I am indebted to John Maxwell (photo below, right), one of the terrific columnists who make the Jamaica Observer such a good newspaper, for opening my eyes to an aspect of John McCain that I knew nothing about. I doubt that many American voters know about it, either. It’s all very hush-hush and very, very disturbing.
I had wondered what ax McCain had to grind in the conflict between Russia and Georgia over those breakaway provinces, and I ascribed it to the fact that one of his top campaign people was a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government. But apparently there’s more – lots more. Maxwell’s column on Sunday shed light on the subject. Here’s an excerpt:
People who may have been surprised by McCain’s warlike declaration that he was “a Georgian” at the height of the failed Georgians’ blitzkrieg, may not have realized that Mr. McCain’s IRI along with the CIA, the Israelis and other assorted neofascist troublemakers were an integral element of the Georgians’ attempt to incorporate South Ossetia and Abkhazia into Georgia and provide a more secure path for Central Asian oil to Turkey and eventually Israel and the U.S.
Mr. McCain’s IRI? What was that all about? As is my wont, I went to the Web, and what I found was deeply troubling. There’s more to John McCain than you saw in that smarmy CNN profile. Apparently, the Republican presidential candidate is not just an eccentric old war horse but also a dangerous activist intent on reshaping the world in a “conservative” image.
I know it sounds improbable, but you can look it up for yourself. You will find that McCain has been, for the past 15 years, the chairman of the International Republican Institute, a non-profit group founded during the Reagan regime ostensibly to “advance freedom worldwide by developing political parties, civic institutions, open elections, good governance and the rule of law.” It is funded by U.S. tax dollars. You will also find that the real goal of the IRI is to advance rightist U.S. initiatives. And the group isn’t fussy about the means by which this goal is achieved. Here’s another excerpt from Maxwell’s column:
In Haiti, the IRI led the racist assault on democracy and Aristide. The IRI retains a commanding position in the American takeover of a sovereign nation where life gets ever more interesting and more desperate every day. Hurricanes and rainstorms kill more people in Haiti than in most other places for one reason: the democratic leadership has been destroyed. The institutions and community arrangements by which other societies protect themselves are broken.
The president is in forced exile, other leaders have been murdered or exiled and one in particular, Dr. Lovinsky Pierre Antoine, has been kidnapped and has not been heard from for more than a year. The destruction of the Haitian polity and economy means starvation for the people. While people eat dirt and die of hunger, the IRI and its allies are moving to improve their image and strategic position, and no doubt, build more swimming pools.
You might think that Maxwell is making this stuff up, but he’s not the only one who accuses the IRI of skulduggery. Here’s an excerpt from an article I found on the Web:
The IRI’s “democracy building” program in Haiti was accused of undermining both U.S. State Department diplomacy efforts and the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (photo above, left), and the IRI channeled money from the United States to forces in Venezuela that tried to overthrow President Hugo Chavez in 2002.
The story of the IRI’s Haitian involvement is repeated in Wikipedia:
The IRI is accused of training some of the leaders of the 2004 coup d’etat in Haiti, as well as funding opposition groups in the country in a destabilization campaign in the months leading up the removal of democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation did a documentary on the IRI’s role in Haiti in January 2006. And, according to Wikipedia, official documents show that the IRI was involved in training and supporting pro-coup opposition parties. The New York Times has also reported on the IRI’s involvement in the Aristide coup.
Indeed, from what I found on the Web, the IRI specializes in meddling in the politics of foreign countries. It is a part of the National Endowment for Democracy, a publicly funded yet privately owned organization operating in at least 40 countries. NED’s mission is to help the United States set up capitalist economies around the world, backed by regimes that are friendly to U.S. big business.
With no interference from the public or Congress, the NED is free to accomplish its goals by manipulating and buying elections, starting political as well as economic turmoil, funding counter-insurgency material to right-wing groups, and using other tactics that would be illegal in the United States. (Surprisingly, another arm of this organization is the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, which is at work in 28 countries, discouraging radical organizing among workers and assisting labor groups that support private enterprise.)
Ronald Reagan set up the NED to fill a covert-action gap created when the CIA’s sabotage of governments and labor movements around the world was exposed in the late 1970s. An official inquiry found that corrupt dictatorships in Central America, backed by local death squads armed and trained by the CIA, massacred hundreds of thousands of peasants during popular insurgencies in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. Now, the NED is accused of complicity in the operations of right-wing groups intent on subverting the will of voters in foreign countries.
Here’s an excerpt from an article by Jon Quaccia on the International Endowment for Democracy’s web site:
Some of the NED’s political accomplishments include the successful manipulation of elections in Nicaragua in 1990 and Mongolia in 1996, and the overthrow of democratically elected candidates in Bulgaria in 1990 and Albania in 1991-2. By indirectly contributing “soft money” to the campaigns of candidates friendly to U.S. business, the NED is able to successfully buy elections in poor countries with only a few hundred thousand dollars.
According to Quaccia’s article:
From 1983 to 1994, the NED was funded exclusively by Congress, at which point it began accepting private donations. These sources include several oil companies and defense contractors – Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Texaco and Enron were among its 2001 contributors.
Quaccia said that the NED works through multiple constituencies: The International Republican Institute, The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Center for International Private Enterprise, the Free Trade Union Institute, and American Center for International Labor Solidarity (better known as the Solidarity Center). Among its strongest U.S. supporters is the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank which has been very influential in policy issues.
Quaccia quoted Barbara Conry, associate policy analyst for the free-market advocacy CATO Institute, as stating:
NED, which has a history of corruption and financial mismanagement, is superfluous as best and often destructive. Through the Endowment, the American taxpayer has paid for special-interest groups to harass the duly elected governments of friendly countries, interfere in foreign elections, and foster the corruption of democratic movements.
So much goes on behind the scenes… so much that American voters may never know. But, thanks to Jamaican journalist John Maxwell, a little light was shed on a dark corner of U.S. politics this past weekend.