Founded in 1973 with an initial funding of over a million dollars from some of the most extreme right-wingers in US politics (among its first funders was beer brewer Joseph Coors, who has been described as “anti-labor, racist and homophobic”), the Heritage Foundation is probably the most influential policy research organization in the world.

The Foundation first came to full prominence during the two Reagan administrations (1980-1984; 1984-1988), which adopted most of its policy recommendations on domestic and international issues. Those policies included the cutbacks on federal funding for welfare and affirmative-action programs, and the adoption of the disastrously costly and probably unworkable “Star Wars” missile defense system. Overall, in keeping with Heritage’s proclaimed goals, which include “a strong national defense,” the Reagan administration channeled funds to the weapons industries at the expense of social services.

Heritage’s unstated goal, Princeton University economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has opined, is to do away with the reforms of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” and Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” programs that, as Krugman puts it, give “a little bit of cushion for Americans having bad luck.” Meanwhile, all the money saved from cutting domestic programs for the poor could be channeled to weapons spending–which was essentially what Reagan did, and what the Bush I and Bush II presidencies (1988-1992; 2000-2004) continued.

Although a Democratic Party administration, that of William “Bill” Clinton, came to power in 1992 (after the one-term presidency of George F. Bush, George W’s father), the foundation remained a powerful voice in Washington nevertheless because of its influence over the Republican Party.

When the Republicans gained control of the US Congress in 1995, it became the single most influential policy research group in the US capital. Its “experts” not only testified dozens of times before Congress on plans to further cut welfare and affirmative action funding; they were consulted as well by the House Budget Committee in the preparation of the Republican Party’s so-called “balanced budget plan”–a euphemism for increased defense spending and aggressive intervention abroad at the expense of domestic programs.

A well-funded organization, Heritage has the ears of influential members of the US House of Representatives as well as the Senate, and, what’s even more crucial, those of the White House, where it helped install George W. Bush.

Heritage has been called a “shadow government” that, because of its influence, is a threat to democratic governance. It has also been accused of accepting money from foreign interests and governments, among them the Taiwanese government and South Korea, as well as from the Korean conglomerate Samsung. In the early 1980s, Korea’s Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) gave Heritage some .2 million.

Heritage is deeply hostile to China and North Korea, the governments of which its “experts” would prefer to change if they could. (Although crammed with PhDs, Heritage’s commitment to a neo-conservative ideology tends to overwhelm a rational appreciation of the facts, thus the quotation marks in “experts”.)

While regime change in North Korea and China sounds like a futile goal so far, Heritage has been more successful in other countries. In the 1980s and 1990s it was responsible for the US government’s adoption of the policy of active support for the groups opposed to the then governments of Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Nicaragua. It was indirectly responsible for the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan, and for the defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua through its successful campaign to win open as well as clandestine US government support for the Taliban fundamentalists and the Nicaraguan Contras.

Yes, this is the same Heritage Foundation that on October 7 released a commentary entitled “Arroyo’s Policies Disappoint,” which was written by one of its senior policy analysts, Dana Dillon. And yes, this is the same Heritage Foundation that Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye, in response to the Dillon piece, referred to disparagingly as a “supposed think tank” whose “bias is very obvious.”

The Heritage Foundation is first of all not a “supposed” think-tank. It may be an utterly reactionary think tank whose leading lights represent some of the most backward political tendencies in the world (one of its founders, for example, has actually inveighed against US multiculturalism as destructive). But it is a think tank, and what’s more, extremely influential.

Its bias is beyond question, however. Like his co-workers in Heritage, Dillon is guided by one over-arching purpose: to influence US government policies for the attainment of the neo-conservative goal of uncontested US global dominance. To this end, Dillon, again like his confreres, is not interested in anyone’s welfare, future, interests or concerns except those of the United States (or that of the politicians and corporations that run it) as he perceives them.

The Dillon piece in fact argues from that viewpoint and that viewpoint alone.
Dillon argues that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s withdrawal of Philippine troops from Iraq in July this year, and her agreeing to joint Philippines-China oil exploration in the contested Spratlys, works against American interests.

Dillon’s special beef is that Mrs. Arroyo acted quickly to get truck driver Angelo de la Cruz out of harm’s way in Iraq, while it allowed the Abu Sayyaf to hold US citizen Jeffrey Schilling for nine months, and US missionaries Gracia and Martin Burnham for over a year. Dillon whines that in the case of Schilling and the Burnhams, “negotiations with the terrorists were never an option.”

In short, Mrs. Arroyo’s sin is her having negotiated with terrorists in Iraq, and “capitulating” to them for the sake of a mere Filipino truck driver, while she didn’t do so for the sake of Americans. Dillon is of course not arguing in favor of negotiations with terrorists. What he’s saying is that, as wrong as negotiating with terrorists is, it was worse that Mrs. Arroyo negotiated with and “capitulated” to the Iraqi militants holding Angelo de Los Reyes, whereas she had refused to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf for the sake of its American hostages.

“Iraqi insurgents and terrorists aren’t the only bullies who push President Arroyo around,” Dillon rages. “She’s an equal opportunity weakling.” Dillon’s additional complaint is that she signed that agreement with China to jointly explore for oil and gas in the Spratlys. Dillon claims tat China’s claims “are easily the most immoderate,” and that in effect, Mrs. Arroyo had breached the Asean common front against “Chinese expansion into the South China Sea.” His conclusion is that Mrs. Arroyo is “the weakest leader in the [Southeast Asian] region.”

Dillon’s piece echoes an early piece by a Heritage senior fellow, Robert Brookes. His “Saying Yes to Terror” was issued July 16, after the Philippines withdrew its troops from Iraq. Brookes argues that the decision, among other consequences, “stabbed its ardent counter-terrorism supporter and 50-year ally, the United States, in the back.”

Brookes goes on to say that “the Arroyo decision is also particularly offensive to Washington, given its 0 million support for the “training, assisting and equipping” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as well as “tens of millions of dollars in social and economic aid to address the problems contributing to the southern Muslim insurgency and terrorism.” His conclusion is that “Arroyo has called into question the Philippines’ reliability as an ally.”

More ominous is Dillon’s phrasing. The third paragraph of his October 7 piece begins thus: “The longer her administration makes foreign policy for the Philippines, (italics provided) the more it seems that threats from terrorists and regional bullies influence her more than diplomatic and financial aid from Manila’s friends and allies [meaning the United States]. On question after question, she has changed policies to put her and her erstwhile (italics provided) allies into weaker positions…”

That sounds too much like a prescription for regime change to be ignored. The prescription is specially ironic given how much, prior to July this year, Mrs. Arroyo had yielded to the United States to the extent of violating the Constitution by allowing US troops into the country, and signing the misnamed Mutual Support and Logistics Agreement, which allows the basing of US troops in Philippine territory. (In that sense Dillon and Brookes are right: Mrs. Arroyo has indeed capitulated to bullies–and we know who’s the biggest of them all.)

Now for the really bad news. The Dillon and Brookes pieces are not just internal memos, but widely circulated not only in the US media but all over the US government as well–which means that they have reached senators, congressmen, and the White House–because the point of these pieces is to influence US policy decisions.

This dis-endorsement of Mrs. Arroyo by the Heritage Foundation should be seen in the context of other US concerns, among them the possibility that part of the military aid Washington has provided the Philippines could have ended up in the bank accounts of Philippine generals like Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia. Proof that it has could be the absolutely last straw that could lead the US to shop around for a more reliable puppet–ooops, leader–in this neck of the woods. Because the Philippines has plenty of that kind of human resource, you can imagine how long the line will be once the US decides that it can no longer abide Mrs. Arroyo.


Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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