maandag, oktober 10, 2005

The NED and the supremacy of human rights discourse

Last week, I published a rather long-winded piece, 'Imperialists in NGO drag', on the dodgy arriere-cuisine of Reporters Sans Frontieres, which receives some of its funding from the U.S. State Department quasi-NGO, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Over at Politics of Dissent, a blog by an Arizona attorney, Ken Sanders, with an interest in home-brewing and wine-making and a similar predilection to your correspondent for long-form blogging, has written a decent piece, 'Imperialists in democratic clothing' [Honest, we don't know each other, and I only came across his piece from an e-mail blast from Z Magazine, and we certainly didn't co-ordinate our headlines. Omigod. I swear. This is worse than the senior prom, when Nicole Gusenbauer and I both wore the same mauve dress and she, like, totally deliberately spilled non-alcoholic punch on it just out of spite…] essentially extending the thesis - that hegemons are exploiting human rights groups' organisational forms to hide imperialist activity - but exploring in greater depth the activities of the NED in particular, noting that the group is: 'a darling of the neo-conservatives and shares membership with the Project for a New American Century.'

'[And i]n the 1980s, the NED funded militaristic and dictatorial candidates in Panama, as well as opposition candidates in such stable democracies as Costa Rica (the opposition candidate in Costa Rica also had the endorsement of that champion of democracy, Manuel Noriega).

'In the 1990 elections in Haiti, the NED provided significant funding to former World Bank official Marc Bazin in a failed attempt to oust the leftist Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

'In the 1990s, the NED supported Skender Gjinushi, speaker of the Albanian parliament and former member of the Stalinist Politburo in Albania. Gjinushi was a principle organiser of the unrest that led to the 1997 fall of the democratic government in Albania, not to mention the death of over 2,000 people.

'In Slovakia, the NED funded several initiatives that ultimately resulted in the defeat of Slovakia's freely-elected government. The NED-backed "reformers" who took over in Slovakia were largely leading officials in the Communist regime of then-Czechoslovakia.'
One must suppose, however, that at a minimum we can say that the discourse of human rights and democracy is so pervasive that imperialism has no choice but to disguise itself in such language.

The supremacy of human rights discourse, whatever its exploitation by the U.S. State Department, is thus at least something to celebrate.

Update: Talos, of the solid English-language Greek blog Histologion, has written in, noting a rather glaring inaccuracy in Sanders' argument:

Gjinushi is a rather minor political figure, head of the Social Democratic Party, which got something around 4% in the last elections, and speaker of the Parliament for a long time. I'm not sure whether he was "a member of the Stalinist politburo", but I doubt it - anyway what is described as the "democratic government", was headed by Berisha, who also started his political career as a member of the Communist Party - as indeed the vast majority of Albanian politicians of any stripe and above a certain age.

Gjinushi was most certainly not a principle organiser of the unrest that led to the 1997 fall of the "democratic government" in Albania - a cleptocracy in fact, the likes of which would make Boris Yeltsin blush, whose fall was due to what was most certainly a popular armed insurection after a pyramid scheme in the country's deregulated banks cost most Albanians the sum total of their savings. Savings it must be said, amassed slowly and with great difficulty by the country's slaving one million immigrants since 1990. Berisha was in fact a darling of the West up to the collapse of the pyramid schemes.

Nonetheless, the NED remains a wolf of an NGO.