I'm currently engaged in a debate over at NarcoNews' The Field, over comments to Al Giordano's article "Toppling a Coup, Part I: Dilemmas for the Honduras Regime".
This is my last reply. I didn't mean to stir a hornet's nest, but I think the criticism was over-the-top and not entirely accurate. Please go over and read the debate and decide for yourself. All comments will be published here.
Here is my reply sent in to The Field:
Thanks Al & Ivan. Let's try to keep this discussion civil shall we -Al?
1. You refer to "the US left" and "US activists", presumably about me. Actually I'm British, resident in Spain. Also, I am an ordinary man in the street, and I humbly apologise if my choice of words when writing my comment in a hurry was not to your liking. This is now the second time you've jumped on me like a ton of bricks. Its as if there has to be some kind of a 'pensamiento único' on the left which is crap.
2. Nowhere do I say anything contrary to your assertion that the US "only supported OTPOR in Serbia during the last three months of its struggle". That's a straw man Al.
William D. Montgomery, the former American ambassador to Croatia virtually confirmed what you say in this NYT article, so why should I counter it?
"'Milosevic was personal for Madeleine Albright, a very high priority,'' says Montgomery, who was yanked out of Croatia in June to head a group of officials monitoring Serbia. ''She wanted him gone, and Otpor was ready to stand up to the regime with a vigor and in a way that others were not. Seldom has so much fire, energy, enthusiasm, money -- everything -- gone into anything as into Serbia in the months before Milosevic went.''"
However, according to Paul B. McCarthy, an official with the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy:
''And so,'' McCarthy says, ''from August 1999 the dollars started to flow to Otpor pretty significantly.'' Of the almost $3 million spent by his group in Serbia since September 1998, he says, ''Otpor was certainly the largest recipient.'' The money went into Otpor accounts outside Serbia. At the same time, McCarthy held a series of meetings with the movement's leaders in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, and in Szeged and Budapest in Hungary. Homen, at 28 one of Otpor's senior members, was one of McCarthy's interlocutors. ''We had a lot of financial help from Western nongovernmental organizations,'' Homen says. ''And also some Western governmental organizations.''
"At the International Republican Institute, another nongovernmental Washington group financed partly by A.I.D., an official named Daniel Calingaert says he met Otpor leaders ''7 to 10 times'' in Hungary and Montenegro, beginning in October 1999. Some of the $1.8 million the institute spent in Serbia in the last year was ''provided direct to Otpor,'' he says. By this fall, Otpor was no ramshackle students' group; it was a well-oiled movement backed by several million dollars from the United States."
So, is McCarthy lying? Was Homen? Was Calingaert? Or is it Roger Cohen? Of course, it might very well be the case that they were trying to overstate their involvement.
You specifically say 3 months, but August 1999 to Sep/Oct 2000 is a bit more than 3 months...
3. You assert that I suggest "Ivan Marovich was...trained by IRI or any US agency", False. I said "they trained the student movement, Otpor". Once again Roger Cohen: "Calingaert's organization arranged for a seminar at the luxurious Budapest Hilton from March 31 to April 3. There a retired United States Army colonel, Robert Helvey, instructed more than 20 Otpor leaders in techniques of nonviolent resistance. This session appears to have been significant."
It was Srdja Popovic "...who coordinated the training of Otpor's 70,000 members in 130 branches...These training methods were heavily influenced by Helvey. Gathered in a conference room of the Budapest Hilton (''We thought it was stupid to organize a revolution in a luxury hotel,'' Srdja says, ''but the Americans chose that place''), the Otpor activists listened as Helvey dissected what he called the ''pillars of support'' of the regime. These naturally included the police, the army and the news media, but also the more intangible force of Milosevic's ''authority.'' That is, his capacity to give orders and be obeyed.
Find nonviolent ways to undermine authority, Helvey suggested. Look at Myanmar. There, the opposition National League for Democracy took a farmer's hat as its symbol; so everyone started to wear farmer's hats. The regime tried to make the hats illegal, but such repression merely provoked outrage..." etc.
4. Nobody said anything about "people in other lands" being "unable to do things for themselves" apart from yourself. Neither did I make any"claims that because, one, OTPOR had a clenched fist logo and then, two, the Iranian resistance used a clenched fist logo that there is some kind of US backed conspiracy in both." That was you.
Again, referring to Otpor, I said "They were also the 'inspiration' behind other 'color' revolutions". Inspiration Al: ": the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions or the act of influencing or suggesting opinions" http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inspiration
I should have mentioned Georgia and the Ukraine. as well.
As for Helvey holding a training session for Venezuelan students, this is no conspiracy theory but a fact. I just stated that fact.
Finally, you claim that I am "inventing and spreading counter-insurgency rumors". This is just not so.
I don't deny that the claims "came from NED and IRI", and that "they wanted us to forget the role of the US in Serbian politics during the nineties". The point is, is it true what they say about their involvement in the last months?
You also say "Robert Helvey played no role in our struggle" and "most leaders of the movement were not present"
Srdja Popovic doesn't appear to hold the same opinion. According to the NYT "It was he (Popovic) who coordinated the training of Otpor's 70,000 members in 130 branches...Helvey stressed the sources of momentum in a nonviolent movement. ''There is an enormous price -- domestic and international -- paid today for using force against a nonviolent movement,'' he says. ''The battle is asymmetrical. The dictator still may hold the externalities of power, but he is steadily undermined.'' This process has been dubbed ''political ju-jitsu'' by Gene Sharp, an American writer who is close to Helvey and who emerged as a sort of guru to Otpor leaders. His book ''From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation,'' became a samizdat passed around Otpor branches in the last months of Milosevic's rule...Srdja is often to be found in Belgrade with heavily underlined copies of Sharp's work, parts of which were translated into Serbian as the ''Otpor User Manual.'' Not for nothing were Otpor's activities drawn from Sharp's list of 198 ''methods of nonviolent action.''
Further, Helvey wasn't the only one as the NYT article claims:
"McCarthy held a series of meetings with the movement's leaders in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, and in Szeged and Budapest in Hungary" and "Daniel Calingaert says he met Otpor leaders ''7 to 10 times'' in Hungary and Montenegro, beginning in October 1999."
But then we can always say that these meetings were inconsequential and that "US institutions have to show how they are the ones making things happen". Curious then that people such as Bill Blum or former CIA agent Philip Agee seem to believe it, They must be a conspiracy theorists I suppose...or Agee a Cuban agent.
It is also entirely possible that Popovic was overstating his own role "Srdja calls himself -- half jokingly -- the ''ideological commissar'' of Otpor" and that The NYT' Roger Cohen was also trying to "show how they are the ones making things happen".
This all however, by the by. The point is Honduras. Al, I respect your work greatly, which is why I always come here to read your stuff, and I have got no desire to get into an acrimonious debate. But let's not understate US involvement in colour revolutions around the world. My point was, that it is indeed ironic that tactics developed to support 'colour' revolutions and influenced and financed by US GOs and so-called NGOs, are now being used against pro-US dictatorships and against US 'interests'.Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Unfortunately, Al Giordano doesn't believe in free speech:
"Mr. Sketchley - Regarding your last submission: Counter-insurgency is counter-insurgency, and won't be obliged here. Take your sloppy use of facts combined with innuendo somewhere else. It is not welcome here."
The problem is he's censored my post while at the same time referring to it.
Let me change the tense of 'respect' to the past simple. Mr. Giordano has just lost the respect I had. This is a cowardly action if ever there was one.
My last message to Mr. Giordano:
"Of course, it's your blog so can play God and refuse to publish whatever you want.
Counter-insurgency? Sloppy use of facts combined with innuendo? Where? The only sloppy use of facts combined with innuendo was on your part, as I showed in the post you censored. Which is of course why you censored it. And you talked about shame? Pure hypocrisy. If it was sloppy, publish it, it should be easy to refute it.
It reminds me of what Chomsky wrote to me about the use of the word conspiracy theory, another charge you level against me. He likened it to bar-room brawl, where when some one is left with no verbal argument, they invariably start the brawl."
It seems Mr. Giordano just started a brawl.