USA: Exporting Democracy Since 1948

NGOs are the Deep State’s Trojan Horse

James Corbett (2018)

Film Review

This is a documentary about CIA-funded nonprofit foundations (aka NGOs or Non-governmental Organizations) that pose as charities as they work to destabilize and/or overthrow governments unfriendly to Wall Street interests.

In the past decade a growing number of countries (including Kyrgyzstan, Russia, China, India, Egypt and Bolivia) have kicked them out.

President Kennedy created USAID (US Agency for International Development), which is run by the State Department, by executive order in 1961.

In 1983, President Reagan created NED (National Endowment for Democracy), the other big democracy manipulating foundation. The NED bankrolled Oliver North’s illegal arms sales to Iran during the Reagan presidency, the manipulation (and ousting of President Ortega) of Nicaragua’s 1990 elections, regime change in Bulgaria and Albania, attempted regime change in Armenia, (along with George Soros) all the “color” revolutions in Eastern Europe and the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions.

The NED and its sister organizations have been funding and training Syria’s rebels since 2006, including the notorious White Helmets – which were founded by former British intelligence agent James Le Mesurier.

Abby Martin Presents the Real House of Saud

The Real House of Saud

TeleSur (2015)

Film Review

This documentary was released following the appointment of Saudi Arabia to head the UN Panel of Human Rights in 2015. Its primary purpose is to highlight Saudi Arabia’s scandalous human rights record and the utter hypocrisy of the Obama administration in supporting their appointment to this role. Saudi Arabia’s recent economic attack (via economic sanctions and a boycott) on its former ally Qatar – coupled with its demand they shut down Al Jazeera – serves to remind us of their abysmal record in the area of civil and human rights.

The totalitarian Saudi dictatorship executes its citizens (via head chopping, stoning or crucifixion) at the rate of one every other day. Limb amputation and severe lashings are also frequent punishments. It’s common for women who report being raped to be punished via lashing.

Human rights groups are illegal in Saudi Arabia. In addition to an absolute prohibition on women driving, they need permission from a male relative to work, attend school or seek heath care. Seventy per cent of Saudi women who have graduated university – including 1,000 PhDs – are unemployed.

Only one family, the House of Saud, has ruled Saudi Arabia since its founding in 1925. Saudi princes live in opulent luxury from the country’s oil revenues, while 20% of Saudi citizens live in abject poverty. Youth unemployment is 30%.

Thirty percent of the Saudi population are migrant workers, subject to a slave-like system of indentured servitude in which they must work fifteen hour days, even if they’re sick and often without payment. They’re subject to arrest if they try to leave their employers, as well as being subject to execution for minor offenses.

The most interesting part of the documentary concerns the sordid history of US political and military support for Saudi’s ruthless dictatorship – including their open funding of international terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban – for the sake of cheap oil concessions for US oil companies. This support includes training by the CIA in suppressing unions and other grassroots organizations.

I was very surprised to learn that despite this brutal totalitarian control, popular uprisings are still fairly common, especially in Eastern Saudi Arabia, where much of Saudi Arab’s Shia minority reside. At the time of filming, Eastern Saudi Arabia was under virtual martial law to suppress mass protests inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions.

Rojava: An Experiment in Direct Democracy

ypj_fighters_2

Zaher Baher, who visited Rojava in May 2014, has posted a report of his findings on Anarkismo.net.  It’s his view that that Syrian Kurds, in founding the self-governing province of Rojava, have taken a distinctly positive route in contrast to other Middle East and North African countries that participated in the 2011 Arab Spring. The story of Rojava has been largely ignored in the corporate media.

Various commentators have favorably compared Rojava’s experiment in direct democracy to the self-governing communes Spanish Republicans formed during the Spanish Civil War (see Workers Self-Management Committees) or to the self-governing communities the Zapitistas have formed in Chiapas (see The Zapatistas are Building the World We Ask For

The citizens of Syrian Kurdistan believe that the revolution must start from the bottom of society and not from the top, that it must be a social, cultural and educational as well as political revolution and that final decision making responsibility must rest with the people themselves at the community level.

The Structure of Rojava Self-Governance

In January 2014 the Rojava People’s Assembly established a Democratic Self Administration in all three cantons of Kurdistan (Al Jazera, Kobany and Afrin). The DSAs, which are autonomous, are charged with implementing the decisions of the “House of the People” and overseeing administration in the local authorities, municipalities, education and health departments, trade and business organizations, defence and judiciary systems etc. Each DSA is made up of 22 men and women and organized to enable people from all backgrounds, nationalities, and religions to participate.

In Syrian Kurdistan, there is also strong support for the WPJ (the Women’s Protection Units), which have been created to fight the traditional women’s oppression (manifested in high legal tolerance for rape, domestic violence, underage and forced marriage, and honor killings) that characterizes most of the Middle East. For more information about the WPJ, see The Women’s Revolution in Rojava

The Communes are the smallest and most active cells in the House of the People. Communes form on the basis  of direct participation of people in the villages, on the street and the neighborhoods and the towns. Their role is to build agricultural and commercial cooperatives and to discuss and solve issues of education, security and self-defense. They meet weekly and decisions are made by all commune members over age 16. Each Commune has their own representative in the House of the People and in the neighborhood, village or town where they are based.

 The Role of Established Political Parties

 In his article, Baher expresses reservations about the role of the PYD (Democratic Union Party), United Democratic Party and PKK (in Kurdistan Democracy Movement) in driving the mass democracy movement in Syrian Kurdistan. As political parties, all three groups operate as hierarchical organizations with orders and commands issuing from party leaders to the grassroots. He sees Tev-Dem (Tevgera Civaka Demokratîk), the multi-ethnic coalition that established the Peoples Assembly, as holding the opposite view – that revolution must start from the bottom. Many members of Tev-Dev movement have never been members of the PKK or PYD and do not believe in state powers and authority. As the Communes and TSAs grow and develop, Baher believes the power of the organized political parties is diminishing.

Rights of Non-Kurdish residents of Syrian Kurdistan

The population of Al Jazera (over one million people) is 80% Kurdish, with the rest of the population consists of Arabs, Christians, Chechens, Yazidis, Turkmens, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Armenians. 80% percent of the population is Kurdish. In Al Jazera, there are more than twenty political parties. The majority of non-Kurdish parties oppose the PYD, the Tev-Dem and the DSA for their own reasons. Nevertheless they have total freedom to carry out their activities without any restriction. The only restrict they face is a ban on fighters or militias under their own control.

International Support

At present, there is no support for the DSAs or Tev-Dem from China, Russia or from the US and their allies – despite the fact Syrian Kurds are the  main opposition fighters against ISIS in Syria.

People can follow the ongoing development of Rojava as a self-governing direct democracy at Rojava Report

Photo credit BijiKurdistan, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Film About Dismantling Corporate Rule

Owned and Operated

Relic (2012)

Film Review

Owned and Operated is a documentary about dismantling corporate rule. This non-ideological film features dissidents across the political spectrum, among them John Oliver, George Carlin, Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Rifkin, Rob Hopkins, Ron Paul, Ray McGovern, James Corbett, Alex Jones and Brian Wilson. In addition to the film’s touchy-feely ending, I was also disappointed in the filmmakers heavy promotion of technology as the solution to the world’s urgent political and ecological crises.

In my view, the best part of the film is Part 1, The Freak Show. This is a humorous but surprisingly accurate depiction of modern corporate culture and the dangerous and bizarre effect of systematic corporate indoctrination on human behavior.

Part 2, Class War and Organized Greed, concerns the obscene greed of the 1% and their systematic takeover of our supposedly democratic political systems.

Part 3, Freedom vs Security concerns the systematic loss of civil liberties that has accompanied the War on Terror.

Part 4, The Awakening, concerns recent mass movements triggered by the 2008 global economic meltdown, including Occupy, the Arab Spring, Anonymous and the Zeitgeist, Transition and Open Source Ecology movements.

Part 5, the Future, heavily promotes Jeremy Rifkin’s views on the role of the Internet and mass connectivity in solving mankind’s most pressing problems. I tend to agree with Ronald Wright’s analysis (in A Short History of Progress) that humanity’s eagerness to rush into new technologies has tended to create more problems than it solves.

That being said the film ends on an extremely positive note by scrolling the web addresses of scores of social change movements for viewers to explore.

The Arab Spring: Made in the USA

arabesques image

Arabesque$: Enquête sur le rôle des États-Unis dans les révoltes arabes

(Investigation into the US Role in the Arab Uprisings)

by Ahmed Bensaada

Investig’Action (2015)

(in French)

Book Review

Arabesque$, an update of Ahmed Bensaada’s 2011 book L’Arabesque Américaine, concerns the US government role in instigating, funding and coordinating the Arab Spring “revolutions.” Obviously most of this history has been carefully suppressed by the western media.

The new book devotes much more attention to the personalities leading the 2011 uprisings. Some openly admitted to receiving CIA funding. Others had no idea because it was deliberately concealed from them. A few (in Egypt and Syria) were officially charged with espionage. In Egypt, seven sought refuge in the US embassy in Cairo and had to be evacuated by the State Department.

Democracy: America’s Biggest Export

According to Bensaada, the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Arab Spring revolutions have four unique features in common:

1. None were spontaneous – all required careful and lengthy (5+ years) planning, by the State Department, CIA pass through foundations, George Soros, and the pro-Israel lobby.*.
2. All focused exclusively on removing reviled despots without replacing the autocratic power structure that kept them in power.
3. No Arab Spring protests made any reference whatsoever to powerful anti-US sentiment over Palestine and Iraq
4. All the instigators of Arab Spring uprisings were middle class, well educated youth who mysteriously vanished after 2011.

Nonviolent Regime Change

Bensaada begins by introducing non-violent guru Gene Sharp (see The CIA and Nonviolence), his links with the Pentagon and US intelligence, and his role, as director of the Albert Einstein Institution, in the “color” revolutions** in Eastern Europe and the attempted coup against Hugo Chavez in 2002.

The US goal in the Arab Spring revolutions was to replace unpopular despotic dictators while taking care to maintain the autocratic US-friendly infrastructure that had brought them to power. All initially followed the nonviolent precepts Sharp outlines in his 1994 book From Dictatorship to Democracy. In Libya, Syria and Yemen, the US and their allies were clearly prepared to introduce paid mercenaries when their Sharpian “revolutions” failed to produce regime change.

Follow the Money

Relying mainly on Wikileaks cables and the websites of key CIA pass through foundations (which he reproduces in the appendix), Bensaada methodically lists every State Department conference and workshop the Arab Spring heroes attended, the dollar amounts spent on them by the State Department and key “democracy” promoting foundations,*** the specific involvement of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Obama’s 2008 Internet campaign team in training Arab Spring cyperactivists in encryption technologies and social media skills, US embassy visits, and direct encounters with Hillary Clinton,  Condoleezza Rice, John McCain, Barack Obama and Serbian trainers from CANVAS (the CIA-backed organization that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in 2000).

Bensaada focuses most heavily on the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt. The Washington Post has estimated approximately 10,000 Egyptians took part in NED and USAID training in social media and nonviolent organizing techniques. For me the most astonishing information in this chapter concerned the role of an Egyptian exile (a former Egyptian policeman named Omar Afifi Suleiman) in coordinating the Tahrir Square protests from his office in Washington DC. According to Wikileaks, NED paid Suleiman a yearly stipend of $200,000+ between 2008-2011.

When Nonviolence Fails

Arabesques$ devotes far more attention to Libya, Syria and Yemen than Bensaada’s first book.

In the section on Libyia, Bensaada zeroes in on eleven key US assets who engineered the overthrow of Gaddafi. Some participated in the same State Department trainings as the Middle East opposition activists and instigated nonviolent Facebook and Twitter protests to coincide with the 2011 uprisings in Tunisian and Egypt. Others, in exile, underwent guerrilla training sponsored by the CIA, Mossad, Chad and Saudi Arabia. A few months after Kaddafi’s assassination, some of these same militants would lead Islamic militias attempting to overthrow Assad in Syria.

Between 2005 and 2010, the State Department funneled $12 million to opposition groups opposed to Assad. The US also financed Syrian exiles in Britain to start an anti-government cable TV channel they beamed into Syria.

In the section on Syria, Bensaada focuses on a handful of Syrian opposition activists who received free US training in cyberactivism and nonviolent resistance beginning in 2006. One, Ausama Monajed, is featured in the 2011 film How to Start a Revolution about his visit with Gene Sharp in 2006. Monajed and others worked closely with the US embassy, funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). This is a State Department program that operates in countries (such as Libya and Syria) where USAID is banned.

In February 2011, these groups posted a call on Twitter and Facebook for a Day of Rage. Nothing happened. When Sharpian techniques failed to produce a sizable nonviolent uprising, as in Libya, they and their allies (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan) were all set up to introduce Islamic mercenaries (many directly from Libya) to declare war on the Assad regime.


*I was astonished to learn that Forum Fikra, a forum for Arab activists working against authoritarian governments, was mainly funded by the Nathan and Esther K Wagner Family Foundation. The latter also funds numerous pro-Israel groups and projects, as well as the Washington Institute for Near East policy (a pro-Israel group with close ties to AIPAC).

**The color revolutions were CIA-instigated uprisings that replaced democratically elected pro-Russian governments with equally autocratic governments more friendly to US corporate interests:

Serbia (2000) – Bulldozer Revolution
Georgia (2002) – Rose Revolution
Ukraine (2004) – Orange Revolution
Kyrgyzstan (2005) – Tulip Revolution

***Democracy promoting foundations (as used here, “democracy” is synonymous with capitalism, ie favorable to the interests of US investors). Here are seven of the main ones involved in funding and training Arab Spring activists:
USAID (US Agency for International Development) – State Department agency charged with economic development and humanitarian aid with a long history of financing destabilization activities, especially in Latin America.
NED (National Endowment for Democracy) – national organization supported by State Department and CIA funding dedicated to the promotion of democratic institutions throughout the world, primary funder of IRI and NDI.
IRI (International Republican Institute) – democracy promoting organization linked with the Republican Party, currently chaired by Senator John McCain and funded by NED.
NDI (National Democratic Institute for International Affairs) – democracy promoting organization linked with the Democratic Party, currently chaired by Madeline Albright and funded by NED.
OSI (Open Society Institute) – founded by George Soros in 1993 to help fund color revolutions in Eastern Europe. Also contributed major funding to Arab Spring revolutions.
• Freedom House – US organization that supports nonviolent citizens initiatives in societies were liberty is denied or threatened, financed by USAID, NED and the Soros Foundation.
CANVAS (Center for Applied Non Violent Action and Strategies) – center originally founded by the Serbian activists of Otpor who the US funded and trained to over throw Slobodan Milosevic and who were instrumental in training Arab Spring activists. Funded by Freedom House, IRI and George Soros.

Originally published in Dissident Voice

 

Inside the Brutal Reality of Saudi Arabia

Inside the Dark Kingdom: Butchery, Slavery and History of Revolt

Abby Martin (2015)

Film Review

Inside the Dark Kingdom is a documentary celebrating the irony of Saudi Arabia’s selection to head the UN Panel of Human Rights. The blatant hypocrisy of the (successful) US campaign for this tyrannical kingdom to champion global human rights is obvious from the simple statement of facts. As is the duplicity of trying to depose the so-called “bloody dictator” of Syria while openly supporting the Saudi reign of terror.

The film investigates Saudi Arabia’s brutal and arbitrary criminal justice system, their brutal oppression of women, their virtual enslavement of migrant workers, their recent invasion of Yemen, their role in 9-11 and their reliance on US military assistance to suppress human rights organizing.

Saudi trials take place in secret, often without legal representation for the accused. Saudi subjects can be beheaded, stoned or crucified for crimes such as adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality and drug use and imprisoned and lashed for human rights advocacy or being victimized by sexual assault (typically rape victims receive more lashes than the men who rape them). Forty-five percent of Saudi executions are for non-violent drug crimes.

Saudi Uprisings

You rarely hear about Saudi Arabia’s long history of popular uprisings (and their brutal suppression) in the corporate media. The US first began collaborating with the Saudi royal family to suppress human rights in 1953, when Aramco (Arabian Oil Company workers) went on strike demanding a union. The US responded by establishing the US Training Mission in Saudi Arabia, which assisted the Saudi government in torturing and assassinating union leaders.

Saudi Arabia had their first failed revolution in 1962, when a Shia-led uprising demanded that oil profits be used to address poverty rather than to increase the wealth of American oil companies and the Saudi royal family.

Inspired by the 1979 revolution in Iran, rebels in the eastern Shia region of Saudi people launched massive street protests. These were crushed when the government tortured and assassinated key leaders and destroyed (via bombing) of dissident civilian enclaves.

The Saudi Arab Spring

Following the Arab Spring rebellions that blossomed in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011, there were Arab Spring rebellions in three major Saudi cities. The royal family responded by declaring martial law and banning any mainstream or social media favorable to the Arab Spring or unfavorable to the royal family. After arresting, torturing and/or assassinating of key organizers (and their families), the government immediately quadrupled their arms imports from the US.

The primary purpose of all this military hardware is to suppress dissent, not only in Saudi Arabia, but in Bahrain (the Saudi Army invaded Bahrain to suppress their Arab Spring uprising) and Yemen. Since April, 150,000 Saudi troops have invaded Yemen and killed 4,000 Yemenis – more than half of them civilians.

The 1945 Oil Protection Agreement

Martin also traces the history of the unique US-Saudi relationship, which started in 1945 with the signing of an official Oil Protection Agreement and the installation of a US naval base.

Dating back to 1988 the last four US presidents have had close business and personal relationships with the Saudi royal family. At present the Saudi princes are major donors to the Clinton Foundation.

The Real Story of Tahir Square

El Maidan (The Square)

(Arabic with English subtitles)

Johane Nohaim (2014)

Film Review

The Square, based largely on amateur and cellphone footage, presents an activist prospective of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that has been totally omitted from western media coverage. It delineates an early split between Muslim Brotherhood and Christian and moderate Muslim activists that occurred long before Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi became president in June 2012.

The clear view of the filmmakers is that the Muslim Brotherhood, who were latecomers to the Tahrir Square protests, co-opted the uprising and used it to negotiate a secret deal with the Egyptian military. Whether US and British intelligence, long time supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, played some role in this process isn’t addressed.* Once the agreement was sealed, Muslim Brotherhood activists withdrew from the square. This left more moderate protestors to be beaten up and killed by police thugs and the Egyptian military.

Filmmakers interview original organizers of the Tahrir Square occupation who deeply regret their decision to abandon the occupation when Mubarak stepped down in February 2011. They some failed to register that he was merely a figurehead – that the Egyptian army continued to rule with totalitarian powers. As one observes wistfully, “It was a big mistake leaving the square before the power was in our hands.”

Before watching this film, I had no idea the occupation of Tahrir Square continued during the lead-up to the so-called “free and fair” elections of 2012 – as did the beatings and murder of youth activists, Christians and moderate Muslims struggling to maintain the occupation.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood only represents a minority of Egyptian society, their Peace and Justice Party won a majority of parliamentary seats in February 2012 because they were the only organized opposition party. Non-Brotherhood activists largely boycotted the June 2012 presidential elections, in which Morsi and a former Mubarak henchman were the only two choices. They continued to protest in Tahrir Square, which the Egyptian police and military staged murderous attacks on peaceful on them with weapons provided by the US and Egypt’s Persian Gulf allies.

Morsi Grants Himself Dictatorial Powers

Efforts to retake Tahrir Square continued after Morsi took power and granted himself dictatorial powers far beyond those Mubarak enjoyed. In February 2012, protestors finally succeeded in reoccupying Tahrir Square. The protests swelled, as they had in 2011, when Morsi ordered police to fire live ammunition against peaceful protestors.

The 2013 Military Coup

On June 30 2013, organizers called for an open-ended general strike with the demand that Morsi step down and new elections be called. In Cairo alone, more than two million participated, the largest global protest in history. When the Muslim Brotherhood organized a sit-in counter demonstration, Gen Abdel Fatah el-Sisi massacred scores of Brotherhood protestors, arrested Morsi and called new elections.

Released in January 2014, the film ends before the May 2014 election, in which the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party was forbidden to participate. Approximately half the Egyptian population participated, with el-Sisi receiving 96 percent of the votes cast. Egypt’s state of emergency continues. According to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, more than 41,000 people have been arrested in a sweeping crackdown against Islamists, secular activists, protesters, students and journalists – while protestors shot and killed by Egyptian authorities number in the hundreds.

*Ahmed Bensaada and others have also written at length regarding the CIA/State Dept role in infiltrating and shaping what Egypt’s so-called “color revolution”: The CIA Role in the Arab Spring

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1th9vf_al-maidan-the-square-documentary_shortfilms