Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars

Since the anti-war protests on Vietnam, the U.S. government has made “perception management” of the American people a high priority, feeding them a steady diet of propaganda about foreign crises, even getting “peace groups” to buy into “pro-democracy” wars, write Margaret Sarfehjooy and Coleen Rowley.

By Margaret Sarfehjooy and Coleen Rowley

“War is peace” double-speak has become commonplace these days. And, the more astute foreign policy journalists and commentators are beginning to realize the extent of how “liberal interventionists” work in sync with neocon warhawks to produce and sustain a perpetual state of U.S. war.

More and more “peace and social justice” groups are even being twisted into “democracy promotion,” U.S. militarism style. But rarely do we get a window to see as clearly into how this Orwellian transformation occurs as with the “Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria” (CISPOS) based in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, a spin-off of “Friends for a Nonviolent World” (FNVW), steering its Quaker-inspired founding in nonviolence to promote speakers and essayists with strong ties to the violent uprising to topple the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, resulting in a war that has already taken some 200,000 lives.

A scene of destruction after an aerial bombing in Azaz, Syria, Aug. 16, 2012. (U.S. government photo)

A scene of destruction after an aerial bombing in Azaz, Syria, Aug. 16, 2012. (U.S. government photo)

Do the real pacifist members approve? Or even know?

Middle Eastern expats who support U.S. intervention in their countries are especially effective in promoting their message to Western audiences because they provide “proof” of the demonization of governments that the U.S. plans to invade and dominate, and often peace groups include these expats in presentations believing them to be representatives of an entire country.

In Minneapolis, FNVW and its spin-off CISPOS hosted several events with Syrian expats who were on record as supporting the U.S. bombing of their country. (This isn’t only happening in the U.S. In April 2011, a Vancouver peace group documented its objection to the fact that other Canadian “peace” groups were sponsoring speakers who justified and advocated “in favour of the NATO bombing of Libya.”)

Often Syrian “experts” speaking to peace groups, such as FNVW/CISPOS’s upcoming speaker, Mohja Kahf, have ties to the early destabilization of Syria. This American Prospect article documents how Najib Ghadbian, Kahf’s husband of over 20 years (apparently up to last year when they divorced) was one of the Syrian dissidents who attended the early 2006 meeting with Liz Cheney (then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter), along with other Syrian dissidents to plan how to destabilize Syria and topple its government. Like some Syrian version of Ahmed Chalabi, the neocons’ choice to run post-invasion Iraq, Kahf’s husband apparently got himself invited to Liz Cheney’s “Iran-Syria Operations Group” by having signed the “Damascus Declaration” in 2005, the year before.

When Najib and Mohja sat down for a long 2011 interview with The Arkansas Traveler, they discussed their involvement with the Syrian Revolution, even joking about Ghadbian becoming the next Prime Minister. Kahf and Ghadbian reportedly divorced in 2013 but when CISPOS-FNVW first published her long essays, they were still appearing together at Syrian revolutionary meetings and speaking forums. Additionally, CISPOS’s latest handout (December 2014) lists Ghadbian’s organization, (The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary Forces) as a resource “For More Information on Syria and How to Help.”

Resources for information on Syria often come from “citizen journalists” with deep ties to neocons and U.S. government sources. From the State Department’s website, the $330 million in support for the Syrian opposition includes training for networks of citizen journalists, bloggers and cyber-activists to support their documentation and dissemination of information on developments in Syria.

Syrian dissidents received funding from the Los Angeles-based Democracy Council, which ran a Syria-related program called the “Civil Society Strengthening Initiative” funded with $6.3 million from the State Department. The program is described as “a discrete collaborative effort between the Democracy Council and local partners” to produce, among other things, “various broadcast concepts.”

James Prince, the founder and President of the Democracy Council, is also an adviser to, a project created in 2008 by the Jerusalem-based Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, founded and funded by Sheldon Adelson, a patron and confidant of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Other resources include postings on social media and alternative websites with sensational stories such as the anti-Assad activist “Gay Girl in Damascus” who turned out to be a middle-aged American man in Scotland or Syrian Danny Abdul Dayem, who was frequently interviewed using fake gun fire and flames in his interviews.

With all of the information about Syria, what are we to believe as true? We know the facts about recent U.S. interventions in Middle Eastern countries. Why would Syria be any different?

Afghanistan is still in shambles with the majority of the people living in extreme poverty; Libya, which had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent, is now a failed state; Western intervention transformed Iraq from an emerging country with moderate prosperity into an impoverished country with a starving population. In the lead-up to each intervention, “experts” emerged to explain that while anti-imperialism is good in general and in past scenarios, this time is different. Is it?

Isn’t it time for war-weary Americans to wise up and stop falling for these pretexts of bringing democracy and human rights to foreign countries through training and funding of “color (and umbrella) revolutions,” inciting of coups and regime changes and eventually, through U.S.-NATO military might?

Liberal interventionists clearly assist neocon warhawks towards their mutual goal of “full spectrum dominance” under the euphemistic guise of Pax Americana. Only the “Pax” always turns out to be endless war and occupation.

Margaret Sarfehjooy is an anti-war activist and registered nurse in Minnesota. Coleen Rowley is a retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division legal counsel.

21 comments for “Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars

  1. John the Ba'thist
    December 30, 2014 at 22:27

    The repeated showing by Free Speech TV of the documentary film “Red Lines” is a very clear example of an attempt by the imperialistic foreign policy and media elites of the US to influence the left-leaning citizens of the English-speaking world to adopt an anti-Syrian stance. Fortunately, the truth manages to occasionally leak through around the edges of “Red Lines” , as when the supposed rebel leader Samer, who claims to control an anti-government secular militia that includes 70’000 Christians and 120.000 Kurds, turns out to be a complete fraud who is just trying to get a big piece of the funds and goods flowing to the “moderate rebels”.

    I would urge any donors or viewers of Free Speech TV to call the donation line protest the showing of “Red Lines”.

  2. Mike 71
    December 29, 2014 at 17:52

    As stated in the “Declaration of Independence,” one of the most revolutionary documents of all time:

    “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.–That when any form of government become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its power in such forms, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

    This document and the principles it established were so revolutionary, that it was cited by Ho Chi Minh on September 2, 1945 in declaring Vietnam’s right to revolution against restoration of French colonialism, the same right that Syrians and Ukrainians now seek to apply to the overthrow of oppressive regimes and their replacement with democratic government. Both Syrians and Ukrainians are now fighting against forms of Imperialism, originating in Russia and Iran, which seek to suppress those peoples’ rights to self-determination. As with the Cubans at the Bay of Pigs and the Vietnamese at Dien Bien Phu, Syrians and Ukrainians are entitled to “armed struggle,” under their “inherent right to individual, or collective self-defense,” as recognized under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. “Armed struggle” is an essential right of every people who seek to overthrow oppressive regimes and defend their nations against foreign Imperialism!

    • hp
      January 2, 2015 at 16:44

      Trouble is, most Americans, even the supposedly educated, don’t get it that the Founders were talking about white men being equal.
      Hell, white women couldn’t even vote until the 1920’s. Hardly equal, eh?

      You don’t really think, once you stop and think about it, they were talking about Indians, Chinese, Arabs or Negroes, do you! C’mon man!

      I’m not saying it’s right, it isn’t, but it was the Zeitgeist then.

      Think about it. When the much bragged about Founders said ‘all men created equal’ this was a huge profound jump to include the Irish, Slavs and Italians.

      THAT’S who they were referencing, not Chinese, Indians, Blacks or even white women..

  3. Deidre
    December 28, 2014 at 21:33

    Clearly most here have drunk the KoolAid.
    Audacity does not replace veracity.
    How is it that you, non-Syrians, can so easily malign the Syrian people that are actually living through the hell that is life under the Assad regime?! How can you be so quick to look the other way at the war crimes and crimes against humanity, the gassings, the snipers, the barrel bombs, the use of starvation, the torture, all targeting innocent civilians and especially children and hospitals?! How can you so glibly align with the Bashar al-Assad regime, without batting an eye towards the injustice?! I am afraid that your mean-spirited attacks on the tireless work of CISPOS and FVNW, and especially on the upcoming speaker Ms. Kahf when you have hosted the head of Mint Press who’s integrity is beyond questionable, only leads one to question your qualifications for such outrageous statements., and prove that you have taken the debate to a new low, where you criticize without merit and offer no solutions only to further your own agenda. Please, defend your alignment with the tyrant Assad! Or in hating the U.S. do you not really care about issues of humanity and the right of the Syrian people to live with dignity and in freedom?

    • Peter Loeb
      December 30, 2014 at 08:05

      I do not accept this “tyrant Assad” explosion of feeling however well-intentioned.

      The US considers the terrorist government of Israel to be its “allies”.

      The US supports the tyrants who control
      Egypt and murder its Muslim opposition.

      The US supports the tyrant governments
      of Saudi Arabia and says nothing when it
      beheads those it dislikes.

      Nothing is said in Dierdre’s diatribe about
      the CIA’ use of Syria for the purposes of
      torlture (under contract with the CIA? Unknown.) This all took place under the
      CIA’s “extraordinary renditions” programs
      which also sent many victims to Moroco,
      Jordan, Egypt as well as Afghanistan.

      Nothing is said about S/Res/2139 (2014)
      and its unanimous acceptance by every
      member of the UN Security Council. This
      resolution reaffirmed a “strong copmmit-
      ment to the sovereignty to the sovereignty, independence , unity and
      territorial integrity of Syria.” While criticizing Syrian government it also urged
      “urges opposition groups to commit to combatting and defeating …terrorist groups”.

      While the political “transition” never developed, I do not know of any government of any kind which would voluntarily “transition” under so-called “democratic” elections organized by foreign powers.

      While the above resolution passed on
      February 22, 2014, the US was advocating
      “regime change” which is illegal under
      international law. When the US and NATO
      use aggression, invasion it is invariably
      outside of the realm of UN control and international law.

      Are the Syrian refugees fleeing the
      Bashad government–or are they fleeing
      death at the hands of ISIS and the
      inability of other opposition groups
      to have any effect on the “terrorists”(UN
      words now, not Syria’s)?

      I predict that an attack on the current Syrian government would fail. Despite the
      triumphal rhetoric of US and other Western politicians, it must be clear by
      now that the US has chosen to support only wars in interventions where someone else does the dying.

      If Diedre (above) or the UN feel that Syria
      can “combat” the terrorists non-violently
      I feel they are grossly mistaken.

      —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA USA

    • John the Ba'thist
      December 30, 2014 at 22:08

      The numbers of deaths and casualties among government fighters, civilian officials and innocent supporters of the government are probably just as high as the losses of the rebels and civilians under rebel control. Many of the civilian victims in those areas have been killed by the rebels. Even the pro-rebellion Syrian Observatory on Human Rights has affirmed the relative balance of losses.

      “Deirdre” speaks of those who like this website as having drunk the Kool-Aid, yet Deirdre seems to be so willing to be fooled again by the avalanche of anti-Syrian propaganda that “she” doesn’t see the stark similarities between this propaganda campaign that she endorses and the mountain of lies that recently buried Iraq.

  4. December 27, 2014 at 23:09

    Many lessons could be learned from the well-documented manufacture of public support for the invasion of Libya, ably explained by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya in his article, Lybia: Human rights impostors used to spawn NATO’s fraudulent war on

    Don’t miss the two-part video interview with Soliman Bouchuiguir, the major source of the false information that Qaddafi was slaughtering civilians and committing other atrocities. The interview would be comic — at least to this retired lawyer — were the subject matter not so serious. There is nothing left of Bouchuiguir’s credibility by the end of the interview. The comedic element comes from the fact that he obviously did not realize that he had completely trashed his own credibility while describing his sources of information.

  5. Wayne Price
    December 27, 2014 at 00:26

    Yes, the author is correct to oppose US intervention in the Middle East or anywhere else. To the extent that these regions are dysfunctional centers of suffering, the US has had a major influence in creating that suffering. the US state is the problem, not the solution.

    But the author seems to imply that US imperialism is the only evil in the world–or at least, it is the only evil that is mentioned here. But the enemy of our enemy is not always our friend (unlike the approach used by the pro-war “peace” activists). Assad really is a cruel dictator whom the Syrian people (not the US) have a right to oppose. Russia really has dominated and oppressed Ukraine for centuries, as every Ukrainian knows. Not that these facts settle everything, but to ignore them is to play into the hands of supporters of US imperialism.

  6. Helen Marshall
    December 26, 2014 at 21:35

    Given that we have an administration whose ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power is famous for her advocacy of “humanitarian intervention,” pushed for Libya’s destruction and helped write the speech that Obama gave on accepting the Nobel Peace Prize making the case for the use of force, it is hardly surprising that the State Department is encouraging such action. Democracy promotion has become nothing but a tool for regime change (of regimes that the USG finds annoying).

    If the US manages to bring Ukraine into NATO and Ukraine’s neo-Nazi-infested government claims that Russia is threatening it, are we prepared to take “R2P” right up to nuclear war?

  7. Bruce Marshall
    December 26, 2014 at 16:55

    Yes foundation funded fake left peace dupes need to be exposed for who and what they are and how they are purposefully a big part of the war machine.

    Note that none of the so called peace groups are calling out against World War III with

    Obama Bin Bush needs to be impeached.

  8. Don
    December 26, 2014 at 14:36

    So much more sophisticated propaganda than that of Dr. Goebbels. And most likely impossible to fight against because of the majority of the American people don’t have the mental capabilities to understand.

  9. December 26, 2014 at 11:31

    This is a good slice from a mile-high pie of organizations that claim to offer progressive solutions but often wind up supporting U.S. military intervention abroad. Sometimes this happens because they are tempted by funding from sources that seek to compromise the organization to serve a pro-war agenda and sometimes because their pro-peace principles were poorly defined in the first place and became susceptible regardless of funding. It also appears that some of these organizations were established with the clear mission of either promoting military intervention or sabotaging antiwar tendencies by confusing public perceptions.

    The so-called “responsibility to protect” vehicle seems to have spawned many of these organizations that claim to promote progressive causes but consistently advocate for more war. George Soros has initiated and funded any number of groups that have a seemingly progressive cause at their core but very often come down on the side of imposing a solution that promotes U.S. military intervention. He was an early advocate for bringing Ukraine into the Western financial orbit under the banner of ‘freedom’ and continues to focus great effort in pressing his clearly self-interested agenda there. We need to be very wary of where these organizations would take us, especially when their program sees war as the solution.

    This article gives us a good window on how the organizations cited were used for this purpose.

  10. John
    December 26, 2014 at 09:24

    The willingness of militarists to employ deception of the public is sufficient grounds to discredit nearly all advocacy war other than defense. While there might be cause for humanitarian war to depose tyranny, such as the tyranny of economic concentrations in the US, the criterion of sincerity is that advocacy must proceed from independent analysis of global humanitarian issues, and where resources should be directed most effectively toward humanitarian goals. UN policing is the more likely measure when force is required, and unilateral war other than defense should be cause for UN intervention.

    The fact that the US never makes similar investments in the development and welfare of distressed nations is sufficient to discredit all of its advocates of “humanitarian war” outside of UN auspices.

  11. ltr
    December 25, 2014 at 22:27

    Really, really important article that deserves considerably more development. I am grateful for such an important article and hope for more on the matter.

  12. Abe
    December 25, 2014 at 19:25

    A more accurate title for this article:

    On ‘Peace Groups’ Selling US-Led Wars

    These groups do not merely “buy into” US-led wars of aggression. They sell “humanitarian” war. As war propagandists, they actively bring about and sustain war.

    The Nuremberg tribunal and the role of the media
    By David Walsh

  13. Rowena
    December 25, 2014 at 16:17

    All of these pseudo-liberal organizations are mere reflections of two deadly circumstances in America: the utter ignorance of American people who refuse to stand up to its Imperial Govt. and, two, these groups reflect a dying empire. An empire millions of people around the world despise and hate. Eventually, both entities will die of their own accord.

    • hp
      January 2, 2015 at 16:36

      The rats are underneath the piles,
      the “Zionists” are underneath the lot.

  14. F. G. Sanford
    December 25, 2014 at 15:53

    These charades are a matter of public record for those willing to look. Regrettably, Americans lack the inclination. Media moguls are comfortably emboldened by our ambivalence. These sordid exploits started way back with David Atlee Phillips and his “journalism” cover. Pacifist and “one world government” advocate Cord Meyer became the principle operative in “Operation Mockingbird”. Since then, the CIA’s so-called “Mighty Wurlitzer” has morphed into the Bullshit Philharmonic Orchestra. The history of journalistic subversion of American democracy is legendary. Early examples would have to include Priscilla Johnson McMillan, who managed to turn up in Soviet Russia to interview Lee Oswald during his “defection”. She turned up again to help Marina Oswald “find” Oswald’s elusive bus ticket to Mexico. Amazingly, she turned up once more to “assist” Svetlana Stalin AKA Lana Peters, who defected to USA. Svetlana, troubled for cash in her later years, discovered that somehow, the copyright to the English translation of her first book was assigned to a certain Priscilla McMillan. Years later, McMillan’s job application for a CIA position slipped out of the cracks. But she fervently denied any collusion. Phillips became the Chief of Covert Operations in Mexico City just before Oswald’s supposed visit. Perhaps the most despicable exponent of the imbroglios concocted between intelligence, journalism and “humanitarian” organizations resides in the person of William F. Buckley, former CIA operative, early advocate of white supremacy and the host of PBS’s “Firing Line”. He also served on the board of directors of Amnesty International. Gore Vidal notably referred to Buckley as, “a crypto-Nazi”. Ben Bradlee, former editor of “The Washington Post”, caught CIA counter-spook James Jesus Angleton breaking into Mary Pinchot’s (Cord’s ex-wife) residence shortly after her mysterious murder. Claims were that he was after her diary, which might reveal a tryst with JFK. Ever since those “good old days”, the connections between bought-off journalists, humanitarian organizations and suspicious intelligence community liaisons have grown exponentially. The operatives include a long list of seemingly left-wing moralists, Quaker pacifists, religious fundamentalists and various other dubiously motivated ideologues who somehow never advocate anything but more war. PBS manages to retain its laughable designator as a “liberal” news outlet, and Neocon warmongers continue to serve on the steering committees of “progressive” humanitarian organizations. Even Tony Soprano had a moral objection to torture, but we hear few of these “pacifist” organizations campaigning for prosecution. American journalism has become an incestuous, mafia-like organization. We’ve become the world Svetlana Stalin rejected. For an excellent clinical example of pathological lying, see “Priscilla McMillan tells a tall tale about JFK” on youtube. It’s American “Press-titution” at its finest.

    • Abe
      December 25, 2014 at 18:51

      F.G. mentions a notorious incident that occurred in a series of televised debates between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

      In their penultimate debate on August 28 of that year, the two disagreed over the actions of the city police and the protesters at the ongoing convention.

      During minutes 9:50-11:00, in reference to the response of the police involved in supposedly taking down a Viet Cong flag, moderator Howard K. Smith asked whether raising a Nazi flag during the Second World War would have elicited a similar response.

      Vidal responded that people were free to state their political views as they saw fit, whereupon Buckley interrupted and noted that people were free to speak their views but others were also free to ostracize them for holding those views, noting that in the U.S. during the Second World War “some people were pro-Nazi and they were well treated by those who ostracized them—and I’m for ostracizing people who egg on other people to shoot American Marines and American soldiers. I know you [Vidal] don’t care because you have no sense of identification with …”.

      Vidal then interjected that “the only sort of pro- or crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself”, whereupon Smith interjected, “Now let’s not call names.”

      Buckley, visibly angered, rose several inches from his seat and replied, “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face, and you’ll stay plastered.”

  15. Abe
    December 25, 2014 at 15:01

    21st Century propaganda is all about “peace” and “freedom”.

    The two minute “I Am a Ukrainian” video was uploaded to YouTube on 10 February 2014. The video went “viral”, reaching a peak of 800,000 views per day.

    By 19 February, “I Am a Ukrainian” was reported to have about 3.5 million views. By 21 February it had about 5.2 million views and by 22 February it had about 6 million views.

    As of 25 December 2014, the video has 8,299,810 views.

    The video’s popularity had been attributed to it being an anonymous work which allows viewers to identify with the presenter. Its professional production was also credited.

    The “I Am a Ukrainian” video was directed by by American film maker Ben Moses, producer of the 1983 movie Good Morning Vietnam. The video was initially released on Moses’ YouTube channel, “Whisper Roar” .

    “A Whisper to a Roar”, Moses’ 2012 theatrical feature documentary, “tells the heroic stories of courageous democracy activists in five countries around the world – Egypt, Malaysia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Zimbabwe – who risk it all to bring freedom to their people. From student leaders to prime ministers and heads of state, these activists share their compelling personal stories of struggle, past and present, with their countries’ oppressive regimes.”

    In early 2013, “A Whisper to a Roar” was screened at the United States Department of State, where it received praise from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said the film was “not only a riveting documentary, but also offers inspiration to people everywhere who seek to make governments accountable to the citizens they serve.

    “A Whisper To A Roar” was inspired by the book The Spirit of Democracy, written by Moses’ long-time friend, sociologist Larry Diamond, a Co-editor of the National Endowment for Democracy’s Journal of Democracy and Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. From January to April 2004, Diamond served as a Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. He is also a coordinator of Hoover Institute’s Iran Democracy Project.

    This is what democracy propaganda looks like:


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