Reply to Stephen Zunes on Imperialism and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

In his reply (“Spurious Attacks Against Supporters of Nonviolent Resistance to Oppression”) to Michael Barker’s recent MRZine criticism of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC — a prominent NGO), Stephen Zunes questions MRZine for throwing doubt on the ICNC.  Zunes indicates that he is himself chair of the academic advisory board for the ICNC and stresses his own considerable left credentials as evidence in its defense.

Are there valid reasons to question the ICNC’s role in contemporary U.S. imperialism?  We think so.  For instance, Zunes criticizes Barker for making too much of the fact that ICNC director Jack DuVall overlapped on the board of the Arlington Institute with former CIA director James Woolsey.  Zunes in his reply suggests that this is overblown, that DuVall and Woolsley “were only at two meetings” together “and never spoke to each other.”  Yet, not mentioned by Zunes, is the fact that Woolsey presently sits together with the ICNC’s founding director Peter Ackerman, an enormously
wealthy investment banker, on the board of the notorious right-wing Freedom House (best known for its insistence that the United States should have continued the Vietnam War)  — see <>.

Ackerman is not only a founding director of the ICNC and sits on the Freedom House board, but is also a director, along with the likes of Colin Powell, of the “imperial brain trust,” the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR — where Woolsey is also a prominent member).  Ackerman sits on the key advisory committee of  the CFR’s Center for Preventive Action, devoted to overthrowing governments opposed by Washington by political means (or where this is not practicable, using political low intensity warfare to soften them up for military intervention).  The CPA is headed by Reagan’s former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General John W. Vessey, who oversaw the invasion of Grenada.  The members of the advisory committee of the CPA, including Ackerman himself, have all been heavily involved in helping to fulfill U.S. war aims in Yugoslavia, and the Center has recently focused on overturning Chavez’s government in Venezuela (see John Bellamy Foster, “The Latin American Revolt,” Monthly Review, July August 2007).  On top of all of this Ackerman is a director of the right-wing U.S. Institute of Peace, which is connected directly through its chair J. Robinson West to the National Petroleum Council, which includes CEOs of all the major U.S. energy corporations.  On the domestic front, Ackerman has been working with the Cato Institute to privatize Social Security.  His colleague Woolsey is playing a key role in the Scooter Libby Defense Trust.

If all of this isn’t reason to begin to ask searching questions regarding Ackerman’s (and Zunes’s) ICNC and its role in the U.S. imperial system we don’t know what is.  Zunes suggests that Barker (and by implication MRZine) should decide “whose side” he is on.  The question of course cuts two ways.