Opposing imperialism

March 1, 2008

I'm sure that most Green Left Weekly readers are tired of reading Michael Barker's paranoid ramblings against the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) and his efforts to convince readers that I and other anti-imperialists and human rights activists who work with ICNC and similar NGOs are somehow acting as agents of the CIA and the Bush administration.

And I assume they are tired of hearing my rebuttals. [Links to previous contributions are at the bottom].

Anyone who came to hear any of the four public lectures I gave in the Melbourne area in December, each of which addressed various nefarious aspects of US imperialism in the greater Middle East, and anyone who has read any of my books or articles, , would recognize that I would never work with any organisation "closely associated with that of key democracy-manipulating elites".

As a result, I will refrain from yet again rebutting point by point his most recent ludicrous charges and logical fallacies as tempting and as easy as it may be.

Besides, I have better things to do with my time.

After all, while Barker is in his graduate school office writing about imperialism and oppression (as well as various conspiracies, both real and imagined), there are some of us who are actually doing something about it, who — in addition to activism here in the belly of the beast to change US policy — going out into the field to work with oppressed peoples living under dictatorship and occupation trying to share some tools with which they might be able to apply in their struggles for liberation.

It is hard to understand why he would try to discredit and undermine the efforts of me and others connected with ICNC in leading seminars for Palestinians, Guatemalans, Iranians, Egyptians, West Papuans, Sahrawis, and others to provide generic information regarding the history and mechanisms of strategic nonviolent action from previous successful liberation struggles, from which those activists may choose to figure out ways of applying to their particular struggles.

Instead of trying to explain what is actually wrong with our work, he instead makes things up, like the totally false accusation that ICNC "hosted a workshop for Venezuelans on non-violent conflict."

As a result, despite Barker's claims to the contrary, I have no problems with "the facts that [he] revealed". I only have problems with such lies and fabrications.

I've never questioned Barker's critiques of the so-called "democracy-promotion" efforts of the US government and share many of his concerns regarding the practices of a number of liberal foundations in advancing an imperialist agenda.

He is just plain wrong, however, to lump independent NGOs like ICNC or Gene Sharp's Albert Einstein Institution together with these less-principled efforts, particularly given that neither group relies on funding from the US government or the liberal foundations he mentions for their operations.

Presumably, most GLW readers are smart enough not to buy into Barker's assumptions that physical or temporal proximity means an identity of interests, much less active collaboration.

For example, his latest entry tried to make the case that because a couple of prominent neo-conservatives served on a board of some non-profit multi-issue foundations at the same time as did the major funder of ICNC — who has since severely restricted his operational ties to the organisation — that this somehow means that ICNC is serving the neo-conservative agenda.

Or that because the Albert Einstein Institution received a couple of grants more than a decade ago from government-funded foundations, totaling less than 2% of their total operating budget those two years, that this means that they somehow serve the interests of the US government.

Or that, as part of ICNC's effort to expand knowledge on the power of nonviolent action in popular struggles for democracy to as wide an audience as possible — in part to discourage US government from using the promotion of democracy as an excuse for military intervention — that some mainstream scholars with ties to the political establishment have taken part in forums co-sponsored by ICNC means that they somehow control our agenda.

Or the fact that ICNC president Jack DuVall, five years before the founding of ICNC, happened to overlap on the board of the Arlington Institute with James Woolsey, five years after he stepped down as CIA director, that this therefore constitutes evidence of a CIA-ICNC link, ignoring the fact that the two never even spoke to each other during the two meetings in that they were in the same room together and — more importantly — everyone I know connected with ICNC is vehemently opposed to CIA covert operations and destabilisation efforts and would never even consider any such collaboration.

Or, in the minority of cases in which ICNC has worked with pro-democracy movements that are struggling against governments which happen to also be opposed by the US government, such as Iran, that ICNC is therefore working to advance US hegemony.

If I wanted to dig into the funding sources and the faculty associated with Barker's graduate program, I'm sure I could come with all sorts of similar "evidence" to discredit him. But what would be the point?

One has to wonder, given all the very real manifestations of US imperialism out there which need to be challenged, why he would put so much time and effort attacking individuals and organisations trying to provide those struggling against various manifestations of US imperialism with tools that could aide in their liberation?

It is easy to act rigidly sectarian and dismiss those of us who are actively working for freedom and social justice because we might choose to work alongside people with whom we may not agree on every issue, or because we are willing to accept unconditional funding from individuals or groups with whom we don't align politically on various issues.

However, while such an attitude may help one feel self-righteous, it doesn't do much in terms of actually fighting oppression and supporting popular struggles for liberation.

[Previous contributions to this debate are: Michael Barker — "Promoting 'democracy' through civil disobedience", http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/722/37496; Stephen Zunes — "Inaccurate and unfair attacks on the ICNC", http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/723/37520; Michael Barker — "A fair and accurate critique of the ICNC", http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/725/37638; Stephen Zunes — "Additional inaccurate and unfair attacks on the ICNC", http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/727/37727; Michael Barker: "False accusations and major leaps of logic", http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/735/38093.

A further discussion and debate can be found at Monthly Review's site, http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/barker080108.html, including a contribution by MR editor and Marxist ecologist John Bellamy Foster, who will be a guest at the Green Left Weekly's April 11-13 Climate Change — Social Change Conference in Sydney.]

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