Radio Free Iraq

Pino

Radio Free Iraq ‏has a mission: “to promote democratic values and institutions by disseminating ideas and factual information,” so those who work for it get annoyed when it is pointed out to them that it is in fact a US propaganda operation—this is something they persistently deny.  This is an account of an exchange on Twitter I had with Radio Free Iraq with some background on who is behind it.

I was drawn to it because I noticed what I thought was a biased use of a survey—a basic propaganda technique—on Twitter.  Then I noticed that both the radio station and the organisation that produced the report, Global Financial Integrity, conveniently ignored the ongoing revelations on the criminal workings of capitalism today: the huge stories about record breaking levels of money-laundering for drug cartels and terrorist groups, the impugnity of those at the top, the rigging of the market and so on. Most of these stories have a sub-text that points at the US (and the UK) but the interests which have benefited from the system are keen to deflect criticism away—preferably to the US economic rivals. I believe this is the purpose of Global Financial Integrity and also provide an examination of its workings.

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Radio Free Iraq is an offshoot of the old CIA (now Soros-funded) Radio Free Europe — US foreign policy spawned a range of other ‘Free’ radio stations. It was created in 1998 at the same time as Radio Free Iran with $2million “to assist Iraqi opposition organizations with radio and television broadcasting into Iraq” (mainly Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress) in their efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

The first two directors were Stephen C. Fairbanks, a foreign service officer with a deep intelligence background, who was the political analyst on Iran for the U.S. Department of State, and with the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (run by the Central Intelligence Agency to monitor world wide open source broadcasts); and Ambassador David Newton, from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (also part of US Intelligence) who was formerly the US Ambassador to Iraq from 1984-1988, when the US were arming Hussein (a policy Newton still supports in retrospect).  Newton played a big part in the pretence over ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction.’

According to Nicholas John Cull, David Holbrook Culbert & David Welch in their ‎2003 study of propaganda:

The United States attempted to sow dissent by creating black propaganda stations like The Voice of Free Iraq and Radio Free Iraq, which purported to be the voice of opposition groups within Iraq.

Iraq’s media infrastructure was put together by companies like SAIC — the private military companies like Halliburton, the Rendon Group, Blackwater, etc. that make a largely unaccountable fortune out of the Iraq war.

sd Sergei ‘I got no strings’ Danilochkin the Director of Radio Free Iraq [1]

The report Radio Free Iraq (RFI) had promoted on Twitter stated that Iraq was at the 11th position among “developing” nations for crime, corruption, and tax evasion for the last 10 years, its headline says this:

Crime, corruption, and tax evasion cost the developing world $858.8 billion in 2010, just below the all-time high of $871.3 billion set in 2008—the year preceding the global financial crisis. The findings are part of a new study released today by Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington-based research and advocacy organization.

On the face of it this seems a worthy enquiry—but it is not talking about the workings of the US’ financial system that has been removed from the equation: the report has a restricted and selective focus on what it terms the “developing world.” This is problematic because such an inquiry (if it wanted to explain anything) would have to relate its findings to other relevant factors: particularly stories concerning all those mountains of cash bricks that were transported to Iraq and then vanished into the budgets of the private military companies or were appropriated in other ways. The Pentagon has admitted that $6 Billion in cash was stolen in Iraq, possibly the largest theft of funds in national history: so maybe the spike in cash flows has been influenced by this? I’ll explain what Global Financial Integrity is below, but the statement I made on Twitter was that this looked like propaganda recycled by a propaganda agency.

Some one who does RFI’s twitter feed (probably Sergei) disagreed — RFI is not involved in propaganda and they insisted:‏

@iraqhurr_eng @williamdclark There may be exceptions, but most people who claim RFE/RL/RFI is propaganda have hardly heard or read our reports

This is a stock answer, but they qualified what the report said by asserting that:

11th position is among “developing” nations and for the last 10 years. Sure there are some unknowns, but why propaganda?

The countries described as ‘developing’ included: China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Poland and Brunei.  By ‘developing’ the report probably means not ‘developing’ sufficiently into a US client state. China, is described as “the largest cumulative exporter of illegal capital flight, as well as the largest victim in 2010,” so the report cleverly taints these countries (particularly China) with the imputation that their governments are involved in the illicit dealings.  One would imagine so—but does that just apply to them? Looking at the tip sheet that Global Financial Integrity put out for journalists to repeat in the mainstream media, it becomes obvious that the report is not interested in the human suffering in these countries, all it is really concerned about is “Trade mispricing” in China (the US’ big rival). Here’s how the report summarises its findings for journalists to recycle (the emphasis is in the original):

Trade mispricing was found to account for an average of 80.1% of cumulative illicit flows from developing countries over the period 2001-2010, down from its high in 2004 when it accounted for 86.1%. It remains the major channel for the transfer of illicit capital from all regions except MENA, where it accounted for 37% of total outflows over the decade.
• China continued to lead the world in illicit outflows, losing $420.4 billion in 2010.
Illicit transfers of the proceeds of corruption, bribery, theft, and kickbacks, accounting on average for 19.9% of illicit outflows over the decade, are on the rise as a percentage of total illicit financial outflows.

So the report’s message is that China is behind most of the world’s financial evil.  US media representation of China is becoming something of a propaganda battleground for the US State Dept. But it’s as if the reports funders, the Ford Foundation, felt that US capitalism was getting a bad reputation for its financial crimes and decided to go hunting for a lack of financial integrity abroad.  The Washington-based Global Financial Integrity, is run by these people (or rather they have leant their names to it):

Lord Daniel Brennan from the House of Lords (or Lobbyists) is probably not to be trusted because he has been ‘appointed’ the Delegate for Great Britain and Ireland of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George in succession to Anthony Bailey, who is something of a con man to many people who have had dealings with him, and who assert that the Order is a lobby front (the Order previously pandered to the Assad regime in Syria and was part of the Al Yamamah deal fronting for BAe—one of the largest corruption cases ever). As regards China: Brennan is a director of “Euro Asia Energy Limited (EAE) is a leading private – public partnership platform that is specialized in energy and minerals trade and investment to service the vast demands of the Chinese market.” EAE also includes Maurice Strong. Brennan is also part of Juridica Investments Limited, a closed-ended investment company registered in Guernsey with £200 million to play with.  The ultimate goal of Juridica is to be a leading source of direct financing for large claims in complex litigation and arbitration worldwide where such financing is considered to be lawful (so they make their money out of all this stuff in the report).

Krishen Mehta worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers for almost 30 years (with the Aspen Institute and George Soros’ Human Rights Watch). At PwC, according to the Aspen Institute, he was: “responsible for PwC’s US Tax practice in Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, China, and Indonesia, and has worked with over 140 American companies conducting business in Asia.” Malaysia is 3rd on the GFI list, China top, Indonesia 9th (because the US has more control on the others they do not appear). That is the Price Waterhouse that knew that the BCCI was involved in criminal conduct throughout the world, including money laundering, exchange control violations, and tax evasion.

Jack Blum a former investigator for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as well as the Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism, and International Operations.  He had this to say about the relationship between the US’ covert operations and criminal organizations:

The two go together like love and marriage […] Criminal organizations are perfect allies in a covert operation. If you sent me out of the country to risk my life for the government to do something as a spy in a foreign land, I would think criminals would be my best ally. They stay out of reach of the law, they know who the corrupt government officials are, and they have them on the payroll. They’ll do anything I want for money. It’s a terrific working partnership. The problem is that they then get empowered by the fact that they work with us.

Rafael Espada was Vice President of Guatemala from 2008-2011. Funnily enough, Radio propaganda helped the Eisenhower administration and the Dulles brothers at the CIA and State Department (who were on the board of directors for United Fruit Company) get rid of the Arbenz government.

John G. Heimann runs the Financial Stability Institute (a joint initiative set up in 1999 by the Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision). Formerly with Merrill Lynch & Co.  That secret banks would look into this to any extent might be a little difficult for some people. As I write Wegelin, the oldest Swiss bank (after moving its assets) is to close after admitting aiding US tax evasion — something of a speciality of the secret Swiss bank, and the same has been said for giants like UBS that provided accounts to 17,000 U.S. taxpayers to hide assets of about $20 billion.

Kenneth M. Jensen used to work with Irving Kristol and appears as a member of the little organisations propagandists join such as the American Center for Democracy, working for its Economic Warfare Institute.  Economic warfare is a tactic within the rubric of psychological operations: an example would be a phony institute producing a phony ‘report’ with an ulterior purpose of blackening a financial opponent.

Eva Joly is a member of the European Parliament—an organisation desperate to portray itself as financial prudent.

David S. Landes is a Harvard University Economics professor who is with Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa.  This includes former Pentagon planners such as Leslie H. Gelb (Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs under Carter and Director of Policy Planning in the Pentagon under President Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam war); George Shultz, now chairman of the Governor of California’s Economic Advisory Board and the J. P. Morgan Chase International Council.

Robert M. Morgenthau uncovered a practice by which Iranian banks were illegally shifting billions of dollars through American financial institutions in order to bypass international sanctions.  As chance would have it this related to “an “”axis of unity” between Iran and Venezuela” that is “a danger to the United States and world”.  Other reports find the US financial institutions more of a willing partner than victim here.

Moisés Naím who in the late 1980s and early 1990s was Venezuela’s Minister of Trade and Industry. He is the Editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine. He is also a member of the board of directors of the International Crisis Group and the National Endowment for Democracynow busy destabilising Venezuela and other countries.

John C. Whitehead is the Chairman of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation.  He is the former Chairman of both Goldman, Sachs & Co and the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.  Whitehead served as the Deputy Secretary of State under Reagan.  He is currently an Honorary Trustee of the Brookings Institution.

This is an impressive board, the organisation certainly has a fat target to aim for: but would they not be better investigating each other? In reality it is run by three people, who seem to have a familiar agenda:

Mark T. Clark received a multi-year grant from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to establish a California State University Intelligence Community Centre and he works at the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies many of who’s members are professional propagandists who are with the NED, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or part of Georgetown’s Security mafia.  Some of its members, such as J. Scott Carpenter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy directs propaganda projects such as Project Fikra. Previously in 2006, he was coordinator of the US State Department’s Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives. Prior to that, he served in Baghdad as director of the governance group for the Coalition Provisional Authority.

J. Peter Pham is Senior Vice President of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in New York and with the propaganda front the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Dr. Joseph Morrison Skelly was an officer in the US Army Reserve, who completed a tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, working on ‘helping’ the Iraqi national elections, and in counterterrorism operations.

All of which information is available of the ‘Institute’s’ web page. So we are not a million miles away from US propaganda, psychological operations, public diplomacy or whatever you want to call propaganda here.  If we rethink RFI’s mission in the light of the above, its mission “to promote democratic values and institutions by disseminating ideas and factual information” can be read as to ‘run US propaganda for US capital’. But the problem is few people would listen to such a venture: subtler approaches are preferred as I will examine below.

If anyone examines the people who do the work for Global Financial Integrity they will find that its ‘experts’ are almost identical to the ‘experts’ of the Center for International Policy. This too is funded by the Ford and Soros Foundations (and the Rockefeller Family and Associates and the other arrays of foundations who control this false economy of ideas). Of its budget of $3million, $2million is spent on salaries the rest goes on meetings and “consulting”. If that doesn’t help the people of Iraq nothing will.

public diplomacy

My view of the report’s use of the term ‘developing’ is that it was deliberately disingenuous; furthermore there is a relationship here—one of exploitation—and that involves financial ‘flows’: the money will be flowing in a certain direction and we have seen how the “too big to be prosecuted” recipients of this flow are deemed to be above the law, even although they have been caught out repeatedly. In my Twitter conversation I replied: “Opinion is one thing fact another: RFE/RL are propaganda outlets—that’s what the historical record states” and provided a link to the work of Christopher Simpson’s work.  RFI went in a huff and replied with:

So our content is not relevant to you – thanks for confirming what I wrote before. You’re free to warn our Iraq audience.

The evasion here is a common one for propaganda outlets, it boils down to this: ignore who we are funded by and who oversees our organisation, ignore the historical connections and examples and any other evidence you may find for yourself; until you do what we tell you to waste your time on and have waded through everything we have said you are not eligible to comment unlike we are.  It also bears a remarkable resemblance to a recent exchange that returned to RFE McCarthyite past, what I am being asked here is this:

I know what I mean…all you have to do is study it out… Just study it out …and we’ll see — you havent done your homework buddy.

But in reality you do not have to do this to establish that an organisation is a propaganda organisation. We can see this ‘study it out’ approach again in the comments of RFI’s Julian Knapp, [2] from the radio’s ‘communication department’ (in a staged interview) when he was told that “many other countries accuse the station of spreading US propaganda, rather than independent journalism and information” (emphasis added):

I would refer them to our programming and our journalism and that speaks for itself really. But you are right – sometimes people who have an interest in discrediting us use this general accusation. But we can only take it seriously if people have concrete examples. Whenever they come up with concrete examples where there was biased reporting, we take it very seriously and we do correct it. However, these general accusations, I’m confident to say, are usually made for political reasons, and if you look at the motifs [sic] of the people who make them, I think you can draw your own conclusions.

Note the contradictions: ‘we will take anything seriously, but anyone who says this is a lunatic’, what this is doing is using a smear of any opponent—this is also a propaganda tactic: you have to blame your opponent for what you are doing to taint them.  To do this you adopt a functional rationality (the ends justify the means etc): anyone who does not see things our way is mad.  That is a hell of an attitude to have for anyone running a media outlet, never mind something offered as a defence against bias.  The fact that mountains of US government papers outline RFI as a propaganda organisation means nothing; the fact that it is described as part of the war, as a psychological operation is put to one side. This is not the way forward out of the quagmire.

The idea with propaganda of the kind that RFI engages in is quite sophisticated.  It is not that everything it says is a lie: everything it says is a surrogate — what the Iraqi people wanted was not the starting point here: RFI pretends to be their voice. If it broke free of its strings, turned its resources over to the people of Iraq it would not be what it is.

strings

I’ll take them up on their offer of a free warning and they can post this on their web site; but I replied by saying that the content was relevant to me since I study propaganda and I added: “I think the people of Iraq need more help than you or I can give them don’t you?” They disagreed and said:

The question is rhetorical I guess. RFI is valued in Iraq for its balanced & objective approach; our work speaks for itself.

That “I guess” sounded like an American intonation there, but nothing speaks for itself really: language has to be interpreted and there is much to mislead and confuse us—a radio station doing the thinking for us for example. So I replied with:”Rhetoric is surely what you have to offer” and also asked “what content analysis studies [have] been completed that would verify your assertion?” And here it gets a bit odd. RFI got back with: “Annual reviews by external agencies.” Now being intellectually curious I wanted to know what these were, largely to ascertain if they were at a remove i.e. genuinely external to RFI and its funders (the US government) and its masters (the US government’s agencies). This would prove difficult because, with propagandists, the use of terminology does not conform to substantive rationality when propagandists use it, they conform to the functional rationality that attends most bureaucracies and certainly products of the US’ intelligence agencies.  So I asked: “Do you mean external and independent from your funders—the US government, what is the purpose of their analysis, who are they”, RFI replied:

Audience polls (by http://bit.ly/6t5b4T AND http://bit.ly/4eva3i ) on how many listen, their feedback, age, background etc.

Neither of these are content analysis to determine bias or the provenance of RFI’s output (and obviously if it was a propaganda operation a certain amount of window dressing would be necessary). These organisations do not do that—no government funded organisation would waste it time unless ordered to. The first organisation they mentioned linked to InterMedia and the second to Gallop. Now George Gallop worked for US propaganda overseeing agencies sine way back; but if InterMedia do surveys of RFI’s listeners — that must be rather tricky in Iraq (but there is no reason to assume RFI is actually based in Iraq physically). Intermedia are of course not independent from the US’ propaganda machine: they are part of it as an examination (based on their own web site) of their Board of Directors indicates. Put briefly this says that:

Richard Carlson – Chair: was “the former director of Voice of America (VOA) and president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and current vice-chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies […] He also led U.S. government overseas television broadcasting, including the USIA Film and TV Service and World Net.”Barry Fulton — “senior management consultant at the U.S. Department of State […] a member of the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs […] the author of State Gets SMART (2009), Leveraging Technology in the Service of Diplomacy (2002), and project director and author of the CSIS study, Reinventing Diplomacy in the Information Age (1998) […] Associate Director of the United States Information Agency in 1994 […] a 30-year career as a Foreign Service Officer with the United States Information Agency […] He established and directed the American Forces Radio and Television Service in Turkey as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.”

Robert Gillette — “served as a senior manager at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich and Prague from 1989-98 […] he worked […] in Bosnia to establish the country’s broadcast regulatory agency and directed a $14-million USAID program to develop independent, professional media, including Mreza Plus, a private, country-wide, multi-ethnic television network.

John Fox — “directed the Independent Broadcasting Project for the Public International Law and Policy Group, supporting Southeast European broadcasters […] special advisor to the Network Media Program of the Open Society Institute, where he developed advocacy, co-funding and partnerships for indigenous media in transition and post-conflict countries […] senior policy officer in the Europe and Central Asia Division of the World Bank; and as regional officer for Eastern Europe in the Office of Policy and Planning at the U.S. Department of State.

Its clients are U.S. Department of State, USAID, U.K. Foreign Office and the National Broadcasting Corporation of Papua New Guinea (presumably with western mining interests). Its core services are propaganda or “Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication” as it puts it.  They also do work with what they term “Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) Populations” that would be the people displaced by the mining etc. But the point is this constitutes ‘independence’ for RFI, and they also maintain that the ‘overseeing’ here refutes any suggestion that they are a propaganda organisation: as I said, this is the functional rationality needed to work there—they know the truth that these reports did not try to find out if RFI’s content is propaganda or serves a propaganda function in some way.  It is not that they are free to listen to their conscience—they are as trapped as the Iranian officials they condemn.

I pointed out the relationship Intermedia have:

@iraqhurr_eng Intermedia have connections to the Boards of the Public Diplomacy Council, USIA,its board of directors are hardly independent

But RFI ignored this (as its nose grew longer) and insisted:

Lest not forget direct interaction with Iraq audience (voicemail, phone calls, emails, informal interviews by our stringers)

But who else is dangling from a string with a missing conscience?

nocco

Whoever got back to me is probably overly preoccupied by budget cuts and trying to prove to its funders that people are actually listening.  Reports on US broadcasting in Iraq state that RFI is very popular in the country and this is based on InterMedia’s findings (based on a survey with only 2000 people); Iraq’s population is somewhere near 29 million). These reports say:

RFI appeals to news-hungry Iraqis who are not content to hear just the headlines; they prefer in-depth news and analysis about thepressing issues facing Iraqis. RFI gives these listeners what they crave through its hard-news and features, which highlight the plight of Iraqis at home and abroad. RFI’s nightly newsprograms summarize the most important events of the day, also bringing listeners first-handnews from coalition sources.

The “local fieldwork agency” was D3 Systems in Iraq with the research done in about a week based on face to face interviews in 2007. The likelihood is that these were done with Iraqis who were traveling or who have moved.

Set up in 1968, most likely an early CIA operation, the International Research and Exchanges Board, IREX, based in K Street in Washington (and run by the usual array of ex-spooks, propagandists etc.), commissioned D3 Systems Inc. to conduct an opinion poll in Iraq to obtain information on the way the media are used, based on the demographic and psychographic changes. D3 Systems also runs the Afghan Futures series, a survey of 2,000 Afghans by its subsidiary, ACSOR Surveys. Analysis of the data was prepared by Langer Research Associates of New York (see: PR Newswire, May 22, 2012).  In 2011 Langer also worked with USAID in their Egypt Democracy and Governance Program, this was run by a consortium made up of MSI, IREX, D3 Systems and CARE-Egypt. This was an attempt to move into the Egyptian media under the guise of a “Professional Media Development Project” that would “to take advantage of the current process of cautious transition in the media sector for media capacity building at the national and local levels”.  ‘Media Development‘ is a phrase belonging to the ‘Democracy Promotion’ lexicon and the process is also overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the NED network.

RFI itself is part of an outreach programme organised by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Initiatives to “Foreign Muslim Audiences” run by the US State Dept., which tells us:

Eighteen of RFE/RL’s broadcast languages – almost two-thirds of the total – are directed to regions where the majority populations are Muslim, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as the majority Muslim populations of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and the North Caucasus in the Russian Federation.

RFI is clearly directed from on high according to the report:

In 2010, Radio Free Iraq (RFI) concentrated on three major themes: the aftermath of the March 7 elections and the subsequent effort to form a new government; the security situation before and after the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq; and, the national census as a step toward steady political development.

The US State Dept’s interest in RFI, is as part of the Office of the Co-ordinator for Counterterrorism. If we look at other studies of the purposes of such US broadcasting (such as the McCormick Tribune Foundation’s) we find that “surrogate broadcasting” is defined as “giving other countries the opportunity to openly discuss themselves” as a “strategic tool of U.S. foreign policy”, the same report states:

The VOA Arab Service, focused on Arab elites, has been terminated, while RFE/RL’s
surrogate-focused Radio Free Iraq continues on a BBG-imposed shoestring budget […] The
move toward hybridization results in part from BBG decisions to adopt American commercial broadcast formats for USIB assets and to attempt to maximize audience sizes by substituting music and entertainment drawing heavily on American culture for the local programming traditionally carried by the Radio Frees…

So here RFI is described as an asset of the US’ international propaganda organisation, here’s is its description of how the magic is worked (emphasis added):

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and surrogate broadcasters for Iran and key Arab countries (e.g., Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, along with Iraq) should offer features and reasoned commentary, drawing on many voices and sources, showing respect for the audiences and devoted to the present, past and future of those countries, with coverage of politics, economics, culture, history, religion, minorities, women’s rights and human rights. Audiences will look for views of contemporaries abroad, not just experts, on such issues. Such programming will seek to counter radical Islamism, and other repressive ideologies, often within a context of Islam and with little or no reference to the United States. They will apply the lesson of successful Cold War broadcasting of affirming American-held values but not promoting United States policies, of publicizing moderates while not polemicizing and thus legitimizing, the radicals. It is essential to display empathy and respect for the audience. Stations with the surrogate mission should aim for the audience perception articulated by one listener about Radio Free Iraq; “You don’t sound like an American radio at all; you sound like an Iraqi radio.” In this respect, the two new media from the Middle East Broadcast Network — Radio Sawa and Al Hurra TV — should be relieved from the burden of trying to be both public diplomacy stations like the VOA and surrogate broadcasters. In the context of today’s Islamic world, trying to straddle both missions is a likely formula for failure.

All that’s missing here is as a “strategic tool of U.S. foreign policy” from above. So RFI’s Twitter comments sounded a bit oblique to me — replies that just move away from what I enquired about.  What they are saying is that ‘most people’ (how do they know) are just slinging mud: what it is saying is that if someone waded through all the RFI material they wouldn’t find that much in the way of outright propaganda. Almost certainly — why would anyone (except those in the military) listen to a propaganda radio station funded by the US government to beam thoughts into Iraq? Given the adulteration of the mass media by ‘entertainment’ one would more expect a game show or the tantalising dangling of instant riches of the game show — a bit like ‘public diplomacy’ operations run by Leyalina and the host of other old US cold war survivors and the NED’s network.

In our discussion I replied by saying: “Since when has Radio Liberty not been propaganda —Jeffrey Gedmin [head of RFE see note 2] the New Atlantic Initiative! OK call it public diplomacy”. RFI is part of the ‘public diplomacy’ (the polite term for propaganda) of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty network — and it is difficult to hear someone so brazenly deny that it does not run propaganda since this is what it was set up to do and what it did during the cold war and after. Its days are over.

con science

My initial assumption was that the GFI report RFE promoted would be produced by another wing of an ongoing propaganda operation to promote US capital, largely because I had made a detailed study of organisations like Transparency International (TI). When I looked at GFI’s funding, this is provided by the Ford Foundation and the mightily sounding Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development: a consortium of Governments and NGOs and sure enough this went back to TI; my other guess was that this would be funded by the National Endowment for Democracy with some money-dependent NGO’s. When I looked this Task Force it is made up of: Christian Aid, European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), Global Financial Integrity, Global Witness, Tax Justice Network and Transparency International.  No no doubt good work is being done by these organisations at their lower levels, the people on the ground—but you have to be careful who you hang around with in this sort of game. I’ve written on Transparency International before, so I’ll focus on Global Witness.

Patrick Alley, Charmian Gooch and Simon Taylor who run Global Witness shift the emphasis on exposing ‘corruption’ to countries out with US jurisdiction and never look inward at what is going on at home in Washington and London.  What they run is essentially an information gathering organisation looked upon fondly by people like Tony Blair, that uses techniques such as: “secret cameras, as well as straightforward cameras, tape machines, false identities“. Perhaps they do good work: but what does success mean for an organisation working amidst so many agendas and funding ties?

It is at the liberal end of US politics and smugly insists that all the money it gets from foundations means nothing: “Being campaign-led, rather than funding-led, means that our independence is never comprised”.  But who makes use of their material and for what purposes? Who’s orbit and plans are you going to drift into in the hunt for funds? Here their insouciance comes into play.

Wealth as such seems their goal, people like Alexander Soros and Edward Zwick celebrate Global Witness — now why? If the concentration of wealth in so few hands while others starve is a root problem in the world, why are those two smiling upon Global Witness. No, in this world the filthy rich are the philanthropic gods who pose at exclusive parties where Global Witness raise their cash:

The occasion was a party in Bridgehampton, New York, organized by the son under the auspices of his Alexander Soros Foundation, which underwrote the event’s costs. The beneficiary was Global Witness, whose staff of 65 investigates corruption and human-rights abuses related to natural resources. George Soros’s Open Society Foundations is a major funder of the organization, which is based in London with an office in Washington.

A backstage visit with Justin Bieber commanded $10,000. But not everyone is as generous as Justin. But in capitalism exploitation is the game. ‘Fund raising’ for GW has its financial return of course,its quid pro quo, so Soros Jr. is part of its ‘Advisory Board’ and the party included Jeffrey Wright, actor and founder of the Taia Lion Resources, a mining company in Sierra Leone. Mining plunged that country in a hell that might even rival Iraq; but the idea is that those who want to start it up (i.e. who’ve been doing it all along) want to wander into the country with white hats on fronted by celebrities and good guy nice NGO’s. The fact that Taia Lion is run by those who used to run Ashanti Goldfields for over 30 years is then neither here nor there—like all that money stashed in Switzerland.

Alexander Soros is joined the Advisory Board of Global Witness by Bennett Freeman from Burson-Marsteller’s Global Corporate Responsibility practice that advises multinationals on ‘policy development’. That means these kind of stunts. He was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from 1999-2001 (connected to the NED). He was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (that’s another nice propaganda term) and Chief Speechwriter for Secretary of State Warren Christopher from 1993-1997. He was also Manager-Corporate Affairs for General Electric from 1985 until early 1993 (it’s hard to imagine a bigger US military-industrial multi-national complex than General Electric).  He was also a member of the Board of the Revenue Watch Institute (which is another ‘pretends to oversee capitalism’ institute and is part of Soros’ empire focused on Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Iraq —or rather the wealth buried under these countries). He was amore recently with the Board of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) part of Transparency International’s front work to put a PR gloss on the oil giants.

All this elaborate propaganda and illusion stems from the acceptable face capitalism has to put on its workings these days: this includes moves to pretend capitalism is not capitalism; war is humanitarian intervention; someone is overseeing and controlling things in our best interests. Many Liberal-sounding individuals will go along with practically anything, many just turn a blind eye, others bask in their ignorance or practicality: it boils down to the same thing: the perpetuation of a ruinous system. But whay can we say to propagandists, but wither goest thou… I mean wither goest thou? The institutional changes needed to re-orientate society cannot be a masquerade to maintain the status quo. One final word. In writing this I’ve been staggered by the amounts that the foundations have at their disposal: the absentee owners of the society around you are still busy even although they are not there and accountable—they get political in this secretive way. The more this form of power elite political activity comes into the open the more chance we have of real institutional change. It is all their money that we are slaves to now that they have enforced their debts upon us. Their privilege is your pain.

state dept

Postscript

After I published the above article I sent it to RFI and they carried on this odd denial that they are a surrogate broadcaster and part of the US public diplomacy, when I contacted them again they said this:

@williamdclark Sorry to put it this way, but nothing can be farther from a “factual analysis” of anything than your text. Hence no reply.

I replied in a way that encouraged them to set out what they took to be errors:

@iraqhurr_eng In what way does it not analyze facts? you’re running away from this: an assertion is not proof of what you say—is it?

They then misrepresented what I’d said with:

@williamdclark E.g.: Can you prove we don’t have positive feedback from “direct interaction with Iraq audience”? You claimed this is a lie.

Above I had set out the connections of those who prepare reports on RFI but they chose to ignore this evidence and pretended I had tried to prove no one in the entire country listens to it. I replied with:

@iraqhurr_eng What I established is that RFI is a propaganda operation. The word ‘lie’ does not appear in the article: RFE is a surrogate

Confronted with the refutation of a specific allegation they then shifted to talk about complete generalsations and present my curiosity as closed mindedness: RFI said:

@williamdclark There’s no point in reacting at every incorrect claim on RFI. Readers will take it as spam, and, will it convince you?

I replied by saying:

iraqhurr_eng You haven’t established any incorrect claims you just offer this “Just study it out” Tea Party reluctance to face reality

We forget that large companies fund the perpetual ignorance of groups such as the Tea Party. As long as people are listening to surrogate thinking such as that provided by RFI they are not thinking. To my mind a small group of people working in a bunker in Prague, funded as part of US propaganda is not the voice of the Iraqi people, not their media and not particularly in their interests.

[1] If we look at ‘Awkward questions over civilian deaths’ by Sergei Danilochkin, Asian Times October 2nd, 2003. This foregrounds the US’ version of events by drawing on military sources tasked with putting a propaganda gloss over events (Danilochkin draws on Lt. Kate Noble who is clearly tasked with explaining why the US were not interested in counting the Iraqi dead). Obviously the slaughter of civilians cannot be denied, so it is portrayed as inevitable. The same routine is put forward in Iraq: ‘Mounting Civilian Casualties Underscore Coalition Struggle for Radio Free Europe‘ (the previous report was designed for foreign consumption).

[2] Reports say that Julian Knapp’s work in Iran has contributed to the arrest of several people who were linked to a U.S.-funded Farsi-language radio station for allegedly fomenting unrest, and accused of working for US spy agencies. Although they were tied to RFE’s operations, Knapp attributed this to “a harsh crackdown on independent media and civil society in Iran”; the Iranian government attributed the arrests to their belief that the accused “played a role in violent anti-government demonstrations in Tehran.” Now we know RFE has a role in fomenting violence and subversion—that is its mission. This is a dangerous game and the staff of RFI work in a bunker in Prague.

Knapp was the former Director of Communications for RFE/RL and is now with another hugely funded propaganda operation the Legatum Institute alongside arch-propagandists Jeffrey Gedmin and Anne Applebaum. The institute is based in London and its stated mission gives the game away a little bit:

At a time when democratic capitalism is on trial in many places around the world, we have a vision of a more prosperous world based on greater economic and political liberty balanced with personal and institutional responsibility. And as we are bearing witness to historic political changes in the Arab world and beyond, we are dedicated to the study of political and economic transitions and the promotion of open economies and democracy. […] The Legatum Institute is based in London and an independent member of the Legatum Group, a private investment group with a 25 year heritage of global investment, allocating proprietary capital to businesses and to programmes that promote sustainable human development.

The people who work for it are defense lobbyists, Oil Company or Radio Free Europe people and so on. It is an attempt to put an ethical face on capitalism:

We advocate a humble and self-critical approach. Ideas and arguments need to be in a constant state of testing, sharpening, and adaptation. If capitalism is moral, then capitalists must act ethically, with wisdom and restraint. If limited government and free enterprise are keys to prosperity, then a vibrant civil society is essential, and each of us as individuals has a responsibility to serve others and our communities.

But they sure as hell are going to ignore what I am writing here. Part of the stunt includes the Legatum Prosperity Index (much the same as Transparency International’s routine). But do you really want paid propagandists to trot out this guff? A quick look around the web and anyone can find out what Julian Knapp has been up to in the war in the information war in Afghanistan—even on Fox News.

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