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, quotes 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. Read other articles by Maidhc, or visit Maidhc's website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on February 18th, 2011 at 10:21am #

    beware of all organizations and movements. as far as can make out, all or most of their leaders r not elected by the people on whose ‘behalf’ orgs, think tanks, and movements act.

    i think these movements generate false hopes and lead oppressed people into believing organizations wld change things for better.
    organizations in u.s., avoid to tell people that u.s. is solely governed by laws, congress, w.h., and judiciary.
    this means talk, protest, march all u like, it won’t change the structure of u.s. governance an iota!
    thus, rendering any protest, plea, criticism useless!

  2. hayate said on February 18th, 2011 at 11:11am #

    Eventually, the connections get publicised.

  3. shabnam said on February 19th, 2011 at 8:00pm #

    USAID and NED are not the only organization that is used in color revolution. There is an entire network of organizations involved in the democracy promotion business such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), and the American Center for International Labor, the Center for International Private Enterprise and Freedom House.

    {http://rt.com/usa/news/democracy-promotion-usa-regime/}

  4. hayate said on February 20th, 2011 at 7:31pm #

    American Zionism against the Egyptian Pro-Democracy Movement

    by Prof James Petras

    February 20, 2011

    (excerpts)

    “One of the least analyzed aspects of the Egyptian pro-democracy movement and US policy toward it, is the role of the influential Zionist power configuration (ZPC) including the leading umbrella organization – the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO) – Congressional Middle East committee members, officials occupying strategic positions in the Obama Administration’s Middle East bureaus, as well as prominent editors, publicists and journalists who play a major role in the prestigious newspapers and popular weekly magazines. This essay is based on a survey of every issue of the Daily Alert (propaganda bulletin of the CPMAJO), the NY Times and the Washington Post between January 25 – February 17, 2011.

    The same prominent US Zionist scribes who, at first, defended US support for the dictatorial Mubarak regime and then supported the military takeover in Cairo, have now become born-again backers of anti-regime democrats in Iran. This is not inconsistent: the issue for US Zionists is how might pro-democracy movements affect Israel’s colonial policies in Palestine and Israel’s expanding power in the Middle East? In other words, the ZPC in Congress and the White House are not concerned about promoting democracy through American foreign policy, but only about harnessing US diplomacy and military leverage to serve Israel.

    What is striking about Obama’s twist and turns in policy toward the mass popular struggles in Egypt is how closely it repeats and implements the policy positions of the US Zionist power configuration clearly presented in the ‘52 organizations’ propaganda organ, the Daily Alert.”

    [http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23297]

  5. hayate said on February 20th, 2011 at 8:11pm #

    Google’s Revolution Factory – Alliance of Youth Movements: Color Revolution 2.0

    Fri, 11 Feb 2011 08:12 CST

    (excerpts)

    “In 2008, the Alliance of Youth Movements held its inaugural summit in New York City. Attending this summit was a combination of State Department staff, Council on Foreign Relations members, former National Security staff, Department of Homeland Security advisers, and a myriad of representatives from American corporations and mass media organizations including AT&T, Google, Facebook, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and MTV.

    [http://allyoumov.3cdn.net/f734ac45131b2bbcdb_w6m6idptn.pdf] (a modern day hitler youth…? – h)

    One might suspect such a meeting of representatives involved in US economic, domestic and foreign policy, along with the shapers of public opinion in the mass media would be convening to talk about America’s future and how to facilitate it. Joining these policy makers, was an army of “grassroots” activists that would “help” this facilitation.

    Among them was a then little known group called “April 6″ from Egypt. These Facebook “savvy” Egyptians would later meet US International Crisis Group trustee Mohamed ElBaradei at the Cairo airport in Februrary 2010 and spend the next year campaigning and protesting on his behalf in his bid to overthrow the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

    The Alliance of Youth Movements mission statement claims it is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping grassroots activists to build their capacity and make a greater impact on the world. While this sounds fairly innocuous at first, even perhaps positive, upon examining those involved in “Movements.org,” a dark agenda is revealed of such nefarious intent it is almost difficult to believe.”

    [http://www.sott.net/articles/show/223894-Google-s-Revolution-Factory-Alliance-of-Youth-Movements-Color-Revolution-2-0]

  6. Tom Paine said on March 10th, 2011 at 12:58pm #

    This article on Peter Ackerman is amounts to nothing more than an elaborate conspiracy theory. We’re supposed to believe that U.S. interests did some sort of coup against a dictator that U.S. interests had spent hundreds of billions propping up for almost 30 years? Far-fetched and speculative, at the very least.

    This ‘correction’ on the web site of Ackerman’s organization strikes me as much closer to the truth: http://nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/about-icnc/setting-the-record-straight/1493