Egypt: A Virtual Smoking Gun?

On January 12, 2009, US Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James K. Glassman joined a group of Egyptian political bloggers from the Virtual Newsroom of the American University in Cairo. Is this the “virtual” smoking gun that indicates American collusion in the subsequent ouster of Hosni Mubarak?

Less than two months earlier, Glassman and Jared Cohen from Secretary Clinton’s Policy Planning Staff had given an on-the-record briefing on the State Department’s alliance with ten partners in the private sector — including Facebook, Google, MTV, AT&T, Howcast, Access 360 Media — to form the Alliance for Youth Movements (AYM). During that briefing, Glassman singled out Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement for special mention, saying that some of its members would be in attendance at the inaugural AYM youth summit in New York from December 3-5. Asked about “the risk of unleashing something here that is going to come back to bite you, especially with our allies,” Glassman replied: “We are very supportive of pro-democracy groups around the world. And sometimes, that puts us at odds with certain governments.”

When pressed by the questioner, Glassman explained: “Now, we have to work with those governments. And let me also just say, there’s a difference on an operational level between public—what we do in public diplomacy and what is often done in official diplomacy. We are communicating and engaging at the level of the public, not at the level of officials. So you know, it certainly is possible that some of these governments will not be all that happy that—at what we’re doing, but that’s what we do in public diplomacy.”

After Jared Cohen pointed out that the organizations that are coming together online form “a new kind of civil society organization” that eventually leads to a “transformation,” Glassman acknowledged that the US government has “been engaging with such civil society organizations in places like Egypt for a long time.”

As Al Jazeera revealed in a behind the scenes look at Egypt’s non-violent coup, the State Department-backed April 6 Youth Movement did indeed play a crucial role in that “transformation,” through organizing and directing the protests that toppled America’s erstwhile ally Mubarak. The April 6 leaders also received training from the Belgrade-based Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), which works closely with the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). The ICNC was founded and funded entirely by Peter Ackerman, the multi-millionaire junk bond “teflon guy,” who chaired Freedom House between 2005 and 2009. Freedom House is funded in part by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US government-sponsored neoconservative-led regime change specialists.

On April 19, 2010, Ackerman attended an event entitled “Cyber-Dissidents and Political Change” sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute, which Glassman has headed since September 3, 2009. “Inspired by President and Mrs. Bush’s unwavering commitment to freedom for all people,” its website states, “the Bush Institute works to embolden dissidents and freedom advocates, creating a powerful network for moral support and education.” Among the cyber-dissidents in attendance at its Dallas event were Rodrigo Diamanti from Venezuela; Arash Kamangir, from Iran; Oleg Kozlovsky, from Russia; Ernesto Hernández Busto, from Cuba (who lives in Barcelona); Isaac Mao, from China; and Ahed Alhendi, from Syria. Clearly, some people are seen as more deserving of Mr. and Mrs. Bush’s freedom advocacy than others.

In 2007, Glassman became chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a US government agency that provides propaganda to overseas audiences via the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). Norman J. Pattiz, the “founding father” of Radio Sawa, which is increasingly popular in Egypt, sits on BBG’s board. Pattiz is also on the national board of the Israel Policy Forum, which is “committed to a strong and enduring U.S.-Israel relationship and to advancing the shared interests of the United States and the State of Israel.” Its Israeli Advisory Council is comprised of prominent figures from Israel’s military and intelligence establishment, mostly notably David Kimche, who was once described as “Israel’s leading spy and would-be Mossad chief.” According to a Washington Report profile, “The ‘man with the suitcase,’ as Kimche became known by colleagues in Israel, would appear in an African country a day or two before a major coup, and leave a week later after the new regime was firmly in control, often with the aid of Israeli security teams.”

Prior to his involvement with “democracy promotion,” Glassman was a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the neoconservative propaganda mill that pushed the concept of a “global war on terror” primarily to advance the national interest of Israel. While there, he founded The American, a magazine of ideas for business leaders, and was its editor-in-chief from 2005 to 2007. Evidently, Glassman’s neocon paymasters were not put off by his unenviable financial track record. In his 1999 book Dow 36,000, written shortly before the dot-com bubble burst, he predicted that the Dow Jones Industrial Average would rise to 36,000 within a few years. Commenting on the “hysteria” that fueled the deregulation-induced financial crisis nine years later, Ralph Nader singled out Glassman’s bestseller, joking that he would send it back to Glassman with one of the zeros missing.

Let’s hope that the Egyptian activists who put their faith in Glassman’s “public diplomacy” haven’t a similar rude awakening in store.

Maidhc Ó Cathail writes extensively on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East. Read other articles by Maidhc, or visit Maidhc's website.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. MichaelKenny said on March 7th, 2011 at 8:31am #

    The answer to the question in the first paragraph is no. People connected to an American university will inevitably be favourable to the US. A more likely explanation is that Glassman is testing the water by talking to the people most likely to be on his side in Cairo. The very fact that he is reduced to going to the American University for information is very encouraging. What’s-his-name, the American stooge, may well not win the election!

  2. shabnam said on March 7th, 2011 at 12:34pm #

    The majority of US agents live outside their countries, otherwise they will be arrested at the time of entry into their country of origin. This is true with majority of Iranians who are cooperating with these organizations and foundations. Few people were arrested when they returned from abroad attending conferences in Germany, India or Dubai.

    One of the cyber-dissident in attendance at its Dallas event that you have mentioned here is, Arash Kamangir, an Iranian who lives in Canada for years now. He is one of the Green stooges who has a weblog where disseminate information about everything except the crimes of US imperialism and Zionism. These kinds of people say we have nothing to do with these two countries regardless of the fact that the majority of the conflicts and terrorism in the world are connected to these countries.
    Arash Kamangir is a pseudonym where has been taken from Persian folklore. Arash Kamangir in folklore is a heroic archer-figure of Iranian-Persian oral tradition. His real name is, according to the internet, Amir Abadpour.

    Another agent of the velvet revolution was Ramin Jahanbegloo who is a Canadian Citizen and lives in Canada now. He is a Western educated fellow where used to live in Iran to create a base. He traveled to India and met with Dali Lama, but when he returned he was arrested.
    He claimed that he did not know he was dealing with the western intelligent services. He thought is working towards a democratic society and these people were helping. Arash Kamangir cannot claim the same, because this option has already been used by others.

    Thank you very much for your good work.

  3. Rehmat said on March 8th, 2011 at 4:02am #

    Over a week ago, Mona Eltahawy, a US-Egyptian secularist journalist and feminist while speaking at Israel Lobby J-Street’s second annual conference in Washington DC – tried to calm-down the Israel-Firsts’ ichy nerves by telling them that Egypt will not cancel its peace-treaty with Israel (Camp David Accord) because the young Egyptians protesters are more concerned with economy and human-rights in the country. However, she did warned the 2400 Jewish audience that no matter whoever form the future government (secularists, nationalists or Islamists), the great majority of Egyptians will never stop hating Israel until it start treating Palestinians with dignity and equality.

  4. Tom Paine said on March 8th, 2011 at 2:06pm #

    This article reflects the usual ultra-left conspiracy theories about how nefarious U.S. bodies are supposedly engineering coups against various regimes. For years these theorists claimed that such coups were directed against regimes antagonistic to the U.S. , like the regime of the accused war criminal Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in Serbia. Now, however, the theorists are doing a somersault by claiming that the U.S. toppled the very dictator it’s been giving billions to every year, Hosni Mubarak. If you believe that, you may also want to consider believing in UFO’s, because the credibility of the evidence is similar.

    For example, this article claims that the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict works with a Belgrade-based group that trained April 6 people. Most of us involved in nonviolence know that it does not. And the article’s characterization of Peter Ackerman as some sort of “junk bond ‘teflon guy'”? That’s a 20-year old label by an anonymous source for an American business magazine, which tells you nothing about what Ackerman has been doing since then. What O Cathail doesn’t mention in this article is that Ackerman did his Ph.D. on Gandhi and nonviolent resistance in the 1970s, and co-wrote two books on nonviolence. And we’re supposed to believe that his attendance at a Bush Institute conference proves that he’s hanging out with someone who’s on a board with someone else who’s on an advisory council with an Israeli spy? That’s four-degrees-of-separation guilt-by-association. Totally absurd, inasmuch as Ackerman’s center has done several workshops for Palestinian resisters — and that’s on the public record.

  5. 3bancan said on March 8th, 2011 at 2:40pm #

    Tom Paine said on March 8th, 2011 at 2:06pm #

    TP’s comment about Slobodan Miloševi? clearly shows that TP is a typical ameronazi propagandist…

  6. Tom Paine said on March 8th, 2011 at 3:08pm #

    3bancan, your use of the non-word “ameronazi” shows that you’re less interested in actually responding to an argument than in ideological name-calling. As for Milosevic, it was an International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague that brought charges of genocide against him. If the latter is not a war crime, just what would it be?

  7. said on March 8th, 2011 at 3:31pm #

    It would be just as logical for this writer to assert that the obvious mission of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict is to overthrow the government of the US. I’ve done a couple of Plowshares actions, have two felonies for them in the US, have served time in three prisons and many jails for opposing US militarism and military bases, and ICNC has worked with me to provide their generic educational sessions to activists from across the country. They provide workshops on these skills and strategies for many who oppose US policy or who oppose the rule of US clients. I teach at least 500 new students each year in my classes and many more in community workshops on these tactics and techniques and the vast majority of the participants use or will use their skills and education to challenge US policy. Here is the key: Ackerman supports the use of nonviolence. He is interested, as all of us are who ever collaborate with ICNC, in doing no harm and in gaining freedom and justice. Is that a leftwing value? I’m not so sure about the nonviolence; it seems that is poorly understood by most leftists. I would have thought by now it’s time to start to get this.

  8. 3bancan said on March 8th, 2011 at 3:39pm #

    Tom Paine said on March 8th, 2011 at 3:08pm #

    In the mere fact that the ameronazi genociders’ kangaroo court brought charges of genocide against Miloševi? TP sees him as a perpetrator of genocide. Typical ameronazi reasoning…

  9. Jonas Rand said on March 9th, 2011 at 1:40am #

    The circumstances under which the trial of Slobodan Miloševi? was conducted were indeed dubious. While his régime’s ethnic nationalism and harsh treatment of political opponents might have been despicable, the US’s past support for tyrants friendly to its foreign interests suggest that the reason he was convicted was due to politicking and conspiracy-mongering. His trial was quite possibly a frame-up, as many countries are craven toward US pressure to the point of puppetry.

    Additionally, the bombing of Belgrade was nothing less than a war crime, but Bill Clinton never appeared before the Hague for unnecessarily ordering that slaughter.

  10. Jonas Rand said on March 9th, 2011 at 1:45am #

    Does this post, sans linkage, work?

    Moderators: Please remove this irrelevant post.

  11. Luis Cayetano said on March 9th, 2011 at 2:43am #

    ”TP’s comment about Slobodan Miloševi? clearly shows that TP is a typical ameronazi propagandist… ”

    Not an argument.

    ”3bancan, your use of the non-word “ameronazi” shows that you’re less interested in actually responding to an argument than in ideological name-calling.”


    Please excuse the troll, guys. He knows not what he does.