'False accusations and major leaps of logic'

December 10, 2007

In the last instalment of a recent exchange that was sparked by Green Left Weekly's interview with Eva Golinger (GLW #716, June 28, 2007), Professor Steven Zunes accused me of having made a "series of false accusations and major leaps of logic" in my critical assessment of the links that the non-profit International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) maintains with the United States' leading democracy manipulators. (Online edition only). Taking into account that Zunes currently chairs the ICNC's board of academic advisors, his distress over the facts I have revealed is understandable. Thus, in an effort to address all of Zunes' unfounded concerns with my last article, I will work through each of the points he has raised concerning my critique of the ICNC.

Firstly, while the ICNC's president, Jack DuVall, and the former head of the CIA, James Woolsey, briefly concurrently served on the board of directors of the Arlington Institute, Zunes claims that "they never once engaged in a one-on-one conversation". This of course is hard for me to judge, but by highlighting this strange link I was by no means suggesting that DuVall and Woolsey were chums, rather I was pointing out that it was significant that someone at the Arlington Institute saw fit to have both of them on their board of directors at the same time. Moreover given the ICNC's fleeting acquaintance with the CIA at the Arlington Institute, it is intriguing to observe that in late 2005 the ICNC's founding chair, Peter Ackerman, became chair of the neo-conservative Freedom House, replacing none other than Woolsey (who had served in that same position since 2003).

In response to my critique of the ICNC, Zunes goes on to note that I was incorrect in noting that Ackerman was not a director of the Albert Einstein Institute "until recently". He correctly points out that Ackerman relinquished this board position five years ago. I accept this point. Perhaps it would have been more accurate for me to have written that Ackerman was associated with the Albert Einstein Institute "until [fairly] recently". Zunes adds that I did not explain why he [Zunes] was disingenuous for claiming that no operational ties existed between the ICNC and the Albert Einstein Institute. Yet, as he must realise, I simply stated that – given the obvious Ackerman link – he was being a little disingenuous (even if technically he was telling the truth) when he wrote that the ICNC "has never had a single operational meeting with anyone representing" the Albert Einstein Institute. Indeed, as I previously documented, in March 2005 the ICNC, "in collaboration with the Albert Einstein Institute" hosted a workshop for Venezuelans on non-violent conflict; furthermore, the ICNC's current director of programs and research, Hardy Merriman, came to this position after working for three years at the Albert Einstein Institute with the institute's founder Gene Sharp. Here it is interesting to briefly examine the sources of funds for the Albert Einstein Institute's work.

Although a complete documentary record of the Albert Einstein Institute's funding relationships is presently unavailable (online at least), a summary of its work between 1993 and 1999 provides a list of its supporters over this time period. The most "democratic" of these financial contributors included the US Institute for Peace (USIP), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (one of the NED's four core grantees), and the German-based Friedrich Naumann Stiftung. The Albert Einstein Institute also received aid from two other key democracy-manipulating liberal philanthropists, the Ford Foundation and George Soros' Open Society Institute. (For further information on the problems associated with liberal philanthropy see Joan Roelofs' excellent 2003 book Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism.)

As a slight aside, it is worth noting that another (very) recent critique of liberal foundations' co-optive strategies is INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence's book, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded (2007). However, it is perhaps ironic that their book has this title because – as I and others have demonstrated in previous articles – revolutions are funded, that is so long as they serve imperial interests. Unfortunately, the aforementioned book is referring a forthcoming revolution in the US, which – as they correctly diagnose – will most certainly not be funded by liberal philanthropists or any other "democratic"elites.

Sadly, the analyses presented by Roelofs and INCITE! are not new ones, but nonetheless they contain critically important ideas for any groups or individuals wishing to promote participatory democracy without elite interference. Indeed, one of the most important books exploring the detrimental influence of liberal foundations on progressive social change was Robert Arnove's Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (1980). In the introduction to this edited collection Arnove notes that: "A central thesis [of this book] is that foundations like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford have a corrosive influence on a democratic society; they represent relatively unregulated and unaccountable concentrations of power and wealth which buy talent, promote causes, and, in effect, establish an agenda of what merits society's attention. They serve as 'cooling-out' agencies, delaying and preventing more radical, structural change. They help maintain an economic and political order, international in scope, which benefits the ruling-class interests of philanthropists and philanthropoids – a system which, as the various chapters document, has worked against the interests of minorities, the working class, and Third World peoples."

Other important, but little mentioned, books that clearly document how the larger liberal foundations work hand-in-hand with the US foreign policy elites include Edward H. Berman's 1983 The Ideology of Philanthropy: The Influence of the Carnegie, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations, and Frances Stonor Saunders' more recent (1999) title, Who Paid the Piper?: CIA and the Cultural Cold War. Another essay that has done much to raise awareness of such issues in the activist community is James Petras' 1999 seminal article NGOs: In the Service of Imperialism.

While influential books like John Pilger's The New Rulers of the World (2002) acknowledge how liberal foundations crafted the entire political arena – known as international relations – most mainstream books – like Pilger's – do not subject the work of such foundations to any degree of sustained criticism. Thus, it is supremely ironic that progressive activists tend to underestimate (or at least do not write or talk about) the influence of liberal philanthropists, while simultaneously acknowledging the fundamental role played by conservative philanthropists in promoting neo-liberal policies. Indeed, contrary to popular beliefs amongst progressives, much evidence supports the contention that liberal philanthropists and their foundations have been very influential in shaping the contours of North American (and global) civil society, actively influencing social change through a process alternatively referred to as either channelling or co-option.

Returning to Zunes' critique of my last article, he takes offence that I draw attention to the ICNC staff's impressive military links – as outlined in my first GLW article. Again, he may have a point that the ICNC has no "current links" to the military, but I base my assertion upon the former links (and note that, if its staff do have current military ties, it is not expected that they would advertise them in their online biographies). To repeat my earlier statement on this subject: not including Duvall, three of ICNC's six "principals of non-violence were trained within the heart of the military-industrial complex.

"ICNC vice-chair Berel Rodal was formerly director-general of the policy secretariat in Canada's Department of National Defence; ICNC manager of educational initiatives Dr Maria J. Stephan, has worked 'at the U.S. Department of Defense and with the international staff at NATO Headquarters in Brussels'; and Shaazka Beyerle (former vice-president turned senior advisor of ICNC) is a founding vice-president of the European Institute (another group that is well linked to the 'democracy' establishment)."

For those unfamiliar with the European Institute, this public-policy organisation presents a strange mix of liberals and warmongers which includes: board member R. Michael Gadbaw, who is a director of the NED/USIP-funded Partners for Democratic Change; director emeriti, Robert B. Zoellick, who was a signatory of the January 26, 1998 "Project for the New American Century" letter sent to President Clinton; and advisory board member, Robert E. Hunter, who is also chairman of the Council for a Community of Democracies and acts as a senior international consultant to the largest arms manufacturer in the world, Lockheed Martin.

Zunes raises concerns about my suggestion that his affiliation to the ICNC serves to "insulate many of its anti-democratic funders from serious criticism", as he is apparently "not aware of any 'anti-democratic' entities or individuals who fund ICNC". I concede it would have been more accurate had I stated his affiliation to the ICNC helps insulate its two anti-democratic funders from serious criticism. Only two people, according to the ICNC's latest IRS 990 forms – Peter Ackerman and his wife Joanne Leedom-Ackerman – fund the ICNC. In fact, the ICNC's IRS 990 forms demonstrate that the two Ackermans funded the centre to the tune of US$1 million each in 2003, then provided the centre with $1.6 million each the following year, and, most recently, in 2005 they gave the ICNC a massive $1.8 million each.

It is fitting that I should highlight why the two Ackermans are anti-democratic: I refer to them as being anti-democratic in the sense that they aim to promote low-intensity or neo-liberal forms of democracy rather than the more participatory kind of democracy usually favoured by progressive activists. Joanne Leedom-Ackerman has served on the board of the Albert Einstein Institute, and is currently a director of the International Center for Journalists (which receives funding from the NED, the Center for International Private Enterprise, and Boeing Corporation among many others). Joanne is also a director of International Crisis Group (ICG), a NGO catering to many of the same "democracy manipulators" as those found at the NED.

Unlike the NED, the ICG is a truly multilateral "democracy" venture, as evidenced by the wide variety of governments, foundations and corporations that fund its work: two key groups that finance its activities are the USIP and George Soros' Open Society Institute. At the ICG, Leedom-Ackerman rubs boardroom shoulders with "democratic" notables like George Soros, NED director Morton Abramowitz; former NED directors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Wesley Kanne Clark; Ayo Obe (who is the chair of the steering committee of the NED-founded World Movement for Democracy); Kenneth Adelman (who has been associated with the Project for a New American Century, and is a trustee of Freedom House); Douglas Schoen (who is the founding partner of Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates – a firm that works closely with the NED), and the former president of the Philippines, Fidel V. Ramos, (who himself was a beneficiary of a NED-hijacked revolution in the late 1980s).

Likewise, Peter Ackerman is chair of the neo-conservative Freedom House, and sits on the USIP's US advisory council. In addition, while serving as a director of the Albert Einstein Institute, Ackerman along with Jack Duvall co-authored the widely celebrated book A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict (2000). It is particularly interesting to note that despite Ackerman and DuVall's associations with the NED crowd, they evince a highly selective memory of their "democratic" associates when it comes to their work – only mentioning the NED and USIP in passing in their book. The authors' apparent lack of concern for interrogating the role of the principal manipulators of many successful revolutions since the early 1980s makes more sense when it is understood that the USIP helped fund the production of the documentary version of their book: a documentary that was co-produced for PBS by York Zimmerman, Inc. and WETA of Washington (of which DuVall had previously been vice president for program resources). Not surprisingly, in recent years, York Zimmerman has been a major recipient of ICNC largesse, as in 2003 it received US$1.3 million from the ICNC, while the following year this was upped to $2.2 million.

Further, Zunes rejects my well-substantiated evidence of "links between the ICNC and US foreign policy elites", noting such links have never involved "anything more than occasional passing conversations at receptions and luncheons with State Department". Why ICNC staff should be dining at the State Department is none of my business, but if this really is the true extent of their ties, why did the ICNC co-sponsor a conference earlier this year with a number of groups, most notable of which were the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, and the USIP? (This International Conference on Civil Resistance and Power Politics was held at Oxford University in the UK from the 15 to 18 March 2007).

Other than Sharp and Ackerman, notably "democratic" speakers at this ICNC-sponsored conference included Abbas Milani (who is the co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution – incidentally the project's two other co-directors are Larry Diamond and Michael McFaul, both of whom have intimate relations with the NED), Stephen W. Bosworth (who was formerly the president of the US Japan Foundation, and has served as the US ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Tunisia, and to the Philippines), Wang Juntao (who formerly published the NED-funded magazine Beijing Spring), Timothy Garton Ash (who is a former governor of the British version of the NED, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and is a member of an elite group of "human rights" activists that Herman refers to as The New Humanitarians), Lucy Austin Nusseibeh (who is the founder of the NED-funded group Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy, and is married to Sari Nusseibeh, an individual whom many Palestinians consider to be an Israeli collaborator), and Ghia Nodia (who serves on the steering committee of the NED-founded World Movement for Democracy).

Given Zunes failure to respond to many of the points in my previous articles, and that I addressed all of his comments in my last response, it is strange that he notes that I "failed to respond" to his "most important point" which challenged my (apparently false) contention that the ICNC's "actual unstated objective… is to help promote revolutions in geo-strategically useful countries". I dispute this, as the entire point of last few articles was to present substantiated evidence to support that contention. The fact that Zunes claims that I am "totally wrong" in asserting that he maintains associations with anti-democratic elites illustrates how blinkered he is to valid review. Zunes fervently believes that it is not possible for him to make such an elemental mistake as working alongside anti-democratic elites – despite actually doing so – thus, we have it on his word that any criticism is unwarranted.

Given his disinterest in acknowledging the problems of the ICNC's "democratic" ties, it is consistent with his behaviour that Zunes, like Ackerman and Duvall, should employ a highly selective theoretical framework in his writings that only pays lip service to the work of the international "democracy promoting" community. Thus, in a book he co-edited called the Nonviolent Social Movements: A Geographical Perspective (1999), he concludes the introduction by noting that [t]he process of democratization is often coopted into programs of polyarchy (i.e., bourgeois democracy) and neo-liberalism by the United States and international financial institutions so as to prevent popular democracy from taking root (e.g., see Robinson 1996)." So, given that he refers to Robinson's seminal book, Promoting Polyarchy, it is strange that the rest of the book does not make any reference to Robinson's work or the ideas promoted within it.

Of course, there are clear limits to my critique of the ICNC, and I freely admit that all I have done so far is demonstrate how its work is closely associated with that of key democracy-manipulating elites. It would, of course, be very interesting to see a list of all the groups that the Albert Einstein Institute and the ICNC have worked with in the past, and I would be happy to investigate the nature of these organisations if Zunes could kindly provide me with access to some of their internal files.

However, given the scarcity of publicly available information on the ICNC's work, I am limited to using the little information available on its IRS 990 forms, which shows, for example, that in 2005 it paid the neo-conservative Freedom House to organise a series of educational seminars. (As I mentioned in a previous article, former ICNC director of programs and research, Kim Hedge, now serves as the program coordinator for Freedom House's civil mobilization program.)

ICNC's IRS 990 forms also illustrate that it hosted a workshop in Dubai (on April 18, 2005) – which was conducted by the Center for Advanced Nonviolent Action and Strategies – for Iranians selected by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. The ICNC's choice of working with the latter group is particularly informative as in the 2005 Financial Year the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center received $1 million from the US Department of States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Unsurprisingly this group is also linked to the NED via one of their directors, Roya Boroumand, who is the executive director of the NED-funded Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation which received NED grants in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006.

Given the unmitigated support Zunes provides for the ICNC, it is fitting that in his last article he should attempt to help shield the USIP from my criticisms (a group that may be considered the NED's partner organisation). This is in spite of the fact that Zunes acknowledges that "much of USIP's leadership comes from the US foreign policy establishment and much of its agenda reflects that". Further, he is unable to believe that a (military/peace) organisation like the Orwellian USIP, might be, as Right Web notes, "mandated to conduct … operations traditionally conducted by intelligence agencies". Why this should be a surprise is anyone's guess. Right Web is referring to the type of support that the CIA used to provide to leftist groups (a topic covered in depth by Roelofs, Berman, and Saunders), that is, providing selective support to more conservative activist groups to help undermine the promotion of participatory democracy. So it is not really so surprising to observe that the USIP recently facilitated the creation of the Iraq Study Group, a group that Larry Chin (in 2006) described as "another official damage control apparatus, spearheaded by notorious Western political and corporate elites, former military-intelligence officers, and 'experts' from right wing and intelligence-connected Western think tanks – one of which is the US Institute for Peace itself." Moreover, in a (very) recent article, I demonstrate the "democratic" connections of all ten members of the USIP's Iraq Study Group.

There is no doubt that both the NED and the USIP support some progressive activists, however, arguably, the funding of such individuals and groups is an essential part of their modus operandi. In the same way, it is not surprising that in the 1960s while the Ford Foundation was supporting the more conservative elements of the US Civil Rights Movement (which played an important role in de-radicalising the movement), they were working closely with the CIA. Moreover, according to Naomi Klein's new book The Shock Doctrine (2007), around this time the Ford Foundation was also the "leading source of funding for the dissemination of the Chicago School ideology throughout Latin America". Thus Ford-funded institutions played a "central role in the overthrow of Chile's democracy, and its former students… appl[ied] their US education in a context of shocking brutality. Making matters more complicated for the foundation, this was the second time in just a few years that its protégés had chosen a violent route to power, the first case being the Berkeley Mafia's meteoric rise to power in Indonesia after Suharto's bloody [1965-66] coup."

Thus, in addition to helping shelter their less credible funding activities from critical enquiry, another particularly important reason why "democratic" financial contributors continue to fund progressive activists is evidently so they are up-to-date about the actions and thinking of their ideological opponents, that is, progressive groups. This reasoning explains why Zunes received a USIP grant in 1989 to study the Morocco-Western Sahara conflict. Naturally, the funding of "progressive" activities will always be, as Zunes correctly observes, "attacked by right-wing elements in Congress and elsewhere", but then again those same elements also launch rabid attacks against members of their own party, so it is not astonishing that radical neo-conservatives have problems with the funding of peace research.

Finally, Zunes concludes by noting that he "support[s] international solidarity efforts by independent human rights and pro-democracy groups, as well as other global civil society initiatives, designed to support popular struggles for freedom and justice wherever such support is needed and requested." In the light of this statement/offer, perhaps progressive activists in developed minority countries like Australia and the UK could begin asking Zunes and the ICNC if they could also benefit from their well-funded services. Zunes can then help – as the NED spoof group the International Endowment for Democracy puts it – to "Promot[e] democracy in the country that needs it most – the USA." (www.iefd.org)

[For background to this debate between Michael Barker and Steven Zunes, see:
Interview with Eva Golinger: US Continues Destabilisation Push in Venezuela (GLW # 716, June 28, 2007) Interview with Eva Golinger: US continues destabilisation push in Venezuela

Jack DuVall (President, ICNC), Gollinger Interview (Letter to the Editor,
GLW # 718, July 22, 2007) Letters to the Editor 22 Jully 2007 #718

Michael Barker, Promoting 'Democracy' Through Civil Disobedience (GLW # 722, August 25, 2007) Promoting 'democracy' through civil disobedience

Stephen Zunes, Inaccurate and Unfair Attacks on the ICNC (GLW # 723, August
31, 2007) Inaccurate and unfair attacks on the ICNC

Michael Barker, An Accurate and Fair Critique of the International Center on
Nonviolent Conflict (GLW # 725, 22 September 2007) An accurate and fair critique of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict ]

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