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US Taxpayers' Money Spent On Promoting Democracy Abroad

Writers Articles And Opinions

18 November 2010

By Richard Web

Selling democracy does not come cheap, as the US is spending billions of taxpayers' dollars to finance foreign politicians and parties which fall on its side of the fence.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has spent US$9 billion on promoting Washington's democracy initiatives.

This is a new model for influencing target countries' internal politics in favor of US interests through financing, training, support and guidance to pro-US forces in foreign countries.

Another democracy promoter the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) received $132 million during 2009, and nearly all of it from US government agencies.

But those are just the tip of the iceberg. There is an entire network of organizations involved in the democracy promotion business.

Although all the organizations insist there is no political affiliation, the boards of directors for both NDI (National Democratic Institute) and IRI (International Republican Institute) suggest otherwise former Secretaries of State, national security advisers, members of Congress, even Clinton and Bush administration officials.

They all have a history in Washington one deeply rooted in sustaining the current foreign policy priorities.
"To understand US foreign policy, one must first understand a very basic fact the US government wants to dominate the world," says William Blum, a US historian and author.

The people of Honduras may present a vivid example of what democracy promotion brought them. While the USAID requests $800,000 for strengthening governance and democracy there, journalists and activists are being brutalized and killed under the US-backed government.

In Egypt, a revolt against the US-supported policies of Hosni Mubarak's regime has mobilized the democracy promotion agencies to co-opt opposition groups ensuring that results of upcoming elections will be beneficial to Washington. Many who study those agencies believe the soft money working behind scenes is directly linked to the CIA.

"They had to have a new organization with a nice sounding name, with the word democracy in it, which would be free of the taint of the CIA, and that's why the NED was created," William Blum says.

USAID has implemented so-called democracy promotion initiatives in over 100 countries in the past 25 years, and this year's budget is $1 billion. According to USAID's website, spending $10 million in a target country increases its amount of democratic change fivefold.

And herein lies the hypocrisy.
"We have a very clear law on the books prohibiting foreign governments from interfering in our elections of supporting any candidates with money," says William Blum. "So abroad we do exactly what we prohibit here at home".

Encouraging transparency is a stated core element of the US government's democracy promotion efforts in foreign countries but the agencies themselves are far from transparent.

Detailed program budgets and information are unavailable to the public and contact with the media is limited. Over the last six weeks, RT has repeatedly requested interviews with USAID, NED, IRI and NDI. All of those requests were denied or unanswered.



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