U.S. Government Spending Much Under Table
To Keep Abbas and PA in Power in Occupied Palestine
MER - MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 22 January:
American credibility has rarely been lower; American duplicity has
rarely been higher; and the exposure of American lies and hypocrisy has
rarely been more evident than in the lead story in today's Sunday Washington Post.
But always remember, what eventually seeps out into public view in such
ways is nearly always but the small visible part of the huge iceberg
and the establishment corporate media is nearly always very late in the
day to pick up on these things and even then does so nearly always
pulling its punches to conform with what the owners, the advertisers,
and the powers that be are willing to accept and tolerate.
In this case, gross clandestine manipulation of Palestinian affairs
primarily by the CIA, of course closely coordinating with the Israelis,
has been going on for some time now. All kinds of false-flag
U.S.-government supported, controlled, and financed operations have
been going on in Occupied Palestine as well as the major Middle Eastern
countries for many years now. All kinds of spying
operations, infiltration operations, and the use of 'invisible' agents
of the American government masked as everything from businessmen to
journalists to academics to local politicians have been escalating
considerably in recent years. Indeed, at this point in history,
just about any identifiable American, or anyone publicly identified as
working with the Americans, is more and more suspect throughout the
Middle East -- which unfortunately helps explain the current plight of
the Christian Peace-Maker Team persons and the Christian Science Monitor reporter being held hostage under threat of death in Iraq.
U.S. Funds Enter Fray In Palestinian Elections
Bush Administration Uses USAID as Invisible Conduit
By Scott Wilson and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, January 22, 2006; A01
West Bank -- The Bush administration is spending foreign aid money to
increase the popularity of the Palestinian Authority on the eve of
crucial elections in which the governing party faces a serious
challenge from the radical Islamic group Hamas.
$2 million program is being led by a division of the U.S. Agency for
International Development. But no U.S. government logos appear with the
projects or events being undertaken as part of the campaign, which
bears no evidence of U.S. involvement and does not fall within the
definitions of traditional development work.
U.S. officials say
their low profile is meant to ensure that the Palestinian Authority
receives public credit for a collection of small, popular projects and
events to be unveiled before Palestinians select their first parliament
in a decade. Internal documents outlining the program describe the
effort as "a temporary paradigm shift" in the way the aid agency
operates. The plan was designed with the help of a former U.S. Army
Special Forces officer who worked in postwar Afghanistan on
U.S. and Palestinian officials say
they fear the election, scheduled for Wednesday, will result in a large
Hamas presence in the 132-seat legislature. Hamas, formally known as
the Islamic Resistance Movement, is at war with Israel and is
classified by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. But its
reputation for competence and accountability in providing social
services has made it a stiff rival of the secular Fatah movement, which
runs the Palestinian Authority and has long been the largest party in
the Palestinian territories.
The plan's $2 million budget,
although a tiny fraction of USAID's work here, is likely more than what
any Palestinian party will have spent by election day. A media
consultant for Hamas said the organization would likely spend less than
$1 million on its campaign.
Elements of the U.S.-funded program
include a street-cleaning campaign, distributing free food and water to
Palestinians at border crossings, donating computers to community
centers and sponsoring a national youth soccer tournament. U.S.
officials are coordinating the program through Rafiq Husseini, chief of
staff to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and
leader of Fatah.
In recent days, Arabic-language papers have been
filled with U.S.-funded advertisements announcing the events in the
name of the Palestinian Authority, which the public closely identifies
with Fatah. Some of the events, such as a U.S.-financed tree-planting
ceremony here in Ramallah that Abbas attended last week, have resembled
Fatah rallies, with participants wearing the trademark black-and-white
kaffiyehs emblazoned with the party logo, walls plastered with Fatah
candidates' posters, and banks of TV cameras invited to record the
"Public outreach is integrated into the design of each
project to highlight the role of the P.A. in meeting citizens needs,"
said a progress report distributed this month to USAID and State
Department officials. "The plan is to have events running every day of
the coming week, beginning 13 January, such that there is a constant
stream of announcements and public outreach about positive happenings
all over Palestinian areas in the critical week before the elections."
'Window of Opportunity'
program highlights the central challenge facing the Bush administration
as it promotes democracy in the Middle East. Free elections in the Arab
world, where most countries have been run for years by unelected
autocracies or unchallenged parties like Fatah, often result in strong
showings by radical Islamic movements opposed to the policies of the
United States and to its chief regional ally, Israel. But in attempting
to manage the results, the administration risks undermining the
democratic goals it is promoting.
U.S. officials and consultants
involved in the program acknowledge that it generated debate inside the
aid agency and the two firms hired to manage the project. But U.S.
officials said the goal of limiting Hamas's influence in the next
Palestinian government overshadowed concerns about the decision not to
disclose the U.S. government's role in the campaign.
"We are not
favoring any particular party," said James A. Bever, the USAID mission
director for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "But we do not support
parties that are on the terrorism list. We are here to support the
Another U.S. official involved in the program said: "I'm not going to apologize for it. I'm proud of the work we've done."
weren't trying to be some black-box SWAT operation," said the official,
who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak for the
record. "But we want to be able to say we did everything we could to
support peaceful coexistence here. There's no tomorrow if we end up
with a worsening conflict" after the elections.
Hamas is reaping
the benefits of years of grass-roots social work and political
organizing in the West Bank and Gaza as it prepares for its first
national election. It opposes Israel's right to exist and has vowed to
maintain its armed wing, which has carried out attacks and suicide
bombings inside Israel and the territories.
Authority, meanwhile, is suffering from a reputation for corruption,
divisions within Fatah and a continuing Israeli occupation of the West
Bank that has made Abbas's pursuit of a negotiated peace settlement
unappealing to many Palestinians. Public opinion polls have shown the
race tightening in recent weeks, with Hamas now running even with Fatah.
to interviews with U.S. and Palestinian officials here and in
Washington as well as project documents obtained by The Washington
Post, the plan to help promote the Palestinian Authority, and by
extension Fatah, began emerging as Israel ended its 38-year occupation
of Gaza in August.
"In light of the Israeli disengagement from
Gaza, a critical window of opportunity has emerged," stated an October
document outlining the scope of the Gaza Action Plan Support Unit, as
the program is known. The document, prepared by ARD, a consulting firm
based in Burlington, Vt., that was hired to manage the project, said
the goal was to "help lay the foundation for successful, moderate
leadership in Gaza as well as the West Bank." It listed the Palestinian
Authority as its "direct beneficiary."
Most U.S. development
assistance here, which last year totaled roughly $400 million, consists
of water pipelines, sewage treatment plants, public libraries and
roads, which bear the USAID logo alongside the seal of the Palestinian
Authority. But Bever said the agency, which previously wanted to
showcase U.S. aid, recently decided to emphasize the Palestinian
Authority's role to a greater degree after polls showed a majority of
Palestinians are aware of the overall extent of U.S. assistance.
Downplaying U.S. Credit
project is supervised by USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives,
which specializes in promoting U.S. interests during times of political
change in foreign countries and has the ability to spend money faster
than other departments, according to agency officials.
hired ARD, which in turn subcontracted the project to a
Washington-based firm, Strategic Assessments Initiative, or SAI, known
for its largely academic work on issues such as Palestinian security
reform. SAI had no experience in development work and had never worked
Amjad Atallah, the company's president, said he was
not authorized to talk about the project, though he said it raised
concerns within his organization. Atallah said he agreed to work on the
contract only after USAID agreed to his requests that Palestinian teams
work in the field and that the program be coordinated through the
office of President Abbas, who is not a candidate in the election.
also brought in an independent consultant, Larry Sampler, to "help us
think about how to do this," the U.S. official involved in the program
said. Sampler was described by people who know him as an earnest,
intense man who served 15 years in the Army Special Forces and worked
as a U.S. contractor in Afghanistan.
According to documents from
a planning presentation Sampler gave to U.S. officials in Washington
and Tel Aviv in October, he raised several questions about how closely
the U.S. government should be identified with the project. The
documents also suggest that U.S. officials expected the project to
become involved in party politics.
"To whom should credit
accrue?" Sampler asked in one slide of the presentation. "Issues of
branding and how closely associated candidates and parties want to be
or should be associated with the USG [U.S. government]. What should be
the nature of that relationship?"
Plans called for roughly 40
small projects or events, ranging in cost from $5,000 to $50,000 each,
that would benefit the Palestinian Authority. No USAID logos would be
Asked if the decision not to use the USAID brand was a way
to hide its involvement, Bever said, "I could see it could look that
way." He said some of the projects might bear the agency logo, although
it was not apparent on those visited by reporters from The Post or in
ads published this week.
"We wanted to give maximum credit to the
Palestinian Authority and to the freely elected president, Mahmoud
Abbas, for taking the initiative and for inviting us to help get the
message out to the Palestinian people," Bever said.
The point man
in Abbas's office was his chief of staff, Husseini, a member of a
prominent Jerusalem family. In an interview last week, Husseini said
U.S. officials told him they had about $2 million to spend on 30 or so
projects before the elections. He said his office provided them with
"names of people who could do this best."
"It was some small
money to help us quickly affect the lives of people. It was to show
that the Palestinian Authority cares," Husseini said. "They were very
responsive and understood we needed to have a better impact."
may come into this, but only marginally," Husseini said. "It is not
political campaigning, but campaigning for the Palestinian national
cause, as Mahmoud Abbas sees it."
In recent days, the newspapers
Al-Ayam and Al-Quds have featured ads for projects described in the
Action Plan Support Unit's most recent progress report. On some days,
three such ads -- all bearing the seal of the Palestinian Authority but
no USAID logo -- appeared on a single page.
"Why so many ads at
the same time?" said Saad Abdul Hadi, whose Ramallah-based public
relations company, Al-Nasher, is doing the advertising. "Because we are
in a very sensitive time, in the elections. That's why now."
Jericho last week, 10 teams gathered in the municipal stadium in the
hopes of winning the first-ever Olive Cup, the U.S.-funded championship
of Palestinian youth soccer. As boys darted across the patchy field in
uniforms purchased with money from USAID, banners bearing the emblem of
the Palestinian Authority and a new logo created for the U.S.-funded
projects celebrated the event, which was attended by several hundred
Ibrahim Sabbah, 40, director of the sports division
of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, said he had been asking
Palestinian leaders for years to finance such a tournament. This month,
Husseini's office told him $10,000 was available immediately.
was very surprised," Sabbah said. "And very happy. We were able to do
this very quickly because we had been planning it for years. But we'd
never had the money until now."
Sabbah said he knew only that the
funds came from the Palestinian Authority president's office. It didn't
matter who paid for the event, he said happily, as teams from Jenin and
Nablus took the field. In a few hours, representatives from Husseini's
office would arrive with the Olive Cup trophy and medals for the
Kessler reported from Washington.