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Oui ? Non - to simplistic conspiracy theories

by Ted Welch Tue May 13th, 2014 at 02:58:51 PM EST

I'm happy to see the sceptical responses to Oui's recent diary  


Spell it out to me like I'm five, please. Maybe I'm missing something incredibly, obviously self-evident, but right now I'm not seeing much of a red thread between your links. Nevermind a coherent story.


I long gave up even trying to divine Oui's own thoughts from posts broken up by his links scattergun and trying to follow the connect-the-dots hints.


I thought maybe I was being over-critical of his response to a comment of mine - which, unfortunately, led me to spend far too long responding to it in this diary.

Recently I cited Zunes:

As someone who has spent his entire academic career analyzing and critiquing the U.S. role in the world, I have some news: While the United States has had significant impact (mostly negative in my view) in a lot of places, we are not omnipotent. There are real limits to American power, whether for good or for ill. Not everything is our responsibility.

First of all, it's not true that the United States government "spent $5 billion to destabilize Ukraine," as some agitators have claimed. That figure is the total amount of money provided to the country since independence in 1991, which includes aid to pro-Western Ukrainian administrations (which the United States presumably would not have wanted to destabilize). Like most U.S. foreign aid, some of it went for good things and some for not so good things. There was also some funding through the National Endowment for Democracy and other organizations to some opposition groups that were involved in the recent insurrection, but this was in the millions of dollars, nothing remotely close to $5 billion. And this aid went primarily to centrist groups, not the far right, so claims that the United States "supported fascists" in Ukraine are without foundation.


Oui replied by providing some links which included attacks on Zunes.

Even if the smears against Zunes' which were cited by Oui were based on the facts, which they're not, this would not by itself invalidate Zunes' general points.

Zunes is not at all denying that the US gov seeks to advance US dominant class interests around the world, nor denying that they will use some groups promoting democracy, peace, etc. to do so. Hence his statement against such exploitation which Oui quoted and the fact that it is not at odds with his more specific points about Ukraine.

The basic points which Zunes is making are that it's simplistic to see what's happened in Ukraine as ALL due to a US plot and that it's insulting to the people of Ukraine to imply that they are the mere dupes of the US. As he says:

It's also unfair to imply that such aid was somehow the cause of the uprising, thereby denying agency to the millions of Ukrainians who took to the streets in an effort to determine (for better or worse) their own future. To claim that U.S. aid was responsible for the Orange Revolution of 2005 or the more recent revolt is as ludicrous as President Reagan's claims in the 1980s that Soviet aid was responsible for the leftist revolutions in Central America.


 Gowan (cited by Oui) accuses Zunes of being a "lieutenant of capitalism" - this about a guy who has this kind of view:

And what's particularly disturbing about Biden was, in his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he could have looked critically into these plans for war, and yet he allowed only a grand total of two days of hearings in the lead-up to the Iraq war vote, and he stacked the hearings. He refused to allow Scott Ritter, the former head weapons inspector, who would have testified that, by all accounts, Iraq had achieved at least qualitative disarmament, despite requests of fellow Democrats on the committee to include a number of scholars who knew the region, who were ready to testify that if the US invaded Iraq, we'd likely be bogged down in a bloody counterinsurgency war for years, amid rising sectarianism and terrorism, Islamic extremism. He wouldn't let those people testify, either. It was a sham hearing from the very beginning, because he didn't want his colleagues and he didn't want the American people to hear the truth about the consequences.


Hillary Clinton leaves her position as Secretary of State with a legacy of supporting autocratic regimes and occupation armies, opposing enforcement of international humanitarian law, undermining arms control and defending military solutions to complex political problems. She was appointed to her position following eight years in the US Senate, during which she became an outspoken supporter of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, lied about Iraq's military capabilities to frighten the public into supporting the illegal war, unleashed repeated attacks against the United Nations, opposed restrictions on land mines and cluster bombs, defended war crimes by allied right-wing governments and largely embraced Bush's unilateralist agenda.

Despite this, Clinton is receiving largely unconditional praise from liberal pundits and others for her leadership, some even claiming that she is some kind of role model for young women!


Yes, I'm sure the capitalists will promote him to colonel for such views.

Oui cites Horowitz:

"In the control of scholarship by wealth, it is neither necessary nor desirable that professors hold a certain orientation because they receive a grant. The important thing is that they receive the grant because they hold the orientation." (David Horowitz, 1969)

That was some years ago, but that's still the basic approach by Horowitz, but now from a right-wing point of view, and as careless with the facts as Gowan (see below), e.g.:

Some stories Horowitz has used as evidence that U.S. colleges and universities are bastions of liberal indoctrination have been disputed.
Horowitz has also come under fire for material in his books, particularly The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, by noted scholars such as Columbia University Professor Todd Gitlin. The group Free Exchange on Campus issued a 50-page report in May 2006 in which they take issue with many of Horowitz's assertions in the book and describe what they see as factual errors, unsubstantiated assertions, and quotations which appear to be either misquoted or taken out of context.


Chomsky has critised most academics and journalists; but Chomsky notes that the system is "not monolithic" (cf Zunes' comment that the US is "not omnipotent") and Chomsky points out that there are journalists and academics doing valuable work. The important thing is to avoid sweeping generalisations and to look carefully at the evidence; The latter is something that Gowan seems incapable of doing, but, because it suits Oui's omnipotent US position, he uses his careless (to be generous) attack on Zunes uncritically.

Zunes has replied to Gowan with more care than the latter deserves and pointed out numerous errors in Gowan's attack, e.g.:

  1. I never have and do not "defend U.S. government meddling in the affairs of other countries." This is a complete lie. I've dedicated most of my academic and activist life to opposing U.S. interventionism in all its forms. I have written whole books and scores of articles opposing U.S. interference in the affairs of other countries, spoken at and taken part in numerous protests and rallies, and have even been arrested on a number of occasions protesting U.S. imperialism. If there are any doubts whatsoever to my categorical opposition to U.S. interventionism, please check out my website: http://www.stephenzunes.org

  2. ICNC has not been "heavily involved in successful and ongoing regime change operations, including in Yugoslavia" nor was Yugoslavia an example of a revolution "Zunes and his colleagues assist." Neither I nor ICNC had anything to do with the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic, which took place prior to ICNC being founded in 2001. It is totally false, therefore, to claim that Serbia was a place that "ICNC considers to be the site of one of its most successful engagements" since ICNC was never engaged there prior to the 2000 uprising.
Nor, contrary to Gowans' assertion, did I or ICNC have any contact whatsoever with Georgians or Ukrainians before the popular nonviolent uprisings in those countries.
4) One of the most bizarre quotes from Gowans is as follows:
"Zunes would be a more credible anti-imperialist were he organizing seminars on how to use nonviolent direct action to overthrow the blatantly imperialist U.S. and British governments. With the largest demonstrations in history held in Western cities on the eve of the last conspicuous eruption of Anglo-American imperialism, it cannot be denied that there's a grassroots movement for peace and democracy in the West awaiting Zunes' assistance. So is he training U.S. and British grassroots activists to use nonviolent direct action to stop the machinery of war? No. His attention is directed outward, not on his own government, but on the governments Washington and ruling class think-tanks want overthrown."
As a matter of fact, for more than thirty years, I have indeed been "training U.S. ... activists to use nonviolent direct action to stop the machinery of war," working with Peace Action, War Resisters League, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ruckus Society, Direct Action Network, Direct Action against the War, and other groups through which I have led trainings for sit-ins, blockades and other forms of nonviolent direct action against the Pentagon, military recruiters, military contractors and other targets in the military-industrial complex. Regarding the "largest demonstrations in history held in Western cities on the eve of the last conspicuous eruption of Anglo-American imperialism," I happened to have been a speaker at the February 2003 rally in San Francisco, in which I explicitly called upon the half million people gathered to support mass nonviolent direct action to stop the invasion and other manifestations of U.S. imperialism.


Gowan's response is, I think contemptible, in the comments he neither apologises nor defends his many false allegations. Instead, in the article cited by Oui, he seizes on one general point made by Zunes, that in a capitalist society like the US, even left-wing organisations can be partly funded by the powerful - but this doesn't by itself prove that what they do simply reflects the interests of the powerful. Gowan goes on to ignore all the refutations by Zunes of his other  specific allegations, and merely says he thinks it's unlikely that the those providing funds do not care about the views expressed.

He contrasts Zunes with Chomsky, but fails to note that Chomsky himself has been attacked in just this way, as his early work was funded by the US Navy and MIT has been dependent on Defense Depratment funding.


They reindustrialized America by protectionism and state intervention.

All of this is washed away by propaganda as though it never happened. It is very interesting to look at a place like MIT which was right in the center of these developments. My department -- you are teaching a course in the Military Industrial Complex -- my department is an example of it.

If you look at the funding at MIT, in the l950s and l960s, it was almost entirely Pentagon. For a very simple reason, the cutting edge of the economy was electronics based.


Chomsky is justifiably scornful of those, like Gowan, who try to be more Left than thou by attacking other Leftists.  This was long ago parodied by Monty Python, and for a long time the Left has been weakened by in-fighting over who is the most purely Left.

When berated for accepting a salary from an institution so intimately involved in the business of death and destruction, Chomsky pointed out that receiving financing from an institution only limits one's ability to speak out if that institution is totalitarian in nature. Interestingly, most of the criticism came from the left, prompting Chomsky to ask: "Did you ever hear anyone suggest that Marx shouldn't have worked in the British Museum, the very symbol of British Imperialism?" (31 Mar. 1995).


Zunes has also had to waste his time replying to other guilt-by-association attacks by Barker. There was some discussion here before about Gene Sharp and his little Albert Einstein institution. Here I'll just say that I'm happy to be in the company of Chomsky, Zinn, Ellsberg, etc. who signed Zunes' letter supporting Sharp:

During the past year and a half, Dr. Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution have been subjected to a series of false accusations by a number of foreign governments of receiving guidance and financial support from the Bush administration, working with the CIA, and engaging in activities designed to promote U.S. imperialism. These and other groundless charges have also appeared in a series of articles which have been posted in recent months on a number of progressive web sites and elsewhere as if they were true. We, however, reject such claims categorically.
We are aware of, and are adamantly opposed to, efforts by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and other U.S. government-funded efforts to advance U.S. strategic and economic objectives under the guise of "democracy promotion." We recognize, however, that Dr. Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution are not part of such an agenda.


More recently, Sharp responded to enquiries from Mexico:

The online petition drive, with more than 800 signatures in a few days, asks AEI and Sharp to "support our revolutionary movement."

Sharp (who speaks a little bit of Spanish) responded to the petition with this letter, a copy of which was obtained by Narco News:

Queridos estimados amigos Mexicanos,

Thank you for your petition requesting my assistance in your conflict concerning the conduct of the recent national election in Mexico.

I am pleased that you are seeking an alternative to the use of  violence in the conflict concerning the results of the election.

I regret that you are unaware that both my personal policy, and that of the Albert Einstein Institution, prohibits our giving instructions for action in other countries and becoming participants in such conflicts. We cannot know the situation in-depth in such conflicts, and our instructions would very likely be in error. We therefore could unintentionally help to defeat the struggle to which we might be sympathetic.

At least equally seriously, in case of that movement being successful, the credit might wrongly be given us. The credit for successes is deserved by the brave participants in the nonviolent struggle, not outsiders. The participants will have earned the victory by their courage and disciplined struggle, despite casualties and suffering.  We believe that it would be an injustice for us to claim credit for their victories.


The latter point echoes Zunes' point about not regarding Ukrainians as mere dupes of the US gov.

Gowan complains that Zunes supports the general approach of non-violence, but then this could be said of Chomsky too, but typically, as with the question of the degree of social control of the media and academia, Chomsky has a view which reflects the complexity of reality rather than opting for the simplistic view that they're monolithic or totalitatrian:

DJ Buschini: A good deal of committed organization helped lay the groundwork for the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. For years, activists in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) drew inspiration from Gandhian practices and Christian pacifism. What's your take on Occupy and the nonviolent philosophy?

Noam Chomsky: It's certainly what one should prefer. Some prefer it to the extent of never being willing to do anything else. So, for example, Martin Luther King wanted to just keep to it strictly--nothing else, not even in self-defense. Others have a less rigid view. And there are also more complex conceptions of nonviolence.

One of the leading figures in 20th century American nonviolent movements, and kind of a mentor of King and others, was A. J. Muste, who is not too well known, but he should be. He was a nonviolent pacifist, a pacifist during WWII. But he advocated what he called Revolutionary Pacifism. He said that pacifism in the face of injustice is not enough. So unless you confront the structural violence of ordinary life, then it is hypocritical and meaningless to object to the fringe of violence by more marginal groups who are also struggling against injustice.


So Chomsky supports not only Gene Sharp and his non-violence approach, but also those forced into armed struggle against oppresion.

Yes, let's follow the money and acknowledge the various ways in which the power elites seek to further their interests, but let's avoid seeing ANY evidence of financial aid for political purposes as proof that something as complex as the crisis in Ukraine is simply a US plot. Zunes' is quite willing to follow the money, but says it should be done accurately,  see above.

Zunes has been quite clear in his general criticism of US imperialism (see the comment on Biden, etc. at the beginning of this), but, like Chomsky, he notes that the system is not monolithic and the US is not omnipotent.

Let's also try to drop this self-defeating leftist infighting and attempts to prove that WE are the most pure of the Leftists. There are better things to do than seeking "enemies within" - and Zunes isn't the enemy.  Nor is Greenwald, despite the attacks on him in some of the links supplied by Oui in his recent diary, cf.:

When NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden wanted to tell the world what he knew about mass surveillance, he didn't go to the New York Times or NPR. He didn't trust corporate media. He went to a reporter he could trust - he went to Glenn Greenwald.

And now Greenwald takes readers behind the scenes of the Snowden story, an amazing look at one of the most important journalistic breakthroughs of our time.

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State tells the whole story, from Snowden's first contact with Greenwald to their meeting in Hong Kong and the media circus that followed.
... It tells the fascinating story of the tension between Greenwald - a tough, uncompromising critic of the corporate media - and the major outlets that made the Snowden revelations front-page news.


Indeed fascinating, much appreciated.

On Greenwald you are wrong, I've been and still am a fan and supporter of him, Ms Poitras and Snowden. See all my posts here @ET and battling for him @BooMan when Greenwald was attacked in a fp story.

Recently, a number of journalists/bloggers have criticised the owner of The Intercept, billionaire Omidyar, including me.

Why does Obama hate whistleblowers and investigative journalists?

Love today's headline - Joe Biden's Son Is Now On The Board Of One Of Ukraine's Biggest Gas Conglomerates. Of course, move along ... nothing here to see.

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Tue May 13th, 2014 at 05:06:35 PM EST
I'm not wrong that Greenwald is NOT the enemy nor about the fact that one might think so from some of your posts and apparently approved links, as well as titles, e.g.

"Embarrassment to GG, MW of The Intercept: Omidyar Co-funded Ukraine Revolt"  

Did he ? Cf.:

When Greewald woke up to what was going on, he was at first incredulous and then snarky writing on his 20 day old publication Intercept, "This, apparently, is some sort of scandal that must be immediately addressed not only by Omidyar, but also by every journalist who works at First Look. That several whole hours elapsed since the article was published on late Friday afternoon without my commenting is, for some, indicative of disturbing stonewalling."

He was just warming up before exposing that there was nothing new here because Omidyar's network disclosed the relationship on September 11, 2011 -- on 9/11 no less -- and discussed it, not as a covert payoff, but as an "investment."

Here's how the beneficiary organization described itself; "New Citizen is a coalition of more than 50 civil society organizations that mobilizes civic participation in Ukraine and serves as the country's primary forum for government transparency and accountability." (Sounds conspiratorial to me!)

Omidyar's investment in First Look Media is also justified in terms of supporting democracy under threat, but not in far away Kiev but in the US of A.


But it's good to get a clear statement from you that "I've been and still am a fan and supporter of him, Ms Poitras and Snowden."

Perhaps you could now provide a clear statement supporting Zunes' very clear record of criticising US foreign policy and a repudiation of Gowan's lies about him.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue May 13th, 2014 at 06:13:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My views are quite similar to the opinion of Danny Schechter on Snowden and Putin's Russia. Contrary to his statement, the cooperation of Snowden with Greenwald and Poitras was before he signed up for The Intercept. Greenwald was a journalist for The Guardian. Furthermore, I quote from your link:

    "The convoluted expose, with all the makings of covert operation itself, might have also been designed to piss off Putin who they likely fantasized might eject Snowden as a friend of their enemies, an outcome that the highest pasha of Pando would most likely like because he is apparently a Romney supporter and NSA booster."

Sounds like Schechter has a beef with other journalists, battling another fight, but this has nothing to do with my writings about the Ukraine, new NATO policy of containment or a new cold war and Russia.

One can have criticism of Omidyar, similar to criticism of Soros and some of his projects of the Open Society Institute / Soros Foundation bringing democracy around the globe. Color it Orange.

That "Iron Law" Of Oligarchy Is Back To Haunt Us  by Danny Schechter
Hostage to the Past: Visiting the Former US Embassy in Iran

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Wed May 14th, 2014 at 01:34:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Relevant points:

There are 2 FACTS that need to be injected into this so called debate.

  1. Greenwald has stated that he and the other journalists have complete editorial independence. Anyone have evidence to prove otherwise?

  2. The complete unlikelihood of these same journalists of compromising their reporting to protect the interests of a billionaire as if they do not have the credentials to move immediately to almost any other established media outfit who would love to have them or (as Greenwald stated he and Scahill and Poitras were in the process of doing when Oymidyar contacted them) create their own independent website similar to Digby or Andrew Sullivan. Working for a billionaire does not mean you get access to billions. It means you make a salary as a working journalist. The NewLook Media web company is non-profit, so no equity for anyone there.

There is no evidence that Omidyar has or will have any control over editorial decisions of these journalists and none has been so far produced.
That and the main website has not even been put online yet.

It's fine to question if there is any editorial censorship that will be done by Omidyar , but that does not mean that he will in fact do so.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/03/03/glenn-greenwald-pandodaily-tussle-over -ukraine-editorial-independence/

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue May 13th, 2014 at 06:30:32 PM EST
Stephen Zunes and the Albert Einstein Institute were involved in a long debate in 2008:
Debate on the Albert Einstein Institution and its Involvement in Venezuela
Reply to Stephen Zunes on Imperialism and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict  by John Bellamy Foster

Zunes' association with ICNC raised questions because the NGO was founded by Peter Ackerman of Freedom House fame.

So I don't understand all the fuss as my awareness was raised by your linked article authored by Zunes: ○ Straight Talk on the U.S. and Ukraine.

The author isn't clear in taking any position, however he first quotes Sarah Palin on Russia's bloody invasion of Georgia and repeats: "the Russians attacked Georgia in 2008." This was neocon propaganda during the Bush administration. Rereading his article, Zunes offers plenty of criticism of US policy on Ukraine and not abiding by International Law. I do share that criticism. That's all I really want to say about Zunes as I haven't read any other recent article by him. PS See two links below, I may learn to appreciate his writing after all ...

Debating HR 867, which denounces the Goldstone Report, Zunes offered his criticism - 2009
Eight Arguments Against Going to War With Syria

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Wed May 14th, 2014 at 09:50:48 AM EST
"The fuss" is about your tendency to provide links to anything which seems to support your point of view without checking the accuracy of what's linked. Your use of Gowan's appallingly unfair attack on Zunes is a particularly bad example, as I took some trouble to demonstrate. You might have checked to see if Zunes had replied to Gowan's blatent distortions - simple enough, Zunes' response was there in the comments on the article.

In order to try to partially justify yourself you now distort Zunes' view:

The author isn't clear in taking any position, however he first quotes Sarah Palin on Russia's bloody invasion of Georgia and repeats: "the Russians attacked Georgia in 2008." This was neocon propaganda during the Bush administration.

The point is that he's not discussing the validity of her view about Russia and Georgia; he's making the simple point against her that her attempt to use this conflict as an example of Obama supposedly failing to stand up to the Russians is absurd because "Obama wasn't even president then and therefore couldn't have done much."


If you want to know what Zunes' own view about Georgia and Russia is it takes a minute to find out:

It has been nearly impossible to even broach this subject of the U.S. role. Much of the mainstream media coverage and statements by American political leaders of both major parties has in many respects resembled the anti-Russian hysterics of the Cold War.


It is striking how quickly forgotten is the fact that the U.S.-backed Georgian military started the war when it brutally assaulted the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali in an attempt to regain direct control of the autonomous region. This attack prompted the disproportionate and illegitimate Russian military response, which soon went beyond simply ousting invading Georgian forces from South Ossetia to invading and occupying large segments of Georgia itself.


This is very far from a "Neo-con view", but again not a simplistic one.

I suggest you take more care in your criticism and in your choice of links, these examples undermine the credibility of your posts in general.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed May 14th, 2014 at 04:25:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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