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<nettime> The Mendicants of the New Empire
Martin Hardie on Mon, 8 Dec 2003 09:34:50 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The Mendicants of the New Empire

We have just got through a local  government election here in Mozambique - 
massive 30% voter turnout. People just don't seem interested in voting when 
government either does not function or appears corrupt. Funny that. The
players here are either business (mostly Portuguese or South African or
multinational) International organisations and donors (the UN orgs, the
mnnational donor agencies) or NGO's. Governemtn as in most of the tird
world seeks to command but does so in a feeble way.

But back to the election -  one highlight was the headline one day in one
of the daily rags - 
"Carter Centre interferes in Election Process". Of course USAID did as well, but the fact that the blame was laid at the door of friendly Jimmy's NGO marked a 
shift in the discourse. 

Anyway in the light of that I found this quite interesting - I suspected as 
much at the time. What I did not know though was that Open Soros crowd was in 
on the act as well.


December 6 / 7, 2003

When NGOs Attack
Implications of the Coup in Georgia

Nongovernmental organizations--the notionally independent, reputedly 
humanitarian groups known as NGOs--are now being openly integrated into 
Washington's overall strategy for consolidating global supremacy.

Events surrounding last month's coup in post-Soviet Georgia, read in light of 
recent State Department documents, suggest that seemingly innocuous NGOs now 
play a central role in the policy of US-engineered "regime change" set forth 
in the notorious National Security Strategy of the United States.

The November 24 Wall Street Journal explicitly credited the toppling of Eduard 
Shevardnadze's regime to the operations of "a raft of non-governmental 
organizations . . . supported by American and other Western foundations." 
These NGOs, said the Journal, had "spawned a class of young, English-speaking 
intellectuals hungry for pro-Western reforms" who were instrumental laying 
the groundwork for a bloodless coup.

Astute commentators have correctly noted connections between these provocateur 
NGOs and mega-philanthropist George Soros, but the billionaire speculator did 
not act independently. Georgia's so-called "Velvet Revolution" appears to 
have been a textbook case of regime change by stealth, carefully planned and 
centrally coordinated by the US government.

Thanks to first-rate reporting by Mark McKinnon in the Toronto Globe & Mail 
and Mark Ames in the Moscow-based online journal The Exile <www.exile.ru>, 
the Georgian coup can be understood as a virtual scene-for-scene rerun of the 
overthrow of Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic--right down to the role of US 
Ambassador, played in both cases by spooky career diplomat Richard Miles.

But while foreign-funded NGOs played a significant minor part in the 
Yugoslavian operation, in Georgia they were granted star billing. This bold, 
all but overt, deployment of NGOs in service of US imperialism represents a 
new wrinkle in regime change, reflecting adjusted post-9/11 priorities at 
State and in the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Illuminating background is available in a watershed USAID report, Foreign Aid 
in the National Interest: Promoting Freedom, Security and Opportunity, 
released in January 2003 but ignored by a press swept up in pre-invasion 
hysteria. In the report, USAID vows that development programs will no longer 
be directed primarily toward alleviating human misery, but will be committed 
to "encouraging democratic [i.e., US-friendly] reforms." This policy shift is 
explicitly linked to the National Security Strategy of the United States, the 
2002 White House blueprint for a new, openly aggressive phase of US 

Henceforward, the report promises, only friendly regimes will be rewarded with 
development money, while hostile (or merely independent) states will be 
punished by NGO-driven "reform" programs that sound suspiciously like 
old-fashioned destabilization ops.

The document notes with approval the explosive growth of NGOs worldwide and 
points to the NGO network as an attractive conduit for the strategic 
distribution of dollars. Of course, not every NGO is controlled by the US 
foreign policy establishment, and many rank-and-file aid workers continue to 
perform thankless but essential relief work in countries decimated by 
capitalism and war. But there's no mistaking which way the wind is blowing in 
the development community: "NGOs used to work at arm's length from donor 
governments," the USAID report smugly observes, "but over time the 
relationship has become more intimate."

To be sure, the vast global network of privately-funded foundations and NGOs 
has done enormous damage in its own right over the past two decades. With or 
without direct US assistance, NGOs continue to prop up immiserating 
neoliberal reforms, abet the schemes of transnational finance and 
agribusiness, and thwart the struggles of Third World people to claim better 
lives as of right. (The broader case against NGOs has been exhaustively set 
forth by James Petras, among others, and is powerfully advanced in the 
current issue of Aspects of India's Economy.)

But USAID's new emphasis on "building strategic partnerships" with 
humanitarian groups promises far worse to come. In thinly coded language, 
Foreign Aid in the National Interest touts NGOs and other private donors for 
their ability to lay groundwork for coups d' état: "Assistance can be 
provided to reformers to help identify key winners and losers, develop 
coalition building and mobilization strategies, and design publicity 
campaigns. . . . Such assistance may represent an investment in the future, 
when a political shift gives reformers real power."

As summarized by Hoover Institute fellow Larry Diamond, a self-described 
"specialist on democratic development and regime change" who contributed to 
the report: "Where governments are truly rotten, the report suggests 
channeling assistance primarily through nongovernmental sources, working with 
other bilateral aid donors and multilateral aid agencies to . . . 
coordinat[e] pressure on bad, recalcitrant governments."

Shevardnadze, for many years a reliable US client, seems to have become truly 
rotten at around the time of his perceived tilt toward Russia, a development 
which potentially threatened US military access to the region and control of 
the $2.7 billion Baku-Ceyhan pipeline.

Per script, coordinated pressure began immediately. An interlocking network of 
development-oriented foundations, think tanks, and NGOs was mobilized to 
disseminate propaganda, recruit opposition leaders, and fund an ex nihilo 
"student resistance movement" modeled on Yugoslavia's CIA-connected Otpor. 
Meanwhile, NGOs like the Liberty Institute--a USAID subcontractor managed by 
Mikhail Saakashvili, the US-approved candidate for Georgian 
leadership--worked hand-in-glove with the US Embassy (and presumably the CIA) 
to destabilize civil society.

Even the coup's immediate pretext--allegations of electoral fraud -- 
conveniently emerged from an "election support" operation run by USAID in 
consort with a Soros-connected NGO, Open Society Georgia Foundation. 
TV-friendly street demos and orchestrated international outcry followed in 
due course. Shevardnadze accepted the inevitable and agreed to go quietly. 
Within two weeks, Donald Rumsfeld was in Tbilsi as guest of the coup leaders, 
discussing a timetable for Russian troop withdrawals.

In the near future, the smashing success of the Georgia operation may be 
expected to lead to similarly coordinated attempts on independent-minded 
governments worldwide--Cuba, now doing its best to cope with an invasion of 
foreign-sponsored "reform" organizations, is an especially likely candidate.

Meanwhile, as the US continues to assimilate worldwide humanitarian endeavors 
to its imperial ambitions, the heavy hitters of the NGO establishment are 
preening for another round of mediagenic self-celebration at the upcoming 
World Social Forum. Suggested new slogan: "Another Coup is Possible."

Jacob Levich, a frequent contributor to Counterpunch.com, lives in Queens, 
N.Y. He can be reached at: jlevich {AT} earthlink.net

"Mind you, I am not asking you to bear witness to what you believe false, 
which would be a sin, but to testify falsely to what you believe true - which 
is a virtuous act because it compensates for lack of proof of something 
that certainly exists or happened." Bishop Otto to Baudolino in Umberto Eco's 

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