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Foreign Aid and the Empire

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The pro-empire crowd sometimes claims that the U.S. Empire is different from other empires in history in that it doesn’t try to acquire foreign lands. They fail to grasp the real nature of the U.S. Empire. It isn’t about acquiring foreign lands, it’s about acquiring control over foreign regimes. And its model is based pretty much on how the Soviet Empire handled its domain in East Germany and Eastern Europe — by putting into power pro-U.S. regimes composed of local officials whose loyalty to the empire is then purchased with U.S. foreign aid, much of which ultimately finds itself in the bank accounts of such officials.

A good example of how the U.S. Empire operates occurred recently in Egypt, where a brutal military dictatorship has ruled the country for decades. It is a dictatorship that has received billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid, in the form of both cash and armaments, which the dictatorship has used to oppress the Egyptian people.

Recently, the Egyptian regime charged several U.S.-government-financed nonprofit organizations with criminal offenses for operating without the license required by Egyptian law. Several of the American principals in the firms ensconced themselves within the American embassy in the hopes of evading the prosecution.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government was demanding that the prosecutions be dismissed.

What were the legal grounds for the government’s demand?

There were no legal grounds at all. That is, U.S. officials did not enter into an Egyptian courthouse and file legal motions to dismiss. They made no claim of sovereign immunity in the court. They didn’t argue that the Egyptian registration laws were unconstitutional. They didn’t even argue that the defendants were innocent of the charges.

They didn’t bother to make any judicial arguments at all. Instead, their demand was based on raw political power — power that comes with Empire. Their argument was this: If you want your annual payment of $1.3 billion dollars in U.S. foreign aid, then you will let these Americans go regardless of whether they violated the law or not. If you persist in prosecuting them, you will no longer receive the money.

In the end, the defendants were allowed to leave the country under bond and a promise to return for trial.

It was a raw display of imperial power, one that demonstrated the real purpose of U.S. foreign aid. No, foreign aid is not about helping the poor, needy, and disadvantaged, as pro-empire types like to claim. In fact, very little of foreign aid ever reaches the poor. The purpose of foreign aid is control. It is essentially a means of blackmail and extortion: Do as we say or we cancel your dole.

Of course, pro-empire types say that the criminal charges against the nonprofit organization were ridiculous. What they fail to recognize, however, is that the U.S. government has the same types of registration requirements here in the United States and sometimes enforces them fiercely. The Foreign Agents Registration Act is a federal law that requires agents of foreign governments to register with the U.S. government. According to Wikipedia, as recently as 2011 a Pakistani man named Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai was arrested for failing to register as an agent of the Pakistani government

Suppose a group of Iranian, Venezuelan, and Cuban citizens were caught here in the United States trying to influence public opinion in their direction without having complied with U.S. registration requirements. What do you think the response of the U.S. government would be? We all know what the response would be. They would go after them with great ferocity.

To summarize, the Empire supports Egypt’s military dictatorship for decades, providing its military and intelligence forces with billions of dollars in money and armaments that they use to brutally oppress the Egyptian people

But now that the Egyptian people are revolting against their U.S.-supported tyranny, the U.S. Empire wants to make it appear that it’s on the side of the people. Thus, it funds the “pro-democracy” NGOs even while it continues to fund the military dictatorship.

When the dictatorship sees that the NGOs might be engaging in activity that threatens the military’s control over the country, they prosecute them under Egyptian registration laws. And immediately the Empire goes into action, not by intervening in Egypt’s judicial system with legal arguments but instead through a raw display of foreign-aid blackmail that threatens the termination of billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid if the criminal prosecutions are permitted to continue.

The situation with those U.S.-government-funded NGOs in Europe provides the American people with a valuable demonstration of how the U.S. Empire operates.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.