The National Endowment for Democracy
excerpted from the book
A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
by William Blum
Common Courage Press, 2000
How many Americans could identify the National Endowment for
Democracy? An organization which often does exactly the opposite
of what its name implies. The NED was set up in the early 1980s
under President Reagan in the wake of all the negative revelations
about the CIA in the second half of the 1970s. The latter was
a remarkable period. Spurred by Watergate-the Church Committee
of the Senate, the Pike Committee of the House and the Rockefeller
Commission, created by the president, were all busy investigating
the CIA. Seemingly every other day there was a new headline about
the discovery of some awful thing, even criminal conduct, the
CIA had been mixed up in for years. The Agency was getting an
exceedingly bad name, and it was causing the powers-that-be much
Something had to be done. What was done was not to stop doing
these awful things. Of course not. What was done was to shift
many of these awful things to a new organization, with a nice
sounding name-the National Endowment for Democracy. The idea was
that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing
covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma
associated with CIA covert activities.
It was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations and
of cynicism. Thus it was that in 1983, the National Endowment
for Democracy was set up to "support democratic institutions
throughout the world through private, nongovernmental efforts".
Notice the "nongovernmental"-part of the image, part
of the myth. In actuality, virtually every penny of its funding
comes from the federal government, as is clearly indicated in
the financial statement in each issue of its annual report. NED
likes to refer to itself as an NGO (non-governmental organization)
because this helps to maintain a certain credibility abroad that
an official US government agency might not have. But NGO is the
wrong category. NED is a GO.
Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing
NED, was quite candid when he said in 1991: "A lot of what
we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA." In
effect, the CIA has been laundering money through NED.
The Endowment has four principal initial recipients of funds:
the International Republican Institute; the National Democratic
Institute for International Affairs; an affiliate of the AFL-CIO
(such as the American Center for International Labor Solidarity);
and an affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce (such as the Center
for International Private Enterprise). These institutions then
disburse funds to other institutions in the US and all over the
world, which then often disburse funds to yet other organizations.
In a multitude of ways, NED meddles in the internal affairs
of foreign countries by supplying funds, technical know-how, training,
educational materials, computers, fax machines, copiers, automobiles
and so on, to selected political groups, civic organizations,
labor unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers,
newspapers, other media, etc. NED programs generally impart the
basic philosophy that working people and other citizens are best
served under a system of free enterprise, class cooperation, collective
bargaining, minimal government intervention in the economy and
opposition to socialism in any shape or form. A freemarket economy
is equated with democracy, reform and growth, and the merits of
foreign investment are emphasized.
From 1994 to 1996, NED awarded 15 grants, totaling more than
$2,500,000, to the American Institute for Free Labor Development,
an organization used by the CIA for decades to subvert progressive
labor unions. AlFLD's work within Third World unions typically
involved a considerable educational effort very similar to the
basic NED philosophy described above. The description of one of
the 1996 NED grants to AIFLD includes as one its objectives: "build
union-management cooperation". Like many things that NED
says, this sounds innocuous, if not positive, but these in fact
are ideological code words meaning "keep the labor agitation
down...don't rock the status quo boat". The relationship
between NED and AIFLD very well captures the CIA origins of NED.
The Endowment has funded centrist and rightist labor organizations
to help them oppose those unions which were too militantly proworker.
This has taken place in France, Portugal and Spain amongst many
other places. In France, during the 1983-4 period, NED supported
a "trade union-like organization for professors and students"
to counter "left-wing organizations of professors".
To this end it funded a series of seminars and the publication
of posters, books and pamphlets such as "Subversion and the
Theology of Revolution" and "Neutralism or Liberty".
("Neutralism" here refers to being unaligned in the
NED describes one of its 1997-98 programs thusly: "To
identify barriers to private sector development at the local and
federal levels in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to push
for legislative change...[and] to develop strategies for private
sector growth." Critics of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic
have been supported by NED grants for years.
In short, NED's programs are in sync with the basic needs
and objectives of the New World Order's economic globalization,
just as the programs have for years been on the same wavelength
as US foreign policy.
Because of a controversy in 1984-when NED funds were used
to aid a Panamanian presidential candidate backed by Manuel Noriega
and the CIA-Congress enacted a law prohibiting the use of NED
funds "to finance the campaigns of candidates for public
office." But the ways to circumvent the spirit of such a
prohibition are not difficult to come up with; as with American
elections, there's "hard money" and there's "soft
... NED successfully manipulated elections in Nicaragua in
1990 and Mongolia in 1996 and helped to overthrow democratically
elected governments in Bulgaria in 1990 and Albania in 1991 and
1992. In Haiti in the late l990s, NED was busy working on behalf
of right wing groups who were united in their opposition to former
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his progressive ideology.
NED has made its weight felt in the electoral-political process
in numerous other countries.
NED would have the world believe that it's only teaching the
ABCs of democracy and elections to people who don't know them,
but in all five countries named above there had already been free
and fair elections held. The problem, from NED's point of view,
is that the elections had been won by political parties not on
NED's favorites list.
The Endowment maintains that it's engaged in "opposition
building" and "encouraging pluralism". "We
support people who otherwise do not have a voice in their political
system," said Louisa Coan, a NED program officer. But NED
hasn't provided aid to foster progressive or leftist opposition
in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua or Eastern Europe-or,
for that matter, in the United States even though these groups
are hard pressed for funds and to make themselves heard. Cuban
dissident groups and media are heavily supported however.
NED's reports carry on endlessly about "democracy",
but at best it's a modest measure of mechanical political democracy
they have in mind, not economic democracy; nothing that aims to
threaten the powers-that-be or the way-things-are, unless of course
it's in a place like Cuba.
The Endowment played an important role in the Iran-Contra
affair of the 1980s, funding key components of Oliver North's
shadowy "Project Democracy" network, which privatized
US foreign policy, waged war, ran arms and drugs and engaged in
other equally charming activities. At one point in 1987, a White
House spokesman stated that those at NED "run Project Democracy".
This was an exaggeration; it would have been more correct to say
that NED was the public arm of Project Democracy, while North
ran the covert end of things. In any event, the statement caused
much less of a stir than if-as in an earlier period-it had been
revealed that it was the CIA which was behind such an unscrupulous
NED also mounted a multi-level campaign to fight the leftist
insurgency in the Philippines in the mid-1980s, funding a host
of private organizations, including unions and the media. This
was a replica of a typical CIA operation of pre-NED days.
And between 1990 and 1992, the Endowment donated a quarter-million
dollars of taxpayers' money to the Cuban-American National Fund,
the ultra-fanatic anti-Castro Miami group. The CANF, in turn,
financed Luis Posada Carriles, one of the most prolific and pitiless
terrorists of modern times, who was involved in the blowing up
of a Cuban airplane in 1976, which killed 73 people. In 1997,
he was involved in a series of bomb explosions in Havana hotels.
The NED, like the CIA before it, calls what it does supporting
democracy. The governments and movements whom the NED targets
call it destabilization.