A Reply to David Peterson: Do I really support “massive American violence” and interventionism?

David Peterson must know full well I’ve been a long-time and outspoken opponent of any U.S. interventionism in Iran. It has been a subject of scores of articles available on line, it was a major part of my doctoral dissertation, addressed in my book Tinderbox, in my speeches available on podcasts, and elsewhere. To imply otherwise is completely ridiculous. I have never ever bought into “massive American violence, and diversions onto the state of affairs inside Iran.” Peterson should know that my arguing that the United States is not being the recent protests in Iran does not mean I am not aware of the countless way the United States really has illegitimately intervened in that country to pursue its imperialist objectives… [FULL LINK]

The Cooties Effect

During the McCarthy era of the 1950s, in what became known as “guilt by association,” simply being friends with someone suspected of being a Communist could ruin your career. Today that’s been extended to guilt by spatial proximity, which could appropriately be called the “cooties effect.” If you sit on the same board, have appeared on the same panel, or otherwise have been in close physical proximity to someone deemed undesirable, you therefore must have been infected by their politics or, at minimum, have no problems with things they may have done in their past.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain and his runningmate Sarah Palin have adopted such a strategy, which Hillary Clinton originated during the primary campaign. They have raised alarms over the possibility that Barack Obama may have picked up radical terrorist cooties from Bill Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois in Chicago, who was active in the Weather Underground nearly 40 years ago.

Palin insists that Obama sees America as “being so imperfect, imperfect enough that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.” Similarly, a recently released McCain ad declared, “Obama worked with terrorist William Ayers when it was convenient,” a charge that Bob Shrum, a senior fellow at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, notes “all but alleges that the candidate was there planting bombs.” Palin defended such attacks on her Democratic rivals, arguing “We gotta start telling people what the other side represents.”

As investigated by The New York Times, Politifact and other media, the links between Obama and Ayers are so minimal that it defies rationality how — in the midst of two wars and the greatest financial crisis in generations — this became a major campaign issue just four weeks before the general election. But it did.

Though it’s easy to dismiss such attacks as absurd, as they certainly are, otherwise rational people can sometimes fall prey to such twisted logic. I know. During the past year, some colleagues of mine and I have been subjected to a remarkably similar smear campaign by some elements of the far left, who have effectively accused us of picking up imperialist cooties through similarly tenuous contacts. And I have seen the damage such accusations can have.

Sitting on the Same Boards

I serve as an academic advisor for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), a strictly nonpartisan, nonprofit educational foundation that promotes the study and utilization of nonmilitary strategies by civilian-based movements to establish and defend human rights, social justice, and democracy. ICNC maintains a strict policy of accepting no grants, contracts, or funding of any kind from any government or government-related organization.

A little over a year ago, however, a series of articles in Green Left Weekly and other publications began accusing ICNC of having links to the CIA. The basis of this allegation apparently came as a result of ICNC President Jack DuVall’s “connection to former CIA head James Woolsey.” In a remarkable parallel to the right-wing attacks over Obama’s service on the same nonprofit board as Ayers, DuVall’s “connection” to Woolsey, as it turns out, consisted of the two of them overlapping for less than a year back in 2001-2002 on the board of the Arlington Institute, a think tank. By all accounts, they were both present at the same time for only two meetings of that board and they never once engaged in a one-on-one conversation. There is not, nor has there ever been, any personal connection between the two of them.

The article also tried to discredit ICNC through one of its senior advisors, Shaazka Beyerle — a Canadian human-rights activist best known for her work in support of the Palestinian cause and of women’s rights movements — for having served alongside the now-World Bank President Robert Zoellick on the board of the European Institute, a public policy forum on transatlantic relations.

Australian blogger Michael Barker and other conspiracy theorists have also tried to demonstrate that ICNC is part of an imperialist plot because cofounder Peter Ackerman’s wife, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, serves on the board of the International Crisis Group and thereby “rubs boardroom shoulders” with George Soros, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wesley Clark, and Kenneth Adelman. Further alleged proof of imperialist cooties infestations of ICNC through Ackerman’s wife is that she serves on the board of both Human Rights Watch and the International Center for Journalists, which Barker accuses of having links to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which Barker then insists “maintains close ties with the CIA.” This illustrates, according to this theory, just how contagious this kind of infection can be: CIA cooties are contracted by the NED, which are then spread to Human Rights Watch, which are thereby picked up by board member Leedom-Ackerman, who passes them on to her husband, who then infects ICNC.

I responded by pointing out the absurdity of attacking ICNC and its work as a result of such tenuous connections. Having worked with both DuVall and Beyerle, I could state clearly that neither had picked up any imperialist cooties despite their having been in the same room as Woolsey and Zoellick.

The reaction was swift: John Bellamy Foster, editor of the Monthly Review, wrote a response that noted that Ackerman is a director of U.S. Institute of Peace, an ideologically diverse organization that Foster nevertheless labeled as “right-wing.” Foster then argued that USIP “is connected directly through its chair, J. Robinson West, to the National Petroleum Council, which includes CEOs of all the major U.S. energy corporations.” Foster told his readers that “if all of this isn’t reason to begin to ask searching questions” regarding “Zunes’s ICNC and its role in the U.S. imperial system, we don’t know what is.” As a result, he added that — despite my having been an outspoken anti-imperialist activist, writer, and scholar since the 1970s — I should decide “whose side” I am on in the struggle against imperialism.

Similar attacks against me, ICNC and related organizations and individuals soon began circulating throughout the left-wing blogosphere, including Counterpunch, ZNet, Mathaba, MRZine, VenezuelaAnalysis and scores of other websites and list-serves. A number of speaking invitations I had scheduled were rescinded. As far away as Europe, word began circulating that I had sold out and was now working with the Bush administration’s “democracy-promotion” agenda.

One apparently does not have to be on a board to get somebody’s cooties. Just as Obama has been attacked for the fact that he and Ayers “appeared together at various public engagements,” my appearing on the same panel or speaking at the same conference of someone with alleged imperialist cooties can apparently lead to an infestation as well. For example, my relationship with Bob Helvey — a retired U.S. Army officer who has subsequently embraced nonviolent action as an alternative to war but has been falsely accused of plotting the overthrow of governments from Serbia to Venezuela — has been limited to twice being a speaker at the same conference. Nevertheless, the prominent leftist Canadian blogger Stephen Gowans insists that that somehow makes him “an associate” of mine.

Similarly, just as the upset over the $200 contribution Ayers made in the spring of 2001 to Obama’s campaign for re-election to the Illinois State Senate is indicative of concern over the spread of cooties through money, it has recently been alleged that I have picked up imperialist cooties through a research grant I received nearly 20 years ago. Gowans has argued that since I once served as a fellow at the United States Institute of Peace, which “receives funding from Congress, and has a board of directors appointed by the President . . . and [other] . . . advocates of the pursuit of U.S. corporate and investor interests abroad,” I therefore must be an apologist for U.S. imperialism. In reality, what made me a “fellow” is that I received a one-semester non-residential fellowship back in 1989 when I was a grad student in order to conduct research on the Western Sahara. My findings were highly-critical of U.S. policy and quite sympathetic with that country’s national liberation struggle led by the leftist Frente Polisario. Despite this, leftist blogger Gilles d’Aymery — who refers to me as a “neoliberal agent” as a result of my questioning Gowans’ assertions — insists that my receiving this grant from a congressionally funded institute “should tell anyone that the government approves of the work one does. When the United States Institute of Peace grants you some money, it says loud and clear that your work serves the elites.”

The ICNC and Nonviolence

The mission of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict is to help educate the global public on the history and ideas of strategic nonviolent conflict through video programming, books and articles as well as conducting meetings and briefings, co-sponsoring conferences, and making available articles and features to encourage international institutions, decision makers and activists to support civilian-based, nonviolent movements as an alternative to war. As a veteran of a series of nonviolent action campaigns here in the United States against imperialism, militarism, economic injustice and environmental destruction, I have been asked to play an active role in a series of ICNC-supported workshops in response to requests by activists groups from around the world to promote a better understanding of the history and dynamics of strategic nonviolent conflict. Over the past two years, for example, I’ve assisted in such workshops attended by Egyptians struggling against the Mubarak regime, Palestinians challenging the Israeli occupation, West Papuans resisting the Indonesian occupation, Maldivians struggling against their corrupt and autocratic government, Western Saharans challenging the Moroccan occupation, Burmese active in their country’s pro-democracy struggle, Guatemalan Indians struggling against violence and repression, and Mexican-Americans fighting for immigrants’ rights.

Unable to find anything wrong with the actual work of ICNC, however, far-left critics still insist that the cootie infestation must have somehow affected our work anyway. For example, Gowans warns readers of people like me, who “hide the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy objectives behind a high-sounding commitment to peace,” insisting that “genuine progressives and anti-imperialists should carefully scrutinize the backgrounds” of those who are as “tightly connected to Western governments and ruling class activist foundations as Zunes is.” Despite the bulk of ICNC’s international outreach efforts being with those struggling against regimes backed by the U.S. government, Gowans insists that what “the ICNC and Stephen Zunes are all about” is “nonviolent direct activism in the service of U.S. foreign policy goals” in support of opposition movements beholden to “U.S. and Western governments and Western ruling class foundations.” (As someone who has been listed by such prominent conservatives as Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz, and Sean Hannity as being among the most “dangerous” and “anti-American” left-wing professors in the country, such charges against me have more than a little irony.)

Like many of the recent attacks on Obama from the right about his alleged “links to terrorists,” there are some on the far left who are quite willing to simply make stuff up in a desperate effort to try to prove that the cooties effect is real. For example, Gowans — in his widely-circulated article Stephen Zunes and the Struggle for Overseas Profits — claims that ICNC has been “heavily involved in successful and ongoing regime change operations, including in Yugoslavia,” which he insisted was a revolution “Zunes and his colleagues assist[ed].” This charge comes despite the fact that neither I nor ICNC has ever been involved in “regime change” of any kind, including the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic, which took place two years prior to ICNC being founded in 2002. Indeed, no one in ICNC’s leadership had even been to that country at that time. Other bizarre fabrications in that article include the claim that “wherever Washington seeks to oust governments that pursue economically nationalist or socialist policies, you’ll find Helvey (and perhaps Zunes as well) holding seminars on nonviolent direct action.”

Even more strangely, because of the insistence that I and everyone else with ICNC has been infected with imperialist cooties, Gowans therefore assumes that I have never engaged in “training U.S…grassroots activists to use nonviolent direct action to stop the machinery of war” and that my work has been exclusively “directed outward, not on his own government, but on the governments Washington and ruling class think-tanks want overthrown.” In reality, for more than 30 years I have been training American antiwar activists in nonviolent direct action, working with groups like Peace Action, War Resisters League, Movement for a New Society, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Ruckus Society, Direct Action Network, and Direct Action against the War. Of the more than 100 seminars, trainings, workshops, and related events designed to educate people on nonviolent action with which I have been involved, only three have primarily consisted of participants from countries with governments opposed by the United States, approximately a dozen have consisted primarily of those from foreign countries with governments supported by the United States, and the remaining 85% or more have been for Americans struggling against U.S. government and corporate policies.

Any look at my personal history, the books and articles I have written, and the speeches and interviews I have given demonstrates where I’m actually coming from politically, just as any similar examination of Obama’s record disproves the current right-wing attacks. Despite this, ideologues of the far left and right argue that what is important is not what someone has actually done or said, but whether someone has — either directly or through several degrees of separation — had contact with someone with nefarious political viewpoints and actions, either now or in their past.

Prominent leftists such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn have tried to defend ICNC and other promoters of strategic nonviolent action. But rather than reconsidering their accusations, far-left conspiracy buffs simply raise the alarm that the cooties epidemic has widened to include them as well. For example, prominent British Green Party activist Richard Roper has claimed that it “poses the question where Chomsky, Zinn, Zunes, et al. actually stand. At the moment, unless they change their position, they stand with the forces of reaction, imperialism, and [the] drive for global domination.” Similarly, leftist playwright John Steppling insists that my denial that ICNC and similar groups have imperialist cooties makes me an “apologist and a deeply compromised reactionary — and one wouldn’t at all be surprised to find this creep on the State Department payroll.” Lack of any evidence to support any of their charges of alleged ICNC involvement in various CIA intrigues is simply attributed to government secrecy. All the “evidence” that is needed, apparently, is from the cooties effect.


It’s quite disturbing that a major party’s presidential and vice-presidential nominees, along with many of their supporters, are now engaging in smear tactics and guilt-by-spatial-proximity in their attacks against Obama. Also troubling is that such attacks are being communicated as fact on the country’s largest cable news channel and in a #1 best selling book, and are thereby being taken seriously by tens of millions of ordinary Americans.

It will be difficult to counter such desperate right-wing efforts, however, much less work for the more radical changes that are needed in U.S. policies at home and abroad, if elements of the left engage in similar tactics. In an era of all-too-real conspiracies emanating from the Bush administration, such attacks have led many well-meaning if uninformed leftists to buy into them.

Such attacks can have an impact. Although the vast majority of Americans haven’t bought into the disinformation directed at Obama, many voters who otherwise would have supported him are now reluctant to do so out of concerns that the Democratic nominee really is closely associated with terrorists. Similarly, while dozens of civic and dissident groups struggling for rights and social justice still seek ICNC’s assistance, the spurious accusations against ICNC have led a number of others engaging in strategic nonviolent action that could have benefited from the group’s resources to distance themselves out of concerns for being seen as associated with an alleged CIA-linked group.

It’s a sad testimony about that political discourse in both the presidential campaign and within the left has been essentially reduced to the level of schoolyard taunts about catching cooties from someone you don’t like. Perhaps this is a reflection of the sense of powerlessness felt by people from across the political spectrum when so much feels beyond their control. Perhaps people are afraid to recognize the real hope represented by the Obama campaign nationally and the dramatic growth of nonviolent action campaigns globally (even though both may still fall well short of bringing about the more fundamental changes that are so desperately needed). Any chance of creating truly democratic and just societies will necessarily remain remote, however, until people are willing to reject defamatory accusations from ideologues, and judge individuals and movements objectively by their merit, real deeds, and sincere aspirations.


Sharp Attack Unwarranted

Gene Sharp, an 80-year-old scholar of strategic nonviolent action and veteran of radical pacifist causes, is under attack by a number of foreign governments that claim that he and his small research institute are key players in a Bush administration plot against them.

Though there is no truth to these charges, several leftist web sites and publications have been repeating such claims as fact. This raises disturbing questions regarding the ability of progressives challenging Bush foreign policy to distinguish between the very real manifestations of U.S. imperialism and conspiratorial fantasies.

Gene Sharp’s personal history demonstrates the bizarre nature of these charges. He spent two years in prison for draft resistance against the Korean War, was arrested in the early civil rights sit-ins, was an editor of the radical pacifist journal Peace News, and was the personal assistant to the leftist labor organizer A.J. Muste. He named his institute after Albert Einstein, who is not only remembered as the greatest scientist of the 20th century but was also a well-known socialist and pacifist.

Sharp founded the Albert Einstein Institution in 1983, dedicated to advancing the study and utilization of nonviolent conflict in defense of freedom, justice, and democracy. Long considered the foremost authority in his field, Sharp has inspired generations of progressive peace, labor, feminist, environmental, and social justice activists in the United States and around the world. In the past few decades, as nonviolent pro-democracy movements have played the decisive role in ending authoritarian rule in such countries as the Philippines, Chile, Madagascar, Poland, Mongolia, Bolivia and Serbia, interest among peace and justice activists has grown in his research and the work of other scholars studying strategic nonviolent action.

Fabricated Allegations

Unfortunately, however, as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Bush administration’s open advocacy for “regime change,” any American group or individual who provides educational resources on strategic nonviolence to civil society organizations or human rights activists in foreign countries has suddenly become suspect of being an agent of U.S. imperialism – even Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution.

For example, in February Iranian government television informed viewers that Gene Sharp was “one of the CIA agents in charge of America’s infiltration into other countries.” It included a computer-animated sequence of him and John McCain in a White House conference room plotting the overthrow of the Iranian regime. In reality, Sharp has never worked with the CIA, has never met Senator McCain, and has never even been to the White House. Government spokespeople and supporters of autocratic regimes in Burma, Zimbabwe, and Belarus have also blamed Sharp for being behind dissident movements in their countries as well.

Ironically, some on the left have picked up and expanded on these charges. For example, in an article about the Bush administration promoting “soft coups” against foreign governments it doesn’t like, Jonathan Mowat claims that “The main handler of these coups on the ‘street side’ has been the Albert Einstein Institution,” which he says is funded by Hungarian-American financier George Soros. Venezuelan-American attorney Eva Golinger, meanwhile, claimed that “Peter Ackerman, a multimillionaire banker had sponsored ‘regime changes’ in Serbia, Ukraine, and Georgia through the Albert Einstein Institute.” Tony Logan insists that AEI “is a U.S. government run operation designed to link Gandhian methods of nonviolent protest to Pentagon and U,S, State Department efforts to overthrow foreign governments.” In a similar vein, Counterpunch readers were recently informed that the Albert Einstein Institution plays “a central role in a new generation of warfare, one which has incorporated the heroic examples of past nonviolent resistance into a strategy of obfuscation and misdirection that does the work of empire.”

Absolutely none of these claims is true. Yet such articles have been widely circulated on progressive websites and list serves. Such false allegations have even ended up as part of entries on the Albert Einstein Institution in SourceWatch, Wikipedia, and other reference web sites.

The international press has occasionally echoed some of these bogus claims as well. For example, a commentary published in the Asia Times last fall accused Sharp of being the “concert-master” for the Saffron Revolution in Burma, claiming that the Albert Einstein Institution is funded by an arm of the U.S. government “to foster U.S.-friendly regime change in key spots around the world” and that its staff includes “known CIA operatives.” Though these charges were utterly false, the article was then widely circulated on a number of progressive list serves, including such academic networks as the Peace and Justice Studies Association.

Implicit in such charges is that Burmese monks and other pro-democracy activists in that country are unable to initiate such actions themselves and their decision to take to the streets last fall in mass protests against their country’s repressive military junta came about because an octogenarian academic in Boston had somehow put them up to it. One Burmese human rights activist, referring to his country’s centuries-old tradition of popular resistance, noted how the very idea of an outsider having to orchestrate the Burmese people to engage in a nonviolent action campaign is like “teaching grandma to peel onions.” (The Asia Times article also tried to connect Sharp to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China and another article from the Straits Times in Singapore even places Sharp and AEI behind the recent uprising in Tibet.)

This racist attitude that the peoples of non-Western societies are incapable of deciding on their own to resist illegitimate authority without some Western scholar telling them to do so has been most dramatically highlighted by French Marxist Thierry Meyssan. In his article “The Albert Einstein Institution: non-violence according to the CIA,” he insists that Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution were personally responsible for the 1991 Lithuanian independence struggle against the Soviet Union; the 2000 student-led pro-democracy movement that ousted Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia; the 2003 Rose Revolution that forced out Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze; and, the 2004 Orange Revolution that forced the revote on the rigged national election in Ukraine. He also credits (or, more accurately, blames) Gene Sharp for personally playing a key role in uniting the Tibetan opposition under the Dalai Lama, as well as forming the Burmese Democratic Alliance, the Taiwanese Progressive Democratic Party, and a dissident wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization that Sharp supposedly trained secretly in the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.

The failure of people power movements to succeed in some other cases was not, according to Meyssan, due to weaknesses within the movement or strengths in the state apparatus. Says Meyssan, “Gene Sharp failed in Belarus and Zimbabwe for he could not recruit and train in the proper time the necessary amount of demonstrators.”

Despite the absurdity of these claims and the attribution of seemingly superhuman capabilities to this mild-mannered intellectual, Meyssan’s article has been repeatedly cited on progressive web sites and list serves, feeding the arrogance of Western leftists who deny the capability of Asians, Africans, Latin Americans, and Eastern Europeans to organize mass actions themselves.

The Real Story

The office of the Albert Einstein Institution – which supposedly plays such a “central role” in American imperialism –is actually a tiny, cluttered space in the downstairs of Gene Sharp’s home, located in a small row house in a working class neighborhood in East Boston. The staff consists of just two employees, Sharp and a young administrator.

Rather than receiving lucrative financial support from the U.S. government or wealthy financiers, the Albert Einstein Institution is almost exclusively funded by individual small donors and foundation grants. It operates on a budget of less than $160,000 annually.

Also contrary to the slew of recent charges posted on the Internet, the Albert Einstein Institution has never funded activist groups to subvert foreign governments, nor would it have had the financial means to do so. Furthermore, AEI does not initiate contact with any individual or organizations; those interested in the group’s educational materials come to them first.

Nor have these critics ever presented any evidence that Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution has ever been requested, encouraged, advised, or received suggestions by any branch of the US government to do or not do any research, analysis, policy studies, or educational activity, much less engage in active subversion of foreign governments. And, given the lack of respect the U.S. government has traditionally had for nonviolence or for the power of popular movements to create change, it is not surprising that these critics haven’t found any.

The longstanding policy of the Albert Einstein Institution, given its limited funding and the reality of living in an imperfect world, is to be open to accepting funds from organizations that have received some funding from government sources “as long as there is no dictation or control of the purpose of our work, individual projects, or of the dissemination of the gained knowledge.” Well prior to the Bush administration coming to office, AEI received a couple of small grants from the congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) to translate some of Gene Sharp’s theoretical writings. Nearly forty years ago (and fifteen years prior to AEI’s founding), Sharp received partial research funding for his doctoral dissertation from Harvard Professor Thomas Schelling, who had received support from the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US Department of Defense to fund doctoral students.

Though these constitute the only financial support Gene Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution has ever received, even indirectly, from government sources, critics have jumped on these tenuous links to allege that AEI is “funded by the U.S. government.”

Progressive Connections

A look at the five members of the Albert Einstein Institution’s board shows that none of them is a supporter or apologist for U.S. imperialism. In addition to Sharp himself, the board consists of: human rights lawyer Elizabeth Defeis; disability rights and environmental activist Cornelia Sargent; senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA Curt Goering; and, veteran civil rights and anti-war activist Mary King, author of a recent highly acclaimed book that gives a sympathetic portrayal of the first – and largely nonviolent – Palestinian Intifada.

During the 1980s, Gene Sharp’s staff included radical sociologist Bob Irwin and Greg Bates, who went on to become the co-founder and publisher of the progressive Common Courage Press.

Some years ago, when the institute had a larger budget, one of their principal activities was to support research projects in strategic nonviolent action. Recipients included such left-leaning scholars and activists as Palestinian feminist Souad Dajani, Rutgers sociologist Kurt Schock, Israeli human rights activist Edy Kaufman, Kent State Peace Studies professor Patrick Coy, Nigerian human rights activist Uche Ewelukwa, and Paul Routledge of the University of Glasgow, all of whom have been outspoken critics of U.S. foreign policy.

For decades, the work of Gene Sharp has influenced such radical U.S. groups as Movement for a New Society, the Clamshell Alliance, the Abalone Alliance, Training for Change and other activist organizations that have promoted nonviolent direct action as a key component of their activism.

Sharp and AEI have also worked closely in recent years with pro-democracy activists battling U.S.-backed dictatorships in such countries as Egypt and Equatorial Guinea as well as with Palestinians resisting the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation, hardly “the work of empire” designed “to foster US-friendly regime change” as critics claim.

The Case of Venezuela

As part of an effort to challenge the longstanding stereotype of nonviolent action being the exclusive province of radical pacifists, Dr. Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution have taken a “transpartisan” position that cuts across political boundaries and conceptions and makes their educational resources available to essentially anyone.

Not surprisingly, a small minority of those who have taken advantage of such resources have been those whose commitment to justice and equality is questionable, including some members of Venezuelan opposition groups.

This ideological indifference on the part of Sharp and his institution has been troubling for many of us on the left, but it certainly does not constitute evidence that they are part of a U.S.-funded conspiracy to overthrow foreign governments around the world to advance U.S. imperialism and capitalist hegemony. Indeed, their consulting policy explicitly prohibits them from taking part in any political action, participating in strategic decision-making with any group, or taking sides in any conflict. None of the institute’s critics has been able to provide evidence of a single violation of this policy.

Nevertheless, in her book Bush vs. Chavez: Washington’s War on Venezuela, author Eva Golinger falsely claims that the Albert Einstein Institution has developed a plan to overthrow that country’s democratically elected government through training right-wing paramilitaries to use “widespread civil disobedience and violence throughout the nation” in order to “provoke repressive reactions by the state that would then justify crises of human right violations and lack of constitutional order.” Similarly, in a recent article, Golinger has gone so far as to claim that Gene Sharp has written “a big destabilization plan aiming to overthrow Chavez government and to pave the way for an international intervention” including sabotage and street violence. Neither Golinger nor anyone else has been able to produce a copy of this supposed plan, instead simply citing Sharp’s book The Politics of Nonviolent Action, written over 35 years ago, in which he outlines close to 200 exclusively nonviolent tactics that have been used historically, but includes no destabilization plan aimed at Venezuela or any other country.

In addition, Meyssan, in an article posted in Venezuela Analysis, insisted that “Gene Sharp and his team led the leaders of [the opposition group] Súmate during the demonstrations of August 2004.” In reality, neither Sharp nor anybody else affiliated with the Albert Einstein Institution even took part in – much less led – those demonstrations. Nor were any of them anywhere near Venezuela during that period. Nor were any of them in contact with the leaders of that demonstration.

In another article, recently posted on the Counterpunch web site, George Cicariello-Miller falsely accuses Sharp of having links with right-wing assassins and terrorists and offering training “toward the formulation of what was called ‘Operation Guarimba,’ a series of often-violent street blockades that resulted in several deaths.” Cicariello-Miller’s only evidence of Sharp’s alleged role in masterminding this operation was that a right-wing Venezuelan opposition leader had once met with Sharp in Boston and that a photo of a stylized clinched fist found in some AEI literature (taken from a student-led protest movement in Serbia eight years ago) matched those on some signs carried by anti-Chavez protesters in Venezuela.

It appears that no one who has written any of these articles or who has made such claims has ever actually attended any of the lectures, workshops, or informal meetings by Gene Sharp or others affiliated with the Albert Einstein Institution or has even bothered to interview anyone who has. If they had done so, they would quickly find that these presentations tend to be rather dry lectures which focus on the nature of power, the dynamics of nonviolent struggle, and examples of tactics used in nonviolent resistance campaigns historically. They do not instruct anybody or give specific advice about what to do in their particular situation other than to encourage activists to avoid all forms of violence.

Finally, even if one were to assume that the Albert Einstein Institution’s underfunded two-person outfit was indeed closely involved in training the Venezuelan opposition in tactics of nonviolent resistance, Chavez would have little to worry about. No government that had the support of the majority of its people has ever been overthrown through a nonviolent civil resistance movement. Every government deposed through a primarily nonviolent struggle – such as in the Philippines, Chile, Bolivia, Madagascar, Nepal, Czechoslovakia, Indonesia, Serbia, Mali, Ukraine, and elsewhere – had already lost popular support. This is not the case with Venezuela. While Chavez’ progressive economic policies have angered the old elites, he still maintains the support of the majority of the population, particularly when compared to the alternative of returning to the old elite-dominated political system.

Unfortunately, Chavez himself was apparently convinced by these conspiracy theorists that Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution really were part of a CIA-backed conspiracy against him, claiming last June that “they are the ideologues of the soft coup and it seems like they’re here [in Venezuela.] They are laying out the slow fuse … they’ll continue laying it out [with] marches, events, trying to create an explosion.” In reality, no one affiliated with AEI was in Venezuela nor were they organizing marches, events, or any other activity, much less trying to create an “explosion.”

In response, Sharp wrote a letter to President Chavez explaining the inaccuracy of the Venezuelan leader’s charges against him and expressing his concern that “for those persons who are familiar with my life and work and that of the Albert Einstein Institution, these inaccuracies, unless corrected, will cast doubts on your credibility.” He also offered Chavez a copy of his book The Anti-Coup, which includes concrete steps on how a threatened government can mobilize the population to prevent a successful coup d’etat, hardly the kind of offer made by someone conspiring with the CIA to overthrow him.

With the U.S. corporate media and members of Congress refusing to challenge the very real efforts by the Bush administration to subvert and undermine Chavez’s government, the credibility of those of us attempting to expose such genuine imperialistic intrigues are being compromised by these bizarre conspiracy theories involving Gene Sharp, the Albert Einstein Institution, and related individuals and NGOs. Golinger’s books and articles, for example, bring to light some very real and very dangerous efforts by the U.S. government and U.S.-funded agencies. It is hard for many people to take her real accusations seriously, however, in the face of her simultaneously putting forward such blatant falsehoods about Gene Sharp and his institute.

Why Such Bizarre Attacks?

There is a long, sordid history of covert U.S. support for foreign political parties, military cliques, and individual leaders, as well as related activities that have resulted in the overthrow of elected governments. And there are the very real ongoing efforts by such U.S. government-funded entities as the NED and IRI which, in the name of “democracy promotion,” provide financial and logistical support for groups working against governments the United States opposes. Given these very real manifestations of U.S. imperialism, why have some people insisted on going after an aging scholar whose worst crime may be that he is not being discriminating enough regarding with whom he shares his research?

One reason is that some critics of Sharp subscribe to the same realpolitik myth that sees local struggles and mass movements as simply manifestations of great power politics, just as the right once tried to portray the popular leftist uprisings in Central America and elsewhere simply as creations of the Soviet Union. Another factor is that many of the originators of the conspiracy theories regarding Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution are Marxist-Leninists who have traditionally downplayed the power of nonviolence and insisted that meaningful political change can only come about through manipulation by powerful external actors or privileged elites.

This is reinforced by the fact that many supporters of U.S. imperialism – particularly the neo-conservatives – share this vanguard mentality with Marxist-Leninists. As a result, the right has given the United States unjustifiable credit for many of the dramatic transitions from dictatorships to democracies which have taken place around the world in recent decades. This, in turn, has led some on the left to see such ahistorical polemics as “proof” of the central U.S. role because the imperialists are “admitting it.”

The attempts to discredit Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution – as well as similar charges against the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) and the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) – appear to be part of an effort by both the right and the far left to delegitimize the power of individuals to make change and to portray the United States – for good or for ill – as the only power that can make a difference in the world. (For a detailed analysis of the relationship between U.S. foreign policy and popular democratic movements, see my article on the United States, nonviolent action and pro-democracy struggles.)

It is therefore troubling that so many progressive sources of information have transmitted such falsehoods so widely and that so many people have come to believe them, particularly given the transparent lack of any solid evidence to back their accusations. The minority of these articles that actually have citations, for example, simply quote long-discredited sources such as Meyssan and Golinger. In a mirror-image of the right-wing’s blind acceptance of false stories about Barack Obama’s embrace of militant Islam, Michelle Obama’s anti-white rhetoric, and Nancy Pelosi’s punitive tax plan against retirees, some on the left all too easily believe what they read on the Internet. The widespread acceptance of these false charges against Gene Sharp and others raises concerns as to how many other fabricated pseudo-conspiracies are out there that distract progressive activists from challenging all-too-real abuses by the U.S. government and giant corporations.

One consequence of these attacks has been that a number of progressive grass roots organizations in foreign countries have now become hesitant to take advantage of the educational resources on strategic nonviolent action provided by the Albert Einstein Institution and related groups. As a result of fears that they may be linked to the CIA and other U.S. government agencies, important campaigns for human rights, the environment, and economic justice have been denied access to tools that could have strengthened their impact. Furthermore, these disinformation campaigns have damaged the reputation of a number of prominent anti-imperialist activists and scholars who have worked with such groups by wrongly linking them to U.S. interventionism.

Fortunately, there is now an effort underway to fight back. Activists from groups ranging from the Fellowship of Reconciliation to Code Pink to the Brown Berets – as well as such radical scholars as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Paul Ortiz – are signing onto an open letter in support of Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution.


A Reply to Stephen Gowans’ False Allegations against Stephen Zunes

[Stephen Gowans has written an article, “Stephen Zunes and the Struggle for Overseas Profits.” This is Zunes’ reply.]

Stephen Gowans’ February 18 article, “Stephen Zunes and the Struggle for Overseas Profits,” is filled with demonstrably inaccurate and misleading statements about both me and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), with whom I serve as chair of the board of academic advisors. Below is a 13-point refutation which only begins to challenge the lies and misinformation.

1) I never have and do not “defend U.S. government meddling in the affairs of other countries.” This is a complete lie. I’ve dedicated most of my academic and activist life to opposing U.S. interventionism in all its forms. I have written whole books and scores of articles opposing U.S. interference in the affairs of other countries, spoken at and taken part in numerous protests and rallies, and have even been arrested on a number of occasions protesting U.S. imperialism. If there are any doubts whatsoever to my categorical opposition to U.S. interventionism, please check out my website: www.stephenzunes.org.

2) ICNC has not been “heavily involved in successful and ongoing regime change operations, including in Yugoslavia,” nor was Yugoslavia an example of a revolution “Zunes and his colleagues assist.” Neither I nor ICNC had anything to do with the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic, which took place prior to ICNC being founded in 2001. It is totally false, therefore, to claim that Serbia was a place that “ICNC considers to be the site of one of its most successful engagements” since ICNC was never engaged there prior to the 2000 uprising.

Nor, contrary to Gowans’ assertion, did I or ICNC have any contact whatsoever with Georgians or Ukrainians before the popular nonviolent uprisings in those countries.

3) Gowans’ claim that

“Wherever Washington seeks to oust governments that pursue economically nationalist or socialist policies, you’ll find Helvey (and perhaps Zunes as well) holding seminars on nonviolent direct action: in Belarus, in Zimbabwe, in Iraq (before the U.S. invasion) and in Iran”

is a complete lie. Neither Helvey nor I (who have met each other only on handful of occasions and only in the United States) have ever held seminars in any of those countries. Furthermore, I have absolutely no interest in supporting — and have always strenuously opposed — Washington’s agenda to “oust governments that pursue economically nationalist or socialist policies.”

4) One of the most bizarre quotes from Gowans is as follows:

“Zunes would be a more credible anti-imperialist were he organizing seminars on how to use nonviolent direct action to overthrow the blatantly imperialist U.S. and British governments. With the largest demonstrations in history held in Western cities on the eve of the last conspicuous eruption of Anglo-American imperialism, it cannot be denied that there’s a grassroots movement for peace and democracy in the West awaiting Zunes’ assistance. So is he training U.S. and British grassroots activists to use nonviolent direct action to stop the machinery of war? No. His attention is directed outward, not on his own government, but on the governments Washington and ruling class think-tanks want overthrown.”

As a matter of fact, for more than thirty years I have indeed been “training U.S. … activists to use nonviolent direct action to stop the machinery of war,” working with Peace Action, War Resisters League, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ruckus Society, Direct Action Network, Direct Action against the War, and other groups through which I have led trainings for sit-ins, blockades and other forms of nonviolent direct action against the Pentagon, military recruiters, military contractors and other targets in the military-industrial complex. Regarding the “largest demonstrations in history held in Western cities on the eve of the last conspicuous eruption of Anglo-American imperialism,” I happened to have been a speaker at the February 2003 rally in San Francisco, in which I explicitly called upon the half million people gathered to support mass nonviolent direct action to stop the invasion and other manifestations of U.S. imperialism.

My background in strategic nonviolent action is rooted in my involvement in the late 1970s in Movement for a New Society, a revolutionary cadre decidedly anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist in orientation. Of the more than one hundred seminars, trainings, workshops and related events designed to educate people on nonviolent action with which I have been involved subsequently, only three have primarily consisted of participants from countries with governments opposed by the United States, approximately a dozen have consisted primarily of those from foreign countries with governments supported by the United States, and the remaining 85% or more have been for Americans struggling against U.S. government and corporate policies.

For Gowans to claim, therefore, that I have never trained American anti-war activists or that my “attention is directed [toward] governments Washington and ruling class think-tanks want overthrown” is totally and demonstrably false.

Indeed, in the final chapter of my book Nonviolent Social Movements (Blackwell, 1999), I write:

“As militarism and corporate capitalism has become global, so must nonviolent movements. For nonviolence to continue being an effective force, it must be within the context of transnational movements which struggle not just at where the worse manifestations of institutional violence occur, but at their source — which is often in the advanced industrialized countries, particularly the United States… Those of us with an appreciation for nonviolence should … be more … willing to use it ourselves.”

5) Gowans is completely wrong to claim that “the governments Zunes really seems to be concerned about (Zimbabwe, Iran, Belarus and Myanmar) are hostile to the idea of opening their doors to unrestricted U.S. investment and exports.” Indeed, anyone who bothers to look at the extensive writings on my web site and elsewhere will note that 95% of my criticisms of dictatorships and other autocratic regimes and human rights abusers are in reference to U.S.-backed governments that adopt a U.S.-backed neo-liberal agenda and not governments opposed by the United States or those which adopt a more progressive economic agenda.

As I have observed in numerous writings, public speeches, and media interviews, the United States remains the world’s number one supporter of repressive regimes and I have repeatedly criticized the ways in which the U.S. government places so-called economic “freedom” above political freedom and human rights. Therefore, Gowans’ claim that “Zunes’ rhetoric is reminiscent of Bush’s” is completely false, since I support freedom and democracy universally (with particular emphasis on repressive U.S.-backed regimes), whereas the Bush administration speaks out for “freedom and democracy” highly selectively, targeting only regimes that challenge American hegemony. Also, unlike the U.S. government, I believe that social and economic rights — which are routinely denied under capitalism — are just as important as civil and political rights.

Gowans is also completely inaccurate in insisting that the government of Zimbabwe is “one of Zunes’ and the U.S. government’s favorite bêtes noire.” That is certainly true of the U.S. government, which hypocritically singles out Zimbabwe’s dictatorship for criticism, sanctions, and subversion while supporting similar dictatorships in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroun, Chad and other African nations. In my case, however, in the scores of articles, book chapters, public lectures, and interviews of mine in which I have expressed my opposition to repressive regimes around the world, I have never written or said anything — except in passing — about Zimbabwe. To claim, then that Zimbabwe is one of my favorite bêtes noire is a total fabrication.

Having said this, I fully acknowledge my distaste for the repressive and autocratic regimes in Zimbabwe, Belarus, Iran, and Burma. The “elections” in these countries that Gowans cites to counter charges that they are dictatorships — like similar “elections” staged by such U.S.-backed dictatorships as Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan — can hardly be considered free and fair. And just because the governments of Zimbabwe, Belarus, Burma and Iran oppose U.S. imperialism, it does not mean that they are therefore progressive or democratic, nor does it mean they are not guilty of corruption and repression.

Even though the U.S. government opportunistically and hypocritically criticizes these regimes for their lack of freedom and democracy, it does not mean that progressives like me who also criticize these regimes’ human rights abuses are therefore, in Gowans’ words, “mimicking State Department press releases.”

Gowans is also incorrect to allege that I deny that the U.S. is attempting to subvert the Zimbabwean government. Such destabilization efforts — which focus upon an institution-building advancement of the U.S. agenda — are very real and I oppose them. This is very different, however, from the solidarity work provided by independent progressive non-profit groups in foreign countries to independent progressive movements in Zimbabwe and elsewhere working for justice and human rights, which focus on popular empowerment.

6) Gowans is also completely inaccurate and misleading in claiming that the “revolutions Zunes admires (Yugoslavia, Georgia, Ukraine) have brought pro-U.S., pro-foreign investment governments to power.” First of all, while there are certain aspects of those revolutions in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine that I do admire, I was frankly more excited and hopeful about earlier socialist revolutions in Nicaragua, Mozambique, Vietnam, and elsewhere that brought anti-U.S., anti-foreign investment governments to power.

More to the point, to claim that these Eastern European governments are all more “pro-foreign investment” than their predecessors as a result of their nonviolent revolutions is overly-simplistic. For example, despite enormous pressure from the United States and international financial institutions, the post-Orange Revolution government in Ukraine maintains the strongest state role in the economy of all but one of Europe’s 42 countries.

Like most people on the left, I have been very disappointed regarding capitalist encroachment in Eastern Europe. The examples Gowans cites, however, are terribly misleading:

a) Kosovo came under Western tutelage not as a result of a nonviolent struggle, but as the result of the 11-week NATO bombing campaign in 1999; the earlier Kosovar nonviolent struggle between 1990 and 1998 was largely ignored by the United States and other Western governments.

b) The 1999 NATO bombing campaign of Serbia — which I and most of those subsequently associated with ICNC strenuously opposed — was completely unrelated to the overthrow of Milosevic more than a year and a half later. The leaders of Otpor — the student-led movement which led the popular nonviolent uprising against the regime in October 2000 — were largely left-of-center nationalists who strongly opposed the bombing, which seriously set back their efforts as the Serbian people united against the foreign aggression. Indeed, Otpor suspended their anti-Milosevic campaign for the duration of the war and joined their fellow Serbs in opposition to the NATO attacks.

c) Capitalist penetration of Serbia and Georgia really got underway under the old Milosevic and Shevardnadze regimes, not the governments which came to power following those countries’ nonviolent revolutions. It should also be noted that the United States actually backed the Shevardnadze regime in Georgia because of its friendly relations with American oil companies and related economic interests, withdrawing its support just hours before the Rose Revolution toppled him. And, as recent events have reminded us, the post-Milosevic government of Serbia can hardly be considered a puppet regime of the United States.

7) It is simply untrue to claim that what “the ICNC and Stephen Zunes are all about” is “nonviolent direct activism in the service of US foreign policy goals.” My work through ICNC in educational projects on strategic nonviolent action has included support of Egyptians struggling against the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime, Palestinians struggling against the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation, Sahrawis struggling against the U.S.-backed Moroccan occupation, Maldivians struggling against the U.S.-backed Gayoom regime, West Papuans struggling against the U.S.-backed Indonesian occupation, and Guatemalan Indians struggling against the ramifications of U.S.-backed neo-liberal economic policies, among others. How could working with progressive activists struggling against U.S.-backed governments and policies possibly be construed as being “in the service of US foreign policy goals”?

Similarly, ICNC has provided educational materials on strategic nonviolent action to such American antiwar leaders as Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness, as well as such peace groups as the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Peaceworkers, among others. I have also been involved in ICNC-facilitated workshops on strategic nonviolence for immigrant rights groups and progressive unions here in the United States. How is working with progressive activists explicitly struggling against U.S. policies be considered as being “in the service of US policy goals”?

I would also challenge Gowans to find any evidence whatsoever to back up his charge that I have ever supported “fifth columnists” or any other opposition movement dependent upon and beholden to “U.S. and Western governments and Western ruling class foundations.”

8) ICNC is not “Wall Street-connected.” There has never been any coordination, meetings, dialogue or any other connections between ICNC and any Wall Street company or organization.

9) ICNC does not “promote nonviolent activism in the service of destabilizing foreign governments.” ICNC provides generic information and educational forums on the history and dynamics of strategic nonviolent action for indigenous struggles and NGOs concerned with human rights abuses, the oppression of women and minorities, corruption, and other abuses of power. In fact, ICNC’s legal charter explicitly prohibits the organization from initiating actions relative to any country.

ICNC provides its educational material and seminars for grass roots activists struggling for freedom and justice regardless of the ideological orientation or foreign policy of the ruling regimes in their countries. As mentioned above, virtually all of my work with ICNC — and most of ICNC’s work with foreign pro-democracy activists in general — have been with those struggling against governments supported by the United States, not governments opposed by the United States.

10) Gowans claims that I say that “nonviolent activists are pursuing ‘freedom and democracy’ in the same way [as] the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a project in bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East.” In reality, I never said anything like that. I was a leader in the U.S. movement against the invasion of Iraq and I have consistently challenged the myth that that war of aggression had anything to do with advancing freedom and democracy. Again, check out my web site.

11) Despite Gowans’ claims to the contrary, I have no associations with “dodgy U.S. ruling class foundations that hide the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy objectives behind a high-sounding commitment to peace.” The unfortunate reality in capitalist societies is that most non-profit organizations — from universities to social justice organizations to art galleries to peace groups (and ICNC as well) — depend at least in part on donations from wealthy individuals and from foundations which get their money from wealthy individuals. Just because the ultimate source of funding for various non-profit groups is from members of the ruling class, however, does not mean that ruling class interests therefore set the agenda for every such non-profit group; they certainly do in some cases, but not in many other cases, including that of ICNC.

For example, Gowans reports ominously that “Zunes has received at least one research grant from the United States Institute of Peace (USIP),” which receives U.S. government support, “and has served as a fellow of the organization,” the purpose of which he describes as “the pursuit of U.S. corporate and investor interests abroad.” I did receive one research fellowship from USIP back in 1989 — which is what makes one a USIP “fellow” — to study the role of the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations in efforts to resolve the Morocco-Western Sahara conflict. The conclusions of that research — which is finally being published later this year as a book from Syracuse University Press — put the blame for the irresolution of the conflict largely on the United States, France and other imperialist powers for supporting the Moroccan occupation. Indeed, my USIP-funded research was openly sympathetic to the struggle of the Polisario Front and the Sahrawi people for self-determination. I would be quite willing to provide Gowans or anyone else a summary of my USIP-funded research to demonstrate that there is absolutely nothing in it that could possibly be construed as being supportive of “the pursuit of U.S. corporate and investor interests abroad.”

Gowans is also incorrect to claim that I am “busy applying for grants from a phony U.S. government institute of peace.” I have not applied for a grant from USIP or any other government foundation for well over a decade.

And, despite Gowans’ claim to the contrary, ICNC president Jack DuVall has had no personal connection whatsoever to USIP, except for speaking there as part of a couple of public panel discussions.

12) Gowans’ claims that the son of ICNC’s founding director used “bombs and bullets, not nonviolent activism, to change Iraq’s regime.” In reality, Peter Ackerman’s son, a U.S. Marine, did not take part in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. (His unit, like most American combat units, was later rotated in and out of the country.) Dr. Ackerman, like everyone else I know affiliated with ICNC, personally opposed the invasion and argued that regime change in Iraq, as needed elsewhere, should come through nonviolent struggle by the subjected peoples themselves, not from foreign invaders.

13) In addition to the factual errors above, there are a series of seriously misleading statements which need to be addressed:

a) Many of Gowans’ attacks consist of guilt-by-association. For example, because ICNC founding director Peter Ackerman happens to sit on various boards which include, among others, some rather notorious neo-conservatives and other imperialists, Gowans wants readers to believe that this somehow makes me and ICNC part of their imperialist agenda. Gowans’ is certainly correctly to point out that, in the cases of many of these people, “the only freedom they’re interested in is the freedom of U.S. corporations and investors to accumulate capital wherever and whenever they please,” but they are not the ones who set ICNC’s policies. They happen to sit in the same room a few times a year with Dr. Ackerman, with whom I’ve had relatively little contact, and who has severed his operational ties with ICNC since becoming the chair of Freedom House. Yet Gowans wants readers to think that these degrees of separation are somehow a more significant indication of where I come from than my critical writings against corporate globalization, my facing down the WTO on the streets of Seattle in 1999, my repeated arrests in protests against various nefarious manifestations of corporate capitalism, and other activities. Similarly, Gowans tries to link their imperialist agenda with me because simply because I “share” their “rhetorical commitment to ‘freedom and democracy,'” ignoring everything else I have said or written which challenges such imperialist pursuits of overseas profits.

b) Referring to ICNC President Jack DuVall as a “former air force officer” is a highly-selective summary of his career prior to the founding of ICNC. DuVall served for slightly more than two years in the air force nearly 40 years ago at a time when American males were subjected to military conscription. He enlisted into a non-combat position as a young lieutenant to avoid serving in Vietnam in a war which he strenuously opposed, was glad when he was discharged, and has had no involvement with the U.S. military since then.

c) No one at ICNC was aware of Bob Helvey’s 2003 trip to Venezuela until well after the fact; I only found out about it last week. In any case, whatever he did there had nothing to do with me or ICNC. I certainly oppose any U.S-backed efforts to subvert the democratically-elected government of Venezuela. Gowans is not telling the truth, however, when he refers to Helvey’s “work in Serbia before Milosevic’s fall” where he “briefed students on ways to organize a strike and how to undermine the authority of a dictatorial regime.” That allegation has long since been refuted. Helvey was never in Serbia prior to Milosevic’s overthrow. The full extent of his involvement with the opposition student movement prior to the uprising was when he met with some Otpor activists in Budapest in a half-day meeting in April 2000, well after Otpor had already become a powerful dissident organization, had already engaged in a series of nonviolent action campaigns, and the Milosevic regime had already arrested more than 400 of their activists. In any case, Helvey has no formal association with ICNC. His book On Strategic Non-Violent Conflict is featured on ICNC’s web site, but there is absolutely nothing in it promoting U.S. intervention, imperialism, capitalism, or any other aspect of the U.S. foreign policy agenda.