Friday, September 28, 2018

Peskov's Curious Comments: Losing His Head, Or Getting Ahead of Putin?


by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

September 28, 2018

Moscow - At 19:50 on Thursday evening Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK), one of the largest circulation newspapers in Russia, published an announcement from Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Kremlin.

“The Russian President’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has said that the Kremlin will check information from the investigation of Bellingcat and The Insider on suspects of the Salisbury poisoning of the Skripals where it is claimed that Ruslan Boshirov, accused by London of involvement, is a member of GRU, Hero of Russia, Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.
In the words of Peskov, in the Kremlin [officials] intend to check the lists of recipients from the President of this title. He added that the official position is still unchanged. And it was announced by the President, and the suspects themselves.”

When Peskov claimed the Kremlin “will [sic] check information from the investigation of Bellingcat”, more than twenty-four hours had already passed since he had first seen the Bellingcat report on Boshirov and Chepiga. That Peskov did not already have the GRU file on Chepiga, the Hero of Russia list, and the relationship between Chepiga and Boshirov is impossible.

The statement has stunned Moscow political sources. Their assessment is that the man who says these things because he believes them to be true, or because he believes Russians and others will believe he is telling the truth, has lost contact with reality.

“I have not seen such unprofessional conduct at any time throughout Putin’s presidency,” commented a veteran Moscow publisher.
“This means they are making things up as they go along.” 
“Peskov’s last line is the most extraordinary of all. He is saying Putin is running this show and he is doing a bad job of it. Peskov put responsibility for the entire Skripal affair on to Putin, and implied he should deal with it himself. Peskov just threw Putin under the bus.”

On Thursday Putin was travelling. He stopped in Baku, Azerbaijan, to attend a world judo championship and to meet Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev. He then flew to Tajikistan where he had dinner with government leaders from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Armenia, and Turkmenistan. On Friday they plan a summit conference together.

The Kremlin photographs indicate that for this trip Putin left Peskov at home. Putin was still eating in Dushanbe when MK posted its report from Peskov.

The last paragraph refers to the President’s impromptu statement on September 12 in Vladivostok. Putin was asked about British identification of the two suspects in the Skripal case, named in London as Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov. For that story, read this. This is how Putin responded.

“Of course they are civilians” – Putin may not have been expecting the question from Sergei Brilyov, a reliable interviewer of high state officials and anchor of Vesti V Subbotu (News on Saturday) broadcast on Rossiya TV Channel. Businessmen engaged in importing vitamin pills, energy drinks and health powders was also what Boshirov and Petrov said they were on the next day, September 13, in a televised interview on RT.

In the two weeks which elapsed since then, Russian media investigations of Boshirov and Petrov have picked apart what the duo claimed for themselves, and also the allegations by the Metropolitan Police in London. There is still no Interpol Red Notice for either man, although the British announced they had applied to Interpol more than three weeks ago.

On Thursday morning the entire London press opened the file on Colonel Chepiga. Here is one of the versions.

There was a single source for the fresh name: “The disclosure, uncovered by investigative journalist organisation Bellingcat,” reported the Daily Mail, “exposes as lies Putin’s claims that the Skripals’ would-be killers were innocent ‘civilians’.”

According to the Mail,

“the Metropolitan Police, who are investigating the poisoning, and the Foreign Office declined to comment on the Bellingcat/Telegraph report. But British defence minister Gavin Williamson appeared to confirm its veracity on Twitter.” The newspaper added the correction: “Gavin Williamson tweeted spy’s identity was ‘confirmed’ then deleted message.”

The Guardian was unable to report what its check of the Bellingcat story with the police or any other British government agency had turned up. “British investigators,” claimed the Guardian, “also believe one of the pair is Chepiga, the Guardian understands.”

The Telegraph declared through its “chief reporter” that Bellingcat was an “investigative journalist organisation”, and that its sourcing for the Chpegia identification had come from Bellingcat “in conjunction with The Telegraph”. Other British media ignored that selfie.

The Telegraph followed later in the day with the claim that in addition to Petrov and Boshirov aka Chepiga, “a third Russian military intelligence officer who carried out a reconnaissance mission before the poisoning of Sergei Skripal has been identified by counter terrorism police and the security services, the Telegraph understands.” As the passive reflexive tense used for sourcing has spread across the London media, no fresh name has been reported, nor a government official to put his or her name to the charge.

Read the Bellingcat report on identification of Boshirov with Chepiga.

There has been no Metropolitan Police statement or tweet of this name allegation nor confirmation from the Office of Public Prosecutions; they are the government organs responsible for investigation of the Salisbury poisonings, and for issuing indictments, arrest warrants, and the papers required for a criminal court proceeding. To date, no evidence and no charges have been presented in a British court. The New York Times reported: “The police in Britain would not comment on the report”.

Prime Minister Theresa May, who spoke twice at the United Nations on Thursday, has also avoided making the Chepiga allegation.

Instead, May repeated what she had already announced at the beginning of this month:

“The United Kingdom,” she told the UN Security Council yesterday, “has presented detailed evidence, clearly laid out in charges of attempted murder and the use and possession of a chemical weapon against two agents of the Russian state. We have taken appropriate action, with our allies, and we will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure our collective security. Russia has only sought to obfuscate through desperate fabrication.”

The state media broadcaster BBC acknowledged its sole source was the “investigative website”, and provided internet readers with a direct link to the Bellingcat story. The BBC added more passive reflexive understanding:

“British officials have not commented, but the BBC understands there is no dispute over the identification.”

Russian sources say that for Peskov to mention Bellingcat was a mistake. “Bellingcat isn’t an individual journalist, nor is it an investigative publication”, according to one of the sources. “It’s an information warfare unit paid by NATO to leak intelligence from MI6, CIA and other agencies in the form of narratives constructed to look authentic, though no state official will claim them to be true. Hasn’t Peskov understood by now this is propaganda war?”

The first British analysis of the photo identification by Craig Murray used facial recognition software to test the Bellingcat photographs; he reported a probability of less than 3% for the identification match. From Moscow press reports Murray concluded:

“Chepiga definitely exists… the identification of ‘Boshirov’ with ‘Colonel Chepiga’ is a nonsense.”

Murray also reported that the accumulating evidence from Russian press investigation is “that Russia is not telling the truth about ‘Boshirov’ and ‘Petrov’. If those were real identities, they would have been substantiated in depth by now.”

Max van der Werff, the independent Dutch investigator of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 case, has spent years in detailed examination of similar Bellingcat allegations based on social media, video clips, photographs and identity matches, in order to accuse named Russian soldiers of shooting down the aircraft in July 2014. For details of van der Werff’s work on that case, start here and here.

Max van der Werff on Philippines television this week discussing the 
evidence of the MH17. Three Filipinos were killed on board the aircraft.

Bellingcat produces “not so many fakeries,” van der Werff commented on the Chepiga claims.

“Bellingcat works more cleverly than that. It extrapolates ‘facts’ based on data which do not support the conclusions at all. In essence, the Bellingcat method goes like this: Bellingcat gathers lots of information from ‘open sources’.
Bellingcat claims it has verified those sources, but we cannot independently verify them. Bcat publishes a narrative based on osint [open-source intelligence] which it claims is trustworthy. If parts of this narrative are debunked, Bcat never admits it produced a false narrative. Instead, the narrative is altered slightly.
The entire corrupt western media copy/paste Bcat stuff. Conspiracy thinkers think they need to prove Bcat’s narrative is false. These thinkers get stuck, however, because they don’t have the underlying data which Bcat uses. This is the mechanism which happens over and over again. I can dissect this trademark method for once and for all — without the illusion it really would make a difference.”

"Dual Purpose" Anthropology and The Nicaragua Project

How an American Anthropologist Tied to US Regime-Change Proxies Became the MSM’s Man in Nicaragua

by Max Blumenthal via MintPress News

September 26, 2018

It might seem cavalier for an academically credentialed anthropologist to assert political influence on the population he is supposed to be studying; however, Goette-Luciak’s activities fit within a long tradition.
MANAGUA, NICARAGUA — (Investigation) The Guardian, The Washington Post, the BBC and NPR have assigned an American anthropologist with no previous journalistic experience to cover the crisis in Nicaragua. The novice reporter, named Carl David Goette-Luciak, has published pieces littered with falsehoods that reinforce the opposition’s narrative promoting regime change while relying almost entirely on anti-Sandinista sources.

An investigation for MintPress reveals that Goette-Luciak has forged intimate ties to the opposition, and has essentially functioned as its publicist under journalistic cover.

Having claimed to work in the past as an anthropologist and “human rights defender,” Goette-Luciak operated side-by-side with activists from a U.S.-backed opposition party known as the Sandinista Renovation Movement, or MRS.

As we will see in this investigation, U.S. government-funded organizations have supplied the MRS with millions of dollars worth of election assistance, and continue to fund its activists by funding their NGO’s and social media training.

Goette-Luciak now lists himself as “director of investigations” for an obscure outlet called Radio Ciudadana that was founded a month before the chaos erupted last April. That outlet’s founder, Azucena “Chena” Castillo, is an outspoken member of the MRS party who has devoted herself to the government’s overthrow. Goette-Luciak’s social-media profile reveals intimate ties to numerous MRS leaders and, in a recently deleted podcast interview, he has described his own work to encourage indigenous opposition to the Sandinista front.

Media outlets like the Guardian, NPR and The Washington Post feign objectivity before their readers, presenting themselves as arbiters of truth in an era of fake news. However, in countries where Washington is pushing regime change, these same outlets have dispatched a corps of writers to embed with U.S.-backed opposition elements, provide them with publicity, and sell their goals back to the American public.

Goette-Luciak is one of clearest embodiments of the disturbing trend.

Western media versus the Sandinistas

Goette-Luciak vaulted suddenly into the world of journalism after student-led protests erupted last April 18 in Nicaragua. President Daniel Ortega had announced a set of tax increases to keep the public pension system solvent, triggering mass protests that quickly transformed into a full-scale attempt at regime change.

Within days, violent elements had taken over university campuses and were setting up roadblocks around the country to paralyze its economy.

While American officials condemned killings and abuses by the Nicaraguan government, scores of Sandinista members and national police officers were murdered by opposition gunmen; hundreds more were kidnapped, tortured and abused; and institutions affiliated with the government were destroyed.

Almost as soon as the Sandinista-led government defeated the coup attempt in July, it became the target of a sustained campaign of attacks in Western media. A raft of articles portrayed Ortega, the former guerrilla leader, as a reincarnation of the bloodthirsty, U.S.-backed dictator he had deposed, Anastasio Somoza. The opposition, meanwhile, was painted as a collection of peaceful protesters gunned down for supposedly demanding democracy.

The death and suffering experienced by average Sandinista members was whitewashed across the board, and the role the U.S. played in laying the groundwork for the coup was dismissed as “fake news.” In Washington, the media campaign propelled a push in Congress for crushing sanctions targeting Nicaragua’s previously productive economy.

Many Western reporters have embarked on short regime-change fishing expeditions guided by opposition activists from one anti-Sandinista source to the next. But Goette-Luciak had been in the country all along, and he stayed after the violence subsided. This provided him with special value to publications like the Guardian, which were apparently hungry for more on-the-ground reporting painting the Sandinistas as uniquely evil and unqualified to govern.

Misinformation in the service of the opposition

On September 7, Goette-Luciak published an article in the Guardian claiming that the country had been brought to a virtual halt by a general strike by the anti-government Civic Alliance umbrella group. His co-author was Caroline Houck, a staff correspondent for the website Defense One, which leverages ad revenue from the arms industry to “provide news, analysis and ideas for national security leaders and stakeholders.”

The Nicaraguan-born activist Camilo Mejia highlighted several pieces of misinformation contained in the article. Contrary to the claim that the Civic Alliance interrupted the country’s economy with its general strike, Managuan marketplaces were bustling that day and commerce proceeded as usual. As Mejia noted, the opposition had only managed to close the high-end businesses that supported its regime-change agenda.

 Goette-Luciak and MRS leader Ana Margarita Vijil, pictured center. 
Photo | Facebook

Goette-Luciak and Houck published extensive quotes from Ana Margarita Vijil, falsely describing her as “national director of the outlawed Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS).” In fact, the marginal MRS had not been “outlawed;” its candidates had garnered a pitiful 1.3 percent of the popular vote in the last election, which is below the legal threshold to qualify to run as a political party.

The authors then quoted Vijil claiming that, “[w]ith 200 political prisoners and [new] murders every day, this strike is just one more sign that nothing is normal here in Nicaragua.” What Goette-Luciak and his co-author failed to mention was that those recent murders have consisted largely of Sandinista supporters. The recent murder victims include Lenin Mendiola, an FSLN militant and son of two revered Sandinista historical figures, Benigna Mendiola and Bernardino Díaz Ochoa.

But the most striking omission by Goette-Luciak was of his relationship with his source and her party, which has enjoyed direct support from the U.S. government. Below, the two can be seen together at a conference in an image that highlights their mutual affinity.

Vijil is the former president of the MRS, or the Sandinista Renewal Movement. She has served as a fellow of the Central American Leadership Initiative at the Aspen Institute, a hub of neoliberal thought funded by the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund, among others.

Just before the coup erupted in April, Vijil was in Washington for a “high level executive meeting,” according to Yaser Morazan, an MRS activist whose “Agente de Cambio” initiative and social-media training have been sponsored by USAID — an arm of the U.S. State Department — and the U.S.-funded Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas (IEEPP). Three weeks before the coup, Morazan posted a selfie outside IEEPP’s office promising a series of “surprises” and pledging his secrecy about them.

For his part, Goette-Luciak has been connected with the MRS most directly through Azucena Castillo, a prominent party activist whom he lists as his employer at Radio Ciudadana.

Goette-Luciak did not respond to an emailed request for an interview.

The best ex-Sandinistas the U.S. could buy

Goette-Luciak appears to have inherited his affinity for the MRS party from his father, Ilja Luciak, an academic who focused his research on Central America and served for several years as the chair of political science at Virginia Tech.

In an interview with an obscure travel website called the Edge of Adventure, Goette-Luciak credited his father with inspiring his interest in Nicaragua. He described him as a “Marxist” who was inspired by the Sandinista revolution that unfolded during the 1980’s. But according to his academic CV, Luciak’s work on Nicaragua has been backed by European foundations, the European Commission, and USAID.

In his book After the Revolution: Gender and Democracy in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, Luciak wrote sympathetically about the female former Sandinistas who helped lead the MRS party’s crusade against Ortega.

His son, Goette-Luciak, channeled the purist sensibility of the MRS in his interview with Edge of Adventure:

“As a leftist, I was intrigued by where the Sandinista revolution — which to me was a very utopian idealistic revolution and a great example of potential social change for Latin America — where it had gone awry.”

The MRS was established to expose and exacerbate the supposed failings of the Sandinista front. Founded in 1994 by ex-Vice President Sergio Ramirez and a collection of ex-FSLN militants — most of them from more affluent, educated backgrounds than common Sandinistas — the party’s disruptive agenda made it a natural candidate for assistance from Washington.

In 2006, the MRS and the U.S. government plotted to prevent Ortega’s election. A September 6, 2006 U.S. embassy cable — revealingly entitled, “MRS: We Want To Bring Ortega Down” — laid out some of those plans. Authored by U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli, the cable described a meeting between the ambassador and Israel Lewites, the nephew of MRS presidential candidate Herty Lewites, who had just died from a heart attack.

Trivelli confirmed direct U.S. government support for the MRS election campaign, noting that 30 percent of its election observers had been trained by the International Republican Institute, a U.S.-funded, Republican Party-run soft-power organization overseen by then-Sen. John McCain.

“The MRS intends to have at least two people per voting table […] on election day, but they need funds to feed and transport the fiscales and other helpers,” Trivelli stated.

In all, the U.S. government contributed a whopping $12 million in 2006 towards “election technical assistance, outreach, and observation” in Nicaragua’s 2006 election. In other words, it spent two dollars for every Nicaraguan citizen to defeat Ortega.

A separate leaked diplomatic cable detailed a meeting during that election campaign between MRS co-founder Dora Maria Tellez and the ambassador, Trivelli. Foreshadowing the coup that unfolded this year, Tellez told U.S. embassy officials that “the MRS will warn the FSLN that if it steals the election, the MRS will ‘take to the streets,’ opining that this is the ‘only kind of message Ortega understands.'”

The MRS ultimately failed to prevent Ortega’s victory and wound up reaching out to the U.S. again as its domestic support base collapsed. In 2016, the MRS’s Vijil joined a delegation to lobby in Washington for the Nica Act, a bill proposing crushing sanctions on her country.

On Capitol Hill, Vigil posed alongside a cast of U.S.-backed activists and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a neoconservative Cuban-American Republican who was the main author of the sanctions bill.

A beaming Ana Margarita Vigil (third from right) beside US Rep. Ileana 
Ros-Lehtinen and a collection of U.S.-backed Nicaraguan opposition 
figures in 2016 
Photo | Office of leana Ros-Lehtinen

Two years later, MRS activists were at the forefront of the coup attempt that sought Ortega’s removal. Several participants in the protests this April who later turned against the opposition described witnessing MRS leaders providing truck loads of supplies for opposition forces occupying university campuses.

While the MRS performed its historic role as the knife in the FSLN’s back, it supplied Western media with a cast of English-speaking voices demanding regime change in the name of supposedly progressive values. Its most prominent voice was Gioconda Belli, an affluent U.S.-based poet and professional former Sandinista, who took to mainstream U.S. outlets to paint Ortega as a murderous dictator, as she has done for years. (Belli’s brother, Humberto, is a Catholic priest affiliated with the far-right Opus Dei cult and a client of the militantly anti-abortion American tycoon Tom Monaghan).

 Carl David Goette-Luciak and MRS figurehead Gioconda Belli. 
Photo | Facebook

Then there was Goette-Luciak (seen above with Belli), who functioned on the ground as the MRS party’s publicist in photo-journalistic attire.

A “dual use” anthropologist

Prior to the unrest that swept across Nicaragua last April, there was little record of Goette-Luciak’s presence as a writer or journalist. He had written one piece for NPR on how Nicaraguans were not as happy as the World Happiness Report said they were.

His co-author, Carlos Salinas Maldonado, was a writer for the opposition magazine Confidencial, which is funded by the U.S. government’s regime-change arm, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Open Society Foundation.

In his byline, Goette-Luciak described himself as “an anthropologist in Managua.” He was listed in conference papers as a graduate student at the University of Virginia around that time, focusing his work on the Rama-Kriol and Miskito populations of Nicaragua’s eastern coast.

These indigenous groups have been at loggerheads with the Sandinista movement since the civil war in the 1980’s, when the CIA cultivated them as U.S. allies. Ronald Reagan made the relationship a centerpiece of his administration’s Cold War crusade when he declared in a 1985 speech, “I am … a Miskito Indian. I too, am a potential victim of totalitarianism.”

The indigenous North Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua remains a key target for U.S. influence, as Washington seeks to exploit the simmering conflict between its local population and the leftist government in Managua. Leaked diplomatic cables demonstrate efforts by the U.S. embassy to cultivate anti-Sandinista sentiment in the area by working to facilitate human-rights complaints by former CIA-backed Contra fighters against FSLN leadership.

In 2013, the Ortega government announced plans by a Chinese magnate to construct a canal through his country, presenting a direct threat to U.S. control over shipping lines in the western hemisphere and prompting an outcry from the U.S. embassy. Soon, an anti-canal movement emerged in the countryside as one of the main drivers of anti-Sandinista sentiment. The campaign against the canal poured fuel on the fire of the coastal indigenous population’s long-simmering conflict with the government.

Though Goette-Luciak described himself in his bio as an “anthropologist in Managua,” he later revealed that he was working among the Miskito population and with the Rama-Kriol communal government to stimulate opposition to the Sandinistas.

“I worked on informing the indigenous community of their rights at a time of crisis, when the government was attempting to depict to the international audience consent among the indigenous population for the sale of their land,” Goette-Luciak said in an interview this year with The Edge of Adventure.

It might seem cavalier for an academically credentialed anthropologist to assert political influence on the population he is supposed to be studying; however, Goette-Luciak’s activities fit within a long tradition. As author David Price illustrated in several book-length studies on what he called “dual use anthropology,” many American anthropologists were supported during the Cold War by private foundations and even the CIA to conduct activities on behalf of their government. More recently, the Pentagon weaponized the field of study through programs like its Human Terrain System, which lured newly graduated anthropologists with lucrative salaries to assist U.S. military counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is no evidence that Goette-Luciak is an asset of the CIA or any other U.S. agency. However, his advancement of Washington’s divisive political objectives during the course of his ethnographic fieldwork represented a fairly clear example of dual-use anthropology.

Selective stories from the front lines

In his interview with Edge of Adventure, Goette-Luciak cited the killing of Angel Gahona — a reporter he described as his “neighbor” in the city of Bluefields in southeastern Nicaragua — as his inspiration for moving into the field of journalism.

Gahona was killed while delivering a Facebook live report during an anti-government protest. He was shot while filming a bank that had been looted, and unidentified men could be seen in the shadows of the bank moments before Gahona was hit. This prompted some observers to allege that he was killed by professional criminals for filming them while they took advantage of the chaos to rob a bank.

Though the government arrested two suspects in the killing, Gahona’s family blamed the national police for deliberately targeting him in retaliation for his coverage of alleged police abuse. Goette-Luciak presented these allegations and accusing the government of a cover-up in his first article for the Guardian on May 29.

Goette-Luciak also described to the Edge of Adventure having witnessed the so-called Mother’s Day Massacre, where several demonstrators commemorating those who had already died in the unrest were killed on May 30.

The bloodshed that took place that day remains a source of heated contention. Violence had erupted across the country, with the opposition opening fire on a Sandinista caravan in the city of Esteli, killing one and wounding dozens. Opposition vandals burned the leftist Radio Ya station for the third time as well as parts of Managua’s Metrocentro complex. Videos show opposition gunmen opening fire that day on the streets of Managua and toting weapons near the Mother’s Day march.

The opposition and Western media placed the blame squarely on Sandinista-affiliated elements for sniping into the crowd of marchers, but have yet to produce clear evidence proving their case.

Speaking to the Edge of Adventure, Goette-Luciak conceded that he had left the march and was several blocks away drinking a beer when the shooting began. He said he returned after he heard shooting and described the deaths as the result of targeting killings by Sandinista paramilitaries.

“I witnessed two deaths…” he told Edge of Adventure.
“A young man standing a few yards from me was hit by a bullet in the head, and standing behind him, what I saw was the back of his head explode like a watermelon that got dropped.”

Hours after the violence, a ferociously anti-government network known as “100% Noticias” published a grisly photo of a man supposedly killed by government forces whose brain was spilling out of his skull. The image was soon exposed as a fake and has since been deleted. In fact, it depicted a death from a separate conflict and had been taken years before.

Though Goette-Luciak said he had taken photos of the march, he has yet to publish any of the killings he said he witnessed.

In a separate incident this June, Goette-Luciak appeared momentarily in a highly disturbing video filmed by 100% Noticias. He could be seen taking photos of a mob of opposition thugs in the act of kidnapping and beating an aging Sandinista member they had found squatting on a local oligarch’s abandoned property. Oddly, Goette-Luciak published no photos of the incident and did not report on it.

Goette-Luciak (left) appears briefly in a video photographing an opposition mob 
as it kidnaps and beats a man it mistook for a Sandinista paramilitary member. 
He has not published photos of the abuse or reported on it. 
Screenshot | YouTube

The Radio La Ciudadana outlet where Goette-Luciak is listed as “director of investigations” contains sparse evidence of journalistic production: a section on the site marked as “investigations” is empty; the photos section contains 15 images Goette-Luciak captured on Mother’s Day, where he claimed to have witnessed two murders: a grand total of three news stories are featured on the site. Radio La Ciudadana was founded by Azucena “Chena” Castillo, an MRS party activist who has also worked as director of the USAID-funded outlet Radio Universidad.

Goette-Luciak and his colleague, MRS party activist “Chena” Castillo. 
Photo | Twitter

The only other record of Goette-Luciak’s photojournalism existed at the Edge of Adventure website, which had published about 20 images he captured — one of which depicted him posing with an opposition gunman. The Edge of Adventure is a little-known media site founded by Adam Asher Wattenbarger, a self-styled travel journalist who is listed as an executive at the right-wing, Christian-oriented Salem Media Group.

This month, Goette-Luciak fell under sustained criticism from Sandinista supporters on Facebook for his one-sided coverage of the country’s political crisis. Many accused him of operating as a U.S. intelligence asset. The Edge of Adventure promptly deleted its podcast interview with him and scrubbed most of his photos from the site.

Goette-Luciak then began cleaning up his own Facebook page, deleting his selfies with MRS party leaders.

Objective journalistic promoters of the “resistance”

Earlier this summer, Goette-Luciak was in the thick of the most intense fighting between opposition gunmen and Sandinista-aligned forces. It was in Masaya, a city where the opposition had seized and cordoned off entire neighborhoods in an attempt to declare a junta.

As I found when I visited Masaya a month later, the opposition had waged a campaign of terror against Sandinista supporters, burning their homes, kidnapping, beating, torturing and even killing them, while laying siege to the local police station. In one of the most gruesome incidents, an unarmed community police officer named Gabriel Vado was kidnapped by opposition gunmen, dragged to death from the back of a truck, and torched on camera while slumped before a roadblock.

There was virtually no mention of the opposition’s ongoing campaign of terror in Goette-Luciak’s June 23 report for The Washington Post, which he co-authored with Houck of the arms industry-funded Defense One. Instead, Goette-Luciak painted the gunmen as valiant resistance fighters and promoted their call for the U.S. to send them heavy weapons:

“Several asked a reporter whether President Trump would send support to the resistance,” he wrote. 

This photo by Goette-Luciak depicting a well-armed opposition gunman at 
a Masaya roadblock was recently deleted from the Edge of Adventure website.

To be sure, Goette-Luciak was far from the only Western media figure to embed with the armed opposition in Masaya and trumpet its gallantry. Some of the most overtly pro-opposition messaging arrived courtesy of a reporter named Tim Rogers. An American who spent years publishing news of interest to the local emigre and tourist population, Rogers emerged this year as a ferocious promoter of the armed opposition.

In Masaya, Rogers seemed to throb with admiration for the masked gunmen manning the barricades.

While characterizing the opposition as “an unarmed population,” Rogers glorified the lethal weaponry they deployed from behind the roadblocks. Goette-Luciak’s now-deleted photo gallery at the Edge of Adventure demonstrated that the gunmen not only toted homemade mortars, but assault weapons and handguns as well.

Like Goette-Luciak, Rogers’ cheerleading for the armed opposition was rewarded with bylines in mainstream publications from Public Radio International and The Atlantic, where he claimed Nicaragua was a “failed state” that was undergoing “democratic renewal” thanks to the push for regime change. He was ultimately hired as the Latin American editor of Fusion, a website owned by the Israel-American oligarch and Democratic Party mega-donor Haim Saban. There, Rogers produced a viral propaganda video likening the Sandinista movement to ISIS.

The out-of-the-blue emergence of figures like Goette-Luciak and Rogers as correspondents for legacy Western publications can not be viewed as an aberration or mistake. In Nicaragua, as in so many other countries targeted with regime-change operations, outlets like the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post seem to demand on-the-ground coverage that reinforces the regime-change agenda.

And so they credentialed opposition publicists as journalists, instilling in them the illusion of their own professionalism. “I think I’ve come to realize the value of objective and impartial journalism,” Goette-Luciak said in his Edge of Adventure interview, “and I no longer consider myself as an activist for or against any particular cause.”

Max Blumenthal is the founder and editor of, the co-host of the podcast Moderate Rebels, the author of several books and producer of full-length documentaries including the recently released Killing Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Behind Washington’s War on UNRWA

The Real Reasons Behind Washington’s War on UNRWA

by Ramzy Baroud - The Palestine Chronicle

September 27, 2018

The US government’s decision to slash funds provided to the United Nations agency that cares for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, is part of a new American-Israeli strategy aimed at redefining the rules of the game altogether.

As a result, UNRWA is experiencing its worst financial crisis. The gap in its budget is estimated at around $217 million, and is rapidly increasing.

Aside from future catastrophic events that would result in discontinuing services and urgent humanitarian aid to five million refugees registered with UNRWA, the impact of the US callous decision is already reverberating in many refugee camps across the region. Currently, UNRWA has downgraded many of its services: laying off many teachers, reducing staff and working hours at various clinics.

Nearly 40 percent of all Palestinian refugees live in Jordan, a country that is already overwhelmed by a million Syrian refugees who sought shelter there because of the grinding and deadly war in their own country.

Aware of Jordan’s vulnerability, American emissaries attempted to barter with the country to heed the US demand of revoking the status of the two million Palestinian refugees. Instead of funding UNRWA, Washington offered to re-channel the funds directly to the Jordanian government. Thus, the US hopes that the Palestinian refugee status would no longer be applicable. Unsurprisingly, Jordan refused the American offer.

News of this failed barter resurfaced last August. It was reported that US President Donald Trump's special envoy, Jared Kushner, tried to sway the Jordanian government during his visit to Amman in June.

Washington and Israel are seeking to simply remove the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees, as enshrined in international law, from the political agenda altogether.

Coupled with Washington's strategy to “remove Jerusalem from the table," the American strategy is neither random nor impulsive.

"It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA," Kushner wrote to the US Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, in an email last January.

The email, among others, was later leaked to Foreign Policy magazine.

 “This (agency) perpetuates a status quo,” he also wrote, referring to UNRWA as “corrupt, inefficient and doesn't help peace."

This notion that UNRWA sustains the status quo - meaning the political rights of Palestinians refugees - is the main reason behind the American war on the Organization, a fact that is confirmed through statements made by top Israeli officials, too.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, echoed the American sentiment. UNRWA "has proven itself an impediment to resolving the conflict by keeping the Palestinians in perpetual refugee status," he said.

Certainly, the US cutting of funds to UNRWA coincides with the defunding of all programs that provide any kind of aid to the Palestinian people. But the targeting of UNRWA is mostly concerned with the status of Palestinian refugees, a status that has irked Tel Aviv for 70 years.

Why does Israel want to place Palestinian refugees in a status-less category?

The refugee status is already a precarious one. To be a Palestinian refugee means living perpetually in limbo - unable to reclaim what has been lost, and unable to fashion an alternative future and a life of freedom and dignity.

How are Palestinians to reconstruct their identity that has been shattered by decades of exile, when Israel has constantly hinged its own existence as a ‘Jewish state’ on opposing the return and repatriation of Palestinian refugees? Per Israel’s logic, the mere Palestinian demand for the implementation of the internationally-sanctioned Right of Return is equivalent to a call for “genocide”.

 According to that same faulty logic, the fact that the Palestinian people live and multiply is a “demographic threat” to Israel.

Much can be said about the circumstances behind the creation of UNRWA by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1949 - its operations, efficiency and the effectiveness of its work. But for most Palestinians, UNRWA is not a relief organization, per se - being registered as a refugee with UNRWA provides Palestinians with a temporary identity, the same identity that allowed four generations of refugees to navigate decades of exile.

UNRWA’s stamp of “refugee” on every certificate that millions of Palestinians possess - birth, death and everything else in between - has served as a compass, pointing back to the places those refugees come from - not the refugee camps scattered in Palestine and across the region, but the 600 towns and villages that were destroyed during the Zionist assault on Palestine.

These villages may have been erased, as a whole new country was established upon their ruins, but the Palestinian refugee remained - subsisted, resisted and plotted her return home. The UNRWA refugee status is the international recognition of this inalienable right.

Therefore, the current US-Israeli war does not target UNRWA as a UN body, but as an organization that allows millions of Palestinians to maintain their identity as refugees with non-negotiable rights until their return to their ancestral homeland. Nearly 70 years after its founding, UNRWA remains essential and irreplaceable.

The founders of Israel envisioned a future where Palestinian refugees would eventually disappear into the larger population of the Middle East. Seventy years on, the Israelis still entertain that same illusion.

Now, with the help of the Trump administration, they are orchestrating yet more sinister campaigns to make Palestinian refugees vanish, wished away through the destruction of UNRWA and the redefining of the refugee status of millions of Palestinians.

The fate of Palestinian refugees seems to be of no relevance to Trump, Kushner and other US officials. The Americans are now hoping that their strategy will finally bring Palestinians to their knees so that they will ultimately submit to the Israeli government’s dictates.

The latest US-Israeli folly will prove futile. Successive US administrations have done everything in their power to support Israel and to punish the supposedly intransigent Palestinians. The Right of Return, however, remained the driving force behind Palestinian resistance, as the Gaza Great March of Return, ongoing since March, continues to demonstrate.

The truth is that all the money in Washington’s coffers will not reverse what is now a deeply embedded belief in the hearts and minds of millions of refugees throughout Palestine, the Middle East and the world.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB.

Pillar to Post: Namegan Nation Seeking a Home

Chrissy Brett Interview

by Treeline

Sept 26 2018

Namegan Nation (a homeless community in and around Victoria BC) had been occupied and displaced by various police forces three times in a week. Exhausted by being forced into the street, the community sought a little R&R at Goldstream Provincial Campground.

The Province responded by kicking everyone already there out and closing the campground down, vaguely citing health and safety concerns. I went there in hopes of documenting the dangers that are so grave that a Provincial campground had to be closed and the shelter seekers essentially quarantined.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Target Venezuela: Trump's Opens Western Front at UN

Trump Sets Sights on Venezuela with New Sanctions and 'Regime Change' Threats


September 26, 2018

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, President Trump said the Maduro government could be "toppled very quickly."

Pays de Gex, France,  – US President Donald Trump took aim at Venezuela at the United Nations Tuesday, hitting Caracas with a fresh round of sanctions and openly talking about the military overthrow of President Nicolas Maduro.

Trump’s speech at the 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA) dedicated special attention to Venezuela, with the US President claiming that “the socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain” on the Venezuelan people and vowing “further action” against the South American country. The statements coincided with a new round of sanctions unveiled by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Tuesday, targeting high-ranking Venezuelan figures. 

These included the first lady, Cilia Flores, the Vice-President, Delcy Rodriguez, and other members of the cabinet. Assets were also seized from Rafael Sarria, who OFAC claim works as a frontman for Diosdado Cabello, the current President of the National Constituent Assembly.

Besides individual sanctions, which have included President Maduro himself, US actions have put up hurdles for all Venezuelan financial transactions and targeted the ability to service and re-finance debt issued by the Venezuelan government and state oil company PDVSA. 

Torino Capital Chief Economist Francisco Rodriguez has argued that US financial sanctions may have played an important role in the collapse of the oil-dependent country’s crude production and consequent worsening of its economic crisis.

While attending the UNGA, Trump also held a press conference with recently elected hard-right Colombian President Ivan Duque in which the US leader claimed that a military coup would succeed easily in Venezuela.

“It’s a regime that, frankly, could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military decides to do that,” said the US President in reply to a journalist. 

Trump reiterated on Wednesday that “all options are on the table” with regard to Venezuela.

Earlier this month, the New York Times revealed that US diplomats met repeatedly with dissident Venezuelan military officers who solicited Washington’s support in executing a coup against President Maduro.

The Trump administration has, nonetheless, downplayed the possibility of a direct US military intervention in Venezuela, despite concerns by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel that an “October surprise” may be in the works.

For his part, Navy Vice Admiral Craig Faller indicated during his Senate confirmation hearings to lead US Southern Command that while there were no plans to intervene militarily in the Caribbean nation, normal preparations for “a range of contingencies” were underway.

Trump’s hawkish stance vis-a-vis Caracas was mirrored by regional US allies at the UNGA, with Argentine President Mauricio Macri expressing “concern” for the human rights situation in Venezuela. His Brazilian counterpart Michel Temer, who came to power after what is widely considered a parliamentary coup that ousted former President Dilma Rousseff, echoed those concerns and added that in South America there is “no more room for alternatives to democracy.”

Colombian President Ivan Duque went even further in his speech on Wednesday, stating that “putting an end to the Venezuelan dictatorship is a global challenge” and even claiming that Venezuela is experiencing “the worst humanitarian and migratory crisis in history.”

According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration, an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans were living abroad as of July 2018. Approximately five million Colombian citizens currently reside in Venezuela, many of whom refugees of Colombia’s over half-century long civil war. 

Venezuelan reaction

Venezuelan leaders were quick to react to the heated rhetoric and fresh actions coming out of New York.

Speaking at a ceremony in Caracas in which Venezuelan citizenship was granted to more than eight thousand immigrants, President Nicolas Maduro welcomed the latest sanctions as a badge of honor.

“The sanctions, besides being illegal and useless, are a medal, an award that shows that we are brave and on the right track,” he stated.

The Venezuelan President is due to address the UN General Assembly himself on Wednesday afternoon.

For his part, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, who is in New York for the UNGA, also condemned Trump’s threats when speaking to the press.

“It is worrying that President Trump is once more raising the banners of the anachronistic Monroe Doctrine, which is against international law, the UN charter, and multilateralism […]. We have to defend the continent from these unilateral threats,” he said.

Arreaza went on to warn that a foreign military intervention would cause an actual migration crisis and numerous deaths, stressing that the Venezuelan people and armed forces know how to defend themselves.

This work is licensed under a Attribution Non-commercial 
No Derivatives Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Yves Engler, Michael J. Carpenter, Janine Bandcroft September 27th, 2018

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

September 27, 2018

When Canada became a war-making nation, its elite worried about public reaction. They fretted a cover story; something clever and convincing, along the lines of a national mythos to quiet the conscience of citizens made uncomfortable by the truth of horrors and suffering being inflicted on distant others. As it turned out, those troubled nights were wasted.

It seems no damning deed done can shake Canadians' indomitable self-congratulation, nor dim their ineffably lofty self-regard. Though the richest nation in Africa be destroyed, creating a chaos the likes of which has not been writ since the time of Pharaoh, Canada and its paragons bray of their part played - as if heroes.

Listen. Hear.

Yves Engler is a Montréal-based activist, essayist, and author. His articles appear at Dissident Voice, The Palestine Chronicle,, and Pacific Free Press among other places. Some of his ten book titles include: 'A Propaganda System—How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation', 'Canada in Africa — 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation', and 'The Ugly Canadian — Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy'.

Yves’ new book, 'Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada' is freshly off the press and tries, as reviewer David Swanson notes, "to provide 10% of the explanation for why many Canadians suffer under the delusion that their nation’s government is a benevolent force in the world..."

Yves Engler in the first half.

And; Canada's complicity in international criminality is not limited to the destruction, with NATO compatriots, of countries like Libya or the Former Yugoslavia, it too works diligently to undermine democracy in countries like Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Honduras. And, even as it vociferously champions human rights best practices, Canada tacitly supports the oppressive military occupations conducted by friends America, Britain, and Israel.

Michael J. Carpenter is a post-doctoral fellow with the Borders in Globalization project at the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria whose dissertation explored the theory and practice of civic struggle - struggle also known as "nonviolent direct action", "civil resistance", and "people power." His work is focused especially in the context of the Middle East, and Palestine in particular.

He recently presented, with retired trial lawyer, William Geimer and Adrian Fine of Independent Jewish Voices 'Israel: Canada's Human Rights Exception' to audiences in Comox, Duncan, and Victoria.

Micheal J. Carpenter and taking exception to human rights exceptionalism in the second half.

And; Victoria-based activist and CFUV Radio broadcaster at-large, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour with the Left Coast Events Bulletin of some of the good things to be gotten up to in and around our town in the coming week. But first, Yves Engler and the dark underside of the Great White North.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

Canada Waves Bye, Bye to Sunny Ways: Support of Venezuelan Regime Change Reveals An Ugly National Underside

Does Canada support an invasion of Venezuela? 

by Yves Engler

September 24, 2018

In their obsession for regime change, Ottawa is backing talk of an invasion of Venezuela. And the NDP is enabling Canada’s interventionist policy. Last week 11 of the 14 member states of the anti-Venezuelan “Lima Group” backed a statement distancing the alliance from “any type of action or declaration that implies military intervention” after Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro stated:

As for military intervention to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro regime, I think we should not rule out any option … diplomacy remains the first option but we can’t exclude any action.”

Canada, Guyana and Colombia refused to criticize the head of the OAS’ musings about an invasion of Venezuela.

In recent weeks there has been growing tension on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. Some believe Washington is pushing for a conflict via Colombia, which recently joined NATO.

Last summer Donald Trump threatened to invade Venezuela. “We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary,” the US President said.

Talk of an invasion encourages those seeking regime change. At the start of August drones armed with explosives flew toward Maduro during a military parade in what was probably an attempt to assassinate the Venezuelan president. Two weeks ago the New York Times reported that US officials recently met members of Venezuela’s military planning to oust Maduro. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for the military to oust Maduro in February and other leading Republican Party officials have made similar statements.

Alongside these aggressive measures, Canada has sought to weaken the Venezuelan government. Since last September Ottawa has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Venezuelan officials. In March the United Nations Human Rights Council condemned the economic sanctions the US, Canada and EU have adopted against Venezuela while Caracas called Canada’s move a “blatant violation of the most fundamental rules of International Law.”

Over the past year and a half Canadian officials have campaigned aggressively against the Venezuelan government. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has prodded Caribbean countries to join the Lima Group’s anti-Venezuela efforts and made frequent statements critical of Caracas’ democratic legitimacy and human rights record. In June Freeland told the OAS General Assembly, “we must act immediately on the situation in Venezuela to force the exit of the dictatorship.”

Ottawa has encouraged its diplomats to play up human rights violations and supported opposition groups inside Venezuela. A 27-page Global Affairs report uncovered by the Globe and Mail noted, “Canada should maintain the embassy’s prominent position as a champion of human-rights defenders.”

Alluding to the hostility engendered by its interference in that country’s affairs, the partially redacted 2017 report recommended that Canadian officials also “develop and implement strategies to minimize the impact of attacks by the government in response to Canada’s human rights statements and activities.”

As part of its campaign against the elected government, Ottawa has amplified oppositional voices inside Venezuela. Over the past decade, for instance, the embassy has co-sponsored an annual Human Rights Award with the Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos whose director, Raúl Herrera, has repeatedly denounced the Venezuelan government.

In July the recipient of the 2018 prize, Francisco Valencia, spoke in Ottawa and was profiled by the Globe and Mail. “Canada actually is, in my view, the country that denounced the most the violation of human rights in Venezuela … and was the most helpful with financing towards humanitarian issues,” explained Valencia, who also told that paper he was “the target of threats from the government.”

In another example of anti-government figures invited to Ottawa, the former mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, called for “humanitarian intervention” before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development last week.

He said:

If the international community does not urgently activate the principle of humanitarian intervention for Venezuela — which developed the concept of the responsibility to protect — they will have to settle for sending Venezuelans a resolution of condolence with which we will not revive the thousands of human beings who will lose their lives in the middle of this genocide sponsored by Maduro.”

In November Ledezma escaped house arrest and fled the country.

The NDP’s foreign critic has stayed quiet regarding the US/Canadian campaign against Venezuela’s elected government. I found no criticism by Hélène Laverdière of US/OAS leaders’ musing about invading or the August assassination attempt on Maduro. Nor did I find any disapproval from the NDP’s foreign critic of Canadian sanctions or Ottawa’s role in the Lima Group of anti-Venezuelan foreign ministers.

Laverdière has also failed to challenge Canada’s expulsion of Venezuelan diplomats and role in directly financing an often-unsavoury Venezuelan opposition. Worse still, Laverdière has openly supported asphyxiating the left-wing government through other means. The 15-year Foreign Affairs diplomat has repeatedly found cause to criticize Venezuela and has called on Ottawa to do more to undermine Maduro’s government.

Is Canadian political culture so deformed that no party represented in the House of Commons will oppose talk of invading Venezuela? If so its not another country’s democracy that we should be concerned about.

A Sharp Understanding of Political Defiance

The Machiavelli of Nonviolence: Gene Sharp and the Battle Against Corporate Rule  

by Mark Engler - Dissent Magazine

Fall 2013  

If there are some things in life that should not be bet on, the question of who will next win the Nobel Peace Prize somehow feels like it should be among them. Internet bookmakers, however, will place odds on almost anything, and they are not above taking wagers on Nobel prospects.

Over the past two years, some of the safest money has not been on a head of state, a major nongovernmental organization, or a charismatic resistance leader, but rather on a soft-spoken, eighty-five-year-old academic. His name is Gene Sharp.

Sharp, a theorist and author of groundbreaking works on the dynamics of nonviolent conflict, has been called the “dictator slayer,” the “Machiavelli of nonviolence,” and the Clausewitz of unarmed revolution.

His circumstances are humble: he runs his research outfit, known as the Albert Einstein Institution, out of the ground floor of his row house in East Boston, and the organization has just one other staffer. For the most part, Sharp has labored for decades in quiet obscurity—well respected within a small field of study but virtually unknown outside of it.

At the same time, Sharp’s work has had an unusually broad impact. His pamphlet From Dictatorship to Democracy, a ninety-three-page distillation of his core insights and a handbook for overthrowing autocrats, has been translated into more than thirty languages. The slim volume has a habit of turning up in hot spots of global resistance. Originally written in 1993 to help dissidents in Burma use nonviolent action against the ruling junta, the book made it into the library of Serbian students seeking to overthrow the regime of Slobodan Milošević, circulated among activists during successful uprisings in Georgia and the Ukraine, and was downloaded in Arabic amid mass protests in Tunisia and Egypt.

The Iranian government has denounced the book and its author by name. In the summer of 2005, two independent bookshops in Russia were burned down after stocking the newly available Russian translation. (“I still keep a half-burned copy on a shelf in my office,” one opposition leader told the Wall Street Journal.) Particularly in the wake of the Arab Spring, Sharp’s renown has grown, and he was the subject of a feature documentary, entitled How to Start a Revolution, released just as the Occupy movement took shape in 2011.

Of course, the idea that any mass movement can be attributed to one person is dubious. With regard to the Arab Spring, Middle Eastern analysts have taken exception to the Western media’s eagerness to credit an American “Lawrence of Arabia” for rebellions that have deep local roots. Similarly ignoring indigenous agency, conspiracy theorists on the far left have painted their own picture of Sharp as a puppet master at the center of a sinister CIA-led scheme to overthrow governments disliked by Washington.

Those who recognize such notions as wildly off base but are intrigued by the evident power of Sharp’s work may be curious for a more sober assessment of the scholar’s contributions. And those involved in U.S. social movements might pose a more pressing question: can Sharp’s ideas about nonviolent conflict, which have proven potent in challenging dictators abroad, be used to oppose the corporate takeover of democracy at home?

Gene Sharp spent his first years of political life immersed in a mainstream current of the pacifist tradition, and he has spent much of the rest of his career declaring independence from it. During the Korean War, Sharp refused to cooperate with the draft. He proudly possesses a letter from Albert Einstein in which the physicist told the young resister that he could only hope “that I would have acted as you did, had I found myself in your situation.” But that sentiment held little weight with the state. Sharp ultimately served nine months and ten days in prison—an act of civil disobedience he now regards as entirely ineffectual, except in reinforcing his sense of personal integrity.

Upon his release in 1954, Sharp worked briefly as an assistant to prominent pacifist A.J. Muste before moving to Oslo and researching how teachers during the Second World War used nonviolent tactics to resist the imposition of fascist schooling in Norway. His investigations into nonviolence ultimately led to a doctorate at Oxford and a seminal three-volume, 900-page treatise called The Politics of Nonviolent Action, published in 1973 and still in print today.

Pacifism—moral opposition to war and violence—has existed for hundreds if not thousands of years. It can trace its roots to the core texts of many major world religions. But Sharp discovered that he was interested in something different. Reading through old newspaper coverage of Gandhi’s 1930 satyagraha in India, he found evidence that most participants in the resistance campaign did not embrace nonviolence out of a sense of moral commitment. Instead, they used nonviolent action because they believed it worked. This was a discovery that contradicted the cherished convictions of many pacifists he knew—adherents to what is now known as “principled nonviolence”—who believed that the practice requires deep ethical resolve. As Sharp explained in a 2003 interview, he considered omitting the finding from his research:

“I wondered: Should I put that down? Better just leave it out!
“But I put it down. And later it dawned on me that, rather than that being a threat, it was a great opportunity, because it meant that large numbers of people who would never believe in ethical or religious nonviolence could use nonviolent struggle for pragmatic reasons.

Embracing the position known as “strategic nonviolence,” Sharp began arguing that people turn to violence not because they are wicked or warmongering but because they do not see any other option for resolving intractable conflicts. If you show how a strategy of nonviolent conflict can be an effective alternative, he urged, you will be able to win over far more people than you will by merely making “exhortations in favor of love.”

He would ultimately come to eschew the term “nonviolence” altogether, believing that it is too ambiguous and loaded with connotations of passivity and religious belief, and he now uses the word only as an adjective, referring to “nonviolent struggle” or “nonviolent conflict.” Recently, academic researchers influenced by Sharp have made a further break in terminology: they now discuss campaigns of unarmed action simply as “civil resistance.”

Can Sharp’s ideas about nonviolent conflict, which have proven potent in challenging dictators abroad, be used to oppose the corporate takeover of democracy at home?

As he emerged as a writer, Sharp saw his role as being one of correcting common misconceptions about nonviolent action: that people have to be pacifists or saints to undertake it, that strategic nonviolence somehow involves avoiding conflict, and that it can only be used in democracies. He set out to show that nonviolent action is “a technique of struggle involving the use of psychological, social, economic, and political power,” and that it can be used even against viciously repressive regimes.

To explain how it works, Sharp first presents a theory of political power. 

Contrary to the assumption that, in the end, “power comes from the barrel of a gun,” Sharp draws on a wide range of political thinkers in the first volume of The Politics of Nonviolent Action to argue that all rulers fundamentally rely on the cooperation and consent of their people to survive. “Obedience is at the heart of political power,” he writes. Countless institutions—including the police, the courts, the civil service, and the army—must carry out orders for the system to function. If individuals and institutions start to withdraw their cooperation, a regime is weakened. If enough of them withdraw, the regime collapses. At Oxford, fueled with excitement over his discovery of this theory, Sharp dug through historical records to uncover dozens of examples, large and small, of how nonviolent action has succeeded by encouraging the withdrawal of obedience, eroding the authority and bureaucratic capacity of rulers.

This idea also allowed him to theorize about how future campaigns might take shape. Just like armed struggle, nonviolent conflict involves the “waging of ‘battles,’ requires wide strategy and tactics, and demands of its ‘soldiers’ courage, discipline, and sacrifice.” Perhaps for this reason, Sharp believes, those with a military background have often been quicker than peace activists to catch on to his ideas.

Sharp’s analysis of nonviolent struggle is unflinching. He recognizes that withdrawing cooperation is not always easy. If the target of nonviolent action is a tyrannical regime, repression can be severe. “There must be no illusions,” he writes. “In some cases nonviolent people have not only been beaten and cruelly treated but killed…in deliberate massacres.” Nor does he promise success: “the simple choice of nonviolent action as the technique of struggle,” Sharp explains, “does not and cannot guarantee victory, especially on a short-term basis.”

That said, it can produce remarkable, and sometimes counter-intuitive, results. While violent uprisings play to the strengths of dictatorships—which are deft at putting down armed rebellions and using security challenges to justify police state measures—nonviolent action often catches these regimes off guard. Through what Sharp calls “political jiu-jitsu,” nonviolent campaigns turn repression into a weakness for those in power. Violent crackdowns against unarmed protests end up exposing the brutality of a ruling force, undermining its legitimacy, and, in many cases, resulting in wider withdrawal of cooperation.

In a 2005 interview, Sharp lamented that nonviolent struggle is held to an unfair standard, even if its human cost is relatively minimal.

“Guerrilla warfare has huge civilian casualty rates. Huge,” he said.
 “And yet Ché Guevara didn’t abandon guerrilla warfare because people were getting killed. The same is true in conventional war, of course. But then they say if you get killed in nonviolent struggle, then nonviolent struggle has failed.”

With a similar lack of sentimentality, Sharp breaks with pacifists in his understanding of how movements achieve success. He argues that, while it may be desirable, it is not necessary that activists express love for their adversaries or make enemies see the errors of their ways. In fact, insistence on “conversion” of the opponent can be counterproductive. As an alternative, Sharp approvingly quotes civil rights leader James Farmer:

“In the arena of political and social events, what men feel and believe matters much less than what, under various kinds of external pressures, they can be made to do.” 

Farmer elsewhere concludes:
“Where we cannot influence the heart of the evildoer, we can force an end to the evil practice.”

Those determined to force such an end have a variety of options for getting started—indeed, a great many options. Discussion of Sharp’s work invariably includes his list of “198 methods of nonviolent action,” originally presented in detail in the second volume of The Politics of Nonviolent Action.

It includes approaches as varied as vigils, fasting, land occupations, “protest disrobings,” display of flags and symbolic colors, mock funerals, humorous skits and pranks, deliberate bureaucratic inefficiency, and civil disobedience, not to mention several dozen distinct types of strikes and boycotts. Despite Sharp’s suggestions that there would be “considerable expansion” of the list as movements innovated and other researchers added to the documentary record, the total has remained frozen in the four decades since it first appeared, gaining totemic status.

Sharp’s admirers and enemies alike have a tendency to treat the list with undue reverence. Sympathetic accounts act as if the theorist had somehow invented the tactics, rather than merely cataloging them. Hostile regimes, meanwhile, have viewed the items as a sort of nefarious recipe: in 2009 the Iranian government referenced the list in a televised trial of 110 dissidents, noting, as the Boston Globe reported, that “More than 100 of the 198 steps in the Gene Sharp manual of instructions for Velvet Revolution have already been executed.”

In fact, the list can be both arbitrary and exhausting, reflecting Sharp’s taxonomic writing style. A variety of the items on the list are needlessly specific. (Should “turning one’s back” as a means of protest really be singled out as its own method, apart from similar nonverbal expressions of disrespect?) Other methods, such as “skywriting and earthwriting,” seem dated and obscure. Conversely, activist innovations based on post-1970s technology remain outside Sharp’s classification. There are no cell-phone-driven flash mobs here.

At one point Sharp borrows a story from Saul Alinsky about a protest in a depressed area of Chicago. Members of a community organization, angry about the mayor’s refusal to address deteriorating housing conditions, took dead rats from their neighborhood and piled them up on the steps of city hall. For Alinsky the tale is a chance to highlight the creativity of the activists and to show off his storytelling élan. For Sharp it is an example of Method #21, “Delivering symbolic objects.” A lack of self-awareness about the danger of pedantry in Sharp’s lengthy enumeration produces some moments of unintentional humor, as when he notes that the “illustrations could go on indefinitely.”

Yet whatever the limitations of the list, the 198 methods have considerable strengths. At a time when little attention was granted to nonviolent tactics, Sharp’s catalog hinted at a new world of possibility—both for action and for research. The list encourages dissidents to be creative in their planning and not to simply repeat their previous approaches. Sharp likens the methods to the various weapons in the arsenal of a violent army: each has different range and effects, and each is adapted to distinct circumstances. They can be used separately or together, and their wise selection can help determine the outcome of a battle.

The differences between Sharp and Alinsky are not merely stylistic. While Alinsky favored the creation of stable “organizations” to the outbreak of “movements,” Sharp’s ideas would prove most useful to those seeking to spark, guide, and maximize the power of sometimes short-lived mass uprisings. His list of 198 tactics shows that those plotting such outbreaks are often more methodical than popularly imagined. And the field of study that rose in the wake of Sharp’s pioneering work has sought to understand how unarmed insurrections have been far more politically significant than observers focused on military warfare have cared to admit.

Given the impact of Sharp’s ideas, reporters visiting the scholar often express surprise that he is working out of his home in East Boston and not enjoying the salary and research budget typical of eminent professors a few miles away in Cambridge. But Sharp’s standing among academics is actually somewhat tenuous. Although he is sometimes described as a former Harvard professor, this is not quite true. Sharp held appointments for decades at the university’s Center for International Affairs, directing its Program on Nonviolent Sanctions, but these were research positions, outside the tenure track of any particular discipline. Sharp is also a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, but his life there as a teacher and colleague is never much emphasized—by him or others.

While Sharp acknowledges intellectual debts to figures such as Gandhi and Richard Gregg, an early philosopher of nonviolence, his work gives off a hint of autodidacticism. Sociologists take issue with his application of terms such as “pluralist” and “consent” in ways that are inconsistent with accepted usage in their field. They object that his theory of power is too voluntarist, too focused on individual choice, and that it fails to take into account how power is embedded in culture and in social structures. Sharp, for his part, has never shown much interest in the sometimes-tedious processes of peer review. As a result, he has placed himself in a nether region: he writes like a professor and is regarded as such by outsiders, but he is not fully accepted within academia.

There is some irony in his scholarly fate. Had he started his career today, rather than in the 1970s, Sharp could have much more easily found an academic home—thanks to the field of study his writing has done so much to spawn. In his 1973 magnum opus, Sharp predicted that his work might inaugurate a “new stage in the development of nonviolent alternatives.” Remarkably enough, this turned out to be the case. Stephen Zunes, a professor at the University of San Francisco and expert on nonviolent social movements, comments that prior to Sharp, lectures on Gandhi took place almost exclusively in religion and ethics courses. Slowly, consideration of Gandhian campaigns moved into sociology. Today, the study of nonviolent conflict and civil resistance is a respectable subfield within political science and strategic studies.

These developments have taken place too slowly to benefit Sharp’s professorial career, however, and he has instead achieved his greatest acclaim outside of the academy. His most famous work, From Dictatorship to Democracy, is conspicuously lean, stripped of any significant scholarly references. A modern-day Art of War, it provides a short, powerful glimpse into the universe of strategic thinking about nonviolent conflict. In that work, the value of Sharp’s conception of power is that it is useful—in contrast to highly nuanced sociological theories that do nothing to help social movements understand how they might leverage change.

While Saul Alinsky favored the creation of stable “organizations” to the outbreak of “movements,” Sharp’s ideas would prove most useful to those seeking to spark, guide, and maximize the power of sometimes short-lived mass uprisings.

Sharp’s theories have been widely adapted by other writers and incorporated into popular training manuals for nonviolent activism. To credit a single theorist for insights into the art of political uprising that are often independently rediscovered and shaped by activists to suit local circumstances is to assume a type of direct, linear causality that rarely exists in protest movements. The relationship between ideas and action tends to follow muddier and more circuitous paths. Still, like the Egyptian protester who told the BBC that he had been handed a photocopy of the 198 methods printed without any reference to the list’s provenance, many dissidents who have never heard Sharp’s name have nonetheless been exposed to his thinking.

For an intellectual opponent of autocracy, being featured as an animated character in an Iranian propaganda film surely counts as a high honor. Sharp received this strange accolade in 2008, when Iran aired a video that showed a computer-generated version of the theorist scheming with Senator John McCain and philanthropist George Soros. It accused Sharp of being a CIA agent “in charge of America’s infiltration into other countries.”

These claims represented a move by right-wing theocrats to piggyback off of the delusions of the far left. In 2005 French anti-imperialist Thierry Meyssan charged that Sharp “helped NATO and the CIA train the leaders of the soft coups of the last 15 years.” In Meyssan’s view, the Serbian students who respected Sharp were Washington shills used to overthrow a leader, Milošević, “who was very popular for resisting NATO.” That Meyssan is also author of a book entitled 9/11: The Big Lie unfortunately did not stop the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez from swallowing the Frenchman’s accusations whole. In 2007 Chávez publicly denounced Sharp as being part of a U.S. plot to oust his government.

Like most conspiracy theories, Meyssan’s case against Sharp depends on using guilt by association to establish a shadowy network of intrigue. 

It doesn’t help that rabid neoconservatives such as Max Boot support Sharp’s Nobel candidacy, that right-wing students in Venezuela have sought out nonviolence training, or that organizations with close ties to the U.S. foreign policy establishment, such as Freedom House, have taken recent interest in the long-neglected role of nonviolent resistance in international affairs. But the fact that Sharp’s influence has transcended ideological lines hardly invalidates his advocacy of nonviolent movements.

Defenders such as Stephen Zunes have issued point-by-point rebuttals of charges by the likes of Meyssan. Along with prominent academics such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, as well as antiwar leaders associated with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Code Pink, and the War Resisters League, Zunes signed a letter of support for the Albert Einstein Institution, stating,

“Rather than being a tool of imperialism, Dr. Sharp’s research and writings have inspired generations of progressive peace, labor, feminist, human rights, environmental, and social justice activists in the United States and around the world.”

While there is genuine reason to be concerned about U.S. activity undertaken in the name of “democracy promotion,” Sharp is a red herring. Not insignificantly, his ideas have frequently been used against U.S.-supported dictatorships (in places such as Egypt and the Philippines), and Palestinian activists referenced them during the first Intifada in the 1980s. In response to Chávez’s complaints, Sharp wrote the Venezuelan president a letter recommending his volume The Anti-Coup, which explains how nonviolent action—just as it can be unleashed against an unjust regime—can also be used to repel an armed putsch that does not have the backing of the majority.

Sharp’s theory is, at base, democratic, because without mass support nonviolent campaigns cannot ultimately succeed. To imagine that imperialist conniving is at the heart of Sharp’s project is to avoid the task of actually reading his books.

Progressives who do read Sharp’s books may wonder whether his ideas have implications for those who do not live under dictatorships—if, for example, they can be applied to confronting climate change, runaway economic inequality, and the corporate hijacking of democracy.

The 2011 release of How to Start a Revolution, the documentary about Sharp, coincided almost exactly with the establishment of the encampment in Zuccotti Park, and the film’s Wikipedia entry cites claims that it served as “the unofficial film of the Occupy movement.” This notion is a stretch at best. Sharp was not widely known among Occupy activists, nor were his strategic insights widely applied.

Could his ideas have been a threat to Wall Street? Labor disputes and economic boycotts play a prominent role in Sharp’s histories of unarmed conflict. Moreover, he consistently includes economic injustice in his lists of grievances that nonviolent activists might choose to address. That said, his focus is clearly on challenging the power of authoritarian regimes.

Several factors contribute to this emphasis.

When Sharp began his career, popular opinion held that nonviolence could only work in democratic societies—within states that, at least in principle, respect basic civil liberties. Gandhi could succeed against the British Empire, the argument goes, but he would have been wiped out by a fascist foe, just as the civil rights movement relied on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to constrain southern racists. Sharp took it upon himself to refute such notions, and that commitment has shaped his career.

Today, the list of undemocratic governments ousted by “people power” uprisings is so expansive that conventional wisdom about nonviolent conflict may well have reversed: one might argue that nonviolent action can be effective in challenging tyrannies but holds little value in places where dissent can be channeled through lobbying and electoral politics. The onus now is for activists to show how the same types of tactics used to oust Mubarak and Miloševi´c might also cause discomfort for the West’s wealthiest 1 percent.

A second factor influencing Sharp’s focus relates back to his theory of power. In a 1989 essay, Brian Martin of the University of Wollongong noted that when The Politics of Nonviolent Action discusses structures of power “it is usually using historical examples such as feudalism or Fascism,” rather than modern capitalism.

While contemporary “authoritarian regimes…most closely approximate the ruler-subject picture” presented by Sharp, Martin argues, “the complexity of power structures [in liberal democracies] limits the relevance of his theory.” Such limits are not insurmountable.

The insight that withdrawal of cooperation can force change remains valid in the economic sphere—it is, after all, the core principle behind the boycott. But for campaigns of nonviolent action to take on structures of corporate influence that are sometimes violent but more often seductive, Sharp’s analysis of the subject-ruler dynamic needs to be integrated with more subtle analyses of how public opinion forms and shifts in contemporary consumer society.

As he undertook his most important writing, Sharp saw himself at the beginning of a new stage in the development of nonviolent action. He has made a major contribution by pioneering a field of study devoted to understanding strategic nonviolence free from the biases and constraints of traditional pacifism. That field now extends well beyond the work of one person and consistently provides insights into protest movements that diverge from conventional labor organizing, Alinskyite schools of thought, and mainstream political campaigning.

When moments of widespread defiance arise—outbreaks such as the global justice movement after Seattle, the vast immigrant rights protests of 2006, or the Occupy encampments—these other organizing traditions are largely mystified, while the study of strategic nonviolence has much to say about how mass action can escalate, garner public sympathy, and ultimately win concrete gains.

Contrary to the claims of his detractors, Sharp is not a puppet master of global revolt; rather, he is an inspiration to many who have dared confront some of the world’s most brutal dictatorships. The difference speaks to the deeply democratic core of Sharp’s ideas. That there is now a need for a next stage of nonviolent conflict—one that may bring his theories back home to a country whose democratic institutions are threatened by oligarchic influence—is merely further testament.

Mark Engler is an editorial board member at Dissent, a contributing editor at Yes! Magazine, and author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (Nation Books). With Paul Engler, he is writing a book about the evolution of political nonviolence. He can be reached via the website