By Dan Steinbock
Recently, the Duterte administration has been targeted by UN human rights chiefs, democracy promoters, data-trackers, even the Clooneys. But these influence networks share a common triple nexus.
Recently, the UN Human Rights Council accepted a resolution to initiate a “comprehensive” review of the Philippine drug war. The resolution passed narrowly (18 to 14, with 5 abstentions). Yet, it authorized the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to examine evidence of “thousands of deaths at the hands of the police.”
Why has the tiny Iceland in the Atlantic been pushing a resolution in Southeast Asia? Well, that is a net effect of the triple nexus (see Figure).
Figure The Triple Nexus
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Actually, Iceland joined the Human Rights Council only in mid-2018, filling the seat vacated by the United States, which withdrew from the body. The key role belonged to Iceland’s permanent UN representative Bergdís Ellertsdóttir who is better known for security issues, NATO, EU security, bilateral US relations, international trade and security. She won’t stay in the Council; she will become Iceland’s US ambassador.
US is vital to Iceland, which joined NATO already in 1949, although amid great domestic opposition. Two years later, a defense agreement was signed with the US and US troops stayed in Iceland until 2006.
From Iceland, the mantle of the Philippine drugs review will move to Michelle Bachelet, a veteran Chilean politician. Her ratings plunged during her second Chilean presidency in the 2010s when she was linked with the land-purchase debacle by her son and daughter-in-law.
Like her predecessor, former UN Commissioner Zeid Raad Al Hussein, a vocal critique of the Duterte administration, Bachelet supports many causes funded by George Soros and has been applauded by the billionaire investor’s Open Society Foundations. But not all of these causes are as progressive. Despite Soros’s stated support of all kind of transparency initiatives, in 2016 Panama Papers revealed his deep money ties to secretive weapons and intel investment firm Carlyle Group, alongside members of Saudi Arabian Bin Laden family, according to Fox News.
The most recent Michelet debacle involves her Venezuela report. Despite appeals by an array of victims of right-wing violence, Michelet ignored them, along with the devastating impact of US sanctions and regime-change efforts since 2015. As a result, critics, including Jeffry Sachs and Mark Weisbrot argue that her report may result in thousands of new premature civilian deaths.
The democracy-promotion nexus (read: Albright)
Reportedly, Amal Clooney will lead a team of international lawyers representing Maria Ressa, Rappler’s CEO who faces numerous court cases and investigations. The Clooneys threw their support behind Ressa during her US visit in May.
Since the 2000s, both Clooneys have been active in Democratic causes. In 2010, George Clooney was nominated for life membership in the Council on Foreign Relations, US bipartisan think-tank promoting democracy.
After his “philanthropic missions” in Africa, he was linked in the early 2010s with Luis Moreno Ocampo, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (which enjoys Soros funding and has also targeted the Duterte administration). In a balanced analysis, European Investigative Collaborations have concluded that the ICC, Clooney, Omidyar may actually have “interfered in the pursuit of global justice.”
In turn, both Clooneys and Ocampo are linked with Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State who has often denounced Ressa’s arrests. Albright has a vital role in US democracy promotion. When the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was insulated from the CIA in the early 1980s, it also led to the establishment of subsidiaries, such as the National Democratic Institute, which Albright chairs. NDI has participated in regime change efforts in Pinochet’s Chile and the Nicaraguan Revolution since the 1980s.
It’s also good business. Albright chairs her Albright Stonebridge Group (ASB), a “global business strategy” firm, and the affiliated Albright Capital Management, an “emerging markets investment firm.” Through NDI/NED, one can shape world events in poorer economies; through ASB/ACM, one can cash on the consequent changes.
The data-tracking nexus (read: Omidyar)
In addition to Clooneys and Soros, Ocampo has been linked with Pierre Omidyar, eBay’s founder and owner, and Rappler’s billionaire funder. The official version about Omidyar’s riches is that he created eBay for his then-fiancee as an online marketplace for her to improve a collection of Pez candy dispensers, as Time once reported (the magazine Albright has used to defend Ressa).
According to Yasha Levine’s Surveillance Valley (2018), the story is a bit different. eBay grew after it created an internal police and intelligence agency of former FBI agents in 1999 to spy on eBay users and track down fraud. They “worked closely with intelligence and law enforcement agencies in every country where it operated — including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, India, Russia, Czech Republic and Poland.” In the process, eBay handed over user data to the NSA and FBI, without requiring subpoenas or court orders.
It all paid off royally. Today eBay’s annual revenue is close to $11 billion and its total assets are estimated at more than $25 billion. Omidyar made his money through daily real-time information on media consumers, a slate of connections to national security, and a media empire that protects him from critical scrutiny, while profiling him as a “progressive philanthropist.”
As Omidyar’s media muscle has expanded internationally, so have the odd bedfellows. Thanks to his contributions, Omidyar forged close ties with President Obama whom he met often in the White House. Rappler is just one of many media gadgets in the Omidyar Network, whose chief of policy and advocacy is Ben Scott, an Obama official who also served in Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
While Omidyar sponsors the Intercept led by the prominent US civil rights advocate Glenn Greenwald, he is in control with the NSA whistleblower Snowden’s files. Yet, only a fraction of those files have been released, while, Robert Lietzke, Snowden’s former boss at Booz Allen Hamilton, has joined “Omidyar Fellows Program.”
Similarly, Omidyar’s funds the Center for Public Integrity, which promotes political transparency, yet puts his money into neoconservative leader William Kristol’s Defending Democracy Together and Alliance for Securing Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund which he also donates to, and The Bulwark. They are all reminiscent of the bygone neoconservative think-tank Project for New American Century (PNAC), created by Kristol and Robert Kagan, that paved the ideological way to multiple wars in the past two decades, with little transparency.
Why should a progressive do-gooder associate with such warmongers? In 2016, Kristol and Kagan led an open revolt against candidate Trump and for Hillary Clinton. The Biden-Pelosi offspring hope to keep neoconservatives in 2020 and 2024 as well.
Rappler’s “Creepy business model”
Only a few critical accounts have been published about the reclusive Omidyar. In part perhaps, such accounts are missing because he also funds the watchdogs. Last fall, Ressa was awarded by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which was touted widely around the world. What was left unsaid is that Omidyar funds the CPJ, along with many other high-profile journalist consortia.
It’s a bit as if Oscars would be prioritized to movies whose producers fund the Oscars. That seems to keep some journalists from biting the hand that feeds them. After all, Omidyar also pushes “fact-checking” media groups (which tends to target particularly those causes that he opposes).
Many Filipinos seem to regard Rappler as a sort of “Voice of America,” yet it portrays itself as an independent outfit, despite murky financial flows and politics. Moreover, right after Ressa’s arrest and release, the Omidyar Network and the Omidyar-funded CPJ raised $500,000 for her legal defense fund (that will pay lawyers who will defend her, which will push Rappler, which will promote the Omidyar Network and so on). In return, Ressa has paid her dues. Last October, she complained at the NATO-backed Atlantic Council’s Stratcom conference in Washington about a campaign of legal intimidation and online trolling by Duterte supporters.
However, Rappler’s user-tracking model has also attracted concern because it couples journalism with behavior profiling, as Yasha Levine stresses. Prior to Omidyar’s investment ,Rappler boasted about another investor (North Base Media), which has been associated with Soros funding and destabilization. Last year, Rappler launched a civil engagement arm, MovePH, which is of great interest to Omidyar’s coordination with state and intel operations. Unlike Greenwald’s Intercept which has exposed the abuses of the US security state, say Omidyar critics Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal, “Rappler’s mission in the Philippines appears to have an ulterior and entirely opposite agenda. In announcing Omidyar’s investment in the digital media site, Rappler touted its one-of-a-kind and arguably extremely creepy business model.”
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What is most tragic but telling about the triple nexus is that all these associated international rights organizations, watchdogs and foreign governments, which are now targeting Philippines, were so silent about rights abuses before 2016, when drugs and political corruption reigned and rule of law was diluted.
Human rights matter. Democracy matters. Media integrity matters. None of them should be undermined at the expense of economic profits, political power or geopolitical gains.
About the Author:
Dr. Dan Steinbock is an internationally recognized strategist of the multipolar world nd the founder of Difference Group. He has served at India, China and America Institute (US), Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (China) and the EU Center (Singapore). For more, see https://www.differencegroup.net/
The original commentary was released by The Manila Times on July 15, 2019