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The West Marches East, Part 1: The U.S.-NATO Strategy to Isolate Russia

The West Marches East, Part 1: The U.S.-NATO Strategy to Isolate Russia

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

17 April 2014

Originally posted at The Hampton Institute

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In early March of 2014, following Russia’s invasion of Crimea in Ukraine, the New York Times editorial board declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “stepped far outside the bounds of civilized behavior,” suggesting that Russia should be isolated politically and economically in the face of “continued aggression.”

John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, lashed out at Russia’s ” incredible act of aggression,” stating that: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on [a] completely trumped up pre-text.” Indeed, invading foreign nations on “trumped up pre-texts” is something only the United States and its allies are allowed to do, not Russia! What audacity!

Even Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, proclaimed Russia’s actions in Ukraine to be “aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic ,” threatening “the peace and stability of the world.” This is, of course, despite the fact that Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea took place without a single shot fired, and “faced no real opposition and has been greeted with joy by many citizens in the only region of Ukraine with a clear majority of ethnic Russians.”

Indeed, Russia can only be said to be an “aggressive” and “imperial” power so long as one accepts the unrelenting hypocrisy of U.S. and Western leaders. After all, it was not Russia that invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, killing millions. It is not Putin, but rather Barack Obama, who has waged a “global terror campaign,” compiling “kill lists” and using flying killer robots to bomb countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and even the Philippines, killing thousands of people around the world. It is not Putin, but rather, Barack Obama, who has been sending highly-trained killers into over 100 countries around the world at any given time, waging a “secret war” in most of the world’s nations. It was not Russia, but rather the United States, that has supported the creation of “death squads” in Iraq, contributing to the mass violence, civil war and genocide that resulted; or that has been destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation, increasing the possibility of nuclear war.

All of these actions are considered to be a part of America’s strategy to secure ‘stability,’ to promote ‘peace’ and ‘democracy.’ It’s Russia that threatens “the peace and stability of the world,” not America or its NATO and Western allies. That is, of course, if you believe the verbal excretions from Western political leaders. The reality is that the West, with the United States as the uncontested global superpower, engages the rest of the world on the basis of ‘Mafia Principles’ of international relations: the United States is the global ‘Godfather’ of the Mafia crime family of Western industrial nations (the NATO powers). Countries like Russia and China are reasonably-sized crime families in their own right, but largely dependent upon the Godfather, with whom they both cooperate and compete for influence.

When the Mafia – and the Godfather – are disobeyed, whether by small nations (such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, et. al.), or by larger gangster states like China or Russia, the Godfather will seek to punish them. Disobedience cannot be tolerated. If a small country can defy the Godfather, then any country can. If a larger gangster state like Russia can defy the Godfather and get away with it, they might continue to challenge the authority of the Godfather.

For the U.S. and its NATO-capo Mafia allies, Ukraine and Russia have presented a complex challenge: how does one punish Russia and control Ukraine without pushing Russia too far outside the influence of the Mafia, itself? In other words, the West seeks to punish Russia for its “defiance” and “aggression,” but, if the West pushes too hard, it might find a Russia that pushes back even harder. That is, after all, how we got into this situation in the first place.

A little historical context helps elucidate the current clash of gangster states. Put aside the rhetoric of “democracy” and let’s deal with reality.

The Cold War Legacy

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 witnessed the emergence of what was termed by President George H.W. Bush a ‘new world order’ in which the United States reigned as the world’s sole superpower, proclaiming ‘victory’ over the Soviet Union and ‘Communism’: the age of ‘free markets’ and ‘democracy’ was at hand.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 prompted the negotiated withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe. The ‘old order’ of Europe was at an end, and a new one “needed to be established quickly,” noted Mary Elise Sarotte in the New York Times. This ‘new order’ was to begin with “the rapid reunification of Germany.” Negotiations took place in 1990 between Soviet president Gorbachev, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and President Bush’s Secretary of State, James A. Baker 3rd. The negotiations sought to have the Soviets remove their 380,000 troops from East Germany. In return, both James Baker and Helmut Kohl promised Gorbachev that the Western military alliance of NATO would not expand eastwards. West Germany’s foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, promised Gorbachev that, ” NATO will not expand itself to the East.” Gorbachev agreed, though asked – and did not receive – the promise in writing, remaining a “gentlemen’s agreement.”

The U.S. Ambassador to the USSR from 1987 to 1991, John F. Matlock Jr., later noted that the end of the Cold War was not ‘won’ by the West, but was brought about “by negotiation to the advantage of both sides.” Yet, he noted, “the United States insisted on treating Russia as the loser .” The United States almost immediately violated the agreement established in 1990, and NATO began moving eastwards, much to the dismay of the Russians. The new Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, warned that NATO’s expansion to the East threatened a ‘cold peace’ and was a violation of the ” spirit of conversations ” that took place in February of 1990 between Soviet, West German and American leaders.

In 1990, President Bush’s National Security Strategy for the United States acknowledged that, “even as East-West tensions diminish, American strategic concerns remain,” noting that previous U.S. military interventions which were justified as a response to Soviet ‘threats’, were – in actuality – “in response to threats to U.S. interests that could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door,” and that, “the necessity to defend our interests will continue.” In other words, decades of justifications for war by the United States – blaming ‘Soviet imperialism’ and ‘Communism’ – were lies, and now that the Soviet Union no longer existed as a threat, American imperialism will still have to continue.

Former National Security Adviser – and arch-imperial strategist – Zbigniew Brzezinski noted in 1992 that the Cold War strategy of the United States in advocating “liberation” against the USSR and Communism (thus justifying military interventions all over the world), ” was a strategic sham, designed to a significant degree for domestic political reasons… the policy was basically rhetorical, at most tactical.”

The Pentagon drafted a strategy in 1992 for the United States to manage the post-Cold War world, where the primary mission of the U.S. was “to ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territories of the former Soviet Union.” As the New York Times noted, the document – largely drafted by Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney – “makes the case fora world dominated by one superpower whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behavior and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging American primacy.”

This strategy was further enshrined with the Clinton administration, whose National Security Adviser, Anthony Lake, articulated the ‘Clinton doctrine’ in 1993 when he stated that: “The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement – enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies,” which “must combine our broad goals of fostering democracy and marketswith our more traditional geostrategic interests.”

Under Bill Clinton’s imperial presidency, the United States and NATO went to war against Serbia, ultimately tore Yugoslavia to pieces (itself representative of a ‘third way’ of organizing society, different than both the West and the USSR), and NATO commenced its Eastward expansion . In the late 1990s, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic entered the NATO alliance, and in 2004, seven former Soviet republics joined the alliance.

In 1991, roughly 80% of Russians had a ‘favorable’ view of the United States; by 1999, roughly 80% had an unfavorable view of America. Vladimir Putin, who was elected in 2000, initially followed a pro-Western strategy for Russia, supporting NATO’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, receiving only praise from President George W. Bush, who then proceeded to expand NATO further east .

The Color Revolutions

Throughout the 2000s, the United States and other NATO powers, allied with billionaires like George Soros and his foundations scattered throughout the world, worked together to fund and organize opposition groups in multiple countries across Eastern and Central Europe, promoting ‘democratic regime change’ which would ultimately bring to power more pro-Western leaders. It began in 2000 in Serbia with the removal of Slobodan Milosevic.

The United States had undertaken a $41 million “democracy-building campaign” in Serbia to remove Milosevic from power, which included funding polls, training thousands of opposition activists, which the Washington Post referred to as “the first poll-driven, focus group-tested revolution,” which was “a carefully researched strategy put together by Serbian democracy activists with the active assistance of Western advisers and pollsters.” Utilizing U.S.-government funded organizations aligned with major political parties, like the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) channeled money, assistance and training to activists (Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, 11 December 2000).

Mark Almond wrote in the Guardian in 2004 that, “throughout the 1980s, in the build-up to 1989’s velvet revolutions, a small army of volunteers – and, let’s be frank, spies – co-operated to promote what became People Power.” This was represented by “a network of interlocking foundations and charities [which] mushroomed to organize the logistics of transferring millions of dollars to dissidents.” The money itself ” came overwhelmingly from NATO states and covert allies such as ‘neutral’ Sweden,” as well as through the billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Almond noted that these “modern market revolutionaries” would bring people into office “with the power to privatize.” Activists and populations are mobilized with “a multimedia vision of Euro-Atlantic prosperity by Western-funded ‘independent’ media to get them on the streets.” After successful Western-backed ‘revolutions’ comes the usual economic ‘shock therapy’ which brings with it “mass unemployment, rampant insider dealing, growth of organized crime, prostitution and soaring death rates.” Ah, democracy!

Following Serbia in 2000, the activists, Western ‘aid agencies’, foundations and funders moved their resources to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where in 2003, the ‘Rose Revolution’ replaced the president with a more pro-Western (and Western-educated) leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, a protégé of George Soros, who played a significant role in funding so-called ‘pro-democracy’ groups in Georgia that the country has often been referred to as ‘Sorosistan’. In 2004, Ukraine became the next target of Western-backed ‘democratic’ regime change in what became known as the ‘Orange Revolution’. Russia viewed these ‘color revolutions’ as “U.S.-sponsored plots using local dupes to overthrow governments unfriendly to Washington and install American vassals.”

Mark MacKinnon, who was the Globe and Mail‘s Moscow bureau chief between 2002 and 2005, covered these Western-funded protests and has since written extensively on the subject of the ‘color revolutions.’ Reviewing a book of his on the subject, the Montreal Gazette noted that these so-called revolutions were not “spontaneous popular uprisings, but in fact were planned and financed either directly by American diplomats or through a collection of NGOs acting as fronts for the United States government,” and that while there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with the ruling, corrupt elites in each country, the ‘democratic opposition’ within these countries received their “marching orders and cash from American and European officials, whose intentions often had to do more with securing access to energy resources and pipeline routes than genuine interest in democracy.”

The ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine in 2004 was – as Ian Traynor wrote in the Guardian – ” an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing,” with funding and organizing from the U.S. government, “deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-governmental organizations.”

In Ukraine, the contested elections which spurred the ‘Orange Revolution’ saw accusations of election fraud leveled against Viktor Yanukovich by his main opponent, Viktor Yuschenko. Despite claims of upholding democracy, Yuschenko had ties to the previous regime, having served as Prime Minister in the government of Leonid Kuchma, and with that, had close ties to the oligarchs who led and profited from the mass privatizations of the post-Soviet era. Yuschenko, however, “got the western nod, and floods of money poured into groups which support[ed] him.” As Jonathan Steele noted in the Guardian, “Ukraine has been turned into a geostrategic matter not by Moscow but by the US, which refuses to abandon its cold war policy of encircling Russia and seeking to pull every former Soviet republic to its side.”

As Mark McKinnon wrote in the Globe and Mail some years later, the uprisings in both Georgia and Ukraine “had many things in common, among them the fall of autocrats who ran semi-independent governments that deferred to Moscow when the chips were down,” as well as being “spurred by organizations that received funding from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy,” reflecting a view held by Western governments that “promoting democracy” in places like the Middle East and Eastern Europe was in fact “a code word for supporting pro-Western politicians .” These Western-sponsored uprisings erupted alongside the ever-expanding march of NATO to Russia’s borders.

The following year – in 2005 – the Western-supported ‘colour revolutions’ hit the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan in what was known as the ‘Tulip Revolution’. Once again, contested elections saw the mobilization of Western-backed civil society groups, “independent” media, and NGOs – drawing in the usual funding sources of the National Endowment for Democracy, the NDI, IRI, Freedom House, and George Soros, among others. The New York Times reported that the “democratically inspired revolution” western governments were praising began to look ” more like a garden-variety coup .” Efforts not only by the U.S., but also Britain, Norway and the Netherlands were pivotal in preparing the way for the 2005 uprising in Kyrgyzstan. The then-President of Kyrgyzstan blamed the West for the unrest experienced in his country.

The U.S. NGOs that sponsored the ‘color revolutions’ were run by former top government and national security officials, including Freedom House, which was chaired by former CIA Director James Woolsey, and other “pro-democracy” groups funding these revolts were led by figures such as Senator John McCain or Bill Clinton’s former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, who had articulated the national security strategy of the Clinton administration as being one of “enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies.” These organizations effectively act as an extension of the U.S. government apparatus, advancing U.S. imperial interests under the veneer of “pro-democracy” work and institutionalized in purportedly “non”-governmental groups.

By 2010, however, most of the gains of the ‘color revolutions’ that spread across Eastern Europe and Central Asia had taken several steps back. While the “political center of gravity was tilting towards the West,” noted Time Magazine in April of 2010, “now that tend has reversed,” with the pro-Western leadership of both Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan both having once again been replaced with leaders ” far friendlier to Russia.” The “good guys” that the West supported in these countries, “proved to be as power hungry and greedy as their predecessors, disregarding democratic principles… in order to cling to power, and exploiting American diplomatic and economic support as part of [an] effort to contain domestic and outside threats and win financial assistance.” Typical behavior for vassal states to any empire.

The ‘Enlargement’ of the European Union: An Empire of Economics

The process of European integration and growth of the European Union has – over the past three decades – been largely driven by powerful European corporate and financial interests, notably by the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), an influential group of roughly 50 of Europe’s top CEOs who lobby and work directly with Europe’s political elites to design the goals and methods of European integration and enlargement of the EU, advancing the EU to promote and institutionalize neoliberal economic reforms: austerity, privatizations, liberalization of markets and the destruction of labour power.

The enlargement of the European Union into Eastern Europe reflected a process of Eastern European nations having to implement neoliberal reforms in order to join the EU, including mass privatizations, deregulation, liberalization of markets and harsh austerity measures. The enlargement of the EU into Central and Eastern Europe advanced in 2004 and 2007, when new states were admitted into EU membership, including Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

These new EU members were hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, and subsequently forced to impose harsh austerity measures. They have been slower to ‘recover’ than other nations, increasingly having to deal with “political instability and mass unemployment and human suffering.” The exception to this is Poland, which did not implement austerity measures, which has left the Polish economy in a better position than the rest of the new EU members. The financial publication Forbeswarned in 2013 that “the prospect of endless economic stagnation in the newest EU members… will, sooner or later, bring extremely deleterious political consequences .”

In the words of a senior British diplomat, Robert Cooper, the European Union represents a type of “cooperative empire.” The expansion of the EU into Central and Eastern Europe brought increased corporate profits, with new investments and cheap labour to exploit. Further, the newer EU members were more explicitly pro-market than the older EU members that continued to promote a different social market economy than those promoted by the Americans and British. With these states joining the EU, noted the Financial Times in 2008, “the new member states have reinforced the ranks of the free marketeers and free traders,” as they increasingly “team up with northern states to vote for deregulation and liberalization of the market.”

The West Marches East

For the past quarter-century, Russia has stood and watched as the United States, NATO, and the European Union have advanced their borders and sphere of influence eastwards to Russia’s borders. As the West has marched East, Russia has consistently complained of encroachment and its views of this process as being a direct threat to Russia. The protests of the former superpower have largely gone ignored or dismissed. After all, in the view of the Americans, they “won” the Cold War, and therefore, Russia has no say in the post-Cold War global order being shaped by the West.

The West’s continued march East to Russia’s borders will continue to be examined in future parts of this series. For Russia, the problem is clear: the Godfather and its NATO-Mafia partners are ever-expanding to its borders, viewed (rightly so) as a threat to the Russian gangster state itself. Russia’s invasion of Crimea – much like its 2008 invasion of Georgia – are the first examples of Russia’s push back against the Western imperial expansion Eastwards. This, then, is not a case of “Russian aggression,” but rather, Russian reaction to the West’s ever-expanding imperialism and global aggression.

The West may think that it has domesticated and beaten down the bear, chained it up, make it dance and whip it into obedience. But every once in a while, the bear will take a swipe back at the one holding the whip. This is inevitable. And so long as the West continued with its current strategy, the reactions will only get worse in time.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Egypt Under Empire, Part 4: Dancing Between Dictatorship and Democracy

Egypt Under Empire, Part 4: Dancing Between Dictatorship and Democracy

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally published at The Hampton Institute

US President Barack Obama (L) shakes han

Part 1: Working Class Resistance and European Imperial Ambitions

Part 2: The “Threat” Of Arab Nationalism

Part 3: From Nasser to Mubarak

America’s Mambo with Mubarak

America’s ruling elites – and those of the Western world more generally – are comfortable dealing with ruthless tyrants and dictators all over the world, partly because they’ve just had more practice with it than dealing with ‘democratic’ governments in so-called ‘Third World’ nations. This is especially true when it comes to the Arab world, where the West has only ever dealt with dictatorships, and often by arming them and supporting them to repress their own populations, and in return, they support US and Western geopolitical, strategic and economic interests in the region. America’s relationship with Egypt – and most notably with Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt from 1981 to 2011 – has been especially revealing of this imperial-proxy relationship between so-called ‘democracies’ and dictatorships.

Maintaining cozy relationships with ruthless tyrants is something US presidents and their administrations have done for a very long time, but in recent decades and years, it has become more challenging. The United States champions its domestic propaganda outwardly, presenting itself as a beacon of democratic hope, a light of liberty in a dark world, espousing highfalutin rhetoric as the expression of an adamantine code of values – beliefs in ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ as untouchable and non-negotiable – all the while arming despots, tyrants, and ruthless repressors to protect themselves against their own populations and to stem the inevitable tide of human history.

Simply by virtue of the fact that people are more connected than ever before, that more information is available now than ever before, and with more people rising up and demanding change in disparate regions all over the world, it has become more challenging for the United States and its imperial partners to maintain their domination over the world, and to maintain their propagandized fantasies in the face of glaring hypocrisies. In short, it’s harder for the world to take America seriously about democracy when it so consistently arms and works with dictatorships. And so, for those who justify such injustice, they must dance between rhetoric and reality, attempting to find some thin line of reasoning between both to present some pretense of rationality; all the while, attempting to undermine any attempts to understand America as an empire. This dance is difficult, often very spastic and erratic, but America is a championship dancer with dictatorships. America’s ‘Mambo with Mubarak’, however, revealed the challenges of being the ultimate global hypocrite in a world of mass awakening and popular uprisings.

Shortly after becoming president, in June 2009, Barack Obama was asked by a BBC reporter, “Do you regard President Mubarak as an authoritarian ruler?” to which Obama replied, “No, I tend not to use labels for folks. I haven’t met him. I’ve spoken to him on the phone.” Obama continued, calling Mubarak a “stalwart ally” to the United States, who has “sustained peace with Israel” and “has been a force for stability.”[1] A few months earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an interview with an Arab television network in Egypt in which she said, “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family,” and added, “I hope to see him often.”[2]

In May of 2009, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey wrote in a diplomatic cable that Mubarak would more likely die than ever step down as president, noting, “The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2011 and if Mubarak is still alive it is likely he will run again and, inevitably, win.” The “most likely” successor to Mubarak, noted Scobey, was his son Gamal, adding, “some suggest that intelligence chief Omar Soliman [sic] might seek the office; or dark horse Arab League secretary general Amre Moussa.” Ultimately, Scobey noted, in terms of choosing a successor, Mubarak “seems to be trusting to God and the ubiquitous military and civilian security services to ensure an orderly transition.”[3]

Before Mubarak was to visit Washington in August of 2009, Scobey wrote to the State Department that Mubarak was “a tried and true realist” with “little time for idealistic goals.” Further, Scobey noted, Mubarak’s “world view” is most revealed by his reaction to U.S. pressure to “open Egypt” to political participation and relax the police state dictatorship, of which he had only “strengthened his determination not to accommodate our views.” Scobey further reported that Egypt’s defense minister Tantawi “keeps the armed forces appearing reasonably sharp,” while Omar Suleiman and the interior minister, al-Adly, “keep the domestic beasts at bay, and Mubarak is not one to lose sleep over their tactics,” which is to say, torture and human rights abuses. Further, Scobey warned, “Mubarak will likely resist further economic reform,” which is to say, to enhance and deepen neoliberal measures which facilitate impoverishment, plundering and exploitation by a small domestic and international oligarchy at the expense of the domestic population at large, noting that Mubarak might view further reforms “as potentially harmful to public order and stability.”[4]

Another cable from 2009 reported how, “Mubarak and [Egyptian] military leaders view our military assistance program as the cornerstone of our mil-mil [military to military] relationship and consider the $1.3b in annual [military aid] as ‘untouchable compensation’ for making and maintaining peace with Israel,” as well as ensuring that “the US military enjoys priority access to the Suez canal and Egyptian airspace.”[5]

A 2009 cable prepared for the Pentagon’s CENTOM (Central Command) chief, General David Patraeus, in the lead-up to a visit to Egypt, noted that the United States has avoided “the public confrontations that had become routine over the past several years,” with the Bush administration. Ambassador Scobey had pressured Egypt’s interior minister to release three bloggers, a Coptic priest, and grant three U.S.-based “pro-democracy” groups to operate in the country (the latter of which was denied). In anticipation of Hillary Clinton’s visit to Mubarak in 2009, Scobey recommended that Clinton not thank Mubarak for releasing a political opponent, Ayman Nour, whose imprisonment in 2005 was condemned around the world, including by the Bush administration.[6]

Scobey noted in another 2009 cable that Mubarak took the issue of Ayman Nour “personally, and it makes him seethe when we raise it, particularly in public.” Referring to Egypt as a “very stubborn and recalcitrant ally,” Scobey explained: “The Egyptians have long felt that, at best, we take them for granted; and at worst, we deliberately ignore their advice while trying to force our point of view on them.”[7]

When Mubarak visited the White House in August of 2009, in a joint press conference following their meeting, Obama referred to Mubarak as “a leader and a counselor and a friend to the United States,” and went on to thank Egypt for its support to Iraq in its “transition to a more stable democracy.” Mubarak explained that it was the third time in three months he had met with Obama, describing relations between the US and Egypt as “very good” and “strategic.”[8]

Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations explained that the Obama administration did not want to view its relationship with Egypt through the issue of ‘democracy,’ noting: “I think there is an effort to see the relationship in broader terms, because the experience of looking at it through the straw hole of democracy and democracy promotion and reform proved damaging to the relationship.” Cook added, “Let’s be realistic – Hosni Mubarak and the people in the regime don’t really have an interest in reform.” At the White House, Mubarak went on to meet with Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, after all, as Hillary previously noted, they were “family friends.”[9]

On his trip, Mubarak was also accompanied by his Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and the intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman. The dictator also met with Vice President Joseph Biden. The purpose of the meeting, noted the New York Times, was to signal “an effort to re-establish Egypt as the United States’ chief strategic Arab ally.” Former Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Abdel Raouf al-Reedy, commented, “The United States has to have a regional power to coordinate its policies with and Egypt cannot be a regional power without the United States… So there is some kind of a complementary relationship.”[10]

To Tango with Tyranny

This “complementary relationship” between regional dictatorships and imperial powers is not confined to Egypt (or America), nor are its various rationales. The Arab Spring sparked in Tunisia in December of 2010 and led to the overthrow of its long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. Tunisia was, in the words of international law professor and former United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard A. Falk, a “model U.S. client.”[11] Between 1987 – when Ben Ali came to power – and 2009, the United States provided Tunisia with $349 million in military aid,[12] and in 2010 alone, the U.S. provided Ben Ali’s dictatorship with $13.7 million in military aid.[13]

Tunisia, which was a former French colony, also had strong relations with France. During the outbreak of the crisis in December of 2010, the French suggested they would help Ben Ali by sending security forces to Tunisia to “resolve the situation” in a show of “friendship” to the regime.[14] The French foreign minister suggested that France could provide better training to Tunisian police to restore order since the French were adept in “security situations of this type.” Jacques Lanxade, a retired French admiral, former military chief of staff and former French ambassador to Tunis noted that the French had “continued public support of this regime because of economic interests,” and added: “We didn’t take account of Tunisian public opinion and thought Ben Ali would re-establish his position.”[15] In other words: we support dictators, and don’t care about human populations as a whole. So surprised were the French at the thought of a popular uprising overthrowing their stalwart ally in Tunisia, that Sarkozy later – after the fall of Ben Ali – stated that the French had “underestimated” the “despair… suffering,” and “sense of suffocation” among Tunisians.[16] Perhaps a delicate way of suggesting that the French government does not care about the despair, suffering or suffocation of people until the people overthrow the French-subsidized dictators, forcing the imperial power to do a little dance with democratic rhetoric until it can find a replacement to support, and return to its habitual ‘underestimations’ of entire populations.

This imperial logic has been given terms and justifications from establishment intellectuals and academics in the United States and other Western powers. Academics with the Brookings Institution, an influential U.S. think tank, suggested in 2009 that this was the logic of “authoritarian bargains,” in which dictatorships in the region were able to maintain power through a type of “bargain,” where “citizens relinquish political influence in exchange for public spending,” suggesting that: “non-democratic rulers secure regime support through the allocation of two substitutable ‘goods’ to the public: economic transfers and the ability to influence policy making.”[17]

Of course, these ‘intellectuals’ failed to acknowledge the fact that in the previous three decades, the “bargain” part of the “authoritarian bargain” was dismantled under neoliberal reforms. But facts are trifling obstructions to justifications for injustice, and such ‘intellectuals’ – who serve power structures – will wind their way with words through any and all frustrating truths, so long as the end result is to continue in their support for power. Such a “bargain” could have been argued under the likes of Nasser, but Mubarak was another creature altogether, and the intellectual discourse built around support for dictatorships had not evolved over the course of several decades, save for the words used to describe it.

In 2011, those same academics wrote an article for the Brookings Institution in which they noted that as economic conditions deteriorated and unemployment rose, with neoliberal reforms failing to provide economic opportunities for the majority of the populations, the “Arab authoritarian bargain” – or “contract” – between dictators and the populations was “now collapsing,” adding that, “the strategies used by Arab leaders to maintain power may have run their course.” They added: “Partial political liberalization may not be enough at this point to make up for the current inability to deliver economic security and prosperity, spelling the final demise of Arab authoritarian bargain.”[18]

F. Gregory Gause III, writing in Foreign Affairs, the establishment journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, the most prominent foreign policy think tank in the United States, referred to this concept as “authoritarian stability” theory. Following the initial Arab Spring uprisings, he wrote about the “myth” of authoritarian stability, noting that many academics had focused on trying to understand “the persistence of undemocratic rulers” in the region, though implicitly without questioning the imperial relations between the local governments and the dominant Western powers. Gause himself acknowledged that he had written an article for Foreign Affairs in 2005 in which he argued that, “the United States should not encourage democracy in the Arab world because Washington’s authoritarian Arab allies represented stable bets for the future,” and that, “democratic Arab governments would prove much less likely to cooperate with U.S. foreign policy goals in the region.” Gause then reflected in 2011 that, “I was spectacularly wrong.”[19]

Marwan Muasher is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, a prominent American think tank, and was previously foreign minister and deputy prime minister in the Jordanian dictatorship. Following events in Tunisia, Muasher wrote an article for the Carnegie Endowment in which he explained why the events were not foreseen, noting that: “The traditional argument put forward in and out of the Arab world is that there is nothing wrong, everything is under control.” Thus, wrote Muasher, “entrenched forces argue that opponents and outsiders calling for reform are exaggerating the conditions on the ground,” an argument which he noted, “has been fundamentally undermined by the unfolding events in Tunisia.” Because Tunisia had comparably low economic problems, a small opposition, and a “strong security establishment,” it was thought that “the risk of revolt was considered low.” Muasher wrote: “It wasn’t supposed to happen in Tunisia and the fact that it did proves that fundamental political reforms – widening the decision-making process and combating corruption – are needed around the entire Arab world.”[20]

This concept of “there is nothing wrong, everything is under control,” has been referred to by Noam Chomsky as the “Muasher doctrine,” noting that this has been consistent U.S. policy in the region since at least 1958, when Eisenhower’s National Security Council acknowledged that the US supported dictators and opposed democracy, and that this was a rational policy to serve American interests in the region.[21]

There are, however, factions within the American elite that understand that the ‘Muasher Doctrine’ is unsustainable and that they must push for ‘reform’ within the Arab world over the short-term in order to ultimately maintain ‘order’ and ‘stability’ over the long term. This is where ‘democracy promotion’ comes into play.

U.S. Democracy Promotion in Egypt: A Hidden Plot or Hedging Bets?

Following the Arab Spring’s toppling of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, some commentators in the West have critically noted the U.S. and Western support for pro-democracy groups within the Arab world – likening them to the Western-funded ‘colour revolutions’ that swept several former Soviet bloc countries – and concluded that the Arab Spring was a U.S.-supported attempt at ‘regime change.’

Indeed, the United States and its Western allies provided extensive funding and organizational support to civil society groups, media organizations, activists and political parties in several countries where – through contested elections – they helped to overthrow entrenched political leaders, replacing them with more favourable leaders (in the eyes of the West). In Serbia, U.S. non-governmental and even governmental organizations poured funding into the organization Otpor which helped engineer the ousting of Milosevic, providing hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in support through organizations like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), among other agencies.[22]

As several former Soviet republics slowly ‘opened’ their societies, Western-funded NGOs and civil society organizations flooded in, with powerful financial backers. Over the course of years, funding, training, organizational support, technical and material support was provided for a number of organizations and political groups that helped overthrow regimes in Georgia (2003), the Ukraine (2004), and Kyrgyzstan (2005). Not only were there government funded NGOs involved, but also private foundations, such as billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute.[23]

These Western-backed ‘color revolutions’ included major organizational support from the local American embassies in whichever country they were seeking a change of government. The activists who made up Serbia’s Otpor organization aided in the training of other groups in countries like Ukraine. In Serbia, the U.S. government officially spent $41 million “organizing and funding” the operation to remove Milosevic. A primary strategy in funding these ‘colour revolutions’ was to organize the opposition within a country “behind a single candidate.”[24] Such Western organizations also provided extensive funding for so-called “independent” media networks to promote their particular agenda in the country, following a pattern set by the CIA some decades earlier in terms of covertly funding opposition groups and media outlets.[25]

In Ukraine, the Bush administration spent some $65 million over two years to aid in the ‘colour revolution’ which took place in 2004, and several other Western countries contributed to the process and funding as well, including Great Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.[26] Such immense funding programs trained hundreds of thousands of activists, and when elections and protests took place, tents, cameras, television screens, food and other equipment were provided en masse, and the events were met with an immediately favourable reception in the Western media.[27]

When it comes to Egypt and the Arab Spring, the United States did attempt to provide some funding and organizational support to various pro-democracy groups. The April 6 movement in Egypt, which was pivotal in organizing the January 25 protest in Cairo that led to the overthrow of Mubarak on February 11, was one group that received some U.S. support. Other groups in Bahrain and Yemen also received U.S. support. Egyptian youth leaders attended a ‘technology meeting’ in New York sponsored by the State Department, Facebook, Google, MTV and Colombia Law School, where they received training “to use social networking and mobile technologies to promote democracy.”[28]

One Egyptian youth leader commented upon the meeting and U.S. support, stating, “We learned how to organize and build coalitions… This certainly helped during the revolution.” Another Egyptian activist noted the hypocrisy of the U.S., which, while funding some pro-democracy groups, was providing billions in financial support to the military dictatorship the activists had to struggle under, stating, “While we appreciated the training we received through the NGOs sponsored by the U.S. government, and it did help us in our struggles, we are also aware that the same government also trained the state security investigative service, which was responsible for the harassment and jailing of many of us.”[29]

As several Wikileaks cables showed, however, the Western-backed Arab dictatorships were extremely suspicious of U.S.-supported democracy groups and activists. This was especially true in Egypt, where one cable from 2007 reported that Mubarak was “deeply skeptical of the U.S. role in democracy promotion.” The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs complained to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in 2006 about the “arrogant tactics in promoting reform in Egypt.” Mubarak’s son, Gamal, was described in one 2008 cable as being “irritable about direct U.S. democracy and governance funding of Egyptian NGOs.” Ultimately, the local dictatorships would increasingly clamp down on such organizations, attempting to prevent their functioning or interaction with Americans institutions.[30]

A December 2008 cable from the U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey in Cairo noted that one activist from the April 6 movement had met with U.S. government officials in the United States as well as with various think tanks. The activist (presumably Maher) reported to Scobey that the Egyptian government “will never undertake significant reform, and therefore, Egyptians need to replace the current regime with a parliamentary democracy,” noting that the activist further “alleged that several opposition parties and movements have accepted an unwritten plan for democratic transition by 2011.” However, Scobey added, “we are doubtful of this claim.” After noting that several April 6 activists had been arrested and harassed by the Egyptian dictatorship, Scobey continued: “April 6’s stated goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections is highly unrealistic, and is not supported by the mainstream opposition.”[31]

Scobey further reported that the April 6 activist told her that “Mubarak derives his legitimacy from U.S. support,” and thus, that the U.S. was “responsible” for Mubarak’s “crimes,” and the activist suggested that those NGOs which sought to promote “political and economic reform” were living in a “fantasy world.” Finally, Scobey noted, the activist “offered no roadmap of concrete steps toward April 6’s highly unrealistic goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections.” She then noted that most of the “opposition parties and independent NGOs work toward achieving tangible, incremental reform within the current political context,” and that the activists “wholesale rejection of such an approach places him outside this mainstream of opposition politicians and activists.”[32]

The U.S. government also provided assistance to many activists in the Arab world – including Egypt – in gaining access to technology which allows dissidents “to get online without being tracked or to visit news or social media sites that governments have blocked.” Many of the tech firms and non-profits that received funding saw huge increases in the use of their technology across the Arab world during the start of the Arab Spring, much to their surprise. As one tech firm executive stated, “We didn’t start this company to go against any government… and here we are impacting millions of people in the Middle East and helping revolutions in Tunisia and Libya. We didn’t set out to do this, but we really think it’s cool we’re doing this.”[33]

Such funding and organizational initiatives from the U.S. government and related institutions for pro-democracy groups in the Arab world, and notably Egypt, has led some commentators to suggest that the Arab Spring is simply the Middle Eastern version of the U.S.-sponsored ‘colour revolutions’ over the previous decade, even writing that such U.S.-supported activist groups “indelibly serve US interests” in terms of “controlling the political opposition,” to “ensure that the US funded civil society opposition will not direct their energies against the puppet masters behind the Mubarak regime, namely the US government.”[34]

There are some fundamental problems with this position. A 2011 article in EurasiaNet noted that while there were “some similarities” between the Arab Spring and the Color Revolutions the previous decade, “there are key differences as well,” primary among them being that the Arab dictatorships “were far more authoritarian and brutal than their counterparts in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine,” which meant that the Color Revolutions “occurred in more semi-democratic contexts, in which the regimes… allowed for more media and political freedom, and were generally less repressive.” Further, the Color Revolutions based their model for ‘regime change’ exclusively upon “an electoral breakthrough in which ballot fraud became the focal point around which the civic and political opposition could rally.” Such was not the case in Tunisia or Egypt, where the sparks for revolution were unforeseen and rapid, “suggesting that the electoral breakthrough model is only possible in countries where there is some degree of political pluralism,” noted Lincoln Mitchell, an Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University.[35]

Further, the Color Revolutions had a “geopolitical element” in which they were incorporated into the “freedom agenda” of the Bush administration, and “occurred in countries that had been the beneficiaries of ample US democracy assistance.” While the U.S. was credited – or accused (depending upon who was speaking) – of having “an almost magical role in organizing the opposition, spreading democracy, funding various organizations and the like,” in the context of the Arab Spring, “social networking technology has displaced the United States as the apparent catalyst for protest,” with Twitter and Facebook being “perceived as the magic explanatory variable.”[36]

Indeed, while the U.S. provided funding for several dissident groups in the Arab world, it was not comparable in to the previous ‘Color Revolutions’ in terms of dollars, training, equipment or technical assistance in any capacity. The dissidents were not organized around a single leader or singular oppositional group, and while the U.S. Embassies were establishing contacts with dissidents, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest they were heavily involved or ‘directing’ them. The fact that much of the assistance for dissidents was in the form of training and gaining access to technologies is also noteworthy. Technology – in and of itself – is neutral: it can be used for good or not. It is entirely dependent upon how the person(s) using it choose to wield it. The United States sought to help activists gain access to technologies to work around the authoritarian regimes (which the US was supporting with billions in military and economic aid), and to slowly push for ‘reforms.’ The U.S. can help activists with getting training and access to technologies, but it has no control over how those activists ultimately utilize these technologies.

Further, as was revealed by the 2008 diplomatic cable from the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, while the Embassy and U.S. government had established contact with the April 6 Movement, Scobey portrayed their objectives as “highly unrealistic,” and the unnamed activist in the cable even stressed that the U.S. was “responsible” for the “crimes” of Mubarak. The cable stressed that the U.S. was in contact with mainstream opposition forces in Egypt, none of which were determining factors in the revolution, whereas the April 6 Movement, as Scobey noted, was “outside this mainstream of opposition and activists,” proposing the “unrealistic goal of replacing the current regime.”[37]

The U.S. interest in doing this was not altruistic, of course, but was ultimately aimed at ‘hedging their bets.’ Certainly, the U.S. government would be seeking to use activists and dissident groups for its own purposes, but one must also acknowledge that activists and dissident groups use the U.S. government (and its funding) for their own purposes. The State Department and USAID (which provide the majority of funding for pro-democracy groups and activists from the U.S. government) know what they are told by those groups, what the groups write in reports and grant applications. In a country like Egypt, which was ruled by a repressive military dictator for three decades, sources of funding for democracy projects and activism is not easy to come by. As an activist, you would likely take whatever sources of funding and support you could get, so long as you can use the access and support for your own objectives, which is exactly what the April 6 Movement did.

Indeed, in the Arab world, the United States and its Western allies have not been interested in promoting revolution, but rather an incremental process of reform. Top US policy planners at the Council on Foreign Relations produced a report – and strategic blueprint – for the United States to follow in 2005, entitled, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How, co-chaired by former Clinton-era Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who sits on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Institute, and is chair of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, one of the major pro-democracy funding groups based out of the US.

The other co-chair of the Task Force report was Vin Weber, former Congressman and member of the board of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the primary ‘democracy promotion’ organization funded by the U.S. government. Other members of the Task Force which produced the report held previous or present affiliations with First National Bank of Chicago, Occidental Petroleum, the Carnegie Endowment, the World Bank, Brookings Institution, Hoover Institution, the U.S. State Department, National Security Council, National Intelligence Council, the American Enterprise Institute, the IMF, AOL-Time Warner, and Goldman Sachs.[38] In other words, the strategic blueprint for promoting ‘democracy’ in the Arab world was developed by major U.S. strategic and corporate elites, including those who literally run the major democracy promotion organizations (including those that funded such groups in Egypt and elsewhere).

So what did the report have to say about the American Empire’s strategy for promoting democracy in the Arab world? Firstly, the report noted that, while “democracy entails certain inherent risks, the denial of freedom carries much more significant long-term dangers. If Arab citizens are able to express grievances freely and peacefully, they will be less likely to turn to more extreme measures.” Thus, the report noted, “the United States should promote the development of democratic institutions and practices over the long term, mindful that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside and that sudden, traumatic change is neither necessary nor desirable.” Most importantly, however, the report noted: “America’s goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution.”[39]

So how can we interpret this? Democracy, as the United States defines it, is more “secure” precisely because it provides an institutional framework in which control may still be exercised, but where there are various degrees of freedom, enough to allow social pressures to be released, dissent to exist, and thus, contribute to the overall stability of a society through building consent to the power structures which rule it. Dictatorships are supported by coercion, not consent.

As America’s most influential political commentator of his time, Walter Lippmann, articulated in the 1920s, that modern democracies required the “manufacture of consent” of the public by the powerful, because “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us [elites] may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.” Manufacturing the consent of the public to the social order – and its prevailing power structures and hierarchies – would allow for “the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.” A system in which the public’s consent was manufactured, noted Lippmann, “would provide the modern state with a foundation upon which a new stability might be realized.”[40]

That “stability” has been understood by U.S. elites for nearly a century, and it is known to be built upon the “manufacture of consent.” This is why the Task Force report on promoting Arab democracy noted that, “the denial of freedom carries much more significant long-term dangers.” The Arab Spring revolutions did not follow the criteria established by the U.S. strategy, which specifically said that, “sudden, traumatic change is neither necessary nor desirable,” though it is exactly what took place, and of course, that democracy should be promoted through “evolution, not revolution.” As the Task Force report further noted, there was a risk that, “if Washington pushes Arab leaders too hard on reform, contributing to the collapse of friendly Arab governments, this would likely have a deleterious effect on regional stability, peace, and counterterrorism operations.” While instability may arise “in the short term” from promoting democracy, the report suggested, “a policy geared toward maintaining the authoritarian status quo in the Middle East poses greater risks to U.S. interests and foreign policy goals.”[41]

For the United States and its Western allies, “democracy” is not the goal, but rather a means to a goal. The goal is, always has been, and always will be, “stability and prosperity;” control and profit. When the dictatorships fail to bring about stability and prosperity, “democracy” – so long as it is constructed along Western liberal state-capitalist lines – will be the preferred option. The European Union, when reporting on its own efforts to promote democracy in the Mediterranean region, noted that, “we believe that democracy, good governance, rule of law, and gender equality are essential for stability and prosperity.” In other words, democracy is not the goal: control and profit are the goals. The means are merely incidental, whether they be through dictatorships, or top-down democratic structures.[42]

The problem in the Arab world is deepened for the United States when one looks at public opinion polls from the region. Just prior to the outbreak of protests in Tunisia, a major Western poll on Arab public opinion was conducted by the University of Maryland and Zogby International, published in the summer of 2010. The results were very interesting, noting that only 5% and 6% of respondents in 2010 believed that “promoting democracy” and “spreading human rights” were the two factors (respectively) which were most important in America’s foreign policy in the region. At the top of the list of priorities, with 49% and 45% respectively, were “protecting Israel” and “controlling oil,” followed by 33% each for “weakening the Muslim world” and “preserving regional and global dominance.”[43]

Further, 92% of respondents felt that Iran has a right to its nuclear program if it is peaceful, and 70% feel that right remains even if Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Roughly 57% of respondents felt that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, things would be “more positive” for the region, compared to 21% who thought it would be “more negative.” The poll asked which two countries posed the largest threat to the region, with Israel at 88% and the United States at 77%, while Iran was viewed as one of the two major threats to the region by only 10% of respondents, just above China and equal to Algeria.[44]

In other words, if truly representative – or genuine – democracies emerged in the region, they would be completely counter to U.S. strategic interests in the region, and thus, real democracy in the Arab world is not in the American interest. Top-down democracy, however, largely influenced by Western ideas and institutions, in which people are able to select between a couple parties which articulate social differences but implement largely identical economic and strategic policies, is an ideal circumstance for imperial powers.

Interestingly, Barack Obama’s 2010 budget sought to cut funding for democracy and governance aid to both Egypt and Jordan by roughly 40%, and for Egypt specifically, “funding has been cut by nearly 75 per cent for pro-democracy NGOs of which the Egyptian government does not approve.” These are hardly the actions of an American government seeking to implement ‘regime change’ through funding pro-democracy groups. Michele Dunne, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment, a major U.S. based think tank, noted that the cuts to funding pro-democracy groups in Egypt (and elsewhere) show that, “the Obama administration has decided on a more conciliatory approach toward the autocratic regimes, such as Egypt’s, that dominate Middle Eastern politics.”[45]

While funding for democracy groups in Egypt was cut by 75% for 2010, U.S. aid to the Egyptian government would amount to $1.55 billion for 2010, of which $1.3 billion was in the form of military aid. Michele Dunne noted, “My conversations with members of the [Obama] administration have made it clear that they did not want economic assistance to irritate the Egyptian government,” whereas the Bush administration’s funding for civil society groups in Egypt had caused a great deal of frustration from Mubarak and his regime. Under Bush, such funding had “doubled and tripled.” Under Obama, much of this was undone. Safwat Girgis, who runs two Egyptian-based NGOs, said that Obama’s “decision is in the best interest of the Egyptian government, not the people nor the civil society organizations… In my opinion, this is just an exchange of interests between Egypt and the United States.”[46]

The ‘Liberal Opposition’ in Egypt

When powerful Western states seek to influence or manage ‘transitions to democracy,’ they generally support whatever elite most closely resembles themselves, usually a variation of liberal democratic state-capitalist groups. But whatever dominant institutions pre-exist in that society have to be integrated with the new ‘method’ of governance (political parties, elections, etc.), though the pre-existing oligarchy generally remains in charge. Transitions to ‘democracy’ are promoted by the American Empire as if the United States had some sort of ‘God complex,’ seeking to remake the world in its own image… or delusion, rather.

Political parties need to be organized. Those which are more ‘Western’ are deemed more acceptable to Western elites, usually the ‘liberal democrats,’ or some variation thereof. In Egypt, there was not such an organized opposition in time for the revolution. There were attempts within Egypt to develop a liberal opposition, but the dictatorship kept a firm fist over political life. One such liberal opposition figure was Mohamed ElBaradei, an international diplomat who had, for decades, lived in the West.

In 2009, the former head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, announced that he would consider running for president of Egypt in the planned 2011 elections, commenting, “I have been listening tentatively, and deeply appreciate the calls for my candidacy for president.” He explained that he would “only consider it if there is a free and fair election, and that is a question mark still in Egypt.” ElBaradei received support in running for president from the liberal Wafd party, as well as from groups within the Kefaya (“Enough”) movement.[47]

As ElBaradei arrived in Egypt in February of 2010, he was greeted by hundreds of Egyptians welcoming him, hopeful for his potential presidential bid. The first multiparty elections in Egypt were held in 2005, though the entire process was “marred by fraud,” unsurprisingly. While 2011 was set to have a follow-up election, most assumed that Hosni Mubarak would attempt to hand power over to his son, Gamal.[48] That same month, ElBaradei announced that he was going to form “a national association for change” in Egypt, opening the invite for “anyone who wanted a change to the ruling party” to join the association, following talks with several opposition figures and civil society leaders, including a representative of the Muslim brotherhood.[49] The National Association for Change would have as its “main target” to “be pushing for constitutional reforms and social justice,” explained ElBaradei.[50]

In June of 2010, the Muslim Brotherhood officially endorsed the ‘reform campaign’ of ElBaradei, following a meeting between ElBaradei and Said al Katani, the leader of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc. Both the Brotherhood and ElBaradei’s National Association for Change announced that they would plan to co-ordinate and work together in the future on promoting reform in Egypt.[51]

The National Association for Change (NAC) created a petition which called for constitutional amendments allowing independent political candidates to run in the upcoming election, as well as providing independent supervision of the elections. Only 70,000 signatures were attached to the petition within a few months, though ElBaradei had been anticipating millions. ElBaradei had been hoping for mass protests and a boycott against the upcoming legislative elections planned for the fall of 2010, commenting that, “anyone who will participate in this charade will be giving legitimacy or pseudo-legitimacy to a regime desperate to get legitimacy.” ElBaradei also extended his criticisms to the Egyptian population, suggesting that there was “a high level of apathy and despair that anything is going to change,” and that “people need to mature… I can be a leader if I have the people behind me. I can’t bring about change single-handed.”[52]

The following month of July 2010, Mohamed ElBaradei was appointed to the board of trustees of the International Crisis Group (ICG). The ICG describes its goals as being to work “through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict,” producing “regular analytical reports containing practical recommendations targeted at key international decision-takers.”

The board of trustees was made up of a number of prominent Western elites from the state, military, think tanks, corporations and international organizations, including: Thomas Pickering, former US Ambassador; George Soros, billionaire investor and chair of the Open Society Institute; Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General (now on the international advisory board of JPMorgan Chase); Samuel Berger, former U.S. National Security Adviser and chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group; Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander; Carla A. Hills, former U.S. trade representative and member of numerous corporate boards; Jessica Tuchman Matthews, the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Javier Solana, former NATO Secretary-General, among many others.[53]

Senior advisers to the International Crisis Group also include Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi Ambassador to the United States; former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico, among many other former top government officials and current corporate and think tank leaders.[54]

Further revealing how entrenched the ICG is within the Western imperial establishment, roughly 49% of its funding comes from governments, including the foreign affairs departments and aid agencies of the governments of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Roughly 20% of the ICG’s funding comes from private foundations, such as the Carnegie Corporation, Elders Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations (run by the Soros family), the Radcliffe Foundation, Stanley Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Private sector support for the ICG accounts for 31% of its funding, from individuals and institutions such as: Dow Chemical, McKinsey & Company, Anglo American PLC, BG Group, BP, Chevron, Shell, Statoil, the Clinton Family Foundation, ENI, and many others.[55]

Western elites were obviously taking note of potential changes in Egypt, and certain groups within elite circles seek to get ahead of change and try to steer ‘reforms’ into safe areas (for entrenched power structures). They were aiming to encourage ‘reform’ in Egypt, not revolution. The International Crisis Group (ICG) is a good example of this, an organization with a focus on monitoring and providing ‘advice’ to states and other powerful institutions on preventing and managing crises, bringing together corporate, financial, ‘philanthropic,’ strategic and intellectual power players into a single institution. Inviting Mohamed ElBaradei into the group was an opening to attempt to bring Egypt’s potential future leadership more closely aligned with the interests and ideas of the Western elite. When ElBaradei returned to Egypt once again – though days after the uprising began – he suspended his membership with the International Crisis Group.[56]

Mohamed ElBaradei, after forming the National Association for Change in Egypt, spent most of his summer in 2010 abroad, though he returned in September to meet with opposition groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, at the Brotherhood’s annual Ramadan iftar banquet, where one leader from the Kefaya movement lambasted the Brotherhood for not taking an official stance in announcing it would boycott the coming legislative elections. Since the Brotherhood was the only large organized opposition within Egypt, the more liberal-leaning opposition groups formed a tenuous alliance with the organization.[57]

As a leader in the National Association for Change – Cairo University political scientist Hassan Nafaa – said: “We are forced to come together.” A spokesperson for the Brotherhood commented, “There are now only two possibilities: the regime or the Muslim Brotherhood.” Still, the Brotherhood, which held the largest opposition seats in the Parliament (with 20% of the total), “has been careful not to criticize Mubarak directly and insists it would never nominate its own candidate for the presidency.” The official stance of the Brotherhood has, however, “alienated many of its most active young members,” many of whom resigned in protest. Mohamed Salmawy, the president of the Egyptian Writers’ Union, referred to the Brotherhood, saying, “They can never come up with a real platform… If they did, it would give them away. They would be found out as people who do not believe in democracy.”[58]

That same month, ElBaradei went on to call for a national boycott of the elections and told several activists that, “regime change was possible in the coming year.” The National Association for Change had compiled nearly one million signatures demanding constitutional change, and ElBaradei commented, “If the whole people boycott the elections it will be, in my view, the end of the regime.”[59]

Intelligent Imperialism: The Working Group on Egypt

The Working Group on Egypt was formed in April of 2010 as a co-operative effort by officials from multiple prominent U.S. think tanks to encourage a change in policy toward Egypt, and more specifically, to encourage ‘democratic reforms.’ The Working Group consisted of nine different individuals: Elliott Abrams, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, former State Department official who also served on the National Security Council in both the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations; Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, former senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former member of the State Department in the Reagan administration, and he also currently sits on the Secretary of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board; Scott Carpenter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, previously served as a Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush administration, and served as an adviser in managing the Iraqi occupation, previously having worked with the International Republican Institute (IRI); Ambassador Edward Walker of the Middle East Institute, a former Assistant Secretary of State and ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

Other members of the Working Group included: Tom Malinowski, a director of Human Rights Watch, and former member of the National Security Council in the Clinton administration and former speechwriter for Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright; Ellen Bork of the Foreign Policy Initiative, former director at Freedom House, former deputy director of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), former State Department official and member of the Council on Foreign Relations; Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recognized as a ‘foremost’ authority on democracy-assistance programs, he served in the State Department working with USAID on ‘democracy assistance’ to Latin America during the Reagan administration; Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment, a former member of the National Security Council staff and the State Department’s Policy Planning staff, she also served as a diplomat in Israel and Egypt, and currently is a vice president at the Atlantic Council and is on the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy; and Daniel Calingaert, vice president of Freedom House, formerly with the International Republican Institute (IRI), and was a researcher at RAND Corporation.

Of the nine officials that make up the Working Group on Egypt, Calingaert was the only one who did not previously serve on the National Security Council or State Department. Moreover, several of the most influential U.S.-based ‘democracy promotion’ organizations were heavily represented in the Group, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, and Freedom House.

Thomas Carothers, a member of the Working Group, is considered by the major think tanks and establishment journals to be “one of the world’s foremost experts on democracy building.”[60] In 1997, he wrote an article explaining the general strategy of “democracy assistance” by the United States, primarily focused on supporting ‘institutions’ that the state views as “constituent elements of democracy.” This is broken down into three areas, providing support to “the electoral arena, governmental institutions, and civil society.” In the electoral arena, the focus is on providing for “free and fair elections.” They also “aid” in the development of political parties, “primarily through technical assistance and training on campaign methods and institutional development,” with the ultimate aim of creating a “party system” in which there are several different parties which differ only in “mild ideological shadings.”[61]

In terms of providing assistance to ‘governmental institutions,’ Carothers noted the U.S. democracy aid “seeks to help build democracy from the top down,” as opposed to allowing for democracy to generate from the bottom up (aka: genuine democracy). One of the primary facets of this program is for the U.S. to “aid” in the writing of a new constitution, “to help steer the country toward adopting a constitution that guarantees democratic government and a full range of political and civil rights,” of course including private property rights for corporations and specific privileges for elites.[62]

The U.S. also offers “assistance” in helping to form parliamentary bodies and undertake “judicial reform… to increase the efficiency and independence of judicial systems.” In terms of support to ‘civil society,’ U.S. assistance tends to pour into NGOs, the media, and unions. The key determinant of support for NGOs is if they “seek to influence governmental policy on some specific set of issues.” Support for media aims to make it an “independent, professionalized media,” which is to say, corporate controlled; and support for unions, Carothers explained, was an older ‘assistance’ program by the U.S. government aimed at building up unions “not affiliated with leftist political parties or movements.” Again, for the United States, “democracy” is all about “top down,” which is to say, democracy engineered by (and for) elites.[63]

In their first statement, issued to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in April of 2010, the Working Group urged Clinton “to promote democratic reform in Egypt in advance of the upcoming elections,” warning that, “rather than progressing gradually on a path of desirable reform, Egypt is instead sliding backwards into increased authoritarianism.” Noting that, “Egypt is at a critical turning point,” the Working Group recommended that the Egyptian government should respond “to demands for responsible political change… [and] face the future as a more democratic nation with greater domestic and international support,” which is to say, ‘order and stability.'[64]

If this is not done, they warned, “prospects for stability and prosperity in Egypt will be in doubt,” which would “have serious consequences for the United States, Egypt’s neighbors, the U.S.-Egyptian relationship, and regional stability.” The United States, they wrote, “has a stake in the path Egypt takes.” Noting that Egypt had a massive population of unemployed youth, the statement declared: “To fulfill expectations and to prevent the onset of frustration and radicalism, Egypt must expand citizens’ say in how they are governed,” explaining that there was “now an opportunity to support gradual, responsible democratic reform,” noting that the longer the U.S. waits, “the harder it will be to reverse a dangerous trend.”[65]

The Working Group sent a follow-up letter to Clinton the next month, upon Mubarak’s decision to extend the “state of emergency” (which he initially passed when he came to power in 1981) for another two years, noting that the situation “heightens our concern that the administration’s practice of quiet diplomacy is not bearing fruit,” and that, “we are more convinced than ever of the importance of U.S. engagement… the United States is uniquely positioned to engage the Egyptian government and civil society and encourage them along a path toward reform. The time to use that leverage is now.”[66]

Noting that when rebels ousted the corrupt Kyrgyzstan government in April of 2010, the population complained of the U.S.’s silence in the face of rigged elections and human rights abuses, “placing a clear priority on strategic cooperation with the government.” Watch out, Kagan and Dunne warned: “If the Obama administration does not figure out how to make clear that it supports the political and human rights of Egyptian citizens, while cooperating with the Egyptian government on diplomatic and security affairs, people will be saying that about the United States in Cairo one of these days – and maybe sooner than we expect.”[67]

In November of 2010, members of the Working Group on Egypt held a meeting with members of the Obama administration’s National Security Council staff, including Dennis Ross, Samantha Power, Pradeep Ramamurthy, Dan Shapiro, and Gayle Smith. The meeting was “to discuss Egypt’s upcoming elections, prospects for political reform, and the implications for U.S. policy.”[68]

The Working Group on Egypt was made up of a group of strategists from the dominant think tanks and ‘democracy’ promotion organizations embedded within the U.S. elite establishment, organized in an effort to promote a strategy which would secure long-term Western interests in the Arab world and Egypt in particular, pushing for ‘democratic’ reforms in order to placate the inevitable tide of history from tossing the United States out of Egypt in a revolutionary fervor. When the uprising began, and thereafter, those involved with the Working Group on Egypt became increasingly influential within U.S. policy circles, most notably at the National Security Council (NSC).

The Secret Report

In August of 2010, Obama issued a Presidential Study Directive to be undertaken by some of his advisers “to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world.” The 18-page report was produced by Dennis Ross, the senior adviser on the Middle East, and senior director of the National Security Council Samantha Power, along with another NSC staffer, Gayle Smith. Weekly meetings were held between these officials and representatives from the State Department, CIA, and other agencies. The conclusions of the report were – as the New York Times reported – “without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt,” with particular ‘flashpoints’ being identified, including Egypt.[69]

The report suggested that proposals be put forward on how to pressure Arab regimes to implement reforms before such circumstances arose. A senior official who helped draft the report later commented, “There’s no question Egypt was very much on the mind of the president… You had all the unknowns created by Egypt’s succession picture – and Egypt is the anchor of the region.”[70]

Yemen, long ruled by Ali Abdullah Saleh, was another nation that figured prominently in the report. Another administration official acknowledged that with rising youth populations, increasingly educated, yet with few economic opportunities and access to social media and the Internet, there was a “real prescription for trouble… whether it was Yemen or other countries in the region, you saw a set of trends.” Obama also pressed his advisers to look at the popular uprisings in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia to draw parallels and assess successes and failures. The report laid out a basis upon which the U.S. attempted to navigate its initial strategy during the uprisings of the Arab Spring.[71]

Imperial Dilemma: Choosing Dictatorship or Democracy?

The stage was set, change was inevitable, strategy was lagging – though developing – and the empire was thrown into a crisis when Egypt’s 18-day revolt took the world by shock. When one of the most important strategic ‘allies’ (aka: proxies) of the United States was thrown into a crisis in the form of a popular domestic uprising against the U.S.-subsidized dictatorship, the American Empire attempted to dance its way between the rhetoric – and strategic interest – of ‘democracy’ and the known stability and comfort of dictatorship. This dance over the 18-day uprising will be the focus of the next part in this series.

This report described some of the key ideas and characters that would become intimately involved in attempting to manage the situation within Egypt during the 18-day revolt and in the years since the uprising overthrew Mubarak. From the dictatorship, to democracy-promotion, and Egypt’s ‘liberal opposition,’ the Obama administration – and most especially the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council (often working closely with the Working Group on Egypt) sought to manage the dance between dictatorship and democracy for the Arab world’s most populous country in the midst of a popular uprising.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

 

Notes

[1] Justin Webb, “Obama interview: the transcript,” BBC, 2 June 2009:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2009/06/090602_obama_transcript.shtml

[2] Political Punch, “Secretary Clinton in 2009: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family”,” ABC News, 31 January 2011:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/01/secretary-clinton-in-2009-i-really-consider-president-and-mrs-mubarak-to-be-friends-of-my-family/

[3] Simon Tisdall, “WikiLeaks cables cast Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s ruler for life,” The Guardian, 9 December 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/09/wikileaks-cables-hosni-mubarak-succession

[4] Ibid.

[5] Luke Harding, “WikiLeaks cables show close US relationship with Egyptian president,” The Guardian, 28 January 2011:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/28/wikileaks-cairo-cables-egypt-president

[6] Mark Landler and Andrew W. Lehren, “Cables Show Delicate U.S. Dealings With Egypt’s Leaders,” The New York Times, 27 January 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/middleeast/28diplo.html?pagewanted=all

[7] Jeffrey Fleishman, “WikiLeaks: Diplomatic cables show Egyptian leader’s acrimony with Iran,” The Los Angeles Times, 29 November 2010:

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/29/world/la-fg-wikileaks-arabs-20101130

[8] Press Release, “Remarks by President Obama and President Mubarak of Egypt During Press Availability,” The White House, 18 August 2009:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-President-Obama-and-President-Mubarak-of-Egypt-during-press-availability

[9] Anne E. Kornblut and Mary Beth Sheridan, “Obama Optimistic About Mideast Peace,” The Washington Post, 19 August 2009:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-08-19/world/36857472_1_egyptian-president-hosni-mubarak-president-obama-egypt-and-jordan

[10] Michael Slackman, “Mubarak to Tell U.S. Israel Must Make Overture,” The New York Times, 16 August 2009:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/17/world/middleeast/17mubarak.html

[11] Richard Falk, “Ben Ali Tunisia was model US client,” Al-Jazeera, 25 January 2011:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/01/201112314530411972.html

[12] Daya Gamage, “Massive U.S. Military Aid to Tunisia despite human rights abuses,” Asian Tribune, 18 January 2011:

http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2011/01/18/massive-us-military-aid-tunisia-despite-human-rights-abuses

[13] NYT, “Challenges Facing Countries Across North Africa and the Middle East,” The New York Times, 17 February 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/0217-mideast-region-graphic.html

[14] Samer al-Atrush, “Tunisia: Why the Jasmine Revolution won’t bloom,” The Telegraph, 16 January 2011:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/tunisia/8261961/Tunisia-Why-the-Jasmine-Revolution-wont-bloom.html

[15] Steven Erlanger, “France Seen Wary of Interfering in Tunisia Crisis,” The New York Times, 16 January 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/world/africa/17france.html

[16] Angelique Chrisafis, “Sarkozy admits France made mistakes over Tunisia,” The Guardian, 24 January 2011:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jan/24/nicolas-sarkozy-tunisia-protests

[17] Raj M. Desai, Anders Olofsgard, and Tarik M. Yousef, “The Logic of Authoritarian Bargains,” Economics & Politics (Vol. 21, No. 1, March 2009), pages 93-94.

[18] Raj M. Desai, Anders Olofsgard and Tarik Yousef, “Is the Arab Authoritarian Bargain Collapsing?,” The Brookings Institution, 9 February 2011:

http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2011/02/09-arab-economies-desai-yousef

[19] F. Gregory Gause III, “Why Middle East Studies Missed the Arab Spring: The Myth of Authoritarian Stability,” Foreign Affairs (Vol. 90, No. 4, July/August 2011), pages 81-82.

[20] Marwan Muasher, “Tunisia’s Crisis and the Arab World,” the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 24 January 2011:

http://carnegieendowment.org/2011/01/24/tunisia-s-crisis-and-arab-world/1n0e

[21] Noam Chomsky, “Is the world too big to fail?,” Al-Jazeera, 29 September 2011:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/09/201192514364490977.html

[22] Roger Cohen, “Who Really Brought Down Milosevic?” The New York Times, 26 November 2000:

http://www.nytimes.com/2000/11/26/magazine/who-really-brought-down-milosevic.html

[23] Philip Shishkin, “In Putin’s Backyard, Democracy Stirs — With U.S. Help,” The Wall Street Journal, 25 February 2005:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB110929289650463886.html

[24] Ian Traynor, “US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev,” The Guardian, 26 November 2004:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.usa

[25] Mark Almond, “The price of People Power,” The Guardian, 7 December 2004:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/dec/07/ukraine.comment

[26] Matt Kelley, “U.S. money has helped opposition in Ukraine,” Associated Press, 11 December 2004:

http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20041211/news_1n11usaid.html

[27] Daniel Wolf, “A 21st century revolt,” The Guardian, 13 May 2005:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/13/ukraine.features11 ;

Craig S. Smith, “U.S. Helped to Prepare the Way for Kyrgyzstan’s Uprising,” The New York Times, 30 March 2005:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9806E4D9123FF933A05750C0A9639C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all ;

John Laughland, “The mythology of people power,” The Guardian, 1 April 2005:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/01/usa.russia ;

Jonathan Steele, “Ukraine’s postmodern coup d’etat,” The Guardian, 26 November 2004:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.comment

[28] Ron Nixon, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” The New York Times, 14 April 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/world/15aid.html?pagewanted=all

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] “Egypt protests: secret US document discloses support for protesters,” The Telegraph, 28 January 2011:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8289698/Egypt-protests-secret-US-document-discloses-support-for-protesters.html

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ian Shapira, “U.S. funding tech firms that help Mideast dissidents evade government censors,” The Washington Post, 10 March 2011:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/09/AR2011030905716.html

[34] Michel Chossudovsky, “The Protest Movement in Egypt: “Dictators” do not Dictate, They Obey Orders,” Global Research, 29 January 2011:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-protest-movement-in-egypt-dictators-do-not-dictate-they-obey-orders/22993

[35] Lincoln Mitchell, “North Africa through the Lens of the Color Revolutions,” EurasiaNet, 4 February 2011:

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/62832

[36] Ibid.

[37] “Egypt protests: secret US document discloses support for protesters,” The Telegraph, 28 January 2011:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8289698/Egypt-protests-secret-US-document-discloses-support-for-protesters.html

[38] Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How (Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, 2005), pages 49-54.

[39] Ibid, pages 3-4.

[40] Andrew Gavin Marshall, “‘A Lot of People Believe This Stuff’: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations,” Andrewgavinmarshall.com, 7 September 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/09/07/a-lot-of-people-believe-this-stuff-bill-clinton-barack-obama-and-the-politics-of-public-relations/

[41] Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How (Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, 2005), pages 12-13.

[42] Michelle Pace, “Paradoxes and contradictions in EU democracy promotion in the Mediterranean: the limits of EU normative power,” Democratization (Vol. 16, No. 1, February 2009), page 42.

[43] Report, “2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll: Results of Arab Opinion Survey Conducted June 29-July 20, 2010,” The Brookings Institution, 5 August 2010:

http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2010/08/05-arab-opinion-poll-telhami

[44] Ibid.

[45] Matt Bradley, “Egypt’s democracy groups fear shift in US policy will harm their work,” The National, 29 January 2010:

http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/africa/egypts-democracy-groups-fear-shift-in-us-policy-will-harm-their-work

[46] Ibid.

[47] Opposition hopeful for an ElBaradei presidential run,” The National, 6 December 2009:

http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/opposition-hopeful-for-an-elbaradei-presidential-run

[48] Abigail Hauslohner, “Will ElBaradei Run for President of Egypt?” Time Magazine, 20 February 2010:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1966922,00.html

[49] “ElBaradei to form ‘national association for change’,” BBC News, 24 February 2010:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8534365.stm

[50] Amro Hassan and Jeffrey Fleishman, “Egypt’s Mohamed ElBaradei creates National Front for Change,” The Los Angeles Times, 24 February 2010:

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/24/world/la-fg-egypt-elbaradei25-2010feb25

[51] Matt Bradley, “Brotherhood sides with ElBaradei,” The National, 6 June 2010:

http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/brotherhood-sides-with-elbaradei

[52] Nadia Abou el Magd, “Mohammed ElBaradei, Egypt’s wake-up caller,” The National, 26 June 2010:

http://www.thenational.ae/news/mohammed-elbaradei-egypts-wake-up-caller#full

[53] Brussels, “Crisis Group Announces New Board Members,” International Crisis Group, 1 July 2010:

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/media-releases/2010/crisis-group-announces-new-board-members.aspx

[54] ICG, “Crisis Group Senior Advisers,” International Crisis Group:

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/about/~/link.aspx?_id=AFAAD992BC154C93B71B1E76D6151F3F&_z=z

[55] ICG, “Who Supports Crisis Group?” The International Crisis Group, funding for the year ending 30 June 2012:

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/support/who-supports-crisisgroup.aspx

[56] International Crisis Group, “Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (I): Egypt Victorious?” Middle East/North Africa Report, (No. 101, 24 February 2011), page 4 (footnote #33).

[57] Thanassis Cambanis, “Thin Line for Group of Muslims in Egypt,” The New York Times, 5 September 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/06/world/middleeast/06egypt.html?pagewanted=all

[58] Ibid.

[59] Jack Shenker, “Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei urges election boycott,” The Guardian, 7 September 2010:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/07/egypt-mohamed-elbaradei

[60] Thomas Carothers, “Think Again: Arab Democracy,” Foreign Policy, 10 March 2011:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/10/think_again_arab_democracy

[61] Thomas Carothers, “Democracy Assistance: The Question of Strategy,” Democratization (Vol. 4, No. 3, Autumn 1997), pages 112-113.

[62] Ibid, page 113.

[63] Ibid, pages 113-114.

[64] Working Group on Egypt, “A Letter to Secretary Clinton From the Working Group on Egypt,” Carnegie Middle East Center, 7 April 2010:

http://carnegie-mec.org/2010/04/07/letter-to-secretary-clinton-from-working-group-on-egypt/b983

[65] Ibid.

[66] The Working Group on Egypt, “A Second Letter to Clinton from the Working Group on Egypt,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 12 May 2010:

http://carnegieendowment.org/2010/05/12/second-letter-to-clinton-from-working-group-on-egypt/9je

[67] Michele Dunne and Robert Kagan, “Obama needs to support Egyptians as well as Mubarak,” The Washington Post, 4 June 2010:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060303935.html

[68] Press Release, “Working Group on Egypt meets with NSC staff,” The Carnegie Endowment for International peace, 2 November 2010:

http://carnegieendowment.org/2010/11/02/working-group-on-egypt-meets-with-nsc-staff/q0c

[69] Mark Landler, “Secret Report Ordered by Obama Identified Potential Uprisings,” The New York Times, 16 February 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/17diplomacy.html

[70] Ibid.

[71] Ibid.

The Predatory Global Empire in Panama: Punishing the Poor

The Predatory Global Empire in Panama: Punishing the Poor

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

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Establishing a New War Doctrine

The war on Panama presents an interesting case to study. Taking place in 1989, it was the first war and intervention (whether covert or overt) which was not justified on the basis of a ‘Communist threat’. As such, it has been deemed as the first post-Cold War war. However, the justifications for the intervention, which was incredibly violent and destructive, especially upon the poor majority of Panama, were confused and inconsistent. Like all wars, conflicts, and interventions, it was made necessary through imperial logic: a once-client regime and puppet leader became too autonomous from the United States, its leader (and his nefarious connections with the American elite) became a liability and an embarrassment, and the tiny country of Panama threatened American strategic interests in the region, notably with the Panama Canal and the American military bases present to protect it. More importantly, perhaps, Panama was experiencing the development and growth of a populist-nationalist movement, particularly among its poor black and brown population, who had been previously ruled by a tiny white elite of European descent. In the imperial paradigm, the greatest threat to empire is the political, social, and economic mobilization of the people over whom the empire dominates.

Of course, it is a challenge to publicly justify a foreign intervention and war on the premises of a small nation and its people threatening the strategic imperial interests of America; after all, in the eyes and minds of most Americans, America is not an empire, but a bright shining beacon of freedom and bastion of democracy to lead the ‘free world.’ Thus, to sell a war requires the maintenance of more lies to fit in with the prevailing mythology. Yet, in the strategic vacuum created by the ending of the Cold War, and thus the disappearance of ‘Communism’ as the prevailing global boogeyman to serve as an excuse for any and all atrocities committed by America and the West, Panama was subjected to a far less eloquently articulated and designed justification. The threat of Communism was briefly attempted, and then the strategy quickly switched into the realm of the U.S. ‘War on Drugs,’ with many other failed attempts at justification thrown in for fair measure.

While the war was ultimately successful at removing the imperial ‘threat’, the politics surrounding the event were so disjointed that the war fails to stand up to any half-decent examination of the conflict as legitimate, and is, in fact, slightly embarrassing. There is a reason why it is a largely ‘forgotten’ war in terms of the collective memory of the American people having overlooked that ‘incident’ in recent history. People tend to remember only the wars they are reminded about and told to remember. This one, however, is worth remembering, not least because of the great loss of life it incurred on an incredibly poor and innocent people.

The Jimmy Carter administration, in 1978, signed an agreement with Panama allowing the country to regain control of the Panama Canal by 2000. The canal no longer had the same strategic importance it once held for the United States, as it did in the early 20th century. Long considered by American strategists to be “America’s back yard,” Latin America has been subjected to overt and covert U.S. interventions, coups, and wars more frequently than any other region of the world. In 1823, the Monroe Doctrine was written, which “asserted the pre-eminent and unilateral claim of the United States to hegemony in the Western hemisphere.” This document projected “near-absolute strategic control” over Latin America, thus justifying literally dozens of interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean. With the Cold War, the ‘doctrine’ was that of anti-Communism. With the end of the Cold War, “foreign policy managers [were] bereft of a national security doctrine and severely constrained by the greater volatility and suspicion of North American public opinion in foreign policy matters, and congressional and public fear of future Vietnam-style interventions.”[1]

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt “forcibly separated Panama from Colombia by sending in the U.S. Navy and Marines.” In 1904, he announced an updated version of the Monroe Doctrine with “a U.S. right to intervene unilaterally in the affairs of neighboring republics” in order to “prevent chronic wrongdoing.” Thus, in 1912, U.S. Marines entered Nicaragua’s civil war on the side of wealthy land owners; in 1914 the Navy bombarded and briefly occupied Veracruz, Mexico; in 1915, U.S. Marines occupied Haiti, establishing a military government and remaining there for over a decade; that same year U.S. Marines also occupied the Dominican Republic, also remaining there for over a decade. In 1926, the U.S. invaded Nicaragua again, destroying the agrarian rebel movement threatening domestic and international elite interests. Throughout the 1920s, the U.S. intervened in Panama, Honduras, and Cuba.[2]

The Reagan and Bush administrations (1981-1993) dramatically increased U.S. militarism and interventions around the world, such as in Lebanon, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Honduras, the covert war against the Sandanistas in Nicaragua, the Iran-Contra conspiracy, the invasion of Grenada, invasion of Panama, the Gulf War, and the 1992 intervention in Somalia. As Waltraud Queiser Morales wrote, “the Panamanian case can be seen as an important transition from ‘Monroe militarism’ and Reagan’s ‘containment militarism’ to Bush’s ‘New World Order militarism’.” This was characterized less by anti-Communist rhetoric, which was only partially (at least initially) used in the justification for the Panama invasion, but largely “projected ahead to an era of future global lawlessness in the ‘strategic slums’ of the Third World, where the US faced the chronic danger of ‘prolonged security operations’.”[3]

National Security Doctrines (NSDs) are important for American administrations to establish and articulate, as they deflect dissent and justify state actions with an aura of credibility and most notably by employing the notion that the end justifies the means. The Reagan doctrine for Latin America employed such a technique: “The national security of all the Americas is at stake in Central America. If we cannot defend ourselves there, we cannot expect to prevail elsewhere. Our credibility would collapse, our alliances would crumble, and the safety of our homeland would be put at jeopardy.”[4]

The Reagan doctrine was largely realized through its support of anti-Soviet and virulent anti-Communist “freedom fighters” in the Third World, as well as “friendly anti-Communist authoritarians.” This strategy defined the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, the largest covert operation in history, but had the Reagan administration particularly preoccupied with Central America; most notably, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The new strategic doctrine defined low intensity conflict (LIC) as a principle means for implementing this vision. LIC was defined by the Pentagon in 1985 as, “a limited politico-military struggle to achieve political, social, economic, or psychological objectives,” often using methods of insurgency and terrorism. The war, however, is waged in three key areas: the field, within the administration in Washington, and in the media. During the Reagan years, the “War on Drugs” emerged as a potentially powerful new National Security Doctrine (NSD).[5]

Between 1986 and 1988, U.S. policy-makers employed a conscious rhetorical effort to associate the flourishing global drug trade with leftist guerillas in the Third World. The acceleration of employing the “war on drugs” in defining National Security interests increased as U.S. (largely covert) efforts experienced setbacks in Central America. Thus, Presidential directives were signed which increased efforts on the part of intelligence and military personnel against drug operations. Thus, still employing the method of a Low Intensity Conflict (LIC), “militarized drug operations provided a laboratory to project US power, train local militaries in the new strategic doctrine, transfer military hardware and gather intelligence.” The drug war could thus be used “to generate public support behind a resurgent, interventionist US foreign policy in Latin America.”[6]

Of course, missing from this discourse is the very-well documented facts revolving around how the United States has covertly – directly following World War II – supported the drug trade around the world, largely through efforts of the CIA. This was especially the case in Southeast Asia during the Indochina War, where heroin was the principle prize for these covert efforts; Afghanistan and Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan war (and in the present occupation of Afghanistan), which then came to replace Southeast Asia as the main producer of heroin in the world, and of course, South and Central America (particularly during the Reagan years onward) in terms of the cocaine trade. The role of the CIA and other covert elements has been extensively documented by professors Alfred McCoy and Peter Dale Scott in various books and publications, most notably, The Politics of Heroin (McCoy) and American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (Scott).

The Destabilization of Panama

General Omar Torrijos, Panama’s military strongman, “was a populist reformist” who had negotiated the Panama Canal Treaties with the United States in the late 1970s. While the Canal held less strategic significance for the United States than in previous times, the 14 military bases present in Panama remained incredibly significant in strategic circles, particularly with the Pentagon’s Southern Command headquarters based in Panama, “which was the site for U.S. military and covert operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.” In 1981, Torrijos died mysteriously when his plane blew up in midair, and he was subsequently replaced by the head of Panama’s military intelligence, General Manuel Noriega. Noriega had long been supported by the United States, going back to when George H.W. Bush was Director of the CIA in the Ford administration, at which time the CIA paid Noriega $200,000 a year.[7]

Following the death of Torrijos, “US relations became cosy with his successor and head of the Panamanian Defence Forces, General Manuel Antonio Noreiga, who had associations with the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Southern Command (Southcom), housing over 14,000 US troops in Panama at 14 US military bases worth some $5 billion.” Noriega was a longtime participant in the drug trade, particularly with the Colombian drug cartel, which was all well-known to the U.S. Embassy, Southcom, and the CIA. Yet, in 1987, letters from the DEA and the US Justice Department referred to Noriega’s cooperation with those agencies in the drug war as “superb.” It was ‘superb’ in the true sense of intent and methods, whereby the U.S. was an active organizational participant in the drug trade. Noreiga and many others in the Panamanian military “facilitated drug smuggling and laundered millions in drug money with the complicity of the DEA, Southcom and the CIA.” When cash reserves were high in Panama in 1986, “deposits of $1.3 billion in laundered drug monies were easily transferred from Panama’s central bank to the Federal Reserve Bank in Miami.” Further, large sums of drug money were diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras (death squad terrorists) fighting a war against the Sandanistas on behalf of the CIA. The operation of support for the Contras in their brutal war in Nicaragua were exposed in Congressional hearings and investigations known as the ‘Iran-Contra Affair,’ which was made public in the late 1980s. The scandal, by no means exclusive to the case of Nicaragua, involved the CIA and Pentagon covertly funding, training, and arming the Contras with money earned from illegal arms sales to Iran as well as money from the drug trade. The investigations revealed a complex network of relationships and actors, centered in the National Security Council (NSC), and directly involving CIA Director William Casey, Lt. Col. Oliver North, and then Vice President George H.W. Bush.[8]

Yet, despite Noriega’s “cosy” relationship with these agencies and individuals in the United States, “there were limits to [his] willingness to serve Washington.” As political scientist Michael Parenti explained:

He reasserted Panama’s independence over the control of the Canal Zone and the leases for U.S. military bases. He reportedly refused to join an invasion against Nicaragua and maintained friendly relations with both Managua and Havana. Before long, hostile reports about him began appearing in the U.S. media. In 1987, the Justice Department indicted Noriega for drug smuggling. A crippling economic embargo was imposed on Panama, a country of two million people, causing a doubling of unemployment and a drastic cutback in social benefits.[9]

The initial aim, then, of US intervention in Panama, “was to destabilize Noriega and install in his place a more pliant right-wing commander, but US military leaders feared an even greater threat in the nationalistic Panamanian Defence Forces [PDF].” Further, with the exposure of the Iran-Contra Scandal, “Noriega became a potential domestic political embarrassment and threat to higher-ups in the government, including Bush himself.”[10] Subsequently, “a media blitz demonized the Panamanian leader as a drug dealer, thus preparing the U.S. public for the ensuing invasion.”[11] Thus, “in the end, the drug war served as the public excuse for invasion. But it was not the real reason.”[12]

As Waltraud Queiser Morales wrote, just as was done elsewhere (such as Chile, Grenada, and Nicaragua), the United States promoted the destabilization of Panama, as “economic sanctions, pro-democracy and electoral manipulation, and confrontational military exercises worked to intimidate and provoke incidents that could provide pretexts for intervention.” The pro-democracy and electoral strategy employed by the United States (part of America’s “democratization” project), involved the “Bush administration, the CIA, and the National Endowment for Democracy [which] funneled more than $10 million to opposition candidates – Guillermo Endara, Guillermo Ford and Ricardo Arias Calderon – in the 1989 Panamanian national elections.” With Endara having won, amidst claims of vote fraud by the Panamanian Defence Forces (PDF), and with Noriega subsequently annulling the elections and staying in power, riots and protests erupted. Images of US-supported politicians being beaten and attacked by the PDF and Noriega’s supporters erupted in the American media, which ultimately “damaged Noriega’s regime and enhanced the opposition’s image in Panama and the United States.” Noriega, however, annulled the elections on the basis of “foreign interference,” which, as a direct result of millions of US dollars funding opposition candidates, is an accurate claim of “interference.”[13] Imagine the notion of a foreign power throwing tens of millions of dollars at domestic American politicians in a national election. The idea alone is reprehensible, not to mention illegal. But this is how America “promotes democracy” around the world: through buying the politicians.

The Reagan and Bush administrations had hoped to encourage a coup by the Panamanian Defence Forces (PDF). The Reagan administration began to encourage this option in 1988, as Ronald Reagan continuously refused to employ the option of a direct military intervention. However, additional US forces were sent to their bases in Panama as an indication to Noriega of the increasingly threatening posture of the United States. On March 16, 1988, the Panamanian Chief of Police, Colonel Leonidas Macias, attempted to orchestrate a coup against Noriega, which ultimately failed.[14] The Reagan administration was split internally on the potential to use the military option. The State Department supported the option, while the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) had opposed military intervention. Elliot Abrams, the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, in March of 1988, suggested using limited force, “a commando raid to capture Noriega and to bring him to trial in the United States, accompanied by 6,000 American soldiers to defend… against any PDF retaliations,” yet the Pentagon remained opposed to the option.[15]

In anticipation that Reagan would eventually adopt Abrams’ suggestion, the Pentagon launched a public counter-attack to discredit Abrams and his suggestions, which included leaking many of his ‘suggestions’ to the press. The Reagan administration attempted to negotiate a deal with Noriega, offering to drop the drug-related charges against him which were brought forward in US courts in 1988. Vice President Bush, however, firmly opposed negotiations with Noriega, as he was campaigning for the presidency, Bush did not want to appear soft on Noriega, as he had suffered the public image of a ‘wimp.’[16] Bush’s victory in the Presidential elections in 1988 allowed for the development of a new strategy for Panama, and with a change in administration personnel, the administration could become more unified in their position.[17]

On October 1, 1989, the United States was informed about a future coup attempt by a member of Noriega’s inner circle, Moises Giroldi, and asked for U.S. assistance in blocking roads to protect the family of the coup plotter. The United States Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney, agreed to help, and when the coup took place two days later, on October 3, the U.S. blocked the requested roads. However, Noriega outmaneuvered the coup plotters, getting help from a special military unit, and the U.S. refused to intervene to ensure the success of the coup. Thus, the plotter was killed, and Noriega began to purge the PDF of dissenting elements. The failure of the U.S. to ensure the success of the coup led to many domestic political leaders criticizing Bush and his strategy.[18] However, this was actually part of a larger strategy. The coup was not supported because there were internal complications within the Bush administration as well as a larger overall strategy. Two top military commanders were replaced days before the coup took place. The chief of Southcom was replaced three days prior to the coup, and the next day, Colin Powell (Reagan’s National Security Adviser), became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The men that these two replaced – General Woerner and Admiral Crowe, respectively – had opposed direct military intervention in Panama, and thus preferred a coup option. Thurman and Powell, however, wanted the change of government to take place “on a U.S. timetable,” and Powell stated that he didn’t like the idea of “a half-baked coup with a half-baked coup leader.” Powell advocated, instead, not simply for replacing Noriega, but that the United States would have to employ a strategy of “destroying and replacing his entire regime.”[19]

What was needed, then, was a pretext for a full-scale invasion in order to crush the regime and destroy the PDF. As the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama revealed, “over 100 instances of U.S. military provocations in 1989 were documented by the Panamanian government. These included U.S. troops setting up roadblocks, searching Panamanian citizens, confronting PDF forces, occupying small towns for a number of hours, buzzing Panamanian air space with military aircraft, and surrounding public buildings with troops.”[20] Again, simply imagine if a foreign military in the United States, which had over a dozen major bases around the country, was engaging in such provocative actions within America. This would be construed as a direct military threat and interpreted as a foreign occupation.

In December of 1989, a Panamanian soldier was injured by U.S. troops.[21] Subsequently, on 15 December, the Panamanian National Assembly declared Panama to be in a state of war with the United States.[22] This, however, was “interpreted” in the U.S. media as a declaration of war against the United States by the tiny Central American nation of Panama. Ted Koppel of ABC “reported that Noriega had declared war in the United States.” Yet, as Noriega himself stated, America “through constant psychological and military harassment, has created a state of war in Panama.”[23] In mid-December, the United States achieved its goal of provoking Panamanian Defence Forces to act, as PDF soldiers stopped a U.S. military patrol car, holding the police officer at gunpoint, and on 16 December, “they fired at an American vehicle in a checkpoint and killed” a U.S. Marine. On 17 December, “a U.S. officer shot a PDF policeman.”[24]

On that same day, the Bush administration discussed their options in Panama. Colin Powell “advocated a large scale intervention whose goal would be to destroy the PDF and the entire Noriega regime and not just [aim to achieve] the capture of Noriega.” Powell reasoned, “that it could be difficult to find Noriega and arrest him at the beginning of the operation, but destroying the PDF would ensure Noriega’s capture.” Thus, Powell concluded, “the PDF’s destruction would be required to establish democracy in Panama.” Subsequently, “Bush agreed and approved the plan for large-scale military intervention in Panama.”[25]

On December 20, 1989, George Bush launched a midnight attack on Panama with an invasion of 26,000 US troops. The invasion took place amidst “a complete media blackout,” allowing for great atrocities to take place with no independent voices or visuals emerging from the nation. The “three-day intervention” known cynically as “Operation Just Cause” was heaped with praise in the United States, as Bush’s reputation as a ‘wimp’ was erased and his popularity shot up. As Bush declared war, the publicly pronounced reasons were “to protect American lives and bring the drug-indicted dictator to justice.”[26]

The True ‘Threat’ in Panama: The Poor

In reality, there were far greater reasons for the war, dictated not by humanitarian, legal, or moral claims; instead, the true reasons were ardently imperial in nature. There were of course the strategic considerations: more reliable client states and puppet leaders, more indirect control over the Canal and maintenance of the fourteen military bases as a launching point for counter-revolutionary operations around Central America, and to install a “democratic” regime based upon party politics as opposed to potentially problematic military leaders who may stand up to the United States. However, there was also a far greater threat, which wove through all the other reasons: Panama was in the midst of a nationalist popular movement, consisting largely of the poor black majority who had for centuries been repressed by a tiny white elite of European descent, as has been the case across all Latin America.

Before Noriega, the military dictatorship of General Omar Torrijos established itself during a period where the issues of race and class were becoming more public and vocal. Torrijos, who ruled Panama from 1968 until 1981 (when he died in a mysterious plane explosion), “sought to legitimize his military regime by seeking support from all social groups for his populist-nationalist project.” The Panamanian Black movement, which had begun in earnest some decades before, truly began to flourish during the Torrijos regime, and played a large part in creating the heated nationalistic sentiments and public demands for the Carter-Torrijos Panama Canal Treaties in the 1970s. As George Priestley and Alberto Barrow wrote:

It was within this new political environment of military led populism and nationalism that racial discrimination and racism was weakened in Panama as progressive and Black groups emerged to gain greater visibility, challenged racial stereotypes, and forged transnational bonds.[27]

The movement was helped along in no small part due to Afro-Panamanian organizations based in the United States, which were directly engaged with the Torrijos government to build support for the “nationalist struggle for the recuperation of the Panama Canal and Panamanian sovereignty.” When Torrijos was killed in the plane explosion, the CIA’s man in Panama, Noriega, back-tracked on many of Torrijos’ programs, including “interventionist” state measures in the economy which “had brokered the populist-nationalist alliance and eased social and racial tensions.” Noriega, instead, embraced the Western neoliberal policies of ‘structural adjustment,’ which antagonized the growing popular movement in Panama. As Noriega failed to become a “responsible” leader in the eyes of the United States, he faced two increasing problems: antagonizing the United States and the Panamanian Black movement simultaneously. However, there were still several remnants of the Torrijos reforms, and the populist-nationalist sentiments which had been fostered by the Torrijos military regime remained strong in the military ranks of the PDF itself. With the U.S. invasion and occupation (and the subsequent media blackout), the true intent of the war became clear to those who suffered in it:

A disproportionate number of those who were affected economically by Noriega’s structural adjustment policies, and who lost their lives because of the U.S.’s Low Intensity Conflict and invasion were from El Chorillo, Colon, and San Miguelito, [poor] communities whose residents are predominantly Black and brown.[28]

These communities, along with the PDF itself, had to be targeted in the war. While Noriega’s economic structural adjustment policies had weakened the populist movement for social justice and equality, the movement continued to struggle and the PDF remained an ideological ally in the promotion of nationalism. This is ultimately the real reason why the United States could not simply support another military coup, as it would still take place from within the ranks of an intensely nationalistic and somewhat left-leaning military, just as was the case with Noriega. This explains why the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, claimed that it was not enough to remove Noriega from power, but that the U.S. had to have a strategy of “destroying and replacing his entire regime.”[29] Destroying the regime is just what the U.S. did. As Morales wrote in Third World Quarterly:

The invasion victimized thousands of innocent Panamanians and left densely populated areas devastated. Local and international eye witnesses said civilians and residential areas were deliberately targeted. Perhaps 18,000 Panamanians were displaced and thousands remain[ed] in refugee camps in 1993. Local reports had 7000 Panamanians, primarily progressives and labour activists, arrested. Charges of summary executions and secret mass graves also emerged. The Panamanian National Human Rights Committee claimed that 4000 persons were killed in the invasion; regional human rights agencies and the United Nations Human Rights Commission reported over 2500 deaths. The US military admitted only 250; later the Pentagon released the figure of 516 Panamanians killed, over 75% civilian.[30]

The United States media, for its part, “covered Operation Just Cause like a U.S. Army recruitment film,” explained Michael Parenti. American audiences were shown “helicopters landing, planes dive-bombing, troops trotting along foreign streets, the enemy’s headquarters engulfed in flames, friendly Panamanians welcoming the invaders as liberators.” Of course, Parenti elaborated, there was no mention in the media that “the Panamanians interviewed were almost always well dressed, light skinned, and English speaking, in a country where most were poor, dark skinned, and Spanish speaking. Also left out of the picture were the many incidents of armed resistance by Panamanians.” As for the actual bombings and indeed, the virtual ‘scorched-earth’ policies of burning down El Chorillo along with several other working-class poor black neighbourhoods, the media treated “these aerial attacks on civilian populations as surgical strikes designed to break resistance in ‘Noriega strongholds’.”[31]

Following the invasion, the United States installed their favoured candidates from the previously held elections (whom the US – through the CIA and NED financed with $10 million) as Panama’s new “democratic” leaders: President Guillermo Endara, Vice President Guillermo Ford, and Attorney General Rogelio Cruz. As it turned out, unsurprisingly, “all three of these rich, white oligarchs were closely linked to companies, banks, and people heavily involved in drug operations or money-laundering.”[32] After invading, the U.S. “abolished the Panamanian Defense Forces and crushed the popular movement, creating conditions for the consolidation of a right of center party system and the growth of an economy based on neoliberal policies that have exacerbated socio-economic inequalities and increased racial/ethnic exclusion of Afro-Panamanians.”[33] As Priestly and Barrow wrote:

The U.S. invasion and the so-called transition to democracy had negative effects on popular organizing. During and immediately after the invasion, Black and brown communities were devastated; their organizations negatively affected, and their leaders killed or jailed, or otherwise persecuted. Political parties regained center stage in the electoral process and many Black and popular militants were co-opted into these organizations, reducing the organizational capabilities of some organizations and eliminating others.[34]

Only months after the invasion “did a few brief reports appear regarding mass graves of Panamanians dead buried hastily by U.S. Army bulldozers,” while the American media focused on the sideshow of the pursuit of Noriega, who ultimately turned himself in early January. No footage was shown of the poor neighbourhoods destroyed by U.S. bombing, such as El Chorillo’s “total devastation,” and no mention “of the many lives lost in what amounted to a saturation terror-bombing of a civilian neighborhood.”[35] As Michael Parenti wrote:

With the U.S. military firmly controlling Panama, conditions in that country deteriorated. Unemployment, already high because of the U.S. embargo, climbed to 35 percent as drastic layoffs were imposed on the public sector. Pension rights and other work benefits were lost. Newspapers and radio and television stations were closed by U.S. occupation authorities. Newspaper editors and reporters critical of the invasion were jailed or detained, as were all the leftist political party leaders. Union heads were arrested by the U.S. military, and some 150 local labor leaders were removed from their elected union positions. Public employees not supporting the invasion were purged. Crime rates rose dramatically, along with poverty and destitution. Thousands remained homeless. Corruption was more widespread than ever. More money-laundering and drug-trafficking occurred under the U.S.-sponsored Endara administration than under Noriega.[36]

Noriega was taken to the United States and convicted of drug smuggling in 1992. The United States conveniently ignored the drug-trafficking by Panama’s new “democratic” Endara administration, not to mention “its infringement of civil liberties and democracy.” The U.S. Congress received George Bush with a standing ovation when he declared, “One year ago the people of Panama lived in fear under the thumb of a dictator. Today democracy is restored. Panama is free.” Endara, however, “was extremely unpopular in Panama,” seen as “just another pliant US puppet.”[37] In June of 1990, the Washington Post had declared that the Endara regime, against all evidence, improved human rights and “press freedoms have been restored.”[38]

Conclusion

The struggles of the once-popular resistance and Black movement continued well into the 21st century, and up to the present day. The war on Panama represented the true nature of what was to come in the post-Cold War world, as it was the first war the United States undertook without Cold War rhetoric. Its principle aim was to destroy a popular people’s movement, remove a non-compliant dictator, and establish more control over the country and the region. Of course, among our political leaders and media in the West, this is referred to as “restoring democracy.” Thus, the threat of the Communist boogeyman faded, and the benevolent aim of ‘democracy’ resurfaced, as it initially did following World War I when Woodrow Wilson declared that the world must be made safe for democracy. For all the rhetoric of Western leaders and media, the greatest crime a leader or people can commit is to support themselves, or simply seek to do so; to provide for the poor and needy, to attempt to industrialize and develop their own country as they see fit, and to create an educated, free, healthy and stable population and society. This, above all else, is the ultimate sin in the world of “international politics.”

Logic thus dictates, then, that the greatest potential for true change and hope in this world is solidarity among all people’s movements the world over, and for a resurgence of populist movement, ideally not nationalistic in character, but simultaneously local and global: seeking local autonomy (moving around the nation-state, an easily corrupted and contemptuous institution), and seeking solidarity globally, to align itself with all such movements around the world, achieving strength in numbers, interaction of ideas, articulation of strategies, and advancement of all peoples in all places.

If a popular movement in a tiny little nation like Panama was such a threat to the massive American Empire, the largest, most militarily advanced, and most globally expansive empire in all of human history, this is actually a source of hope for all humanity. If Panama was such a threat that the United States saw fit to invade and occupy the small country, then imagine the threat which would be posed if all people, everywhere in the world, simultaneously sought a populist liberation struggle; not divided by nations and regions, but acting locally – for local autonomy from domestic elites and liberation from the empire – and interacting globally, with other such movements around the world. This is truly the greatest threat ever known to a global empire. This threat has been articulated by one of the empire’s most prominent strategists, Zbigniew Brzezinski, as the “Global Political Awakening.” Thus, it is in the interest of all peoples, everywhere, always and eternally, to seek and support all liberation struggles, to advance the “Awakening” and bring in a new concept of democracy, one which lives up to the rhetoric of our current system: “of, by, and for the people”; a democracy void of predatory elites. This is true freedom, true liberation, and no other philosophy or ideology is so capable of uniting the people of the world under one banner than that of the ‘ultimate liberation’: of, by, and for the people.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is co-editor of the book, “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.” His website is http://www.andrewgavinmarshall.com

Notes

[1]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 77.

[2]            Charles Maechling, Jr., “Washington’s Illegal Invasion,” Foreign Policy (No. 79, Summer 1990), pages 113-114.

[3]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 78.

[4]            Waltraud Quesler Morales, “The War on Drugs: A New US National Security Doctrine?” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 11, No. 3, July 1989), page 151.

[5]            Ibid, page 152.

[6]            Ibid, pages 154-155.

[7]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 45.

[8]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 82.

[9]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), pages 45-46.

[10]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 83.

[11]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 46.

[12]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 83.

[13]            Ibid.

[14]            Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 547.

[15]            Ibid, page 548.

[16]            Ibid, page 549.

[17]            Ibid, page 551.

[18]            Ibid, pages 554-555.

[19]            Ibid, page 556.

[20]            The Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama, The U.S. invasion of Panama: the truth behind operation ‘ Just Cause’ (South End Press, 1991), page 24.

[21]            Ibid.

[22]            Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 558.

[23]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 46.

[24]            Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 558.

[25]            Ibid, pages 558-559.

[26]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), pages 83-84.

[27]            George Priestley and Alberto Barrow, “The Black Movement in Panama: A Historical and Political Interpretation, 1994-2004,” Souls (Vol. 10, No. 3, 2008), page 231.

[28]            Ibid, pages 231-232.

[29]            Eytan Gilboa, “The Panama Invasion Revisited: Lessons for the Use of Force in the Post Cold War Era,” Political Science Quarterly (Vol. 110, No. 4, Winter 1995-1996), page 556.

[30]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 84.

[31]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 46.

[32]            Ibid, page 48.

[33]            George Priestley and Alberto Barrow, “The Black Movement in Panama: A Historical and Political Interpretation, 1994-2004,” Souls (Vol. 10, No. 3, 2008), page 232.

[34]            Ibid, page 234.

[35]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), pages 46-47.

[36]            Ibid, page 49.

[37]            Waltraud Queiser Morales, “U.S. Intervention and the New World Order: Lessons from Cold War and post-Cold War cases,” Third World Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 1, 1994), page 84.

[38]            Michael Parenti, “A Devil in Panama,” Peace Review (Vol. 5, No. 1, 1993), page 49.

Will Tunisia Transition from Tyranny into Democratic Despotism?

Will Tunisia Transition from Tyranny into Democratic Despotism?
North Africa and the Global Political Awakening, Part 3
Global Research, February 14, 2011

This article is Part 3 in the series, “North Africa and the Global Political Awakening.”

Part 1: Are We Witnessing the Start of a Global Revolution?

Part 2: America’s Strategic Repression of the ‘Arab Awakening’


It has been a month since President and dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia, sparking the civil disobedience and protests that have since resulted in the fall of one of the Arab world’s strongest and most long-lasting dictators, Hosni Mubarak. Yet, where does Tunisia stand today, and where is it headed in the future?

In Part 1 of this series, I asked the question, “Are we witnessing the start of a global revolution?” I concluded that we are seeing the emergence of a powerful phase in what will be a long road to world revolution, spurred on largely by what is referred to as the ‘Global Political Awakening.’ The ‘Awakening’ is driven by the information and communications revolutions, in which people around the world, and in particular in the ‘Third World’ have become increasingly aware of their lack of freedom, economic exploitation, oppression and disrespect. Specifically, the educated youth are the driving force, and the quest for human dignity is the driving impetus.

In Part 2 of this series, I analyzed how American imperial strategy has changed in the past several years to support democratization in the Arab world, not out of any humanitarian qualms regarding supporting oppressive and ruthless tyrants, but out of strategic interest in securing long-term control and hegemony over the region. The strategy of “democratization” is a method of controlling and managing the process and problems inherent in the Global Political Awakening. However, American strategists and think tanks made it clear that they preferred a strategy of democratization supporting “evolution, not revolution.” Thus, when the uprisings and revolutions began, America’s imperial strategists were quick to react in order to attempt to control the situation.

The aim, then, is to mitigate and manage the process of change, promoting the idea of “unity” or “transition governments,” so that America may manage the transition into a democratic system that is safe for Western interests, and will produce a political elite subservient to America and Western financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF. This part of the series, “North Africa and the Global Political Awakening,” is a brief examination of the strategy undertaken in Tunisia to pre-empt and subsequently manage the uprising that took place, and where this could likely lead.

America Anticipated Trouble in Tunisia

According to the Wikileaks diplomatic cables on Tunisia, the issue of succession in Tunisia from the Ben Ali regime were being discussed by the American Embassy in 2006. However, at the time, the Ambassador noted that, “none of the options suggest Tunisia will become more democratic, but the US-Tunisian bilateral relationship is likely to remain unaffected by the departure of Ben Ali.” It was discussed that if the President became “temporarily incapacitated” (largely referring to his struggle with cancer), then “he could turn over a measure of presidential authority to Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi.” The Ambassador noted that average Tunisians generally view Ghannouchi “with respect and he is well-liked in comparison to other GOT [Government of Tunisia]” and party officials.[1] Ghannouchi was subsequently the person who stepped in as interim President once Ben Ali fled in 2011, but with very little support among the people, who demanded he resign as well.

In a 2008 cable regarding a meeting with President Ben Ali, it was ironically noted that Ben Ali felt that the situation in Egypt was “explosive” and that, “sooner or later the Muslim  Brotherhood would take over. He added that Yemen and Saudi Arabia are also facing real problems,” emphasizing that the whole region in general is “explosive.”[2]

In July of 2009, a diplomatic cable from the American Embassy in Tunis noted that Tunisia is “troubled,” and that, “many Tunisians are frustrated by the lack of political freedom and angered by First Family corruption, high unemployment and regional inequities.” The Ambassador noted that while America seeks to enhance ties with Tunisia commercially and militarily, there are also major setbacks, as “we have been blocked, in part, by a Foreign Ministry that seeks to control all our contacts in the government and many other organizations.” America had successfully accomplished a number of goals, such as “increasing substantially US assistance to the military,” and “strengthening commercial ties,” yet, “we have also had too many failures.” Tunisia had declined USAID to engage in regional programs “to assist young people,” as well as having “reduced the number of Fulbright scholarship students,” which was a specific strategic suggestion made by the Council on Foreign Relations report in 2005 in supporting ‘democratization’ of the Arab world. Further, the Ambassador noted, the Tunisian government “makes it difficult” for the Embassy to maintain contact “with a wide swath of Tunisian society,” adding that government-owned papers “often attack Tunisian civil society activists who participate in Embassy activities, portraying them as traitors.” The government also made it very apparent that it disapproves of Embassy contact with opposition figures “as well as civil society activists who criticize the regime.”[3]

In posing the question of – “what should we do?” – the Ambassador explained that America had “an interest in keeping the Tunisian military professional and neutral,” as well as “fostering greater political openness.” The Ambassador emphasized the need “to maintain contacts with the few opposition parties and civil society groups critical of the regime.” Further, the Ambassador stressed the need to mobilize the Europeans to help in pushing for ‘reform,’ as “key countries such as France and Italy have shied from putting pressure on the GOT.” The Ambassador noted that ultimately, “serious change here will have to await Ben Ali’s departure.”[4]

Many U.S. democracy promotion organizations had established ties to Tunisian civil society organizations and opposition leaders over the past few years, including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Freedom House, and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).[5]

‘Democratizing’ Tunisia

As we see from the course of events in Tunisia, America’s strategy of democracy promotion has not necessarily gone according to plan. As the CFR Task Force stressed in 2005, “America’s goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution.”[6] This was apparent in the uprising catching America somewhat off guard. Following the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010, Tunisia erupted in protests, inspired by food price hikes, dissatisfaction with corruption, lack of freedoms, and unemployment. The protests were met with police brutality, and were receiving little if any coverage in international media. A hallmark of a U.S.-sponsored democratic “regime change” is to have Western media play a powerful role from the moment the protests erupt, yet the Western media did not pay attention until President Ben Ali fled on 14 January 2011. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi then took over as acting president, handing the position of acting president over to parliamentary speaker Fouad Mebazaa the following day. Fouad Mebazaa then asked the Prime Minister to form a “unity government,” saying that a “national unity government in the country’s best interests.”[7]

Immediately after Ben Ali fled, the Tunisian military was deployed into the streets to “maintain order” in the face of riots and looting that broke out. Many blamed the riots and looting on militias which “are part of the ministry of the interior, or police members, and they are co-ordinated by heads of police and intelligence in Tuisia.”[8]

Within days, the formation of a unity government was announced, vowing “to work towards democracy,” which resulted in several opposition leaders joining: “Ahmed Ibrahim, head of the Ettajdid party, Najib Chebbi, founder of the opposition PDP party, and Mustafa Ben Jaafar, head of the Union of Freedom and Labour, are all expected to get senior appointments.” Ibrahim was quoted as saying, “The main thing for us right now is to stop all this disorder. We are in agreement on several principles concerning the new government.”[9] Najib Chebbi, leader of the opposition PDP party and member of the “unity government,” is a lawyer who “has long been seen by Western diplomats as the most credible figure in the opposition.”[10] The “unity government” announced that it planned to hold elections within 6 months.

However, the public in the streets were not satisfied with the creation of a “unity government” containing many remnants of the Ben Ali regime, with some activists claiming, “The new government is a sham. It’s an insult to the revolution that claimed lives and blood.”[11] The military played a powerful role in the Tunisian uprising, most especially by refusing to fire on protesters, which led to Ben Ali fleeing the following day. Two days following Ben Ali’s departure, an Egyptian newspaper reported that Army Chief Rachid Ammar was in immediate contact with the American Embassy in Tunis, according to an officer in the Tunisian National Guard, and that the U.S. Embassy gave instructions to Ammar “to take charge of Tunisian affairs if the situation gets out of control.”[12]

In fact, army chief Rachid Ammar vowed to “defend the revolution.” Ammar was speaking to protesters on the 24 of January, as protesters were demanding the unity government resign. He warned protesters, “Our revolution, your revolution, the revolution of the young, risks being lost … There are forces that are calling for a void, a power vacuum. The void brings terror, which brings dictatorship.”[13] In other words, the military was aiming to support the “unity government,” and to use its reputation with the people to get them to support it as well. Coincidentally, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs (the U.S. Middle east envoy) Jeffrey Feltman, traveled to Tunisia the same day that General Ammar spoke to the crowds, supposedly in order to “convey U.S. support to the Tunisian people,” and assess “how the United States can help” with the ‘transition.’ Feltman “said the Obama administration could be helpful in providing support and preparations for Tunisia’s upcoming elections through American nongovernmental organizations that have helped other countries that did not have prior histories of allowing a free and fair process.” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley stated that the unity government is “trying to be responsive,” and that, “this is a government that is trying hard to respond to the aspirations of its people.”[14]

In other words, American officials are deeply involved in attempting to legitimize the Tunisian “unity government,” in order to hold elections in six months, when the U.S. can ensure that they control the outcome. Thus, the U.S. is interested in holding back the revolution, likely pressuring General Ammar to try to reason with the protesters, as well as support the unity government itself. As US envoy Feltman stated, “What’s going to give any government real credibility… are elections,” and that, “To get to credible elections after having a system that so restricted the role of civil society and political parties… is going to take some time and effort.” In other words, America is attempting to stem the ‘revolution’ and maintain and manage the ‘evolution’ into a democratic government which they would ultimately control, just as suggested by the CFR Task Force Report. As one Tunisian protester proclaimed, “Somebody is stealing our revolution.”[15] Feltman’s acknowledging of the need to build a more effective civil society before the elections provides support for the revelations in the diplomatic cables that the Tunisian government of Ben Ali was severely hampering American efforts to foster Tunisian civil society groups. Thus, I don’t think it is appropriate to see the Tunisian uprising as “engineered in America,” since America was ultimately caught unprepared.

Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan and the UN under the George Bush administration, as well as a board member of the “democracy promotion” organization the National Endowment for Democracy (which funded and supported the ‘colour revolutions’ in Eastern Europe and Central Asia), wrote an article in the Financial Times, editorializing that the uprising in Tunisia shows the potential for new media to empower disaffected citizens, as well as demonstrating “the rise of a new political class: young people who stand for neither secular tyranny nor Islamist radicalism.” While heaping rhetorical praise upon a victory for ‘democracy,’ Khalilzad suggested articulating “a new freedom agenda for the region”:

The west should also openly pressure other authoritarian regimes to liberalise, acting as a midwife for democratic reform. In countries in which Islamist movements are better organised than liberal ones, the west should focus on developing moderate civil society groups, parties and institutions rather than calling for snap elections. Most importantly, our distribution of foreign aid should reflect and advance these priorities. Regimes and reformers throughout the region are taking note of events in Tunisia. The US and Europe must act quickly.[16]

So what ae these “democracy promotion” organizations? Three prominent ones are Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy.

One of the previous chairmen of Freedom House was R. James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA.[17] The current chairman is William H. Taft IV, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, and former chief legal adviser to the State Department. Member of the Board of Trustees of Freedom House include individuals past or presently associated with: the U.S. Department of State, the Council on Foreign Relations, Citigroup, Warburg Pincus, AFL-CIO, Morgan Stanley, the Brookings Institution, Visa, USAID, and the Associated Press.[18]

The Chairman of the board of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is Madeleine Albright. Another notable member of the board is James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank, and former member of the board of directors of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Population Council.[19]

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), was founded by Ronald Reagan in 1983 with the aim of “promoting democracy,” registered as a private organization, nearly all its funding comes from the U.S. Congress. One of the founders of the NED, Allen Weinstein, once stated that, “A lot of what we [the NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”[20] Notable members of the board include Kenneth Duberstein, CEO of the Duberstein Group, and member of the boards of Boeing, Fannie Mae, and the Council on Foreign Relations; Francis Fukuyama, author of “The End of History”; William Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Zalmay Khalilzad, Counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan, the United Nations, and former Defense Department official; Larry A. Liebenow, former Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and has served on the board of the Council of the Americas (founded by David Rockefeller, who remains as Honorary Chairman); Ambassador Princeton Lyman, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, former Ambassador to Nigeria, former Ambassador to South Africa, former director of USAID; Moisés Naím, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former director of the Central Bank of Venezuela, former executive director of the World Bank, and is a member of the boards of Population Action International and the International Crisis Group; and Vin Weber, on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, and co-chair with Madeleine Albright on the CFR Task Force Report on reform in the Arab world.[21]

One month after Ben Ali’s departure, Tunisians are left with more political freedoms, yet there is still grave concern over the path of change taking place, “with Tunisia’s old guard still strong and interim authorities often overwhelmed — many said they fear promised changes may be swept aside.” One opposition group leader in Tunisia has stated that, “There is no clear political will to break from the past. The government’s decisions have come with delays that have damaged its legitimacy and provoked a crisis of confidence.” Thus, “some fear the revolution will be confiscated, its potential wasted behind a smokescreen of reforms.”[22] Yet one thing has clearly changed in Tunisia, the development of a feeling and taste for freedom. Once that wondrous inherently human taste for freedom is felt, it is incredibly difficult to suppress, and becomes far less tolerant of any methods aimed at control.

This is both a very hopeful and deeply precarious situation. Change always is. The real question is whether or not this ‘transition’ will bring about true freedom and true democracy, or if it will retain “neoliberal freedom and democracy”, which amounts to a kind of democratic despotism, in which democracy becomes simply about voting between rival factions of elites who all serve the same foreign imperial interests.

Could Tunisia potentially witness a populist democracy, like those that have spread across Latin America? Or will it succumb to the American brand of democracy? Time, it seems, will only be able to answer that question.  As always, the odds are against the people, but again, as events over the past 30 days have shown the world, the people can always defy the odds.

Notes

[1]        Embassy Tunis, SUCCESSION IN TUNISIA: FINDING A SUCCESSOR OR FEET FIRST?, Wikileaks Cables, 9 January 2006: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2006/01/06TUNIS55.html

[2]        Embassy Tunis, PRESIDENT BEN ALI MEETS WITH A/S WELCH: PROGRESS

ON COUNTER-TERRORISM COOPERATION, REGIONAL CHALLENGES, Wikileaks Cables, 3 March 2008: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2008/03/08TUNIS193.html

[3]        Embassy Tunis, TROUBLED TUNISIA:  WHAT SHOULD WE DO?, WikiLeaks Cables, 17 July 2009: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/07/09TUNIS492.html

[4]        Embassy Tunis, TROUBLED TUNISIA:  WHAT SHOULD WE DO?, WikiLeaks Cables, 17 July 2009: http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/07/09TUNIS492.html

[5]        NED, Tunisia, National Endowment for Democracy: http://www.ned.org/where-we-work/middle-east-and-northern-africa/tunisia;

FH, New Generation of Advocates: Empowering Civil Society in Middle East and North Africa, Freedom House: http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=66&program=83;

NDI, Tunisia, National Democratic Institute: http://www.ndi.org/tunisia

[6]        Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How. (Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, 2005), page 4

[7]        ELAINE GANLEY and BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA, Tunisia’s interim president backs a unity govt, AP, 16 January 2011: http://apnews.myway.com//article/20110115/D9KOQT000.html

[8]        Al-Jazeera and agencies, Army on streets amid Tunisia unrest, Al-Jazeera, 15 January 2011: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011115135844457245.html

[9]        Kim Sengupta, Political vacuum filled by chaotic in-fighting, The Independent, 17 January 2011: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/political-vacuum-filled-by-chaotic-infighting-2186293.html

[10]      Agencies, Ben Ali’s possible successors, Al-Jazeera, 15 January 2011: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/spotlight/tunisia/2011/01/20111151464566226.html

[11]      AJ, Tunisia’s new government in trouble, Al-Jazeera, 18 January 2011: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011118194731826312.html

[12]      ALM, Tunisian officer: Washington tells dismissed chief of staff to ‘take charge’, Al-Masry Al-Youm, 16 January 2011: http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/news/tunisian-officer-washington-tells-dismissed-chief-staff-take-charge

[13]      AJ, Tunisia cabinet to be reshuffled, Al-Jazeera, 24 January 2011: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/01/2011124163051778391.html

[14]      Stephen Kaufman, U.S. Supports Tunisia’s Political Transition, America.gov, 24 January 2011: http://www.america.gov/st/democracyhr-english/2011/January/20110124162333nehpets0.8809168.html?CP.rss=true

[15]      Borzou Daragahi, Key diplomat says U.S. approves of Tunisia revolt, Los Angeles Times, 25 January 2011: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/25/world/la-fg-tunisia-envoy-20110126

[16]      Zalmay Khalilzad, Democracy in Tunisia is just the start, The Financial Times, 19 January 2011: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/552d3632-2405-11e0-bef0-00144feab49a.html#axzz1C08RDtxu

[17]      Press Release, Freedom House Announces New Chairman, James Woolsey, Freedom House, 13 January 2003: http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=124

[18]      FH, Board of Trustees, Freedom House: http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=10

[19]      NDI, Board of Directors, National Dmeocratic Institute: http://www.ndi.org/board_of_directors

[20]      William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, 2000, p. 180

[21]      NED, Board of Directors, the National Endowment for Democracy: http://www.ned.org/about/board

[22]      Deborah Pasmantier and Sonia Bakaric, Freedom and worry a month after Tunisia uprising, Montreal Gazette, 13 February 2011: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/TUNISIA+MONTH+LATER/4274347/story.html 

America’s Strategic Repression of the ‘Arab Awakening’

America’s Strategic Repression of the ‘Arab Awakening’
North Africa and the Global Political Awakening, Part 2
Global Research, February 9, 2011

Overview

In Part 1 of this series, I analyzed the changing nature of the Arab world, in experiencing an uprising as a result of the ‘Global Political Awakening.’ Ultimately, I assessed that these could potentially be the birth pangs of a global revolution; however, the situation is more complicated than it appears on the surface.

While the uprisings spreading across the Arab world have surprised many observers, the same could not be said for the American foreign policy and strategic establishment. A popular backlash against American-supported dictatorships and repressive regimes has been anticipated for a number of years, with arch-hawk geopolitical strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski articulating a broad conception of a ‘Global Political Awakening’ taking place, in which the masses of the world (predominantly the educated, exploited and impoverished youth of the ‘Third World’) have become acutely aware of their subjugation, inequality, exploitation and oppression. This ‘Awakening’ is largely driven by the revolution in information, technology and communication, including radio, television, but most especially the Internet and social media. Brzezinski had accurately identified this ‘Awakening’ as the greatest threat to elite interests regionally, but also internationally, with America sitting on top of the global hierarchy.

This spurred on the development of an American strategy in the Arab world, modeled on similar strategies pursued in recent decades in other parts of the world, in promoting “democratization,” by developing close contacts with ‘civil society’ organizations, opposition leaders, media sources, and student organizations. The aim is not to promote an organic Arab democracy ‘of the people, and for the people,’ but rather to promote an evolutionary “democratization” in which the old despots of American strategic support are removed in favour of a neoliberal democratic system, in which the outward visible institutions of democracy are present (multi-party elections, private media, parliaments, constitutions, active civil society, etc); yet, the power-holders within that domestic political system remain subservient to U.S. economic and strategic interests, continuing to follow the dictates of the IMF and World Bank, supporting America’s military hegemony in the region, and “opening up” the Arab economies to be “integrated” into the world economy. Thus, “democratization” becomes an incredibly valuable strategy for maintaining hegemony; a modern re-hash of “Let them eat cake!” Give the people the ‘image’ of democracy and establish and maintain a co-dependent relationship with the new elite. Thus, democracy for the people becomes an exercise in futility, where people’s ‘participation’ becomes about voting between rival factions of elites, who all ultimately follow the orders of Washington.

This strategy also has its benefit for the maintenance of American power in the region. While dictators have their uses in geopolitical strategy, they can often become too independent of the imperial power and seek to determine the course of their country separate from U.S. interests, and are subsequently much more challenging to remove from power (i.e., Saddam Hussein). With a “democratized” system, changing ruling parties and leaders becomes much easier, by simply calling elections and supporting opposition parties. Bringing down a dictator is always a more precarious situation than “changing the guard” in a liberal democratic system.

However, again, the situation in the Arab world is still more complicated than this brief overview, and American strategic concerns must take other potentialities into consideration. While American strategists were well aware of the growing threat to stability in the region, and the rising discontent among the majority of the population, the strategists tended to identify the aim as “democratization” through evolution, not revolution. In this sense, the uprisings across the Arab world pose a major strategic challenge for America. While ties have been made with civil society and other organizations, they haven’t all necessarily had the ability to be firmly entrenched, organized and mobilized. In short, it would appear that America was perhaps unprepared for uprisings to take place this soon. The sheer scale and rapid growth of the protests and uprisings makes the situation all the more complicated, since they are not dealing with one nation alone, but rather an entire region (arguably one of, if not the most strategically important region in the world), and yet they must assess and engage the situation on a country-by-country basis.

One danger arises in a repeat in the Arab world of the trends advanced in Latin America over the past decade: namely, the growth of populist democracy. The protests have brought together a wide array of society – civil society, students, the poor, Islamists, opposition leaders, etc. – and so America, with ties to many of these sectors (overtly and covertly), must now make many choices in regards of who to support.

Another incredibly important factor to take into consideration is military intervention. America has firmly established ties with the militaries in this region, and it appears evident that America is influencing military actions in Tunisia. Often, the reflex position of imperial power is to support the military, facilitate a coup, or employ repression. Again, this strategy would be determined on a country-by-country basis. With a popular uprising, military oppression will have the likely effect of exacerbating popular discontent and resistance, so strategic use of military influence is required.

This also leaves us with the potential for the ‘Yemen option’: war and destabilization. While presenting its own potential for negative repercussions (namely, in instigating a much larger and more radical uprising), engaging in overt or covert warfare, destabilizing countries or regions, is not taboo in American strategic circles. In fact, this is the strategy that has been deployed in Yemen since the emergence of the Southern Movement in 2007, a liberation movement seeking secession from the U.S.-supported dictatorship. Shortly after the emergence of the Southern Movement, al-Qaeda appeared in Yemen, prompting U.S. military intervention. The Yemeni military, armed, trained and funded by the United States, has been using its military might to attempt to crush the Southern Movement as well as a rebel movement in the North.

In short, the ‘Arab Awakening’ presents possibly the greatest strategic challenge to American hegemony in decades. The likely result will be a congruence of multiple simultaneously employed strategies including: “democratization,” oppression, military intervention and destabilization. Again, it could be a mistake to assume one strategy for the whole region, but rather to assess it on a country-by-country basis, based upon continuing developments and progress in the ‘Awakening’.

The Council on Foreign Relations Strategy to “Democratize” the Arab World

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is the premier U.S. foreign policy think tank in the United States, and is one of the central institutions for socializing American elites from all major sectors of society (media, banking, academia, military, intelligence, diplomacy, corporations, NGOs, civil society, etc.), where they work together to construct a consensus on major issues related to American imperial interests around the world. As such, the CFR often sets the strategy for American policy, and wields enormous influence within policy circles, where key players often and almost always come from the rank and file of the CFR itself.

In 2005, the CFR published a Task Force Report on a new American strategy for the Arab world entitled, “In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How.” The Task Force was co-chaired by Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber. Albright was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for the first term of President Bill Clinton’s administration, and was U.S. Secretary of State for his second term. As such, she played crucial roles in the lead up and responses to the dismantling of Yugoslavia and the Rwandan genocide and subsequent civil war and genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and she also oversaw the UN imposed sanctions on Iraq. In a 1996 interview with 60 Minutes, when asked about the sanctions resulting in the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five, Albright replied, “we think the price is worth it.”[1]

Albright got her start at Columbia University, where she studied under Zbigniew Brzezinski, her professor who supervised her dissertation. Brzezinski, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. co-founded the Trilateral Commission with banker David Rockefeller in 1973. When Jimmy Carter became President in 1977, he brought with him over two dozen members of the Trilateral Commission into his administration, including himself, but also Brzezinski as his National Security Adviser. Brzezinski then offered Madeline Albright a job on his National Security Council staff.[2] Brzezinski also had several other key officials on his Council staff, including Samuel Huntington and Robert Gates, who later became Deputy National Security Adviser, CIA Director, and today is the Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration. As David Rothkopf, former National Security Council staff member wrote in his book on the history of the NSC, “Brzezinski’s NSC staffers are, to this day, very loyal to their former boss.”[3] Today, Albright serves on the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Board of Trustees for the Aspen Institute, as well as chairing the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, an organization dedicated to promoting and funding US-supported “democracy” around the world. Recently, she chaired a NATO committee which developed NATO’s new “strategic concept” over the next decade.

The other co-chair of the CFR Task Force report on Arab democracy is Vin Weber, former U.S. Congressman, who has served on the board of the CFR, and is also a member of the board of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the premier U.S. organization dedicated to “democratic regime change” around the world in advancing U.S. strategic interests. Other members of the Task Force Report include individuals with past or present affiliations to Human Rights Watch, First National Bank of Chicago, Occidental Petroleum, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the World Bank, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the Brookings Institution, the Hoover Institution, the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. State Department, National Security Council, National Intelligence Council, Goldman Sachs Group, the American Enterprise Institute, AOL Time Warner, and the IMF.[4]

It is very clear that this is a highly influential and active group of individuals and interests which is proposing a new strategy for America in the Arab world, which makes their recommendations not simply ‘advisory’ to policy, but integral to policy formulation and implementation. So what did the CFR report have to say about democracy in the Arab world?

The report stated that, “Washington has a chance to help shape a more democratic Middle East. Whereas emphasis on stability was once the hallmark of U.S. Middle East policy, democracy and freedom have become a priority.” The report posed two central questions which it explored:

First, does a policy of promoting democracy in the Middle East serve U.S. interests and foreign policy goals? Second, if so, how should the United States implement such a policy, taking into account the full range of its interests?[5]

The answer to the first question was inevitably, “yes,” promoting democracy serves U.S. interests and foreign policy goals in the Middle East. The report elaborated, “Although democracy entails certain inherent risks, the denial of freedom carries much more significant long-term dangers. If Arab citizens are able to express grievances freely and peacefully, they will be less likely to turn to more extreme measures.”[6] However, the CFR report was very cautious about the process of democratic change, and recognized the potential instability and problems it could pose for American interests:

[T]he United States should promote the development of democratic institutions and practices over the long term, mindful that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside and that sudden, traumatic change is neither necessary nor desirable. America’s goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution.[7] [Emphasis added]

Further, they acknowledged that democracy promotion in the Middle East “requires a country-by-country strategy,”[8] meaning that it cannot be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy, ultimately making the process all the more complicated and potentially unstable. The process is a delicate balancing act, where the report identified that if America’s democracy promotion is too “superficial,” it could “further damage relations between the United States and Arab populations,” or, if the United States pushes reform too hard and too fast, “this could create instability and undermine U.S. interests.” Thus, explained the report, they favour “a view toward evolutionary, not revolutionary, change. The dangers that accompany rapid change will still be present, but so will the opportunity to create a new and more balanced foundation for Arab stability, and a deeper and stronger basis for friendship between Americans and Arabs.”[9] In American diplomatic language, “friendship” should be read as “dependence,” thus we understand this strategy as aiming at promoting a more reliable dependency between Americans and Arabs.

The report, however, acknowledged the deep divisions within U.S. policy circles on the promotion of democracy in the Middle East, with several viewing it as potentially too risky, fearing it “may place U.S. interests in jeopardy,” or that it “could lead to ethnic conflict or the emergence of Islamist governments opposed to the United States and the West in general.” Further, “if Washington pushes Arab leaders too hard on reform, contributing to the collapse of friendly Arab governments, this would likely have a deleterious effect on regional stability, peace, and counterterrorism operations.” There is also the risk that with America actively promoting democratic change among Arab civil society and opposition groups, this could potentially damage “the credibility of indigenous groups promoting democratic reform,” or, alternatively, “Arab leaders could dig in their heels and actively oppose U.S. policies in the region across the board.”[10] The latter scenario could be referred to as ‘the Saddam option’, referring, of course, to America’s once-close ally and suddenly-new enemy, Saddam Hussein, who was armed and supported by America. But once he started to become too autonomous of American power, America turned on him and cast him as a “new Hitler.” The case of Saddam Hussein also shows that when a dictator “digs in his heels,” it can often take a very long time to be rid of him.

So while clearly there are a number of potentially disastrous consequences for U.S. interests in promoting democracy in the Arab world, the CFR made their position clear:

While transitions to democracy can lead to instability in the short term, the Task Force finds that a policy geared toward maintaining the authoritarian status quo in the Middle East poses greater risks to U.S. interests and foreign policy goals… If Arabs are allowed to participate freely and peacefully in the political process, they are less likely to turn to radical measures. If they understand that the United States supports their exercise of liberty, they are less likely to sustain hostile attitudes toward the United States… The overwhelming empirical evidence clearly indicates that the best kind of stability is democratic stability.[11]

One pivotal area through which the CFR report advocated implementing the “democratization” of the Arab world was through the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), established in 2002 by the Bush administration “with the express purpose of coordinating and managing the U.S. government’s reform agenda in the area of economics, politics, education, and women’s issues.” Much of this work had previously been done through the United State Agency for International Development (USAID); however, “while USAID’s work has focused to some extent on creating constituencies within Arab governments for change, the rationale for MEPI was to work with independent and indigenous NGOs and civil-society groups, as well as with governments.”[12]

Another avenue was the Broader Middle East Initiative (also known as the Partnership for Progress), which emerged from a 2004 G8 summit, of which a main priority was the “Forum for the Future,” which is “designed to foster communication on reform-related issues.” It held sessions that brought together civil society activists, business leaders, emphasizing economic development and job growth. The Partnership for Progress also established the “Democracy Assistance Dialogue,” which brings together development institutions in the Middle East, foundations, international financial institutions (the World Bank and IMF), “to coordinate the use of resources to support political and economic change.”[13] In other words, it is a process through which America is seeking to ensure that democratic “transition” in the Arab world maintains American and Western political and economic hegemony. In effect, a change of ‘structure’ without a change of ‘substance,’ where the image of the state alters, but the power and purpose remains the same.

However, further problems for the democratization strategy were presented in the unwillingness of European nations to support it or take it seriously. As the Task Force report explained, “European reluctance undermines the potential efficacy of pursuing reform.” The report further explained the importance of having Europe as a partner in the project:

Despite a history of European colonial domination, the perception of Europe in the Arab world is better than that of the United States. Consequently, it may be helpful for the European Union to take the lead in promoting human rights in the Arab world.[14]

The Task Force recommended that it would be best if funding for Arab civil society organizations did not come directly from U.S. government institutions, but rather funneled through U.S. democracy-promotion groups like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), as “many Middle eastern NGOs are reluctant to accept direct transfers from an arm of the U.S. government, fearing that this would taint these organizations in the eyes of their constituencies.”[15] In the conclusion, the report stated that:

Although a policy predicated on political, economic, and social change in the Arab world may present some short-term risks to Washington’s interests, these risks are worth taking. The long-run benefits of a more democratic and economically developed Middle East outweigh the potential challenges Washington might confront in the foreseeable future.[16]

We must acknowledge, however, that this strategy is not aimed at promoting democracy for the sake of democracy and freedom, but rather that it is acknowledging the reality that is the ‘Global Political Awakening,’ and taking efforts to address and manipulate this ‘Awakening’ in such a way that serves U.S. interests. Thus, it amounts to a scenario akin to saying, “Let them eat cake!” If the Arab world screams out for democracy and freedom, give them the American-sponsored brand of democracy and freedom, and therefore America is able to undermine and co-opt the ever-increasing desires and forces for change in the region. As a result – if successful – it would have the effect of pacifying resistance to America’s hegemony in the region, legitimizing the new puppet governments as “democratic” and “representative” of the people, thus creating a more stable and secure environment for American interests. In short, this is a coordinated strategy to confront, manipulate and pacify the emergence of the Global Political Awakening in the Arab world; an assault against the ‘Arab Awakening.’

In my last essay on the subject, I identified these protests as an organic growth, a rallying cry for freedom from the Arab world which must not be simply discarded as a covert U.S. plot to install new regimes. However, the situation requires a much more nuanced and detailed examination, not to frame it in either a black or white context, but rather seek to explain the realities, challenges and opportunities of the ‘Awakening’ and the ‘uprisings’.

Conceptualizing the ‘Arab Awakening’

For years, arch-hawk American imperial geostrategist Zbigniew Brzezinski, an intellectual architect of ‘globalization’, has been warning elites across the Western world, and in particular in America, of the emergence and pressing reality of the ‘Global Political Awakening.’ He explains the ‘Awakening’ as essentially the greatest historical challenge to not only American, but global power structures and interests. He explained that, “For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive.” Further, “the worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening… That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing.” As Brzezinski emphasizes, “These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches.” Brzezinski and others (as evidenced by the Council on Foreign Relations report) are intent upon developing strategies for ‘managing’ and ‘pacifying’ this ‘Awakening’ in such a way that maintains and secures American imperial interests and global power structures. Thus, the need to ‘control’ the Awakening is the most prescient problem in American foreign policy. However, as Brzezinski elaborated, it is not a challenge that can be dealt with easily:

[The] major world powers, new and old, also face a novel reality: while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low. To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people.[17]

In a 2008 article in the New York Times, Brzezinski emphasized a multi-faceted strategy for dealing with this ‘threat’ to elite structures and interests, explaining that, “the monumental task facing the new president is to regain U.S. global legitimacy by spearheading a collective effort for a more inclusive system of global management.” Thus, Brzezinski’s strategy rests on better securing and institutionally expanding the process of ‘globalization’ into the evolution of ‘global governance,’ or as he termed it, “global management.” Brzezinski unveiled a four-point strategy of response: “unify, enlarge, engage and pacify.”[18]

The response to ‘unify’ refers “to the effort to re-establish a shared sense of purpose between America and Europe,” a point that the CFR report acknowledged. To ‘enlarge’ refers to “a deliberate effort to nurture a wider coalition committed to the principle of interdependence and prepared to play a significant role in promoting more effective global management.”[19] He identified the G8 as having “outlived its function,” and proposed a widening of it, which ultimately manifested itself in 2009 in the form of the G20. The G20 has subsequently become “the prime group for global economic governance at the level of ministers, governors and heads of state or government.”[20] Herman von Rompuy, the President of the European Union, referred to 2009 as “the first year of global governance.”[21] So, these elites are intent upon advancing “global management,” which is the exact strategy Brzezinski also identifies as being the “solution” to managing the ‘Global Political Awakening.’

The next point in Brzezinski’s strategy – ‘engage’ – refers to “the cultivation of top officials through informal talks among key powers, specifically the U.S., the European Triad, China, Japan, Russia and possibly India,” in particular between the United States and China, as “without China, many of the problems we face collectively cannot be laid to rest.” In the final point – ‘pacify’ – Brzezinski referred to the requirements of “a deliberate U.S. effort to avoid becoming bogged down in the vast area ranging from Suez to India.” In particular, he advised moving forward on the Israel-Palestine issue, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Brzezinski explained that, “in this dynamically changing world, the crisis of American leadership could become the crisis of global stability.” Thus, from Brzezinski’s point of view, “The only alternative to a constructive American role is global chaos.”[22]

So, “control” is key to this strategy, with “global management” being the ultimate solution. However, as Brzezinski himself identified, which is important to keep in mind when assessing the nature, spread and mobilization of the ‘Awakening’: “To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people.”[23] Thus, while attempting to engineer, co-opt and ‘control’ the ‘Awakening,’ it is important to acknowledge that the United States is playing with fire, and while attempting to light a controlled fire to manipulate as it so chooses, the fire can spread and get out of hand. In such a situation, the “lethality” of America’s “military might” could potentially be employed. He said it himself, “the only alternative to a constructive American role is global chaos.”[24] The age-old imperial tactic of divide and conquer is never off the table of options. If it cannot be “managed transition” then it often becomes “managed chaos.” Where ‘diplomacy’ fails to overcome barriers, war destroys them (and everything else in the process).

Now turning our attention to the ‘Arab Awakening’ and uprisings, we must examine the range of strategies that are and could be employed. The preferred route for American power is “democratization,” but the scope, velocity and rapidity of recent developments in the Arab world present an incredibly unstable situation for American strategy. While ties with civil society and opposition groups have been or are in the process of being well established (varying on a country-by-country basis), the rapidity and confluence of these uprisings taking place has American power stretched thin.

Engineering, co-opting and controlling revolutionary movements or “democratic regime change” is not a new tactic in the American strategic circles; however, it has in the past been largely relegated to specific pockets and nations, often with significant time in between in order to allow for a more delicate, coordinated and controlled undertaking. This was the case with the U.S.-sponsored ‘colour revolutions’ throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, starting with Serbia in 2000, Georgia in 2003, Ukraine in 2004, and Kyrgyzstan in 2005, where America’s premier democracy promotion organizations (the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, USAID, Freedom House, the Albert Einstein Institute, as well as major American philanthropic foundations) were able to more securely establish themselves and their strategies for “democratic regime change.” Further, all the incidents of democratic “regime change” listed above took place in the context of a contested election within the country, giving the organizations and foundations involved a precise timeline for managing the process of organization and mobilization. This required a focused and nuanced approach which remains absent from the current context in the Middle East and North Africa.

[See: Andrew Gavin Marshall, Colour-Coded Revolutions and the Origins of World War III, Global Research, 3 November 2009: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=15767]

Further, a similar strategy was undertaken in Iran for the summer of 2009, in which the ‘Green Movement’ arose in response to the contested Presidential elections. This was, in fact, an attempt at a highly coordinated and organized effort on the part of a covert American strategy of “democratization” to install a U.S.-friendly (i.e., ‘client’) regime in Iran. The strategy was developed in 2006, largely organized covertly by the CIA, at a cost of approximately $400 million, and involved the State Department coordinating efforts with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. However, as posterity shows, the strategy did not ultimately succeed in imposing “regime change.” At the time, Zbigniew Brzezinski explained that the strategy would require “patience, intelligent manipulation, moral support, but no political interference.”

[See: Andrew Gavin Marshall, A New World War for a New World Order, Global Research, 17 December 2009: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16535]

So we can see that even with $400 million and a highly coordinated attempt at “intelligent manipulation,” the strategy did not succeed. However, it must be acknowledged that the U.S. could not overtly fund opposition and civil society organizations in Iran as it could in Eastern Europe. In the Arab world, while America has and continues to engage with opposition groups and civil society organizations, these efforts have been consistently thwarted and hampered by the domestic Arab regimes, which are well aware of the threat to their own power this could pose. Managing such a strategy in countries run by authoritarian regimes that are very suspicious of civil society and opposition groups presents an incredibly challenging scenario for American strategy. Further, authoritarian regimes generally do not hold elections, unless it is simply a sham election in which the leader wins by a margin of 97%, presenting a difficult scenario in which to mobilize opposition forces. Moreover, the ‘colour revolutions’ throughout Eastern Europe were largely organized through a strategy of bringing together all the opposition groups to stand behind one leader, to make the effort much more coordinated and cohesive. No such strategy seems to have emerged in the Arab world, and has appeared as a patched-up effort of attempting to promote particular opposition figures, but nothing that is evidently well-organized and pre-planned. While many opposition groups are working closely together to oppose the regimes, they are not necessarily being mobilized around any clear and absolute leaders, thus presenting the potential for a power vacuum to open up, making the situation all the more dangerous for American interests.

Another major problem inherent in this strategy in the Arab world is the role being played by the domestic militaries. The militaries within the authoritarian Arab regimes are largely supported, funded, trained and armed by America, and have become powerful political, social and economic actors in their own right (more so in Egypt than Tunisia). Thus, America must balance the process of supporting civil society and opposition groups with that of continuing to support and secure the military structures. If the militaries feel that their position is insecure or threatened, they may simply overtake the entire process and engineer a coup, which is ultimately counter-productive to the American strategy in the region, especially since it is widely known that America is the principle sponsor of these military structures. This implies that America must undertake a delicate balancing act between the military, civil society and opposition groups in coordinating the removal of the entrenched despots. This strategy seems to be materializing itself in the form of constructing “transitional governments,” which the militaries in both Tunisia and Egypt are supporting.

The situation is intensely complicated and conflicting, presenting America with one of its greatest challenges in recent history. While the obvious intent and even the means of organizing “democratic regime change” in the Arab world are present, I believe the rapidity in which the protest movements and uprisings have emerged could have taken America somewhat off-guard. No doubt, from the beginnings of the Tunisian protests in December of 2010, America was paying detailed attention to the situation, attempting to influence the outcome. However, Western media coverage of the first four weeks of protests was minimal, if not altogether absent. This is an important point to address.

For all the other organized efforts at “democratic regime change” and “colour revolutions,” Western media played a critical role. From the moments protests began in these countries, Western media outlets were covering the events extensively, espousing the righteousness of the aims of “democratization” and “freedom,” in full and active support of the demonstrators. This was absent in Tunisia, until of course, the President fled to Saudi Arabia, when suddenly Western media cynically proclaimed a monumental achievement for democracy, and started warning the rest of the Arab world of the potential for this to spread to their countries (thus, applying public pressure to promote “reforms” in line with their strategy of “evolution, not revolution.”). This could imply that America was trying to quietly manage the protests in Tunisia, which did not arise in a pre-coordinated and previously established timeline, but rather sprung up as a rapid response to a suicide of a young man in a personal protest against the government. The spark was lit, and America advanced on Tunisia in an attempt to control its growth and direction. Meanwhile, however, sparks ignited across many nations in the Arab world, including Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Yemen. 

Subsequently, America took advantage of these sparks to ignite the process in a direction it would seek to control. For the first few days and even weeks of protests in many of the other nations, appearing by and large to be organic reactions to events in Tunisia and within their own countries, a more coordinated response was undertaken, with the massive organized protests emerging suddenly. Yet, America is potentially stretching itself very thin, possibly risking as much or more than it has to gain. Like a cornered animal, America is simultaneously incredibly vulnerable and incredibly dangerous. Remembering Brzezinski’s words regarding the problem of ‘control’ is an important factor to take into consideration: “in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people.”[25] This could potentially be referred to as the ‘Yemen Option,’ in which the strategy entails an effort to promote destabilization, military intervention, covert and overt warfare. In such a scenario, it is essential for America to maintain and, in fact, strengthen its contacts and relationships with domestic military structures.

So, clearly the situation is not and should not be addressed in a black-and-white analysis. It is intensely complicated, multi-faceted and potentially disastrous. No outcome is preordained or absolute: thus, while acknowledging and examining the evidence for America’s deep involvement in the evolution and direction of the protests and opposition, we must keep this analysis within the context of the ‘Global Political Awakening.’ I argued in Part 1 of this essay that it does, in fact, seem as if we are seeing the emergence of a global revolution; yet, this is likely a process that will stretch out certainly over the next one, if not several, decades. We cannot simply dismiss these protests as American machinations and covert operations, but rather as an effort for America to control the ‘Awakening’. As the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report emphasized, “America’s goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution.”[26] It seems as if this strategy either changed in the intermittent years, or America has been thrown out of its incremental strategy of “evolution” and into the strategy of being forced to respond to and seek to direct “revolution.” This makes the situation all the more dangerous for American interests. Thus, we cannot dismiss the uprisings as entirely “orchestrated,” but instead understand them in the context of the ‘Global Awakening.’

Taking the position that everything is organized from on high in the corridors of power is a flawed analysis. Alternatively, taking the position that America was caught entirely unaware of this situation is naïve and the evidence does not support this assessment. However, we must not see this as an either-or development, but rather a congruence of over-lapping and inter-twining developments. Society, after all, while being directed from above, must react to the responses and developments from below; and thus, society itself and the direction it takes is a highly complex interaction of different, opposing, and conflicting social processes. The claim that the uprisings are the lone result of American strategy neglects the reasons behind the development of this strategy in the first place. The “democratization” strategy did not emerge due to any humanitarian qualms on the part of the U.S. elite for the people living under authoritarian regimes, but rather that the strategy was developed in response to the emergence and growth of the ‘Arab Awakening’ itself. Indeed, in this context, this does mark the beginnings of a global revolution (which has been a long time coming); however, it also marks the active American strategy to control the process and development of the ‘revolution.’

Historically, revolutions are never the product of a one-sided development. That is, revolutions predominantly do not come about through the actions of one segment of society, often polarized as either an elite-driven or people-driven revolution, but rather they come about through a complex interaction and balancing of various social groups. The context and conditions for a revolution often do not emerge without the awareness of the upper classes, therefore, the upper social strata always or often seek to mitigate, control, repress, influence or co-opt and control the process of revolution. In this context, we cannot dismiss revolutions simply as a top-down or bottom-up process, but rather a mitigation and interaction between the two approaches.

American strategic objectives are aimed at ultimately repressing and co-opting the organic revolutionary uprisings in the Arab world. For the past six years or so, America has been developing and starting to implement a strategy to manage to ‘Arab Awakening’ by promoting “democratization” in a process of “evolution, not revolution.” However, the evolution was evidently not fast enough for the people living under the Arab regimes, and revolution is in the air. America, naturally, is desperately attempting to manage the situation and repress a true revolution from spreading across the region, instead promoting an “orderly transition” as Hillary Clinton and President Obama have stressed. Thus, America has been extensively involved in the processes of organizing and establishing “transitional governments” or “unity governments.” If the revolution took its own course, and sought true change, populist democracy and ultimate freedom, it would ultimately be forced to challenge the role and influence of America and the West in the region. As such, military “aid” would need to end (a prospect the domestic militaries are not willing to accept), American influence over and contact with civil society and opposition groups would need to be openly challenged and discussed, the IMF and World Bank would need to be kicked out, international debts would need to be declared “odious” and cancelled, and the people would have to control their own country and become active, engaged and informed citizens. The true revolution will have to be not simply political, but economic, social, cultural, psychological, intellectual and ultimately, global.

The protesters must challenge not simply their despotic governments, but must ultimately remove American and Western control over their nations. They must also be very cautious of opposition groups and proposed leaders who are thrust to the front lines and into the government, as they are likely co-opted. The true new leaders should come from the people, and should earn their leadership, not simply be crowned as ‘leaders.’ The best possible short-to-medium-term scenario would be to see the emergence of Arab populist democracies, reflecting the trend seen across Latin America (although, not necessarily imposing the same ideologies). The trouble with this scenario is that it is also the most unlikely. If there is one thing that American power despises, it is populist democracy. Since the beginnings of the Cold War until present day, America has actively overthrown, orchestrated coups, imposed dictatorships, crushed, invaded and occupied, bombed and destabilized or implemented “democratic regime change” in populist democracies. Democratic governments that are accountable to the people and seek to help the poor and oppressed make themselves quick enemies of American power. Over the past 60 years, America has repressed or supported the repression of democracies, liberation struggles and attempts at autonomy all over the world: Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Haiti in 1959, the Congo in 1960, Ecuador in 1961, Algeria, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Chile, Argentina, Afghanistan, Indonesia, South Africa, Palestine, Iraq, Venezuela, Lebanon, Yemen and on and on and on.

The situation is a dangerous and difficult one for the protesters, just as the struggle for freedom and democracy is and has always been. There is a large constituency which have an interest in preventing the emergence of a populist democracy, including many of the pro-democracy organizations and opposition leaders themselves, the great nations of the world – East and West, the World Bank and IMF, international corporations and banks, neighbouring Arab regimes, Israel, and of course, America. It is a monumental challenge, but it would be a great disservice to cast aside the protests as controlled and totally co-opted. If that were the case, they would have ceased with the formation of transition and unity governments, which of course they have not. While the outcome is ultimately unknown, what is clear is that a spark has been lit in the Arab world as the ‘Global Political Awakening’ marches on, and this will be a very difficult flame to control. 

In the next part of this series, I will examine in more detail the specific revolutions and uprisings taking place in Tunisia and Egypt within the strategic context explained in this part.

Notes

[1]        Rahul Mahakan, “We Think the Price is Worth It,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, November/December 2001: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1084

[2]        David Rothkopf, Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power (PublicAffairs, 2006), page 17

[3]        Ibid, pages 174-175

[4]        Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How. (Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, 2005), pages 49-54

[5]        Ibid, page 3.

[6]        Ibid, pages 3-4.

[7]        Ibid, page 4.

[8]        Ibid.

[9]        Ibid, pages 11-12.

[10]      Ibid, page 12.

[11]      Ibid, page 13.

[12]      Ibid, pages 36-37.

[13]      Ibid, pages 38-39.

[14]      Ibid, page 39.

[15]      Ibid, page 40.

[16]      Ibid, page 43.

[17]      Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Global Political Awakening. The New York Times: December 16, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html; “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009); The Dilemma of the Last Sovereign. The American Interest Magazine, Autumn 2005: http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=56; The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership. Speech at the Carnegie Council: March 25, 2004: http://www.cceia.org/resources/transcripts/4424.html; America’s Geopolitical Dilemmas. Speech at the Canadian International Council and Montreal Council on Foreign Relations: April 23, 2010: http://www.onlinecic.org/resourcece/multimedia/americasgeopoliticaldilemmas

[18]      Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Global Political Awakening. The New York Times: December 16, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html

[19]      Ibid.

[20]      Jean-Claude Trichet, Global Governance Today, Keynote address by Mr Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank, at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, 26 April 2010: http://www.bis.org/review/r100428b.pdf

[21]      Herman Von Rompuy, Speech Upon Accepting the EU Presidency, BBC News, 22 November 2009:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzm_R3YBgPg

[22]      Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Global Political Awakening. The New York Times: December 16, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html

[23]      Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009), page 54

[24]      Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Global Political Awakening. The New York Times: December 16, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html

[25]      Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009), page 54

[26]      Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How. (Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, 2005), page 4

Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire

Yemen: The Covert Apparatus of the American Empire
Global Research, October 5, 2010

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered one of his least known and ultimately one of his most important speeches ever, “Beyond Vietnam,” in which he spoke out against the American war in Vietnam and against American empire in all its political, military and economic forms. In his speech, King endorsed the notion that America “was on the wrong side of a world revolution.” Dr. King explained:

During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”[1]

This is the nature of war of today: during King’s time, the pretext for war was to stop the spread of Communism; today, it’s done in the name of stopping the spread of terrorism. Terror has since time immemorial been a tactic used by states and governments to control populations. Al-Qaeda is no exception, as it was created and continues to largely function as a geopolitical extension of the covert apparatus of American empire. In short, al-Qaeda is an arm of the covert world of American intelligence agencies. In particular, the CIA, DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency], US Special Forces, and multinational mercenary companies such as Blackwater [now Xe Services]. Where they go, al-Qaeda goes; where al-Qaeda goes, they accumulate; where they lay the groundwork, the American empire stands behind.[2]

Yemen is perhaps an excellent example of America being on the “wrong side of a world revolution,” as the secret war in Yemen being exacerbated in the name of “fighting al-Qaeda” is in actuality, about the expansion and supremacy of American power in the region. It is about the suppression of natural democratic, local, revolutionary elements throughout the country seeking self-autonomy in changing the nation from its current despotic, authoritarian rule sympathetic to American interests, into a nation of their own choosing. It is about repressing struggles for liberation.

This brings in the involvement of Saudi Arabia, itself interested in ensuring Yemen is a loyal neighbour; so they too must suppress indigenous movements within Yemen seeking autonomy, especially those that are Shi’a Muslims, as the Saudi state is a strict Wahhabist Sunni Muslim regime. Shi’as are primarily represented in the region through the state of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s “natural” enemy; both vying for influence in Iraq and both vying for influence in Yemen. Through this we see another key American imperial aim in this war, that of seeking to stir up a conflict with Iran, perhaps through a proxy-war within Yemen, or perhaps in hopes that the proxy war would expand into a regional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, naturally drawing in Israel, Egypt and the United States. Finally, we have the strategic location of Yemen to consider, bridging one of the largest oil transport routes in the world, parallel to Somalia and the Horn of Africa (where America is waging another war, again on the “wrong side of a world revolution”).

Just as American geopolitical strategists had chosen to favour Tutsis over Hutus in Central Africa in an effort to expand the American presence and business interests in the region; so too have American strategists chosen to favour a brand of radical Sunni Islam over the Shi’a or moderate Sunnis, and thus they support oppressive Sunni governments (such as Saudi Arabia), and denounce Shi’a governments as oppressive (such as Iran). Not to say that there is no oppression within Iran (there is oppression within all states everywhere in the world, Iran is no exception), but compared to Saudi Arabia, Iran is a bastion of freedom. Al-Qaeda is manifestly a significant facet of the pro-Wahhabist fundamentalist Sunni strategy of American imperialists. If they finance, train and arm the Sunni rebels or send in already-trained, armed and well-funded terrorists (commonly known as ‘al-Qaeda’ – the “database”), then they create a counter to any other domestic opposition or regional Shi’a dominance.

This essay examines the American war in Yemen as a war of empire, as a war against the rising tide of people’s movements and the “global political awakening” that is taking place around the world.

Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Art of Empire

To understand the current conflict in Yemen, as with all conflicts, we must go to history. To simply cast the conflict aside in the light of “fighting al-Qaeda” is a gross misrepresentation. Yemen’s history is deeply entwined with that of Arab nationalist politics in the Middle East, adding to that a balance of imperial power in the region.

The location of modern Yemen is vital in the notion of Yemen’s significance to imperial powers. Millennia ago, a settled civilization was established in the fertile south-west region of Arabia, and was “comprised by the kingdoms of Ma’in, Saba, and Himyar.” These kingdoms “were significant in the broader history of the Middle East, in part because of the long-distance trade links to India and the states at the top of the Red Sea.”[3] When Islam arose:

Yemen became part of the Arab and Islamic worlds and contributed both militarily to the Islamic conquests and culturally to the mediaeval Islamic period. From the tenth century onward, Yemen … ceased to be part of the broader Islamic empires … [and] it was ruled by a succession of dynasties, controlling more or less of to-day’s Yemeni territory. The last of these to control most of to-day’s North and South were the Qasimis, who ruled in the mid-seventeenth century. In the early modern period, Yemen fell under various degrees of external influence and control – in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Dutch and the Portuguese yielding to the Ottomans, and in the nineteenth century the Ottomans and the British dividing the country between them.[4]

When the Ottomans left in 1918, following their defeat in World War I, Zeidi Imam took over North Yemen, which was run by the Imams, while South Yemen was controlled by the British.[5] From the late eighteenth century, the British being the dominant power in the Arabian Peninsula, “sought to protect its imperial communications by entering into a series of treaties with the ruling shaykhs of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman and by bringing the strategic southern tip of the peninsula under direct British control as the Aden Protectorate [South Yemen].”[6]

Various families competed for power in Arabia, with Abd al-Aziz Ibn Sa’ud emerging victorious when in 1924 he exiled the previously imposed leader (supported by the British, but highly unpopular), Sharif Husayn. Britain quickly negotiated an agreement with Ibn Sa’ud in 1927, called the Treaty of Jeddah, which “recognized Ibn Sa’ud as the sovereign king of the Hijaz and sultan of Najd and its dependencies; he, in turn, acknowledged Britain’s special relationships with the coastal rulers [of the Arabian Peninsula] and pledged to respect their domains.” In 1932, the state became known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[7]

Following World War II, the United States became the single greatest superpower and it overtook the colonial possessions of the old European empires that collapsed prior to, during, and following World War II. In the Middle East:

New social and political forces emerged after 1945 to challenge the old elites and demand reform. Among them were pro-Soviet communist parties, but much more important and popular were radical nationalist movements and independent groups of young army officers determined to free their countries from lingering foreign control and chart a new course toward development and greater social justice.[8]

The Imams in North Yemen had begun laying claim to all of “natural Yemen,” directly challenging British rule in the south. In the 1940s, “there began to develop political oppositions, to both the Imams in the North and the British in the South.” The “Free Yemeni” movement in the North staged a failed coup in 1948 to free the North from the authoritarian rule of the Imams.[9]

Egypt saw the most significant upheavals in the immediate post-War years. In 1952, a group of junior military officers in the Egyptian Army orchestrated a bloodless coup in which they overthrew the Egyptian Monarchy and Colonel Abd al-Nasser took power, forming the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC). The RCC’s primary political rival in Egypt was the Muslim Brotherhood, so when an assassination attempt on Nasser took place in 1954, the RCC outlawed the Brotherhood, arrested thousands of its members and executed several of its leaders. Nasser was not only the primary progenitor of nationalism in the region, but he was considered the exalted leader of the pan-Arab movement for unity.

Nasser set up a Soviet arms deal in 1955, in which Egypt exchanged cotton for Soviet military equipment, which dealt Nasser an impressive propaganda effect among Arab peoples who saw it as a rebuff of the Anglo-American grip on Egypt. Nasser, meanwhile, had been attempting to construct a dam at Aswan, and sought funds to do so from the World Bank in 1955. The World Bank approved a loan package (designed by the British and Americans), which would have required Egypt to accept particular conditions of the loan. Nasser had not made a decision on the package, when, in July of 1956, America announced it was withdrawing the offer.[10]

On July 26, 1956, days following the loan withdrawal, Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal, giving Nasser incredible support across the Muslim and Arab worlds, as the Canal, “built with Egyptian labour but operated by a French company and used as the lifeline of the British Empire, had stood as a symbol of Western exploitation.”[11] On October 29, 1956, Israel, Britain and France attacked Egypt, and a UN-sponsored cease-fire was signed by Britain and France on November 6, following the condemnation of the attack by both the USSR and America. The Suez Crisis, an Egyptian military defeat, had become a political success for Nasser.[12]

In Yemen, the struggle of the Free Yemenis in the North waged on against both the rule of the Imams in the North and the British in the South. The Free Yemenis were largely influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt initially, but changed the rhetoric as the 1950s changed the dynamic of politics in the region, with the rise of Arab nationalism, and thus, “the predominant politics of the oppositions in North and South was nationalistic, involving support not only for the general goal of ‘Arab unity’ but also for ‘Yemeni’ unity.” Following the failed coup in 1948, the opposition in the North was split between intellectuals and groups of officers. In 1962, the officers overthrew the Imams and proclaimed the “Yemen Arab Republic.”[13]

When this took place in the North, opposition spread to the countryside in the South where a guerilla movement developed. Between 1963 and 1967, the guerilla movement became a powerful force competing for power in Aden and the countryside, and was split into two: a Nasser-influenced group and a more radical Marxist “National Liberation Front” (NLF). Nasser inserted himself into the Yemeni civil war in 1962. The deposed Imam of Yemen had escaped to the mountains and rallied tribesmen to his cause, with significant support from powerful regional monarchs (and staunch American allies), Saudi Arabia and Jordan. So the new Yemeni regime turned to Nasser for assistance, and by 1965, close to 70,000 Egyptian troops were in Yemen fighting for the military regime in power. After several years of fighting rebels and traversing harsh terrain, Egypt withdrew in 1968.[14]

During the civil war, the British were still holding onto their protectorate in the South, and were still very much politically bruised by Nasser since the Suez Crisis. Thus, the British “devised a scheme with Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, to aid the anti-Nasser forces in Yemen by supplying them with arms and financial help.” This effort was aided by the CIA, as well as Saudi intelligence and the Iranian SAVAK.[15] Throughout the 1960s, the United States rapidly accelerated a program of military support for Saudi Arabia, which included a $400 million Anglo-American air defense program, military bases, infrastructure, “and a $100 million U.S. program to supply Saudi Arabia with trucks and military transport vehicles.”[16] The aim was to weaken Egypt and Nasser through a civil war in Yemen, with each side using various groups for their own geopolitical ambitions.

In 1967, the National Liberation Front (NLF) came to power in South Yemen, as the British left, and South Yemen became an independent state. Subsequently, North and South Yemen supported opposition movements within each other’s territory. In 1972, the two sides briefly went to war with one another, when the North attempted to conquer the South with Saudi and Libyan support.[17] While Yemen’s civil war had seen Yemen divided among itself, it had also become a regional conflict between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yet, when the radical Marxist NLF government came to power in South Yemen in 1967, the NLF had “pledged its support for the overthrow of all the traditional monarchies in the Arabian Peninsula”:

The Saudi regime thus faced two hostile Yemens, both of them with radical governments, both of them supported by the Soviet Union, and both of them committed to the establishment of republican forms of rule. [Saudi] King Faysal responded to this danger by mending fences with the northern Yemen Arab Republic and attempting to foment discord between it and the People’s Republic of the south.[18]

The situation Saudi Arabia faced to its south created an impetus for the acceleration and growth of the Saudi armed forces. Thus, in the 1970s, “the Saudis allocated between 35 and 40 percent of their total annual revenues to defense and security expenditures.” In 1970, the defense budget had increased to $2 billion; by 1976 it was $36 billion.[19]

In North Yemen, the radical left fought a guerilla war against the government from 1978 until 1982, with support from South Yemen. This movement in the North “saw itself as the vanguard of a mass movement that would bring about unity through overthrowing the military and tribal forces dominating the country.”[20] The North Yemen government was not centralized, and so lacked a strong measure of legitimacy. During the 1970s, the President “promoted closer ties with the South as part of an attempt to strengthen the central government.”[21] Throughout the 1980s, closer ties between the two nations were sought, and “unity” committees were established, but with little if any success. Not until the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War in 1989-1990 was progress on unity made, when “the internal weaknesses of both regimes led them to agree to enter a provisional unification,” which occurred in May 1990.[22]

Each state thought that they could exploit the process of unification to exert their own authority over the other region. Thus, unity was “not a policy aimed at fusion but an instrument for inter-regime competition.”[23] The North, in particular, “believed it could impose its will on the South,” following the 1993 elections and through the process of misleading negotiations. Eventually, this goal started to be realized, and “Yemeni unity was thus achieved by the successful imposition of the Northern regime’s power on the South, in alliance with both Islamists in the North, and with dissident exiles from the South.”[24]

However, these disagreements and problems “led to a de facto split in the country in early 1994, followed at the end of April by an outright Northern attack on the South. On 7 July 1994 Northern forces entered Aden, thus effectively unifying the country under one regime for the first time in several centuries.”[25]

Operation Scorched Earth

During the 1994 civil war in Yemen, the North was aided in its war against the south by Wahhabist Sunni rebels (practicing the strict branch of Islam common to Saudi Arabia as well as al-Qaeda). Following the war and the success of the North, the government had granted the Wahhabis a stronger voice in the government. This is a major complaint of the Zaydis, a Shi’a branch of Islam. The Zaydis had Saada as their main stronghold in the North, but were driven from power in the 1962 revolution, left to a region that remained undeveloped. Saudi Arabia drew increasingly worried about having a rebellious group of Shi’a Islam fighters (the Houthi) so close to their border, with the potential to stir up groups within Saudi Arabia itself.[26]

In 2004, the Yemen government tried to arrest the leader, Hussein al-Houthi, a Zaydi religious leader, which sparked fighting and the leader was subsequently killed in an air strike, leaving the movement to be run by his brothers. In 2004, between 500-1000 people were killed in the fighting. In 2005, the fighting continued, and an estimated 1,500 people were killed. Fighting broke out again in 2007 between the government and the rebels, in which hundreds of people were killed.[27] In 2008, a Shi’a mosque was bombed during prayer in the Northern stronghold of Saada, with the Yemen government blaming the Shi’a rebels, who both denied responsibility and denounced the attack.[28] This spurred on further clashes between the government and the rebels, so that by late 2008, since the outbreak of fighting in 2004, between 3,700 and 5,500 “militants and civilians” had been killed in the fighting.[29]

In June of 2009, nine foreigners were kidnapped while having a picnic in Saada, “the bodies of three of them, a South Korean teacher and two German nurses were discovered. Five Germans, including three children and a Briton, are still missing and their status is unknown.” It was never determined who was behind the kidnappings and murders, but the government blamed the Houthi rebels. The Houthis in turn blamed drug cartels in the region for the murders. Yemen was faced simultaneously with a secessionist movement in both the North and the South, and was reportedly facing a “greater threat from al-Qaeda,” which had been a “growing concern” of the United States. In July of 2009, Gen. David Petraeus, CENTCOM Commander, “and an accompanying delegation, flew to Yemen and met with [President] Saleh,” at which one of the topics of discussion was “how to better combat terrorism.” In August of 2009, Yemen launched a military offensive against Houthi rebels in the North.[30]

This was Operation Scorched Earth, launched by the Yemen military on August 11, 2009. Troops, tanks and fighter aircraft were used in this Yemeni blitzkrieg against the Houthi and Zaydi in the North, with the President vowing to crack down with an “iron fist.”[31]

This led to a refugee crisis in which, by October 2009, over 55,000 people fled their homes due to the conflict.[32] In November, the rebels had a border fight with Saudi Arabia, killing a Saudi officer and injuring several others.[33] Saudi Arabian “warplanes and artillery bombarded a Shiite rebel stronghold,” and Saudi Arabia and Yemen were “cooperating and sharing intelligence in the fight.”[34] Moroccan special forces trained in guerilla warfare were accompanying Saudi soldiers, and Morocco cut off relations with Iran, which was being accused of arming the Houthi rebels. Jordan also reportedly sent 2,000 of its own special forces to help Saudi Arabia.[35]

The American Empire in the Gulf of Aden and Africa

What is America’s particular interest in Yemen, and more broadly, in the region that encompasses the Gulf of Aden, over which Yemen rests at the pinnacle? The Gulf of Aden connects the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea, with Yemen positioned directly across the water from Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. The Gulf of Aden is a vital transport route for the shipment of Persian Gulf oil, forming “an essential oil transport route between Europe and the Far East.”[36] Clearly, control of the major oil transport routes is a key strategic imperative of any global power; in this case, America. Yemen, situated beneath Saudi Arabia, positions itself as even more significant to American strategic initiatives, in securing their interests in the world’s most oil-rich nation and key US ally. An American-friendly government in Yemen is a Saudi-friendly government.

Another key facet of American imperial strategy in the Gulf of Aden and Yemen regards the American imperial strategy in Africa. In 2005, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the main policy-planning group of the US elite, published a Task Force Report on US strategy in Africa called, “More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa.” In the report, it was stated that:

Africa is becoming more important because of its growing role in supplying the world with oil, gas, and non-fuel minerals. Now supplying the United States with 15 percent of oil imports, Africa’s production may double in the next decade, and its capacity for natural gas exports will grow even more. In the next decade, Africa could be supplying the United States with as much energy as the Middle East.[37]

The report stated that, “The United States is facing intense competition for energy and other natural resources in Africa,” identifying India and primarily China as its main competitors “in the search for these resources and for both economic and political influence on the continent.”[38] In particular, “China presents a particularly important challenge to U.S. interests.”[39]

Further, “To compete more effectively with China, the United States must provide more encouragement and support to well-performing African states, develop innovative means for U.S. companies to compete, give high-level attention to Africa, and engage China on those practices that conflict with U.S. interests.”[40] In analyzing how the War on Terror had been brought to Africa, the report stated:

Post-9/11, the U.S. counterterror approach to Africa has been led by the U.S. military: CENTCOM in the Horn; EUCOM in West, Central, and southern Africa; and the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). More quietly, U.S. intelligence cooperation with key states has expanded in parallel with the enlargement of the U.S. military’s role.[41]

As the Guardian reported in June of 2005, “a new ‘scramble for Africa’ is taking place among the world’s big powers, who are tapping into the continent for its oil and diamonds.” A key facet of this is that “corporations from the US, France, Britain and China are competing to profit from the rulers of often chaotic and corrupt regimes.”[42] In May of 2006, the Washington Post reported that in Somalia, the US has been “secretly supporting secular warlords who have been waging fierce battles against Islamic groups for control of the capital, Mogadishu.”[43]

In December of 2006, Ethiopia, heavily backed and supported by the US, invaded and occupied Somalia, ousting the Islamist government. The US support for the operations was based upon the claims of Somalia being a breeding ground for terrorists and Al-Qaeda. However, this was has now turned into an insurgency. Wired Magazine reported in December of 2008 that, “for several years the U.S. military has fought a covert war in Somalia, using gunships, drones and Special Forces to break up suspected terror networks – and enlisting Ethiopia’s aid in propping up a pro-U.S. ‘transitional’ government.”[44] Again, another case of America being on the “wrong side of a world revolution.”

The Ethiopian troops occupied Somalia for a couple years, and in January of 2009, the last Ethiopian troops left the capital city of Mogadishu. In 2007, the UN authorized an African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Somalia. In March of 2007, Ugandan military officials landed in Somalia. Essentially, what this has done is that the more overt Ethiopian occupation of Somalia has been replaced with a UN-mandated African Union occupation of the country, in which Ugandan troops make up the majority. Since Uganda is a proxy military state for the US in the region, the more overt US supported Ethiopian troops have been replaced by a more covert US-supported Ugandan contingent.

Africom

In 2007, Newsweek reported that, “America is quietly expanding its fight against terror on the African front. Two years ago the United States set up the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership with nine countries in central and western Africa. There is no permanent presence, but the hope is to generate support and suppress radicalism by both sharing U.S. weapons and tactics with friendly regimes and winning friends through a vast humanitarian program assembled by USAID, including well building and vocational training.” The Pentagon announced the formation of a new military strategic command called “Africom” (Africa Command), which “will integrate existing diplomatic, economic and humanitarian programs into a single strategic vision for Africa, bring more attention to long-ignored American intelligence-gathering and energy concerns on the continent, and elevate African interests to the same level of importance as those of Asia and the Middle East.”[45]

The article gave brief mention to critics, saying that, “not surprisingly, the establishment of a major American base in Africa is inspiring new criticism from European and African critics of U.S. imperial overreach.” Some claim it represents a “militarization of U.S. Africa policy,” which is not a stretch of the imagination, as the article pointed out, “the United States has identified the Sahel, a region stretching west from Eritrea across the broadest part of Africa, as the next critical zone in the War on Terror and started working with repressive governments in Chad and Algeria, among others, to further American interests there.”[46] The article continued:

The problem is that, increasingly, African leaders appear not to want Africom. They see it as the next phase of the War on Terror—a way to pursue jihadists inside Africa’s weak or failed states, which many U.S. officials have described as breeding grounds for terror. They worry that the flow of arms will overwhelm the flow of aid, and that U.S. counterterrorism will further destabilize a region already prone to civil wars.[47]

Ever since the 2007 US-supported air strikes and invasion of Somalia, piracy has been a significant issue in the waters off of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. In 2009, several major nations, including America, Britain and China, sent navy ships into Somali waters to combat the pirates who were negatively impacting trade through the region. As Johann Hari explained in the Independent:

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died…

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving… This is the context in which the “pirates” have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence”.[48]

In 2009, an American Navy commander suggested that the Somali pirates were in receivership of not only a great amount of sympathy from Yemeni people (while the government would help combat the piracy), but that “private citizens in Yemen are selling weapons, fuel and supplies to Somali pirates. And maritime experts worry that pirates are increasingly able to find refuge along Yemen’s vast coast.” Some Yemeni officials “suggest the extensive international attention to piracy is just a pretext for big powers like the U.S. to gain control of the Gulf of Aden, a waterway through which millions of barrels of oil pass every day.” One member of the Yemeni Parliament suggested that, “Western powers are allowing piracy to continue as a way to serve their own interests.”[49]

Al-Qaeda in Yemen

The current war in Yemen and US support for it is predicated on the basis of aiding Yemen in the fight against al-Qaeda. Said Ali al-Shihri was arrested by the Americans in 2001 in Afghanistan, and was promptly taken to Guantanamo Bay. The Americans released him into Saudi custody in 2007, and he “passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.” In other words, the US handed him over to Saudi Arabia, who enrolled him in a program for ‘former jihadists’, and then he became the second in command in Al-Qaeda in Yemen. As one American intelligence official stated, “he returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.” One Saudi security official had reported (on condition of anonymity) that, “Mr. Shihri had disappeared from his home in Saudi Arabia [in 2008] after finishing the rehabilitation program.”[50]

In June of 2009, US officials were reporting that Al-Qaeda fighters were leaving Pakistan to go fight in Somalia and Yemen. The CIA, the Pentagon and the White House reported that Al-Qaeda groups in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia were “communicating more frequently, and apparently trying to coordinate their actions.” The CIA Director, Leon Panetta, said that, “the United States must prevent Al Qaeda from creating a new sanctuary in Yemen or Somalia.” Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Brookings Institution, a major US policy think tank, “I am very worried about growing safe havens in both Somalia and Yemen, specifically because we have seen Al Qaeda leadership, some leaders, start to flow to Yemen.”[51] So the American national security establishment had refocused its efforts on Yemen. War seemed inevitable.

In the 1980s, millions of Yemeni men had worked in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sending remittances back home to Yemen. In 1991, in the lead-up to the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia viewed these migrant workers as a potential security threat, so they expelled 800,000 Yemeni workers back to Yemen, and henceforth, Yemeni labour was banned in Saudi Arabia. Saudi financed Wahhabi madrasas sprung up across Yemen, providing a place for the disenchanted and unemployed Yemeni Sunni population to find an outlet for their political and economic dislocation. President Saleh of Yemen had often used Yemeni Wahhabis “to fight his domestic opponents – first the communists, then the Zaidis, and then the H[o]uthis.”[52]

In August of 2009, as the Saudi assault on the Houthi rebels in the North was underway, a Houthi leader and brother to the slain former leader, Yahya al-Houthi, spoke to a Middle Eastern news agency. He was a former Yemeni Member of Parliament, who had fled to Libya, and subsequently sought political asylum in Germany. He told Press TV:

Saudi Arabia wants the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh to remain in power because he is meeting all the Saudi demands especially those related to terrorism. Yemen is now a main party in carrying out terrorist plots sponsored by Saudi Arabia, therefore it is important for Saudi Arabia to keep Ali Abdullah Saleh in power as the overthrow of his regime would lead to many big secrets being revealed. The regime in Saudi Arabia also supports the Wahhabi ideology and is trying to spread this ideology amongst our people in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is also suffering from internal problems which it wants to export to Yemen. Many members of al-Qaeda , Yemenis and non Yemenis, are now in Yemen. In recent months [Yemeni President] Ali Abdullah Saleh has taken many recruits of Al-Qaeda who were afraid of falling into the hands of their regimes in countries like Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. His plan was to use these fighters from al-Qaeda to battle the Houthis in Saada. A training camp was also erected for these terrorists which still exists today in the area of Waila. These members of al-Qaeda and also Baathist elements are now taking part in the fighting alongside the Yemeni army against the Houthis. The areas of Malahit and Hasana which the Houthis have taken control over were used to transfer weapons from Saudi Arabia to the terrorists. These areas are also where most of the terrorists’ plans are made.[53]

In other words, according to al-Houthi, Yemen (along with Saudi Arabia) are directly supporting the al-Qaeda contingent in Yemen in an effort to sow chaos (thus providing a pretext for the military assault), as well as aiding in the fight against the Houthis. In October, as the fighting raged on, it was reported that the Yemeni governor in the northern province had “signed a deal” with al-Qaeda, in which the government “would provide the militants with arms, budget and other military requirements to assist the Yemeni army against the Shia fighters.”[54] Saudi Arabia remains, as it did throughout the entire history of the movement (since the 1980s), as the principle financier of al-Qaeda.[55]

In fact, in 2009, it was revealed that members of the Saudi royal family directly provide “extensive financial support for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.” The documents were revealed in a court case in which families of victims of the September 11th attacks were seeking to bring legal action against the Saudis for their financial support. The documents were leaked to their lawyers, and the US Justice Department stepped in (on behalf of the Saudis), and “had the lawyers’ copies destroyed and now wants to prevent a judge from even looking at the material.”[56] Clearly, al-Qaeda is not an organization autonomous of Saudi financing.

The Southern Secessionist Movement

Apart from simply the Houthis, the Saleh dictatorship seeks to suppress a Southern Yemeni secessionist movement seeking autonomy and liberation against the illegitimate central government. Since 2007, “southern Yemenis have been staging mass protests calling for reinstatement of southerners dismissed from the civil service and army, higher pensions, a fairer share of the country’s dwindling national wealth, and an end to corruption.” The protests were met with “severe repression by the security services, which seemed to only spur on the demand for secession by the south, where most of the country’s oil is located.”[57] One Yemeni analyst stated that, “If there is one thing that will break the country, it’s going to be the southern secession.” One southern secessionist activist stated that Saleh’s government was using the pretext of al-Qaeda and it’s war on terror “for the liquidation of the southern movement,” and that, “the southern movement is trying to continue the peaceful struggle. But the powers in Yemen have used excessive violence against peaceful protests.” The government, for its part, has attempted to propagate the baseless claim that the southern secessionists have links with al-Qaeda.[58]

Interestingly, al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen, in a recorded statement, “declared support for the Southern Movement, but Southern leaders have thus far rejected his endorsement.”[59] In an interview with France24, former South Yemen President, Ali Salem al-Beidh, explained that, “We have nothing to do with al Qaeda, we have never been in contact with this organization. Our movement rejects terrorism, which in contrast thrives in the north of the country. President Ali Abdallah Saleh uses al Qaeda to scare westerners and the United States.”[60] Saleh’s government has committed several human rights abuses against the movement in the South, unlawfully and unjustly killing innocents during protests, with the military surrounding peaceful protests and opening fire.[61]

The “rapidly spreading” protest movement in the South, explained the New York Times, “now threatens to turn into a violent insurgency if its demands are not met.” While the leaders of the movement favour peaceful protest, the government’s violent repression has made it so that “their ability to control younger and more violent supporters is fraying.” One southern leader stated, “We demand an independent southern republic, and we have the right to defend ourselves if they continue to kill us and imprison us.” Again refuting claims that the movement is tried to al-Qaeda, the leaders “say that they stand for law, tolerance and democracy, and that it is the north that has a history of using jihadists as proxy warriors.” A major problem arises within the Southern movement in that it remains deeply divided, with no clear singular leadership, drawing from an array of people, from socialists to Islamists, “with wildly different goals and unresolved disputes.”[62]

The Underwear Bomber

On December 25, 2009, a 23-year old Nigerian-born man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan, when he tried to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear. This incident, still shrouded in mystery, provided the excuse for American involvement in the conflict in Yemen, as it was reported that Farouk had been trained by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the newly-formed Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda group.

However, how Farouk managed to get on the plane, let alone past security with explosives on his person, is still an important question. After all, America knew about Farouk for up to two years prior to the incident, and even had him “on a list that includes people with known or suspected contact or ties to a terrorist or terrorist organization.”[63] Britain’s MI5 knew three years prior to the incident that Umar had connections with Islamic extremists in Britain.[64] Umar’s father, a former Nigerian government minister and successful banker, had even warned the US Embassy in Nigeria of his son’s extremist beliefs.[65] Umar even had a US entry visa, and when the State Department stepped in to have his visa revoked, “intelligence officials asked [the State Department] not to deny a visa to the suspected terrorist over concerns that a denial would’ve foiled a larger investigation into al-Qaida threats against the United States.”[66]

Suddenly, there was a flurry of reports from “respected” newspapers (such as the Washington Post and New York Times propaganda rags), that this “failure” of following through with the intelligence that was available on Umar meant that a review of security was needed, both in terms of possibly expanding the “watch lists” and in terms of expanding airport security, and proposing the use of body-scanners. Several politicians and news-rags were also calling for expanded military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.[67]

Interestingly, there were several reports of eyewitnesses on board the plane who contradict the official account of Umar’s attempted terrorist act. An attorney on board the plane said that, “he saw another man come to the assistance of accused bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when he tried to board the airplane in Amsterdam without a passport.” The attorney and his wife had both seen this incident. The wife, also a lawyer, stated, “My husband noticed two men walk up to the ticket counter lady. The only reason he noticed them is that he thought they were really a mismatched pair.” She said that Umar “wore older, scraggly clothing, but the man who was assisting him, who appeared to be of Indian descent, was dressed in what looked like an expensive suit and shoes.” She recounted that the well-dressed man had told the ticket agent, “We need to get this man on the plane,” and that, “He doesn’t have a passport.” The ticket agent responded that no one was allowed to board the plane without a passport, to which the Indian man replied, “We do this all the time; he’s from Sudan.”[68] Yet no further information has come forward about this mysterious ‘second man’ who helped Umar board the plane. Nevertheless, the propaganda of this attempted terrorist ‘attack’ had taken effect, as people were again afraid of the menace of “Islamic terror” and “al-Qaeda,” and the U.S. got the pretext to justify its intervention in Yemen.

American Imperialism in Yemen

While the ‘Underwear Bomber’ was used as a propaganda vehicle for supporting direct US military intervention in Yemen, covert US military involvement in Yemen had already been underway for some time (as well as British). In 2002, a mere six months following 9/11, President Bush authorized the deployment of 100 US troop to Yemen “to help train that nation’s military to fight terrorists.” The troops “would consist predominantly of Special Forces, but could also include intelligence experts and other specialists. The main target would be Al Qaeda fighters who are hiding in Yemen.”[69] In September of 2002, it was reported that the United States was deploying Special Forces and CIA agents into the Horn of Africa in an effort to combat al-Qaeda in Yemen, and “800 US special forces have been moved to Djibouti, which faces Yemen.”[70] In November of 2002, a CIA Predator drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – UAV) launched an attack on an al-Qaeda target within Yemen, killing six suspected al-Qaeda members, one of whom was an American citizen.[71]

Prior to the ‘Underwear Bomber’ (as he has come to be known), the conflict in Yemen was primarily viewed as a civil war, and then with the participation of Saudi Arabia, as a regional Arab conflict. In September of 2009, it was reported that while the Yemeni government attempted to subdue a rebel Shi’a army in the north (Houthi), a refugee crisis was emerging, and a wider conflict was erupting, which could “suck the US into another sensitive conflict zone.” Many observed that if the US manages to stay out of the war, “the conflict might be subsumed in a regional war by proxy,” as in, through Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, further, was accusing Iran of supporting the Shi’a rebels in northern Yemen, with both money and arms, but Saudi Arabia “has produced no hard evidence.” From the time the Saudi assault on northern Yemen began in August of 2009, between 25,000 and 100,000 Yemeni refugees were displaced. One top official with the World Food Program (WFP) stated that, “We’re not confronted with a humanitarian crisis, it’s becoming a humanitarian tragedy.”[72]

A member of the International Crisis Group (ICG) said, “that the United States might be forced to intervene as the security situation worsened to prevent Yemen becoming a ‘failed state’.” Further, “the country has been used as an al-Qaeda base before, and its strategic location between the oil supply routes of the Gulf and the piracy haven of Somalia means its stability is regarded as a key western interest.” Thus, said the ICG analyst, “You might well see American advisers, maybe even some special troops, go in for special operations.” President Obama declared in September of 2009 that, “the security of Yemen is vital for the security of the United States.”[73]

In November of 2009, it was reported that a “delegation of military officers from Yemen arrived in the United States recently” for training, of which the purpose “was to familiarize the Yemeni military officers with formal training programs currently in use by the United States Marine Corps. Support to Yemeni military officer training is likely to increase the effectiveness of [Yemen’s] military force.”[74] On December 13, 2009, (less than two weeks prior to the “Underwear Bomber” incident), it was reported that, “US special forces have been sent to Yemen to train its army amid fears the unstable Arab state is becoming a strategically important base for al-Qaeda.”[75]

It would appear, then, that the “Underwear Bomber” incident arrived just in time for the United States to have an excuse to expand its war in the region. Without the propagandized attempted terrorist attack, the American public would not readily accept America’s entry into yet another war. Questions might be asked about the nature of the war, such as the US supporting the government of Yemen in its suppression and oppression of its own people and the autonomous movements developing within Yemen seeking change. Whereas with a terrorist attack (or attempted, rather), and the convenient link to al-Qaeda, which suddenly was reported to be heavily represented in Yemen, Americans see their involvement in Yemen as a war against al-Qaeda, and a necessary one at that.

Two days after the “Underwear Bomber” incident took place, the New York Times reported that, “in the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen.” In 2008, “the Central Intelligence Agency sent several of its top field operatives with counterterrorism experience to the country,” and simultaneously, “some of the most secretive Special Operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics.” Further:

The Pentagon is spending more than $70 million over the next 18 months, and using teams of Special Forces, to train and equip Yemeni military, Interior Ministry and coast guard forces, more than doubling previous military aid levels.[76]

It was even reported that the US had been providing both intelligence and “fire power” to Yemen in its air strikes against “suspected al-Qaeda targets” throughout December, prior to the “Underwear Bomber.”[77] The New York Times did its part to propagandize the al-Qaeda issue by stating that, “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has rapidly evolved into an expanding and ambitious regional terrorist network thanks in part to a weakened, impoverished and distracted Yemeni government.”[78] Naturally, the British were not far behind in supporting an imperialist campaign to crush indigenous movements for autonomy, directed against western-supported dictators. After all, the British have been doing this for centuries. Roughly one week following the attempted Detroit plane bomber story broke, it was reported that the UK sent counter-terrorist forces to Yemen, where they will train the Yemeni military “and will assist in planning operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” The British media referred to Yemen as “the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden,” and had revealed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that:

Even before the attack, Britain quietly sent a military unit, believed to be about 30-strong and include members of the SAS, to train and mentor Yemeni forces in surveillance and strike operations, intelligence gathering, hostage rescue and interrogation techniques. It is understood that the detachment is being assisted by members of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.[79]

There further seems to be an effort to not only use al-Qaeda to advance US interests in the region, but also to draw a link to Iran, so as to further demonize Iran and even draw it into a regional war.

Pushing for a Proxy War With Iran

Government officials in Yemen had been declaring that the greatest threat to Yemen’s security comes not from al-Qaeda, but Iran, as they blame Iran “for fermenting the Shia rebellion,” and the chairman of Yemen’s national security agency stated that, “there are indeed signs, proof of Iranian interference.” While these allegations are made without any proof, “Western diplomats claim it is probable that Iran is providing money or materiel to the group, as it has to Hizbollah in Lebanon.”[80]

In November of 2009, when Saudi Arabia had stepped up its military campaign in Yemen, the New York Times reported that, “the border skirmish could lead to the realization of Saudi Arabia’s worst fear: a proxy conflict with its archrival, Iran, on its doorstep.” Quoting a Yemeni professor as saying that the Iran link to the Houthis was “a myth,” the Saudi assault against the Shi’a group could provoke Iran to “turn myth into reality”:

A battle between the Arab world’s leading Sunni power and Shiite Iran, even at one remove, could significantly elevate sectarian tensions across the region. Iran gained tremendous leverage over the Israeli-Palestinian problem by supporting the militant groups Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and Hamas, in Gaza. Helping the Houthis, another guerrilla group with great staying power, could give them a way to put pressure on Saudi Arabia.[81]

However, even as the New York Times acknowledged, the idea that the Houthis are more religiously aligned to Iran than the Arab Gulf nations is a misnomer, as the Houthi religion of Zaydism “is doctrinally closer to Sunnism than to mainstream Shiism.”[82] However, facts take a back seat to war propaganda.

On December 18, 2009, roughly one week before the “Underwear Bomber,” Time Magazine ran an article in which they reported on the claims of Yemen and Saudi Arabia that the Houthis “are receiving their funding, weapons and training from Iran in a bid to destabilize the region.” While acknowledging that there is no evidence of Iranian involvement, the Time article was entitled, “Yemen’s Hidden War: Is Iran Causing Trouble?” and the last sentence in the article wrote, “As for Iran — the only party that doesn’t seem to have any real involvement just yet — the time may soon be ripe to jump in.”[83] The Washington Post carried an article entitled, “Yemen denounces Iran’s ‘interference’,” yet only in the final paragraph of the article did they report, “Yemen has accused Iran of funneling arms and providing financial backing to the rebels, but the Yemeni government has not provided evidence to support the assertions. The rebels have insisted that they receive no support from Iran or any other foreign powers.”[84]

Saudi and Yemeni media and government propaganda presented a view that Iran was extensively involved in the internal conflict in Yemen. Yemen had seized an Iranian ship which it claimed was transporting weapons to Houthi rebels, while Saudi papers reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps was training the Houthi rebels. Another Saudi media outlet “reported that a dozen Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon were killed during battles in October,” and Saudi Arabia placed blame for the conflict on Iran, saying that “the insurgents are working for Tehran and [are] wanting to take their front to the Saudi border.”[85]

While there has been no actual evidence of Iranian involvement put forward, the situation could become a self-fulfilling prophecy of the Saudis and Yemenis, in the sense that the more they accuse Iran of involvement, the more they demonize and publicly lambaste Iran, the more likely it is that Iran will be drawn into the conflict. If they are already the target of a campaign aimed at blaming their alleged involvement for creating the crisis, what do they have to lose from entering the conflict? Thus, Yemen could “possibly become a battleground for a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” Regardless of whether or not the Iranians are or will be physically involved in the conflict, it has resulted in a war of rhetoric between both Saudi Arabia and Iran, further inflaming tensions between the two nations.[86]

In January of 2010, General David Petraeus, commander of US Forces in the Middle East, said that, “the domestic conflict in Yemen could become a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.” He explained that, “it is not a proxy war now, but has the potential to become one, and there may already have been some movement in that direction.”[87]

There was even a pathetic attempt on the part of the Washington Times to link Iran to al-Qaeda.[88] Obviously, the Washington Times seemed to be blithely unaware of the fact that Iran is a Shi’a dominated state, which is religiously and ideologically opposed to al-Qaeda, which practices a strict Wahhabist Sunni brand of Islam, as propagated and practiced by Saudi Arabia, a major regional antagonist of Iran’s. To claim that there would be a link between Iran and al-Qaeda is simply to proclaim one’s own ignorance. No wonder then, that Senator John McCain, while on the campaign trail for President in 2008, so often ‘proclaimed his ignorance’ by several times making the claim that Iran was supporting al-Qaeda.[89]

Could the United States be seeking to foment a wider war in the region? Could the civil war in Yemen be expanded into a proxy-war against Iran? Well, the United States (with the participation of several other NATO partners) fueled the proxy war in the last civil war, where the target was Nasserist Egypt. Could the US simply be employing the same strategy today as they were then, with simply a change of target? To understand this answer, we must look to the direct role played by the United States in the Yemeni civil war.

America Wages War on Yemen

Over a week prior to the “underwear bomber” fiasco, on December 16, 2009, the United States reportedly “perpetrated an appalling massacre against citizens in the north of Yemen as it launched air raids on various populated areas, markets, refugee camps and villages along with Saudi warplane,” according to the Houthi fighters. Over 120 people were reported to have been killed in the US bombing.[90] The Houthi rebels have even reported that U.S. fighter jets “have launched 28 attacks on the northwestern province of Sa’ada.”[91]

On December 21, 2009, days before the “underwear bomber” pretext, ABC news reported that the US had begun launching cruise missile attacks in Yemen under the authorization of President Obama, and the French media reported on one such strike having massacred “49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women.” While the air strikes were reportedly undertaken to target al-Qaeda in Yemen, they took place in the south near where some of the leaders of the secessionist movement were reportedly living. These raids had been increasingly taking place, and as the New York Times reported, “the United States provided firepower, intelligence and other support to the government of Yemen as it carried out raids.”[92]

Over 2009, the Pentagon supplied the Yemeni military with $70 million, effectively subsidizing their military (as they do with a plethora of nations worldwide, most notably Colombia, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia), in order for Yemen’s military to be more able to crush the secessionist uprising in the South, the rebels in the North, and that pesky al-Qaeda which rears its head in any nation America seeks to conduct military operations in. As Newsweek reported in late December of 2009:

Over the past year U.S. and Yemeni interests have increasingly begun to align as Al Qaeda’s presence in the country has grown. “We started seeing a lot of foreign fighters coming in—Saudis, Pakistanis,” says one Yemeni diplomatic source. Many of those have arrived (or returned) from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. As they have, the networks of militants have begun to launch quiet, pinpoint strikes on local Yemeni intelligence chiefs—six or seven in the past several months alone. The government’s retaliatory raids were launched partly in response to those strikes… Government raids are almost certainly the products of close cooperation with the U.S.—perhaps carried out by CIA-operated Predator drones launched from nearby Djibouti. A. A. Al-Eryani, a former Yemeni prime minister who advises the current president, says that there is “complete intelligence cooperation” with the U.S. on counterterrorism.[93]

In other words, as the US brought in key Pakistani and Saudi assets (who themselves make up both the financial and operational arms of al-Qaeda), al-Qaeda militants began to emerge and launch strikes against Yemen. Suddenly, then, a pretext for US military involvement in the nation is delivered in the guise of fighting the “War on Terror.” Just as during the Cold War, the threat of ‘Communism’ was used to rally support for suppressing and waging war against national liberation movements all across the world, so now these movements are suppressed and waged war against under the guise of “fighting terror.” An odd ‘irony’ of history, then, that in order to “fight terror,” the West simply spreads it.

On December 29th, 2009, the Australian reported that, “the Americans have quietly opened a third, largely covert front against the al-Qa’ida terror network in Yemen, to combat a new generation of militants keen on transforming the country into a launching pad for jihad against the US, its Arab allies and Israel.” Besides the blatant propagandizing in the opening sentence, the first part reveals the fact of a new ‘secret war’ that America is waging. The article explained that a year previous, “CIA sent many of its top field operatives with counter-terrorism experience to the country, while some of the most secretive US special operations commandos began training Yemeni security forces in counter-terrorism tactics.”[94]

As US Senator Joe Lieberman proclaimed, “Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act pre-emptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war.” Barbara Bodine, the former US Ambassador to Yemen, said that, “I think it would be a major mistake to turn this into a third front, if Iraq and Afghanistan are somehow front number one and number two.” She explained, “If we try to deal with this as an American security problem and dealt with by American military, we risk exacerbating the problem.” She astutely observed the nature of occupational forces when she warned, “If we go in and make this our war … it is suddenly going to become a war against us and we will lose it.”[95]

The United States took it upon itself to “press” the Yemeni government – a hard-line oppressive dictatorship – to “toughen its approach.”[96] In February of 2010, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved “more than doubling U.S. funding to train and equip Yemeni security forces to combat al Qaeda” at a figure of $150 million, up from $67 million the previous year. However, “the sum does not include covert U.S. assistance for Yemen, which has quietly increased in recent months.” U.S. CIA Director Leon Panetta, however, raised doubts as to whether Washington can count on Yemen in the long-term to fight al-Qaeda.[97] Covertly, the United States had increased ‘assistance’ to Yemen through U.S. Special Forces, the CIA and the National Security Agency, “sharing satellite and surveillance imagery, intercepted communications and other sensitive information to help Yemen pinpoint strikes against al Qaeda targets,”[98] or at least what are said to be al-Qaeda targets, but usually end up as civilian casualties.

In April of 2010, it was announced that the Pentagon had implemented plans to “boost U.S. military assistance to Yemen’s special operations forces to lead an offensive targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” AQAP, providing roughly $34 million in “tactical assistance” to Yemen’s special forces. A further $38 million will provide Yemen with military transport aircraft.[99]

As the United States has dramatically increased CIA drone attacks in Pakistan, killing thousands of innocent civilians,[100] in May of 2010, the United States announced that it had deployed drones to Yemen to target al-Qaeda.[101] In June of 2010, it was leaked that the U.S. “secret war” has expanded globally, as “Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60” at the beginning of 2009. As the Washington Post reported:

In addition to units that have spent years in the Philippines and Colombia, teams are operating in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia… Plans exist for preemptive or retaliatory strikes in numerous places around the world, meant to be put into action when a plot has been identified, or after an attack linked to a specific group… Obama, one senior military official said, has allowed “things that the previous administration did not.”

Special Operations commanders have also become a far more regular presence at the White House than they were under George W. Bush’s administration, when most briefings on potential future operations were run through the Pentagon chain of command and were conducted by the defense secretary or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“We have a lot more access,” a second military official said. “They are talking publicly much less but they are acting more. They are willing to get aggressive much more quickly.”

… Bush-era clashes between the Defense and State departments over Special Operations deployments have all but ceased. Former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld saw them as an independent force, approving in some countries Special Operations intelligence-gathering missions that were so secret that the U.S. ambassador was not told they were underway. But the close relationship between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is said to have smoothed out the process… In every place, Special Operations forces activities are coordinated with the U.S. ambassador and are under the operational control of the four-star regional commander.[102]

The British are also involved in supporting the conflict in Yemen. In July of 2010, the head of Yemen’s Special Forces met with a British military delegation, in which “aspects of bilateral military cooperation between Yemen and the UK were discussed in addition to training, and ways to benefit from British military expertise to bolster the military and security capabilities of Yemen’s armed forces.”[103]

In May of 2010, an air strike took place, which was reported to have killed al-Qaeda militants, in “a secret mission by the U.S. military.” However, “the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk al-Qaida members into giving up their fight.”[104] As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, “that would be the equivalent of some foreign military force killing the lieutenant governor of an American state in an air strike.” Further, the “U.S. attacks have had no apparent impact on al-Qaida or on anyone else in Yemen, apart from its civilian population who have taken casualties in badly targeted attacks.” Commenting on the fact that US Special Forces operations in Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Yemen, the reporter asks some important questions:

Why is Mr. Saleh our ally? Why are we killing innocent civilians in the back country of Yemen? Why are we stirring up the kind of trouble that can end up trashing Yemen the way we have trashed Iraq and Afghanistan? Does anyone believe for one minute that we are any safer for all that we are doing in those 12 countries — probably more — than we would be if we had normal, mutually respectful, mutually helpful relations with them?[105]

The questions are surprising to see being asked in the American media, as the rest of the corporate controlled media outlets simply report (without questioning) the government line, and explain that the U.S. has decided to expand the drone attacks in Yemen, which “would likely be modeled after the CIA’s covert drone campaign in Pakistan,” and that the Obama “administration will mount a more intense targeted killing program in Yemen,” without questioning who they are killing. As Glenn Greenwald of Salon Magazine pointed out:

There is anti-Americanism and radicalism in Yemen; therefore, to solve that problem, we’re going to bomb them more with flying killer robots, because nothing helps reduce anti-American sentiments like slaughtering civilians and dropping cluster bombs from the sky… And it’s therefore unsurprising that the 2009 Nobel Peace laureate [Obama] is rapidly becoming as disliked in the Muslim world as the prior U.S. President:  what looks to five Norwegians sitting in Oslo to be a Man of Peace looks much different in the region where his bombs are falling, his hit squads deploying, his war commitments expanding, and his sky robots multiplying.[106]

In September of 2010, it was reported that the Pentagon was considering expanding Yemen’s military ‘assistance’ to $1.2 billion over the next five years, but don’t worry, “the US is also providing significant development and humanitarian assistance” to Yemen.[107]

The ‘Cleansing’ of a Liberation Movement

In September 2010, while the Obama administration’s top counter-terrorism official, John Brennan, was in Yemen for talks with President Saleh, Yemeni security forces “laid siege” to a town in the South, Hawta, “where several dozen Qaeda militants were said to be holed up,” which led to thousands of civilians being forced to flee, while the military, as the New York Times reported, “was intermittently shelling the town with tanks and artillery and firing on the jihadists from attack helicopters.” As the article explained:

Hawta, in southern Yemen’s mountainous Shabwa Province, is at the heart of the remote area east and south of the capital where Al Qaeda’s regional arm has sought sanctuary. It is also just to the north of a major new liquid natural gas pipeline — a crucial resource in a country that is rapidly running out of oil and water — and Yemeni officials have voiced concern about the possibility that jihadists could rupture the line.[108]

In other words, the Yemeni government, under intense pressure and support from the United States, is laying siege to a town in the South – in the midst of a massive and growing secessionist movement – which represents the greatest threat to the stability of the staunch U.S.-ally, and which also happens to be home to natural gas reserves. But we are told that the siege is a fight against ‘al-Qaeda’. Meanwhile, civilians were being killed, and one fleeing family said that, “the troops did not spare any one from their fire over the past two days.”[109] The reality of what is going on in the village is “hard to know,” as NPR points out, “because the government is banning any independent observers from going in there.” As a reporter with NPR explained:

In fact, what the locals are saying is that this is a blood feud against the government. And that, in fact, these are local or armed tribesmen [i.e., Islamist forces such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP] that are sort of fighting with the government. And that this is more about fighting or subduing the secessionist movement than it is about al-Qaida… The government says about 2,000 people have fled. But actually, the Yemen Red Crescent and other aid groups that have had some contact with the people on the ground there put the numbers much higher. They say about 12,000. And that would be about three-quarters of the town emptying out and running away.

And this has created a real problem, because this is a very poor area. And so the other villages in the area cannot really accommodate or absorb these refugees. And so, you have a lot of people, now, living outdoors without any water, food or tents or any sort of medical, ’cause one can assume that there are probably injuries, if not deaths. So it’s become a real humanitarian crisis.[110]

Yemen’s government is not new to media censorship and obfuscation, as there have been “dozens of extralegal abductions, politicised trials, illegal confiscations, writing bans, and censorship over the years. What’s particularly alarming is a recent legislative push to erect an elaborate legal facade to obscure repressive tactics.” The government is also attempting to pass “a repressive bill designed to regulate television, radio and online media. If passed, these changes would significantly reduce an already narrow margin for free expression.” The government has even arrested, tortured and tried critical journalists as “supporting al-Qaeda” with absolutely no evidence.[111]

The “Friends” of Yemen: ‘Democratic Imperialism’ and NGOs as Modern Missionaries

In January of 2010, a group of nations and organizations met in London to form the “Friends of Yemen,” which includes the United States, U.K., 20 other countries, as well as the UN, EU, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab League, World Bank and IMF. The purpose of the group was to coordinate foreign aid to Yemen, so that it coincides with military, economic and civil assistance aid programs, including forcing Yemen to cooperate with the conditions set by the IMF in order to receive foreign aid. The overall aid would be used to combat what the ‘Friends’ refer to as “appalling indicators,” which include “a growing population, dwindling oil reserves, water shortages and political instability as the government battles Houthi insurgents in the north and secessionists in the south.”[112]

In September of 2010, the Friends of Yemen met in New York to organize a plan for Yemen’s foreign aid. As part of the package, Yemen has been forced to accept an IMF plan to increase taxes by 10% and to eliminate fuel subsidies.[113] At the meeting in New York, the UN reported that there are “168,000 Somali refugees in Yemen, as well as 304,000 Yemeni civilians who continue to be displaced by the seven-month conflict between government forces and Houthis rebels which ended with a shaky truce in February.”[114] The ‘Friends’ further encouraged “progress in the negotiations towards Yemen’s accession to the World Trade Organisation, which they hoped would be concluded by the end of 2010,” and while acknowledging that the proposed economic reforms would have an “adverse impact on the poor,” the Friends thus “committed to provide additional support for social protection,” as well as supporting the formation of national multi-party elections.[115]

At the ‘Friends’ meeting, the United States vowed to commit $67 million for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “to work in partnership with communities to directly address local needs.  This includes health, education, and water projects; mobile health and veterinary clinics; and support for increasing the capacity of local governments to deliver essential services.” Further plans include funneling millions of dollars through NGOs aimed at providing social services and ‘poverty alleviation’ programs.[116]

While sounding very pleasant and helpful, we must place the concept of promoting ‘democratization’ and the spread of NGOs in their proper geopolitical context. The fact that NGOs, ‘democratization’, economic programs under the direction of the IMF, and military assistance from the West are taking place at the same time is very significant, and not as contradictory as it might seem.

In Africa, the IMF and World Bank’s “Structural Adjustment Programs” that deconstructed society to service illegitimate debts to Western banks had the effect of spreading poverty and effectively induced “social genocide.” The national leaders became very rich, creating a tiny elite which was subservient to Western imperial interests. Western nations would arm the nation and use it as a proxy force in the region when necessary or help it in the oppression of its own people, in order to ensure the stability of their interests. The people of these various nations would protest, demonstrate, riot and rebel, so much so that between 1976 and 1992, there were 146 protests against IMF ‘austerity measures’ in 39 countries around the world.[117] Governments, in response, would generally resort to violence to suppress these demonstrations, with “strikes declared illegal, universities were closed, and trade unions, student organizations, popular organizations and political parties also became the target of repressive legislation or actions.”[118] This essentially created a “crisis of legitimacy,” where the economic ‘reforms’ were seen as destructive, where the political process was seen as corrupt, where the state oppressed and foreigners profited, while the people suffered. It didn’t help the situation that it was often authoritarian governments introducing these economic reforms.[119]

In 1989, the World Bank concluded that the reason for the failure of ‘structural adjustment’ across Africa was not due to the destructive poverty-inducing nature of the reforms, but was do to the corrupt governments implementing them. Thus, it was a “crisis of governance.”[120] The solution, in this sense, was to promote ‘democratization’, as in, a neoliberal concept of democracy. Africa had been experiencing a growth of democratic movements around the continent during the time of Structural Adjustment, which led the IFIs (International Financial Institutions) and Western nations to conclude that democratization and economic liberalization go hand-in-hand. In short, Structural Adjustment is ‘inherently’ democratic. The failure of this analysis was quite obvious: the pro-democracy movements that had arisen across Africa “reflect, to a significant extent, a popular reaction against the socially painful effects of structural adjustment.”[121]

The ‘democratization’ movement is largely an effort to maintain ‘stability’ in the hegemony of the IMF/World Bank and Western interests over Africa and other regions, as instead of rotating from one coup to another, there is a parliamentary democracy where you go from one party to another (who all accept the dominance of the West and the ‘advice’ of the IFIs), which produces a more ‘stable’ environment for Western interests, as it also has the effect of pacifying popular opposition under the guise of promoting democratic accountability. However, these are not true democracies (nor are those in the West), where you simply vote between competing factions of elites who are collectively co-opted by the same international financial elites. They impose the institutions of democracy (legislatures, political parties, judiciaries) “without combining political democracy and social reform.” Thus, these democracies are essentially stillborn (dead before they even exited), as “formal democracy without social reform increases economic inequality and thereby intensifies unequal distribution of power in society.”[122] As Noam Chomsky has argued, “the guardians of world order have sought to establish democracy in one sense of the term, while blocking it in a different sense.” He argued that “power holders use democracy as justification for their power and as an ideological instrument for keeping the public quiescent and out of decision-making processes.”[123]

Alison Ayers analyzes ‘democratization’ as a multi-faceted approach in Africa, entailing: multiparty elections, constitutionalism, the rule of law, a “particular conception of human rights,” ‘good governance’, and an “independent civil society.”[124] Multiparty elections comprise an occasional election in which people choose between competing factions of elites, while constitutionalism implies establishing a “set of rules securing property rights, governing civil and commercial behaviour, and limiting the power of the state.”[125] In promoting ‘multiparty systems’, “the dominant agents of the democratization project have established a veritable ‘elections industry’ comprising voter and civic education campaigns, party-building activities, and electoral assistance and monitoring.”[126] The “engineering of civil society” has taken on an explicitly neo-liberal form, in which it focuses on the “liberation of civil society” from the state, and of which NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have come to play a decisive role. Western aid agencies heavily finance international and local NGOs (thus often negating the notion that they are non-governmental), with the World Bank exponentially increasing its support of NGOs (often through governments).[127]

In fact, NGOs have come to play a pivotal role in the modern imperial project, as they have been co-opted into a program of “welfare provision, a social initiative that could be more accurately described as a programme of social control.”[128] The NGOs were used to respond to the social upheaval brought about by the age of ‘Structural Adjustment’, to provide a degree of social services that were formerly provided by the state. Thus, as the spread of Structural Adjustment increased throughout Africa, so too did the spread of Western NGOs. Western nations heavily support these supposed non-governmental organizations, with the U.S. transferring nearly 40 percent of its aid through NGOs.[129] They have become an essential aspect of the ‘development’ agenda in Africa, itself based upon a colonial mindset. Whereas in the formal colonial period at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, Africans were considered “uncivilized,” and so colonialism in Africa was not about oppression and economic exploitation, but was rather a ‘civilizing mission.’ Today, Africa is not ‘uncivilized’ but rather, ‘undeveloped’, and so, just as the missionaries of the formal colonial period played a role in ‘civilizing’ Africa – in the vision of the West (akin to how God created man in ‘his own image’) – the NGOs of the new imperial era have come to Africa in a ‘developing mission’. The ‘development’ paradigm had the effect of sterilizing popular opposition, as it framed the problem in Africa not as one of ‘emancipation’ (from colonial and oppressive powers), but as a problem of ‘poverty’ and ‘basic needs’.[130] The role of NGOs in ‘development’:

Represents a continuity of the work of their precursors, the missionaries and voluntary organizations that cooperate in Europe’s colonization and control of Africa. Today their work contributes marginally to the relief of poverty, but significantly to undermining the struggle of African people to emancipate themselves from economic, social and political oppression.[131]

There are further concerns to take into account in regards to ‘democratization’ and ‘aid’ through NGOs, not simply in the establishment of a system of lobotomizing resistance – preventing emancipation – and promoting the legitimization of the status quo powers (by treating the symptoms of poverty and oppression rather than the causes), but NGOs and ‘democratization’ often play a very covert role in imperialism, particularly through USAID (United States Agency for International Development) as well as a host of so-called Non-Governmental Organizations (which happen to be funded by the government), such as the National Endowment for Democracy. These organizations are effectively able to organize opposition to a national ruler, create a parallel media system, provide activist training and funding to covertly orchestrate a “soft power” coup, in which it is seen as a “democratic revolution” or a “peaceful revolution,” often following contested elections. This is done to create the illusion that these are popular people’s movements elevating leaders of “change”, but which simply are leaders that are subservient to Western imperial interests. Often, the CIA itself operates through such agencies covertly.

In South Vietnam for example, USAID provided cover for the CIA so extensively, “that the two became almost synonymous.”[132] In the 1980s, during the largest CIA covert operation in history, funding the Afghan Mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union, the CIA and USAID worked very closely, coordinating their efforts, as “the United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation.” The textbooks, made in America at the University of Nebraska with tens of millions of dollars of financing from USAID, taught children “to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines,” and while USAID dropped funding for the program in 1994, the books continued in circulation, even after the Taliban came to power in 1996, and “private humanitarian groups paid for continued re-printings during the Taliban years. Today, the books remain widely available in schools and shops.”[133] The entire program was coordinated with the CIA.[134]

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is another particularly covert imperial force, a NGO that gets all it’s funding from the US government, and about which U.S. Congressman Ron Paul explained eloquently:

The misnamed National Endowment for Democracy is nothing more than a costly program that takes US taxpayer funds to promote favored politicians and political parties abroad. What the NED does in foreign countries … would be rightly illegal in the United States. The NED injects ‘soft money’ into the domestic elections of foreign countries in favor of one party or the other.

Imagine what a couple of hundred thousand dollars will do to assist a politician or political party in a relatively poor country abroad. It is particularly Orwellian to call US manipulation of foreign elections ‘promoting democracy.’ How would Americans feel if the Chinese arrived with millions of dollars to support certain candidates deemed friendly to China? Would this be viewed as a democratic development?[135]

The NED and a host of other NGOs (backed by government funding), as well as private foundations, have implemented a “soft power” approach to implementing “democratic regime change” in countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, often aimed at replacing former Western puppet leaders with new puppet leaders to better promote imperial interests in the nations where they take place. This has occurred in Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and many other countries.[136] An effort was undertaken to impose a similar “democratic regime change” with the CIA funneling $400 million for implementing this “soft power” strategy in Iran, resulting in the Iranian elections protests in the summer of 2009. While the strategy failed in its aims of “regime change” it mounted an incredibly successful international propaganda campaign, so much so that the world was lashing out against Iran for what the West claimed were fraudulent elections (but turned out to be free and fair elections), and at the same time, the Western media failed to cover a successful military coup in Honduras, in which the democratically elected President was kidnapped and sent to a foreign country, while the subsequent dictatorship brutally repressed people’s protests and demonstrations, with the new regime all the while being supported by the United States.[137]

From this we can see that the “Friends of Yemen” promoting democratization and “good governance” in Yemen serves Western imperial ambitions. In the very least, it is designed to stifle and ultimately lobotomize organic, indigenous liberation, self-determination, and autonomy movements, while the same Western nations militarily arm and support the oppressive government in its repression of these people. It seems that for the time being, America has chosen to support the current Yemeni dictatorship, propping it up to crush its own people and their struggles for liberation. Simultaneously, America and the West are preparing themselves for a long-term strategy of “democratization,” in which they may have to replace Saleh and the current regime with a new client regime to secure American interests and hegemony in the region.

In this context we may view the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a program of the U.S. State Department aimed at supporting “reforms” in the Middle East and North Africa, in which they support international and local NGOs, educational institutions, local governments and private businesses to implement projects designed to directly engage and invest in the people of the region. MEPI has completed roughly 28 programs in Yemen alone, with roughly seven grants ongoing, aimed at organizing journalists, ‘human rights’ activists, improving the Parliamentary process, improving political participation, promoting women’s ‘empowerment’, and “raising democratic awareness.”[138]

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is also active in Yemen, funding and running programs aimed at promoting “civic and human rights awareness,” facilitating “the free flow of independent news information to Yemenis on issues related to social, political, and economic growth of the country and to build the capacity of journalists to effectively monitor and report on human rights issues,” as well as identifying “the political needs and concerns of women, and to push political parties to adopt women’s issues in their party platforms.” One program of the NED includes nearly $200,000 of funding for the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). According to their website, CIPE “strengthens democracy around the globe through private enterprise and market-oriented reform. CIPE is one of the four core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy,” and is also an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.[139] The $184,000 grant to CIPE from the NED is to “facilitate access to information and analysis about economic reform,” which will include producing “thirty 20-30 minute radio programs on economic reform in Yemen and sponsor economic reform pages in two independent newspapers,” in order to “empower Yemenis to participate in the democratic and economic reform process.”[140] However, considering the group promotes “private enterprise” and is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the “information and analysis” about economic reform is more likely to be misinformation and propaganda. In total, the NED is operating roughly 13 programs in Yemen at the moment.[141]

USAID’s programs in Yemen aim at taking the “missionary position” in addressing some of the symptoms of conflict, deprivation, disenfranchisement, and oppression, without allowing the people to seek emancipation and liberation. These programs includes a “new three-year Responsive Governance Project [which] aims to strengthen government institutions, support reforms including decentralization, and improve the delivery of public services while encouraging more citizen participation in the political process,” as well as “the Community Livelihoods Project that is focusing on improving agriculture and increasing employment opportunities in highly vulnerable communities, especially for youth.” Other programs aim at promoting education, health care, and ‘peace and security.’[142]

So, while the U.S. government uses the IMF to wreck the economy of Yemen, spreading poverty and dismantling health care, social services and education; the U.S. simultaneously funds and arms the Yemeni dictatorship to repress the people rising up against their economic, social and political conditions; yet, again simultaneously, the United States – through USAID and various other “democratization” programs – aims to alleviate some of the social repercussions to maintain stability of their interests. Imperialism has an economic facet (the IMF), a political facet (military-intelligence support), and a social facet (NGOs and ‘democratization’).

Thus we also see the significance in that while the CIA expands its operations in Yemen (in support of the dictatorship), the current CIA Director holds doubts about “whether Washington can count on Yemen in the long-term to fight al Qaeda, citing internal unrest that threatens to destabilize the government and break up the country, along with growing anti-American sentiment.”[143] This is made all the more interesting to take into account that the CIA Director announced that the CIA will be expanding its use of under-cover assets through a variety of unofficial organizations – such as corporations or other organizations.[144]

War, Empire, and “Perception Management”: Propaganda Creates ‘Cultural Schizophrenia’

So who exactly is the US supporting in Yemen? Ali Abdullah Saleh has been in power since 1978, first ruling North Yemen, and subsequently ruling all of Yemen. Saleh has managed to remain the ruler of a ‘united’ Yemen by “clamping down on the press, concentrating military and economic power in the hands of friends and family and winning elections by suspiciously high margins.” Time Magazine reported that Saleh described ruling Yemen as “dancing on the heads of snakes.” Saleh, however, can hardly act as if he rules a ‘united’ Yemen, when “two-thirds of the country is in the hands of either separatist groups or local tribes.” Further:

Yemen’s most volatile regions are among those hardest hit by drought and government neglect — are at the heart of most of those conflicts, especially the war between the government and Shi’ite rebels, known as Houthis, that is being waged in the northern province of Sa’ada.[145]

The significance of this piece of information, located in the Time article, which was otherwise propagandistic of the “fight against al-Qaeda,” is that it acknowledges that the key to Yemen’s issues today is the legitimacy of the central government’s rule over the people of Yemen. The essential issue is that this is about people’s rights to govern themselves, to not be oppressed, not be murdered, nor economically devoured by international capital and national industrial interests. Our nations and our media call these people “terrorists”; our intelligence agencies sponsor ‘terrorists’ in these nations, who kill these people, and then we use that as an excuse to send in the military to kill more of these people. We support an illegitimate government, an oppressive and brutal dictator who vowed to crack down with an “iron fist” in August of 2009. His subsequent “iron fist” created “a humanitarian tragedy,” where by September over 25,000 people had become refugees,[146] by October 2009, over 55,000 people fled their homes due to the conflict.[147] These are the people the West is helping the Yemeni dictator kill. And not only him, but Saudi Arabia is helping, as are Pakistan and Jordan, three other nations subservient to American interests, and whose militaries are ‘American made’. Saudi Arabia especially, as it seeks to prevent the spread of the Shi’a resistance, which to the illegitimate state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, combined with several other resistant and oppressed groups, could create the political, economic and social conditions for revolution. No wonder then, that the United States is planning to undertake the largest arms deal in American history with Saudi Arabia, valued at $60 billion, which “is aimed at establishing air superiority over rival Iran while also addressing weaknesses bared in border fighting with Yemeni rebels.”[148]

A state seeks only its own survival and growth in power; that is the nature of all states. This is why nation-states are naturally inclined to forgo competition for power with the economic sphere, and simply merge interests and elite social structures. It is in their interest for both survival and growth in power.

Our oppressive and illegitimate nation-states seek to aid in the oppression of other peoples in other places, and increasingly so at home. However, it is through the media that this massive collective wave of ignorance and ‘cultural schizophrenia’ takes place. This is why most in the west see the world, blissfully unaware of its realities. The media leads the people through that old wardrobe into the land of Narnia: the media’s ‘perception management’ of the world is nothing but a ‘fantasy’. A good example of this ‘fantasy world’ is located in a Time Magazine article. It wrote:

On Dec. 17 and 24, joint Yemeni-U.S. strikes against purported AQAP [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] training camps took place and killed more than 60 militants, U.S. intelligence officials claimed.[149]

The attack, in reality, killed 52 people, more than half of them being women and children, in which a US missile armed with cluster ammunition was used, with both the Yemeni and American governments claiming the target was an al-Qaeda training camp. The cruise missile was designed to be fired from a warship or submarine, and was filled with “cluster munitions which spray steel fragments for 150 meters along with burning zirconium for igniting buildings.” However, “the Yemeni government does not possess cruise missiles, which are part of the arsenal of US Navy vessels patrolling off the Horn of Africa and in the Arabian Sea.”[150] The missiles were “launched on direct presidential orders.”[151]

Our governments kill these people and call them “militants” and “terrorists,” our media repeat the accusation with no dissent. War is like no other situation that can lead to the growth of the state. War is the ultimate organizing principle in society, for with war powers, a nation can build, destroy, grow, oppress, control, expand, consume, corrupt and continue. As this power grows, so too does the power of all the other various major spheres of influence over humanity, such as the media and the academics. We can add to that the scientific and technological elite, who help to create the conditions, understanding, technology, and means of expanding power and controlling the masses so that today we have unmanned aerial vehicles called “Predator Drones” flying over Yemen killing innocent civilians, while the drones are operated from American military bases in Florida. America has been doing the exact same thing in Pakistan at a much more significant rate and for a much longer period of time (and most rapidly accelerated under the Obama administration of ‘change’).

This ‘invisible empire’ is managed through ‘perception management’ – propaganda – which infects all spheres of social power structures, but which is arguably most prominent and powerful in the media. This creates among western citizens, and most particularly among Americans, a type of ‘cultural schizophrenia’ in which the ‘mind of the nation’ (how the majority of people view their nation and their world) is so contrary to the reality of that nation and the world around it, that it creates a nation or a people ‘of two minds’, holding both the fantasy world of those who encompass it, and the hard-bitten reality of global power structures and systems.

This ‘cultural schizophrenia’ is most emblematic in the United States, where the majority of those within it view it as a force for good in the world, spreading freedom, democracy and ‘free markets’ around the world; while the reality is so different, that the majority of the rest of the world view the United States as a force for spreading fear, war, economic exploitation and power. This is the view, especially, of those to whom the United States has attempted to spread “freedom and democracy.”

This has slightly changed in the context of the “war on terror”, which has allowed for flowery rhetoric about democratic rights and liberty to subside beside the urgency of “fighting terror.” Around the world, people were rejecting the “liberal democratic” project in replacing the dictatorships of the 70s – 90s with [neo]liberal democratic governments, which were democratic only so much as they created political powers and held usually corrupt elections in which various power factions would compete for the authority to plunder the nation in cooperation with international corporations, financial institutions and western governments. Democracy in the ‘Third World’ had essentially proven itself a farce, and people’s movements were increasing. The “war on terror” has subsequently fiercely mobilized the American military (and its NATO cohorts), vastly increased its scope, operations, abilities and entanglements; and created the political conditions for the nation to rapidly accelerate the use of its military apparatus around the world, something which the American people would not support without what is perceived to be a good reason. After all, they will largely be the ones forced to fight and partake in these wars.

And so we come back to Yemen. As Martin Luther King said in 1967, “We are on the wrong side of a world revolution.”

Notes

[1]        Rev. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City:
http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/058.html

[2]        Andrew Gavin Marshall, The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda. The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc of Crisis”, Global Research, 5 September 2010:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20907
; Empire, Energy and Al-Qaeda: The Anglo-American Terror Network, Global Research, 8 September 2010:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20944; 9/11 and America’s Secret Terror Campaign, Global Research, 10 September 2010:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20975

[3]        James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, eds., Rethinking Arab Nationalism in the Arab Middle East. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), page 30

[4]        Ibid.

[5]        Ibid, page 31.

[6]        William L Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Westview Press, 2004), page 231

[7]        Ibid, pages 231-232

[8]        Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), page 116

[9]        James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, Op Cit, page 31

[10]      William L. Cleveland, op cit, pages 310-311

[11]      Ibid, page 311.

[12]      Ibid, page 312.

[13]      James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 31.

[14]      William L. Cleveland, op cit, page 315

[15]      Robert Dreyfuss, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. (New York: Owl Books, 2005), pages 140-141

[16]      Ibid, page 142.

[17]      James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 32.

[18]      William L Cleveland, op cit, page 455.

[19]      Ibid, pages 455-456.

[20]      James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, op cit, page 40.

[21]      Ibid, page 39.

[22]      Ibid, page 32.

[23]      Ibid, page 38.

[24]      Ibid, page 39.

[25]      Ibid, page 32.

[26]      Profile: Yemen’s Houthi fighters, Al Jazeera, August 12, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/08/200981294214604934.html

[27]      Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts Report: Yemen, January 2009:
http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/ACRText/ACR-Yemen.htm#Status

[28]      Deadly blast strikes Yemen mosque, BBC, May 2, 2008:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7379929.stm

[29]      Ploughshares, Armed Conflicts Report: Yemen, January 2009:
http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/ACRText/ACR-Yemen.htm#Status

[30]      Mohammed Jamjoom, Yemen lays out truce terms to rebel fighters, CNN, August 13, 2009:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/08/13/yemen.truce/index.html

[31]      Yemen targets northern fighters, Al-Jazeera, August 12, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/08/200981262048170260.html

[32]      Yemen denies warplane shot down, Al-Jazeera, October 2, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/10/2009102103834822778.html

[33]      Yemen rebels ‘seize Saudi area’, BBC, November 4, 2009:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8341875.stm

[34]      Saudis still bombing us, Yemen rebels say, MSNBC, November 7, 2009:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33755909/

[35]      Mohammed Al-Amrani, Moroccan, Jordanian Soldiers Fight along Saudi Troops, Yemen Gazette, December 5, 2009:
http://www.yemengazette.com/topnews/politics/524-moroccan-jordanian-soldiers-fight-along-saudi-troops.html

[36]      ESA, Earth from Space: The Gulf of Aden – the gateway to Persian oil. European Space Agency: April 13, 2006:
http://www.esa.int/esaEO/SEMWOXNFGLE_index_0.html

[37]      Anthony Lake and Christine Todd Whitman, More Than Humanitarianism: A Strategic U.S. Approach Toward Africa. The Council on Foreign Relations, 2005: page 32

[38]      Ibid.

[39]      Ibid, page 33.

[40]      Ibid, page 48.

[41]      Ibid, page 81.

[42]      David Leigh and David Pallister, Revealed: the new scramble for Africa. The Guardian: June 1, 2005:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/jun/01/g8.development

[43]      Emily Wax and Karen DeYoung, U.S. Secretly Backing Warlords in Somalia. The Washington Post: May 17, 2006:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/16/AR2006051601625.html

[44]      David Axe, U.S. Losing ‘Secret’ War in Somalia. Wired, December 30, 2008:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/12/us-losing-sec-1/

[45]      Scott Johnson, The Next Battlefront. Newsweek: September 17, 2007:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/40797

[46]      Ibid.

[47]      Ibid.

[48]      Johann Hari, You are being lied to about pirates. The Independent, January 5, 2009:
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-you-are-being-lied-to-about-pirates-1225817.html

[49]      Kelly McEvers, In Anti-Piracy Fight, Yemen May Be Part Of Problem. NPR, May 8, 2009:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103904390

[50]      ROBERT F. WORTH, Freed by the U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief. The New York Times: January 22, 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/world/middleeast/23yemen.html

[51]      ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER, Some in Qaeda Leave Pakistan for Somalia and Yemen. The New York Times, June 11, 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/world/12terror.html

[52]      Mai Yamani, Yemen, haven for jihadis. The Guardian, May 25, 2009:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/25/yemen-jihadi-guantanamo-saudi-arabia

[53]      Saudi, al-Qaeda support Yemen crackdown on Shias, Press TV, August 29, 2009:
http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/104778.html

[54]      Yemeni gov,deal with al-Qaeda to crush Shia fighters, Shebastan News Agency, October 28, 2009:
http://www.shabestan.net/en/pages/?cid=2720

[55]      Josh Meyer, Saudis faulted for funding terror. The Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2008:
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/02/nation/na-terror2

[56]      ERIC LICHTBLAU, Documents Back Saudi Link to Extremists. The New York Times: June 23, 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/world/middleeast/24saudi.html

[57]      Daniel Schwartz, Al-Qaeda is almost the least of Yemen’s problems, CBC News, 29 January 2010:
http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/01/28/f-indepth-yemen.html

[58]      Andrew England, Gunmen attack Yemen security office, The Financial Times, 14 July 2010:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e66c91a8-8f1b-11df-a4de-00144feab49a.html

[59]      Stephen Day, The Political Challenge of Yemen’s Southern Movement, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 2010: http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=40411

[60]      ‘The Southern Movement has nothing to do with al Qaeda’, France24, 3 August 2010:
http://www.france24.com/en/20100308-southern-movemen-al-qaeda-yemen-southern-mobility-movement-secession

[61]      Human Rights Watch alert over Yemen ‘climate of fear’, BBC News, 15 December 2009:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8413271.stm

[62]      Robert F. Worth, In Yemen’s South, Protests Could Cause More Instability, The New York Times, 27 February 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/world/middleeast/28yemen.html

[63]      Eileen Sullivan, US officials knew name of terror suspect who tried to blow up airliner in Detroit. AP, December 26, 2009:
http://www.news889.com/news/world/article/11645–ap-source-us-officials-knew-name-of-terror-suspect-who-tried-to-blow-up-airliner-in-detroit

[64]      David Leppard and Dan McDougall, MI5 knew of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s UK extremist links. The Times, 3 January 2010: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6973954.ece

[65]      Father of Terror Suspect Reportedly Warned U.S. About Son. Fox News, December 26, 2009:
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2009/12/26/father-terror-suspect-reportedly-warned-son-1857952999/

[66]      Current TV, Terror suspect kept visa to avoid tipping off larger investigation. The Detroit News, February 3, 2010:
http://current.com/news/92056789_terror-suspect-kept-visa-to-avoid-tipping-off-larger-investigation-detnews-com-the-detroit-news.htm

[67]      Karen DeYoung and Michael Leahy, Uninvestigated terrorism warning about Detroit suspect called not unusual. The Washington Post, December 28, 2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/27/AR2009122700279.html; ERIC LIPTON and SCOTT SHANE, Questions on Why Suspect Wasn’t Stopped. The New York Times, December 27, 2009:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/us/28terror.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

[68]      Paul Egan, Atty. Says He Saw Man Try to Help Nigerian on Flight Without a Passport. The Detroit News, December 29, 2009:
http://www.ticklethewire.com/2009/12/29/atty-says-he-saw-man-try-to-help-nigerian-on-flight-without-a-passport/

[69]      MICHAEL R. GORDON and JAMES DAO, U.S. Broadens Terror Fight, Readying Troops for Yemen. The New York Times, March 2, 2002: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/02/world/nation-challenged-military-us-broadens-terror-fight-readying-troops-for-yemen.html

[70]      Duncan Campbell and Brian Whitaker, US elite force gets ready for Yemen raid. The Guardian, 19 September 2002: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/sep/19/duncancampbell.brianwhitaker

[71]      Dana Priest, U.S. Citizen Among Those Killed In Yemen Predator Missile Strike. The Washington Post, November 8, 2002:
http://tech.mit.edu/V122/N54/long4-54.54w.html

[72]      Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6162617/US-risks-being-sucked-into-Yemen-civil-war.html

[73]      Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6162617/US-risks-being-sucked-into-Yemen-civil-war.html

[74]      Gunnery Sgt. Christian Harding, Yemen military observes Marine training. United States Central Command, 3 November 2009:
http://www.centcom.mil/news/yemen-military-observes-marine-training

[75]      Damien McElroy, US special forces train Yemen army as Arab state becomes al-Qaeda ‘reserve base’. The Telegraph, 13 December 2009: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6803120/US-special-forces-train-Yemen-army-as-Arab-state-becomes-al-Qaeda-reserve-base.html

[76]      ERIC SCHMITT and ROBERT F. WORTH, U.S. Widens Terror War to Yemen, a Qaeda Bastion. The New York Times, 27 December 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/world/middleeast/28yemen.html?_r=1

[77]      Ibid.

[78]      Steven Erlanger, Yemen’s Chaos Aids the Evolution of a Qaeda Cell. The New York Times, 2 January 2010:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/world/middleeast/03yemen.html?pagewanted=1

[79]      Sean Rayment, et. al., Detroit terror attack: Britain sends counter-terrorist forces to Yemen. The Telegraph, 3 January 2010: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6924502/Detroit-terror-attack-Britain-sends-counter-terrorist-forces-to-Yemen.html

[80]      Damien McElroy, US special forces train Yemen army as Arab state becomes al-Qaeda ‘reserve base’. The Telegraph, 13 December 2009: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6803120/US-special-forces-train-Yemen-army-as-Arab-state-becomes-al-Qaeda-reserve-base.html

[81]      Robert F. Worth, Saudis’ Efforts to Swat Rebels From Yemen Risk Inflaming Larger Conflict. The New York Times, 12 November 2009: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/13/world/middleeast/13saudi.html

[82]      Ibid.

[83]      Abigail Hauslohner, Yemen’s Hidden War: Is Iran Causing Trouble? Time Magazine, 18 December 2009:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1947623,00.html

[84]      Sudarsan Raghavan, Yemen denounces Iran’s ‘interference’. The Washington Post, 12 November 2009:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/11/AR2009111126674.html

[85]      Olivier Guitta, Iran and Saudi Arabia drawn to Yemen. Asia Times Online, 11 November 2009:
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KK11Ak01.html

[86]      Meris Lutz, YEMEN: Raging insurgency exacerbates tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Los Angeles Times Blog, 13 November 2009: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2009/11/yemen-internal-fighting-threatens-to-descend-into-regional-conflict.html

[87]      Al Pessin, US General Says Yemen Could Become Iran-Saudi Proxy War. VoA, 22 January 2010:
http://www.voanews.com/english/news/US-General-Says-Yemen-Could-Become-Iran-Saudi-Proxy-War-82427857.html

[88]      EDITORIAL: Iran’s al Qaeda connection in Yemen, The Washington Times, 6 January 2010:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/jan/06/irans-al-qaeda-connection-in-yemen/

[89]      Sam Stein, McCain Repeats Iran-Al Qaeda Gaffe Yet Again. Huffington Post, 19 March 2008:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/19/mccain-repeats-iranal-qae_n_92349.html

[90]      Robert Taylor, US bombs Yemen, kills 120, just another day in the life of an empire. The Examiner, 16 December 2009:
http://www.examiner.com/sunset-district-libertarian-in-san-francisco/us-bombs-yemen-kills-120-just-another-day-the-life-of-an-empire

[91]      ‘US fighter jets attack Yemeni fighters’, Press TV, 14 December 2009:
http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/113687.html

[92]      Paul Woodward, US-backed raid killed 49 Yemeni civilians, officials said. The National, 21 December 2009:
http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091221/GLOBALBRIEFING/912219995/1009/FOREIGN?template=globalbriefing

[93]      Kevin Peraino, Friends for Now. Newsweek, 29 December 2009:
http://www.newsweek.com/2009/12/28/friends-for-now.html

[94]      Agencies, US fighting covert war against terror in Yemen. The Australian, 29 December 2009:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/us-fighting-covert-war-against-terror-in-yemen/story-e6frg6so-1225814224061

[95]      Michelle Shephard, Yemen: Terror threat? U.S. ally? Nearly failed state? Toronto Star, 2 January 2010:
http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/744948–yemen-terror-threat-u-s-ally-nearly-failed-state

[96]      Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, U.S. increases efforts to boost security in Yemen amid increasing terror threat, The Washington post, 20 January 2010: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/19/AR2010011904604.html

[97]      Adam Entous, Gates backs big boost in U.S. military aid to Yemen, 22 February 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61L4L120100222

[98]      Adam Entous, U.S. gives Yemen key intelligence to strike al Qaeda, Reuters, 27 January 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60Q5KA20100127

[99]      Adam Entous, Pentagon to boost Yemen’s special operations forces, Reuters, 20 April 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63J32A20100420

[100]    Salman Siddiqui, Drone attacks hit all-time high, The Express Tribune, 27 September 2010:
http://tribune.com.pk/story/54883/drone-attacks-hit-all-time-high/

[101]    Con Coughlin and Philip Sherwell, American drones deployed to target Yemeni terrorist, The Telegraph, 2 May 2010: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/7663661/American-drones-deployed-to-target-Yemeni-terrorist.html

[102]    Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role, The Washington Post, 4 June 2010: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304965.html

[103]    Mohammed Al-Amrani, Special Forces Commander Meets UK Military Delegation, Yemen Gazette, 10 July 2010:
http://www.yemengazette.com/lastweek/morenewsx1/677-special-forces-commander-meets-uk-military-delegation.html

[104]    SCOTT SHANE, MARK MAZZETTI AND ROBERT F. WORTH, Veil lifts on covert action in Yemen, The New York Times, 14 August 2010: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2012625717_covertwar15.html

[105]    Dan Simpson, The U.S. spreads the misery to Yemen, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 18 August 2010:
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10230/1080682-374.stm

[106]    Glenn Greenwald, An exciting new Muslim country to drone attack, Salon, 25 August 2010:
http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/08/25/yemen

[107]    AFP, US looks at bolstering funding for Yemeni military, The Jordan Times, 3 September 2010:
http://www.jordantimes.com/index.php?news=29747

[108]    Robert F. Worth, Yemen Military Attacks Town It Says Is Militant Hide-Out, The New York Times, 21 September 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/world/middleeast/22yemen.html

[109]    Yemen civilians killed in ‘al-Qaeda hunt’, Press TV, 21 September 2010:
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/143318.html

[110]    Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson and Steve Inskeep, Civilians Flee From Battle In Southern Yemen, NPR, 24 September 2010:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130093677

[111]    Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Yemen’s veneer of legality, The Guardian, 29 September 2010:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/29/yemen-press-repression-veneer-legality

[112]    Mark Landler, As Nations Meet, Clinton Urges Yemen to Prove Itself Worthy of Aid, The New York Times, 27 January 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/28/world/asia/28diplo.html

[113]    Brian Whitaker, Can Yemen’s friends really help? The Guardian, 20 September 2010:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/20/friends-of-yemen

[114]    James Reinl, Friends of Yemen discuss extremist threat, The National, 26 September 2010:
http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100926/FOREIGN/100929723/1011

[115]    Ministerial Meeting of Friends of Yemen, Joint statement from the Ministerial Meeting of the Friends of Yemen, British Commonwealth Office, 24 September 2010: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=PressS&id=22916622

[116]    Aaron W. Jost, A Comprehensive Approach to Yemen, The White House Blog, 24 September 2010:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/09/24/a-comprehensive-approach-yemen

[117]    Firoze Manji and Carl O’Coill, “The Missionary Position: NGOs and Development in Africa,” International Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 3, (2002), p. 578

[118]    Ibid.

[119]    Ernest Harsch, “Structural Adjustment and Africa’s Democracy Movements,” Africa Today, Vol. 40, No. 4, (1993), p. 14

[120]    Ibid, page 10.

[121]    Ibid, page 12.

[122]    Barry Gills and Joel Rocamora, “Low Intensity Democracy,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 3, (1992), p. 502

[123]    Ibid, page 503.

[124]    Alison J. Ayers, “Demystifying Democratisation: The Global Constitution of (Neo)liberal Polities in Africa,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 2, (2006), p. 323

[125]    Ibid, page 325.

[126]    Ibid, page 326.

[127]    Ibid, page 329-331.

[128]    Firoze Manji and Carl O’Coill, op cit, page 579.

[129]    Ibid, page 580.

[130]    Ibid, pages 574-575.

[131]    Ibid, page 568.

[132]    Jeff Stein, CIA chief promises spies ‘new cover’ for secret ops, Washington Post Blog – SpyTalk, 26 April 2010:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/04/cia_chief_promises_spies_new_a.html

[133]    Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway, From U.S., the ABC’s of Jihad, The Washington Post, 23 March 2002:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A5339-2002Mar22?language=printer

[134]    Carol Off, Back to school in Afghanistan, CBC, 6 May 2002:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/afghanistan/schools.html

[135]    Harley Sorensen, NED’s feel-good name belies its corrupt intent, The San Francisco Chronicle, 17 November 2003:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2003/11/17/hsorensen.DTL

[136]    Andrew Gavin Marshall, Colour-Coded Revolutions and the Origins of World War III, Global Research, 3 November 2009:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=15767

[137]    Andrew Gavin Marshall, A New World War for a New World Order, Global Research, 17 December 2009:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16535

[138]    MEPI, Ongoing MEPI Local Grants – Yemen, Middle East Partnership Initiative, Accessed October 2010:
http://www.abudhabi.mepi.state.gov/abstracts/yemen.html

[139]    CIPE, Who We Are, Center for International Private Enterprise:
http://www.cipe.org/

[140]    NED, Country Profile – Yemen, The National Endowment for Democracy, Accessed October 2010:
http://www.ned.org/where-we-work/middle-east-and-northern-africa/yemen

[141]    Ibid.

[142]    USAID, Yemen, United States Agency for International Development:
http://www.usaid.gov/locations/middle_east/countries/yemen/

[143]    Adam Entous, Gates backs big boost in U.S. military aid to Yemen, Reuters, 22 February 2010:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61L4L120100222

[144]    Jeff Stein, CIA chief promises spies ‘new cover’ for secret ops, Washington Post Blog – SpyTalk, 26 April 2010:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2010/04/cia_chief_promises_spies_new_a.html

[145]    Andrew Lee Butters, Yemen: The Most Fragile Ally. Time Magazine, 7 January 2010:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1952142,00.html

[146]    Richard Spencer, US risks being sucked into Yemen civil war. The Telegraph, 10 September 2009:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/6162617/US-risks-being-sucked-into-Yemen-civil-war.html

[147]    Yemen denies warplane shot down, Al-Jazeera, October 2, 2009:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/10/2009102103834822778.html

[148]    Paul Handley, Huge Saudi arms deal aimed at Iran, Yemen troubles: analysts, AFP, 12 September 2010: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jxlLTtu2Ccx7EsT_qH_tPhukgKCA

[149]    Andrew Lee Butters, Yemen: The Most Fragile Ally. Time Magazine, 7 January 2010:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1952142,00.html

[150]    Kim Sengupta, US cruise missile parts found in Yemeni village where 52 died, The Independent, 7 June 2010:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-cruise-missile-parts-found-in-yemeni-village-where-52-died-1993253.html

[151]    Gilbert Mercier, Yemen: US Strikes Used Cluster Bombs And Killed 41 Civilians. NewsJunkiePost, 7 June 2010:
http://newsjunkiepost.com/2010/06/07/yemen-us-strikes-used-cluster-bombs-and-killed-41-civilians/

Colour-Coded Revolutions and the Origins of World War III

Colour-Coded Revolutions and the Origins of World War III
Part 2
Global Research, November 3, 2009

This is Part 2 of the Series, “The Origins of World War III”

Part 1: An Imperial Strategy for a New World Order: The Origins of World War III

 


Introduction
 

Following US geo-strategy in what Brzezinski termed the “global Balkans,” the US government has worked closely with major NGOs to “promote democracy” and “freedom” in former Soviet republics, playing a role behind the scenes in fomenting what are termed “colour revolutions,” which install US and Western-friendly puppet leaders to advance the interests of the West, both economically and strategically.

Part 2 of this essay on “The Origins of World War III” analyzes the colour revolutions as being a key stratagem in imposing the US-led New World Order. The “colour revolution” or “soft” revolution strategy is a covert political tactic of expanding NATO and US influence to the borders of Russia and even China; following in line with one of the primary aims of US strategy in the New World Order: to contain China and Russia and prevent the rise of any challenge to US power in the region.

These revolutions are portrayed in the western media as popular democratic revolutions, in which the people of these respective nations demand democratic accountability and governance from their despotic leaders and archaic political systems. However, the reality is far from what this utopian imagery suggests. Western NGOs and media heavily finance and organize opposition groups and protest movements, and in the midst of an election, create a public perception of vote fraud in order to mobilize the mass protest movements to demand “their” candidate be put into power. It just so happens that “their” candidate is always the Western US-favoured candidate, whose campaign is often heavily financed by Washington; and who proposes US-friendly policies and neoliberal economic conditions. In the end, it is the people who lose out, as their genuine hope for change and accountability is denied by the influence the US wields over their political leaders.

The soft revolutions also have the effect of antagonizing China and Russia, specifically, as it places US protectorates on their borders, and drives many of the former Warsaw Pact nations to seek closer political, economic and military cooperation. This then exacerbates tensions between the west and China and Russia; which ultimately leads the world closer to a potential conflict between the two blocs.

Serbia

Serbia experienced its “colour revolution” in October of 2000, which led to the overthrow of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. As the Washington Post reported in December of 2000, from 1999 on, the US undertook a major “electoral strategy” to oust Milosevic, as “U.S.-funded consultants played a crucial role behind the scenes in virtually every facet of the anti-Milosevic drive, running tracking polls, training thousands of opposition activists and helping to organize a vitally important parallel vote count. U.S. taxpayers paid for 5,000 cans of spray paint used by student activists to scrawl anti-Milosevic graffiti on walls across Serbia, and 2.5 million stickers with the slogan “He’s Finished,” which became the revolution’s catchphrase.” Further, according to Michael Dobbs,writing in the Washington Post, some “20 opposition leaders accepted an invitation from the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) in October 1999 to a seminar at the Marriott Hotel in Budapest.”

Interestingly, “Some Americans involved in the anti-Milosevic effort said they were aware of CIA activity at the fringes of the campaign, but had trouble finding out what the agency was up to. Whatever it was, they concluded it was not particularly effective. The lead role was taken by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government’s foreign assistance agency, which channeled the funds through commercial contractors and nonprofit groups such as NDI and its Republican counterpart, the International Republican Institute (IRI).”

The NDI (National Democratic Institute), “worked closely with Serbian opposition parties, IRI focused its attention on Otpor, which served as the revolution’s ideological and organizational backbone. In March, IRI paid for two dozen Otpor leaders to attend a seminar on nonviolent resistance at the Hilton Hotel in Budapest.” At the seminar, “the Serbian students received training in such matters as how to organize a strike, how to communicate with symbols, how to overcome fear and how to undermine the authority of a dictatorial regime.”[1]

As the New York Times revealed, Otpor, the major student opposition group, had a steady flow of money coming from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a Congress-funded “democracy promoting” organization. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave money to Otpor, as did the International Republican Institute, “another nongovernmental Washington group financed partly by A.I.D.”[2]

Georgia

In 2003, Georgia went through its “Rose Revolution,” which led to the overthrow of president Eduard Shevardnadze, replacing him with Mikhail Saakashvili after the 2004 elections. In a November 2003 article in The Globe and Mail, it was reported that a US based foundation “began laying the brickwork for the toppling of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze,” as funds from his non-profit organization “sent a 31-year-old Tbilisi activist named Giga Bokeria to Serbia to meet with members of the Otpor (Resistance) movement and learn how they used street demonstrations to topple dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Then, in the summer,” the “foundation paid for a return trip to Georgia by Otpor activists, who ran three-day courses teaching more than 1,000 students how to stage a peaceful revolution.”

This US-based foundation “also funded a popular opposition television station that was crucial in mobilizing support for [the] ‘velvet revolution,’ and [it] reportedly gave financial support to a youth group that led the street protests.” The owner of the foundation “has a warm relationship with Mr. Shevardnadze’s chief opponent, Mikhail Saakashvili, a New York-educated lawyer who is expected to win the presidency in an election scheduled for Jan. 4.”

During a press conference a week before his resignation, Mr. Shevardnadze said that the US foundation “is set against the President of Georgia.” Moreover, “Mr. Bokeria, whose Liberty Institute received money from both [the financier’s foundation] and the U.S. government-backed Eurasia Institute, says three other organizations played key roles in Mr. Shevardnadze’s downfall: Mr. Saakashvili’s National Movement party, the Rustavi-2 television station and Kmara! (Georgian for Enough!), a youth group that declared war on Mr. Shevardnadze [in] April and began a poster and graffiti campaign attacking government corruption.” [3]

The day following the publication of the previously quoted article, the author published another article in the Globe and Mail explaining that the “bloodless revolution” in Georgia “smells more like another victory for the United States over Russia in the post-Cold War international chess game.” The author, Mark MacKinnon, explained that Eduard Shevardnadze’s downfall lied “in the oil under the Caspian Sea, one of the world’s few great remaining, relatively unexploited, sources of oil,” as “Georgia and neighbouring Azerbaijan, which borders the Caspian, quickly came to be seen not just as newly independent countries, but as part of an ‘energy corridor’.” Plans were drawn up for a massive “pipeline that would run through Georgia to Turkey and the Mediterranean.” It is worth quoting MacKinnon at length:

When these plans were made, Mr. Shevardnadze was seen as an asset by both Western investors and the U.S. government. His reputation as the man who helped end the Cold War gave investors a sense of confidence in the country, and his stated intention to move Georgia out of Russia’s orbit and into Western institutions such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union played well at the U.S. State Department.

The United States quickly moved to embrace Georgia, opening a military base in the country [in 2001] to give Georgian soldiers “anti-terrorist” training. They were the first U.S. troops to set up in a former Soviet republic.

But somewhere along the line, Mr. Shevardnadze reversed course and decided to once more embrace Russia. This summer, Georgia signed a secret 25-year deal to make the Russian energy giant Gazprom its sole supplier of gas. Then it effectively sold the electricity grid to another Russian firm, cutting out AES, the company that the U.S. administration had backed to win the deal. Mr. Shevardnadze attacked AES as “liars and cheats.” Both deals dramatically increased Russian influence in Tbilisi.

Following the elections in Georgia, the US-backed and educated Mikhail Saakashvili ascended to the Presidency and “won the day.”[4] This is again an example of the intimate relationship between oil geopolitics and US foreign policy. The colour revolution was vital in pressing US and NATO interests forward in the region; gaining control over Central Asia’s gas reserves and keeping Russia from expanding its influence. This follows directly in line with the US-NATO imperial strategy for the new world order, following the collapse of the USSR. [This strategy is outlined in detail in Part 1 of this essay: An Imperial Strategy for a New World Order: The Origins of World War III].

Ukraine

In 2004, Ukraine went through its “Orange Revolution,” in which opposition and pro-Western leader Viktor Yushchenko became President, defeating Viktor Yanukovych. As the Guardian revealed in 2004, that following the disputed elections (as happens in every “colour revolution”), “the democracy guerrillas of the Ukrainian Pora youth movement have already notched up a famous victory – whatever the outcome of the dangerous stand-off in Kiev,” however, “the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.”

The author, Ian Traynor, explained that, “Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.” Further, “The Democratic party’s National Democratic Institute, the Republican party’s International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO” and the same billionaire financier involved in Georgia’s Rose Revolution. In implementing the regime-change strategy, “The usually fractious oppositions have to be united behind a single candidate if there is to be any chance of unseating the regime. That leader is selected on pragmatic and objective grounds, even if he or she is anti-American.”

Traynor continues:

Freedom House and the Democratic party’s NDI helped fund and organise the “largest civil regional election monitoring effort” in Ukraine, involving more than 1,000 trained observers. They also organised exit polls. On Sunday night those polls gave Mr Yushchenko an 11-point lead and set the agenda for much of what has followed.

The exit polls are seen as critical because they seize the initiative in the propaganda battle with the regime, invariably appearing first, receiving wide media coverage and putting the onus on the authorities to respond.

The final stage in the US template concerns how to react when the incumbent tries to steal a lost election.

[. . . ] In Belgrade, Tbilisi, and now Kiev, where the authorities initially tried to cling to power, the advice was to stay cool but determined and to organise mass displays of civil disobedience, which must remain peaceful but risk provoking the regime into violent suppression.[5]

As an article in the Guardian by Jonathan Steele explained, the opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko, who disputed the election results, “served as prime minister under the outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, and some of his backers are also linked to the brutal industrial clans who manipulated Ukraine’s post-Soviet privatization.” He further explained that election rigging is mainly irrelevant, as “The decision to protest appears to depend mainly on realpolitik and whether the challengers or the incumbent are considered more ‘pro-western’ or ‘pro-market’.” In other words, those who support a neoliberal economic agenda will have the support of the US-NATO, as neoliberalism is their established international economic order and advances their interests in the region. 

Moreover, “In Ukraine, Yushchenko got the western nod, and floods of money poured in to groups which support him, ranging from the youth organisation, Pora, to various opposition websites. More provocatively, the US and other western embassies paid for exit polls.” This is emblematic of the strategic importance of the Ukraine to the United States, “which refuses to abandon its cold war policy of encircling Russia and seeking to pull every former Soviet republic to its side.”[6]

One Guardian commentator pointed out the hypocrisy of western media coverage:  “Two million anti-war demonstrators can stream though the streets of London and be politically ignored, but a few tens of thousands in central Kiev are proclaimed to be ‘the people’, while the Ukrainian police, courts and governmental institutions are discounted as instruments of oppression.” It was also explained that, “Enormous rallies have been held in Kiev in support of the prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, but they are not shown on our TV screens: if their existence is admitted, Yanukovich supporters are denigrated as having been ‘bussed in’. The demonstrations in favour of Viktor Yushchenko have laser lights, plasma screens, sophisticated sound systems, rock concerts, tents to camp in and huge quantities of orange clothing; yet we happily dupe ourselves that they are spontaneous.”[7]

In 2004, the Associated Press reported that, “The Bush administration has spent more than $65 million in the past two years to aid political organizations in Ukraine, paying to bring opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko to meet U.S. leaders and helping to underwrite an exit poll indicating he won last month’s disputed runoff election.” The money, they state, “was funneled through organizations such as the Eurasia Foundation or through groups aligned with Republicans and Democrats that organized election training, with human rights forums or with independent news outlets.” However, even government officials “acknowledge that some of the money helped train groups and individuals opposed to the Russian-backed government candidate.”

The report stated that some major international foundations funded the exit polls, which according to the incumbent leader were “skewed.” These foundations included “The National Endowment for Democracy, which receives its money directly from Congress; the Eurasia Foundation, which receives money from the State Department, and the Renaissance Foundation,” which receives money from the same billionaire financier as well as the US State Department. Since the State Department is involved, that implies that this funding is quite directly enmeshed in US foreign policy strategy. “Other countries involved included Great Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.” Also involved in funding certain groups and activities in the Ukraine was the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, which was chaired by former Secretary of States Madeline Albright at the time.[8]

Mark Almond wrote for the Guardian in 2004 of the advent of “People Power,” describing it in relation to the situation that was then breaking in the Ukraine, and stated that, “The upheaval in Ukraine is presented as a battle between the people and Soviet-era power structures. The role of western cold war-era agencies is taboo. Poke your nose into the funding of the lavish carnival in Kiev, and the shrieks of rage show that you have touched a neuralgic point of the New World Order.”

Almond elaborated:

“Throughout the 1980s, in the build-up to 1989’s velvet revolutions, a small army of volunteers – and, let’s be frank, spies – co-operated to promote what became People Power. A network of interlocking foundations and charities mushroomed to organise the logistics of transferring millions of dollars to dissidents. The money came overwhelmingly from Nato states and covert allies such as “neutral” Sweden.

[ …] The hangover from People Power is shock therapy. Each successive crowd is sold a multimedia vision of Euro-Atlantic prosperity by western-funded “independent” media to get them on the streets. No one dwells on the mass unemployment, rampant insider dealing, growth of organised crime, prostitution and soaring death rates in successful People Power states.

As Almond delicately put it, “People Power is, it turns out, more about closing things than creating an open society. It shuts factories but, worse still, minds. Its advocates demand a free market in everything – except opinion. The current ideology of New World Order ideologues, many of whom are renegade communists, is Market-Leninism – that combination of a dogmatic economic model with Machiavellian methods to grasp the levers of power.”[9]

As Mark MacKinnon reported for the Globe and Mail, Canada, too, supported the efforts of the youth activist group, Pora, in the Ukraine, providing funding for the “people power democracy” movement. As MacKinnon noted, “The Bush administration was particularly keen to see a pro-Western figure as president to ensure control over a key pipeline running from Odessa on the Black Sea to Brody on the Polish border.” However, “The outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, had recently reversed the flow so the pipeline carried Russian crude south instead of helping U.S. producers in the Caspian Sea region ship their product to Europe.” As MacKinnon analyzes, the initial funding from western nations came from Canada, although this was eventually far surpassed in amount by the United States.

Andrew Robinson, Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine at the time, in 2004, “began to organize secret monthly meetings of Western ambassadors, presiding over what he called “donor co-ordination” sessions among 28 countries interested in seeing Mr. Yushchenko succeed. Eventually, he acted as the group’s spokesman and became a prominent critic of the Kuchma government’s heavy-handed media control.” Canada further “invested in a controversial exit poll, carried out on election day by Ukraine’s Razumkov Centre and other groups, that contradicted the official results showing Mr. Yanukovich had won.” Once the new, pro-Western government was in, it “announced its intention to reverse the flow of the Odessa-Brody pipeline.”[10]

Again, this follows the example of Georgia, where several US and NATO interests are met through the success of the “colour revolution”; simultaneously preventing Russian expansion and influence from spreading in the region as well as advancing US and NATO control and influence over the major resources and transport corridors of the region.

Daniel Wolf wrote for the Guardian that, “For most of the people gathered in Kiev’s Independence Square, the demonstration felt spontaneous. They had every reason to want to stop the government candidate, Viktor Yanukovich, from coming to power, and they took the chance that was offered to them. But walking through the encampment last December, it was hard to ignore the evidence of meticulous preparation – the soup kitchens and tents for the demonstrators, the slickness of the concert, the professionalism of the TV coverage, the proliferation of the sickly orange logo wherever you looked.” He elaborated, writing, “the events in the square were the result of careful, secret planning by Yushchenko’s inner circle over a period of years. The true story of the orange revolution is far more interesting than the fable that has been widely accepted.”

Roman Bessmertny, Yushchenko’s campaign manager, two years prior to the 2004 elections, “put as many as 150,000 people through training courses, seminars, practical tuition conducted by legal and media specialists. Some attending these courses were members of election committees at local, regional and national level; others were election monitors, who were not only taught what to watch out for but given camcorders to record it on video. More than 10,000 cameras were distributed, with the aim of recording events at every third polling station.” Ultimately, it was an intricately well-planned public relations media-savvy campaign, orchestrated through heavy financing. Hardly the sporadic “people power” notion applied to the “peaceful coup” in the western media.[11]

The “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan

In 2005, Kyrgyzstan underwent its “Tulip Revolution” in which the incumbent was replaced by the pro-Western candidate through another “popular revolution.” As the New York Times reported in March of 2005, shortly before the March elections, “an opposition newspaper ran photographs of a palatial home under construction for the country’s deeply unpopular president, Askar Akayev, helping set off widespread outrage and a popular revolt.” However, this “newspaper was the recipient of United States government grants and was printed on an American government-financed printing press operated by Freedom House, an American organization that describes itself as ’a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world’.”

Moreover, other countries that have “helped underwrite programs to develop democracy and civil society” in Kyrgyzstan were Britain, the Netherlands and Norway. These countries collectively “played a crucial role in preparing the ground for the popular uprising that swept opposition politicians to power.” Money mostly flowed from the United States, in particular, through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), as well as through “the Freedom House printing press or Kyrgyz-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a pro-democracy broadcaster.” The National Democratic Institute also played a major financing role, for which one of the chief beneficiaries of their financial aid said, “It would have been absolutely impossible for this to have happened without that help.”

The Times further reported that:

“American money helps finance civil society centers around the country where activists and citizens can meet, receive training, read independent newspapers and even watch CNN or surf the Internet in some. The N.D.I. [National Democratic Institute] alone operates 20 centers that provide news summaries in Russian, Kyrgyz and Uzbek.

The United States sponsors the American University in Kyrgyzstan, whose stated mission is, in part, to promote the development of civil society, and pays for exchange programs that send students and non-governmental organization leaders to the United States. Kyrgyzstan’s new prime minister, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was one.

All of that money and manpower gave the coalescing Kyrgyz opposition financing and moral support in recent years, as well as the infrastructure that allowed it to communicate its ideas to the Kyrgyz people.”

As for those “who did not read Russian or have access to the newspaper listened to summaries of its articles on Kyrgyz-language Radio Azattyk, the local United States-government financed franchise of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.” Other “independent” media was paid for courtesy of the US State Department.[12]

As the Wall Street Journal revealed prior to the elections, opposition groups, NGOs and “independent” media in Kyrgyzstan were getting financial assistance from Freedom House in the US, as well as the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Journal reported that, “To avoid provoking Russia and violating diplomatic norms, the U.S. can’t directly back opposition political parties. But it underwrites a web of influential NGOs whose support of press freedom, the rule of law and clean elections almost inevitably pits them against the entrenched interests of the old autocratic regimes.”

As the Journal further reported, Kyrgyzstan “occupies a strategic location. The U.S. and Russia both have military bases here. The country’s five million citizens, mostly Muslim, are sandwiched in a tumultuous neighborhood among oil-rich Kazakhstan, whose regime tolerates little political dissent; dictatorial Uzbekistan, which has clamped down on foreign aid groups and destitute Tajikistan.”

In the country, a main opposition NGO, the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Rights, gets its funding “from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, a Washington-based nonprofit funded by the U.S. government, and from USAID.” Other agencies reported to be involved, either through funding or ideological-technical promotion (see: propaganda), are the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Albert Einstein Institute, Freedom House, and the US State Department.[13]

President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan had referred to a “third force” gaining power in his country. The term was borrowed from one of the most prominent US think tanks, as “third force” is:

“… which details how western-backed non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can promote regime and policy change all over the world. The formulaic repetition of a third “people power” revolution in the former Soviet Union in just over one year – after the similar events in Georgia in November 2003 and in Ukraine last Christmas – means that the post-Soviet space now resembles Central America in the 1970s and 1980s, when a series of US-backed coups consolidated that country’s control over the western hemisphere.”

As the Guardian reported:

“Many of the same US government operatives in Latin America have plied their trade in eastern Europe under George Bush, most notably Michael Kozak, former US ambassador to Belarus, who boasted in these pages in 2001 that he was doing in Belarus exactly what he had been doing in Nicaragua: “supporting democracy”.

Further:

“The case of Freedom House is particularly arresting. Chaired by the former CIA director James Woolsey, Freedom House was a major sponsor of the orange revolution in Ukraine. It set up a printing press in Bishkek in November 2003, which prints 60 opposition journals. Although it is described as an “independent” press, the body that officially owns it is chaired by the bellicose Republican senator John McCain, while the former national security adviser Anthony Lake sits on the board. The US also supports opposition radio and TV.”[14]

So again, the same formula was followed in the Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union. This US foreign-policy strategy of promoting “soft revolution” is managed through a network of American and international NGOs and think tanks. It advances NATO and, in particular, US interests in the region.

Conclusion

The soft revolutions or “colour revolutions” are a key stratagem in the New World Order; advancing, through deceptions and manipulation, the key strategy of containing Russia and controlling key resources. This strategy is critical to understanding the imperialistic nature of the New World Order, especially when it comes to identifying when this strategy is repeated; specifically in relation to the Iranian elections of 2009.

Part 1 of this essay outlined the US-NATO imperial strategy for entering the New World Order, following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. The primary aim was focused on encircling Russia and China and preventing the rise of a new superpower. The US was to act as the imperial hegemon, serving international financial interests in imposing the New World Order. Part 2 outlined the US imperial strategy of using “colour revolutions” to advance its interests in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, following along the overall policy outlined in Part 1, of containing Russia and China from expanding influence and gaining access to key natural resources.

The third and final part to this essay analyzes the nature of the imperial strategy to construct a New World Order, focusing on the increasing conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa; and the potential these conflicts have for starting a new world war with China and Russia. In particular, its focus is within the past few years, and emphasizes the increasing nature of conflict and war in the New World Order. Part 3 looks at the potential for “A New World War for a New World Order.”

Endnotes

[1]        Michael Dobbs, U.S. Advice Guided Milosevic Opposition. The Washington Post: December 11, 2000: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A18395-2000Dec3?language=printer

[2]        Roger Cohen, Who Really Brought Down Milosevic? The New York Times: November 26, 2000: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/11/26/magazine/who-really-brought-down-milosevic.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1

[3]        Mark MacKinnon, Georgia revolt carried mark of Soros. The Globe and Mail: November 23, 2003: http://www.markmackinnon.ca/dispatches_georgia3.html

[4]        Mark MacKinnon, Politics, pipelines converge in Georgia. The Globe and Mail: November 24, 2003: http://www.markmackinnon.ca/dispatches_georgia2.html

[5]        Ian Traynor, US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev. The Guardian: November 26, 2004: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.usa

[6]        Jonathan Steele, Ukraine’s postmodern coup d’etat. The Guardian: November 26, 2004: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.comment

[7]        John Laughland, The revolution televised. The Guardian: November 27, 2004: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2004/nov/27/pressandpublishing.comment

[8]        Matt Kelley, U.S. money has helped opposition in Ukraine. Associated Press: December 11, 2004: http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20041211/news_1n11usaid.html

[9]        Mark Almond, The price of People Power. The Guardian: December 7, 2004: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/dec/07/ukraine.comment

[10]      Mark MacKinnon, Agent orange: Our secret role in Ukraine. The Globe and Mail: April 14, 2007: http://www.markmackinnon.ca/dispatches_ukraine4.html

[11]      Daniel Wolf, A 21st century revolt. The Guardian: May 13, 2005: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/13/ukraine.features11

[12]      Craig S. Smith, U.S. Helped to Prepare the Way for Kyrgyzstan’s Uprising. The New York Times: March 30, 2005: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9806E4D9123FF933A05750C0A9639C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

[13]      Philip Shishkin, In Putin’s Backyard, Democracy Stirs — With U.S. Help. The Wall Street Journal: February 25, 2005: http://www.iri.org/newsarchive/2005/2005-02-25-News-WSJ.asp

[14]      John Laughland, The mythology of people power. The Guardian: April 1, 2005: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/01/usa.russia