “21st century statecraft” has been mentioned before. The approach involved using communications technologies “to connect to new audiences, particularly civil society” as part of an “engagement” strategy (DoS, 2010, p. 65). As parts of its “public diplomacy,” the State Department created “Regional Media Hubs” in Miami, London, Brussels, Pretoria, Dubai, and Tokyo, in order to “increase official U.S. voices and faces on foreign television, radio, and other media, so that we are visible, active, and effective advocates of our own policies, priorities, and actions with foreign audiences…serving as a resource and tool for amplifying the regional dimension of our message” (DoS, 2010, pp. 60-61). In addition, the State Department created the “Virtual Student Foreign Service,” enlisting the aid of US university students to support US diplomatic missions (DoS, 2010, p. 66). Also dealing with students, the State Department expanded the “ACCESS Micro-scholarships” program so that, “teenagers, particularly in the Muslim world,” could be funded “to attend English classes and learn about America” (DoS, 2010, p. 61), thus utilizing conventional techniques of cultural imperialism, targeting Muslim youths and enforcing the dominance of the English language. While some would say that these programs are “peaceful,” the State Department also announced it was partnering with the Pentagon, in particular by using USAID in support of the Pentagon’s regional Combatant Commands (DoS, 2010, p. 54).

One of the more central and consistent tools used to deepen US intervention has arisen from the exploitation of gender issues to win “hearts and minds” as part of the US’ globalization of its counterinsurgency practices (see Byrd & Decker, 2008, p. 96; Pas, 2013; King, 2014). The State Department itself officially announced that the “protection and empowerment of women and girls is key to the foreign policy and security of the United States….women are at the center of our diplomacy and development efforts—not simply as beneficiaries, but also as agents of peace, reconciliation, development, growth, and stability” (DoS, 2010, p. 23). As “women are increasingly playing critical roles as agents of change in their societies,” the US would, “harness efforts and support their roles by focusing programs to engage with women and expand their opportunities for entrepreneurship, access to technology, and leadership” (DoS, 2010, p. 58). Also, as Pas points out under the heading of “security feminism,” the fetishizing of oppressed women is used as an opportune asset to ideologically advance the cause of imperialist intervention: “the war becomes about her. In this process the host country is also feminized and the American heterosexual pursuit becomes about gallantly ‘saving’ the Muslim woman from Islam. While America strives to save the Muslim woman from her alleged theological oppression she is effectively put on the front lines” (Pas, 2013, p. 56).

The CIA has also instrumentalized gender issues as part of a covert campaign to bolster international support for US wars. In 2010, after the Dutch government fell in part because of the issue of its participation in the war in Afghanistan, the CIA began to worry about a possible electoral backlash in the upcoming elections in France and Germany, both of which suffered mounting casualties among their forces in Afghanistan. According to a confidential CIA memorandum made public by WikiLeaks,

“Some NATO states, notably France and Germany, have counted on public apathy about Afghanistan to increase their contributions to the mission, but indifference might turn into active hostility if spring and summer fighting results in an upsurge in military or Afghan civilian casualties and if a Dutch-style debate spills over into other states contributing troops”. (CIA, 2010, p. 1)

A CIA “expert on strategic communication” along with public opinion analysts at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) came together to “consider information approaches that might better link the Afghan mission to the priorities of French, German, and other Western European publics” (CIA, 2010, p. 1). This was critical to the US since Germany and France respectively commanded the third and fourth largest troop contingents in Afghanistan, and any withdrawal would have been a significant blow not just to military operations but especially to the public image of the US-led occupation effort, leading to a crumbling in the credibility of the US-led NATO alliance and its “International Security Assistance Force” in Afghanistan. The CIA was already aware that, though not a top election issue, the majority of public opinion in Germany and France was against participation in the Afghan war (CIA, 2010, p. 1). The CIA’s strategic information exercise in Europe was based on the following logic,

“Western European publics might be better prepared to tolerate a spring and summer of greater military and civilian casualties if they perceive clear connections between outcomes in Afghanistan and their own priorities. A consistent and iterative strategic communication program across NATO troop contributors that taps into the key concerns of specific Western European audiences could provide a buffer if today’s apathy becomes tomorrow’s opposition to ISAF, giving politicians greater scope to support deployments to Afghanistan”. (CIA, 2010, p. 2)

The question of girls in Afghanistan was thus brought to the fore: “The prospect of the Taliban rolling back hard-won progress on girls’ education could provoke French indignation, become a rallying point for France’s largely secular public, and give voters a reason to support a good and necessary cause despite casualties” (CIA, 2010, p. 2). The CIA proposed that,

“Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission”. (CIA, 2010, p. 4)

The CIA thus advanced the idea that, “media events that feature testimonials by Afghan women would probably be most effective if broadcast on programs that have large and disproportionately female audiences” (CIA, 2010, p. 4).

While there is no chain of leaked documents to show that this CIA-organized strategy session led to the formulation and then implementation of a specific propaganda effort that followed these guidelines, we do know that Western media, as well as the messages widely and prominently circulated by Western human rights NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have over the years tended to heavily capitalize on the image of Afghan women and girls allegedly suffering from “Taliban oppression” as a major impulse toward supporting at least some US aims in Afghanistan. Even the otherwise anti-war US activist organization, Code Pink, sent a delegation to Afghanistan that spoke out about what could happen to Afghan women and girls if the US-led NATO occupation should come to an abrupt end: “We would leave with the same parameters of an exit strategy but we might perhaps be more flexible about a timeline,” said Medea Benjamin to the Christian Science Monitor, adding: “That’s where we have opened ourselves, being here, to some other possibilities. We have been feeling a sense of fear of the people of the return of the Taliban. So many people are saying that, ‘If the US troops left the country, would collapse. We’d go into civil war.’ A palpable sense of fear that is making us start to reconsider that” (Mojumdar, 2009/10/6; for more, see Code Pink, 2009/10/7a, 2009/10/7b, and Horton, 2009).

The goal of instrumentalizing Afghan women for pro-war public relations reappeared in another of the documents released to WikiLeaks, published by the Media Operations Centre of the Press and Media Service of NATO headquarters in Brussels. The document titled, “NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative as at 6 October 2008,” laid out a series of propaganda talking points oriented toward the domestic mass media in troop contributing nations, which NATO spokespersons were to follow. NATO’s “master narrative” concerning Afghan women was to tell the public that, “Presidential, Parliamentary and Provincial elections have taken place and women are now sitting in the Afghan Parliament. 28% of the MPs of the Lower House are female. Legitimate and representative government is now in place” (NATO, 2008). What is standard about these approaches is their superficiality, stressing numbers over qualitative realities, or in some cases inventing numbers outright, hence the recent admission that a large number of “ghost schools” exist in Afghanistan, that were either never constructed (but were paid for), or that were but have no teachers of pupils.

As with gender, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, has become another vehicle for the US to sell itself politically, or to create another wedge device for intervention and for practicing divide and rule. Thus in 2011, the State Department launched, “the Global Equality Fund to protect and advance the human rights of LGBT persons by supporting civil society organizations to protect human rights defenders, challenge discriminatory legislation, undertake advocacy campaigns, and document human rights violations that target the LGBT community”. Consequently, “over $7.5 million was allocated to civil rights organizations in over 50 countries; more than 150 human rights defenders have been assisted” (DoS, 2014b, p. 24). There is very little in the realm of “human rights,” LGBT and women’s activism, NGOs and “civil society” that is not touched by the US in nations that it is targeting—as the State Department itself proclaims, “advancing human rights and democracy is a key priority that reflects American values and promotes our security” (DoS, 2010, p. 42). The concept of “human security” has also been effectively reworked as part of a militarized, absolute security agenda (see McLoughlin & Forte, 2013).

In its search for more “force multipliers,” the State Department, particularly under the Obama administration, has established a series of programs to attract and enlist US and foreign students, corporate executives, and new media users. A program titled “100,000 Strong in the Americas”1 was launched by Obama in order to increase the number of US students studying throughout the Americas to 100,000, and likewise to increase the number of students from the Americas studying in the US to 100,000, by 2020. There is no explanation as to why 100,000 is the magic number—unless it is in fact founded on numerological mysticism. To fund the program, the State Department was joined by Partners of the Americas (see below) and NAFSA: Association of International Educators (NAFSA, 2013). US universities, without any known exception, are participants. The “Innovation Fund” that supports the program is hailed as a “public-private partnership,” in line with the growing corporatization, privatization, and outsourcing that now dominates ostensibly public institutions in North America. Obama’s program promises a propaganda boost to private corporations: “Highlight your corporate efforts to create jobs and international education for young people through media placement and recognition”.2 This connection between government, private business, and universities, brings to the foreground the widening idea of force multiplication employed by the US.

As just mentioned, Partners of the Americas is part of the above program. Partners of the Americas was first formed as part of the Alliance for Progress in 1964,3 during an earlier phase of US-led hemispheric counterinsurgency, marked by a developmentalist and militarized drive against “communism” as the US sought shore up its dominance by countering the example of revolutionary Cuba. Partners of the Americas involves itself in elections in Latin America, and in mobilizing people to impact on the selection of candidates for positions in justice systems such as Bolivia’s, until Partners’ partner, USAID, was expelled from the country. Partners boasts of funding hundreds of unnamed “civil society organizations” in 24 countries in the Americas.4

Among similar initiatives launched by the Obama administration, again by turning over part of US foreign policy to gigantic corporate entities, is the so-called “Alliance for Affordable Internet” (A4AI), which includes Google and the Omidyar Network. The program has clear political, strategic, and neoliberal aims. One of its top aims is to “reduce regulatory barriers and encourage policies to offer affordable access to both mobile and fixed-lined internet, particularly among women in developing countries”.5 A4AI is active in an unspecified number of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the only ones mentioned thus far being Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique, and the Dominican Republic. Understanding that limitations to Internet access persist, the US government is directly involved in expanding the potential market of those listening to its messages, watching its corporate advertisements, and consuming US exports, both material and ideological.

A program that specifically targets Africa and what could be its future leaders, is the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) which has launched the “Mandela Washington Fellowship” (MWF) program. The State Department partnered with RocketHub on a crowdfunding campaign to support projects created by graduates of the MWF. The first class of 500 Mandela Washington Fellows arrived in June 2014, “to study business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management at U.S. campuses, followed by a Presidential Summit in Washington”.6 The target audiences, as expected are women, youths, and “civil society”. So far 22 MWF projects have been funded. In undertaking this initiative, the US is reinforcing classic patterns of cultural imperialism.

It should become clearer how the employment of “force multipliers” can be seen as a threat to target states, when it comes to Western reactions to penetration of their own states. For example, when speaking of China’s force multipliers—or “agents of influence”— Western agencies such as the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) speak in no uncertain terms of their presence as a threat, constructed in terms of espionage, specifically naming “the mass of ordinary students, businessmen and locally employed staff” who work on behalf of China’s state intelligence gathering apparatus (MoD, 2001, p. 21F-2; see also WikiLeaks, 2009). What may be presented as innocuous ties of friendship, partnership, and aid when it comes to Western use of force multipliers, is instead dramatically inverted when speaking of Chinese influence, using a markedly more sinister tone:

“The process of being cultivated as a ‘friend of China’ (ie. an ‘agent’) is subtle and long-term. The Chinese are adept at exploiting a visitor’s interest in, and appreciation of, Chinese history and culture. They are expert flatterers and are well aware of the ‘softening’ effect of food and alcohol. Under cover of consultation or lecturing, a visitor may be given favours, advantageous economic conditions or commercial opportunities. In return they will be expected to give information or access to material. Or, at the very least, to speak out on China’s behalf (becoming an ‘agent of influence’)”. (MoD, 2001, p. 21F-2)

 

[Maximilian C. Forte has an educational background in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Spanish, International Relations, and Anthropology. He lived and studied for seven years in Trinidad & Tobago, for four years in Australia, and for three years in the U.S. He is a dual Italian-Canadian citizen, and had previously achieved Permanent Resident status in Trinidad & Tobago. His primary website is that of the Zero Anthropology Project.]

 

Notes

  1. The website for “100,000 Strong for the Americas” can be found at http://www.100kstrongamericas.org/100000-strong-explained
  2. http://www.100kstrongamericas.org/get-involved-opportunities
  3. Partners of the Americas presents a brief history of the organization at http://www.partners.net/partners/History.asp
  4. http://www.partners.net/partners/Overview12.asp
  5. Alliance for Affordable Internet: http://www.state.gov/s/partnerships/releases/reports/2015/238828.htm#A4AI
  6. Details on YALI and the MWF were presented at http://www.state.gov/s/partnerships/releases/reports/2015/238828.htm#YALI

References

Byrd, M.W., & Decker, G. (2008). Why the U.S. Should Gender Its Counterterrorism Strategy. Military Review, July-August, 96–101.

CIA. (2010). CIA Red Cell Special Memorandum, March 11. Langley, VA: US Central Intelligence Agency.
https://file.wikileaks.org/file/cia-afghanistan.pdf

Code Pink. (2009/10/7a). Afghan Women Speak Out: Dr. Roshnak Wardak. Code Pink, October 7.
http://web.archive.org/web/20101012084530/http://codepink.org/blog/2009/10/afghan-women-speak-out-dr-roshnak-wardak/

————— . (2009/10/7b). Afghanistan: Will Obama Listen to the Women? Code Pink, October 7.
http://web.archive.org/web/20101012092038/http://codepink.org/blog/2009/10/afghanistan-will-obama-listen-to-the-women/

Forte, Maximilian C. (2014). Surveillance, Dissent, and Imperialism. Zero Anthropology, March 1.
http://zeroanthropology.net/2014/03/01/surveillance-dissent-and-imperialism/

Horton, S. (2009). Is Medea Benjamin Naive or Just Confused? Code Pink Rethinks Afghan Withdrawal. AntiWar.com, October 8.
http://original.antiwar.com/scott/2009/10/07/is-medea-benjamin-confused/

King, H. (2014). Queers of War: Normalizing Lesbians and Gays in the US War Machine. In Maximilian C. Forte (Ed.), Good Intentions: Norms and Practices of Imperial Humanitarianism (pp. 89–101). Montreal: Alert Press.
https://openanthropology.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/good_intentions_ch4_queers_of_war_king_2014.pdf

Maier, C.S. (2002). An American Empire? The Problems of Frontiers and Peace in Twenty-First-Century World Politics. Harvard Magazine, November-December, 28–31.

Manoochehri, A. (2005). Enrique Dussel and Ali Shari’ati on Cultural Imperialism. In Bernd Hamm & Russell Smandych (Eds.), Cultural Imperialism: Essays on the Political Economy of Cultural Domination (pp. 290–300). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

McLoughlin, K., & Forte, M.C. (2013). Emergency as Security: The Liberal Empire at Home and Abroad. In Kyle McLoughlin & Maximilian C. Forte (Eds.), Emergency as Security: Liberal Empire at Home and Abroad (pp. 1–19). Montreal: Alert Press.
https://app.box.com/s/b95e1i7vmqo3ovkxwcoe

Ministry of Defence (MoD). (2001). The Defence Manual of Security (Volumes 1, 2 and 3, Issue 2). London: Ministry of Defence.

Mojumdar, A. (2009/10/6). “Code Pink” Rethinks Its Call for Afghanistan Pullout. Christian Science Monitor, October 6.
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2009/1006/p06s10-wosc.html

NAFSA. (2013). Strategic Plan 2014–2016. Washington, DC: NAFSA, Association of International Educators.

Naipaul, V.S. (1967). The Mimic Men. New York: Vintage International.

NATO. (2008). NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative as at 6 October 2008. Brussels: Media Operations Centre, Press and Media Service, NATO HQ.
https://file.wikileaks.org/file/nato-master-narrative-2008.pdf

Pas, N. (2013). The Masculine Empire: A Gendered Analysis of Modern American Imperialism. In Kyle McLoughlin & Maximilian C. Forte (Eds.), Emergency as Security: Liberal Empire at Home and Abroad (pp. 47–71). Montreal: Alert Press.
https://app.box.com/s/32cmeh58cc86diqcb8k5

Smollett, E. (1993). America the Beautiful: Made in Bulgaria. Anthropology Today, 9(2), 9–13.

Stevenson, R.L. (1983). A Critical Look at Critical Analysis. Journal of Communication, 33(3), 262–269.

US Department of State (DoS). (2010). Leading Through Civilian Power: The First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. Washington, DC: US Department of State.

————— . (2014b). State of Global Partnerships Report. Washington, DC: The Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, US Department of State.

WikiLeaks. (2009). UK MoD Manual of Security Volumes 1, 2 and 3 Issue 2, JSP-440, RESTRICTED, 2389 pages, 2001. WikiLeaks, October 4.
https://wikileaks.org/wiki/UK_MoD_Manual_of_Security_Volumes_1%2C_2_and_3_Issue_2%2C_JSP-440%2C_RESTRICTED%2C_2389_pages%2C_2001


zaniv5smExtracted from:
Force Multipliers: The Instrumentalities of Imperialism
Edited by
Maximilian C. Forte
Montreal, Alert Press, 2015
Available in print, or as a
Free E-book

 

Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception – Part I

The Wind Will Fall

October 23, 2015

by Vanessa Beeley

 

“The Ivy League bourgeoisie who sit at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex will one day be known simply as charismatic architects of death. Funded by the ruling class oligarchy, the role they serve for their funders is not unlike that of corporate media. Yet, it appears that global society is paralyzed in a collective hypnosis – rejecting universal social interests, thus rejecting reason, to instead fall in line with the position of the powerful minority that has seized control, a minority that systematically favours corporate interests.” ~ Cory Morningstar

 

In his recent speech Hezbollah leader, Sayyed Nasrallah, alluded to a multi-phase “soft war” which relies upon the mass media complex to disseminate propaganda and bias, propelling the Middle East into, primarily, a sectarian crisis before descending even further into regionalism and finally a devastating individualism.

Cory Morningstar’s body of work does more than any other to expose the bare bones of the non-profit propaganda industry that governs both our reactions – and inactions, through a network of multi-layered and multi-faceted media manipulation campaigns, of which the end result is mass thought control. She explains:

The 21st century NGO is becoming, more and more, a key tool serving the imperialist quest of absolute global dominance and exploitation. Global society has been, and continues to be, manipulated to believe that NGOs are representative of “civil society” (a concept promoted by corporations in the first place). This misplaced trust has allowed the “humanitarian industrial complex” to ascend to the highest position: the missionaries of deity – the deity of the empire.”

In a paper entitled, Foreign Aid and Regime Change: A Role for Donor Intent, written just prior to NATO intervention in Libya, Prof. Sarah Blodgett Bormeo describes the “democratization” process for target nations. Unwittingly or wittingly, Bormeo perfectly outlines the role played by NGOs in this process. Bormeo even goes so far as to pinpoint the lack of impartiality rife among NGOs large and small, the majority of whom, receive their funding directly from western government and major corporation sources – all of whom have a vested interest in the outcome of their NGO’s activities and ‘intervention’ in a particular location. Bormeo emphasises the importance of “picking winners” in this scenario, as opposed to respecting and supporting the will of the people in any sovereign nation.

Thus, it is possible that aid donors, in an effort to avoid further entrenching an “authoritarian” [my edit: this status is decided by donor] regime and perhaps increase the likelihood of democratization, channel funds through NGOs and civil society organizations in authoritarian states.”

In this short video below, we are introduced to the US military’s symbiotic relationship with NGOs in countries [in this instance, Iraq] where the policy is to Induce Pacification & Advance Western Ideologies. NGOs are cynically used to “soften” cultures and render entire communities dependent upon foreign aid in order to facilitate “Democratization”.

 

 

In this role, and dependent upon their donor support, NGOs cease to be the neutral, unbiased ‘humanitarian’ organisations they publically purport to be, and instead become actual covert tools for foreign intervention and regime change.  By default, they are assimilated into the Western modus vivendi of “waging war by way of deception” and their purpose is to alter public perception of a conflict via a multitude of media and “marketing” channels.

Following this formula, let’s examine, once more, the role of the Syria Civil Defence aka,’The White Helmets’ currently operating in Syria and take a closer look at their financial sources and mainstream media partners in order to better determine if they are indeed “neutral” as media moguls proclaim these “humanitarians” to be.

White Helmets: Follow the Money

The White Helmets were established in March 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey, and is headed by James Le Mesurier, a British “security” specialist and ‘ex’ British military intelligence officer with an impressive track record in some of the most dubious NATO intervention theatres including Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. Le Mesurier is a product of Britain’s elite Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and has also been placed in a series of high-profile pasts at the United Nations, European Union, and U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The origins of The White Helmet’s initial $300k seed funding is a little hazy, reports are contradictory but subsequent information leads us to conclude that the UK, US and the ‘Syrian Opposition’ [or Syrian National Council, parallel government backed an funded by the US, UK and allies] are connected. Logistical support has been provided and given by Turkish elite natural disaster response team, AKUT.

A further $13 million was poured into the White Helmet coffers during 2013 and this is where it gets interesting. Early reports suggest that these “donations” came from the US, UK and SNC with the previously explored connections to George Soros in the US.

However, subsequent investigations reveal that USAID has been a major shareholder in the White Helmet organisation.

The website for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) claims that “our work supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting: economic growth, agriculture and trade; global health; and, democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance.”

In a USAID report update in July 2015 it is clearly stated that they have supplied over $ 16m in assistance to the White Helmets.


The USAID track record as a primary US Government/CIA regime change facilitator is extensively documented.  From South America to the Ukraine and in the Middle East, USAID serve a malevolent and ultimately destructive role in the dismantling of sovereign nations and their reduction to Western hegemony vassal states, as always, all in the name of freedom and democracy.

“The United States does not lack institutions that continue to conspire, and that’s why I am using this gathering to announce that we have decided to expel USAID from Bolivia”  ~ Bolivian President Evo Morales

 

 

“USAID and NED are in the business of “Democracy Promotion” which uses public money (from U.S. taxpayers) for secretive operations with the intention to support pro-U.S. governments with the help of political and social movements abroad. The goal is regime change.” ~ Timothy Alexander Guzman

With recent developments in Syria and as a consequence of  the Syrian Government requested Russian intervention, we have seen a scramble to justify the shambolic US foreign policy and its clandestine terror operations in Syria.  We have previously established the White Helmet connections to this US regime change operation and their undisputed exclusive integration into the Al Nusra and Free Syrian Army [Muslim Brotherhood] and even ISIS networks and strongholds.

SEE ALSO: Humanitarian’ Propaganda War Against Syria: Avaaz and The White Helmets

After RT and Sott.net among others, exposed the gaping holes in White Helmet propaganda whereby the group recycled older photographs on Twitter in an effort to blame Russia for ‘civilian deaths’ – even before the alleged Russian bombing had occurred. Since then, the propaganda “war” has only ramped up.  The Russian involvement in Syria, did not only betray the US military deception, it also brought some heavyweight media giants of its own into the fray who set about de-constructing the Western media and NGO indoctrination that had, for so long, been largely unchallenged.


PHOTO: ISIS mercenary photographed outside White Helmet depot, in ISIS held area south of Yarmouk Camp.

At this point the London Telegraph went into damage limitation mode.  It published an article expounding the White Helmet humanitarian role in Syria but with admissions of UK Government “majority” funding and that the White Helmets are embedded with ISIS (“in at least one ISIL held area”), claims previously vehemently denied but rendered indisputable after discovery of the photo showing an ISIS mercenary posing directly in front of a White Helmets depot located deep in ISIS held territory south of Yarmouk.

The Foreign Office is currently the largest single source of funding. It is an irony that if Britain does effectively become an ally of Assad, and starts raids against Isil in Syria, it will be bombing from the air and paying for the bodies to be dug out on the ground. The White Helmets are also operating in at least one Isil-held area.”

Interestingly, the Telegraph stated clearly that the UK Foreign Office is the “largest single source of funding” for the White Helmets which may be perceived as an attempt to draw fire away from the USAID funding which still outstrips official figures released by the British Gov’t who “gifted” £ 3.5 million in equipment to “civil defence teams” in Syria [Report March 2015]. However, the British Government also committed to an additional £ 10m to “increase coordination between the Syrian Interim Government and civil defence teams” to be funded by: UK Government’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF).

If an organisation is funded by foreign governments who are directly involved in trying over-throw Syria’s government, how can they be rightly called an ‘independent relief organisation’?

It should be noted here also that although cries of ‘regime change!’ from both Washington and London have been muted since Russia entered the Syria conflict, both Washington and London have been supporting their own parallel, hand-picked ‘interim government’ for Syria since at least 2012.

So, with millions in hard cash and equipment being invested into the White Helmets by US & UK donors who have a very clear regime change objective in Syria, it becomes increasingly difficult to perceive their role as anything other than donor-biased propaganda merchants and a ‘humanitarian’ extension of a clandestine terror operation allied to the NATO proxy armies in the region.

White Helmet Leadership 

James Le Mesurier has been portrayed as a Humanitarian maverick hero, miraculously in the right place (Istanbul) at the right time, just as the need arose for the formation of a Syria Civil Defence team, perhaps coincidentally, only a few months prior to the now infamous and universally (except for a few diehard propagandists) discredited Ghouta ‘chemical weapon’ attack in August 2013, an event which has already been proven beyond a doubt to be a false flag attack, as well as subsequent accusations levied at the Syrian Government which narrowly failed to precipitate the NATO desired ‘No Fly Zone’.

However, when we delve deeper into the life and times of Le Mesurier we see that it was no happy accident that he was in Istanbul at this juncture.  As Sandhurst Military Academy’s top student and recipient of the Queen’s Medal, his chequered career took him from OHR [Office of High Representative] in Bosnia to intelligence co-ordinator in NATO’s newly won prize, Kosovo. We’re told that Le Mesurier left the British Army in 2000 and joined the UN serving as deputy head of the Advisory Unit on ‘Security and Justice’, and Special Representative of the Secretary General’s security policy body within the UN mission in Kosovo. His career then took him to Jerusalem where he worked on implementing the Ramallah Agreement, then to Baghdad as a special advisor to Iraqi Minister of Interior, and to the UAE to train their gas field protection force, and later to Lebanon during the 2006 war. In 2005 he was made Vice President for Special Projects at private mercenary firm Olive Group, and in January 2008 he was appointed as Principal for Good Harbour International, both based in Dubai.

Le Mesurier is also the founder of Mayday Rescue, a “non profit” organisation providing SAR [search & rescue] training to civilians enduring conflict.  According to Mesurier’s own biography on the website, Mayday Rescue was founded in 2014, after he had established Syria Civil Defence/White Helmets.


A quick flick through the other Mayday team members reveals some very interesting connections…


Mosab Obeidat
, previous Assistant Chief of Mission with the Qatar Red Crescent, one of whose officials, Khaled Diab was accused of supplying $ 2.2 m to secure arms for the terrorist groups in Syria. Details of this transaction and its exposure can be found in this Al Akhbar article from June 2013.  http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/16160

At least three other members of the team were a part of the Syrian “revolution” including Farouq al Habib, one of the 3 most prominent White Helmet leaders who was also a leader of the Homs uprising against the Syrian government and according to his testimony, was tortured by the Syrian “regime” security forces in 2012 for smuggling a journalist into Syria to “cover” the “peaceful protests”. Habib was a founder member of the “Homs Revolutionary Council” (note that the CIA have been linked to nearly all ‘Revolutionary Councils’ in Syria) before fleeing to Turkey in 2013 (A more in-depth analysis of his anti-Syrian government testimony will be presented in Part II of this article).


In this photo taken by a mobile phone on Wednesday Sept. 24, 2014, Read Saleh left, the head of the civil defense units in the northern city of Idlib, and Farouk al-Habib, right, a media campaigner for the rescuers known as the White Helmets, sit on a panel to draw attention to their work in Syria as world leaders come together for the annual UN general assembly meetings, in midtown New York. ZEINA KARAM/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Le Mesurier is heavily involved in several organisations not mentioned in this article, but for the purposes of demonstrating that the White Helmets should not be considered impartial or neutral as they claim, we will focus on those that best substantiate that argument.

Both Olive Group and Good Harbour International are experts in private “security”.  Taken from Sourcewatch on Olive Group:

“Olive Security was founded in 2001 by Harry Legge BurkeOlive lends their quick success to strong relations in the government and military industry. Harry Legge-Burke is an ex-Welsh Guard, and a former aid to chief of defence staff Sir [Charles Guthrie]. He can claim Prince William as a skiing partner and his sister was a nanny to the royal children.

 

Iraq:  Olive were on the ground since the invasion began in 2003, and were able to deploy 38 former SAS employees within two days of the invasion’s completion in 2004

 

Jonathan Allum, Olive’s former director and co-owner, is also the son of Tony Allum, who is the chairman of the engineering company Halcrow and also the head of the UK government’s Iraq Industry Working Group. It was in the latter position that Tony Allum went to Washington to meet with Bechtel leaders, where he suggested, among other UK companies, Halcrow and Olive as companies worth considering for subcontracted work, all stemming from Bechtel’s $680 million contract with USAID. They were considered and contracts followed, though both Legge-Burke and Allum deny one had anything to do with the other.” 

In May 2015, Olive Group merged with Constellis Holdings, in whose portfolio we can also find Academi, previously the notorious Blackwater Group (Nisour Square massacre, Iraq 2007).  Taken from The Atlantic July 2012:  Post 9/11, Bush enabled the CIA to subcontract assassinations allegedly targeting Al Qaeda operatives.  Blackwater was awarded this contract.

Running operations through Blackwater gave the CIA the power to have people abducted, or killed, with no one in the government being exactly responsible.”

The CIA can no longer hide its Blackwater/Academi connections, especially after this week’s Wikileaks data dump of CIA director John Brennan’s emails, whose contact list included now spy chief Robert Richer at his Blackwater contact address.

The outsourcing of intelligence operations was in full-swing. What Bush initiated, Obama ran with, awarding Blackwater/Academi a $ 250m contract in 2010 to offer “unspecified” services to the CIA, thus maintaining the apparatus for “unaccountable” covert assassinations.

It is true that James Le Mesurier only joined Olive Group in 2005 and left them in 2008, but his involvement with them and their subsequent merger with Constellis and by default, Blackwater/Academi, gives a degree of valuable insight into the elite intelligence and Pentagon circles that Le Mesurier moved in prior to working for Good Harbour International and creating Syria Civil Defence (not forgetting the USAID funding & influence that underpins both Olive and SCD/White Helmets).

In 2008, Le Mesurier joined Good Harbour International, another private “security” expert organisation, whose CEO is none other than former terror advisor to the Bush administration, the Terror Czar himself, Richard A. Clarke.


The jury is still out on whether Clarke was indeed the “whistleblower” he fashioned himself as, post 9/11, or a merely a high-level gatekeeper who aided in preventing a full and detailed investigation into Bush and Rumsfeld’s roles in 9/11.

Patrick Henningsen, a political analyst and writer for 21st Century Wire believes the latter is more likely:

“On first glance, one might buy into the mainstream media’s characterization of him, but it’s more likely that Richard Clarke is not a whistleblower at all. While appearing to oppose the Bush administration from a safe enough distance, I believe his role was inserted into the mix in the period of  2004-2005 in order to VALIDATE the bin Laden mythology and help to portray al Qaeda as an organic,  independently run terror organization.  He also claimed that Bush and Rumsfeld committed war crimes, but this means nothing because everyone knows that no US official will ever face ‘war crimes’ charges in any court of law anywhere on the planet. It’s effectively a straw man narrative that distracts from the real scandal in the US which is that the entire premise of the war on terror is completely contrived.  Clarke’s ‘whistleblower’ status gives him brilliant cover from too much public scrutiny. I remain skeptical of his whole public narrative. He was, is, and always will be an insider.”

What is perhaps even more telling, is Clarke’s reported close ties with Israeli-US operative Rita Katz of the SITE Intelligence Group, another supposedly independent, albeit ‘private’ intelligence firm located in Bethesda, Maryland, a stone’s throw away from CIA headquarters. SITE are said to be responsible for the media release of the harrowing ISIS execution videos, al Qaeda videos, and their credibility has been extensively questioned.

Katz’s long term working relationship with Clarke began before 9/11 when she and her research associate Steve Emerson were commissioned by Clarke to identify ‘Islamic radicals’ inside the Unites States. Over time, Katz’s relationship with Clarke blossomed into a much more extensive one that included regular briefings at both the Clinton and Bush White Houses.

“One of SITE’s founders, Rita Katz, is a government insider with close connections to former terrorism czar Richard Clarke and his staff in the White House, as well as investigators in the Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Homeland Security, according to SourceWatch. Her father was executed in Iraq as an Israel spy, a fact that suggests a connection to Israeli intelligence.”
~
Mark Taliano

Wheels Within Wheels

This background on Le Mesurier should at least make us question the media portrayal of an affable, debonair and philanthropic leader of a civilian humanitarian mission.  His military & intelligence roots, the fact that despite working for OHR in Bosnia, no visible record of his employment can be found there, his private security-centric career path, his appearance in Istanbul at just the right moment to partner USAID, the UK government & Syrian opposition in creating just the sort of “democratization” enabling NGO as described in our introduction, MUST at least cause us to doubt the transparency and neutrality of the White Helmets in Syria.

In addition, the White Helmet leadership consisting of known Syrian opposition protagonists such as Raed Saleh and Farouq al Habib must make us more cynical about the claims of impartiality and lack of bias and for those who will defend the “peaceful” revolution narrative upheld by Habib and Saleh, please take the time to read Professor Tim Anderson’s in depth analysis of events in Syria pre NATO intervention.

“I have seen from the beginning armed protesters in those demonstrations … they were the first to fire on the police. Very often the violence of the security forces comes in response to the brutal violence of the armed insurgents” – Jesuit priest Father Frans Van der Lugt, January 2012, Homs Syria 

 

“The claim that armed opposition to the government has begun only recently is a complete lie. The killings of soldiers, police and civilians, often in the most brutal circumstances, have been going on virtually since the beginning.” – Professor Jeremy Salt, October 2011, Ankara Turkey

Our presentation of the White Helmets as regime change propagandists & terrorist allies in this article will be further explored and verified in Part II.

“Existing soft power initiatives and agencies, particularly those engaged in development and strategic communications, must be reinvigorated through increased funding, human resources and prioritization. Concurrently, the U.S. government must establish goals, objectives and metrics for soft power initiatives. Furthermore, the U.S. government can better maximize the effectiveness of soft power instruments and efforts through increased partnerships with NGOs. By providing humanitarian and development assistance in areas typically inaccessible to government agencies, NGOs are often able to access potential extremist areas before the government can establish or strengthen diplomatic, developmental or military presence, including intelligence.” — Joseph S. Nye, former US assistant secretary of defence, June 2004



END OF PART ONE

[Author Vanessa Beeley is a contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement, and a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.]

 

(New Book) Force Multipliers: The Instrumentalities of Imperialism

Zero Anthropology

October 12, 2015

by Maximilian Forte

 

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Friends and allies, partners and protégés, extensions and proxies—the vocabulary of US power in the form of multiples of itself has become so entrenched that it rarely attracts attention, and even less so critical commentary. Force multiplication is about “leverage”: using partners and proxies in an expanding network, but where power still remains centralized. Forces are conceptualized in multi-dimensional terms. Anything in the world of cultural systems, social relationships, and material production can become force multipliers for imperialism: food security, oil, electricity, young leaders, aid, social media, NGOs, women’s rights, schoolgirls, democratization, elections, the G8, the European Union, NATO, the IMF, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, AFRICOM, development, policing, borders, and epidemics, among others. This takes us to related conceptualizations of “full-spectrum dominance,” “three-dimensional warfare,” and “interoperability,” in what has become an imperial syndrome. Chapters in this volume present diverse examples of force multiplication, ranging from Plan Colombia to Bulgarian membership in NATO and the US-Israeli relationship, from the New Alliance for Food Security to charitable aid and the control of migration, to the management of secrecy.

This volume is timely on numerous fronts. The time spanning the production of this book, from late 2014 to late 2015, has witnessed several new and renewed US interventions overseas, from Ukraine to Venezuela, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya, and the non-withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, where a disastrous war stretches into its 14th year. On the academic front, and particularly in North American anthropology where the word “imperialism” is virtually unspeakable and the subject of deliberate or unconscious censorship, seminar participants have taken on a bold and unusual challenge.

Chapters in this volume speak directly to the alliance and coalition aspects of force multiplication, in military and economic terms. The Introduction (“Force Multipliers: Imperial Instrumentalism in Theory and Practice”) is not a mere formality, running 87 pages in length. Instead it is an in-depth exploration, using US and some British government documents, of the “science of control” as expressed in this murky concept, “force multipliers,” a concept that receives its first serious treatment in this volume. Anyone thinking of engaging in false debates of “imperialism vs. agency” or “conspiracy vs. coincidence,” ought to first read this chapter. I shall also be serializing that chapter on this site over the next days and weeks, with summarizing slides presented on Twitter and Facebook.

Chapter 1, “Protégé of an Empire: The Influence and Exchange of US and Israeli Imperialism,” by John Talbot, deals with the question of Israel as a force multiplier of US empire in the Middle East. Talbot’s research sought to uncover how the relationship between the US and Israel impacts the foreign policy and global actions of both. Furthermore, his work seeks to understand what exactly is the “special” relationship between the US and Israel. His chapter explores two prominent answers to these questions and posits his own. One answer is that there is a significant and powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US which has a grappling hold on the US Congress, media, and within universities—suggesting that these are Israel’s own “force multipliers”. The Israel lobby’s actions create ardent support for Israel’s actions and pro-Israel foreign policy even when this goes against US interests. The second position argues that the US is not being manipulated; rather it is acting according to its own imperial interests. The argument assumes Israel was, and is, in a strategic position which works to protect the US’ imperial and economic interests. Both the vast reserves of oil in the Middle East and the spread of cultural imperialism are of interest to the US empire. The chapter ends with a position that the relationship is neither one-sided nor symbiotic. The US is supporting a protégé in the realms of nationalism, colonialism, imperialism, exceptionalism, state violence, heavy militarization, the creation of a state of emergency, and empire. Israel is acting as the US itself does while relying on its support. Understanding this relationship alongside the other standpoints can help make sense of otherwise irrational actions in which each actor may engage on the global stage. Talbot’s work has added significance in that it was produced just as the Concordia Students’ Union (CSU) officially supported the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli occupation, a decision that was the product of a historic vote by a majority of Concordia undergraduate student voters, reinforcing the decisions by graduate students and other campus bodies.

In chapter 2, “The New Alliance: Gaining Ground in Africa,” Mandela Coupal Dalgleish focuses on the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition which claims that it will bring 50 million people out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. He examines the origins of the New Alliance as well as the narrative that fuels New Alliance strategies. The chapter also considers how the value chains, growth corridors and public-private partnerships are furthering the interests of corporations while causing the further impoverishment of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. The relaxation and reduction of regulations and laws related to trade and ownership, which are required for African countries to participate in the New Alliance, are enabling occurrences of land grabbing, contract farming and the loss of diversity and resilience in African farming systems. This chapter is also very much related to discussions of “connected capitalism” (see the Introduction), the existence of the corporate oligarchic state at the centre of imperial power, and of course by invoking “alliance” the chapter’s contents relate to force multiplication. In this instance, force multiplication has to do with gaining productive territory and projecting power by remaking food security into something controlled by Western transnational corporations and subject to Western oversight.

In chapter 3, “Cocaine Blues: The Cost of Democratization under Plan Colombia,” Robert Majewski asks: Is the “war on drugs” in Colombia really about drugs? Majewski finds that the situation is more complex than simply a war on drugs. Instead he shows that rather than limiting actions to controlling and eradicating drug production, the US is on a imperialist quest of forging Colombia into a country able to uphold US ideals of democracy, capitalism and the free market. Through the highly militarized Plan Colombia that came to light in 2000, the US has utilized a number of mechanisms to restructure the country to its own liking. The ways in which US imperial aims are being attained are both through ideological and more direct means. Ideologically, the rule of law acts as a legal basis for the implementation of Americanized democracy. In a more direct manner, the US is training the Colombian army and employing private military security companies to carry out its objectives. As Majewski argues, the final aim is to create a secure environment for foreign capital to flourish, an environment that is even today seen as under threat by insurgent groups such as the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (known by their Spanish acronym, FARC). As we see in the Introduction, the US’ cultivation of ties to the Colombian military is an excellent example of what Special Forces and US Army documents describe when speaking of force multipliers and “foreign internal defense,” allowing the US a presence by proxy inside the Colombian polity.

Chapter 4, “Bulgarian Membership in NATO and the Price of Democracy,” by Lea Marinova, examines Bulgaria’s membership in NATO—where Bulgaria now serves as one of the newer force multipliers of a force multiplying alliance that works to project US dominance. Some of the central questions raised by this chapter in examining the nature of Bulagria’s NATO membership are: What are the main arguments on the side of NATO which favour Bulgarian participation in the Alliance, and to what ends? How is Bulgaria advantaged from this allegiance? Through the examination of the Bulgarian government’s “Vision 2020” project and the participation of Bulgaria in NATO missions, it is argued that NATO is an instrumentalization of US imperialism. Through the exposition of specific socio-historical predispositions which led to that association, the link between the interests of the US in having Bulgaria as an ally by its side in the “global war on terrorism” is demonstrated. Marinova argues that it is important to produce critical investigation of organizations such as NATO, which claim to promote “democracy, freedom and equality,” because behind this discourse there is a reality of creating political and economic dependency, while public and political attention is removed from this reality as the country’s internal problems continue to escalate.

Chapter 5, “Forced Migrations: An Echo of the Structural Violence of the New Imperialism,” by Chloë Blaszkewycz, shows how borders too can be used as force multipliers, or feared as force diminishers—either way, Blaszkewycz brings to light the territoriality of the so-called new imperialism which is routinely theorized as being divorced from the territorial concerns of the old colonial form of imperialism. Her chapter explores migratory movement as being influenced by the structures supporting the new imperialism. Harsha Walia’s concept of border imperialism is used as a starting point to understand the different level of oppression and forms of violence coming from the US new imperialism. Even though scholars are less likely to talk about the territorial forms of domination in the new imperialism, when analyzing migratory movement one is confronted with the fortification of borders, both material and psychological ones. Therefore, adding the concept of the border into imperialism is paramount, Blaszkewycz argues. Border imperialism legitimizes structural, psychological, physical and social violence towards migrants through narratives of criminalization and apparati of control such as detention centres that are an extension of the prison system. In brief, in a paternalistic way the US is compelling the migration trajectory of Others and forces people to be in constant movement. Therefore this is also a significant contribution for bridging migration studies with studies of imperialism.

Chapter 6, “Humanitarian Relief vs. Humanitarian Belief,” by Iléana Gutnick, continues themes that were heavily developed in the fourth of our volumes, Good Intentions. It plays an important role in this volume for highlighting how humanitarian doctrines, NGOs, and development, are forms of foreign intervention that also serve as force multipliers for the interests of powerful states. Moreover, Gutnick argues that humanitarian aid discourse is voluntarily misleading in that it shifts the public’s focus of attention towards seemingly immediate yet irrelevant ways of coping with the world’s problems. The pursuit of development has become the basis of action for foreign intervention in all sectors. This chapter tries to present the actual causes of “poverty” in an attempt to recontextualize it within its political framework to shed light on possible solutions, if there are any.

Chapter 7, “On Secrecy, Power, and the Imperial State: Perspectives from WikiLeaks and Anthropology,” which has been written and redeveloped since 2010, focuses on the demand for secrecy that is occasioned by an imperial state relying heavily on covert operations and whose own forms of governance are increasingly beholden to the operations of a “shadow state”. This chapter is thus related to discussions of “connected capitalism” and the corporate oligarchic state discussed below. I proceed by examining how WikiLeaks understands strategies of secrecy, the dissemination of information, and state power, and how anthropology has treated issues of secret knowledge and the social conventions that govern the dissemination of that knowledge. In part, I highlight a new method of doing research on the imperial state and its force multipliers, which rests heavily on the work of anti-secrecy organizations, of which WikiLeaks is paramount.

This is the fifth volume in the New Imperialism series published by Alert Press, the first open access book publisher in anthropology and sociology. However, for the time being, this volume will be the last. As always it has been my pleasure and honour to serve as the editor for such a collection, despite the fact that this year has been particularly challenging for personal reasons. Given the costly and time-consuming nature of these endeavours, and the fact that the seminar itself is not likely to be offered for the next couple of years at least, it will be a while before readers can hope to see a new volume in this series. Until next time then, I thank the reader for taking the time to study the contents of this volume.

 

[Maximilian C. Forte has an educational background in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Spanish, International Relations, and Anthropology. He lived and studied for seven years in Trinidad & Tobago, for four years in Australia, and for three years in the U.S. He is a dual Italian-Canadian citizen, and had previously achieved Permanent Resident status in Trinidad & Tobago. His primary website is that of the Zero Anthropology Project.]

The Nonprofit Industrial Complex’s Role in Imposing Neoliberalism on Public Education

Truthout [Regeneración, The Association of Raza Educators Journal]

July 7, 2015
By Robert D. Skeels

“In the long run, NGOs are accountable to their funders, not to the people they work among. They’re what botanists would call an indicator species. It’s almost as though the greater the devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs” (Roy, 2004)

Those ruling society have long utilized non-profits and similar outfits as a means to further their interests, ameliorate their public image, and disseminate their ideologies. Whether we call them Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), or Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC), the era of neoliberalism has seen the role of these private organizations further entrench itself in spaces that used to be that of the public commons. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is in the realm of education policy, where the activities of huge foundations, coupled with the actions of NPIC funded by those foundations, have insidiously begun to displace, replace, and even set the stage for the possible elimination of public education altogether.

Education historian Diane Ravitch opens the chapter entitled “The Billionaire Boys’ Club” in her seminal book (Ravitch 195) with a discussion of the Ford Foundation’s intervention in the so-called “community control” movement as early as 1967. Considered one of the more socially liberal foundations, Ford’s ostensibly good intentioned social engineering ended up exacerbating the problems that undergirded the struggles at the time. Whatever one makes of Ford’s intentions, the fact that they have a long history of being instrumental to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in terms of surveilling social movements is revealing (Incite! Women of Color Against Violence 88). Compared to Ford, modern foundations are far more overt in their political goals – especially their neoliberal agenda, and far more powerful in terms of their influence.

Taking neoliberalism as the modern term describing the “Washington Consensus” policies of deregulation, austerity, and privatization, we can best describe the current assault on public education as “neoliberal corporate education reform.” While a number of arch-reactionary foundations like The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, The Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Milken Family Foundation fund neoliberal aims in education, the most influential foundations in terms of advancing school privatization are those that author Joanne Barkan (Barkan, 2011) came to call the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate. An exhaustive survey of what these three mega-foundations have done to undermine public education nationwide (e.g. The Gates Foundation’s machinations behind the malignant Common Core State Standards) exceeds the scope of this essay. Instead, we will focus on a single city. Perhaps because of its size, or its proximity to The Broad Foundation’s headquarters, Los Angeles has been one of the central fronts on which the neoliberal ideologues have waged their war on public education. Evidenced by the staggering amounts the ruling class spends on school board and related elections, the number of well funded NPICs working as a neoliberal axis, and the collusion of the corporate media, those in power see Los Angeles as a high value target. In a word, it is a microcosm of what is happening to education everywhere.

The Neoliberal Emperor of Los Angeles

In the aforementioned Ravitch chapter, she outlines the “venture philanthropists” most responsible for the manifest neoliberal offensive against education. Discussing track-home real estate mogul, toxic credit default swap purveyor, and Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout recipient Eli Broad (rhymes with toad), Ravitch mentions “He created training programs for urban superintendents, high-level managers, principals, and school board members, so as to change the culture and personnel in the nation’s urban districts” (Ravitch 212). The training programs she alludes to are known as The Broad Superintendents Academy and The Broad Residency. Perhaps the most comprehensive resource discussing these programs, their “alumni,” and their corrosive corollary on school systems is “The Broad Report” thebroadreport.blogspot.com. A brief description of these unaccredited and unaccountable programs is that they are facilities to train – for the most part – non-educators in the most callous aspects of neoliberal policy. The foundation then pays districts to let these trainees inflict those policies on communities.

Broad unleashed some of his favorite disciples in his adopted back yard. Matt Hill, John Deasy, and Marshall Tuck, “graduates” of Broad programs, are household names in Los Angeles. Hill is one of many Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) administrators who were appointed to, rather than hired by, the district. Under a Broad program that leverages foundation funds to pay for his operatives to work at districts, Hill and many others are surreptitiously placed in key position of power and policy making (Blume, 2009). Hill oversaw a program that gave brand new public school facilities away to private concerns. That program is currently suspended. John Deasy, like Hill, was placed in LAUSD prior to inheriting the Superintendent’s mantle. Deasy was ignominiously forced to resign in the Fall of 2014 for his role in the LAUSD iPad scandal which is currently being investigated by Federal agencies (KPCC, 2014), but not before waging a scorched earth campaign on LAUSD that saw him attacking (and killing several) community programs from Early Education Centers to Adult Education (Skeels, 2012). Broad’s Marshall Tuck was assigned a different track. First he was placed with the Green Dot chain of corporate charter schools, then he went on to manage the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. Tuck’s legacy as an agent of neoliberalism is of note. At both organizations Tuck managed to produce entire classes of graduates that saw up to 100% failure on the California State University proficiency exams. Moreover, he was “known for killing Ethnic Studies, Heritage Language programs, and Dual Language programs” (Skeels, May 2014). There are many more corps members at LAUSD and nationwide; Barkan says “Broad casts a long shadow over LA Unified” (Barkan, 2011).

Broad’s oppressive influence on education finds expression in ways outside of his own foundation and training programs. His strategic “investing” (Ravitch 199) of both his and other foundations’ funds in other NPIC allows him to amplify his sway over schools. Perhaps his closest aly in this regard is the United Way of Greater Los Angeles (UWGLA). Broad is a member of UWGLA’s The Tocqueville Society Million Dollar Roundtable.

Los Angeles Schools Under Siege by the NPIC

Dr. Cynthia Liu, founder of K-12 News Network, once offered the following on the Broad – UWGLA relationship (Skeels, April 2014):

“The United Way of LA is chief enforcer of Eli Broad’s corporate takeover of public Ed agenda. He’s the reason why I created the term “weaponized philanthropy” to describe how lefty-liberal groups in this city are under his sway. There’s NO good reason on earth the ACLU or LGBT Youth groups would support John Deasy except for the fact that they get money from UWGLA and much of that money comes from Broad.”

The article in which that quote is cited discusses an incident that part and parcel summarizes UWGLA’s role as tax deductible lobbying and public relations firm on behalf of the mega-foundations’ policy advocacy. Unpopular with the community, former LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy would face annual calls for his firing. Invariably those calls would be met by an outpouring of support from the corporate media, UWGLA, and the smaller NPICs either funded by, or in close association with UWGLA. In early April 2014 the press was awash with descriptions and depictions of the street in front of LAUSD headquarters blocked by hundreds of desks, supposedly set up by “student demonstrators” in support of Deasy and in protest of the drop out rate. The Los Angeles Times ran photos of the alleged students, who were immediately identified by social justice activists as UWGLA executive staffers Ryan Smith and Jason Mandell (Skeels, April 2014). Student protest exposed as NPIC publicity stunt.

UWGLA doesn’t limit their overt policy advocacy to fraudulent protests. In 2011 they openly lobbied the school board to eliminate one of the very few democratic mechanisms that stood in the way of giving all newly constructed schools to privately managed charter corporations. Professor Ralph E. Shaffer argued vigorously against UWGLA’s acting as an agent for the lucrative charter schools industry in an Op-Ed (Shaffer, 2011). In addition to their own direct political lobbying, UWGLA both funds smaller NPIC to do the same, and forms coalitions with other NPICs who have embraced the fund-to-advocate paradigm in which foundations provide grants in return for specific performance of neoliberal policy advocacy. UWGLA formed the dubious “Don’t Hold Us Back” campaign to attack the teaching profession, and later formed the Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) coalition. CLASS counts among its members other NPIC like Educators for Excellence, Families In Schools, Los Angeles Urban League, TeachPlus, Inner City Struggle and Community Coalition – the latter two funded by UWGLA, the remainders funded by others, including The Gates Foundation and The Annenberg Foundation. All of them support the neoliberal agenda of privatization, deprofessionalizing of teaching, use of discredited teacher evaluation systems, and more.

UWGLA’s political involvement seemingly knows no bounds. In 2011 they funded a “research” (read policy) paper by the less-than-credible fellow neoliberal NPIC – National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) (Skeels, 2011). Their most recent tactic has been to host candidate forums for LAUSD elections, in which the mediators, rules, questions, and format are all carefully crafted to favor the candidates that support the same neoliberal agenda as UWGLA and its funders. Other groups, like the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate funded Parent Revolution, have used this controlled forum tactic to their advantage. In 2010 former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Parent Revolution Director Ben Austin (moonlighting from his City Attorney job), held forums to push for a series of anti-democratic corporate education reforms that boosted the bottom line of several corporate charter chains (Skeels, 2010).

Those associated with these same foundations and NPIC have raised obscene sums of money for school board candidates supporting the neoliberal corporate education reform agenda. The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission ethics.lacity.org makes most of those records public, and time spent reading 460 Forms and Independent Expenditure listings will dampen the convictions of anyone who claims we live under a democracy. However, despite the neoliberal advocates spending huge sums on their board candidates, they have lost many of those elections in the last decade, leading to what Professor Noam Chomsky says the ruling class considers a “crisis of democracy” (Chomsky 21). In other words, things are starting to look too much like actual democracy for their comfort. In response they are doubling down on the sums they spend on these local elections, and the neoliberal operatives have cynically placed two City Charter Amendments on the March 3, 2015 ballot that would move Los Angeles nonpartisan elections to the same dates as the partisan ones, which would all but eliminate any possibility of community candidates winning against those backed by outside interests.

Charter Schools Are NPIC

Frequently forgotten in discussions of NPIC is the fact that, in California at least, privately managed charter schools are NPIC too. They are run by unelected boards of directors, are typically exempt from large portions of the education code, discriminate against Students with Disabilities (SWD) (Office of the Independent Monitor, 2009), and have myriad other issues. One of the worst issues is the re-segregation of schools, a preexisting problem, but one exacerbated by privatization through charter schools and “choice” ideologies. Professor Antonia Darder addresses this better than anyone (Darder, 2014):

“The rhetoric of choice effectively capitalized upon discourses of “high-risk” students, “achievement gap” anxieties and victim-blaming notions of deficit – all of which have served well to legitimate racialized inequalities and exclusions. Hence, the charter school movement, driven by the logic of the “free market,” became an extension of former mainstream efforts to ensure class imperatives and the continuing segregation of US schools. The slippery use of language here effectively captured the imagination of conservative voters and detracted focus away from the increasing wealth gap. Yet, the rub here is that charter schools encourage the merging of public and private enterprise, distorting or blurring any separation or distinction between the public and private spheres and the moral responsibility of the state to provide for the educational formation of all its children. In the process, the glorification of the free market simultaneously legitimizes the covertly racialized ethos of the capitalist economy and its persistent reproduction and perpetuation of educational inequalities, in the first place. Devoid of institutional critiques of racism, current educational discourses posit a false portrayal for the persistence of school segregation and school failure.”

It is important to use the phrase “privately managed charters” because the deep pocketed charter advocacy NPICs continually bombard the public with the mendacious phrase “public charter schools.” By definition if a charter is run by a non-profit, then it is not public. The United States Census Bureau frames this issue best: “A few “public charter schools” are run by public universities and municipalities. However, most charter schools are run by private nonprofit organizations and are therefore classified as private.” (US Census Bureau vi). The more of our schools that are handed over to these private sector organizations, the less agency our communities have, and the more control those espousing neoliberalism have over our lives. Our rulers don’t just want exclusive control over the governance and finances of our schools, they want to control both what is taught and by whom.

Beyond the NPIC

Professor Lois Weiner wrote the following about No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which is applicable to all forms of neoliberal corporate education reform:

“What we need most immediately is for those who see the harm done by NCLB to recognize its political origins in the neoliberal project – and combat the project in its entirety. That requires the determination to reject the will of both political parties who advocate a system of education that leaves children and democracy behind capitalism’s race for greater profits at any cost.” (Weiner 173)

Faced with the unmatched funding and resources the mega-foundations and their attendent NPIC bring to bear, it is somewhat easy to feel overwhelmed. However, oppression breeds resistance. Nationally we have seen groups like United Opt Out and FairTest set the tone against high-stakes standardized testing. Various groups have begun opposing The Gates Foundation’s Common Core State Standards (CCSS), although some of the right-wing opposition is unprincipled and suspect. We discussed above how Los Angeles voters have frequently rejected neoliberal corporate reform candidates, as did the entire California electorate when Broad alumnus Tuck ran for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction seat (hearteningly, Tuck’s Ethnic Studies program shuttering counterparts in Arizona, Tom Horne and John Huppenthal, lost in 2014 as well).

However, there is an affirmative form of resistance led by Association of Raza Educators (ARE) members and their allies that points to a better form of struggle against neoliberalism. The Honorable Jose Lara, Vice President of El Rancho Unified School District Board of Education, worked with his community to pass the very first Ethnic Studies graduation requirement in the State of California. That victory was quickly followed by passage of Ethnic Studies graduation requirements in LAUSD, The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), and The Montebello Unified School District. The LAUSD efforts gave birth to the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition www.ethnicstudiesnow.com, which has become a nexus for community organizing, student-led conferences, and a rallying point for the efforts to enshrine the Ethnic Studies graduation requirement as California State law.

The Ethnic Studies struggles are significant for several reasons. The first of which is that little or no assistance came from NPIC, proving that effective, community based organizing does not require foundation money, or “professionalized, businesslike” (Incite! 95) organizers. Moreover, Ethnic Studies are the antithesis of the neoliberal ideals, particularly the subtle white supremacism underlying CCSS, which was crafted from E. D. Hirsch, Jr.’s “core knowledge” concepts. Lastly Ethnic Studies opens the door for exposure to Critical Pedagogy, Critical Race Studies, and other scholarship that will provide students with the tools to directly confront neoliberalism, the socio-economic structures that coined it, and the rulers of our class society that have imposed it. Paulo Freire called on us to reject neoliberalism:

“We need to say no to the neoliberal fatalism that we are witnessing at the end of this century, informed by the ethics of the market, an ethics in which a minority makes most profits against the lives of the majority. In other words, those who cannot compete, die. This is a perverse ethics that, in fact, lacks ethics. I insist on saying that I continue to be human…I would then remain the last educator in the world to say no: I do not accept…history as determinism. I embrace history as possibility [where] we can demystify the evil in the perverse fatalism that characterizes the neoliberal discourse in the end of this century.” (Freire 25)

Educating ourselves in critical theory, and joining organizations that allow us to collectively resist both neoliberalism and the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, are powerful ways that we can refuse to accept history as determinism.

References:

Barkan, Joanne. “Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools.” Dissent Magazine., Winter 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Blume, Howard. “Key L.A. Unied sta positions are funded privately” Los Angeles Times. 16 Dec. 2009. Web. 20 Feb. 2015

Chomsky, Noam. Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002. Print.

Darder, Antonia. “Racism and the Charter School Movement: Unveiling the Myths.” Truthout., 30 Nov. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2000. Print.

Incite! Women of Color Against Violence (ed.). The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Prot Industrial Complex. Cambridge, Mass: South End Press, 2007. Print.

KPCC Sta. LAUSD iPads: Federal grand jury probes after FBI seizes documents. Pasadana, CA: 89.3

KPCC Southern California Public Radio, 2 Dec. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015

Office of the Independent Monitor. Pilot Study of Charter Schools’ Compliance with the Modied

Consent Decree and the LAUSD Special Education Policies and Procedures., Los Angeles: Modied Consent Decree., 2009. Print.

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. New York: Basic Books, 2010. Print.

Roy, Arundhati. “Public power in the age of empire.” Socialist Worker., 3 Sep. 2004. 6-7. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Shaer, Ralph E. “United Way’s school stance is mistake” Los Angeles Daily News. 5 Jun. 2011. Print.

Skeels, Robert D. “Marshall Tuck’s Legacy of Bigotry and Failure” LA Progressive., 26 May. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Skeels, Robert D. “NCTQ’s LAUSD report’s highly questionable veracity shows Bill Gates’ pervasiveness and perniciousness” Schools Matter., 12 Jun. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Skeels, Robert D. “On Adult Education’s Critical Role in Social Justice” The National Coalition for Literacy., 13 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Skeels, Robert D. “United Way’s Corporate NPIC Astroturf was thick in front of LAUSD last Tuesday” K-12 News Network., 11 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Skeels, Robert D. “Why School Choice Plan Is a Bad Idea for the District” Los Angeles Daily News. 26 Mar. 2010. Print.

US Census Bureau. (2011). Public Education Finances: 2009 (GO9-ASPEF). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Oce. Print.

Weiner, Lois. The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012. Print.

The Nonprofit Industrial Complex’s Role in Imposing Neoliberalism on Public Education

Regeneración, The Association of Raza Educators Journal

Summer 2015, Volume 6, Number

by Robert D. Skeels

 

“In the long run, NGOs are accountable to their funders, not to the people they work among. They’re what botanists would call an indicator species. It’s almost as though the greater the devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs” (Roy, 2004)

Those ruling society have long utilized non-profits and similar outfits as a means to further their interests, ameliorate their public image, and disseminate their ideologies. Whether we call them Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), or Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC), the era of neoliberalism has seen the role of these private organizations further entrench itself in spaces that used to be that of the public commons. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is in the realm of education policy, where the activities of huge foundations, coupled with the actions of NPIC funded by those foundations, have insidiously begun to displace, replace, and even set the stage for the possible elimination of public education altogether.

Education historian Diane Ravitch opens the chapter entitled “The Billionaire Boys’ Club” in her seminal book (Ravitch 195) with a discussion of the Ford Foundation’s intervention in the so-called “community control” movement as early as 1967. Considered one of the more socially liberal foundations, Ford’s ostensibly good intentioned social engineering ended up exacerbating the problems that undergirded the struggles at the time. Whatever one makes of Ford’s intentions, the fact that they have a long history of being instrumental to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in terms of surveilling social movements is revealing (Incite! Women of Color Against Violence 88). Compared to Ford, modern foundations are far more overt in their political goals – especially their neoliberal agenda, and far more powerful in terms of their influence.

Taking neoliberalism as the modern term describing the “Washington Consensus” policies of deregulation, austerity, and privatization, we can best describe the current assault on public education as “neoliberal corporate education reform.” While a number of arch-reactionary foundations like The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, The Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Milken Family Foundation fund neoliberal aims in education, the most influential foundations in terms of advancing school privatization are those that author Joanne Barkan (Barkan, 2011) came to call the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate. An exhaustive survey of what these three mega-foundations have done to undermine public education nationwide (e.g. The Gates Foundation’s machinations behind the malignant Common Core State Standards) exceeds the scope of this essay. Instead, we will focus on a single city. Perhaps because of its size, or its proximity to The Broad Foundation’s headquarters, Los Angeles has been one of the central fronts on which the neoliberal ideologues have waged their war on public education. Evidenced by the staggering amounts the ruling class spends on school board and related elections, the number of well funded NPICs working as a neoliberal axis, and the collusion of the corporate media, those in power see Los Angeles as a high value target. In a word, it is a microcosm of what is happening to education everywhere.

The Neoliberal Emperor of Los Angeles

In the aforementioned Ravitch chapter, she outlines the “venture philanthropists” most responsible for the manifest neoliberal offensive against education. Discussing track-home real estate mogul, toxic credit default swap purveyor, and Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout recipient Eli Broad (rhymes with toad), Ravitch mentions “He created training programs for urban superintendents, high-level managers, principals, and school board members, so as to change the culture and personnel in the nation’s urban districts” (Ravitch 212). The training programs she alludes to are known as The Broad Superintendents Academy and The Broad Residency. Perhaps the most comprehensive resource discussing these programs, their “alumni,” and their corrosive corollary on school systems is “The Broad Report” thebroadreport.blogspot.com. A brief description of these unaccredited and unaccountable programs is that they are facilities to train – for the most part – non-educators in the most callous aspects of neoliberal policy. The foundation then pays districts to let these trainees inflict those policies on communities.

Broad unleashed some of his favorite disciples in his adopted back yard. Matt Hill, John Deasy, and Marshall Tuck, “graduates” of Broad programs, are household names in Los Angeles. Hill is one of many Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) administrators who were appointed to, rather than hired by, the district. Under a Broad program that leverages foundation funds to pay for his operatives to work at districts, Hill and many others are surreptitiously placed in key position of power and policy making (Blume, 2009). Hill oversaw a program that gave brand new public school facilities away to private concerns. That program is currently suspended. John Deasy, like Hill, was placed in LAUSD prior to inheriting the Superintendent’s mantle. Deasy was ignominiously forced to resign in the Fall of 2014 for his role in the LAUSD iPad scandal which is currently being investigated by Federal agencies (KPCC, 2014), but not before waging a scorched earth campaign on LAUSD that saw him attacking (and killing several) community programs from Early Education Centers to Adult Education (Skeels, 2012). Broad’s Marshall Tuck was assigned a different track. First he was placed with the Green Dot chain of corporate charter schools, then he went on to manage the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. Tuck’s legacy as an agent of neoliberalism is of note. At both organizations Tuck managed to produce entire classes of graduates that saw up to 100% failure on the California State University proficiency exams. Moreover, he was “known for killing Ethnic Studies, Heritage Language programs, and Dual Language programs” (Skeels, May 2014). There are many more corps members at LAUSD and nationwide; Barkan says “Broad casts a long shadow over LA Unified” (Barkan, 2011).

Broad’s oppressive influence on education finds expression in ways outside of his own foundation and training programs. His strategic “investing” (Ravitch 199) of both his and other foundations’ funds in other NPIC allows him to amplify his sway over schools. Perhaps his closest aly in this regard is the United Way of Greater Los Angeles (UWGLA). Broad is a member of UWGLA’s The Tocqueville Society Million Dollar Roundtable.

Los Angeles Schools Under Siege by the NPIC

Dr. Cynthia Liu, founder of K-12 News Network, once offered the following on the Broad – UWGLA relationship (Skeels, April 2014):

“The United Way of LA is chief enforcer of Eli Broad’s corporate takeover of public Ed agenda. He’s the reason why I created the term “weaponized philanthropy” to describe how lefty-liberal groups in this city are under his sway. There’s NO good reason on earth the ACLU or LGBT Youth groups would support John Deasy except for the fact that they get money from UWGLA and much of that money comes from Broad.”

The article in which that quote is cited discusses an incident that part and parcel summarizes UWGLA’s role as tax deductible lobbying and public relations firm on behalf of the mega-foundations’ policy advocacy. Unpopular with the community, former LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy would face annual calls for his firing. Invariably those calls would be met by an outpouring of support from the corporate media, UWGLA, and the smaller NPICs either funded by, or in close association with UWGLA. In early April 2014 the press was awash with descriptions and depictions of the street in front of LAUSD headquarters blocked by hundreds of desks, supposedly set up by “student demonstrators” in support of Deasy and in protest of the drop out rate. The Los Angeles Times ran photos of the alleged students, who were immediately identified by social justice activists as UWGLA executive staffers Ryan Smith and Jason Mandell (Skeels, April 2014). Student protest exposed as NPIC publicity stunt.

UWGLA doesn’t limit their overt policy advocacy to fraudulent protests. In 2011 they openly lobbied the school board to eliminate one of the very few democratic mechanisms that stood in the way of giving all newly constructed schools to privately managed charter corporations. Professor Ralph E. Shaffer argued vigorously against UWGLA’s acting as an agent for the lucrative charter schools industry in an Op-Ed (Shaffer, 2011). In addition to their own direct political lobbying, UWGLA both funds smaller NPIC to do the same, and forms coalitions with other NPICs who have embraced the fund-to-advocate paradigm in which foundations provide grants in return for specific performance of neoliberal policy advocacy. UWGLA formed the dubious “Don’t Hold Us Back” campaign to attack the teaching profession, and later formed the Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) coalition. CLASS counts among its members other NPIC like Educators for Excellence, Families In Schools, Los Angeles Urban League, TeachPlus, Inner City Struggle and Community Coalition – the latter two funded by UWGLA, the remainders funded by others, including The Gates Foundation and The Annenberg Foundation. All of them support the neoliberal agenda of privatization, deprofessionalizing of teaching, use of discredited teacher evaluation systems, and more.

UWGLA’s political involvement seemingly knows no bounds. In 2011 they funded a “research” (read policy) paper by the less-than-credible fellow neoliberal NPIC – National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) (Skeels, 2011). Their most recent tactic has been to host candidate forums for LAUSD elections, in which the mediators, rules, questions, and format are all carefully crafted to favor the candidates that support the same neoliberal agenda as UWGLA and its funders. Other groups, like the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate funded Parent Revolution, have used this controlled forum tactic to their advantage. In 2010 former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Parent Revolution Director Ben Austin (moonlighting from his City Attorney job), held forums to push for a series of anti-democratic corporate education reforms that boosted the bottom line of several corporate charter chains (Skeels, 2010).

Those associated with these same foundations and NPIC have raised obscene sums of money for school board candidates supporting the neoliberal corporate education reform agenda. The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission ethics.lacity.org makes most of those records public, and time spent reading 460 Forms and Independent Expenditure listings will dampen the convictions of anyone who claims we live under a democracy. However, despite the neoliberal advocates spending huge sums on their board candidates, they have lost many of those elections in the last decade, leading to what Professor Noam Chomsky says the ruling class considers a “crisis of democracy” (Chomsky 21). In other words, things are starting to look too much like actual democracy for their comfort. In response they are doubling down on the sums they spend on these local elections, and the neoliberal operatives have cynically placed two City Charter Amendments on the March 3, 2015 ballot that would move Los Angeles nonpartisan elections to the same dates as the partisan ones, which would all but eliminate any possibility of community candidates winning against those backed by outside interests.

Charter Schools Are NPIC

Frequently forgotten in discussions of NPIC is the fact that, in California at least, privately managed charter schools are NPIC too. They are run by unelected boards of directors, are typically exempt from large portions of the education code, discriminate against Students with Disabilities (SWD) (Office of the Independent Monitor, 2009), and have myriad other issues. One of the worst issues is the re-segregation of schools, a preexisting problem, but one exacerbated by privatization through charter schools and “choice” ideologies. Professor Antonia Darder addresses this better than anyone (Darder, 2014):

“The rhetoric of choice effectively capitalized upon discourses of “high-risk” students, “achievement gap” anxieties and victim-blaming notions of deficit – all of which have served well to legitimate racialized inequalities and exclusions. Hence, the charter school movement, driven by the logic of the “free market,” became an extension of former mainstream efforts to ensure class imperatives and the continuing segregation of US schools. The slippery use of language here effectively captured the imagination of conservative voters and detracted focus away from the increasing wealth gap. Yet, the rub here is that charter schools encourage the merging of public and private enterprise, distorting or blurring any separation or distinction between the public and private spheres and the moral responsibility of the state to provide for the educational formation of all its children. In the process, the glorification of the free market simultaneously legitimizes the covertly racialized ethos of the capitalist economy and its persistent reproduction and perpetuation of educational inequalities, in the first place. Devoid of institutional critiques of racism, current educational discourses posit a false portrayal for the persistence of school segregation and school failure.”

It is important to use the phrase “privately managed charters” because the deep pocketed charter advocacy NPICs continually bombard the public with the mendacious phrase “public charter schools.” By definition if a charter is run by a non-profit, then it is not public. The United States Census Bureau frames this issue best: “A few “public charter schools” are run by public universities and municipalities. However, most charter schools are run by private nonprofit organizations and are therefore classified as private.” (US Census Bureau vi). The more of our schools that are handed over to these private sector organizations, the less agency our communities have, and the more control those espousing neoliberalism have over our lives. Our rulers don’t just want exclusive control over the governance and finances of our schools, they want to control both what is taught and by whom.

Beyond the NPIC

Professor Lois Weiner wrote the following about No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which is applicable to all forms of neoliberal corporate education reform:

“What we need most immediately is for those who see the harm done by NCLB to recognize its political origins in the neoliberal project – and combat the project in its entirety. That requires the determination to reject the will of both political parties who advocate a system of education that leaves children and democracy behind capitalism’s race for greater profits at any cost.” (Weiner 173)

Faced with the unmatched funding and resources the mega-foundations and their attendent NPIC bring to bear, it is somewhat easy to feel overwhelmed. However, oppression breeds resistance. Nationally we have seen groups like United Opt Out and FairTest set the tone against high-stakes standardized testing. Various groups have begun opposing The Gates Foundation’s Common Core State Standards (CCSS), although some of the right-wing opposition is unprincipled and suspect. We discussed above how Los Angeles voters have frequently rejected neoliberal corporate reform candidates, as did the entire California electorate when Broad alumnus Tuck ran for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction seat (hearteningly, Tuck’s Ethnic Studies program shuttering counterparts in Arizona, Tom Horne and John Huppenthal, lost in 2014 as well).

However, there is an affirmative form of resistance led by Association of Raza Educators (ARE) members and their allies that points to a better form of struggle against neoliberalism. The Honorable Jose Lara, Vice President of El Rancho Unified School District Board of Education, worked with his community to pass the very first Ethnic Studies graduation requirement in the State of California. That victory was quickly followed by passage of Ethnic Studies graduation requirements in LAUSD, The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), and The Montebello Unified School District. The LAUSD efforts gave birth to the Ethnic Studies Now Coalition www.ethnicstudiesnow.com, which has become a nexus for community organizing, student-led conferences, and a rallying point for the efforts to enshrine the Ethnic Studies graduation requirement as California State law.

The Ethnic Studies struggles are significant for several reasons. The first of which is that little or no assistance came from NPIC, proving that effective, community based organizing does not require foundation money, or “professionalized, businesslike” (Incite! 95) organizers. Moreover, Ethnic Studies are the antithesis of the neoliberal ideals, particularly the subtle white supremacism underlying CCSS, which was crafted from E. D. Hirsch, Jr.’s “core knowledge” concepts. Lastly Ethnic Studies opens the door for exposure to Critical Pedagogy, Critical Race Studies, and other scholarship that will provide students with the tools to directly confront neoliberalism, the socio-economic structures that coined it, and the rulers of our class society that have imposed it. Paulo Freire called on us to reject neoliberalism:

“We need to say no to the neoliberal fatalism that we are witnessing at the end of this century, informed by the ethics of the market, an ethics in which a minority makes most profits against the lives of the majority. In other words, those who cannot compete, die. This is a perverse ethics that, in fact, lacks ethics. I insist on saying that I continue to be human…I would then remain the last educator in the world to say no: I do not accept…history as determinism. I embrace history as possibility [where] we can demystify the evil in the perverse fatalism that characterizes the neoliberal discourse in the end of this century.” (Freire 25)

Educating ourselves in critical theory, and joining organizations that allow us to collectively resist both neoliberalism and the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, are powerful ways that we can refuse to accept history as determinism.

References:

Barkan, Joanne. “Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools.” Dissent Magazine., Winter 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Blume, Howard. “Key L.A. Unied sta positions are funded privately” Los Angeles Times. 16 Dec. 2009. Web. 20 Feb. 2015

Chomsky, Noam. Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002. Print.

Darder, Antonia. “Racism and the Charter School Movement: Unveiling the Myths.” Truthout., 30 Nov. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2000. Print.

Incite! Women of Color Against Violence (ed.). The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Prot Industrial Complex. Cambridge, Mass: South End Press, 2007. Print.

KPCC Sta. LAUSD iPads: Federal grand jury probes after FBI seizes documents. Pasadana, CA: 89.3

KPCC Southern California Public Radio, 2 Dec. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015

Office of the Independent Monitor. Pilot Study of Charter Schools’ Compliance with the Modied

Consent Decree and the LAUSD Special Education Policies and Procedures., Los Angeles: Modied Consent Decree., 2009. Print.

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. New York: Basic Books, 2010. Print.

Roy, Arundhati. “Public power in the age of empire.” Socialist Worker., 3 Sep. 2004. 6-7. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Shaer, Ralph E. “United Way’s school stance is mistake” Los Angeles Daily News. 5 Jun. 2011. Print.

Skeels, Robert D. “Marshall Tuck’s Legacy of Bigotry and Failure” LA Progressive., 26 May. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Skeels, Robert D. “NCTQ’s LAUSD report’s highly questionable veracity shows Bill Gates’ pervasiveness and perniciousness” Schools Matter., 12 Jun. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Skeels, Robert D. “On Adult Education’s Critical Role in Social Justice” The National Coalition for Literacy., 13 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Skeels, Robert D. “United Way’s Corporate NPIC Astroturf was thick in front of LAUSD last Tuesday” K-12 News Network., 11 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

Skeels, Robert D. “Why School Choice Plan Is a Bad Idea for the District” Los Angeles Daily News. 26 Mar. 2010. Print.

US Census Bureau. (2011). Public Education Finances: 2009 (GO9-ASPEF). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Oce. Print.

Weiner, Lois. The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012. Print.

Avaaz: Manufacturing Consent for Wars Since 2011

Wall of Controversy

March 20, 2015

By James Boswell

 

 

Four years ago I received an email from the internet campaign group Avaaz which read:

“Together, we’ve sent 450,000 emails to the UN Security Council, “overwhelming” the Council President and helping to win targeted sanctions and a justice process for the Libyan people. Now, to stop the bloodshed, we need a massive outcry for a no-fly zone.” [Bold as in the original.]

Of course, that no-fly zone was Nato’s justification for a war – “no-fly zone” means war. So the bloodshed wasn’t about to be stopped, it was about to begin in earnest:

The foreign media has largely ceased to cover Libya because it rightly believes it is too dangerous for journalists to go there. Yet I remember a moment in the early summer of 2011 in the frontline south of Benghazi when there were more reporters and camera crews present than there were rebel militiamen. Cameramen used to ask fellow foreign journalists to move aside when they were filming so that this did not become too apparent. In reality, Gaddafi’s overthrow was very much Nato’s doing, with Libyan militiamen mopping up.

Executing regime change in Libya cost the lives of an estimated 20,000 people: but this was only the immediate death toll, and as a civil war rages on, the final figure keeps rising, indefinitely and seemingly inexorably. And the number of victims will go on rising for so long as there is lawlessness and chaos in a country now completely overrun with terrorists and warlords. So what was started with a “no-fly zone” is ending with a hell on earth: abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Given their unpardonable role in instigating this entirely avoidable human catastrophe, does it come as any surprise when, with “mission accomplished”, the media chose to turn its back on the carnage in Libya? Patrick Cockburn, who wrote the article from which the above quote is taken, has been a rare exception to the rule. A journalist who was not so quick to swallow the official line, he has since been committed to telling the bigger story, which includes the falsity of Nato’s original justifications for air strikes:

Human rights organisations have had a much better record in Libya than the media since the start of the uprising in 2011. They discovered that there was no evidence for several highly publicised atrocities supposedly carried out by Gaddafi’s forces that were used to fuel popular support for the air war in the US, Britain, France and elsewhere. These included the story of the mass rape of women by Gaddafi’s troops that Amnesty International exposed as being without foundation. The uniformed bodies of government soldiers were described by rebel spokesmen as being men shot because they were about to defect to the opposition. Video film showed the soldiers still alive as rebel prisoners so it must have been the rebels who had executed them and put the blame on the government.

So here is a pattern that repeats with uncanny consistency, and with the mainstream media’s failure to discover and report on the truth also recurring with near parallel regularity. We had the ‘Babies out of incubators’ story in Kuwait, and then those WMDs in Iraq that, as Bush Jnr joked, “have got to be here somewhere”, to offer just two very well-established prior instances of the kinds of lies that have taken us to war.

Patrick Cockburn continues:

Foreign governments and media alike have good reason to forget what they said and did in Libya in 2011, because the aftermath of the overthrow of Gaddafi has been so appalling. The extent of the calamity is made clear by two reports on the present state of the country, one by Amnesty International called “Libya: Rule of the gun – abductions, torture and other militia abuses in western Libya” and a second by Human Rights Watch, focusing on the east of the country, called “Libya: Assassinations May Be Crimes Against Humanity”.1

Click here to read Patrick Cockburn’s full article published last November.

But accusations do not stop even at the deplorable roles played by “foreign governments and media alike”, but apply to all of the various warmongering parties at that time, and one of the groups we must also point the finger to is Avaaz. For it was Avaaz, more than any other campaign group, who pushed alongside Nato in their call for the “no-fly zone” which got the whole war going. To reiterate, since it is vitally important that this is understood, a “no-fly zone” always and without exception means war:

Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian – putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.

No wonder, too, that it is rapidly becoming a key call of hawks on both sides of the Atlantic. The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck – those who usually oppose wars are openly campaigning for more military involvement.2

So wrote John Hilary in an excellent article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” published on the cusp of “intervention”.

In response, Ben Wikler, a campaign director at Avaaz, posted a comment that included the following remarks:

Would imposing a no-fly zone lead to a full-blown international war? No-fly zones can mean a range of different things.

Wikler is wrong and Hilary correct: “no-fly zones” always mean war. And as a consequence, those at Avaaz like Ben Wikler now have blood on their hands – and yet are unrepentant.

Yes, as with most others who were directly or indirectly culpable, “foreign governments and media alike”, it seems Avaaz too are suffering from collective amnesia. Not only have they forgotten the terrible consequences of imposing a “no-fly zone” on Libya, but they also seem to have forgotten their own deliberate efforts when it came to bolstering public support for that “bloody and calamitous” (to use Cockburn’s words) “foreign intervention” (to use the weasel euphemisms of Nato and the West). Because instead of reflecting upon the failings of Nato’s air campaign four years ago, and without offering the slightest murmur of apology for backing it (not that apologies help at all), Avaaz are now calling upon their supporters to forget our murderous blundering of the recent past, with calls for the same action all over again… this time in Syria.

It was yesterday when I received the latest email from Avaaz. Don’t worry, I’m not a supporter (although the simple fact I receive their emails means by their own definition, I am presumably counted one), but after Libya I chose to remain on their mailing list simply to keep an eye on what they were doing. And (not for the first or the second time) they are selling us on more war:

The Syrian air force just dropped chlorine gas bombs on children. Their little bodies gasped for air on hospital stretchers as medics held back tears, and watched as they suffocated to death.

But today there is a chance to stop these barrel bomb murders with a targeted No Fly Zone.

The US, Turkey, UK, France and others are right now seriously considering a safe zone in Northern Syria. Advisers close to President Obama support it, but he is worried he won’t have public support. That’s where we come in.

Let’s tell him we don’t want a world that just watches as a dictator drops chemical weapons on families in the night. We want action.

One humanitarian worker said ‘I wish the world could see what I have seen with my eyes. It breaks your heart forever.’ Let’s show that the world cares — sign to support a life-saving No Fly Zone

Obviously, I am not supplying the link for this latest call to arms: “a[nother] life-saving No Fly Zone”.

After Avaaz called for war against Libya back in 2011, I wrote a restrained article. But I was too polite. When they called for war again following the sarin gas attack on Ghouta, I hesitated again and looked into the facts. They didn’t stack up (as I explained at length in another post). But nor did I damn Avaaz on that occasion, as I ought to have done, when with Libya already ablaze they set up a campaign like this (sorry that it’s hard to read):

Since that time it has become evident to the world (at least the one outside the Avaaz office) that it has been Syrian forces who have most successfully fought back against Islamist extremists (al-Qaeda, but now more often called ISIS) who not only use poison gas to murder their enemies and spread fear, but methods so barbaric and depraved – public mass beheadings, crucifixions and even cannibalism – that you wonder which century we are living in. But Avaaz push the blame for all of this killing back on to the Assad regime, just as the West (whose close allies continue to back the so-called “rebels”) have also tried to do. And Avaaz are now saying (once again) that escalating the conflict is the way to save the people of Syria – so don’t worry if it spreads the infection now called ISIS – more love bombs are the preferred Avaaz solution for every complex political situation:

“Today, Gadhafi is dead, and the Libyan people have their first chance for democratic, accountable governance in decades…. American casualties were zero. Insurgent fighters and the vast majority of the population have cheered the victory as liberation, and courageous Syrians who face daily threats of death for standing up to their own repressive regime have taken comfort in Gadhafi’s fall. These accomplishments are no small feats for those who care about human dignity, democracy, and stability….

Progressives often demand action in the face of abject human suffering, but we know from recent history that in some situations moral condemnation, economic sanctions, or ex-post tribunals don’t save lives. Only force does.”

These are the self-congratulatory words of Tom Perriello, the co-founder of Avaaz, writing in late 2012. And he finishes the same piece:

We must realize that force is only one element of a coherent national security strategy and foreign policy. We must accept the reality—whether or not one accepts its merits—that other nations are more likely to perceive our motives to be self-interested than values-based. But in a world where egregious atrocities and grave threats exist, and where Kosovo and Libya have changed our sense of what’s now possible, the development of this next generation of power can be seen as a historically unique opportunity to reduce human suffering. 3

Independent investigative journalist, Cory Morningstar, who has probed very deeply into the organization says, “Make no mistake – this is the ideology at the helm of Avaaz.org.”

As she explains:

Tom Perriello is a long-time collaborator with Ricken Patel. Together, they co-founded Avaaz.org, Res Publica and FaithfulAmerica.org.

Perriello is a former U.S. Representative (represented the 5th District of Virginia from 2008 to 2010) and a founding member of the House Majority Leader’s National Security Working Group.

Perriello was also co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He worked for Reverend Dr. James Forbes on “prophetic justice” principles. Many of these organizations were created with the intent of creating a broad-based “religious left” movement. […]

Despite the carefully crafted language and images that tug at your emotions, such NGOs were created for and exist for one primary purpose – to protect and further American policy and interests, under the guise of philanthropy and humanitarianism.

As Cory Morningstar also points out:

In December 2011, Perriello disclosed that he served as special adviser to the international war crimes prosecutor and has spent extensive time in 2011 in Egypt and the Middle East researching the Arab Spring. Therefore, based on this disclosure alone, there can be no doubt that the deliberate strategy being advanced by Avaaz cannot be based upon any type of ignorance or naïveté. 4

“It breaks your heart forever.” That was the heading under which yesterday’s email arrived and the way it signed off went as follows: “With hope, John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest of the Avaaz team”. And this is how they come again with further ploys to prick your conscience. So do please remember before you click on their pastel-coloured links or forward those ‘messages’ to your own friends, how they beat the drums to war on two earlier occasions. In 2013, when they last called for the bombing of Syria (but the war party were halted in their mission), and in 2011 when they first aided Nato’s grand deception and helped to bring unremitting horrors to the innocent people of Libya. Keep in mind too, how lacking in guilt they have been in light of their own imploring role during the run up to the full “shock and awe” display over Tripoli.

Because John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest… are really not our friends. They are humanitarian hawks, who are in the business of manufacturing consent for every Nato “intervention”. Indeed, I would like to ask John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest, in good faith, just how do you sleep at night?

Click here to read a thorough examination of Avaaz put together by independent investigative journalist Cory Morningstar.

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Additional:

Here is an open letter I constructed in Summer 2012, but then decided not to post:

Dear Ricken, Eli and the whole Avaaz team,

By your own rather loose definition, I have been a member of Avaaz now for several years. In other words I responded to one of your campaigns many moons ago, and have never subsequently withdrawn my name from your mailing list. I believe that under your own terms, I am thus one of the many millions of your ‘members’. You presume that all those like me who are ‘in the Avaaz community’ support your various campaigns simply because we are on your contact list, although in my own case, this is absolutely not the case. I have ceased to support any of the Avaaz campaigns since you pushed for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya, and from this time on, have kept up with your campaign messages simply to keep an eye on you. I vowed never again to sign any of your petitions on the grounds that I do not wish to be a supporter of any organisation that backs an aggressive and expansionist war.

The most common criticism of Avaaz, and other internet campaign groups, is that it encourages ‘slacktivism’, which is indeed a very valid concern:

Sites such as Avaaz, suggested Micah White in the Guardian last year, often only deal with middle-of-the-road causes, to the exclusion of niche interests: “They are the Walmart of activism . . . and silence underfunded radical voices.” More infamously, internet theorist Evgeny Morozov has called the likes of Avaaz “Slacktivists”, claiming that they encourage previously tenacious activists to become lazy and complacent.

There’s also the issue of breadth. Clicktivist websites often cover a range of issues that have little thematic or geographical relation to each other, which leaves them open to accusations of dilettantism.

Click here to read Patrick Kingsey’s full article in the Guardian.

Ricken Patel’s response to Kingsley is to point to their campaign against Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB:

“Our activism played a critical role in delaying the BskyB deal until the recent scandal was able to kill it,” Avaaz‘s founder, New York-based Ricken Patel, tells me via Skype. 5

So is this really the best example Avaaz has to offer? Since the BSkyB deal would undoubtedly have been stymied for all sorts of other reasons, not least of which were the various phone hacking scandals, and most shockingly, in the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone. This more than anything killed off the Murdoch bid for BSkyB.

We might also give a little grudging credit to Business Secretary Vince Cable, who in late 2010 revealed privately to undercover reporters that he was ‘declaring war’ on Rupert Murdoch. This caused such a storm that Tory leader David Cameron came out against Cable, describing his comments as “totally unacceptable and inappropriate”, whilst Labour leader Ed Miliband immediately followed suite saying that he would have gone further and sacked Cable 6. In any case, Murdoch was coming under attack from many fronts (including, as shown by Cable’s example, a maverick offensive from inside the government), and so there were already growing calls for a review of the BskyB deal. As it turns out, the deal itself was seriously compromised by a conflict of interests involving Ofcom Chairman Colette Bowe, not that this widely reported – I wrote a post on it just before the deal suddenly collapsed. In fact, I had tried in vain to get a number of politicians to look into this aspect of the case, but none at all even bothered to reply. The story the media were telling quickly moved on, and so the role of Ofcom remains more or less unscrutinised.

But I have a far bigger problem with Avaaz than simply the matter of its lack of effectiveness. Since even if Avaaz has achieved nothing concrete whatsoever, which might well be the case, its growing prominence as a campaign group is undoubtedly helping to frame the protest agenda. Picking and choosing what are and aren’t important issues is dilettantism, yes, and also, potentially at least, “the manufacturing of dissent”. Avaaz‘s defence is that it is an independent body – oh, really?

Co-founder and Director of Avaaz, Ricken Patel said in 2011 “We have no ideology per se. Our mission is to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. Idealists of the world unite!”

“No ideology per se”? So what then are we to make of your association with another organisation called Res Publica, of which Patel is a fellow, and Eli Pariser has also been a member of the Advisor Board.

Res Publica (US) is described by wikipedia as “a US organization promoting ‘good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy.’”, though there is no article on the group itself, and nor, for that matter, any entry on Ricken Patel himself. If I visit the Res Publica website, however, the link I immediately find takes me straight to George Soros’ Open Democracy group and also the International Crisis Group of which Soros is again a member of the Executive Committee. The International Crisis Group that gets such glowing endorsements from peace-loving individuals as (and here I quote directly from the website):

President Bill Clinton (‘in the most troubled corners of the world, the eyes, the ears and the conscience of the global community’); successive U.S. Secretaries of State (Condoleezza Rice: ‘a widely respected and influential organisation’, Colin Powell: ‘a mirror for the conscience of the world’ and Madeleine Albright: ‘a full-service conflict prevention organisation’); and former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the late Richard Holbrooke (‘a brilliant idea… beautifully implemented’ with reports like CrisisWatch ‘better than anything I saw in government’).

Whilst according to Res Publica‘s own website Ricken Patel has himself “consulted for the International Crisis Group, the United Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation…”

To cut to the quick then, Avaaz claims to independence are simply a sham. Whether foundation funded or not, you are undeniably foundation affiliated. Which brings me to your recent campaigns.

In a letter which I received on Wednesday 11th January, you wrote, typically vaingloriously, about the significance of Avaaz in bringing about and supporting the uprisings of Arab Spring:

Across the Arab world, people power has toppled dictator after dictator, and our amazing Avaaz community has been at the heart of these struggles for democracy, breaking the media blackouts imposed by corrupt leaders, empowering citizen journalists, providing vital emergency relief to communities under siege, and helping protect hundreds of activists and their families from regime thugs.

When all that I can actually recall is some jumping on the bandwagon and your support for the ‘shock and awe’ assault that we saw lighting up the skies over Tripoli. Gaddafi was ousted, of course, much as Saddam Hussein had been by the Bush administration, and likewise, the country remains in chaos. But does the removal of any dictator justify the killing of an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people in the first months of the Libyan war – these figures according to Cherif Bassiouni, who led a U.N. Human Rights Council mission to Tripoli and rebel-held areas in late April. 7 Figures that officially rose to 25,000 people killed and 60,000 injured, after the attacks on Gaddafi’s besieged hometown of Sirte. 8 The true overall casualties of the Libyan war remain unknown, as they do in Iraq, although a conservative estimate is that around 30,000 people lost their lives. Avaaz, since you called for this, you must wash some of that blood from your own hands.

Now you are calling for ‘action’ against Syria, on the basis this time of your own report which finds that “crimes against humanity were committed by high-level members of the Assad regime”. Now, let me say that I do not in the least doubt that the Assad regime is involved in the secret detainment and torture of its opponents. The terrible truth is that such human rights abuses are routinely carried out all across the Middle East, and in many places on behalf or in collusion with Western security services such as the CIA. Back in September 2010, PolitiFact.com wrote about the Obama administration’s record on so-called “extraordinary renditions” [from wikipedia with footnote preserved]:

The administration has announced new procedural safeguards concerning individuals who are sent to foreign countries. President Obama also promised to shut down the CIA-run “black sites,” and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that extreme renditions are not happening, at least not as much as they did during the Bush administration. Still, human rights groups say that these safeguards are inadequate and that the DOJ Task Force recommendations still allow the U.S. to send individuals to foreign countries.[158]

Whilst back in April 2009, on the basis of what he had witnessed in Uzbekistan, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004, Craig Murray, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture”. In answers to questions, he explained to the committee how the UK government disguises its complicity and that he believed it has, in effect, helped to create “a market for torture”:

If I may refer to the documents on waterboarding and other torture techniques released recently in the United States on the orders of President Obama, if we are continuing to receive, as we are, all the intelligence reports put out by the CIA we are complicit in a huge amount of torture. I was seeing just a little corner in Uzbekistan. [p. 73]

I think the essence of the government’s position is that if you receive intelligence material from people who torture, be it CIA waterboarding, or torture by the Uzbek authorities or anywhere else, you can do so ad infinitum knowing that it may come from torture and you are still not complicit. [bottom p. 74]

Their position remains the one outlined by Sir Michael Wood, and it was put to me that if we receive intelligence from torture we were not complicit as long as we did not do the torture ourselves or encouraged it. I argue that we are creating a market for torture and that there were pay-offs to the Uzbeks for their intelligence co-operation and pay-offs to other countries for that torture. I think that a market for torture is a worthwhile concept in discussing the government’s attitude. [p. 75]

The government do not volunteer the fact that they very happily accept this information. I make it absolutely plain that I am talking of hundreds of pieces of intelligence every year that have come from hundreds of people who suffer the most vicious torture. We are talking about people screaming in agony in cells and our government’s willingness to accept the fruits of that in the form of hundreds of such reports every year. I want the Joint committee to be absolutely plain about that. [bot p.75] 9

Click here to watch all of parts of Craig Murray’s testimony.

Here is the introduction to Amnesty International‘s Report from last year:

Over 100 suspects in security-related offences were detained in 2010. The legal status and conditions of imprisonment of thousands of security detainees arrested in previous years, including prisoners of conscience, remained shrouded in secrecy. At least two detainees died in custody, possibly as a result of torture, and new information came to light about methods of torture and other ill-treatment used against security detainees. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, particularly flogging, continued to be imposed and carried out. Women and girls remained subject to discrimination and violence, with some cases receiving wide media attention. Both Christians and Muslims were arrested for expressing their religious beliefs.

But not for Syria – for Saudi Arabia report-2011.

And it continues:

Saudi Arabian forces involved in a conflict in northern Yemen carried out attacks that appeared to be indiscriminate or disproportionate and to have caused civilian deaths and injuries in violation of international humanitarian law. Foreign migrant workers were exploited and abused by their employers. The authorities violated the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. At least 27 prisoners were executed, markedly fewer than in the two preceding years.

Further down we read that:

At least 140 prisoners were under sentence of death, including some sentenced for offences not involving violence, such as apostasy and sorcery.

Not that Amnesty‘s report on Syria report-2011 is any less deplorable:

The authorities remained intolerant of dissent. Those who criticized the government, including human rights defenders, faced arrest and imprisonment after unfair trials, and bans from travelling abroad. Some were prisoners of conscience. Human rights NGOs and opposition political parties were denied legal authorization. State forces and the police continued to commit torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, and there were at least eight suspicious deaths in custody. The government failed to clarify the fate of 49 prisoners missing since a violent incident in 2008 at Saydnaya Military Prison, and took no steps to account for thousands of victims of enforced disappearances in earlier years. Women were subject to discrimination and gender-based violence; at least 22 people, mostly women, were victims of so-called honour killings. Members of the Kurdish minority continued to be denied equal access to economic, social and cultural rights. At least 17 people were executed, including a woman alleged to be a victim of physical and sexual abuse.

Please correct me, but so far as I’m aware, Avaaz have been entirely silent in their condemnation of the human rights violations of either Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia (two countries that maintain very close ties with the US). Silent too when Saudi forces brutally cracked down on the Arab Spring protests in neighbouring Bahrain. So one could be forgiven for thinking that when Avaaz picks and chooses its fights, those it takes up are, if not always in the geo-strategic interests of the United States, then certainly never against those interests.

Back to your call for action against Syria and the letter continues:

We all had hoped that the Arab League’s monitoring mission could stop the violence, but they have been compromised and discredited. Despite witnessing Assad’s snipers first-hand, the monitors have just extended their observation period without a call for urgent action. This is allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action, while the regime’s pathetic defense for its despicable acts has been that it is fighting a terrorist insurgency, not a peaceful democracy movement.

Well, I’m not sure that anyone was expecting much from the Arab League, but can you really justify what you are saying here? That the violence now taking place in Syria is against an entirely “peaceful democracy movement” and that Syria is in no way facing a terrorist insurgency. Not that such an insurgency is entirely unjustified; after all one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. But that both sides are involved in atrocities, since both sides are evidently armed and the rebels are undeniably backed by militant Islamist groups.

Making statements such as “allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action”, directly implies that these foreign powers are simply protecting their own selfish interests (which is, of course, true), whereas the US is intent only on defending freedom and human rights. Such a gross oversimplification and plain nonsense.

So far, I note, Avaaz have not called for direct ‘military intervention’ in Syria, unlike in the shameful case of Libya. But given the timing of this latest announcement and on the basis of past form, I’m expecting petitions for what amounts to war (such as the ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya) will follow soon enough.

And so to your latest campaign, which I received by email on Tuesday 10th April. It begins:

Dear Friends,

Today is a big day for Avaaz. If you join in, Avaaz might just move from having a small team of 40 campaigners to having 40,000!!

Then goes on to explain how the reach of Avaaz will be broadened by encouraging everyone to write their own campaign petitions:

So, to unlock all the incredible potential of our community to change the world, we’ve developed our website tools and website to allow any Avaazer to instantly start their *own* online petitions, tell friends, and win campaigns.

The site just went live – will you give it a try? Think of a petition you’d like to start on any issue – something impacting your local community, some bad behaviour by a distant corporation, or a global cause that you think other Avaaz members would care about. If your petition takes off, it may become an Avaaz campaign – either to members in your area, or even to the whole world!

On the face of it, you are offering a way for everyone to be involved. But 40,000 petitions…? Is this really going to change the world? I have an idea that maybe just five or six might serve the purpose better – here are my suggestions for four:

  • a call for those responsible within the Bush administration and beyond to be charged with war crimes for deliberately leading us into an illegal war with Iraq
  • the criminal prosecution for crimes against humanity of George W Bush and others who have publicly admitted to their approval of the use of torture
  • the repeal of NDAA 2012 and the rolling back of the unconstitutional US Patriot and Homeland Security Acts
  • a criminal investigation into the rampant financial fraud that created the current global debt crisis

So consider me a member of the team once more. I’m putting those four campaigns out there. Or at least I would have before I’d read your ‘Terms of Use’. For it concerns me that “In order to further the mission of this site or the mission of Avaaz, we may use, copy, distribute or disclose this material to other parties” but you do not then go on to outline who those ‘other parties’ might be. And you say you will “Remove or refuse to post any User Contributions for any or no reason. This is a decision Avaaz will strive to make fairly, but ultimately it is a decision that is solely up to Avaaz to make.”

Since you reserve the right to “remove or refuse to post” without making a clear statement of your rules and without any commitment to providing justification for such censorship, I see little reason in bothering to try. Doubtless others will attempt to build campaigns on your platform for actions regarding the very serious issues I have outlined above, and should they achieve this, then I will try to lend support to those campaigns. Alternatively, should I fail to come across campaigns formed around these and related issues, I will presume, rightly or wrongly (this is “a decision that is solely up to me to make”), that Avaaz prefers not to support such initiatives. Either way, I will not holding my breath.

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1 From an article entitled “The West is silent as Libya falls into the abyss” written by Patrick Cockburn, published by The Independent on November 2, 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-west-is-silent-as-libya-falls-into-the-abyss-9833489.html

2 From an article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” written by John Hillary, published in the Guardian on March 10, 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/10/internet-activists-libya-no-fly-zone

3 From an article entitled “Humanitarian Intervention: Recognizing When, and Why, It Can Succeed” written by Tom Perriello, published in Issue #23 Democracy Journal in Winter 2012. http://www.democracyjournal.org/23/humanitarian-intervention-recognizing-when-and-why-it-can-succeed.php?page=all

4 From an article entitled “Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War”, Part II, Section I, written by Cory Morningstar, published September 24, 2012. Another extract reads:

The 12 January 2012 RSVP event “Reframing U.S. Strategy in a Turbulent World: American Spring?” featured speakers from Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rosa Brooks of the New America Foundation, and none other than Tom Perriello, CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Perriello advanced his “ideology” during this lecture.

http://theartofannihilation.com/imperialist-pimps-of-militarism-protectors-of-the-oligarchy-trusted-facilitators-of-war-part-ii-section-i/

5 From an article entitled “Avaaz: activism or ‘slacktivism’?” written by Patrick Kingsley, published in the Guardian on July 20, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/20/avaaz-activism-slactivism-clicktivism

6 From an article entitled “Vince Cable to stay on as Business Secretary” published by BBC news on December 21, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12053656

7 From an article entitled “Up to 15,000 killed in Libya war: U.N. Right expert” reported by Reuters on June 9. 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/09/us-libya-un-deaths-idUSTRE7584UY20110609

8 From an article entitled “Residents flee Gaddafi hometown”, written by Rory Mulholland and Jay Deshmukh, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 3, 2011. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/residents-flee-gaddafi-hometown-20111003-1l49x.html

9 From the uncorrected transcript of oral evidence given to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture” on April 28, 2009. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/152/152.pdf

Please note that when I originally posted the article the link was to a different version of the document, but it turns out that the old link (below) has now expired. For this reason I have altered the page references in accordance with the new document.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:nogix7L1-kIJ:www.craigmurray.org.uk/Uncorrected%2520Transcript%252028%2520April%252009.doc+craig+murray+evidence+parliamentary+slect+commitee&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjfCqyleDnk_maooZDF7iGJ5MC68Lb9zNDi5PCH8_9PwlwCybyXYiCD-A1E-O_j9Z5XgnOsKsvguvirw4jqJW9zjuor_secSn7aw_X1JIxHxjLw0CZON7vwOcfitFM1bB8MOsaO&sig=AHIEtbScxyI2eTh3HF2MA_yGyeAcyTsoiQ

[James Boswell was born in Shrewsbury in 1967. In 1986 he moved to London to study Physics at Imperial College, and then moved again in 1989, this time to Sheffield, where his research on comets culminated in a PhD awarded in 1994. Having been settled in Sheffield ever since, he is currently a Physics lecturer at the Sheffield International College.]

 

 

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