Posts Tagged ‘arab spring’
by stuartbramhall in The Wars in the Middle East
A September 15th article (Revolution in the Air at Last) in the highly conservative Economist is predicting possible revolution in Palestine. It’s extremely good news for antiwar activists, economists, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and all other halfway sane people seeking to thwart a threatened Israeli attack on Iran. A full blown Arab Spring uprising in Palestine (Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has referred to growing unrest as the Palestinian Arab Spring) would hopefully keep Israeli war monger Binyamin Netanyahu too busy in his own back yard to start World War III.
Extreme Financial Hardship in the West Bank
In recent demonstrations across the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority (PA) is supposedly in charge, protests over high food prices have escalated to calls for both Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad to step down. Tied into Israel’s economy under terms of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, residents of the West Bank pay Israeli prices for goods while earning a fifth of Israeli salaries. Meanwhile the PA, deeply in debt, limps along from month to month, as previously generous foreign aid slows to a dribble. Gulf donors, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have become reluctant as Palestinians to support an entity that seems incapable of ending Israel’s occupation. Thus most of their aid funds go to Gaza, where Israel ended the military occupation in 2005, and which has been fully run by Hamas Islamists since the 2007 elections.
Europeans, struggling with their own economic crisis, have also drastically cut assistance to the PA. Meanwhile the Obama administration, which has promised $200 million, is making it conditional on a Palestinian promise not to seek the UN recognition of statehood (at least not before the November elections). Thus, at present, the PA relies on Israel for two-thirds of its operating expenses (through a transfer of tax revenues collected in the West Bank).
The Power Struggle in the PA’s Unelected Leadership
The protests also relate, in part, to a long-standing power struggle between Abbas, the Fatah leader who succeeded Yasar Arafat, and Fayyad, an economist trained in America and favored by Washington. What the Economist doesn’t mention is that both Abbas and Fayyad are “appointed” puppets the US and Israel installed in the West Bank after Hamas won the 2007 PA elections (see The Effect of Public Opinion in Palestine). Technically Hamas was the legitimately elected authority in the West Bank, as well as Gaza. Refusing to recognize the elections, the US and Israel replaced the Hamas leadership with Abbas, Fayyad and Fatah party officials. Hamas only retained power in Gaza by undertaking military action to expel the CIA-backed Fatah operatives who had seized crucial security outposts.
At the beginning of September, trade unions and taxi-drivers, who get their licenses from the Fatah-dominated intelligence services, declared a general strike and closed roads, paralyzing the city centers. Fatah-linked Palestinian security officers in plain clothes manned the barricades and lit tires.
By September 10th, the PA was facing the most popular and widespread protests in the 18 years since it was formed in 1993 Oslo accords. In the southern city of Hebron, gangs of youths threw rocks at a police station. In Nablus, they charged a security base. Although the Palestinian police dispersed them with tear gas, the uproar only died down when Fayyad made concessions promised to rescind price rises and pay a first installment of delayed salaries.
The popular uprising is far from over, with Israel’s recent threat to cut off power to the West Bank unless the PA comes up with $200m for unpaid electricity bills.
Read more here
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, The Wars in the Middle East
(This second post relates to US media censorship of Obama’s hypocritical policy towards Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement.)
For the most part, the US media has been totally silent on the Bahraini pro-democracy movement and Obama’s decision to back the repressive regime that seeks to crush them. On September 4th, Glenn Greenwald published an opinion piece in the Guardian blasting CNN International (CNNi), the most watched English language network in the Middle East, for refusing to air the hour long documentary their own crew –led by investigative correspondent Amber Lyon – filmed in Bahrain in the aftermath of the government crackdown. As Greenwald reports, the commentary features graphic video footage of regime forces arresting and shooting peaceful, unarmed demonstrators, as well as explicit descriptions by pro-democracy activists of the torture they received at the hands of police and security officials.
The video footage was obtained at great cost, both to the CNN crew and the activists who consented to talk to them. While they were filming, Lyon and her cameramen were violently detained by 20 heavily-armed men in black ski masks who forced them to the ground with machine guns, seized their cameras. They were then forcibly transported to detention facility and interrogated for the next six hours.
CNN International Suppresses “iRevolution”
On 19 June 2011 at 8pm, CNN’s domestic outlet in the US aired “iRevolution” for the first and only time. According to Lyons, the documentary was deliberately aimed at an international audience. Yet despite receiving several prestigious journalism awards, and despite the dangers their own journalists and their sources endured to produce it, CNN International (CNNi) still refuses to broadcast the documentary.
In March 2012, Lyon was laid off from CNN as part of an unrelated move by the network to outsource its investigative documentaries. Last month the investigative journalist, who has more than 20,000 followers, began tweeting about CNN’s blatant censorship. “CNNi’s refusal to broadcast ‘iRevolution’, she tweeted on August 16th, “baffled producers”. Linking to the YouTube clip of the Bahrain segment, she added “the censorship was devastating to my crew and activists who risked lives to tell [the] story.
The following day, a representative of CNN’s business affairs office called Lyon’s acting agent, George Arquilla of Octagon Entertainment, and threatened that her severance payments and insurance benefits would be immediately terminated if she ever again spoke publicly about this matter, or spoke negatively about CNN.
King Hamad’s $32 Million PR Campaign
Greenwald believes the call is inked to a massive, well funded PR campaign, the Bahraini Royal family has undertaken to improve its image. As reported by Bahrain Watch, the regime has spent more than $32 million in PR fees since the Arab Spring began in February, 2011. One of the regimes largest contracts was with the Washington DC firm Qorvis Communications. As Time reported last November, Qorvis also does extensive PR work for Bahrain’s close allies, the Saudi royal family. Some leaked a CNN internal email to the Guardian about a Qorvis representative calling about excessively favorable mention of neurosurgeon Dr Nabeel Rajab (see prior post).
CNN’s Business Relationship with Bahrain
While it’s common for US mainstream outlets to bend over backwards to portray White House policy (in this case backing repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain), Greenwald suggests that CNN also had powerful commercial reasons for suppressing Lyon’s documentary footage. Greenwald’s article about “iRevolution” is accompanied by a backgrounder outlining CNN’s business relationships with the Bahraini monarchy. At the same time as CNN was supposedly covering the Arab Spring, Bahrain was a major participant in CNN’s various “sponsorship” opportunities – i.e. paid “informercials” dedicated at improving the nation’s image around the world. As Greenwald documents in the second piece, the result was a number of propagandistic documentaries – promoting Bahrain as an attractive haven for western investors and King Hammad as an avid environmentalist. All were broadcast with no or minimal disclosure that the government of Bahrain had paid for the programming.
The 13 minute segment produced in Bahrain is available at i-Revolution
by stuartbramhall in The Wars in the Middle East, Things That Aren't What They Seem
In my opinion, a brilliant analysis by Tony Cartalucci at Land Destroyer Report is a must-read: chiefly because it identifies the corporate interests behind creating, funding and arming the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian National Council and other rebel groups that have taken up arms against the Assad government. We already know their primary agenda in the Middle East – to isolate Iran, China and Russia with the goal of consolidating US dominance over dwindling oil resources.
In Cartalucci’s words: “[T]he West has become an expert at creating false paradigms, creating debates and conflicts that obfuscate the true nature of any given problem – obfuscating that they themselves are generally at he root of it.”
He makes his point by citing the example of the CIA-funded National Endowment for Democracy (one of several CIA-funded “non-profit” foundations), one which Ahmed Bensaada and others have identified as playing a pivotal role in training the activists who helped launch the “Arab Spring” revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa.
Cartalucci illustrates the role corporations play in the NED with a collage of the corporate logos represented on the NED board of directors:
His article includes a link to a fascinating timeline he created in an earlier blog Save Syria, which starts with a 1991 pronouncement by Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz about the need to “clean up” old Soviet client regimes (Syria, Iran and Iraq). It outlines plans for Syrian regime change dating back to 2002, as well as the training program the State Department began in 2008 to train 5,000 activists from Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.
Cartlucci asserts that by identifying the true root of the Syrian conflict – namely multinational corporations – we can avoid falling for the phony solutions western governments offer us. He believes the only solution, ultimately, lies in disempowering corporations and replacing them with revitalized local institutions.
Read more here: Land Destroyer Report
by stuartbramhall in China Watch
(This is the second of two blogs contrasting US and Chinese foreign policy in Angola and other oil-rich African countries.)
The Angolan civil war ended in 2002 with one million dead, four million permanently exiled and a country rich in natural resources littered with landmines and crumbling infrastructure. The MPLA government was left with the daunting task of clearing landmines, rebuilding the decimated infrastructure, retrieving weapons from a heavily-armed civilian population and resettling tens of thousands of refugees who had fled the fighting. Eduardo dos Santos, who has been president for more than 30 years, remains immensely popular, with the MPLA winning an 82% majority in the 2008 election, the second in Angolan history.
In addition to underwriting Angola’s oil industry, low interest Chinese loans and investment have helped fund mineral prospecting in the country’s copper, iron and gold mines, as well as financing landmine clearance necessary to re-establish coffee and cotton plantations. Now that oil revenues are no longer needed to purchase armaments and pay government troops, they are used for national reconstruction projects – roads, airports, bridges, hospitals and schools. Angolan refugees in their millions once clamored for admission to Portugal. Now the reverse is happening. With Portugal in severe recession, more than 10,000 Portuguese natives emigrated to Angola last year, in search of business and employment opportunities.
Extreme Income Inequality
The Angolan middle class is doing great. The Porsche dealer in Luanda, the capitol city, can’t keep up with orders. Ironically Angola was also in the unique position of having 4G mobile access ahead of most of Europe and much of the US. The government partnered in this venture with the Chinese phone giant ZTE. The latter provided all the equipment, including the handsets, and most of the installation engineers.
Unfortunately the majority of the Angolan people has yet to benefit from the economic boom. Seventy percent of the population still lives below the poverty line. Half the country lives on less than $2 and one-fifth of all children die before their fifth birthday (though this number has improved significantly with the end of the civil war).
The Angolan “Arab Spring”
Unita, the official opposition in Parliament, complains bitterly that the ruling party silences any and all criticism. In 2011 a group of young Angolans, influenced by the “Arab Spring” movement, protested in the capital demanding Santos’ resignation. Their protests were quickly and forcefully put down by the Angolan police. Dos Santos also receives unfavorable publicity about human rights abuses in Cabinda province, home to a separatist movement that predates the civil war. Much of the country’s oil wealth comes from Cabinda. Human rights groups allege that Angolan troops deployed there have committed civilian atrocities.
Given the CIA’s historic links with Unita, their historic opposition to the MPLA and the role of CIA-funded foundations, such as National Endowment for Democracy (NED), United States Agency for International Development, and Center for Applied Nonviolent Strategies (CANVAS) in funding and training other “Arab Spring” activists (see Smoking Gun: US Role in Arab Spring, it’s hard to believe the CIA doesn’t have their sticky fingers in Angola’s “Arab Spring,” as well. The Agency also finds separatist movements hard to resist, especially those in regions suitable for cocaine or heroin trafficking (as in Kosovo and Balochistan – see Our CIA Freedom Fighters in Pakistan).
It may be pure coincidence that Angola is a growing transshipment hub for Nigerian traffickers transporting Brazilian cocaine to Nigeria or Europe.
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media
Still under house arrest, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange discusses the experience of solitary confinement with the new president of Tunisia. President Marzouki offers him asylum. Fascinating interview on RT:
by stuartbramhall in Things That Aren't What They Seem
(This is the last 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 the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011, Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution (AEI) seem to have handed the baton to his disciple Peter Ackerman. According to Louis Proyect, the latter is a former AEI board member and founder (in 2002) of the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). It was the ICNC that offered nonviolence training sessions in Cairo for Egyptian and Tunisian activists.
As Proyect makes clear Ackerman, like Sharp and Zunes, is no progressive. A Wall Street financier and hedge fund manager (formerly number two in Michael Milken’s junk bond empire), Ackerman is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), as well as a former director of Freedom House, previously run by former CIA director James Woolsey. Ackerman also sits on the board of Spirit of America, a group that is “dedicated to spreading US influence worldwide, with a particular emphasis on covert cyber-intelligence measures.” Ackerman is also on the advisory board of the ultraconservative Cato Institute’s Project on Social Security Choice, which proposes to privatize Social Security and allow younger workers to invest their Social Security taxes in private retirement accounts.
“Arab Spring” Neither Spontaneous Nor Indigenous
As others have documented elsewhere, the 2011 uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa were neither spontaneous nor indigenous. Many of the individuals and groups who helped organize them had received training (at times in the US) sponsored by the State Department and CIA-linked foundations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The New York Times makes this clear in a April 2011 article U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings. It states specifically that “a number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington.”
Likewise, as Canadian writers and analysts Ahmed Bensaada, Michael Chossudovsky and Tony Cartalucci have documented, leaders of the NED-funded Serbian resistance group OTPOR (now renamed CANVAS – Center for Applied Nonviolent Strategies) assisted in many of these trainings, often using Gene Sharp’s materials (see http://landdestroyer.blogspot.co.nz/2011/11/soros-celebrates-fall-of-tunisia.html).
Follow the Money
French Canadian author Ahmed Bensaada also discusses these relationships at length in his 2011 book L’Abarabesque Americaine, emphasizing the strong links between the two lead organizers in Egypt’s April 6th movement (Bassam Samir and Adel Mohamed), the US State Department, the NED and other CIA-funded foundations that financed the “color revolutions” in Eastern Europe. Bensaada also enumerates the pro-democracy organizations in other Arab countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebannon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, Yemen, and Syria) that received similar funding. In his appendix, he identifies specific pro-democracy groups by name and the exact amount each received (in 2009) from CIA-linked foundations.
Iran‘s Failed Color Revolution
According to Cartalucci, the destabilization campaign that culminated in the failed 2009 Green Revolution in Iran was drawn up by the corporate-funded Brookings Institution, as articulated in their 2009 report Which Path to Persia?. As Cartalucci notes elsewhere, the mechanics of organizing the Iranian opposition was subcontracted to organizations like the US-funded CANVAS. See also The Color Revolution Fails in Iran and the 2007 BBC report Iran Shows New Scholars’ Footage, linking George Soros to US efforts to destabilize Iran.
by stuartbramhall in Things That Aren't What They Seem
(This is the first 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)
One important aspect of the debate over “diversity of tactics” (i.e. the decision whether to be exclusively nonviolent) in the Occupy movement relates to mounting evidence of the role CIA and Pentagon-funded foundations and think tanks play in funding and promoting nonviolent resistance training. The two major US foundations promoting nonviolence, both overseas and domestically, are the Albert Einstein Institution (AEI) and the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). Both receive major corporate and/or government funding, mostly via CIA “pass through” foundations. While the ICNC is funded mainly by the private fortune of hedge fund billionaire (junk bond king Michael Milken’s second in command) Peter Ackerman, the AEI has received funding from the Rand Corporation and the Department of Defense, as well as various “pass-through” foundations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the US Institute of Peace and the Ford Foundation (see The Ford Foundation and the CIA),which all have a long history of collaborating with the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA in destabilizing governments unfriendly to US interests.
This is a strategy Frances Stonor Saunders outlines in her pivotal Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. According to Sanders, right wing corporate-backed foundations and the CIA have been funding the non-communist left since the late sixties, in the hope of drowning out and marginalizing the voice of more militant leftists. It’s also noteworthy that the governing and advisory board of both AEI and ICNC have been consistently dominated by individuals with either a military/intelligence background or a history of prior involvement with CIA “pass-through” foundations, such as NED and USAID.
Gene Sharp, the Fervent Anticommunist
Much of this debate focuses around America’s godfather of nonviolent resistance, Gene Sharp, the founder and director of the Albert Einstein Institution. Sharp’s handbooks on nonviolent protest were widely disseminated in the Eastern Europe color revolutions, in the Arab spring revolutions and in the Occupy movement in the US (see http://mailstar.net/Sharp-Soros-NED-CIA.html). Unfortunately Sharp has become a decoy in this debate, deflecting attention from the larger question of whether the US government is actively financing and promoting the work of the AEI, the ICIC and other high profile organizations that promote nonviolent civil disobedience. The question is extremely important, in my view, because it possibly explains the rigid and dogmatic attitude in the US progressive movement regarding nonviolent civil disobedience. In other words, I think it explains the knee-jerk rejection of more militant tactics, such as smashing windows and other property damage that don’t involve physical violence towards human beings.
Is Military-Intelligence Funding Compatible with Progressive Politics?
The institutional nonviolence clique has cleverly refocused the debate on whether Sharp, who is 83, is a CIA agent and whether he actively participated in US-funded destabilization efforts in Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iran and elsewhere that resulted in so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions. The obvious answer to both questions is no. For me the more important question is why the alternative media and “official” progressive movement embrace Sharp unconditionally as a fellow progressive without a careful look at his past or his ideological beliefs. Sharp has never made any secret of his fervent anticommunist (and antisocialist – he shares the US State Department’s animosity towards Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez) views.
Sharp makes no secret of the funding he has received from the Defense Department; the Rand Corporation; CIA-linked foundations, such as NED, the IRI and the US Institute of Peace; and George Soros’s Open Society Institute. All this information is readily available from the AEI website. Sharp himself states, “I have been arguing for years that governments and defense departments – as well as other groups – should finance and conduct research into alternatives to violence in politics and especially as a possible basis for a defense policy by prepared nonviolent resistance as a substitute for war.” (See The living library: some theoretical approaches to a strategy for activating human rights and peace, George Garbutt, 2008, Southern Cross University, Australia).
Less well known is the role military and intelligence figures have played in helping Sharp set up and run the AEI. I think most progressives would be extremely disturbed by the major role played by the military-intelligence establishment in funding and running the AEI. I think they would find it even more troubling that progressives who refer to any of this on so called “independent” or “alternative” media websites and blogs have their posts removed.
To be continued.
by stuartbramhall in End of Capitalism
The World Economic Forum Weighs In
A British acquaintance has sent me a link to one of the background documents to be used when world leaders gather for the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland January25-29. The document is called Global Risks 2012 (http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GlobalRisks_Report_2012.pdf)
The World Economic Forum is a Swiss non-profit corporation that brings together some 2,500 “top” global business and political leaders every January in a remote Swiss mountain resort. Along with the G-7, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum has a strong pro-corporate agenda and is a regular target for antiglobalization protests. The antiglobalization movement is a loosely knit network of anti-corporate groups that started in Asia and Europe in the 1990s, in response to the international treaty that created the World Trade Organization (WTO). Its American counterpart was born in November 1999, when 50,000 people marched in the streets of Seattle and thousands committed civil disobedience to derail the WTO Third Ministerial meeting. Currently the WTO and so-called “Free Trade” treaties, such as NAFTA, receive scant coverage in the mainstream media. Nevertheless labor and environmental activists remain deeply concerned about the power these international treaties give corporations to overturn democratically enacted labor and environmental protections.
Since 2001, grassroots activists from all over the world have been holding a World Social Forum in a developing country (usually Brazil) at the same time as the World Economic Forum. The philosophy behind the World Social Forum is that ordinary people have an even greater need for international conferences than corporate elites. It’s only by coming together and organizing that they can resist efforts by global elites to strip them of the limited democratic and economic rights they still enjoy.
Emphasis on Global Social Unrest
When the Guardian article that accompanied the report (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jan/11/world-economic-forum-meeting-davos) stated that Global Risks 2012 focuses mainly on economic turmoil and social unrest (as opposed to globalization and free trade), I was extremely keen to read it. Would it mention Occupy Wall Street? It sure does, right there on page 16 under “Case 1: Seeds of Dystopia”:
“Two dominant issues of concern emerged from the Arab Spring, the ‘Occupy’ movements worldwide and recent similar incidents of civil discontent: the growing frustration among citizens with the political and economic establishment, and the rapid public mobilization enabled by greater technological connectivity.”
The document is full of other surprises. Unlike the mainstream media, Global Risks 2012 is surprisingly sympathetic towards the Occupy movement. The authors are deeply concerned about “dystopia,” the opposite of utopia, which they define as “a place where life is full of hardship and devoid of hope.” They go on to talk about the danger of declining economic conditions in Western Europe, North America and Japan jeopardizing “social contracts” between states and their citizens. These they define as has historic understandings that workers will be guaranteed access to health care (by North America they must mean Canada – this has never been true in the US) and decent pensions in old age.
They express concern (implying that corporate CEOs should also be concerned) about the link between global recession and increasing rates of poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, suicide, divorce, domestic violence and the abandonment, neglect and abuse of children (page 18).
They talk about the large numbers of unemployed young people around the world being a “lost generation” (page 22). Even more surprisingly, they identify huge income disparity as being one of the most serious global risks. They caution that when “social mobility” (i.e. individual ability to advance socially and economically) is attainable, income disparity can spur people to work harder. When it’s clearly not, as in the current global recession, feelings of powerlessness, disconnectedness and disengagement can “take root.” (page 19).
They conclude the dystopia section with the following warning:
“The social unrest that occurred in 2011, from the United States to the Middle East, demonstrated how governments everywhere need to address the causes of discontent before it becomes a violent, destabilizing force.” (page 19).
Destructive Corporate Lobbying
Global Risks 2012 also talks about destructive corporate lobbying (my translation – they use more obscure, intellectually lofty language) in trying to enact environmental and health regulations: “By their very nature, the costs involved in implementing safeguards, such as quality standards and risk mitigation practices, may give some individuals, firms or organizations reasons to lobby to minimize them and look for ways around them.” (page 22)
They are equally critical of the “too big to fail” banks: “When losses can be passed on to others – as when banks are defined as “too big to fail” – excessive risk-taking is likely to occur.” (page 22).
They conclude with the argument (making the 2008 banking crisis a case in point) that dangerously lax regulations “in just one jurisdiction could trigger global catastrophe.” (page 22)
How Will CEOs Answer the Discussion Questions?
I have to admit my favorite part of Global Risks 2012 are the “Questions for Stakeholders,” inserted at the end at the end of each section to make sure the corporate elites and the politicians who accompany them to these meetings are paying attention. I would give anything to listen in to the answers JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, give to some of these:
- What steps can be taken to reduce income disparity? (they need to get Dimon to answer this one.)
- How can appropriate regulations be developed so that firms will undertake effective safeguards?
- How can business, government and civil society work together to improve resilience against unforeseen risks? (the report uses the word resilience, which they borrow from the sustainability movement, a lot).
- How can fostering entrepreneurship prevent the seeds of dystopia from taking root? (this wouldn’t be my approach, but at least they admit urgent action is needed.
To be continued.
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, Things That Aren't What They Seem
(This is the second of two posts exploring the OWS commitment to nonviolence)
The main advantage of nonviolent resistance is its effectiveness in reaching large numbers of potential supporters. History shows that civil disobedience, by itself, is relatively ineffective in producing genuine political change. The nonviolent “color” revolutions in Eastern Europe and Egypt have been very effective in producing cosmetic regime change without challenging fundamental power structures. In other words, they get rid of the unpopular dictator but leave a US-friendly elite in control of government (just as Wall Street remains firmly in control no matter who we elect as president).
The success of nonviolent resistance as a recruiting tool stems mainly from its knack for provoking state violence. This provides dramatic mainstream media coverage that forces apolitical members of society to re-examine fundamental beliefs about freedom, justice and the rule of law. Although nonviolent civil disobedience involves lawbreaking, it does so from a moral high ground. There is a strong tradition in Judeo-Christian religions that people of conscience have a duty to uphold international, religious and humanitarian law when it conflicts with unjust national and local laws. Because these views enjoy strong public support, the Internet and social media can be used to recruit participants and supporters for nonviolent actions in the thousands and potentially tens of thousands. In contrast, using the Internet to recruit activists for “violent” actions, even those limited to property destruction, is illegal and provokes an instantaneous response from the authorities.
The two biggest obstacles OWS will face in maintaining their commitment to nonviolence will be the attitude of low income and minority groups who deal with police violence on a daily basis and growing concerns about the possible role CIA-funded left gatekeeping foundations have played in engineering the Occupy movement’s exclusive commitment to nonviolence. This concern is heightened by the use of nonviolent guru Gene Sharp’s materials at several Occupy sites.
The CIA Role in Nonviolent Revolutions
Sharp’s longstanding ties with the CIA and the “democracy manipulating” foundations that instigated the “color” revolutions in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa (including Egypt) receive little attention in the foundation-funded “alternative” media. However the issue has begun to seep into the blogosphere, thanks to good coverage in the French and Australian left-progressive media. One example is a well-referenced November 25th article by Tony Carlucci in Land Destroyer entitled “How to Start (a Wall Street backed) Revolution” (http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-start-wall-street-backed.html).I first came across the article December 1st on the Occupy Oakland website. It was taken down a week later, which I find quite ominous.
As Tierry Messan outlines in January 2005 on Votairenet (http://www.voltairenet.org/The-Albert-Einstein-Institution), Sharp, a fervent anticommunist, initially formulated his nonviolence theory to assist anticommunist movements. He wrote his 1993 From Dictatorship to Democracy while working for the Albert Einstein Institution (AEI), specifically for use in the Myanmar (Burma) “pro-democracy” movement. He subsequently participated in the establishment of Burma’s Democratic Alliance – a coalition of notable anticommunists that were quick to join the military government. He later worked with Taiwan’s Progressive Democratic Party, which favored the independence of the island from communist China, something the US officially opposed. His other work included unifying the Tibetan opposition under the Dalai Lama; trying to form a dissident group to split the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO); and secretly training the Psychological Action division of the Israeli armed forces.
The “Color” Revolutions in Eastern Europe and Asia
The CIA would subsequently utilize Sharp’s book, From Dictatorship to Democracy, throughout Eastern Europe and Asia, and in 2011, the US-engineered “Arab Spring.” Sharp himself, with funding from the AEI, the US government backed National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its subsidiary International Republican Institute (IRI), and George Soros’ Open Society Institute, is also on record as providing “humanitarian” advice and training to antigovernment activists in Serbia, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Belarus, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Malaysia.
The February 2011 Al Jazeera documentary Egypt: Seeds of Change http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrNz0dZgqN8 echoes many of Messan’s and Carlucci’s concerns regarding the influence of CIA-backed foundations in the Egyptian uprising.
Ahmed Bensaada goes even further in Arabesque American, published in May 2011. Bensaada describes the direct involvement of the CIA-backed Serbian group Otpor in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) “revolutions,” as well as a series pf joint conferences organized by the CIA-backed Center for Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) and the State Department, in which Arab activists were brought to the US for training in “nonviolent” organizing techniques (http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/tag/arabesque-americaine/).
Why the CIA Promotes Nonviolence
So why is the CIA so keen on promoting nonviolent revolution? University of California –Santa Barbara sociology professor Peter Robinson outlines the new CIA strategy in his 1996 book Promoting Polyarchy. According to Robinson, as CIA-backed dictatorships around the world lose their grip, the CIA preemptively co-opts the natural (violent) insurgencies that arise to topple them. They themselves instigate popular unrest, using the ensuing chaos to install a puppet of their choosing.
The International Center for Nonviolent Conflict
The International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) is another important “democracy manipulating” foundation that promotes Sharp’s work. Australian researcher and journalist Michael Barker’s articles about ICNC (http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/38214) reveal it has strong intelligence links but is independently funded by Peter Ackerman, Michael Milken’s second in command in his junk bond empire. Barker and others also raise concerns about Stephen Zunes, ICNC’s chief academic adviser and one of Sharp’s strongest defenders in the mainstream and alternative media (http://xevolutie.blogspot.com/2011/03/124-peter-myers-over-gene-sharp-en-de.html).
In “The Junk Bond ‘Teflon Guy’ Behind Egypt’s Nonviolent Revolution,” Middle East investigative journalist Maidhc O Cathail examines Ackerman’s involvement (along with the Albert Einstein Institution) in the attempted coup against Hugo Chavez. He also asks the thought-provoking question: why Milken was sent to jail, while Ackerman made off with a fortune (http://maidhcocathail.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/the-junk-bond-%E2%80%9Cteflon-guy%E2%80%9D-behind-egypt%E2%80%99s-nonviolent-revolution)?
by stuartbramhall in Inspiring Moments in Resistance
(This is the final of three blogs assessing the achievements of #OccupyWallStreet)
As I mention in my two prior blogs, the OWS movement will leave a legacy of accomplishments — mainly related to consciousness raising and movement building – even if the actual occupations shut down tomorrow. There is still lots of furious debate over #OccupyWallStreet’s long term goals, which roughly center around the dismantling of the corporate state, the establishment of an alternative, non-corporate economy, and the development of an independent media that reflects the interests and concerns of the 99% of us who aren’t millionaires and billionaires. Yet we are unlikely to see major policy or infrastructure changes until our new movement hits the 1% where it really hurts — in their pocketbook. Prior to Tuesday’s violent police attack on Occupy Oakland, I had the sense that the authorities were quite comfortable with thousands of us camping out in city parks every night — so long as we weren’t interfering with business as usual.
Time for a General Strike
This is where #OccupyWallStreet differs significantly from the major uprisings in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, where mass demonstrations were accompanied by general strikes that shut down economic activity. In Egypt, it was the unions’ threat to shut down the Suez Canal that ultimately forced Mubarak to step down. In the US, we would be talking about illegal wild cat strikes. Both Taft Hartley and no-strike clauses some unions have agreed to make it a criminal offense to strike unless defined processes are followed.
Clearly Occupy Oakland, which retook Oscar Grant Plaza on Wednesday (see http://www.occupyoakland.org/2011/10/general-strike-mass-day-of-action/), is mindful of the current general strike in Greece, as well the importance of industrial action during the Arab Spring. They have called for a general strike in Oakland on November 2nd (no one to attend school or work). I think they have a good chance of persuading a good chunk of the city to stay home. The police riot that closed off downtown Oakland on Tuesday did not go unnoticed by a large African American community with long history of being brutalized by Oakland cops. Workers World (see http://www.workers.org/2011/us/cops_attack_1103/ ) suggests that it was no accident that the first OWS occupations to be targeted with police violence were those with a substantial African American population (Oakland, Chicago, and Atlanta). Popular protest has a tendency to be contagious, especially in communities with a history of grievance-based uprisings and a 48% youth unemployment rate.
Why It May Be Easier to Get Non-union Workers to Strike
Oakland-ILWU, which endorsed Occupy Oakland on October 22nd and called on other unions to block their eviction from Oscar Grant Plaza, may well stage a one day sympathy strike. The longshoreman’s union is historically one of the more militant and has a history of wild cat strikes. However this may be one of those instances where low unionization rates among African Americans may work in our favor. Calling on unionized workers to engage in an illegal strike is a big ask. It would likely incur strong opposition from union leaders, who would be the ones facing prosecution.
It’s also possible to disrupt business as usual by targeting banks and other businesses with well-organized consumer boycotts and direct action, such as sit-ins and blockades or with a combination of tactics. In announcing their November 2nd General Strike, Occupy Oakland has warned Oakland banks and corporations that it will march on them if they remain open.
Call for a National General Strike on November 28th
If next Wednesday’s general strike is even partially successful, I expect a few other cities to follow suit. The real test will be the response to Citizens for a Legitimate Government’s call for a national general strike on November 28, after the Super Committee announces the austerity cuts American people will be subjected to (see http://www.opednews.com/populum/http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=140223).