Saturday, August 15, 2009

(HERALD) MDC, liberation heroes it can’t

MDC, liberation heroes it can’t

THE basis of Christianity is that man, by virtue of being born of sinful loins, carries the sins of his forebears. The Lord admits in Exodus 20 verse 4 that he is a jealous God who holds children answerable for the sins of their forebears to the third and fourth generation. As such each man has to break this chain of sin by being born again through baptism, after which the old should pass away and a new life in Christ begins.

It appears the neophytes in Government, in those shiny corridors of power in Government offices believe this biblical rebirth applies to politics, where even the politically ugly among us morphed into beautiful swans by taking the oath of office even as they quack like ugly ducklings.

I say so because disturbing things, very disturbing things have been happening in the corridors of power since February 13.

Our history of stolid, defiant opposition to neo-colonial domination, in the eyes of some, ended then and hitherto even selling out became acceptable in the spirit of ‘inclusivity.’ That is why even the likes of Eddie Cross of the ‘‘crash and burn’’ thinking, men who never lifted a finger to advance the nationalist cause, claim to be more Zimbabwean than the heroes who fought to bring the same Zimbabwe.

A spirited campaign is underway to re-cast our history and even national ethos to reflect a nation as old as February 13. This week Trudy Stevenson even boldly asked, in the Zimbabwe Independent, ‘‘whose history is it anyway?’’ And one Obert Gutu proposed a redefinition of national heroism, the setting up of a national Heroes commission to direct the exhumation of ‘‘undeserving characters’’ from the national shrine and the re-burial of ‘‘those luminaries who were denied national hero status.’’

Clear agenda-setting was at play throughout the Zimind and names of ‘‘luminaries’’ like Gift Tandare, Jestina Mukoko, Beatrice Mtetwa were bandied as deserving honour on National Heroes Day.

Reading these reports I came to understand why Giles Mutsekwa held a victory celebration in his Dangamvura/Chikanga constituency as VP Msika’s body lay in state in Harare. While, given Mutsekwa’s history in the RF it would be understandable if he belittles the role played by Msika, what of the likes of Biti who were educated free of charge because of the sacrifices of people like Msika? Biti was there in Chikanga where he was quoted telling MDC-T supporters to honour their own heroes like Learnmore Jongwe and Isaac Matongo.

Such utterances imply that the holding of the victory celebration at the time of the demise of a venerated national hero was not coincidental, and may not have been about Mutsekwa’s victory in the 2008 elections.

What kind of society are we creating with this so-called inclusive Government, and to what extent should this ‘‘inclusivity’’ be stretched? At this rate, who can blame Obama and Clinton for being a-historical in their utterances over Zimbabwe?

For during her whirlwind tour of Africa, Hillary — who appeared lost to the irony of having husband Bill pick Lewinsky-look-alikes in North Korea — was busy urging South Africa to turn against Zimbabwe. ‘‘Zuma has to get tough with Mugabe,’’ Hillary quipped to the SA media.

Hillary needs to acquaint herself with the history of southern Africa. The Zuma she was speaking about was still deemed a terrorist in the US as late as last year (assuming he was struck off the terror and sanctions list along with Mandela ahead of the latter’s 90th birthday). Zuma will never forget that his ANC compatriots traveled the world on Zimbabwean passports as the US barred them from its shores and gave the apartheid regime spirited backing to delay the onset of black majority rule. Clinton’s posturing might find purchase among Western-sponsored politicians but not those grounded in liberation ethos.

Then of course, there was Obama, who only this year extended the economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, claiming — in Ghana — that the West had nothing to do with Zimbabwe’s economic downturn. This revisionist thinking is apparently aimed at recasting our proud history and pegging it from the year the MDC was formed. The illegal regime change lobby has to be deodorised as a fight for democracy, and its askaris as national heroes. And all this in the week we celebrated the real heroes who stepped to the plate when some of those passing themselves as ‘‘democrats’’ today ran or opposed. This earth, my brother!

* * * *

For the avoidance of doubt, the MDC was formed out of the West’s misplaced economics that it was cheaper to fund an opposition to topple Zanu-PF than fund a land reform programme to dispossess the children of Albion. The MDC has no proud history to speak of and the nation has precious little to emulate from the party’s leadership as currently constituted. The MDC formations, infact need to be born again, politically that is, and it is my fervent hope that February 13 signified that rebirth. Lets not forget that the economic sanctions we are reeling under were imposed at the behest of the party’s leadership, as such the MDC-T was complicit in the socio-economic regression we witnessed over the past decade, a regression that Biti says needs US$4 billion to undo. And if that is the stuff heroes are made of, then Hitler is a pacifist.

* * * *

Nowhere in our history was any US administration found on the side of our fight for self-determination. Instead Washington has been consistently found on the side of those we fought against.

At the risk of having our history hijacked and made over, here are a few facts Hillary and Obama should never forget whenever they pass themselves off as champions of Zimbabwe’s democracy.

When Smith declared his UDI on November 11, 1965, the progressive world was naturally outraged and the UN Security Council responded by punishing the Smith regime with a raft of sanctions beginning that year till the brief restoration of British rule in December 1979.

Though the terms of the sanctions forbade trade or financial dealings with Rhodesia, the US supported the beleaguered settler regime regardless and covertly channeled assistance through apartheid South Africa.

US allies among them Portugal - then under Marcello Caetano, Israel, and Iran then under the US puppet — Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi — also assisted and traded with Rhodesia. In an attempt to bypass the UN sanctions, the US passed the Byrd Amendment in 1971 and continued to buy chrome from Rhodesia in violation of the UN sanctions. Washington’s argument, chrome was ‘‘a strategic raw material’’, yet the chrome was for the US auto industry.

As if that was not enough, the US also contributed to the establishment of an armaments industry in Rhodesia that enabled the RF to kill over 50 000 innocent Zimbabweans whose only "crime" was daring to demand majority rule.

Uncle Sam also provided the technical knowledge and support, again through apartheid South Africa, toward establishing the 700-kilometre Border Minefield Obstacle along our borders with Zambia and Mozambique. An obstacle that was aimed at stopping aspiring cadres from crossing to training camps and to blow-up trained combatants crossing back into Zimbabwe. What is more US mercenaries and servicemen joined the RF ranks, with many of them bringing back to Rhodesia military ideas and concepts from Vietnam.

For a detailed expose of the extent of Washington’s destabilisation of the Second Chimurenga, Hillary should read the 2001 book ‘‘From the Barrel of a Gun — The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 1965-1980’’ by the African-American writer Gerald Horne. She can get a copy from the publishers, University of North Carolina Press at Chapel Hill failing which she can contact the Centre for Defence Studies at the University of Zimbabwe.

The bottom line is Washington not only significantly contributed to Rhodesia’s national income, which enabled the Smith regime to buy weapons to pulverise freedom fighters; it actually assisted Rhodesia’s fight against Zipra and Zanla combatants.

As such Hillary must read history before exercising her jaws on Zimbabwe. By acquainting herself with our history, she will find that her government — which today opposes the land reform programme — supported the Patriotic Front on land at the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference, with the then US president Jimmy Carter promising that Washington would significantly fund land reforms and also urged the British to do the same.

Carter’s promise — which was delivered by the then US ambassador to London, Kingman Brewster — was made after the Patriotic Front threatened to walk out of the Conference when the British sought to scuttle demands for land reforms. Clinton can access these revelations from the BBC website

* * * *

Do not get me wrong, and this is not hate speech. Heroes emerge from all walks of life, and there are many heroes and heroines who have distinguished themselves in diverse fields. It is such people who can be adjudged by commissions or committees of eminent persons or even elders, and can have their own venerated ground on the plentiful land we acquired at considerable wrath from the West.

The National Heroes Acre was set up for heroes of the struggle for independence, which is why it is shaped like two juxtaposed AK47s and why it has a liberation museum at the entrance. It is simply not feasible to have Chamisa, who was born only two years shy of Independence, or Bennett and Mutsekwa who fought on the side of the RF decide on the heroes of the struggle for independence. There are simply some things that ‘‘can’t,’’ in the same way 1 — 2 can’t at grade one level?

* * * *

Now what is all this fuss about service chiefs and salute for the Prime Minister? I thought the question of who gets the salute is now in the public domain, the Commander-in-Chief of the ZDF and serving or retired commanders.

This week Internet ghost sites were awash with debate over whether the airforce commander saluted Tsvangirai during the Defence Forces Day, and the Zimind went one up by publishing an obscure picture on the front page that claimed to show Air Marshal Perrance Shiri saluting PM Tsvangirai.

I am sure that there were better pictures to show that Air Marshall Shiri was standing beside VP Mujuru and between VP Mujuru and the PM sat Retired General Solomon Mujuru, the former ZDF commander, who was obscured by the PM from the angle at which the Zimind picture was taken. So how could a salute jump the VP and the Retired General and be meant for the PM who was seated at the far end?

And assuming Air Marshal Shiri was saluting, the salute was evidently for his former boss, Rtd Gen Mujuru. More so military salutes are given and received when the giver and receiver are both standing upright and looking directly into each other’s faces. Looking at Air Marshal Shiri’s posture it was most likely he was greeting VP Mujuru.

Anyway only he can answer as to who he was ‘saluting’ or greeting but for the sages at Zimind it had to be a picture that matched their lead story.

Such is the nature of recasting history, at times it bids those doing it to carve headlines about sunrise on a dry savanna day.

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(HERALD) Fulfil your GPA part, MDC told

Fulfil your GPA part, MDC told
Herald Reporter

THE Zanu-PF Politburo has hit out at the MDC formations for not fulfilling their obligations under the Global Political Agreement and has urged President Mugabe to resist attempts by anyone to prejudice the party by abusing the accord.

The Politburo, Zanu-PF’s supreme decision-making body outside of congress, said the MDC formations had not done anything to have the illegal Western sanctions they called for lifted and to stop the beaming of hate messages by pirate radio stations.

President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara of the MDC signed the inter-party agreement after protracted negotiations leading to the formation of the inclusive Government.

In the agreement, the parties agreed to call for the removal of economic and all forms of sanctions that have caused untold suffering to the ordinary people of Zimbabwe.

The sanctions, which the West claimed were "targeted", have been blamed for the collapse of social services, manifest in the closure of schools and hospitals, and dilapidation of other infrastructure over the last decade.

Briefing journalists in Harare yesterday on the outcome of Thursday’s 224th Ordinary Session of the Politburo at the party’s headquarters, Zanu-PF deputy spokesperson Cde Ephraim Masawi said while the two MDCs had fulfilled key elements of the GPA, nothing had been done to address the central questions of the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe and ending the activities of pirate radio stations.

"It is now six months since the formation of the inclusive Government and Zanu-PF leaders as well as their families are still inhibited to visit Europe, United States of America, as indeed in respect of their children to go to school in these countries.

"This does not apply to any member of the MDC-T and MDC-M who are free to roam the world while the country as well as those regarded as sympathetic to Zanu-PF, continue to be subjected to a regime of brutal illegal sanctions.

"The vilification of Zanu-PF and its leaders by special targeted broadcast continues on a daily basis, unabated," he said.

Cde Masawi said the MDC, which urged its international supporters to impose the illegal sanctions, had the sole responsibility to ensure that its international supporters remove the illegal embargo.

"The implementation of the GPA cannot be a one-sided affair. Therefore, Zanu-PF Politburo calls on the First Secretary and President of Zanu-PF to resist any pressure intended to prejudice the party in a manner that is contrary to the GPA and the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

"Accordingly, the Politburo requests the First Secretary and President of Zanu-PF to ensure that the above decisions are brought to the attention of the principals of the two MDC formations."

Cde Masawi said the Politburo had noted that Zanu-PF has been compliant to the letter in fulfilling the requirements of the GPA including the appointment of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers, ministers and their deputies, permanent secretaries and principal directors by consultation.

He said the inclusive Government had also appointed ambassadors and created a National Security Council in line with the September 2008 GPA.

"In appointing the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Attorney-General, the President exercised his constitutional right to do so and no consultation in terms of the Constitution was necessary.

"With regard to the appointment of provincial governors, it is the exclusive constitutional prerogative of the President to appoint 10 governors and resident ministers to represent him in the provinces. Governors cannot legally operate in any other capacity," he said.

According to the terms of the GPA, President Mugabe remains Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

While some MDC-T ministers have openly spoken against the sanctions, Prime Minister Tsvangirai, in his maiden speech in the House of Assembly, referred to "restrictive measures" rather than sanctions.

PM Tsvangirai’s MDC formation has been agitating for the removal of RBZ Governor Dr Gideon Gono and AG Mr Johannes Tomana arguing that President Mugabe had unilaterally appointed them.

They have also called for Sadc to convene a meeting to deal with this "outstanding" issue — calls that the regional grouping’s chairman and South African President Cde Jacob Zuma has dismissed.

The MDC formation led by Deputy PM Arthur Mutambara has been more vocal than its counterparts in calling for the removal of sanctions and identifying them as a key stumbling block in Zimbabwe’s economic recovery efforts.

Zimbabwe will not be on the agenda of the Sadc Summit to be held in the Democratic Republic of Congo next month.

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(NEWZIMBABWE) MDC must seek end to sanctions: Zanu PF

MDC must seek end to sanctions: Zanu PF
by MacDonald Dzirutwe
15/08/2009 00:00:00

ZANU PF demanded on Friday that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party seek the removal of Western sanctions on Zimbabwe.

"The MDC, which urged its international supporters to impose the illegal sanctions, has the sole responsibility to ensure that its international supporters remove the sanctions forthwith," Zanu PF deputy secretary for information Ephraim Masawi told journalists.

He added: "It is now six months since the formation of the inclusive government and Zanu PF leaders as well as their families are still inhibited to visit Europe, United States of America, as indeed in respect of their children to go to school in these countries.

"This does not apply to any member of the MDC-T and MDC-M who are free to roam the world while the country as well as those regarded as sympathetic to Zanu PF, continue to be subjected to a regime of brutal illegal sanctions.

"The implementation of the GPA cannot be a one-sided affair. Therefore, the Zanu PF politburo calls on the First Secretary and President of Zanu PF (Robert Mugabe) to resist any pressure intended to prejudice the party in a manner that is contrary to the GPA and the Constitution of Zimbabwe."

Masawi said Zanu PF had delivered its part of a "Global Political Agreement" which paved the way to the power-sharing government, but Tsvangirai's party earlier raised objections to some recent appointments.

Tsvangirai's MDC wants the appointment of the central bank governor, the attorney general and 10 provincial governors to be reviewed and has referred the issue to the regional Southern African Development Community grouping for mediation.

"The outstanding issues have been the Achilles Heel of the inclusive government," the MDC said, referring to the appointments and expressing its frustration with the pace of reforms.

A September political agreement between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and a leader of an MDC faction says appointment of all senior government officials should be agreed among the three leaders.

The unity government has functioned better than many observers believed possible, but friction points remain.
Zimbabwe faces an uphill battle to raise $8.3 billion for reconstruction. Direct financial support from Western donors remain elusive despite the best efforts of Tsvangirai, highly regarded in the West for standing up to Mugabe. - Reuters

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(NEWZIMBABWE) Zim eyes re-admission to bullion market

Zim eyes re-admission to bullion market
by Oscar Nkala
12/08/2009 00:00:00

THE Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines (CoM) says the country could rejoin the London Bullion Market (LBM) fold within two years, but warns that this would only be possible if the current rate of recovery in the key gold-mining sector is maintained or exceeded.

Zimbabwe was kicked out of the LBM last year, when its annual gold production hit rock bottom, at just 3 072 kg, compared with slightly over 10 000 kg in 2006 and the high of 27 000 kg attained in 1999. The ouster followed numerous production problems, financial constraints, a worsening power crisis and the nonpayment of a huge debt owed to producers by Fidelity Printers & Refineries, a Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe subsidiary, which, at the time, was the sole buyer and exporter of gold in the country.

Addressing mining industry stakeholders and business leaders at the recent Mining, Transport and Engineering exhibition, in Bulawayo, CoM president Victor Gapare said the prediction of Zimbabwe’s early return to the international bullion market was based on the steadily increasing output from gold-mining since the liberalisation of the economy in February.

He said both the trading and operating environments were generally favourable for producers and this had prompted the return of more players, which had, in turn, resulted in increased gold production.

“As far as trading on the LBM is concerned, this is [based on] producing 10 t/y and there is need for us to show that consistency for two years. At the moment, gold production is picking up. Between January and June, the country saw 1 t delivered, and if this trend continues, within another year, we will be exceeding 10 t,” Gapare says.

He said Zimbabwe stood a good chance of achieving this because the favourable conditions ushered in by the deregulation of trading in the sector could lure more investors. He added that the unity government had managed to reduce the political risk factors associated with investing in the country.

Gapare, however, noted the threat presented by renewed power cuts to a quick rebound of the mining industry. Incessant power cuts had intensified over the past weeks, after Zimbabwe’s neighbours, who supplied power to the Southern African country, decided to reduce supplies by half.

Mozambique, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo each cut their supplies to Zimbabwe to press for the payment of a collective US$57-million debt that has remained unpaid for more than a year. The countries had earlier decided to switch off power supplies completely, but were persuaded to relent.

Zimbabwe’s power generation capacity has been whittled down by ten years of economic meltdown, and the new unity government, comprising President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, says it needs more than US$600-million to revive the power sector. - Mining Weekly

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(NEWZIMBABWE) Ministers asks doctors to end strike

Ministers asks doctors to end strike
15/08/2009 00:00:00

STRIKING doctors who want their salaries increased more than fivefold should return to work while negotiations continue, Zimbabwe's health minister said Friday. But doctors said their stay-away would continue until they get more money.

The strike began last week in Bulawayo and later spread to the capital and other cities nationwide. State hospitals were turning away patients. At Harare's main Parirenyatwa Hospital on Friday, patients were lying on the floor of the admissions ward with no one to attend to them. Nurses said they could not work without instructions from doctors.

"We know that they want us to increase their salaries, but we are saying, "Let's come to an agreement, go back to work, whilst your issues are being considered," the Health Minister, Dr. Henry Madzorera, said Friday.

Zimbabwe's coalition has appealed to government workers to be patient as it struggles to reverse economic collapse. After it was formed in February, it began paying doctors, whose salaries in Zimbabwe dollars had become worthless because of runaway inflation, in U.S. dollars, starting at $100 a month and increasing that to $170 last month. The striking doctors want $1,000 a month and $600 allowances.

"We have been very patient with the inclusive government," said Dr. Brighton Chizhande, president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association. "We have come to a point where we cannot continue to listen to their lies that they are going to increase our salaries.

"We are very sorry for the patients' suffering, but there is nothing we can do to stop the strike, until we receive the money we are asking for." - AP

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(WHATS LEFT) Peaceniks for imperialism

Peaceniks for imperialism
by gowans on August 11, 2009

Canada’s Peace Magazine and the promotion of non-military warfare in the service of US foreign policy goals
By Stephen Gowans

While apparently possessing impeccable leftwing credentials, the Canadian publication, Peace Magazine, is a bulwark of conservatism which virtually operates as a house organ of the Ackerman-Helvey-Sharp destabilization school of US foreign policy.

Although it opposes military intervention in the pursuit of US foreign policy goals, it is supportive of liberal-democratic-free-trade capitalist arrangements and the overthrow of governments that operate outside the US axis of domination. It promotes the use of US-sponsored and funded nonviolent resistance (NVR), sometimes called political defiance, or what the CIA calls destabilization, to “take out” governments whose overthrow Washington justifies by demonizing as dictatorial.

And it uncritically echoes the pronouncements on official enemies of the White House and US State Department, endorsing from the left US government-provided pretexts for the expansion of US imperialism. The peace that Peace Magazine promotes, is one in which the United States is firmly in control, and the system of government and economy its ruling class favours has been imposed, willy-nilly, in every corner of the earth.

The Ackerman-Helvey-Sharp destabilization school

Peter Ackerman, an immensely wealthy investor and member of the premier US establishment think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Robert Helvey, a thirty year veteran of the US Army, are the major proponents of a method developed by Gene Sharp for destabilizing foreign governments. While the name NVR gives the technique a fresh look, it is nothing more than CIA-style destabilization, with a twist: it rejects overt CIA sponsorship to escape the taint of being associated with the CIA. Instead, it relies on funding channelled openly through Western government and ruling class foundations.

Ackerman defines the technique as: “the shrewd use of strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience” [1] in addition to mass protests [2] and even nonviolent sabotage, to disrupt the functioning of government [3] and make “a country ungovernable.” [4] NVR, then, is equivalent to the CIA-engineered destabilization used to help overthrow Chile’s leftist president, Salvador Allende.

Ackerman, Helvey and Sharp are involved in some capacity in deploying Sharp’s destabilization techniques to countries the US government pressures diplomatically, militarily and economically: Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Myanmar, Iran, and formerly Georgia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia. Peace Magazine likes the governments of none of these countries, calling Venezuela’s economic policies mistaken [5] and welcoming a nonviolent resistance to (i.e., destabilization of) Hugo Chavez’s government. [6] The magazine’s fondest wishes have been fulfilled. “A couple of people who worked with us, including Bob Helvey, have been there and done a workshop for Venezuelans,” explains Gene Sharp. [7]

The trio illegitimately abstracts destabilization from the multi-tiered approach the United States employs to take out targeted foreign governments, in order to argue deceptively that NVR alone, and not NVR plus the threat or use of military violence plus economic warfare are responsible for regime change successes. For example, the role of a 78-day bombing campaign and economic warfare, in the eventual ouster of Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic has been minimized by the destabilizers, whose version of history holds that it was Helvey’s training of US-funded nonviolent mercenaries in Sharp’s techniques that was responsible for Milosevic’s overthrow and his replacement by a US-backed neo-liberal regime.

Peace Magazine amplifies this deception, acting as an indefatigable cheerleading squad for Sharp, Helvey and Ackerman and their views. All three have been frequently featured in the magazine, through major interviews, or through the wholesale adoption of their positions in editorials, or both.

Promoting capitalist democracy

Editor Metta Spencer frequently adulates democracy, whose imposition on other countries has formed one of the enduring pretexts for US interventions. The democracy she celebrates is the multi-party parliamentary democracy dominant in the West, and not the original idea of rule by or for a previously subordinate class or people – the original sense having always been regarded as dangerous and undesirable by property-owning classes (and social democrats, too, to say nothing, I suspect, of Peace Magazine.) To be sure, it is not democracy in its dangerous and original sense that Spencer adulates. It is democracy tamed by the wealthy that she celebrates.

In an interview with Seymour Martin Lipset, Spencer invites the academic to refute Western democracy’s Marxist critics.

Spencer: But people sometimes say, “Don’t tell me Canada and the United States are democratic. Look at the way money controls the outcome of the elections…”

Lipset: …It is obviously true that money has enormous influence on elections. However, that does not determine everything. [8]

The Marxist critique of Western democracy isn’t that money determines everything, but that those who own productive property and therefore have immense wealth have the means to dominate the electoral process and shape its outcomes to favour their interests and to encroach upon the interests of everyone else. They don’t always get their way, true – but they often do. That the wealthy don’t always win, however, is hardly a ringing endorsement of capitalist democracy, and hardly a reason to be satisfied with it or work for its promotion. Nevertheless, Lipset and Spencer believe that so long as the majority can influence the government some of the time on some issues in some way, all is well.

Cuba’s democracy, based on the election of individuals (as opposed to ambitious, exhibitionist lawyers whose politics have been vetted by political parties financed overwhelmingly by wealthy individuals and corporations) doesn’t count as democracy in the Peace Magazine view. Cuba, instead, is denounced by the magazine as a tyranny, and Cuba’s former president, and presumably its current one, too, is regarded as being on the same plane as Hitler, Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, and Ida Amin. So too are Lenin and Stalin. [9] That Peace Magazine’s democratic sympathies lie with those of the dominant property-owning class in the West, and not with revolutionaries guided by a definition of democracy closer to the original meaning, is evident in Spencer drawing on the arch-establishment figure, imperialist and war criminal Winston Churchill, for support. “As Winston Churchill pointed out,” she reminds us sententiously, “democracy is the worst system of government — except all others.” [10]

In Spencer’s view, “Democratic states virtually never are involved in wars against other democratic states” (only against “repressive” or “failed” states). [11] The absurdity of this view hardly needs to be pointed out. Israel, a multi-party democracy along Western lines, attacked Gaza, precisely because the Palestinian territories are a democracy which elected a party, Hamas, which Israel refuses to accept. The only way this nonsense can be made true is by defining the democratic states that other democratic states attack as being repressive or failed. But the logic is circular. In 1999, Yugoslavia, a federation that had adopted Western multi-party democracy, was attacked militarily by Western democracies. But in the circular logic of Peace Magazine, Yugoslavia was attacked because it was repressive, and therefore not truly democratic. But how do we decide when a country is truly democratic, and when it is repressive or failed? Moreover, who decides? The answer, in the Peace Magazine view, is that Washington does.

Legitimizing imperialist intervention

The Peace Magazine modus operandi is to accept all US government pronouncements on the threats posed by foreign governments as true, and then to propose the use of Sharp’s destabilization techniques as an alternative to military intervention to deal with the threats.

For example, Peace Magazine contributor John Bacher wrote in a 2004 review of a Robert Helvey book that, “Rather than attempting to build costly and leaky shields for missiles from Iran and North Korea, why not seek non-violently to change these regimes into democracies?” [12] Apparently, it never occurred to Bacher to ask why Iran and North Korea would attack the West, since it would mean their immediate annihilation, nor inquire into what possible motivation either country could have to lob missiles at the West. Instead, he accepted as true a rather transparent pretext for justifying the construction of missile shields that would provide the United States with a nuclear first strike capability against Russia, while fattening the bottom lines of US military contractors.

Even more astonishingly, in 2003, the magazine’s editor took peace activists to task for failing to acknowledge that “George W. Bush was right about…the need for regime change in Iraq.” [13] She echoed Peter Ackerman, who, a year earlier, had teamed up with sidekick Jack DuVall to write a Sojourner’s Magazine article urging “anyone who opposes U.S. military action to dethrone (Saddam Hussein)…to suggest how he (Hussein) might otherwise be ushered out the backdoor of Baghdad.” [14] Spencer also scolded “the organizers of protests (against the war on Iraq, for failing to) on the whole propose any alternative nonviolent way of bringing democracy to Iraq.” [15] In this, the magazine accepted US positions on Iraq as legitimate, and demanded that opponents pressure the US government to use non-military means. In the Peace Magazine view, the left should partner with the US government, and try to influence it to adopt less sanguinary methods of achieving its foreign policy goals. This apes Gene Sharp. Asked what he thought of mass demonstrations in the United States against the war on Iraq, Sharp replied,

“I don’t think you can get rid of violence by protesting against it. I think you get rid of violence only if people see that you have a different way of acting, a different way of struggle. […] Part of my analysis is that if you don’t like violence, you have to develop a substitute. Then people have a choice. If they don’t see a choice, then violence is all that they really have. […] The thing that is most shocking is that the Bush Administration acted on the basis of the belief – dogma, ‘religion’ – in the omnipotence of violence. […] The assumption is an invading country can come in, remove its official leader, arrest some of the other people, and well, then, the dictatorship is gone.” [16]

The reason Spencer believes peace activists should endorse Washington’s regime change agenda is evident in her approval of the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, an up-to-date intellectual apology for imperialism. She writes,

“States have a responsibility to protect their own citizens. If instead they abuse them, as in Iraq, they cannot take refuge in the usual rules of sovereignty. The international community may legitimately intervene against such a state.” [17]

The critical flaw in this doctrine lies in the question of who decides when a state has abnegated its responsibility. The answer is “the international community,” a high-sounding synonym for the United States and any other country Washington can bully, cajole or entice to join a coalition under its leadership.

Spencer tops off her endorsement of the US right to determine when intervention is justified with jaw-dropping sophistry.

“And having been complicit in imposing sanctions that caused the deaths of a million or so Iraqis, we have a moral duty now to intervene and help them…” [18]

By this logic, creating a grave injustice through an initial intervention provides a perpetual moral obligation to continue to intervene to try to set the original injustice straight. Of course, the United States and Britain’s subsequent military intervention, following the mass murder of over one million Iraqis in the preceding decade through economic warfare, didn’t redress the initial injustice. Instead, it sparked a humanitarian calamity of colossal magnitude, far greater than the one in Darfur. And yet the magazine advocates non-military warfare to overthrow the government of Sudan [19], but is completely silent on the use of the same NVR techniques to disrupt the US government and make US society ungovernable, to put a stop to the much larger, US-engineered, catastrophe in Iraq.

National Sovereignty

In an astonishing exchange with Gene Sharp, Spencer expresses her contempt for national sovereignty (at least that of countries the United States seeks to dominate) and wonders why anyone would object to Washington overthrowing foreign governments.

Spencer: Recently we showed the film about Otpor (an underground destabilization group trained by Robert Helvey and bankrolled by the US government) and the overthrow of Milosevic, Bringing Down a Dictator. Lots of pro-Milosevic people were present. The real issue for them is, here is the evil US…funding this nonviolent resistance. To them that’s a cardinal sin. A government cannot sponsor the overthrow of another government!

Sharp: Why not?

Spencer: Because the US has interests and it’s supposedly immoral to have interests. Nobody is surprised that the US gives guns to people, but the idea that they assisted the Serbs to get rid of Milosevic seems somehow especially evil. To my mind, it is particularly the US, of all countries, that I want to see supporting nonviolence. It would be the greatest thing in the world for the US to adopt nonviolence.

Sharp: … What do they prefer that the US spend money on? [20]


While the defense of national sovereignty has become associated with the left, it has not always been true that the left has supported an absolute right of countries to be free from foreign intervention. Indeed, there have been frequent interventions supported by the left and carried out by leftist forces: the Soviet Union and the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War; China in the US imperialist war on the Korean peninsula; Cuba in Africa. In these interventions the question wasn’t whether countries had an absolute right to sovereignty, but whether the reasons for and outcomes of intervention were progressive. Was the point to free a class from exploitation and a people from oppression, or to provide a foreign ruling class with new opportunities for expropriating the economic surplus of another country?

Peace Magazine and the destabilizers present US interventions as progressive, guided by opposition to tyranny and the goal of spreading democracy. But the question is whether the democracy the destabilizers promote is a cover for another kind of tyranny, that of domination by US corporate and financial interests. One way to tell is to look at the outcome of successful interventions. Who benefited? Who was injured? In Yugoslavia, the intervention the destabilizers point to with particular pride, the overthrow of the socialist Milosevic, was soon followed by a spate of privatizations, in which formerly publically- and socially-owned assets were bought by Western investors. In Eastern Europe, where a similar destabilization paradigm helped bring about the collapse of socialism and its replacement by a liberal-democratic-capitalist model, joblessness, economic insecurity, deep inequality and the recrudescence of previously virtually eliminated diseases, replaced equality of income, education, healthcare and opportunity. That the outcomes of US interventions have not been progressive may explain why the destabilizers never consider them. But to Spencer, outcomes don’t matter.

“Getting rid of Milosevic did not immediately bring good governance to Serbia…and neither Afghanistan nor Iraq will likely become democratic soon…We can’t help much with that. But their democratization must start with liberation, and we can help them achieve that – non-violently.” [21]

Having no qualms about aligning itself with Washington’s imperialist projects, Peace Magazine endorses without scruple the Western government foundations which support the work of the destabilizers. In a “How can we help?” section, the magazine explains that,

“Many countries maintain organizations that help democratic opposition movements inside tyrannical regimes. In Britain, it’s the Westminster Foundation. In the US it’s the National Endowment for Democracy. In Sweden it’s the Olaf Palme Center. In Canada it’s Montreal-based Rights and Democracy. Moreover, there are experts who have studied nonviolent struggle and who can help dissident movements develop effective strategies” [22] such as Robert Helvey.

It would doubtlessly cause little embarrassment to the magazine to point out that the National Endowment for Democracy was established by the Reagan administration to overtly bankroll the overthrow movements the CIA used to fund covertly. So long as imperialist goals are pursued through non-military means, Peace Magazine is content.


Despite its apparent left credentials, Peace Magazine serves the conservative function of legitimizing the goals of US foreign policy and burnishing the reputation of a capitalist democracy subordinated to US corporate and financial domination. The magazine apes the views of Peter Ackerman, Robert Helvey and Gene Sharp, the major proponents within the US establishment of the use of destabilization methods to overthrow foreign governments that resist domination by US corporate and financial interests. The magazine’s only disagreement with US foreign policy is its reliance on military intervention. This disagreement is motivated in part by a public relations concern. If the US government “would restrict its interventions to aiding nonviolent opponents of tyrants,” the magazine contends, “the world would admire it.” [23] That a peace magazine wants the world to admire the leading champion of capitalist imperialism leaves little doubt as to its orientation, whose side it’s on, and what role it seeks to play in the struggle for economic, social and political justice.

1. Ackerman, Peter, “Paths to peace: How Serbian students brought dictator down without a shot fired,” National Catholic Reporter, April 26, 2002.
2. Ackerman, Peter and Jack DuVall, “The nonviolent script for Iran,” Christian Science Monitor, July 22, 2003.
3. Ackerman, Peter and Jack DuVall, “With weapons of the will: How to topple Saddam Hussein – nonviolently,” Sojourners Magazine, September-October 2002 (Vol 31, No. 5, pp.20-23.)
4. Ackerman and DuVall, 2003.
5. Spencer, Metta, “Gene Sharp 101.” Peace Magazine, July-September 2003. “Personally, I think Chavez is steering the wrong course on economic matters,” writes Spenser. “They won’t get out of the hole until they have different policies.”
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Spencer, Metta, “Democracy matters: A conversation with Seymour Martin Lipset,” Peace Magazine, July-September, 2000.
9. Spencer, Metta, “Introduction: Nonviolence versus a dictatorship,” Peace Magazine, October-December, 2001.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Bacher, John, “On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Thinking About the Fundamentals,” Peace Magazine, October-December 2004.
13. From the Editor, Peace Magazine, April-June, 2003.
14. Ackerman, Peter and Jack DuVall, “With weapons of the will: How to topple Saddam Hussein – nonviolently,” Sojourners Magazine, September-October 2002 (Vol 31, No. 5, pp.20-23.
15. Metta Spencer, “Ushering Democracy into Iraq – Nonviolently,” Peace Magazine, January-March 2003.
16. Pal, Amitabh, “Gene Sharp Interview,” The Progressive, March 2007.
17. From the editor, 2003.
18. Ibid.
19. Lee McKenna, “The nonviolent way in Sudan,” Peace Magazine, January-March, 2009.
20. Spencer, July-September 2003.
21. From the editor, 2003.
22. Spencer, Metta, January-March, 2003.
23. From the editor, 2003.

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(GOWANS) Overthrow Inc.: Peter Ackerman’s quest to do what the CIA used to do, and make it seem progressive

Overthrow Inc.: Peter Ackerman’s quest to do what the CIA used to do, and make it seem progressive
by gowans on August 6, 2009

“When some of State’s desk officers don’t want to create international incidents by advising activists on how to overthrow governments, they gently suggest visiting Ackerman, who has fewer qualms about lending a helping hand.” [1a]

Interviewer: (Some people say) a government cannot fund or sponsor the overthrow of another government!

Gene Sharp (Ackerman’s docent): Why not?…What do they prefer that the U.S. spend money on? [1b]

Peter Ackerman, an immensely wealthy investor and board member of the premier U.S. foreign policy think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, [2] and Robert Helvey, a 30 year veteran of the U.S. Army [3] who served two tours of duty in Vietnam [4], are the principal proponents of a nonviolent alternative to military intervention in the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy goals.

Students of Gene Sharp, who developed a theory of how to destabilize governments through nonviolent means, Ackerman and Helvey have been at the head of a kind of Imperialist International, training “a modern type of mercenary,” who travel “the world, often in the pay of the U.S. government or NGOs, in order to train local groups” [5] in regime change.

Ackerman and Helvey’s new type of mercenary are practioners of what the CIA used to call destabilization. To escape the taint of its CIA past, destabilization has been rebranded. It’s now called nonviolent resistance (NVR), shrewdly drawing upon the reputation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent struggles for black civil rights in the 1960s. But where King sought to bring about change within the system, and in the United States, NVR is strictly a foreign affair, seeking to overturn governments abroad that operate outside the system of U.S. imperial domination.

NVR is not about pursuing social, economic and political justice at home. It’s about taking power overseas, in order to bring resistant countries into the U.S. imperial fold. To make itself appear to be squeaky clean, NVR explicitly rejects overt CIA and U.S. military sponsorship. As Helvey explains, “The easiest way to destroy a movement is for the CIA to taint it.” [6] That, however, doesn’t make NVR any different in its aims and content from the destabilization campaigns the CIA used to plan, sponsor and implement. Indeed, Ackerman and Helvey have simply taken over a CIA function, made it semi-overt, and created the illusion that it’s progressive.

What is it?

Ackerman defines NVR as “the shrewd use of strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience” [7] in addition to mass protests [8] and even nonviolent sabotage, to disrupt the functioning of government [9] and make “a country ungovernable.”[10] Since strikes, boycotts and civil disobedience are traditional leftist techniques, NVR campaigns often garner the support of a large number of left-leaning people. But NVR isn’t holding a demonstration, listening to speakers, and then heading home for supper. Neither is it doing what most Western leftists set as the limit of their political activism: pressuring elites. And it certainly isn’t pacifism based on moral or religious principle. Former Harvard researcher Sharp, Ackerman and Helvey’s docent, explains that NVR and principled nonviolence are not the same. Principled nonviolence is “abstention from violence based on ethical or religious beliefs.” NVR is a political technique for overthrowing foreign governments. [11] “It’s not about making a point, it’s about taking power,” explain Ackerman and a college buddy, Jack DuVall. [12]

Since the aim of NVR is to take political power abroad, NVR can be characterized as a form of Western warfare, employing nonviolent armies behind enemy lines. In fact, it was Sharp’s analysis of how regime change could be accomplished effectively that drew Helvey, the U.S. Army veteran, to Sharp. (Sharp is known among NVR promoters as the Clausewitz of nonviolence, after the Prussian military strategist, Carl von Clausewitz. [13])

Helvey had been the military attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, where he witnessed armed opposition groups repeatedly fail in their attempts to overthrow the government. [14] The trouble was that they were going up against a regular army that could exercise overwhelming force. Sharp’s analysis suggested an alternative. Drawing on social science literature on power, Sharp pointed out that governments have two sources of power: their ability to exact obedience coercively through their control of armies, police, courts and prisons, and their moral authority. Since a government can use overwhelming force to defeat most armed challenges, the key to taking power is to undermine the reason most people obey: because they believe their government is legitimate and has a right to rule. In other words, most people obey, not because they’re compelled to, but because they want to. In Sharp’s view, if the government’s legitimacy is undermined, people will no longer want to obey. That’s when they can be mobilized to participate in strikes, boycotts, acts of civil disobedience, even sabotage – anything to the make the country ungovernable. As Helvey puts it: “Removing the authority of the ruler is the most important element in nonviolent struggle.” [15]

NVR holds that destabilization works best when the target government is not “supported by an entrenched party system that can claim a higher ideological purpose.” [16] This may explain why destabilizers have attacked the ideological basis of Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF leadership, suggesting that the party’s leader and Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, maintains a “hold on power (that) is…reliant on personal loyalties and their reinforcement by material rewards and mortal penalties,” not commitment to national independence. [17]

In regime change discourse, Mugabe is said to have cronies, who he rewards with confiscated farms, to hold on to power. That Mugabe and his principals could be genuinely committed to investing Zimbabwe’s nominal post-colonial independence with real content, is dismissed as out of the question. The same cynical arguments are used to challenge the moral authority of Cuba’s government.

The Castros are accused of being motivated by an unquenchable thirst for power, not an ideological commitment to socialism and national independence. For destabilizers, breeding a cynical view of the leaders of countries in their cross-hairs is a necessary part of undermining their targets’ legitimacy.

To buttress their efforts to undermine the moral authority of target governments, the destabilizers depend critically on the frequent use of the words “dictatorial” (to denote the governments they seek to bring down) and “democratic” (to denote the target government’s opponents.)

It doesn’t matter whether the target governments are truly dictatorial or whether their opponents are truly democratic. What matters is that these things are believed. Getting people to believe target governments are dictatorial is done by repeating the charge incessantly, until the idea takes on the status of common knowledge, so widely accepted that proof is unnecessary.

But what if the “dictator” has been elected, as is often the case in destabilization efforts? The destabilizers’ solution is to claim the elected leader came to power illegitimately, by means of electoral fraud. Hence, he is a dictator, and his rule has no moral authority.

Here, again, repetition and consensus are important. For example, while widely denounced in the West as fraudulent, the recent re-election of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears not to have been fraudulent at all. No compelling evidence of vote rigging was ever presented, and the only rigorous public opinion poll done in the weeks leading up to the election — sponsored by the Ahmadinejad-hating International Republican Institute — predicted the Iranian president would be re-elected by a handsome margin. Indeed, the poll foresaw Ahmadinejad winning by a greater margin that he actually did win. [18] Still, Western media and their governments’ propaganda apparatuses — Voice of America, Radio Free Liberty and the misnamed “independent” media that serve as fronts for the Western governments that finance them – repeated the opposition charge of electoral fraud over and over. Soon, the mass media and state propaganda apparatuses were singing out as one: the election was rigged.

In Zimbabwe, which for a number of years has been a target of the destabilizers, elections are routinely denounced as fraudulent, even before they’re held. This was true too of Zimbabwe’s last elections, which saw the opposition parties win more seats than the governing party, and the main opposition leader beat the sitting president in the first round of the presidential vote. While this is powerful evidence the elections weren’t rigged, the destabilizers continue to insist the presidential vote was illegitimate. This is so because the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, dropped out at the 11th hour. Tsvangirai’s decision appears to have come straight from the destabilizers’ playbook. Had he stayed in the race, he might have lost, and relinquished any possibility of challenging Mugabe’s rule as illegitimate. (He couldn’t credibly say the vote was rigged because he had won the first round.) By dropping out, and blaming his decision on violence perpetrated by Mugabe’s supporters, Tsvangirai could challenge Mugabe’s moral authority to rule. After all, he could say that in the only contested election, he had won.

Likewise, an important part of the destabilizers’ efforts to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic was to declare well before the first vote was cast in the 2000 presidential election that the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Milosevic would win, illegitimately. In fact, Milosevic came second to the main opposition leader, who failed to win more than 50 percent of the vote. With no candidate commanding a clear majority, a run-off election was scheduled. The runoff never happened. Instead, Milosevic was overthrown with the help of forces trained by Helvey [19]…in the name of democracy.

To complement the branding of target governments as dictatorial, opposition forces are branded as democratic. It is no accident that the main opposition party in Serbia, formed under the guidance of U.S. advisers [20], was called the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, or that the main opposition party in Zimbabwe is called the Movement for Democratic Change, or that the main opposition party in Myanmar, Helvey’s pet project, is called the National League of Democracy. Western media reinforce this branding by frequently referring to opposition parties in countries undergoing destabilization as “the democratic opposition,” implying the governments they oppose are dictatorial. This invests the opposition, and its struggle to replace the government, with apparent legitimacy, while undermining the legitimacy of the government under attack. Likewise, the modern nonviolent mercenaries who travel the globe in the pay of the U.S. government and NGOs, are celebrated as “pro-democracy” activists, as are the armies of (typically) youth activists they train. Even some left scholars, out of ignorance or collaboration, refer to these groups as an “independent” democratic left, presumably because they use techniques traditionally associated with the left, though hardly with the same aims.

After absorbing Sharp’s teachings, Helvey became deeply involved in helping the National Council Union of Burma try to destabilize the Myanmar government, not by challenging it militarily, but by undermining its moral authority to govern. He took a detour along the way, to train Serb youth groups on how to destabilize the government of Slobodan Milosevic [21], an event Ackerman would celebrate in a documentary titled (with predictable NVR language distortion) “Bringing Down a Dictator.” With the socialist-leaning Milosevic safely out of the way, and Serbia opening its door to takeover by U.S. investors, Helvey jumped back into organizing the destabilization of Myanmar.

Over a number of years, Helvey’s mercenaries,

“trained an estimated 3,000 fellow Burmese from all walks of life – including several hundred Buddhist monks – in philosophies and strategies of non-violent resistance and community organizing. These workshops, held in border areas and drawing people from all over Burma, were seen as ‘training the trainers’ who would go home and share these ideas with others yearning for change.” [22]

“That preparation – along with material support such as mobile phones – helped lay the groundwork for dissident Buddhist monks in September (2007) to call for a religious boycott of the junta, precipitating the biggest anti-government protests in two decades. For 10 dramatic days, monks and lay citizens…poured into the streets in numbers that peaked at around 100,000 before the regime crushed the demonstrations…” [23]

The U.S. Navy would dearly love to lay its hands on Myanmar. The country lies strategically along the Strait of Malacca, a major shipping-lane linking China to the oil of Western Asia and Africa. Control of Myanmar would allow the U.S. Navy to choke off one of China’s major oil supply routes, bringing the behemoth to its knees, if ever Washington felt the need. The Myanmar government, however, has aligned itself with China, and is not ready to allow the Pentagon to use its ports as naval bases. What’s more, the country has a largely state-owned economy, closed to U.S. corporations, banks and investors. Washington would like to bring Myanmar under its control, and Helvey and Ackerman’s destabilization techniques offer the best chance of doing so.

“Burmese opposition activists acknowledge receiving technical and financial help for their cause.” The help came “from the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy, George Soros’s Open Society Institute and several European countries. […] International donors and activists figure Burmese opposition groups received $8m-$10m in 2006 and again in 2007 from American and European funders… […]

In 2006 and 2007, the (U.S.) congressionally funded NED…spent around $3.7M a year on its Burmese program…These funds were used to support opposition media, including the Democratic Voice of Burma, a radio station and satellite television channel to bolster dissidents’ information technology skills and to help exiles’ training of Buddhist monks and other dissident techniques of peaceful political resistance.” [24]

From 1992 to 1998, Helvey taught eight, six-week courses to more than 500 members of the National Council Union of Burma, on how to apply Sharp’s techniques to overthrow the Myanmar government [25]. More recently “some 600 Burmese have gone through both introductory and advanced courses” in destabilization taught by the Albert Einstein Institution [26]. Sharp is the organization’s scholar in residence.

Antiviolence, not antiwar

Antiwar activists will find no ideological soul mates in Ackerman, Helvey and Sharp, who are conditionally against the use of violence, not out of moral principle, but because they believe violence is often an ineffective method of achieving what political violence is normally intended to achieve: the seizure of power. As New Republic writer Franklin Foer points out, “Ackerman’s affection for nonviolence has nothing to do with the tactic’s moral superiority. Movements that make a strategic decision to eschew violence, he argues, have a far better record of” success. [27]

The destabilizers represent a faction within the U.S. ruling class that pushes for a nonmilitary means of achieving a goal all ruling class factions agree on: regime change in countries that resist integration into the U.S. imperial orbit. Ackerman, for example, argues that “It is not true that the only way to ‘take out’ (axis of evil regimes) is through U.S. military action.” [28] He opposes the faction led by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, which favors a robustly militaristic imperialism, based on the overwhelming use of force. In the lead-up to the 2003 U.S. and British invasion of Iraq, Ackerman and DuVall wrote an article in Sojourner’s Magazine arguing that “anyone who opposes U.S. military action to dethrone (Saddam Hussein) has a responsibility to suggest how he might otherwise be ushered out the backdoor of Baghdad.” (Notice Ackerman and DuVall implicitly removed the option of leaving Saddam Hussein’s fate to Iraqis, to decide for themselves, without outside interference.) The answer, they contended, was to “use a panoply of forceful sanctions – strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, disrupting the functions of government, even nonviolent sabotage…” [29]

Ackerman’s mentor, Sharp, expresses similar views. Asked what he thought of mass demonstrations in the United States against the war on Iraq, Sharp replied,

“I don’t think you can get rid of violence by protesting against it. I think you get rid of violence only if people see that you have a different way of acting, a different way of struggle. […] Part of my analysis is that if you don’t like violence, you have to develop a substitute. Then people have a choice. If they don’t see a choice, then violence is all that they really have. […] The thing that is most shocking is that the Bush Administration acted on the basis of the belief – dogma, ‘religion’ – in the omnipotence of violence. […] The assumption is an invading country can come in, remove its official leader, arrest some of the other people, and well, then, the dictatorship is gone.” [30]

In other words, Sharp’s contribution to the peace movement is showing the U.S. ruling class it can achieve its imperialist goals by nonmilitary means. Sharp and his disciples Ackerman and Helvey aren’t progressives at all. Nor are they advocates of the moral superiority of nonviolence. They’re imperialists who believe violence isn’t always the best policy in achieving imperial goals. The antiwar activists who have been misled by this trio, and by their publicist within the progressive community, Stephen Zunes, should be clear that NVR is a military technique yoked to political goals that serve the ruling class interests of the United States. It is not a moral position. It is a form of warfare with imperial political content. Helvey calls it “nonviolent war.” [31]

“It’s a form of warfare. And you’ve got to think of it in terms of a war. […} What is it that I want to accomplish? And how do I want to accomplish it? […] One option, of course, is an armed struggle. Another option is…a nonviolent struggle. And in some cases the ballot box is the way to bring about change. […] You’ve got to make a decision which is a strategic decision. And if you decide to accept nonviolent struggle, the same principles of war (apply.)” [32]

War can be waged in many ways: economically, through sanctions, blockade and financial isolation; militarily, through the use or threat of violence; electronically, through cyber attacks to freeze an enemy’s bank accounts and cripple its government and communication systems; and through other methods of destabilization, to make an enemy society ungovernable. It’s wrong to believe that war is limited to violence and that violence is always the most injurious form of warfare. Other forms can be just as devastating. For example, sanctions on Iraq during the 1990s were estimated to have led to the deaths through malnutrition and disease of well over one million people, an outcome Madeleine Albright, who sits on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations with Ackerman, said was worth it. [33] Political scientists John and Karl Mueller pointed out that more people have died from sanctions (an element of NVR, as we’ll see in a moment) than from weapons of mass destruction. [34] For these reasons, antiwar activists should ask: What am I against: Violence, or warfare, both violent and nonviolent, to achieve imperialist goals?

Outside assistance

In his earlier writings Ackerman was open about Western support for destabilization campaigns. But in more recent articles he has become circumspect, calling destabilization movements home-grown and arguing that “external aid can help, but it’s neither necessary nor sufficient.” [35] He was not so modest about the role played by the West when he boasted in a 2002 National Catholic Reporter article about Serb students bringing Milosevic down without a shot being fired. In that article he wrote about how “massive civilian opposition can be roused with the shrewd use of strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience and other forms of nonviolent resistance – all of which can be quietly assisted, even funded from abroad, as happened in Serbia.” [36] The reference to outside assistance being delivered quietly shows he’s aware that were it widely known that so called “people power” movements are aided from abroad, their moral authority (and alleged home-grown character) would be called into question. That explains why “An iron rule for (the Milosevic opposition) was never to talk about Western financial or logistical support,” [37] and why, with the massive involvement of Western governments in “people power” movements having since become a matter of public record, Ackerman denies that outside aid is necessary. But only the incorrigibly gullible would believe Western governments and corporate foundations spend countless millions funding destabilization movements unnecessarily.

U.S. involvement in the hardly spontaneously erupting drive to dump Milosevic was massive. As the Washington Post’s Michael Dobbs reported,

“U.S.-funded consultants played a crucial role behind the scenes in virtually every facet of the anti-Milosevic drive, running tracking polls, training thousands of opposition activists and helping to organize a vitally important parallel vote count. U.S. taxpayers paid for 5,000 cans of spray paint used by student activists to scrawl anti-Milosevic graffiti on walls across Serbia, and 2.5 million stickers with the slogan “He’s Finished,” which became the revolution’s catchphrase.” [38]

Helvey was at the center. [39] “Behind the seeming spontaneity of the street uprising that forced Milosevic” from power “was a carefully researched strategy put together by (anti-Milosevic forces on the ground) with the active assistance of Western advisers and pollsters.” [40] The U.S. government “employed every element of Sharp’s nonviolent strategy for destroying” a foreign government. To assist, “sanctions were applied in a … targeted fashion. For example, they were not applied to municipalities that voted to support opposition politicians.” [41]

Washington spent $41 million to oust Milosevic, $10 million in 1999 and $31 million in 2000. “The lead role was taken by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development…which channeled the funds through commercial contractors” [42] and the National Endowment for Democracy, established by the Reagan administration to overtly fund destabilization campaigns the CIA once funded covertly.

Helvey, the military strategist, might disagree with Ackerman about outside assistance being unnecessary. According to Helvey, in order to carry out a successful destabilization campaign,

“You need radios and the ability to produce and distribute information. You need to be able to train. You need to provide the activists with some income to take care of their families. When people get arrested, you need to take food to them in prison or the hospital.” [43]

Real grassroots activists — that is, those who aren’t dependent on lucre from philanthropic foundations — are unlikely to have the cash to pay for the inputs a campaign of nonviolent warfare requires. That’s where Western governments and corporate foundations come in. They’re often happy to furnish the needed material support, because the power-seizing aim of NVR has happy consequences for the bottom lines of their transnational business and investor patrons. If real grassroots activists think they’re going to secure foundation or government funding for genuinely democratic and socialist projects, they’re mistaken. Western governments and corporate foundations limit funding to activists who, whether they know it or not, act to advance corporate and imperialist goals.

Even Ackerman disagrees that outside help is unnecessary. In a Christian Science Monitor article written with Jack DuVall in 2002, Ackerman complained that Iranians didn’t have the “know-how” to take power from the government in Tehran and that the know-how should be delivered by Western “pro-democracy programs.” (He cautioned that aid should “not come from the CIA or Defense Department,” to keep the movement seemingly free from taint.)[44] He echoed this view in a New York Time’s article written with Ramin Ahmadi, pointing to the lack of “a clear strategic vision and steady leadership” among the anti-Ahmadinejad opposition. [45] At the same time, he advised readers to watch the streets of Tehran, seemingly confident the know-how and clear strategic vision and steady leadership would be delivered. And he called on,

“Nongovernmental organizations around the world (to) expand their efforts to assist Iranian civil society, women’s groups, unions and journalists. And the global news media should finally begin to cover the steady stream of strikes, protests and other acts of opposition…” [46]

This was a curious appeal from someone who believes outside aid is unnecessary.

The New Republic’s Franklin Foer wrote that “Ultimately, (Ackerman) envisions events (in Iran) unfolding as they did in Serbia, with a small, well-trained, nonviolent vanguard introducing the idea of resistance to the masses.” [47] Ackerman, of course, could be sure the vanguard would be helped by a substantial injection of money from outside, as happened in Serbia — aid Ackerman claims is unnecessary.

Whether necessary or not, Washington has delivered. Last June, The Washington Post reported that,

“The Bush administration told Congress last year of a secret plan to dramatically expand covert operations inside Iran as part of a long-running effort to destabilize the country’s ruling regime…The plan allowed up to $400 million in covert spending for activities ranging from spying on Iran’s nuclear program to supporting rebel groups opposed to the country’s ruling clerics…” [48]

Ackerman, Helvey and Sharp are part of the $400 million campaign. According to Sharp,

“Our work is available in Iran and has been since 2004. People from different political positions are saying that’s the way we need to go. […] If somebody doesn’t decide to use military means, then it is very likely there will be a peaceful national struggle there.” [49]

For his part, Ackerman has several ideas for ousting Ahmadinejad. His films on destabilizing governments have been translated into Farsi, and are broadcast repeatedly over the Los Angeles-based Iranian satellite networks. He has worked with Helvey to train Iranian Americans, many of them followers of Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed shah. And the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), which Ackerman founded, and which progressive Stephen Zunes is a part of, has made contacts with the referendum movement within Iran, which campaigns for a binding vote on the clerical state. [50]

“Events in Iran are reminiscent of Serbia just before a student-sparked movement removed Slobodan Milosevic,” write Ackerman and DuVall. “His regime had alienated not only students but most of the middle class, which the dismal economy had shattered.” [51]

Ah, the economy. What Ackerman and DuVall ignore is that Western sanctions were instrumental in crippling the Yugoslav economy, and therefore in alienating students and the middle class. Disorganizing an economy through sanctions is an important part of nonviolent strategic regime change, a point John Bacher made in a Peace Magazine article on Robert Helvey. Bacher describes the targeted sanctions employed by the U.S. government against municipalities that voted to support Milosevic as being one of the elements of Sharp’s nonviolent strategy. [52] Significantly, Washington applies multiple sanctions against and financially isolates countries that are the targets of NVR destabilization efforts: Zimbabwe, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar and Cuba. Economic warfare, while nonviolent, wreaks terrible devastation. But it provides immeasurable help to the destabilizers.

Contrary to the obvious public relations fiction that “people power” is home-grown, NVR depends critically on multiple Western inputs: training and strategic guidance; support from mass media and funding for misnamed “independent” media; economic warfare; and money.

An Imperialist International

In a Dissent Magazine article, Mark R. Beissinger remarks on how overthrowing governments

“has now become an international business. In addition to the millions of dollars of aid involved, numerous consulting operations have arisen, many of them led by former revolutionaries themselves. Since the Serbian revolution, for instance, Otpor (youth) activists (trained by Helvey) have become, as one Serbian analyst put it, ‘a modern type of mercenary,’ traveling the world, often in the pay of the U.S. government or NGOs, in order to train local groups in how to organize a democratic revolution. A number of leaders of the Ukrainian youth movement Pora were trained in Serbia at the Center for Nonviolent Resistance, a consulting organization set up by Otpor activists to instruct youth leaders from around the world in how to organize a movement, motivate voters, and develop mass actions. […] After the Rose and Orange Revolutions, Georgian and Ukrainian youth movements began to challenge Otpor’s consulting monopoly. Pora activists even joked about creating a new Comintern for democratic revolution.” [53]

Foer borrows Leninist terminology to describe destabilization activists as a vanguard. [54] Lenin, however, was never interested in promoting imperialism; this vanguard is. Consider Nini Gogiberidze. Every few months she is deployed abroad to teach activists how to destabilize their governments. She has traveled to Eastern Europe to train Belarusians and Turkey to instruct Iranians. She is employed by the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, or Canvas, one of the many organizations in the destabilizers’ network. “The group is funded in part by the International Republican Institute,” the international arm of the GOP “and Washington-based Freedom House, which receives most of its funding from the U.S. government.” [55] Freedom House is a CIA-interlocked [56] organization of which Ackerman was not too long ago chairman of the board.

But building an imperialist international is not solely the project of Freedom House. The ICNC, the organization Ackerman founded, is also heavily involved. Ackerman regularly holds conferences hosting new recruits into the destabilization vanguard from around the world. One recent summer “he brought activists from more than a dozen countries to a retreat in the Montreal suburbs for a week of solidarity and study.” ‘We can’t say where they are from,” Ackerman said. “’But think of the 20 biggest assholes in the world, and you can guess.’” [57]

I’m thinking of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Benjamin Netanyahu, but Ackerman isn’t training a vanguard to destabilize the United States, Britain and Israel. He benefits too much from their dominant positions. And yet these are the world’s principal purveyors of massive violence. You would think that proponents of nonviolence would surely set their sights on undermining violence’s biggest champions, or do it in a different way than showing them destabilization can work as well, if not better, than full-scale invasion and bombing campaigns. Instead, Ackerman’s 20 biggest assholes seem to be the leaders of Iran, Cuba, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Gaza, and Venezuela, judging by where Ackerman, Helvey and Sharp have been active: countries that are charting their own course, outside the U.S. imperial orbit. The State Department has distributed Ackerman-produced destabilization videos to anti-Castro dissidents in Cuba. “When some of State’s desk officers don’t want to create international incidents by advising activists on how to overthrow governments, they gently suggest visiting Ackerman, who has fewer qualms about lending a helping hand.” [58] Ackerman has sent a trainer to Palestine “to spend twelve days creating a nonviolent vanguard to challenge Hamas.” [59] The list goes on.

Who is Peter Ackerman?

Ackerman is the managing director of Rockport Capital Incorporated, a private investment firm. He was chairman of the board of Freedom House and sits on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, along with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and various other war criminals, CEOs, investment bankers, and highly placed media people.

As part of his Council on Foreign Relations role, Ackerman not too long ago participated in a task force headed by former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA Director and current U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The goal: to craft a new approach to Iran. [60] He is also a member of the U.S. Advisory Council of the United States Institute for Peace, a phoney U.S. government peace outfit headed by the U.S. secretaries of defense and state. And when he’s not hobnobbing with the U.S. foreign policy establishment and managing his investment firm, he’s building an Imperialist International through the offices of the ICNC, of which he is the founding chair.

Ackerman made his fortune working alongside junk-bond king Michael Milken. His “Prada parka and winter tan remind you that you’re not in tattered NGO-land anymore. You’re in the presence of wealth.” [61]

After graduating from Colgate, he joined the graduate program at Tufts University Fletcher School, where he met Gene Sharp. “Ackerman spent eight on-and-off years at Tuft’s refining Sharp’s thesis.” [62]

After obtaining a PhD in 1976, he joined investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert, where, according to James B. Stewart’s Den of Thieves, he had his head so far up his boss’s ass, he was known as “the Sniff”. [63]

Recruited by Milken to work as one of Drexel’s traders, Ackerman soon became the junk bond king’s highest-paid subordinate. In 1988, he made $165 million, after putting together the $26 billion KKR leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. One year later, his net worth having soared to about $500 million, he quit finance and turned to whittling down his 1,100 page PhD dissertation into a book, Strategic Nonviolent Conflict. [64]

It should come as no surprise that a man who reeks of wealth, heads a private investment firm, and sits on the board of the premier U.S. establishment think-tank, defines a central element of democracy as protecting “property rights.” [65] Indeed, the promotion of this central tenet of capitalist ideology is the reason Freedom House, the organization he formerly headed, exists. “You can’t,” Ackerman insists, “have government constantly expropriating the fruits of the labor of its citizens.” [66] Which citizens? Since property rights, in the words of Ackerman and other owners of productive property, are the rights of ownership to what other people have produced, Ackerman equates democracy with capitalism. What he really wants to protect is the right of investors (himself included) to expropriate the fruits of other peoples’ labor. That might explain why he thinks the United States, the world’s premier champion of capitalist exploitation, “has an awful lot to teach people around the world.” [67]


The destabilizers are clever marketers. They choose their words carefully. They draw on the reputation of nonviolent resistance, popularized in the United States by the civil rights struggle led by Martin Luther King Jr. And they repeat the words “democracy” and “dictator” endlessly. It’s all part of a clever marketing campaign, one that has deceived more than a few leftists in the Western countries whose financial and corporate elite profit from NVR. But then, you have to be clever to take on the former CIA function of destabilizing foreign governments, make it seem progressive, and get away with it.

Let’s be clear on what NVR is, what its goals are, and who’s behind it. It’s not nonviolence as a moral or ethical position; it’s a form of warfare, aimed at taking political power in other people’s countries. And while it’s based on nonviolence, it has, in its reliance on sanctions and financial isolation as an integral part of alienating people from target governments, devastating consequences, as real as those violence produces. It’s not used by grassroots organizations in the West to force their own governments to change reactionary policies, or to take political power at home. Instead, it is invariably aimed at foreign governments that have resisted integration into the U.S. imperial orbit. The major proponents of NVR are not independent grassroots organizers, socialists or anarchists. They are, instead, members of the U.S. financial and foreign policy establishment, or are linked to them in subordinate roles through organizational and funding ties. NVR is hardly progressive; it is an imperialist project whose only redeeming feature is the possibility that it may stimulate Western leftists to think about how they too might use the destabilizers’ techniques to take power in their own country to win the authentic battle for democracy.

1a. Foer, Franklin, “Regime Change Inc. Peter Ackerman’s quest to topple tyranny,” The New Republic, April 16, 2005.
1.b Meta Spencer, “Gene Sharp 101,” Peace Magazine, July-Spetmeber, 2003.
2. Ibid.
3. Spencer, Metta, “Training pro-democracy movements: A conversation with Colonel Robert Helvey,” Peace Magazine, January-March, 2008.
4. Dobbs, Michael, “US advice guided Milosevic opposition,” The Washington Post, December 11, 2000.
5. Beissinger, Mark R., “Promoting democracy: Is exporting revolution a constructive strategy?” Dissent, Winter 2006.
6. Bacher, John, “Robert Helvey’s expert political defiance,” Peace Magazine, April-June, 2003.
7. Ackerman, Peter, “Paths to peace: How Serbian students brought dictator down without a shot fired,” National Catholic Reporter, April 26, 2002.
8. Ackerman, Peter and Jack DuVall, “The nonviolent script for Iran,” Christian Science Monitor, July 22, 2003.
9. Ackerman, Peter and Jack DuVall, “With weapons of the will: How to topple Saddam Hussein – nonviolently,” Sojourners Magazine, September-October 2002 (Vol 31, No. 5, pp.20-23.)
10. Ackerman and DuVall, 2003.
11. Schaeffer-Duffy, Claire, “Regime change without bloodshed,” National Catholic Reporter, November 15, 2002.
12. Ackerman and DuVall, 2002.
13. Peace.Ca, “Gene Sharp: A Biographical Profile.” .
14. Bacher, 2003.
15. Dobbs, 2000.
16. Ackerman and DuVall, 2002.
17. Ibid.
18. Ballen, Ken and Patrick Doherty, “Ahmadinejad is who Iranians want,” The Guardian (UK), June 15, 2009.
19. Bacher, 2003.
20. Dobbs, 2000.
21. Bacher, 2003.
22. Kazmin, Amy, “Defiance undeterred: Burmese activists seek ways to oust the junta,” Financial Times, December 6, 2007.
23. Ibid.
24. Ibid.
25. Bacher, 2003.
26. Shanahan, Noreen, “The NI Interview: Gene Sharp,” New Internationalist, Issue 296. November, 1997.
27. Foer, 2005.
28. Ackerman, 2002.
29. Ackerman and DuVall, 2002.
30. Pal, Amitabh, “Gene Sharp Interview,” The Progressive, March 2007.
31. Spencer, 2008.
32. CANVAS, “Is nonviolent action a form of warfare?” Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, 2004.
33. 60 Minutes, May 12, 1996.
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

34. Mueller, John, and Karl Mueller. 1999. Sanctions of mass destruction. Foreign Affairs vol.78, no.3:43-53.
35. Ackerman, Peter and Jack DuVall, “Homegrown revolution,” International Herald Tribune, December 29, 2004.
36. Ackerman, 2002.
37. Dobbs, 2000.
38. Ibid.
39. Dobbs, 2000; Bacher, 2003; Spencer, 2008;
40. Dobbs, 2000.
41. Bacher, 2003.
42. Dobbs, 2000.
43. Spencer, 2008.
44. Ackerman and DuVall, 2003.
45. Ackerman, Peter and Ramin Ahmadi, “Iran’s future? Watch the streets,” The New York Times, January 4, 2006.
46. Ibid.
47. Foer, 2005.
48. The Washington Post, June 30, 2008.
49. Pal, 2007.
50. Foer, 2005.
51. Ackerman and DuVall, 2003.
52. Bacher, 2003. Bacher is an example of how parts of the peace movement promote US imperialism. In an October-December 2004 Peace Magazine review of Robert Helvey’s On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Thinking About the Fundamentals, Bacher writes, “Rather than attempting to build costly and likely leaky shields for missiles from Iran and North Korea, why not seek nonviolently to change these regimes into democracies?”
53. Beissinger, 2006.
54. Foer, 2005.
55. Daragahi, Borzou, “A Georgian soldier of the Velvet Revolution,” The Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2008.
56. Herman, Edward S. and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Pantheon Books, New York, 1988. p. 28.
57. Foer, 2005.
58. Ibid.
59. Ibid.
60. Brzezinski, Zbigniew and Robert M. Gates, “Iran: Time for a New Approach: Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, July 19, 2004. .
61. Foer, 2005.
62. Ibid.
63. Ibid.
64. Ibid.
65. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, “Interview with Peter Ackerman, founding chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict,” October 19, 2006. .
66. Ibid.
67. Ibid.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

(NYASATIMES) What Mozambique papers say on Malawi’s border attack

What Mozambique papers say on Malawi’s border attack
By Nyasa Times
Published: August 13, 2009

The recent incident of violence reported in the district of Ngauma, northern province of Niassa, involving Malawian border-guards inside the Mozambique territory dominates newspaper headlines in the Mozambique. “Bingu went Mad”, the weekly Savana wrote on its first page.

In developing the theme of cover, the second page, the same newspaper wrote: “incident with a bicycle converted into matter of State,” a reference to the fact that Malawian officers raided a police station to demand the return of a bicycle allegedly apprehended by the Mozambican authorities from a Malawian national who had crossed illegally the Mozambican border to buy maize.

The News, the largest daily circulation in Mozambique also highlights the tension between the two states and published their news with the headline: “Mutharika promising explanations.”

The main newspaper of the city of Beira, Diário de Moçambique, no exception to the rule, but the incident gives the space to the second headline, writing that “attack on the border to prevent access of Mutharika to Beira.”

However, Mozambique Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Oldemiro Balloons, reaffirmed Wednesday in Maputo that the relations of friendship and cooperation between Mozambique and Malawi are very good and added that the incident recorded in the common border in Ngauma, province of Niassa, should not be extrapolated.

“We must establish the facts in detail,” said Balloons, indicating that it is well convinced that relations remain good.

President Bingu wa Mutharika who was forced to cancel part of his agenda in Mozambique after learning of the attack. has since promised his Mozambican counterpart Armando Guebuza that he will investigate the matter.

“I expect to send a report to my brother Guebuza after the meeting with the (Malawian national) security council, but I believe there was some sort of a misunderstanding caused by a group of people. That could not be an action of the Malawian government,” Mutharika said.

Four Mozambican police assigned to the Caloca post have been arrested and charged with negligence for failing to stop the raid, reported the state-controlled newspaper Noticias. –Nyasa Times report sourcing from official Mozambican news agency AIM.

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(TALKZIMBABWE) Mugabe: still clenching the fist

Mugabe: still clenching the fist
Frank Tsambe - Opinion
Fri, 14 Aug 2009 13:01:00 +0000

THE premier political icons of my early adulthood were Robert Mugabe, Herbert Chitepo, Dr Parirenyatwa, Dr Joshua Nkomo, Joseph Msika among other luminaries. Locked into a battle against imperialism, for the West and for others they hung over that part of the world like a terrifically bad smell. They were bitterly hated, deep from the heart, and often sincerely wished dead.

President Mugabe is, apparently, still hated and villified, yet the struggle that he fought that time is still the struggle he fights today: against imperialism. His crime: to empower politically and ECONOMICALLY his people. Yet he has never swerved from that struggle or feared political punch ups.

Infact he has given that struggle a new impetus as calls for self-determination and struggles for economic independence have taken a new twist.

He, after the death of Yasser Arafat, is the only icon from that generation that stands tall in the struggle for land.

He has said time and again, the issue is about land, not about internal division. Two times over his Zanu PF party has entered into unity with other parties in the country; first with PF Zapu and now with the MDCs. Yet the debate is still about land and economic empowerment, not about internal division and how its resolved.

At the burial of VP Msika (May his soul rest in peace) President Mugabe took the opportunity to ask why there was no Western government willing to put its money into the inclusive Government, but wanted to remote-control what goes on in that country. It's a good question.

As it happens, the government of Zimbabwe has the best record of any I remember, on the fight for self determination and economic empowerment. Work on a land redistribution and black empowerment strategy proceeds apace, and that's crucial.

If President Mugabe's reference to land and black empowerment in all his speeches is no clarion call, it still heartens Africans used to deafening silence and offers hope to former colonised people who wish to control their own means of production.

The West seems to have realised that if they don't manage Mugabe there's going to be mayhem as people of clour start calling for control of their wealth; not their politics.

So far so good, then. They are doing just that, but failing.

With the prospect of a potentially close-fought election in the offing and a general sense that the public as a whole is sick to the back teeth of ideology-free politics, the West is desperate to destroy Mugabe once and for all. They are not missing this chance for a proper political punch-up?

But there are no young people to carry the torch or to pass the baton to. The future is too ghastly to comprehend. There are no visionaries anymore, at least not in the current crop of politicians.

There is a lot of space for ideology and ideological debate in Zimbabwe and Africa. There is a dearth of visionaries. The politicians we have today are merely warming up with some stretching exercises, moving into some light ideological sparring around how they would ensure the Zimbabwean question is properly dealt with.

They fail to really stir us up by showing some passion about addressing the plight of Zimbabweans and addressing the land question.

If politicians were really feeling brave they might try talking about how they could help tackle the land problem globally.

I passionately think the West secretly admires Mugabe. They realise he will not swerve from the land debate or will not shun political punch-ups. The fist is still clenched.

There's an urgent need among us the youth for the same energy if we are really going to be empowered.

Frank Tsambe is a researcher with Global Policy Research. He is based in Kualar Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Electoral corruption and impunity

Electoral corruption and impunity
Written by Editor

Not all has been as it should be in the conduct of the Chitambo parliamentary by-election. There has been undeniable electoral corruption and intimidation on the part of the governing party, the MMD. And what Transparency International Zambia is saying cannot be dismissed as lies and unfounded allegations against those in government and their political party.

It cannot be denied that the MMD has been using new and unregistered automobiles in the Chitambo by-election campaigns. It can also not be denied that these unregistered automobiles are government motor vehicles. It is also not a lie to say that some of these motor vehicles belong to the stock that was purchased for chiefs. And before being delivered to the chiefs, they were deployed in Chitambo with a full knowledge, and probably at the request, of the highest political authorities.

Transparency International Zambia says their monitors have observed that the MMD was using over 12 motor vehicles without number plates and they believe these motor vehicles belong to the government. They have also complained about the ruling MMD dishing out materials to the electorate in Chitambo in violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct.

But Transparency International’s great worry is that despite all these Electoral Code of Conduct violations being carried out in broad daylight, the Electoral Commission of Zambia has denied having received or observed any report of corruption and other electoral malpractices.

Transparency International has also observed that the law enforcement agencies have failed to punish people who are practicing corruption in Chitambo just because they belong to the ruling MMD, the governing party.

It seems where the MMD is concerned, where those in charge of government are involved, our law enforcement agencies are rendered impotent. They simply watch them break the laws of this country as they please. And the most they do when challenged is to pretend or claim they never saw anything like that.

In short, when challenged, our law enforcement agencies come to the defence of those in government and their political party.

We may rush to blame members of our law enforcement agencies as being dishonest and biased in their work. But it may be necessary for us to look at why they all invariably behave in that way. We should ask ourselves if the system in which they are operating does adequately permit them and protect them to be impartial law enforcement officers.

We should look at how easily they are dismissed from their jobs, transferred to other lesser jobs when they step on the toes of those in government and their political interests.

It appears there is very little our law enforcement agencies can do in matters where the president’s interests are affected. As Col Panji Kaunda correctly observed the other day, we have a system that allows the president to act with impunity, without being questioned, without being subjected to the operations of the law enforcement agencies when he does something wrong.

They can neither raise anything against him nor arrest him for wrongdoing. The process of dealing with a corrupt and criminal president in this country is rigorous and in most cases, impracticable. One has to wait until the end of his term for charges to be brought against him. And this depends also on whether his successor and those around him are willing to have his immunity removed. If they don’t, it’s a matter of God’s case no appeal, as Chinua Achebe once remarked. This being the case, where does it leave our law enforcement agencies which are directly under the president’s command? And moreover, all the key appointments in our security agencies are directly made by him.

But our worry is that if those in government do not respect the laws of the country, who will? Those in government, in the ruling party, cannot call others to virtues which they themselves do not make an effort to practice; they cannot expect those in the opposition to respect the laws of the land which they themselves are not willing to follow. Where does this lead to? It can only lead the nation to one thing: anarchy.

Those in government are expected to be the first ones in respecting and observing the laws of this country. After all, they are the ones who initiate almost all our laws. As such, they are expected to respect the laws and be exemplary in their daily political dealings. Our people are looking for political leadership that is exemplary. If one had to follow our current leaders, where will they end? What is exemplary about this crop of leaders we have in our country today? Instead of setting good standards, they are every day setting bad examples. They are the leaders in electoral malpractices, in corruption, arrogance, dishonesty, deceit, lies and so on and so forth. Impunity is the order of the day when it comes to the dealings of those in power and their political party.

In last year’s presidential election, Rupiah Banda was directly involved in violations of the Electoral Code of Conduct by distributing sugar and mealie-meal to the electorate in Katete. The electoral commission was aware of this but did nothing. Our law enforcement agencies were also aware of Rupiah’s electoral corruption but did nothing. The only statement was a caution from the Attorney General against such practices, which was also not received kindly. There was abuse of government resources by Rupiah. Automobiles from the Ministry of Health were being used in Rupiah’s campaign with impunity. And it is this impunity that is encouraging Rupiah and his party to engage in electoral corruption because they know that at the end of the day, nothing will come out of it, they will win the election and retain their power. For them, it is power at any cost or price. And in pursuit of that power, there are no principles or laws to be followed. What matters to them is only the practicality of what they want to do.

But what does this mean for our multi-party politics and the elections that accompany such a political system? There is a danger of anarchy taking over; of serious divisions emerging in the nation.

We believe we must always be mindful of this one thing, whatever our lust and desperation for power or unbridled desire to win elections. The ultimate strength of our country and our people will lie in the unity of our people that will result from our holding free and fair elections whose results are accepted by both the winners and the losers. We need to put this first, ahead of any divisive partisanship and political or even criminal practices. Whatever our political affiliations and personal interests, we should guard against this type of divisive politics and practices and all its ugly consequences. We should never lose our unity as a nation in suspicion, distrust, selfishness and politics that are based on crooked and corrupt methods and other abuses of power and privilege.

The path we are on is a very dangerous one. And we urge those in government to deeply meditate over this issue and show positive leadership in the conduct of elections. We say this because not doing so will soon prove disastrous for our country. The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. We know there is the besetting temptation of politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future; we know that those in power are not prepared to lose it at any cost. But there is a danger that lurks in such an attitude, such an approach to politics. In a democracy, losing an election should not be a matter of life and death because an election is simply a competition to serve. When we lose an election and consequently power, we shouldn’t take it as the end of everything. Losing power, losing an election is only a beginning, always. And our politicians must know this. We say this because greatness comes not when things always go good for you, but the greatness comes when you are really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes, because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.

Only resolute and urgent action will avert this crisis, a crisis arising out of poorly conducted elections. Whether there will be public will to demand and secure a correction of this, we don’t know. All we know is that to see, and not to speak about these issues, would be the great betrayal.

And we don’t think politics of money is what our people want. The great majority of the Zambian people are poor. And if we create a political system where only those with money count, then the great majority of our people will be excluded. We can all see that money is a decisive factor in our elections today. Those who don’t have resources can’t set themselves any political goals in this country anymore, because they are excluded and eliminated.

Clearly, there is need for a conversion of heart and for the transformation of our social structures in order to build our country. Our politics need people with credibility and not crooked elements who never hesitate to manipulate anything and have no restraint in their abuse of public resources and institutions. If we have criminals in government, it is not reasonable for us to expect fair play and honest dealings in the conduct of elections. What we are seeing today is a clear demonstration that laws mean very little if they are not respected by the people, by their leaders. All these things mean nothing if they do not lie in our hearts; when respect for laws dies in our hearts because of our crookedness, no constitution, no law, no court will save us from the impending Armageddon.

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