Peoples’ Movements or “DOLLAR CHASING DEMOCRACY VENDORS”?
The year 2011 was marked by the birth of the ‘Arab Spring’ where the
long-repressed Arab masses, and youth in particular, rose up against
aging dictators. At last it seems that freedom and democracy will dawn
in the Arab world, but, when these uprisings moved to Libya and now to
Syria, big question marks have come up whether these are really peoples’
movements or are they manipulated from outside with sinister motives?
A Syrian man walks amid destruction in the northern Syrian
city of Aleppo. AFP
The Anglo-American media – such as the BBC, CNN and a host of others
including Al Jazeera (the English channel mainly staffed by
Anglo-American journalists anyway) – have manipulated news feeds to
cheer lead some “uprisings” such as in Libya and Syria, while quickly
forgetting others such as in Bahrain and ramblings in Saudi Arabia.
Thus, one wonders whether we are seeing a new era of colonialism through
manipulated global news feeds instead of gunboats, where local civil
society groups are becoming “democracy vendors” chasing the “donor”
When youth uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt got rid of long-serving
pro-Western dictators it seemed as if the youth of the Arab world were
finally rising against dictators who had served Western capitalism well
but not their own people. But, when the revolution spread to Libya and
the haste at which the controversial 'Responsibility To Protect ' (R2P)
formula – for long espoused by the International Crisis Group led by
former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans – was adopted by the EU
and the U.S. to create a no-fly zone in Libya under the pretext of
protecting civilians in Benghazi from a possible assault by pro-Gaddafi
Forces, the Western powers' manipulation of the Arab Spring uprisings
soon became blatantly clear.
Once China and Russia were pressured into abstaining from vetoing the
'no-fly zone' resolution at the UN Security Council the path was paved
for regime change. The NATO bombing campaign in Libya against civilian
population centres under Gaddafi rule, made a mockery of the R2P
formula. As many critics inside and outside the West have pointed out
these NATO bombing campaigns and the way Gaddafi and his son were killed
amounted to war crimes.
Muammar Gaddafi, Nicolas Sarkozy,
On November 1, 2011 Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal
Court 's chief prosecutor, told the United Nations that NATO troops
would be investigated alongside rebel soldiers and regime forces for
alleged breaches of the laws of war during the battle to overthrow Col
Muammar Gaddafi. But, compared to the hounding of the Sri Lanka
government after it crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
to end the 30-year old civil war there, the Western media and the human
rights organisations, which consistently accuse developing country
governments of war crimes, have been silent on this one. Now a new
battleground seems to be Syria, where the Western media, and BBC in
particular, has been exposed for spreading propaganda against the Assad
regime in Syria as news.
Rape and torture – weapons of democracy peddlers
Eric Draitser, a geopolitical analyst at Stopimperialism.com observed
that rape and torture have become standard issue in the propaganda
arsenal of Western media. “Reports from organizations such as Human
Rights Watch (HRW) and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that claim to
document the systematic use of rape and torture by the ‘enemies’ of the
West have become usual fair in the soft war against whomever the
imperialists have chosen to attack”, he noted. “We have seen these
claims used to legitimize aggression against Libya, Iraq, and now
Gareth Evans, Vladimir Putin
As a typical example he points out an article in UK’s The Telegraph
under the heading ‘Syria using rape as weapon against opposition women
and men’ published on May 29 this year. It quotes New York based HRW
Deputy Director for the Middle East, Nadim Khoury at the beginning of
the article as saying: "In detention facilities rape is clearly used as
a form of torture to humiliate and degrade people, and to bring back the
wall of fear.” There is no reference to Syria in this quote, but the
rest of the article is a series of quotes by “refugees”, who have fled
across the border from Syria and “activists”. They are all anonymous,
because only a common first name is used. Draiter points out that there
is no mention of actual Syrian Forces engaging in these actions.
Instead, it is all chalked up to ‘militias loyal to the Assad regime’,
without explanation who they are.
In the run-up to the attacks against Libya last year, the lie that
Gaddafi Forces were using rape as a weapon was planted in the public
mind, providing NATO the human rights cover they so desperately needed
for their “intervention”. Of course, as is so often the case, the fact
that these claims were later proven untrue went conveniently missing
from the standard narrative. “But, by the time the myth was debunked,
the PR damage was done: Gaddafi was a monster, the Benghazi ‘rebels’ and
NTC (National Transition Council) were heroic freedom fighters, and
Libya was in dire need of the benevolent bombs of NATO” argues Draiter.
Who makes these claims are also important in the propaganda war. The
UNHRC, HRW, Amnesty International and countless other organizations
which are dependent on funding from sources mainly within the US, lent
credence to such charges. The fact that they are often quoted by the
Western media and in turn relayed without criticism or questioning by
the mainstream media around the world, gives legitimacy to Western
interventions and ‘regime change’ campaigns such as in Libya.
Manipulation of imagery
In May, the Russian TV channel RT exposed a BBC news scam where they
have posted on their website a picture of a small child jumping over
dozens of white body bags under the heading “Syria massacre in Houla
condemned as outrage grows”. The caption stated that the photograph was
provided by an activist and cannot be independently verified, but said
it is “believed to show the bodies of children in Houla awaiting
burial”. The actual photograph was taken in March 2003 in Iraq by
photographer Marco di Lauro, who works for the picture agency Getty
Images. When he came forward and claimed its copyright the BBC quickly
took it off their website.
A very useful tool the Western media has used, especially the BBC,
CNN and Channel Four in Britain is the video clip provided by activists
taken on mobile phones. Often they broadcast these without
authentication and international human rights agencies including some UN
agencies lap onto these to attack governments for human rights
violations. Syria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Libya, Iran, Russia and a host of
other countries whose leaders are not subservient to Western interests
have faced the wrath of this news manipulation in recent years.
The new face of colonialism
How Gaddafi was overthrown and a new government was set up is a very
important lesson for countries of the South who are either rich in
resources or is strategically important for Western powers. While
demonizing Gaddafi with trivial stories, the Western media ignored
facts, which would have shown that Gaddafi did look after his people
well, even though they were not allowed to criticize him like the
dictators in most pro-Western Arab regimes do.
For example, in Gaddafi’s Libya education was free to everyone from
elementary school right up to university and post-graduate study, at
home or abroad, Libyans enjoyed free health care, with a ratio of one
doctor per 673 citizens. Libyans were given interest free housing loans,
free land for farmers. In 2010, Libya had no external debt and its
reserves amount to US$150 billion. Abdurrahim Abdulhafiz El-Keib, who
served as Libya’s Interim Prime Minister from November 24, 2011 to
November 11, 2012 has spent decades in the United States teaching at
Alabama University. He is also a former employee of the Petroleum
Institute, based in Abu Dhabi, and sponsored by British Petroleum (BP),
Shell and France's Total. Current Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was a
Geneva-based human rights lawyer, who is believed to have played a
crucial role in persuading the French President Nicolas Sarkozy to
support the anti-Gaddafi Forces.
It is interesting how the new form of colonialism works. First you
get the so-called civil society groups who are funded and trained by the
Western powers to provide a pro-democracy movement from within (or among
exile groups in the West). When these attract violent reprisals from
Security Forces (who are often provoked) it creates the excuse for
“humanitarian intervention” the so-called ‘R2P’ gospel. Three hundred
years ago it were the Christian missionaries who followed the gunboats,
today international human rights groups like HRW and International
Crisis Group have taken over that role to civilize the natives.
They would help to provide the cover of a new dawn of democracy with
a sham election - which will be praised by the Western media as a
reflection of new found freedom for the long repressed people - and this
will pave the way for their choice, usually a technocrat who has been
based in the West and a "native" just by name to take over the helms.
NGO funding under scrutiny
No wonder that recently, governments around the world have begun to
look at such democracy movements with a high degree of suspicion. With
the rapid escalation of "democracy movements" across the world,
governments, local researchers and media, along with a number of
independent websites modeled on 'wikileaks' have been uncovering
mounting evidence of Western funded local NGOs acting as "content
providers" to Western media outlets to discredit their own governments.
Lately these pro-democracy movements have even taken a new face as
corruption campaigners and environmental activists.
Two of the biggest funders of such "pro-democracy" campaigners are
the US-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Open Society
Foundation run by financial speculator George Soros.
The list of projects funded by the NED across the world in 2011 is
available on their website and it makes interesting reading.
In Myanmar 56 projects have been funded to the tune of USD 3.4
million, in China 23 projects have received a sum of USD 5.16 million,
while in Egypt 40 projects were funded for a sum of USD 2.5 million,
Iraq had 51 projects at USD 3.4 million, while four projects in Syria
were funded for a sum of USD 649,000 and Libya received USD 473,000 for
five projects. No projects were funded in Bahrain (where the US's 7th
Fleet is based and pro-democracy uprisings by pro-Iranian Shia groups
have been crushed) while only one project each in Saudi Arabia and Gulf
states were funded, though these countries lack democracy, but are
subservient to the West.
Most of the projects generally cover areas such as human rights,
pro-democracy and alternative media, labour rights and good governance.
The Saudi project was for women's voices in community affairs, in
China most of the money were allocated for human rights groups, while in
Myanmar most of the funding was for projects to strengthen civil society
and promote human rights.
There are hardly any projects that address issues such as
international trade justice, human rights of migrant workers, promotion
of public funding for social welfare or promotion of the millennium
development goals as a human rights issue. There are however, many
projects that promote development of private enterprise. The fact that
most of the projects are geared towards confronting governments on human
rights issues such as freedom of expression and right to demonstrate
should raise the question whether those NGOs are peddling democracy for
In the past year or so, a number of governments such as India,
Russia, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Bolivia, Egypt and Malaysia have taken
action by legislating to monitor foreign funding to NGOs and make them
In February last year, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blamed
US-funded activists for the protests against a Russian-built nuclear
plant in Kundankulam in Tamil Nadu state, and de-registered three local
NGOs involved in the protest. India has also moved to tighten
regulations on foreign funding of NGOs.
Egypt also began a crack-down on foreign-funded NGOs with 43 NGO
workers including 19 Americans, charged in an Egyptian criminal court
over illegally using foreign funds to encourage unrest in the country
Egypt's ruling military council vowed to investigate how
pro-democracy and human rights organisations are funded, and has
repeatedly said it will not tolerate foreign interference in the
Last July, Russia passed new laws that require NGOs receiving foreign
funds to register as "foreign agents". President Putin accused Hillary
Clinton of "sending signals" to the opposition to rise up in revolt and
called Russians working for foreign- funded NGOs "jackals". The new law
would force many NGOs to register as "foreign agents" and submit to
stringent monitoring, facing crippling fines for failure to do so.
Recently, The Malaysian government has been worried about foreign
funds flowing into the coffers of NGOs that are campaigning against
corruption, but, are actually aligned with the election campaign of
opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, a well-known pro-Western politician in
Prof Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim the nation's well-known historian, who also
sits on the board of Integrity Institute of Malaysia said foreign
funding for NGOs makes the public very uncomfortable and suspicious of
"It also makes one to question whether the NGOs are in it for the
money or for a cause," he noted. "They claim to fight for justice and
human rights, but foreign funding raises so many questions. It's not
morally right to receive such funding, but if you have to get it, please
declare it publicly".