Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe shake hands, after addressing a press conference after signing a memorandum of understanding between Iran and Zimbabwe at State House in Harare, Thursday, April 22, 2010., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
CIA’s Freedom House: A house of destruction
Saturday, 25 August 2012 19:36
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
Describing itself as a “clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world”, Freedom House has a history of muddying the political waters of targeted nations.
Freedom House was formed in the United States in 1941 to counter isolationism and to support the Marshall Plan, and has largely been supported by US federal funding.
According to the US Institute of Policy Studies, in 2001 Freedom House had and income of around US$11 million, increasing to over US$26 million in 2006.
“Much of the increase was due to a rise between 2004 and 2005 in US government federal funding, from US$12 million to US$20 million. Federal funding fell to around US$10 million in 2007, but still represented around 80 percent of Freedom House’s budget,” read a statement on the Inter Press Service (IPS) website.
The strong financial links between the US government and Freedom House have resulted in critics questioning how an organisation that claims to be independent could be funded by a government which it seeks to be independent from.
These strong links have cemented suspicions that Freedom House is indeed used by the US government to do hatchet jobs on nations deemed to be threats to America.
When Freedom House released what they said were findings of a new public opinion poll on Zimbabwe on Thursday, it was not surprising that political analysts were left wondering what the American CIA-sponsored agent was up to this time.
UK-based Zimbabwean law lecturer and political analyst Dr Alex Magaisa opined on his Facebook page:
“Research itself is a site of struggle — sometimes between researchers or between the researcher and the researched or indeed, among the researched. It is important to bear in mind always, that research is not an innocent exercise but is invariably designed toward certain goals; certain agendas; with the researchers themselves being critical actors.
There is invariably always an agenda, albeit unsaid, behind research.
“So when you look at a survey or research, you have to go outside the narrow focus on the results and interpretations and ask the hard question: What is the agenda behind this survey? It could be to wake up; it could be to lull.
“It is a question that both the positively represented and the negatively represented have to bear in mind. Either way, you have to look at a survey or research generally with a critically aware eye and mind.”
Responding to Dr Magaisa’s post, Mr Mirirai Smart said:
“Strategists know what popularity surveys and not research aim at. Most people are always fooled almost all the time by such stupid gimmicks which either are meant to lull unliked politicians into undeserved self-praise and therefore into a lull or galvanise the supposed survey unpopular to gird their loins into action, which may be the real intent of such.
“People get fully emotionally charged and frustrated either into action or inaction as a result. Which is what strategists par excellence aim at. Political engineering at its most stupid, actually.”
The critical question to be asked is: Why now? What are the Americans seeking to achieve?
Could the Americans be trying to divert Zimbabweans from the more pressing constitution-making debate?
“Efforts that strategists expend to try and shape world outcomes in the political arena either accelerate or decelerate a process, by refocusing direction. We are here embroiled in discussing some survey/research, occupying space which can best and profitably be used to discuss the constitution which might affect the lives of generations after us. No move is as stupid as it looks,” warned Mr Smart.
IPS has quoted Italian political scientist Professor Diego Giannonea, questioning this unholy alliance.
Prof Giannonea wrote that US government funding to Freedom House was “unusual, especially when one considers that the organisations involved in the assessment and monitoring of human rights, democracy and freedom in the world refuse on principle — as a guarantee of their independence and credibility — government funding.”
The Financial Times has reported that Freedom House is one of several organisations selected by the State Department to receive funding for “clandestine activities” inside Iran.
In a research study quoted by the paper, Freedom House set out its conclusions:
“Far more often than is generally understood, the change agent is broad-based, non-violent civic resistance — which employs tactics such as boycotts, mass protests, blockades, strikes and civil disobedience to de-legitimate authoritarian rulers and erode their sources of support, including the loyalty of their armed defenders.”
Past Freedom House advisers and associates have included former CIA director James Woolsey, the late UN ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick; conservative Rolling Stone writer P. J. O'Rourke, and the late Samuel Huntington, the Harvard professor known for his “clash of civilisations” thesis.
In fact, Freedom House is classified in the same group with other CIA-linked organisations like the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, National
Endowment for Democracy, Millennium Challenge Corporation and the International Centre for Journalists.
Egyptian media reported in 2009 that 16 young Egyptian activists benefited from a two-month Freedom House “New Generation Fellowship” in Washington DC.
“The activists received training in advocacy and met with US government officials, members of Congress, media outlets and think tanks.
“As far back as 2008, members of the April 6th Movement attended the inaugural summit of the Association of Youth Movements (AYM) in New York, where they networked with other movements, attended workshops on the use of new and social media and learned about technical upgrades, such as consistently alternating computer simcards, which help to evade state internet surveillance.”
Information gleaned from various American websites shows that AYM is sponsored by Pepsi, YouTube and MTV.
Amongst the luminaries who participated in the 2008 Summit, which focused on training activists in the use of Facebook and Twitter, were James Glassman of the State Department, Sherif Mansour of Freedom House, national security advisor Shaarik Zafar and Larry Diamond of the National Endowment for Democracy.
And it is these American-trained young people who drove the so-called Arab Spring in Egypt.
Freedom House took an active role in the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, specifically in training the non-violent student movement, known as Otpor.
Closer home, in February 2006 clandestine Freedom House meetings in Zambia led to the deportation of now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his eight-member team from that country. Reports said that the eight MDC-T officials posed as tourists but later held secret meetings with officials from Freedom House in Livingstone.
The MDC-T officials included the late Mr Isaac Matongo, Mr Nelson Chamisa, Ms Lucia Matibenga, Ms Gertrude Mthombeni, Ms Paurina Mpariwa, Mr William Bango, Ms Thokozani Khupe and Mr Eddie Cross.
According to reports, Mr Tsvangirai flew into Victoria Falls ahead of his colleagues and met a Samuel Mark Imende, believed to be Kenyan.
After regrouping at Zambezi Sun International Hotel in Livingstone, the MDC leaders held a marathon meeting with the Freedom House members, who were initially believed to be MDC donors.
Sources said the officials from the US-funded organisation were initially stationed in Kenya to mobilise sentiments against the Kenyan government’s bid to amend that country’s constitution.
The sources said Imende was present at the meeting in Zambia because he had been working hand-in-hand with the organisation during its stint in Kenya.