Cash and cyberware on the US offensive

After the State Department announced its new programs aimed at spreading democracy around the world, some activists say the US is fostering regime change in countries not aligned with American foreign policy goals.

The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has requested proposals on how to foster change in a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Cuba. The US claims the best of intentions, saying it wants to strengthen independent civil society groups in those countries.

Lawyer and journalist Eva Golinger believes differently: “It's just really another form of provoking regime change. They're just trying to do it under a different guise or different facade, saying that somehow with the best intentions they are promoting democracy, but in reality it's just promoting the US agenda.”

“It’s not about democracy at all,” argued independent US researcher and historian Jeff Freisen. “One thing I’ve learned is that US foreign policy has to do with power, and power alone…. I think that if you have this idea that there is something positive coming with these democratic regime changes, that’s just not true.”

­Among other things, the State Department is financing the creation of stealth wireless networks that would enable activists to communicate outside the reach of governments in countries like Iran, Syria and Libya, according to participants in the projects.

Other programs include a so-called “internet in a suitcase,” a powerful portable wireless transmitter that activists can use to set up their own networks, in order to circumvent state control. But at the same time, American companies provide authorities in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with the technology to effectively block websites.

“Those double standards do in fact exist and everybody should be fully aware of those things and understand that it's an integral part of the US foreign policy. The United States government is fostering regime change, that's what essentially the color revolutions are. And they have a geopolitical motive, and the geopolitical motive is different in every country they work in,” says Eric Pottenger, author and blogger.

Technology is not all the US provides to instigate change in certain countries. Some opposition movements get a direct cash supply. For example, WikiLeaks cables show that the State Department has for years secretly funded Syrian anti-government groups.

“It's done in general to create a world that is more aligned – more specifically, more controllably aligned – with the views of the United States. Without having to land troops, without having to invade, bomb,” explains Luis Rumbaut from the educational fund Alianza Cubano-Americana.

There is a page on the State Department’s website promoting grants for those willing to bring about change in communist Cuba. One of the requirements says: “It is preferable for these personnel to speak Spanish fluently, possess solid understanding of the cultural context, and have prior experience on the island, in order to maximize their effectiveness in this unique operating environment.”

It sounds very much like recruiting agents. But instead of doing that the traditional stealth way, the US does that right out in the open, on their website.

America’s help most often comes with strings attached. Many say opposition leaders in Libya, who now get financial and political support from Washington, are sure to get instructions on how to return the favor.

“Essentially their behaviors end up being consistent with agents of the US government, even if they don't necessarily think that's what's they are doing,” Eric Pottenger believes.