No matter how you spin it, USAID is toxic

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A Sudanese displaced man carries humanitarian aid supplies provided by the US development agency USAID, on November 6, 2014, in the Kalma camp for internally displaced people (IDP) located east of Nyala city in Sudan's Darfur. AFP/Ashraf Shazly

By: Jamal Ghosn

Published Monday, November 10, 2014

The influence of agencies like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grew in parallel with the rise of American power [over the last century]. South American countries understood early on – from experience – the caveats and risks associated with these government agencies.

Fifty-three years after its establishment in Ecuador, USAID closed its offices in the country. In December 2013 the government of Ecuador decided to bar USAID from launching new projects in the country because the agency interfered in internal political affairs under the pretext of spreading democracy.

The development agency funds non-governmental projects and institutions and its motto “From the American People” is ubiquitous all over the world. Even organic eggs produced in South Lebanon, for example, are stamped with USAID because the American people – I swear by Monsanto* – will not sleep well if we do not eat organic eggs.

Bolivia expelled USAID even before Ecuador, in May 2013. In 2010, the Venezuelan government barred local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from receiving any foreign funding.

USAID of course is only one of many agencies that proclaim that they are acting in the name of humanitarianism, compassion and benevolence as well as concern for those who are not able to care for themselves.

Even if we were to assume they have good intentions, these agencies select a group of elite people and train them, as though it were a kindergarten class. And we are not talking here about Montessori-style education where the child is given a few options to choose from, but rather a formative education that graduates a generation of “leaders” who excel at lessons taught by foreign agency experts who know what’s good for the people more than the people themselves. Again, assuming these agencies are working in good faith, a group of young people graduate and move on to conditional nongovernmental development jobs to ensure that those young leaders do not embarrass the agency’s funders. At best, these organizations rob the government and the political system of an elite leadership after shaping this elite according to an NGO mold and depriving them of all developmental and political creativity.

If we were to assume they have bad intentions, there is a lot of information that casts doubt on the intentions of the developmental arm of military and economic colonialism – what happened in Cuba serves as a good example. The fact that Cuba falls outside USAID’s area of influence did not prevent the agency from unleashing its benevolence on the Caribbean island. According to an Associated Press report published last April, USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) created ZunZuneo, a microblogging service similar to Twitter, that works through cell phone text messaging instead of the internet. Naturally, because the “museum of the socialist revolution” in Cuba does not trust the internet, its operators or the Cuban people whom the leadership is keen on protecting from the tweets of Lebanese socialist comrade Walid Jumblatt.

Washington’s subversive project succeeded only in enriching the company Creative Associates International which developed this program for $1.5 billion contract and which makes billions of dollars from other contracts with the US government. The program also succeeded in exposing the intentions of this office active in many countries around the world, so long as there is a US “national interest” and a “prospect of government change,” as the contract signed with the company states.

The US State Department and its intelligence often use a cookie-cutter approach to clone its experiments in more than one area in its empire. For example, according to documents leaked by US heroine Chelsea Manning via Wikileaks, this office played an active role in the failed coup attempt against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

According to cable 09beirut444_a, signed by former US Ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison, the 2008-2009 budget for USAID/OTI in Lebanon was $7 million. Sison had requested an additional $7 million to maintain OTI’s programs until 2011. The office is still active in Lebanon until today.

*One of the largest agribusinesses in the US and the world.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar English's editorial policy. If you would like to submit a thoughtful response to one of our opinion pieces, send your contribution to our submissions editor.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


All NGO's, USAID and NED are regime change tools. Nothing is democratic about them.

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