Friday, June 10, 2005

Michael: Rice Shot Down at OAS

I think most people would agree that saying one thing at one time and place, and then saying the exact opposite at another time and place, is potentially hypocritical. One might even reasonably suspect an ulterior motive was being served, rather than any honest interest in the topic you are addressing in such a hypocritical manner.

If, for instance, the Bush Administration were to attack Non-Governmental Organizations’ (NGOs, also sometimes called civil society groups) participation at the U.N. and international relations generally, and then turn around and announce that Latin American governments should be monitored by through the Organization of American States by, in Secretary Rice’s words, "the impatient patriots" of civil society NGOs, one might wonder if there were hypocrisy afoot.

When you learn that the Administration has been trying to muzzle dissent by demanding organizations distributing U.S. humanitarian assistance money go through USAID to be cleared to speak to the media, and that the Administration is intimately connected to NGO Watch (an initiative of the Neo-Con heavy American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society, from which numerous Bush officials have been pulled), which says "The extraordinary growth of advocacy NGOs in liberal democracies has the potential to undermine the sovereignty of constitutional democracies," you might be led to think that NGOs are just short of terrorist organizations.

But wait, Secretary Rice is calling for NGOs to be given a greater voice in the affairs of the O.A.S. so that "[t]he elected governments that do not govern democratically should be held accountable by the O.A.S." Well that sounds pretty swell, doesn’t it? But doesn’t that contradict what the Administration has been saying about the need to reduce the influence of these NGOs in international affairs?

Which NGOs would participate in criticizing and questioning ‘problem governments’? Well, according to Rice a great example would be Sumate. Sumate was instrumental in creating the recall vote in Venezuela, which President Hugo Chavez won easily. They are also accused of being complicit in the 2002 coup which briefly deposed Chavez, but was defeated by popular uprising. And, of course, Sumate is being funded by millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to stir the pot. So Sumate is the sort of NGO which is good for democracy, but all others (presumably those NOT receiving money from us) are bad for democracy?

Are you seeing any ulterior motive, yet? The O.A.S. member states did too, and told Secretary Rice exactly where she could stick her proposal. I’m not surprised, but apparently Mercela Sanchez of the Washington Post didn’t get that memo.

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