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The Atlantic Council & Latin American Regime Change

Putting Northern interests first, Washington DC think tanks weaken democracy in the South

Brasil Wire

December 28, 2017

 

Founded in 1961, the Atlantic Council (AC) is part of the NATO offshoot Atlantic Treaty Association, described as an umbrella organization which acts as a network facilitator in the Euro-Atlantic and beyond, that claims to draw together “political leaders, academics, military officials, journalists and diplomats in an effort to further the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty, namely: democracy, freedom, liberty, peace, security, and the rule of law”.

Atlantic Council’s board members include Henry Kissinger, former CIA chiefs Michael Hayden and Mike Morell, and Bush-era head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. Its Digital Forensic Research Lab is led by a former Obama National Security Council advisor, and it is partnering with Facebook to carry out a purge of pages it deems to be “fake news”.

Together with the Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA), the Wilson Center and other  organisations (between which there is a revolving door for personnel), the Atlantic Council has been an international platform and promoter for both the controversial anti-corruption operation Lava Jato (Car Wash), which helped paralyse the Brazilian economy, and the 2016 removal of the Rousseff Government from power.

The organisation insists it is independent from both the US Government and NATO, however it receives the majority of its funding, of an undisclosed total, from various NATO member governments.

It was recently in the news for donating a million dollars, provided by the US State Department, to an opposition group in Venezuela, the latest in an estimated USD$45+ million in US funding to pro-opposition groups since 2008.

AC think tank funding

In October 2013, one year ahead of a crucial run of regional elections and after a burst of destabilisation in Brazil, the Atlantic Council launched its new Latin America effort, named the ‘Adrienne Arsht Center’, with a stated aim to “study, educate, and strengthen the trends transforming Latin America into a strong Western partner”.

The center was founded by Peter Schechter, a consultant who also hosts Altamar, a foreign policy podcast. Until June 2017 he was the Atlantic Council’s Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives as well as founding director of its latest Lat Am-focussed wing.

Born in 1959 in Rome, Schechter was raised in Italy, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In 1993, he co-founded Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates, a DC-based consultancy which advises politicians, companies, non-profits, and international organizations. Their clients’ tasks included fighting “regulatory encroachment” on US banks in Latin America, to spinning Hunt Oil’s Camisea project in Peru, which was threatened by protest from indigenous groups.

The bulk of his work, however, was serving as election advisor to conservative and neoliberal candidates across Latin America, including a number of current presidents. Clients included Venezuela opposition leader Henrique Capriles, Alvaro Uribe (his fourth client in Colombia), and 1994-2002 Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

His expertise in the region has made him a regular talking head on Latin American politics. He is a frequent guest analyst for television shows across the region as well as on US-based Spanish language networks Univision and Telemundo, noted for their right-wing bias.

In September 2009, Schechter’s firm signed a contract with the interim Honduran government of Roberto Micheletti to provide public relations services following the June 28, 2009 coup d’état. According to Foreign Agents Registration filings with the US Department of Justice, the firm received over $292,000 to boost the post-coup regime’s image in the US. His work for the Honduran putschists attracted negative publicity for Schechter’s company and sparked indignation both in Honduras and in the US, including letters of condemnation and a protest in front of the firm’s Washington, DC office.

On Brazil, Atlantic Council personnel could be found quoted in the press and on television networks eulogising Operation Lava Jato, normalising the judicial/parliamentary Coup d’état which removed Dilma Rousseff, and also promoting the neoliberal programme of Michel Temer’s post-coup government, such as fiercely resisted cuts to workers rights and a programme of pension reform which would raise retirement age as high as 74 for millions of ordinary Brazilians, which is above life expectancy in some areas of the country.

When these commentators would talk about “anti-corruption” and “poor economy” as the reasons for her impeachment, they would never indicate any relationship between the two. Yet Rousseff’s removal stemmed in part from both the public fervour generated by the partisan anti-corruption operation, and also perversely the economic effects it had created – with some economists estimating that the resulting Lava Jato mandated shutdown of economic sectors in 2015 accounted for half a million unemployed in construction alone, and 2.5% of GDP – turning a mild recession into something Wall Street talking heads in its corporate media could portray as the “worst economic crisis in a century“.

Lava Jato not only had profound effects on Brazil’s economy and democracy, it has also indirectly enabled capture of the country’s strategic resources, and corporations such as Embraer, which is now a target of takeover by US competitor, Boeing, sparking outcry amongst Brazilian developmentalists, nationalists, and the left as a whole.

The roots of the operation can be traced back as far as a 2002 Bush-era initiative, encouraged by infamous Office of Public Diplomacy propagandist, former Venezuelan ambassador, and one time head of Council of the Americas, Otto Reich, which made anti-corruption the principal tool for enabling political and economic outcomes in the region.

Mr. Reich, like Schechter was also hired to propagandise on behalf of Honduras Post-Coup Government. Following the Coup, Reich sent his thoughts to members of Congress by e-mail. “We should rejoice,” he wrote to one member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “that one of the self-proclaimed 21st Century socialist allies of Chávez has been legally deposed by his own countrymen.”

Also in 2009, leaked cables reveal that Lava Jato’s main protagonist, inquisitorial prosecutor/judge Sergio Moro, was already in collaboration with the State Department and Department of Justice on an embryonic strategy which would evolve into Operation Lava Jato. Brazil, a one-time ally of Venezuela, has seen its democracy, economy and sovereignty severely impacted by the operation, which has been deemed “Lawfare” and “War by other means” by observers. The ongoing role of public relations from within or around organisations like Atlantic Council and AS/COA and their relationship with large commercial news organizations warrants maximum scrutiny, and is indicative of whom is directing the real power being wrought in the region.

Using these non-conventional weapons, the so called ‘Pink Tide’ of leftist governments across the continent has been reversed, to the delight of Washington, London and Wall Street. Corruption allegations are affecting the political scene across South America, in Chile, Argentina and Peru, and frontrunner for Brazil’s own 2018 election, former President Lula, faces an appeal on 24th January in what amounts to a kangaroo court, a trial which could shape the country’s future for a generation.

And the impact is not only economic and political but military and strategic. Joining its beachhead in Colombia, which is becoming an official NATO partner, comes the establishment of new US Military presences in ArgentinaParaguayPeru and now Brazil’s Amazon and North East. It is telling that Liliana Ayalde, US Ambassador to Brazil from September 2013, throughout the 2014 election and subsequent Coup d’état, is now serving as civilian deputy commander of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).

Valley of the Sex Dolls: Our Post-Apocalyptic Future Is Grimmer Than You Thought

December 12, 2018

By Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer

 

“Patriarchal systems of capitalism and colonialism don’t recognize or value inherent worth in women’s bodies and the work women do, and instead commodify them. Once women’s bodies are objectified in this way, it positions violence against women as justified, embedding it into the fabric of society. Violence against women is and remains the bedrock for all other kinds of violence.” — Battered Women’s Support Services

The near-term and even more so post-apocalyptic future will be grim – a reflection of the neoliberal and patriarchal ideologies that will bring us face to face to a new form of mind pollution – a collective conditioning to the continued social degradation of women. With the rise and proliferation of plastic sex dolls and sexbots – our increasingly desecrated landscapes will soon be filling up with disposable bodies. Many dismembered and almost exclusively, female in form.

Production of sex robots Abyss Realbotix

Industrial scale production is already here. Akin to a slaughterhouse, these life-like forms hang suspended from the ceiling on chains bound to the neck. Row upon row, the headless forms represent a new era in commodification, exploitation and ultimate degradation – the socially acceptable and financially profitable desecration of the female body.

The irony of the politically correct backlash toward plastic straws in contrast to the acceptable growing tsunami of plastic waste exclusively in female form  – is lost. Silicone heads, torsos, breasts, arms, legs, removable vaginas, dirty and worn, will protrude from garbage bags and trash bins. A growing number of these forms will resemble dead children – the discarded remains of the anatomically-correct imitations of five year old girls, created exclusively for paedophiles. After all, according to the manufacturers, “It’s not worth living if you have to live with repressed desire.”

As a sign of the depravity of man, rivers, streams, lakes, oceans and all other places of waste disposal will overflow with plastic corpses that grossly mimic the female form. The sheer abundance of female bodies floating face down – or face up – will become so commonplace, an already desensitized society will become even more indifferent to the grotesque spectacle. Left solely to the machinations of men, female body parts fill up landfills by the tens of thousands – to such an extent – real women will be indistinguishable from the plastic corpses, literally lost amongst the rubbish.

Above: Sex dolls assembly in Abyss Creations laboratory. Credit: Eduardo Contreras/San Diego Union-Tribune

Above slaughterhouse image. This was the first of six “related images” suggested by Google to the sex doll assembly photo above

The line between real – and plastic – will continue to blur until it disappears all together. The need to separate real and plastic becomes at first inconvenient, to then more difficult, to then most difficult, to finally, no longer necessary. This is the beauty of social engineering – a gradual but steady progression that goes undetected – thereby ensuring it’s eventual completion and success.

“This system of violence is called patriarchy, and over the past two thousand years it has come to rule most of the world. Patriarchal civilization is based on exploiting and consuming women, living communities, and the earth itself.” — Women’s Caucus, Deep Green Resistance

An old description for vulgar terms such as “fuck”, “shit” or “damn” is to describe them as “four-letter words”.  Yet, there seems to not be a problem with one particular four letter word:  rape.  This is illustrated by the current preoccupation with sex dolls, where the object personifying the female body is sexually dominated and/or assaulted, yet can’t even speak or respond to “her” vile treatment. It demonstrates the indifference that is prevalent in most societies when it comes to rape of the female body, be it imagined – or real. Is there any greater reflection of this type of rape mindset than a man procuring a doll to have sex with whereby he can essentially control her every action without thought, participation, feeling and/or contribution to what should be a mutual act between willing partners?

And it is this mentality that has now completely enveloped the entirety of man’s existence, who has furthered his depravity by unleashing the same mentality onto the Earth herself.

The need to control, dominate and manipulate without a response from its victim is part of the euphoric experience of pilfering perpetual and increasing resources from that which he has no respect. The same euphoric feeling from raping the animated human body has extended to inanimate objects: sexbots, sex dolls and the Earth herself. She, being the Earth, provides all of the pleasures without any pangs of guilt in terms of the verbal and physical responses from an unwilling participant.

A sex doll and other rubbish litters Sincil Dike, 2018,  (Image: Bill Brown)

Yet, the primary mistake of modern man is his false belief that the ongoing structural collapse is not a reactive expression by the Earth in direct response to his misdeeds. Although the Western edifice built off this centuries long and ever expansive rape is formidable, it is not affected to the same degree as the environmental victims in the Global South who fight to survive in far more vulnerable circumstances. However, the growing yet still imperceptible fissures continue to go unacknowledged by those in the most insulated parts of the world.

Juxtaposed with a rapidly warming planet, planetary environmental collapse and accelerated resource depletion – the ramifications of this cultural arrogance – is in the midst of unfolding. Blind to the sixth extinction event, now well underway, this grotesque waste of energy and resources is no match for the grotesque human reductionism that feeds the momentum for the furthering of collective human depravity and indifference.

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can support her independent journalism via Patreon.]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

 

 

 

 

Navigating Ontario’s Online Political Front Groups

RankandFile.ca

March 23, 2018

By David Bush

 

Last fall the Facebook page North99 exploded onto the social media scene. It went from nothing in the Fall of 2017 to one of the largest progressive social media accounts in the country almost overnight. It currently has 40,000 likes on Facebook, not quite half as many as Press Progress, a similiar social media project, but it is growing at nearly three times rate. Its social media posts have by far the widest circulation on the Left, well beyond any union, organization or progressive campaign. It bills itself as the Left’s version of Ontario Proud and Rebel Media.

North99’s content is clearly progressive and on the Left. It explicitly polarizes along class lines, standing up for Sears pensioners, taking shots at Doug Ford, Tim Hortons and Loblaws. When the new $14 minimum wage was rolled out and Tim Hortons was caught punishing its workers, North99 social media was all over the issue. One of its posts denouncing Tim Hortons was shared over 29,000 times on Facebook, two others were shared over 10,000 times each. Its posts denouncing Galen Weston and Loblaws for the bread price fixing scheme was shared over 60,000 times. It is a positive thing that North99’s baseline messaging takes aim at bosses and the rich.

On its website North99 states it is “a progressive media network for the many, not the few. Our contributors and supporters include progressive people across Canada united by a concern about rising inequality and the increasing influence of the far-right.” It says it is funded by small donations, roughly $1,000 a month, is volunteer run, and is non-partisan. But who actually runs the website and social media accounts of North99?

A Liberal front

North99 was federally incorporated under that name on August 14, 2017. It changed its incorporated name to 10363987 Canada Association on October 24, 2017. The name listed as a director is Geoff Sharpe. Who is Geoff Sharpe?

Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 8.32.09 PMSharpe is a digital strategist who has strong ties to the Liberal Party. He was the President of the BC Young Liberals from 2011 to 2012. That’s right, the BC Liberals, the party that is so right-wing  that it makes the PC party irrelevant in the province. In 2012 Sharpe denounced the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) because of an email exchange between teachers where one teacher warned another not to cross the picket line during the 2012 strike or there would be shouting. Sharpe regularly displayed disdain for the BCTF and teacher unions stating, “definitely need to remember that teachers doesn’t equal BCTF. I know many who cannot stand the org[anization].”

Sharpe also worked as a digital media strategist on Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberal leadership campaign in 2013. After Wynne won, Sharpe was lauded for using techniques similar to Obama’s election campaign. At the time Sharpe was working for Navigator Ltd., the same $600-an-hour PR firm Jian Ghomeshi initially hired to protect his image after revelations about sexual assault. Navigator would later drop Ghomeshi as a client. After leaving Navigator Ltd., Sharpe now runs Sharpe Strategies, a digital media strategy firm.

The other name linked to North99 is Tara Mahoney. She is the daughter of Richard Mahoney, the former president of the Ontario Liberal Party. She worked for the Liberal Party of Canada’s national campaign headquarters as a front-end web developer.

North99’s links to the Liberal Party belie its claims of non-partisanship. This is clearly the work of seasoned digital media experts and political strategists who are looking to scoop up data and to push a partisan political agenda. But North99 is far from the only partisan front group utilizing social media in this way.

The Tories’ front

Ontario Proud, is by far and away the largest political Facebook page in Ontario and one of the largest in the country. Founded in 2016 by Jeff Ballingal and Ryan O’Connor, the page has over 330,000 Facebook likes. Ontario Proud blends a curious mix of non-political posts about great provincial attractions, the weather, or sports, along with political red meat for the right-wing. It constantly pumps out right-wing talking points on taxes, the minimum wage, climate change, xenophobia, terrorism, hydro rates. The goal for Ontario Proud is to target people who are not political junkies but are only moderately into politics. Like North99, Ontario Proud trumpets the the slogan “For the Many, Not the Few”, which is stolen directly Jeremy Corbyn’ Labour Party in Britain.

Ballingal is a former Tory operative who also worked for Navigator Ltd and Sun Media. O’Connor was the former Vice-President of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association and famously caught organizing students to infiltrate and defund progressive groups on campusesChris Spoke, who formerly worked at Sun News, is also involved with Ontario Proud.

Ontario Proud has spent well over $200,000 to targeted ads to build up its base of support. This was a clever way to make the most of new campaign financing rules that restricted spending of the third party interest groups. Ontario Proud says it is non-partisan and  promotes strategic voting. The page’s influence continues to grow as it stokes fear and confusion about the minimum wage. This year, Ontario Proud has even organized anti-Wynne protests at Liberal town hall events. The page’s success is breeding copycats in other parts of the country.

Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 7.53.47 PMAnd the NDP…

The NDP has its own version of these groups, Press Progress. While Press Progress is not quite the same, it is more openly connected to the NDP as it is a creation of the Broadbent Institute. Its Facebook reach is massive, with over 100,000 likes, and the content on its website is designed to be easily understood and shareable with “clickbait” headlines.

Press Progress was launched in 2013 as an “independent, nonprofit newsroom” dedicated to fact-checking and breaking original stories. The Broadbent Institute, which created Press Progress, is a nominally independent think tank and research institute. Its role in the NDP world is to produce policy and leadership development. For instance figures and policies closely aligned with the Broadbent Institute were prominent in the Jagmeet Singh’s campaign. Some Broadbent people were even spotted voting down the prioritization of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) resolution at the recent NDP convention.

For all its progressive chops, the Broadbent Institute represents status quo in the NDP, often willing to partner with so-called progressive corporations, like Loblaws – which is funder of its annual Progress gala. It is not a mere coincidence that Press Progress has been completely silent on critiquing Loblaws despite its opposition to the $15 minimum wage, its tax avoidance schemes, its bread price-fixing scheme, and its recent layoffs. Those scandals were so galling that even the Liberal-aligned North99 took a shot at Galen Weston.

We still need an independent, bottom-up working class politics 

While it shouldn’t be surprising that online partisan front groups stir the pot, what is remarkable is how effective they have been with so little accountability. All of these groups are scooping up massive amounts of data, often directly collecting information through their own cynical petitions on hot issues. These groups show how empty much of the political landscape has become. Digital media strategists are running a shell game that treats ordinary working people as something to be manipulated and toyed with. Forget about all that nonsense about Russians on distorting democracy through social media. We need to look no further than the communication specialists and political parties in this country to see who the true manipulators are.

Workers face an uphill battle when they go up against big corporations and their government friends. We can win, but only if we organize ourselves, speak for ourselves and fight for ourselves. When it comes to the media they are rarely on the side of workers – they barely even report on labour and workplace issues anymore. The slick new digital media is no different. We can’t expect any favours and that is why we need our voices and our own media to cut through the spin. Everything else is just public relations.

 

[David Bush is a Ph.D. student at York University, a labour organizer active with the Fight for $15 and a writer in Toronto, Canada.]

 

DEMOCRACY, CLASS AND THE FIGHT AGAINST RECOLONIZATION

Tortilla con Sal

November 5, 2018

By Stephen Sefton

 

Street Art, Managua, Nicaragua [source]

Versión en español

Having lost Eurasia, US and allied elites have prioritized Latin America and the Caribbean, seeking to re-consolidate control of the region’s resources. They work to destroy political movements and leaders who defend their countries’ impoverished majorities against the West’s neocolonial agenda. In particular, Western elites work with local allies to eliminate expressions of national sovereignty. From within, they undermine and co-opt governments and institutions. Externally they deploy all kinds of financial, trade, media and diplomatic aggression as well as military intimidation.

These fundamental processes drove political and economic events in the region through the 1990s. They have done so ever more intensively since the failed 2002 coup against President Chavez in Venezuela and the successful coup against Haiti’s President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s recent condemnation of the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela marks another explicit escalation of a process already well-advanced under President Obama. This Western offensive to recolonize Latin America and the Caribbean has highlighted the complex link between false foreign news coverage and domestic political control in North America and Europe.

Recent Western media attacks on Max Blumenthal and Kerry Ann Mendoza over their coverage of a US writer embedded in Nicaragua’s political opposition categorically exposed that reality. Western journalists and editors were more concerned about a coup-mongering activist-writer legitimately deported home to the US, than tens of pro-government journalists almost burned alive by the opposition terror gangs he supported. These Western journalists share their role as intellectual managers with university academics and managers of non-governmental organizations.

Across the political spectrum, they pose as trustworthy guides, offering false maps of the psychological warfare terrain they aim to control. John Bolton’s counterfactual attack on the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as a “troika of tyranny” exposed the pernicious class role of these self-interested Western media, academic and NGO managers, who attack those countries’ governments using the same false information and deliberate omission as Bolton. A few recent examples related to Nicaragua make this clear.

Sociology professor Benjamin Waddell falsely claims the Sandinista government has banned protest demonstrations. In fact, the Nicaraguan government has applied its own existing laws to match public order norms in North America and Europe. Public protests in Nicaragua now have to get permission from the police agreeing the time and route of their demonstration. Before that measure, opposition extremists persistently used firearms during demonstrations to provoke the casualties they needed to be able to claim lethal repression.

Waddell himself mentions casualties include “a 16-year-old boy caught in the crossfire between government forces and demonstrators.” A more honest account would have noted the independent parliamentary Truth Commission’s reports showing how the briefing Waddell cites includes well over a hundred deaths entirely unconnected to the protests and other alleged deaths completely undocumented. Nor does Waddell acknowledge independent reports confirming that around two thirds of the fatalities have been shown to be either Sandinista supporters or innocent bystanders.

Across the political aisle, Bill van Auken explains about President Ortega “Until now, Washington has exhibited a certain ambivalence toward the government of the Sandinista leader, who returned to power in 2007 on the basis of an economic program geared to the interests of Nicaraguan and foreign capital.” You read that right. Auken claims the US government will no longer tolerate a Nicaraguan regime geared to the interests of foreign capital. Similar self-contradictory irrationality bedevils ill-informed foreign coverage of Nicaragua.

Other writers display their lazy ignorance via outright falsehoods. Academic Jenny Pearce, commenting on the attempted coup in Nicaragua claims President Ortega “responded to protests at corruption and authoritarianism by unleashing para-police forces against protesters”. In fact, Daniel Ortega quickly responded to the initial extremely violent opposition protests by calling for national dialogue with mediation by the Catholic Church. Compounding her falsehood, Pearce also claims “most” of the coup promoters in Nicaragua “are neither counter-revolutionaries nor right-wing.” To the complete contrary, the coup promoters were all either well known right wing leaders or else foreign-funded groups long openly allied with them.

The coup promoters quickly and openly identified themselves: Piero Coen, Nicaragua’s wealthiest individual; Micheal Healy a manager for Colombian agribusiness interests; the private sector employers’ organization COSEP; fascist Catholic bishops and right wing Nicaraguan political parties; US funded NGOs and media all closely associated with the US allied MRS political party; a foreign-funded rural workers group; and very small numbers of unrepresentative, foreign-supported students. MRS leaders openly accept funding from the US authorities and lobby for support from fascist politicians like Marco Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. But Jenny Pearce thinks these components “express a democratising, ethical, equitable, environment and land-protecting politics from below.”

Another respected progressive academic, Belgium’s Eric Toussaint overtakes Pearce’s counterfactual analysis with deliberate outright disinformation. Toussaint’s latest attack starts with the long debunked falsehood, that Nicaragua’s proposed Social Security reform was dictated by the IMF. The reverse is true. The Nicaraguan government defended workers and pensioners against IMF proposals. That is why the government proposal was rejected by the right wing coup promoters who cleverly used mass manipulation via social networks and right wing media to mobilize ill-informed protesters. By contrast, Toussaint has no excuse for ignoring the clearly documented reality.

Among much other disinformation Toussaint, defends sinister individuals like Francisca Ramirez and Medardo Mairena who in recent years, regularly organized often violent roadblocks to protest against Nicaragua’s proposed inter-oceanic canal. In retrospect, they were clearly preparing for the recent coup attempt. During the attempted coup between April and July, Ramirez, Mairena and their violent thugs operated roadblocks intimidating and extorting local farmers and business people while ensuring free transit for their own supporters’ farm animals and produce. Medardo Mairena, earlier expelled from Costa Rica accused of people trafficking, now awaits trial for the murder of four police officers and a school teacher on July 12th just as the failed coup attempt was ending.

Right or Left, Western apologists for the attempted coup in Nicaragua cover up what is self-evident. The US authorities and their allies attack the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela precisely because they have democratized their societies and economies against Western and allied elite interests. This year’s failed coup attempt in Nicaragua faithfully copied the serial coup attempts in Venezuela since 2013. All these attacks have been organized and timed to facilitate US government sanctions aimed at regime change. Currently, on Nicaragua the big lie is that the crisis continues, when in fact it has been over since July and life quickly returned to complete normality.

Recycling falsehoods promoting the US regime change agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean corrupts democratic debate in the West and creates an alibi for the phony, anti-democratically framed elections of US allies like Brazil’s fascist ideologue Jair Bolsonaro. Clear-sighted anti-imperialist writers like Max Blumenthal, Kerry Ann Mendoza and Jonathan Cook, among many others, repeatedly make this same point. Untruthful foreign affairs coverage by the Western intellectual, NGO and media class, destroys democratic debate at home, to the benefit of NATO country elites. Western coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean, especially Nicaragua and Venezuela now, demonstrates that reality over and over again.

 

[Stephen Sefton lives in Nicaragua and is a founder of Tortilla con Sal.]

WATCH: UKRAINE ON FIRE

UKRAINE ON FIRE – The Real Story. Full Documentary by Oliver Stone (Original English version)

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“Ukraine. Across its eastern border is Russia and to its west—Europe. For centuries, it has been at the center of a tug-of-war between powers seeking to control its rich lands and access to the Black Sea. 2014’s Maidan Massacre triggered a bloody uprising that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and painted Russia as the perpetrator by Western media. But was it?

Ukraine on Fire by Igor Lopatonok provides a historical perspective for the deep divisions in the region which lead to the 2004 Orange Revolution, 2014 uprisings, and the violent overthrow of democratically elected Yanukovych. Covered by Western media as a people’s revolution, it was in fact a coup d’état scripted and staged by nationalist groups and the U.S. State Department. Investigative journalist Robert Parry reveals how U.S.-funded political NGOs and media companies have emerged since the 80s replacing the CIA in promoting America’s geopolitical agenda abroad.

Executive producer Oliver Stone gains unprecedented access to the inside story through his on-camera interviews with former President Viktor Yanukovych and Minister of Internal Affairs, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, who explain how the U.S. Ambassador and factions in Washington actively plotted for regime change. And, in his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Stone solicits Putin’s take on the significance of Crimea, NATO and the U. S’s history of interference in elections and regime change in the region.” [Source: Ukraine on Fire website]

 

The NGOisation of Nicaragua

Ymgyrch Cefnogi Nicaragua Cymru – Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign

August 6, 2018

 

A woman sweeps the Cuba Plaza backdropped by a mural depicting Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro and Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, in Managua, Nicaragua. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

It looks like the worst of the violence in Nicaragua is over. It would seem that the self-declared aim of the opposition – to remove Daniel Ortega from power – has failed, at least for now. Though it is likely that there will be sporadic outbreaks of further violence, both sides will now examine the reasons why protests over pensions turned into violent confrontation which led to 300 dead, and what looks like a soft coup (see here for an on the spot account by a US human rights activist) .

After the initial protests and deaths, the opposition coalesced around the Alianza Civica. Many of the players in this unlikely alliance came from the business sector (previously happy to sit down with the Sandindistas); civil society; and students. Some of the organisations were directly funded by the National Endowment for Democracy. Others had decided the wind was now blowing against the Ortega Presidency, and it was time to jump ship. All were held together by the ‘mediation’ of the Catholic Church. Ironically, the church could be said to have sown the seeds of a lot of the discontent with the Sandinista government when they manoeuvred to get rid of the right to abortion three weeks before the Presidential election in 2006, which the FSLN won after 16 years out of power.

Contradictions in the Nicaraguan opposition

If you want to find out what the opposition hoped for, you can do no worse than read this by Azahálea Solís (who was part of the National Dialogue), written shortly after the National Dialogue talks broke down at the end of May. The reality is this was the high point in the opposition to the Ortega government, with a single demand for him to step down with elections to follow quickly.

This was explicit from the beginning. Miami-born student leader Lesther Aleman received widespread praise from some sections of the Nicaraguan and international press when he told Daniel Ortega in the first Dialogue meeting: “This is not a dialogue table, it is a table to negotiate your departure, and you know it very well because it is the people who have requested it!… Surrender before the entire population!”

By the end of the third meeting at the end of May opposition organisations were actively encouraging a military coup. On June 1 electoral observation organisation Etica y Transparencia called on “the corresponding authorities to ensure the appearance in the courts of these two (Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo) thus-far alleged criminals” and on the Army to “ensure implementation of the prompt and necessary arrests, as well as  a fair trial.” Etica y Transparenica have long received National Endowment for Democracy funding through the National Democratic Institute. In 2012 one of EyT’s leading lights made the jump in the other direction after 11 years with Etica y Transparencia. Abril Perez became a Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, where she still works today.

Seen from two months on, it’s easy to see that if the opposition had not obsessed with removing Ortega here and now via a soft coup, instead of making changes to the electoral system and timetable (which was already being discussed with the Organisation of American States), then they would now be in a strong position. The OAS said that electoral reform proposals would be presented to the government in January 2019.

Instead, the Alianza went down the road of more road blocks, more confrontation, more economic pain. Or what Michael Healy, one of the business leaders in the National Dialogue, stated: “We are willing to pay the price [of continued street conflict] to see Ortega leave.” The reality was, of course, it wasn’t Healy and his fellow members of the Alianza who were paying the price on the streets. Their position is comprehensively taken apart here, describing the contradictions which existed within the Alianza.

Contradictions at home

Those same contradictions exist with those who having been supporting the opposition outside of Nicaragua – Wales and the UK included. At first glance their criticism of the FSLN governments since 2007 comes from the left. Ortega has betrayed Sandinismo, with Nicaragua’s neo-liberal ‘navigation of capitalist waters’ (as one journalist described it to us in February). It is curious then to see SOSNicaraguaUK re-tweeting messages from Florida Republican Congress members, some of the most reactionary in the US. Stranger still to see them re-tweeting Trump Vice President Mike Pence, who’s politics are straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale. The VP for Gilead has called for the removal of a string of governments in Latin America.

Many of the opposition supporters in the UK have had long relationships with Nicaraguan NGOs. Many of the NGOs sprung up after the chaos that engulfed Nicaragua when the revolution ended in 1990. The huge experiment in participatory democracy in 1980s Nicaragua cleaved into two halves – a ‘professional’ NGO sector which attracted foreign funding, and grassroots organisations (‘GROs’, like the co-operatives, unions and the Movimiento Comunal) which were left to themselves. Their fates couldn’t have been more different. From 1990 to 2005 NGO numbers grew from 300 to 2,000, and their funding grew from $90 million in 2000 to $289 million in 2005. GROs fared less well. Trade union membership fell from 22% in 1989 to less than 8% in 2008. The number of co-operatives fell from 3,800 to 400 in 1999 (see here for an excellent analysis of the NGOisation of Nicaragua). The success of the NGOs were due to neo-liberal programmes emphasising the sector over governments, and many of the brigadistas during the 80s moving into positions within aid and funding agencies, and channelling funds to ‘trusted partners’ in Nicaragua.

To a great extent this has been reversed since the FSLN regained power in 2007. Trade unions membership has grown considerably, and the number of co-operatives has passed 4,500. At the same time the funding of NGOs in Nicaragua has been squeezed, as donor countries have either chosen to prioritise other regions, or have refused to support an Ortega-led Nicaragua.

Accountable to whom?

What has all this got to do with the unrest? Many of Nicaragua’s NGOs have thrown in their lot with the opposition. Many of the grassroots organisations – like the ATC, the Co-operative sector, and the Movimiento Comunal – have continued to call for support for the National Dialogue. Unlike the trade unions, these three have no formal link with the FSLN. On many occasions they have challenged the government on their policies. But they still were quick to support the dialogue.

The difference between the NGOs and GROs is striking for a very important reason, one which was highlighted by the research above. The grassroots organisations are constituted from the ground up, accountable to their members, and speak on their behalf. The NGOs have no formal accountability to their beneficiaries (they rarely have members), and are more accountable to their donors than Nicaraguans. As we have noted elsewhere, many of the most vocal organisations in the opposition have received over $4 million from the National Endowment for Democracy over the past four years. Even more striking, USAID pumped $31 million into Nicaragua last year.

What is puzzling is that many of the supporters of SOSNicaraguaUK know this. Many have visited Nicaragua for decades, have long lasting friendships within the NGOs, but have also worked with the grassroots organisations.

So why have they decided to privilege the viewpoint of the NGO sector, whilst ignoring independent organisations in Nicaragua which are democratic and bottom-up, and who call for a National Dialogue as the best way to avoid further bloodshed in the country? Here are some of the views from Nicaragua they don’t share.

Extract from Statement by ATC, May 17 (Association de Trabajadores del Campo has 52,000 members, and is a member of Via Campesina)

Historically, the ATC has been a participant in the Sandinista struggle. In truth, we have not felt consulted or represented by the current FSLN government. The current coup attempt makes use of these historical contradictions and is trying to co-opt the symbols, slogans, poems and songs of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution, since of course the rightwing has none of its own. However we may feel about Daniel Ortega, the ATC would never contribute to making chaos and sowing violence in order to force the collapse of the democratically elected government in order to install a more docile, Washington-friendly neoliberal government. There are clearly real frustrations in sectors of the
population, especially youth, and if these sectors are unable to find popular organizing processes, they will end up being the cannon fodder for a war, which would be the worst possible situation for the Nicaraguan people.

Extract from statement by SOPPEXCCA, July 12 (SOPPEXCCA is a second tier co-operative with 15 co-operatives made up of 650 families. Similar statements have been issued by the co-operative sector body CONACOOP).

‘The UCA SOPPEXCCA, as an entity of organised small producers, promotes a culture of peace, harmony, respect for the law and democratic participation.

We therefore give our support to peaceful solutions and call for an end to the culture of violence generated in our country owing to the events that we are experiencing and which affect us both individually and collectively, since the peace that we enjoyed in our Nicaragua disappeared in the most abrupt and tempestuous fashion.

We feel the grief of many Nicaraguan families who have lost loved ones, tranquillity and have to face up to the consequences.

We, as Nicaraguans, will also face consequences as it is evident that there will be an economic slowdown that will affect the majority of our people, especially the poorest families, the majority.

Sadly, many dreams are being left behind as we wait for the shining light of peace to emerge again; reconciliation and work will be our standard bearers as we endeavour to lift our country out of the poverty levels we find ourselves in.

U2’s Bono and The CIA: The Dangers of Celebrity Activists

American Herald Tribune

August 2, 2018

By Thomas C Mountain

 

U2’s Bono picked a Capo Grande from the US intelligence community to run his “One” NGO, choosing Gayle Smith, who as Senior Director of the US National Security Council and Special Advisor to President Barack Obama used to tell the CIA what to do, especially when it came to Africa.

Ms. Smith, also known as “Obama’s Quiet Consigliere”, is infamous for her heart felt eulogy based on over 30 years of friendship at the funeral for Meles Zenawi, today Ethiopia’s “No.1 Most Hated Person”.

Previously head of USAID, known in Cuba as USCIA, Ms. Smith got her start putting time in the front lines for the agency, fresh out of college, spending years as a “journalist” (clergy and journalists are two of the CIA’s favorite covers) in the Horn of Africa of all places.

After years of paying her dues “where diarrhea is a way of life”, she became a favorite of Madeline Albright and was awarded the Chief of Staff position at USAID in 1994 only three years after ending her journalism career. Think about it, “Award Winning Journalist” to day to day control of some 10,000 employees and Billion$ to spend in only 3 years? USAID or USCIA?

+++

Bono, who recently found himself forced to apologize after his “One” staff in South Africa sued them for sexual harassment, makes sure those that labor for his good causes are well compensated, at least at the top, with Ms. Smith pulling down close to $500,000 a year.

Speaking of ethics Bono’s name turned up in the Panama Papers, hey, the guy hates taxes, who doesn’t?

Of course for NGO’s fighting on the right side, fat salaries and juicy perks are S.O.P. with “overhead” accounting for 50% or more of expenditures.

Gayle Smith has put the CIA and a pretty impressive list of NGO’s on the same page and was the person most responsible for founding the Center for American Progress, whose boss, John Podesta chaired the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign. Then there is the Enough Project as in “Enough of the CIA’s Enough Project in Africa” and its mouthpiece, George Clooney, founded by Ms. Smith and infamous for occasionally emitting brays of outrage regarding some crime in Africa, often times over matters long past. Does the name John Prendergast ring a bell?

Ms. Smith’s proved her value to the Clinton Mafia as head of the Africa desk at the National Security Council in 1998-2000 under Tony Lake, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, when the Ethiopian gangster government under Meles Zenawi invaded Eritrea, a crime today’s Ethiopian P.M. has apologized for. Close to 150,000 dead and 40% of Eritreans refugees, Gayle Smith and Tony Lake were out to get newly independent Eritrea on its knees where it belonged and tried to use Ethiopia to do its dirty work. And when war didn’t work they brought on UN Security Council sanctions against Eritrea in 2009 when Ms. Smith returned to the White House as “Barry O’Bomber’s” right hand and saw that Susan Rice was turned loose at the UN to threaten and cajole enough votes at the UN Security Council.

The history of most of the crimes directed by Gayle Smith remain buried deep in the bowels of the US intel community, with yet unknown acts of sabotage and destabilization committed by “humanitarians” working for the USAID in politically troubled spots on the planet.

One thing is for sure that when celebrity activists like Bono and George Clooney get involved in the 3rd World, those supposedly benefiting by their charity had better watch out for celebrity wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing

.

*(Bono Vox (U2) Toronto Int. Film Festival 2011 Image credit: Marco Manna/ flickr)

 

 

[Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist in Eritrea, living and  reporting from here since 2006. See thomascmountain on Facebook or  best contact him at thomascmountain at g mail dot com.]

Building Movement Politics Means Fighting Democrats

Black Agenda Report

March 29, 2018

By Glen Ford

Building Movement Politics Means Fighting Democrats
 

In the absence of a renewed, grassroots street offensive against the armed occupation of Black communities, there will be no relief from the daily slaughter.”

 

Cops “have the right to shoot us, they get away with it every day,” said a despairing Dawnya Walker, one of 300 community residents that descended on Sacramento, California’s city hall to protest the police killing of Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard . The numbers show that Walker is correct: U.S. police enjoy near-absolute impunity to gun down young Black males without any reasonable fear of punishment. Eight years of a Black, Democratic president in the Oval Office made not the slightest dent in that American reality, despite the re-emergence in 2014 of an incipient social justice movement under the heading of Black Lives Matter.

The youthful insurgency lost momentum — waylaid by the inexorable pull of Democratic Party politics and corporate philanthropy — long before Donald Trump entered the White House and installed a pure Dixiecrat as attorney general. Trumpian malevolence cast an orange chill across Black America. “It has been a long time since any victim was given as much attention as Stephon Clark,” writes Margaret Kimberley, in the current of issue of BAR.

“We are enveloped in a toxic miasma of Russia-hate that, by sheer weight and repetition, has infested every aspect of American political thought.”

There is “movement” afoot in the U.S., but it does not “arc towards justice.” Ever since Trump’s electoral victory, the collective national consciousness has been smothered in a maddening fog of manic, industrial-scale propaganda, spewed non-stop by corporate communications conglomerates working hand-in-glove with the most aggressive elements of the surveillance-intelligence “community” and the bi-partisan War Party. We are enveloped in a toxic miasma of Russia-hate that, by sheer weight and repetition, has infested every aspect of American political thought, distorting and subverting even the most progressive-minded “movements” struggling to find a way towards human dignity under late stage capitalism in a profoundly racist country. Voices for peace and social justice are asphyxiated in the pestilential plume — unless they find their own air.

Damn right, there is a conspiracy — possibly the loudest one in history! — megaphoned by a billionaire-owned media screaming “War, War, War” day and night, fouling the public mind with pure reactionary malice. The duopoly contest has devolved into a dance of death between Donald Trump’s raw white supremacist nationalism and Democratic Party corporate imperial warmongering. Only fools claim there is space for progressive maneuver in the interstices between such forces.

“The Democratic Party remains under the firm control of the Clinton/Obama forces that reinforced mass Black incarceration in the Nineties and militarized the police in this century.”

What is needed is clarity among genuine leftists and serious Black liberationists in the face of rampaging reaction. There is no lesser evil in this house of fear and apocalyptic brinksmanship. The Democrats have colluded in a budget whose gargantuan military outlays will inevitably doom what’s left of the U.S. social safety net — that is, if the human race is not annihilated, beforehand. They have replaced and outshouted the John McCain’s and Lindsay Graham’s of the Republican Party in demonizing, not just Vladimir Putin, but every government and movement in the world that resists U.S. lawlessness and aggression.

The Democratic Party remains under the firm control of the Clinton/Obama forces that reinforced mass Black incarceration in the Nineties and militarized the police at unprecedented levels in this century through the Pentagon’s 1033 program. In the absence of a renewed, grassroots street offensive against the armed occupation of Black communities, there will be no relief from the daily slaughter and the accompanying political evisceration of Black America.

Yes, it is certain that Trump’s very presence encourages the most swinish elements of the police. But it is also true that the Democrats — including Black Democrats — have controlled the city governments that maintain the police state in Black neighborhoods and relentlessly disperse our people through gentrification.

“What is needed is clarity among genuine leftists and serious Black liberationists in the face of rampaging reaction.”

And now it is the Democrats that take the lead in purging the Internet of dissenting political views, under the guise of defending fragile American minds against foreign manipulation. Silicon Valley — the big business sector most supportive of Clinton/Obama Democrats — is thus given license to shape reality in ways that make corporate dictatorship appear both logical and inevitable. Trump’s troglodytes could never finesse such a hijacking of fundamental democratic rights, but the Democrats are pulling it off with alarming speed. There’s nothing “lesser” about this evil.

When the Democrats got their wish, that Trump win the Republican presidential nomination, they became the predominant party of the U.S. ruling class and the most aggressive defenders of empire. Into Hillary Clinton’s campaign “Big Tent” slivered the dregs of the national security state, for whom peaceful coexistence among nations is anathema. Bernie Sanders cannot purge them from their central position in the party. The World Socialist Web Site reports that “an extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.” By WSWS’s count, if the Democrats capture a majority of seats in the House this November, “candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress.”

Such a party is incompatible with any domestic social justice agenda — and a threat to the survival of the species. The Left’s job is to disentangle our people from the political clutches of the ruling class and to build independent people’s organizations. The Republicans are a white people’s problem, but Black activists cannot confront the police, the oligarchs or the warmongers without fighting the Democrats.

 

[BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com]

March for Eight Billion Lives: An Interview with Riva Enteen

 

An Interview with Riva Enteen

March 28, 2018

by Ann Garrison 

March for Eight Billion Lives: An Interview with Riva Enteen
 
“Of course we support the cause of protecting lives, but there is an exceptionalism to believing it only applies to American lives and especially white lives.”

Organizers of the upcoming Women’s March on the Pentagon are calling on the Democratic Party-sponsored Women’s March and March for Our Lives to expand their message to include the eight billion lives on the planet, all of which are imperiled by US weapons and wars. I spoke to Riva Enteen, a former National Lawyers Guild Program Director and a member of the steering committee for the October Women’s March on the Pentagon.

Ann Garrison: Riva, how would you like to see the March for Our Lives message expanded?

Riva Enteen: We must expand the message in two ways. First, we must acknowledge that US wars and domestic gun violence are intertwined. Our military budget is obscene, and the majority of Democrats voted with Republicans to give both Trump and the Pentagon more money than they asked for this year. Three Republican Senators joined the five Democratic Senators who voted against the $700 billion 2018 military budget. This has normalized carrying and using guns, which now include military-grade weapons on our streets. ?

“Gun control should begin at the Pentagon.”

Secondly, we have to be concerned with all lives, from Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School to Yemen. The US military is by far the largest arms dealer in the world, and it’s common knowledge that much of its weaponry ends up with those that our government calls “terrorists” and claims to be fighting. The US calls the terrorists it arms “rebels,” as in Syria, or “friends and allies,” as in Israel and Saudi Arabia. Gun control should begin at the Pentagon.

The endless “War on Terror” emerged after 9-11, which became the excuse for war as a constant, not an aberration. Until we rein in the US’s determination to exert hegemony over the whole world, we will continue to see blood spilled here while, at the same time, our missiles rain down on innocents in the name of specious “humanitarian intervention” and stopping terrorism. There is an irony to the US invoking the term “humanitarian intervention,” as it publicly abandons and scorns international law, bombing civilians and even hospitals.

AG: I counted ninety geographically distinct manifestations of the Democratic Party promoting their participation in the March for Our Lives, and all the march and voter registration logos and banners were blue. Your thoughts on that?

RE: The Democratic Party contained the message and excluded the call for peace, just as they did with the two Women’s Marches. It is counter-intuitive that a women’s march and a students’ march wouldn’t talk about peace, with the US at war in at least seven countries and no end in sight. But the Democrats, who promoted the Women’s Marches and the March for Our Lives, are a pro-war party. Peace is not on their agenda. War is a bi-partisan policy because, according to Wall Street, war is good for business, and that’s who controls our government.

At the beginning of his second term, after the December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Obama said that he would address gun control and sounded convincing. A year earlier, in 2011 he had bragged, “In fact, my administration has not curtailed the rights of gun owners—it has expanded them, including allowing people to carry their guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.”

“It is counter-intuitive that a women’s march and a students’ march wouldn’t talk about peace, with the US at war in at least seven countries and no end in sight.”

Attempts to limit the size of gun magazines, expand background checks of gun buyers, and ban gun sales to buyers on terrorism watch lists all failed to pass under Obama, when he had a Democratic House and Senate, from January 2009 to January 2013, and when he had a Democratic Senate, from January 2013 to January 2017.

Stand-your-ground laws, which George Zimmerman successfully used in his defense for killing unarmed Trayvon Martin, have expanded to more states, even though Obama lamented that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.

AG: The March for Our Lives and the Women’s Marches have enormous corporate and celebrity support as well as the Democratic Party’s. They’re able to hire all kinds of staff to work full time on networking and turning out their huge crowds. Can you imagine getting any of that kind of support for the October Women’s March on the Pentagon?

RE: Of course we imagine getting support from all peace-loving people. Unfortunately, most corporations benefit from war so they would not support the cause of peace. We do believe there are celebrities who will step up to the plate and do the right thing, because the stakes are so high. This march commemorates the 1967 March on the Pentagon, which included celebrities such as Norman Mailer getting arrested.

AG: The Pentagon now admittedly has more money than it can figure out how to spend, so its surplus weapons go to militarize the police who are most aggressive in Black and Brown neighborhoods. Anything you’d like to say about that?

RE: Military grade weapons have no place in domestic neighborhoods, not in the hands of police officers, veterans with PTSD, or civilians. People from other countries are shocked at what we allow on our streets. The normalization of killing includes domestic massacres perpetrated with these military-grade weapons.

As to police killings in Black and Brown neighborhoods, it remains open season, just as it did under Obama, even when Black Lives Matter was at its strongest. I guess we can hope a precedent was set by South Carolina cop Michael Slager’s second degree murder conviction for shooting Walter Scott— an unarmed Black man—in the back.

AG: Some March for Our Lives supporters are likely to get defensive and ask whether you’re refusing to support their cause. What would you say to them?

RE: Of course we support the cause of protecting lives, but there is an exceptionalism to believing it only applies to American lives and especially white lives. In a promotional video that Democracy Now played repeatedly during their broadcast of the Washington, DC March for Our Lives, former US soldiers said that they’d learned how to put assault rifles to good purpose in US wars, but didn’t want them aimed at US citizens.

Isn’t it time to stop aiming those guns—and our missiles, fighter jets, and drones—at the rest of the world? My mother was a member of Women Strike for Peace, founded in 1961 with the slogan “Stop the Arms Race, Not the Human Race,” and that has never been more true.

Women, the givers of life, are confronting the Pentagon in Washington, DC, October 20-21. We hope that all peace-loving people will consider this a chance to make a stand for peace. There will be local antiwar actions springing up, as they did during Occupy, so keep your ear to the ground, and watch for updates on our website and our Facebook page .

 

[Riva Enteen is a former Program Director of the National Lawyer’s Guild, and a current member of the steering committee for the Women’s March on the Pentagon, who lives in South Lake Tahoe. She was also chair of the first KPFA Local Station Board. She can be reached at rivaenteen@gmail.com .]

[Ann Garrison is an independent journalist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes Region. She can be reached at @AnnGarrison or ann@kpfa.org .]

Is It Time to Critically Interrogate Nonviolence & Nonviolent Direct Action?

Black Agenda Report

March 15, 2018

By Doug Henwood

time to question nonviolence

Time to question nonviolent direct action as the path to change.

Activism. Democracy. Change through nonviolent direct action. These, Doug Henwood points out, have been fetishes for much of the US left for quite some time, especially that portion of the US left that takes its marching orders from corporate funders. Gene Sharp, the founder of the Albert Einstein Institute who passed away at the end of January was regarded as the father of American nonviolent direct action.

I usually write a weekly piece for Black Agenda Report, but this time I’m going to use that space to republish somebody else’s work, easily the most important thing I’ve heard so far this month. It’s an hour long Doug Henwood interview for the weekly radio show Behind The News on KPFA radio. Doug talks with Marcie Smith, who is writing a book on Sharp’s long and problematic career in the service of the US national security apparatus. Smith is an adjunct econ professor at John Jay College. She reveals how Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institute which he founded weaponized and deployed nonviolent direct action in the service of successful and unsuccessful US attempts to overthrow the governments of the Soviet Union, Ukraine, China, Myannmar, Iran, Egypt during the Arab Spring, Venezuela, the former Yugoslavia and the Baltic States.

Besides deploying nonviolent direct action to topple governments standing in the way of Uncle Sam’s global empire, Gene Sharp and his funders have mentored a good deal of what some regard as the US left – at least those parts of it under the influence of one-percenter philanthropy – in the tactics and what passes for the philosophy of nonviolent direct action. According to Sharp’s and the Albert Einstein Institute’s peculiar philosophy, property destruction is violence, while the ravages of poverty and deprivation, of economic blockades and lack of medical care just to name a few phenomena, are not. Sharp’s views on the methods and importance of nonviolent direct action are highly influential in such quarters as Moral Monday and the so-called New Poor Peoples Campaign, parts of the environmental movement, and other places. Whether or not we embrace or espouse nonviolent direct action as an occasional tactic or a bedrock and fundamental strategy we owe it to ourselves to understand the origin of this idea, why the national security state promotes it, how and for whom it works and does not work, and why.

It’s time to critically interrogate the fetishes of nonviolence and nonviolent direct action as a path to the world we need to build. This great interview is a good start to that conversation. Here is the link. Click to listen or download it.

 

[You can find Doug Henwood’s Behind the News shows archived for the last several years at http://leftbusinessobserver.com .]