On 12 January 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 3-5 December. 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 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 Centre 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 19 April 2010, Ackerman attended an event entitled "Cyber-Dissidents and Political Change" sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute, which Glassman has headed since 3 September 2009. "Inspired by President and Mrs. Bush's unwavering commitment to freedom for all people," boasts its website, "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 which 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 US-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 fuelled 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. He is editor of The Passionate Attachment blog.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.