Saturday, 1 December 2012

US 'irregular ops' in the Malaysian context

Jordan MacVay

An American journalist says foreign funding of groups such as Bersih is indicative of covert US government efforts to bring the Malaysian government more in line with US diplomatic and economic interests.

KUALA LUMPUR: While many critics of the Malaysian government dismiss its suspicion of foreign-funded civil society groups as “a desperate attempt to stifle dissent and attack civil society”, a Malaysian-based foreign journalist says there is a sound reason to perceive foreign-funded rights advocacy groups as possible threats. 

Writing for independent news agency Mathaba – which bills itself as “the first stateless news organisation in history” – American journalist and blogger Nile Bowie claimed the existence of a secret US government document which describes how the US interferes in other countries’ political affairs in order to align them to its own interests. 

In a November 23 article entitled Malaysia: Victim of America’s ‘Irregular Warfare’ Ops, Bowie quotes psychologist Dr Christof Lehmann, who describes the document as: 

“…a step by step guide of how to create, manipulate, co-opt and make use of a countries population, persons of special interest inside the country as well as expatriates, organizations inside as well as outside the country, towards a subversion. Beginning with manipulating dissent into demonstrations, the polarization of a population, riots and armed insurgencies that require action by security forces, and psychological warfare by means of media, step by step, in logical sequence, towards a full scale war, based on humanitarian principles and the pretext of bringing democracy and freedom.”  

States that will not align themselves with US interests are infiltrated in phases, Bowie said, beginning with the use of “foreign-funded dissident news media organizations” to influence the population. Further infiltration includes the provision of training and equipment to dissident groups, with the final aim being a transition to a government which will be more compliant with US diplomatic and economic interests. 

Bowie cited Libya and Syria as countries in which the model laid out in the document was used successfully. 

“The ‘Phases of Unconventional Warfare’ are described in the manual and exactly match the US protocol undertaken in both Libya and Syria,” he said. 

While Malaysia is very different from Syria and Libya, Bowie said, “…it is essentially confirmed that the agitation Malaysia has experienced is not intended to promote a genuine democratic framework; its purpose is the gradual installation of a national government that is friendly to American interests by coaxing social unrest and shaping popular sentiment”. 

Evidence of such tactics can be seen in the activities of several foreign organisations in Malaysia, Bowie said, including the US-based National Democratic Institute and George Soros’ Open Society Institute (which have both funded Malaysian elections watchdog Bersih), the National Endowment for Democracy (which provides funding to human rights group SUARAM and pro-opposition news website Malaysiakini), and the International Republican Institute (which is chaired by Senator John McCain, “an ardent supporter of American and Israeli militarism”, and receives funding from the NED for its activities in Malaysia). 

Bowie acknowledged the legitimacy of expressions of dissent and said that “although the Najib Razak administration has begun to move away from Mahathir’s administrative model by relaxing controls on expression, many still feel more can be done”. 

However, he said some dissent, egged on by Western groups such as those mentioned above, goes too far. 

“In the Malaysian context, ruling authorities have acknowledged that more could be done to reduce voting irregularities and have begun to work toward such ends. To accuse Malaysia’s electoral system of being illegitimate is a cinematic exaggeration, a myth pushed by foul Western endowments and foundations,” he said. 

“If the United States is pursuing the kind of policy described in the Unconventional Warfare manual, one can understand how foreign-funded rights advocacy groups may be perceived as threatening to Malaysian authorities, regardless of the politics and values they preach,” Bowie wrote.

Nile Bowie is a Kuala Lumpur-based American writer and photographer for the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal, Canada. He explores issues of terrorism, economics and geopolitics.