Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

My Photo
Location: Bath, Maine, United States

With a new administration in Washington it will be a challenge to get the 'liberals' to hold Biden-Harris to the few 'progressive promises' they made during their campaign. Biden is bringing back many of Bush & Obama's neo-cons to head his foreign policy. I'll be on this case without hesitation.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


This morning I got an email from a friend who tipped me off to a conference call for "progressives" to discuss Obama's Afghanistan speech last night.

The call announcement included this: "The narrative so far is that the left is against sending more troops and the right is for it,” said Jim Arkedis, Director of the National Security Project at the Progressive Policy Institute. “But that’s not the reality of the situation. There are reasons for progressives to take heart from much of the President’s new strategy, as well as reasons to tread carefully. We want to make sure all those voices are heard.”

This made me quite interested so I dialed in. The call began with everyone in the audience on mute as the following people made opening statements.

* Rachel Kleinfeld, CEO, Truman National Security Project
* Jim Arkedis, Director of the National Security Project, Progressive Policy
* Gen. Paul Eaton (Ret.), Senior Adviser, National Security Network
* Andy Johnson, Director, Third Way National Security Program
* Lorelei Kelly, Director, New Strategic Security Initiative
* Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress
* Frankie Sturm, Communications Director, Truman National Security Project (Moderator)

Frankly I had never heard of any of these people before and I've been working in the "progressive movement" for the past 30 years. A couple of the organizations they work for I had heard a bit about - they are DC-based "think tanks" that usually are heavily funded by corporations to project their message.

Here is a bit of what some of them said in the opening:

Rachel Kleinfeld: "Thrilled by last night's's a realistic goal we have been given...dismayed that progressives don't see that this will reduce the violence of this war."

Jim Arkedis: Described himself as a former counter-terrorism analyst at the Pentagon....."Think of the US like an NFL adopting this counter-insurgency strategy it essentially takes the other sides offense off the field.....this is about peace and stability." He slammed Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) who was on the news this morning criticizing the plan as being from the "far left."

Lorelei Kelly: "Progressives need to abandon the old talking points from Iraq and Vietnam....progressives need to get inside this debate, President Obama is trying to create a new way....these policies need support....The American military is probably the most progressive agency we have today."

One of them brought up CodePink's recent visit to Afghanistan and subsequent statements made by Media Benjamin to say that some peace groups understand that we need to stay there and stabilize the country. Another called Obama's plan the "full spectrum approach" that progressives must support - we "need the military" to get to a positive conclusion.

Finally they unmuted the listeners and then opened it up for "questions". I didn't ask a question but instead read a quote from the Robert Scheer article (just below this post) which came from former Marine captain Matthew Hoh where he said, “In the course of my five months of service in Afghanistan … I have lost understanding and confidence in the strategic purpose of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan. … I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.”

A woman listener from West Virginia (CodePink) said she had family killed in these wars and they need to stop. A woman from Georgia said we need to end the wars. A man from upstate New York said they were organizing protests and that Obama had betrayed us.

Next they put us on mute again and told us that we could only ask questions and that we'd better be good. When they unmuted I accused them of trying to silence the voices of the people as it was clear that they only wanted us on the call to listen to the talking points put out by the White House.

I know this is true because last spring I did a couple blogs about the Obama administration daily sending out talking points to groups like these that today hosted this "conference call". You can see one such story about this by Jermey Scahill here

One of the groups mentioned by Scahill in his article is the Center for American Progress which was represented on the call today as one of the "expert" speakers.

While on the call I quickly did an Internet search on the Truman National Security Project just to see what I could learn about them. Their advisory board stands out like a sore thumb:

Advisory Board
Madeleine K. Albright
Principal, The Albright Group LLC

Leslie H. Gelb
President Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations

William Marshall
President, Progressive Policy Institute

William J. Perry (former Clinton Secretary of Defense)
Senior Fellow, Hoover Institute

John D. Podesta (former Clinton operative)
President and CEO, Center for American Progress

Wendy R. Sherman
Principal, The Albright Group LLC

First chance I got I read the list off and commented that it was now abundantly clear to me that this call was intended to deliver Obama team talking points to us and that they were not in the least interested in what we had to say.....these folks organizing this call came from the right-wing of the Democratic Party I said...... earlier I had strongly challenged one of them who stated that the peace movement should stop protesting and support Obama's plan!

They couldn't wait to finish the call and I am happy to say that it did not go as well as they had hoped. I thank Mark Roman for tipping me off and I want to warn everyone to be on the lookout for these "pseudo progressives" who will now be coming out of the woodwork to tell the public and the media that only the far-left is against Obama's war in Afghanistan. Good "progressives" they will say are going to support Obama's war surge.

In the old days they used to call these folks "Scoop Jackson Democrats" after the senator from Washington state who was a pro-war leader. They have wised up and now call themselves progressives and will steal the rug out from under our feet if we are not watching closely.


Anonymous Jim said...

Thanks for catching this. I've done a little further looking into these organizations, which all turn out to be DC beltway groups located within a mile of each other and within a mile of the Oval Office. It turns out that each of these "progressive" groups is some combination of a PR front, a "New Democrat" group, a military-foreign policy establishment group, and/or a partisan arm of the Democratic Party. Yeesh.

12/3/09, 1:29 AM  
Blogger Bruce K. Gagnon said...

Thanks for this Jim....well done.

12/3/09, 9:48 AM  
Blogger Julius Martov said...

Progressive Policy Institute is a DLC think tank. The word progressive has multiple meanings, "progressive, " can be a word used by liberals afraid to say they are liberals, in the era of the hegemony of the CPUSA over the broad Left, it was a term used by Communists to designate their left-liberal allies who aligned with the CPUSA vs. cold war liberals, and progressive back in the Teddy Roosevelt era meant what New Leftists of the 60's called, "corporate liberals, " who sanded off the rougher edges of a rapacious, emerging corporate capitalism in order to blunt the then strong Socialist and Populist protest movements. remember, back then hundreds of Socialists held elective office and millions read their press. (See James Weinstein's book on the Socialist Party under Debs) The protests by leftist groups i've read and heard about since the Obama West Point speech have been very small, a couple dozen, even in cities with well established left demonstration infrastructure like San Francisco. Before it ever gets to the point where a figure of the heft of a Clark Clifford (who told LBJ in '68, the Vietnam war was lost) tells Obama the same about Afghanistan, and others from the same ruling class networks, leftists are going to have to get out of our comfy bubbles, create some ruckus where we can, in some cities, be less stereotypically radical in other places, and use whatever contacts we have in the mainstream (both ordinary folks and the powerful) to grind away at the escalation.

12/3/09, 11:26 AM  
Blogger Bruce K. Gagnon said...

Great comments Julius, thanks

12/3/09, 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I'm a longtime fan of your work, Bruce. To boil down the relationships to a snapshot, here's a graphic representation of the relationships between the five organizations putting together that conference call, the Democratic Party establishment, and elements of the military-foreign policy establishment.

Your hunch at the beginning of the phone call was right on: this is not an effort of "progressives" by any of the definitions Julius offers.

12/3/09, 1:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa Savage said...

I am really sick of these fake progressives smearing CODEPINK by saying we are part of this covert support for the war machine. WE ARE NOT! PINKs have been vigorously opposing funding for war before, during, and since Obama's inauguration.

The reverse is a lie that has been oft repeated of late. You can hear it right there in Bruce's report of the conference call.

I guess CODEPINK could take it as a compliment to the threat our message poses to efforts to co-opt "liberals" to support the war machine...but it still pisses me off.

12/4/09, 7:07 AM  
Blogger Julius Martov said...

Well, blogger didn't take my sign in/log in immediately, so five longish paragraphs I wrote are lost, aargh...but, I'll cut to the chase to use a cliche. "Fake progressives, " if it is a polemical term of abuse to deflect critics to the Left of Code Pink, is similar to a term used by the CPUSA, "fake Left, " to deride their Trotskyist, Maoist or democratic socialist critics to the Left of the reformist CPUSA. I'd be interested in the Code Pink members reply to this crit from an Iranian, Cf. on the Fellowship of Reconciliation ,

12/4/09, 9:43 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home