The ICNC: Propagating Uncle Sam’s Narrative

By Stephen Gowans

“The narrative we want to come out of this is that the Libyan people overthrew a dictator, not that we came in and toppled a despot,” said Stephen J. Hadley, a former national security adviser to President George W. Bush.

“And that’s the problem with going after command and control if it results in the death of Qaddafi, because what we really want him to do is for him to leave or to die at a Libyan hand, not an American hand,” said Mr. Hadley, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.” (1)

To explain the 2000 overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic in the former Yugoslavia, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict promotes the very same narrative Hadley wants for Libya.

Through its video, Bringing Down A Dictator, and articles written by scholars on its academic advisory board–at least one of whom has met with the CIA and RAND Corporation–the organization brazenly rewrites history to put forward the narrative that an indigenous pro-democracy movement overthrew a dictator, not that NATO intervened massively to topple an elected president.

At least three facts are at odds with the ICNC narrative:

• NATO carried out a 78-day terror bombing campaign whose purpose was to induce “Milosevic’s own people…to turn on him,” according to the commander of US Air Force units in Europe at the time, General John P. Jumper. (2). In 1999, US General Michael Short told The New York Times that the bombing campaign was based on “hopes that the distress of the Yugoslav public will undermine support for the authorities in Belgrade.” (3)
• The West engineered a sanctions campaign that uniquely targeted areas in which Milosevic had strong support. This added to pressure on Milosevic’s own supporters to oust their president.
• Washington spent $10 million in 1999 and $31 million in 2000 to train, equip and advise an overthrow movement to destabilize the former Yugoslavia and oust Milosevic. [4] It is this movement that the ICNC celebrates as a largely indigenous pro-democracy movement.

Wherever Washington is trying to topple an independent government, the ICNC’s scholars can be counted on to help build a narrative that says the people overthrew a dictator, not that Washington allied with part of the population to sweep the old government from office. Invariably the replacement governments have aligned themselves closely with US financial, commercial and military interests.

Of the ICNC founder and chairman Peter Ackerman, Edward Herman and David Peterson note: He “was a board member and eventual chairman of Freedom House (September 2005 – January 2009), an institution that has been as clear an instrument of U.S. foreign policy as has the CIA itself.” (5) Ackerman is also a board member of the Council on Foreign Relations, equally as clear an instrument of US foreign policy.

On Stephen Zunes, the organization’s chief scholar, the pair add: “It is disturbing to watch Zunes repeatedly downplay the role of foreign money, knowledge, and power at work behind regime-change campaigns, and hype the democratic credentials of the opposition to targeted regimes.” (6)

This, indeed, is another way of saying that Zunes works to make the narrative of US regime change operations come out the way Hadley wants it to come out in Libya – with a targeted leader’s fall seen to come at the hands of his own people with US complicity erased from history.

Herman and Peterson condemn this narrative-setting as “an especially powerful cocktail for sowing confusion among leftists and progressives, whose minds tell them to oppose imperial causes, but whose hearts warm to emotionally manipulative rhetoric about the ‘homegrown’ nature of ‘pro-democracy’ movements.” (7)

Zunes and other ICNC scholars claim to be on the left. Some even anti-imperialist. If so, what’s left?

1. Kareem Fahim and Mark Mazzetti, “Allies defending actions in Libya after airstrike”, The New York Times, May 1, 2011.
2. Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger, “Nato says it is stepping up attacks on Libya targets”, The New York Times, April 26, 2011.
3. New York Times, May 13, 1999. Cited in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.
4. Dobbs, Michael, “US advice guided Milosevic opposition,” The Washington Post, December 11, 2000.
5. Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Reply to Stephen Zunes”, December 30, 2010.
6. Herman and Peterson.
7. Herman and Peterson.

4 thoughts on “The ICNC: Propagating Uncle Sam’s Narrative

  1. Leonor is a spanish woman blogging in Libya:

    Last night NATO aircraft bombed Tripoli hospital burn unit.

    Bombed the water companies Sirte and Misurata and then say that the Libyan government has cut off the water.

    Buildings being bombed hospitals, schools, universities etc. that have nothing to do with the army and the Libyans say that for sure now say we need to go to repair the country have been destroyed because the resource base.

    Two days ago when they bombed Jufrah Wahar to tell me that bombed the entire city and especially schools, universities, hospitals etc.

    At the same time and in addition to destroying the country EU says it will put an office in Benghazi and tells Joseph that the UN has already changed the flag and the Libyan government.

    We are facing a real coup orchestrated by the U.S., UN, EU and especially France and England in the eyes of the world who remain unmoved.

    What he is doing the USA and NATO in Libya is easy to check. By this I mean that if governments are silent or supported the coup are responsible for this barbarism.

  2. FYI:
    Libya-France: French lawyer to prosecute NATO for ‘crimes’ in Libya

    French lawyer to prosecute NATO for ‘crimes’ in Libya – A complaint will be filed in the coming days in Brussels, Belgium, against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for ‘crimes’ committed in Libya, including the killing of the Libyan leader’s son and his three grandchildren, French lawyer Philippe Missamou, announced Thursday to PANA. ‘This is a complaint for war crimes and crimes against humanity. I am filing it in Belgium because it is the headquarters of NATO. The Belgian court is competent to assess this complaint,’ said the lawyer, who is known for handling political issues. He openly accused NATO of violating the rules of armed conflict in its actions in Libya particularly the protection of civilians.

    ‘For instance the attack of the residence of the son of Libyan leader: it is absolutely not a military objective. It’s a murder that should not go unpunished. We will use all legal means to obtain redress’, said Missamou.

    ‘What is happening in Libya has nothing to do with events in Tunisia and Egypt. In Libya, we are witnessing an armed insurrection. Insurgents loot, kill, burn. It is the duty of the Tripoli regime to respond by all means. What do we want authorities to do? Idly standby? It’s unthinkable,’ added the lawyer.

    Several organizations from the diaspora, including the Federation of African Workers in France (FETAF), and the Association of Guineans residing abroad (AGRE), have recently expressed their outrage about the NATO air strikes on Libya.

    The heads of these organizations have mainly sought a cease-fire while demanding immediate acceptance of a political solution under the auspices of the African Union (AU).

  3. Being somewhat of an optimist, I occasionally spend a little time looking for a silver lining when things are looking frustratingly ludicrous. MKB’s current atimes article offers a glimmer of sanity, laced with subtly unsubtle reactions to the disgracefully partisan conduct of US/NATO’s UN stooge, Ban Ki Moon, in the Libya affair.

    Russia and China challenge NATO.

  4. More about “humanitarian” war and the sinister “Responbility to Protect” doctrine that underlies it.

    This doctrine is nothing more than a disguised justification for Neo-colonialism:

    “What is emerging, with the aggression against Libya as a major test case in the reframing of military intervention as responsibility to protect, is acceptance of radical new forms of US-orchestrated military intervention, with or without UN Security Council sanction, a radical new form of neo-colonialism, a major new step on the road to a New World Order, the Pentagon’s much-sought Full Spectrum Dominance.”

    Humanitarian Neo-colonialism: Framing Libya and Reframing War

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s