18 November 2011

Let’s get to know the International Crisis Group*

A few weeks ago the British Parliament is reported to have debated the issue of alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka.  Any comment on the various statements made and the charges leveled against Sri Lanka need to be prefaced by things that came without saying and therefore go without saying but should not be allowed to go away without saying.

Number 1. LOOT.  Did the British document?  Who has the inventory?  And total theft been calculated?  When will it be returned.

Number 2. DOUBLE STANDARDS. Have the British finished having a conversation with themselves and all relevant ‘others’ about all crimes against humanity (alleged, proven etc) that their ancestors and they themselves have perpetrated. ‘Are Perpetrating,’ I should say, in the present continuous, because Iraq and Afghanistan are yet to become ‘past tense’ and Gaza is a present and continuous tragedy of blood-letter by the Israelis, backed to the hilt by Obama and Elizabeth.

Number 3. SLOTH. When people don’t do their homework they get shown up.  A lot of people who had nasty thing to say about Sri Lanka have been guilty of such howlers that after being taken to the cleaners a couple of times they go silent.  I have no doubt that the members of the British Parliament who spoke that day are good-hearted human beings.  I do fault them for their double-standards, their clearly apparent myopia and absolute ignorance of that lovely English adage, ‘charity begins at home’, but that can all be put down to general ignorance stemming from being a colonial power for too many centuries.  This, however, this issue of giving unwarranted value to allegation (given slim supporting evidence and notoriety of source) and slipping quickly from allegation to fact to demand for censure smacks of a kind of vulgarity that we have been told has no place in the best of British parliamentary tradition. 

The MPs who have tripped over their egos and hearts and whatever else there is to trip over in the mad rush to feel self-righteous hunger need to be undressed but this is not the moment or the place.  What struck me is that all allegations, all good-guy posturing and other utterly nauseating articulations of the best of British arrogance is based on a report issued by the International Crisis Group (ICG).

Some weeks ago, after I wrote a piece about the ICG, I got an email from a person called Andrew Stroehlein, who chided me for not having visited the ICG website before writing. Andrew claimed that the ICG has in fact issued lots of ‘statements, comments and podcasts’ on recent events and implied that it was not singling out Sri Lanka for censure.  I apologized for not having visited the website. I pointed out that it was Chris Patten who had been shooting his mouth and that I hadn’t seen any statement from him regarding Isreali action on Gaza, for instance (which I had referred to in my article). 

I also sought Andrew’s help: ‘would appreciate if you can send me official releases pertaining to demands for investigations into us/uk actions in iraq, afghanistan and pakistan and more specifically, allegations of systemic torture (eg. guantanamo bay, abu ghraib)’.

He ignored my request.  He said, instead, ‘I am sure in quoting from this email exchange you will include your admission that you did not look at the organisation's website before criticising the organisation's public positions.’ 

I’ve done my part now.   He is yet to give me links to the ICG’s ‘work’ on the places and events I referred to.  I did visit the ICG website and perused its pages on Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, i.e. countries where US/UK action has resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary civilian deaths including the death of children due to sanctions, deliberate ‘absenting’ of drugs and medical facilities etc., not to mention internally displaced people numbering over half a million and living in conditions that would make the plight of Sri Lanka’s IDPs look quite ‘first-wordly’.  The overall thrust is very clear.  The ICG is quite comfy with what the USA/US rogue states are perpetrating in these territories and is at best quibbling about modalities on marginal matters and even then placing the blame squarely on ‘rebels’ for creating conditions warranting military action. A predictable European Conquistador narrative, I felt. 

The entire website is the stuff made for a phd thesis on colonialist posturing and relevant ranting.  Andrew Stroehlein and others at ICG need to be educated about the politics of absenting.  A full review of the website will be sent to Andrew and I hope he will post it somewhere in the interest of saluting the values and principles that the ICG was ostensibly set up to champion.

For now, though, I choose to write about the background, the who’s who, the what-have-they-done etc., and I am referring to the big names in the ICG. Just so that our readers will get a good sense of where these people are coming from and where they want to take us.  For the record, though, let me first get this qualifier out of the way: the ICG report is based on ‘evidence’ submitted not by independent witnesses but parties rabidly against the Government of Sri Lanka, parties that are openly pro-LTTE and individuals whose integrity has been severely compromised on account of embezzlement, theft and directly and/or indirectly supporting terrorism.  The ICG is a half-way source and the British MPs should have dug deeper. They didn’t, possibly because they are ignorant or else in cahoots with the bunch of shady characters that make up the ICG’s top brass.

My friend Vinod Moonesinghe did what the Sri Lanka Government ought to have done a long time ago.  It is something that I regret I didn’t do.  Sadly, Vinod’s letter was not picked up by any newspaper.

Vinod gives us the names.

‘The ICG was founded in 1995 by Ambassador Morton I Abramowitz and ex-Congressman Stephen J Solarz, among others. Helping to draw up the original proposal was Abramowitz’ special assistant Lynne A Davidson. The ICG’s Co-Chairs are former European Commissioner Christopher Patten and former US diplomat Thomas R Pickering. Its Board of trustees includes Abramowitz, Solarz, former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US diplomat Kenneth Adelman, former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former Israeli Foreign Minister and Minister of Internal Security Shlomo Ben-Ami, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander – Europe (SACEUR) General Wesley Clark, former Foreign Minister of Australia Gareth Evans, former president of PolandAleksander Kwaśniewski and former Venezuelan minister Moisés Naím. It’s Senior Advisers (former Board members) include former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Israeli President Shimon Peres.’

Who are these people?  Vinod lays it out.  From now, it’s his voice. I concur and take full responsibility.
Morton I Abramowitz and Zbigniew Brzezinski are part of a network of shadowy right-wing organisations and advocacy groups. Both of them belonged to the now-defunct American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, another member of which was Kenneth Adelman, who had been Assistant to US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld in the 1970s, at precisely the time in which the CIA’s George W Bush (later President) was building up the BCCI-narco-finance network.

Bush’s son President George W Bush later employed Adelman in the Defence Policy Board, where he was a strong advocate of the illegal invasion of Iraq. He famously claimed in the Washington Post in 2002 that the invasion would be a ‘Cakewalk’. He has also advocated the pre-emptive invasion of both Iran and Saudi Arabia and supported the notorious 2002 ‘open letter’ to President Bush drawn up by the shadowy Project for the New American Century (PNAC), urging him to attack Iraq and the Palestinians.

Another supporter of the PNAC was a signatory to its 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton, demanding an invasion of Iraq without UN sanction, Richard Armitage. During his stint with the US Navy special operations, he was allegedly involved in the PHOENIX programme of murdering opponents of the USA in Vietnam.
As Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Affairs in 1983-89, Armitage was implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal, involving the use of drug money to supply weapons to the Afghan terrorists as well as to the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua. He has been on the board of CACI, a defence contractor implicated in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.

Another member of the defunct American Committee for Peace in Chechnya was ex-congressman Stephen J Solarz. In 1998, as a member of the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, Solarz called in an open letter to President Bill Clinton, for the US armed forces to intervene illegally in Iraq.  Co-signatories of the document, which later formed the basis for PNAC policy, included Richard Armitage and Fred Ikle.
Abramowitz, Armitage and Solarz were also signatories to the PNAC Letter to President Bill Clinton on 11 September 1998, in which he was called upon to overthrow Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic and establish ‘a new political status for Kosovo’.  The USA had covertly been supporting the al-Qaeda linked narco-terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) since at least early 1998, and possibly earlier.

ICG Co-Chair Thomas R Pickering, while Under-secretary of State for Political Affairs, championed the US position of interference in Yugoslavia with aid for the KLA – even granted that the legal position on this was somewhat shaky. He was also obliquely involved in the Iran-Contra scandal while Ambassador to El Salvador.

Yet another ICG member involved in the Kosovo adventure was General Wesley Clark. He attended the Rambouillet talks, at which the US tried to force Kosovo secession on the Yugoslavs (with Abramowitz acting as adviser to the terrorist delegation). He threatened to bomb Yugoslavia, which he proceeded to do during the undeclared war on Yugoslavia, in his capacity as SACEUR; at the start of the campaign he threatened “We're going to systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately, unless President Milosevic complies” with US demands.  The British commander General Sir Mike Jackson reportedly told Clark "I'm not going to start the Third World War for you".

The bombing of Yugoslavia saw little damage to the Yugoslav armed forces, but considerable ‘collateral damage’, as the ‘Shock and Awe’ tactics which were to be used against Baghdad were tried out against the Serbian population. Among what Clark referred to as ‘mistakes’ were the bombing of the Chinese Embassy and a deliberate attack on a civilian train by a US Air Force F-15, which Clark tried unsuccessfully to cover up.

Board member Lord Chris Patten was part of the Thatcher regime which enabled the training by the SAS of Afghan terrorists. He was also minister in charge of Thatcher’s attempt to dis-enfranchise the British public through the notorious poll tax scheme. He referred to people taking part in the popular anti-poll tax demonstrations as ‘rent-a-crowd outsiders’.

Board member Gareth Evans was Foreign Minister of Australia and the foremost apologist for the Indonesian army’s reign of terror in East Timor, during which 200,000 people (a third of the population) were killed.
The commission investigating the October 2000 riots in which Israeli police killed 13 Arabs, held Shlomo Ben-Ami, the then Minister of Internal Security responsible for the behaviour of security forces, which came under his purview.

Malcolm Fraser, as Minister of the Army and later as Minister of Defence of Australia in the 1960s, oversaw the implementation of conscription for the Australian armed forces’ participation in the American war of aggression against Vietnam. As Prime Minister, he was the first to recognise the annexation by the fascist Indonesian regime of East Timor and to overlook war crimes committed by the Indonesian forces. His government gave massive aid to the Indonesian military at this time.

The chief claim to fame of Aleksander Kwaśniewski, a former president of Poland, is that he managed to get Polish forces embroiled in the illegal occupation of Iraq against the opposition of 70% of Poles.

Moisés Naím, a former Venezuelan minister, is a director of the National Endowment for Democracy NED), a US Government-funded organisation. Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing the NED, declared in 1991: "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA." The NED has been involved in undermining democratic elections in Albania, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Venzuela; funded the ton-ton-macoute opposition to President Aristide in Haiti; and funded the Cuban-American National Foundation, which financed the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. Its latest exploit has been backing the anti-democratic coup in Honduras.

Shimon Peres was part of the High Command of the Zionist Haganah terrorist organisation during its implementation of Plan Daleth (the ethnic cleansing of Palestine) in 1947-48. As Director General of the Defence Ministry he began Israel’s nuclear weapons programme and organised the tripartite mediation with Britain and France that led to the Suez Invasion. Peres was an early supporter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank after the 1967 war. He has criticised the International Court of Justice for ruling that the building of the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank is illegal. As Prime Minister, he was responsible for the massacre of civilians seeking refuge during the Israeli shelling of the UN compound at Qana in Lebanon in 1996. Incidentally, Peres also began the Israeli alliance with the apartheid state of South Africa, even offering to sell the latter nuclear warhead in 1975.

The ICG has bucks.  There are buck-givers. Here are some:

Sasakawa Peace Foundation - founded by self-proclaimed fascist and power-broker Ryoichi Sasakawa, who developed a private army to exploit Japanese-occupied Manchuria and Mongolia and who, after the Second World War, obtained political control and amassed one of the biggest fortunes of the world with the support of criminal organisations, the Yakuzas. 

BHP Billiton - the largest mining company in the world. It was responsible for the forcible removal of communities in La Guajira, Colombia to make way for the Cerrejon Coal mine, the biggest export strip-mine in the world.

Merck Foundation – which gets its wealth from the Merck Pharmaceuticals company, the drug company involved in the Vioxx controversy, in which it was alleged the company had a list of doctors critical of Vioxx to be "neutralised" or "discredited", that it intimidated researchers and impinged of academic freedom.
This is not a case, then, of pot calling kettle black.  We are talking about high-profile operators, a gang in fact of pretty foul-smelling creatures with lots of blood on their hands.

The name says it all. “CRISIS” is the key word.  It is a crisis-making outfit.  It is an organization that needs and thrives on crisis.  The top brass owe whatever creature comforts they have secured to a lot of crises. 

*This article was first published in the Sunday Island in July 2010.


G. de Silva said...

An article of great value because it spells out the names behind the masks. I wish a similar one can be done on HRW, AI as well which will enable people decide what level of importance should be given to what they say.

SLWATCH said...

ICG seems to be a refuge for old administrators! Isn't Louse Arbor in it?

Yes we do need an unmasking of AI and HRW as well. Combined with an analysis of any 'real' achievements, not just churning out fabricated reports.

Anonymous said...

Sri Lanka need journalists of Malinda's calibre to expose and challenge the double standards of the developed Western countries. The author ought to be congratulated for his great contribution to Sri Lankan investigative political journalism.