The Junk Bond “Teflon Guy” Behind Egypt’s Nonviolent Revolution (and a comment)

The first and only time I had the displeasure of meeting Peter Ackerman, he immediately began to shout at me in the most offensively gendered way about how Freedom House's statistics (which I had questioned) were trustworthy and about how his particular vision of "non-violent revolution" was the only viable way, ignoring/talking over my many counter-examples, and the fact that his twisted neocon vision of "freedom" has promoted what are essentially neoliberal revolutions, more deeply entrenching economic and structural violence in all the sites he used as examples. Freedom House and ICNC were surreptitiously infiltrating the April 6th movement, which I know because my students who were active in the movement became irate when they discovered the infiltrators, who had been trying to move the group in a much less radical direction without disclosing their funding. ICNC also has its dirty paws all over the Venezuelan right wing with its elite hunger strikers (just as it was behind the 2002 coup-CORRECTION: just as it trained the Manos Blancas group in 2005 AFTER the Venezuelan coup, which in many ways is even worse than getting involved before since it was quite clear by then whom they represented), and has actively tried to coopt the Honduran resistance movement by funding its particular brand of "non-violence" workshops and who knows what else (Freedom House, meanwhile, has been desperately trying to find Honduran human rights organizations willing to take its money). Additionally, ICNC is behind the glossy brochures being distributed in numerous languages (now including Arabic and Spanish) to citizens of countries listed as "partly free" and "unfree" by the almost-entirely State Department-funded Freedom House, informing people about the "right" way to protest. Freedom House, ICNC, and other interlocked "civil society" organizations today carry out the destabilization work that used to be under the purview of the CIA, and that's exactly how the USG wants it; it gives greater plausible deniability. Just read Craig Kelly's 07SANTIAGO983, A SOUTHERN CONE PERSPECTIVE ON COUNTERING CHAVEZ AND REASSERTING U.S. LEADERSHIP.

Click below title for original of the following article by Maidhc Ó Cathail:

The Junk Bond “Teflon Guy” Behind Egypt’s Nonviolent Revolution

On February 9, Al Jazeera aired an episode in its People and Power series entitled “Egypt: Seeds of Change.” The programme offers a revealing behind the scenes look at a core group of activists from the April 6 Youth Movement who played a crucial role in Egypt’s nonviolent revolution.

“This is not a spontaneous uprising,” reporter Elizabeth Jones stressed. “The revolution has been in the making for three years.” The key to its success, we learn, was the instruction April 6 leaders received from veterans of groups like Otpor, the student movement that brought down Serbian president Slododan Milosevic.

Srdja Popovic, a leader of that revolution, we are told, “shared his firsthand experience with April 6.” Mohamed Adel, one of the April 6 leaders, describes his training in Serbia in the tactics of nonviolent resistance, including “how to organise and get people out on the streets.” He brought back videos and teaching aids to help train the other leaders, who are shown “directing the uprising from the start.”

Since the ouster of Milosevic in 2000, Popovic has been busy spreading the gospel of nonviolent warfare. In 2003, he founded the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) in Belgrade. By spring 2010, the globe-trotting Serb reportedly had “five revolutions already under his belt.” In a Mother Jones puff piece, Nicholas Schmidle writes: “CANVAS got off to an impressive start, training the pro-democracy campaigners in Georgia, Ukraine, and Lebanon who went on to lead the Rose, Orange, and Cedar revolutions, respectively.”

But who funds it all? Schmidle, a fellow at the Soros-linked New America Foundation, cites Popovic: “CANVAS is ‘100 percent independent from any government’ and funded entirely by private donors.” Yet an LA Times profile of Nini Gogiberidze, a Georgian employee of CANVAS, says the group is funded in part by the near-governmental organisation Freedom House. “Gogiberidze,” the Times adds, “is among Georgia’s ‘velvet’ revolutionaries, a group of Western and local activists who make up a robust pro-democracy corps in this Caucasus country—so much of it funded by American philanthropist George Soros that one analyst calls the nation Sorosistan.”

CANVAS works closely with the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), with which it has shared a number of staff members—including Dr. Stephen Zunes, who has collaborated with CANVAS in training Egyptian activists. Founded in 2002, the ICNC is funded entirely by Peter Ackerman, its founding chair. Ackerman, who chaired the board of Freedom House from September 2005 until January 2009, also indirectly funds CANVAS.

Ackerman’s wealth derives mainly from his time at Drexel Burnham Lambert, the Wall Street investment bank that was forced into bankruptcy in February 1990 due to its involvement in illegal activities in the junk bond market. As special projects aide to junk bond king Michael Milken, Ackerman cleaned up. In 1988 alone, he took home a salary of $165 million for his critical role in financing Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’s $26 billion leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. But four months before Drexel collapsed into bankruptcy, Ackerman “beat a fortuitously timed retreat” to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. While the “king” was sentenced to 10 years for securities fraud, “the highest-paid of all of Michael R. Milken’s minions” emerged as “the big winner” with a fortune of approximately $500 million—prompting one of his former colleagues to complain: “Peter Ackerman is a real Teflon guy.”

Having successfully escaped “the stench of Drexel,” Ackerman completed what BusinessWeek called “an improbable transformation from junk-bond promoter back to scholar.” Prior to his financial exploits, he had written his doctoral thesis under the guidance of Gene Sharp, the Harvard academic whose theories of nonviolent struggle had inspired the velvet revolutionaries. In fact, while he was still working for Milken, Ackerman had been funding Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institution. According to the Wall Street Journal, “A large part of ICNC’s and Canvas’s theoretical arsenal is drawn from Mr. Sharp’s writings.”

As part of his own contribution to worldwide revolution, Ackerman has helped produce two documentaries on nonviolent conflict and even a regime change video game. His film on Otpor’s toppling of Milosevic played a crucial role in the success of Georgia’s Rose Revolution, which brought George Soros protégé Mikheil Saakashvili to the presidency in 2004. Every Saturday for months, a Soros-backed TV network broadcast “Bringing Down a Dictator.” As one activist told the Washington Post, “Most important was the film. All the demonstrators knew the tactics of the revolution in Belgrade by heart because they showed [the film]…. Everyone knew what to do.”

At one point in the Al Jazeera programme, Ahmed Maher, “the main instigator of this revolution,” reveals his group’s close collaboration with Mohamed ElBaradei, the former IAEA chief, who flew back to Cairo on January 27. “From the beginning,” he said, “the April 6 Youth Movement has been allied with the groups that cooperated with ElBaradei when he returned to Egypt.” Up to his opportune return, ElBaradei and Peter Ackerman’s wife, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, had both been board members of the Soros-financed International Crisis Group.

And for those who believe that Israel is genuinely worried about the prospect of “democratic change” south of the border, Ackerman’s participation in a roundtable discussion entitled “The Challenge of Radical Islam” at the 2008 Herzliya Conference with Uzi Landau—Ariel Sharon’s Minister of Internal Security and current member of the Knesset for Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu—should give them pause for thought.

Maidhc Ó Cathail writes extensively on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East.


The "our" in "our"

I resigned my membership even before the coup over HRW's unbalanced treatment of Venezuela, Adrienne. I have no illusions about the organization. It has really been since the Soros money started flowing in that they have started to document human rights abuses. This report and the report cited therein were welcome developments.

Giordano: Guilty as charged!

If opposing US efforts to install comprador regimes in foreign countries that are attempting to chart their own course amounts to tirelessly defending Mugabe and Ahmadinejad, then I’m guilty as charged.

But it is emblematic of Ackerman’s poodles to try to twist opposition to imperialism – in this case opposition to ICNC-assisted efforts to install comprador regimes in countries on Washington’s hit list – into defense of foreign leaders that are absurdly demonized as new Hitlers.

Whatever the sins of Mugabe and Ahmadinejad, comparing them to Hitler either bespeaks a profound ignorance of history or an intellectually dishonest attempt to prettify imperialism as a humanitarian crusade to rid the world of a rogue’s gallery of Hitlers.

That Giordano plays this game—as well invokes a mechanical, kindergarten version of anarchism to justify his taking lucre from Peter Ackerman -- calls into question his commitment to any kind of real left agenda.

Giordano's Mechanical Anarchism

It's quite a sight to behold Al railing against the state in defense of a benefactor whose ties to the biggest , most ruthless, state in the world are multifarious. It's as if he invoked the virtues of rebellion in defense of Hitler for aiding Franco to overthrow Spain's Republican government. Hey, what's wrong with Hitler? He's backing rebellions against Spanish statists! And rebellion and resistance everywhere, at every moment of every day, is always good, because all states are, in their DNA, hostile to freedom and justice and authentic democracy.

It would appear that mechanical anarchism has become the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Mechanical Authoritarianism?

So, Stephen Gowans, tireless defender of Mugabe and Ahmedinejad, wants to lecture me about "Hitler"? That's hilarious.

Let me get this straight: Peter Ackerman is "Hitler" (it's proven by the Glenn Beck blackboard graphics that look like peyote buttons that Dr. Pine is posting frenetically to her blog, I guess, they prove that Ackerman runs the whole wide world! Who knew?), and if I correct knowingly false claims of "fact," I am defending not only "Hitler" but, also, "Franco"? That's right. Anarchists always defended Franco. Not.

Wow. That's, to conjure up another foe of Franco, positively Orwellian.

I will leave you misguided souls to your UFO conspiracy rantings (so sorry what the aliens did to you, Doctor: Show me on the doll where Peter Ackerman touched you, please!), and no longer consider myself a friend nor colleague ni companhero of Dr. Pine, who has apparently gone off the deep end here, making open public threats of misguided revenge on her blog against people who very naturally and respectfully have done no more than defend themselves from malicious libels and Glenn Beck Crayola charts of how they are "Hitler" and therefore run the world, and, wow, just wow, sad to see formerly coherent former colleagues succumb to bizzaro world obsessions.

Keep it up. I'm kinda glad to see that Glenn Beck-ism isn't just a phenomenon of the right, because in the end it is not right or left, but about low moral character, and this particular corner of the Internets is a cesspool of it right now. Hasta la vista...

some clarity please

This article is posted in a very confusing way. With Maidhc Ó Cathail's name and the link to the original article not mentioned until some distance down, the casual reader could easily have taken away the mistaken impression that it was actually penned by the author of this blog, who also has "students."

But then just when you realize thanks to the belated link & mention of the original, that it was NOT written by Adrienne, you arrive at the comments section where you are left to interpret whether Maidhc rather than Adrienne is responding directly, or else Adrienne is channeling Maidhc. Perhaps Maidhc is guest blogging? Perhaps Adrienne is Maidhc? We don't know. We can only guess. Maybe we will guess wrong.

Then (if you are still paying attention) you finally realize that the bold CORRECTION in the first paragraph was probably the "comment" referred to in the title, rather than any comment in the Comment Section, but at this point you have to wonder, whose comment/correction is it? It's needlessly distracting. But otherwise a good piece that deserves wider distribution.


Everything before where I mention Maidhc is me speaking; from the linked article title below is his article.


That helps. Now I get that the "comment" was actually the whole first paragraph, meant as an introduction, not just the correction sandwiched in the middle.

...Behind Egypt's Nonviolent Revolution

This may be trivial but I wondered what "offensively gendered way" means, in the first sentence.

Is this an attribute/behavior

Is this an attribute/behavior peculiar to men? Ann Coulter comes to mind...

I just kinda tripped on the phrase's sexism, and noticed that you have spent a fair amt of time studying such things. But it colored how I received the rest of your case against Ackerman. I understand you were angry, esp if he was shouting at you etc.


You'd call my use of the phrase "offensively gendered way", and not the fact of his behavior (which several people around me commented upon, including a much younger man whom he addressed repeatedly while blatantly ignoring me) sexist? That's pretty out there. Your odd and patronizing interpretation of my phrasing may have colored how you received what I wrote, but it any case, I wasn't "angry" and—as you imply—weakened by an emotional (dare I say "feminine") response. I was, rather, alerted to the fact that this was a man with a particularly aggressive and misogynist approach to "non-violence" and a total disinterest in voices and agency that contradict his twisted vision of democracy. This analysis was, and continues to be, borne out by further investigation. Afterthought: if you didn't actually do so, click on the link I posted in my above response. That might help you to understand what I was (and am) referring to.

Interesting turn of phrase: near-governmental organization

I do have to say that Human Rights Watch has performed a valuable role in documenting and publicizing the governmental violence, so Soros funding is not all bad.

Long delayed afterthought

Charles: HRW only got its act in gear in response to our direct action; it dragged its feet to an unconscionable degree.


granting that ackerman is a piece of work, that destabilization campaigns are a trusty arm of foreign policy, that NGOs of the global north are an insufferably self-entitled industry and that organic social movements attract all kinds of kibitzers and provocateurs, but the linked article by Ó Cathail ties these threads together in a way that's at best glib and at worst racist. are middle-aged financiers and elderly pacifists really "behind" the north african intifadas? that's what the tehran government said about the iranian "greens", but i guess they aren't saying this about the egyptians and libyans today. didn't they get the bolivarian memo? manichean thinking is hard to keep consistent over time, and sometimes the enemy of my enemy is not my friend.


The article gives them too much credit; they're not behind the uprisings, but they have been inserting themselves for years in dishonest and dangerous ways in the Egyptian left, and working hard to take credit themselves for the work "they" have done (e.g., the recent NYT article). And though the uprising was truly Egyptian, these folks have had more than their share of influence. I'm particularly worried about their pushing ElBaradei as the perfect U.S. & Israel-loving, neoliberal, but "free" solution.

With all due respect

Compañera Pine -

I did try to communicate this with you directly, and give you demonstrable facts to work with. And thus it pains me to do this in a public forum, but it is what it is. You turned corrections you received from me into an additional falsehood (por favor, cite the evidence for this claim that the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict trained the Monos Blancos of Venezuela, or retract it).

But the real question is much larger, and it is this:

Is knowledge about strategic nonviolence, tactics, community organizing, rebellion, revolt, revolution, civil resistance and otherwise how the little guy can beat the big guy only worthwhile in some countries? And is it evil in others?

Or is it a universal principle that when all peoples have knowledge and skills in "how to do it" the world will be a freer and more just and more authentically democratic place?

You seem to be implying that if out of hundreds of educational events about strategic nonviolence promoted by an organization that believes it is a better path than war or military intervention to resolve human grievances - in Egypt, as you note, in Palestine, in Mexico, in Colombia, in the USA more than anywhere else, in so many countries, that if an organization once gave, six years ago, (partial) financial support for a two or three day workshop by a different organization in Boston USA at which a small number of fairly inconsequential Venezuelans of escualido tendencies attended, then this means that organization trained "Monos Blancos" and "hunger strikers" in Venezuela (something neither you nor anyone else has ever offered evidence of) that this would therefore be some big threat to anyone or anything? Or, as you imply, that an advocacy group for nonviolent civil resistance, if its materials and knowledge reach anyone that might not be on "our side" that somehow disqualifies its work?

I am proud to work with people who promote "human rebellion anywhere, any time." As a Stalinist critic of my work noted, there really "is no daylight" between me and people who promote the idea that rebellion is good, that it is our highest calling as human beings, and that it is never a threat to any legitimate State or democracy. To the contrary, the perpetual revolution, in all lands, is our highest calling as humans.

And I don't really give two cents if the human spirit of rebellion is inconvenient to Barack Obama or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad or Moamar Gaddafi or Hosni Mubarak or Peres or Netanhahu or Lobo or Calderon or whatever Head of State of any land.

Rebellion is always good. Resistance under any State is always marvelous. Because States are, in their DNA, hostile to freedom and justice and authentic democracy.

And dividing the world up in a "geopolitical map" in which *knowledge* about how to rebel effectively, based on a political science pioneered by Ghandi or King or a lot of other people, is supposedly good in some States and "bad" in others, is the twisted perverted logic on which all States thrive and build power against the people.

I am for rebellion and resistance everywhere. At every moment of every day. And those who try to pick and choose where it should or should not happen, are Statists, by definition.

So where, compa, do you fit into that equation?

your friend, but one bothered by your post here,


Thank you, Al Giordano;

Thank you, Al Giordano; well-said and I look forward to the retraction requested of Ms Pine, as well as to Ms Pine's defense of the Statism manifest in her position. If we can point/counterpoint leisurely, perhaps a few more illicit revolutions will occur as the temporizing and fact-free assertion continue.