If Antiwar.com had tried a little harder “to squeeze the truth from the information they can get” (or even paid better attention to the information that all too infrequently appeared on its own site) they would find that the reality in Syria (see a more recent and comprehensive analysis here) was quite different from what their research editor would have its readers believe. Moreover, it wasn’t as difficult as some seem to have have found it to see who was pushing hardest (as they had done in Libya and in previous interventions) to get America to take the “humanitarian” road to Damascus.
While most readers were perplexed by Jason Ditz’s blatant bias in favour of the Syrian opposition, a look at some of his earlier writings provides an explanation. In a March 3, 2008 post on the Antiwar Blog entitled “In Defense of Non-Violence,” Ditz opined:
Rather, we know precisely what strategy the Israeli military employs in response to non-violence, because it is the only strategy available to it. Indeed it is the only strategy militaries ever employ in response to non-violence, and we saw it clearly this weekend.
Seeing the path of non-violence to its necessary conclusion is not easy for precisely this reason: that every act of non-violence [sic] defiance is met with an act of increasingly disproportionate violence in the hopes of realizing a violent response and vindicating the claim that the posture of non-violence is an insincere one.
The people of the Gaza Strip must hold firm in their resolve for non-violence. They must make it clear to the Israeli military that they will not be swayed, nor will they respond violently. They must leave the Israeli government with only two choices: acquiescence or committing genocide. And despite what Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister or anyone else may say, they must remain confident that Israel cannot choose the latter.
This weekend may have been a setback for non-violence, but it is nothing resembling failure. Non-violence remains not just an option for the Palestinians in the face of occupation, but at the end of the day, the only one.
In March 2005, Ditz was the first to respond to a message on an Anti-State.com discussion forum entitled “Ideas for How Somalis can defend themselves” in which someone called “chemical_ali” notified participants of the Albert Einstein Institute’s release of Robert Helvey’s On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict as a free PDF. Describing “chemical_ali” – a rather odd choice of pseudonym for an advocate of nonviolence – as “probably my favorite new poster in the past year,” Ditz didn’t raise any questions (nor did anyone else in the discussion) about why Gene Sharp’s nice-sounding “nonviolent resistance thinktank” might be offering a book on strategic nonviolent conflict for free by the former military attaché at the US Embassy in Rangoon.
As luck would have it, Antiwar.com soon provided an answer. In his column on April 16, editorial director Justin Raimondo noted the collaboration between a key sponsor of nonviolent revolution (who later told the Wall Street Journal that he had given a sum in the “low eight figures” to the Albert Einstein Institute) with one of the more notorious proponents of violent regime change:
“Say You Want a Revolution,” is the title of a piece by neoconservative Michael “Faster Please” Ledeen, a tireless advocate of the U.S. waging endless wars of “liberation,” and Peter Ackerman, chairman of the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). Its theme: more U.S. tax dollars to fund “revolutionaries” in a new model of “regime change” – as in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan. According to these two, Iran, Lebanon, and Syria are next. Now, before you say anything, it’s just a coincidence that all these countries are in the Middle East and just happen to be Israel’s worst enemies – stop being such a killjoy! Besides, the “revolutionaries” are ready to roll, but they can’t do it without U.S. tax dollars and other assistance.
Observing that Ackerman’s ICNC had been “at the center of machinations that have felled regimes from Belgrade to Bishkek and back,” Raimondo traced the business ties of its founding vice-chairman, Berel Rodal, to then Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle, whose short-lived controversial venture capital company, Trireme Partners LLP, invested in technology, goods, and services related to Homeland Security. Pointing out that “[t]he little stormtroopers of the ‘democratic’ revolutions are in most cases unwitting foot-soldiers of War Profits, Inc.,” Raimondo concluded that the seemingly idealistic advocates of nonviolent resistance and the most extreme warmongering ideologues were little more than two sides of the same deceptive coin:
Chameleon-like, they readily assume “left” and “right“-wing forms, appropriating the language of whatever audience they’re trying to manipulate: they speak the harsh language of nationalism and super-patriotism as well as the more polite PC lingo of “humanitarian intervention” and “human rights” internationalism. Ledeen invokes Mussolini’s ghost, while the ICNC channels Martin Luther King and Gandhi.
Interestingly, it was reported in an April 2005 profile of Ackerman in The New Republic, aptly entitled “Regime Change, Inc.,” that he had sent a trainer to Palestine “to spend twelve days creating a nonviolent vanguard to challenge Hamas” – three years before Antiwar’s Jason Ditz opined that nonviolence was the Palestinians’ only option.
Platform for Regime Change, Inc.
Yet despite Raimondo’s exposure of the nonviolent revolutionaries, the chameleon-like channelers of King and Gandhi continued to be given a platform at Antiwar.com. On February 28, 2011, its Viewpoints section featured a link to an interview with Gene Sharp entitled “Teaching People Power,” just as, in the words of Reason magazine’s Jesse Walker, “the revolutionary fire lit in Tunisia in December was burning across the Middle East and Africa.” On December 5, as that Regime Change, Inc.-kindled fire was being directed against Damascus, Antiwar’s Viewpoints featured Gene Sharp’s “Choices for Defecting Syrian Soldiers,” in which “The 83 Year Old Who Toppled Egypt” offered strategic advice to the few who had already defected, suggesting that they “help the regime’s other soldiers also to defect from the Assad regime.”
While Regime Change, Inc.’s aging intellectual guru appears to have at least one or two fans at Antiwar.com, its “publicist within the progressive community,” Stephen Zunes, is even more popular there. During the so-called “Green Revolution” in Iran, they reprinted his “Iran’s Do-It-Yourself Revolution,” in which the well-paid chair of the academic advisory committee of Peter Ackerman’s International Center on Nonviolent Conflict attempted to deny the democracy-meddling establishment’s self-confessed role in that and other “colour revolutions.”
On one of the rare occasions that Regime Change, Inc.’s role in the so-called “Arab Spring” was actually acknowledged at Antiwar.com, Zunes appeared semi-anonymously in the comments section to pooh-pooh the very idea. In a June 24 column entitled “Invasion of the Mind Snatchers,” Nebosja Malic reviewed “The Revolution Business,” a documentary that shows veterans of Otpor, the Sharp/Helvey/Ackerman-linked Serbian youth group that toppled Milosevic, training the activists who directed the not-so-spontaneous-after-all “Arab Spring.” Touting one of the Serbian trainer’s “anti-imperial” credentials, “StephenZ” commented:
And does Malic really think that a handful of Serbs can get millions of peoples out on the streets? Does he really think that Arabs are simply sheep that a few white Europeans lead to a popular insurrection against entrenched US-backed dictatorships? Get real!
StephenZ did not respond to my comment inquiring whether this was part of his responsibilities as chair of the academic advisory committee for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.
More recently, “the great Stephen Zunes” was interviewed by Scott Horton on Antiwar Radio in which he argued that the Arab Spring was “the culmination of decades of peaceful rebellion against tyrannical governments.” Despite his collaboration with Otpor alumni in training activists in Egypt and elsewhere in nonviolent conflict (an important fact that was deftly obscured during the interview, unless we count Zunes’ oblique reference to having “met” Syrian activists), the ICNC’s academic advisor claimed that the US had “very little” to do with these “really exciting” developments.
But as Professor William I. Robinson, the author of the seminal critique of the “democracy promotion” establishment, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony, has written of the man who funds Zunes’ work:
That Ackerman is a part of the U.S. foreign policy elite and integral to the new modalities of intervention under the rubric of “democracy promotion,” etc., is beyond question. There is nothing controversial about that and anyone who believes otherwise is clearly seriously misinformed or just ignorant.
When it comes to Antiwar.com, however, one certainly cannot rule out the possibility of ignorance. Asked by Russia Today’s Adam Kokesh in early August “to help put what’s going on in Syria into the broader context of modern history in the Arab world,” Antiwar Radio producer Angela Keaton offered this astounding explanation of the mainstream media’s supposed “reluctance” to report the Syrian government’s alleged atrocities:
I mean, you know, [inaudible], Assad’s a US puppet.