Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Trojan Horse
The National Endowment for Democracy

How many Americans could identify the National Endowment for
Democracy? An organization which often does exactly the opposite
of what its name implies. The NED was set up in the early 1980s
under President Reagan in the wake of all the negative
revelations about the CIA in the second half of the 1970s. The
latter was a remarkable period. Spurred by Watergate -- the
Church committee of the Senate, the Pike committee of the House,
and the Rockefeller Commission, created by the president, were
all busy investigating the CIA. Seemingly every other day there
was a new headline about the discovery of some awful thing, even
criminal conduct, the CIA had been mixed up in for years. The
Agency was getting an exceedingly bad name, and it was causing
the powers-that-be much embarrassment.
Something had to be done. What was done was not to stop
doing these awful things. Of course not. What was done was
to shift many of these awful things to a new organization, with
a nice sounding name -- The National Endowment for Democracy.
The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA
had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully,
eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities.
It was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations,
and of cynicism.
Thus it was that in 1983, the National Endowment for
Democracy was set up to "support democratic institutions
throughout the world through private, nongovernmental efforts".
Notice the "nongovernmental" -- part of the image, part of the
myth. In actuality, virtually every penny of its funding comes
from the federal government, as is clearly indicated in the
financial statement in each issue of its annual report. NED
likes to refer to itself as an NGO (Non-governmental
organization) because this helps to maintain a certain
credibility abroad that an official US government agency might
not have. But NGO is the wrong category. NED is a GO.
Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation
establishing NED, was quite candid when he said in 1991: "A lot
of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the
CIA."{1} In effect, the CIA has been laundering money through
The Endowment has four principal initial recipients of
funds: the International Republican Institute; the National
Democratic Institute for International Affairs; an affiliate of
the AFL-CIO (such as the American Center for International Labor
Solidarity); and an affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce (such as
the Center for International Private Enterprise). These
institutions then disburse funds to other institutions in the US
and all over the world, which then often disburse funds to yet
other organizations.
In a multitude of ways, NED meddles in the internal affairs
of foreign countries by supplying funds, technical know-how,
training, educational materials, computers, faxes, copiers,
automobiles, and so on, to selected political groups, civic
organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student groups,
book publishers, newspapers, other media, etc. NED programs
generally impart the basic philosophy that working people and
other citizens are best served under a system of free enterprise,
class cooperation, collective bargaining, minimal government
intervention in the economy, and opposition to socialism in any
shape or form. A free-market economy is equated with democracy,
reform, and growth; and the merits of foreign investment are
From 1994 to 1996, NED awarded 15 grants, totaling more than
$2,500,000, to the American Institute for Free Labor Development,
an organization used by the CIA for decades to subvert
progressive labor unions.{2} AIFLD's work within Third World
unions typically involved a considerable educational effort very
similar to the basic NED philosophy described above. The
description of one of the 1996 NED grants to AIFLD includes as
one its objectives: "build union-management cooperation".{3}
Like many things that NED says, this sounds innocuous, if not
positive, but these in fact are ideological code words meaning
"keep the labor agitation down ... don't rock the status-quo
boat". The relationship between NED and AIFLD very well captures
the CIA origins of the Endowment.{4}
NED has funded centrist and rightist labor organizations to
help them oppose those unions which were too militantly pro-worker. This has taken place in France, Portugal and Spain amongst many other places. In France, during the 1983-4 period, NED supported a "trade union-like organization for professors and students" to counter "left-wing organizations of professors". To this end it funded a series of seminars and the publication of posters, books and pamphlets such as "Subversion and the Theology of Revolution" and "Neutralism or Liberty".{5} ("Neutralism" here refers to being unaligned in the cold war.)
NED describes one of its 1997-98 programs thusly: "To
identify barriers to private sector development at the local and
federal levels in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to push
for legislative change ... [and] to develop strategies for
private sector growth."{6} Critics of Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic have been supported by NED grants for
In short, NED's programs are in sync with the basic needs
and objectives of the New World Order's economic globalization,
just as the programs have for years been on the same wavelength
as US foreign policy.
Because of a controversy in 1984 -- when NED funds were used
to aid a Panamanian presidential candidate backed by Manuel
Noriega and the CIA -- Congress enacted a law prohibiting the use
of NED funds "to finance the campaigns of candidates for public
office." But the ways to circumvent the spirit of such a
prohibition are not difficult to come up with; as with American
elections, there's "hard money" and there's "soft money".
As described in the "Elections" and "Interventions"
chapters, NED successfully manipulated elections in Nicaragua in
1990 and Mongolia in 1996, helped to overthrow democratically
elected governments in Bulgaria in 1990 and Albania in 1991 and
1992, and was busy working in Haiti in the late 1990s on behalf
of right wing groups who were united in their opposition to
former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his progressive
ideology.{8} NED has made its weight felt in the electoral-political process in numerous other countries.
NED would have the world believe that it's only teaching the
ABCs of democracy and elections to people who don't know them,
but in all five countries named above there had already been free
and fair elections held. The problem, from NED's point of view,
is that the elections had been won by political parties not on
NED's favorites list.
The Endowment maintains that it's engaged in "opposition
building" and "encouraging pluralism". "We support people who
otherwise do not have a voice in their political system," said
Louisa Coan, a NED program officer.{9} But NED hasn't provided
aid to foster progressive or leftist opposition in Mexico, El
Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, or Eastern Europe -- or, for that
matter, in the United States -- even though these groups are hard
pressed for funds and to make themselves heard. Cuban dissident
groups and media are heavily supported however.
NED's reports carry on endlessly about "democracy", but at
best it's a modest measure of mechanical political democracy they
have in mind, not economic democracy; nothing that aims to
threaten the powers-that-be or the way-things-are, unless of
course it's in a place like Cuba.
The Endowment played an important role in the Iran-Contra
affair of the 1980s, funding key components of Oliver North's
shadowy "Project Democracy" network, which privatized US foreign
policy, waged war, ran arms and drugs, and engaged in other
equally charming activities. At one point in 1987, a White House
spokesman stated that those at NED "run Project Democracy".{10}
This was an exaggeration; it would have been more correct to say
that NED was the public arm of Project Democracy, while North ran
the covert end of things. In any event, the statement caused
much less of a stir than if -- as in an earlier period -- it had
been revealed that it was the CIA which was behind such an
unscrupulous operation.
NED also mounted a multi-level campaign to fight the leftist
insurgency in the Philippines in the mid-1980s, funding a host of
private organizations, including unions and the media.{11} This
was a replica of a typical CIA operation of pre-NED days.
And between 1990 and 1992, the Endowment donated a
quarter-million dollars of taxpayers' money to the Cuban-American
National Foundation, the ultra-fanatic anti-Castro Miami group. The
CANF, in turn, financed Luis Posada Carriles, one of the most
prolific and pitiless terrorists of modern times, who was
involved in the blowing up of a Cuban airplane in 1976, which
killed 73 people. In 1997, he was involved in a series of bomb
explosions in Havana hotels.{12}
The NED, like the CIA before it, calls what it does
supporting democracy. The governments and movements whom the
NED targets call it destabilization.{13}

1. Washington Post, September 22, 1991

2. NED Annual Reports, 1994-96.

3. NED Annual Report, 1996, p.39

4. For further information on AIFLD, see: Tom Barry, et al., The
Other Side of Paradise: Foreign Control in the Caribbean (Grove
Press, NY, 1984), see AIFLD in index; Jan Knippers Black, United
States Penetration of Brazil (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1977),
chapter 6; Fred Hirsch, An Analysis of Our AFL-CIO Role in Latin
America (monograph, San Jose, California, 1974) passim; The
Sunday Times (London), October 27, 1974, p.15-16

5. NED Annual Report, November 18, 1983 to September 30, 1984,

6. NED Annual Report, November 18, 1983 to September 30, 1984,

7. See NED annual reports of the 1990s.

8. Haiti: Haiti Progres (Port-au-Prince, Haiti), May 13-19, 1998

9. New York Times, March 31, 1997, p.11

10. Washington Post, February 16, 1987; also see New York Times,
February 15, 1987, p.1

11. San Francisco Examiner, July 21, 1985, p.1

12. New York Times, July 13, 1998

13. For a detailed discussion of NED, in addition to the sources
named above, see: William I. Robinson, A Faustian Bargain: U.S.
Intervention in the Nicaraguan Elections and American Foreign
Policy in the Post-Cold War Era (Westview Press, Colorado, 1992),

This is a chapter from Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only
Superpower, by William Blum

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