to NGOs: Watch Your Mouths
Bush administration has found its next target for pre-emptive war, but
launching any new foreign adventures, the Bush gang has some homeland
housekeeping to take care of: It is going to sweep up those pesky
non-governmental organizations that are helping to turn world opinion
war on NGOs is being fought on two clear fronts. One buys the silence
and complicity of mainstream humanitarian and religious groups by
offering lucrative reconstruction contracts. The other marginalizes
May 21 in
aid workers, there are even more strings attached to U.S. dollars.
USAID told several NGOs that have been awarded humanitarian contracts
that they cannot speak to the media -- all requests from reporter
humanitarian leaders are shocked to hear their work described as
"an arm" of government; most see themselves as independent
(that would be the "non-governmental" part of the name).
best NGOs are loyal to their causes, not to countries, and they aren't
afraid to blow the whistle on their own governments. Think of Médecins
sans frontières standing up to the White
House and the European Union over AIDS drug patents, or Human Rights
Watch's campaign against the death penalty in the
expect candor like that from the aid groups Mr. Natsios
now oversees in
is the message of NGO Watch, an initiative of the American Enterprise
Institute and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy
Studies, which takes aim at the growing political influence of the
non-profit sector. The stated purpose of the Web site, launched on
June 11, is to "bring clarity and accountability to the
burgeoning world of NGOs."
fact, it is a McCarthyite blacklist,
telling tales on any NGO that dares speak against Bush administration
policies or in support of international treaties opposed by the White
bizarre initiative takes as its premise the idea that there is
something sinister about "unelected" groups of citizens
getting together to try to influence their government. "The
extraordinary growth of advocacy NGOs in liberal democracies has the
potential to undermine the sovereignty of constitutional
democracies," the site claims.
from the AEI, this is not without irony. As Raj
Patel, policy analyst at the California-based NGO Food First, points
out, "The American Enterprise Institute is an NGO itself and it
is supported by the most powerful corporations on the planet. They are
accountable only to their board, which includes Motorola, American
Express and ExxonMobil." As for
influence, few peddle it quite like the AEI, the looniest ideas of
which have a way of becoming Bush administration policy. And no
wonder. Richard Perle, member and former
chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, is an AEI fellow,
along with Lynne Cheney, wife of the vice-president; the Bush
administration is crowded with former AEI fellows.
President Bush said at an AEI dinner in February, "At the
American Enterprise Institute, some of the finest minds in our nation
are at work on some of the greatest challenges to our nation. You do
such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such
minds." In other words, the AEI i
together with Mr. Natsios's statements,
this attack on the non-profit sector marks the emergence of a new Bush
doctrine: NGOs should be nothing more than the good-hearted charity
wing of the military, silently mopping up after wars and famines.
Their job is not to ask how these tragedies could have been averted,
or to advocate for policy solutions. And it is certainly not to join
anti-war and fair-trade movements pushing for real political change.
control freaks in the White House have really outdone themselves this
time. First they tried to silence governments critical of their
foreign policies by buying them off with aid packages and trade deals.
(Last month U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick
said that the
they are attempting to turn relief workers in
is not a lone wolf we are dealing with,
it's a sheep-herder. The question is: Which of the NGOs will play the
Klein is the author of 'No Logo' and 'Fences and Windows'.