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Peace Activists” with a Secret Agenda? Introduction; Part One:

Ram­sey Clark from Attor­ney Gen­er­al to the IAC

by Kevin Coogan

On Sep­tem­ber 29th, 2001, just a few weeks fol­low­ing the Sep­tem­ber 11th ter­ror­ist attack on the World Trade Cen­ter and the Pen­ta­gon, a large peace ral­ly was held in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to oppose an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary response to the attack.

The main orga­niz­er of the D.C. ral­ly, ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism), was offi­cial­ly estab­lished short­ly after the 9/11 attack. The lead­ing force behind ANSWER’s cre­ation is the Inter­na­tion­al Action Cen­ter (IAC), which rep­re­sents itself as a pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tion devot­ed to peace, jus­tice, and human rights issues.

The IAC’s orga­ni­za­tion­al clout is con­sid­er­able: for the past decade it has played a lead­ing role in orga­niz­ing protest demon­stra­tions against U.S. mil­i­tary actions against both Iraq and Ser­bia. After the Sep­tem­ber 11th attack, the IAC decid­ed to turn its long-orga­nized planned protest against the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund and World Bank gath­er­ing, sched­uled for the 29th, into an action oppos­ing any use of U.S. mil­i­tary pow­er in response to ter­ror­ism.

The IAC owes its cur­rent suc­cess to Ram­sey Clark, a for­mer Attor­ney Gen­er­al dur­ing the John­son Admin­is­tra­tion, who is list­ed on the IAC’s web­site as its founder. Clark’s estab­lish­ment cre­den­tials have caused many in the mass media to accept the IAC’s self-por­tray­al as a group of dis­in­ter­est­ed human­i­tar­i­ans appalled by war and pover­ty who are work­ing to turn Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy towards a more humane course. On its web­site the IAC says it was “Found­ed by Ram­sey Clark” and then describes its pur­pose: “Infor­ma­tion, Activism, and Resis­tance to U.S. Mil­i­tarism, War, and Cor­po­rate Greed, Link­ing with Strug­gles Against Racism and Oppres­sion with­in the Unit­ed States.”

Yet since its incep­tion in 1992, the IAC’s actions have giv­en rise to seri­ous doubts about its bona fides as an orga­ni­za­tion tru­ly com­mit­ted to peace and human rights issues.

Behind the blue door entrance to the IAC’s head­quar­ters on 14th Street in Man­hat­tan can be found deep­er shades of red. When one looks close­ly at the IAC, it becomes impos­si­ble to ignore the over­whelm­ing pres­ence of mem­bers of an avowed­ly Marx­ist-Lenin­ist sect called the Work­ers World Par­ty (WWP), whose cadre staff vir­tu­al­ly all of the IAC’s top posi­tions. Whether or not the IAC is sim­ply a WWP front group remains dif­fi­cult to say.

Nor is there any evi­dence that Ram­sey Clark him­self is a WWP mem­ber. What does seem unde­ni­able is that with­out the pres­ence of scores of WWP cadre work­ing inside the IAC, the orga­ni­za­tion would for all prac­ti­cal pur­pos­es cease to exist. There­fore, even if Clark is not a WWP mem­ber, he is fol­low­ing a polit­i­cal course that meets with the com­plete approval of one of the most pro-Stal­in­ist sects ever to emerge from the Amer­i­can far left.

Part One: Ram­sey Clark from Attor­ney Gen­er­al to the IAC
Before ana­lyz­ing the role of the WWP in both the cre­ation and con­trol of the IAC, it is first nec­es­sary to explain just how the IAC man­aged to link up with Clark, a 74-year old Texas-born lawyer and the IAC’s one big name media star.

The son of Supreme Court Jus­tice Tom Clark (him­self a Attor­ney Gen­er­al in the John­son admin­is­tra­tion), Ram­sey Clark radi­ates “mid­dle Amer­i­ca” with his pup­py dog eyes, short hair, jug ears, Texas twang, plain talk, and “aw, shucks” demeanor. Clark backs up his folksy pub­lic per­sona with some daz­zling cre­den­tials that include serv­ing as the Nation­al Chair­man of the Nation­al Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee of the ACLU, as well as serv­ing as past pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al Bar Asso­ci­a­tion.

Despite his promi­nence with­in the estab­lish­ment, Clark also main­tains close ties to the Left. After he ceased being LBJ’s Attor­ney Gen­er­al in 1969 when Nixon became Pres­i­dent, Clark vis­it­ed North Viet­nam and con­demned U.S. bomb­ing pol­i­cy over the “Voice of Viet­nam” radio sta­tion. He also served as a lawyer for peace activist Father Phillip Berri­g­an, and led a com­mit­tee that inves­ti­gat­ed the killing of Chica­go Black Pan­ther leader Fred Hamp­ton by local police in col­lu­sion with the FBI.

At the same time, Clark remained polit­i­cal­ly active inside the more mod­er­ate ranks of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. In 1976, how­ev­er, his defeat in the New York Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry cam­paign for Sen­ate end­ed his polit­i­cal ambi­tions. From the mid-1970s until today, the Green­wich Vil­lage-based Clark has pur­sued a career as a high-pow­ered defense attor­ney who spe­cial­izes in polit­i­cal cas­es.

Some of Clark’s cur­rent clients, includ­ing Shaykh Umar ‘Abd al-Rah­man, the “blind Sheik” who was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to a lengthy prison term for his involve­ment in help­ing to orga­nize fol­low-up ter­ror­ist attacks in New York City after the first World Trade Cen­ter attack in 1993, are a far cry from Father Berri­g­an. Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rah­man, of course, deserves legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. What makes Clark’s approach note­wor­thy is that in the case of ‘Abd al-Rah­man (as well as those of Clark’s oth­er polit­i­cal clients), his approach is based more on putting the gov­ern­ment on tri­al for its alleged mis­deeds than actu­al­ly prov­ing the inno­cence of his clients.

While com­plete­ly ignor­ing Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rah­man’s piv­otal role in the Egypt­ian-based Islamist ter­ror group al-Jama‘a al-Islamiyyah, as well as the cen­tral role that the Shaykh’s Jer­sey City-based mosque played in the first World Trade Cen­ter attack, Clark tried to por­tray the blind Shaykh as a bril­liant Islam­ic schol­ar and reli­gious thinker who was being per­se­cut­ed sim­ply as a result of anti-Mus­lim prej­u­dice on the part of the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment.

Clark appears to be dri­ven by intense rage at what he per­ceives to be the fail­ures of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy; a rage so strong that it may well be irrel­e­vant to him whether his clients are actu­al­ly inno­cent or guilty as long as he can use them to strike back at the Amer­i­can estab­lish­ment which once wel­comed him with open arms. After los­ing his 1976 Sen­ate bid, Clark deep­ened his oppo­si­tion to Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy. In June 1980, at a time when Amer­i­can hostages were in their eighth month of cap­tiv­i­ty in Iran, Clark sojourned to Tehran to take part in a con­fer­ence on the “Crimes of Amer­i­ca” spon­sored by Aya­tol­lah Khome­ini’s theo­crat­ic Islam­ic regime.

Accord­ing to a sto­ry on Clark by John Jud­is that appeared in the April 22nd, 1991 New Repub­lic, while in Iran Clark pub­licly char­ac­ter­ized the Carter Administration?s failed mil­i­tary attempt to res­cue the hostages as a vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al law. By the time Clark was sip­ping tea in Tehran, Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy was in sham­bles. In both Nicaragua and Iran, U.S.-backed dic­ta­tors had fall­en from pow­er. In Europe, the incom­ing Rea­gan Admin­is­tra­tion would soon be faced with a grow­ing neu­tral­ist move­ment that was par­tic­u­lar­ly strong in Ger­many. Inside the U.S., the anti-nuclear “freeze” move­ment was then in full swing. Mean­while, in Afghanistan, the Sovi­et Union had deployed mas­sive amounts of troops into a for­mer­ly neu­tral nation for the first time since the end of World War II.

By the mid-1980s, how­ev­er, the com­bi­na­tion of Rea­gan in Amer­i­ca and Mar­garet Thatch­er in Eng­land had brought the Left to a screech­ing halt. Huge sums of covert CIA aid allowed the mujahidin to turn Afghanistan into a ceme­tery for Russ­ian sol­diers, while in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca the U.S. man­aged first to desta­bi­lize and then to bring down Cuban-allied states like Nicaragua and Grena­da. In the Mid­dle East, the U.S. (with help from Israel) suc­cess­ful­ly encour­aged both Iraq and Iran to fight a long bloody war against each oth­er, a war trig­gered by Sad­dam Husayn’s attempt­ed inva­sion of Iran. In 1986 Amer­i­can planes even bombed Libya to pun­ish Colonel Qad­hd­hafi for back­ing ter­ror­ist groups in the West.

As U.S. pow­er began to reassert itself glob­al­ly, Clark became even more extreme in his oppo­si­tion to Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy. He first aston­ished many on the Left when he agreed to defend f
ormer Grena­da Defense Min­is­ter Bernard Coard, leader of the ultra-left­ist clique respon­si­ble for the assas­si­na­tion of Mau­rice Bish­op. (It was Bish­op’s 1983 mur­der that had sup­plied the pre­text for the U.S. inva­sion of Grena­da.)

After the U.S. attack on Libya, Clark jour­neyed to Tripoli to offer his con­do­lences to Colonel Qad­hd­hafi. That same year he defend­ed Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Orga­ni­za­tion (PLO) lead­ers from a legal suit brought by the fam­i­ly of Leon Kling­hof­fer, an elder­ly retired man in a wheel chair who was mur­dered by Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ists on the Ital­ian cruise ship “Achille Lau­ro” sim­ply because he was Jew­ish. Clark even became the lawyer for Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor Karl Lin­nas, who was unsuc­cess­ful­ly fight­ing depor­ta­tion to his native Esto­nia to face war crimes charges.

Clark’s next legal client was equal­ly sur­pris­ing. In 1989 he became Lyn­don Larouche?s lead attor­ney in Larouche?s attempt to appeal his con­vic­tion on fed­er­al mail fraud charges. Larouche, who began his polit­i­cal career in the late 1940s as a mem­ber of the Trot­sky­ist Social­ist Work­ers Par­ty (SWP), had by the late 1970s embraced the far right, anti-Semi­tism, and Holo­caust denial.

Clark claimed that the gov­ern­ment was per­se­cut­ing Larouche sole­ly to sup­press his polit­i­cal orga­niz­ing, and even went so far as to express “amaze­ment” at the per­son­al “vil­i­fi­ca­tion” direct­ed at his client! A report from the left-wing watch­dog group Polit­i­cal Research Asso­ciates sug­gests that Clark’s fond­ness for Larouche may have been root­ed in Larouche’s aggres­sive sup­port for Pana­man­ian dic­ta­tor Gen­er­al Manuel Nor­ie­ga, who had been forcibly removed from pow­er by the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion. Both Larouche and Clark par­tic­i­pat­ed in the move­ment opposed to Amer­i­can mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in Pana­ma. Clark even vis­it­ed Pana­ma in Jan­u­ary 1990 as part of an “Inde­pen­dent Com­mis­sion of Inquiry” to exam­ine Amer­i­can “war crimes.” (Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the Com­mis­sion found Amer­i­ca “guilty.”)

Clark’s will­ing­ness to defend polit­i­cal clients so long as he felt he could use their cas­es to put the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment on tri­al meant that he was less inter­est­ed in prov­ing that his clients were saints than in prov­ing that mem­bers of his own gov­ern­ment were sin­ners. Clark’s log­ic now began to extend beyond his choice of legal clients to encom­pass groups that he was will­ing to col­lab­o­rate with who he felt might help advance his polit­i­cal agen­da. By 1990, Clark decid­ed he was even will­ing to ally him­self close­ly with an ultra-left Marx­ist-Lenin­ist sect called the Work­ers World Par­ty (WWP).

Clark’s ties to the WWP first became appar­ent dur­ing the 1990–1991 for­eign pol­i­cy cri­sis in the Mid­dle East that began unfold­ing after Iraqi dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Husayn invad­ed Kuwait in an attempt to dom­i­nate the Mid­dle East?s oil sup­plies. Dur­ing the Win­ter 1990–91 Mideast cri­sis, two sep­a­rate “anti-war” coali­tions arose to protest the first Bush Admin­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies.

Before the mil­i­tary attack on Iraq took place in Jan­u­ary 1991, the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion (with sup­port both from Con­gress and many oth­er nations) imposed an eco­nom­ic embar­go on Husayn in an attempt to pres­sure him to vol­un­tar­i­ly with­draw his forces from Iraq and avoid a full-scale war. The embar­go pol­i­cy was strong­ly endorsed by Democ­rats in Wash­ing­ton. Although the Rus­sians had long main­tained strong ties to Iraq, even Sovi­et leader Mikhail Gor­bachev tried to per­suade Husayn to with­draw his forces or face mil­i­tary defeat.

The Bush Admin­is­tra­tion made it clear to Husayn that he was on a tight dead­line, and that any fail­ure to meet that dead­line and with­draw his forces would result in war. The first anti-war coali­tion, the Nation­al Cam­paign for Peace in the Mid­dle East, strong­ly opposed the idea of a dead­line and advo­cat­ed the exten­sion of the sanc­tions pol­i­cy against Iraq as an alter­na­tive to mil­i­tary action.

The Nation­al Cam­paign also made it clear that no mat­ter how much it was opposed to a war against Iraq, it also con­sid­ered Husayn?s inva­sion of Kuwait to be an unde­ni­able act of aggres­sion. The Nation­al Cam­paign’s stance on the Gulf War was chal­lenged by a rival orga­ni­za­tion, the Nation­al Coali­tion to Stop U.S. Inter­ven­tion in the Mid­dle East. The Nation­al Coali­tion bit­ter­ly opposed the Nation­al Cam­paign’s sup­port for the exten­sion of sanc­tions.

The Coali­tion argued that Iraq itself was the vic­tim of “U.S. Oil Impe­ri­al­ism,” which was work­ing in cahoots with reac­tionary states like Israel, Sau­di Ara­bia, and the rul­ing class of Kuwait itself. The Coali­tion demand­ed, instead, that the Left uncrit­i­cal­ly defend “the Iraqi peo­ple” against both con­tin­ued eco­nom­ic sanc­tions and direct Amer­i­can mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion. The divi­sions inside the Left over this issue became so deep that both groups were forced to hold rival ral­lies in Wash­ing­ton in Jan­u­ary 1991.

The hard Left Nation­al Coali­tion came out of a long-stand­ing Work­ers World Par­ty front orga­ni­za­tion known as the Peo­ple’s Anti-War Mobi­liza­tion (PAM), which quick­ly reor­ga­nized itself into the Nation­al Coali­tion. The WWP’s promi­nent role in the Nation­al Coali­tion was made evi­dent by the group’s choice of a leader, a WWP mem­ber named Mon­i­ca Moor­head (the WWP’s can­di­date for Pres­i­dent in the 2000 elec­tions).

The Coali­tion’s office was adja­cent to Clark’s Man­hat­tan law office, where anoth­er WWP cadre mem­ber named Gavriel­la Gem­ma (Coali­tion Coor­di­na­tor) worked as a legal sec­re­tary. The Nation­al Coali­tion (most like­ly through Gem­ma) extend­ed an invi­ta­tion to Clark to serve as its offi­cial spokesman. To the aston­ish­ment of many, he accept­ed.

Yet Clark and the WWP, at least pub­licly, had so lit­tle in com­mon that as late as 1989 the WWP?s offi­cial mouth­piece, Work­ers World (WW), nev­er even men­tioned Clark in a favor­able light.
Clark’s deci­sion paved the way for his sub­se­quent involve­ment in the WWP-allied Inter­na­tion­al Action Cen­ter.

After the Gulf War end­ed, Clark estab­lished an “Inter­na­tion­al War Crimes Tri­bunal” to denounce U.S. actions against Iraq. When the Tri­bunal held its first hear­ings in New York on May 11th, 1991, the speak­ers includ­ed WWP mem­bers Tere­sa Gutier­rez (“co-coor­di­na­tor” of yet anoth­er WWP front, the Inter­na­tion­al Peace for Cuba Appeal), Moor­head, and WWP stal­wart Sarah Floun­ders. One year lat­er, on July 6th, 1992, Work­ers World announced the cre­ation of a “cen­ter for inter­na­tion­al sol­i­dar­i­ty” (the IAC) with Clark as its spokesman.

Clark told WW that “the inter­na­tion­al cen­ter can become a peo­ple’s Unit­ed Nations based on grass-roots activism and the prin­ci­ples of peace, equal­i­ty and jus­tice.” With Clark as spokesman and Sarah Floun­ders as a coor­di­na­tor, the IAC shel­tered a myr­i­ad of WWP front groups and allied orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing the Nation­al Coali­tion to Stop U.S. Inter­ven­tion in the Mid­dle East, the Haiti Com­mis­sion, the Cam­paign to Stop Set­tle­ments in Occu­pied Pales­tine, the Com­mis­sion of Inquiry on the US Inva­sion of Pana­ma, the Move­ment for a Peo­ples Assem­bly, and the Inter­na­tion­al War Crimes Tri­bunal.

From 1991 until today, the IAC/WWP has led repeat­ed del­e­ga­tions to Iraq with Clark at their head to meet with Sad­dam Husayn and oth­er top Iraqi offi­cials. The close ties between the IAC and Husayn have led oth­er crit­ics of U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy toward Iraq, such as for­mer UN inspec­tor Scott Rit­ter (who, like the IAC, oppos­es the con­tin­u­a­tion of sanc­tions as being far more harm­ful to the Iraqi peo­ple than to Husayn), to dis­tance him­self from any asso­ci­a­tion with the IAC. Iron­i­cal­ly enough, a few years before the Gulf War broke out, the WWP had no qualms about label­ing Sad­dam Husayn as a geno­ci­dal war crim­i­nal.

In a Sep­tem­ber 22nd, 1988 WW arti­cle enti­tled “Iraq launch­es geno­ci­dal attack on Kur­dish peo­ple,” WWP cadre (and cur­rent IAC hon­cho) Bri­an Beck­er denounced Iraq’s “hor­rif­ic chem­i­cal weapons attacks on Kur­dish vil­lages,” cit­ing “ample evi­dence” from Kur­dish sources and “inde­pen­dent observers” that “mus­tard gas, cyanide and oth­er out­lawed chem­i­cal weapons have been used in a mas­sive fash­ion” not just against the Kurds but al
so against “thou­sands of rebelling Iraqi forces who desert­ed from the army in 1984 dur­ing the Iran-Iraq war, and took refuge in the marsh­land areas in south­ern Iraq.”

Beck­er then not­ed that the Iraqi attempt to crush the Kurds “by a com­bi­na­tion of ter­ror and sys­tem­at­ic depop­u­la­tion” has been “the hall­mark of the gov­ern­men­t’s pol­i­cy for the last sev­er­al years.”

More recent­ly both Clark and the IAC have played a lead­ing role in uncrit­i­cal­ly defend­ing for­mer Ser­bian leader Slo­bodon Milo­se­vic’s bru­tal attempts to dom­i­nate both Bosnia and Koso­vo. (Clark even defend­ed Radovan Karadz­ic, the noto­ri­ous Bosn­ian Serb war­lord allied with Milo­se­vic, against a civ­il suit brought against him for the atroc­i­ties car­ried out by his forces.)

While accus­ing NATO of com­mit­ting war crimes against Ser­bia, nei­ther the IAC nor the WWP crit­i­cized Ser­bia’s noto­ri­ous record of ter­ror against civil­ians, one which includes both the infa­mous mas­sacre at Sre­breni­ca and the dis­place­ment of a mil­lion Mus­lim refuges from Koso­vo. The Clark/IAC War Crimes Tri­bunal’s hatred of Amer­i­can pol­i­cy, which comes coat­ed in legal jar­gon, bor­ders on the com­ic as well as the mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal.

One IAC “legal brief,” for exam­ple, accus­es Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, the U.S. Sec­re­taries of State and Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and “U.S. per­son­nel direct­ly involved in des­ig­nat­ing tar­gets, flight crews and deck crews of the U.S. mil­i­tary bombers and assault air­craft, U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel direct­ly involved in tar­get­ing, prepar­ing and launch­ing mis­siles at Yugoslavia” with war crimes. Nor does the IAC indict­ment ignore the polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship of Eng­land, Ger­many, and “every NATO coun­try,” not to men­tion the gov­ern­ments of Turkey and Hun­gary.

It then charges NATO with “inflict­ing, incit­ing and enhanc­ing vio­lence between Mus­lims and Slavs,” using the media “to demo­nize Yugoslavia, Slavs, Serbs and Mus­lims as geno­ci­dal mur­der­ers,” and “attempt­ing to destroy the Sov­er­eign­ty, right to self deter­mi­na­tion, democ­ra­cy and cul­ture of the Slav­ic, Mus­lim, Chris­t­ian and oth­er peo­ple of Yugoslavia.” The Alice in Won­der­land qual­i­ty of the “war crimes indict­ment” is fur­ther high­light­ed by its demand for “the abo­li­tion of NATO”!

No mat­ter how sur­re­al the IAC’s actions sound, there can be lit­tle doubt that they are well-fund­ed, since IAC/WWP cadres reg­u­lar­ly fly to Europe and the Mid­dle East to attend con­fer­ences and polit­i­cal meet­ings. Through a 501© 3 orga­ni­za­tion called the Peo­ple’s Rights Fund, a wealthy Ser­bian-Amer­i­can who may even have busi­ness con­nec­tions to Bel­grade can freely donate to both the IAC and its relat­ed media pro­pa­gan­da arm, the Peo­ples Video Net­work. Nor are for­eign diplo­mats ter­ri­bly shy about being pub­licly asso­ci­at­ed with IAC events.

Iraq’s UN Ambas­sador, Dr. Sa‘id Hasan, for exam­ple, even spoke at the IAC’s “First Hear­ing of the Inde­pen­dent Com­mis­sion of Inquiry to Inves­ti­gate U.S./NATO War Crimes Against the Peo­ple of Yugoslavia,” held in New York City on July 31st, 1999. One for­eign offi­cial who will not be attend­ing any IAC con­fer­ences in the near future, how­ev­er, is for­mer Yugoslav leader Slo­bodon Milo­se­vic, who is cur­rent­ly on tri­al for war crimes in the Hague.