Bush to NGOs

Watch your mouths

Monday 4 August 2003, by Naomi Klein

The Bush administration has found its next target for pre-emptive war, but it’s not Iran, Syria or North Korea — not yet, anyway. Before launching any new foreign adventures, the Bush gang has some homeland housekeeping to take care of: It is going to sweep up those pesky non-governmental organizations that are helping to turn world opinion against U.S. bombs and brands.

The war on NGOs is being fought on two clear fronts. One buys the silence and complicity of mainstream humanitarian and religious groups by offering lucrative reconstruction contracts. The other marginalizes and criminalizes more independent-minded NGOs by claiming that their work is a threat to democracy. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is in charge of handing out the carrots, while the American Enterprise Institute, the most powerful think tank in Washington, D.C., is wielding the sticks.

On May 21 in Washington, Andrew Natsios, the head of USAID, gave a speech blasting U.S. NGOs for failing to play a role many of them didn’t realize they had been assigned: doing public relations for the U.S. government. According to InterAction, the network of 160 relief and development NGOs that hosted the conference, Mr. Natsios was "irritated" that starving and sick Iraqi and Afghan children didn’t realize that their food and vaccines were coming to them courtesy of George W. Bush. From now on, NGOs had to do a better job of linking their humanitarian assistance to U.S. foreign policy and making it clear that they are "an arm of the U.S. government." If they didn’t, InterAction reported, "Natsios threatened to personally tear up their contracts and find new partners."

Read the full story:

http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20030620/CONAOMI20/TPComment/Columnists


Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo and Fences and Windows.

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