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The Arab Spring opened on the road in Tunisia before hitting the big time in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. The workers of the unofficial Egyptian union movement had fought the neoconservative run government of Hosni Mubarak for years. This was their moment. Unfortunately, there were others present who wanted to make it their moment. Some of them, sixteen representatives of U.S. supported non-government organizations (NGOs), have been indicted by the Egyptian government for meddling in the internal political affairs of that country (Feb 5, 2012)
During the 2011 Egyptian protest movement, United States government had its stealth agents in place. It also had its proxies in worldwide democracy movement, the non-government organizations (NGOs) operating with funding from the neoconservative leaning National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The International Republican Institute started up in Egypt in 2005. Its counterpart, the National Democratic Institute has been there since 1995. For two decades, the Chamber of Commerce Center for International Private Enterprise and the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center carried out their work in Egypt under one name or another.
Here's how it works. A sovereign state receiving aid or otherwise under the influence of the United States is required to open up to NGOs from the United States funded by the U.S. government. The pass through organization, NED, serves as the cutout that allows the various NGOs to look independent. But they're not. These organizations would be out of business exist without your tax dollars.
When the host nation has a crisis and the NGOs get a little too involved, the host nation must tolerate this interference without complaint. Egypt's government had enough over the past few months.
Rep. Ron Paul summed up the hypocrisy of the NGO democracy organizations during a House of Representatives speech opposing funding on October 7, 2003: in 2003:
"How would Americans feel if the Chinese arrived with millions of dollars to support certain candidates deemed friendly to China? Would this be viewed as a democratic development?"
NGO Version of Egyptian Legal Problems
Sixteen U.S. citizens (see list) serving in four NGOs were indicted for "illegally receiving foreign funding and establishing civil society organizations without license." Most were from the Republican and Democratic NGO institutes. The others were from NGOs Freedom House and the International Center for Journalists. Like the Republican and Democratic NGOs, both Freedom House and the journalist's organization receive financial support from NED.
Several NGOs feeling the pain in Egypt put together an analysis of the situation: Backgrounder: The Campaign Against NGOs in Egypt, Project for Middle East Democracy, February 10, 2012.
The report fails to mention any legitimate objection Egypt or any other host nation might have to an aggressive foreign superpower trying to influence the host nation's governance. In fact, the report is littered with claims that the organizations don't take sides. They're just on the ground to promote the political process. A look back at the long history of NGO democracy groups shows just the opposite. In the Ukraine's Orange Revolution, democracy NGOs, Bush administration officials, and their supposed enemy George Soros were highly partisan, using arguments to overturn the 2004 Ukraine election while they all stood silent about the stolen election of 2004.
The National Democratic Institute argued that:
"At no time has NDI funded any political party or protest movement. The Institute does not seek particular electoral outcomes; and does not align itself with any political party, ideology or candidate. All programs are designed to support public confidence and participation in key political processes as defined in the constitutional referendum." Backgrounder, p. 8
The International Republican Institute said:
"IRI has repeatedly shown the Egyptian government, its program provides technical skills trainings, based on a wide range of international experiences, on the long-term development of political parties and civil society." Backgrounder, p. 8
The report trotted out statements by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraging Egypt to allow the indicted NGO staffers to leave Egypt. Both officials mentioned the long standing positive relationship with the Egyptian military leaders in charge.
Clinton spokesperson Victoria Nuland's U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing of January 4 was mentioned. In it, she identified the villain of this effort, Egypt's International Cooperation Minister Fayza Abouelnaga. Nuland said, "… we also seem to have some Mubarak holdovers in the government who don’t seem to understand how these organizations operate in a democratic society and are putting out lots of disinformation about them. Backgrounder, p. 16
Abouelnaga was clear in her assessment of the situation and will no doubt become a target for vilification, etc. in the coming days and weeks: (Image Egyptian government)
"The 25 January revolution events came as a surprise to the United States… and it lost control over it after it turned into a revolution of the entire Egyptian population," Abouelnaga said.
"That was when the United States decided to use all its resources and instruments to contain the situation and push it in a direction that promotes American and also Israeli interests," MENA quoted her as saying.
"All evidence indicates a clear desire and determination to abort any opportunity for Egypt to rise as a modern democratic nation with a strong economy,” she said. “This would represent the biggest threat to Israeli and American interests, not only in Egypt, but in the region as a whole." Egypt Independent, Feb 13
The Egyptian military leaders profit from their privileged position. A large portion of their profit comes through U.S. military aid and business investment. Their actions put that income at risk.
This leads to the following conclusions. Interference by the NGOs must have been egregious to stimulate such a rash action. In addition, the Egyptians may have an ace up their sleeve. The United States and China are in a pitched battle for both influence and oil in the Middle East and Africa. Maybe Egypt is ready to flip and give China its first big win in the great game.
Who knows? Foreign meddling through proxy agents for the ruling elite is counterproductive. This constitutes an effort that we can ill avoid as our country crumbles around us under the leadership of the not-so-great game players in charge.
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