There is a revealing article in today’s Washington Post on the Heritage Foundation. For years, the right-wing think tank was highly critical of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. Then, in the summer of 2001, a consulting firm co-founded by Heritage President Edwin J. Feulner, Belle Haven, signed a lucrative contract to represent Malaysian business interests. (Belle Haven employs Feulner’s wife and the COO at Belle Haven, Ken Sheffer, is the former head of Heritage’s Asia division and is still on the payroll as a consultant, earning 75K a year for his services.) All of a sudden, Heritage changed its assessment of the Southeast Asian nation.
I went to the Heritage website to get more details. A search of their website presents a disturbing picture.
For example, on 10/16/03 Mahathir gave a speech alleging “Jews control the world and that Israel and the Jews are the enemy of 1.3 billion downtrodden Muslims.” Mahathir said Muslims need “guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes, tanks and warships for our defense.” Heritage scholar Dana R. Dillon wrote three weeks later:
The U.S. Congress…went too far in its efforts to punish Mahathir by passing an amendment to cut off military aid to Malaysia. Congress could have protested Mahathir’s remarks, without harming U.S.-Malaysian relations, by passing a congressional resolution condemning Mahathir’s speech. To contain the long-term damage to U.S.-Malaysian relations, the U.S. Department of State should inform Members of Congress of Malaysia’s tolerance of religious freedom and its importance to American national security interests as soon as possible.
Dillon helped justify his position with the following argument:
Judging Malaysian tolerance for people of the Jewish faith is more difficult because Malaysia has no discernible Jewish community.
Compare that piece to a 11/16/98 essay by Heritage scholar John T. Dori:
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed instituted anti-free market currency controls and jailed U.S. friend and pro-market reformer Anwar Ibrahim, his former deputy prime minister and minister of finance. To protest these actions, President Bill Clinton should have sought a change in venue for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum Leaders’ Meeting to be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital. The next-best option would have been to boycott the meeting.
To fend off its critics, Heritage claims the switch was due to 9/11. However, the switch occurred before the attacks:
Heritage financed an Aug. 30-Sept. 4, 2001, trip to Malaysia for three House members and their spouses. Heritage put on briefings for the congressional delegation titled “Malaysia: Standing Up for Democracy” and “U.S. and Malaysia: Ways to Cooperate in Order to Influence Peace and Stability in Southeast Asia.”