Top 5 Things wrong with US AID Social Media Plot Against Cuba

(By Juan Cole)

The US Agency for International Development established a microblogging platfrom similar to Twitter for Cubans. It used it to promote critical discussion of the government but also to gather private information of users. Covert operations are supposed to be approved by the White House but it is not clear this one was. The whole thing may have been illegal. Sen. Patrick Leahy said he knew nothing of the project and criticized the use of US AID as the agency to pursue it. He is right. Here’s what’s wrong with this picture:

1. The operation will make developing countries who need US economic aid chary about accepting it from USAID, since leaders will fear that the agency may be trying to overthrow them.

2. The US just gave fodder to conspiracy theories in places like Egypt, where the 2011 overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak is often blamed by the Egyptian Right wing on American covert intervention. Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey tried to ban Twitter over such suspicions of outside manipulation. The US is undermining pro-democracy movements among young people around the world.

3. Egypt, Russia and other authoritarian states have been prosecuting NGOs for accepting monetary aid from outside the country. This operation will confirm those countries in their suspicion of US government grants to rights groups, thus damaging the latter and strengthening paranoid policies in the Global South as well.

4. The US government had no business gathering personal data like cell phone numbers from its faux Twitter. The NSA has already deeply harmed the internet with its massive electronic surveillance, including of Americans residing in the US. The internet requires a certain amount of public trust to function and the US government is undermining it.

5. Cuba is not a significant challenger to the US at the moment compared to the spread of influence of al-Qaeda affiliates in northern Syria, center-west Iraq and Yemen. The US if anything is facilitating the extremist groups in Syria. These resources should have been directed at more dire security threats.


Related video:

U.S. created ‘Cuba Twitter’ to sow unrest, reports AP

17 Responses

  1. The “pro-democracy” efforts of the right wing are deliberate attacks upon democracy in other countries. Democracy depends upon media and elections free of economic forces, which requires government regulation. This is evident in the US, where the absence of protection has allowed the right wing to control mass media and elections, with deliberate subversion and utter contempt for democracy.

    Democracy in small countries requires much more government regulation of mass media and elections, because otherwise these are soon controlled by larger foreign governments, businesses, and wealthy persons. These governments could be open democracies only if every foreign power and economic power were subject to intense scrutiny to reliably prevent all coercion of democracy, and nothing could be further from the intent and history of the US, as proven by its longstanding, massive, and secret surveillance and subversion programs.

    The history of Latin America is of democracy overthrown repeatedly by dictators for the benefit of the wealthy, often in the service of the US (Chile, Nicaragua, and others). The US has destroyed democracies around the world (Iran in 1953) which advocated any form of socialism for the benefit of their distressed people, and has substituted dictatorships.

    Cuba has prevented such takeovers only by means of one-party government, probably the closest thing to democracy that can survive the continuous subversion of the US. Venezuela and others have been able to protect democracy only because the gains of overthrowing oligarchies were so great that only fools and scoundrels would support anyone but the socialists, regardless of the amount spent against them.

    US claims of promoting democracy elsewhere are nothing but rightwing propaganda to fool naïve liberals. If it had any such concern it would free its own media and elections from economic power, subject all its economic powers to scrutiny to prevent any political influence, demand international controls for this purpose, undertake massive foreign aid programs to benefit the unfortunate of the world, and then worry about whether they also need to speed up a transition to more open democracy.

    • John, an excellent blog!!

      I might add that most of the public in other countries is aware of the tactics of the western entities; I remember growing up in India, that the educated elite knew that some of the western news organizations were a front for western spy agencies; the NGOs were often tainted…..It is the general public here in the USA that I find most brainwashed and even unwilling to learn the facts because the facts are such a jolt to the world view they have grown up in and are fed continually.

      We really need to revisit a number of our business models (News, TV, free speech=money; corporations=people etc etc.

    • I find your faith in the Democratic Party touching.
      Irrational, but quaint.
      It is no better than the GOP.

      • Actually I was referring to democracy in general rather than the US Democratic party, which now appears to be a rebranding of the GOP.

  2. “1. The operation will make developing countries who need US economic aid chary about accepting it from USAID, since leaders will fear that the agency may be trying to overthrow them.”

    It is probably safe to say that any leaders of other nations from the more powerful to the weakest must already be aware that if they don’t play ball according to American rules they will be overthrown.

  3. I always assume that the US government in some capacity is funding things like this all over the world, all of the time. We were doing very similar activities in the 1960’s and I have no reason to believe that we ever stopped. This is the cheap way for America to control the world, by controlling and paying for opposition groups in any country we choose. I think Ukraine is a perfect example, we most likely were behind the semi fascist groups that just overthrew the government there. Every once in awhile, a country gets away from us, like Cuba, and Iran. So, then we use other more drastic measures to keep them in their place.

    • or perhaps, to work of what John suggests, above, those groups flourish because rule by semi-fascist groups is the closest thing to democracy that can survive that close to Russian pressure.

      • That’s an interesting perspective. Where larger powers are in conflict in a small country, with interests distinct from its people, a closed system might approximate democracy if it could somehow represent the interests of the people. But Ukraine appears to have had two major regional factions led by demagogues, which has often led to failures of democratic reconciliation. If the US moved with Russia to mediate and ensure that government there protects the interests of all factions, as they could do everywhere, over generations the fear and anger would subside, the right wing of each faction would decline, and major power contention would diminish. But our own right wing sees no gain in peace and progress, and continues its efforts to build the right wing elsewhere by creating challenges on the borders of Russia and China, to create the fear of illusory foreign monsters that they ride to domestic power. If we were cautious about border issues of other powers, if we sought only the progress of other peoples, if mediation and cooperation was our strategy, and all failed due to faults of the other powers, then perhaps we could blame them and consider other humanitarian options. But as a nation we have met none of those conditions.

        • Inclusiveness when one side has an army of that size, foreign backed oligarchs, and all sorts of economic advantages built over decades beginning with starvation deaths and transferred populations to Russify the area. Yeah, that”s a a place to start.

  4. As a Canadian, two things came to mind.

    1. How much of that is going on around the world and why?

    2. Can’t they leave Cubans alone ? In Cuba nobody is starving. Cubans are also getting free medicare and education. Cuba is no threat to the US.

  5. I understand that Turkey’s Erdogan banned Twitter not because of “suspicions of outside manipulation.” Rather because Twitter messages revealed and broadcast a violent false-flag operation his government was cooking up to create a pretext for Turkey to invade Syria. Erdogan was trying to cover up the revelations.

    • Twitter and YouTube — the latter of which is still banned — were platforms for revelations of corruption, of plotting for Syrian involvement, of documents about the Reyhanli bombing which everyone except the Erdogan government is quite aware was by Islamists, most likely from one of the local AQ flavors.

      The news sites of his old buddy Gulen were under massive attack most of the week. Cihanhaber, the news site with the best election results was blocked all day Sunday and Monday; Today’s Zaman was down most of the week. Interestingly, it was down at points when the Turkish site was up.

      It was also blocked because he could do so. It’s part of being authoritarian. And, as he would tell you, doing things like this and having the courts block recounts unless your party is ordering them is as close as Turkey can come to democracy because of the interference of the US. In fact, he says variations of that claim every damned day. it’s popular with ideologues left and right.

  6. Cuba twitter is small compared to the world wide effort

    from Glenn Greenwald article yesterday titled:

    The “Cuban Twitter” Scam Is a Drop in the Internet Propaganda Bucket

    State sponsored propaganda spread around the world. From the article

    But these documents, along with the AP’s exposure of the sham “Cuban Twitter” program, underscore how aggressively western governments are seeking to exploit the internet as a means to manipulate political activity and shape political discourse.

    Those programs, carried out in secrecy and with little accountability (it seems nobody in Congress knew of the “Cuban Twitter” program in any detail) threaten the integrity of the internet itself, as state-disseminated propaganda masquerades as free online speech and organizing. There is thus little or no ability for an internet user to know when they are being covertly propagandized by their government, which is precisely what makes it so appealing to intelligence agencies, so powerful, and so dangerous.

    link to

  7. .
    A main reason for the extravagant funding of the Defense Department is to transfer money from the public purse to what are euphemistically referred to as defense contractors.

    USAID and Dr. Shah see one of USAID’s primary missions to be transferring funds to a dozen “implementing partners” that provide generous post-retirement employment to senior USAID retirees.

    USAID’s smaller programs in countries that have not been selected for American occupation are often helpful to the natives.
    But there hasn’t been one USAID program in Iraq, Yemen or Afghanistan after we invaded (yes, the US is in Yemen) that benefited locals more than it benefited the contractors.
    And that’s OK with the American public, for the most part.

    • If USAID wants to improve the living conditions in Yemen,
      while vastly improving US national security,
      they ought to take custody of the functionally innocent Yemenis at Guantanamo and repatriate them home.

      If the Pentagon won’t turn them over,
      USAID ought to hire a contractor to invade Gitmo and remove them.

  8. See also: US Intelligence agencies recruiting Peace Corps members, using false vaccination programs as cover, etc. All such actions undermine the effectiveness of such organizations and endanger the participants.

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