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Apartheid Regime

Abramoff and South Africa's War and Piece The post below reminded me of something I was told about Abramoff last year, in the context of researchi

Abramoff and South Africa's

War and Piece

The post below reminded me of something I was told about Abramoff last year, in the context of researching an entirely different story. Along those lines, it's worth revisiting an extraordinary July 16, 1995 Newsday article by Dele Olojede and Tim Phelps, Front for Apartheid: Washington-based think tank said to be part of ruse to prolong power. It's about a "think tank," the International Freedom Foundation (IFF), set up in 1986, that Abramoff helped run, that turned out to have been created and financed by the apartheid era South African defense forces. Its purpose? To improve the apartheid government's image in the West, and demonize its opponents, the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela, as communist stooges.

The Newsday piece is mentioned on the Internet, but I could only find the whole piece available through Nexis. Here are some relevant excerpts:

Johannesburg, South Africa - A respectable Washington foundation, which drew into its web prominent Republican and conservative figures like Sen. Jesse Helms and other members of Congress, was actually a front organization bankrolled by South Africa's last white rulers to prolong apartheid, a Newsday investigation has shown.

The International Freedom Foundation, founded in 1986 seemingly as a conservative think tank, was in fact part of an elaborate intelligence gathering operation, and was designed to be an instrument for "political warfare" against apartheid's foes, according to former senior South African spy Craig Williamson. The South Africans spent up to $ 1.5 million a year through 1992 to underwrite "Operation Babushka," as the IFF project was known.War and Piece

The post below reminded me of something I was told about Abramoff last year, in the context of researching an entirely different story. Along those lines, it's worth revisiting an extraordinary July 16, 1995 Newsday article by Dele Olojede and Tim Phelps, Front for Apartheid: Washington-based think tank said to be part of ruse to prolong power. It's about a "think tank," the International Freedom Foundation (IFF), set up in 1986, that Abramoff helped run, that turned out to have been created and financed by the apartheid era South African defense forces. Its purpose? To improve the apartheid government's image in the West, and demonize its opponents, the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela, as communist stooges.

The Newsday piece is mentioned on the Internet, but I could only find the whole piece available through Nexis. Here are some relevant excerpts:

Johannesburg, South Africa - A respectable Washington foundation, which drew into its web prominent Republican and conservative figures like Sen. Jesse Helms and other members of Congress, was actually a front organization bankrolled by South Africa's last white rulers to prolong apartheid, a Newsday investigation has shown.

The International Freedom Foundation, founded in 1986 seemingly as a conservative think tank, was in fact part of an elaborate intelligence gathering operation, and was designed to be an instrument for "political warfare" against apartheid's foes, according to former senior South African spy Craig Williamson. The South Africans spent up to $ 1.5 million a year through 1992 to underwrite "Operation Babushka," as the IFF project was known.

The current South African National Defence Force officially confirmed that the IFF was its dummy operation.

"The International Freedom Foundation was a former SA Defence Force project," Army Col. John Rolt, a military spokesman, said in a terse response to an inquiry. A member of the IFF's international board of directors also conceded Friday that at least half of the foundation's funds came from projects undertaken on behalf of South Africa's military intelligence, although he refused to say what these projects were except that many of them were directed against Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

A three-month Newsday investigation determined that one of the project's broad objectives was to try to reverse the apartheid regime's pariah status in Western political circles. More specifically, the IFF sought to portray the ANC as a tool of Soviet communism, thus undercutting the movement's growing international acceptance as the government-in-waiting of a future multiracial South Africa...

The South Africans found willing, though possibly unwitting, allies in influential Republican politicians, conservative intellectuals and activists. Sen. Jesse Helms, now chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, served as chairman of the editorial advisory board for the foundation's publications. Through a spokesman, Helms said that he did not know anything about the foundation...

Rep. Dan Burton, who was the ranking Republican on the House subcommittee on Africa, and Rep. Robert Dornan were active in IFF projects, frequently serving on its delegations to international forums. Alan Keyes, currently a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, also served as adviser. (He did not return a call seeking comment.) The Washington lobbyist and former movie producer Jack Abramoff, and rising conservative stars like Duncan Sellars, helped run the foundation.

The current South African National Defence Force officially confirmed that the IFF was its dummy operation.

"The International Freedom Foundation was a former SA Defence Force project," Army Col. John Rolt, a military spokesman, said in a terse response to an inquiry. A member of the IFF's international board of directors also conceded Friday that at least half of the foundation's funds came from projects undertaken on behalf of South Africa's military intelligence, although he refused to say what these projects were except that many of them were directed against Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

A three-month Newsday investigation determined that one of the project's broad objectives was to try to reverse the apartheid regime's pariah status in Western political circles. More specifically, the IFF sought to portray the ANC as a tool of Soviet communism, thus undercutting the movement's growing international acceptance as the government-in-waiting of a future multiracial South Africa...

The South Africans found willing, though possibly unwitting, allies in influential Republican politicians, conservative intellectuals and activists. Sen. Jesse Helms, now chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, served as chairman of the editorial advisory board for the foundation's publications. Through a spokesman, Helms said that he did not know anything about the foundation...

Rep. Dan Burton, who was the ranking Republican on the House subcommittee on Africa, and Rep. Robert Dornan were active in IFF projects, frequently serving on its delegations to international forums. Alan Keyes, currently a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, also served as adviser. (He did not return a call seeking comment.) The Washington lobbyist and former movie producer Jack Abramoff, and rising conservative stars like Duncan Sellars, helped run the foundation.

All those contacted denied knowing that it was controlled and funded by the South African regime.

Although there are strong indications that U.S. laws may have been broken - some IFF officials have admitted in interviews that they knew that South African military intelligence money helped pay for the foundation's activities in Washington - there is no clear evidence that the politicians associated with IFF either took campaign contributions or otherwise directly benefited financially from the foundation.

Under U.S. law, anyone who represents a foreign government, or acts under its orders, direction or control, has to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. Asked if a "think tank" set up and supported by a foreign government has to register, a Justice official said, "If the foreign [government] has some say in what they are doing - and, obviously, if they are funding it they probably do - then they probably do have to register." Violation of the law carries a fine up to $ 10,000 and a prison term up to five years.

Several key figures involved in the IFF and contacted by Newsday denied any knowledge that the foundation was a front for the political agenda of a foreign government. ...

Williamson said that the operation was deliberately constructed so that many of the people would not know they were involved with a foreign government. "That was the beauty of the whole thing - guys pushing what they believed," he said...

Doesn't that sound so very familiar

All those contacted denied knowing that it was controlled and funded by the South African regime.

Although there are strong indications that U.S. laws may have been broken - some IFF officials have admitted in interviews that they knew that South African military intelligence money helped pay for the foundation's activities in Washington - there is no clear evidence that the politicians associated with IFF either took campaign contributions or otherwise directly benefited financially from the foundation.

Under U.S. law, anyone who represents a foreign government, or acts under its orders, direction or control, has to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. Asked if a "think tank" set up and supported by a foreign government has to register, a Justice official said, "If the foreign [government] has some say in what they are doing - and, obviously, if they are funding it they probably do - then they probably do have to register." Violation of the law carries a fine up to $ 10,000 and a prison term up to five years.

Several key figures involved in the IFF and contacted by Newsday denied any knowledge that the foundation was a front for the political agenda of a foreign government. ...

Williamson said that the operation was deliberately constructed so that many of the people would not know they were involved with a foreign government. "That was the beauty of the whole thing - guys pushing what they believed," he said...

Doesn't that sound so very familiarPost this week reported about DeLay's 1997 Moscow junket, "Aides to DeLay, who is now the House majority leader, said that despite the presence during the [1997] trip [to Moscow] of the two registered lobbyists, DeLay thought the nonprofit organization -- the National Center for Public Policy Research -- was funding the trip on its own."

The Newsday piece continues:

But in some cases, such as Abramoff's, the relationship with the South African security apparatus was more than merely coincidental, according to Williamson and others. A former chief of intelligence, now retired, said emphatically that the South African military helped finance Abramoff's 1988 movie "Red Scorpion." The movie was a sympathetic portrayal of an anti-communist African guerrilla commander loosely based on Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan rebel leader allied to both Washington and Pretoria. Williamson also said the production of "Red Scorpion" was "funded by our guys," who in addition provided military trucks and equipment - as well as extras.

Abramson reacted with anger when told of the allegations Friday, saying his movie was funded by private investors and had nothing to do with the South African government. "This is outrageous," he said.

Good to pause for a moment.

OK, here's more:

On the surface, the IFF's headquarters was in northeast Washington, D.C., at 200 G Street, next door to the Free Congress Foundation, another conservative institution. From that base, it launched campaigns against communist sympathizers and perceived enemies of the free market. It broadly supported Reaganism, and its principal officers ran with the Ollie North crowd. But it always paid special attention to the ANC. When Mandela made his first visit to the United States in 1990, following his release from prison, the IFF placed advertisements in local papers designed to dampen public enthusiasm for Mandela. One ad in the Miami Herald portrayed Mandela as an ally and defender of Cuba's Fidel Castro. The city's large Cuban community was so agitated that a ceremony to present Mandela with keys to the city was scrapped... . As the Post this week reported about DeLay's 1997 Moscow junket, "Aides to DeLay, who is now the House majority leader, said that despite the presence during the [1997] trip [to Moscow] of the two registered lobbyists, DeLay thought the nonprofit organization -- the National Center for Public Policy Research -- was funding the trip on its own."

The Newsday piece continues:

But in some cases, such as Abramoff's, the relationship with the South African security apparatus was more than merely coincidental, according to Williamson and others. A former chief of intelligence, now retired, said emphatically that the South African military helped finance Abramoff's 1988 movie "Red Scorpion." The movie was a sympathetic portrayal of an anti-communist African guerrilla commander loosely based on Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan rebel leader allied to both Washington and Pretoria. Williamson also said the production of "Red Scorpion" was "funded by our guys," who in addition provided military trucks and equipment - as well as extras.

Abramson reacted with anger when told of the allegations Friday, saying his movie was funded by private investors and had nothing to do with the South African government. "This is outrageous," he said.

Good to pause for a moment.

OK, here's more:

On the surface, the IFF's headquarters was in northeast Washington, D.C., at 200 G Street, next door to the Free Congress Foundation, another conservative institution. From that base, it launched campaigns against communist sympathizers and perceived enemies of the free market. It broadly supported Reaganism, and its principal officers ran with the Ollie North crowd. But it always paid special attention to the ANC. When Mandela made his first visit to the United States in 1990, following his release from prison, the IFF placed advertisements in local papers designed to dampen public enthusiasm for Mandela. One ad in the Miami Herald portrayed Mandela as an ally and defender of Cuba's Fidel Castro. The city's large Cuban community was so agitated that a ceremony to present Mandela with keys to the city was scrapped...

But its [the IFF's] main purpose was always to serve the ultimate goals of the South African government, according to those who helped nudge it in that direction. The former senior South African military intelligence official said he traveled to the United States and Canada in 1988 as a guest of the IFF...

Far from being a mere branch of the IFF, the Johannesburg office was in fact the nerve center of IFF operations worldwide...

Although he insisted that the IFF was no clandestine operation, Russel Crystal, who ran the Johannesburg office, said it was vital to the foundation. He said Friday in an interview that "jobs" for South Africa's military intelligence provided at least half of total IFF revenue, and that he sometimes asked military intelligence to send the fees from these "jobs" directly to the Washington office of the IFF.

I haven't until recently been paying close attention to the details of the investigations into DeLay/Abramoff. And what's new to me is certainly old news to some of the people who have long been working this. But the pattern this 1995 piece lays out of Abramoff being involved in running pseudo-think tanks financed by (nasty elements of) foreign regimes, to build improper alliances with hardline conservative American legislators, seems really quite stunning to me. And the excuse that he had no idea who was really behind them becomes increasingly implausible.

But its [the IFF's] main purpose was always to serve the ultimate goals of the South African government, according to those who helped nudge it in that direction. The former senior South African military intelligence official said he traveled to the United States and Canada in 1988 as a guest of the IFF...

Far from being a mere branch of the IFF, the Johannesburg office was in fact the nerve center of IFF operations worldwide...

Although he insisted that the IFF was no clandestine operation, Russel Crystal, who ran the Johannesburg office, said it was vital to the foundation. He said Friday in an interview that "jobs" for South Africa's military intelligence provided at least half of total IFF revenue, and that he sometimes asked military intelligence to send the fees from these "jobs" directly to the Washington office of the IFF.

I haven't until recently been paying close attention to the details of the investigations into DeLay/Abramoff. And what's new to me is certainly old news to some of the people who have long been working this. But the pattern this 1995 piece lays out of Abramoff being involved in running pseudo-think tanks financed by (nasty elements of) foreign regimes, to build improper alliances with hardline conservative American legislators, seems really quite stunning to me. And the excuse that he had no idea who was really behind them becomes increasingly implausible.

Update: If we didn't know better, that Abramoff and DeLay were ideologically on the same side, the whole thing almost reminds one a bit of intelligence tactics one used to hear about in the former Soviet bloc and other third world regimes. Of intel agents trying to get highly embarrassing evidence of corruption or other reputation-shattering, incriminating material on politicos, that could be used to blackmail them. Remember the whole Montesino affair in Peru. Creepy stuff.

 


Taboo Topics - The Big Elephant    all spin zone

Why is it that some subjects are off-limits for discussion? There are topics that make even the most hardy, open-minded, progressive individual queasy or uneasy or make like the monkeys up in the corner.

For some families the big elephant in the room is an alcohol or drug problem, for others sex is the topic to be ignored and treated like it doesn't exist. While it doesn't seem like there's a topic that hasn't been widely covered and discussed by progressives, there is one. Voting rights. It just isn't good enough to say, "Yeah, I believe every US Citizen that is entitled to vote has the right to vote and should vote."

We need to have serious discussions about the processes that are currently in place. So far, with a couple of exceptions, I haven't seen many on the left tackle this topic. Before the ballots were cast in November there was plenty of talk about dirty tricks, incidents of fraud, and voter suppression. Since the election you can practically hear the crickets chirping. The silence from "the left" on this issue is deafening.  What's up with that?  Really, I  want to know...

Update: If we didn't know better, that Abramoff and DeLay were ideologically on the same side, the whole thing almost reminds one a bit of intelligence tactics one used to hear about in the former Soviet bloc and other third world regimes. Of intel agents trying to get highly embarrassing evidence of corruption or other reputation-shattering, incriminating material on politicos, that could be used to blackmail them. Remember the whole Montesino affair in Peru. Creepy stuff.

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