Letters to the Editor

(August 10, 2009)


[If you want your letters to be published, you must include your first and last names and your city and state of residence. Also, please, enter in the subject line of your e-mail "letter to the editor," and specify the article or the subject on which you are commenting.]

If you find our work useful and appreciate its quality, please consider
making a donation. Money is spent to pay for Internet costs, maintenance
and upgrade of our computer network, and development of the site.

The Burqas Are Coming! The Burqas Are Coming!

To the Editor:

Would someone please tell me on what part of the moon the "Hoover Institution" can be found? Fouad Ajami, who left Lebanon forty-some years ago, now resides up there. He wrote a review in The New York Times ("Strangers in the land," 7/31/09) of a book by Christopher Caldwell, whom he finds "a meticulous journalist" and the author of a study on immigration in Europe that gives the subject "its most sustained and thoughtful treatment to date." Something has surely gone wrong with sustained thought up where lunacy got started. Caldwell weaves his moonbeams into a scare-mongering fantasy of "Islamist radicalism" and "political Islam" taking over Western Europe.

Since I read about Caldwell's meticulosity while I was in London, I thought I'd better check it out. A mini-cab driver from Afghanistan told me he was too busy driving for politics, radical or not, but that suicide bombers were unknown in his country until Westerners came to stay. A Turk at a kebab counter only wanted to talk about Manchester United and David Beckham's fiasco in L.A. On Oxford Street a big department store was full of Arabs picking up bargains. A non-Muslim saleswoman told me that the visitors from the Gulf were the only people in London with money to spend. They alone were keeping her in a job and the store open. Back in the formerly Irish enclave where I was staying, I looked in on my favorite Pakistani ma and pa shop. The owner won my confidence some time ago when I bought a sheet of wrapping paper and he went on to make, without charge, a neat package of some books I wanted to mail. I was shy about asking him if he had a Jihad in preparation. He'd have thought I was trying to be funny or sarcastic about the big display of Roman Catholic kitsch he kept for any Irish who were still around and prayerful. But I did buy a London paper from him.

When I got home I read a piece in it about Sharia law. The government had allowed a tribunal to be set up to settle some commercial and family matters. It worked so expeditiously that some non-Muslim, native British merchants had begun to use it. I went to bed feeling pretty safe. But up on the moon things may be different and the burqas closing in.

Peter Byrne
Lecce, Italy - August 3, 2009

[ed. Christopher Caldwell's book is Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West, Doubleday, 2009. On this topic, and for those who can read French, I highly recommend the piece by Marie-Laeticia Gambié, Droit et Laïcité, published on Swans on July 27, 2009.]


Michael Beer, Nonviolence International, and the National Endowment for Democracy

To the Editor:

On July 23, 2009, Michael Beer, the Director of Nonviolence International -- a group that has obtained long-term financial support from the notorious democracy-manipulator, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) -- wrote to agree with me "that 'nonviolence' is and has been cleverly misused by imperialists to pacify the masses." However, he then added that given our apparent shared concerns with elite interference in the processes of social change, and given the fact that Nonviolence International does not receive "adequate funding" from his imperial backers, I might be interested in financially supporting Nonviolence International's current work in Honduras. Needless to say I am not planning on sending any money to a group that works closely with the NED; that is, a group that is funded by an imperial organization that overtly carries out the same democracy-manipulating work that the CIA formerly undertook covertly.

In his letter to Swans, Beer mentions that Andres Conteris, the director of Nonviolence International's Latin America programs (and founder of the Spanish headline news for Democracy Now!) is currently "helping co-lead international delegations to bring attention to the coup d'etat and human rights abuses in Honduras." So considering Nonviolence International's own imperial ties, I was not surprised to find out from a concerned listener who had been listening to KPFA Flashpoints on July 31, that Conteris was in the process of helping bring a Serb leader to Honduras to meet the "leadership of the resistance to the coup" to show them the propaganda documentary, Bringing Down a Dictator. (See about 12 min into the broadcast.) Here it is important to point out that the executive producer of this lopsided documentary -- that brilliantly glossed over the manner in which US-backed social movements facilitated the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic -- was Peter Ackerman, the chairman of the controversial International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), and board member of the elite think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations. (For further criticisms of the documentary and the ICNC, see "A Force More Powerful: Promoting 'Democracy' through Civil Disobedience.")

Given the historical distortions presented within Bringing Down a Dictator, it is fitting that the documentary was held in high esteem by liberal elites in the United States, and received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award. In addition, it was appropriate that the English language version of the film was narrated by the Hollywood superstar Martin Sheen, who along with fellow actorvist George Clooney, later jumped onboard another project of the ruling class by endorsing the work of a "humanitarian" group called Help Darfur Now. Sheen has of course been involved in many peace projects over the years, and presently sits alongside the noted inhumanitarian warrior Richard Holbrooke, on the board of honorary trustees of the Dayton International Peace Museum. In recent years, Sheen's smoothing vocals have also been in heavy demand by other nonviolent moviemakers, as he not only narrated Andres Conteris's radical coproduction Hidden in Plain Sight, but is also starring in another forthcoming documentary produced by James Otis and ICNC advisor Lester Kurtz, entitled Peaceful Warriors: The History of Nonviolence.

Martin Sheen might possibly be excused for his unwitting promotion of imperial "humanitarian" agendas; however, the same plea of ignorance cannot be made by Michael Beer. Thus I would like to conclude by asking him one question: "How can he justify the fact that his organization accepts funding from the National Endowment for Democracy?"


Michael Barker
Brisbane, Australia - August 4, 2009


We appreciate and welcome your comments. Please, enter in the subject line of your e-mail "letter to the editor," and specify the article or the subject you are commenting on at the beginning of your e-mail. Also, ***PLEASE,*** sign your e-mail with your name ***AND*** add your city, state, country, address, and phone number. If we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country. Send your comments to the Editor. (Letters may be shortened and edited.)
Previous || Letters to the Editor || Next

Published August 10, 2009
[Copyright]-[Archives]-[Resources]-[Main Page]
Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915