by Michael Barker
(Swans - April 20, 2009) The International Crisis Group was set up in 1995, and describes itself as an "independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation," which works "through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict." Taking issue with this misleading self-description, Diana Johnstone described the Crisis Group as a "high-level think tank supported by financier George Soros... [devised] primarily to provide policy guidance to governments involved in the NATO-led reshaping of the Balkans." Johnstone adds that "[i]ts leading figures include top US policy maker Morton Abramowitz, the eminence grise of NATO's new 'humanitarian intervention' policy and sponsor of Kosovo Albanian separatists." (1) More recently, Jan Oberg provided a detailed critique of the Crisis Group's "democratic" work in his essay The International Crisis Group: Who Pays the Piper? This article extends these critical examinations of the Group and introduces some of the leading democracy manipulators who work within with the International Crisis Group, a group that should more accurately be described as the Imperial Crusaders for Global Governance.
A demonstration of the accuracy of the above conclusion that this group is an elite tool that aims to manipulate and hijack the democratic process is seen through an examination of some of the Crisis Group's key figures. Morton Abramowitz, former board member of leading elite democracy-manipulating group, the National Endowment for Democracy, is a central founding figure behind the Crisis Group, serving as their acting president in 1997-8. Abramowitz is also connected to the "non-profit industrial complex"; he maintains associations with many of the US foreign policy elite's most influential "humanitarian" propaganda enterprises. For example he is presently a board member of the Henry Kissinger-linked International Rescue Committee (see Right Web Profile), while until recently he acted as an advisory board member of the controversial Center for Preventive Action (a Council on Foreign Relations/Human Rights Watch interventionist combo).
Another key figure working within the International Crisis Group, as part of its Executive Committee, is George Soros. Soros is the behind the scenes financier of numerous "human rights" groups. These groups help to serve a crucial purpose for the elite by confusing the global polity's understanding of the roots of human rights abuses. Most notably they achieve this through the output of the elitist Human Rights Watch. This organization is held in high regard by notables like Abramowitz and Henry Kissinger. Further, Abramowitz has stated that Soros is "the only man in the U.S. who has his own foreign policy -- and can implement it," while Kissinger, whose own democratic track record is somewhat cloudy, "respect[s] and admire[s]" Soros's philanthropic work. (2) Clearly, awareness of the extent of political power that Soros (and his foundations) wields internationally is demonstrated and understood by those he influences; what is concerning about this is that it appears there is little criticism of this anti-democratic influence, and no attempt to prevent the use of financial power to exert influence over and control the direction of humanitarian endeavours has been initiated by world leaders who purport to be the guardians of democracy. Instead of being challenged and criticized for manipulating the democratic process via his funding activities, Soros is actively courted by American Democrats.
In addition to Soros and Abramowitz, three other elite characters played instrumental roles in the creation of the Crisis Group. The first is Stephen Solarz, who serves on the advisory board of the AIPAC-associated think tank the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. Solarz is a former board member of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED); his wife, Nina Solarz, runs the Fund for Peace -- a group whose work is intimately related to that of the Endowment. The second person is the American special envoy to the Middle East for the Obama administration, George Mitchell, who in 1988 coauthored a book titled Men of Zeal (with William Cohen), which provided the cover story for illegal mechanisations of the Iran-Contra affair. The last critical Crisis Forum founder is long-time democracy manipulator, Mark Malloch Brown, who recently became the "vice president of the Quantum Fund, a hedge fund run by his billionaire friend George Soros." (3)
The present co-chairs of the Crisis Group also have histories as imperial democracy manipulators. Lord Patten of Barnes is a Conservative British politician and his co-chair, Thomas Pickering, formerly served as the (death squad) US ambassador to El Salvador (1983-5), and then as (ethnic cleansing) US ambassador to Israel (1985-8). More recently Pickering has acted as the president of the Soros-funded Eurasia Foundation, is a member of Boeing's executive council, and a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Crisis Group settles for nothing less than the cream of the international elite.
The one person who in recent years has exerted the most important influence over the Crisis Group is the former foreign minister of Australia, Gareth Evans. Evans has acted as the Crisis Group's president since 2000. He also played a key role in supporting the brutal Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia. John Pilger describes how:
Suharto's annexation of East Timor, which cost the lives of a third of the population, was described by the foreign minister Gareth Evans as "irreversible." As Evans succinctly put it, there were "zillions" of dollars to be made from the oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea. (For further details, see minutes 56 to 58 of Pilger's film "Death of a Nation.")
Thus the objectives of the president of the International Crisis Group, which is set up to prevent deadly conflict, are clearly informed by a capitalist world view and a desire to preserve and enrich traditional hegemonic power bases at the cost of human suffering and oppression.
The Responsibility to Protect (Imperialism)
Gareth Evans's ability to protect imperial powerbrokers at any cost has served his career well. He presently serves as the chair of the World Economic Forum Global Governance Initiative's Peace and Security Expert Group. Moreover, Evans's "humanitarian" credentials are respected by individual Western nations, and this is demonstrated by his position as co-chair, along with Mohamed Sahnoun from 2000 until 2001 of the Canadian government's International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. In December 2001, this commission published a landmark report titled "The Responsibility to Protect," which, with the aid of the Crisis Group, then helped catalyse the creation (in 2003) of the World Federalist Movement's imperialist Responsibility to Protect-Engaging Civil Society Project. (For a detailed discussion of the World Federalist Movement's involvement in promoting the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, see "Who Wants a One World Government?")
Given the close interlocks that exist between many elite humanitarian projects, it is not surprising that the other co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, Mohamed Sahnoun, is a board member of the Crisis Group, and maintains many other "humanitarian" connections. For example, he is a member of Human Rights Watch's Arms Advisory Committee, and is a council member of the one-world-government-linked Earth Charter International.
Last year Evans published The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and For All (Brookings Institution Press, 2008). In this book Evans reminisced about the creation of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty:
We had with us what could reasonably be described as a cast made in heaven for a panel of this kind -- needing, as it did, to be visibly representative of the whole world, in command of the issues, creatively minded, and highly tolerant of each other's foibles. From the global South there were former Philippines president Fidel V. Ramos, African National Congress head Cyril Ramaphosa from South Africa, Guatemalan foreign minister Eduardo Stein, and Indian scholar Ramesh Thakur. From the North there were former US congressman Lee Hamilton, German NATO general Klaus Naumann, and Canadian human rights and conflict specialists Michael Ignatieff and Gisele Cote-Harper, with Russian diplomat and parliamentarian Vladimir Lukin and former long-serving president of the International Committee of the Red Cross Cornelio Sommaruga (whom we liked to describe as "a Northerner with Southern characteristics") making up the balance. (4)
While all the members of the Commission were selected because of their "humanitarian" sensibilities -- click on their names to see their respective Source Watch pages -- the "Northerner with Southern characteristics," Cornelio Sommaruga, had been a board member of George Soros's Open Society Institute from 2000 until 2007. It is also notable that in the foreword to The Responsibility to Protect, Evans points out how the Commission "was the brainchild of then Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy," an individual who is presently a co-chair of the one-world-government planning group, the State of the World Forum, and a board member of both Human Rights Watch and the philanthropic giant, the MacArthur Foundation.
Humanitarian Invigoration for Intervention
After working his "humanitarian" heart off for almost nine years straight, Gareth Evans is set to be replaced as fresh(ish) blood is injected into the management of the Crisis Group's imperial machinery. Indeed, later this month, straight from serving a four-year stint as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, former Crisis Group board member Louise Arbour will formally be confirmed as the groups new president and CEO. (5) Arbour has an impeccable resume; prior to working at the United Nations she had served as the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (1996-9). Edward Herman and David Peterson provide a detailed account of the imperial nature of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia in their excellent article "The Dismantling of Yugoslavia"; while more recently Herman has pointed out how the Tribunal "wasn't an instrument of justice -- it was a faux-judicial arm of NATO, created to service its aims in the Balkan wars." Similarly moving to the other Tribunal Arbour served at, another article published this month, this time composed by Keith Harmon Snow, critiques the "show trials" at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Snow writes that "The rights and due process of Rwandan Hutus tried by the ICTR have been systematically violated due to the victor's justice secured by the U.S., Europe, Israel and the proxy states Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda." Thus, given the imperial pedigree of Arbour's most recent employers, it is fitting that her replacement at the United Nations, Navanethem Pillay, formerly served as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (1995-2003) -- the last four of which as the Tribunal's president -- and was then appointed as a judge on the International Criminal Court in the Hague (2003-8). (6)
A final indication of Arbour's importance to the democracy-manipulating community is evident by her receipt, in 2005, of the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights. The other winner of this award in 2005 was Justice Richard Goldstone (an individual whom Edward Herman correctly identifies as being a member of the cruise missile left), while before this only two other prizes had been given out, one of which went to the justice-phobic Tony Blair. Thus a demonstrable connection appears between the recipients of the Thomas J. Dodd Prize and their participation in the circulation of "humanitarian" propaganda. This connection becomes clearer when it is learnt that the most recent Dodd Prize was awarded to a Soros-backed group called Mental Disability Rights International, as the head of their Serbia Office, Dragana Ciric Milovanovic, had formerly served as the program officer in Serbia for the NED-funded propaganda outlet, People in Need.
Ending the Crisis: Exposing Elite Manipulation
This article has highlighted the problematic nature of ostensible good work being undertaken by the International Crisis Group, a former member of the "Project for a New American Humanitarianism." Countering the influence of the Crisis Group's high level propaganda offensive is a difficult task, especially for those who do not own mass media outlets or publishing houses -- however, for the time being, concerned citizens do have the power of the Internet to amplify their critical voices. Unfortunately, spreading the word amongst progressive networks is unlikely to result in the collapse of the power of Imperial Crusaders for Global Governance. Such groups will continue disseminating their misinformation and controlling popular interpretations of world events until we collectively decide that we need to challenge the legitimacy of all elite-sponsored do-good-all projects.
On an individual level, resisting the far-reaching influence of such "humanitarian" activists will be hard, if not impossible, but this job could be made easier if we successfully harness the power of independent media outlets to this cause. This will not be an easy task, given that many of the most influential alternative media outlets are connected to elite networks that need to be challenged. Thus there is a vital need for concerned individuals to work together to develop alternative ways of creating and sustaining projects that minimize elite interference.
For the time being, one effective tactic that can be adopted to facilitate critical reflection within the progressive community is sending emails to elite-supported independent media outlets like The Real News (contact AT therealnews.com), and Democracy Now! (contact online), asking why they fail to examine the elite manipulation of civil society by liberal foundations and individual "philanthropists" like George Soros (see "Who Funds the Progressive Media?"). These enquiries should be seen as a logical extension of the excellent work undertaken by the progressive media watchdog, Media Lens. Indeed, if we, the people, are ever to present an effective challenge to elite power brokers, we must see it as a matter of paramount concern that we challenge elite support of the very groups that are meant to be holding those same elites to account.
1. Diane Johnstone, "How it is Done: Taking over the Trepca Mines," The Emperor's New Clothes, February 28, 2000.
Writing in February 2009 Edward Herman writes: "The new NATO is a US and imperial pit-bull. It is currently helping rearm the world, encouraging the military build up of the former Baltic and Eastern European Soviet satellites -- now US and NATO satellites -- working closely with Israel as that NATO partner ethnically cleanses and dispossesses its untermeschen -- helping its master establish client states on the Russian southern borders, officially endorsing the US placement of anti-ballistic missiles in Poland, the Czech Republic, Israel, and threateningly elsewhere, at a great distance from the United States, and urging the integration of the US plans with a broader NATO 'shield.' This virtually forces Russia into more aggressive moves and accelerated rearmament (just as NATO did in earlier years)." (back)
2. Michael Kaufman, Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002), p.292. (back)
3. Robert Parry, "Firewall: Inside the Iran-Contra Cover-up," Consortium News, 1997.
Another person who fulfilled an important role in the team that created the Crisis Group is Anne Richard, an individual who previously served as Madeline Albright's top adviser for budget and planning. Richard is currently vice president of government relations and advocacy for the International Rescue Committee. Apart from Soros and Abramowitz, other members of the Crisis Group's current executive committee include: Vice Chair Emma Bonino, who is also a founding council member of Soros' European Council on Foreign Relations; Cheryl Carolus, who is a trustee of the free-market "environmental" group, WWF International; Maria Livanos Cattaui, who is a co-founder of the Business Humanitarian Forum; Yoichi Funabashi, who is a member of the Trilateral Commission; Frank Giustra, who is a trustee of the William J. Clinton Foundation; and Par Stenback, the founder and chairman of the Senate of the European Cultural Parliament.
Crisis Group board members with strong democracy-manipulating credentials include Kenneth Adelman, who is a trustee at Freedom House (and is married to Carol Adelman), and previously "headed a $3 billion yearly overseas assistance program" with the US Agency for International Development, and is a former board member of the core NED grantee, the Center for International Private Enterprise; Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is a former trustee of Freedom House and former board member of the NED; Wesley Clark, who is a former NED board member; and Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, who is a board member of Human Rights Watch and the NED-supported International Center for Journalists. Leedom-Ackerman is married to Peter Ackerman -- who amongst other things is chair of Freedom House board of trustees; for further critical details see "A Force More Powerful: Promoting 'Democracy' Through Civil Disobedience."
Given the Crisis Group's high level of elite membership it is not surprising that they have been highly successful in obtaining international media coverage, and their "reports and analysts are widely used as sources of information and comment by major national and international media outlets." Furthermore, the Crisis Group is funded by a number of governments and liberal philanthropists. For instance, in 2005, the Crisis Group received 41 percent of their $12 million total operating costs from 22 governments, and 39 percent of their funding from philanthropic foundations, which included the Open Society Institute, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Moriah Fund. See International Crisis Group: Annual Report 2006 (pdf). (back)
4. Gareth Evans, The Responsibility to Protect, p.39. With regard to the Commission, Evans notes: "We very much had in mind the power of new ideas, or old ideas newly expressed, to actually change the behavior of key policy actors. And the model we looked to in this respect was the Brundtland Commission, which, a few years earlier, had introduced the concept of 'sustainable development' to bridge the huge gap that then existed between developers and environmentalists." (p.40) (back)
5. While this article will not critique the role of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in facilitating "humanitarian" interventions, the important democracy-manipulating role played by other parts of the United Nations, like for instance the newly created Democracy Fund, indicates that further enquiry is warranted (see "The United Nations Democracy Fund as Democracy Manipulator"). Such critical enquiries are even more urgent given that Mark Malloch Brown, the man who arguably paved the way for the creation of the UN Democracy Fund in 2005, helped come up with the idea for creating the International Crisis Group in 1993. (back)
6. During the early 1990s, former Acting High Commissioner of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, previously served as the Director of the Office of the Special Representative for the Secretary-General in UNPROFOR, and as Director of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia.
From 1997 to 2002, Mary Robinson acted as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Among her numerous affiliations to democracy-manipulating organizations, Robinson is a honorary member of the Club of Budapest -- for critical details of this Club's work see "The Project For A New American Humanitarianism" and "Who Wants A One World Government?".
Prior to Robinson's service at the Commission, Jose Ayala-Lasso served as the first United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1994-7). During his last year at the Commission Ayala-Lasso also acted as commissioner for the International Commission on Missing Persons, and while there, the aforementioned Responsibility to Protect commissioner, Cornelio Sommaruga, was also a commissioner of this group (1996-2000). The Sarajevo-based International Commission on Missing Persons has one current commissioner who is a board member of the International Crisis Group, Willem Kok; while former commission members include Lord Carrington, who is a mentor of Crisis Group co-chair Chris Patten; and Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, who is currently a Crisis Group board member. (back)
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