31 August 2009

22 August 2009

Over 90 Scholars and Latin America Experts Call on Human Rights Watch to Speak Out on Honduras Abuses - Garzón in Honduras

"93 scholars and Latin America experts from institutions such as Yale, Harvard, and New York University sent an open letter to Human Rights Watch today urging the organization to highlight various human rights violations in Honduras under the coup regime, and to conduct its own investigation."

Full text here.

Also thanks to hcvanalysis post at Honduras Oye blog for pointing me to the story on Balthazar Garzón's visit to Tegucigalpa tomorrow (Sunday).

15 August 2009

11 August 2009

Further Reply to Al Giordano re "Toppling a Coup, Part I: Dilemmas for the Honduras Regime"

Mr Giordano's way over the top reaction to my original post got me wondering. I couldn't figure out what had upset him so much or why. He also gave no sources for his sweeping statements, which contradict much published material on Otpor.

I wrote to Diana Johnstone, author of Fool's Crusade , described by Ed Herman as 'the outstanding Left analyst of the Balkans'.

She graciously consented to me publishing the following comments:

"What is significant in all this confusion about Otpor is the distinction that needs to be made between means and ends. Getting out in the street in protest, or wearing provocative t-shirts, or pasting up posters with fist logos, etc., etc., are all means that can be used for a variety of ends. In themselves, they say nothing about the political quality of the ends pursued.
Much of the contemporary left, having lost any clear purpose of its own, is extremely gullible when it comes to mistaking supposedly revolutionary means for progressive revolutionary ends.
A significant point in the Washington Post article by Michael Dobbs (below) is that the Otpor strategy would not work in a totalitarian state. To go farther, the public relations methods used by Otpor (which were both suggested and, more significantly, financed by the US government) were designed to destabilize a government which was not totalitarian, and which was even, by the standards of post-communist transitional states, was democratic. That is, it was elected, it was based on pluralistic coalitions, it did not repress its opposition, the opposition press was free, and so on.
We should ask why, then, the Otpor strategy appealed to some part of Serbian youth, and what its real aims were.
The answer, in my view, is that in the contemporary world, the United States is universally dominant ideologically thanks in very large part to its entertainment industry. The youth of almost the entire world are particularly influenced by that entertainment industry, and want to be part of the world it portrays. I think it is significant that so many of Otpor militants were physical education majors – activists more than thinkers, susceptible to the physical attractiveness of the Americanized world which they felt they were being unjustly deprived of. This is a new kind of "oppression", which has nothing to do with the oppression of labor that was protested by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 1891. But using the same logo as the IBEW seems to be enough to confuse certain leftists without a left (like rebels without a cause).
The "oppression" of the Otpor generation is that of being deprived of the fun of what they perceive to be modern Americanized society. They don’t like being bombed by NATO, but they would rather blame their own government than give up their aspiration to belong to "the world" as reflected in American entertainment culture.
The leftists without a left see the raised fist and fancy they are seeing a social rebellion that somehow carries on the traditions of the working class left. But the left has never been about strengthening the position of what Marxists used to call the comprador bourgeoisie – that segment of the middle class of various subjugated countries which identifies whole-heartedly with the imperialist powers dominating, or trying to dominate, their own countries.
-- Diana Johnstone"

She linked to the same WaPo article I quoted in my comment below. Also linked was the Wikipedia entry for Gene Sharp.

Ivan Marovic: Perhaps Mr Giordano ought to check up on him as I have done. You could, for a start, ask him where he was in April 2005.

The New York Sun (not exactly a "Trotksyite" blog), in an article published in March 2006 entitled: "Iran Launches a Crackdown On Democracy Activists", reported:

"With the Bush administration demanding $75 million to encourage opposition to Iran's ruling mullahs, the Tehran regime has already started cracking down on democracy activists in the country who have received aid from the West.

On February 13, just two days before Secretary of State Rice formally requested the opposition funds, Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security arrested Ali Afsahi, a former film critic and journalist who attended a human rights training seminar in Dubai last April.

The workshop was sponsored by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center at Yale University, which was granted $1 million in 2004 by a smaller American government aid program intended for Iran's opposition inside the country.

Mr. Afsahi also attended a seminar held by the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, an organization that receives no funding from any government or corporation but offered a session led by some of the Serb activists who helped organize the downfall of their country's dictator, Slobodan Milosevic, in 2000.

The organizers of last year's sessions said they believed the arrest in Dubai is an effort to poison the well and scare off other dissidents in Iran from participating in international conferences and events."

The NYS even mentioned Mr Marovic towards the end of the article:

"Mr. Ackerman, like Otpor, are adherents of the theory of Gene Sharp, the author of a series of books on nonviolent conflict who is generally credited with being the first person to study rigorously the techniques of mass civil disobedience and place them in the context of traditional military strategy. In 2004, Cuban dissidents were arrested in Havana for possessing video tapes of the documentary.

One of the Otpor trainers at last April's workshop in Dubai, Ivan Marovic, described his work as follows: "The content of the workshop consisted of explaining the principles of mobilizing the population in the situation where fear is high and there are tensions in the society, meaning they are facing a political crisis.

"We discussed how to overcome that crisis without destruction of property and loss of human life. These are nonviolent strategies of civic mobilization. This is a standard workshop based on the examples from Otpor, our fight against Slobodan Milosevic."

Mr. Marovic sees some similarities between the plight of Mr. Asfahi and many of his comrades from the Milosevic era. "This whole thing is nothing new. In Serbia we were accused of being terrorists and mercenaries of the west. This just shows the nervousness of the regime in Iran."

You can also hear Mr Marovic's advice to the Iranian revolutionaries on this Radio Netherlands interview.

And for a full who's who of Marovic's friends you should also read this:

"A Force More Powerful: Promoting ‘Democracy’ through Civil Disobedience"

As you can see by the extensively documented article 'A Force More Powerful' Mr Marovic is involved "in the production of a progressive activist-orientated computer game (which was released in February 2006)...
The name of this new seemingly progressive game is A Force More Powerful: The Game of Nonviolent Strategy, which was based on the book A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000). The book was also preceded by the production of a two part documentary series, which was released in 1999, going by the same name, and aired on PBS the following year. Now assuming that the book, film, and game were historically accurate and were useful to progressive activists, does it then matter that the people involved in producing these resources are closely linked to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and much of the US-based ‘democracy promoting’ establishment? I would suggest that the answer to this question is yes, and that these links do matter a great deal...

'The concept of serious games for educational purposes is much older than we see. It was actually in the military that they used educational games for years… [I]t was just a matter of time before these concepts would pull out of the military and be embraced by the rest of the world, and I’m glad that we were among the first dozen outside of the military who started using games this way.' [50]

The above quote taken from the Social Policy article, illustrates that Ivan Marovic, considers A Force More Powerful’s transition from book to computer game to be following in the steps of military strategists. However, what isn’t made clear in the article is that many of the computer game’s producers are essentially ex-military strategists, and that ironically the game was co-produced by BreakAway Games (alongside ICNC and York Zimmerman), a company that specialises in producing simulation games for the military.

BreakAway openly admits that it has “strategic relationships” with a number of leading military contractors including “AAI, Boeing, Booz-Allen & Hamilton, GMA Industries, and General Dynamics among others” and in their CEO’s own words they obtain around 75% of their business from “Uncle Sam.” [51] Recent Federal Projects carried out through BreakAway Federal Systems include Virtual Convoy Trainer which “places Armed Forces in a Middle Eastern environment and enables them to quickly identify and respond to ambush tactics in urban terrain and during convoy operations”, and Incident Commander which prepares its gamers “for multiple scenarios including terrorist attacks, school shootings, and natural disasters.” [52] It is therefore no surprise that Deborah Tillett, the president of BreakAway, “sees no paradox in producing games that enable both warmakers and peaceful resisters.” In fact, she has even said that the “basic tenets of the ICNC are that using a strict doctrine of military strategy and applying it to your nonviolent resistance movement only gives you power.” [53]

Finally it is interesting to note that the three main architects of the film, A Force More Powerful, were also the key people involved in creating the computer game: Steve York was the Senior Producer; Mirriam Zimmerman was the Design Associate; and Peter Ackerman was the game’s Senior Advisor. To complete the ‘democratic’ line-up, Colonel Robert Helvey, who was responsible for running workshops in Budapest to train Otpor activists, was brought in as a consultant, and the leader of Otpor, Ivan Marovic, also worked with Mirriam Zimmerman as the computer game’s Design Associate. [54]"

But that's not all, the article traces the connections of Marovic's associates and backers back to the NED and friends such as the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) and their backers and associates.

Also check out this article at the CSM for more on The Serious Games Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson Centre...

And this ZMag article:

"Low-Intensity Democracy": The Case of Serbia"

Mr Marovic also co-wrote the Centre for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies'
'Student Handbook' (PDF file). This centre has co-operated with the ICNC.

In no way is this meant to denigrate the popular movement in Honduras which I support, but it should serve as a warning to them to be a little careful who they choose to get into bed with. The tactics they are being shown are well-known to those opposed to popular movements, as the failure so far of such movements in Iran and Venezuela have shown.

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has already thoroughly investigated Marovic's game, based remember on the Otpor experience which he lectures about all over the world, as the CSM article linked above shows.

"And the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C. has founded the Serious Games Initiative to explore how key challenges facing governments and nonprofit groups can be addressed using game play."

What part of the Center? The Foresight and Governance Project:

"The Wilson Center's Foresight and Governance Project has launched a “Serious Games Initiative,” which seeks to encourage development of games simulating policy making and management."

Their blurb states:

"The Foresight and Governance Project focuses on long-term issues facing government and supports anticipatory thinking and planning in the public sector. Through both internal and collaborative research, the project works to identify critical future issues and make key findings easily accessible to policy makers and other interested parties. The Project also works to support public sector foresight efforts through the building of networks of scholars and practitioners and the provision of information resources."

To be continued...

09 August 2009

Reply to Al Giordano re "Toppling a Coup, Part I: Dilemmas for the Honduras Regime"

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:

His reply:

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.

06 August 2009

Mallorcan Corruption Scandal taints Spanish Royal Household and points to Illegal Financing of the Partido Popular

It seems the noose is tightening around the neck of the Spanish PP (Partido Popular). One scandal after another has left them reeling as it becomes obvious the party has been illegally financed for some time. This has caused the Secretary General of the PP, de Cospedal, to accuse, without evidence, judges and police of illegal wiretaps.

The treasurer of the PP and Senator, Luis Bárcenas, resigned after being accused formally by the Spanish Supreme Court of being involved in money laundering and bribery, in the Gurtel case.

The Valencian President, Francisco Camps, accused of receiving illegal gifts in exchange for favours, has just had the case against him archived by the Valencian Superior Court of Justice[Tribunal Superior de Justicia de la Comunidad Valenciana (TSJCV)] - not surprising considering his intimate friend is President of said court...according to Camps himself, Juan Luis de la Rúa President of said court was 'more than a friend' ("era más que amigo")...

The Valencian President had already assured all and sundry that he had paid for the suits at the centre of his particular scandal, while the Valencian Superior Court judgement declared that he had received the suits as gifts, but that no illegality had incurred.

Such is the state of the gangsters in charge of the PP, with different factions vying for power, that they were even spying on one another.

I haven't either the time or the energy to go into more detail, but recommend all to follow this case...the gangster's of the right became so careless during the building boom under Aznar (that they themselves provoked with their massive corrupt commissions), that they rae now being gadually cornered. What remains to be seen is, has Spain recovered completely from the corruption under Franco?

01 August 2009

American 'Tourists' Arrested After 'Straying' Into Iran

Yes, this one had me laughing my socks off. And it was 9am, a time I don't often find anything funny.

CNN is reporting "Three American tourists are believed to be in Iranian custody after they may have strayed across the border from Iraq during a mountain hike, Kurdish officials said Friday."

Right. Americans tourists hiking in Iraq that close to the Iranian border, AND in the Kurdistan area, where there have been lots of recent incidents. Now we know most yanks are stupid, but that stupid?

This story is even more suspicious if you believe Seymour Hersh's claims from 2005 "US special forces 'inside Iran' "