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J’Accuse Human Rights Watch [Eritrea]

The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) was an egalitarian movement in which 30% of the fighters were women. Eritrean Women’s important role in the War for Independence: Eritrean Women fought in the war for Independence from Ethiopia, helping to continuously elevate their status in society as time progressed. Women played a vital role in winning Eritrea’s independence on the battlefield, but also in the community, as health care providers, educators, army assistants and of course as nurturing grandmothers, mothers, aunts, cousins and sisters to their families. Eritrean women continue to be held in high regard and respected in today’s society in their many different positions in society. They do all of this while continuing to nurture and pave the way for their children, grandchildren and future generations. Source: knowledgeequalsblackpower

 

Letter to Mr. Kenneth Roth (Executive Director of HRW)

April 20, 2015

by Daniel Wedi Korbaria 

I – WORLD REPORT ERITREA

Dear Mr. Roth,

Reading your latest annual report on Eritrea (2014), at first, I strongly doubted it was even my country. But, unfortunately, it was my homeland you were writing about.

I would be really pleased if you could help me understand a few passages.

First, I was wondering whether by putting the logo of Bisha’s gold mine at the centre of Eritrea’s map corresponded with an inexplicit message to point out the country’s natural resources or just to make the report more appealing to the reader?

Secondly, you compile your report with a heavy load of according to, reported by, it said, it told, he describes, etc. It also seems appropriate to mention that Human Rights Watch does not operate within Eritrea, neither it acquires reliable information from inside the country. So HRW continues, through its reports, to spread unconfirmed stories and fabrications.

The report states: “Eritrea is among the most closed countries in the world; human rights conditions remain dismal. Indefinite military service, torture, arbitrary detention, and severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and religion provoke thousands of Eritreans to flee the country each month.”

Young Eritreans are fleeing their country. That is true. They run away for extended military service, this is also true. But why does the report fail to rightly address Ethiopia’s incompliance with the EEBC final and binding decisions, Ethiopia’s continuing illegal occupation of Eritrean territories? Is Human Rights Watch aware of the no war – no peace situation persisting since the end of the conflict in 2000 and that forces everyone to stay alert?

Given our history, which has taught us in the most terrible way how this world and politics work, you should already understand that any genuine, patriotic, and conscious Eritrean would just never naively accept incorrect reports by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Eritrea.

The UN unlawful decisions have negatively affected the course of Eritrean history. It started in 1952, with the federation of Eritrea to Ethiopia and the total annexation ten years later by Emperor HaileSellasie. During the thirty-year struggle for freedom more than 100.000 Eritreans sacrificed their lives during which the UN only watched silently and it was only because of their ultimate sacrifice that we have been able to become a Nation!

So Mr. Roth, I wonder where the UN was when Eritreans were getting killed by the regimes of HaileSellasie and MengistuHailemariam? Was the UN not aware of the Red Terror Campaign? Was the UN not aware of the Napalm bombs used to kill innocent civilians? Why wasn’t a “Special Rapporteur” of the UN on Eritrea constituted during these bloody years?

“Eritrea has no constitution, functioning legislature, independent judiciary, elections, independent press, or nongovernmental organizations; it does not hold elections.”

We have been strongly demonized for not welcoming foreign NGOs, although they seem to have become a way of western control in Africa. Like many other Eritreans, I believe in the principle of self-reliance and a way for me to proudly-and-rightly contribute to the development of my nation is by paying the two percent tax.

“Children as young as 15 are inducted and sent for military training, according to recent interviews by refugee agencies.”

This statement is utterly false. In Eritrea every child has to go school and their main concern age would be about their homework, semester exams and probably falling in love with his/her classmate. The military training only starts at the completion of the secondary school.

“Some prisoners are offered release on condition that they sign statements renouncing their faith. Three deaths during captivity were reported by foreign based religious monitoring groups in 2013, but given the difficulties of obtaining information, the number may be higher.”

Or maybe even lower?

In my country, from thousands of years, Christians and Muslims have co-existed in peaceful harmony and total respect of each other’s faith. Islam and Christianity are both secular religions that have become part of the Eritrean history and culture. Having said that, Eritreans remain conscious about those western-driven religions, which aim at controlling and dividing populations. In Eritrea, it is the established religions, especially the Orthodox Church, that have been targeted by Christian fundamentalist groups from the West.

“Eritrea has been under United Nations sanctions since 2009 because of its support for armed Islamic insurgents in Somalia and its refusal to release Djibouti prisoners of war captured during a 2008 invasion of Djibouti’s border territory.”

Supposedly, Human Right Watch should act as a neutral observer but the biases are quite obvious. Nothing could be more false than linking Eritrea with warlords in Somalia, invasion of Djibouti’s territory – all started as Ethiopia’s propaganda and proved to be totally unfounded. Moreover, the Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea pursuant to Security Council resolution 2111 (2013) -13 October 2014- boldly states: “The Monitoring Group has found no evidence of Eritrean support to Al-Shabaab during the course of its present mandate.”

Similarly, the recent UN sanctions have been unjustly imposed on the Eritrean people by the US pressure, eternal ally of Ethiopia since the times of Emperor HaileSellassie.

Blatant was the take of US when Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, in 1952, openly declared: “From the point of view of justice, the opinion of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and world peace make it necessary that the Country (Eritrea) be linked with our ally Ethiopia.”

In my opinion dear Mr. Roth, your reports on Eritrea also seem to carry on such legacy.

Below some few examples of Human Rights Watch’s curriculum.

1) IRAQ: in your article Indict Saddam published on Wall St. Journal (Mar. 22, 2002) you conclude saying: “That delegitimization would not guarantee his ouster, but it would certainly help build consensus that he is unfit to govern, and thus that something must be done to end his rule.”
By now, everyone knows what has later happened to Saddam Hussein and the cycle of chaos and instability reigning in Iraq since the end of the ‘rule’. I wonder what your opinion on ‘human rights’ after Saddam is and whether you believe Iraqis have been better off since US and UK intervention. How many people have died because of foreign intervention? Will Human Rights Watch ever denounce the crimes of Bush and Blair among others?

In the Briefing Paper (February 20, 2003) Section II: Weapons of Mass Destruction it was clear that Human Rights Watch believed on Iraqi’s possession of weapon of mass destruction, as the report stated: “No party to a conflict in Iraq would be legally justified in using any weapon of mass destruction under any circumstances. Given that a stated rationale for a potential attack on Iraq is the desire to remove any threat from weapons of mass destruction (WMD), there are two issues that are of particular concern. The first is a deliberate use of WMD by Iraqi forces against invading coalition forces or as an act of vengeance against Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi government might also use conventional weapons to commit mass atrocities against Iraqis.(…) Similarly, any use of biological weapons by either party to the conflict would violate international law. The 1975 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibits the development, production, acquisition, and stockpiling of biological weapons.”

Did Human Rights Watch ever explain that these weapons were never found? Has HRW ever taken responsibility for the consequences of its sinister fabrications? Has HRW ever apologized to anyone?

2) SYRIA: the Syrian uprising started on spring 2011 and World Report 2011 on Syria (Events of 2010) reports: “There was no significant change in Syrian human rights policy and practice in 2010. Authorities continued to broadly violate the civil and political rights of citizens, arresting political and human rights activists, censoring websites, detaining bloggers, and imposing travel bans. (…) The international community’s interactions with Syria have focused almost exclusively on its regional role. Key European Union and US officials have condemned the arrest and trials of prominent activists, but their interventions have had no impact on Syria’s actions.”

Does Human Rights Watch consider the atrocities of war in Syria being the reason of the situation of earlier years? Is HRW satisfied with today’s human rights situation?

3) LIBYA: the protests in Benghazi began Tuesday the 15th of February 2011 and about a year earlier, the World Report 2011 on Libya (Events of 2010) reads as follows: “Libya has no independent NGOs and Libyan laws severely restrict freedom of association. (…) in June Libya ordered UNHCR to close its office and expelled its representative (…)”
Ten days since the beginning of the uprising, 63 Organizations around the World signed a Petition to the General Assembly as reported by Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. She reported the words of Jose Luis Diaz, Head of Office and Representative at the UN for Amnesty International: “Allowing Libya to continue to serve on the Human Rights Council today would be an affront to those suffering in Libya and to human rights defenders across the globe who are demanding Libya’s suspension.”

So, again I ask: is Human Rights Watch satisfied with the human rights situation in Libya since the defeat of MuammarGadhafi? Has the country’s human rights situation gotten any better?

4) SUDAN: before the Sudan was split, the report: Sudan, Oil, and Human Rights (November 25, 2003) Human Rights Watch advices all oil companies to suspend their activities in Sudan. “None of these nor any oil company, including TotalFinaElf, nor industry contractors and subcontractors, should resume or commence operations in Sudan unless(…)”

Below other two recommendation, the first was addressed to the Government of Sudan: “Adhere in full to the IMF Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency and publish a detailed account of military expenditures and the source of such revenue under IMF guidance (…)”
The second was addressed to the US: “Condemn abuses by all parties to the conflict-including the Sudanese government armed forces and its ethnic militias, SSDF, Baggara militias, Popular Defence Force, SPLM/A, and others-and insist that those responsible for abuses be held accountable. Continue existing sanctions on Sudan until concrete and measurable progress has been made toward ceasing human rights abuses.”

I wonder why would Human Rights Watch consider the US a crucial party to be involved in the affairs of Sudan? Can the US even be regarded as a benign guardian or fair mentor lecturing other countries about human rights standards?

Again, is HRW satisfied with the human rights situation of Sudanese people today?

II – BACK TO ERITREA

Here are the contents of the report Eritrea: Mining Investors Risk Use of Forced Labor on the gold found in Eritrea (15 January 2013). It reads: “Hear No Evil: Forced Labor and Corporate Responsibility in Eritrea’s Mining Sector,” describes how mining companies working in Eritrea risk involvement with the government’s widespread exploitation of forced labor (…) “If mining companies are going to work in Eritrea, they need to make absolutely sure that their operations don’t rely on forced labor,” said Chris Albin-Lackey, business and human rights researcher and senior Human Rights Watch.

“Based on the Bisha experience the greatest risk of abuse may occur during the construction phase of these projects. (…) All mining firms working in Eritrea should undertake Human Rights(…) It is negligent for mining companies to ignore the risks of forced labor that clearly exist in Eritrea, (…)”
In other words, HRW efforts can clearly be interpreted as another futile attempt to undermine Eritrea economically.

Already seven months before (June 20, 2012), in US: Joint Letter Regarding US Engagement at Upcoming Human Rights Council Session, Frank Jannuzi (Deputy Executive Director, Amnesty International USA) wrote a letter to Hillary Clinton (Secretary of State Department of the United States).

“Dear Secretary Clinton, The joint statement on Eritrea signed by 44 countries at the March HRC Session marked a positive step forward in drawing international attention to grave human rights violations in that country. The dire situation in Eritrea merits further attention from the Human Rights Council, and we call on the U.S. to work with partners to mobilize African leadership for a strong resolution at the June session that will establish a Special Rapporteur to report on the widespread and systematic human rights violations that have been continuing in Eritrea for over a decade. Sincerely yours… ”
Co-signatory Juliette de Rivero (Director of Human Rights Watch in Geneva).

It seems quite obvious that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are moving in perfect symbiosis.

In the report: Ten Long Years of September 24, 2011 HRW was recommending with the Government of Eritrea, writing: “Allow independent monitors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and UN and African Commission special mechanisms access (such as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) to Eritrea’s detention facilities.” (…) “Human Rights Watch and other independent human rights entities, including the UN special Rapporteur on Eritrea, have documented serious patterns of human rights violations in Eritrea.”

A judgment already written, it seems.

Finally, a recommendation to all countries of the world: “Abide by the guidance of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that particular categories of asylum seekers may be at risk upon return, in particular, persons avoiding military/national service; members of political opposition groups and Government critics; journalists; trade unionists; members of minority religious groups; members of certain minority ethnic groups; and victims of trafficking. Facilitate full access for UNHCR to Eritrean asylum seekers.”

At the Clinton Global Initiative in 2009, President Obama declared: “I recently renewed sanctions on some of the worst abusers, including North Korea and Eritrea. We’re partnering with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers. We are helping other countries step up their efforts and we have seen results.”

And when Obama speaks of ‘groups that help women and children escape’ might he be alluding to the refugee camps in Ethiopia and Sudan? And what are these results of which he speaks of? Our young people running away?

“(…) Eritrean refugees have become a crucial source of information on the human rights situation in Eritrea given that Eritrea has not allowed United Nations special rapporteurs or other international human rights investigators to visit the country” states the latest report of Human Rights Watch dated 26 September 2014, although it does not sufficiently address on these other international investigators.

But young Eritreans also flee from the refugee camps in Ethiopia or Sudan. What happens there? HRW explains: “Few Eritreans seek refuge in countries near Eritrea – including Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, and Sudan – because those countries force them to live in closed remote refugee camps, deny them access to work, or detain and abuse them in inhuman and degrading conditions”
Almost justifying their journey through the desert and sea, which has led to a terrible number of deaths.

I wonder how many of those drowned in the Mediterranean Sea does HRW feel on its conscience. How many of those who vanished in the desert did HRW actually meet and did question? How many of them did HRW deceive with a false pretense of humanitarian reception in refugee camps? Did HRW really listen to their voices, catch the hopes painted in their eyes? Does HRW consider the voices of all Eritrean migrants including those who did not lament of a ‘dictatorship’ in Eritrea? Probably not.

“Cui prodest?” said the Latins. The Exodus helps neither Eritrea nor its President. So who would be more interested in ripping Eritrea of its young people than the United States and Ethiopia? Human Rights Watch too?

Dear Mr. Roth, as Human Rights Watch wrote: “The Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on June 27 to establish the Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations in Eritrea “since independence” in 1991″ clearly stating that abuses have been a recurring factor in Eritrea since liberation. Was the situation during the Ethiopian annexation regime of Colonel MengistuHailemariam and before harmonious?

The one charm about the past is that it is the past – Oscar Wilde

Dear Mr. Roth, are you truly committed in protecting the human rights of Eritrean citizens?
If so, as an Eritrean citizen I ask you and HRW to understand that since the 1950s the very first human right has been denied to us: the right to peace. I challenge you to help us assure peace, the respect of Eritrea’s sovereignty and guarantee that our borders are finally respected.

The right to peace should be the root and the mother of all human rights. To deprive a nation of this fundamental right is, for me, to deprive it of its very right to exist.

Eritrea is a country that has continuously committed to development through its own efforts and without the usual borrowing from legalized loan sharks, that has made incredible progress in the achievement of almost all eight Millennium Development Goals (according to UNDP, Eritrea is among the only four countries in Africa to succeed), ensuring a long-term solution to water shortage through the construction of several dams – which has also served to guarantee food security. Dams are used to retain water, without water there would be no food, and that would highly compromise the well-being of this and future generations.

So again I ask: can a country like Eritrea, which has consistently shown its commitment to social welfare and development, instead be accused of depriving its citizens of fundamental human rights?
It is with noble ideals of serving future generation on long-term commitment that the Eritrean People build their country from scratch today. How can HRW just belittle the efforts of Eritreans by labeling it ‘forced labor’?

Is it plausible that a Country, which has uniquely managed to reduce infant and maternal mortality, eradicate malaria and extraordinarily reduce HIV rates, can be called “Hell on Earth”? Eritrea is also one of the few countries in the world that offers its students free education from kindergarten to College. A Country that in 2014 successfully involves students and teachers in projects to plant 4,000,000 trees to prevent desertification, a Country that cares for the well-being of those who will come tomorrow and for them today plants Eritrea’s future trees. Is it credible that a Country that puts all this determination and care should be accused, tried and punished for serious crimes against its people?

I find these allegations to be very unreal and HRW attitude to perpetrate the crime of theft and deprivation of basic human rights to the Eritrean people. An injustice that, however, will not escape history books.

But it is never too late to repair and a letter can be an opportunity to encourage you with that. HRW should be on the side of Eritreans who are still fighting for justice. The solution to all ills has already been recognized and ruled on paper by the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) but, inexplicably, it was never respected nor implemented. Twelve long years have been wasted and that has served for some to provide their own distorted versions of history. Brush up on those records and you will find the whole truth printed in large letters, and it’s simpler than HRW may believe.

Dear Mr. Roth, if you properly looked at our History, you would have discovered all the injustices that we have faced and still do. Since the days of our grandfathers, Eritreans were made Ascari of the Italians fighting in Libya, Somalia and Ethiopia, during which nearly one million Eritreans never returned home. Then we suffered other oppressors: English rule for 11 years and Ethiopian occupation for 40 years, which set off the thirty year-war for Liberation with more than 100,000 Eritreans killed. Again, thousands of youngsters were martyred because of the border war 1998-2000.

Today, those young Eritreans who are “tired” of the environment Eritrea was forcefully put into, end up drowning in the sea as it happened in the Tragedy of Lampedusa despite many human rights NGOs instead encourage them to leave. All while we Eritreans continue to suffer!

Mr. Roth, however you want to put it, we would always send up talking about the death of these Eritreans.

Therefore Mr. Roth, not only as an Eritrean citizen, but also as a global citizen, I launch my own J’Accuse to Human Rights Watch and to you as his lawful Representative.

J’Accuse Human Rights Watch to be part of the creative mind to foment the global chaos of our times, and that will continue time and time again, as in the past, to be used to justify more wars;

J’Accuse Human Rights Watch to be the one of best tools ever invented by the Western Powers to destabilize and promote new-colonization of Africa; and

J’Accuse Human Rights Watch to be who, in the name of human rights, is dictating laws around the World particularly focusing its attention on the African continent!

Expressing my inner disregard for such “humanitarian” job, hope you can live up to the day when there will be a new Era for Africa, the day of an African Renaissance, the day when there will be an International African Court of Justice to indict Human Rights Watch and similar “humanitarian” organizations for crimes against humanity.

And I hope that day will come very soon!

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Wedi Korbaria (Eritrean artist)

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Crimes Against Humanity: Pro-War NGOs

Public Good Project

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Above: Participants sit in bleachers at the packed World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights, 2010, Photo by The City Project

As Cory Morningstar reported in 350: Agent Saboteur, the April 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was the first and only climate conference that was led by indigenous peoples and recognized by the United Nations. The People’s Agreement — that resulted from this conference — called for 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide, and a 1 degree Celsius limit.

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Attending the 2010 conference in Bolivia — created in response to the failure of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen — was 350 co-founder Kelly Blynn. After undermining emission reduction targets at Copenhagen, Blynn’s role at Cochabamba was to press for 350 parts per million, and a 2 degree Celsius limit, thus protecting the fossil fuel industry and the very lucrative 350 brand.

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Four years later — financed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Warren Buffett’s NoVo Foundation – 350 used the Charms of Naomi as a powerful new tool of social engineering by Wall Street. The civil society fad led by Ms. Klein in 2014 evolved into a cult of celebrity worship, as she and Bill McKibben hypnotized thousands of college students into believing divestment of fossil fuel was part of a magical social revolution.

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Above: Image from Fossil Free Website (Endorsements)

The KXL hoax — yet another example of hypnotic behavior absent critical judgement — was funded by Buffett in order to distract attention from his oil-by-rail empire, now threatening communities across North America with “bomb trains” for fossil fuel export. By the time Klein’s followers figure out they were duped into being Buffett’s pawns, he and his friend Bill Gates will have made a fortune shipping Tar Sands bitumen and Bakken Shale crude.

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In the U.S. Army War College manual on psychological warfare, the stated objective is to destroy the will and the ability of the enemy to fight, by depriving them of the support of allies and neutrals. Some of the methods used in the manual are sowing dissension, distrust, fear and hopelessness. Since this manual was published, a new type of psywar has emerged in the form of false hope.

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Above image: Communications in Conflict

With support from foundations like Ford, Gates, NoVo, Rockefeller and Soros’ Open Society Institute, U.S. propaganda now has a vast new army of non-profits that serve as a fifth column for destabilization campaigns worldwide. Embodiments of false hope – like Avaaz, Purpose and 350 – use social media as a means of social manipulation.

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In Welcome to the Brave New World—Brought to You by Avaaz, Morningstar notes that Avaaz co-founder Tom Perriello has had a long relationship with the convicted inside-trader George Soros, and was one of the most pro-war members of the U.S. Congress. Along with Ricken Patel, Perriello made it popular for civil society to become complicit in crimes against humanity.

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In 2014, the New York public relations firm Purpose created a campaign to rally international support for NATO to bomb Syria. The campaign was backed by the New York lobby Avaaz. The CEO of Purpose, Jeremy Heimans, is a co-founder of Avaaz. His associate, David Madden, is co-founder of Purpose, Avaaz and MoveOn—a Democratic Party associated PAC. Avaaz and MoveOn are funded in part by the billionaire hedge fund mogul Soros.

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In Imperial Civil Society, Jay Taber observes that the power of moral sanction is something Wall Street takes very seriously. So seriously, that hostile takeovers of authentic civil society organizations, and full-fledged displacement by corporate false fronts, has led compromised NGOs to promote privatization, austerity, and military aggression. According to Maximilian Forte, the main purpose of the burgeoning civil society fad – that comprises the international bureaucracy of neoliberalism — is to take over basic functions and powers of the state.

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Destabilizing foreign governments, using NGOs like Avaaz as provocateurs, puts authentic non-profits and journalists at risk. Indeed, the imperial network of financiers like Soros makes NGO entrepreneurs in the pro-war champagne circuit accomplices in crimes against humanity.

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As affiliated entities, 350, Avaaz, Ceres, MoveOn and Purpose enable the Democratic Party to market itself as a friend of the environment and supporter of democracy, while simultaneously serving Wall Street’s agenda. What those familiar with serious fraud might call “the long con”. As Morningstar describes The Art of Social Engineering by Avaaz, the role they serve for their funders is not unlike that of corporate media.

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Paralyzed in a state of collective hypnosis, naive followers of the non-profit industrial complex have become missionaries of empire. From Bolivia to Syria, NGOs now help destabilize and overthrow foreign regimes hostile to American dominance. “Avaaz,” says Morningstar, “is arguably the world’s most powerful NGO”.

Internet Fraud: Avaaz, Purpose, 350

April 11, 2015

by Jay Taber

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Soliciting donations and selling memberships in an enterprise that is wholly contrary to that promoted on the Internet is a federal felony in the United States. Internet fraud in the US is policed by the Federal Trade Commission, and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney General.

Avaaz, Purpose and 350 use the Internet for fraudulent purposes, i.e. “humanitarian intervention” and fossil fuel divestment campaigns. As these organizations are a product of the Democratic Party, and tools of Wall Street moguls like Buffett and Soros, they will not be prosecuted for fraud.

They could be charged under international law for abetting crimes against humanity, but with the UN controlled by the US, this will not happen. That leaves civil society moral sanction. Moral sanction against these NGO adjuncts to the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense, because they are politically immune to prosecution by the Department of Justice.

 

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

 

 

Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators | White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof & Syria No Fly Zone

Dissident Voice

April 9, 2015

You might think that after seeing the consequences of their campaign for “freedom and democracy” in Libya, journalists like Nicholas Kristof and “humanitarian campaigners” like Avaaz would have some qualms.

Unfortunately they have learned nothing. They have generally not been held to account, with a few nice exceptions such as this Greenwald/Hussain article. And now they are at it again. Many well-intentioned but naive members of the U.S. and international public are again being duped into signing an Avaaz petition based on fraud and misinformation. If the campaign succeeds in leading to a No Fly Zone in Syria, it will result in vastly increased war, mayhem and bloodshed.

The following illustration shows the sequence and trail of deceit leading to Avaaz’s call for a No Fly Zone in Syria.

unnamedFollowing is a brief description documenting the flow of misinformation and deceit, beginning at the Source and ending with Avaaz’s campaign for NATO/US attack on Syria.

Source

The “Source” is unknown at this time. It might be some US agency with or without the approval of the Obama administration. Or it might be another foreign government which seeks, in plain violation of international law,  the overthrow the Syrian government.  In addition to the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, Britain and Qatar have each spent hundreds of millions and even billions in heavy weaponry plus 3,000 tons of weapons via Croatia plus arming, training, supplying and paying the salaries of thousands of domestic and international mercenaries sowing mayhem and destruction in Syria.

At this point we do not know but there is a REWARD:  $100 finders fee to the first person who can provide credible evidence identifying the SOURCE.

PURPOSE Inc.

This is an international PR firm. CEO is Jeremy Heimans, a co-founder of Avaaz.

President is Kevin Steinberg, previous CEO of World Economic Forum USA (antithesis of World Social Forum).  Their website describes their goal:

“Purpose builds and accelerates movements to tackle the world’s biggest problems.”

In this case the “problem” is reluctance to take over Syrian skies and land.

For a hefty fee, “Purpose” will dupe the public and break down that reluctance.

Toward that end,  Purpose created “The Syria Campaign”.

The Syria Campaign 

The Syria Campaign began in spring 2014. One of their first efforts was to work to prevent publicity and information about the Syrian Presidential Election of June 2014. Accordingly, “The Syria Campaign” pressured Facebook to remove advertisements or publicity about the Syrian election.  Since then Syria Campaign has engineered huge media exposure and mythology about their baby, the “White Helmets” using all sorts of social and traditional media. The campaigns are largely fact free. For example, the Syrian election was dismissed out of hand by them and John Kerry but taken seriously by many millions of Syrians.

The Syria Campaign is managed by Anna Nolan,  who grew up in northern Ireland and has very likely never been to Syria. In addition to promoting the White Helmets,  Syria Campaign promotes a new social media campaign called “Planet Syria”. It features emotional pleas for the world to take notice of Syria in another thinly veiled effort pushing for foreign intervention and war.

According to their website, The Syria Campaign received start-up funding from the foundation of Ayman Asfari, a billionaire who made his money in the oil and gas services industry.

White Helmets

White Helmets is the newly minted name for “Syrian Civil Defence”. Despite the name, Syria Civil Defence was not created by Syrians nor does it serve Syria.  Rather it was created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai.

The trainees are said to be ‘nonpartisan’ but only work in rebel-controlled areas of Idlib (now controlled by Nusra/Al Queda) and Aleppo. There are widely divergent claims regarding the number of people trained by the White Helmets and the number of people rescued.  The numbers are probably highly exaggerated especially since rebel-controlled territories have few civilians. A doctor who recently served in a rebel-controlled area of Aleppo described it as a ghost town. The White Helmets work primarily with the rebel group Jabat al Nusra (Al Queda in Syria). Video of the recent alleged chlorine gas attacks starts with the White Helmet logo and continues with the logo of Nusra. In reality, White Helmets is a small rescue team for Nusra/Al Queda.

But White Helmets primary function is propaganda. White Helmets demonizes the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention.  A White Helmet leader wrote a recent Washington Post editorial.  White Helmets are also very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook etc.  According to their website, to contact White Helmets email The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship.

Nicholas Kristof/New York Times

The “White Helmets” campaign has been highly successful because of uncritical media promotion.  Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was an advocate of the NATO/US attack on Libya. According to him, villagers who had been shot, injured and their homes destroyed were not bitter, they were thankful! . “Hugs from Libyans” is how he viewed it.  It was, of course, nonsense, helping to pave the way in the invasion and destruction of the country.

Now Kristof is uncritically promoting the White Helmets, aiding and abetting their political and propaganda message seeking foreign intervention in Syria.

Avaaz

Avaaz is an online lobby organization founded in 2007 by Jeremy Heimans (now CEO of Purpose) and others. Start-up funding was provided by George Soros’ foundation.  While Avaaz has promoted some worthy causes, they have been prominent in promoting neoliberal foreign policies in keeping with the U.S. State Department. Accordingly, they had a major disinformation campaign against Venezuela last year.

Avaaz very actively promoted a No Fly Zone in Libya. They are now very actively promoting the same for Syria.

In-depth research and exposure of Avaaz can be found here. The titles give some indication: “Faking It: Charity Communications in the Firing Line”, “Syria: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire”, “Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps for Militarism”.

Avaaz justifies its call for No Fly Zone in part on White Helmets. Given the close interconnections between Avaaz and Purpose, they are surely aware that White Helmets is a media creation. This calls into question their sincerity.

Conclusion

The manipulators rely on emotional images and messages, not facts. They depend on willing partners in the mainstream media who amplify the easy and glib characterizations of who and what is good and bad.  The manipulators depend on their audience not asking questions or investigating on their own. In these times of rapid spread of visual and text information via social media, the potential for deceit is huge.

Snapshots

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Avaaz Petition for Libya No Fly Zone — 2011

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Avaaz Petition for Syria No Fly Zone — 2015 (Syria Campaign Posting)

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Kristoff/New York Times/2011

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Kristoff/New York Times/2015

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The Real White Helmet Purpose:  Propaganda

[Rick Sterling is active with the Syria Solidarity Movement and Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center. He can be emailed at: rsterling1@gmail.com.]

 

 

Fetishisms of Apocalypse

The Corner House

by Larry Lohmann

Note: An excellent interview with Larry Lohmann follows this piece.

September 20, 2014

Climate change and other environmental campaigns often try to mobilize people around the idea of avoiding apocalypse. This short piece for Occupied Times explores some of the weaknesses of this approach.

To anybody who has ever gone around Europe or North America giving talks or workshops on environmental politics, the scene will be familiar. At some stage a person sitting in the front row will stand up to wonder aloud what the point of the discussion is given that the world is going to hell so fast. A list of terrifying trends will then be laid out. At least three “planetary boundaries” out of nine have already been breached. Humanity now appropriates between 20 and 40 per cent of nature’s net primary production. The proportion of atmospheric carbon dioxide is now higher than it was 10 or 15 million years ago, when sea levels were 100 feet above current levels. If temperatures continue to rise and release even a small amount of the carbon still locked up in the soils and ocean bottoms of the Arctic, we’re fucked. If any doubt remains about whether apocalypse is really on the way, just look at all those crashed civilisations of the past (Easter Island and the Maya are regularly invoked) who also failed to pay attention to “ecological limits”.

The tone of the recital is that of a grim call to order. Those present have just not been registering the facts, and clearly the volume has to be turned up. Why sit around sharing experiences of financialisation, environmental racism, or the enclosure of commons when climate change is about to fry all of us? There’s no time for social transformation. Ruling elites have to be persuaded to act in their own interest now. So obvious is all this to the person in the front row that at this point they may just get up and leave – not so much in protest at the triviality of the proceedings nor out of conscious disrespect for the other participants as from a sense that now that the people present have been alerted to the situation, it’s time to take the message elsewhere.

In a meeting of the kind I describe, the front-row apocalyptician will probably get a respectful hearing. This is a person, after all, in possession of an impressive body of research and statistics – and who is more than justified in insisting that the status quo is untenable. Yet one or two things are likely, rightly, to raise a tremor of unease among those present.

One is the implicit dismissal of class politics. The apocalyptician’s reasoning is as follows. We’re talking about a catastrophe that could kill everybody and everything. Who could have an interest in bringing that on? No need now for the Marxist project of trying to understand how capital accumulation continually recreates human interest in destruction, because, ex hypothesi, no one could ever want destruction to that extent. Catastrophic climate change makes distinctions between hotel room cleaners and hedge fund managers irrelevant. “People” become the universal political subject. Climate politics moves out of the realm of, say, class struggle between workers in Chicago and the financiers of energy projects that pollute their neighbourhoods, or between indigenous bands in the Amazon and the oil companies despoiling their territories. Instead, it becomes – to quote the words of US climate movement guru Bill McKibben – a battle in which generic “human beings” collectively learn to submit to the Great Other of “physics and chemistry”.

For the apocalyptician, the spectre of universal catastrophe may look like a good way of rallying a middle class who may not directly suffer from the impact of fossil-fuelled globalisation. But for many listeners, to flatten out existing social conflict in this way feels disempowering. If the threat of global collapse is supposed to spur us all toward concerted action, why does it seem instead to paralyse the political imagination, spook ordinary people into putting their rebellious instincts on ice, and deaden discussion among different social movements about the lessons of their struggles? Why does it lead so easily to despair or indifference – or even to a sort of sado-masochistic or death-wishy pleasure in the pornography of doom? And why do the remedies proposed – “we need a crash programme to keep atmospheric concentrations of CO2 equivalent below 350 parts per million” – sound so parochial?

Indeed, instead of unifying political struggles, apocalyptic obsessions often seem to shrink transformative politics to the vanishing point. Slavoj Zizek has remarked that whereas it is precisely out of struggles against particular forms of oppression that “a properly universal dimension explodes … and is directly experienced as universal”, “post-political” campaigns against abstractions like “CO2” suffocate movement expansion because they close off possibilities for people to see their own strivings as a “metaphoric condensation” of global class struggles.

***

Yet isn’t the deeper problem with the appeal to apocalypse not that it is “apolitical”, but that it is all too political in a pernicious way? Not that it is “disempowering”, but that it is all too empowering of the technocratic and privileged classes?

Take climate apocalypse stories, which are currently reinforcing the old capitalist trick of splitting the world into discrete, undifferentiated monoliths called Society and Nature at precisely a time when cutting-edge work on the left – often taking its cue from indigenous peoples’, peasants’ and commoners’ movements – is moving to undermine this dualism. On the apocalyptic view, a fatally-unbalanced Nature is externalised into what Neil Smith called a “super-determinant of our social fate,” forcing a wholly separate Society to homogenise itself around elite managers and their technological and organisational fixes.

By “disappearing” entire peoples and their adaptations, this manoeuvre merely applies to the past the tendency of apocalypticism to hide the complexities of current conflicts involving imperialism, racism and capitalism.Thus disaster movies – not to mention the disaster stories broadcast on the news every evening – are not produced just to feed our sneaking joy in mayhem. They also present narratives of technocratically-minded stars responding on our behalf to “external” threats in which they are portrayed as having played little part. Books like Collapse by Jared Diamond, meanwhile, replace complicated political stories of long-term survival, struggle, and creative renewal among civilisations like those of the Easter Islanders or the Maya with fables of apocalypse and extinction in which one non-European society after another supposedly wipes itself out through its rulers’ failure to “manage” the Menace from Nature. By “disappearing” entire peoples and their adaptations, this manoeuvre merely applies to the past the tendency of apocalypticism to hide the complexities of current conflicts involving imperialism, racism and capitalism.

The expert Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) follows the same procedure, avoiding collective inquiry into the ins and outs of capital accumulation in favour of a simplistic narrative pitting Society against a Nature consisting of greenhouse gas molecules. Except that unlike the apocalyptician visiting the activist meeting, who chooses to get up and leave after speaking, the IPCC is actually statutorily required to “present the global warming science” as if it contained a politics-free message from Nature itself, requiring no discussion, and then get up and walk out in order to allow the sanitised missive to sink into Society (a.k.a. the delegates to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).

Although they can hardly be accused of drawing back from analysing the dynamics of capital, some flavour of this approach lingers on even among some thinkers on the left such as John Bellamy Foster and Naomi Klein, who, contemplating apocalypse, are tempted to fall back on creaking Cartesian slogans according to which not only does Capitalism act on a wholly separate Nature (“Capitalism’s War on the Earth”), but Nature itself somehow acquires that long-coveted ability to overthrow Capitalism (“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”).

***

Apocalypse stories are always about rule. Every community, perhaps, recounts its own apocalypses, paired with its own ideals of elite or revolutionary response. St. John’s biblical apocalypse found its answer in God’s infinite love. In early capitalist England, the threatened apocalypse of rebellion on the part of an emerging, uprooted proletariat was countered by, among other things, a new discipline of abstract Newtonian time that promised to keep everyone in line. Marxist visions of capitalist  apocalypse are typically matched with projections of political redemption through revolution.   Southeast Asian millenarianists gambled on a moral cleansing of the worldly order, as do some  survivalists in the contemporary US, where doomsday religious rhetoric has often gone hand in hand
with rampant extractivism and free-market ideology.

The prototype modern apocalypse story is perhaps that of Malthus, with his 1798 vision of uncontrollably breeding hordes whose ravening after land would “sink the whole world in universal night”. Helping justify the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, Malthus’s tale also energised murderous 19th-century famine policies in British India, powered Garrett Hardin’s 20th-century polemics against commons and communism and serves as an unacknowledged foundation for countless World Bank economic reports and research projects in biology and “natural resource management”. Finding an echo in Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” apocalypse speech, it also haunts the immigration policies of UKIP and other British political parties.

Of equally enduring influence has been the slow-motion apocalypse prefigured by 19thcentury
thermodynamics: heat death, when capital can extract no more work from the universe, all the lights go out, and the machines rumble to a halt. While this particular catastrophe story has ceased to be the object of the obsessive brooding that it was among North Atlantic intellectual classes in the 1800s, it too remains active today, hovering ghostlike in the background of every post-Taylorian drive to sweat labour and other resources, as well as every energy-saving programme or excited politician’s appeal to the “white heat of technology” or “increased efficiency for national competitiveness”.

Al Gore’s famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth heightened viewers’ anxiety about global warming by enjoining them to think of themselves as frogs being slowly boiled alive, only to climax with a paean to capitalist competition and the “renewable resource” of US “political will”. In the global warming debate as well, apocalypse has come to be invoked mainly to tell us what will happen if we don’t adopt innovative business practices. Al Gore’s famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth heightened viewers’ anxiety about global warming by enjoining them to think of themselves as frogs being slowly boiled alive, only to climax with a paean to capitalist competition and the “renewable resource” of US “political will”. In Carbon, an August 2014 climate campaign video from the Leonardo di Caprio Foundation, cartoons of a rampaging, Transformer-like “fossil fuel robot” without a human face stomping around the planet laying waste to all living things alternate with interviews with bland, besuited North American and European technocrats and  politicians drawling about carbon prices as the solution to all our climate problems. Which half of this composite vision is the more terrifying is, for me, an open question.

Justice Matters – Larry Lohmann

Published on Mar 13, 2015 

The Fight For The Soul Of The Black Lives Matter Movement

Gothamist

April 7, 2015

by Aaron Miguel Cantú and Raven Rakia 

 

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(Tod Seelie / Gothamist)

At a march in mid-December organized by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Washington D.C., organizers rushed the stage and claimed that the old guard was attempting to hijack the nascent Black Lives Matter movement away from its founders.

“This movement was started by the young people,” Johnetta Elzie, a key organizer from St. Louis, said to the raucous crowd. “There should be young people all over this stage.”

It was one of the most visible examples of the clash between the old, signified by Sharpton, and the new, represented by grassroots groups who emerged from Ferguson and New York after the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions.

Sharpton has been extremely sensitive to this criticism. “Oh, you young and hip, you’re full of fire. You’re the new face,” he sneered at a recent gathering at the headquarters of NAN in Harlem. “All that the stuff that they know will titillate your ears. That’s what a pimp says to a ho.”

At an MLK Day march in Harlem, the division between the old and the new was quieter but no less pronounced.

On Luxembourg Street, three cops stood behind a barricade, just a few feet away from a thousand protesters. One of the two female officers, brown skinned with accentuated eyebrows, plucked lint from the uniform of her stocky, white male colleague; they all laughed.

Meanwhile, a dozen or so protesters began to veer from a universal chant—one about justice being lost until it is found—to a more abrasive one: “How do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D.” It’s the same kind of chant Mayor Bill de Blasio called “hateful” and an “attempt to divide this city in a time when we need to come together” a week after two detectives were fatally shot in their squad car in Brooklyn. Immediately the three officers stiffened their backs and softened their smiles.

Minutes later, dozens of members of a group called Justice League NYC stormed past the officers on the sidewalk, led by some of its key staffers, with Councilmember Jumaane Williams at their side.

Seeing the group of well-groomed activists and politicians stroll by, the three officers relaxed and dropped their hands from their waists. The police seemed to know that for all the demonstrators’ bluster, it was going to be an uneventful day.

The Justice League had convened the MLK demonstration, a shift in a strategy that has prioritized closed door meetings with police officials and politicians—including Governor Cuomo—over action in the streets and grassroots organizing. It’s the sort of insider-activist strategy that Sharpton has mastered.

While Sharpton’s influence has grown within the establishment, his tactics have become less palatable among young people. That’s what makes the Justice League a new sort of political animal: It has all of Sharpton’s trademarks—compromise politics, access to power and media, rebel aesthetics, calculated outrage campaigns—but doesn’t feature the MSNBC talk show host himself. This approach has allowed Justice League to confidently assume the reigns of New York’s anti-police brutality movement in recent months.

But some grassroots activists who began organizing out of anger towards the grand jury decisions, as well as the fatal police shooting of Akai Gurley, many of them working class and politically unconnected, fear that the establishment-friendly reformism championed by the Justice League threatens to water down the struggle against state violence. They worry that the group’s ties to city government and wealthy celebrities make it nearly indistinguishable from the power it’s trying to change. The result has been a quiet struggle for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement in New York City.

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(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)

“The way [the Justice League is] moving, it’s like it would appear to outside forces that they are the face of the movement, and it’s so not true,” said Ty Black, a 26-year-old activist and artist.

After the killing of the unarmed Gurley by an NYPD officer in a stairwell of East New York’s Pink Houses, Black and a small group of young activists from East New York and Crown Heights, along with Gurley’s aunt, came together to form Justice for Akai Gurley. The group has organized multiple protests at the Pink Houses, marching through different public housing complexes in East New York before stopping at the 75th Precinct.

According to Black, the group aims to build community power and reclaim control of their own streets, while also “eliminating police presence in our neighborhood through things like copwatch,” the tactic of vigilantly documenting routine police interactions with civilians. In February, copwatch footage exonerated Jonathan Danza, a Sunset Park street vendor who was accused to assaulting the police; video showed that in fact it was Daza who had been violently assaulted by his arresting officers.

“Police are the paramilitary arm of New York City development,” says Asere Bello, another member of JFAG. He pointed to the broken elevator in Gurley’s NYCHA building and the burnt-out light in the stairwell where he was fatally shot as a part of the disenfranchisement that played a role in his death.

JFAG plans to ask NYCHA residents about the repairs needed in their buildings and recruit handymen to fix them. After surveying residents in East New York who expressed a need for ways to deal with interpersonal violence—the police receive more than 700 domestic violence calls each day—JFAG’s second march was led by women, and focused on the connections of state and gender violence.

The point, representatives of the group say, is to reclaim their own power and reduce dependence on state institutions, and show the connections between Broken Windows policing, displacement, gentrification, and police brutality.

“For us it’s a matter of getting the skills to navigate our own relationships or our own conflicts…in a way that lessens the dependency and completely eliminates the dependency on the state to resolve our conflicts,” Bello said.

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Ty Black (courtesy Kelly Stuart)

Like Justice for Akai Gurley, nearly a dozen grassroots groups in the Bronx are organizing against police brutality as well as interrelated social problems like gentrification, and the school-to-prison pipeline. At a protest in December, Ephraim Cruz, a former agent with the Department of Homeland Security who now leads the group Bronxites for NYPD Accountability, said the NYPD were committing “operational terrorism,” not only through overt violence against people of color but by enforcing a system that inflicts trauma on the poor every day.

“We are at the very tip of the brunt of officer abuse impact,” he said. “We’re being pushed off streets because cops tell us to clear the corners, they tell us that we can’t interact in public. And we’re being pushed out by gentrification, we’re being pushed out of public schools by charter schools. We’re here to say the jig is up.”

At a different gathering, which was formally closed to press, a member of the group Take Back the Bronx discussed their group’s efforts to establish “no cop zones,” or places where community members actively but nonviolently repel police presence block-by-block. “We explore alternatives to policing,” the representative said, adding that non-profits tied to formal funding sources attempt to “pacify us and channel the anger.”

Regarding Justice League NYC, Black and Bello did not see the League as being as prominent as Sharpton’s NAN, but acknowledged celebrity culture and representative politics as things to be wary of.

“Ella Baker said it best: ‘Strong people do not need strong leaders,'” Bello noted.

With respect to Al Sharpton and NAN, Black said, “I have different views on how the movement should go. Anybody or any organization that’s embracing the National Action Network, I feel it’s important for the grassroots to stay away from that.”

Founded in early 2014 by Carmen Perez, a former parole officer, the Justice League is considered an initiative of the non-profit Gathering for Justice. Many members of the Justice League, including Tamika Mallory, former executive director of Sharpton’s NAN, and Michael Skolnik, political advisor to hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, also work within the city’s nonprofit sector, which has maintained the legacy of reformism championed by middle and upper class Blacks since the NAACP was founded in New York City a century ago.Their approach generally embraces a neoliberal concept of opportunity—a world where everybody can have an equal shot at economic success—while keeping the overall economic structure more or less intact.

In the middle of the last century, an increasingly radical campaign for racial justice taking aim at international capitalism also gained prominence. This approach seeks to undermine economic exploitation by encouraging self-sufficient communities independent from the mainstream economy. In practice, it looks like the Black Panthers’ numerous community initiatives, and the sort of organizing JFAG is pursuing in East New York.

The last serious challenge to reformism arose during the 1960s and 70s, when Black working class activists affiliated with the Black Power movement, led by the Black Panthers, tussled with more moderate and affluent Blacks who aligned with groups like the NAACP. At one point, in 1967, two members of a cell called the Revolutionary Action Movement were charged with conspiracy to murder civil rights leaders working for the NAACP and another moderate group. But the fight for influence rarely got that violent, and after a while it wasn’t even much of a contest.

In the 1980s, after the Panthers and similar liberation groups mostly withered away (thanks in part to coordinated infiltration by the police and FBI) the nonprofit sector grew in size and influence due to Reagan-era budget cuts to social services. Because they rely on a mix of private funding and government contracts, nonprofits generally have to maintain cordial relationships with powerful members of the public and private spheres. That closeness can be seen in how Bill de Blasio was able to transition from his job at a nonprofit focused on improving health care in Central America to low-level aid in City Hall, the move that jump-started his political career.

In The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America, Naomi Murakawa argues that liberal reforms, Democratic politicians, and the NAACP are partially to blame for today’s policing practices. She argues that “liberal law and order” laid the foundation for mass incarceration in the 21st century.

Some who are critical of the Justice League see the group as part of this pattern.

“I see this movement being empowered off the idea of ‘better police,’ ‘better laws,'” says Timothy DuWhite, a Black Lives Matter activist. “I see the overwhelming assertion for officer indictment as a direct reflection of our society’s dependence on the prison industrial complex.”

“The names we hear being chanted and lifted up in the streets are not black trans-women, are not cis black women, and are not queer identified men, these are just not the stories being told,” DuWhite said.

“We must push the movement forward past the simplicity of physical harm and murder committed by the police, and begin to talk about how poverty is a form of state-sanctioned violence. How reduced access to health care is a form of state-sanctioned violence. How reduced access to proper education is a form of state-sanctioned violence.”

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(Getty Images)

After leaderless masses of protesters poured into the streets to block traffic on highways and bridges in the aftermath of the Garner and Brown grand jury decisions, the Justice League NYC began organizing actions, giving order to the spontaneity that had captured the world’s attention. The group’s first major event was a die-in and rally outside of Barclays Center during a Nets basketball game, and it continued holding similar actions in major shopping centers, as well as press conferences with councilmembers and celebrities like Nas and Russell Simmons, hours after Simmons and Jay Z met with Governor Cuomo.

Soon Justice League moved to the front of the protest line. The mix of celebrity and media exposure compounded the number of people at their events, reinforcing their growing influence in the movement.

After organizing a few events, the Justice League issued a set of 10 demands in early December. They ranged from calling for meetings with Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, to passing a law prohibiting chokeholds and a transparency-enforcing Right To Know Act.

Mallory, the executive director at NAN for four of her 14 years there before stepping down in late 2013, describes Justice League, along with its parent non-profit, Gathering for Justice, as “exist[ing] on the same principals of National Action Network.”

“There are many people in the Justice League who have connections to City Hall. I’m one of them,” Mallory told Gothamist. Harry Belafonte, who sits on the Justice League’s board, spoke at de Blasio’s inauguration, and the mayor selected Mallory to join his transition committee.

“There are perhaps maybe some folks who don’t necessarily feel that that is the right strategy,” Mallory said of working with the government. “But the bottom line is that we can protest, which we do all day, but if we don’t move legislation and actual rules and regulations, then we’ve accomplished nothing.”

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The Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee led a march into Bed-Stuy in late November (Jessica Lehrman / Gothamist)

One long-time New York City activist who works at a non-profit in the city and asked to remain anonymous because they feared reprisal within the community, sees serious flaws in this strategy.

“We’re concerned that the group’s liberal politics and their ties to the mayor’s office, and for instance, someone like Linda Sarsour, with political aspirations, will prioritize being conciliatory at a time when liberal gatekeepers must be challenged and held accountable,” the activist said. “Despite their rhetoric, their actions are already interpreted as watering down progressive and human rights work in the city.”

Sarsour is a member of the Justice League and the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.

“It’s very disingenuous to say, ‘Oh the Justice League just showed up yesterday,'” Sarsour told Gothamist. “They’re making it sound like people just woke up one morning, never set foot in the movement, don’t know anyone in the movement, and all of the sudden now we’re doing work. We’ve been in the movement, we just didn’t have a name! Now we have a name.”

Sarsour pointed to the Justice League’s affiliations with the NYC Revolution Club and the Zulu Nation as proof of the group’s willingness to work with more radical elements. She also defended their use of star power.

“The way you raise the profile of an issue, is by making the issue cool and relevant in pop culture. And if people are seeing it on Twitter, if they’re seeing Russell Simmons tweeting about police brutality, and getting people involved, at the end of the day young people are going to come out for that,” Sarsour said.

“I wish that more of the celebrities, who are multi-millionaires, probably, are able to say to themselves: Wow, my communities are under attack, and I need to give back to my community. And when they come to us, and they want to be a part of something, we absolutely include them. We wish more people would come and be part of the movement.”

Mallory stressed that her group’s political connections wouldn’t compromise their willingness to challenge the status quo: “I know that the leadership of Justice League and the leadership of the Gathering for Justice are certainly of the mind set [that] we must work—not only work with City Hall, but challenge City Hall when need be about what they are or are not doing.”

Sarsour asserts that lawmakers “wouldn’t give us the time of day if they didn’t see the influence we had in our communities.”

“This is civic organizing that I’ve been doing for the past fourteen years of my life. Building civic participation of immigrant communities across the city, getting people to the polls. People watch that. Elected officials know that that’s important, and there’s some people that won’t win elections without communities of color at the polls.”

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(Scott Lynch / Gothamist)

After two NYPD Legal Affairs Bureau officers were assaulted on the Brooklyn Bridge in December after a large demonstration, Mayor de Blasio met with members of the Justice League, who, the mayor said, agreed to identify anybody who “seeks to harm the police or harm anyone and undermine their non-violent peaceful progressive movement.” The mayor seemed to be positioning the Justice League as a wedge between him and more radical elements of the movement.

The Justice League issued a press release right after the meeting that did not address this assertion. Still, some members of the group began to vehemently deny the mayor’s claim on Twitter. Sarsour blamed the “corporate media,” not de Blasio, for trying to discredit and spread division between protesters. The next day, the group tweeted a statement saying they would not work with the NYPD to identify protesters.

Some have questioned why the Justice League didn’t specifically denounce the mayor after he alluded to their possible work as informants.

“If the mayor is the one that’s lying…Why don’t they call the mayor out?” said Dennis Flores, an activist with El Grito de Sunset Park. “If they don’t, it shows that they’re really trying to protect their relationship with the mayor as opposed to calling him out on lying.”

Asked to speak to this controversy, Carmen Perez told Gothamist, “We did not, and do not, get distracted from the important work we are doing, by sensationalized media reporting.”

Linda Sarsour added, “Just because we get a meeting with the mayor—excuse us! Excuse me that I got a meeting with the mayor. I apologize. I’ve built those connections. I didn’t wake up one morning and become some important person.”

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(Tod Seelie / Gothamist)

After two detectives in Brooklyn were killed on December 20 by a lone gunman from Baltimore, the Justice League adopted a more conciliatory and solemn tone, holding a vigil in Harlem the day after the shootings.

In the following weeks, activists in Take Back the Bronx and related groups—including the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee, which was vilified in the press for its chants about “dead cops”—say they were the targets of coordinated police raids.

A liaison for the protesters, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation by the NYPD, told Gothamist that one activist’s relative was “roughed up” after more than a dozen police officers entered his home. Another activist said police threatened them with deportation. At least one videographer has been subpoenaed.

With the streets largely empty today, and an uneasy peace between City Hall and the police—who turned their backs to the mayor and stopped enforcing petty crimes after the assassination of the two detectives—the mayor says his biggest regret through the whole affair was “not moving quickly enough to repudiate the harsh rhetoric of protesters.”

The Justice League has continued their dialogue with high-level public officials, including a meeting with Governor Cuomo on January 20 and a closed door meeting with NYPD Police Chief James O’Neill at NAN’s headquarters on February 11.

“We are encouraged that the Governor has publicly stated his commitment to advance criminal justice reform legislation addressing urgent concerns that have been rightfully raised by communities across the country impacted by our biased justice system,” Carmen Perez said in a statement after meeting with Cuomo.

The governor later tabled the juvenile justice reforms he initially championed in order to pass an on-time budget.

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(Tod Seelie / Gothamist)

“One conclusion I have made out of this whole thing is that the only person and group that seems to have emerged from this situation in better than they were before is William Bratton,” says Harry Levine, a sociologist at CUNY Queens who has written extensively on the NYPD’s racially-biased marijuana arrests. “He’s a smart cookie.”

When the rift between the mayor and the police unions was deepest, de Blasio leaned heavily on Commissioner Bratton to shore up his waning support within the NYPD. And he was careful to condemn the rank-and-file for showing their backsides to the mayor without meting out any real consequences for their insolence, keeping him mostly in the favor of officers.

Bratton has also held the tacit approval of the Justice League. Perez told the New York Review of Books that she “looked favorably upon some of Bratton’s statements about improving community relations.” And although there is no indication that Justice League has personally met with the commissioner, Chief O’Neil is the second highest ranking official within the NYPD, and has been a close ally of Bratton’s since the early 1990s.

So intact is the commissioner’s political standing despite weeks of demonstrations, he casually announced that the NYPD had a new machine gun-toting unit to deal “with events like our recent protests” (the NYPD clarified that protests would be handled by officers without automatic weapons). More recently, Bratton visited lawmakers in Albany to request a bill that would make resisting arrest a felony, an alarming proposal, considering that 72 percent of all resisting arrest charges are brought by 15 percent of all uniformed officers.

Like other groups, Justice League supports an end to Broken Windows policing, the strategy of cracking down on minor offenses that many say contributed to Eric Garner’s death. Tamika Mallory, the Justice League boardmember, told Gothamist that she personally opposes Bratton, the staunchest defender of Broken Windows.

“Being in the position that he’s in, as the top cop in New York City, tells us that [Bratton] is not the right choice for police commissioner. The mayor ought to reconsider having Commissioner Bratton in position.” Still, the recommendation to remove Bratton as NYPD commissioner didn’t make it on to the group’s 10 demands in December.

Asked about the group’s stance on Bratton, Perez said Justice League is “not interested in human resources,” but added, “Broken Windows is just stop and frisk with another name.”

To Nicholas Heyward, who has organized against NYPD violence over the last 20 years since his 13-year-old son was shot and killed by a police officer in 1994, the man is inseparable from the theory, a sentiment shared widely by activists and protesters. “I think Bratton’s a racist, and his Broken Windows theory targets minority people,” he told Gothamist. “Bratton has to go.”

Josmar Trujillo of New Yorkers Against Bratton began protesting the commissioner before he was even appointed. When Bratton showed up at a City Council hearing last month to ask for 1,000 more officers, Trujillo’s group shouted down the testimony; one woman was arrested, and the chambers were cleared.

“We learned a lot in the last year about the non-profit industrial complex in this fight with Bratton and de Blasio,” Trujillo says. “Ferguson…showed they didn’t need the celebrities or academics to fuel a movement. Somehow, though, that message hasn’t gotten through here in New York just yet. What can the Russell Simmons of the world, all buddy-buddy with the Democrats selling us out, provide other than another token seat at the table?”

Trujillo added, “If people are serious about liberation then tables of power need to be flipped this time around.”

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(Jessica Lehrman / Gothamist)

On April 13, Justice League plans to march 250 miles from New York to Washington D.C., with stops in Newark, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore.

Their stated goal is to urge Congress to act on legislation regarding racial profiling and police demilitarization.

“I’m not going to show up to Washington, D.C. and mobilize thousands of people to meet us there after marching 250 miles and then just scream on the lawn and talk about our pain,” Linda Sarsour says. “We know what the problem is. We need to make sure that the people in power, who have the influence and the authority to change the things we want to be changed, they need to know what’s coming.”

Sarsour said that for politicians, the choice is simple: “You’re either going to welcome us, and welcome our movement, or you’re going to become the opposition.”

If the Justice League is operating by representative politics, some people haven’t asked to be represented. Zora, 23, performs anti-repression organizing with Can’t Touch This NYC. She accused the group of “shucking and jiving for these politicians.”

None of the smaller organizations interviewed for this article have plans to participate in the march, nor does Zora.

“They’re trying to establish themselves as leaders for a movement when the movement doesn’t need leaders.”

 

 

[Raven Rakia is a journalist & writer. She has bylines in The Nation, Ebony.com, Truth-Out, VICE/VICE News, Dazed Digital, and more. Aaron Miguel Cantú is an investigative journalist and researcher in Brooklyn.]

Authoritarian Leftists | Kill the Cop in Your Head

The Anarchist Library

1996

by Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

Video: Police Brutality and Black Sellout Organizations | Published on Aug 14, 2014

 

It’s difficult to know where to begin with this open letter to the various European-american leftist (Marxist-Leninist and Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, in particular) groups within the United States. I have many issues with many groups; some general, some very specific. The way in which this is presented may seem scattered at first, but I encourage all of you to read and consider carefully what I have written in its entirety before you pass any judgments.

It was V.I. Lenin who said, “take from each national culture only its democratic and socialist elements; we take them only and absolutely in opposition to the bourgeois culture and bourgeois nationalism of each nation”. It could be argued that Lenin’s statement in the current Amerikkkan context is in fact a racialist position; who is he (or the Bolsheviks themselves) to “take” anyone or pass judgment on anyone; particularly since the privileges of having white skin are a predominant factor within the context of amerikkkan-style oppression. This limited privilege in capitalist society is a prime factor in the creation and maintenance of bourgeois ideology in the minds of many whites of various classes in the US and elsewhere on the globe.

When have legitimate struggles or movements for national and class liberation had to “ask permission” from some eurocentric intellectual “authority” who may have seen starvation and brutality, but has never experienced it himself? Where there is repression, there is resistance… period. Self-defense is a basic human right that we as Black people have exercised time and time again, both violent and non-violent; a dialectical and historical reality that has kept many of us alive up to this point.

Assuming that this was not Lenin’s intent, and assuming that you all truly uphold worldwide socialism/communism, then the question must be asked: Why is it that each and every white dominated/white-led “vanguard” in the United States has in fact done the exact opposite of what Lenin Proclaims/recommends when it comes to interacting with blacks and other people of color?

Have any of you actually sat down and seriously thought about why there are so few of us in your organizations; and at the same time why non-white socialist/communist formations, particularly in the Black community, are so small and isolated? I have a few ideas…

I. A fundamentally incorrect analysis of the role of the white left in the last thirty years of civil rights to Black liberation struggle…

By most accounts, groups such as the Black Panther Party, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, American Indian Movement, and the Puerto Rican Independence Movement “set the standard” for not only communities of color but also for revolutionary elements in the white community.

All of the above groups were ruthlessly crushed; their members imprisoned or killed. Very few white left groups at the time fought back against the onslaught of COINTELPRO by supporting these groups, with the exception of the smaller, armed underground cells. In fact, many groups such as the Progressive Labor Party and the Revolutionary Union (now known as the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA) saw the repression of groups they admired, and at the same time despised, as an opportunity to assert their own version of “vanguard leadership” on our population.

What they failed to recognize (and what many of you generally still fail to recognize) is that “vanguard leadership” is developed, it doesn’t just “magically” happen through preachy, dogmatic assertions, nor does it fall from the sky. Instead of working with the smaller autonomous formations, to help facilitate the growth of Black (and white) self-organization (the “vanguard” leadership of the Black masses themselves and all others, nurtured through grassroots social/political alliances rooted in principle), they instead sought to either take them over or divide their memberships against each other until the group or groups were liquidated. These parasitic and paternalistic practices continue to this day.

The only reason any kind of principled unity existed prior to large-scale repression is because Black-led formations had no illusions about white radicals or their politics; and had no problems with kicking the living shit out of them if they started acting stupid. Notice also that the majority of white radicals who were down with real struggle and real organizations, and were actually trusted and respected by our people, are either still active… or still in prison!

II. The white left’s concept of “the vanguard party”…

Such arrogance on the part of the white left is part and parcel to your vanguardist ideas and practice. Rather than seeking principled partnerships with non-white persons and groups, you instead seek converts to your party’s particular brand of rigid political theology under the guise of “unity”. It makes sense that most of you speak of “Black/white unity” and “sharp struggle against racism” in such vague terms, and with such uncertainty in your voices; or with an overexaggerated forcefulness that seems contrived.

Another argument against vanguardist tendencies in individuals or amongst groups is the creation of sectarianism and organizational cultism between groups and within groups. Karl Marx himself fought tirelessly against sectarianism within the working class movement of 19th century Europe. He was also a staunch fighter against those who attempted to push his persona to an almost god-like status, declaring once in frustration “I assure you, sir, I am no Marxist”. It could be argued from this viewpoint that the “vanguardist” white left in the US today is generally ,by a definition rooted in the day to day practice of Marx himself, anti-Marx; and by proxy, anti-revolutionary.

Like your average small business, the various self-proclaimed “vanguards” compete against each other as well against the people themselves (both white and non-white); accusing each other of provacteurism, opportunism, and/or possessing “the incorrect line” when in fact most (if not all) are provacateurs, opportunists, and fundamentally incorrect.

The nature of capitalist competition demands that such methods and tactics be utilized to the fullest in order to “win” in the business world; the white left has in fact adapted these methods and tactics to their own brand of organizing, actively re-inventing and re-enforcing the very social, political, and economic relations you claim to be against; succeeding in undermining the very basic foundations of your overall theory and all variants of that theory.

Or is this phenomenon part and parcel to your theory? In volume four of the collected works of V.I. Lenin, Lenin himself states up front that “socialism is state-capitalism”. Are you all just blindly following a a dated, foreign “blueprint” that is vastly out of context to begin with; with no real understanding of its workings?

At the same time, it could be observed that you folks are merely products of your environment; reflective of the alienated and hostile communities and families from which many of you emerge. American society has taught you the tenets of “survival of the fittest” and “rugged individualism”, and you swallowed those doctrines like your mother’s milk.

Because the white left refuses to combat and reject reactionary tendencies in their (your) own heads and amongst themselves (yourselves), and because they (you) refuse to see how white culture is rooted firmly in capitalism and imperialism; refusing to reject it beyond superficial culture appropriations (i.e.-Native american “dream catchers” hanging from the rear-view mirrors of your vehicles, wearing Adidas or Nikes with fat laces and over-sized Levis jeans or Dickies slacks worn “LA sag” style, crude attempts to “fit-in” by exaggerated, insulting over-use of the latest slang term(s) from “da hood”, etc), you in fact re-invent racist and authoritarian social relations as the final product of your so-called “revolutionary theory”; what I call Left-wing white supremacy.

This tragic dilemma is compounded by, and finds some of its initial roots in, your generally ahistorical and wishful “analysis” of Black/white relations in the US; and rigid, dogmatic definitions of “scientific socialism” or “revolutionary communism”, based in a eurocentric context. Thus, we are expected to embrace these “socialist” values of the settler/conqueror culture, rather than the “traditional amerikkkan values” of your reactionary opponents; as if we do not possess our own “socialist” values, rooted in our own daily and cultural realities! Wasn’t the Black Panther Party “socialist”? What about the Underground Railroad; our ancestors (and yes, even some of yours) were practicing “mutual aid” back when most European revolutionary theorists were still talking about it like it was a lofty, far away ideal!

One extreme example of this previously mentioned wishful thinking in place of a true analysis on the historical and current political dynamics particular to this country is an article by Joseph Green entitled “Anarchism and the Market Place, which appeared in the newsletter “Communist Voice” (Vol #1, Issue #4, September 15, 1995).

In it he asserts that anarchism is nothing more than small-scale operations run by individuals that will inevitably lead to the re-introduction of economic exploitation. He also claims that “it fails because its failure to understand the relation of freedom to mass activity mirrors the capitalist ideology of each person for their self.” He then offers up a vague “plan of action”; that the workers must rely on “class organization and all-round mass struggle”. In addition, he argues for the centralization of all means of production.

Clearly, Green’s political ideology is in fact a theology. First, anarchism was practiced in mass scale most recently in Spain from 1936–39. By most accounts (including Marxist-Leninist), the Spanish working class organizations such as the CNT (National Confederation of Labor) and the FAI (Federation of Anarchists of Iberia) seized true direct workers power and in fact kept people alive during a massive civil war.

Their main failure was on a military, and partially on an ideological level: (1.) They didn’t carry out a protracted fight against the fascist Falange with the attitude of driving them off the face of the planet. (2.) They underestimated the treachery of their Marxist-Leninist “allies” (and even some of their anarchist “allies”), who later sided with the liberal government to destroy the anarchist collectives. Some CNT members even joined the government in the name of a “united front against fascism”. And (3.), they hadn’t spent enough time really developing their networks outside the country in the event they needed weapons, supplies, or a place to seek refuge quickly.

Besides leaving out those important facts, Green also omits that today the majority of prisoner support groups in the US are anarchist run or influenced. He also leaves out that anarchists are generally the most supportive and involved in grassroots issues such as homelessness, police brutality, Klan/Nazi activity, Native sovereignty issues, [physical] defense of womens health clinics, sexual assault prevention, animal rights, environmentalism, and free speech issues.

Green later attacks “supporters of capitalist realism on one hand and anarchist dreamers on the other”. What he fails to understand is that the movement will be influenced mostly by those who do practical work around day to day struggles, not by those who spout empty rhetoric with no basis in reality because they themselves (like Green) are fundamentally incapable of practicing what they preach. Any theory which cannot, at the very least, be demonstrated in miniature scale (with the current reality of the economically, socially, and militarily imposed limitations of capitalist/white supremacist society taken in to consideration) in daily life is not even worth serious discussion because it is rigid dogma of the worst kind.

Even if he could “show and prove”, his proposed system is doomed to repeat the cannibalistic practices of Josef Stalin or Pol Pot. While state planning can accelerate economic growth no one from Lenin, to Mao, to Green himself has truly dealt with the power relationship between the working class and the middle-class “revolutionaries” who seize state power “on the behalf” of the latter. How can one use the organizing methods of the European bourgeoisie, “[hierarchal] party building” and “seizing state power” and not expect this method of organizing people to not take on the reactionary characteristics of what it supposedly seeks to eliminate? Then there’s the question of asserting ones authoritarian will upon others (the usual recruitment tactics of the white left attempting to attract Black members).

At one point in the article Green claims that anarchistic social relations take on the oppressive characteristics of the capitalist ideology their rooted in. Really? What about the capitalist characteristics of know-it-all ahistorical white “radicals” who can just as effectively assert capitalistic, oppressive social relations when utilizing a top-down party structure (especially when it’s utilized against minority populations)? What about the re-assertion of patriarchy (or actual physical and mental abuse) in interpersonal relationships; especially when an organizational structure allows for, and in fact rewards, oppressive social relationships?

What is the qualitative difference between a party bureaucrat who uses his position to steal from the people (in addition to living a neo-bourgeois lifestyle; privilege derived from one’s official position and justified by other party members who do the same. And, potentially, derived from the color of his skin in the amerikkkan context) and a collective member who steals from the local community? One major difference is that the bureaucrat can only be removed by the party, the people (once again) have no real voice in the matter (unless the people themselves take up arms and dislodge the bureaucrat and his party); the collective member can recieve a swift punishment rooted in the true working class traditions, culture, and values of the working class themselves, rather than that which is interpreted for them by so- called “professional revolutionaries” with no real ties to that particular community. This is a very important, yet very basic, concept for the white left to consider when working with non- white workers (who, by the way, are the true “vanguard” in the US; Black workers in particular. Check the your history, especially the last thirty years of it.); i.e.- direct community control.

This demand has become more central over the last thirty years as we have seen the creation of a Black elite of liberal and conservative (negrosie) puppets for the white power structure to speak through to the people, the few who were allowed to succeed because they took up the ideology of the oppressor. But, they too have become increasingly powerless as the shift to the right in the various branches of the state and federal government has quickly, and easily, “checked” what little political power they had. Also, we do not have direct control over neighborhood institutions as capitalists, let alone as workers; at least white workers have a means of production they could potentially seize. Small “mom and pop” restaurants and stores or federally funded health clinics and social services in the ‘hood hardly count as “Black capitalist” enterprises, nor are any of these things particularly “liberating” in and of themselves.

But white radicals, the white left of the US in particular, have a hard time dealing with the reality that Black people have always managed to survive, despite the worst or best intentions of the majority population. We will continue to survive without you and can make our revolution without you (or against you) if necessary; don’t tell us about “protracted struggle”, the daily lives of non-white workers are testimony to the true meaning of protracted struggle, both in the US and globally. Your inability or unwillingness to accept the fact that our struggle is parallel to yours, but at the same time very specific, and will be finished successfully when we as a people, as working-class Blacks on the North American continent, decide that we have achieved full freedom (as defined by our history, our culture, our needs, our desires, our personal experiences, and our political idea(s)) is by far the primary reason why the white left is so weak in this country.

In addition, this sinking garbage scow of american leftism is dragging other liberating political vessels down with it, particularly the smaller, anti-authoritarian factions within the white settler nation itself and the few [non-dogmatic and non- ritualistic] individuals within todays Marxist-Leninist parties who sincerely wish to get away from the old, tired historical revisionism of their particular “revolutionary” party.

This seemingly “fixed position”, along with many other fixed positions in their “thought”, help to reveal the white left’s profound isolation and alienation from the Black community as a whole and its activists. Yet, many of them would continue to wholeheartedly, and retardedly, assert that they’re part of the community simply because they live in a Black neighborhood or their party headquarters is located there.

The white left’s isolation and alienation was revealed even more profoundly in the criticisms of the Million Man March on Washington. In the end, the majority of the white leftist critics wound up tailing the most backward elements of the Republican Party; some going as far as to echo the very same words of Senate majority leader Bob Dole, who commented on the day after the march that “ You can’t separate the message from the messenger.” Others parroted the words of House majority leader Newt Gingrich, who had the nerve to ask “where did our leadership go wrong?”

Since when were we expected to follow the “leadership” of white amerikkka; the right, left, or center without some type of brutal coercion? Where is the advantage for us in “following” any of them anywhere? What have any of them done for us lately? Where is the “better” leadership example of any of the hierarchical political tendencies (of any class or ideology) in the US and who do they benefit exclusively and explicitly? None of you were particularly interested in us before we rebelled violently in 1992, why the sudden interest? What do you want from us this time?

Few, if any, of the major pro-revolution left-wing newspapers in the US gave an accurate account of the march. Many of them claimed that only the Black petit-bourgeoisie were in attendance. All of them claimed that women were “forbidden” to be there, despite the widely reported fact that our sisters were there in large numbers.

“MIM Notes” (and the Maoist Internationalist Movement itself) to their credit recognize that white workers are NOT the “vanguard” class: yet because they themselves are so profoundly alienated from the Black community on this side of the prison walls they had to rely on information from mainstream press accounts courtesy of the Washington Post. And rightfully alienated they are; who in their right mind actually believes that a small, “secret” cult of white campus radicals can (or should) “lead” the masses of non-white people to their/our freedom? Whatever those people are smoking, I don’t want any! I do have to say, however, that MIM is indeed the least dogma addicted of the entire white left milieu that I’ve encountered; but dogma addicted nonetheless.

I helped organize in the Seattle area for the Million Man March. The strong, Black women I met had every intention of going. None of the men even considered stopping them, let alone suggesting that they not go. Sure, the NOI passed on Minister Farrakhan’s message that it was a “men only” march, but it was barely discussed and generally ignored.

The Million Man March local organizing committees (l.o.c.’s) gave the various Black left factions a forum to present ideas and concepts to entire sections of our population who were not familiar with “Marxism”, “anarchism”, “Kwame Nkrumah”, “George Jackson”, “The Ten-Point Program”, “class struggle”, etc.

It also afforded us the opportunity to begin engaging the some of the members of the local NOI chapter in class-based ideological struggle along with participating community people. Of course, it was impossible for the white left to know any of this; more proof of their profound isolation and alienation. At the time, despite our own minor ideological differences, we agreed on one point: it was none of your business or the business of the rest of the white population. When we organize amongst our own, we consider it a “family matter”. When we have conflicts, that is also a “family matter”. Again, it is none of your business unless we tell you differently. How would you like it if we butted in on a heated family argument you were having with a loved one and started telling you what to think and what to do?

This brings me to two issues that have bothered me since January, 1996. Both comments were made to me by a member of Radical Women at the International Socialist Organization’s conference at the University of Washington. The first statement was: “I don’t recognize Black people as a ‘nation’ like I do Native people.”

My first thought was “who the fuck are you to pass judgment upon a general self-definition that is rooted in our collective suffering throughout the history of this country?”

She might as well join up with the right-wing Holocaust revisionists; for this is precisely what she is practicing, the denial of the Black holocaust from 1555 to the present (along a parallel denial, by proxy, of the genocide against other non- white nations within the US). Our nationalism emerged as a defense against [your] white racism. The difference between revolutionary Black nationalists (like Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party) and cultural nationalists (like Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam) is that we see our nationalism as a specific tool to defend ourselves from groups and individuals like this ignorant person, not as an exclusive or single means for liberation.

We recognize that we will have to attack bourgeois elements amongst our people just as vigorously as we fight against white supremacists (“left”, “center”, or “right”). The difference is that our bourgeoisie (what I refer to as the “negrosie”) is only powerful within the community; they have no power against the white power structure without us, nor do they have power generally without the blessing of the white power structure itself. Our task, then, is to unite them with us against a common enemy while at the same time explicitly undermining (and eventually eliminating) their inherently reactionary influence.

The second stupidity to pass her lips concerned our support of Black-owned businesses. I pointed out to her that if she had in fact studied her Marxism-Leninism, she would see that their existence goes hand-in-glove with Marx’s theory that revolution could only ensue once capitalism was fully developed. She came back with the criticism, “Well, you’ll be waiting a long time for that to happen”.

Once again, had she actually studied Marxism-Leninism she would know that Lenin and the Bolsheviks also had to deal with this same question. Russia’s economy was predominantly agricultural, and its bourgeois class was small. They decided to go with the mood and sentiments of the peasantry and industrial workers at that particular moment in history;..seize the means of production and distribution anyway!

Who says we wouldn’t do the same? The participants of the LA rebellion (and others), despite their lack of training in “radical ‘left-wing’ political theory” (besides being predominantly Black, Latino, or poor white trash in Amerikkka), got it half right; they seized the means of distribution, distributed the products of their [collective] labor, and then burned the facilities to the ground. Yes, there were many problems with the events of 1992, but they did show our potential for future progress.

Black autonomists ultimately reject vanguardism because as the white left [as well as elements of the Black revolutionary movement] has demonstrated, it erodes and eventually destroys the fragile ties that hold together the necessary principled partnerships between groups and individuals that are needed to accomplish the numerous tasks associated with fighting back successfully and building a strong, diverse, and viable revolutionary movement.

The majority of the white left is largely disliked, disrespected, and not trusted by our people because they fail miserably on this point. How can you claim to be a “socialist” when you are in fact anti-social? How do you all distinguish yourselves from the majority of your people in concrete, practical, and principled terms?

III. Zero (0) support of non-white left factions by the white left.

I’ve always found this particularly disturbing; you all want our help, but do not want to help us. You want to march shoulder to shoulder with us against the government and its supporters, but do not want us to have a solid political or material foundation of our own to not only win the fight against the white supremacist state but to also re-build our communities on our own behalf in our own likeness(es).

Let white Marxists provide unconditional (no strings attached) material support for non-white factions whose ideology runs parallel to theirs, and let white anarchist factions provide unconditional (again, no strings attached) material support for factions in communities of color who have parallel ideologies and goals. Obviously, the one “string” that can never be avoided is that of harsh economic reality; if you don’t have the funds, you can’t do it. That’s fair and logical, but if you’re paying these exorbitant amounts for projects and events that amount to little more than ideological masturbation and organizational cultism while we do practical work out of pocket or on a tiny budget amongst our own, it seems to me that a healthy dose of criticism/self-criticism and reassessment of priorities is in order on the part of you “professional revolutionaries” of the white left.

If the white left “vanguards” are unwilling to materially support practical work by non-white revolutionary factions, then you have no business showing your faces in our neighborhoods. If you “marxist missionaries” insist on coming into our neighborhoods preaching the “gospel” of Marx, Lenin, Mao, etc, the least you could do is “pay” us for our trouble. You certainly haven’t offered us much else that’s useful.

To their credit, the white anarchists and anti-authoritarian leftists have been generally supportive of the Black struggle by comparison; Black Autonomy and related projects in particular. Matter of fact, back in October of 1994 in an act of mutual aid and solidarity the Philadelphia branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) printed the very first issue of Black Autonomy (1,000 copies) for free. One of their members actually got a little upset when I asked how much we owed them for the print job. In return (and in line with our class interests), we allied ourselves with the Philly branch and others in a struggle within the IWW against the more conservative “armchair revolutionary/historical society” elements within its national administrative body.

Former political prisoner, SNCC member, Black Panther, and Black autonomist (anarchist) Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin credits the hard work of anarchist groups in Europe and non-vanguardist Marxist and anarchist factions in the US for assisting him in a successful campaign for early release from prison after 13 years of incarceration.

In no way do we expect you or anyone else to bankroll us; what I am offering is one suggestion to those of you who sincerely want to help; and a challenge to those who in fact seek to “play god” with our lives while spouting empty, meaningless rhetoric about “freedom”, “justice”, “class struggle”, and “solidarity”. To those people I ask: Do you have ideas, or do ideas have you? Actually, a better question might be: do you think at all?

IV. Bourgeois pseudo-analysis of race and class.

It only makes sense that the white left’s analysis of race and class in amerikkka would be so erroneous when you’re so quick to jump up and pass judgment on everyone else about this or that, but deathly afraid of real self-criticism at the individual or collective level; opting instead to use tool(s) of self- criticism as a means to reaffirm old, tired ideas that were barely thought out to begin with or by dodging real self-criticism altogether by dogmatically accusing your critics of “red- baiting”. Clearly, it is you who “red-bait” yourselves; as the old saying goes, “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones!” Action talks, bullshit walks!

Some of the more backward sections of the white left still push that old tired line “gay, straight, Black, white, same struggle-same fight!” Nothing can be further from the truth. Sure, we are all faced with the same “main enemy”: the racist, authoritarian state and its supporters; but unlike white males (straight or gay) and with some minor parallels to the experiences of white women, our oppression begins at birth. This is a commonality that we share with Native people, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and Asians.

As we grow up, we go from being “cute” in the eyes of the larger society, to being considered “dangerous” by the time we’re teenagers. As this point is driven home to us day in and day out in various social settings and circumstances some of us decide, in frustration to give the white folks what they want to believe; we become predatory. This dynamic is played out in ghettos, barrios, chinatowns, and reservations across the country. Even those of us who choose not to engage in criminal activity, or aren’t forced into it, have to live under this stigma. In addition, we as individuals are still viewed as “objects” and our community as a “monolith”.

We then enter the work force…that is, if there are any jobs available. It is there that we learn that our people and other non-whites are “last hired, first fired”, that our white co-workers are generally afraid of us or view as “competition”, and that management is watching us even more closely than other workers, while at the same time fueling petty squabbles and competition between us and other non-white workers. Those of us who are fortunate enough to land a union job soon find out that the unions are soft on racism in the workplace. This only makes sense as we learn later on that unions in the US are running dogs of capitalism and apologists for management, despite their “militant” rhetoric.

Most unionized workers are white, reflective of the majority of unionized labor in the US; who constitute a mere 13% of the total labor force. This is why it is silly for the white left to prattle on and on about the labor “movement” and about how so many of our people are joining unions. That’s no consolation to us when Black unemployment hovers at 35% nationally; many of those brothers and sisters living in places were “permanent unemployment” is the rule rather than the exception, and many more who find work at non-union “dead end” service industry jobs. One out of three of our people is caught up somewhere within the US criminal “justice” system: in jail, in prison, on parole, on work-release, awaiting trial, etc as a direct result.

In addition, many white workers are supportive of racist Republican politicians, such as presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who promises to protect their jobs at the expense of non-white workers and immigrants. What is the white left or the union movement doing about all of that?

It shouldn’t be surprising that the white left still preaches a largely economist viewpoint when it comes to workers generally, and workers of color in particular. This view is further evidence of not only your own deviation from Marx, but also from Lenin, by your own varied (yet similar) definitions.

Lenin recognized why the majority of Russian revolutionaries of his time put forward an economist position: “In Russia,…the yoke of autocracy appears at first glance to obliterate all distinction between the Social Democrats organization and workers’ association, since all workers associations and all study circles are prohibited; and since the principle manifestation and weapon of the workers’ economic struggle, the strike, is regarded as a criminal (and sometimes even as a political) offense.”

In this country, the distinction between the trade unions and revolutionary organizations is abundantly clear (even if some groups like the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) still fail to make the distinction themselves) and the primary contradiction within the working class is that of racial stratification as a class weapon of the bourgeoisie and capitalists against the working class as a whole.

Yet, the white Left (along with the rest of the white working class) fails to see its collaborationist role in this process. And this goes right back to what I said earlier in this writing about the need for a serious historical and cultural critique amongst all white people (and not just the settler nation’s left-wing factions) that goes beyond superficial culture appropriations or lofty, dogmatic proclamations of how committed you and your party is to “racial equality”. To even consider oneself “white” or to call oneself “white” is an argument FOR race and class oppression; look at the history of the US and see who first erected these terms “white” and “Black”, and why they were created in the first place.

I remember last summer, around the fourth of July, I had a member of the local SWP try to tell me that the American War of Independence was “progressive”. Progressive for whom? Tell us the truth, who were the primary beneficiaries of the American Revolution? You know the answer, we all do; only a total, unrepentant reactionary would lie to the people, especially on this point.

Howard Zinn, in his work “A People’s History of the United States”, points out how early 20th century historian Charles Beard found that of the fifty-five men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to draw up the US Constitution “a majority of them were lawyers by profession, that most were men of wealth, in land, in slaves, manufacturing, or shipping; that half of them had money loaned out at interest, and that forty of the fifty- five held government bonds, according to records of the [US] Treasury Department. Thus, Beard found that most of the makers of the Constitution had some direct economic interest in establishing a strong federal government: the manufacturers needed protective tariffs; the moneylenders wanted to stop the use of paper money to pay off debts; the land speculators wanted protection as they invaded Indian lands; slave-owners needed federal security against slave revolts and runaways; bondholders wanted a government able to raise money by nationwide taxation, to pay off those bonds.

Four groups, Beard noted, were not represented in the Constitutional Convention: slaves, indentured servants, women, men without property. And so the Constitution did not reflect the interests of those groups.” (Zinn, pg.90)

Come to terms with your white skin privilege (and the ideology and attitude(s) this privilege breeds) and then figure out how to combat that dynamic as part of your fight against the state and its supporters. Your continued backwardness is a sad commentary when we uncover historical evidence which shows that even before the turn of the century some of your own ancestors within the white working class were beginning to take the first small steps towards a greater understanding of their social role as the white servants of capital. A white shoemaker in 1848 wrote:

“…we are nothing but a standing army that keeps three million of our brethren in bondage… Living under the shade of Bunker Hill monument, demanding in the name of humanity, our right, and withholding those rights from others because their skin is black! Is it any wonder that God in his righteous anger has punished us by forcing us to drink the bitter cup of degradation.” (Zinn, pg.222)

We can even look to the historical evidence of Lenin’s time. Prior to the publishing of Lenin’s “On Imperialism”, W.E.B. DuBois wrote an article for the May, 1915 edition of the Atlantic Monthly titled “The African Roots of War” in which he vividly describes how both rich and poor whites benefit from the super- exploitation of non-white people:

“Yes, the average citizen of England, France, Germany, the United States, had a higher standard of living than before. But: ‘Whence comes this new wealth?’…It comes primarily from the darker nations of the world-Asia and Africa, South and Central America, the West Indies, and the islands of the South Seas. It is no longer simply the merchant prince, or the aristocratic monopoly, or even the employing class that is exploiting the world: it is the nation, a new democratic nation composed of united capital and labor.” (Zinn)

Yet, the self-titled “anti-racists” of the left continue on with their infantile fixation on the Klan, Nazis, and right-wing militias. Groups that they say they are against, but in fact demonstrate a tolerance for in practice. Standing around chanting empty slogans in front of a line of police separating demonstrators from the nazis in a “peaceful demonstration” is contradiction in its purest form; both the police and the fascists must be mercilessly destroyed! As the Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti proclaimed back in 1936 “Fascism is not to be debated, it is to be smashed!” There is no room for compromise or dialogue, except for asking them for a last meal request and choice of execution method before we pass sentence; and even that is arbitrary!

True, tactical considerations must be examined, but if we can’t get at them then and there, there is no “rule” that says we can’t follow them and hit them when they least expect it; except for the “rule” of the wanna-be rulers of the Marxist-Leninist white left “vanguard(s)” who only see the fascists as competition in their struggle to see which set of “empire builders” will lord over us; the “good” whites who regulate us to the amerikkkan left plantation of “the glorious workers state”, or the “bad” whites who work us as slaves until half-dead and then laugh as our worn out carcasses are thrown into ovens, cut up for “scientific purposes”, or hung from lamp posts and trees. You people have yet to show me the qualitative difference(s) between a Klan/Nazi- style white supremacist dictatorship and your concept of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the context of this particular country and its notorious history. So far, all I have seen from you all is arrogance in coalitions, petty games of political one-upmanship, and ideological/tactical rigidity.

Let’s pretend for a minute that one of the various wanna-be vanguards actually seizes political power. In everyone of your programs, from the program of the RCP, USA to even smaller, lesser known groups there is usually a line somewhere in there about your particular party holding the key levers of state power within a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Have any of you actually considered what that sounds like to a community without real power? Does this mean that we as Black people are going to have fight and die a second time under your dictatorship in order to have equal access to employment, housing, schools, colleges, public office, party status, our own personal lives generally?

Look at our history; over one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation (the 1960’s) we were still dying for the right to vote, for the right to protest peacefully, for the right to live in peace and prosperity within the context of white domination and capitalism. Today, after all of that, it is clear that the masses of our people are still largely powerless; we stayed powerless even as public schools were being desegregated and more of our elites were being elected to Congress and other positions. The same racist, authoritarian state that stripped us of our humanity was now asserting itself as our first line of defense of those hard-won concessions in the form of federal troops and FBI “observers” (who watched as we were beaten, raped, and/or killed) sent to enforce The Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As we have seen since that time, what the white power structure grants, it can (and will) take away; we can point to recent US Supreme Court decisions around voter redistricting as one part of our evidence. We can also look to the problem of mail and publication censorship in the US prison system (state and federal) that has come back to haunt us since the landmark 1960’s first amendment legal challenge to the state of New York that was won by political prisoner and Black/Puerto Rican anarchist Martin Sostre. And then there’s the attacks on a prisoners’ right to sue a prison official, employee, or institution being made by the House and Senate. Give us one good reason to believe that you people will be any different than these previous and current “benevolent” leaders and political institutions if by some fluke or miracle you folks stumble into state power?

No “guarantees” against counter-revolution or revisionism within your “revolutionary” party/government you say? There are two: the guns, ammunition, organization, solidarity, political consciousness, and continuous vigilance of the masses of non- white people and the truly sympathetic, conscious anti-authoritarian few amongst your population; or a successful grassroots- based revolution that is rooted in anti-authoritarian political ideas that are culturally relevant to each ethnicity of the poor and working class population in the US. Judging by the general attitudes and theories expressed by your members and leadership, we can be rest assured that it is virtually guaranteed that the spirit of ‘Jim Crow’ can and will flourish within a white-led Marxist-Leninist “proletarian dictatorship” in the US. It’s clear to me why you all ramble on and on about the revolutions of China, Russia, Vietnam, Cuba, etc; they provide convenient cover for you all (read: escapism) to avoid a serious examination of the faults in your current analysis as well as in the historical analysis of the last thirty years of struggle in the US.

These are the only conclusions that can be drawn when you all are so obviously hostile to the idea of doing the hard work of confronting your own individual racist and reactionary tendencies. When your own fellow white activists attempted to put together an “Anti-Racism Workshop” for members of the Seattle Mumia Defense Committee, many of you pledged your support (in the form of the usual dogmatic, vague, and arguably baseless rhetorical proclamations of “solidarity” and “commitment to racial equality”) and then proceeded to not show up. Only the two initial organizers within the SMDC and two coalition members (neither affiliated with any political party) were there. Make no mistake, I have no illusions about white people confronting their own racism; but I do support their honest attempts at doing so. Here we have a situation in which an ideological leap amongst the white left in Seattle may have been initiated; yet, the all- knowing, all-seeing “revolutionary vanguard(s)” of the white left were too busy spending that particular weekend picking the lent out of their belly buttons. Are we saving our belly-button lent for the potential shortages of food that occur during and shortly after the revolution [is corrupted by the mis-leadership of your particular rigid, dogmatic, authoritarian party]?

V. The bottom line is this: Self-determination!

For most white leftists, this means that we as Black people are demanding our own separate nation-state. Some of our revolutionary factions do advocate such a position. Black Autonomists, however, reject nation-statism [For more on that, refer to page 15 of any copy of Black Autonomy newspaper].

Regardless of whether or not the Black masses opt for a separate homeland on this continent or in Africa, we will be respected as subjects of history and not as objects that the state, its supporters, or the white left decides what to do with.

The answer to “the Black question” is simple: It is not a question; we are people, you will deal with us as such or we will fight you and the rest of the white settler nation…by any and all means necessary! We will not be cowed or dominated by anyone ever again!

Too many times in the course of American (and world) history have our people fought and died for the dream of true freedom, only to have it turn into the nightmare of continued oppression. If the end result of a working-class revolution in the United States is the continued domination of non-white people by white “revolutionary leaders” and a Left-wing [white supremacist] government, then we will make another revolution until any and all perpetrators and supporters of that type of social-political relationship are defeated or dead! Any and all means are completely justifiable in order to prevent the defeat of our revolution and the re-introduction of white supremacy. We will not put up with another 400+ years of oppression; and I’m sure our Native and Hispanic brothers and sisters won’t tolerate another 500+ years of the same ol’ shit.

Ultimately, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”; that’s the main reason I decided to publish this, as yet another humble contribution to the self-education of our people. The second reason is to, hopefully, inspire the white left to re-examine your current practices and beliefs as part of your process of self-education; assuming that you all in fact practice self-education.

Reject the traditions of your ancestors and learn from their mistakes; or reject your potential allies in communities of color. The choice is yours…

“It is a commentary on the fundamentally racist nature of this society that the concept of group strength for black people must be articulated, not to mention defended. No other group would submit to being led by others. Italians do not run the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. Irish do not chair Christopher Columbus Societies. Yet when black people call for black-run and all-black organizations, they are immediately classed in a category with the Ku Klux Klan.”
-Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael), Black Power; Vintage Press, 1965.

For Further Reading

“Black Autonomy, A Newspaper of Anarchism and Black Revolution” Vol. #1, issues #1-#5; Vol. #2, issues #1-#3. 1994–1996.

Bookchin, Murray “Post-Scarcity Anarchism” Ramparts Press, 1971.

Ervin, Lorenzo Kom’boa “Anarchism and the Black Revolution and Other Essays” Monkeywrench Press, 1994

Jackson, Greg “Mythology of A White-Led ‘Vanguard’: A Critical Look at the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA” Black Autonomy staff, 1996.

Mohammed, Kimathi “Organization and Spontaneity: The Theory of the Vanguard Party and its Application to the Black Movement in the US Today” Marcus Garvey Institute, 1974.

Sakai, J. “Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat”

Zhenhua, Zhai “Red Flower of China” Soho Press, 1992.

Zinn, Howard “A People’s History of the United States” Harper- Perrenial, Revised 1995.

 

Source: Retrieved on 15 November 2011 from www.iww.org
Notes: Pamphlet produced by the staff of Black Autonomy, A Newspaper of Anarchism and Black Revolution. First printing, April 1996.

FLASHBACK: Democracy Now! Show Funder Censors Anti-War Journalist John Pilger

Where’s the Change?

July 9, 2011

By Bob Feldman

LannanLogo

According to the Lannan Foundation’s Form 990 financial filing for 2008, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! Productions was given three grants, totaling $375,000, by the Lannan Foundation. And that same year the Lannan Foundation also gave three grants, totaling $545,000, to The Nation/Nation Institute alternative left media group and three grants, totaling $475,000, to Foundation for National Progress/Mother Jones magazine.

But the Lannan Foundation apparently doesn’t want to allow anti-war journalists who criticize the Democratic Obama Administration’s failure to end the endless U.S. military intervention in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Libya-Yemen-Somalia to speak too freely in the United States these days, as indicated by Australian anti-war journalist and anti-war filmmaker John Pilger’s recent experience with Democracy Now!‘s foundation funder. In an article, titled “The Strange Silence of Liberal America,” that was recently posted on the Global Research site, Pilger wrote the following about how the Lannan Foundation apparently operates these days:

“The Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, believes in free speech. The foundation’s website says it is `dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity’. Authors, film-makers, poets make their way to a sanctum of liberalism bankrolled by the billionaire Patrick Lannan in the tradition of Rockefeller and Ford.

“Lannan also awards `grants’ to America’s liberal media, such as Free Speech TV, the Foundation for National Progress (publisher of the magazine Mother Jones), the Nation Institute and the TV and radio programme Democracy Now! In Britain, Lannan has been a supporter of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, of which I am one of the judges. In 2008, Patrick Lannan personally supported the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, he is `devoted’ to Obama.

“On 15 June, I was due in Santa Fe, having been invited to share a platform with the distinguished American journalist David Barsamian. The foundation was also to host the US premiere of my new film, The War You Don’t See, which investigates the false image-making of war-makers, especially Obama.

“I was about to leave for Santa Fe when I received an email from the Lannan official organising my visit. The tone was incredulous. `Something has come up,’ she wrote. Patrick Lannan had called her and ordered all my events to be cancelled. `I have no idea what this is all about,’ she wrote.

“Baffled, I asked that the premiere of my film be allowed to go ahead as the US distribution largely depended on it. She repeated that `all’ my events were cancelled, `and this includes the screening of your film’. On the Lannan website `cancelled’ appeared across a picture of me. There was no explanation. None of my phone calls was returned, nor subsequent emails answered. A Kafka world of not-knowing descended.

“The silence lasted a week until, under pressure from local media, the foundation put out a brief statement that too few tickets had been sold to make my visit `viable’ and that `the Foundation regrets that the reason fr the cancellation was not explained to Mr. Pilger or to the public at the time the decision was made’. Doubts were cast by a robust editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican, The paper, which has long played a prominent role in promoting Lannan events, disclosed that my visit had been cancelled before the main advertising and previews were published. A full-page interview with me had to be hurriedly pulled. `Pilger and Barsamian could have expected closer to a packed 820-seat Lensic [arts centre].’

“The manager of The Screen, the Santa Fe cinema that had been rented for the premiere, was called late at night and told to kill all his online promotion for my film, but took it upon himself to re-schedule the film for 23 June. It was a sell-out, with many people turned away. The idea that there was no public interest was demonstrably not true.

“Theories? There are many, but nothing is proven. For me, it is all reminiscent of the long shadows cast during the cold war. `Something is going to surface,’ said Barsamian. `They can’t keep the lid on this.’

“My talk on 15 June was to have been about the collusion of American liberalism in a permanent state of war and the demise of cherished freedoms, such as the right to call government to account. In the United States, as in Britain, serious dissent – free speech — has been substantially criminalised. Obama, the black liberal, the PC exemplar, the marketing dream is as much a warmonger as George W. Bush. His score is six wars. Never in US history has a president prosecuted as many whistle-blowers; yet this truth-telling, this exercise of true citizenship, is at the heart of America’s constitutional first amendment. Obama’s greatest achievement is having seduced, co-opted and silenced much of liberal opinion in the United States, including the anti-war movement.

“The reaction to the Lannan ban has been illuminating. The brave, like the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, were appalled and said so. Similarly, many ordinary Americans called into radio stations and have written to me, recognising a symptom of far greater suppression. But some exalted liberal voices have been affronted that I dared whisper the word, censorship, about such a beacon of `cultural freedom’. The embarrassment of those who wish to point both ways is palpable. Others have pulled down the shutters and said nothing. Given their patron’s ruthless show of power, it is understandable. For them, the Russian dissident poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko once wrote, `When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.’

“The War You Don’t See” is available on www.johnpilger.com

(Not surprisingly, neither The Nation, Democracy Now! nor Mother Jones magazine has apparently provided its readers, listeners or viewers with much information about either the historic or current business activities of Lannan family members or about which transnational corporate stocks are contained in the investment portfolio of the Lannan Foundation. Yet, according to its Form 990 financial filing, on December 31, 2008 the Lannan Foundation owned $942,000 worth of Microsoft stock, $953,683 of Disney Company stock, $1,267,640 worth of Wells Fargo stock, $1,389,789 worth of Coca-Cola Company stock, $1,580,982 worth of Wal-Mart stock and $44,145 worth of Goldman Sachs stock.–bf)

 

Indigenous Cultural Survival: A Matter of Human Rights

Intercontinental Cry

March 20, 2015

by Jay Taber

The Lummi Indian tribe (Lhaq’temish in Coast Salish language) originally owned much of the San Juan Islands (Washington state) and surrounding waters. They and neighboring tribes in British Columbia shared the Salish Sea, one of the richest marine estuaries in the world. Subsequently confined to a reservation on the mainland, Lummi Nation — which boasts the largest indigenous fishing fleet in the U.S. — has been targeted for destruction by three of America’s largest corporations: Peabody Energy, SSA Marine (SSA), and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad (BNSF). As Sandy Robson notes in her award-winning expose What Would Corporations Do? Native American Rights and the Gateway Pacific Terminal, these corporations will stop at nothing to get what they want.

In The Line is Drawn, Robson chronicles the conflict between SSA Marine subsidiary Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) and Lummi Nation, including close financial ties between GPT and Whatcom Tea Party leaders, who throughout 2012, 2013, and 2014 recruited and promoted Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) — the “Ku Klux Klan of Indian Country” — on KGMI radio programs. Those ties — exposed by Robson in January 2014 — led to a SLAPP suit threat in February 2014 by GPT PR spokesman Craig Cole.

Most recently, the GPT consortium launched a divide-and-conquer campaign against Lummi Nation, by posing the Crow tribe of Montana as an innocent victim of the conflict, when in reality the Crow tribe is in bed with coal companies. Oddly, no one in mainstream media has questioned why the Crow should have any say about Lummi efforts to protect their economy and sacred sites at Cherry Point. As Winona LaDuke observes, Dirty Coal & Clean Fishing don’t mix. As Lummi Nation tribal council chair Tim Ballew remarked in a link at Robson’s article A Sovereign Nation Stands Tall, “Our treaty rights are not for sale”.

Since paying $1.6 million in penalties and fees for illegally bulldozing a registered Native American archaeological site at Cherry Point in 2011, SSA and its public relations firm (Edelman PR) have tried everything under the sun to defeat Lummi Nation’s resistance to turning their treaty fishing area into a carbon corridor for exporting coal and oil to Asia. Wall Street v. Coast Salish is a battle between Big Coal and Big Oil on one side, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Coast Salish First Nations, and Lummi Nation on the other.

Having funded two Tea Party-led Political Action Committees (PACs) to launder electoral campaign donations from the GPT consortium — that includes Peabody, SSA, and BNSF — GPT PR firms and front groups are now promoting the notion that Lummi Nation is unreasonable in its rejection of what would be the largest coal export facility in North America, in the heart of its treaty-guaranteed fishing area. This “usual and accustomed” fishing area, adjacent to the ancient Lummi village and burial ground at Cherry Point, supports treaty and non-treaty harvests of Dungeness crab, halibut, and salmon. As Ballew stated in a Lummi press release, “We have a sacred obligation to protect this location.”

Expanded export of Alberta Tar Sands bitumen, Bakken Shale crude, and Powder River Basin coal through ports on the Salish Sea would vastly increase the odds of a Superspill in the San Juan and Gulf Islands. Preventing that likely catastrophe has brought environmental organizations, churches and tribes together. As GPT doubles down on promoting interracial discord, the carbon corridor conflict demands that we listen to The Voice Within.

When fossil fuel corporations engage in Capitalizing on Fear to destroy the basis of indigenous cultural survival, it becomes a matter of human rights. Given the deceitful and malicious GPT track record toward Lummi Nation, one has to ask why the Washington State Human Rights Commission has so far taken a pass. In fairness, they might be confused, thanks in no small part to Edelman and Cole.

 

Avaaz: Manufacturing Consent for Wars Since 2011

Wall of Controversy

March 20, 2015

By James Boswell

 

 

Four years ago I received an email from the internet campaign group Avaaz which read:

“Together, we’ve sent 450,000 emails to the UN Security Council, “overwhelming” the Council President and helping to win targeted sanctions and a justice process for the Libyan people. Now, to stop the bloodshed, we need a massive outcry for a no-fly zone.” [Bold as in the original.]

Of course, that no-fly zone was Nato’s justification for a war – “no-fly zone” means war. So the bloodshed wasn’t about to be stopped, it was about to begin in earnest:

The foreign media has largely ceased to cover Libya because it rightly believes it is too dangerous for journalists to go there. Yet I remember a moment in the early summer of 2011 in the frontline south of Benghazi when there were more reporters and camera crews present than there were rebel militiamen. Cameramen used to ask fellow foreign journalists to move aside when they were filming so that this did not become too apparent. In reality, Gaddafi’s overthrow was very much Nato’s doing, with Libyan militiamen mopping up.

Executing regime change in Libya cost the lives of an estimated 20,000 people: but this was only the immediate death toll, and as a civil war rages on, the final figure keeps rising, indefinitely and seemingly inexorably. And the number of victims will go on rising for so long as there is lawlessness and chaos in a country now completely overrun with terrorists and warlords. So what was started with a “no-fly zone” is ending with a hell on earth: abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Given their unpardonable role in instigating this entirely avoidable human catastrophe, does it come as any surprise when, with “mission accomplished”, the media chose to turn its back on the carnage in Libya? Patrick Cockburn, who wrote the article from which the above quote is taken, has been a rare exception to the rule. A journalist who was not so quick to swallow the official line, he has since been committed to telling the bigger story, which includes the falsity of Nato’s original justifications for air strikes:

Human rights organisations have had a much better record in Libya than the media since the start of the uprising in 2011. They discovered that there was no evidence for several highly publicised atrocities supposedly carried out by Gaddafi’s forces that were used to fuel popular support for the air war in the US, Britain, France and elsewhere. These included the story of the mass rape of women by Gaddafi’s troops that Amnesty International exposed as being without foundation. The uniformed bodies of government soldiers were described by rebel spokesmen as being men shot because they were about to defect to the opposition. Video film showed the soldiers still alive as rebel prisoners so it must have been the rebels who had executed them and put the blame on the government.

So here is a pattern that repeats with uncanny consistency, and with the mainstream media’s failure to discover and report on the truth also recurring with near parallel regularity. We had the ‘Babies out of incubators’ story in Kuwait, and then those WMDs in Iraq that, as Bush Jnr joked, “have got to be here somewhere”, to offer just two very well-established prior instances of the kinds of lies that have taken us to war.

Patrick Cockburn continues:

Foreign governments and media alike have good reason to forget what they said and did in Libya in 2011, because the aftermath of the overthrow of Gaddafi has been so appalling. The extent of the calamity is made clear by two reports on the present state of the country, one by Amnesty International called “Libya: Rule of the gun – abductions, torture and other militia abuses in western Libya” and a second by Human Rights Watch, focusing on the east of the country, called “Libya: Assassinations May Be Crimes Against Humanity”.1

Click here to read Patrick Cockburn’s full article published last November.

But accusations do not stop even at the deplorable roles played by “foreign governments and media alike”, but apply to all of the various warmongering parties at that time, and one of the groups we must also point the finger to is Avaaz. For it was Avaaz, more than any other campaign group, who pushed alongside Nato in their call for the “no-fly zone” which got the whole war going. To reiterate, since it is vitally important that this is understood, a “no-fly zone” always and without exception means war:

Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian – putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.

No wonder, too, that it is rapidly becoming a key call of hawks on both sides of the Atlantic. The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck – those who usually oppose wars are openly campaigning for more military involvement.2

So wrote John Hilary in an excellent article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” published on the cusp of “intervention”.

In response, Ben Wikler, a campaign director at Avaaz, posted a comment that included the following remarks:

Would imposing a no-fly zone lead to a full-blown international war? No-fly zones can mean a range of different things.

Wikler is wrong and Hilary correct: “no-fly zones” always mean war. And as a consequence, those at Avaaz like Ben Wikler now have blood on their hands – and yet are unrepentant.

Yes, as with most others who were directly or indirectly culpable, “foreign governments and media alike”, it seems Avaaz too are suffering from collective amnesia. Not only have they forgotten the terrible consequences of imposing a “no-fly zone” on Libya, but they also seem to have forgotten their own deliberate efforts when it came to bolstering public support for that “bloody and calamitous” (to use Cockburn’s words) “foreign intervention” (to use the weasel euphemisms of Nato and the West). Because instead of reflecting upon the failings of Nato’s air campaign four years ago, and without offering the slightest murmur of apology for backing it (not that apologies help at all), Avaaz are now calling upon their supporters to forget our murderous blundering of the recent past, with calls for the same action all over again… this time in Syria.

It was yesterday when I received the latest email from Avaaz. Don’t worry, I’m not a supporter (although the simple fact I receive their emails means by their own definition, I am presumably counted one), but after Libya I chose to remain on their mailing list simply to keep an eye on what they were doing. And (not for the first or the second time) they are selling us on more war:

The Syrian air force just dropped chlorine gas bombs on children. Their little bodies gasped for air on hospital stretchers as medics held back tears, and watched as they suffocated to death.

But today there is a chance to stop these barrel bomb murders with a targeted No Fly Zone.

The US, Turkey, UK, France and others are right now seriously considering a safe zone in Northern Syria. Advisers close to President Obama support it, but he is worried he won’t have public support. That’s where we come in.

Let’s tell him we don’t want a world that just watches as a dictator drops chemical weapons on families in the night. We want action.

One humanitarian worker said ‘I wish the world could see what I have seen with my eyes. It breaks your heart forever.’ Let’s show that the world cares — sign to support a life-saving No Fly Zone

Obviously, I am not supplying the link for this latest call to arms: “a[nother] life-saving No Fly Zone”.

After Avaaz called for war against Libya back in 2011, I wrote a restrained article. But I was too polite. When they called for war again following the sarin gas attack on Ghouta, I hesitated again and looked into the facts. They didn’t stack up (as I explained at length in another post). But nor did I damn Avaaz on that occasion, as I ought to have done, when with Libya already ablaze they set up a campaign like this (sorry that it’s hard to read):

Since that time it has become evident to the world (at least the one outside the Avaaz office) that it has been Syrian forces who have most successfully fought back against Islamist extremists (al-Qaeda, but now more often called ISIS) who not only use poison gas to murder their enemies and spread fear, but methods so barbaric and depraved – public mass beheadings, crucifixions and even cannibalism – that you wonder which century we are living in. But Avaaz push the blame for all of this killing back on to the Assad regime, just as the West (whose close allies continue to back the so-called “rebels”) have also tried to do. And Avaaz are now saying (once again) that escalating the conflict is the way to save the people of Syria – so don’t worry if it spreads the infection now called ISIS – more love bombs are the preferred Avaaz solution for every complex political situation:

“Today, Gadhafi is dead, and the Libyan people have their first chance for democratic, accountable governance in decades…. American casualties were zero. Insurgent fighters and the vast majority of the population have cheered the victory as liberation, and courageous Syrians who face daily threats of death for standing up to their own repressive regime have taken comfort in Gadhafi’s fall. These accomplishments are no small feats for those who care about human dignity, democracy, and stability….

Progressives often demand action in the face of abject human suffering, but we know from recent history that in some situations moral condemnation, economic sanctions, or ex-post tribunals don’t save lives. Only force does.”

These are the self-congratulatory words of Tom Perriello, the co-founder of Avaaz, writing in late 2012. And he finishes the same piece:

We must realize that force is only one element of a coherent national security strategy and foreign policy. We must accept the reality—whether or not one accepts its merits—that other nations are more likely to perceive our motives to be self-interested than values-based. But in a world where egregious atrocities and grave threats exist, and where Kosovo and Libya have changed our sense of what’s now possible, the development of this next generation of power can be seen as a historically unique opportunity to reduce human suffering. 3

Independent investigative journalist, Cory Morningstar, who has probed very deeply into the organization says, “Make no mistake – this is the ideology at the helm of Avaaz.org.”

As she explains:

Tom Perriello is a long-time collaborator with Ricken Patel. Together, they co-founded Avaaz.org, Res Publica and FaithfulAmerica.org.

Perriello is a former U.S. Representative (represented the 5th District of Virginia from 2008 to 2010) and a founding member of the House Majority Leader’s National Security Working Group.

Perriello was also co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He worked for Reverend Dr. James Forbes on “prophetic justice” principles. Many of these organizations were created with the intent of creating a broad-based “religious left” movement. […]

Despite the carefully crafted language and images that tug at your emotions, such NGOs were created for and exist for one primary purpose – to protect and further American policy and interests, under the guise of philanthropy and humanitarianism.

As Cory Morningstar also points out:

In December 2011, Perriello disclosed that he served as special adviser to the international war crimes prosecutor and has spent extensive time in 2011 in Egypt and the Middle East researching the Arab Spring. Therefore, based on this disclosure alone, there can be no doubt that the deliberate strategy being advanced by Avaaz cannot be based upon any type of ignorance or naïveté. 4

“It breaks your heart forever.” That was the heading under which yesterday’s email arrived and the way it signed off went as follows: “With hope, John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest of the Avaaz team”. And this is how they come again with further ploys to prick your conscience. So do please remember before you click on their pastel-coloured links or forward those ‘messages’ to your own friends, how they beat the drums to war on two earlier occasions. In 2013, when they last called for the bombing of Syria (but the war party were halted in their mission), and in 2011 when they first aided Nato’s grand deception and helped to bring unremitting horrors to the innocent people of Libya. Keep in mind too, how lacking in guilt they have been in light of their own imploring role during the run up to the full “shock and awe” display over Tripoli.

Because John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest… are really not our friends. They are humanitarian hawks, who are in the business of manufacturing consent for every Nato “intervention”. Indeed, I would like to ask John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest, in good faith, just how do you sleep at night?

Click here to read a thorough examination of Avaaz put together by independent investigative journalist Cory Morningstar.

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Additional:

Here is an open letter I constructed in Summer 2012, but then decided not to post:

Dear Ricken, Eli and the whole Avaaz team,

By your own rather loose definition, I have been a member of Avaaz now for several years. In other words I responded to one of your campaigns many moons ago, and have never subsequently withdrawn my name from your mailing list. I believe that under your own terms, I am thus one of the many millions of your ‘members’. You presume that all those like me who are ‘in the Avaaz community’ support your various campaigns simply because we are on your contact list, although in my own case, this is absolutely not the case. I have ceased to support any of the Avaaz campaigns since you pushed for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya, and from this time on, have kept up with your campaign messages simply to keep an eye on you. I vowed never again to sign any of your petitions on the grounds that I do not wish to be a supporter of any organisation that backs an aggressive and expansionist war.

The most common criticism of Avaaz, and other internet campaign groups, is that it encourages ‘slacktivism’, which is indeed a very valid concern:

Sites such as Avaaz, suggested Micah White in the Guardian last year, often only deal with middle-of-the-road causes, to the exclusion of niche interests: “They are the Walmart of activism . . . and silence underfunded radical voices.” More infamously, internet theorist Evgeny Morozov has called the likes of Avaaz “Slacktivists”, claiming that they encourage previously tenacious activists to become lazy and complacent.

There’s also the issue of breadth. Clicktivist websites often cover a range of issues that have little thematic or geographical relation to each other, which leaves them open to accusations of dilettantism.

Click here to read Patrick Kingsey’s full article in the Guardian.

Ricken Patel’s response to Kingsley is to point to their campaign against Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB:

“Our activism played a critical role in delaying the BskyB deal until the recent scandal was able to kill it,” Avaaz‘s founder, New York-based Ricken Patel, tells me via Skype. 5

So is this really the best example Avaaz has to offer? Since the BSkyB deal would undoubtedly have been stymied for all sorts of other reasons, not least of which were the various phone hacking scandals, and most shockingly, in the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone. This more than anything killed off the Murdoch bid for BSkyB.

We might also give a little grudging credit to Business Secretary Vince Cable, who in late 2010 revealed privately to undercover reporters that he was ‘declaring war’ on Rupert Murdoch. This caused such a storm that Tory leader David Cameron came out against Cable, describing his comments as “totally unacceptable and inappropriate”, whilst Labour leader Ed Miliband immediately followed suite saying that he would have gone further and sacked Cable 6. In any case, Murdoch was coming under attack from many fronts (including, as shown by Cable’s example, a maverick offensive from inside the government), and so there were already growing calls for a review of the BskyB deal. As it turns out, the deal itself was seriously compromised by a conflict of interests involving Ofcom Chairman Colette Bowe, not that this widely reported – I wrote a post on it just before the deal suddenly collapsed. In fact, I had tried in vain to get a number of politicians to look into this aspect of the case, but none at all even bothered to reply. The story the media were telling quickly moved on, and so the role of Ofcom remains more or less unscrutinised.

But I have a far bigger problem with Avaaz than simply the matter of its lack of effectiveness. Since even if Avaaz has achieved nothing concrete whatsoever, which might well be the case, its growing prominence as a campaign group is undoubtedly helping to frame the protest agenda. Picking and choosing what are and aren’t important issues is dilettantism, yes, and also, potentially at least, “the manufacturing of dissent”. Avaaz‘s defence is that it is an independent body – oh, really?

Co-founder and Director of Avaaz, Ricken Patel said in 2011 “We have no ideology per se. Our mission is to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. Idealists of the world unite!”

“No ideology per se”? So what then are we to make of your association with another organisation called Res Publica, of which Patel is a fellow, and Eli Pariser has also been a member of the Advisor Board.

Res Publica (US) is described by wikipedia as “a US organization promoting ‘good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy.’”, though there is no article on the group itself, and nor, for that matter, any entry on Ricken Patel himself. If I visit the Res Publica website, however, the link I immediately find takes me straight to George Soros’ Open Democracy group and also the International Crisis Group of which Soros is again a member of the Executive Committee. The International Crisis Group that gets such glowing endorsements from peace-loving individuals as (and here I quote directly from the website):

President Bill Clinton (‘in the most troubled corners of the world, the eyes, the ears and the conscience of the global community’); successive U.S. Secretaries of State (Condoleezza Rice: ‘a widely respected and influential organisation’, Colin Powell: ‘a mirror for the conscience of the world’ and Madeleine Albright: ‘a full-service conflict prevention organisation’); and former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the late Richard Holbrooke (‘a brilliant idea… beautifully implemented’ with reports like CrisisWatch ‘better than anything I saw in government’).

Whilst according to Res Publica‘s own website Ricken Patel has himself “consulted for the International Crisis Group, the United Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation…”

To cut to the quick then, Avaaz claims to independence are simply a sham. Whether foundation funded or not, you are undeniably foundation affiliated. Which brings me to your recent campaigns.

In a letter which I received on Wednesday 11th January, you wrote, typically vaingloriously, about the significance of Avaaz in bringing about and supporting the uprisings of Arab Spring:

Across the Arab world, people power has toppled dictator after dictator, and our amazing Avaaz community has been at the heart of these struggles for democracy, breaking the media blackouts imposed by corrupt leaders, empowering citizen journalists, providing vital emergency relief to communities under siege, and helping protect hundreds of activists and their families from regime thugs.

When all that I can actually recall is some jumping on the bandwagon and your support for the ‘shock and awe’ assault that we saw lighting up the skies over Tripoli. Gaddafi was ousted, of course, much as Saddam Hussein had been by the Bush administration, and likewise, the country remains in chaos. But does the removal of any dictator justify the killing of an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people in the first months of the Libyan war – these figures according to Cherif Bassiouni, who led a U.N. Human Rights Council mission to Tripoli and rebel-held areas in late April. 7 Figures that officially rose to 25,000 people killed and 60,000 injured, after the attacks on Gaddafi’s besieged hometown of Sirte. 8 The true overall casualties of the Libyan war remain unknown, as they do in Iraq, although a conservative estimate is that around 30,000 people lost their lives. Avaaz, since you called for this, you must wash some of that blood from your own hands.

Now you are calling for ‘action’ against Syria, on the basis this time of your own report which finds that “crimes against humanity were committed by high-level members of the Assad regime”. Now, let me say that I do not in the least doubt that the Assad regime is involved in the secret detainment and torture of its opponents. The terrible truth is that such human rights abuses are routinely carried out all across the Middle East, and in many places on behalf or in collusion with Western security services such as the CIA. Back in September 2010, PolitiFact.com wrote about the Obama administration’s record on so-called “extraordinary renditions” [from wikipedia with footnote preserved]:

The administration has announced new procedural safeguards concerning individuals who are sent to foreign countries. President Obama also promised to shut down the CIA-run “black sites,” and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that extreme renditions are not happening, at least not as much as they did during the Bush administration. Still, human rights groups say that these safeguards are inadequate and that the DOJ Task Force recommendations still allow the U.S. to send individuals to foreign countries.[158]

Whilst back in April 2009, on the basis of what he had witnessed in Uzbekistan, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004, Craig Murray, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture”. In answers to questions, he explained to the committee how the UK government disguises its complicity and that he believed it has, in effect, helped to create “a market for torture”:

If I may refer to the documents on waterboarding and other torture techniques released recently in the United States on the orders of President Obama, if we are continuing to receive, as we are, all the intelligence reports put out by the CIA we are complicit in a huge amount of torture. I was seeing just a little corner in Uzbekistan. [p. 73]

I think the essence of the government’s position is that if you receive intelligence material from people who torture, be it CIA waterboarding, or torture by the Uzbek authorities or anywhere else, you can do so ad infinitum knowing that it may come from torture and you are still not complicit. [bottom p. 74]

Their position remains the one outlined by Sir Michael Wood, and it was put to me that if we receive intelligence from torture we were not complicit as long as we did not do the torture ourselves or encouraged it. I argue that we are creating a market for torture and that there were pay-offs to the Uzbeks for their intelligence co-operation and pay-offs to other countries for that torture. I think that a market for torture is a worthwhile concept in discussing the government’s attitude. [p. 75]

The government do not volunteer the fact that they very happily accept this information. I make it absolutely plain that I am talking of hundreds of pieces of intelligence every year that have come from hundreds of people who suffer the most vicious torture. We are talking about people screaming in agony in cells and our government’s willingness to accept the fruits of that in the form of hundreds of such reports every year. I want the Joint committee to be absolutely plain about that. [bot p.75] 9

Click here to watch all of parts of Craig Murray’s testimony.

Here is the introduction to Amnesty International‘s Report from last year:

Over 100 suspects in security-related offences were detained in 2010. The legal status and conditions of imprisonment of thousands of security detainees arrested in previous years, including prisoners of conscience, remained shrouded in secrecy. At least two detainees died in custody, possibly as a result of torture, and new information came to light about methods of torture and other ill-treatment used against security detainees. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, particularly flogging, continued to be imposed and carried out. Women and girls remained subject to discrimination and violence, with some cases receiving wide media attention. Both Christians and Muslims were arrested for expressing their religious beliefs.

But not for Syria – for Saudi Arabia report-2011.

And it continues:

Saudi Arabian forces involved in a conflict in northern Yemen carried out attacks that appeared to be indiscriminate or disproportionate and to have caused civilian deaths and injuries in violation of international humanitarian law. Foreign migrant workers were exploited and abused by their employers. The authorities violated the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. At least 27 prisoners were executed, markedly fewer than in the two preceding years.

Further down we read that:

At least 140 prisoners were under sentence of death, including some sentenced for offences not involving violence, such as apostasy and sorcery.

Not that Amnesty‘s report on Syria report-2011 is any less deplorable:

The authorities remained intolerant of dissent. Those who criticized the government, including human rights defenders, faced arrest and imprisonment after unfair trials, and bans from travelling abroad. Some were prisoners of conscience. Human rights NGOs and opposition political parties were denied legal authorization. State forces and the police continued to commit torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, and there were at least eight suspicious deaths in custody. The government failed to clarify the fate of 49 prisoners missing since a violent incident in 2008 at Saydnaya Military Prison, and took no steps to account for thousands of victims of enforced disappearances in earlier years. Women were subject to discrimination and gender-based violence; at least 22 people, mostly women, were victims of so-called honour killings. Members of the Kurdish minority continued to be denied equal access to economic, social and cultural rights. At least 17 people were executed, including a woman alleged to be a victim of physical and sexual abuse.

Please correct me, but so far as I’m aware, Avaaz have been entirely silent in their condemnation of the human rights violations of either Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia (two countries that maintain very close ties with the US). Silent too when Saudi forces brutally cracked down on the Arab Spring protests in neighbouring Bahrain. So one could be forgiven for thinking that when Avaaz picks and chooses its fights, those it takes up are, if not always in the geo-strategic interests of the United States, then certainly never against those interests.

Back to your call for action against Syria and the letter continues:

We all had hoped that the Arab League’s monitoring mission could stop the violence, but they have been compromised and discredited. Despite witnessing Assad’s snipers first-hand, the monitors have just extended their observation period without a call for urgent action. This is allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action, while the regime’s pathetic defense for its despicable acts has been that it is fighting a terrorist insurgency, not a peaceful democracy movement.

Well, I’m not sure that anyone was expecting much from the Arab League, but can you really justify what you are saying here? That the violence now taking place in Syria is against an entirely “peaceful democracy movement” and that Syria is in no way facing a terrorist insurgency. Not that such an insurgency is entirely unjustified; after all one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. But that both sides are involved in atrocities, since both sides are evidently armed and the rebels are undeniably backed by militant Islamist groups.

Making statements such as “allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action”, directly implies that these foreign powers are simply protecting their own selfish interests (which is, of course, true), whereas the US is intent only on defending freedom and human rights. Such a gross oversimplification and plain nonsense.

So far, I note, Avaaz have not called for direct ‘military intervention’ in Syria, unlike in the shameful case of Libya. But given the timing of this latest announcement and on the basis of past form, I’m expecting petitions for what amounts to war (such as the ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya) will follow soon enough.

And so to your latest campaign, which I received by email on Tuesday 10th April. It begins:

Dear Friends,

Today is a big day for Avaaz. If you join in, Avaaz might just move from having a small team of 40 campaigners to having 40,000!!

Then goes on to explain how the reach of Avaaz will be broadened by encouraging everyone to write their own campaign petitions:

So, to unlock all the incredible potential of our community to change the world, we’ve developed our website tools and website to allow any Avaazer to instantly start their *own* online petitions, tell friends, and win campaigns.

The site just went live – will you give it a try? Think of a petition you’d like to start on any issue – something impacting your local community, some bad behaviour by a distant corporation, or a global cause that you think other Avaaz members would care about. If your petition takes off, it may become an Avaaz campaign – either to members in your area, or even to the whole world!

On the face of it, you are offering a way for everyone to be involved. But 40,000 petitions…? Is this really going to change the world? I have an idea that maybe just five or six might serve the purpose better – here are my suggestions for four:

  • a call for those responsible within the Bush administration and beyond to be charged with war crimes for deliberately leading us into an illegal war with Iraq
  • the criminal prosecution for crimes against humanity of George W Bush and others who have publicly admitted to their approval of the use of torture
  • the repeal of NDAA 2012 and the rolling back of the unconstitutional US Patriot and Homeland Security Acts
  • a criminal investigation into the rampant financial fraud that created the current global debt crisis

So consider me a member of the team once more. I’m putting those four campaigns out there. Or at least I would have before I’d read your ‘Terms of Use’. For it concerns me that “In order to further the mission of this site or the mission of Avaaz, we may use, copy, distribute or disclose this material to other parties” but you do not then go on to outline who those ‘other parties’ might be. And you say you will “Remove or refuse to post any User Contributions for any or no reason. This is a decision Avaaz will strive to make fairly, but ultimately it is a decision that is solely up to Avaaz to make.”

Since you reserve the right to “remove or refuse to post” without making a clear statement of your rules and without any commitment to providing justification for such censorship, I see little reason in bothering to try. Doubtless others will attempt to build campaigns on your platform for actions regarding the very serious issues I have outlined above, and should they achieve this, then I will try to lend support to those campaigns. Alternatively, should I fail to come across campaigns formed around these and related issues, I will presume, rightly or wrongly (this is “a decision that is solely up to me to make”), that Avaaz prefers not to support such initiatives. Either way, I will not holding my breath.

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1 From an article entitled “The West is silent as Libya falls into the abyss” written by Patrick Cockburn, published by The Independent on November 2, 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-west-is-silent-as-libya-falls-into-the-abyss-9833489.html

2 From an article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” written by John Hillary, published in the Guardian on March 10, 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/10/internet-activists-libya-no-fly-zone

3 From an article entitled “Humanitarian Intervention: Recognizing When, and Why, It Can Succeed” written by Tom Perriello, published in Issue #23 Democracy Journal in Winter 2012. http://www.democracyjournal.org/23/humanitarian-intervention-recognizing-when-and-why-it-can-succeed.php?page=all

4 From an article entitled “Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War”, Part II, Section I, written by Cory Morningstar, published September 24, 2012. Another extract reads:

The 12 January 2012 RSVP event “Reframing U.S. Strategy in a Turbulent World: American Spring?” featured speakers from Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rosa Brooks of the New America Foundation, and none other than Tom Perriello, CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Perriello advanced his “ideology” during this lecture.

http://theartofannihilation.com/imperialist-pimps-of-militarism-protectors-of-the-oligarchy-trusted-facilitators-of-war-part-ii-section-i/

5 From an article entitled “Avaaz: activism or ‘slacktivism’?” written by Patrick Kingsley, published in the Guardian on July 20, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/20/avaaz-activism-slactivism-clicktivism

6 From an article entitled “Vince Cable to stay on as Business Secretary” published by BBC news on December 21, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12053656

7 From an article entitled “Up to 15,000 killed in Libya war: U.N. Right expert” reported by Reuters on June 9. 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/09/us-libya-un-deaths-idUSTRE7584UY20110609

8 From an article entitled “Residents flee Gaddafi hometown”, written by Rory Mulholland and Jay Deshmukh, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 3, 2011. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/residents-flee-gaddafi-hometown-20111003-1l49x.html

9 From the uncorrected transcript of oral evidence given to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture” on April 28, 2009. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/152/152.pdf

Please note that when I originally posted the article the link was to a different version of the document, but it turns out that the old link (below) has now expired. For this reason I have altered the page references in accordance with the new document.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:nogix7L1-kIJ:www.craigmurray.org.uk/Uncorrected%2520Transcript%252028%2520April%252009.doc+craig+murray+evidence+parliamentary+slect+commitee&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjfCqyleDnk_maooZDF7iGJ5MC68Lb9zNDi5PCH8_9PwlwCybyXYiCD-A1E-O_j9Z5XgnOsKsvguvirw4jqJW9zjuor_secSn7aw_X1JIxHxjLw0CZON7vwOcfitFM1bB8MOsaO&sig=AHIEtbScxyI2eTh3HF2MA_yGyeAcyTsoiQ

[James Boswell was born in Shrewsbury in 1967. In 1986 he moved to London to study Physics at Imperial College, and then moved again in 1989, this time to Sheffield, where his research on comets culminated in a PhD awarded in 1994. Having been settled in Sheffield ever since, he is currently a Physics lecturer at the Sheffield International College.]