The Washington Times
Published May 2, 2003

Funding anti-U.S. demonstrators
Max Primorac

The spate of well-organized and violent anti-American protests in Iraq betrays the guiding hand of Ba'ath extremists or "agents provocateurs" from Iran. Not unexpected. But in years to come, the future sponsors of such hate-America rallies might well come as a shock, if the nation- building foreign aid experience in the Balkans provides any lessons.

As elsewhere in Europe, we find here the same motley mash of anti-war protesters anarchists, anti-globalists, greens, Marxist peaceniks shouting "smash capitalism" and "Bush is Hitler." While rallying little support in a Croatia fresh with memories of Serbian aggression, these radicals compensate for their small numbers with anti-American fury, culminating in one march to the U.S. Embassy with a ritual burning of an American flag defiled with swastikas. The rub is that this hate-America crowd is sponsored by the U.S. taxpayer.

Protest organizers Anti-War Campaign, Green Action, women's group BaBe and others are a who's who of U.S. foreign aid grantees who, for a decade, have received millions of dollars, ostensibly to strengthen democracy. In fact, aid has been grossly misallocated to a marginal and extremist nexus of former communists, anarchists and extreme feminists that represent the core of anti-American political activity in the Balkans. Anti-War Campaign (ARK) fronts for numerous anarchist-Marxist groups, offering them office space, equipment, funds and training. They include Zagreb Anarchist Movement, anarcho-feminists ANFEME, Croatian Anti-Globalists and others. Its ZaMirNet (PeaceNet) is a regional Internet link that is part of a global alliance to wage "netwars" against Western institutions. Radicals use it to coordinate activities, inform members on anti-capitalist and anti-NATO rallies, access donors and provide a steady diet of radical literature. Though ZaMirNet's manager is a self-described "anarcho-feminist," she also works for USAID clients Urban Institute, MercyCorps, CARE and others. CARE alone granted ZaMirNet $335,000, part of a larger sum received from the U.S. government. Following September 11, BaBe leader Vesna Kesic circulated a petition, signed by most aid recipients, denouncing the U.S. war on terrorism as "institutional terrorism," echoing the musings of their ideological mentor Noam Chomsky. No surprise, as Ms. Kesic counts amongst her other friends Katha Pollitt, the Nation columnist that berated her daughter for flying the American flag in solidarity with the victims of September 11 because "the flag stands for jingoism, vengeance and war." Another BaBe principal is the last director of the Museum of Communist Revolution! Nonetheless, this year, the group and its offshoots continue to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. aid and they help write embassy reports sent to Washington. Green Action takes every anti-U.S. position possible, opposing membership in NATO, imports of genetically modified food, even railing against McDonald's as that evil symbol of global corporate reach. Nevertheless, in 1999, its director, Toni Vidan, coordinated the U.S. Embassy's $3.5 million subgrants program that significantly expanded this anti-American (un)civic nexus. One grantee, Osijek Greens, lamented how "American imperialism is in full bloom." Under the rubric of promoting youth civic engagement, these U.S. aid recipients finance counterculture initiatives as recruiting vehicles for new generations of anti-U.S. activists. One, Attack, is a joint project of ARK, BaBe and Zagreb Anarchist Movement. Another, Net Club Mama, celebrated the anniversary of the publishing of the Communist Manifesto. Donor agencies and contractors hire local staff from these groups, ensuring a steady stream of taxpayer financing of anti-American initiatives.

In large part, we are paying the price for past policy that defined not communism as the threat to regional peace, but rather a vaguely defined nationalism. In turn, support was channeled to so-called anti-nationalists with little regard to what they actually believed. Pro-Western groups were disqualified from aid from the start because they were considered "too patriotic." The anti-American tenor of these groups is no secret though, and they are very public about their views. Nevertheless, our embassy continues to finance them. But the problems do not stop at funding those who despise America and its values. Last September, the U.S. Embassy undercut a unique German-American initiative to win U.S. government funding for a pro-America conference on terrorism to commemorate the September 11 terrorist attacks. One-hundred-seventy officials and civic leaders from 23 countries participated in a rare display of pro-Americanism, yet embassy officials boycotted it, considering the whole affair "unimportant."

Besides congenital incompetence of our aid agencies, this also reflects a cynical preference among some of our diplomats to want to co-opt former regime elites because "it is better these people work for us than against us." Of course, co-option has helped restore the communist aristocracy's past prominence on our dime. Indeed, as plans for rebuilding Iraq now stand, the Balkan "example" will most likely prevail there. So, in five years time, don't assume that those you see protesting American imperialism are necessarily sponsored by the Ba'ath Party.

Max Primorac advises U.S. and foreign officials on postwar democracy-building on the Balkans.