Tagged ‘USAID‘

Military Capitalism

November 5, 2015

by Maximilian Forte


Security for US Capitalists: The State Department and its Global Partners

Very much in line in with the idea of “connected capitalism,” the US State Department created the office of advisor for global partnerships, a Senate-confirmed position (Stavridis & Farkas, 2012, p. 17; see also DoS, 2015, 2015/3/12). The Secretary of State’s Office of Global Partnerships, instituted in 2009, is officially described as, “the entry point for collaboration between the U.S. Department of State, the public and private sectors, and civil society” (DoS, 2015). Its programs cover the Americas, scholarships for the Middle East, the training of “young African leaders,” and spreading the US-dominated Internet to “poor communities” (DoS, 2015/3/12). The State Department says its Global Partnership Initiative has spent $650 Million in public and private resources on “diplomacy and development,” reaching 1,100 “partners” from 2009 through 2012, and cultivating 6,500 private sector contacts.1 In its official propaganda, GPI boasts that its method involves starting with one country, 10 cities, 100 investors, 1,000 partnerships—which as much as these are figures too neat to be anything but invented for glossy brochures and happy-looking websites, at least this 1-10-100-1000 progression graphically shows how deeply entrenched the “force multiplier” idea has become in official circles, military and civilian.2

The “partners” listed for the State Department’s GPI include philanthropic foundations, universities, airlines, weapons manufacturers, software companies, Google, Yahoo, soft drink manufacturers, retail giants, entertainment, banks, and oil companies (DoS, 2014, pp. 30-31), the core corporate sectors of the contemporary US economy. Among the US universities working under GPI are, as listed in 2014: University of Kansas, University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Washington, Northwestern University, and the University of California system (DoS, 2014, p. 31).

Since the creation of the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) in 1985 under the Reagan administration, the State Department has been involved in “security cooperation” with US “private sector interests worldwide”. Since 1985, universities, churches, and NGOs have been added to the State Department’s list of security partners. This arrangement is directly the result of demands placed on the state by US corporations: “The increase in terrorism over the last 30 years and the continuing threat against U.S. interests overseas has forced many American companies to seek advice and assistance from the U.S. Government, particularly the State Department”.3 This has been the case since OSAC’s conception: “In 1985, a handful of chief executive officers from prominent American companies met with then Secretary of State George P. Shultz to promote cooperation between the American private sector worldwide and the U.S. Government on security issues”.4 More than 3,500 US corporations, educational institutions, “faith-based institutions,” and NGOs are OSAC “constituents”.5 Current members include Northwestern University, the University of California system, McGraw Hill, and a range of the most familiar names in US entertainment, software, weapons manufacturing, financial industries, from Monsanto to Raytheon, Boeing, Microsoft, Walt Disney, Wal-Mart, Target, VISA, joined also by the Pentagon, FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security.6

Similarly, USAID, which established its “Global Development Alliance” in 2001 (see USAID, 2007), has worked with various corporations such as Coca-Cola (on water projects in 13 countries) and with Wal-Mart in Brazil. By 2005, USAID claimed to have established more than 400 such alliances, using $1.4 billion of its own funds with a further $4.6 billion from its partners (Stavridis & Farkas, 2012, p. 11).

The US Military’s Connected Capitalists: Mass Media’s “Military Analysts”

Several years ago, a series of exposés demonstrated US corporate mass media’s use of “military analysts” and “experts” who are retired senior military officers, serving in the private sector and with continued access to the Pentagon with the proviso that they repeat the Pentagon’s talking points on war (Barstow, 2008/4/20, 2009/11/28, 2011/12/24). This program, which bridged the Department of Defense, mass media, and corporations with military contracts, was described by Barstow (2008/4/20):

“The effort… has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air….Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse—an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks”.

A military retiree turned analyst-lobbyist military would gain access to current inside information in the Pentagon, which would be useful for the private weapons contractors they served, and in return they would sell the administration’s talking points to the public. This is “connected” in the same way a totalitarian system is connected. Information presented to the public was often fabricated, exaggerated or otherwise distorted, to boost public support for the war in Iraq. “A few” of these so-called analysts “expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis” (Barstow, 2008/4/20). Thousands of records that were made public revealed “a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated”—because the mass media had themselves been enlisted as “force multipliers”: “Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as ‘message force multipliers’ or ‘surrogates’ who could be counted on to deliver administration ‘themes and messages’ to millions of Americans ‘in the form of their own opinions’” (Barstow, 2008/4/20).




Barstow, D. (2008/4/20). Message Machine: Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand. The New York Times, April 20, A1.

————— . (2008/11/29). One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex. The New York Times, November 29, A1.

————— . (2011/12/24). Pentagon Finds No Fault in Ties to TV Analysts. The New York Times, December 24, A20.

USAID. (2007). Global Development Alliance. Washington, DC: US Agency for International Development.

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

————— . (2015). The Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships. Washington, DC: US Department of State.

————— . (2015/3/12). Department of State Releases 2015 State of Global Partnerships Report—Media Note, March 12. Washington, DC: Office of the Spokesperson, US Department of State.

Stavridis, J., & Farkas, E.N. (2012). The 21st Century Force Multiplier: Public—Private Collaboration. The Washington Quarterly, 35(2), 7–20.


[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.]


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

Red Cross Built Exactly 6 Homes For Haiti With Nearly Half A Billion Dollars In Donations

June 4, 2015
The neighborhood of Campeche sprawls up a steep hillside in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Goats rustle in trash that goes forever uncollected. Children kick a deflated volleyball in a dusty lot below a wall with a hand-painted the logo of the American Red Cross.

In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the earthquake that struck Haiti the year before. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes.

Today, not one home has been built in Campeche. Many residents live in shacks made of rusty sheet metal, without access to drinkable water, electricity or basic sanitation. When it rains, their homes flood and residents bail out mud and water.

The Red Cross received an outpouring of donations after the quake, nearly half a billion dollars.

The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, emails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success.

The Red Cross says it has provided homes to more than 130,000 people. But the actual number of permanent homes the group has built in all of Haiti: six.

After the earthquake, Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern unveiled ambitious plans to “develop brand-new communities.” None has ever been built.

Aid organizations from around the world have struggled after the earthquake in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. But ProPublica and NPR’s investigation shows that many of the Red Cross’s failings in Haiti are of its own making. They are also part of a larger pattern in which the organization has botched delivery of aid after disasters such as Superstorm Sandy. Despite its difficulties, the Red Cross remains the charity of choice for ordinary Americans and corporations alike after natural disasters.

One issue that has hindered the Red Cross’ work in Haiti is an overreliance on foreigners who could not speak French or Creole, current and former employees say.

In a blistering 2011 memo, the then-director of the Haiti program, Judith St. Fort, wrote that the group was failing in Haiti and that senior managers had made “very disturbing” remarks disparaging Haitian employees. St. Fort, who is Haitian American, wrote that the comments included, “he is the only hard working one among them” and “the ones that we have hired are not strong so we probably should not pay close attention to Haitian CVs.”

The Red Cross won’t disclose details of how it has spent the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for Haiti. But our reporting shows that less money reached those in need than the Red Cross has said.

Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget.

In statements, the Red Cross cited the challenges all groups have faced in post-quake Haiti, including the country’s dysfunctional land title system.

“Like many humanitarian organizations responding in Haiti, the American Red Cross met complications in relation to government coordination delays, disputes over land ownership, delays at Haitian customs, challenges finding qualified staff who were in short supply and high demand, and the cholera outbreak, among other challenges,” the charity said.

The group said it responded quickly to internal concerns, including hiring an expert to train staff on cultural competency after St. Fort’s memo. While the group won’t provide a breakdown of its projects, the Red Cross said it has done more than 100. The projects include repairing 4,000 homes, giving several thousand families temporary shelters, donating $44 million for food after the earthquake, and helping fund the construction of a hospital.

“Millions of Haitians are safer, healthier, more resilient, and better prepared for future disasters thanks to generous donations to the American Red Cross,” McGovern wrote in a recent report marking the fifth anniversary of the earthquake.

In other promotional materials, the Red Cross said it has helped “more than 4.5 million” individual Haitians “get back on their feet.”

It has not provided details to back up the claim. And Jean-Max Bellerive, Haiti’s prime minister at the time of the earthquake, doubts the figure, pointing out the country’s entire population is only about 10 million.

“No, no,” Bellerive said of the Red Cross’ claim, “it’s not possible.”

When the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, the Red Cross was facing a crisis of its own. McGovern had become chief executive just 18 months earlier, inheriting a deficit and an organization that had faced scandals after 9/11 and Katrina.

Inside the Red Cross, the Haiti disaster was seen as “a spectacular fundraising opportunity,” recalled one former official who helped organize the effort. Michelle Obama, the NFL and a long list of celebrities appealed for donations to the group.

The Red Cross kept soliciting money well after it had enough for the emergency relief that is the group’s stock in trade. Doctors Without Borders, in contrast, stopped fundraising off the earthquake after it decided it had enough money. The donations to the Red Cross helped the group erase its more-than $100 million deficit.

The Red Cross ultimately raised far more than any other charity.

A year after the quake, McGovern announced that the Red Cross would use the donations to make a lasting impact in Haiti.

We asked the Red Cross to show us around its projects in Haiti so we could see the results of its work. It declined. So earlier this year we went to Campeche to see one of the group’s signature projects for ourselves.

Street vendors in the dusty neighborhood immediately pointed us to Jean Jean Flaubert, the head of a community group that the Red Cross set up as a local sounding board.

Sitting with us in their sparse one-room office, Flaubert and his colleagues grew angry talking about the Red Cross. They pointed to the lack of progress in the neighborhood and the healthy salaries paid to expatriate aid workers.

“What the Red Cross told us is that they are coming here to change Campeche. Totally change it,” said Flaubert. “Now I do not understand the change that they are talking about. I think the Red Cross is working for themselves.”

The Red Cross’ initial plan said the focus would be building homes — an internal proposal put the number at 700. Each would have finished floors, toilets, showers, even rainwater collection systems. The houses were supposed to be finished in January 2013.

None of that ever happened. Carline Noailles, who was the project’s manager in Washington, said it was endlessly delayed because the Red Cross “didn’t have the know-how.”

Another former official who worked on the Campeche project said, “Everything takes four times as long because it would be micromanaged from DC, and they had no development experience.”

Shown an English-language press release from the Red Cross website, Flaubert was stunned to learn of the project’s $24 million budget — and that it is due to end next year.

“Not only is [the Red Cross] not doing it,” Flaubert said, “now I’m learning that the Red Cross is leaving next year. I don’t understand that.” (The Red Cross says it did tell community leaders about the end date. It also accused us of “creating ill will in the community which may give rise to a security incident.”)

The project has since been reshaped and downscaled. A road is being built. Some existing homes have received earthquake reinforcement and a few schools are being repaired. Some solar street lights have been installed, though many broke and residents say others are unreliable.

The group’s most recent press release on the project cites achievements such as training school children in disaster response.

The Red Cross said it has to scale back its housing plans because it couldn’t acquire the rights to land. No homes will be built.

Other Red Cross infrastructure projects also fizzled.

In January 2011, McGovern announced a $30 million partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. The agency would build roads and other infrastructure in at least two locations where the Red Cross would build new homes.

But it took more than two and a half years, until August 2013, for the Red Cross just to sign an agreement with USAID on the program, and even that was for only one site. The program was ultimately canceled because of a land dispute.

A Government Accountability Office report attributed the severe delays to problems “in securing land title and because of turnover in Red Cross leadership” in its Haiti program.

Other groups also run into trouble with land titles and other issues. But they also ultimately built 9,000 homes compared to the Red Cross’ six.

Asked about the Red Cross’ housing projects in Haiti, David Meltzer, the group’s general counsel and chief international officer, said changing conditions forced changes in plans. “If we had said, ‘All we’re going to do is build new homes,’ we’d still be looking for land,” he said.

The USAID project’s collapse left the Red Cross grasping for ways to spend money earmarked for it.

“Any ideas on how to spend the rest of this?? (Besides the wonderful helicopter idea?),” McGovern wrote to Meltzer in a November 2013 email obtained by ProPublica and NPR. “Can we fund Conrad’s hospital? Or more to PiH[Partners in Health]? Any more shelter projects?”

It’s not clear what helicopter idea McGovern was referring to or if it was ever carried out. The Red Cross would say only that her comments were “grounded in the American Red Cross’ strategy and priorities, which focus on health and housing.”

Another signature project, known in Creole as “A More Resilient Great North,” is supposed to rehabilitate roads in poor, rural communities and to help them get clean water and sanitation.

But two years after it started, the $13 million effort has been faltering badly. An internal evaluation from March found residents were upset because nothing had been done to improve water access or infrastructure or to make “contributions of any sort to the well being of households,” the report said.

So much bad feeling built up in one area that the population “rejects the project.”

Instead of making concrete improvements to living conditions, the Red Cross has launched hand-washing education campaigns. The internal evaluation noted that these were “not effective when people had no access to water and no soap.” (The Red Cross declined to comment on the project.)

The group’s failures went beyond just infrastructure.

When a cholera epidemic raged through Haiti nine months after the quake, the biggest part of the Red Cross’ response a plan to distribute soap and oral rehydration salts — was crippled by “internal issues that go unaddressed,” wrote the director of the Haiti program in her May 2011 memo.

Throughout that year, cholera was a steady killer. By September 2011, when the death toll had surpassed 6,000, the project was still listed as “very behind schedule” according to another internal document.

The Red Cross said in a statement that its cholera response, including a vaccination campaign, has continued for years and helped millions of Haitians.

But while other groups also struggled early responding to cholera, some performed well.

“None of these people had to die. That’s what upsets me,” said Paul Christian Namphy, a Haitian water and sanitation official who helped lead the effort to fight cholera. He says early failures by the Red Cross and other NGOs had a devastating impact. “These numbers should have been zero.”

So why did the Red Cross’ efforts fall so short? It wasn’t just that Haiti is a hard place to work.

“They collected nearly half a billion dollars,” said a congressional staffer who helped oversee Haiti reconstruction. “But they had a problem. And the problem was that they had absolutely no expertise.”

Lee Malany was in charge of the Red Cross’ shelter program in Haiti starting in 2010. He remembers a meeting in Washington that fall where officials did not seem to have any idea how to spend millions of dollars set aside for housing. Malany says the officials wanted to know which projects would generate good publicity, not which projects would provide the most homes.

“When I walked out of that meeting I looked at the people that I was working with and said, ‘You know this is very disconcerting, this is depressing,’” he recalled.

The Red Cross said in a statement its Haiti program has never put publicity over delivering aid.

Malany resigned the next year from his job in Haiti. “I said there’s no reason for me to stay here. I got on the plane and left.”

Sometimes it wasn’t a matter of expertise, but whether anybody was filling key jobs. An April 2012 organizational chart obtained by ProPublica and NPR lists 9 of 30 leadership positions in Haiti as vacant, including slots for experts on health and shelter.

The Red Cross said vacancies and turnover were inevitable because of “the security situation, separation from family for international staff, and the demanding nature of the work.”

The constant upheaval took a toll. Internal documents refer to repeated attempts over years to “finalize” and “complete” a strategic plan for the Haiti program, efforts that were delayed by changes in senior management. As late as March 2014, more than four years into a six-year program, an internal update cites a “revised strategy” still awaiting “final sign-off.”

The Red Cross said settling on a plan early would have been a mistake. “It would be hard to create the perfect plan from the beginning in a complicated place like Haiti,” it said. “But we also need to begin, so we create plans that are continually revised.”

Those plans were further undermined by the Red Cross’ reliance on expats. Noailles, the Haitian development professional who worked for the Red Cross on the Campeche project, said expat staffers struggled in meetings with local officials.

“Going to meetings with the community when you don’t speak the language is not productive,” she said. Sometimes, she recalled, expat staffers would skip such meetings altogether.

The Red Cross said it has “made it a priority to hire Haitians” despite lots of competition for local professionals, and that over 90 percent of its staff is Haitian. The charity said it used a local human resources firm to help.

Yet very few Haitians have made it into the group’s top echelons in Haiti, according to five current and former Red Cross staffers as well as staff lists obtained by ProPublica and NPR.

That not only affected the group’s ability to work in Haiti, it was also expensive.

According to an internal Red Cross budgeting document for the project in Campeche, the project manager – a position reserved for an expatriate – was entitled to allowances for housing, food and other expenses, home leave trips, R&R four times a year, and relocation expenses. In all, it added up to $140,000.

Compensation for a senior Haitian engineer — the top local position — was less than one-third of that, $42,000 a year.

Shelim Dorval, a Haitian administrator who worked for the Red Cross coordinating travel and housing for expatriate staffers, recalled thinking it was a waste to spend so much to bring in people with little knowledge of Haiti when locals were available.

“For each one of those expats, they were having high salaries, staying in a fancy house, and getting vacation trips back to their countries,” Dorval said. “A lot of money was spent on those people who were not Haitian, who had nothing to do with Haiti. The money was just going back to the United States.”

Soon after the earthquake, McGovern, the Red Cross CEO, said the group would make sure donors knew exactly what happened to their money.

The Red Cross would “lead the effort in transparency,” she pledged. “We are happy to share the way we are spending our dollars.”

That hasn’t happened. The Red Cross’ public reports offer only broad categories about where $488 million in donations has gone. The biggest category is shelter, at about $170 million. The others include health, emergency relief and disaster preparedness.

It has declined repeated requests to disclose the specific projects, to explain how much money went to each or to say what the results of each project were.

There is reason to doubt the Red Cross’ claims that it helped 4.5 million Haitians. An internal evaluation found that in some areas, the Red Cross reported helping more people than even lived in the communities. In other cases, the figures were low, and in others double-counting went uncorrected.

In describing its work, the Red Cross also conflates different types of aid, making it more difficult to assess the charity’s efforts in Haiti.

For example, while Red Cross says it provided more than 130,000 people with homes, that includes thousands of people who were not actually given homes, but rather were “trained in proper construction techniques.” (That was first reported by the Haiti blog of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.)

The figure includes people who got short-term rental assistance or were housed in several thousand “transitional shelters,” which are temporary structures that can get eaten up by termites or tip over in storms. It also includes modest improvements on 5,000 temporary shelters.

The Red Cross also won’t break down what portion of donations went to overhead.

McGovern told CBS News a few months after the quake, “Minus the 9 cents overhead, 91 cents on the dollar will be going to Haiti. And I give you my word and my commitment, I’m banking my integrity, my own personal sense of integrity on that statement.”

But the reality is that less money went to Haiti than 91 percent. That’s because in addition to the Red Cross’ 9 percent overhead, the other groups that got grants from the Red Cross also have their own overhead.

In one case, the Red Cross sent $6 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross for rental subsidies to help Haitians leave tent camps. The IFRC then took out 26 percent for overhead and what the IFRC described as program-related “administration, finance, human resources” and similar costs.

Beyond all that, the Red Cross also spends another piece of each dollar for what it describes as “program costs incurred by the American Red Cross in managing” the projects done by other groups.

The American Red Cross’ management and other costs consumed an additional 24 percent of the money on one project, according to the group’s statements and internal documents. The actual work, upgrading shelters, was done by the Swiss and Spanish Red Cross societies.

“It’s a cycle of overhead,” said Jonathan Katz, the Associated Press reporter in Haiti at the time of the earthquake who tracked post-disaster spending for his book, The Big Truck That Went By. “It was always going to be the American Red Cross taking a 9 percent cut, re-granting to another group, which would take out their cut.”

Given the results produced by the Red Cross’ projects in Haiti, Bellerive, the former prime minister, said he has a hard time fathoming what’s happened to donors’ money.

“Five hundred million dollars in Haiti is a lot of money,” he said. “I’m not a big mathematician, but I can make some additions. I know more or less the cost of things. Unless you don’t pay for the gasoline the same price I was paying, unless you pay people 20 times what I was paying them, unless the cost of the house you built was five times the cost I was paying, it doesn’t add up for me.”

WATCH: Haiti – The Role of the UN, International Aid, and NGOs in Haiti

Video published on Jan 28, 2015

The year 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the US occupation of Haiti and 10 years of the UN Stabilization Mission in the country. Telesur reports looks at the role of the UN mission through interviews with Sandra Honore, special representative of the Secretary General of the UN and chief of the UN Mission in Haiti (Minustah) and various participants in Haitian political and social life. They offer their different points of view and conflicting balance sheets of the role played by the United Nations in stabilizing the country and, along with other agencies, USAID, and NGOs, in providing aid after the devastating 2010 earthquake. Many social activists charge that the aid came with a political agenda attached and little of the funds trickled down to help those most at need. Source: teleSUR

Why NGOs and Leftish Nonprofits Suck (4 Reasons)

Skewed News

by Stephanie McMillan

October 13, 2015


About 20 years ago, in a conversation with a Bangladeshi organizer, the topic of NGOs* came up. He spat in disgust: “I hate NGOs.” At the time, I didn’t really get why he was so vehement about it. I knew NGOs had negative aspects, like siphoning off some revolutionary energy from the masses, but I also still half-believed their claims that their work was more helpful than not. Didn’t you have to be kind of a dogmatic asshole to denounce free health care and anti-poverty programs? But I didn’t yet fully appreciate how terrible they really are.

Since that conversation, NGOs have proliferated like mushrooms all over the world. First deployed in social formations dominated by imperialism, they’ve now taken over the political scene in capital’s base countries as well. They’ve become the hot new form of capital accumulation, with global reach and billions in revenue. So while ostensibly “non-profit,” they serve as a pretty sweet income stream for those at the top, while fattening up large layers of the petite bourgeoisie and draping them like a warm wet blanket over the working class, muffling their demands.

After much observation and experience both direct and indirect, I now understand and share that long-ago organizer’s hatred of NGOs. Just how terrible are they? Let us count the ways:

1) NGOs are one of many weapons of imperialist domination.

Along with military invasions and missionaries, NGOs help crack countries open like ripe nuts, paving the way for intensifying waves of exploitation and extraction such as agribusiness for export, sweatshops, resource mines, and tourist playgrounds.

Haiti is the most extreme example. Referred to by many Haitians as “the republic of NGOs”, the country had already been infested with 10,000 NGOs before the 2010 earthquake, more per capita than anywhere else in the world. 99% of earthquake relief aid was funneled through NGOs and other agencies, who made out like bandits, ripping off most of the money that people had donated in good faith with the expectation that it would actually help the masses affected by the catastrophe.

This shit is not new. Decades ago, USAID and the World Bank were already imposing export-led economies and concomitant “structural adjustment” programs on Haiti and elsewhere. Even 20 years ago, 80% of USAID money wound up back in the pockets of US corporations and “experts.” As the process matured, NGOs evolved into the favored entity of this parasitical form of accumulation, capitalizing and feeding on the misery created by “aid” in the first place.

In many dominated countries, NGO directors have become a fraction of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie, using the state as their source of primary capital accumulation. For the past 20 years or so in Haiti, many of those who initiated and led NGOs also came to occupy political roles from President to Prime Minister to members of Parliament, including Aristide, Préval, and Michèle Pierre-Louis.

Now that capitalism is in a deepening global structural crisis, structural adjustment is being imposed on its core social formations as well. Like imprinted ducklings, NGOs follow in its wake. There are 30 new ones formed in the UK every day, and 1.5 million of them plague the US. They’ve become the survival option du jour for unemployed graduates navigating a global crisis economy.

2) NGOs undermine, divert, and replace autonomous mass organizing.

“What you resist, persists”—the cliché is not without strategic usefulness. Accordingly, instead of fighting the Left head-on as they once did, capitalists have smothered it in their loving arms.

By abandoning working class struggle, the Left had already set itself up for impotence—when it swings a fist it hits air; it can’t connect with the enemy. This weakened state made it vulnerable, liable to accept when the Rockefeller Foundation or some other capitalist entity hands it a check to “fight for empowerment and social justice and against corporate greed.” Boom: capitalists have neutralized their greatest threat. They’ve bought it, tamed it, pulled its teeth.

They’ve replaced it with a social phenomenon that appears to be (even sometimes declares itself to be) its opposing force, but which has become nothing more than a loyal and useful pet. Instead of going for capital’s throat, it (whatever it is, it should no longer be called “the Left”) nips playfully at its new master’s heels.

Let’s examine what this looks like on the ground.

You’re at a demonstration. How do you even know it’s real? You have a bunch of paid activists all holding pre-printed signs. They’re shouting slogans – but how do we know they even mean what they’re saying, when they’re following a pre-determined script? How can we trust that if their funding was cut, they would they still be there, that they would still care?

Sincere people often believe they will be able to “get paid to do good,” but it doesn’t work that way. Capitalists didn’t take over the world by being fucking stupid. They aren’t going to pay us to undermine them.

How many times have you seen this scenario? Some atrocity happens, outraged people pour into the streets, and once together, someone announces a meeting to follow up and continue the struggle. At this meeting, several experienced organizers seem to be in charge. They say some really radical, bad-ass things that sound fairly awesome. They offer to provide training and a regular meeting space. They seem to already have a plan figured out, whereas no one else has yet had time to think about it. They exude competence, explaining (with diagrams) how to map out potential allies, and whipping out a list of specific politicians to target with protests. They formulate simplistic “asks” to “build confidence with a quick win.”

Anyone who suggests a different approach is passive-aggressively ignored.

Under their guidance, you all occupy some institution or the office of a politician, or you hold a march and rally. Your protest is loud and passionate and seems quite militant.

Next thing you know, you find yourself knocking on a stranger’s door with a clipboard in your hand, hoping to convince them to vote in the next election.

NGOs exist to undermine, divert, and replace mass struggle. They’re doing an excellent job. I recently spoke with a radical from New Jersey, who said that a protest she attended turned out to be the project of a graduate student, no doubt destined to be an NGO director in the near future. Sounding pretty shocked and pissed off, she said that since then, she doesn’t even feel like going to protests anymore because she doesn’t trust that they’re real. That right there is a win for capital.

In Miami, I’ve attended “Fight for $15” demonstrations in which the vast majority of participants were paid activists, employees of NGOs, CBOs (Community Based Organizations), and union staff seeking potential members. Black Lives Matter protests in Miami have been similarly led and largely populated by paid activists, who need to show they’re “organizing the community” in order to win their next grant.

At these types of mobilizations, when a previously unorganized person is spotted, they’re surrounded like fresh meat in a circle of hyenas, instantly devoured by activists looking to meet their recruitment quotas. The next time you see these new conscripts, they’re clad in the purple, red, orange, or lime green t-shirt of whatever org brand they’ve been sold.

These nonprofits pick up and drop campaigns not for reasons of conviction or long-term strategy, but strictly in line with the funding they receive, and confine them to the parameters dictated by foundations. Riding on the grunt work of trusting volunteers hoping to “make a positive difference,” many organizers achieve lucrative careers within the nonprofit bureaucracy, or use the experience as a launching pad to climb into high-level bourgeois politics.

Activism is being thoroughly capitalized and professionalized. Instead of organizing the masses to fight for their interests, these institutions use them for their own benefit. Instead of building a mass movement, they manage public outrage. Instead of developing radical or revolutionary militants, they develop social-worker activists along with passive recipients of assistance.

Not to sound like a cranky oldster, but once upon a time—believe it or not!—it was normal for organizers to not be paid. Revolutionaries took up the fight against The System from the perspective of international working class interests, from our conscience, and with a burning desire to crush the enemy and change the world. We understood it would be extremely difficult and involve hardship and repression, but would not be discouraged. A revolutionary militant gladly dedicates her/his life to this great cause.

Today, organizing without financial compensation seems to many like an alien concept, even a chump move. When I go out leafletting (yeah we still pass out paper leaflets), people often inquire: “How do I get a job doing that?” When I explain that I don’t do it for pay but out of conviction, their faces smush up in disbelief.


No wonder we’re so weak and scattered. The capitalist class, five steps ahead of us as usual, has been extremely effective at eating the Left alive. Until we break the NGO spell, we’re reduced to skeletons lurching around in activist purgatory.

The takeaway (to use nonprofit jargon—my eyes are rolling) is this: If capitalists are keeping us too busy and exhausted to organize our own shit, if we are reduced to being their foot soldiers working on their agenda instead of ours, then we are not going to win the revolution.

3) NGOs replace what the state should be doing.

So-called “aid” agencies funded by large capitalists and imperialist governments have taken over the functions of states in dominated countries that have been forced to cut social benefits as conditions of loans by those same imperialists. Conflict of interest much?

In the imperialist core and the periphery alike, NGOs are taking over state responsibilities to meet social needs. This “withering away” of state-run social programs doesn’t mean that capitalist states have become weak (sorry, anarchists and libertarians). It simply means they can devote more of their resources to conquest, repression and accumulation, and less to worrying about preventing the populace from rising up in mass discontent.

We’ve become conditioned to get our needs met by shuffling from cheap clinic to food bank to a myriad of other “civil society” agencies. Health care, food, water, shelter, childcare, and meaningful employment are basic necessities of human life. They should be provided by any decent society, but we’re being made to feel like humiliated beggars as we wade through red tape and argue with functionaries. This is bullshit. We deserve decent lives. We need to organize and fight for them together.

4) NGOs support capitalism by erasing working class struggle.

The structural placement of nonprofits in the economy (as vehicles of accumulation) make them incapable of challenging capitalism. They offer the struggling petite bourgeoisie (the so-called “middle class”) a way out, an alternative to proletarianization, by giving them jobs. They are Haiti’s largest employer. Everywhere they operate, they inflate the petite bourgeoisie as a buffer to overshadow and substitute themselves and their strivings for the struggles of the working class. NGOs seek to mitigate the most egregious effects of capitalism, but never to eliminate it.

The petite bourgeoisie, underpaid in the circulation of capital rather than exploited in production (as workers are), are dominated by capital but not in a fundamentally antagonistic relation with it (as workers are). Thus the natural tendency for the petite bourgeoisie, in asserting their class interests, is to fight for equality within the capitalist framework. The capitalist class relies on them to dampen working class struggle and divert it into reformism, into burying their struggles in establishment political parties and collaborationist unions.

Historically, whenever the working class opens its mouth to call for revolution, the soft pillow of the petite bourgeoisie has been willing to suffocate it. Capitalists always build up the petite bourgeoisie exactly to act as enforcement agents for capitalist domination of the working class. The challenge for the serious progressive, radical or revolutionary militant who happens to be a member of the petite bourgeoisie is to jump this imposed track, to consciously reject this role, and prevent being used (inadvertently or otherwise) for reactionary purposes.

The horrific effects of capitalism—oppression, ecocide, wars of conquest, exploitation, poverty—can’t be eliminated without eliminating their cause. If we really want to make the changes we say we want to make, we need to strip ourselves of any residual petit bourgeois loyalty to capitalism, and fight under the leadership of capitalism’s fundamental enemy: the working class.

A Note to NGO Employees:

I’m not questioning your sincerity. Many good young people genuinely want to make a difference. Jobs are scarce, and you need to make a living. It is supremely tempting to believe that these two imperatives can be combined into one neat package, allowing you to serve humanity while ensuring your own survival.

It’s a nice idea. It just happens to be untrue. An established structure will change you before you can change it. “The unity of the chicken and the roach happens in the belly of the chicken.”

Quitting isn’t the answer. We’re all trapped in the enemy’s economy. They’ve created these circumstances, compelling us to work in their industrial sector, their service sector, or their nonprofit sector. All of it is to extract value from us and reproduce their domination over us. We can’t simply decide to exit on an individual basis. The only way out is to organize with the aim of rising up together in revolution, and rupture the whole framework. Either we all get free, or none of us will.

What we must avoid in the meantime, though, is confusing NGO (or collaborationist union) employment with real autonomous organizing. Understand its nature: your job at an NGO is not to organize the masses, but to disorganize them, pacify them, lead them into political dead ends. So do your real organizing elsewhere.

Capitalism doesn’t assist us in destroying itself. Should we actually become effective in building an anti-capitalist mass movement, they won’t issue us a paycheck. Instead, they will do everything possible to discredit, neutralize, imprison and kill us.

Real revolutionary organizers don’t get paid.



* NGOs: Non-Governmental Organizations, or “non-profits,” usually in fact funded by governments and/or corporate foundations.

[Note: This article was initially solicited by Jacobin magazine, went through several versions of editing before being finally rejected by them. This is very close to my original version. Another version exists, which is co-authored—Vincent Kelley of Grinnell College joined the project to add his perspective and to help revise it according to the Jacobin editor’s requests. We attempted to do so without diluting the content. Their requests included making the language less informal and more “academic,” and culminated in what we both interpret as blatant attempts to erase the working class from its content (the Jacobin editor disagrees). When we refused to remove what we felt was our central point, Jacobin decided not to run the piece. The co-authored version is at]


[Stephanie McMillan’s daily comic strip “Minimum Security” is syndicated online at Universal Uclick’s She also draws and self-syndicates a weekly editorial cartoon, “Code Green.” Her website is]

Empire’s “Mimic Men”

Zero Anthropology

October 24, 2015

by Maximilian Forte


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.]



  1. The website for “100,000 Strong for the Americas” can be found at
  3. Partners of the Americas presents a brief history of the organization at
  5. Alliance for Affordable Internet:
  6. Details on YALI and the MWF were presented at


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.

Code Pink. (2009/10/7a). Afghan Women Speak Out: Dr. Roshnak Wardak. Code Pink, October 7.

————— . (2009/10/7b). Afghanistan: Will Obama Listen to the Women? Code Pink, October 7.

Forte, Maximilian C. (2014). Surveillance, Dissent, and Imperialism. Zero Anthropology, March 1.

Horton, S. (2009). Is Medea Benjamin Naive or Just Confused? Code Pink Rethinks Afghan Withdrawal., October 8.

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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.

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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


Part II – Syria’s White Helmets: War By Way of Deception — ‘Moderate Executioners’

The Wind Will Fall

October 27, 2015

by Vanessa Beeley

[Part one: Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception]














“If there is any doubt concerning the nefarious undertones of subversiveness in these NGO dealings, [National Endowment for Democracy] NED founder reportedly said the following in the 1990s: ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.’ What was once done at night under the cloak of ‘imperialism’ is now done during the day under the guise of ‘humanitarianism.” ~ The Wrong Kind of Green


Hindsight is a generous provider of absolution of the guilt from falling for the sophisticated western government or state propaganda and their media sleights of hand that so often deceive us into believing the narrative they present, one that’s so often designed to justify military intervention.

Invariably this is a narrative that all but ensures the massacre of innocent people under the pretext of ‘liberating’ them, or introducing ‘democracy’ that always promises to erase some perceived grievance of an western-backed opposition movement. Western nation-builders normally prescribe the same treatment every time: cutting a swathe through the host country’s society and culture either via proxy armies of foreign mercenaries under the guise of various terrorist factions or with an onslaught of bombs and assorted mass destruction or chemical weapons (including depleted uranium) which can render their land barren for decades and result in birth defects, increased cancer rates and a multitude of devastating side effects for generations after. While all this is going on, a parallel government has already been formed by the west, laying in waiting in some five star hotel in Paris or London.

Despite such hindsight and the universally accepted knowledge that it was in fact pure fiction that took us to war in both Iraq, and in Libya too, there is still a huge degree of cognitive dissonance at play over the Syria commentary. The lies regarding Syria, lies which are designed to justify western military intervention and arming proxy militants, are ongoing. Even today the New York Times provided a key Washington propaganda talking point in its headline which reads, “Violence in Syria Spurs a Huge Surge in Civilian Flight“, with the important subheading which states: “Government Offensives and Russian Strikes Are Catalysts“, essentially blaming Russia’s three week old air campaign for the “surge” of refugees entering Europe through Greece, all the while neglecting to mention most of these originate from the pool of almost 2 million who have been languishing in Turkey from as early as 2012. Like clockwork, western propaganda mills continues, all day, every day.

Disbelief is invariably registered when it is demonstrated that Syria is undergoing the same ‘truth laundering’ treatment as Libya and Iraq underwent previously, or that Syria’s resistance of the West’s open attempt at regime change attempts for nearly 5 years now is the reason for repeated spikes in propaganda. We’ve seen many different versions of the West’s creative narrative at any give moment, especial when Syria or its allies persistently thwarts the Colonialist vision for the region. Failed policies never play well on CNN or the BBC in real time, with any serious criticism reserved until a decade has passed and it’s safe for media operatives to comment because the politicians who sold those failed policies have since retired or have been cycled out of foreign policy decision-making positions.

Lethal Weapon: NGO Soft Power

Along with military invasions and missionaries, NGOs help crack countries open like ripe nuts, paving the way for intensifying waves of exploitation and extraction”  ~Stephanie McMillan

The NGO ‘soft power complex’ is now one of the most destructive global forces.  It is employed as an interface between civilians of a target nation, with government, economic or military structures of the colonialist force intent on harnessing any given nation’s resources or undermining its geopolitical influence. The Democratization process, or the path to regime change is facilitated by these undercover government or corporate proxy employees who, once embedded into a society, set about producing the propaganda that will justify intervention, either economically, politically or militarily. NGO propaganda will often employ slick social media marketing which is underpinned by advance applied behavioural psychology and advanced NLP-based ‘social enterprise’ sales pitches.

A recent piece by researcher Eva Bartlett entitled, “Human Rights Front Groups [Humanitarian Interventionalists] Warring on Syria“, provides a detailed insight into how this new breed of weaponized politics is being deployed right now in the Middle East.

The perception of a ‘non profit’ complex who purport to be “working for the betterment and improvement of humanity” can be a difficult nut to crack, but it must be done. In the west. charities, not-for-profits and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are seen as “do gooders” and so they rarely fall under public scrutiny. Western governments know the general public has an inherent faith in their perceived integrity and this provides an ideal cover for western government and intelligence agencies to operate through their NGO and aid organisations.

Syria: Under Seige

As Paul Larudee states in his article, Mythology, Barrel Bombs and Human Rights Watch:

“The Syrian army relies on loyal soldiers defending their country and their homes from a heavily subsidized, markedly foreign incursion, including many mercenaries paid by the Gulf monarchies and trained by the US.  And the army is loyal because they know that although great sacrifices will be asked of them, they will be defending, not sacrificing, their families and loved ones.  The rest of the world that supposedly cares about Syria can start by making it unnecessary for them to make such sacrifices.”

Much of the propaganda surrounding Syria and the “conflict” is indeed, mythology spun-up by western agents of influence.  A mythology created and disseminated by the NGO complex working diligently on the ground in Syria and remotely in the labyrinths of power, ensures that a steady flow of misinformation continues uninterrupted, one that is custom designed to alter public perception about the situation in Syria and drive us towards supporting the identical mistakes made in Iraq and Libya.

It is no error or oversight that the media barely mention Libya these days as it is plunged deeper and deeper into anarchy, where warlords occupy the terror vacuum created by the NATO’s deceptive intervention in 2011.  Perhaps if people were confronted by images of the daily horrors endured by the people of Libya these day, they would be more reticent about the passive-aggressive re-creation of that same scenario in Syria.

MARKETING: The familiar baby motif is been a hallmark of western cointel pro regime change marketing ever since the incubators in Kuwait.

The White Helmet Myth

The NGO hydra has no more powerful or influential serpentine head in Syria than the Syria Civil Defence aka The White Helmets who, according to their leader and creator, James Le Mesurier, hold greater sway than even ISIS or Al Nusra confabs over the Syrian communities.

As we pointed out in Part I of this exposé, The White Helmets humanitarian front is mainly financed by the British Foreign Office. According to Richard Spencer of the London Telegraph:

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.”

In a speech given by Le Mesurier in Lisbon June 2015, entitled “Act 1: Witnesses to history in the making”, Le Mesurier informed his rapt audience that in a recent US Government survey conducted across a “diverse spectrum” of Syrian communities, 67% of those asked, nominated the White Helmets as the most influential community organisation. This, despite, their non-inclusion in the 15 respondents to the survey, that comprised ISIS, Al Nusra, & other political or armed groups. This is a bizarre claim on two fronts:

1.  That the White Helmets should be included in this list, by James Le Mesurier, his NGO is a group that promotes themselves to be “unarmed”, apolitical and neutral, inclusion in the list makes it  obvious that they are politically biased and armed (see details below).

2.  That the White Helmets can lay claim to this influence, despite the fact that when asked, the majority of Syrian people have never heard of them, except perhaps for those in Al Nusra, ISIS or [the dwindling] Free Syrian Army held territories.

Clearly, what Le Mesurier is attempting to create is the myth of an organic, non-aligned and independent  humanitarian organisation, when it’s really a synthetic covert intelligence and forward-operating disinformation asset which is being funded by the British government, and headed by one of the UK’s very best military operatives in Le Mesurier.

It is important to analyse the White Helmet mythology, all generated by an incredibly slick and high-gloss media and marketing apparatus, overseen and driven by a George Soros partnered PR company called Purpose.

The following is a direct quote from the White Helmet website:

The volunteers save people on all sides of the conflict – pledging commitment to the principles of “Humanity, Solidarity, Impartiality” as outlined by the International Civil Defence Organisation.  This pledge guides every response, every action, every life saved – so that in a time of destruction, all Syrians have the hope of a lifeline”


“The White Helmets mostly deal with the aftermath of government air attacks.  Yet they have risked sniper fire to rescue the bodies of government soldiers to give them a proper burial”

As part of the myth-building process, White Helmet members who are repetitively described as ‘ordinary people’, specifically, “bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, painters, carpenters, students”, and are relentlessly depicted as heroes, miracle workers, saints and super-humans scaling the “Mount Everest” of war zones with impartiality and neutrality. “Unarmed and unbiased” is their strapline, as they sacrifice themselves for the “Syrian People”.  Indeed, those same Syrian people who have never heard of them. The myth-making continues…

“When I want to save someone’s life I don’t care if he’s an enemy or a friend.  What concerns me is the soul that might die” ~ Abed, the White Helmets.


“After the bombs rain down, we rush in to dig for survivors. Our motto, “to save one life is to save all humanity,” is what drives us on.” ~ Raed Saleh, White Helmet leader and UN spokesperson.

Can an organisation be rightly called an ‘independent relief organisation’ when it is being funded by a foreign government who is directly involved in the military over-throw of Syria’s government? Most intelligent people should have no problem answering that question.

The Myth Exposed:’Moderate’ Terrorists


In previous articles we have exposed the White Helmets’ associations with the terrorist group Al Nusra Front and their presence in known ISIS strongholds in Syria. We have also explored, in depth, their donor base and demonstrated how impartiality is a hard claim to justify when taking into account that their finance sources consist of hard-line regime changers, hell-bent on removing the Syrian Government and portraying President Bashar al Assad as the devil incarnate. These donors include, the British Government, known US regime change facilitators USAID, and the US and NATO-backed ‘Syrian National Council’, a parallel government in-waiting which the west claims  represents the Syrian opposition. This is discussed in depth in: White Helmets: War by way of Deception Part I

Time now to observe the White Helmets in action and question their impartiality on the ground in Syria…

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This video reveals a White Helmet operative describing the “throwing of Shabiha bodies in the trash”.  Shabiha is a derogatory term for Syrian Government militia or security forces but is liberally applied by terrorist aka “rebel” factions to any member of the Syrian military, irrespective of if they are Alawite, Sunni, or Shia.  I remind you: the White Helmets “have risked sniper fire to rescue SAA bodies to give them a proper burial.”

This same neutral White Helmet operative goes on to pledge allegiance to the terrorist forces in the region.

“They are our role models, the best of people and we have the honour to serve them”

“SERVE THEM [armed terrorists, Al Nusra/Al Qaeda]” ~ curious turn of phrase for a neutral, impartial humanitarian organisation?

He also congratulates the Mujahadeen for liberating Jisr al Shugour from Assad’s forces.

“Glad tidings have reached us in Jisr al Shugour by the hands of our Mujahadeen brothers.  May Allah strengthen them and make them steadfast on the correct way and soon, insh’Allah, the strongholds of the Assad regime in Latakia and Damascus will be liberated. “

Screenshot (449)

Moving on, another video, this time revealing White Helmet operatives standing on the discarded bodies of SAA [Syrian Arab Army] soldiers and giving the victory sign.  This display of support for the Al Nusra terrorists who have just massacred these soldiers once again demonstrates where their true allegiances lie.

It should be clear that these alleged “moderates” you are watching here are actually moderate extremists and jihadists, and the western media has been very careful in hiding this fact.

We also know via reports from within Aleppo city that it was the Al Nusra terrorists who massacred hundreds if not thousands of civilians before dumping their bodies into the River Queiq:  The Truth from inside Syria’s Terrorist Underworld rendering the water supply to Aleppo’s civilian population toxic and undrinkable.

Were these SAA bodies, piled unceremoniously one on top of the other and trampled upon by these White Helmet “saints and neutral saviours”, added to others flung before them,  into the disease infested waters of the River Queiq?

“Moderate” Rebels Targeting Civilians in Syria

This is one example of how powerful western propaganda can invert reality. For years now, there’s been a tsunami of western government and media talking points which claim that “Assad is targeting his own people indiscriminately”, and these round-the-clock allegations are always backed up by the same pro-opposition news source – the self-styled ‘Syrian Observatory For Human Rights‘ (SOHR) which until recently, was being run by Syrian ex-convict, Osama Ali Suleiman, who uses the media stage name of “Rami Abdul Rahman”. He runs his dubious organisation (see his website here) from his flat in Coventry, England, and is said to travel frequently to Turkey as part of his operation. SOHR has received funding from the EU and like the White Helmets, has been openly affiliated with the British Foreign Office, being summoned to private meetings there.

The SOHR has been the “go to” source for all civilian casualty numbers in Syria, even though the numbers put forth cannot be independently corroborated or are not checked at all for their veracity.

FIXER: Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, leaves the Foreign and Commonwealth Office after meeting Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, in central London November 21, 2011. Photo Source: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor.

The SOHR and western media completely ignore (and cover-up) regular incidents of so-called “moderate” rebels, supported directly by the US and its CIA, who regularly target civilian areas. They are targeting civilians and then blaming these attacks on the Syrian government through the same ‘activist’ media channels.

Where is the claimed ‘neutrality’ in the White Helmet reporting in these same conflict areas where they are embedded?  We hear incessantly of the “regime barrel bombs”, but we never hear one mention of the flesh tearing ‘Hell Cannon’ fired indiscriminately upon Aleppo civilians, in a hail of mortars and rockets that regularly rain down upon civilian areas, including into Damascus, from terrorist cells embedded in suburbs.

Likewise, we are never told about the car bombs that have devastated civilian areas in Homs and Latakia, including schools and hospitals. When do we hear about the tunnels dug under civilian homes and streets by the terrorists that are detonated – as a distraction to divert the SAA into ambushes and sniper fire?

These neutral humanitarians would do well to talk about the terrorist snipers who kill and maim civilians on a regular basis. Instead, they ignore atrocities committed against the Syrian army, an army which, unlike the foreign mercenary “rebel alliance” terrorists, is comprised of actual Syrian citizens.

For additional details on atrocities committed by terrorists against Syrian citizens, read: Al Houta Abyss, Raqqa: Terrorist dumping ground for the dead & the living.

A genuinely neutral report or analysis should surely take all of these factors into account, or are these “other” Syrian civilians not to be registered as such in the western electorate minds and hearts? If so, why not?

“The UN estimates 220,000 deaths thus far in the Syrian war.  But almost half are Syrian army soldiers or allied local militia fighters, and two thirds are combatants if we count opposition fighters.  Either way, the ratio of civilian to military casualties is roughly 1:2, given that the opposition is also inflicting civilian casualties.  Compare that to the roughly 3:1 ratio in the US war in Iraq and 4:1 in the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-9.  (The rate of Palestinian to Israeli casualties was an astronomical 100:1.)” ~ Paul Larudee. Mythology, Barrel Bombs and Human Rights Watch.

“In April and June 2014, I spent a cumulative month in Syria, in various areas of Damascus, with visits to Latakia, Homs, and Ma’aloula. At the time, Damascus was being intensely shelled by mortars, frequently in my vicinity, including just behind the hotel housing the Peace Delegation which I accompanied for the first week (photo). This attack killed three civilians and one Syrian soldier. We saw some of the 60 plus children injured in the April 15 shelling of a school, not an isolated occasion, an attack which also killed one child. Mortars rained down at close-proximity on many occasions in different areas of the Old City where I had then found lodging.” ~ Eva Bartlett

This is a statement from an Aleppo citizen.  Another Syrian civilian who has never heard of the White Helmets.

“The terrorists are using mortars, explosive bullets, cooking-gas cylinders bombs and water-warming long cylinders bombs, filled up with explosives and shrapnel and nails, in what they call “Hell Canon”.  Google these weapons or see their YouTube clips. The cooking-gas cylinder is made of steel, and it weighs around 25 kg. Imagine it thrown by a canon to hit civilians? And imagine knowing that it’s full with explosives?… Yet, the media is busy with the legendary weapon of “barrel bombs”! They came to spread “freedom” among Syrians! How dare they say that Syrian army shouldn’t fight them back?” ~ from Syria, welcome to Hell. 

Rebel Hell Cannon, Aleppo

How can the White Helmets make a claim of neutrality while providing simplistic, largely unverified,  biased and prejudicial reports that reflect only a percentage of the reality of this complex conflict and blatantly further the objectives of their donors in the region while ignoring the sacrifice being made by the Syrian Arab Army to defend their families and homeland from the invading NATO death squads.

“The Syrian Army is the Syrian people.” ~ Mother Agnes Mariam 

From our same civilian contact in Aleppo:

Aleppo city has shrunk to a fifth of its original size, and became so crowded with refugees that fled their areas after they fell into terrorist hands. I walk everyday in the city. I see children, young girls without limbs because of a terrorist mortar  or shrapnel  that targets them randomly and causes  terrible wounds and horrific memories that will never leave them. The girl who lost one leg is standing on her good leg and selling bread, while the little boy who lost one arm is selling chewing gum. Those are the “injured” people who are mentioned fleetingly in the news, just numbers in one line of a report, after each attack from the terrorists. “Injured” doesn’t mean scratched or having a bleeding finger; it means someone lost his eyes or her limbs.”

Finally, this photo was taken shortly after Russia had legally entered the conflict in Syria at the request of the Syrian Government.  Does it not seem a strange message to be conveyed by a neutral, unbiased humanitarian organisation with a self- proclaimed mandate to protect ALL Syrian people?  The White Helmets will not kneel? They are neutral are they not, to whom would they kneel or not kneel if indeed they serve all Syrians regardless of “race, religion, gender or political affiliation”

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White Helmets: Execution facilitators

There is an entire library of White Helmet propaganda images that have been proven to be recycled, fake or at best, inaccurate but perhaps the most shocking and most widely publicised was the footage of their suspected participation in an Al Nusra execution of a civilian in Hreitan,  Northern Aleppo.

This is perhaps one of the most damning indictments of White Helmet collusion with the terrorist group.

White Helmets facilitate Al Nusra execution. 5/5/2015. Aleppo

This video was wiped from most channels by the White Helmets immediately after its release, however the website Liveleak has managed to keep a protected copy which has escaped YouTube communitarian-style censorship.

Live Leak says: “As expected, youtube deleted this very incriminating video of the s-called “White Helmets” working hand in hand with Al Qaeda. Another CIA fail, trying to sell us these “White helmet” as civilian workers and volunteers, while they are simply Nusra jihadists. What to think of theri claims about ‘chlorine’?”


The White Helmets were forced to release a statement explaining the events in this video. According to their own admission here, the sequence of events on the day, 5th May 2015 were as follows:  Al Nusra called the White Helmets 25 minutes prior to the execution. White Helmets arrived on the scene at 11.35 am, 5 minutes BEFORE the execution was carried out at 11.40.  These impartial humanitarian workers did NOTHING to prevent this execution, they appear a full 5 minutes prior to this murder at the behest of the executioners and they are ushered into shot immediately after the victim is shot twice at close range in the head, to collect the body.

Are these really neutral humanitarians at work saving every Syrian civilian “irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation?

This is also taken from the White Helmet official statement AFTER their execution facilitation had gone viral on social media:

“We unequivocally condemn the killing of civilians no matter who the perpetrator.”

So where is their condemnation of this and countless other executions of civilians by Al Nusra in their reports to the UN?

The perpetrator is clearly Al Nusra Front, and it seems as if the White Helmet are avoiding naming the group, and readers would be right to ask why not. So where is their condemnation of this and countless other executions of civilians by Al Nusra – in those White Helmet reports to the UN?

Here are more responses by the White Helmets to the highly controversial video:

“The discussion over the video from Hreitan has highlighted the absence of a published code of conduct to which civil defence volunteers can be held accountable. The leaders of Syria Civil Defence commit to the development and publication of a code of conduct for members and its public posting on the www.SyriaCivilDefence.Org website in English and Arabic within one month.”

We are now coming up to November 2015, and there has still been no amendment to their “code of conduct”.  These humanitarians upon whose testimony, hangs the entire Western intervention policy in Syria, have not been officially investigated or even questioned over their suspected role in the “clean up” of a summary execution of a Syrian civilian by terrorist groups in Syria.

Armed or Unarmed?

 Unpaid Unarmed Lifesavers in Syria.” ~ New York Times headline Feb 2015.


“The White Helmets are unpaid and unarmed, and they risk their lives to save others…….. Wearing simple white construction helmets as feeble protection from those “double-tap” bombings, the White Helmets are strictly humanitarian. They even have rescued some of the officers of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad who are bombing them.”

Screenshot from video clearly showing White Helmet members carrying guns.

Video clearly showing armed White Helmets on the streets of Aleppo:

Meet another confused impartial, unarmed White Helmet, Muawiya Hassan Agha based in Sarmine, Idlib [scene of the recent alleged Russian Air Force bombing of a civilian hospital].

Muawiya Hassan Agha twitter page.

It appears that Agha plays a dual role in Syria’s conflict, White Helmet by day and Al Nusra armed terrorist by night, posing on board an Al Nusra tank, gun in hand. Here is a very clear case of the lines between unarmed humanitarian and armed mercenary being more than a little blurred. In one photo Agha is seen clearly celebrating with Al Nusra wearing his White Helmet tabard. In the stills taken from the alleged Russian hospital bombing in Sarmine, Idlib, he is spotted emerging from the “bombed” building.  His association with Al Nusra and his brazen show of armed affiliation leaves no doubt as to his role in this conflict and it is far removed from that of an impartial, unarmed Humanitarian.

In fact, the immortal words of Russian Foreign Minsiter, Sergei Lavrov, spring to mind:

“If it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it’s a terrorist, right?”

Top left: Musawiya Agha Hassan in White Helmet mode. Top Right: As Al Nusra mercenary on tank in Idlib. Bottom left: celebrating with Al Nusra terrorists. Bottom right: Screen shot from alleged Russian air strike on hospital in Sharmine, Idlib.

A very cursory scroll down Agha’s Facebook page also reveals very recent photos of SAA corpses accompanied by a number of celebratory comments.

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In Summary

The success of the White Helmet and NGO complex propaganda is dependent upon the skewing of our moral compass by using the media and government institutions that are proven experts at “nudging” public opinion towards any particular policy.

If we really want to support Syria in this battle against such a complex array of interventionist forces, we must locate that compass and allow it to point us squarely towards the truth, however hard that truth is to accept and however remote might appear from the mainstream narrative. In fact I would go as far as to say, the further away you get from the mainstream naarative, the closer you get to the truth.

One final example of White Helmet propaganda at work:

“White Helmets claim to have rescued an SAA soldier who had in reality been captured by Al Nusra terrorists 10 days previously. In the Al Nusra version, this soldier is described as a “Shia pig” and was most probably summarily executed as an apostate according to Wahabi doctrine. Hard to imagine how the White Helmets then rescued him, unless of course they dug up his body for publicity purposes.”

White Helmets claim to have rescued an SAA soldier who had in reality been captured by Al Nusra terrorists 10 days previously. In the Al Nusra version, this soldier is described as a

At this point, the question should really be asked, are these two groups working together (or are they one in the same)?




EDITOR’S NOTE: In Part III we will analyse the recent speeches given by the White Helmet leaders, James Le Mesurier, Raed Saleh and Farouq al Habib, in particular,  who have been doing the rounds of Western media trying to regain lost propaganda ground, including their recent guest speaker spot at the prestigious Frontline club last week.


[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.]

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 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.

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


[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.]


US-Funded NGO in Ecuador Accused of ‘Political Meddling’


September 10, 2015


A composite image shows a number of tweets issued by Fundamedios that Ecuadorean official allege show the political nature of the work by the NGO.

A composite image shows a number of tweets issued by Fundamedios that Ecuadorean official allege show the political nature of the work by the NGO. | Photo: El Telegrafo

Ecuadorean officials allege that Fundamedios has engaged in “partisan political activities.”

The U.S.-funded non-governmental organization Fundamedios received notice that a state regulator in Ecuador has begun the process for the dissolution of the organization, saying the organization was not sticking to its mandate.

The National Secretariat of Communication, known as the Secom, claims that Fundamedios has deviated from its stated mission, intervening in political matters; something that is prohibited by Ecuadorean law and the organization’s own internal statutes.

Fundamedios says on its website that its “main task is to support media and journalists through its network of monitoring threats to freedom of expression and association.” The organization began its activity shortly after Rafael Correa took the presidency in 2007.

According to the Secom, Fundamedios engaged “partisan political activities” by sharing material on its social media accounts, publishing articles unrelated to its stated mission and inserting itself into political debates in the country.

On repeated occasions Fundamedios has declared its support for political organizations and personalities opposed to the government of Rafael Correa on matters completely unrelated to freedom of expression.

Decree 16, issued by the Ecuadorean government, states that organizations that deviate from their mission are subject to dissolution. The organization has 10 days to argue its case.

“Fundamedios is a political actor in this era that the country is living in,” Orlando Pérez, director of public newspaper El Telegrafo, told the Andes news agency.

However, in an interview with El Comercio, the organization’s director denied the charges, saying, “We did not deviate a millimeter from our statutes, we are fulfilling our objectives.”

Fundamedios’ Impartiality Questioned

The work of the organization mostly consists of issuing “alerts” regarding alleged attacks against journalists in Ecuador.

The organization is funded in part through a US$84,000 grant from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy. U.S. Ambassor to Ecuador Adam Namm told El Telegrafo that Fundamedios received US$300,000 in 2012 from USAID, which receives its funds from the U.S. government.

In a press conference called to denounce the decision by the Secom, the director of Fundamedios, Cesar Ricaurte said that the decision to dissolve his organization constituted an “attack against the press.”

However, Ricaurte is openly hostile toward journalists who work for public media outlets, on one occasion calling a journalist an “agent of the state” who was guilty of “persecution” by virtue of her work for a public outlet.

Many of the alerts regarding alleged “attacks” on the press involve directives issued by a state regulatory agency known as the Supercom, which is tasked with ensuring that outlets respect Ecuadorean media laws. The law ensures that sensitive material is broadcast at appropriate times and that outlets report news accurately.

When media outlets contravene the law, Supercom has the authority to mandate the outlet comply by publishing corrections.

Fundamedios is also selective about the cases it chooses to champions, only coming to the aid of journalists who work for private media outlets and declining to support journalists who work for state-run media.

Several journalists were the victims of physical attacks by demonstrators during often-violent opposition protests that took place in Ecuador in August. The situation was so dire that several journalists called a press conference to denounce the attacks, Fundamedios declined to support these journalists and failed to issue any “alerts” regarding these aggressions.

The organization issued an “alert” over alleged attacks against Fernando Villavicencio, a former opposition politician now working as a journalist. Villavicencio was a fugitive from justice for over a year after being found guilty of slandering president Rafael Correa, accusing him of orchestrating the 2010 coup. Villavicencio was caught on camera physically assaulting Jose Luis Quinteros, a journalist with a public TV outlet. Fundamedios remained silent on this issue.

A number of other NGOs hostile to the government of Rafael Correa, such as Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, have come to the defense of Fundamedios.


September 13, 2015:

Journalists in Ecuador Back Decision Against US-Funded NGO

September 16, 2015:

Media Experts Criticize Ecuadorean NGO for Political Posturing

September 26, 2015:

US-Funded Media NGO Given Reprieve by Ecuadorean Authorities

Further reading:

March 12, 2015:

How the US Funds Dissent against Latin American Governments

Don’t get confused, in Ecuador the people support Correa and the Citizens’ Revolution

August 18, 2015

By Santiago Escobar

Ecuador Article

Photo: On April 15, the coordinator of Pachakutik, the political front of CONAIE movement,
met with banker and right-wing politician, Guillermo Lasso. Pachakutik and Lasso
agreed to rally against the government.

On August 13th, 2015 bankers, right-wing groups, few indigenous people, foreign funded NGOs, “radical leftists”, local and international corporate media, called to a general strike against the government of President Rafael Correa, but did not succeed in their destabilization attempts.

This plot started as a “marcha indigena” (“indigenous rally”) during which people supposedly marched over 700 kilometers across several provinces to finally reach the capital of Ecuador, Quito. However, in fact most participants traveled by SUV and gas-guzzling trucks owned by infamous CONAIE and Ecuarunari members. ‘Infamous’ because all their glory and revolutionary past vanished when these historic indigenous organizations succumbed to the old elites and joined the right wing agenda lead by banker Guillermo Lasso, who according to Wikileaks is a key contact and has strong ties to the US Embassy in Ecuador.

Don’t get confused the current CONAIE and Ecuarunari are no longer the same from the 1990s and 2000s when they stood up and fought against neo liberal governments.

Why they protest

In June 2015 wealthy elites claimed that two new bills aimed at addressing inequality and the concentration of wealth, would affect small business, families assets and all kind of entrepreneurship. In fact however, these bills would only impact less than 2% of the Ecuadorian population and no poor and middle class families. President Correa opted to temporarily withdraw the bills in an effort to promote a national debate around the pressing problem of inequality.

In this context the leadership of CONAIE and Ecuarunari not just met with banker Lasso, but also got public support from the notorious far-right mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot, the leader of Partido Social Cristiano (PSC). His PSC party has been linked to the disappearance and torture of labor, indigenous and student activists in the 90s. Part of the opposition group is also Andres Paez who has strong ties to Chevron Oil Corporation.

In this hodgepodge, Jorge Herrera head of CONAIE and Carlos Perez of Ecuarunari, both have used the same rhetoric as the ultra-reactionary Venezuelan opposition, calling to defend “freedom”, and fighting against a supposed dictatorship of Correa and to avoid becoming as Venezuela. Furthermore, both Herrera and Perez made statements against the proposed two new bills. Carlos Perez even stated that Ecuador and Venezuela are ‘like Germany and Italy’ (alluding to fascism), and that all current progressive governments in Latin America especially Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are ‘fake leftists who are only making people poorer’.

Furthermore, these opposition groups have not accepted the invitation by Correa’s government to have an open and public dialogue, only confirming that this is part of a regional plan aiming to topple the revolutionary governments across Latin America. This real objective is also revealed by the opposition now calling the “marcha indigena” to become an indefinite general strike, which includes road blocks and violent rioters, perfectly synchronized on the heels of right-wing demonstrations against taxes on the ultra-rich.

Already in 2014 the president correctly identified that “People must prevail over capital,” adding that politics is about whose interest governments serve, asking the questions: “Elites or the majority? Capital or humankind? The market or society?

Policies and programs depend on who holds the balance of power.”

What the Correa administration has achieved

Ecuador now collects three times more in taxes than it did in 2006 (when tax evasion was rampant), allowing the government to invest in much needed infrastructure and services. As a result of this social change, President Correa has been rated as one of the most popular presidents in Latin America throughout his administration. Furthermore, political stability has returned to the Andean nation.

Correa and his supporters have won 10 elections since 2007. Promoting equality and tackling discrimination has also been given greater emphasis than in the country’s past.

This has boosted the use of different native languages, which were formerly endangered. Laws to protect minorities have also been implemented, including a law which compels companies to reserve four percent of jobs for people with disabilities, and other quotas for minority ethnic groups – such as indigenous communities and Afro-Ecuadorians – in order to narrow inequality gaps. The same has been applied in the country’s higher education system, where indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorean community inclusion has soared.

The government has also invested more than $200 million in Intercultural Bilingual Education in order to maintain and encourage indigenous languages since the start of the Citizen’s Revolution.
Also, with the new Media Law – approved in 2013 – the indigenous communities have greater access to community media. The law assigns 34 percent of the country’s radio and TV frequencies to community media. So far, 14 radio frequencies have been assigned to each of the country’s indigenous groups.

As an Ecuadorian migrant living in Canada for the past 6 years, every time I visit Ecuador I am able to see the massive re-distribution of wealth that has taken place. Now the majority of people have access to quality services. Especially the access to health and education needs to be highlighted, as 8 years ago this was only a privilege of the few. After decades of being one of the poorest countries in the region, the current government has undertaken a series of deep reforms, which have delivered remarkable changes for Ecuador’s long-excluded majority, particularly for indigenous peoples.

Before the citizen’s revolution, the Ecuadorian economy was collapsed forcing many to migrate, but today all Ecuadorian migrants are again part of the country being able to elect members of Parliament to represent our particular needs and create policies to make our lives better while living abroad. This allows us to maintain a real connection and participation with our homeland; and with numerous benefits in place for returning migrants, many are finally able to return home.

Ecuador’s fight for sovereignty has come at a price

Ecuador has shown an anti- colonial/imperialist foreign policy in order to tackle Western domination. The Correa government shut down the U.S. military base in Manta, asserted control over the country’s oil and other natural resources, taking them away from domination by multinationals, and canceled the punishing international debt. In the past three times as much was spent on debt repayment than on social services. Affecting big players in the financial world, specially US and European elites.

However, this fight for sovereignty has come at a price. On Sept. 30th 2010, a police strike ended up in a violent revolt against President Correa, who was held hostage and fenced in a hospital for several hours. Policemen openly called to assassinate President Correa the outcome of the clashes resulted in 10 deaths. Documents emerged showing massive U.S. funding for policemen and opposition groups, through USAID.

Despite this direct threat, Correa continued to assert an independent foreign policy; one of his boldest moves was granting Julian Assange asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012, a move that angered the U.K., Swedish and US governments.

Today the right wing opposition continues to receive funding from NGOs protecting US interests. According to the Bolivian and Ecuadorian heads of state, the “empire” is attacking Latin American nations with “soft coups”.

Bolivian President Evo Morales accused the Ecuadorean right of using Indigenous movements to topple President Rafael Correa, and urged them not to be treated like instruments.
“I want to tell my Indigenous brothers in Ecuador to not allow themselves to be used against the Ecuadorean government,” said President Morales

Today the rich fight against the government of the poor

When you have a well-organized plot implemented by small indigenous groups, bankers, right wing parties, “radical leftists”, local and international corporate media and the US Embassy against a revolutionary government of the people, you clearly have to choose a side.

During the coup against Allende in Chile there were only two sides. During the coup against Chavez in Venezuela there were only 2 sides. During the coup against Zelaya in Honduras there were only 2 sides.

Today in Ecuador, there are only 2 sides. The side of the people and the citizen’s revolution or the side of the right wing indigenous traitors that share the same ideas, speech and demands as the bankers and the elites.

As president Correa put it: “Before the poor had to fight against the government of the bankers. Today, the rich fight against the government of the poor, for the ‘crime’ of seeking a bit of social justice”.


[Santiago Escobar is an Ecuadorian citizen living in Canada since 2009. He has spent the last 4 years working on migrant workers’ rights with migrant farm workers in the Niagara region. Prior to this Escobar organized with Social Movements in both Ecuador and Venezuela implementing People’s Media platforms. In 2009 Escobar became a whistleblower in the environmental law suit against the Oil giant Chevron exposing Chevron’s corruption and dirty tricks operations in Ecuador. The evidence provided have been used in international courts exposing Chevron’s corruption. Escobar also serves as the coordinator of campaign in Canada.]


Follow up: Published on Aug 21, 2015

“David Hill’s article in the Guardian on August 20, entitled “Protests by 1,000s of Ecuadorians meet with brutal repression” is riddled with errors and misrepresentations. We explain to you why.” [TeleSUR]


Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA | Part IV

The Art of Annihilation

January 26, 2015

Part IV of an investigative report by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer [Part I, Part II, Part III]


+++Note from the authors: The bulk of research for this investigative report was conducted from December 2013 to April of 2014. New alliances/affiliations/stats that have since materialized may or may not be reflected at this time.


Social Panorama of Latin America

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has highlighted a slowing of progress in poverty reduction in Latin America, citing “rising food costs and weaker economic growth” as contributing factors. UN economists based in Santiago reported that 164 million people, or 28% of the region’s population, are still considered poor. That is nearly unchanged from 2012. Of those, 68 million of them are in extreme poverty – a poverty that most Americans cannot even begin to fathom.

Yet there are bright spots. ECLAC’s “Social Panorama of Latin America” report (March 2014) notes that Venezuela and Ecuador led the region in decreasing poverty in 2012. The largest drop was in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where poverty fell by 5.6% (from 29.5% to 23.9%) and extreme poverty by 2.0% (from 11.7% to 9.7%). In Ecuador, poverty was down by 3.1% (from 35.3% to 32.2%).

This 5.6% decrease in Venezuela translates into a 19% decline in poverty overall, which Mark Weisbrot, co-director of Center for Economic and Policy Research, “noted is almost certainly the largest decline in poverty in the Americas for 2012, and one of the largest – if not the largest – in the world.”

Yes – they are extracting oil. (Ecuador relies on oil for a third of its national budget.) Just like the Harper Government, the Obama Government and most all other states that are able.

The main difference is that the US spends it on bombing other countries and killing innocent people – for profit and plunder – while Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador are spending it to lift their people (and others oppressed by imperial states) out of poverty. [Ecuador will increase by more than 50% the budget for Health, the executive will allocate more than 5.6 billion dollars by the year 2017 and also plans to hire about 19,000 doctors. Source]

Of course, the words militarism, imperialism and colonialism are not in the NGO dictionary. Nor is the word capitalism.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that it is the wealthy that created the climate crisis. It is the wealthy that perpetuate and propel the fossil fuel production/extraction economy.

As an example, the entire state of Venezuela accounts for only .057% of global emissions while 50% of emissions come from 1% of the world’s population. (If you can afford to get on a plane and fly anywhere at all, this places you in the 1% category.)

Per capita (per person) emissions: Ecuador: 2.2 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Bolivia: 1.15 tonnes CO2 of emissions per capita | Venezuela: 6.30 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | United States: 19.22 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Canada 16.60 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita | Congo: 0.3 tonnes CO2 emissions per capita.

As a further example, ALBA delivered relief aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon (video below published on September 19, 2013), while Imperial states continue to destabilize the Middle East.

The left would like to believe that anti-imperialist states can change the existing world order on their own; that without dismantling the industrialized, capitalist economic system, states such as Ecuador and Venezuela can and must simply shut down their oil production. (Of course, we have no such fantasies for our own voracious nations.) But, such a feat would achieve nothing more than food shortages for their citizens, many of whom are already starving. And on an international level, this will change nothing. Rather, imperial forces would ramp up efforts to destabilize, invade and occupy. Further, leaders of ALBA states do not claim they are capable of such a task:

“Ecuador is not trying to change the situation as it has come to be; yet we will try and protect our people from this unfair world order. This is what the integration of the Latin American nations is meant to help accomplish. United, we will become stronger and gain more weight on the international arena. I insist that even if we can’t change the current world order – as this is something too challenging for Latin America to tackle, we do not have enough influence – we nonetheless have a duty to protect our nations from this unfair and immoral world order driven by the interests of the capital alone.” — Interview with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, Oct 30, 2013 

How to Co-opt Revolutionary Ideas


Participants sit in bleachers at the packed World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights, Photo by The City Project

On April 19-22, 2010, following the failure of COP15 (where vulnerable states were grossly undermined), the State of Bolivia hosted The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. A global gathering of civil society and governments gathered in Tiquipaya, just outside the city of Cochabamba. “Particularly notable was the large number of Indigenous people from throughout South and North America, who played leading roles in defining the meeting’s environmental philosophy and drawing up a program for action. Morales urged the delegates to commit to learn and benefit from the wisdom of the world’s indigenous peoples.” [Source] Working Groups included a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth, a World People’s Referendum on Climate Change, and the establishment of a Climate Justice Tribunal.

Two primary revolutionary declarations were achieved: The Peoples Agreement and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

The People’s Agreement was and remains the only democratically written climate agreement that actually could have addressed the magnitude and scale of our multiple ecological crises. Further, it came to be recognized by the United Nations, due in large part to the tenacity of a single person on behalf of a single state, Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations, Pablo Solón (from February 2009 to July 2011.) Today, somewhat ironically, Solón is the Executive Director of the NGO Focus on the Global South.

October 10, 2010 – Tianjin, China: “The proposals of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth have been maintained and expanded upon in the new negotiating text on climate change that emerged from the last round of negotiations in Tianjin, China. Throughout the process in Tianjin, attempts were made to substitute the negotiating text, which contains the positions of all countries, with a text that would be limited to recognizing the principal elements of consensus for Cancun.

The negotiating text that will be taken up in Cancun includes, among other elements, the following proposals from Cochabamba:


  • Reduce emissions by more than 50% for 2017.
  • Rights of Mother Earth.
  • Full respect for human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and climate migrants.
  • Formation of an International Climate Justice Tribunal.
  • No new carbon markets.
  • 6% of GDP in developed countries to finance climate change actions in developing countries.
  • Lifting of barriers to intellectual property that facilitates technology transfer.
  • No commodification of forests.”


[Source: Communiqué by the Plurinational State of Bolivia]

By the following year, although key issues of the People’s Agreement were presented in the Durban negotiation text, (again due only to the work by the Ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations), [Dec 7, 2011] the People’s Agreement, more and more was quietly being marginalized and buried by even the more legitimate climate justice groups. After Durban, the People’s Agreement was displaced, in its entirety, by a gentle call for the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

The call for a “Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth” was then replaced with the call for “Rights of Nature.”

Global Alliance Rights of Nature

On April 12, 2012, in response to a Rights of Nature event, a NYC activist inquired on an International Climate Justice listserv: “The rights of mother earth enshrined in the Cochabamba Declaration. Is there a reason why Global Exchange isn’t promoting CD here? Seems like an ideal and key document to promote our fight against greed and for science-based climate policy, respecting indigenous rights and Mother Earth both inside the U.N. system and beyond.”

There was no response.

Almost immediately following the success of the 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth of, a new alliance was created named the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, which created/assigned an executive committee. “Their intention was to explore ways to expand the concept of Rights of Nature as an idea whose time has come.” [Source] This campaign is also referred to at times as The Rights of Mother Earth campaign.

A key founding partner was the heavily funded U.S. NGO, the Pachamama Alliance.

Thus, the ground-breaking declarations (The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth of April 2010) were lifted out of the hands of the people – back into the hands of U.S. foundation management/ control.

The website for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (created on September 6, 2010) is registered to Thomas Linzey, founder of CELDF and advisor to the New Earth Foundation. On the CELDF website, one finds the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights – CELDF Draft Rights of Nature Ordinance, dated April 15, 2010.

A few months later, on October 13, 2010, CELDF publishes the article Global Alliance for Rights of Nature Formed from Historic International Gathering in Ecuador: “A groundbreaking International Gathering for Rights of Nature was organized by The Pachamama Alliance and Fundación Pachamama in September, where conscious individuals and organizations who have worked to promote the recognition of Rights of Nature, met to expand this concept around the world. Out of this four-day meeting in Patate, Ecuador, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature was formed…. Fundación Pachamama and The Pachamama Alliance were active participants at the Conference and behind the scenes.”

In the December 2010 publication of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, it is reported, “In August of this year, the Legal Defense Fund co-convened an event hosted by Fundación Pachamama in rural Ecuador. Its purpose was to formalize an international organization which will advocate for legal frameworks that recognize legally enforceable rights for natural communities. The Legal Defense Fund was then selected as the organization which would provide drafting and campaign assistance to communities and nations following the lead of the over two dozen communities in the United States which have recognized rights for Nature, and the country of Ecuador, which has become the first country in the world to recognize natural rights within its constitution.

It is of interest to note that the Pachamama Alliance and its “sister organization,” Fundación Pachamama, supported the inclusion of Rights of Nature in Ecuador’s Constitution, and also endorsed the call for a World Conference of the Peoples regarding Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights. Further, despite the REDD partnerships on behalf of Pachamama Alliance and Foundation, as referenced in documents, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (with Pachamama Alliance as founder) appears, on the surface, to be against any commodification of the commons. As an example: Tweet: “July 25, 2012: Rights of Nature – The Road to Rio+20 –

It is of further interest that prior to both the formation of the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature (August 2010) and the World People’s Conference (April 2010), the website Rights of Mother Earth was created on February 16, 2010. It is registered to Robin Milam, Administrative Director for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature and a Pachamama Alliance Journey Leader.

Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain for what other reason Pachamama Alliance would co-found Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, other than to do what foundations do best: control, manage, shape and contain movements with revolutionary potential. Perhaps CELDF, in this case, is successfully contained for the most part, in a carefully supervised box – wondering why there is so little focus/awareness on this “movement.” One thing is certain – there is very little interest in promoting this campaign.

In the real world, “likes” and “shares” offer no reprieve whatsoever to our ongoing and accelerating ecological devastation/collapse. However, what is significant in Twitter/social media is who/what organizations are chosen by NGOs and paid “activists” to “follow.” This is especially significant in respect to the first Twitter accounts chosen (to follow) as these principal choices demonstrate clearly who and what ideologies they NGO/individual align themselves with. And although it is true that social media, despite the endless attention it receives, offers no stay of execution whatsoever to our ecological/climate crisis, in the world of the non-profit industrial complex, social media is of paramount importance – precisely because it has no true impact beyond 1) collecting intelligence (in all forms) for the world’s most powerful advertising moguls, corporations and the establishment, providing an unprecedented wealth of information that previously was difficult and costly to obtain, and 2) building brand recognition (thereby increasing foundation funding). Thus, to demonstrate how there is no serious effort to promote Rights of Nature, the following information speaks a thousand words.

The Rights of Nature Twitter account is essentially dead with a total of 46 tweets and 44 followers since its inception on Earth Day, April 22, 2011. The Facebook group fares slightly better with 664 members. Compare this with the Pachamama Alliance FB page with almost 40,000 “likes” and a very active Twitter account. (Accounts accessed December 13, 2013 under the twitter name RightsOfNature. The Twitter name/link has since been changed to Rights4Nature.) [1]

The Rights of Nature Twitter account follows 16 individuals/orgs including Nature Conservancy (#1), RSPB (UK’s largest “nature conservation” charity), founding members of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, the founders of Pachamama Alliance, Al Gore’s Climate Reality, Hawken’s, and Bill McKibben. As of December 13, 2013, no Indigenous groups whatsoever were followed by this account. (Accounts accessed December 13, 2013 under the twitter name RightsOfNature. [2]

During 2013, this account was used for little more than one purpose: to promote “ecological tourism” via Pachamama “Journeys. [Rights of Nature – Amazon Rainforest Wisdom Immersion Journey Leader: Robin Milam… Cost: $3,475] As of December 19, 2013, one more tweet has been issued – a request for organizations to join Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature in requesting the re-opening of Fundación Pachamama.

The address provided for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature is 2036 Nevada City Hwy #193 Grass Valley, California 95945. [3] Researching this address also leads one to The Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce (128 East Main Street, Grass Valley CA 95945). Robin Milam is listed as the webmaster. Her business is listed as One World Awake, which shares the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature address.

Ecological Tourism – More Hypocrisy

“Eco-tourism, as defined by the World Tourism Organisation, represents only 2 to 4 per cent of international travel spending. Suppose it grew to the point where it dominated the tourist industry. Could such a large-scale industry be managed in a small-scale way? Can anyone who has flown half way around the world in a jet powered by subsidized fossil fuel and puffing out greenhouse gases qualify as an eco-tourist?” — David Nicholson-Lord, 2002

The hypocrisy is rich (literally). Pachamama Alliance chides the Ecuadorian Government for drilling oil in the Yasuni, all while their ecotourism boutique/niche – catering to the lifestyles of the rich – is absolutely dependent upon the expansion of fossil fuels. Travel expenses as reported on Pachamama’s Alliance’s 990 form accounted for over a cool half million in 2011 ($592,557). Here, the irreconcilability of preserving capitalism with preserving the planet cannot be overstated.

“Success” Stories

Success Story One: Runa

Robin Fink is the Program Director at Fundación Pachamama (since November 2009) and Board Member at the Runa Foundation (Fundación Runa) (May 2012 to present). In her role at Pachamama Alliance, Fink works closely with the Indigenous Achuar of the Ecuadorian Amazon. [4]

Runa Corporation is a privately held company in the food and beverages industry. It’s also an excellent case study of what the new “green economy” looks and feels (as in marketing/branding) like. [“Runa LLC is a privately held organic Amazonian beverage company that processes and sells guayusa. The company is based in Brooklyn, New York with offices in Quito and Archidona, Ecuador.”][SOURCE]

In the 21st century, most every corporation has a foundation. The benefits (for oligarchs and corporate entities alike) of establishing a foundation are formidable. Securing/protecting interests under the guise of philanthropy and tax evasion represent a mere two of many benefits. [“Fundación Runa” provides tools and resources to indigenous communities and farmers’ associations working towards their vision of sustainable development in the Ecuadorian Amazon. We focus on two core areas; community development and environmental management. We provide technical assistance and financing to farmers associations and cooperatives to build capacity and inspire entrepreneurship. We work with local stakeholders to conduct participatory research and strategic planning for conservation and sustainable land management in the Ecuadorian Amazon.”]

When one observes the heavy hitters on the Runa Foundation Board of Advisors, it is certain that many are betting on this company being acquired by Pepsi or Coca-Cola in the not-so-distant future for the tune of hundreds of millions. Most recently Coca-Cola swallowed up the majority of “Innocent” Drinks for an estimated £100m. [“The three Cambridge graduates who launched Innocent Smoothies have sold the bulk of their remaining shares to Coca-Cola for an estimated £100m – 15 years after dreaming up the idea for the healthy drinks company on a snowboarding holiday.” Financial Times, February 22, 2013] The Runa Foundation Advisors include Yolanda Kakabadse, president of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) since 2010, Trustee of the Ford Foundation, President of International Union for Conservation of Nature (1996-2004); Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF (2005-2010, US Secretary of Agriculture (2001-2005), named 46th most powerful woman by Forbes in 2009; Doug Hattaway, president of Hattaway Communication since 2001, Senior Communications Adviser for Hilary Clinton (2008); Michael Conroy, Board Chair of Forest Stewardship Council since 2010, Board Chair of Fair Trade USA (2003-2010; Jacob Olander, Director of Forest Trends’ Incubator since 2008, Co-founder of EcoDecisión since 1995, Expert in conservation finance and payments for ecosystem services; Florencia Montagnini, professor of Tropical Forestry at Yale University since 2001, research advisor to the Smithsonian Institute’s PRORENA program since 2001, expert in tropical forestry and agroforesty systems.

On the Runa blog, under the post At Runa, We Don’t Actually Farm Guayusa, the company states:

“In this way, we foster the local entrepreneurial spirit, build sustainable and transparent partnerships with the farmers, and proactively work together to break a long history of paternalism and exploitation that has negatively impacted these communities.”

Yet this is not true. In reality, drawing more people into a suicidal system based on perpetual infinite growth is anything but sustainable. [“Never has failure been so ardently defended as success.” — Voltaire’s Bastards] Further, as this corporation grows (the sole purpose of the venture), the introduction of Western identities ensures the introduction of Western values into the Ecuadorian Amazon – ensuring the erosion of culture and identity. The erosion may be slow and subtle, yet it is inevitable, as Western culture has always ensured.

To seek out Earth’s last remaining peoples who are the pure epitome of true sustainability, and then introduce them to capitalism and build a dependence upon the capitalist economic system under the guise of “local entrepreneurial spirit” is paternalism and exploitation at its best. Any venture that cannot sustain itself in a local economy, sustained by local resources, contributes to further annihilation of the planet, regardless of the sophisticated language/marketing that delivers nothing more than what we wish were true.

Runa founders Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie met in an entrepreneurship class at Brown University. Together, they put together a business plan that would “turn Ecuador’s cultural heritage into an income generating opportunity for farming families.” They launched the business in December of 2009.


Runa Corporation is a business built on an Amazonian tree leaf called guayusa, native in the Upper Amazon regions of Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. Traditionally, indigenous families (Achuar) wake up together at dawn to drink guayusa. They sit around the communal fire drinking gourds full of guayusa until sunrise. During this time, the village elders teach the youth about ancestral myths, hunting techniques, social values, and about what it means to be “Runa” in the Indigenous cosmovision. The guayusa ritual continues to be a cornerstone of Kichwa culture, a practice that brings the family and community together around the simple experience of drinking tea. Community shamans, known as yachaks or rukus in Kichwa, will also play a traditional bamboo flute (known as kena) and a two-sided weasel-skin drum, and sing soft rhythmic songs during these early morning hours. The shamans also interpret dreams from the previous night, and make recommendations to guide the community and help them live in harmony with the rainforest. After drinking the first gourds of guayusa, children are often sent to go bathe in the river and receive its strength and cleansing for the day to come. [Source]

Every day, Runa pays three different indigenous farmers $35 each for fresh guayusa leaves to make guayusa tea products sold through their online store to the US and Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic region. Runa states that they have raised the income of 300 farmers by 25% each, whose family income averages $30-70 per month. Runa sales are expected to surpass $1 million for 2012. [August 27, 2012 | Source]

According to Runa, every day the corporation pays three different indigenous farmers $35 each. As they have compensated 300 farmers, let us assume the three different indigenous farmers are representatives of 3 co-operatives: 3 x $35 = $105 | $105 x 365 (days) = $38,325 | $38,325/$1,000,000 *100 = 3.83% of the revenue. $38,325 of a $1 million revenue stream (2012) represents a 3.83% of revenue “shared” with the famers without whose land and labour, harvest and generosity there would be no product at all. (Note that the 3.83% of revenue received from Runa has been divided up amongst the 300 farmers. This equals $127.75 for each farmer per year. This equals $10.65 per month per farmer – which verifies Runa’s statistic of increasing the average farmer’s annual income of $30-$70 per month by approximately 25% if one uses $30 as the benchmark.) [5]

Bear the farmers’ earnings (above) in mind when, in a nod to history continuing to repeat itself, Coca-Cola buys up the majority of Runa for a cool £100m or so in the not too distant future. Runa foundation advisor Yolanda Kakabadse, of WWF, just happens to also be a member of the Environmental Advisory Board of CocaCola.

“… we also receive about $500,000 from USAID, from the US government, the Andean Development bank, the German government, a couple other NGOs who were very impressed by our model.” [Source]

Runa has received grants totalling $500,000, from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (approximately $250,000) and Corporación Andina de Fomento (a Latin American development bank). Funds have also been given by the German government/GTZ. In November of 2011 the company closed a $1.6 million round of angel investments. In January of 2012 the founder sought $2 million in a Series A equity round. [Source]

One NGO that was “very impressed” by the Runa model was Fundación Natura. As a result, an alliance was formed between them to develop an “agroforestry” project to “domesticate” the guayusa plant – a crop which has never been technically managed.

 “Furthermore, we are moving along on a number of other fronts, including fleshing out our alliance with Fundación Natura (the largest conservation NGO in Ecuador) to develop our project to plant guayusa and other agroforestry trees in Ecuador….” — Founder Tyler Gage, May 6, 2009 [Emphasis added]


“Additionally, we are pioneering the sustainable cultivation of a crop that has never been technically managed, so it has taken lots of trial and error to refine our agroforestry model and planting techniques.” — Founder Tyler Gage, July 15, 2010 [Emphasis added]

Developing the Rainforests

Fundación Natura (Nature Foundation) is Ecuador’s first environmental NGO. Founded in 1978, Fundación Natura grew rapidly due to large USAID grants and money derived from debt-for-nature swaps engineered by WWF (Meyer 1993; Echavarria 2010). [Source] These swaps had an important effect: they contributed to shifting responsibility away from the government to private organizations by channelling funding via domestic (though foreign funded/controlled) NGOs rather than through the government agency in charge of managing protected areas. [Source: Globalization and Resistance: Transnational Dimensions of Social Movements, 2002] This strategy of foreign interests bypassing government is compelling considering the fact that USAID would like to see NGOs given legal recognition (further discussed in the final three paragraphs).

Fundación Natura is associated with the World Wide Fund for Nature – WWF, is a member of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), a member of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and a member of international environmental networks such as the Latin American Network of Forests (RLB), Conservation International (CI) and Climate Change Network. [Source]

When USAID, WWF et al are expanding/promoting a new “agroforestry” agenda, it means one thing – that this method serves to benefit the elites. Carbon offsets, biomass and biodiesel are just a few of the false solutions that hold promise for the agroforestry projects in developing countries. [6] In developed countries, such as Canada, the single enticement is the carbon market. [7]

 “The potential of using carbon offset credits from agroforestry projects for farmers in developing areas has become more prevalent in both Clean Development Mechanism and voluntary carbon markets.” — Carbon Credit Payment Options for Agroforestry Projects in Africa, 2011

The traditional Kichwa [8] farm in Ecuador is called a chakra. The chakra farming technique involves integrating food crops (or animals) into the trees of the forest. As an example, cacao trees are grown among other fruit trees and crops under the shade of a forest – simultaneously tending to the land for more than one purpose. Chakras have been farmed sustainably for centuries.

The term “agroforestry” was coined in the mid-1970s as part of a research study led by John Bene of Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

Agroforestry could be described as the West “modifying” / emulating the traditional chakra to accommodate their own worldview via a Euro-American lens. Agroforestry systems often involve clearing vital underbrush to plant new crops as well as the cutting of trees. Selected trees are then replanted to provide firewood, food, medicine, and other non-timber forest products (that will benefit the West) – such as Runa’s guayusa. We can also safely assume genetically engineered trees are part of many agroforestry projects. Indeed, the paper “Genetic Improvement of Agroforestry Trees” was presented at the 2014 IUFRO Forest Tree Breeding Conference in Prague, Czech Republic in August 2014. In 1991 it was noted that “the initial euphoria about agroforestry has died down…” but just two decades later with “climate wealth opportunities” abounding, the push for agroforestry is making a comeback.

“…the potential applications of biotechnology in agroforestry research are unlimited.” — The Literature of Forestry and Agroforesty, 1996

Agricultural schemes (with development programs/training provided by those in the West) are intended to “consolidate and replicate the production system of ancestral chakras, fish farming, sustainable tourism, safety and food sovereignty-oriented marketing.” [Source] But behind closed doors, it is without doubt the promise of the lucrative carbon market that has industry and the non-profit industrial complex salivating.

Not surprising, the agroforestry model is anything but a perfect reproduction of the forest in its natural state. A study by Matthias De Beenhouwer, Raf Aerts and Olivier Honnay discloses that when a natural forest is converted into an agroforest, the total species richness declines by eleven percent. For forest species, the differences were larger, with a decline of 35% (natural forest to agroforest). Faring worse are the ecosystem services* (water filtration, nutrient rich soil, and other services that the forest ecosystems naturally provide). Management intensification decreased provision of ecosystem services by a strong decline of 37%. (*Note that the research of quantitative carbon sequestration was not included in this study under ecosystem services).

“Forest species richness and total species richness were significantly lower in the more intensively managed than in the more natural land use categories. Response ratios showed that the decline in total species richness was higher when comparing agroforest with plantation (?46%), than when comparing forest with agroforest (?11%)…. Response ratios showed that management intensification decreased provision of ecosystem services with 37% when comparing forest with agroforest and with 27% when comparing agroforest with plantation. Our data suggest that species richness decline follows a concave yield function whereas ecosystem service decline follows a more convex yield function.”

The study is clear: anthropogenic disturbance jeopardizes the ability of tropical forests to sustain ecosystem services.

The loss of species, in tandem with the decline of species richness and ecosystem services in a world of accelerating ecological collapse must be considered critical losses. It is reckless to market agroforests as intelligent/progressive substitutes for rainforests in their natural state.

“Whereas the non-forest species show no significant decline, species confined to forests were the first species to be affected by management intensification, demonstrating that even in an agroforest matrix, natural forest is irreplaceable for their conservation.” (Gardner et al., 2009; Gibson et al., 2011; Muñoz et al., 2013)

However, the NPIC, working hand-in-hand with foreign corporations such as Runa, use the above study to argue that even though agroforests incur critical and significant losses, and there is no replacement for a rainforest in its natural state, agroforestry is less damaging than plantation/monoculture agriculture.

How kind of the empire, its banks and its tentacles (the non-profit industrial complex) to develop systems that are moderately less damaging than a full conversion to monoculture. Let us be clear: just as “less cancer” is still cancer, “less species loss” is still species loss, “less ecosystem damage” is still ecosystem damage. In less than one year during their first year of operations, Runa planted over 75,000 trees in more than 120 hectares of agroforesty plots.

“Runa provides direct market access, agroforestry training, and holistic development services to Amazonian farming families.” One must seriously question what the white Euro-American could possibly offer to the Amazonians in regard to holistic development and growing food in their forests.

To be clear, this leaf (the guayusa), rich in ethnic mystique, “packaged” with deep culture by the Indigenous people (to be branded/marketed to those in a commodity culture – devoid of meaning) IS the product. Yet, as sales increase (exponentially, which is the goal), the actual percentage of revenue to the farmers will decline.

USAID has “given” Runa a grant to reforest 1200 acres of degraded lands with guayusa. When one looks at this simple “gift” along with the dossiers of the advisors to Runa, there is little doubt that carbon markets and REDD – to be sought and implemented – are a goal behind the scenes in the boardrooms. There is also little doubt that Indigenous communities in many instances will not be made aware of the revenue stream that will take place under the guise of the “new economy.”

Of interest is Eliot Logan-Hines, listed as Co-Founder and Executive Director of Runa Foundation. Logan-Hines attended Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He went on to co-author Chapter 18 (REDD policy options: Including forests in an international climate change agreement) of the 2009 publication Forests and Carbon: A Synthesis of Science, Management, and Policy for Carbon Sequestration in Forests.

Of course the future Guayusa plantations will be made to sound brimming with biodiversity with a focus on environmental stewardship. In some instances, perhaps they will be. Both credibility and legitimacy are always essential elements for all such altruistic business ventures. And in many instances, where the growth is not dependent upon the actual and visible destruction of the forest (such as logging), the preservation of biodiversity costs the investors nothing while increasing their legitimacy.

One can argue that there must be increased farmer income, and with such “green” politically correct ventures as Runa’s, this can happen alongside the restoration of the Amazon. Yet, drunk on the idea of a “green economy,” there appears to be a collective amnesia in acknowledging that the sole reason the Amazon is being obliterated in the first place is due to the industrialized capitalist economy. We ignore Einstein’s common sense observation on what constitutes insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Capitalism dictates that whatever must be done to ensure green – as in dollars, not planet – must be done. It is essential that poverty (created by the industrialized capitalist system) be alleviated and eradicated throughout Latin America. Unfortunately, Western industrial capitalists believe this massive undertaking can only be realized within the confines of an industrialized capitalist system, which depends on exploitation of the World’s most vulnerable, essentially making this daunting task impossible.

True “philanthropy” would be an anonymous gift to communities to develop/create their own localized gift economies and co-operatives – entirely free of outside influence and “partnerships” – with absolutely nothing in return to the “philanthropist” nor his/her associated interests. This would be a true demonstration of sincerity in the long-awaited task “to break a long history of paternalism and exploitation that has negatively impacted these communities.” Of course, true autonomy for non-whites is of no interest to today’s “green” and “social” capitalists.

Adopting/stealing progressive language of social movements is nothing new for the elites. Note the word “participatory” (as in participatory democracy in socialist countries) below:

“It’s more fulfilling, more sustainable, more exciting, and more participatory,” said the founders in regards to the company operating a triple bottom line.

Note the rarely spoken fact that business trumps all social needs:

“Wain Collen, Education Director of Fundación Pachamama, emphasizes that ‘NGOs who aim to help indigenous communities most often end up causing more problems than they solve, ‘Our advisors and industry experts continue to remind us that above all, we need to run a successful business, regardless of how social it is. Without a strong, successful business we can’t generate any benefits for anyone.”

When asked about some challenges of running the “social enterprise” (formerly known as a corporation), the founders mentioned the process of acquiring “knowledge” as a big obstacle: “As university students we were accustomed to the ready availability of any and all knowledge any time all the time. However, in Ecuador concepts like ’email’ and ‘the Internet’ are still very, very new….”

Yet, if there is any silver lining to be found in this latest version of “white saviours empowering Ecuadorean farmers,” it is this: Runa received a $500,000 (USD) equity investment from the CreEcuador Fund – an initiative of the current Ecuador government. “The Build Ecuador Fund (CreEcuador) plans to cash out its investments in Runa in roughly 6 years, in order to use its earnings to make additional investments in sustainable businesses. However, rather than selling shares to a private investor, the fund’s vision is to sell shares to Runa employees and the farmers. [Source: Social Enterprise in Emerging Market Countries: No Free Ride, 2013] Yet whether farmers will be able to afford these shares remains to be seen.

[The source of information for Runa founders commentary is from the article The Path to Social Entrepreneurship With The Founders of Runa, August 27, 2012. It is critical to note that even the source of this “news” (“Social Enterprise Buzz”) is of North American origin.]



Surely whites “teaching” Indigenous populations how to engage in internet “knowledge” as identified and deemed necessary by Western interests (in this image above, note the obvious emphasis on Facebook “education” by an unidentified NGO) is just another example of forcing our suicidal economy, hyper-individualized/commodity culture, and “democratic” “values” on others (who up to that point were fortunate enough to be relatively free of them). As parents, we cannot deny an intense anxiety that questions the psychological impact, effects, conditioning and behavioural change resulting from the consumption/addiction of FaceBook and other social media upon our children. The anxiety weighs heavy, like a rock, as we simultaneously deny and justify our own participation. And yet we raise no objection to those most exploited, most vulnerable, being subjugated as corporate fodder and prey. We close our eyes to the sacrifice – the voracious system must be fed.

This is not to say that the protection of Indigenous rights in the Information Age and the right of Indigenous Peoples to access information and communication technology services and connectivity are not to be respected, Rather it is to challenge the fact that the dominant world view is deliberately constructed by Western ideology, which then is propagated via corporate mass-media echo chambers (internet, print, radio, television, film) – thereby framing, shaping and normalizing predetermined social and cultural concepts that constitute the status quo. Not only is the ingestion of controlled doctrine unhealthy, these ideologies/formal doctrines, conceptualized by the elites, serve to protect the interests of hegemony. [9] And although we like to convince ourselves that internet technology has been a massive success, as we stand on the precipice of planetary collapse, one could quite easily argue that this “success” is illusory, and perhaps the truth is in stark contrast to what we would like to believe in more ways than one. In the lecture “The Limits of the Web in an Age of Communicative Capitalism,” Jodi Dean makes the sound argument that the web has formed part of a profoundly depoliticizing shift in capitalism, which has enabled the marriage of neoliberalism to the democratic values of participation and the reduction of politics to the registration of opinions and the transmission of feelings.

Moreover, upon any formerly isolated person’s introduction to the web, having no prior scope or alternate influence outside of the non-profit trainee/volunteer from the West, how can one not be overwhelmed and ultimately absorbed by the elites’ dominant cultural hegemony? Aside from paternalism and colonialism, this also constitutes a rabid academic imperialism.

“It is an electronic mass media driven phenomena [sic] which over time will not only expand the frontiers of the multi-national communication firms but will far exceed even the vast reach of the once powerful and hegemonic British Empire. eColonialism outlines the hegemony of the USA as global American media and communication conglomerates seek out and view the global economy as their market to dominate.” — Tom McPhail, eColonialism Theory: Hegemony and the Role of American Media

Video: Academic Imperialism – Claude Alvares (Running time: 12:40)


On March 22, 2012 Pachamama highlighted the Alliance’s latest “success” in introducing/providing Apple iPads to build communications in the Achuar communities citing an “unprecedented opportunity for coordinated communications throughout the logistically isolated, far-flung communities with films that are about Achuar, by Achuar and in the Achuar language.” iPad-type devices and hand-held mobile phones play a vital role in furthering eColonialism. [Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South, A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation | Source]


Image: Pachamama website: “iPads Offer a Link for Far-flung Communities” – Westernized education, religion, business values and technology, built upon Western ideologies, globalization and capitalism, continue to penetrate and expand throughout the Achuar communities.

Success Story Two: Fundación Pachamama Projects

“Excluding the role missionaries have had on Achuar culture may serve to satisfy the ecotourists’ imperialist nostalgia by convincing them that the Achuar have what the West has lost: an isolated, pristine ‘indigenous’ culture that has not been tainted by the negative influences of industrialization.” Source: “Take a Picture with a Real Indian”: (Self-) Representation, Ecotourism, and Indigeneity in Amazonia, 2011

Pachamama Alliance highlights CEKSA (Complejo Ecoturistico Kapawi S.A.) and Aerotsentsak as two examples of sustainable development, stating “With the partnership of Fundación Pachamama, the Achuar nationality formed and continues to own and manage two very successful companies… [B]oth companies demonstrate the potential for generating income and leadership capacities to support the autonomous development of the Achuar and other nationalities.”

CEKSA is the corporation that manages the award-winning Kapawi Ecolodge.

Aerotsentsak is the only Achuar-owned airline flying to Achuar territory.

It is critical to question the wisdom (and perhaps also the sincerity) of creating an industry that is completely dependent on fossil fuels – and the capitalist system itself (a system dependent upon infinite growth where violence upon Earth’s most vulnerable peoples and life forms is inherently built into the system) – and then calling it sustainable. Not to mention, it’s an industry that rather than catering to the needs of a localized economy and her people, is dependent upon the 1% percent of the world who created/create 50% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2007, the partnership between Makusar, Fundación Pachamama, TrekEcuador, and Mentefactura presented a successful project profile to the Interamerican Development Bank (IADB).) In May 2010 the Tiinkias Ecotourism Center (TEC) received its first visitors group: a 16-member tour from The Pachamama Alliance, in what could be considered a scouting trip to an eco camp that was still missing several components and finishing touches. In January 2011 the TEC started welcoming periodic groups, and received about 100 visitors, which more than doubled in 2012 and is slowly and steadily growing. The TEC also started combining its adventures with visits to Kapawi Ecolodge.

“But the benefits of tourism have a corollary, and Mr. Tsamarin [Luis Vargas) lamented them: the loss of communal values and a new market mentality, alcohol abuse, litter, men cutting off their traditional ponytails. The Achuar now want to expand a controlled form of tourism farther into their territory, and have built a camp in the forest near the remote community of Tiinkias to offer visitors a more rustic experience than Kapawi. I would be the first tourist there.” [Source]

There is no doubt that such “success stories” are modern day fairy tales for the progressive left. Real life utopias where the 1%, including the liberal left, can immerse themselves in the lair of absolute opulence: “a haven of ease, good taste, and understated luxury” – both literally and metaphorically. [Source] [1998: “Kapawi is targeting the high-end market, with an all-inclusive price of nearly $300 per person, per day, cost that includes transportation from Quito.”]

What exactly underlies the Pachamama statement that “both companies demonstrate the potential for generating income and leadership capacities to support the autonomous development of the Achuar and other nationalities.”

Here it is critical to recognize that the geographic areas deemed necessary for development by Pachamama and corporate interests are populated by Indigenous people who literally live off (and on) the land. These are Earth’s final remaining lands that have been untouched by industrialized civilization, and are still, in many instances, absolutely abundant where climate change has not yet induced drought and devastation. Lynne Twist, co-founder of Pachamama, confirms this in her book The Soul of Money: “Twist lived for a time with the Achuar people, who for thousands of years have lived a rich life in the rainforest with no need for actual money.” [Soul of Money Book Review]

Yet, vital critique regarding the underlying ethnocentric and capitalist standards for initiating, managing and evaluating such “sustainable” developments appears to be of little to no interest – to anyone. Like the warm golden sun, beautiful and intoxicating as it shines upon our skin, collectively we bask in the lies that allow us to continue insanity without reflection – uninterrupted. The embraced ignorance, like the warmth of the sun, is luxurious.

Nature Tourism Gold Rush

 “The most important factor to remember as a conservation organization is that when you start approaching the tourist market, business is business or you are out.” — Bezaury-Cree, 1991

Responsible travel, sustainable tourism, ecotourism, nature-based tourism, adventure travel, experiential tourism, voluntourism, educational travel, etc. etc. etc. The rhetoric may change (and does), but the facts do not. Consider that in 1950, international tourists numbered approximately 25 million. Further consider that on December 13, 2012 the UN celebrated international tourism surpassing the one billion mark. This asinine celebration followed the failure of yet another United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP18), making the “celebration” of burning carbon for leisure all the more delusional as the Earth continues to pass planetary tipping points. While celebrating tourism increasing from 25 million to over 1 billion in a mere six decades (a clear example of exponential growth), just one glance at the narcissistic Facebook page created to further promote travel demonstrates the predominantly white Euro-American majority – the very ones creating 50% of all GHG emissions. [Another example of ecotourism’s exponential growth is the recognized statistic that tourism to reserves and national parks in Costa Rica grew from 63,500 to 273,400 foreign tourists, exceeding a quadrupling in a mere six years, between 1985 and 1991.]

In the 1980s, with the growing interest in ecotourism worldwide, Galapagos tourism professionals and tourism companies began to look to the mainland for new tourism destinations. Ecuador had been an established nature tourism destination for over two decades as a result of the early popularity of the Galapagos Islands. (2005) [Source]

According to a 1991 USAID study, at that time, the number of foreign tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands was 50,000-60,000. Approximately 24,000 tourists traveled to the Oriente region (Ecuador’s El Oriente occupies the lowlands of the Amazon basin) for an average of 5 days (in 1990), while foreign tourists traveling to the Amazon region were found to be under 3,000. The Oriente stats represented an increase exceeding 50% in a mere 3 years (between 1987 and 1990), with over half of all Oriente tour operators having started their operations within those last five years (1985-1990). In addition, in 1991, a 40% increase in hotel and lodge capacity in the Oriente took place and continued to expand. The rapid development became known as the “Nature Tourism Gold Rush.” With fewer than 3,000 foreign tourists visiting the Amazon region, this would have been considered an incredible untapped market, ripe to be exploited. [Source]

By the early 1990s, ecotourism had exploded, with hundreds of ecotourism ventures being developed within the planet’s most pristine and isolated areas. Dozens of these “ambitious experiments”* were financed by USAID, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Investors from Europe lined up to partake. An explosion in investment in CBE (community-based ecotourism) projects was well underway with 161 “donor projects” taking place in Latin America, Africa and Asia. By 1996, Conservation Corporation (South Africa) had designated $60 million to the development of 60-100 luxury lodges in East and Southern Africa. This trend coincided with the emergence of neoliberalism, the corporate greens, and the free-market “environmentalists,” with obfuscation, co-optation and steadfast denial ruling ever since. [*”You wonder whether the fate of the Achuar – the indigenous group that owns the lodge and the land that surrounds it – will be different, whether an ambitious experiment in alternative development could allow the tribe to make its peace with the modern world while preserving a way of life so different from – and alien to – Western sensibilities.” Source]

Of the 40 CBE projects in the Ecuadorian Amazon, more than half of them were owned and managed by foundations “representing” local communities. [Community-Based Ecotourism in Ecuador and Its Contribution to the Alleviation of Poverty, 1990]

Dialogue about the inevitable consequences of neoliberal and capitalist ideologies that are being woven strategically into the fabric of Indigenous communities is, almost without exception, deliberately evaded. Rather, the Indigenous communities are presented to the world as the latest beneficiaries of Western development. The West is viewed as the generous white saviour, which by default, assigns the Indigenous peoples (again) to the role of passive “objects” to be saved. To avoid the label of modern-day, full-blown colonists, foundations (via NGOs) and private institutions created the ultimate altruistic image by offering engagement and even full partnerships to selected communities. This would lend much legitimacy to those who deserved none.

Not of interest is the fact that evaluations of management and “success” would/will be observed through, almost exclusively, the eyes of the Euro-American. Zoning, consulting, advertising, and other constructs of the Western world will be deemed as the “correct” path to success, with “success” defined by Western standards (i.e., profit and Western constructs/ideologies). What is lost in this unabashed bravado, buried just beneath the beloved rhetoric of autonomy, diversity and democracy, is that no foreign outsider possesses the intimate knowledge of both land and culture that is imperative to any so-called success in the competitive field of ecotourism.

It is a rare instance when the capitalist encounters something he must possess, but which cannot be purchased. Although the white saviours could now (and still do) bask in the newly appointed cloth of generosity, the reality was (and remains) that the knowledge required to exploit these pristine lands for tourism (i.e., for profit) could not be obtained without the generosity of the Indigenous Peoples of those lands. By framing the foreigners as the saviours, private enterprise would capture rewards of access to land and forests, resources, knowledge and (essentially) free labour – a free-market capitalist’s paradise. NGOs, par excellence, fulfilled their highly financed role of expanding neoliberalism and Western ideologies.

Neoliberalism, Colonialism and Imperialism and in the Caribbean

The multi-million dollar ecotourism projects (“social experiments”) normalized the hierarchies established under colonialism by obscuring the capitalist agenda behind the rhetoric of “community-based tourism” projects. Concealed was the role of economic processes that shape and mold the boundaries between Nature, the market, corporate power and state. Facilitated by the non-profit industrial complex was the task of privatization and marketing of state-society relations behind the concept of the (neoliberal) conservation mode of production. All roads lead to the commodification of Nature, culture, spirituality, and even fantasy. Even symbolism must be considered symbolic capital.

As an example of the imperial and colonial mindset in regards to states of the Caribbean, in a 2006 USAID document (USAID Sustainable Tourism Training), it is noted that “modernization of the public sector is therefore necessary and has been influenced by the growth of the middle class, the diversification of the private sector, and pressure from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).” This document explains that “the continued impetus for public sector modernization requires public education and bi-partisan support for reforms. One major aspect of public sector modernization in the Caribbean concerns the need for transfer of several activities, in part or in full, from the public sector to the private sector. The move towards heavier reliance on the private sector as the engine for change and development …. The transfer of appropriate activities from the public sector to the private sector and NGO’s will release governmental financial and managerial resources…. Caribbean governments are a long way from satisfactorily fulfilling all of these functions.” [Emphasis added.]

The same USAID document goes one step further, suggesting that NGOs should be given legal recognition “as an important element in the development of sustainable community development as associated with ecotourism.” The fact that elite interests would like to see NGOs granted legal recognition (this means protection) reveals how critical, and understood, NGO involvement actually is for the further expansion of neoliberalism and US foreign policy.





[1] Update January 9, 2015: The Rights of Nature FB group now has 1,205 members. The Pachamama Alliance FB page now has 112,460 “likes.” The Rights of Nature Twitter account now has a total of 126 tweets and 118 followers.

[2] Update January 9, 2015: The Rights of Nature Twitter account now follows 41 individuals/orgs.

[3] More recently an alternate address has been added: Rights of Mother Earth, PO Box 88, 6317 Oberwil b. Zug,
Switzerland ” [Source]

[4] Prior to this position Fink was a Project Coordinator and Grants Writer for Ayuda Directa USA (July 2006 – Sept 2009) where she “worked directly with indigenous communities of the Ecuadorian Highlands in identifying local needs and then advocating for them in project descriptions, grant proposals, and community service projects.”

[5] Update, May 13, 2014: “Runa currently works with over 2,000 indigenous farmers in the region and has generated over $125,000 in income for them.” [Source]

[6] “The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UNFCCC creates new oppor­tunities for developing-country farmers to benefit from their contributions to carbon sequestration and renewable energy. Inter­est in agroforestry has increased since a report by the Inter-Centre Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2001) indicated that changes in land use from annual crops to agro­forestry is one of the most promising ap­proaches for sequestering carbon through CDM-approved afforestation. Although the carbon sequestration value of agroforestry has received greater attention to date, there is also evidence that agroforestry has good potential to generate renewable energy in the form of biomass and biodiesel that could qualify for the CDM if it can be shown to replace non-renewable sources (Venema and Cisse 2004). ” – World Agroforestry Into the Future, 2006

[7] “Once an offset system is in place, agricultural producers could implement carbon sequestration projects and sell their reduction credits to large industrial emitters. Emitters would be willing to buy credits from the agriculture sector when the price of those credits is lower than the cost of implementing measures to reduce their own emissions.” – Carbon sequestration potential of agroforestry practices in the L’Ormière River watershed in Quebec, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, November 2008

[8] The largest of the many indigenous populations who have resided in the Amazon for centuries.

[9] “Moreover, because the working class own no mass communications media, they are overwhelmed by the bourgeoisie’s cultural hegemony, and, because they have no intellectuals of their own, they adopt the imposed bourgeois worldview (Weltanschauung), which thus constitutes a false consciousness about their own economic exploitation by the strata of the upper classes; with that false awareness the working class lose their social and political, economic and cultural independence as a social class.” [Source]