As listeners of my recent conversation with Christoph Germann will know, Kyrgyzstan has just made a bold move to cancel a cooperation treaty with the US that has been in place since 1993. The treaty granted tax breaks and customs privileges to organizations like the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and gave their workers diplomatic immunity in the country.
All of that came to an end last month, after the US granted a human rights award to Azimjon Askarov, an activist swept up and thrown in jail for life for “creating a threat to civil peace and stability in society” after the Uzbek riots in south Kyrgyzstan in 2010.
Reaction from the usual western outlets was swift and predictable: Kyrgyzstan has lost its mind. Or, to be more precise: it’s all Putin’s fault. Somehow. But don’t worry, the US will continue aiding Kyrgyzstan anyway whether they like it or not, because that’s just how they roll. Go Team America!
But hold on a minute. If you’re watching the newswires closely enough, you’ll start to notice a pattern:
Kyrgyzstan has just stripped USAID of its special privileges in their country.
And Russia has just officially declared the National Endowment for Democracy to be an undesirable NGO in the territory of Russia.
And China has just introduced a Foreign NGO Management Law that will require overseas NGOs to register with the government and have their activities more closely monitored.
And in 2013, Bolivia kicked USAID out of the country with Ecuador following suit later the same year.
And earlier this year the Indian government added the Ford Foundation to a security watch list and will hold all payments from the fund for approval before disbursements are made.
What on earth is going on? Why are all of these countries (including 3 of the 5 BRICS members and other countries in 2D geopolitical conflict with the US) kicking out all of these US-based nongovernmental and quasi-governmental entities? Why would they be opposed to charity and aid?
The answer is not difficult to understand. These organizations are Trojan horses: designed to appear as gifts, but containing secret trap doors through which hidden forces can enter the country and covertly undermine the governments in question. This explanation only sounds outlandish to those who look no further than the organizations’ names and have no idea of their history of operations.
Take USAID for example. Created in 1961 by executive order, it’s a US government agency that seeks “to end extreme poverty and to promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity.” So why did President Morales kick them out of Bolivia in 2013? Because he’s crazy and irrational? Or because USAID ran a program through its remarkably frankly named Office of Transition Initiatives that provided $10.5 million of funding for “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” throughout the country, including in opposition stronghold areas? Was it paranoia on Morales’ part, or merely the recognition that mealy-mouthed rhetoric about “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” is a thinly veiled euphemism for “overthrowing the government,” exactly as leaked diplomatic documents proved was the case for USAID’s identically named program in Venezuela?
Should governments trust USAID after it was revealed that the agency secretly created its own social media network in Cuba for the express purpose of undermining the Castro government? Or when it came out last year that USAID had sent a team of agents to Cuba under the guise of “health and civic programs” to incite rebellion amongst youth, including creating a phoney HIV-prevention workshop that the agency itself described as the “perfect excuse” to “identify potential social-change actors?” Or when it was revealed that the agency had attempted (and miserably failed) to infiltrate Cuba’s hip-hop scene “to break the information blockade” and spark a youth movement of “social change” in the country?
In fact, USAID’s black ops programs for undermining foreign governments go all the way back to the founding of the agency itself and would require an entire article unto itself to elaborate. Some of the lowlights include USAID’s “Office of Public Safety” and its part in running a CIA front program for training foreign police in torture and terror tactics in Latin America; co-funding (with the CIA) the opium-smuggling Xieng Khouang Air Transport, a private airline for narcotics trafficker (and CIA point man in Laos) General Vang Pao; and co-funding opposition groups in Ukraine prior to the coup with Glenn Greenwald-backer Pierre Omidyar.
This is not to say that none of USAID’s programs are of any value as actual assistance programs. The agency wouldn’t be able to serve its role as an effective backer of covert destabilization activities if it didn’t provide some actual aid to its target countries. The State Department’s list of USAID programs in Kyrgyzstan, for example, provides some examples of fairly innocuous programs. But any country that is in the US State Department’s crosshairs and allows USAID unfettered access to its country (or even diplomatic immunity, as Kyrgyzstan did) is simply asking for trouble. It is only a wonder that the backlash against USAID didn’t begin long ago.
But the NGO-as-Trojan-horse problem is by no means confined to USAID. Take the National Endowment for Democracy as another example.
The official story is that the NED was created in 1983 by an act of Congress in order to “encourage the establishment and growth of democratic development” in target countries around the world in line with US foreign policy goals. The actual story is that the NED was created expressly as a front for funding CIA activities inside target countries, a fact that Allen Weinstein, one of the members of the study group that led to NED’s founding, openly bragged about in the Washington Post: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” Even more blatant is an admission by then-Director of Central Intelligence William Casey, who wrote a memo to the White House advocating for the creation of NED but cautioning that “we here [at the CIA] should not get out front in the development of such an organization, nor do we wish to appear to be a sponsor or advocate.”
NED’s participation in covert destabilization campaigns rivals that of the USAID and, like USAID, involves too many operations to detail them all here. Lowlights include:
-Bankrolling the “Project Democracy” program that became the core of Oliver North’s secret government during the Iran-Contra years.
-Manipulating the elections in Nicaragua in 1990 to oust Ortega and the Sandinistas.
-Overthrowing the governments of Bulgaria in 1990 and Albania in 1991.
-Backing every major color revolution of the modern period, from the Rose (Georgia), Tulip (Kyrgyzstan) and Orange (Ukraine) revolutions a decade ago to the recent (unsuccessful) “Electric Yerevan” in Armenia, and many others in between…
Sadly, there are no shortage of loosely affiliated NGOs and quasi-governmental organizations that populate this covert operation space around the globe, from the Soros-linked Open Society Foundations to the neocon-run Freedom House and many others.
As much as the State Department puppets and intelligence apologists of the powers-that-shouldn’t-be want to pretend that any country that doesn’t accept their Trojan horses are crazy, the fact is that every country knows that such organizations are prime candidates for smuggling covert operatives into foreign countries. This is precisely why Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in 1938. FARA is essentially the same type of legislation that is now being passed in China, but when they do it it’s craziness; when the US did it 70 years ago it was just good common sense.
If there is any good to come out of this, it is that the public is increasingly aware of these types of covert activities, and, perhaps more to the point, victims of these operations are now more willing to stand up to the US (and suffer its potential diplomatic wrath) by scrutinizing, monitoring, watchlisting, regulating, or even kicking out these agents of chaos.
As the world is increasingly beginning to realize, sometimes a “gift” is better left unopened.
James Corbett is the man behind the Corbett Report, an independent, listener-supported alternative news source. He is also an editorial writer for The International Forecaster, the weekly e-newsletter created by the late Bob Chapman.
This article appeared on The International Forecaster.