Non-Violence 101

Lucky for
Stephen Zunes that Truthout‘s Steve Weissman "did not provide a link" to Peter Ackerman and Ramin Ahmadi’s January 2006 op-ed for the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune
— "Iran‘s future? Watch the streets," the piece was titled. 

Because of Weissman’s oversight in his June 21 criticism of the duo, Zunes was able to respond to Weissman via the June 29 Truthout, and to accuse Weissman of misrepresenting both the op-ed and the work of Ackerman’s International Center on Nonviolent Conflict — without Truthout‘s readers being able to check the op-ed for themselves. 

So let me correct Weissman’s oversight. — As of this moment, Truthout‘s (not to mention ZNet’s) readers need look no further than the website of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, where the NCRI re-posted a copy of the Ackerman – Ahmadi op-ed almost as soon as it turned-up in the NYT and IHT in early January, 2006: See "Iran‘s future? Watch the streets." 

(Yes.  That’s right.  The website of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a.k.a., the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK or MKO).  While the U.S. Department of State was still compiling its annual Patterns of Global Terrorism reports (the last was issued on April 29, 2004 — see Appendix B), the MEK was listed among the U.S. Government’s "Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations."  Still was designated a "Foreign Terrorist Organization," as a matter of fact, as recently as April 8, 2008 (see No. 29).  One of the MEK’s eight or so different incarnations over the years has been the National Council of Resistance of Iran.  Nor let there be any doubt about it: The NCRI – MEK’s reason for being is to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran.  So if you want to read what Peter Ackerman and Ramin Ahmadi wrote back in January 2006 about watching the streets and the future of Iran, and you can’t find it via Truthout, remember to Google the names ‘Ackerman’ and ‘Ahmadi’ and the ‘National Council of Resistance of Iran’.) 

Here, then, was the opening paragraph of the Ackerman – Ahmadi op-ed:


For months Iranian activists and even moderate clerics have been concerned about the radical tendencies of Iran‘s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the past few weeks after he said that the Holocaust was a myth, called for Israel to be wiped off the map and banned Western music from state-run radio and television, the concern spread around the world.



Would anyone care to parse the falsehoods in this paragraph?  I mean, I myself get so sick and tired of doing it in daily conversations and whatnot.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumed the office of the President of Iran on August 6, 2005. — Do Ackerman and Ahmadi — or Zunes — honestly expect the non-gullible part of the reading public to take the ridiculous claims that this paragraph makes about Ahmadinejad as anything other than the authors’ contribution to the ongoing demonization of a man who at the time had held office in Iran for five months? 


"[Ahmadinejad’s] performance [during his first five months] is disturbingly reminiscent of those European fascist leaders of the 1920s and 1930s," Ackerman and Ahmadi wrote. 


Can you believe this stuff?  As of January 2006, it wasn’t Iran that had attacked Afghanistan and Iraq — its neighbors to the east and west — killing huge numbers of people and setting millions more afoot.  It was the United States of America that did this. Yet, given these circumstances, these two preachers of nonviolence took to the op-ed pages of the New York Times and International Herald Tribune to chide the "international community," not for "doing nothing" where the massive violence of the Americans was concerned, but for its failure to "support the ordinary citizens in Iran who have persistently been pressing for genuine democracy, the rule of law and economic opportunity."


Imagine that.

Perhaps I am missing something deep and impenetrable about the philosophy of nonviolence here?  American preachers of nonviolence (presuming for the sake of argument that I can count Ramin Ahmadi as an American) who look at the violence of the human world, then look at the Middle East, and who conclude that the "international community" is not doing enough — in Iran?  Come again?  And Zunes, who by now uses forms of the word ‘nonviolence’ at least as often as anyone you can name, still expects non-gullible readers to buy these evasions of massive American violence, and diversions onto the state of affairs inside Iran? 

Since the start of 2002, as the most violent and powerful killing machine on earth prepared to attack Iraq, having just attacked Afghanistan three months earlier, which five or ten theaters of conflict do you suppose have witnessed the most intense work on behalf of nonviolent action by Peter Ackerman’s ICNC?  (Note that if I could find one or more annual reports by the ICNC, I’d provide this information without bothering to ask.)


If the activism of the Washington D.C.-based ICNC truly were informed by its "Operating Guidelines," rather than deploying these guidelines selectively, the way that every other partisan of American Power does, the United States of America would be at the top of the ICNC’s list — and there would be no close second.

Instead, Peter Ackerman and Ramin Ahmadi argued the importance of a "grass-roots movement…waiting to be roused in Iran," whose "prospects will not be enhanced either by pleading with Iran’s rulers for moderation or threatening external intervention." — As if, even then, the U.S. military had not attacked and occupied Iran’s neighbors, and continued threatening to attack Iran.  As if who needs to be (a-)roused are the peoples of Iran.

And Stephen Zunes rises to their defense against Steve Weissman, asserting bizarrely that it is "bizarre to imply that the United States has anything to do at all with the uprising in Iran" since the June 12 presidential election. — As if the American wars in two neighboring countries (three, counting Pakistan; four, counting the Occupied Palestinian Territories), the American military exercises around Iran’s borders, Washington’s use of the International Atomic Energy Agency to harass Iran over its nuclear program, and the series of economic and political sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States, its allies, and the Security Council, do not count as "external interventions" by the United States (et al.) in the internal affairs of Iran.

Like hell.


"Iran: Non-Violence 101," Steve Weissman, Truthout, June 21, 2009
A Response to Steve Weissman’s ‘Non-Violence 101’," Stephen Zunes, Truthout, June 29, 2009
Iran‘s future? Watch the streets," Peter Ackerman and Ramin Ahmadi, New York TimesInternational Herald Tribune, January 4-5, 2006 (as posted to the website of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)

International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (Homepage)


"Iran and the Americans," ZNet, June 22, 2009


Update (July 2): It is one thing to preach nonviolence.  Something quite else to live it.  And yet a third to pretend that when the first and the second do not match — in fact, are light-years apart — what we should look at to resolve the contradiction between words and deeds is not what people do, but what people say.

On the morning after the Bush regime ordered the American military to attack Iraq in March 2003, Peter Ackerman, then a member of Freedom House‘s Board of Trustees (later he’d become its Chairman from September 2005 through early 2009), and the founding Chair of the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, added his signature along with Freedom House’s other 21 Board members to an egregious Statement that not only did not condemn this violent, barbarous, and criminal act of U.S. military aggression (this "outbreak of hostilities," as the statement put it) — but that "fervently hope[d] that the war effort American forces are now engaged in goes well and that Saddam Hussein’s tyranny falls with minimal loss of life."

Of course, as co-belligerents in the U.S. Government’s war, this brief, 559-word Statement did not make the mistake of saying one word about the philosophy of "nonviolence."

Instead, its big casus bellum was something called "democracy."  Indeed.  Forms of the word ‘democracy’ turned up no fewer than 18 different times in this Statement — Freedom House has always pretended that along with "freedom," it seeks to bring "democracy" to the democratically backward parts of the world.


Thus, along with their support for the belligerent’s supreme international crime and its grave breach of the peace and security of the world, this Statement noted that with the U.S. war against Iraq, the "Gulf has the potential of making a clean break with a past rooted in repression and entering into the growing global community of democratic states" — all to be desired, Peter Ackerman et al. unambiguously affirmed.

Recounting Peter Ackerman’s pro-war stance here at the very moment his Government unleashed monumental levels of violence against an entire region of the world, I now await somebody smart enough to show me how to square co-belligerence of this mighty caliber with both the philosophy of nonviolence as well as the substance of democratic will-formation.


Or might we not instead file all such efforts under the rubrics ‘hypocrisy’, ‘fraud’, ‘deception’, and the like?  



"Freedom House Statement on Iraq War," Press Release, March 20, 2003

ICNC Operating Guidelines, International Center for Nonviolent Conflict



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