Mark Ames vs Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman on USAID

11 April 2014 — The Rancid Honeytrap

Last week the Associated Press reported that USAID — which provides billions in taxpayer cash for overseas “humanitarian” aid programs — created a Twitter-like platform in Cuba as a step toward fomenting a youth revolt against that country’s government. The way three ostensibly lefty journos, Mark Ames, Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald responded to this is quite interesting and revealing.

“Is USAID the New CIA?”, asked Democracy Now on Twitter to promote the Amy Goodman segment of the same name.”Good question“, tweeted Glenn Greenwald.

Actually, it’s an astonishingly stupid and misleading question, to the extent it implies that USAID has only now wandered into the dark realm of subversion and regime change, or has always been entirely separate from the CIA in the first place. The dark side of USAID, as well as its partnerships with the CIA have been public knowledge for years, but for those in need of a refresher, Mark Ames has helpfully provided one in “The murderous history of USAID, the US Government agency behind Cuba’s fake Twitter clone” After reminding his readers that USAID recently partnered with Greenwald’s boss Pierre Omidyar in stoking regime change in Ukraine, Ames laboriously documents some of the agency’s other projects over the years which include:

1. The Office of Public Safety.

Ames writes:

Under Kennedy’s reorganization, a police training program set up under President Eisenhower, the Office of Public Safety (OPS), was placed under USAID’s authority. The OPS had been set up in 1957 to train friendly overseas police forces how to be more professional, more democratic, less corrupt… — but in reality, the OPS was essentially a CIA proxy…its ranks covertly sprinkled with CIA spooks in hotspots across the globe.

Former New York Times correspondent A. J. Langguth wrote that the “the two primary functions” of the USAID police training program were to allow the CIA to “plant men with local police in sensitive places around the world,” and to bring to the United States “prime candidates for enrollment as CIA employees.”

The account Ames gives makes clear that there was a third function, which was the training of local police in ‘the dark arts of rule-by-terror’. Ames describes the career of ghoulish Dan Mitrioni who, on the USAID payroll, ran terror schools for cops, training over 100,000 police in Brazil alone. After being stationed in Uruguay, Mitrione sound-proofed the basement of his house before holding classes in torture for local police, where he demonstrated the use of electric shock and vomit inducing drugs on kidnapped vagrants, whom he tortured to death.

Ames goes on to describe all the extremely vicious business OPS and its trainees got up to, such as assisting in the overthrow of Brazil’s democratically-elected president Joao Goulart, and installing a right-wing military dictatorship that would last two decades; repression through murder and torture of the left-wing Tupamoro rebels of Uruguay; in Laos during the Vietnam War, partnership with the CIA in opium-smuggling and the forced resettlement of Hmong families to force them to fight the North Vietnamese; in Guatemala, training of 30,000 police to repress local leftists and later material support for death squads committing genocide against the Maya; in El Salvador, partnering with The Green Berets, the CIA and the State Department to form two paramilitaries that would ‘form the backbone’ of  a death squad system that murdered 75,000 people between 1979 and 1992.

2. In Haiti, via a “democracy promotion” program, USAID assisted antigovernment, pro-business groups in opposition to populist, left-wing president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was overthrown in a coup in 1991, months after he had won Haiti’s first democratic election.

3. In Peru, funding for president Alberto Fujimori’s forced sterilization of 300,000 mostly indigenous women.

4. In Russia during the 1990s, funding for privatization schemes that led to the destruction of the country’s social welfare system and the handing over of public assets to a handful of oligarchs; funding for PR campaigns to promote neoliberal reforms and political candidates.

If it seems as if I have gone into quite a bit of detail summarizing Ames’ piece, it’s so you can fully appreciate the whitewashing banality and ignorance of Greenwald’s and Goodman’s responses to the same story. Goodman, who I have taken to task here before for her peerless ability to be usefully idiotic, in particular outdoes herself in her genuinely repulsive opening for an otherwise typically banal treatment of the topic at hand.

Perhaps most shockingly, the Cuban Twitter program was not paid for and run by a spy agency such as the CIA. Instead, it was the brainchild of USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.

Shocking, Amy? Really? How shocking, exactly? Shocking like the electroshocks that finally killed each of those beggars in Dan Mitrioni’s basement, after an eternity of suffering? As shocking as the car battery with which OPS-trained police caused the hemorrhaging of Dilma Rouseff’s uterus, when Rouseff was a Marxist student? As shocking as the shock therapy that drove Russians into poverty? Or do you just mean shocking like how any reasonably intelligent person is shocked by your unutterable banality and incorrigible stupidity and how admired you are by upper middle class ignoramuses who think of themselves as well-informed and radical because they allow you to bore them a few times per week? That kind of shocking?

After offering up the seemingly mandatory clip of White House spokesperson Jay Carney, Goodman trots out Peter Kornbluh, of the National Security Archive. Ames’ piece borrows from National Security Archive material, so it’s exceptionally odd and frustrating that Kornbluh happily plays along with Goodman’s ‘new CIA’ bullshit.

USAID, perhaps, is the new CIA here. And this all has a whiff of Iran-Contra kind of elements, in which, you may remember, Amy, you better than anybody, you know, back in the mid-1980s, when the CIA was banned from supporting the Contras in Central America by Congress and passed the operations to the National Security Council so that they could be conducted from there. And here we may have a situation where covert operations have simply been passed to USAID, where there isn’t very much scrutiny.

No matter how you look at it, this is a whitewash. Why, I have no idea. But it makes no sense at all from a news standpoint to go as far back as Iran-Contra without mentioning what USAID was doing in Central America only a few years before, or the cozy relationship USAID has had with the CIA over the years.

Later in the interview, Kornbluh enthusiastically reports that Cuba –

is changing rapidly into a—from a communist society to a capitalist society. And we can help with that, but we can’t help with that by these silly, surreptitious and absolutely dangerous kind of covert operations.

Yes, of course, and what Democracy Now listener or funder doesn’t want to help with Cuba’s transition to capitalism?

Finally, let’s take a mercifully brief look at Greenwald’s contribution – The “Cuban Twitter” Scam Is a Drop in the Internet Propaganda Bucket in which, for the second time, Greenwald looks at USAID’s regime-change meddling and gives it a big shrug. The last time he did this, it was to insist that his boss’s partnership with USAID in Ukraine was of absolutely zero interest to him, since it had no impact on his journalistic independence, which is apparently the only thing related to Omidyar in which Greenwald believes either he or his readers should have any real interest. The Cuban matter is one big shrug because ever-so-many other government agencies are meddling online, not least of course, the NSA and GCHQ.

To make his point, Greenwald does the familiar trophy pointing — this time to previously published Intercept stories and new, predictably redundant, documents that no one in their right mind gives a shit about by now. As ever, Greenwald can’t consider there is anything as, or more important, than what he writes about, and so a Cuban Twitter clone attracting tens of thousands of young users under the complete control of a government agency stoking regime change is, from his perspective little different from “a system to automatically monitor hotel bookings of at least 350 upscale hotels around the world in order to target, search, and analyze reservations to detect diplomats and government officials.” Like much of what he does, it’s so stupid and short-sighted, it’s degrading, but no doubt USAID and its billionaire partners appreciate it.

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