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.
Less than two months earlier, Glassman and Jared Cohen from the Secretary’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 the 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 added:
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.
Commenting on Cohen’s point that “these organizations online that are coming together are more of a new kind of civil society organization” that “eventually makes the 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-linked April 6 Youth Movement played a crucial role in making that “transformation,” by 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 junk bond “teflon guy,” who chaired Freedom House from September 2005 until January 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 countries 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 non-American 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 the Israeli 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. (One of Israel’s protege allies in Africa whom Kimche helped to groom was none other than the continent’s most infamous ruler, Col. Idi Amin of Uganda.)
Prior to his involvement with “democracy promotion,” Glassman was a resident fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, the propaganda mill that hatched the “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, published by the AEI, and was its editor-in-chief from 2005 to 2007. Clearly, his 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.
As evidence of what a small neocon world we live in, Glassman’s co-author, Kevin A. Hassett, was an economic advisor to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. Sen. McCain, who chairs NED’s Republican wing, the International Republican Institute, recently paid a visit to Tahrir Square with his inseparable travel buddy, Joe Lieberman, “the No. 1 pro-Israel advocate and leader in Congress.” Surveying the post-revolutionary scene, an “optimistic” Sen. Lieberman declared:
“This is a remarkable situation, and frankly, we should feel very good about the assistance we have given the Egyptian military over the years since the Camp David peace with Israel, because the Egyptian military really allowed this revolution in Egypt to be peaceful and let the people carry out their desires for political freedom and economic opportunity.”
Update: Jared Cohen’s buddy, Nicole Lapin, the daughter of a former Miss Israel, has been romantically linked to Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, whom Cohen contacted in June 2009 to help keep Iranian dissidents twittering.