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Why the Government Funds the Peace Movement

Posted By on March 14, 2012

Stephen Gowans

Stephen Gowans

(This is the third of five posts about the American godfather of nonviolent resistance, Gene Sharp, and the role of CIA and Pentagon-funded foundations and think tanks in funding and promoting nonviolent resistance.)

In my last blog I discussed Stephen Zunes’ strongly worded article and petition defending so-called progressive nonviolent guru Gene Sharp and the rebuttal, Sharp Reflection Warranted, by Australian researcher Michael Barker. The response by Canadian activist Stephen Gowans, Defending the Indefensible: Sham Democracy Promoter Defends Imperialist Ties, is even more critical. He begins by questioning why Zunes, a paid adviser to the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), an organization founded by former junk bond king Michael Milken’s right-hand man Peter Ackerman, continues to defend “non-violent pro-democracy” activists who promote “overthrow” movements abroad. Gowans is most troubled by Zunes’ dismissal of Eva Golinger’s Monthly Review expose, Bush vs. Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, which discusses assistance Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution (AEI) provided the Venezuelan opposition to help them find “new and inventive ways to overthrow Chavez.”

A Classic Straw Man Argument

Gowans also points out that Zunes’ defense of Sharp rests almost entirely on a straw man argument concerning so-called “fabricated allegations,” that Sharp is part of a Bush administration conspiracy to overthrow foreign governments. It’s a straw man argument mainly because none of Sharp’s critics have specifically linked him to the Bush presidency. Sharp has been criticized mainly for accepting funding from and acting (whether intentionally or not) on behalf of US corporate and government interests. As Gowans rightly points out, these forces are much broader than the Bush administration.

Zunes’ Links with Peter Ackerman and the CFR

He goes on to argue that Zunes is hardly a neutral or objective party in this debate, given his involvement with Peter Ackerman and the ICNC. Ackerman, hardly the progressive peace activist, is a Wall Street investment banker, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and head of Freedom House  which, according to Noam Chomsky (in Manufacturing Consent), is interlocked with the CIA and a “virtual propaganda arm of the (US) government and international right wing.” According to Louis Proyect, Ackerman is also on the advisory board of the ultraconservative Cato Institute’s Project on Social Security Choice. Not surprisingly, this group strongly advocates privatizing Social Security.

Rationalizing Government Funding for the Peace Movement

Zunes, according to Sharp, devotes two pages to rubbishing the charges against Sharp, only to reinforce the case his critics have been making. He does so by revealing that the AEI

• is funded by corporate foundations.
• is open to accepting funding from organizations that have received funding from government sources (i.e., accepts government funding passed through intermediary organizations, such as the Ford Foundation, Rand Corporation, US Institute for Peace, etc.).
• has received grants from the US Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy (an organization that does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly.).
• has advised members of the Venezuelan opposition.

As Gowans stresses, Zunes clearly would like us to believe that nonviolent pro-democracy groups are not influenced by the corporations and wealthy individuals who fund them. Gowans’ article concludes by referring readers to Frances Stonor Saunders’ 2000 Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. Her book reveals that “non-communist left”  groups receive generous funding from corporate foundations and the CIA. According to Saunders, the underlying strategy is to marginalize more militant leftists by amplifying the voice of  the “pro-imperialist non-communist left.”

To be continued.


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