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The War on Libya – There Was No Evidence

WATCH: LIBYA: Race, Empire, and the Invention of Humanitarian Emergency

Zero Anthropology

by Maximilian Forte

Based on the author’s latest book, Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War On Libya and Africa (Baraka Books, Montreal, 2012), and nearly two years of extensive documentary research, this film places the 2011 US/NATO war in Libya in a more meaningful context than that of a war to “protect civilians” driven by the urgent need to “save Benghazi”. Instead it counters such notions with the actual destruction of Sirte, and the consistent and determined persecution of black Libyans and African migrant workers by the armed opposition, supported by NATO, as it sought to violently overthrow Muammar Gaddafi and the Jamahiriyah. This film takes us through some of the stock justifications for the war, focusing on protecting civilians, the responsibility to protect (R2P), and “genocide prevention,” and examines the racial biases and political prejudice that underpinned them. The role of Western human rights organizations, as well as misinformation spread through “social media” with the intent of fostering fear of rampaging black people, are especially scrutinized.

Further Reading: Libya: The Second Anniversary of a Bloody Coup (February 17, 2013)

Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators | White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof & Syria No Fly Zone

Dissident Voice

April 9, 2015

You might think that after seeing the consequences of their campaign for “freedom and democracy” in Libya, journalists like Nicholas Kristof and “humanitarian campaigners” like Avaaz would have some qualms.

Unfortunately they have learned nothing. They have generally not been held to account, with a few nice exceptions such as this Greenwald/Hussain article. And now they are at it again. Many well-intentioned but naive members of the U.S. and international public are again being duped into signing an Avaaz petition based on fraud and misinformation. If the campaign succeeds in leading to a No Fly Zone in Syria, it will result in vastly increased war, mayhem and bloodshed.

The following illustration shows the sequence and trail of deceit leading to Avaaz’s call for a No Fly Zone in Syria.

unnamedFollowing is a brief description documenting the flow of misinformation and deceit, beginning at the Source and ending with Avaaz’s campaign for NATO/US attack on Syria.

Source

The “Source” is unknown at this time. It might be some US agency with or without the approval of the Obama administration. Or it might be another foreign government which seeks, in plain violation of international law,  the overthrow the Syrian government.  In addition to the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, Britain and Qatar have each spent hundreds of millions and even billions in heavy weaponry plus 3,000 tons of weapons via Croatia plus arming, training, supplying and paying the salaries of thousands of domestic and international mercenaries sowing mayhem and destruction in Syria.

At this point we do not know but there is a REWARD:  $100 finders fee to the first person who can provide credible evidence identifying the SOURCE.

PURPOSE Inc.

This is an international PR firm. CEO is Jeremy Heimans, a co-founder of Avaaz.

President is Kevin Steinberg, previous CEO of World Economic Forum USA (antithesis of World Social Forum).  Their website describes their goal:

“Purpose builds and accelerates movements to tackle the world’s biggest problems.”

In this case the “problem” is reluctance to take over Syrian skies and land.

For a hefty fee, “Purpose” will dupe the public and break down that reluctance.

Toward that end,  Purpose created “The Syria Campaign”.

The Syria Campaign 

The Syria Campaign began in spring 2014. One of their first efforts was to work to prevent publicity and information about the Syrian Presidential Election of June 2014. Accordingly, “The Syria Campaign” pressured Facebook to remove advertisements or publicity about the Syrian election.  Since then Syria Campaign has engineered huge media exposure and mythology about their baby, the “White Helmets” using all sorts of social and traditional media. The campaigns are largely fact free. For example, the Syrian election was dismissed out of hand by them and John Kerry but taken seriously by many millions of Syrians.

The Syria Campaign is managed by Anna Nolan,  who grew up in northern Ireland and has very likely never been to Syria. In addition to promoting the White Helmets,  Syria Campaign promotes a new social media campaign called “Planet Syria”. It features emotional pleas for the world to take notice of Syria in another thinly veiled effort pushing for foreign intervention and war.

According to their website, The Syria Campaign received start-up funding from the foundation of Ayman Asfari, a billionaire who made his money in the oil and gas services industry.

White Helmets

White Helmets is the newly minted name for “Syrian Civil Defence”. Despite the name, Syria Civil Defence was not created by Syrians nor does it serve Syria.  Rather it was created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai.

The trainees are said to be ‘nonpartisan’ but only work in rebel-controlled areas of Idlib (now controlled by Nusra/Al Queda) and Aleppo. There are widely divergent claims regarding the number of people trained by the White Helmets and the number of people rescued.  The numbers are probably highly exaggerated especially since rebel-controlled territories have few civilians. A doctor who recently served in a rebel-controlled area of Aleppo described it as a ghost town. The White Helmets work primarily with the rebel group Jabat al Nusra (Al Queda in Syria). Video of the recent alleged chlorine gas attacks starts with the White Helmet logo and continues with the logo of Nusra. In reality, White Helmets is a small rescue team for Nusra/Al Queda.

But White Helmets primary function is propaganda. White Helmets demonizes the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention.  A White Helmet leader wrote a recent Washington Post editorial.  White Helmets are also very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook etc.  According to their website, to contact White Helmets email The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship.

Nicholas Kristof/New York Times

The “White Helmets” campaign has been highly successful because of uncritical media promotion.  Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was an advocate of the NATO/US attack on Libya. According to him, villagers who had been shot, injured and their homes destroyed were not bitter, they were thankful! . “Hugs from Libyans” is how he viewed it.  It was, of course, nonsense, helping to pave the way in the invasion and destruction of the country.

Now Kristof is uncritically promoting the White Helmets, aiding and abetting their political and propaganda message seeking foreign intervention in Syria.

Avaaz

Avaaz is an online lobby organization founded in 2007 by Jeremy Heimans (now CEO of Purpose) and others. Start-up funding was provided by George Soros’ foundation.  While Avaaz has promoted some worthy causes, they have been prominent in promoting neoliberal foreign policies in keeping with the U.S. State Department. Accordingly, they had a major disinformation campaign against Venezuela last year.

Avaaz very actively promoted a No Fly Zone in Libya. They are now very actively promoting the same for Syria.

In-depth research and exposure of Avaaz can be found here. The titles give some indication: “Faking It: Charity Communications in the Firing Line”, “Syria: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire”, “Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps for Militarism”.

Avaaz justifies its call for No Fly Zone in part on White Helmets. Given the close interconnections between Avaaz and Purpose, they are surely aware that White Helmets is a media creation. This calls into question their sincerity.

Conclusion

The manipulators rely on emotional images and messages, not facts. They depend on willing partners in the mainstream media who amplify the easy and glib characterizations of who and what is good and bad.  The manipulators depend on their audience not asking questions or investigating on their own. In these times of rapid spread of visual and text information via social media, the potential for deceit is huge.

Snapshots

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Avaaz Petition for Libya No Fly Zone — 2011

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Avaaz Petition for Syria No Fly Zone — 2015 (Syria Campaign Posting)

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Kristoff/New York Times/2011

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Kristoff/New York Times/2015

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The Real White Helmet Purpose:  Propaganda

[Rick Sterling is active with the Syria Solidarity Movement and Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center. He can be emailed at: rsterling1@gmail.com.]

 

 

Avaaz: Manufacturing Consent for Wars Since 2011

Wall of Controversy

March 20, 2015

By James Boswell

 

 

Four years ago I received an email from the internet campaign group Avaaz which read:

“Together, we’ve sent 450,000 emails to the UN Security Council, “overwhelming” the Council President and helping to win targeted sanctions and a justice process for the Libyan people. Now, to stop the bloodshed, we need a massive outcry for a no-fly zone.” [Bold as in the original.]

Of course, that no-fly zone was Nato’s justification for a war – “no-fly zone” means war. So the bloodshed wasn’t about to be stopped, it was about to begin in earnest:

The foreign media has largely ceased to cover Libya because it rightly believes it is too dangerous for journalists to go there. Yet I remember a moment in the early summer of 2011 in the frontline south of Benghazi when there were more reporters and camera crews present than there were rebel militiamen. Cameramen used to ask fellow foreign journalists to move aside when they were filming so that this did not become too apparent. In reality, Gaddafi’s overthrow was very much Nato’s doing, with Libyan militiamen mopping up.

Executing regime change in Libya cost the lives of an estimated 20,000 people: but this was only the immediate death toll, and as a civil war rages on, the final figure keeps rising, indefinitely and seemingly inexorably. And the number of victims will go on rising for so long as there is lawlessness and chaos in a country now completely overrun with terrorists and warlords. So what was started with a “no-fly zone” is ending with a hell on earth: abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Given their unpardonable role in instigating this entirely avoidable human catastrophe, does it come as any surprise when, with “mission accomplished”, the media chose to turn its back on the carnage in Libya? Patrick Cockburn, who wrote the article from which the above quote is taken, has been a rare exception to the rule. A journalist who was not so quick to swallow the official line, he has since been committed to telling the bigger story, which includes the falsity of Nato’s original justifications for air strikes:

Human rights organisations have had a much better record in Libya than the media since the start of the uprising in 2011. They discovered that there was no evidence for several highly publicised atrocities supposedly carried out by Gaddafi’s forces that were used to fuel popular support for the air war in the US, Britain, France and elsewhere. These included the story of the mass rape of women by Gaddafi’s troops that Amnesty International exposed as being without foundation. The uniformed bodies of government soldiers were described by rebel spokesmen as being men shot because they were about to defect to the opposition. Video film showed the soldiers still alive as rebel prisoners so it must have been the rebels who had executed them and put the blame on the government.

So here is a pattern that repeats with uncanny consistency, and with the mainstream media’s failure to discover and report on the truth also recurring with near parallel regularity. We had the ‘Babies out of incubators’ story in Kuwait, and then those WMDs in Iraq that, as Bush Jnr joked, “have got to be here somewhere”, to offer just two very well-established prior instances of the kinds of lies that have taken us to war.

Patrick Cockburn continues:

Foreign governments and media alike have good reason to forget what they said and did in Libya in 2011, because the aftermath of the overthrow of Gaddafi has been so appalling. The extent of the calamity is made clear by two reports on the present state of the country, one by Amnesty International called “Libya: Rule of the gun – abductions, torture and other militia abuses in western Libya” and a second by Human Rights Watch, focusing on the east of the country, called “Libya: Assassinations May Be Crimes Against Humanity”.1

Click here to read Patrick Cockburn’s full article published last November.

But accusations do not stop even at the deplorable roles played by “foreign governments and media alike”, but apply to all of the various warmongering parties at that time, and one of the groups we must also point the finger to is Avaaz. For it was Avaaz, more than any other campaign group, who pushed alongside Nato in their call for the “no-fly zone” which got the whole war going. To reiterate, since it is vitally important that this is understood, a “no-fly zone” always and without exception means war:

Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian – putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.

No wonder, too, that it is rapidly becoming a key call of hawks on both sides of the Atlantic. The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck – those who usually oppose wars are openly campaigning for more military involvement.2

So wrote John Hilary in an excellent article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” published on the cusp of “intervention”.

In response, Ben Wikler, a campaign director at Avaaz, posted a comment that included the following remarks:

Would imposing a no-fly zone lead to a full-blown international war? No-fly zones can mean a range of different things.

Wikler is wrong and Hilary correct: “no-fly zones” always mean war. And as a consequence, those at Avaaz like Ben Wikler now have blood on their hands – and yet are unrepentant.

Yes, as with most others who were directly or indirectly culpable, “foreign governments and media alike”, it seems Avaaz too are suffering from collective amnesia. Not only have they forgotten the terrible consequences of imposing a “no-fly zone” on Libya, but they also seem to have forgotten their own deliberate efforts when it came to bolstering public support for that “bloody and calamitous” (to use Cockburn’s words) “foreign intervention” (to use the weasel euphemisms of Nato and the West). Because instead of reflecting upon the failings of Nato’s air campaign four years ago, and without offering the slightest murmur of apology for backing it (not that apologies help at all), Avaaz are now calling upon their supporters to forget our murderous blundering of the recent past, with calls for the same action all over again… this time in Syria.

It was yesterday when I received the latest email from Avaaz. Don’t worry, I’m not a supporter (although the simple fact I receive their emails means by their own definition, I am presumably counted one), but after Libya I chose to remain on their mailing list simply to keep an eye on what they were doing. And (not for the first or the second time) they are selling us on more war:

The Syrian air force just dropped chlorine gas bombs on children. Their little bodies gasped for air on hospital stretchers as medics held back tears, and watched as they suffocated to death.

But today there is a chance to stop these barrel bomb murders with a targeted No Fly Zone.

The US, Turkey, UK, France and others are right now seriously considering a safe zone in Northern Syria. Advisers close to President Obama support it, but he is worried he won’t have public support. That’s where we come in.

Let’s tell him we don’t want a world that just watches as a dictator drops chemical weapons on families in the night. We want action.

One humanitarian worker said ‘I wish the world could see what I have seen with my eyes. It breaks your heart forever.’ Let’s show that the world cares — sign to support a life-saving No Fly Zone

Obviously, I am not supplying the link for this latest call to arms: “a[nother] life-saving No Fly Zone”.

After Avaaz called for war against Libya back in 2011, I wrote a restrained article. But I was too polite. When they called for war again following the sarin gas attack on Ghouta, I hesitated again and looked into the facts. They didn’t stack up (as I explained at length in another post). But nor did I damn Avaaz on that occasion, as I ought to have done, when with Libya already ablaze they set up a campaign like this (sorry that it’s hard to read):

Since that time it has become evident to the world (at least the one outside the Avaaz office) that it has been Syrian forces who have most successfully fought back against Islamist extremists (al-Qaeda, but now more often called ISIS) who not only use poison gas to murder their enemies and spread fear, but methods so barbaric and depraved – public mass beheadings, crucifixions and even cannibalism – that you wonder which century we are living in. But Avaaz push the blame for all of this killing back on to the Assad regime, just as the West (whose close allies continue to back the so-called “rebels”) have also tried to do. And Avaaz are now saying (once again) that escalating the conflict is the way to save the people of Syria – so don’t worry if it spreads the infection now called ISIS – more love bombs are the preferred Avaaz solution for every complex political situation:

“Today, Gadhafi is dead, and the Libyan people have their first chance for democratic, accountable governance in decades…. American casualties were zero. Insurgent fighters and the vast majority of the population have cheered the victory as liberation, and courageous Syrians who face daily threats of death for standing up to their own repressive regime have taken comfort in Gadhafi’s fall. These accomplishments are no small feats for those who care about human dignity, democracy, and stability….

Progressives often demand action in the face of abject human suffering, but we know from recent history that in some situations moral condemnation, economic sanctions, or ex-post tribunals don’t save lives. Only force does.”

These are the self-congratulatory words of Tom Perriello, the co-founder of Avaaz, writing in late 2012. And he finishes the same piece:

We must realize that force is only one element of a coherent national security strategy and foreign policy. We must accept the reality—whether or not one accepts its merits—that other nations are more likely to perceive our motives to be self-interested than values-based. But in a world where egregious atrocities and grave threats exist, and where Kosovo and Libya have changed our sense of what’s now possible, the development of this next generation of power can be seen as a historically unique opportunity to reduce human suffering. 3

Independent investigative journalist, Cory Morningstar, who has probed very deeply into the organization says, “Make no mistake – this is the ideology at the helm of Avaaz.org.”

As she explains:

Tom Perriello is a long-time collaborator with Ricken Patel. Together, they co-founded Avaaz.org, Res Publica and FaithfulAmerica.org.

Perriello is a former U.S. Representative (represented the 5th District of Virginia from 2008 to 2010) and a founding member of the House Majority Leader’s National Security Working Group.

Perriello was also co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He worked for Reverend Dr. James Forbes on “prophetic justice” principles. Many of these organizations were created with the intent of creating a broad-based “religious left” movement. […]

Despite the carefully crafted language and images that tug at your emotions, such NGOs were created for and exist for one primary purpose – to protect and further American policy and interests, under the guise of philanthropy and humanitarianism.

As Cory Morningstar also points out:

In December 2011, Perriello disclosed that he served as special adviser to the international war crimes prosecutor and has spent extensive time in 2011 in Egypt and the Middle East researching the Arab Spring. Therefore, based on this disclosure alone, there can be no doubt that the deliberate strategy being advanced by Avaaz cannot be based upon any type of ignorance or naïveté. 4

“It breaks your heart forever.” That was the heading under which yesterday’s email arrived and the way it signed off went as follows: “With hope, John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest of the Avaaz team”. And this is how they come again with further ploys to prick your conscience. So do please remember before you click on their pastel-coloured links or forward those ‘messages’ to your own friends, how they beat the drums to war on two earlier occasions. In 2013, when they last called for the bombing of Syria (but the war party were halted in their mission), and in 2011 when they first aided Nato’s grand deception and helped to bring unremitting horrors to the innocent people of Libya. Keep in mind too, how lacking in guilt they have been in light of their own imploring role during the run up to the full “shock and awe” display over Tripoli.

Because John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest… are really not our friends. They are humanitarian hawks, who are in the business of manufacturing consent for every Nato “intervention”. Indeed, I would like to ask John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest, in good faith, just how do you sleep at night?

Click here to read a thorough examination of Avaaz put together by independent investigative journalist Cory Morningstar.

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Additional:

Here is an open letter I constructed in Summer 2012, but then decided not to post:

Dear Ricken, Eli and the whole Avaaz team,

By your own rather loose definition, I have been a member of Avaaz now for several years. In other words I responded to one of your campaigns many moons ago, and have never subsequently withdrawn my name from your mailing list. I believe that under your own terms, I am thus one of the many millions of your ‘members’. You presume that all those like me who are ‘in the Avaaz community’ support your various campaigns simply because we are on your contact list, although in my own case, this is absolutely not the case. I have ceased to support any of the Avaaz campaigns since you pushed for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya, and from this time on, have kept up with your campaign messages simply to keep an eye on you. I vowed never again to sign any of your petitions on the grounds that I do not wish to be a supporter of any organisation that backs an aggressive and expansionist war.

The most common criticism of Avaaz, and other internet campaign groups, is that it encourages ‘slacktivism’, which is indeed a very valid concern:

Sites such as Avaaz, suggested Micah White in the Guardian last year, often only deal with middle-of-the-road causes, to the exclusion of niche interests: “They are the Walmart of activism . . . and silence underfunded radical voices.” More infamously, internet theorist Evgeny Morozov has called the likes of Avaaz “Slacktivists”, claiming that they encourage previously tenacious activists to become lazy and complacent.

There’s also the issue of breadth. Clicktivist websites often cover a range of issues that have little thematic or geographical relation to each other, which leaves them open to accusations of dilettantism.

Click here to read Patrick Kingsey’s full article in the Guardian.

Ricken Patel’s response to Kingsley is to point to their campaign against Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB:

“Our activism played a critical role in delaying the BskyB deal until the recent scandal was able to kill it,” Avaaz‘s founder, New York-based Ricken Patel, tells me via Skype. 5

So is this really the best example Avaaz has to offer? Since the BSkyB deal would undoubtedly have been stymied for all sorts of other reasons, not least of which were the various phone hacking scandals, and most shockingly, in the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone. This more than anything killed off the Murdoch bid for BSkyB.

We might also give a little grudging credit to Business Secretary Vince Cable, who in late 2010 revealed privately to undercover reporters that he was ‘declaring war’ on Rupert Murdoch. This caused such a storm that Tory leader David Cameron came out against Cable, describing his comments as “totally unacceptable and inappropriate”, whilst Labour leader Ed Miliband immediately followed suite saying that he would have gone further and sacked Cable 6. In any case, Murdoch was coming under attack from many fronts (including, as shown by Cable’s example, a maverick offensive from inside the government), and so there were already growing calls for a review of the BskyB deal. As it turns out, the deal itself was seriously compromised by a conflict of interests involving Ofcom Chairman Colette Bowe, not that this widely reported – I wrote a post on it just before the deal suddenly collapsed. In fact, I had tried in vain to get a number of politicians to look into this aspect of the case, but none at all even bothered to reply. The story the media were telling quickly moved on, and so the role of Ofcom remains more or less unscrutinised.

But I have a far bigger problem with Avaaz than simply the matter of its lack of effectiveness. Since even if Avaaz has achieved nothing concrete whatsoever, which might well be the case, its growing prominence as a campaign group is undoubtedly helping to frame the protest agenda. Picking and choosing what are and aren’t important issues is dilettantism, yes, and also, potentially at least, “the manufacturing of dissent”. Avaaz‘s defence is that it is an independent body – oh, really?

Co-founder and Director of Avaaz, Ricken Patel said in 2011 “We have no ideology per se. Our mission is to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. Idealists of the world unite!”

“No ideology per se”? So what then are we to make of your association with another organisation called Res Publica, of which Patel is a fellow, and Eli Pariser has also been a member of the Advisor Board.

Res Publica (US) is described by wikipedia as “a US organization promoting ‘good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy.’”, though there is no article on the group itself, and nor, for that matter, any entry on Ricken Patel himself. If I visit the Res Publica website, however, the link I immediately find takes me straight to George Soros’ Open Democracy group and also the International Crisis Group of which Soros is again a member of the Executive Committee. The International Crisis Group that gets such glowing endorsements from peace-loving individuals as (and here I quote directly from the website):

President Bill Clinton (‘in the most troubled corners of the world, the eyes, the ears and the conscience of the global community’); successive U.S. Secretaries of State (Condoleezza Rice: ‘a widely respected and influential organisation’, Colin Powell: ‘a mirror for the conscience of the world’ and Madeleine Albright: ‘a full-service conflict prevention organisation’); and former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the late Richard Holbrooke (‘a brilliant idea… beautifully implemented’ with reports like CrisisWatch ‘better than anything I saw in government’).

Whilst according to Res Publica‘s own website Ricken Patel has himself “consulted for the International Crisis Group, the United Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation…”

To cut to the quick then, Avaaz claims to independence are simply a sham. Whether foundation funded or not, you are undeniably foundation affiliated. Which brings me to your recent campaigns.

In a letter which I received on Wednesday 11th January, you wrote, typically vaingloriously, about the significance of Avaaz in bringing about and supporting the uprisings of Arab Spring:

Across the Arab world, people power has toppled dictator after dictator, and our amazing Avaaz community has been at the heart of these struggles for democracy, breaking the media blackouts imposed by corrupt leaders, empowering citizen journalists, providing vital emergency relief to communities under siege, and helping protect hundreds of activists and their families from regime thugs.

When all that I can actually recall is some jumping on the bandwagon and your support for the ‘shock and awe’ assault that we saw lighting up the skies over Tripoli. Gaddafi was ousted, of course, much as Saddam Hussein had been by the Bush administration, and likewise, the country remains in chaos. But does the removal of any dictator justify the killing of an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people in the first months of the Libyan war – these figures according to Cherif Bassiouni, who led a U.N. Human Rights Council mission to Tripoli and rebel-held areas in late April. 7 Figures that officially rose to 25,000 people killed and 60,000 injured, after the attacks on Gaddafi’s besieged hometown of Sirte. 8 The true overall casualties of the Libyan war remain unknown, as they do in Iraq, although a conservative estimate is that around 30,000 people lost their lives. Avaaz, since you called for this, you must wash some of that blood from your own hands.

Now you are calling for ‘action’ against Syria, on the basis this time of your own report which finds that “crimes against humanity were committed by high-level members of the Assad regime”. Now, let me say that I do not in the least doubt that the Assad regime is involved in the secret detainment and torture of its opponents. The terrible truth is that such human rights abuses are routinely carried out all across the Middle East, and in many places on behalf or in collusion with Western security services such as the CIA. Back in September 2010, PolitiFact.com wrote about the Obama administration’s record on so-called “extraordinary renditions” [from wikipedia with footnote preserved]:

The administration has announced new procedural safeguards concerning individuals who are sent to foreign countries. President Obama also promised to shut down the CIA-run “black sites,” and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that extreme renditions are not happening, at least not as much as they did during the Bush administration. Still, human rights groups say that these safeguards are inadequate and that the DOJ Task Force recommendations still allow the U.S. to send individuals to foreign countries.[158]

Whilst back in April 2009, on the basis of what he had witnessed in Uzbekistan, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004, Craig Murray, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture”. In answers to questions, he explained to the committee how the UK government disguises its complicity and that he believed it has, in effect, helped to create “a market for torture”:

If I may refer to the documents on waterboarding and other torture techniques released recently in the United States on the orders of President Obama, if we are continuing to receive, as we are, all the intelligence reports put out by the CIA we are complicit in a huge amount of torture. I was seeing just a little corner in Uzbekistan. [p. 73]

I think the essence of the government’s position is that if you receive intelligence material from people who torture, be it CIA waterboarding, or torture by the Uzbek authorities or anywhere else, you can do so ad infinitum knowing that it may come from torture and you are still not complicit. [bottom p. 74]

Their position remains the one outlined by Sir Michael Wood, and it was put to me that if we receive intelligence from torture we were not complicit as long as we did not do the torture ourselves or encouraged it. I argue that we are creating a market for torture and that there were pay-offs to the Uzbeks for their intelligence co-operation and pay-offs to other countries for that torture. I think that a market for torture is a worthwhile concept in discussing the government’s attitude. [p. 75]

The government do not volunteer the fact that they very happily accept this information. I make it absolutely plain that I am talking of hundreds of pieces of intelligence every year that have come from hundreds of people who suffer the most vicious torture. We are talking about people screaming in agony in cells and our government’s willingness to accept the fruits of that in the form of hundreds of such reports every year. I want the Joint committee to be absolutely plain about that. [bot p.75] 9

Click here to watch all of parts of Craig Murray’s testimony.

Here is the introduction to Amnesty International‘s Report from last year:

Over 100 suspects in security-related offences were detained in 2010. The legal status and conditions of imprisonment of thousands of security detainees arrested in previous years, including prisoners of conscience, remained shrouded in secrecy. At least two detainees died in custody, possibly as a result of torture, and new information came to light about methods of torture and other ill-treatment used against security detainees. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, particularly flogging, continued to be imposed and carried out. Women and girls remained subject to discrimination and violence, with some cases receiving wide media attention. Both Christians and Muslims were arrested for expressing their religious beliefs.

But not for Syria – for Saudi Arabia report-2011.

And it continues:

Saudi Arabian forces involved in a conflict in northern Yemen carried out attacks that appeared to be indiscriminate or disproportionate and to have caused civilian deaths and injuries in violation of international humanitarian law. Foreign migrant workers were exploited and abused by their employers. The authorities violated the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. At least 27 prisoners were executed, markedly fewer than in the two preceding years.

Further down we read that:

At least 140 prisoners were under sentence of death, including some sentenced for offences not involving violence, such as apostasy and sorcery.

Not that Amnesty‘s report on Syria report-2011 is any less deplorable:

The authorities remained intolerant of dissent. Those who criticized the government, including human rights defenders, faced arrest and imprisonment after unfair trials, and bans from travelling abroad. Some were prisoners of conscience. Human rights NGOs and opposition political parties were denied legal authorization. State forces and the police continued to commit torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, and there were at least eight suspicious deaths in custody. The government failed to clarify the fate of 49 prisoners missing since a violent incident in 2008 at Saydnaya Military Prison, and took no steps to account for thousands of victims of enforced disappearances in earlier years. Women were subject to discrimination and gender-based violence; at least 22 people, mostly women, were victims of so-called honour killings. Members of the Kurdish minority continued to be denied equal access to economic, social and cultural rights. At least 17 people were executed, including a woman alleged to be a victim of physical and sexual abuse.

Please correct me, but so far as I’m aware, Avaaz have been entirely silent in their condemnation of the human rights violations of either Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia (two countries that maintain very close ties with the US). Silent too when Saudi forces brutally cracked down on the Arab Spring protests in neighbouring Bahrain. So one could be forgiven for thinking that when Avaaz picks and chooses its fights, those it takes up are, if not always in the geo-strategic interests of the United States, then certainly never against those interests.

Back to your call for action against Syria and the letter continues:

We all had hoped that the Arab League’s monitoring mission could stop the violence, but they have been compromised and discredited. Despite witnessing Assad’s snipers first-hand, the monitors have just extended their observation period without a call for urgent action. This is allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action, while the regime’s pathetic defense for its despicable acts has been that it is fighting a terrorist insurgency, not a peaceful democracy movement.

Well, I’m not sure that anyone was expecting much from the Arab League, but can you really justify what you are saying here? That the violence now taking place in Syria is against an entirely “peaceful democracy movement” and that Syria is in no way facing a terrorist insurgency. Not that such an insurgency is entirely unjustified; after all one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. But that both sides are involved in atrocities, since both sides are evidently armed and the rebels are undeniably backed by militant Islamist groups.

Making statements such as “allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action”, directly implies that these foreign powers are simply protecting their own selfish interests (which is, of course, true), whereas the US is intent only on defending freedom and human rights. Such a gross oversimplification and plain nonsense.

So far, I note, Avaaz have not called for direct ‘military intervention’ in Syria, unlike in the shameful case of Libya. But given the timing of this latest announcement and on the basis of past form, I’m expecting petitions for what amounts to war (such as the ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya) will follow soon enough.

And so to your latest campaign, which I received by email on Tuesday 10th April. It begins:

Dear Friends,

Today is a big day for Avaaz. If you join in, Avaaz might just move from having a small team of 40 campaigners to having 40,000!!

Then goes on to explain how the reach of Avaaz will be broadened by encouraging everyone to write their own campaign petitions:

So, to unlock all the incredible potential of our community to change the world, we’ve developed our website tools and website to allow any Avaazer to instantly start their *own* online petitions, tell friends, and win campaigns.

The site just went live – will you give it a try? Think of a petition you’d like to start on any issue – something impacting your local community, some bad behaviour by a distant corporation, or a global cause that you think other Avaaz members would care about. If your petition takes off, it may become an Avaaz campaign – either to members in your area, or even to the whole world!

On the face of it, you are offering a way for everyone to be involved. But 40,000 petitions…? Is this really going to change the world? I have an idea that maybe just five or six might serve the purpose better – here are my suggestions for four:

  • a call for those responsible within the Bush administration and beyond to be charged with war crimes for deliberately leading us into an illegal war with Iraq
  • the criminal prosecution for crimes against humanity of George W Bush and others who have publicly admitted to their approval of the use of torture
  • the repeal of NDAA 2012 and the rolling back of the unconstitutional US Patriot and Homeland Security Acts
  • a criminal investigation into the rampant financial fraud that created the current global debt crisis

So consider me a member of the team once more. I’m putting those four campaigns out there. Or at least I would have before I’d read your ‘Terms of Use’. For it concerns me that “In order to further the mission of this site or the mission of Avaaz, we may use, copy, distribute or disclose this material to other parties” but you do not then go on to outline who those ‘other parties’ might be. And you say you will “Remove or refuse to post any User Contributions for any or no reason. This is a decision Avaaz will strive to make fairly, but ultimately it is a decision that is solely up to Avaaz to make.”

Since you reserve the right to “remove or refuse to post” without making a clear statement of your rules and without any commitment to providing justification for such censorship, I see little reason in bothering to try. Doubtless others will attempt to build campaigns on your platform for actions regarding the very serious issues I have outlined above, and should they achieve this, then I will try to lend support to those campaigns. Alternatively, should I fail to come across campaigns formed around these and related issues, I will presume, rightly or wrongly (this is “a decision that is solely up to me to make”), that Avaaz prefers not to support such initiatives. Either way, I will not holding my breath.

*

1 From an article entitled “The West is silent as Libya falls into the abyss” written by Patrick Cockburn, published by The Independent on November 2, 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-west-is-silent-as-libya-falls-into-the-abyss-9833489.html

2 From an article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” written by John Hillary, published in the Guardian on March 10, 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/10/internet-activists-libya-no-fly-zone

3 From an article entitled “Humanitarian Intervention: Recognizing When, and Why, It Can Succeed” written by Tom Perriello, published in Issue #23 Democracy Journal in Winter 2012. http://www.democracyjournal.org/23/humanitarian-intervention-recognizing-when-and-why-it-can-succeed.php?page=all

4 From an article entitled “Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War”, Part II, Section I, written by Cory Morningstar, published September 24, 2012. Another extract reads:

The 12 January 2012 RSVP event “Reframing U.S. Strategy in a Turbulent World: American Spring?” featured speakers from Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rosa Brooks of the New America Foundation, and none other than Tom Perriello, CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Perriello advanced his “ideology” during this lecture.

http://theartofannihilation.com/imperialist-pimps-of-militarism-protectors-of-the-oligarchy-trusted-facilitators-of-war-part-ii-section-i/

5 From an article entitled “Avaaz: activism or ‘slacktivism’?” written by Patrick Kingsley, published in the Guardian on July 20, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/20/avaaz-activism-slactivism-clicktivism

6 From an article entitled “Vince Cable to stay on as Business Secretary” published by BBC news on December 21, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12053656

7 From an article entitled “Up to 15,000 killed in Libya war: U.N. Right expert” reported by Reuters on June 9. 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/09/us-libya-un-deaths-idUSTRE7584UY20110609

8 From an article entitled “Residents flee Gaddafi hometown”, written by Rory Mulholland and Jay Deshmukh, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 3, 2011. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/residents-flee-gaddafi-hometown-20111003-1l49x.html

9 From the uncorrected transcript of oral evidence given to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture” on April 28, 2009. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/152/152.pdf

Please note that when I originally posted the article the link was to a different version of the document, but it turns out that the old link (below) has now expired. For this reason I have altered the page references in accordance with the new document.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:nogix7L1-kIJ:www.craigmurray.org.uk/Uncorrected%2520Transcript%252028%2520April%252009.doc+craig+murray+evidence+parliamentary+slect+commitee&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjfCqyleDnk_maooZDF7iGJ5MC68Lb9zNDi5PCH8_9PwlwCybyXYiCD-A1E-O_j9Z5XgnOsKsvguvirw4jqJW9zjuor_secSn7aw_X1JIxHxjLw0CZON7vwOcfitFM1bB8MOsaO&sig=AHIEtbScxyI2eTh3HF2MA_yGyeAcyTsoiQ

[James Boswell was born in Shrewsbury in 1967. In 1986 he moved to London to study Physics at Imperial College, and then moved again in 1989, this time to Sheffield, where his research on comets culminated in a PhD awarded in 1994. Having been settled in Sheffield ever since, he is currently a Physics lecturer at the Sheffield International College.]

 

 

A List of Liberals & Leftists Who Supported the Bombing of Libya

Rouge Nation

November 11, 2014

by David Mizner

libya-before-and-after-1

I was struck by how many prominent liberal and leftist pundits and journos took no position, at least none than I could find. (I’d argue that not speaking out against intervention — a euphemism for what was clearly a war of aggression from the outset — is a failing only slightly smaller than supporting it.) There were also people like Spencer Ackerman who opposed intervention, then said they were wrong for doing so when it appeared (to them) to be a success. Chris Hayes opposed intervention then said he was wrong to have done so then said he was right to have done so.

It’s not always clear what constitutes support for intervention. For example, Laurie Penny cheered the No Fly Zone, then changed her mind shortly after. That is, she supported the UN No Fly Zone but opposed the US-NATO intervention. As did — to my surprise — Noam Chomsky. Yet a No Fly Zone necessitates bombing, and the UN intervention led to the second and, perhaps more to the point, the UN intervention was driven by the US and NATO. So, yes, both Chomsky and Penny make the list.

You’ll likely quibble with my classifications. Is Robert Pape really a liberal? No, probably not, more of realist, but he’s generally seen as anti-intervention, so. And while I generally didn’t include government officials, I cited AM Slaughter, who worked State at the time, because I felt that any list of cruise missile liberals would be incomplete without her.

Very few of those listed below have written much, if at all, about Libya since Qaddafi’s death. Juan Cole is a notable exception.

*scroll down

Gilbert Achcar

Jonathan Alter

Ben Armbruster

Aaron Bady

Peter Beinart

Zack Beauchamp

Michael Berube

Bob Cesca

Jonathan Chait

Noam Chomsky

Juan Cole

Howard Dean

EJ Dionne

Kevin Drum

David Graeber*

Max Fisher

Imani Gandy

Shadi Hamid

Tom Hayden

Christopher Hitchens

Murtaza Hussain

John Judis

Fred Kaplan

Nick Kristoff

Marc Lynch

Tom Malinowski

Michael O’Hanlon


George Packer


Robert Pape


Laurie Penny

Bill Press

Joy Reid

Ed Schultz

Eugene Robinson

AM Slaughter

The New Republic

Michael Tomasky

James Traub

Tom Watson

Philip Weiss

Ian Willians

Paul Woodward

Robin Yassin Kassab

CONFORMITY IS UNITY [DOWNLOAD the POSTER]

September 26, 2014

 

conformity-is-unity-LG

Poster courtesy of Mark Gould

conformity-is-unity2

Civil Society, NGOs, and Saving the Needy: Imperial Neoliberalism

Zero Anthropology

August 28, 2014

by Maximilian Forte


The following is an extract from my chapter, “Imperial Abduction Lore and Humanitarian Seduction,” which serves as the introduction to Good Intentions: Norms and Practices of Imperial Humanitarianism (Montreal: Alert Press, 2014), pp. 1-34:


Outsourcing Empire, Privatizing State Functions: NGOs

First, we need to get a sense of the size and scope of the spread of just those NGOs that work on an international plane, or INGOs, many of which are officially associated with, though not part of, the UN. Estimates of the number of INGOs (such as Care, Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières) vary greatly depending on the source, the definition of INGOs used, and the methods used to locate and count them. In broad terms, INGOs numbered roughly 28,000 by the mid-1990s, which represented a 500% increase from the 1970s; other estimates suggest that by the early years of this century they numbered 40,000, while some put the number at around 30,000, which is still nearly double the number of INGOs in 1990, and some figures are lower at 20,000 by 2005 (Anheier & Themudo, 2005, p. 106; Bloodgood & Schmitz, 2012, p. 10; Boli, 2006, p. 334; Makoba, 2002, p. 54). While the sources differ in their estimates, all of them agree that there has been a substantial rise in the number of INGOs over the past two decades.

Second, there is also evidence that INGOs and local NGOs are taking on a much larger role in international development assistance than ever before. The UK’s Overseas Development Institute reported in 1996 that, by then, between 10% and 15% of all aid to developing countries was channeled through NGOs, accounting for a total amount of $6 billion US. Other sources report that “about a fifth of all reported official and private aid to developing countries has been provided or managed by NGOs and public-private partnerships” (International Development Association [IDA], 2007, p. 31). It has also been reported that, “from 1970 to 1985 total development aid disbursed by international NGOs increased ten-fold,” while in 1992 INGOs, “channeled over $7.6 billion of aid to developing countries”.1 In 2004, INGOs “employed the full time equivalent of 140,000 staff—probably larger than the total staff of all bilateral and multilateral donors combined—and generated revenues for US$13 billion from philanthropy (36%), government contributions (35%) and fees (29%)” (IDA, 2007, p. 31). The budgets of the larger INGOs “have surpassed those of some Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) donor countries” (Morton, n.d., p. 325). For its part, the US government “gave more than twice the amount of aid assistance in 2000 ($4 billion) through nongovernmental organizations than was given directly to foreign governments (est. $1.9 billion)” (Kinney, 2006, p. 3).

The military is one arm of the imperialist order, and the other arm is made up of NGOs (though often these two arms are interlocked, as even Colin Powell says in the introductory quote in this chapter). The political-economic program of neoliberalism is, as Hanieh (2006, p. 168) argues, the economic logic of the current imperialist drive. This agenda involves, among other policies, cutbacks to state services and social spending by governments in order to open up local economies to private and non-governmental interests. Indeed, the meteoric rise of NGOs, and the great increase in their numbers, came at a particular time in history: “the conservative governments of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher made support for the voluntary sector a central part of their strategies to reduce government social spending” (Salamon, 1994). By more or less direct means, sometimes diffuse and other times well-coordinated, the interests of the US and its allies can thus be pursued under the cover of humanitarian “aid,” “charity,” and “development assistance”.

In his extensive critique of neoliberalism, David Harvey (2005) credits the explosive growth of the NGO sector under neoliberalism with the rise of, “the belief that opposition mobilized outside the state apparatus and within some separate entity called ‘civil society’ is the powerhouse of oppositional politics and social transformation” (p. 78). Yet many of these NGOs are commanded by unelected and elite actors, who are accountable primarily to their chief sources of funds, which may include governments and usually includes corporate donors and private foundations. The broader point of importance is that this rise of NGOs under neoliberalism is also the period in which the concept of “civil society” has become central not just to the formulation of oppositional politics, as Harvey (2005, p. 78) argues, but also central to the modes of covert intervention and destabilization openly adopted by the US around the world. More on this just below, but first we need to pause and focus on this emergence of “civil society” as a topic in the new imperialism.

The “Civil Society” of the New Imperialism: Neoliberal Solutions to Problems Created by Neoliberalism

There has been a growing popularization of “civil society,” that James Ferguson, an anthropologist, even calls a “fad”. Part of the growing popularity of this concept is tied to some social scientists’ attraction to democratization, social movements and NGOs, and even some anthropologists have been inspired to recoup the local under the heading of “civil society” (Ferguson, 2007, p. 383). The very notion of “civil society” comes from 18th-century European liberal thought of the Enlightenment, as something that stood between the state and the family. “Civil society” has been universalized, with “little regard for historical context or critical genealogy”:

“this new conception (of ‘civil society’ as the road to democracy) not only met the political needs of the Eastern European struggle against communist statism, it also found a ready export market—both in the First World (where it was appropriated by conservative Reagan/Thatcher projects for ‘rolling back the state’) and in the Third World…”. (Ferguson, 2007, p. 384)

Today “civil society” has been reconceived as the road to democratization and freedom, and is explicitly promoted as such by the US State Department. Whether from the western left or right which have both appropriated the concern for “civil society,” Ferguson argues that the concept helps to legitimate a profoundly anti-democratic politics (2007, p. 385).

The African state, once held high as the chief engine of development, is now treated as the enemy of development and nation-building (especially by western elites), constructed as too bureaucratic, stagnant and corrupt. Now “civil society” is celebrated as the hero of liberatory change, and the aim is to get the state to become more aligned with civil society (Ferguson, 2007, p. 387). Not only that, the aim is to standardize state practices, so as to lessen or remove barriers to foreign penetration and to increase predictability of political outcomes and investment decisions (see Obama, 2013/7/1).

In practice, most writers conceive of contemporary “civil society” as composed of small, voluntary, grassroots organizations (which opens the door, conceptually, to the focus on NGOs). As Ferguson notes, civil society is largely made up of international organizations:

“For indeed, the local voluntary organizations in Africa, so beloved of ‘civil society’ theorists, very often, upon inspection, turn out to be integrally linked with national and transnational-level entities. One might think, for instance, of the myriad South African ‘community organizations’ that are bankrolled by USAID or European church groups; or of the profusion of ‘local’ Christian development NGOs in Zimbabwe, which may be conceived equally well as the most local, ‘grassroots’ expressions of civil society, or as parts of the vast international bureaucratic organizations that organize and sustain their deletion. When such organizations begin to take over the most basic functions and powers of the state, it becomes only too clear that ‘NGOs’ are not as ‘NG’ as they might wish us to believe. Indeed, the World Bank baldly refers to what they call BONGOs (Bank-organized NGOs) and now even GONGOs (Government-organized NGOs)”. (Ferguson, 2007, p. 391).

That NGOs serve the purpose of privatizing state functions, is also demonstrated by Schuller (2009) with reference to Haiti. NGOs provide legitimacy to neoliberal globalization by filling in the “gaps” in the state’s social services created by structural adjustment programs (Schuller, 2009, p. 85)—a neoliberal solution to a problem first created by neoliberalism itself. Moreover, in providing high-paying jobs to an educated middle class, NGOs serve to reproduce the global inequalities created by, and required by, neoliberal globalization (Schuller, 2009, p. 85). NGOs also work as “buffers between elites and impoverished masses” and can thus erect or reinforce “institutional barriers against local participation and priority setting” (Schuller, 2009, p. 85).

Thanks to neoliberal structural adjustment, INGOs and other international organizations (such as the UN, IMF, and World Bank) are “eroding the power of African states (and usurping their sovereignty),” and are busy making “end runs around these states” by “directly sponsoring their own programs or interventions via NGOs in a wide range of areas” (Ferguson, 2007, p. 391). INGOs and some local NGOs thus also serve the purposes of neoliberal interventionism.

Trojan Horses: NGOs, Human Rights, and Intervention to “Save” the “Needy”

David Harvey argues that “the rise of advocacy groups and NGOs has, like rights discourses more generally, accompanied the neoliberal turn and increased spectacularly since 1980 or so” (2005, p. 177). NGOs have been called forth, and have been abundantly provisioned as we saw above, in a situation where neoliberal programs have forced the withdrawal of the state away from social welfare. As Harvey puts it, “this amounts to privatization by NGO” (2005, p. 177). NGOs function as the Trojan Horses of global neoliberalism. Following Chandler (2002, p. 89), those NGOs that are oriented toward human rights issues and humanitarian assistance find support “in the growing consensus of support for Western involvement in the internal affairs of the developing world since the 1970s”. Moreover, as Horace Campbell explained,

“During the nineties military journals such as Parameters honed the discussion of the planning for the increased engagement of international NGO’s and by the end of the 20th century the big international NGO’s [like] Care, Catholic Relief Services, Save The Children, World Vision, and Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) were acting like major international corporations doing subcontracting work for the US military”. (Campbell (2014/5/2)

Private military contractors in the US, many of them part of Fortune 500 companies, are indispensable to the US military—and in some cases there are “clear linkages between the ‘development ‘agencies and Wall Street” as perhaps best exemplified by Casals & Associates, Inc., a subsidiary of Dyncorp, a private military contractor that was itself purchased by Cerberus Capital Management for $1.5 billion in 2010, and which received financing commitments from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Barclays, and Deutsche Bank (Campbell (2014/5/2). Casals declares that its work is about “international development,” “democracy and governance,” and various humanitarian aid initiatives, in over 25 countries, in some instances working in partnership with USAID and the State Department’s Office of Transition Initiatives (Campbell (2014/5/2).

In order for NGOs to intervene and take on a more prominent role, something else is required for their work to be carried out, in addition to gaining visibility, attracting funding and support from powerful institutions, and being well placed to capitalize on the opportunities created by neoliberal structural adjustment. They require a “need” for their work. In other words, to have humanitarian action, one must have a needy subject. As Andria Timmer (2010) explains, NGOs overemphasize poverty and stories of discrimination, in order to construct a “needy subject”—a population constructed as a “problem” in need of a “solution”. The needs identified by NGOs may not correspond to the actual needs of the people in question, but need, nonetheless, is the dominant discourse by which those people come to be defined as a “humanitarian project”. To attract funding, and to gain visibility by claiming that its work is necessary, a NGO must have “tales that inspire pathos and encourage people to act” (Timmer, 2010, p. 268). However, in constantly producing images of poverty, despair, hopelessness, and helplessness, NGOs reinforce “an Orientialist dialectic,” especially when these images are loaded with markers of ethnic otherness (Timmer, 2010, p. 269). Entire peoples then come to be known through their poverty, particularly by audiences in the global North who only see particular peoples “through the lens of aid and need” (Timmer, 2010, p. 269). In the process what is also (re)created is the anthropological myth of the helpless object, one devoid of any agency at all, one cast as a void, as a barely animate object through which we define our special subjecthood. By constructing the needy as the effectively empty, we thus monopolize not only agency but we also corner the market on “humanity”.

References

Anheier, H. K., & Themudo, N. (2005). The Internationalization of the Nonprofit Sector. In R. D. Herman (Ed.), The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management, 2nd ed. (pp. 102–127). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

Bloodgood, E., & Schmitz, H. P. (2012). Researching INGOs: Innovations in Data Collection and Methods of Analysis. Paper presented at the International Studies Association Annual Convention, March 31, San Diego, CA.
http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/hpschmitz/papers/researchingingos_february6.pdf

Boli, J. (2006). International Nongovernmental Organizations. In W. W. Powell & R. Steinberg (Eds.), The Nonprofit Sector (pp. 333–351). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Campbell, H. C. (2014/5/2). Understanding the US Policy of Diplomacy, Development, and Defense: The Office of Transition Initiatives and the Subversion of Societies. CounterPunch.
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/05/02/the-office-of-transition-initiatives-and-the-subversion-of-societies/

Chandler, D. (2002). From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention. London, UK: Pluto Press.

Ferguson, J. (2007). Power Topographies. In D. Nugent & J. Vincent (Eds.), A Companion to the Anthropology of Politics (pp. 383–399). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Hanieh, A. (2006). Praising Empire: Neoliberalism under Pax Americana. In C. Mooers (Ed.), The New Imperialists: Ideologies of Empire (pp. 167–198). Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications.

Harvey, D. (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

International Development Association (IDA). (2007). Aid Architecture: An Overview of the Main Trends in Official Development Assistance Flows. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
http://www.worldbank.org/ida/papers/IDA15_Replenishment/Aidarchitecture.pdf

Kinney, N. T. (2006). The Political Dimensions of Donor Nation Support for Humanitarian INGOs. Paper presented at the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) Conference, July 11, Bangkok, Thailand.
http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.istr.org/resource/resmgr/working_papers_bangkok/kinney.nancy.pdf

Makoba, J. W. (2002). Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) and Third World Development: An Alternative Approach to Development. Journal of Third World Studies, 19(1), 53–63.

Morton, B. (n.d.). An Overview of International NGOs in Development Cooperation. United Nations Development Program.
http://www.undp.org/content/dam/china/docs/Publications/UNDP-CH11%20An%20Overview%20of%20International%20NGOs%20in%20Development%20Cooperation.pdf

Obama, B. (2013/7/1). Remarks by President Obama at Business Leaders Forum. Washington, DC: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/07/01/remarks-president-obama-business-leaders-forum

Salamon, L. M. (1994). The Rise of the Nonprofit Sector. Foreign Affairs, July-August.
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/50105/lester-m-salamon/the-rise-of-the-nonprofit-sector

Schuller, M. (2009). Gluing Globalization: NGOs as Intermediaries in Haiti. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 32(1), 84–104.

Timmer, A. D. (2010). Constructing the “Needy Subject”: NGO Discourses of Roma Need. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 33(2), 264–281.

+++

GOOD INTENTIONSGOOD INTENTIONS

Norms and Practices of Imperial Humanitarianism

Edited by Maximilian C. Forte

Montreal, QC: Alert Press, 2014

Hard Cover ISBN 978-0-9868021-5-7
Paperback ISBN 978-0-9868021-4-0


Undermining Democracy Abroad

Public Good Project

May 23, 2014

by Jay Taber

propaganda

Mass consciousness regarding the abuse of power by the U.S. Government, now in the news thanks to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, has mostly focused on agencies that spy on innocent people using warrantless wiretaps and email intercepts. While these abuses by the National Security Agency and the Department of Justice are sometimes used against US citizens who challenge U.S. policy on such topics as imperial wars and corruption of governance by Wall Street, they are also used against elected U.S. officials, foreign diplomats, and United Nations personnel. As electronic data collection by commercial data brokers and identity theft criminals increasingly becomes a nuisance and menace, communications monitoring by the U.S. Government threatens free speech, peaceful assembly and the ability of civil society to hold government accountable.

Since the 1960s, the abuse of power by U.S. agencies like the FBI and CIA has become common knowledge. Their involvement in undermining the Civil Rights Movement at home and the human rights movement abroad is well-documented. Less well-known is the involvement of the U.S. State Department in the undermining of democracy abroad, through such programs like the National Endowment for Democracy, US Aid for International Development, and the United States Institute of Peace.

Personifying these fraudulent programs operating out of U.S. embassies in places like Bolivia, Libya and the Ukraine, is former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Armitage — who served at the State and Defense departments under George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush — is perhaps best known for leaking the identity of CIA secret agent Valerie Plame as retribution for her husband U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s contribution to the exposure of the fraudulent weapons of mass destruction rationale for the invasion of Iraq. While the yellowcake scandal was overshadowed by the Plame affair, it pointed to the systematic deception used by the State Department to justify overthrowing foreign governments.

Humanitarian Imperialism in Libya: Review of Slouching Towards Sirte by Damir Mirkovic

Zero Anthropology

March 13, 2014

by Damir Mirkovic

libyabanner

Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa
Maximilian Forte
Montreal, Baraka Books, 2012
341 pp, $17.95 (paper), ISBN 978 -1 -926824-52 -9

The post-WW II anti-colonialism is now reversed with a neocolonial thrust to Middle-East and Africa. The case of recent attack on Libya by NATO powers in support of the rebels against the Gaddafi’s regime is the essence of Forte’s critical and scholarly treatment of this contemporary problem.

Several writers – notably, Sartre  (1968), Dedijer ( 1962 and 1968), Markusen (1987 ) Mirkovic ( 2000 ), Lifton (2011 ) – have intimated that modern wars are genocidal. A careful reading of Maximilian Forte’s new book leaves little doubt that the attacks by NATO on Libya in 2011 are a good illustration of this point. When a targeted group or society is of a different culture, race or religion and is not in a position to defend itself adequately, due to a huge difference in military power, the most essential characteristics of genocide are present. Slouching Towards Sirte is a scholarly and well-documented account that gives reader the impression that “humanitarian missions” and the so-called “Responsibility to Protect” are just an ideological facade and smokescreen used to mask the raw imposition of power and punishment on the nations whose leaders dare to oppose the “new world order” of liberal democracy.

Maximilian Forte is Associate Professor of anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal, and his speciality is political anthropology. The six chapters of this book deal with what the title implies: In its support of rebel forces against Gaddafi’s government, NATO forces attacked a sovereign country and a member of UN, inflicting a huge devastation, and all this under the pretext of promoting human rights and “the responsibility to protect”. Moreover, we learn from Forte’s book that NATO helped, and in fact made possible, the mass killing of black Africans (Libyans and guest workers from the south). Protection of civilians from Gaddafi’s forces sounds hollow in view of the fact that such statements and media reports were never substantiated. “Foreign military intervention did, however, enable the actual genocidal violence that was routinely sidelined in the mass media and was discussed at the UN only once regime change either had occurred fully, or was close to doing so. That was a horrific violence against black African migrants and black Libyans, singled out solely on the basis of their skin colour, and persecuted as such, which fits the definition of genocide much better than violence against protesters.” (p. 240-241).

Forte’s main thesis is the claim that the attack on Libya was not about human rights, neither entirely about oil, but about the destruction of Gaddafi’s pan-African initiative, with the objective of counteracting western neo-colonialism. This – in addition to Gaddafi’s antagonizing of the Arab world – activated the Pentagon Africa Command (AFRICOM) to plan and launch the campaign against African countries to ensure neo-colonial submission to western powers. This is no doubt an original and realistic claim, which the author supports by the facts and analysis he provides throughout the book. In arguing his point Forte does not omit the clear calculation by the US to eliminate from African soil competitors such as Russia and China. Moreover, Forte shows to what extent the (false) claims of human rights violations by Libya government were based on sheer rumours and wishful thinking that justified the NATO air bombardment.

The almost total destruction of Libya’s new capital city Sirte by the rebel forces and NATO air strikes is simply mind-boggling. To illustrate this, it suffices to quote two sentences from Chapter 1: “While observing the destruction of Sirte throughout the course of NATO’s intervention, and particularly in the period from late August to late October 2011, or when visiting the aftermath of the catastrophic shattering of this small city (varyingly described as containing between 70,000 and 150,000 inhabitants), journalists repeatedly noted just how far from grace Sirte has been taken down. … That the slaughter in Sirte should have barely raised an eyebrow among the kinds of Western audiences and opinion leaders who just a few months before clamoured for “humanitarian intervention,” is thus the more striking.” (p. 41). Additionally, many humanitarian organizations, such as the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, including AVAAZ and the leftist groups in the West, including Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the UN, have acquiesced in raw aggression and even supported it. If we give credence to the facts and evidence presented by the author, we are left with the impression of western powers not evolving and departing from their old racist-colonial attitudes of subjugation and domination, followed by identity-difference and concomitant deference, which are all conducive to genocide. Thus the new reign of terror imposed by the winning side, with the help of the NATO’s air power, is also reminiscent of the worst cases of fascism in twentieth-century Europe. If Forte is right, similar war crimes (against peace and humanity), for which the Nazi leaders were accused and convicted in Nuremberg, were recently perpetrated by the NATO leaders and with impunity.

On the other hand were the cases of strong condemnation of the intervention in Libya by prominent leaders and diplomats from Arica. Among others, the most prominent were Jacob Zuma, the South African President; former South African President Thabo Mbeki; Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni; Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Ugandan permanent representative to the UN; and Dr. Chris Landsberg, Head of the Department of Politics at the University of Johannesburg. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela also condemned the attack, while Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe maintained friendly relations with Gaddafi.

The sources and data on which this book is based are varied and include published documents, press releases and journalistic accounts, reports of private intelligence firms, reports by human rights organizations, some NATO documents, first-hand reports of some of the foreign supporters of the Libyan government, UN documents and resolutions, and as a key sources, the U.S. Embassy cables published by WikiLeaks. The book has extensive references and a short Index. Numerous small photos are also included.

In the Preface, the author explains his understanding of the ethnographic requirement of “being there”, i.e. doing field research. He says that his focus is on the ideological smoke-screen raised across the world by the West. Therefore to him “being there” applies to all of us, because the “there” in question is “composed of our militaries, our ideologies, our fantasies of control, our preferred self-image” (p. 11). As Forte delineates his objective: “This book intends to sketch out this context, while providing a critique of the political culture of late imperialist societies in the West, the kind of morality that is refashioned for mass consumption, and the vision of humanity that is imbedded within NATO and U.S. foreign policy narratives.” (p. 11). Undoubtedly, the author has accomplished this objective successfully and by publishing this book has laid the ground-work for critical anthropology. On the whole, the book is a powerful argument against the humanitarian myth promoted by western powers to mask the imposition of their dominance on other societies. Unfortunately, this fact is ignored by many, who ostrich-like prefer to put their heads in sand.

Damir Mirkovic
Professor Emeritus, Sociology
Brandon University

 


SLOUCHING TOWARDS SIRTE

 

Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa
Maximilian Forte
Paperback and E-book: 352 pages
Publisher: Baraka Books (November 28, 2012)

 

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Review: Slouching Towards Sirte | NATO’s War on Libya & Africa

sirte-after-nato-bombardments

ZCommunications

Feb 1, 2014

by Edward S. Herman

Review on “Slouching Towards Sirte, NATO’s War on Libya & Africa” authored by Maximilian Forte

Baraka Books: Montreal CA 2012, 352 pp.

Maximilian Forte’s book on the Libyan war, Slouching Towards Sirte, is another powerful (and hence marginalized) study of the imperial powers in violent action, and with painful results, but supported by the UN, media, NGOs and a significant body of liberals and leftists who had persuaded themselves that this was a humanitarian enterprise. Forte shows compellingly that it wasn’t the least little bit humanitarian, either in the intent of its principals (the United States, France, and Great Britain) or in its results. As in the earlier cases of “humanitarian intervention” the Libyan program rested intellectually and ideologically on a set of supposedly justifying events and threats that were fabricated, selective, and/or otherwise misleading, but which were quickly institutionalized within the Western propaganda system. (For the deceptive model applied in the war on Yugoslavia, see Herman and Peterson, “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,” Monthly Review, October 2007; for the propaganda model applied to Rwanda, see Herman, “Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa,” Z Magazine, January2014.)

The Humanitarian Industry: A “Force Multiplier” for Imperialism

WSWS

December 30 2013

By Nancy Hanover 

Humanitarianism Contested, Where Angels Fear to Tread, by Michael Barnett and Thomas G. Weiss

Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in November, once again highlighted the nature of internationally-organized humanitarian aid: the paucity of real help and the exploitation of such crises by the Great Powers to further their own geo-strategic and military agendas.

The pattern, from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, has become brutally apparent. Food and medical support is woefully inadequate, administered by a patchwork of uncoordinated agencies, each with its own agenda. No lasting improvements are made to forestall the next disaster.

The most striking continuity to the pattern is, however, the fact that humanitarian responses by International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) are increasingly dominated by the military. In the wake of the typhoon in the Philippines, the arrival of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, with its seven warships, reflects the preoccupation of the American government with its “pivot” to Asia and associated military preparations against China.

The role of INGOs as a Trojan Horse for world imperialism was also demonstrated in the propaganda lead-up to the planned shock-and-awe style assault against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last August-September. Among the most strident voices was that of Bernard Kouchner, the co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders—MSF) and former foreign minister in the right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy. He impatiently asked in late July, “The famous American drones, where are they?” imploring the imperialist powers to take military action in the name of humanitarianism.[1]