Saturday, March 31, 2012

Revolutionary Freedom

Freedom. It is a something that every person wants and deserves to have, from the freedom to speak their mind without fear of persecution to the freedom to practice their religion of choice to the freedom from government involvement in their private lives. Freedoms such as these are quite important, however, freedom needs to be taken beyond matters such as these and into the territory of revolutionary freedom in order for us to truly be free.

Revolutionary freedom must be looked at in three distinct, yet interconnected ways: intellectual, political, and economic.

It has been said for quite some time that history is written by the victors. This is quite true, but there must be a closer examination of the type of history that is written by these victors. Usually, in the case of the United States, Britain, France, and other imperial colonizing powers, the histories of entire peoples and regions were rewritten to enforce racial and cultural inferiority of an indigenous population while elevating the race and culture of the colonial powers. The colonized were stripped of their actual history and had it replaced with one that was full of fabrications and distortions. This not only destroyed the indigenous population on a cultural level, but also destroyed them on a psychological level as it resulted in the near decimation of the identity of the colonized people.

In order to increase the intellectual destruction of the indigenous identity, new language was created to enforce that racial differences between colonizer and colonized and to enforce the inferiority of the latter. This resulted in a colonization of the mind in which the indigenous peoples were further degraded and more likely to develop a sense of self-hatred in which they would attempt to detach themselves from their identity in order to be more like their oppressors.

This destruction of history and of self-identity has affected people all over the world. Yet there is hope. It can be overcome by people writing histories from their points of view, whether it be in a nonfictional or fictional manner. What matters is that people write the history of their country from their point of view. This would aid in the reestablishment of their identities and the reclaiming of their history.

Currently, around the world the United States and other Western powers are propping up corrupt and morally bankrupt regimes such as the regimes of Saudi Arabia, which hasn’t been affected by the Arab Spring, and Bahrain, which has been murdering its own civilians for quite some time. There are also many corrupt regimes in Africa whose leaders borrow money from the World Bank and the IMF and, rather than using it to improve the quality of life for ordinary citizens, embezzle large amounts of it for personal use. Both external forces and government incompetence/corruption are major problems that result in the people having to pay the price.

Yet, this price is paid multiple times. It is paid in that the country as a whole is not allowed to chart its own political destiny. It is paid in the form of the social genocide that is austerity, when the World Bank and the IMF come in with their structural adjustment programs, in order to get back the money owed to them with interest. It is paid in the form of the sovereignty of a country being handed over to foreign powers that care not about the citizens, but rather about the resources that a country has and how it plays into their larger geo-political chess game.

This can change only when the people rise up and take back their country. This occurred somewhat in the Arab Spring, but the end results are still quite murky. In taking back their country, the people must institute systems that are accountable, transparent, and have the national interest at heart, for without all three, one runs the risk of returning to a corrupt regime. Yet in doing this, one must be careful as to not allow for foreign influences to come into play and unravel the struggle and sacrifice that people have made to get to that point.

Just as important, perhaps even more so, to reclaiming the political sphere is the reclamation of the economic sphere. In so-called Third World nations, countries are routinely pillaged by the West in the form of the IMF and the World Bank as to allow for Western corporations to come in and control the economic resources, which ultimately allows for these same corporations to control a country’s political destiny. These leeches need to be ejected and the economy taken back in the form of it being used to produce for the many and increase the national wealth as a whole. The money gained would be reinvested by the government into developing a quality education program and develop new industries. The reclamation of the economy is of crucial importance because without economic liberation, there can be no political liberation. This can be seen in countries on the continent of Africa, where they are politically independent, but exercise no economic independence.

All of these are interconnected due to the fact that without intellectual freedom, we will not know who we are and how we got to this point in history. Without knowing how we got here, we won’t be able to take back the political and economic system and if we aren’t able to take back the economic system, than political freedom is meaningless.

In order to truly be free, we must have revolutionary freedom.

Bye-bye Dollar: BRICS Doesn't Trust The Buck

BRICS is a group of countries banding together in a troubled world economy. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are countries that make up 42 percent of the world's population, a quarter of its landmass and 75 percent of the foreign reserve worldwide. The BRICS influence on the global stage is growing and with their growing power they have plans to form a new joint development bank. To talk more about this issue RT's Liz Wahl is joined by Andrew Gavin Marshall of 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Syrian War Crimes

Today it was reported by the New York Times that the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report stating that the Syrian opposition was committing war crimes. Specifically, the Times stated that the rebels had been accused of a “catalog of abuses including ‘kidnapping, detention and torture of security force members, government supporters and people identified as members of pro-government militias, called shabiha.’” When one looks at the report itself (there is also a public letter to the leaders of the Syrian opposition) , it states that HRW has also “received reports of executions by armed opposition groups of security force members and civilians” and that “Some of the statements collected suggest that certain armed attacks by opposition groups were motivated by anti-Shia or anti-Alawite sentiments arising from the association of these communities with government policies.

These reports only bolster the ignored Arab League Observer Mission Report which stated that an “armed entity” exists and has been “involved in the killings of civilians and police as well as the conduct of terrorist acts, which in turn have contributed to triggering actions by government forces.” In addition to this, one must note the connections between statement that some armed attacks “were motivated by anti-Shia or anti-Alawite sentiments” and the fact that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Al Qaeda who are all Sunni and aiding the fight against the Al Assad, whose government is Shia. It is also important to note that the Alawite minority practices Shia Islam. Thus, for the regional actors, this is a battle of Sunni and Shia.

Finally, it should be noted that there are many similarities between the Syrian rebels and the Libyan rebels. The Libyan rebels launched a media propaganda war against Gaddafi, must like how Al Jazeera has lied about the ongoing events in Syria. In addition to this, much like the Syrian rebels, the Libyan rebels also committed war crimes.

While there are those who may be pushing for intervention into Syria, they may want to rethink it the situation in light of this new information. The situation may end up much worse as the Libyan rebels were linked to Al Qaeda and the NTC is now going to enact Sharia law. We should not want the same fate for the people of Syria.

A Ugandan View of ‘KONY 2012′

A Ugandan View of ‘KONY 2012′: War Criminal by Franchise

By: Paulo Wangoola 

As I viewed the video my mind wondered and settled far away from Joseph Kony.  Kony is a mere case of the numerous questionable leaders, past and contemporary, who have emerged in Afrika, and have actively prosecuted horrendous war on the people, particularly women and children; for example Botha, De Clerk, Mobutu, Savimbi, Kabila, Kagame, Amin, Obote, Museveni, Ben Ali, Hosni Mubaraka, Bokassa, etc, etc.  How come all these leaders have gained, consolidated and entrenched their power with the active support of the Coordinate White Republic of Europe and North America?  Why is it that as a rule, the Coordinate White Republic is the last to abandon Afrika’s dictators, although even then, only after they have groomed a new and better dictator; that is when they can confidently announce the dictator is dead; long live dictatorship?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Evolution of the Prison

The Evolution of the Prison: From Rehabilitation to Punishment

While there was an intellectual basis for using prisons as a way to ‘rehabilitate’ prisoners, there were soon major changes in prisons. Due to a series of changes, the prison became a place, not for a criminal to be rehabilitated, but rather, for them to be punished.

Prisons began to change after the Revolutionary War. In Philadelphia, due to prisoners being engaged in hard labor and this causing fear among the populace, people began to form groups such as The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Misery of Public Prisons, which argued for prison reform. This push for prison reform culminated in the creation of the Walnut Street prison.

Two major figures involved in Walnut Street were Caleb Lownes and Dr. Benjamin Rush. Rush would eventually become involved in the Walnut Street Prison, but he came into the world of prisons when he went to Europe in 1768 where he “mingled among scientists, philosophers and literati, listening to progressive European theories about such issues as crime and punishment that would eventually follow him to America.” [1] In Europe he was exposed to the notion that crime was a ‘moral disease.’ This thought would stay with him when he came back to the States and began to argue that crime could be solved by creating a ‘house of repentance’ which would allow for the rehabilitation of criminals.

Once back in the United States, Rush wrote a book entitled An Enquiry Into The Effects Of Public Punishment Upon Criminals, And Upon Society. In it he argued that criminals could not be reformed by public punishments, such as floggings, due to the fact that such punishments “[are] always connected with infamy [and thus destroy] in him the sense of shame, which is one of the strongest out-posts of virtue” and “[are] generally of such short duration, as to produce none of those changes in body or mind, which are absolutely necessary to reform obstinate habits of vice.” Rush’s final argument was that public punishments actually increase crime as “the man who has lost his character at a whipping-post has nothing valuable left to lose” and due to his punishment, the criminal

probably feels a spirit of revenge against t he w hole community whose laws have inflicted his punishment upon him; and hence he is stimulated to add to the number and enormity of his outrages upon society. [2]

From this manner of thinking he then argued that the only way this situation could be remedied was to fix punishment. He argued that the punishments “if they were moderate, just, and private” and the fact of the certainty of being punished “would lead [the criminal] to connect the beginning of his repentance with the last words of his sentence of condemnation [the length of the punishment].” [3] In his mind, this goal could be achieved by building “a large house” to hold those who violated the law.

He eventually found a kindred spirit in Ben Franklin and together, along with several others, they established The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Misery of Public Prisons in 1787 with the goal being to “substitute public labor for imprisonment, a less costly arrangement than imprisonment while avoiding a return to floggings and dismemberment.” [4]

Caleb Lownes was a Quaker and began life as an iron merchant and gained immense status in his role of combating an onslaught of yellow fever in 1793. He became involved in prisons when he joined the Philadelphia Society, where he soon became a leading member. The two would eventually become the heads of the Walnut Street prison.

Walnut, being the first prison in America, was quite interesting in its layout as prisoners were held in certain places depending on their crime. In addition to this the layout of the prison, it also served the purpose of attempting to reform prisoners via solitary confinement and hard labor.

Under Lownes, Walnut changed and a wide variety of handicrafts such as shoe making, weaving, and tailoring were introduced to the prison. During his time at Walnut, Lownes wrote a book that stimulated legislatures in other states to reform their criminal codes as “News of the success of the penitentiary house, where convicts were confined to separate cells at night and released to work in the courtyard or shops during the day, attracted a stream of visitors.” [5]

Another influential figure among the early prison system was Thomas Eddy. Eddy was a merchant and an admirer of the Philadelphia prison reform society and wanted to see those same reforms made in New York. In 1796, he worked with General Philip Schulyer and Ambrose Spencer, two influential politicians in the New York State Senate, to get a bill establishing a state prison passed in the legislature. This bill allowed for several crimes that used to get one the death penalty, to be punished with life imprisonment and made radical changes to the punishment for criminal activity and created different lengths of punishment based on the frequency of the crime. In the book Observations on Penal Jurisprudence and The Reformation of Criminals it reads:

By this law, which has since received several amendments, all those crimes (excepting treason and murder which continue capital) that were before punished with death were punishable by imprisonment for life; all offences above the degree of petty larceny, are punishable for the first offence by imprisonment, for a term not exceeding fourteen years, and for a second offence for life. […] Forfeiture of goods and lands, except for treason, deodands, and corporal punishments, were wholly abolished. [6] (emphasis added)

The changes are so radical due to the fact that they depart from the traditional thinking of its time where one could be punished either by death, public punishment, or confiscation of goods and land. Instead, it allows for the establishment of a prison and due to these changes in law solidifies the prison as the major means of punishment.

After the bill was signed into law, Eddy became the commissioner of the prison (known as Newgate) and advocated a single cell system in which each convict would be in their own personal cell during the night, but overall followed the Walnut prison model which advocated congregate rooms and workshops.

Eddy advocated this single cell system as “He found, from careful observation, that several [prisoners] confined in a cell corrupted each other, for each one told to his companions his career of vice, and all joined in the sympathetic villainy of to keep each other countenance.” [7] It was not immediately accepted in New York, but it was implemented in England after Eddy wrote to Patrick Colquhoun as well as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The single cell system was implemented on a small scale in Newgate due to other commissioners being fearful of such a new and untested plan.

However, Eddy’s thinking on prisons would soon change. In 1802, a bloody riot and mass escape attempt took place that was only foiled due to calling in military forces. This caused a shift in Eddy’s view on the structure of prisons. He began to think “that the design of Newgate was a mistake that only an entirely new building could rectify” and that the problem could be solved “with singles cells for the separate confinement of all inmates at night and with shops for their labor in strict silence on weekdays.” [8] Eddy would eventually resign from his position at Newgate, yet he didn’t give up on prison reform and continued to push his single cell plan. Eventually, it would take root.

In the early 19th century, specifically after the War of 1812, four distinct prison patterns emerged: 1) The solitary system pushed by the Philadelphia Society, 2) A balance between congregate labor and separate confinement with strong discipline, 3) The establishment of separate houses of refuge to take children out of prisons, and 4) The resurrection and reestablishment of prisons to deal with the problem of excess prison populations. These patterns were quite important as they would provide models for prisons to base themselves on for the next 50 years.

In New York, overall population increase prompted a change in the prison system. The establishment of the Auburn Penitentiary was an attempt to handle the population increase. However, even though it had a total of 61 single cells and 28 congregate rooms, this proved inadequate.

Thomas Eddy began to rally support to implement his new single cell plan by forming the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism in New York. In 1822, the group released a book entitled Report on the Penitentiary System in the United States. In it, the group recommended many suggestions that would aid Eddy’s cause, among them that “the internal construction of our penitentiaries be altered,” “when solitary confinement is not adopted, the classification of prisoners be rigidly embraced,” and “that every convict sleep in a solitary cell.” [9] The group argued in favor of solitary confinement, saying that “Where solitary confinement has been tried, it has produced the most powerful of consequences” and, using examples from prisons in New York and Pennsylvania, stated that even the hardest of criminals “[had], in a few weeks, been reduced, by solitary confinement and low diet, to a state of the deepest penitence.” [10] Thus, there was in fact evidence that solitary confinement did make it easier for a prisoner to become ‘repentant.’ The state legislature was influenced this evidence and the fact that there was mounting disorder in congregate cells and authorized the implementation of a separate cell system in April 1819.

This creation of a separate cell system changed the structure of prisons and was first implemented in the Auburn prison. William Brittin, the first warden of Auburn, supervised the construction of the north wing which had separate cells. He may have been influenced by the plan of the Ghent House of Correction in 1773 as “on paper [the layout of the prison] appears to show a block of inside cells built back-to-back in one spoke of its octagonal structure.” [11] “[T]hey were interior cells opening into arcades on each level, but the concept of several tiers of cells opening onto galleries or catwalks could have been borrowed from the 1704 plan for the prison of St. Michael in Rome.” [12]

Brittin combined both concepts “into a double back of back-to-back cells, each 7 by 3.5 by 7 feet in size, and opening onto narrow wooden catwalks, with the entire five-story cage encompassed by outer walls some six feet distant on all sides from the inside prison grill.” [13] Yet this designed was changed after a fire occurred when some inmates wrecked the newly built north wing. In order to increase security, Brittin had each cell arched “with brick and topped the block with a cement ceiling 20 inches thick to prevent any access of fire or convicts to the roof.” [14]

After Brittin’s death in 1821, Gershom Powers became the agent of Auburn and Elam Lynds, the warden. Lynds “was a stern disciplinarian, well-known for his love of freely administered floggings and the summary use of wooden clubs” [15] and Powers was a very religious man and believed that the prisons needed chaplains to better the morality of prisoners, stating that a resident chaplain which had “a thorough knowledge of mankind; prudent, firm, discrete, and affectionate; activated by motives of public policy and Christian benevolence” would “secure the respect and confidence of a majority of the convicts” [16] who would consider him as their friend. Under these two, Auburn would evolve as they installed iron grates on cells. This increased the security and affordability of the prison, which attracted attention from the penal authorities of other states.

In addition to this, John Cray, a former Canadian soldier and deputy keeper at Auburn, “devised a strict discipline which included such regulations as downcast eyes, lockstep marching, no talking or other communication between prisoners, and constant activity under close supervision of the guards when [prisoners were] out of the cells.” This discipline, while it kept prisoners occupied for a majority of the day and “contributed to the maintenance of the prison,” also allowed for “an orderly atmosphere that attracted the praise of visitors from other states.” [17] Due to this “orderly atmosphere,” the same manner of discipline was adopted among other prisons throughout New York.

The prison system changed further with the classification of prisoners. Due to serious outbreaks in the overcrowded Walnut Street Prison, the New York Legislature, in April 1821, ordered the classification of prisoners into three classes: 1) the most hardened criminals who were to be held in solitary confinement in separate cells, 2) the less hardened criminals who were to be held in solitary confinement until they repented, yet they were allowed to work at certain tasks in the day time, and 3) the least hardened criminals who were confined in separate cells at night, but worked in prison shops in silence during the day time.

All of these changes and transformations in the use of prisons revealed “a new determination to use imprisonment as a form of punishment.” [18]

1: “Eastern State Penitentiary: A Prison With A Past,”, October 1, 2008 (
2: Benjamin Rush “An Enquiry Into The Effects Of Public Punishment Upon Criminals, And Upon Society,” in Basil Montagu, ed., The Opinions of Different Authors Upon The Punishment of Death, vol. 1 (London: Black Horse Court, 1809), pgs 281-282
3: Rush, pg 287

4: Philadelphia Reflections, Pennsylvania Prison Society,
Blake McKelvey, American Prisons: A History of Good Intentions (Montclair, New Jersey: Patterson Smith Press, 1977) pg 8
William Roscoe Observations on Penal Jurisprudence and The Reformation of Criminals (London: Black Horse Court, 1819) pg 91
7: Freeman Hunt, Lives of American Merchants, vol. 1 (New York: Derby and Jackson, 1858) pg 337
8: McKelvey, pg 9
9: Charles Glidden Haines, Report on the Penitentiary System in the United States (New York: M. Day, 1822) pg 49
10: Glidden Haines, pgs 50-51
11: McKelvey, pg 12
12: Ibid
13: Ibid
14: McKelvey, pg 13
15: Martin B. Miller, “Sinking Gradually Into The Proletariat: The Emergence of the Penitentiary in the United States,” Crime and Social Justice, No. 14, focus on racism (Winter 1980): 38
John N. Miskell, Offering Hope, the Connection between Auburn Theological Seminary & Auburn State Prison, Corrections History,
McKelvey, pg 14
McKelvey, pg 13

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bringing Down the Empire

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

We have come to the point in our history of our species where an increasing amount of people are asking questions, seeking answers, taking action, and waking up to the realities of our world, to the systems, ideas, institutions and individuals who have dominated, oppressed, controlled, and ensnared humanity in their grip of absolute control. As the resistance to these ideas, institutions, and individuals grows and continues toward taking action – locally, nationally, regionally, and globally – it is now more important than ever for the discussion and understanding of our system to grow in accord. Action must be taken, and is being taken, but information must inform action. Without a more comprehensive, global and expansive understanding of our world, those who resist this system will become increasingly divided, more easily co-opted, and have their efforts often undermined.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

On The Trespass Bill

In the following video I briefly discuss the recent signing of the Trespass Bill, its implications, and I put the bill into the context of how America has become more and more of a police state. I also note that there is a problem with more and more power being amassed in the Executive Branch and that if we are not careful, it may lead to an authoritarian democracy.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Police State Marches On: Free Speech Is Dead

A new bill, HR 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, also known as the “Trespassing Bill,” is soon to be signed into law by President Obama. This bill effectively criminalizes protest and will hurt protest groups and movements such as Occupy quite hard.

The bill as states that anyone who knowingly “enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so” with the “intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in or [in] proximity to, any restricted building or grounds” or “impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” will be punished with a fine or “or imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both.” (emphasis added)

There are already many problems with the bill as it does not attempt to define what “imped[ing] or disrupt[ing] the orderly conduct of government business or official functions” is, nor does it specify what “government business” is or what an “official function” is. This vagueness will allow for the US government to effectively stifle protest and free speech, thus criminalizing such actions like the upcoming Occupy Chicago anti-NATO/G-8 protests. In addition to this, such a law will make it impossible for Americans to exercise their First Amendment rights when “government business” is being attended to or “official functions” are occurring.

Unsurprisingly, only three people voted against the measure: Paul Broun (R-GA-10), Justin Amash (R-MI-3) and Ron Paul (R-TX-14). This law would allow federal law enforcement “to bring these charges against Americans engaged in political protests anywhere in the country, and violators will face criminal penalties that include imprisonment for up to 10 years.” HR 347 will is ripe for abuse, as the NYPD has, as of recent, assumed the notion that taking photos and videotaping is a form of disorderly conduct.

The fact that only three people in the House, all Republicans and absolutely no Democrats (see the voting list here), voted against the bill, only shows just how both parties are just two sides of the same coin.

This law comes at the heels of the US government having debated over whether or not to indefinitely detain US citizens and Attorney General Eric Holder- the Obama administration’s version of John Yoo, arguing that the President can assassinate US citizens without providing any evidence whatsoever to anyone.

Free speech may very well soon be nothing but a distant relic of the past.

Update: It has come to my attention that there was a slight change in the wording of the bill when Obama signed it. 

The law is actually only a slight change to earlier legislation that made it an offense to knowingly and willfully commit such a crime. Under the Trespass Bill’s latest language chan[g]e, however, someone could end up in law enforcement custody for entering an area that they don’t realize is Secret Service protected and “engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct” or “impede[s] or disrupt[s] the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.” (emphasis added)

This can be verified by looking at the bill that was passed in the Senate.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Prison Project Update #1

The Prison Project is going slowly but quite well. The process is going to speed up quite quickly as I plan to make schedule at least 2-5 hours a week to do research for the project.  I am well into researching the formation and changes of prisons in early 19th century America. It is quite interesting to examine and investigate the changes of prisons, especially their layouts and the people behind such changes. It has taken me some time to get to this point due to other obligations (eg work and school), but the payoff is going to be tremendous. In addition to using Blake McKelvey's book American Prisons: A History of Good Intentions, Google Books has been a major help in accessing many of the primary documents mentioned by McKelvey. Several of these books are two- and three hundred pages, thus it takes a while to sift through them, but I have found very useful and relevant information that is going to show up in another article that I plan to write within the next couple of days. 

I would like to thank Andrew Gavin Marshall for aiding in my research. He wrote a recent article about black history and there is some information connecting race and prisons in the late 19th and 20th centuries that I plan to use in the future once I get to that point.

Finally, I'd like to thank everyone for supporting The Prison Project. It is going to be a lot of hard work, but I believe that with your support I can do it.


Devon DB

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The US Strategy to Control Middle Eastern Oil

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

In the midst of World War II, Saudi Arabia secured a position of enormous significance to the rising world power, America. With its oil reserves essentially untapped, the House of Saud became a strategic ally of immense importance, “a matter of national security, nourishing U.S. military might and enhancing the potentiality of postwar American hegemony.” Saudi Arabia welcomed the American interest as it sought to distance itself from its former imperial master, Britain, which it viewed with suspicion as the British established Hashemite kingdoms in the Middle East – the old rivals of the Saudis – in Jordan and Iraq.[1]

Friday, March 2, 2012

NGOs: Missionaries Of Empire

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can be found all over the globe today. From private, medical NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders to UN-run NGOs like UNICEF, non-governmental organizations are an increasingly important part of the 21st century and aid states in fulfilling tasks such as feeding people, ensuring that the environment is taken care of, and advocating for social equality. However, there is a dark side to NGOs. They have been and are currently being used as tools of foreign policy, specifically with the United States. Instead of using purely military force, the US has now moved to using and manipulating NGOs as tools in its foreign policy implementation, specifically the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, and Amnesty International.

National Endowment for Democracy

According to its website, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is “a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world,” [1] however this is sweet sounding description is actually quite far from the truth.

The history of the NED begins immediately after the Reagan administration. Due to the massive revelations concerning the CIA in the 1970s, specifically that they were involved in attempted assassinations of heads of state, the destabilization of foreign governments, and were illegally spying on the US citizens, this tarnished the image of the CIA and of the US government as a whole. While there were many committees that were created during this time to investigate the CIA, the Church Committee (led by Frank Church, a Democrat from Idaho) was of critical importance as its findings “demonstrated the need for perpetual surveillance of the intelligence community and resulted in the creation of the permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.” [2] The Select Committee on Intelligence’s purpose was to oversee federal intelligence activities and while oversight and stability came in, it seemed to signal that the CIA’s ‘party’ of assassination plots and coups were over. Yet, this was to continue, but in a new way: under the guise of a harmful NGO whose purpose was to promote democracy around the world- the National Endowment for Democracy.

The NED was meant to be a tool of US foreign policy from its outset. It was the brainchild of Allen Weinstein who, before creating the Endowment, was a professor at Brown and Georgetown Universities, had served on the Washington Post’s editorial staff, and was the Executive Editor of The Washington Quarterly at Georgetown’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, a right-wing neoconservative think tank which would in the future have ties to imperial strategists such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. [3] He stated in a 1991 interview that “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” [4]

The first director of the Endowment, Carl Gershman, outright admitted that the Endowment was a front for the CIA. In 1986 he stated:

We should not have to do this kind of work covertly. It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA. We saw that in the ‘60s, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment was created. [5] (emphasis added)

It can be further observed that the Endowment is a tool of the US government as ever since its founding in 1983, it “has received an annual appropriation approved by the United States Congress as part of the United States Information Agency budget.” [6]  

No sooner than the Endowment was founded did it begin funding groups that would support US interests. From 1983 to 1984, the Endowment was active in France and “supported a ‘trade union-like organization that for professors and students’ to counter ‘left-wing organizations of professors,’” [7] through the funding of seminars, posters, books, and pamphlets that encouraged opposition to leftist thought. In the mid and late 1990s, the NED continued its fight against organized labor by giving in excess of $2.5 million to the American Institute of Free Labor Development which was a CIA front used to undermine progressive labor unions.

Later on, the Endowment became involved in interfering with elections in Venezuela and Haiti in order to undermine leftwing movements there. The NED is and continues to be a source of instability in nations across the globe that don’t kneel before US imperial might. Yet the Endowment funds another pseudo-NGO: Freedom House.

Freedom House

Freedom House was originally founded in 1941 as a pro-democracy and pro-human rights organization. While this may have been true in the past, in the present day, Freedom House is quite involved in pushing US interests in global politics and its leaders have connections to rather unsavory organizations, such as current Executive Director David Kramer being a Senior Fellow to the Project for the New American Century, many of whose members are responsible for the current warmongering status of the US. [8]
During the Bush administration, the President used Freedom House to support the so-called War on Terror. 

In a March 29, 2006 speech, President Bush stated that Freedom House “declared the year 2005 was one of the most successful years for freedom since the Freedom House began measuring world freedom more than 30 years ago” and that the US should not rest “until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation” because “In this new century, the advance of freedom is a vital element of our strategy to protect the American people, and to secure the peace for generations to come.” [9]

Later, it was revealed that Freedom House became more and more supportive of the Bush administration’s policies because of the funding it was getting from the US government. According to its own internal report in 2007, the US government was providing some 66% of funding for the organization. [10] This funding mainly came from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US State Department, and the National Endowment for Democracy. Thus, we see not only the political connection of Freedom House to US government, but major financial connections as well.

It should be noted, however, that Freedom House was not alone in supporting the government. Under the Bush administration, the US government forced NGOs to become more compliant to their demands. In 2003, USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios stated in a speech given at a conference of NGOs that in Afghanistan the relationship between NGOs and USAID does affect the survival of the Karzai regime and that Afghans “believe [their life] is improving through mechanisms that have nothing to do with the U.S. government and nothing to do with the central government. That is a very serious problem.” [11] On the situation in Iraq, Natsios stated that when it comes to NGO work in the country “proving results counts, but showing a connection between those results and U.S. policy counts as well.” [12] (emphasis added) NGOs were essentially told that they were tools of the US government and were being made part of the imperial apparatus.

Most recently, Freedom House was active in the Arab Spring, where they aided in the training and financing of civil society groups and individuals “including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen.” [13]

While the Endowment and Freedom House are being used as tools of US foreign policy that does not mean that the US government isn’t looking for new tools, namely Amnesty International.

Amnesty International

The human rights organization Amnesty International is the newest tool in the imperial toolbox of the American Empire. In January 2012, Suzanne Nossel was appointed the new Executive Director of Amnesty International by the group itself. Before coming to Amnesty, Nossel already had deep connections to the US government as she had “served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations at the U.S. Department of State.” [14]

Nossel is known for coining the term ‘smart power’ which she defined as knowing that “US interests are furthered by enlisting others on behalf of U.S. goals, through alliances, international institutions, careful diplomacy, and the power of ideals.” [15] While this definition may seem harmless, ‘smart power’ seems to be an enhanced version of Joseph Nye’s ‘soft power,’ which itself is defined as “the ability to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than using the carrots and sticks of payment or coercion.” [15] A possible example of this ‘smart power’ is the war in Libya, where the US used the UN as a means to get permission to engage in ‘humanitarian intervention.’

Yet, even before Nossel was appointed to Amnesty, the group was unwittingly aiding in the media war against Syria. In a September 1, 2011 Democracy Now interview, Neil Sammonds, the researcher and one of the author’s for Amnesty’s report Deadly Detention: Deaths in Custody Amid Popular Protest in Syria, spoke about the manner in which the research was done for the report. He stated:

 I’ve not been into Syria. Amnesty International has not been allowed into the country during these events, although we have requested it. So the research for this report was done mostly from London, but also from some work in neighboring countries and through communications with a large network of contacts and relatives of the families, and, you know, other sources. [16] (emphasis added)

How can one write a report with any amount of authority if their only sources are through second-hand sources that may or may not have a bias or an agenda to push? How can you write a report using sources whose information has no way of being verified? It is reminiscent of the media war against Gaddafi, where it was reported in the mainstream media that he was bombing his own people and had given Viagra to his soldiers as so they could rape women, but absolutely none of this was verified.

While NGOs can have a positive influence on society at large, one must be aware of their backgrounds, who is in charge of them, and from whom they are getting funding from because the nature of the NGO is changing, it is being more and more integrated into the imperial apparatus of domination and exploitation. NGOs are fast becoming the missionaries of empire.