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WATCH | Eritrea: The Danger of a Good Example in Africa

Video Published Nov 17, 2015

 

The video is a short segment of a speech delivered by geopolitical analyst Eric Draitser of StopImperialism.org at the 2015 YPFDJ Conference held in Las Vegas, NV on August 22, 2015.

Draitser explains why the Empire demonizes Eritrea, and what the country means both practically and symbolically for Africa and for the Global South.

Western Intervention and The Colonial Mindset

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Poster courtesy of Mark Gould
January 20, 2015
By Prof. Tim Anderson
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In these times of ‘colour revolutions’ language has been turned on its head. Banks have become the guardians of the natural environment, sectarian fanatics are now ‘activists’ and the Empire protects the world from great crimes, rather than delivering them.

Colonisation of language is at work everywhere, amongst highly educated populations, but is peculiarly virulent in colonial culture. ‘The West’, that self-styled epitome of advanced civilisation, energetically reinvents its own history, to perpetuate the colonial mindset.

Writers such as Fanon and Freire pointed out that colonised peoples experience psychological damage and need to ‘decolonise’ their minds, so as to become less deferential to imperial culture and to affirm more the values of their own cultures. The other side to that is the colonial legacy on imperial cultures. Western peoples maintain their own culture as central, if not universal, and have difficulty listening to or learning from other cultures. Changing this requires some effort.

Powerful elites are well aware of this process and seek to co-opt critical forces within their own societies, colonising progressive language and trivialising the role of other peoples. For example, after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the idea that NATO forces were protecting Afghan women was promoted and gained popularity. Despite broad opposition to the invasion and occupation, this ‘humanitarian’ goal appealed to the missionary side of western culture. In 2012 Amnesty International put up posters saying ‘NATO: keep the progress going’, on women’s rights in Afghanistan, while the George W. Bush Institute collected money to promote Afghan women’s rights.

The unfortunate balance sheet of NATO’s 13-year occupation is not so encouraging. The UNDP’s 2013 report shows that only 5.8% of Afghan women have had some secondary schooling (7th lowest in the world), the average Afghan woman has 6 babies (equal 3rd highest rate in the world, and linked to low education), maternal mortality is at 470 (equal 19th highest in the world) and average life expectancy is 49.1 years (equal 6th lowest in the world). Not impressive ‘progress’.

In many ways the long ‘feminist war’ in Afghanistan drew on the British legacy in colonial India. As part of its great ‘civilising mission’ that empire claimed to be protecting Indian women from ‘sati’, the practise of widows throwing themselves (or being thrown) on their husband’s funeral pyre. In fact, colonial rule brought little change to this isolated practice. On the other hand, the wider empowerment of girls and women under the British Raj was a sorry joke. At independence adult literacy was only 12%, and that of women much less. While India still lags in many respects, educational progress was much faster after 1947.

Such facts have not stopped historians like Niall Ferguson and Lawrence James attempting to sanitise British colonial history, not least to defend the more recent interventions. It might appear difficult to justify colonialism, but the argument seems to have a better chance amongst peoples with a colonial past seeking some vindication from within their own history and culture.

North American language is a bit different, as the United States of America claims never to have been a colonial power. The fact that US declarations of freedom and equality were written by slave-owners and ethnic-cleansers (the US Declaration of Independence famously attacks the British for imposing limits on the seizure of Native American land) has not dimmed enthusiasm for those fine ideals. That skilful tradition certainly influences the presentation of Washington’s recent interventions.

After the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq we saw a change in approach, with the big powers enlisting sectarian fanatics against the independent states of the region. Even the new Iraqi state, emerging from the post-2003 rubble, was attacked by these fanatics. An ‘Arab Spring’ saw Libya trampled by a pseudo-revolution backed by NATO bombing, then delivered to a bunch of squabbling al Qaeda groups and western collaborators. The little country that once had the highest living standards in Africa went backwards decades.

Next came brave Syria, which has resisted at terrible cost; but the propaganda war runs thick. Few in the west seem to be able to penetrate it. The western left shares illusions with the western right. What was at first said to be a nationalist and secular ‘revolution’ – an uprising against a ‘dictator’ who was killing his own people – is now led by ‘moderate rebels’ or ‘moderate Islamists’. The extremist Islamists, who repeatedly publicise their own atrocities, are said to be a different species, against whom Washington finally decided to fight. Much of this might sound ridiculous to the average educated Arab or Latin American, but it retains some appeal in the west.

One reason for the difference is that nation and state mean something different in the west. The western left has always seen the state as monolithic and nationalism as something akin to fascism; yet in the former colonies some hope remains with the nation-state. Western populations have never had their own Ho Chi Minh, Nelson Mandela, Salvador Allende, Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro. One consequence of this is, as much as western thinkers might criticise their own states, they are reluctant to defend others. Many who criticise Washington or Israel will not defend Cuba or Syria .

All this makes proxy wars more marketable in the west. We could even say they have been a relatively successful tactic of imperial intervention, from the contra war on Nicaragua to the proxy armies of Islamists in Libya and Syria. So long as the big power is not seen to be directly involved, western audiences can find quite attractive the idea that they are helping another people rise up and gain their ‘freedom’.

Even Noam Chomsky, author of many books on US imperialism and western propaganda, adopts many of the western apologetics for the intervention in Syria. In a 2013 interview with a Syrian opposition paper he claimed the foreign-backed, Islamist insurrection was a repressed ‘protest movement’ that had been forced to militarise and that America and Israel had no interest in bringing down the Syrian Government. He admitted he was ‘excited’ by Syria’s uprising, but rejected the idea of a ‘responsibility to protect’ and opposed direct US intervention without a UN mandate. Nevertheless, he joined cause with those who want to ‘force’ the Syrian Government to resign, saying ‘nothing can justify Hezbollah’s involvement’ in Syria, after the Lebanese resistance group worked with the Syrian Army to turn the tide against the NATO-backed jihadists.

How do western anti-imperialists come to similar conclusions to those of the White House? First there is the anarchist or ultra-left idea of opposing all state power. This leads to attacks on imperial power yet, at the same time, indifference or opposition to independent states. Many western leftists even express enthusiasm at the idea of toppling an independent state, despite knowing the alternatives, as in Libya, will be sectarianism, bitter division and the destruction of important national institutions.

Second, reliance on western media sources has led many to believe that the civilian massacres in Syria were the work of the Syrian Government. Nothing could be further from the truth. A careful reading of the evidence will show that almost all the civilian massacres in Syria (Houla, Daraya, Aqrab, Aleppo University, East Ghouta) were carried out by sectarian Islamist groups, and sometimes falsely blamed on the government, in attempts to attract greater ‘humanitarian intervention’.

The third element which distorts western anti-imperial ideas is the constrained and self-referential nature of discussions. The parameters are policed by corporate gatekeepers, but also reinforced by broader western illusions of their own civilising influence.

A few western journalists have reported in sufficient detail to help illustrate the Syrian conflict, but their perspectives are almost always conditioned by the western ‘liberal’ and humanitarian narratives. Indeed, the most aggressive advocacy of ‘humanitarian intervention’ in recent years has come from liberal media outlets like the UK Guardian and corporate-NGOs such as Avaaz, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Those few journalists who maintain an independent perspective, like Arab-American Sharmine Narwani, publish mostly outside the better-known corporate media channels.

Imperial culture also conditions the humanitarian aid industry. Ideological pressure comes not just from the development banks but also the NGO sector, which maintains a powerful sense of mission, even a ‘saviour complex’ about its relations with the rest of the world. While ‘development cooperation’ may have once included ideas of compensation for colonial rule, or assistance during a transition to independence, today it has become a $100 billion a year industry, with decision making firmly in the hands of western financial agencies.

Quite apart from the dysfunction of many aid programs, this industry is deeply undemocratic, with powerful colonial overtones. Yet many western aid workers really believe they can ‘save’ the poor peoples of the world. That cultural impact is deep. Aid agencies not only seek to determine economic policy, they often intervene in political and even constitutional processes. This is done in the name of ‘good governance’, anti-corruption or ‘democracy strengthening’. Regardless of the problems of local bodies, it is rarely admitted that foreign aid agencies are the least democratic players of all.

For example, at the turn of this century, as Timor Leste gained its independence, aid bodies used their financial muscle to prevent the development of public institutions in agriculture and food security, and pushed that new country into creating competitive political parties, away from a national unity government. Seeking an upper hand amongst the ‘donor community’, Australia then aggravated the subsequent political division and crisis of 2006. With ongoing disputes over maritime boundaries and petroleum resources, Australian academics and advisers were quick to seize on that moment of weakness to urge that Timor Leste’s main party be ‘reformed’, that its national army be sidelined or abolished and that the country adopt English as a national language. Although all these pressures were resisted, it seemed in that moment that many Australian ‘friends’ of Timor Leste imagined they had ‘inherited’ the little country from the previous colonial rulers. This can be the peculiar western sense of ‘solidarity’.

Imperial cultures have created a great variety of nice-sounding pretexts for intervention in the former colonies and newly independent countries. These pretexts include protecting the rights of women, ensuring good governance and helping promote ‘revolutions’. The level of double-speak is substantial.

Those interventions create problems for all sides. Independent peoples have to learn new forms of resistance. Those of good will in the imperial cultures might like to reflect on the need to decolonise the western mind.

Such a process, I suggest would require consideration of (a) the historically different views of the nation-state, (b) the important, particular functions of post-colonial states, (c) the continued relevance and importance of the principle of self-determination, (d) the need to bypass a systematically deceitful corporate media and (e) the challenge of confronting fond illusions over the supposed western civilising influence. All these seem to form part of a neo-colonial mindset, and may help explain the extraordinary western blindness to the damage done by intervention.

 

 

References

Tim Anderson (2006) ‘Timor Leste: the Second Australian Intervention’, Journal of Australian Political Economy, No 58, December, pp.62-93

Tony Cartalucci (2012) ‘Amnesty International is US State Department propaganda’, Global research, 22 August, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/amnesty-international-is-us-state-department-propaganda/32444

Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley (2012) ‘Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley’, Consortium News, June 18, online: https://consortiumnews.com/2012/06/18/amnestys-shilling-for-us-wars/

Noam Chomsky (2013) ‘Noam Chomsky: The Arab World And The Supernatural Power of the United States’, Information Clearing House, 16 June, online: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35527.htm

Bush Centre (2015) ‘Afghan Women’s Project’, George W, Bush Centre, online: http://www.bushcenter.org/womens-initiative/afghan-womens-project

Some detail of Syria’s ‘false flag’ massacres can be seen in the following articles:

Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh (2013) ‘Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack’, MINT PRESS, August 29, online:http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

Rainer Hermann (2012) ‘Abermals Massaker in Syrien’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 7 June, online: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/neue-erkenntnisse-zu-getoeteten-von-hula-abermals-massaker-in-syrien-11776496.html

Stephen Lendman (2012) Insurgents Named Responsible for Syrian Massacres’, ICH, 11 June: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31544.htm

Richard Lloyd and Theodore A. Postol (2014) ‘Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013’, MIT, January 14, Washington DC, online:https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1006045-possible-implications-of-bad-intelligence.html#storylink=relast

Marinella Correggia, Alfredo Embid, Ronda Hauben, Adam Larson (2013) ‘Official Truth, Real Truth, and Impunity for the Syrian Houla Massacre of May 2012’, CIWCL,May 15, online: http://ciwclibya.org/reports/realtruthhoula.html

ISTEAMS (2013) ‘Independent Investigation of Syria Chemical Attack Videos and Child Abductions’, 15 September, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/STUDY_THE_VIDEOS_THAT_SPEAKS_ABOUT_CHEMICALS_BETA_VERSION.pdf

Seymour Hersh (2013) ‘Whose Sarin?’, LRB, 19 December, online: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

Souad Mekhennet (2014) ‘The terrorists fighting us now? We just finished training them’, Washington Post, August 18, online: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/08/18/the-terrorists-fighting-us-now-we-just-finished-training-them/

Marat Musin (2012b) ‘THE HOULA MASSACRE: Opposition Terrorists “Killed Families Loyal to the Government’, Global research, 1 June, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-houla-massacre-opposition-terrorists-killed-families-loyal-to-the-government/31184?print=1

Sharmine Narwani (2014) ‘Syria: the hidden massacre’, RT, 7 May, online: http://rt.com/op-edge/157412-syria-hidden-massacre-2011/

Sharmine Narwani (2014) ‘Joe Biden’s latest foot in mouth’, Veterans News Now, October 3, online: http://www.veteransnewsnow.com/2014/10/03/510328joe-bidens-latest-foot-in-mouth/

Truth Syria (2012) ‘Syria – Daraa revolution was armed to the teeth from the very beginning’, BBC interview with Anwar Al-Eshki,YouTube, 7 November, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoGmrWWJ77w

Matthew McClearn of the Canadian Business Magazine Attacks Eritrea – White Washes Slavery

In Depth Africa, Zimbabwe

April 30, 2014

By Sophia Tesfamariam,

Who is this Matthew McClearn and what is it that he presumes to know about Eritrea, the people and leadership? Labeling their hard work and sacrifice as “slavery”, a term used only by those who want to white wash slavery and all that it entails, says more about him than it does about Eritrea or her people.

https://i0.wp.com/www.tesfanews.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/the-slaves-of-eritrea.jpg

The gallant Eritrean young men and women are not slaves and should never be labeled as such-by anyone, least of all by those responsible for the decades long pain and suffering of the Eritrean people.

WHEN an acquaintance at the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry sent me an advance copy of the article, “The Slaves of Eritrea”, written by Matthew McClearn for the Canadian Business Magazine (understand he also sent a copy to the Canadian Embassy in Ethiopia), I did not find anything new… at least not something worth sharing. My acquaintance labeled the journalist as another “dedeb ferenji” – dumb foreigner – taken for a ride by the Woyane regime. I disagree with that label. I believe Matthew McClearn knew what he was writing and should be held to account by “every tax-paying Canadian citizen”.

The article’s intentions are transparent and McClearn is certainly not doing this because he gives a hoot about Eritrea’s youth, rather, he seems to be doing the bidding on behalf of the minority regime in Ethiopia and others who are intent on vilifying the government of Eritrea and its people for ulterior political agendas.

It should be recalled that a recent document leaked by from the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry calls for an increase in anti-Eritrea propaganda and activities to strengthen the illegal sanctions against Eritrea. Eritrea’s mining sector has been targeted by the regime in Ethiopia and its handlers who have left no stones unturned to stop its development. McClearn attempts to use unsuspecting “tax paying Canadian citizens” to do its bidding by claiming they are profiting from “slavery in a far off land”.

Banning NGOs in Somalia, or, Farmers Hate Food Aid

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 March 14, 2014

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Strange story from Somalia, where Al Jazeera reporter Hamza Mohamed finds many people very happy that the anti-western fanatics of al-Shabab expelled all NGOs and ended food aid:

 

In November 2011, in a much-criticised move, al-Shabab banned foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from areas it controlled, accusing some of the organisations of “illicit activities and misconduct”.

“We want our people to be free of NGOs and foreign hands. We want them to depend on each other and to stand free of outsiders,” Sheikh Abu Abdullah, the al-Shabab governor of Lower Shabelle province, told Al Jazeera.

Lower Shabelle is Somalia’s breadbasket. During the famine of 2011, which killed more than 250,000 people, the province was hit hard. Many people moved to camps for internally displaced persons in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. On the other side of the town is the farm of Abdi Haji Qarawi, a 47-year-old who is the father of 18 children. On one side of his 17-hectare sesame farm stand triangular heaps of sesame drying in the scorching mid-afternoon sun.

Before the banning of NGOs and the construction of the town’s canals, Qarawi says he was a “beggar”. “Every last week of the month we used to go to the NGOs’ office to ask for food. Sometime they will tell us there was no food. It was a shameful life.” Two years after deciding to return to farming, Qarawi is a happy man. “All my children go to school. I can afford to send them to study and I have surplus cash,” he said with a smile.

Obviously the farmers are happy about this, since for them food aid amounted to unfair competition. The UN says that main reason things are better in Somalia than in 2011 is that there has been a lot more rain:

But farmers here see the turn of their fortunes differently. The area’s newfound prosperity “is because of the NGO ban”, said Mohamed Sheikh Abdi, the chairman of the Bulo Mareer farmers union. “They always brought food to the town weeks before the harvest… They bought their food from abroad and never bought from us local farmers. They killed every incentive to farm. We were hostage to the NGOs.”

In a traditional peasant society, what happens in years of crop failure is that prices for food soar. Farmers can sometimes do quite well out of this, since whatever little they have to sell is worth a lot more. The main victims are poor townspeople and laborers who don’t have crops of their own — they are the ones in danger of starving. Now bring in a few thousand tons of UN rice, and what happens? Laborers and townspeople are happy, because they can get enough to eat, but farmers find that their paltry crops are not worth that much more, so they are worse off even if not exactly starving. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on whether you have crops to sell.

Juba_river_downstream_Jamaame

I was not surprised that al-Shabab is opposed to food aid. Mohammed Morsi, when he was Egypt’s President, also tried limit food imports, which suggested to me that Islamic fundamentalists instinctively take the side of the farmers. Like conservatives in some other places, they admire the self-reliance and toughness of farmers and want to protect them from international agribusiness. Maybe this will work, and with protection and encouragement Somalia can become food independent. But maybe not.

The al-Jazeera story focuses on new canals built by a-Shabab that seem to be making some farmers rich. This may or may not be a good thing, depending; almost all of the world’s fresh water gets used by somebody, after all, and the canals that are such a boon to farmers in this district may cause rivers to dry up somewhere else. Hard to know without more detail.

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Economic Lessons From the Most Unlikely Country – Eritrea

“Very rational and analytic article. But I doubt if you are going to be heard by fellow African heads. Because, the majority of African leaders are too busy doing their homework (prescribed to them by Westerners and their stooges in Addis Ababa) to demonize the “bad good example”, the sister country of Eritrea.” – Sophia Testamariamm, analyst, writer

OWACHGIUD

October 26, 2013

Independent-Eritrea

Image: http://www.raimoq.com/eritrean-independence-day-is-african-liberation-day/

The recent drought and resultant famine that hit the horn of African countries has brought back Eritrea to the spotlight, with analysts saying Eritrea too is suffering silently, though Eritrea’s former Marxist rebel leader and current president Isaias Afwerki still maintains he is not ready to lead another “spoon fed” African country that relies on foreign aid as remedies to internal shortages. Eritrea is doing something unheard of in Africa – it is turning away millions of dollars in aid, including food donations from the World Food Programme. The poor country turned down offers of more than $200 million in aid from ‘hypocrite western donors’ last year alone.

Human Rights Watch on a Dogged Mission of Defamation Against Eritrea

 

 

“Eritreans are nationalistic and cohesive to a fault…. They don’t want to be slaves to any foreign donor country. They want economic self-sufficiency and they want to do it their way and with their own blood and sweat.” (The Globe and Mail, 26 April 1997)

 

January 23, 2013

Eritrea is a stunningly beautiful and fiercely independent country in Africa, bordering U.S. financed Ethiopia.  Eritrea is a state that seeks absolute self sufficiency, shunning hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. Their model of self-reliance is a very real threat to hegemonic rule.

The beauty of Eritrea

Photo of Eritrean children by James Baigrie

Eritrea, once deemed remarkable by the international press is now a prime target of demonization and destabilization by the US, Human Rights Watch and corporate media.

Eritrea is no one’s puppet. In the January 21, 2013 press release [Press_Release_HRW_21_Jan_2013] titled  ‘Human Rights Watch on a Dogged Mission of Defamation Against Eritrea’ from the state of Eritrea, Ministry of Foreign Affair, Eritrea defends itself against human rights violations put forward by an agency which serves to advance foreign policy for the greatest human rights violator in the world – that of the US.

In December 2011, Bahey El Din Hassan, member of the Executive Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (and founder of  the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, a member of the International Federation of Human Rights) participated in a meeting of the Atlantic Council co-organised by the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.  That meeting discussed the arrest of members of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the National Endowment for Democracy who were accused of interference in Egyptian internal affairs. [Source: Human Rights, geopolitics and the Union for the Mediterranean by Julien Teil]

FLASHBACK: WWF’s Eco Imperialism

Corporate Power and Mining in Mongolia

November 03, 2008

Some of parts of the environmental movement have long presented a serious obstacle to the destruction wrought on life by the corporate powers that be and their imperial overseers. On the contrary, other influential and well publicized parts of the movement have also played a critical role in undermining the emancipatory potential of environmentalism in order to satisfy imperial interests. Environmental groups that fit comfortably within this latter category of “environmentalists” include those collectively referred to as the Big Green, or the Group of Ten, although only the work of one member of this elite group, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), will be examined in this article. (For a comprehensive overview of WWF’s capitalist-friendly agenda, see my recent article “The Philanthropic Roots of Corporate Environmentalism,” Swans, November 3, 2008.)

Recognition of the imperialist nature of many so-called green nongovernmental organizations has, paradoxically, been widely promoted by conservative commentators. Thus resident scholar at the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, Paul Driessen, recently published a controversial book titled Eco-Imperialism: Green Power Black Death (Merril Press, 2003). The introduction to Driessen’s book was penned by Niger Innis, the national spokesperson of the once progressive civil rights group Congress of Racial Equality – an organization which has now warped into a “fraudulent” corporate front group. In his introduction, Innis noted how:

“The ideological environmental movement is a powerful $4 billion-a-year US industry, an $8 billion-a-year international gorilla. Many of its members are intensely eco-centric, and place much higher value on wildlife and ecological values than on human progress or even human life. They have a deep fear and loathing of big business, technology, chemicals, plastics, fossil fuels and biotechnology – and they insist that the rest of world should acknowledge and live according to their fears and ideologies. They are masters at using junk science, scare tactics, intimidation, and bogus economic and health claims to gain even greater power.” (pdf)

Innis is correct in observing that the environmental movement is a multi-billion dollar industry, but like Driessen, he deliberately fails to highlight how the most powerful and well-funded environmental groups driving this industry work hand-in-hand with big business and imperial governments. On the other hand, those environmental organizations that seriously challenge corporate prerogatives receive little funding from the public or even for that matter from ostensibly progressive liberal foundations. Consequently I agree with Innis and Driessen that the best-funded parts of the environmental movement that are regularly talked-up in the mass media promote eco-imperialism, but this is not because they challenge powerful elite interests, but rather because they serve them so effectively. For instance, in 2007 WWF’s Global Networks income was US$0.8 billion; therefore, it should be no surprise that such groups that were founded by powerful corporate and political elites, and are presently funded by those same elites, should first and foremost promote capitalist interests under the cloak of environmentalism. For more on this see Elaine Dewar’s groundbreaking book Cloak of Green: The Links between Key Environmental Groups, Government and Big Business (Lorimer, 1995).

Non-Profit Corporate Power: Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing?

November 16, 2010

Ceasefire Magazine

by Michael Barker

Why do corporations give billions of dollars to charitable foundations every year? Does it make their profit-making activities less exploitative? In the first of a monthly series of columns investigating corporate power, Michael Barker looks at non-profit foundations.


Massive corporations wield immense power, and their ability to crush lives is commensurate with their insatiable demands for profit: profit that is derived from, and necessitates, exploitation. Therefore, working to end such anti-social activities should be a top priority for humankind. But if in some bizarre act of humanity a small proportion of the profits derived from capitalism are churned back to the very people who suffer worst from the necessary ill effects of corporate power, what then? Does such charity mean that the institutionalized exploitation of the bulk of human life is not so bad after all?

I would argue that the answer is ‘no’; corporate profit gained at the expense of humans can never be justified by such philanthropic gestures. No doubt such noblesse oblige is allocated by some elites with noble intentions; but if the price for such charity is for its recipients to ignore economic exploitation, then it is hardly distributed with altruistic intentions. Instead it is given with economic intent to profit more handsomely from a workforce, in a manner that assuages each individual capitalist’s desire to feel (and advertise) their own neglected humanity.

The politics of charity

Aid is not designed to bring the wretched of the earth out of poverty but to pacify unrest in the donor country’s domestic sphere

Sreeram Chaulia | The Asian Age

Feb 22, 2012

Foreign aid is both a sop to the liberal conscience of the donor state’s domestic society as well as an instrument of indirect control over recipient states. The motivations and effects of aid are frequently ulterior and detrimental, notwithstanding the altruistic rhetoric. These ugly realities were reified recently by two prominent cases, one in post-revolutionary Egypt and the other in economically growing India.

Egypt’s military-dominated interim regime is prosecuting 19 American citizens working for “pro-democracy” NGOs linked to the two main US political parties. They are facing charges for taking unauthorised foreign aid and undermining Egyptian sovereignty by funding street protests, which have become ubiquitous since Hosni Mubarak’s downfall in February 2011.

The three American NGOs in the line of fire — the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House — have a reputation of channelling partisan US government aid to alter internal political processes of countries that receive aid. Since they are organisations serving American strategic interests in the name of advancing human rights and civil liberties, the Egyptian authorities have a valid reason in investigating their activities.

But what’s interesting here are the shrill cries that emanated from the US Congress in response to Egypt’s filing of legal suits against the NGO employees. Last week, there was an uproar on Capitol Hill exhorting the Barack Obama administration to deny vital military and development aid to Egypt, which is the fifth-largest recipient of American largesse. At stake is $1.6 billion of aid that Washington annually gifts to Cairo and which is now the lifeline for the transitional Egyptian state.

Egyptian civilians, who are disillusioned with the revolution and fear falling under a fourth successive military dictator since the 1950s, know that the US has leverage over Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt’s ruling military council, and his officer ranks owing to their dependence on Washington’s aid. As the anti-military sentiment has risen into a mass fervour on the streets, the fact that the US was not using the aid card to force the Army to hand over power to civilians had, despite the charade, been frustrating activists. But sadly for their cause, not even the NGO arrests have pushed the US executive away from pampering the Egyptian military.

In the last few days, US Senators and representatives who had earlier demanded an end to the harassment of American NGO staffers have toned down their stridency on retaliation for the arrests. The key to this turnaround has to do with Israel’s fears that shutting off the aid tap will push the Egyptian military to abandon its three-decade-old peace treaty with Tel Aviv.

Foreign aid from Washington to successive Egyptian regimes since the days of Anwar Sadat is actually a bribe to perpetuate their entente cordiale with Israel — anger on the streets in Egypt against a sell-out on the Palestinian cause had to be salved through this form of payment from the US to the Egyptian military. Sensing Israel’s fear and the US’ vulnerability, the Muslim Brotherhood, which currently dominates the Egyptian Parliament, has threatened to “review” relations with Israel if the aid stops flowing from Washington. The Brotherhood and Tantawi’s officer corps know that in an election year, Mr Obama would not dare to weaken Israel geopolitically.

The outcome of this sordid game over aid is that the people of Egypt who are desperately striving for civilian supremacy and de-politicisation of the Army, are being cheated by the strategic aid policy of the US, which is nothing but a guarantee for Israel’s security. The NGOs who claim to be helping to democratise Egypt are playing their parts as cogs in this structural vicious circle.

The India-UK row over foreign aid is equally convoluted. Some British MPs, angered by New Delhi’s award of a major fighter jet contract to a French defence manufacturer, pressured the David Cameron government to cancel the £280 million worth of annual development assistance to India. If development aid does not buy lucrative contracts to Britain’s military industrial complex, they argued, Britain should stop its charity pretentions and suspend aid deliveries to India.

Following this muscle-flexing, it emerged from leaked memos that India was anyway not clamouring for British development aid. India’s then foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, is said to have recommended that Delhi stop accepting British aid due to the “negative publicity of Indian poverty” promoted by UK’s DFID (Department for International Development). India’s finance minister Pranab Mukherjee bluntly remarked in 2011 that Britain’s aid was “peanuts” and was not welcome.

Yet, as in the case of the US and Egypt, the British government has not withdrawn its unsolicited aid to India owing to domestic compulsions. The justification for this puzzling act of unwarranted benevolence is that British ministers had painstakingly sold the policy of foreign aid to their electorates and that pulling the plug now on India would cause “grave political embarrassment”.

In other words, the myth that Britain is still a liberal saviour of suffering people of the world has to be kept up for a domestic audience that is suffering under the weight of a prolonged economic downturn. Aid is, thus, not designed to bring the wretched of the earth out of poverty but to pacify unrest in the donor country’s domestic sphere. This has echoes from colonial times, when workers at home were kept under leash by means of the civilising mission and the “white man’s burden” overseas — the propaganda in Victorian England about the supposed uplifting nature of British colonialism was couched in humanitarian aid terms and was a means to cover up the Dickensian gloom of factory labour exploitation.

Last year, China surpassed the World Bank as the world’s biggest development lender. Apart from the political leverage, market penetration and energy security that Beijing gets in return from Africa and Latin America, Chinese aid investments also serve domestic purposes. Beijing’s “chequebook diplomacy” keeps internal dissent under check by peddling the vision of a benevolent state whose foreign policy is empowering the world’s underdogs.

Charity indeed begins at home, but in a rather murky way. Aid has never pitchforked receiving societies out of poverty, although donor states and their allies routinely benefit from developmental loans and grants thrust upon the wary. Egypt and India would fare better if liberated from foreign aid and its entwining strings.

The writer is vice-dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs and the author of the recent book, International Organizations and Civilian Protection: Power, Ideas and Humanitarian Aid in Conflict Zones

http://www.asianage.com/columnists/politics-charity-832

 

 

How USAID Undermines Democracy in Haiti

The image above is from the article “Putting the Aid in Aiding and Abetting: CIDA’s Agents of Regime Change in Haiti’s 2004 Coup”. CIDA is the Canadian version of USAID. #62 (May 2008)

November 18, 2011

by Leslie Mullin, Pambazuka

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is an arm of the US State Department. Founded in 1961, USAID serves as a ‘velvet glove’ for US foreign policy. The political bias of its operations in Haiti goes back decades. Here are ten things to know about USAID in Haiti:

1. USAID paid millions to Haiti’s ruthless dictator, Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, aimed at shoring up US influence in the region after the Cuban revolution. Thirty to fifty thousand people were killed under Duvalier’s regime while aid funds were siphoned into the private coffers of the Duvalier family. Under Duvalier, assembly production for American corporations became the blueprint for Haiti’s economic dependence on the US. The formula, essentially unchanged to this day, backs Haiti’s ruling elite while turning Haiti into a low-wage export-focused economy that creates profitable business opportunities for foreign investors. Haitians call it ‘the death plan’.

2. USAID backed Duvalier’s son, Jean-Claude ‘baby doc’, when he took over in 1971, with plans to promote Haiti as the ‘Taiwan of the Caribbean’. American taxpayers provided millions to build an infrastructure to lure US manufacturers to open assembly plants, taking advantage of Haiti’s high unemployment, political repression, and wages of 14 cents an hour. The consequences were profits for US business and the Haitian super rich. By the time of Duvalier’s fall, Haiti was the world’s ninth largest assembler of goods for US consumption, and the largest producer of baseballs.

3. USAID sabotaged Haiti’s domestic food production. USAID has a major impact on Haiti’s economy, both directly and as an agent for big financial institutions like the IMF. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than Haiti’s food system. As recently as 30 years ago, Haiti produced most of its own food. Then, in the early 1980s, USAID undertook a plan to redirect Haiti’s domestic food production towards export crops. The idea, tied to Ronald Reagan’s Caribbean Basin Initiative, was to integrate Haiti into the world market via agro-industry and export manufacturing.

With full awareness of its dire impact on Haitian peasants, USAID experts set about to shift 30 per cent of Haiti’s cultivated land from food produced for local consumption to export crops. As Haiti’s rural economy unravelled, impoverished peasants fled to the capital city.

Competition from cheap imports and the absence of policies to promote production led to a rapid decline in Haiti’s food production. By 2008, local food production amounted to 42 per cent of Haiti’s food consumption, compared to 80 per cent in 1986. At the same time the value of US agricultural exports to Haiti began to increase – from $44 million (1986) to $95 million (1989). Recently, USAID was helping agriculture officials boost Haiti’s production of mangoes – for export to the United States.

4. USAID enforced trade liberalization policies that undercut Haiti’s rice industry while promoting American rice. In 1986, USAID conditioned aid to the ruling military junta on lowering rice tariffs, while advising the government to remove the little assistance it gave to Haitian farmers. Haiti slashed its rice tariff from 35 per cent to 3.5 per cent (1986) and to 1.5 per cent (1995). Not only were Haitian farmers hurt, but American producers and grain sellers profited. Cheap, heavily subsidised ‘Miami’ US rice flooded Haitian markets, and Haitian rice production began to drop. Until the early 1980s, Haiti produced the majority of its own rice, but Haiti is now the fourth largest importer of American rice.

One beneficiary was the Rice Corporation of Haiti (RCH), owned by Erly Industries – a massive US agribusiness and the largest marketer of American rice. In 1992, RCH secured a nine-year contract to import rice from Haiti’s illegal coup government – a military junta responsible for the deaths of thousands of Haitians. RCH was managed at the time by the former director of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (1982-1988), with powerful friends in Washington like Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC).

Erly Industries gained another foothold in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake when USAID awarded an Erly subsidiary, Chemonics, the contract to implement the 2009 USAID ‘winner’ program. Chemonics is an international consulting firm that relies on USAID for 90 per cent of its business. Winner is another example of USAID’s reckless assault on Haitian agriculture. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Winner championed the introduction of Monsanto hybrid seeds at cheap prices to Haitian farmers, despite the recommendation of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture to halt all seed donations as both unnecessary and harmful. Winner undermines Haitian seed distribution networks, and will leave Haitian farmers dependent on Monsanto seeds when the program expires in 2015.

5. USAID ‘food aid’ is good for us agribusiness, not for Haitian farmers. Haiti’s domestic rice production was undermined even more by the vast amounts of ‘free’ American rice that USAID dumps on Haiti every year in the form of ‘food aid’. A recent report, ‘Sak Vid Pa Kanpe: The Impact of US Food Aid on Human Rights in Haiti’, explains how food aid is given to the poor as direct food assistance or sold by NGOs to support their overhead and operating costs, (a process known as ‘monetisation’). The report examines how US food aid benefits the American companies who provide and transport it, but has a negative impact on local Haitian economies which would benefit instead from agricultural assistance or cash to boost local production. In its most recent budget request, USAID proposed spending $1.2 billion globally on helping poor farmers grow more food, while asking Congress for $4.2 billion for food aid, almost all of which will be spent on purchases from American farmers.

6. USAID destroyed the Haitian creole pig. The 1982 swine flu outbreak in the Dominican Republic provided the justification for USAID to condemn Haiti’s 1.3 million pig population, promising to replace them with ‘better’ pigs. Over a period of 13 months, enforced by Duvalier militia, the Creole pig was wiped out. A Haitian woman recalls the era: ‘When the armed forces of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s regime set about exterminating Haiti’s Creole pigs, they would come to Haiti’s rural villages, seize all of the pigs, pile them up, one on top of the other, in large pits and set fire to them, burning them alive.’ In monetary terms Haitian peasants lost $600 million dollars. Haiti’s former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide analyzed the outcome in his book, ‘Eyes of the Heart’, explaining the small, black, Creole pig was at the heart of the peasant economy and constituted the primary savings bank of the peasant population. Pigs were sold to pay for emergencies, special occasions and to pay school fees and buy books for the children. What followed was a 30 per cent drop in enrollment in rural schools, a dramatic decline in protein consumption in rural Haiti, and a negative impact on the soil and agricultural productivity. When ‘better pigs’ arrived from Iowa two years later, they could not survive Haiti’s rural life, requiring clean drinking water (unavailable to 80 per cent of the Haitian people), imported feed (costing $90 a year when the per capita income was about $130), and special roofed pigpens.

7. USAID has consistently opposed minimum wage increases in Haiti. In 1991, USAID used US tax dollars to oppose a minimum wage increase from $.33 to $.50 per hour proposed by the Aristide government, claiming it was bad for business. The agency also countered a plan for temporary price controls on basic food so people could afford to eat. According to secret State Department cables, after the 2010 earthquake, the US Embassy in Haiti worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi’s, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to block a small minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest paid in the hemisphere. The factory owners, with backing of USAID and the US Embassy, refused to pay 62 cents an hour, or $5 per eight-hour day, a measure unanimously passed by the Haitian parliament in June 2009.

8. USAID promoted and funded the 2004 overthrow of the democratically-elected Aristide. While millions of American dollars have propped up Haiti’s dictators, aid shifted abruptly away from the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Under the guise of ‘democracy promotion,’ USAID and USAID-funded organisations like the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute, funnelled millions to organise political opposition to Aristide and build conservative alternatives aligned with US interests. After the 2004 coup, USAID funded the integration of former death squad forces into the Haitian National Police to quell resistance among Haitians to the illegitimate coup government. USAID paid millions to fund the fraudulent November 2010 and March 2011 elections that excluded Haiti’s largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, the party of President Aristide.

9. USAID extends its far-reaching influence in Haiti by funding NGOs (non-governmental organisations) which receive 70 per cent of their budgets from the agency. Over 10,000 NGOs operate in Haiti with authorisation to bypass the elected government and serve as a permanent form of ‘soft’ invasion. As far back as 1995, Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott reassured members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that, ‘even after our (military) exit in February 1996 we will remain in charge by means of the USAID and the private sector.’

10. USAID boasts that 84 cents of every dollar of its funding in Haiti returns to the US in the form of salaries, supplies, consulting fees, and services. As the lead US agency for Haiti reconstruction, just 2.5 per cent of USAID’s $200 million in post-earthquake relief and reconstruction contracts had gone to Haitian firms by April 2010. USAID paid at least $160 million of its total Haiti-related expenditures to the Defense Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, two US search and rescue teams and, in at least two instances, itself. US Ambassador Merten reported to Washington that the post-quake ‘gold rush’ was on, according to a secret cable that described disaster capitalists flocking to Haiti for contracts to rebuild the country.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* This article was first published by the Haiti Action Committee.
* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

SOURCES:

– Aristide, Jean-Bertrand (2000). Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization. Common Courage Press, pp 13-14.

– Center for Economic and Policy Research (2010). Haitian companies bypassed in favor of DC area contractors with poor track records. Available at: http://bit.ly/sSyWoh (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Center for Public Integrity, Windfalls of War: Chemonics, International. Available at: http://projects.publicintegrity.org/wow/bio.aspx?act=pro&ddlC=8 (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Partners in Health, RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights (December 2010). Sak Vid Pa Kanpe: The Impact of US Food Aid on Human Rights in Haiti. Available at http://www.chrgj.org/projects/docs/sakvidpakanpe.pdf (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Coughlin, Dan and Ives, Kim (2011). ‘Wikileaks Haiti: Let them live on $3 day.’ The Nation, June 1, 2011. Available at: http://projects.publicintegrity.org/wow/bio.aspx?act=pro&ddlC=8 (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– DeWind Josh and Kinley David H (1994). U.S. Aid Programs and the Haitian Political Economy: Export-Led Development. IN The Haiti Files, Ridgeway J (ed). Essential Books/Azul Editions. Washington, DC. P125

– Diederich, Bernard and Burt, Al (2009). Papa Doc and the Tonton Macoutes, 3rd edition. Markus Wiener Publishers, Princeton, NJ.

– Doyle, Mark (Oct 2010) US urged to stop Rice Subsidies. BBC news, Latin America & the Caribbean. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11472874 (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Farmer, Paul (2006). The Uses of Haiti, 3rd edition. Common Courage Press.
– Flynn, Laura (Jan 2011). In Haiti, Reliving Duvalier, Waiting for Aristide. Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-flynn/not-even-the-past_b_813172.html (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Gros, Jean-Germaine. Indigestible Recipe: Rice, Chicken Wings, and International Financial Institutions: or Hunger Politics in Haiti. Journal of Black Studies 2010 40: 974 originally published online 29 September 2008. Available at: http://jbs.sagepub.com/content/40/5/974.full.pdf (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Haiti Info (Sept 1995) Vol 3, #24. Neoliberalism in Haiti: The case of rice. Available at: http://www.afaceaface.org/blog/2010/09/neoliberalism-in-haiti-the-case-of-rice/ (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Hallward, Peter (2007). Damming the Flood. New York: Verso.
– Herz, Ansel and Ives, Kim (June 16, 2011). Wikileaks Haiti: The Post Quake Gold Rush for Reconstruction Contracts. The Nation. Available at: http://www.thenation.com/article/161469/wikileaks-haiti-post-quake-gold-rush-reconstruction-contracts (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Katz, Jonathan (March 2010). Haiti Relief Money: Criticism of Nonprofits Abounds. Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/05/haiti-relief-money-critic_n_487976.html (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Kurklantzick, Joshua. (Dec/Nov 2004). The Coup Connection. Mother Jones. Available at: http://motherjones.com/politics/2004/11/coup-connection (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– McGowan, Lisa (January 1997). Democracy Undermined , Economic Justice Denied: Structural Adjustment and the Aid Juggernaut in Haiti. The Development Group for Alternative Policies, Inc. Available at: http://bit.ly/tgmhpL (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– NACLA (1995). Haiti: Dangerous Crossroads. South End Press, Boston, MA. Chapter 19, p. 190

– Quigley, Bill (April 2008). Thirty years ago Haiti Grew All the Rice It Needed. What Happened? Counterpunch. Available at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2008/04/21/the-u-s-role-in-haiti-s-food-riots/ (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Smith, Ashley (24 Feb 2010). Haiti and the AID Racket. Counterpunch. Available at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2010/02/24/haiti-and-the-aid-racket/ (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Weisbrot, Mark (14 Oct 2010). CEPR Co-Director Criticizes US Funding of Flawed ‘Elections’ in Haiti. Press Release. Available at: http://bit.ly/uz3c3T (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Weisbrot, Mark (10 Jan 2011). Haiti’s Election: A Travesty of Democracy. The Guardian. Available at: http://bit.ly/tyqog0 (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

– Yaffe, Nathan. (June 2011) USAID’s Assault on Haitian Agriculture. Haiti Justice Alliance. Available at: http://haitijustice.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/winner-bad-for-haiti/ (Accessed Nov 10, 2011)

http://bolekaja.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/how-usaid-undermines-democracy-in-haiti/

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/77988

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