Learning from color revolutions

By Stephen Gowans

A common complaint made against critics of color revolutions, the Western-engineered insurrections that have brought neo-liberal governments to power in Serbia (the 5th October Overthrow), Georgia (the Rose Revolution), and Ukraine (the Orange Revolution), and have been attempted in Zimbabwe and Belarus, is that they err in minimizing the degree to which these revolutions are spontaneous, grass-roots-organized eruptions of popular anger against oppressive “regimes.”

One such defender of color revolutions, Philippe Duhamel, a “non-violent actionist (sic) and an educator for social change” takes issue with criticism of non-violence, pro-democracy activists who cheer on, and contribute to the organizing of, color revolutions (1). He argues that:

1. Criticism of such color revolution supporters as Stephen Zunes for his connections to ruling class foundations is unfair, and amounts to guilt by association; (2)
2. Color revolutions provide a model for non-violent social change in the West;
3. Anti-government mobilizations in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine were not imported from the West, but were grass-roots in origin.

Duhamel argues it is “possible for somebody to study the dynamics of popular revolutions and want to further nonviolent methods…without necessarily becoming a fan of the types of regime or rulers that emerge” – an implicit acknowledgement that the governments that have been swept to power by color revolutions, aided by “non-violent actionists and educators for social change,” are not the kinds of governments “pro-democracy” activists care to be associated with. No wonder. Western-directed uprisings have produced governments in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia committed to the Washington Consensus of harshness to the weak and indulgence to Western business interests. Considering that these uprisings have cleared the way for the ascension to power of governments that cater to the interests of the same Western governments and corporations that funded them (and hired the West’s docents of non-violent social change as color revolution advisors), they can hardly be said to be popular, progressive or democratic.

As regards studying color revolutions to apply their lessons to bringing about social change in the West, one must ask why it is that the model has enjoyed vaunted success in spring-boarding to power neo-liberal governments outside the West, but has failed to bring about a popular revolution in the West. (3) Color revolutions have relied heavily on funding from imperialist governments, ruling class foundations, and wealthy investors. (4) Western funding provides enormous advantages that genuine popular revolutions not aimed at serving imperialist goals struggle (usually unsuccessfully) to obtain. Obviously, Western governments and corporate foundations don’t fund revolutions in their own countries. (5) For this reason, color revolutions have been strictly non-Western phenomena.

In Serbia, where the 5th October Overthrow succeeded, and in Zimbabwe and Belarus, where Western governments and corporate foundations have worked to replicate the color revolutions of Georgia and Ukraine, economic warfare and threats of military intervention were, and are, important regime change inputs. They conduce to the success of anti-government uprisings by establishing regime change as a necessary condition for ending the crisis conditions economic warfare and threatened (or actual) military intervention create. Whether techniques of non-violent direct action are more effective than other means of bringing about revolutionary change under siege conditions is an open question. What is clear is that in Ukraine and Georgia, anti-government mobilizations were bankrolled, organized and assisted by Western governments, corporate foundations and billionaire investor George Soros. Could anti-government mobilizations succeed in toppling governments in the West without the strategic advice, polling, legal support, media infrastructure, public relations backing, legal expertise, civil disobedience training, leadership education, hiring of full-time organizers, creation of unified political opposition parties, unqualified media support, and mountains of spending money that Western governments and corporate foundations have showered on color revolutionaries outside the West?

Duhamel and other pro-democracy non-violence activists argue that major social mobilizations cannot be created on demand from a socio-economic vacuum or imported from the US, but critics of color revolutions haven’t tried to make this case. The argument they make is that engineered uprisings depend on three critical inputs: a crisis (induced by economic warfare, actual or threatened military intervention, or related to the impugned legitimacy of an election); an understanding that relief from the crisis is contingent on removal of the government; and a united political opposition working with an interlocked civil society apparatus pursuing clear and specific goals related to removal of the government. (6) The idea that popular uprisings of sufficient mass and coherence to topple governments arise spontaneously is a pleasant thought, but fatally minimizes the necessity of crises, the establishment of a contingent relation between ending the crisis and overthrowing the government, and the advantages of generous funding in building an opposition capable of carrying out the assigned task of sweeping the government away.

The goals of color revolutionaries are narrow and circumscribed and quite different from those of truly popular revolutions. Color revolutionaries care about toppling the current government, not about the government that follows. Not surprisingly, color revolution enthusiasts in the West are usually completely unaware of the nature and character of governments that have been swept to power by color revolutions. They celebrate the process, not the outcome. Unlike color revolutions, truly popular revolutions have been concerned first with establishing new systems of government and second with removing the existing government because it stood in the way of achieving this goal. Color revolutions, however, are inspired by no positive vision, only a negative one.

The beneficiaries of color revolutions have been neo-liberal governments committed to privatizing publicly-owned assets, providing a low-wage, low-tax environment for Western investors, eliminating tariffs and subsidies to please Western exporters, and signing up to integration into Nato to please the Pentagon. For all their boasting about being pro-democratic, color revolutions haven’t brought democratic governments to power (democratic in the sense of representing the interests of the mass of citizens.) Since the outcome of ostensibly pro-democracy revolutions cannot, therefore, be said to be truly democratic, why it is that color revolutionaries don’t try again, if, indeed, democracy, or at least, removal of oppressive antidemocratic governments, is their true aim? Surely, equipped with techniques of non-violent activism imparted by corporate foundation-supported educators for social change, a movement, emboldened by success in toppling one oppressive government, would have no trouble toppling another – or at least, giving it a good try. Yet the post-revolutionary governments of Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, which have been no better than the ones they replaced, and in the case of Serbia, far worse, have faced no popular insurrections that have threatened to bring them down.(7)

Consider the case of Georgia’s Rose Revolution. The popular insurrection that brought US-trained corporate lawyer, and George W. Bush-admirer, Mikhail Saakashvili to power, has not ushered in a new, democratic, day. Instead, Georgia has become decidedly less democratic and emphatically friendlier to US corporate and military interests.

Lincoln A. Mitchell, a Georgia expert at Columbia University says that,

“The reality is that the Saakashvili government is the fourth one-party state that Georgia has had during the last 20 years, going back to the Soviet period. And nowhere has this been more apparent than in the restrictions on media freedom.” (8)

According to Sozar Subari, Georgia’s ombudsman for human rights,

“That Georgia is on the road to democracy and has a free press is the main myth created by Georgia that the West has believed in. We have some of the best freedom-of-expression laws in the world, but in practice, the government is so afraid of criticism that it has felt compelled to raid media offices and to intimidate journalists and bash their equipment.” (9)

Indeed, so severe are the new government’s restrictions on the press that Nino Zuriashvili, a Georgian investigative journalist, says, “The paradox is that there was more media freedom before the Rose Revolution.” (10)

So why haven’t the Rose Revolutionaries trotted out their pro-democracy, non-violence techniques to oust the oppressive, anti-democratic and violence-prone Saakashvili (who sent troops to Iraq, started a war in South Ossetia, and sent riot police into the streets to bash the heads of demonstrators protesting the loss of their jobs)? One reason why is because they’re otherwise engaged doing Uncle Sam’s work elsewhere in the world. Instead of staying at home to topple the oppressive Saakashvili government, the non-violent, pro-democracy activists who helped organize the Rose Revolution have been “deployed abroad to teach democracy activists how to agitate for change against their autocratic governments, going everywhere from Eastern Europe to train Belarusians to Turkey to coach Iranians” (11) but not Georgia.

Who deployed them abroad? Their employers, billionaire financier George Soros and “the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, or Canvas. The group is funded in part by the International Republican Institute, which many describe as the international arm of the GOP, and Washington-based Freedom House, which receives most of its funding from the U.S. government” (12) and is interlocked with the CIA. (13)

The other reason a second Rose Revolution hasn’t come along to sweep away the anti-democratic, pro-violence, Saakashvili is that while “U.S. support for Saakashvili resulted in a sharp increase in foreign aid to the Georgian government…funding for the advocacy groups that had been at the heart of the Rose Revolution dried up, forcing organizations to shut down programs that could monitor and challenge his decisions.” (14)

In other words, Washington cut off the funding that fuelled the Rose Revolution, and, predictably, without the impetus of generous funding, no grass-roots organized popular mobilization has arisen (or has, but is so starved for funds, and has such a low profile as a consequence, that nobody has noticed.) And yet pro-democracy, non-violence activists, who take money from imperialist governments and corporate foundations to train Belarusians, Iranians, Zimbabweans and Venezuelans to overthrow their governments, insist that color revolutions are not fuelled by Western lucre, but are grass-roots, independent, uprisings against oppression.

Finally, the idea that color revolutions are carried out non-violently, while also a pleasant thought, is without foundation. Engineered uprisings invariably arise in the context of implied or threatened violence, whether it is the persistent threat of non-violent demonstrators suddenly turning into a violent mob, or the threat of Western military intervention, lurking in the background of events related to efforts to oust the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe, and actual military intervention preceding the Serbian 5th October Overthrow.

Western-assisted revolutions have also been aided by the efforts of Western governments to destabilize target countries through economic warfare. The West imposed sanctions on the former Yugoslavia, and maintains sanctions on Zimbabwe and Belarus. As mentioned, these destabilizing efforts are accompanied by signals to the besieged population. Topple your government and the threats and sanctions end. These conditions (blackmail, in straightforward language) give birth to an incipient movement to overthrow the government, coalescing around the existing opposition. The hiring of full-time anti-government organizers, grants to establish “independent” media to shape public opinion, Voice of America and Radio Liberty broadcasts to further tilt public sentiment away from the local government, the hardships imposed by the West’s economic warfare, the training of activists in techniques of popular insurrection, diplomatic maneuvers to isolate the country internationally — these things together establish the conditions for the success of an engineered insurrection. At the same time, they challenge the idea that color revolutions are pure, spontaneous, and grass-roots-organized, not contrived, nurtured and facilitated from without.

Western-engineered insurrections cannot, then, serve as a paradigm for organizing in the West, for the ingredients essential to their success could never be expected in the foreseeable future to be present in the case of attempted popular revolutions in the US, UK, France or elsewhere in the Western world. The necessary crisis conditions, and the contingency between relief from the crisis and removal of the government, will have to arise independently of the will of Western ruling classes. In Serbia, Zimbabwe and Belarus, they have arisen owing to the will of Western ruling classes.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from attempted and successful color revolutions. There are two important lessons to be learned:

o Funding, and the organization that generous funding enormously facilitates, cannot be underestimated in its power to bring about disciplined mass mobilizations guided by clear and specific goals.
o Organizers serve the interests of those who provide the funding.

From this we can conclude that for a revolution to serve popular interests, its funding, unlike that of color revolutions (which have served Western corporate and military interests), must be popularly sourced. Non-popularly sourced leadership training, training in techniques of civil disobedience and insurrection, “independent” media and NGOs, serve the interests of their funders.

As regards the guilt by association of Stephen Zunes and his peers, it can be said that what they are guilty of is taking money from Western governments, ruling class foundations and wealthy individuals to train activists to topple foreign governments. The purpose of these activities, whether the guilty acknowledge it or not, is to clear the way for the ascension to power of reactionary dependent governments committed to catering to imperialist interests. What Zunes et al are associated with, then, are the outcomes of these insurrections – harsher, more uncertain, and certainly less democratic lives for the local populations, but enhanced profit-making opportunities for Western banks, corporations and investors. That the funding for these activities comes from Western governments, corporate-sponsored foundations and wealthy investors is no accident.

The argument of non-violent actionists and educators for social change that this funding contributes in no way to the success of antigovernment uprisings and in no way shapes their outcome is an obfuscation spurred by obvious self-interest. Those who take lucre from imperialist governments and corporate foundations to help bring to power foreign governments to cater to imperialist interests must be held accountable for the outcomes of their actions. They must not be allowed to hide behind the delusion that they’re only studying the dynamics of “popular revolutions” abroad in order to understand how to be bring about social change non-violently at home. Anyone who works diligently to overthrow foreign governments in order to clear the way for the more vigorous pursuit of imperialist interests can hardly be expected to be genuinely interested in bringing about truly democratic change at home.

1. https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/the-war-over-south-ossetia/#comments
2. Zunes has been criticized from the left by Michael Barker, “Peace activists, criticism and non-violent imperialism,” MRZine, January 8, 2008, http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/barker080108.html and “Sharp reflection warranted: Non-violence in the service of imperialism,” Swans Commentary, June 30, 2008, http://www.swans.com/library/art14/barker01.html; John Bellamy Foster, “Reply to Stephen Zunes on imperialism and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict,” MRZine, January 17, 2008, http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/foster170108.html; George Ciccariello-Maher and Eva Golinger, “Making Excuses for Empire: Reply to Defenders of the AEI,” August 4, 2008, Venezuelanalysis.com, http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/3690; Netfa Freeman, “Zimbabwe and the battle of ideas,” The Black Agenda Report, September 25, 2008, http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=node/10802; and Stephen Gowans, “Stephen Zunes and the struggle for overseas profits,” What’s Left, February 18, 2008, https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/02/18/stephen-zunes-and-the-struggle-for-overseas-profits/.
3. Stephen Gowans, “Stephen Zunes and the struggle for overseas profits,” What’s Left, February 18, 2008, https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/02/18/stephen-zunes-and-the-struggle-for-overseas-profits/ and “The war over South Ossetia,” September 4, 2008, https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/the-war-over-south-ossetia/
4. Michael Barker, “Regulating revolutions in Eastern Europe,” ZNet, November 1, 2006, http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/2846
5. The funding that ruling class foundations and Western governments provide to left and progressive groups in the West is counter-revolutionary, intended to channel potential militancy into bureaucratic, litigious and electoral arenas where ruling class forces have the upper hand. Foundations are keen to support left groups that promote the idea that “we can change the world without taking power” and limit their goals to “pressuring elites”, i.e., leaving capitalist ruling class structures in place. Foundation grants are also used to upset the development of class consciousness by promoting identity politics and particularism. There is plenty of foundation funding available to support groups organized around women’s issues, ethnic media, gay, lesbian and transgender concerns, the elderly, and so on, but not for those working to create a working class conscious of its collective interests and place in history and the world. See Joan Roelofs, Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism, State University of New York Press, 2003.
6. Zimbabwe provides an example of how Western governments, media and foundations work together to destabilize target countries to promote anti-government uprisings. Western efforts to replicate Eastern European color revolutions in Zimbabwe have so far failed, possibly owing to the reality that the formula has become evident and target governments know what to expect and can take defensive actions. See Stephen Gowans, “Zimbabwe at War,” What’s Left, June 24, 2008, https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/zimbabwe-at-war/ and “US government report undermines Zimbabwe opposition’s claim of independence,” What’s Left, October 4, 2008, https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/10/04/us-government-report-undermines-zimbabwe-opposition%e2%80%99s-claim-of-independence/
7. For a summary of post-5th October Overthrow Serbia see Stephen Gowans, “Stephen Zunes and the struggle for overseas profits,” What’s Left, February 18, 2008, https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/02/18/stephen-zunes-and-the-struggle-for-overseas-profits/.
8. New York Times, October 7, 2008.
9. Ibid.
10. Ibid.
11. Borzou Daragahi “Soros’ Army: A Georgian soldier of the Velvet Revolution,” Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2008
12. Ibid.
13. Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon Books, 1988, p. 28. 17.
14. Philip P. Pan, “Georgia, a nation stalled on the road to democracy,” The Washington Post, March 9, 2009.

Stephen Zunes’ False Statements on Zimbabwe and Woza

By Stephen Gowans

Stephen Zunes is making a career of legitimizing fundamental US government assessments of all but a few of its foreign policy targets, uncritically mimicking State Department slanders of target countries and falsely declaring US funded regime change organizations to be “progressive organizations which could by no means be considered American agents.”

Reacting to a Netfa Freeman article in the Black Agenda Report criticizing his position on Zimbabwe, Zunes refers to “Mugabe’s election fraud, mismanagement of the economy, and human rights abuses.” This is State Department boilerplate. While it would be too much to ask Zunes to back up his statements in his brief reply to Freeman’s article, I cannot recall that he has ever produced evidence of any of his charges against US foreign policy targets in his longer articles, or has ever shown the slightest hint of scepticism regarding the charges Washington has levelled against “outposts of tyranny.” Instead, Zunes freely apes State Department rhetoric, defending from the left fundamental State Department views.

Particularly galling is his reference to Mugabe’s “mismanagement of the economy,” standard fare from US Secretaries of State, the CIA and New York Times, but hardly what one would expect from a critical and sceptical progressive who claims to be independent of US establishment positions. Attributing Zimbabwe’s economic difficulties to Mugabe’s policy errors whitewashes the role of the US in sabotaging Zimbabwe’s economy through the US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, which effectively cuts Harare off from balance of payment loans, development assistance and lines of credit from international lending agencies.

In his reply to Freeman, Zunes falsely states that Women of Zimbabwe Arise can by no means be considered American agents. The group’s leader, Jenni Williams, was presented with the State Department’s 2007 International Woman of Courage Award for Africa by Condoleezza Rice in a March, 2007 ceremony in Washington. The US State Department does not give out awards to people who work against the interests of the US economic elite. It does, however, award those who advance the elite’s positions.

A US government report on the activities in 2007 of its mission to Zimbabwe reveals that the “US Government continued its assistance to Women of Zimbabwe Arise.” US government assistance to Woza and other civil society organizations was channeled through Freedom House and PACT. Freedom House, which is interlocked with the CIA and is a “virtual propaganda arm of the (US) government and international right wing,” according to Noam Chomsky’s and Edward Herman’s Manufacturing Consent, is headed by Peter Ackerman, who also heads up the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). Stephen Zunes is chair of the board of academic advisors to the ICNC. Ackerman’s wife, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, is a former director of the Albert Einstein Institute, an organization which trained activists in popular insurrection techniques to overthrow Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution. Zunes has vigorously defended the AEI. She is also currently a director of the US foreign policy establishment-dominated Human Rights Watch, which recently launched a dishonest attack on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s human rights record.

Woza supports two US State Department propaganda vehicles: SW Radio Africa, a US State Department funded short-wave radio station that beams anti-Mugabe propaganda into Zimbabwe, and the Voice of America’s Studio 7, also funded by the State Department to broadcast US foreign policy positions into Zimbabwe. All political parties in Zimbabwe have, in their recent Memorandum of Understanding, urged journalists to abandon these pirate radio stations to “start working for the good of the country rather than for its enemies.” Jenni Williams and Woza are not, as Zunes falsely claims, working independently of the US government.

Zunes is close to individuals and organizations that are members of the US foreign policy establishment (Freedom House head and Council on Foreign Relations member Peter Ackerman) and have received funding from the US government and ruling class foundations to train popular insurrection groups to overthrow US foreign policy targets (Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institute). He has been criticized from the left by Michael Barker, Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster, and George Ciccariello-Maher and Eva Golinger. He is intolerant of criticism, asking WordPress to shut down my blog for criticisms of his association with Ackerman.

His modus operandi is to accept State Department denunciations of most US foreign policy targets as true, while attacking Washington’s foreign policy for being based on hypocrisy. He denies that insurrectionary movements trained by organizations that are funded by wealthy individuals, ruling class foundations and Western governments are agents of US imperialism, portraying them instead as independent grassroots groups.

There is much about Zunes to raise doubts about his politics.

Defending the Indefensible: Sham Democracy Promoter Defends Imperialist Ties

By Stephen Gowans

Stephen Zunes, an advisor to the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, an organization founded by former Michael Milken right-hand man Peter Ackerman, continues to defend “non-violent pro-democracy” activists involved in promoting overthrow movements abroad.

In a June 27, 2008 article in Foreign Policy in Focus, Zunes springs to the defense of Gene Sharp, the founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, who has been exposed in Eva Golinger’s “Bush vs. Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela” as “a self-titled expert of what he calls ‘non-violent defense’, though better termed regime change” who has provided “aid to Venezuela’s opposition in finding new and inventive ways to overthrow Chavez.” Sharp has been variously connected to Western-backed overthrow movements in Myanmar, Tibet, Belarus, Serbia and Zimbabwe – countries the US ruling class is acting to bring under its heel.

Zunes’ defense of Sharp, which amounts mostly to declaring Golinger’s and others’ exposure of the AEI founder to be “fabricated allegations,” rests on his demolishing a straw man. Sharp is not, he argues, part of a Bush administration conspiracy to overthrow foreign governments. This is probably true. But I’m not aware of anyone who has ever directly linked Sharp to either the Bush administration or a conspiracy. Someone may have done so somewhere, but for the most part, Sharp has been criticized for accepting funding from and acting (whether intentionally or not) on behalf of US ruling class forces. These forces, of course, are much broader than the Bush administration.

Peter Ackerman, the head of the ICNC, which Zunes belongs to in an advisory capacity, is not, as far as I’m aware, connected to the Bush administration, but has taken on a leadership role on behalf of the US ruling class. He has celebrated the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic by forces Gene Sharp had a key role in training, and Western governments had a key role in bankrolling and establishing the conditions for the success of. Ackerman’s ruling class credentials are impeccable – a Wall Street investment banker, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and head of Freedom House, which is interlocked with the CIA and a “virtual propaganda arm of the (US) government and international right wing,” according to Noam Chomsky’s and Edward Herman’s Manufacturing Consent. This is the company Sharp, Zunes and their left-wing regime change promoters keep. Ackerman’s wife, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, is a former director of the AEI. She is also currently a director of the US foreign policy establishment-dominated Human Rights Watch, which promotes the view that the US should use its “moral authority” to promote human rights around the world, and the US Congress-funded International Center for journalists.

After two pages of telling us there is no truth to the charges against Sharp, Zunes reinforces the case Sharp’s critics have been making, when he reveals that the AEI:

• Is funded by corporate foundations.
• Is open to accepting funding from organizations that have received funding from government sources (i.e., accepts government funding passed through intermediary organizations.)
• Has received grants from the US Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy (an organization that does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly.)
• Has advised members of the Venezuelan opposition.

Not disclosed in Zunes’ article, but revealing nonetheless, is that the NED paid for the AEI to provide advice to Zimbabwe’s Western-backed neo-liberal opposition party, the MDC.

I’m never sure whether Zunes is unsophisticated, sophistical, or both. He declares Sharp to be innocent of all charges, and then adduces evidence that backs up the allegations of Sharp’s critics. In doing so, he sets out a defense that amounts to the following:

1. It’s all right for left activists to take money from corporate foundations.
2. It’s all right to take money from governments, just so long as they’re not Republican ones and was done years ago.
3. It’s all right to take money from Republican governments today, just so long as it comes through pass through organizations. (The CIA, it should be noted, has a long history of using intermediaries to fund organizations like the ICNC, Freedom House and the AEI.)
4. Even if foreign overthrow movements have been bankrolled by the US, Britain and other Western governments, the effect of the funding on the success of these movements is immaterial; governments can’t be brought down unless they lose popular support.

Zunes’ last point is true, but the pressure Western governments exert on foreign policy targets through threats of war, bombing campaigns, sanctions, and propaganda, go a long way toward alienating target governments of popular support, and thereby preparing the ground for Sharp- and Zunes-trained overthrow movements to go to work.

Serbia, whose once social- and publicly-owned enterprises have been sold off to Western investors, is a model of what overthrow movements Zunes celebrates and assists produce.

As ever, Zunes would like us to believe that nonviolent pro-democracy groups are not influenced by the corporations and wealthy individuals who fund them. This may be true, but useful idiots don’t need to be bribed. This is succinctly illustrated in a David Horowitz quotation, cited by Michael Barker in a forthcoming Swans article. “In the control of scholarship by wealth, it is neither necessary nor desirable that professors hold a certain orientation because they receive a grant. The important thing is that they receive a grant because they hold the orientation.”

Frances Stonor Saunders in her “Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters”, points out that the NCL, the non-communist left, has long been the favored funding recipients of foundations and the CIA. The idea, from their point of view, is to channel leftist sentiment and thinking in pro-imperialist directions by amplifying the voice of the pro-imperialist NCL, thereby drowning out and marginalizing the voice of the communist left. While the NCL is often opposed to Western military intervention, and on this basis professes to be anti-imperialist, it promotes and legitimizes imperialist interventions in other ways. It encourages overthrow movements, celebrating them as pro-democracy people’s forces, offers them assistance, training and legitimacy, and mimics the rhetorical assaults by imperialist governments on target governments, thereby promoting the view that Western governments must act, even if not militarily.

A commitment to peace and low-level democracy is not equivalent to anti-imperialism, and as Sharp demonstrates, is a leftist version of a pro-imperialist program. What Zunes leaves out or does not understand is than non-violent pro-democracy movements are often powerless without imperialist governments first threatening or deploying military interventions, imposing sanctions and blockades and broadcasting anti-government propaganda, thereby turning the population of targeted countries against their governments. In other words, the bad guys Zunes can rail against to establish his leftist credentials do the dirty work while his people’s forces come in at the end to effect the coup de grace. The result is never democracy, in the original sense of the word, but improved trade and investment conditions for Western economic elites – the same elites Sharp and Zunes are taking foundation lucre from.

Zunes would also like to bamboozle us into believing that the assistance and funding overthrow movements receive from Western imperialist governments makes little difference in the grand scheme of things (which means, by implication, that the foundations which dole out funding are managed by morons who are squandering money on ineffectual programs.)

As always, Zunes does his part in promoting US foreign policy goals, aping US government descriptions of regime change targets, vilifying them as “autocratic regimes,” which presumably deserve to brought down by handsomely funded overthrow movements trained by Zunes, Sharp and the left “non-violent democracy promotion” apparatus. It comes as no surprise that while Zunes refers to the target governments of Belarus and Zimbabwe as regimes (as the US State Department does), he refers to the current US executive as the Bush “administration.”

Zunes has put together a public statement in defense of Sharp, which has been signed by NCL luminaries Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. Zunes hopes their endorsement will lay to rest legitimate questions about the role played by Sharp and other nonviolent pro-democracy activists, including Zunes himself, in promoting US imperialism under the guise of advancing democracy. But endorsements by Chomsky or Zinn don’t change the facts; they only raise questions about the endorsers and Zunes’ stooping to reliance of appeal to authority. Apparently, he has judged his argument too weak to stand on its own. Calling in NCL luminaries is the political equivalent of calling out the sheep herders to bring the flock back into line. But is the authority of Chomsky and Zinn deserved?

Joan Roelofs reveals in her “Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism” that The Progressive, the magazine for which Zinn writes a regular column, had advisory board members on the Council of Foreign Relations and receives grants from the Ford Foundation. Zunes will reply that I’m making accusations of guilt by association, but the point is that the ruling class funds the NCL and the NCL gladly accepts ruling class lucre. Zunes can dismiss the connection as irrelevant and of no consequence, but this is sheer sophistry.

Sharp and Zunes may be genuinely interested in the pursuit of democracy, but it’s a low-intensity democracy subordinate to US imperial interests they’re promoting. Foreign governments on the US ruling class regime change hit list – and anti-imperialists in the West — have a legitimate reason to be wary of Sharp, Zunes and other leftist members of the US regime change apparatus. They are ruling class operatives who align with ruling class figures to facilitate the pursuit of overseas profits through the elimination of nationalist and socialist governments which stand in the way. Their promotion of democracy, revealed in the neo-liberal, privatized tyrannies which are the invariable outcomes of their work, is as much a sham as the democracy promotion of the imperialist governments they’re tied to through pass through funding and interlocks with ruling class foundations and activists.

Look for Michael Barker’s forthcoming article on Zunes’ defense of Sharp in Swans.

Doing overtly what the CIA used to do covertly

By Stephen Gowans

Stephen Zunes continues to complain about what he calls unfair attacks from critics who, he says, lie about him and the work of the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, headed up by Wall Street investment banker, Council on Foreign Relations member, and Freedom House supremo, Peter Ackerman.

Zunes doesn’t respond to all attacks – only those that offer him room to exercise his talents for diversion, demolition of straw men, forensic sleight of hand, appeal to authority, invoking of honorific titles (it’s Dr. Ackerman by the way), red herrings and the trotting out of his progressive credentials. In marketing it’s called blowing smoke.

Zunes writes a lot in reply to critics but steers clear of the main criticisms. When challenged to talk about what he’s doing today, he talks about what he did yesterday. When criticized for his current links to ruling class regime change organizations, he tells us he opposed apartheid and Nato’s bombing of Yugoslavia. In all of this, what he doesn’t say directly is that he has no trouble with US regime change efforts – he just doesn’t always agree with the methods.

Zunes isn’t only a target of criticism; he doles out his fair share, too. Those who say nonviolent democracy activists are agents of imperialism, simply because they’re funded by imperialist governments, corporate foundations and wealthy individuals, are wrong. They’re promoting a conspiracy theory, he says. Foreign-funded “grassroots” activist groups have arisen spontaneously, and would have arisen in the absence of foreign funding. Besides, the funding they receive is too insignificant to make much of a difference. Those who try to discredit these groups by pointing to the groups’ sources of foreign funding are either misguided or lying.

If this is true, Zunes ought to lead a delegation to Washington to ask the NED, USAID, and USIA to stop giving money to regime change groups and media abroad. If the money makes little difference anyway and only brings these groups into disrepute and hands the local government an excuse to crackdown, surely the wisest course is to use the money for something truly progressive – like helping the victims of New Orleans, building decent inner city schools and funding a public health-care program, rather than squandering it abroad where it’s not needed. After that, he might set up meetings with Peter Ackerman, George Soros, Britain’s Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Canada’s Rights and Democracy, and Germany’s Heinrich Boll and Friedrich Ebert Foundations, to explain that the money they’re spending on regime change operations has little effect.

Zunes rails against the democracy promotion hypocrisy of Washington and says he works of behalf of democracy, whether it’s in Washington’s interests or not. But he fails to come to grips with the reality that nonviolent democracy promotion’s successes have come in countries where the local government is resisting being pulled into the US imperial orbit, never where it is already doing Washington’s budding. Were he to do so he would have to acknowledge that no matter what his intentions or positions on apartheid, Nato’s bombing of Yugoslavia and the US invasion of Iraq are, the effects of his actions are decidedly pro-imperialist.

Another thing. Someone ought to explain to Zunes that overthrowing a government nonviolently to impose foreign domination is as imperialist as doing the same with tanks, guns and cruise missiles. What’s at issue isn’t how the struggle is carried out, but why it’s carried out, who’s directing it, and who benefits.

Zunes travels aboard to train non-violent democracy activists. Does he use his own money to finance these trips? Do the groups he brings his missionary zeal to pass around a tattered hat to raise the funds to avail themselves of his expertise? Or is the tab picked up by the same wealthy individuals, corporate foundations and imperialist governments Zunes says are an unavoidable reality of capitalist society, that realists, like himself, have learned to compromise with?

As to his expertise, does he have a track record at home that qualifies him to train people abroad? Where are the homegrown nonviolent democracy activists he’s trained who have accomplished anything of significance? Have they made even the slightest dent in the vast US war machine, slowed, even for the briefest moment, the juggernaut of US imperialism, or advanced, even one iota, the project of ending the exploitation of man by man? Given that the challenges loom so large at home, and that, in his view, pro-democracy regime change groups are popping up spontaneously all over the world, and don’t need US funding and expertise to be successful, you would think Zunes would be busily working at home, rather than jetting off to someone else’s country to do missionary work for his corporate patrons.

Why does Zunes travel abroad anyway? Are foreigners incapable of organizing their own nonviolent opposition, in the same way, according to Washington, Iraqis, Palestinians, Afghans, Haitians and on and on are incapable of organizing their own police, military, elections and political system? How is it that in so many countries the talent to undertake basic political functions is absent, residing, it seems, exclusively in the US, Britain and other countries of the Anglo-American orbit? The dispatching of experts (the new missionaries) to organize political life in other countries is as much a part of imperialism as dispatching troops to topple governments. Zunes might reply that the ignorant of foreign lands, thirsty for democracy, asked for his expertise, but so too does Washington say Iraqis and Afghans, thirsty for democracy, asked to be occupied.

Zunes is no anti-imperialist. If the NED does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly, Zunes does overtly what CIA agents used to do covertly. But it’s not too late. If Zunes wants to become a true anti-imperialist, he should:

(i) resign his position as chair of the board of academic advisors to the ICNC and abjure all current and future connections to corporate and imperialist government-funded regime change organizations;
(ii) stay at home. Contrary to the paternalistic ideology that pervades the larger part of the progressive community, foreigners are indeed capable of organizing their own political affairs;
(iii) devote his energies, not to working with wealthy individuals, corporate foundations and imperialistic governments, but to working to change the system of which wealthy individuals, corporations and imperialistic governments are the masters and beneficiaries. This would truly do something to promote substantive democracy, not the hollow corporate brand Zunes does missionary work on behalf of today, as his CIA predecessors once did covertly not so long ago.

On Zimbabwe, Western left follows agenda set by capitalist elite

By Stephen Gowans

While the Western media loudly demonizes the government of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, it is fairly silent on the repressions of the US client regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Outdoing each other in the quest for the William Randolph Hearst prize for excellence in yellow journalism, Western newspapers slam Mugabe as the “Monster” and “Hitler of Africa .” At the same time, civil society hagiographers compromise with imperialist forces to help oust the “dictator” in Harare, but on Egypt, have little to say.

Meanwhile, wave after wave of strikes rock Egypt, sparked by rising food prices, inadequate incomes, political repression, and the government’s gutting of the social safety net.

Virtually absent in a country which receives $1.3 billion in US military aid every year are democracy promotion NGOs helping to organize a people’s revolution. Indeed, it might be hypothesized that the amount of democracy promotion funding a country receives is inversely proportional to the amount of US military aid it receives.

Egypt is not even a limited democracy. It is a de facto dictatorship. You might, then, expect to find Stephen Zunes’ International Center for Nonviolent Conflict training nonviolent democracy activists to overthrow the Mubarak regime. You might expect the Voice of America to be broadcasting “independent” news and opinion into Egypt, urging Egyptians to declare” enough is enough!” Predictably, this isn’t happening.

A year and a half ago, Hosni Mubarak – seen in Egypt as “Washington’s lackey” (1) — reversed the country’s social security gains of the 50s and 60s. The changes, he said, would “not only aim to rid Egypt of socialist principles launched in the 60s, but also seek a more favorable atmosphere for foreign investment” (2) – the same goal the opposition seeks in Zimbabwe.

Elections held last June to select members of the upper house of Parliament were described by election monitors “as manipulated to ensure that the governing party won a majority of seats.” (3)

Still, in the West, few have heard of vote-rigging in Egypt. Most, however, are familiar with vote-rigging allegations against Mugabe. Few too know that in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, “the only opposition group with a broad network and a core constituency,” is banned. (4) At the same time, Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC has never been banned, despite its conspicuous connections to foreign governments that have adopted regime change as their official policy.

The Brotherhood’s “popularity is based on a reputation for not being corrupt and extensive solidarity work in clinics, nurseries and after-school tutoring.” Its volunteers “fill the gaps left by a state system that has seen illiteracy rise and services fail as liberal economic reforms enrich businesses close to the regime.’ (5) Zimbabwe’s opposition, by comparison, seeks to privatize, slash government spending and give the country’s prized farm land back to European settlers and their descendants to restore the confidence of foreign investors.

In recent years, “Egyptian officials have stepped up repression as a means to blunt the rising popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood, locking up its leaders without charge. There is also talk of amending the constitution for president, but in such a way as to prohibit any independent candidate aligned with the Brotherhood.” (6)

As in Zimbabwe, a vast majority live in deep poverty, but unlike in Zimbabwe, “Egyptian authorities have cancelled elections, prohibited the creation of new parties and locked up political opponents.” (7)

Last June, “President Bush lavished praise on President Hosni Mubarak…while publicly avoiding mention of the government’s actions in jailing or exiling opposition leaders and its severe restrictions on opposition political activities.” (8) Bush’s silence contrasts sharply with his accusations against President Mugabe, who hasn’t jailed or exiled opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai or banned his party.

So, how is it that a regime that “arrests political opposition figures, beats street demonstrators, locks up bloggers, and blocks creation of new political parties” (9) gets so little attention in the West, while Zimbabwe gets so much?

And why is there a liberal-progressive-left affinity with opposition forces in Zimbabwe, when those forces are funded by a billionaire financier, capitalist foundations and Western governments, while if there’s any solidarity movement with the people of Egypt, it is virtually invisible?

The answer, I would suggest, lies in the failure of the greater part of the Western left to understand how corporate officers, corporate lawyers, and investment bankers set the agenda through their ownership of the media, domination of government, and control of high-profile foundations and think tanks.

Mubarak’s pro-investment policies and repression of the Arab street serve
the bottom-line interests of the US corporate class. Accordingly, the media and foundation agenda steers clear. What foundation grants are distributed, are handed out to groups that eschew confrontation, and seek to work within the system, rather than against it, to change it.

On the other hand, Mugabe’s land reform and economic indigenization policies challenge Western corporate and investment interests. It’s in the interests of European-connected commercial farmers, resource-extraction companies and Western banks, through their control of the media and foundations and domination of Western governments, to mobilize public opinion and forces on the ground to oppose these policies and replace them with more investment-friendly ones.

Not surprisingly, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the principal immediate potential beneficiary of the corporate-directed mobilization in Zimbabwe, promises to “encourage foreign investment” and to bring Zimbabwe’s “abundant farmlands back into health” (10) – that is, to return Zimbabwe to raising cash crops and to reverse legislation mandating majority ownership of the economy by the majority population.

This is an agenda that serves Western corporate elites, not ordinary people. Cheerleaders for a left practice of compromising with imperialism say this is a sign of independence. But a left that is regularly mobilized on behalf of corporate and investor interests when those interests are threatened, and remains quiescent when the same interests are being challenged, is hardly independent.

Western leftists should ask themselves fundamental questions.

Who owns and controls the media? Are the media neutral, or do they shape public opinion in ways that advance the interests of the media’s owners and others who share the same interests and connections? What are the interests of the people who own and control the media?

Who owns and controls the foundations that fund policy experts, including those on the left? Do foundations give money to people who effectively oppose their interests or to people who effectively advance them?

How will a leader, political party, or movement that effectively advances the interests of ordinary people over those of corporations, banks and imperialist governments be treated by the media and by foundation-connected experts (recognizing that corporations and banks own the media and foundations and dominate imperialist governments)? Will they be given grudging respect? Are will they be vilified?

If a leader promotes the interests of corporations and investors while cracking down on ordinary people (Mubarak) will he be demonized? If not, why not? And if a leader promotes the interests of ordinary people over those of foreign corporations, investors and colonial settlers (Mugabe), will he be treated indifferently?

1. New York Times, September 20, 2006
2. Al-Ahram Weekly, February 1, 2007
3. New York Times, June 15, 2007
4. New York Times, April 9, 2008
5. The Guardian (UK), July 19, 2007
6. New York Times, October 22, 2006
7. Los Angeles Times, October 22, 2006
8. New York Times, June 17, 2008
9. New York Times, September 20, 2006
10. The Guardian (UK), April 7, 2008

European Universalism

By Stephen Gowans

“The intellectual justifications that Sepulveda gave in the 16th century to justify the conquests of the Indian lands are,” says Immanuel Wallerstein, “almost word for word, the same ones used for colonization, and the ones that are given today for what is called intervention.” He continues: “At that time, it concerned evangelization and the expansion of Christendom. Today, these values are ‘freedom and democracy.’ But they are in fact the same thing.” (1)

George Bush, in his own way, underscores Wallerstein’s point. Freedom and democracy, he writes in his 2002 National Security Strategy, “are right and true for every person, in every society – and the duty of protecting these values against their enemies is the common calling of freedom-loving people.” (2)

Stephen Zunes strays only millimeters from Bush’s universalism. “The best hope for advancing freedom and democracy in the world’s remaining autocratic states,” he writes, “comes from civil society, not the U.S. government.” (3)

The problem is that in what Zunes and the U.S. government call the world’s last remaining autocratic countries, the U.S. government and civil society are the same. In these places, explains the U.S. Department of State in a 2007 report, the U.S. financially supports “the efforts of civil society to create and defend democratic space”. It funds “international and local NGO programs that [promote] a wide variety of causes, including social welfare, democratic processes, human rights, peace-building, women’s and youth empowerment, and public advocacy.” And it supports “the efforts of the political opposition, the media, and civil society.” (4) That makes Zunes’ “best hope for advancing freedom and democracy” and Patrick Bond’s and Grace Kwinjeh’s “wellspring of hope” (5) functionally equivalent to the U.S. government and the corporate board members, corporate lawyers and investment bankers who dominate it.

Kwinjeh, a founding member of Zimbabwe’s opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, and a regular guest on the U.S. government sponsored propaganda Voice of America radio show, Studio 7, is a beneficiary of the U.S. government’s support for the political opposition, the media and civil society in Zimbabwe.

Not without chutzpah, Kwinjeh presents herself as an “independent” journalist. Her co-author Bond, likewise celebrates civil society groups that are on the U.S. payroll as an “independent” left.

In their lexicon, “independent” means: not aligned with the “autocratic state” the U.S. is trying to bring its universalist values of freedom and democracy to — on behalf of corporations, investors and banks.

Janet Cherry is another universalist. She too believes that the countries the U.S. government calls the world’s last autocracies are indeed the world’s last autocracies and that civil society is the best hope for advancing the values of freedom and democracy in these places. She appears in the film “A Force More Powerful,” a celebration of civil society’s power to change the world. The film’s editor and content advisor was universalist Peter Ackerman, an investment banker who made a fortune on Wall Street and has authored a companion book by the same name. Ackerman heads up Freedom House, an organization which describes itself as “a voice for freedom and democracy around the world,” and whose directors have included cabinet members from previous U.S. administrations – they too mainly corporate board members, corporate lawyers and investment bankers like Ackerman. Ackerman also founded the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, which has been involved in training activists to bring down governments that refuse to do the bidding of the U.S. (the last autocracies of the world), including the government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Latter day Sepulveda Stephen Zunes, who wants to use civil society to advance the universalist values of freedom and democracy, is the ICNC’s chair of the board of academic advisors. (6) Ackerman is also a member of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. ruling class organization dominated by directors of major U.S. corporations, corporate lawyers and CEOs. The CFR brings together executives, government and military officials and scholars to provide policy advice to the U.S. State Department.

The U.S. government advances its foreign policy goals under the guise of promoting freedom and democracy. “The name for our profits,” remarked singer-songwriter Phil Ochs in the 60s, “is democracy.” Were he alive today, he might say, “The name for our profits is civil society.”

Cherry wrote me to defend Zunes and Patrick Bond. She capped off her remarks with this: “As for Otpor – well, if only the opposition movements in Zimbabwe, both political parties and civil society, could organize as efficiently! Sometimes it is necessary to step back from self-righteous leftist rhetoric, take some action to break the impasse, and get rid of the dictator. Then ordinary people can, though ordinary democratic processes, find their own way forward.” (7)

Otpor was a youth group funded by the U.S. government and trained by Robert Helvey, an associate of Stephen Zunes, to work with NATO bombing and economic sanctions to bring down the Milosevic government in Yugoslavia. After getting rid of the elected “dictator,” Otpor failed to help the ordinary people of the former Yugoslavia find their way forward. Unemployment soared; publicly and socially-owned assets were privatized. Nato had signaled its intention to privatize the Yugoslav economy in the appendices of the 1999 Rambouillet Accord, which the Milosevic government rejected. The next day, Nato began a 78-day campaign of bombing.

Ackerman and others celebrated the ouster of Milosevic in the film “Bringing Down a Dictator,” attributing the fall of the Yugoslav president to a grassroots movement that practiced nonviolent direct action to bring “freedom and democracy” to one of Europe’s last “autocratic states.” The role of the U.S. government in engineering the possibility of an uprising by creating misery through economic sanctions and military intervention, its efforts to shape public opinion inside Yugoslavia by funding anti-Milosevic media, and its bankrolling of the opposition and Otpor, were skipped over.

“A Force More Powerful” and “Bringing Down a Dictator,” are useful for conservative forces at home. They create the illusion that the civil society-based nonviolent direct action that appears to work abroad can work anywhere to bring about social change. Scholars associated with Z-Net are advocates of this view.

But while seemingly effective outside the West, there are significant differences that make the model’s effectiveness in the West approximately zero.

1. Absence of funding. Civil society has been able to play a role in bringing down governments outside the West because it has been richly funded by wealthy individuals, capitalist foundations and imperialist governments. The same sources of funding are not available to groups and individuals in the West prepared to challenge the funders’ dominant positions. Reebok, an employer of sweatshop labor, will finance a human rights award and give it to Janet Cherry to burnish its image, but Reebok isn’t going to give money to groups or individuals working to overthrow the systemic imperatives that produce sweatshops. Ackerman won’t help nonviolent activists expropriate his wealth.

2. Public opinion. Outside the West, civil society has operated in a public opinion milieu shaped by wealthy individuals, capitalist foundations and imperialist governments through their funding of “independent” media inside target countries and propaganda broadcasts originating from outside. Independent media that seek to shape public opinion against wealthy individuals and corporations at home will never have access to the same funding and will never achieve the same volume and critical mass. It’s easier to rise up against a “dictator” when the information environment is shaped to portray the country’s leadership as autocratic and when “independent” media call for an uprising. Any media in the West that called for an uprising at home would remain perpetually under-funded and unable to achieve sufficient volume to persuade more than a handful of people.

3. Absence of external pressure. It is the explicit strategy of Washington to apply pressure to populations of target countries through economic warfare and military aggression. The intention is to create growing misery, if not to provoke a crisis, to prepare the ground for an uprising from within. While Western countries aren’t immune to growing misery or crisis, they are immune to growing misery and crisis engineered from outside.

In the absence of funding, a sympathetic media to shape public opinion, and growing pressure on the population created by economic warfare and military aggression – all necessary conditions whose creation depends on access to resources commanded by wealthy individuals, corporations, and imperialist governments – decentralized, civil society-guided nonviolent direct action becomes a means for diverting energy for change into safe and inconsequential avenues.

As a mechanism for political change, civil society works when backed by military force, economic warfare, a sympathetic media and oodles of cash, but when these conditions exist, its purpose is to advance the interests of those who have established the conditions for its effectiveness. At these times, civil society marches under the flag of European universalism, its foot soldiers draw their pay from foreign governments, and its generals sit on the boards of foreign foundations. At all other times, it is a force less powerful.

1. Olivier Doubre, “European Universalism Is Used to Justify Imperialism: An Interview with Immanuel Wallerstein,” MRZINE, March 26, 2008, http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/doubre260308.html
2. George W. Bush, National Security Strategy, September 20, 2002.
3. Stephen Zunes, “Nonviolent action and pro-democracy struggles,” Z-Net, February 17, 2008. http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/16538
4. U.S. Department of State’s account of its promotion of freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe, April 5, 2007. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/shrd/2006/
5. Patrick Bond and Grace Kwinjeh, “Zimbabwe’s political roller-coaster hits another deep dip,” Z-Net, March 11, 2008, http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2008-03/11bond-kwinjeh.cfm .
6. See https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/02/18/stephen-zunes-and-the-struggle-for-overseas-profits/ .
7. Comment March 27, 2008 in response to Stephen Gowans, “Mugabe vote rigging allegations,” March 27, 2008. https://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/03/27/mugabe-vote-rigging-allegations/

Zunes’ Compromising with Capitalism’s Sad Reality

By Stephen Gowans

Stephen Zunes has written a reply to my article criticizing his connections to US government- and ruling class-funded “peace” organizations, but far from rebutting my criticisms, he helps make my point.

He writes, “The unfortunate reality in capitalist societies is that most non-profit organizations – from universities to social justice organizations to art galleries to peace groups (and ICNC as well) – depend at least in part on donations from wealthy individuals and from foundations which get their money from wealthy individuals.”

On this we agree: The capitalist class, through its money power, dominates capitalist societies, including its universities, social justice organizations, peace groups and scholars of non-violence (at least those willing to feed at the trough.) Is it any surprise, then, that handsomely-funded social justice organizations, peace groups, progressive media and scholars of nonviolence might be understood to be agents of capitalism and imperialism within the left community?

But Zunes continues: “Just because the ultimate source of funding for various non-profit groups is from members of the ruling class, however, does not mean that ruling class interests therefore set the agenda for every such non-profit group; they certainly do in some cases, but not in many other cases, including that of ICNC.”

There’s an obvious exceptionalism in Zunes’ argument. Maybe others are bought, but not me. Lay that aside. The ruling class doesn’t need to set the agenda for all organizations and individuals; it only needs to fund individuals and groups who promote its interests. This is the same argument Chomsky and Herman have made in connection with the mainstream press propagating elite narratives. Media outlets don’t need to set the agenda for journalists; they simply need to hire journalists who say the right things, and fire those who don’t. The New York Times won’t hire Chomksy or Herman to write a regular column, but it will hire Thomas Friedman, because he can be relied on to stay within a narrow band of opinion acceptable to ruling class interests. No one sets an agenda for Friedman. But, then, no one has to. As Humbert Wolfe once said, “You cannot hope to bribe and twist, thank God, the British journalist. But seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.”

So what does Zunes do, unbribed, that obviates his funders setting an agenda for him? For one, he promotes a peaceful activism at home that is useful to the ruling class in channeling inchoate militancy into ritualistic, symbolic, forms of protest, whose effect in countering the ruling class is approximately zero. He says he “has even been arrested on a number of occasions protesting US imperialism” (doubtlessly in a ritualistic way that minimizes inconvenience for all concerned) but his being arrested has accomplished nothing, except to bulk up his credentials as an activist. And all those who have followed his lead had the same effect. The Washington Consensus is in no danger of falling apart and US war-making hasn’t been set back a millimeter in its relentless advance.

By contrast, non-violent activists in Belarus, Zimbabwe, Iran and formerly in Serbia can be much more effective; they have the US ruling class on their side. They’re helped immensely by the sanctions Washington deploys against their governments, by the threats of war the US uses to intimidate governments it wants to overthrow, by US bombing campaigns, by US assistance to the political opposition, and by the wads of money from the NED, USAID, and their equivalents in Britain, Germany and so on. Non-violent regime change in foreign countries is only possible as a result of contextual violence related to economic and conventional warfare. The contextual violence is absent in the case of peaceful protest in the US, which is why non-violent activism plus sanctions plus threats of war plus funding of subversion plus establishing media to broadcast anti-government propaganda works abroad and non-violent activism plus none of these other things doesn’t work at home.

Another reason the ruling class foundations on which Zunes relies do not have to set his agenda is that Zunes is an absolutely reliable amplifier within the progressive community of the arguments the State Department uses as the basis for its human rights imperialism. He assures us, without adducing the tiniest jot of evidence, that Belarus, Iran, and Zimbabwe are dictatorships and that Yugoslavia was in 1999. That’s helpful to the imperialist class in dampening interest among those politically conscious enough to be inclined to get in the way of imperialist designs being carried out against target countries. Who’s going to spring to the aid of foreign governments and anti-imperialist movements that are widely portrayed in the mass media, and seconded by foundation-supported “independent” progressive scholars, as oppressive and dictatorial?

Indeed, there are three ways Zunes promotes the ruling class agenda within the progressive community which makes the setting of an agenda for him by the wealthy individuals and foundations who furnish him with money completely unnecessary. He (1) lionizes ritualistic and symbolic forms of non-violent protest at home which have no effect in impeding the ruling class in pursuing its interests, and which, therefore it seeks to promote as an alternative to potentially more effective opposition (and if this safe outlet of opposition can be promoted by someone with activist credentials, all the better); by (2) amplifying ruling class justifications for its meddling in the affairs of other countries and thereby turning progressives against ruling class foreign policy targets; and (3) by burnishing US government regime change operations, portraying them as legitimate home-grown operations against oppressive governments.

The only way we cannot accept that Zunes is an agent of imperialism, is if we accept that the ruling class is incredibly stupid and funds the activities of those who are against its interests and fail to promote its agenda. Since this is highly unlikely, it is also highly unlikely that he is not a grassroots lieutenant of imperialism, along with all the other left scholars who have made their compromise with “the unfortunate reality” that in capitalist societies peace groups and social justice organizations are funded by wealthy individuals and their foundations.

Stephen Zunes and the Struggle for Overseas Profits

The name for our profits is democracy” – Phil Ochs, Cops of the World

By Stephen Gowans

Stephen Zunes, a professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, is bristling against what he calls the leftist attack on “independent” grassroots nonviolent activists who are trying to bring down “autocratic” governments and “dictatorships” in places like Zimbabwe, Belarus and Iran (1). People who have cast votes in these countries may be surprised to discover they’re living in dictatorships, but the U.S. government says they are, and “progressives” like Stephen Zunes are happy to lend credibility to Washington’s charges. “Independent” grassroots activists in these same countries may be surprised to hear they’re independent, despite the cataract of support they receive from U.S. and Western governments and Western ruling class foundations, but if Zunes wants to elevate them from fifth columnists to independent democracy activists, they’re pleased to receive his support.

These days, Zunes’ bristling against the leftist attack may have something to do with the attack hitting too close to home (2). His association with dodgy U.S. ruling class foundations that hide the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy objectives behind a high-sounding commitment to peace has increasingly come under scrutiny. And judging by his reaction, he doesn’t like it (3).

Although he boasts of having impeccable progressive and anti-imperialist credentials, Zunes chairs the board of academic advisors for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (the ICNC), a Wall Street-connected organization that promotes nonviolent activism in the service of destabilizing foreign governments — the same ones the U.S. State Department (and Zunes) likes to discredit by calling them dictatorships.

The ICNC’s founding chair is New York investment banker Peter Ackerman, who is also a member of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), an organization dominated by directors of major U.S. corporations, corporate lawyers and CEOs. The CFR brings together executives, government and military officials and scholars to provide policy advice to the U.S. State Department. Its key members circulate between the council, corporate board appointments and State Department positions. The CFR has never been particularly concerned about promoting peace, freedom and democracy, but has had a single-minded focus on promoting the overseas profit-making interests of U.S. corporations and investors.

Ackerman is also chairman of the board of Freedom House, an organization that champions the rights of journalists, union leaders and democracy activists to organize openly to bring down governments whose economic policies are insufficiently friendly to U.S. trade and investment. Funded by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House features a rogues’ gallery of U.S. ruling class activists who have sat, or currently sit, on its board of directors: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Otto Reich, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Steve Forbes, among others. These people share Zunes’ rhetorical commitment to “freedom and democracy,” though the only freedom they’re interested in is the freedom of U.S. corporations and investors to accumulate capital wherever and whenever they please.

Ackerman’s Center has been heavily involved in successful and ongoing regime change operations, including in Yugoslavia, which Ackerman celebrated in a PBS-TV documentary, Bringing Down a Dictator, about the ouster of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. Ackerman, who studied under U.S. nonviolence guru Gene Sharp, has a U.S. Marine Corps officer son who earned a silver star for service in Iraq, using bombs and bullets, not nonviolent activism, to change Iraq’s regime. Apparently, Ackerman did little to instill nonviolent values in members of his own family.

The Center’s vice-chair is Berel Rodal, a former senior Canadian government official in foreign affairs, international trade, defense, security and intelligence, hardly the kind of background you would expect of an advocate of nonviolence, but fits well someone who has taken a leadership role in promoting Western foreign policy goals. Put the two together and you get nonviolent direct activism in the service of US foreign policy goals – -exactly what Rodal, Ackerman, the ICNC and Stephen Zunes are all about.

Another Center associate is Robert Helvey, whose book “On Strategic Non-Violent Conflict: Thinking about the Fundamental”, is promoted on the Center’s website. Helvey is a retired U.S. Army colonel and former U.S. military attaché to Myanmar (like Rodal’s, an improbable background for a budding Ghandi) who has been linked to anti-Chavez groups. Chavez has accused Helvey’s employer, the Albert Einstein Institution, of being behind an imperialist conspiracy to overthrow his government (4). Zunes says that “charges that…Bob Helvey” or the Albert Einstein Institution or the ICNC “are serving as agents of U.S. imperialism are totally unfounded” and that “the only visit to Venezuela that has taken place on behalf of any of these non-profit groups engaged in educational efforts on strategic nonviolence was in early 2006 when” Zunes “led a series of workshops at the World Social Forum in Caracas.” (5) Chavez, he says, has fallen for a conspiracy theory. These “individuals and groups” are not “plotting with his opponents to overthrow him.” (6)

But a Reuters’ report says Helvey was brought to Caracas in 2003 “by a group of businessmen and professionals to give courses to young activists on how to ‘resist, oppose, and change a government without the use of bombs and bullets.’” (7) Is Zunes unaware of this, or is he paltering with the truth?

Helvey’s dalliances with the anti-Chavez opposition came fast on the heels of “his work in Serbia before Milosevic’s fall” where he “briefed students on ways to organize a strike and how to undermine the authority of a dictatorial regime.” (8)

Zunes has received at least one research grant from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and has served as a fellow of the organization (9). USIP’s aim is to “help prevent and resolve violent conflicts”, an improbable mandate given that the organization was established by the U.S. government, receives funding from Congress, and has a board of directors appointed by the President, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and the president of the National Defense University – hardly the world’s greatest advocates of peace, but pretty effective advocates of the pursuit of U.S. corporate and investor interests abroad.

What’s not so improbable is that Zune’s ICNC colleagues (you know, the guys who are absolutely not agents of U.S. imperialism) are also connected to USIP. ICNC founder and Freedom House chair Peter Ackerman is on the advisory council. Former U.S. Air Force officer, presidential campaign speechwriter and ICNC director Jack DuVall – who Zunes must know well based on his assurances that “Jack DuVall…is not an agent of U.S. imperialism” (10) — is also connected to the USIP.

It’s hardly curious, then, that a group of Americans, many with backgrounds in the military, but also in foreign policy and investment banking, connected in some way to the U.S.-government funded and directed Institute of Peace, and involved in training foreign activists to destabilize foreign governments, might be seen as agents of U.S. imperialism. But Zunes says they’re not, offering his assertion alone (and his self-proclaimed credentials as a progressive and anti-imperialist) as proof.

Zunes’ rhetoric is reminiscent of Bush’s. He says nonviolent activists are pursuing “freedom and democracy” (in the same way, apparently, the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a project in bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East). He throws the charge of dictatorship around as facilely as Bush does. Yugoslavia (in 1999), Belarus, Zimbabwe, and Iran are dictatorships, he says. Apparently, Zunes has been too busy mimicking State Department press releases to notice there are elections and opposition parties in these places.

He says “there is no evidence…to suggest…that the U.S. government or any U.S.-funded entity has ever provided training, advice, or strategic assistance for the kind of mass popular nonviolent action campaigns that have toppled governments or threatened the survival of incumbent regimes.” (11)

Maybe he hasn’t been paying attention. When it comes to Zimbabwe, one of Zunes’ and the U.S. government’s favorite betes noire, there’s plenty of evidence. The British newspaper The Guardian revealed as early as August 22, 2002 that, “The United States government has said it wants to see President Robert Mugabe removed from power and that it is working with the Zimbabwean opposition” “trade unions, pro-democracy groups and human rights organizations” “to bring about a change of administration.” (12)

Washington confirmed its own civil society-assisted regime change plans for Zimbabwe in an April 5, 2007 report, revealing that in 2006 “The U.S. government continued to support the efforts of the political opposition, the media and civil society,” including providing training and assistance to the kind of grassroots “pro-democracy” groups phony anti-imperialists, among them, another ruling class foundation-connected academic, Patrick Bond, celebrate as “the independent left.” (13) The U.S. “supported workshops to develop youth leadership skills necessary to confront social injustice through nonviolent strategies.” (14)

Zunes tries to defend U.S. government meddling in the affairs of other countries by pointing out that “the limited amount of financial support provided to opposition groups by the United States and other Western governments in recent years cannot cause a nonviolent liberal democratic revolution to take place.” (15)

Who said it could? The real issue isn’t whether groups that challenge foreign governments are homegrown; it’s what they’re struggling for, why phony peace institutes are helping them, and what they’re going to end up with if they’re successful.

How curious that the governments Zunes really seems to be concerned about (Zimbabwe, Iran, Belarus and Myanmar) are hostile to the idea of opening their doors to unrestricted U.S. investment and exports. How curious that the successful soft revolutions Zunes admires (Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ukraine) have brought pro-U.S., pro-foreign investment governments to power.

And what happens when the soft revolutions Zunes and his colleagues assist, succeed? In Serbia, which Zunes’ ICNC considers to be the site of one of its most successful engagements, “dollars have accomplished what bombs could not. After U.S.-led international sanctions were lifted with Milosevic’s ouster in 2000, the United States emerged as the largest single source of foreign direct investment. According to the U.S. embassy in Belgrade, U.S. companies have made $1 billion worth of ‘committed investments’ represented in no small part by the $580 million privatization of Nis Tobacco Factory (Phillip Morris) and a $250 million buyout of the national steel producer by U.S. Steel. Coca-Cola bought a Serbian bottled water producer in 2005 for $21 million. The list goes on.” (16)

Meanwhile, in Kosovo, the “coal mines and electrical facilities, the postal service, the Pristina airport, the railways, landfills, and waste management systems have all been privatized. As is the case across the Balkans, ‘publicly-owned enterprises’ are auctioned for a fraction of their value on the private market with little or no compensation for taxpayers.” (17)

It should be recalled that prior to the soft revolution-engineered corporate takeover, the Yugoslav economy consisted largely of state- and socially-owned enterprises, leaving little room for U.S. profit-making opportunities, not the kind of place investment bankers like Ackerman could easily warm up to. That the toppling of Milosevic had everything to do with opening space for U.S. investors and corporations should have been apparent to anyone who read chapter four of the U.S.-authored Rambouillet ultimatum, an ultimatum Milosevic rejected, triggering weeks of NATO bombing. The first article called for a free-market economy and the second for privatization of all government-owned assets. NATO bombs seemed to have had an unerring ability to hit Yugoslavia’s socially-owned factories and to miss foreign-owned ones. This was an economic take-over project.

Zunes’ associate Helvey hasn’t limited himself to training activists to overthrow governments in Venezuela and Serbia. Wherever Washington seeks to oust governments that pursue economically nationalist or socialist policies, you’ll find Helvey (and perhaps Zunes as well) holding seminars on nonviolent direct action: in Belarus, in Zimbabwe, in Iraq (before the U.S. invasion) and in Iran (18).

Zunes would be a more credible anti-imperialist were he organizing seminars on how to use nonviolent direct action to overthrow the blatantly imperialist U.S. and British governments. With the largest demonstrations in history held in Western cities on the eve of the last conspicuous eruption of Anglo-American imperialism, it cannot be denied that there’s a grassroots movement for peace and democracy in the West awaiting Zunes’ assistance. So is he training U.S. and British grassroots activists to use nonviolent direct action to stop the machinery of war? No. His attention is directed outward, not on his own government, but on the governments Washington and ruling class think-tanks want overthrown. He’s also busy applying for grants from a phony U.S. government institute of peace, hooking up with Peter Ackerman and his gaggle of fifth column promoters and mimicking U.S. State Department nonsense about countries the U.S. ruling class would like to dominate but can’t being dictatorships and their Western-funded oppositions being independent.

Genuine progressives and anti-imperialists should carefully scrutinize the backgrounds of Zunes and others, paying special attention to their foundation and think-tank connections. They should also ask whether the “independent” grassroots groups these people celebrate are really independent, or whether they’re as tightly connected to Western governments and ruling class activist foundations as Zunes is.

1. “Nonviolent Action and Pro-Democracy Struggles,” Z-Net, February 17, 2008, http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/16538. See also Zune’s “Leftist Attack on Nonviolent Direct Action for Democratic Change, www.canvasopedia.org/files/various/Leftist_Attack_on_NVA.doc
2. Michael Barker, “Peace Activists, Criticism, and Nonviolent Imperialism,” MRZine, January 8, 2008, http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/barker080108.html and John Bellamy Foster, “Reply to Stephen Zunes on Imperialism and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict,” MRZine, January 17, 2008, http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/foster170108.html.
3. Stephen Zunes, “Spurious Attacks on Supporters of Nonviolent Resistance to Oppression, MRZine, January 18, 2008, http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/barker080108.html#zunes.
4. The Guardian, June 7, 2007.
5. Zunes, February 17, 2008.
6. Ibid.

Concerning Zunes’ assurances that Gene Sharp, Robert Helvey and the Albert Einstein Institution are not agents of U.S. imperialism and aren’t assisting groups plotting to overthrow the Chavez government:

“The AEI is run by Gene Sharp, a self-titled expert of what he calls ‘nonviolent defense,’ though better termed ‘regime change.’ His methodologies have been studied and utilized by opposition movements in Burma, Thailand, Tibet, Belarus, Serbia, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela. In the AEI’s 2004 annual report, Venezuela is highlighted as an area where actions are currently being taken:

Venezuelans opposed to Chavez met with Gene Sharp and other AEI staff to talk about the deteriorating political situation in their country. They also discussed options of opposition groups to further their cause effectively without violence. These visits led to an in-country consultation in April 2003. The nine day consultation was held by consultants Robert Helvey and Chris Miler in Caracas for members of the Venezuelan democratic opposition. The objective of the consultation was to provide them with the capacity to develop a nonviolent strategy to restore democracy to Venezuela. Participants included members of political parties and unions, nongovernmental organization leaders and unaffiliated activists…Helvey presented a course of instruction on the theory, applications and planning for a strategic nonviolent struggle. Through this, the participants realized the importance of strategic planning to overcome existing shortcomings in the opposition’s campaign against Chavez. Ofensiva Cuidadana, a pro-democracy group in Venezuela, request and organized the workshop. The workshop has led to continued contact with Venezuelans and renewed requests for additional consultations.”

Eva Golinger, Bush vs Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2008, p. 136.

Either Zunes doesn’t know what’s going on, or is playing fast and loose with the truth.

7. Reuters, April 30, 2003.
8. Ibid.
9. See http://www.stephenzunes.org/ and http://www.fpif.org/advisers/37
10. Zunes, February 17, 2008.
11. Ibid.
12. The Guardian, August 22, 2002, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/aug/22/zimbabwe.chrismcgreal .
13. Stephen Gowans, “Talk Left, Funded Right, April 7, 2007, https://gowans.wordpress.com/2007/04/07/talk-left-funded-right/ .
14. U.S. Department of State, The U.S. Record 2006, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/shrd/2006/.
15. Zunes, February 17, 2008.
16. Elise Hugus, “Eight Years After NATO’s ‘Humanitarian War’: Serbia’s new ‘third way’”, Z Magazine, April 2007, Volume 20, Number 4.
17. Ibid.
18. The Albert Einstein Institution, Report on Activities, 2000 to 2004, http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations/org/2000-04rpt.pdf .

Color Revolution Counterpunch

The arrest by Iranian authorities of U.S.-Iranian scholar Haleh Esfandiari should come as no shock. She is almost certainly guilty of working to foment a color revolution, and governments, especially revolutionary ones, never stand for attempts to reverse their revolutions or to make fundamental changes in the class which wields state power. Whether her arrest was legitimate depends on which rights one believes to be senior: the rights of public advocacy and freedom to organize politically or the rights of self-determination and freedom from foreign domination.

By Stephen Gowans

Few people had heard of Haleh Esfandiari until she was jailed by skittish Iranian authorities who feared she was involved in a U.S. plot to engineer a color revolution in Iran.

The director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Esfandiari had been visiting her mother when she was detained by Iranian authorities in May. She was accused of co-opting Iranians into a U.S.-sponsored regime change program, offering them research grants and scholarships, paying their way to conferences and linking them up with “decision making centers in America.” (1)

This wasn’t the first regime change-related arrest. Last summer, Iranian authorities arrested Ramin Jahanbegloo, a scholar with dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship (*). The Ministry of Intelligence said the arrest was made in connection with U.S. efforts “to start a soft revolution in Iran.” (2)

Parnaz Azima, a reporter who works for Radio Farda, a Persian language radio station financed by the U.S. government has also been arrested, as has Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant with billionaire speculator George Soros’ Open Society Institute. OSI has been instrumental in providing funding for color revolutions in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine.

While there has been “a spate of recent crackdowns against Iranian activists” reflecting a “concern by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the United States is using democracy advocates to promote regime change,” (3) Esfandiari’s case has received the most attention.

Left scholars, like Noam Chomsky and Juan Cole, have condemned Esfandiari’s arrest, and others have suggested that the Ahmadinejad government is cracking down on legitimate dissent.

But how legitimate, and how independent, are the so-called democracy advocates, Tehran has jailed?

Esfandiari is the director of the U.S. government-established Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. The Center is hardly a neutral body, independent of either the U.S. government or its foreign policy goals. Partly funded by the OSI, the Middle East Program was launched in February 1998 to assess “American interests in the region” and “strategic threats to and from the regional states.” It’s no secret that the U.S. considers Iran to be a strategic threat and considers its interests are best served by regime change in Iran.

Esfandiari’s program, according to the Center’s website, “devotes considerable attention to the analysis of internal domestic and social developments in Iran” including “the aspiration of the younger generation for reform and expansion of individual liberties” as well as the development of “civil society.” (4)

Is it any wonder Iranian authorities regard Esfandiari as a threat? She’s an Iranian living in the U.S., works for a U.S. government-established body, and directs a program whose mandate relates to American interests in the region. The program receives funding from the OSI, which has been instrumental in regime change operations in countries that had remained stubbornly outside the U.S. imperial orbit.

By itself, this is damning, but in the broader context of U.S. policy, it’s difficult to dismiss Tehran’s accusations as either paranoid or contrived.

Bankrolling a counter-revolution

In May of 2005, R. Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs said the U.S. was ready to hike funding to groups within Iran seeking regime change. The United States had already spent $1.5 million in 2004 and $3 million in 2005 on exile groups with contacts inside Iran. (5)

Burns equated the ramped up spending to “taking a page from the playbook” on Ukraine and Georgia, where, as the New York Times explained,” in those countries the United States gave money to the opposition and pro-democracy groups, some of which later supported the peaceful overthrow of the governments in power.” (6)

But it would take longer to spark a color revolution in Iran, Burns warned. “We don’t have a platform to do it. The country isn’t free enough to do it. It’s a much more oppressive environment than Ukraine was…during the Orange Revolution” where the U.S. was able to take advantage of the country’s openness to meddle in its internal affairs. (7)

On February 15, 2005 U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice proposed to add $75 million to the $10 million already earmarked for U.S. government programs to “support networks for Iranian reformers, political dissidents and human rights activists.” Two-thirds of the additional funding was to be used to “increase television broadcasting to 24 hours a day all week in Farsi into Iran.” (8)

It’s unlikely that Esfandiari, working for the U.S. government through the Woodrow Wilson Center, and on a program that emphasized U.S. interests in Iran, wasn’t part of the stepped up efforts to oust the Ahmadinejad government.

Mercenaries of non-violent struggle

Equally unlikely is that the Iranian Center for Applied Non-Violence was passed over for Uncle Sam’s regime change largesse. The Center invites Iranians to workshops to teach them how peaceful revolts in Georgia, the Philippines and elsewhere were set off. Training sessions are held “every month or so, hoping to foment a non-violent conflict in Iran.” The Washington-based International Center on Non-Violent Conflict helps organize the sessions. (10)

The U.S. Center is interesting. It appears to be a grassroots organization – the kind of group that appeals to Z Magazine-reading activists in the West — but has strong connections to Wall Street and the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

The Center’s founding chair is New York investment banker Peter Ackerman, who is also a member of the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, an organization dominated by directors of major U.S. corporations, corporate lawyers and CEOs. The CFR formulates foreign policy for the U.S. State Department. Its key members circulate between the council, corporate board appointments and State Department positions.

Ackerman is also chairman of the board of Freedom House, an organization that champions the rights of journalists, union leaders and democracy activists to organize openly to bring down governments whose economic policies are insufficiently friendly to U.S. trade and investment. Funded by the OSI, USAID, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House features a rogues’ gallery of U.S. ruling class activists that have sat, or currently sit, on its board of directors: Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Otto Reich, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Steve Forbes, among others. The only freedom these people are interested in is the freedom of U.S. corporations and investors to accumulate capital wherever and whenever they please.

Ackerman’s Center has been heavily involved in successful and ongoing regime change operations, including in Yugoslavia, which Ackerman celebrated in a PBS-TV documentary, Bringing Down a Dictator, about the ouster of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. If Ackerman, who studied under U.S. non-violence guru Gene Sharp, is truly committed to the peaceful way, he’s done a terrible job of transmitting a commitment to non-violent change to his children. Ackerman has two sons, one of whom is a U.S. Marine Corps officer, who earned a silver star for service in Iraq, using bombs and bullets to change Iraq’s regime.

The Center’s vice-chair is Berel Rodal, formerly a senior Canadian government official in foreign affairs, international trade, defense, security and intelligence (hardly the background of a budding Ghandi.)

Another Center associate is Robert Helvey, whose book “On Strategic Non-Violent Conflict: Thinking about the Fundamental”, is promoted on the Center’s website. Anyone who does a little digging into Helvey’s background will soon discover that strategic non-violent conflict means enlisting grassroots activists to bring down socialist or economically nationalist governments in order to privatize their socially-owned assets for the benefit of U.S. corporations and investors.

Helvey is a retired U.S. Army colonel and former U.S. military attaché to Burma (like Rodal’s, an improbable background for a budding Ghandi) who was brought to Caracas in 2003 “by a group of businessmen and professionals to give courses to young activists on how to ‘resist, oppose, and change a government without the use of bombs and bullets.’” (10) Helvey’s dalliances with the anti-Chavez opposition came fast on the heels of “his work in Serbia before Milosevic’s fall” where he “briefed students on ways to organize a strike and how to undermine the authority of a dictatorial regime.” (11)

What comes after a color revolution?

So, what has happened to Serbia, now that the non-violence loving, dictator-hating Ackerman and Helvey have completed their missions and moved on to plotting the overthrow of other foreign leaders, like Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

“In Serbia dollars have accomplished what bombs could not. After U.S.-led international sanctions were lifted with Milosevic’s ouster in 2000, the United States emerged as the largest single source of foreign direct investment. According to the U.S. embassy in Belgrade, U.S. companies have made $1 billion worth of ‘committed investments’ represented in no small part by the $580 million privatization of Nis Tobacco Factory (Phillip Morris) and a $250 million buyout of the national steel producer by U.S. Steel. Coca-Cola bought a Serbian bottled water producer in 2005 for $21 million. The list goes on.” (12)

Meanwhile, in the Serb province of Kosovo, the “coal mines and electrical facilities, the postal service, the Pristina airport, the railways, landfills, and waste management systems have all been privatized. As is the case across the Balkans, ‘publicly-owned enterprises’ are auctioned for a fraction of their value on the private market with little or no compensation for taxpayers.” (13)

It should be recalled that prior to the U.S. corporate takeover, the Yugoslav economy consisted largely of state- and socially-owned enterprises, leaving little room for U.S. profit-making opportunities, not the kind of place investment bankers like Ackerman, or speculators like Soros, are keen on. That the toppling of Milosevic had everything to do with opening space for U.S. investors and corporations should have been apparent to anyone who read chapter four of the U.S.-authored Rambouillet ultimatum, an ultimatum Milosevic rejected, triggering weeks of NATO bombing. The first article called for a free-market economy and the second for privatization of all government-owned assets. NATO bombs seemed to have had an unerring ability to hit Yugoslavia’s socially-owned factories and to miss foreign-owned ones. This was an economic take-over project.

Helvey hasn’t limited himself to training activists to overthrow governments in Venezuela and Serbia. Wherever Washington seeks to oust governments that pursue economically nationalist or socialist policies, you’ll find Helvey holding seminars on non-violent direct action: in Belarus, in Zimbabwe, in Iraq (before the U.S. invasion) and in Iran. “Helvey conducted a week-long course on nonviolent struggle for a group of Iranians in March 2003. The participants were young professionals in exile in the United States and Canada who would be used as spokespeople for various Iranian democracy groups.” (14)

A mercenary of non-violent direct action, Helvey would be a much more sympathetic figure were he also organizing seminars on how to use non-violent direct action to overthrow the U.S., British and other war-mongering Western governments, but somehow his list of targets always seems to line up with the governments Washington wants to overthrow. Helvey and Ackerman aren’t really committed to non-violence as a way of life, but only to non-violent struggle as one of a number of tools to be used (along with air strikes, ground invasion, saber-rattling and economic warfare) to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives – objectives which have nothing to with the stated goals of promoting human rights and democracy and everything to do with putting U.S. capital in the driver’s seat.

Advancing U.S. corporate interests

Iran, as is true of other countries Washington has targeted for regime change, is economically nationalist, and it is this, and less so concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, that lies the heart of U.S. efforts to bring down the Ahmadinejad government. “’Regime change’ did not begin with the administration of George W. Bush,” New York Times journalist Stephen Kinzer points out in his book Overthrow, “but has been an integral part of American foreign policy for more than one hundred years…starting with the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1883” (15) and yes, including the overthrow of Iran’s economically nationalist president Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. Mossadegh had nationalized British-owned oil companies. The U.S. engineered his overthrow and then handed the once British-owned and now nationalized oil industry over to U.S. companies.

In his survey of Washington’s addiction to regime change, Kinzer couldn’t help but trip over the centrality of the profit-making interests of U.S. capital in decisions to overthrow foreign governments. American corporations, Kinzer explains, are so powerful that they find “it relatively easy to call upon the military or the Central intelligence Agency to defend their privileges” in other countries. Of course, no one ever says regime change is about profits. Who’s going to rally around fattening ExxonMobil’s, Lockheed-Martin’s, GM’s, General Electric’s and Bechtel’s bottom lines? Regime change is always said to be about something larger: democracy, human rights, freedom, checking the spread of nuclear weapons and combating terrorism.

From the perspective of U.S. corporations and investment banks the problem with Iran is the same as the problem with Yugoslavia under Milosevic and Belarus today. There are too many publicly-owned enterprises, which means not enough room for U.S. investors and corporations to sell their goods and services and to profitably invest their capital. “Today,” observes the New York Times, “Iran’s economy … is almost entirely in the hands of the government.” (16) The country has its own automobile industry, and has secured deals with Venezuela and Syria to produce cars in those countries. Virtually all of the country’s drugs are produced domestically. (17) And, of course, there’s oil. “Iran’s petroleum reserves are the second largest of any OPEC country.” Only “Russia has more natural gas.” (18)

Ahmadinejad represents the economically nationalist wing of the Iranian ruling class, which “advocates state control of the economy, subsidies, continuation of uranium enrichment and the standoff with the U.S.” (19) “His call for justice – primarily economic justice…resonate(s) with a population angered by a perception that it had been denied the benefit of oil wealth.” (20) Iran will spend $25 billion this year to hold down the price of flour, rice, even gasoline. Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani, who lost the last presidential election to Ahmadinejad, represents the neo-liberal faction and favors “privatization, negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and overtures to the U.S.” (21)

While Tehran’s support for the Palestinian nationalist struggle and the country’s nuclear program may irritate Washington’s policy makers, it’s unclear that these irritants figure prominently in Washington’s regime change policy. Soon after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iran approached Washington with a proposal for a broad dialogue, to include “full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian groups.” (22) In other words, Iran would act to resolve all the irritants Washington said were at the heart of its dispute with Iran.

Richard Hass, then head of policy planning at the U.S. State Department and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Washington rejected the proposal because the administration wanted the regime changed. And the administration believed “the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse.” (23) If Ahmadinejad’s government fell, or was toppled from within thanks to U.S.-funded regime change efforts, the neo-liberal, pro-West Rafsanjani would likely be the successor.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, pro-capitalist ideologue Francis Fukuyama asked, “What is it that leaders like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez have in common that vastly increase their local appeal?” His answer: “Their ability to promise, and to a certain extent deliver on social policy – things like education, health and other social services, particularly for the poor.” Fukuyama lamented that “The U.S. and the political groups that it tends to support around the world…have relatively little to offer in this regard.” (24)

The Brzezinski warning

Earlier this year, former Carter National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski speculated on how Washington might engineer a “plausible scenario for military collision with Iran.” He warned that U.S. military action against Iran could follow “Iraqi failure to meet the benchmark followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran.” (25)

In late May, Brzezinski’s prediction seemed to be coming true. U.S. officials began to accuse Iran of forging an alliance with al Qaeda, Sunni insurgents, and Syria, with the goal of undermining achievement of the benchmarks in Iraq. In addition, the U.S. claimed to have “proof that Iran had reversed its previous policy in Afghanistan and is now supporting and supplying the Taliban’s campaign against U.S., British and other NATO forces.” (26)

Bush has repeatedly warned that while the United States is prepared to explore non-military means of forcing Iran to relinquish its right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium, “all options are on the table.”

The Democrats are equally bellicose. “Top Democrats in the House and Senate issued a report” in July 2005 calling for the United States to use “military pressure, including ‘the possibility of repeated and unwarned strikes’” against Iran. (27)

Earlier this year, the U.S. and Britain started to beef up their joint armada of warships and strike aircraft in the Persian Gulf region “in a show of military resolve toward Iran.” (28)

The American Enterprise Institute, a principal fixture of the U.S. ruling class policy formulation network, has been “urging Mr. Bush to open a new front against Iran.” (29) The think tank, whose mandate is to promote free enterprise, counts Coors, Microsoft and ExxonMobil among its major funders. Bush’s decision to send more troops to Iraq originated in a recommendation from the AEI. (30)

Economic warfare

“More than 40 major international banks and financial institutions have either cut off or cut back business with the Iranian public or private sector as a result of a quiet campaign launched by the Treasury and State Departments.” (31)

The campaign began last September, when the U.S. treasury secretary Henry Paulson announced plans to isolate Iran financially, by prohibiting U.S. banks from dealing with Iran. (32) Paulson also strongly suggested that foreign banks follow suit, listing more than 30 Iranian companies and government enterprises banks should steer clear of. Afraid of jeopardizing their access to the U.S. banking system, several European banks, including Credit Suisse and UBS in Switzerland, HSBC in Britain and ABN Amro in the Netherlands announced that they had scaled back their dealings with Iranian banks and enterprises. (33)

Pressure was also brought to bear “on major U.S. pension funds to stop investment in about 70 companies that trade directly with Iran and international banks that trade with the oil sector, cutting off the country’s access to hard currency. The aim is to isolate Tehran from world markets.” (34)

This is part of a “full-court press on foreign companies…to impress them that it would be a mistake to do anything with” Iran. (35)

The Iranian view

Former Iranian Interior Minister and deputy foreign minister Ali Muhammad Besharati told the New York Times last August that, “If we backed down on the nuclear issue, the U.S. would have found fault with our medical doctors researching stem cells. What they would like to see us do is plant corn, make tomato paste and bottle mineral water. They do not want to see us high-tech.” (36)

Support for this thinking comes from the Bush administration itself. Asked whether Iran “might at some point in the future be allowed to enrich uranium on its own soil” “after it has satisfied regulatory bodies that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful” a senior Bush administration official replied “when hell freezes over.” (37)

The Iranian leadership sees the conflict with the U.S. as “a fight for survival against a far more powerful enemy that has lumped them into an ‘axis of evil’ and allocated millions of dollars to oust the government.” The fight is “Tehran’s frontline effort to…never again allow Washington to have the upper hand in Iran.” (38)

Conflicting rights

It’s no secret that Washington is maneuvering to regain the upper hand in Iran it lost when the U.S.-backed Shah was overthrown in 1979. Washington has a tripartite game plan: threaten air strikes; pressure the world’s banking and investor community to ruin Iran’s economy through financial isolation; build up grassroots activists and exile groups to bring down the government. By these means, Washington hopes to put itself back in the driver’s seat, to reclaim Iran’s resources, labor and markets, and to plunder its publicly-owned assets, on behalf of the U.S. corporations and investors.

Short of capitulation, there’s little the Iranian leadership can do – either to stop the massing of U.S. and British warships and strike aircraft in the Persian Gulf or to stay the quiet campaign of financial isolation the U.S. Treasury Department is pursuing against Iranian banks and enterprises. But it can disrupt U.S. efforts to build a fifth column in the country. Arresting Esfandiari, and other members of the U.S. government and corporate funded complex of regime change groups, is part of that.

Were Iranian authorities justified in arresting Esfandiari? Those who place advocacy rights above other rights will say no. We can place Noam Chomsky and Juan Cole in this group. Neither man, for obvious reasons of self-interest, would like to see much legitimacy given to the idea that fierce opponents of established authority can be locked away for advocating non-violent opposition. This applies even if the critics are on the payroll of a hostile foreign government. On the other hand, those who place more value on the right of societies to be free from foreign domination and meddling will say yes, Tehran was justified.

There are no absolute rights, only conflicting rights whose valence depends on perceived interest. Advocacy rights are favored by corporate groups and the governments they dominate, because they have the money to exercise those rights – and reap the benefits of their exercise — more fully than anyone else does. The class that benefits most from freedom of the press is the class that can afford one.

Rights of economic independence are favored by those who have suffered from economic subordination to a metropolitan power. To them, the right to be free from foreign domination is senior to the right of others to advocate, and organize politically to achieve, the restoration of foreign domination.

What about the interests of ordinary people in the U.S., UK, Canada and other Western countries? Where do their interests lie?

Neutrality or alliance?

There are three views that I know of on this. One says interference in the affairs of other countries is illegitimate. It subverts democracy and the self-determination of other people. Those who hold this view are also likely to say that jailing those who are working to remove a government through peaceful means – even if they’re funded by outside governments and corporations – is also illegitimate. But what happens when these rights clash? Which is senior to the other?

Proponents of this view usually have no answer other than to say that the two rights are equally legitimate and neither cancels the other out. Governments, they contend, shouldn’t be meddling in the affairs of other countries, but equally, victimized governments shouldn’t be jailing the people on the ground whose meddling, however deplorable, amounts to nothing more than political organizing. This is the schoolyard monitor mentality. Johnny shouldn’t beat you up, but equally, you shouldn’t fight back to defend yourself. Like the neutral school authority who abhors the violence of self-defense as much as the violence of the aggressor, proponents of this view refuse to take sides.

Related in its neutrality, but not in the way the neutrality is arrived at, is the view of those who say they are partisans of the working class alone, and since the clash has no direct bearing on the working class per se, there is no need for them to take sides. Indeed, why should they side with capitalist governments, either that of the U.S. or Iran?

A third view says that the defense of the economic independence of countries from the predations of foreign capital is indeed a working class issue, even if the government under threat is not a working class government. The reasoning is that corporations and investors in metropolitan countries become stronger – or at least, avoid crises – as they increase their sphere of exploitation. In one view, this furnishes governments and employers with sufficient wealth to keep the working class in their own country docile with social welfare programs and comfortable living standards.

Alternatively, or additionally, outward expansion averts the otherwise inevitable economic crises in the metropolitan areas that would create momentum for revolutionary change. Since the working class and capitalist class are antagonistic, what strengthens one weakens the other. If Iran’s successfully defending itself from integration into the imperial orbit of the U.S. capitalist class checks growth in the strength of that class, or disorganizes it, the revolutionary possibilities for the working class are strengthened. Proponents of this view, then, are quick to side with governments that resist subordination to the profit-seeking interests of the corporations, banks and investors of their own country.


It’s probably true that Haleh Esfandiari was working to build a U.S. government and U.S. corporate-funded fifth column within Iran to bring down the Ahmadinejad government with a view to installing a pro-Western, neo-liberal government that would open Iran to U.S. exports and investments. Iran’s arresting Esfandiari, as well other mercenaries of public persuasion in the pay of the U.S. government and corporate-backed regime change organizations, is aimed at defending the country from subordination to U.S. corporate interests.

Whether the arrest is legitimate (assuming Esfandiari is guilty of what she is accused), cannot be asserted or denied as an absolute. It depends on which rights are senior – those related to public advocacy and freedom to organize politically or those related to self-determination and freedom from foreign domination. And which right is senior depends on where you’re situated within the global capitalist system.

Iranians who would profit by facilitating U.S. political and economic domination of Iran will favor Esfandiari’s civil liberties. The government of Iran will favor its right to defend itself from outside interference and U.S.-directed regime change. Ordinary people in metropolitan countries who are conscious of belonging to a class, and are able to work through the fog of nonsense on Iran, will take sides, or not, on the basis of strategic considerations: are the interests of the working class advanced by siding with governments resisting integration into an imperialist orbit, no matter what their stripe, or are they advanced by limiting alliances to members of the working class of other countries alone?

There are a number of class-conscious leftists who espouse the latter view sincerely, but there are those who use it as an excuse to climb into bed with their country’s own ruling class, to advance its interests. Left groups that worked to oust the Milosevic government in Serbia have nothing to show for their efforts but a country that is precisely where those leading the charge against Milosevic wanted it to be: subordinate to U.S. corporations and investors. Left groups that are working to oust the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe will have achieved, if they’re successful, not the succession of a socialist or working people’s government, but the installation of the Western-backed, neo-liberal opposition, which will reverse land reforms, and sell off the country’s publicly-owned assets. The rural poor won’t be cheering, but investors, corporate lawyers and CEOs in the West will, along with the former colonial-settler land owners.

Likewise, a color revolution in Iran will not be followed by the flowering of a progressive, socialist or working class movement in the country, but by the replacement of an economically nationalist pro-capitalist government with a government prepared to compromise with Western and especially U.S. capital. State enterprises will be sold off at a fraction of their value, subsidies will be cancelled, profits from the sale of the country’s oil and gas will disproportionately accrue to U.S. oil companies, and the lives of ordinary Iranians will become poorer and more uncertain.

It is hard to muster much sympathy for Esfandiari. Anyone who works to reverse the gains of a revolutionary government – and this is undoubtedly what those engaged in regime operations in Iran are up to – should expect to be cracked down upon, especially where their activities constitute a very real threat to the survival of the revolution. With its threats of air strikes, economic warfare, and tens of millions of dollars in overt (and who knows how many more millions of dollars in covert) spending on regime change operations, the U.S., and its agents, of which Esfandiari must surely count herself, are lethal threats to Iran’s revolution. No one should be surprised she was arrested.

Iran’s efforts to resist domination by U.S. capital are no less worthy of solidarity than the efforts of the resistances in Iraq and Afghanistan to throw off the U.S.-led occupations or of Cuba’s and north Korea’s resistances to the unceasing efforts of the U.S. and its allies to return both countries to the capitalist fold and bring them into the U.S. imperialist orbit. Taking sides with the Iranian government in its resistance to U.S. aggression is in no way equivalent to endorsing the Iranian regime, theocratic rule or the theories of Iran’s president on the anti-Jewish holocaust. It is, instead, a recognition of the rights of other people to self-determination and to be free from foreign domination. If the exercise of these rights implies the arrest of those actively working to deny these rights – as it appears Esfandiari was – so be it. The civil liberties of one person – especially when exploited to aid a privileged minority of hereditary capitalist families and wealthy investors – are not senior to the rights of hundreds of millions.

1. New York Times, May 22, 2007
2. New York Times, July 3, 2006
3. Associated Press, May 13, 20074
4. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?topic_id=1426&fuseaction=topics.intro
5. New York Times, May 29, 2005
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. New York Times, February 16, 2006
9. New York Times, November 20, 2006.
10. Reuters, April 30, 2003; Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez accused Helvey’s employer, the Albert Einstein Institution, of being behind an imperialist conspiracy to overthrow his government. The Guardian, June 7, 2007.
11. Ibid.
12. Elise Hugus, “Eight Years After NATO’s ‘Humanitarian War’: Serbia’s new ‘third way’”, Z Magazine, April 2007, Volume 20, Number 4
13. Ibid.
14. The Albert Einstein Institution, Report on Activities, 2000 to 2004, http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations/org/2000-04rpt.pdf
15. Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Times Books Henry Holt & Company, New York, 2006.
16. New York Times, May 28, 2006
17. Workers World, May 5, 2007
18. Washington Post, April 20, 2006
19. Lalkar, September/October, 2005
20. New York Times, December 20, 2005
21. Lalkar, September/October, 2005
22. Washington Post, June 18, 2006
23. Ibid.
24. Wall St. Journal, February 1, 2007
25. Granma International, February 8, 2007
26. Guardian, May 22, 2007
27. Boston Globe, August 14, 2005
28. New York Times, December 21, 2006
29. Guardian, February 10, 2007
30. Washington Post, February 11, 2007
31. Washington Post, March 26, 2007
32. New York Times, September 17, 2006
33. New York Times, October 16, 2006
34. Guardian, January 26, 2007
35. Washington Post, February 1, 2007
36. New York Times, August 28, 2006
37. New York Times, September 12, 2006
38. New York Times, August 28, 2006

* “On April 27, 2006, the Iranian philosopher was detained at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport, and shortly after was accused of actively preparing to take part in a “velvet revolution” in Iran. This polyglot thinker … elected to write his doctoral dissertation on Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent change, Satyagraha. Jahanbegloo continued to espouse nonviolence after returning from the West to his homeland. …On one of his many trips to India, Jahanbegloo met with the Dalai Lama, who in turn has made frequent visits to Prague to meet with Havel since 1989. All such links reinforce suspicion among Iran’s clerical rulers that “the velvet revolution” is at hand.

“Rasool Nafisi has suggested that the main reason for Jahanbegloo’s arrest was his research project for the German Marshall Fund in which he compared the Iran’s democratic dissidents with their East-Central European predecessors. This line of comparative inquiry analyzed the balance of political power between Iranian civil society and the governing clerical regime. While Jahanbegloo sat in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, eminent international figures—among them Havel and Habermas—sent an Open Letter to Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad protesting the philosopher’s detention. The Iranian minister of the interior, Hojjatoleslam Qolamhoseyn Mosheni Eyhe’I, said in a July interview that Jahanbegloo was arrested on suspicion that he had been assisting the US to provoke “a velvet revolution in Iran,” an activity that, according to him, seems to be the US’s main business these days.”

Martin Beck Matuštík, “Velvet Revolution in Iran?”, Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture, Fall 2006.

On June 11, 2007 the New York Times reported that Ali Shakeri had been detained by Iranian authorities. Shakeri is a founding board member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, Irvine. The Center, according to its web site, studies “the best grassroots peacebuilding methods in both domestic and international conflicts, and utilizes those findings in direct engagement in peacebuilding projects in … selected communities in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and the former Soviet Union.” The Center has honored Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Dalai Lama with its Citizen Peacebuilding Award. The only peace the Center is interested in, is the peace that comes from capitulation to US foreign policy goals.