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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Convenient “Critics”; the “Defend-the-Surge” Campaign; Freedom’s Watch; Shulsky; Frum; and more

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FEATURED ARTICLE

The So-Called War Critics
By Khody Akhavi

Supporters of the Iraq War are increasingly being cited in the media as critics who have had a change of heart. Case in point is the recent spate of attention given to two "surge" proponents based at the Brookings Institution, whose recent optimistic assessments of the war have been misleadingly portrayed as newsworthy about-faces . Read full story.

FEATURED PROFILES

Abram Shulsky
According to some reports, Shulsky, a Leo Strauss scholar and intelligence expert, shifted from the now-defunct Office of Special Plans to the so-called Iranian Directorate in the Pentagon after the invasion of Iraq.

David Frum
According to Frum, the Bush speechwriter who is credited with the phrase "axis of evil," the American people have at long last realized that the West is at war with Islam.

Christopher Williams
A former Rumsfeld aide, Williams blurs the line between business and politics. As a policymaker, he has pushed for a larger and more active military; as a lobbyist, he has represented many of the same defense contractors that stand to profit from military expansion.

Freedom’s Watch
Ari Fleischer and his "cavalry" of pro-war hawks hope to retake the debate over the Iraq War through the new advocacy outfit Freedom’s Watch, whose TV ads declare that " victory is America’s only choice ."

ON THE NEWS

—Surge Defenders Make a Splash

—Backing Bush on Iran

—"Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week"

By Jim Lobe

The neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which contributed so much to the propaganda and planning for the Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation, appears set to launch a "Defend-the-Surge" campaign in the run-up to the presentation of and congressional debate over the Petraeus-Crocker report with an afternoon forum to be held on September 6 whose title, "’No Middle Way’ in Iraq," is suggestive of its conclusions. (Perhaps coincidentally, Rich Lowry has an article in the latest National Review magazine whose subtitle is "Sen. Richard Lugar and the Disastrous ‘Middle Way’ on Iraq"—an attack on Indiana Republican Lugar’s floor speech that called, among other things, for the adoption of the major recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.)

The lineup is predictable, although it lacks even the token dissident whom it usually invites on such occasions, if for no other reason than to act as a convenient Colmes to AEI’s raging Hannity. Participating in the first panel will be two of the surge’s key architects— Fred Kagan (who escorted Bill Kristol on his first trip to Iraq earlier this month) and ret. Gen. Jack Keane. Joining them will be (surprise!) Michael O’Hanlon from the supposedly more-liberal (but increasingly interventionist) Brookings Institution, a big surge supporter whose July 30 New York Times op-ed, co-authored by fellow-Brookings Iraq hawk Ken Pollack, made such a splash in the mainstream media.

* * * *

On the heels of President George W. Bush’s latest threats against Iran for its "murderous activities" in Iraq, the Weekly Standard has obligingly published a 30-page report by Kimberly Kagan, spouse of surge co-architect and AEI fellow Frederick Kagan and director of an entity called the Institute for the Study of War, entitled " Iran’s Proxy War Against the United States and the Iraqi Government." The report seems intended to back up a series of Bush’s assertions from his American Legion speech in Reno Wednesday about alleged Iranian support for and arming of "Shia extremists." The coincidence of the speech and the report suggests some coordination between the White House and the Standard, since the report itself would be the kind of product that would normally be put out by the State Department and/or the Pentagon. It would not be surprising if Dick Cheney alludes to it in his next public appearance or media interview.

Unlike the breathless disclosures of Stephen Hayes, the Standard‘s correspondent who was used by Cheney’s office and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith as a conduit for "authorized" leaks regarding the alleged relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, Kagan’s report, the sixth in a series of monthly analyses defending the "surge" strategy, appears to be based primarily on published sources and Pentagon briefings, although its factual assertions often go beyond those of the sources on which she relies. ("The government of Iran has also exported rockets, sniper rifles, and mortars to enemy groups in Iraq.") Unsurprisingly, her conclusions imply that diplomatic engagement with Iran is counterproductive. ("These negotiations with Iran, including the establishment of a tripartite sub-ambassadorial level coordinating committee on security in Iraq, have coincided with a significant increase in Iranian support for violence in Iraq.")

* * * *

"This October 22-26, I am declaring Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week," declared David Horowitz Tuesday in a friendly interview on www.FrontpageMag.com, one of Horowitz’s many front groups. "I will hold demonstrations and protests, teach-ins and sit-ins on more than 100 college campuses. Our theme will be the Oppression of Women in Islam and the threat posed by the Islamic crusade against the West."

Horowitz, who, along with Frank Gaffney, James Woolsey, and Rick Santorum has played a truly vanguard role in popularizing the "Islamo-Fascism" tag, apparently has few doubts about his impact. "During the week of October 22-26, 2007, the nation will be rocked by the biggest conservative campus protest ever—Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, a wake-up call for Americans on 200 university and college campuses." The event will confront the two "Big Lies of the political left:" that "George Bush created the war on terror and that Global Warming is a greater danger to Americans than the terrorist threat." In fact, according to Horowitz, Islamofascism constitutes "the greatest danger Americans have ever confronted."

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to Right Web (http://rightweb.irc-online.org). This column is excerpted from Lobe’s blog, LobeLog.com.

LETTERS

Re: Tom Barry, " The New Politics of Political Aid in Venezuela," Right Web, July 18, 2007

In mid-July, Right Web published an otherwise excellent article regarding the Bush administration’s efforts to subvert the democratically elected government of Venezuela that contained a few inaccurate and misleading statements. Although Right Web has since posted a corrected version of the article, I would like to set the record straight for those who have only read the original version and clarify some issues regarding non-violent political action and what it says about Bush administration policy.

While the Serbian-based Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) has done two workshops for opposition activists in Venezuela, they have also sponsored and participated in workshops for movements challenging U.S.-backed governments in such countries as Egypt, Morocco, Azerbaijan, the Maldives, Eritrea, Indonesia, Fiji, Tonga, and the Israeli-occupied territories, among others. The leaders of CANVAS, who were active in the 2000 pro-democracy movement which toppled Slobodan Milosevic, are decidedly left-of-center Serbian nationalists who vehemently opposed the 1999 NATO bombing of their country and are sharply critical of U.S. policy in the Balkans and beyond. Their limited contacts with U.S. officials both before and after the overthrow of Milosevic revealed to them the profound ignorance among American officials regarding the dynamics of nonviolent action and the nature of their particular struggle. Furthermore, they have been sharp critics of the National Endowment for Democracy, which they see as a political tool of the Bush administration. CANVAS has never received U.S. government funding.

Neither the U.S.-based International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) nor the Albert Einstein Institution ever received any government funding (as confirmed by their tax records). Both have supported seminars for nonviolent opposition groups regardless of their regimes’ relationship with the United States. In fact, ICNC responded favorably to a recent inquiry by Medea Benjamin—co-founder of Global Exchange and Code Pink—about leading seminars for American anti-war activists. As chair of ICNC’s academic advisory board, I can attest that they do not by any means carry a pro-Bush agenda. It stretches the imagination to think that a group advancing Bush’s foreign policy goals in Venezuela and elsewhere would name an outspoken critic of Bush foreign policy like me to that position. Nor would I accept a position at an organization espousing a pro-Bush agenda.

The only time ICNC has ever paid anyone to go to Venezuela to give presentations on nonviolent action was last year, when I—along with David Hartsough, the radical pacifist director of Peaceworkers—led a series of workshops at the World Social Forum in Caracas, where we showed a film ICNC helped develop on the pro-democracy movement in Chile against Pinochet and gave lectures and led discussions on nonviolent resistance. The only reference to Venezuela during those workshops, in response to questions from the floor, was how massive nonviolent action could be used to resist a possible coup against Hugo Chavez, not foment one. (Interestingly, perhaps the best academic study available on the application of nonviolent resistance against such a military overthrow of a democratically elected government, The Anti-Coup, was published by the Albert Einstein Institution in 2003.)

In his article, Tom Barry cited the 2005 Freedom House study How Freedom is Won, which concluded that 50 of the 67 "transitions to democracy over the previous third of a century" were driven primarily by "civil resistance, featuring strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, and mass protests," the implication being that the United States and some allied NGOs were hoping to force a similar transition in Venezuela. However, the 67 case studies were in regard to dictatorial regimes, which Venezuela is not. Furthermore, no leader who has had the support of the majority of his people, as does Chavez, has ever been overthrown through such civil resistance. This is why the "strike" centered in the oil sector a few years ago failed to bring down his government.

The Venezuelan experience underscores the difference between U.S. government policy—which seeks to promote coups d’etat and other kinds of violent seizures of power by an undemocratic minority—and groups like ICNC, CANVAS, and the Albert Einstein Institution, which promote nonviolent struggle by a pro-democratic majority. Unlike fomenting a military coup or supporting a military occupation, which are based upon control of the population and suppression of political opponents, nonviolent civil insurrections—as a result of being based upon a broad coalition of popular movements—are impossible for an outside power to control.

If Chavez ever does evolve into a dictator and lose the support of the Venezuelan people, he may indeed be subjected to a popular nonviolent civil insurrection like the people power movements that have toppled dictatorships elsewhere. In such a case, however, it will be the Venezuelans themselves, not the U.S. government, who would make it happen. As long as Chavez maintains the support of his people and allows democratic institutions to fully function, however, he needn’t fear nonviolent protests, regardless of whether the opposition receives U.S. support.

Stephen Zunes
University of San Francisco

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