The lone figure in the government of newly-minted British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who has never served in government or either house of parliament is also one with possibly the strongest ties to what former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once dubbed “the loony left.” Mark Malloch Brown — now Lord Malloch Brown, having just been granted a peerage by the prime minister (no relation) — is the new minister for Africa, Asia, and the United Nations. He is also someone who repeatedly sought to undercut two high-profile Americans in the world arena, former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. Moreover, the 53-year-old Brown was until recently one of the operatives for left-wing financier George Soros, and has a record of harsh words for both the conservative American media as well as the United States itself.
For my part, I was disappointed to learn of Brown’s controversial past. I first became aware of him in a positive way from reading A Fish In the Water, novelist Mario Vargas Llosa’s moving account of his unsuccessful race for president of Peru in 1990. Vargas Llosa was an unabashed free marketer, someone who was catapulted into politics through his role in mobilizing public opinion against the nationalization of banks proposed by then-President Alan Garcia in the late 1980’s. Likened to Ronald Reagan and Lady Thatcher, Vargas Llosa sought the presidency with an American-style campaign with help from the Washington-DC based political consulting firm Sawyer Miller. The head of Sawyer-Miller’s international division was Mark Malloch Brown, formerly a journalist with the a journalist with the Economist who had befriended Vargas-Llosa (who lost the race to political newcomer Alberto Fujimori, later notorious for declaring martial law and finally overthrown and driven into exile after ten years in power).
Brown later left public relations work to become a vice president for external affairs at the World Bank. During a time when the Bank was under increasing fire from conservatives in the U.S. for being unresponsive, Brown “is credited with having helped the Bank enhance its outreach and expand its partnership with the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.” (From official documents of UN Secretary General). A decade later, World Bank sources told me, Brown helped stir up inter-office opposition to embattled Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.
From the Bank, Brown went to the United Nations as top aide and then deputy to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. As the Guardian reported: “One of his main jobs was to counter the barrage of criticism coming out of Washington, which smelt blood over the Iraq oil-for-food scandal.”
Annan’s spin doctor went on the offensive: criticizing the US for “too much unchecked UN-bashing and stereo-typing” and blaming the growing criticism of the world organization in the US on “Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.” UN Ambassador John Bolton fired back “I’ve known you since 1989 and I’m telling you this is the worst mistake by a senior UN official that I have seen in that entire time.”
Brown went on to say, in a commencement address at Pace University School of Law in 2005, that “President Bush’s push for freedom and democracy will run aground on the shoals of American exceptionalism if the United States keeps apart from the emerging international legal system” — a reference to US opposition to the Kyoto treaty on the environment and the International Criminal Court.” A year later, he criticized the invasion of Iraq backed by the US and Britain and somehow linked it to undermining humanitarian workers in places such as Darfur, “who are no longer seen as neutral.” (Nile Gardiner, nationalreviewonline, 7/2/07).
Gardiner, head of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation, went on to note in the same article that weeks before being tapped by Gordon Brown for the new portfolio at the Foreign Office, Mark Malloch Brown was vice president of the Quantam Fund and vice chairman of the Open Socity Institute — both of which are funded by George Soros. Concluded Gardiner: “It is unclear whether he will maintain his ties to Quantam and Open Society while serving as a British government minister.”
And also unclear is how is it Mark Malloch Brown — with a long trail of US-bashing and clashes with US officials — will deal with his counterparts here as he assumes the new and apparently vital portfolio in London.