Secretary Clinton Doesn’t Get the Power of Nonviolence in Honduras

By Al Giordano

(Photo: July 15, US State Department photograph.)

As thousands of Honduran citizens peacefully blockaded the central highways of their nation yesterday, bringing its commerce under a coup regime to a halt, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Washington with her Canadian and Mexican counterparts.

At a joint appearance for the press with Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Clinton’s prepared remarks included this paragraph on Honduras:

“We discussed a range of global issues that affect us as well as closer to home; particularly the political crisis in Honduras. We reaffirmed our commitment to restore constitutional and democratic order, and underscored our support for the dialogue process that was started by President Arias. We support a peaceful, negotiated resolution and urge other countries to play a positive role in achieving that outcome, and to refrain from any actions that could lead to violence.”

Had the Secretary urged all to “refrain from acts of violence,” that would have been standard boilerplate diplo-speak. But she twisted the concept when she said, “refrain from any actions that could lead to violence.”

Secretary Clinton’s advice, if heeded, would have deterred Mohandas K. Gandhi, in 1930, from launching his Salt March. The British Viceroy in India called it “a course of action which is clearly bound to involve violation of the law and danger to the public peace.” One abridged version of the story offered this summary of what happened:

“The non-violent satyagrahis did not defend themselves against the clubs of policemen, and many were killed instantly.  The world embraced the satyagrahis and their non-violence, and eventually enabled India to gain their freedom from Britain.”

Secretary Clinton’s advice, if taken, would have deterred African-American college students in Nashville (or in Jackson, Mississippi, in the photograph) from sitting down at the racially segregated lunch counters. The Nashville students did so in Woolworths, McClellan and Walgreens stores on February 27, 1960. One account summarizes what happened:

“Some were pulled from their seats and beaten and one was pushed down a flight of stairs. When police arrived, the white attackers fled and none were arrested. Police then ordered the demonstrators at all three locations to leave the stores. When the demonstrators refused to leave, they were arrested and loaded into police vehicles as onlookers applauded.”

Less than three months later, major stores in Nashville desegregated their lunch counters: one of the tangible victories for civil resistance that inspired the Civil Rights movement everywhere to push on to victory.

On the very same yesterday, Secretary Clinton’s boss, President Barack Obama spoke at the NAACP convention, an organization that participated in similar historic acts. He said, of the founders of American democracy:

“They also knew that here, in America, change would have to come from the people.  It would come from people protesting lynchings, rallying against violence, all those women who decided to walk instead of taking the bus, even though they were tired after a long day of doing somebody else's laundry, looking after somebody else's children.  (Applause.)  It would come from men and women of every age and faith, and every race and region -- taking Greyhounds on Freedom Rides; sitting down at Greensboro lunch counters; registering voters in rural Mississippi, knowing they would be harassed, knowing they would be beaten, knowing that some of them might never return.”

Secretary Clinton’s remarks yesterday directly contradicted those of the president. Had the Freedom Riders – mentioned by Obama - heeded Clinton’s advice, they never would have boarded their bus, as it was an action that “could lead to violence”:

“Two hours before the Trailways bus was scheduled to arrive in Birmingham, difficulty began in Anniston, Alabama. When they arrived the Klan was waiting. The Klan boarded the bus, beat the blacks sitting in the front and forced them to the back of the bus. The bus then proceeded with Klan members on board to Birmingham where they were beat by more Klansmen.

“The Greyhound bus was also stopped in Anniston by an angry mob. When the bus attempted to proceed to Birmingham, the Klan slashed the tires. The bus made it just outside of Anniston and then was forced to stop. The Klan had followed and with the bus stranded, they held the door closed and threw a firebomb into the bus. The riders escaped before the bus was fully engulfed in flames.”

Had those who the President remembered for “registering voters in Mississippi” followed Secretary Clinton’s advice, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner never would have done something so violence-provoking as signing up African-American voters in a segregation state, a work of community organizing for which they were assassinated.

The President, in his remarks last night, expressly acknowledged that the participants in those historic nonviolent struggles undertook their actions even though they could lead to violence, knowing that “they would be harassed, knowing they would be beaten, knowing that some of them might never return.”

Which brings us to Honduras in the present moment.

Yesterday, the social movements of Honduras demonstrated through peaceful blockades throughout the country the same power of nonviolent action that was utilized by those the US President praised at last night’s NAACP dinner.

Even after Honduras’ coup Dictator-for-20-Days Roberto Micheletti had told reporters, on Wednesday, that the demonstrators would be carrying guns (thus justifying his imposition anew of a military curfew upon the land), the country’s pro-democracy demonstrators demonstrated the unity, planning and discipline that marks all the struggles praised by Obama, above.

Even Honduras’ police forces, at the end of a day that successfully paralyzed the country under an illegitimate regime, had to admit it, according to the EFE news agency:

"The protests have been carried out in a peaceful manner, according to the leaders and spokesmen of the police who had warned about the possibility of disturbances."

And yet because their peaceful protest “could lead to violence” – not by the demonstrators, but by the regime that feels threatened by them enough to have already arrested 1,068 dissidents in the last twenty days according to the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (Cofadeh, in its Spanish initials) – Secretary of State Clinton is doing untold damage with her public scolding that the standard to avoid is not violence itself, but “actions that could lead to violence.”

To set “actions that could lead to violence” as the standard by which actions should be judged is to spit on all the nonviolent organizers and movements mentioned by President Obama above, and also the brave pro-democracy multitudes in Honduras' civil resistance. It does so because it robs the power from the hands of the only authentic protagonists of this story – the Honduran people – and puts it in the hands of anyone that would do violence to them.

If the regime doesn’t like peaceful blockades, as it surely does not, Secretary Clinton’s statement gives it greater incentive to use violence against them because such reaction would then define the blockades as “actions that led to violence.”

It is akin to attempting to tie the hands of the plurality of Honduras citizens (according to the Gallup Poll) that want the coup regime ended.

It is aimed, especially, at Honduras’ elected but forcibly exiled President Manuel Zelaya and his vow to return to his country even under threat of imprisonment. (The regime had the opportunity to arrest him again on July 5, but had such fear of how the people would respond to such a blatant act of tyranny that it had to line up soldiers and trucks on the airstrip to prevent any plane from landing.)

Today, Friday, July 17, the peaceful blockades enter their second day. On the first day, they successfully shut down the country’s highways, east, west, north and south, and cut off the capital city and the country’s commercial centers.

As Dan Kovalic of the United Steelworkers Union in the US reported upon his recent return from Honduras with a delegation organized by School of the Americas Watch:

“Obama has made very strong statements against the coup, which frankly, I think, has made him a very popular figure amongst the social groups in Honduras who are calling for President Zelaya’s return, and with the average person in Honduras. But frankly he is seen as an enemy by the elites there who want the coup to continue. His statements have been heard down there, and he is definitely being seen as on the side of the return of President Zelaya and on the side of democracy. At the same time, there is some leeriness, given US past policy in Honduras – long-standing policy, in which we really treated Honduras as more or less a military outpost of the United States. There is some fear that other sectors of the US government and the US military may be more favorable to the coup. Also some of the statements that Hillary Clinton has made have been very vague and noncommittal in terms of whether she wants Zelaya to return or not.”

Secretary Clinton’s failure to grasp the difference between “acts of violence” and “actions that could lead to violence” put at risk all the goodwill that President Obama has garnered - unprecedented for a US president in recent decades - not just in Honduras but throughout the hemisphere of América.

And this was the worry, back in November of 2008 when Judge Abner Mikva and I and many others were responding to the initial rumors that Obama would name Clinton as Secretary of State. Back then I warned:

“And you might say that, ‘the next Secretary of State will have to follow the policies of the next president.’ In an ideal world, that would be true. But so much happens, day in, day out, in so many lands... so many daily attacks on dissidents, community organizers, and others who dare speak and act to improve their lives... that no US president could possibly micro-manage the situation and take preemptive action on each pending atrocity from the Oval Office. That's what a State Department is for: to handle the constant communications that are necessary with other governments.

“And if -- as the mass media seems to agree right now -- US President-elect Barack Obama is about to install someone as the next Secretary of State who has shown zero understanding of, much less passion and action for, human rights in Mexico, Colombia and elsewhere (except in isolated cases where the same mass media has turned a particular case into an international cause celébre), we're going to see more of the same terrible story happen over and over again.”

Well it’s happening now, in large part because Secretary Clinton apparently doesn’t understand the difference between “acts of violence” and “actions that could lead to violence.” She apparently doesn't even understand some of the words she so often uses like "smart power" and "soft power," because all who do get it today marvel at how the anti-coup citizenry of Honduras is utilizing them far more effectively than Washington right now.

Truth is, Secretary Clinton’s statement yesterday was itself one of those very actions she decried, “actions that could lead to violence,” and it suggests very strongly that she is fundamentally incapable of understanding, much less supporting, the very kinds of nonviolent action that, today, are the only alternative to civil war in Honduras, and often the only alternative to wars and repression all over the world.

The Secretary just doesn’t get it. And this is doing profound damage already to democracy in this hemisphere, including to the United States and the president's own stated goals for a new era in US-Latin America relations. While the entire hemisphere is moving forward, while Martin Luther King's "arc of the universe bends toward justice," oft quoted by President Obama, Secretary Clinton is evidently trying to bend that arc back the other way.

Update: Adding to the negative consequences of Secretary Clinton's statements are how easily they lend themselves to distortion by the pro-coup press in Honduras and elsewhere. The daily La Prensa in Tegucigalpa (yes, the same newspaper that photoshopped the blood out of the picture of assassinated youth Isis Obed Murillo last week) has just run the following headline: "Hillary Demands that Chávez Not Interfere in Honduras." Secretary Clinton made no mention of the Venezuelan president in her remarks. But they were vague enough, with enough wiggle room, to become the basis for that kind of headline from the corrupt and dishonest sector of the Honduran media. A certain ineptness is increasingly peeking through the mist at Foggy Bottom.



She absolutely gets it

I think that's why she phrased it in exactly that way.  She know that these non-violent protests are powerful, and this is her way of expressing her support for the coup without having to actually come out and support it in public.  She definitely wants these demonstrations and blockades to stop so her pals can get back to making money.  She wants this to drag out until Zeyala's term is up. 

Lucky for us, the people in Honduras don't pay attention to her.

Obama v. Obama

Thin, Al - very, very thin. The slightest of threads, barely visible to the naked eye, and very difficult to latch onto.

The U.S. policy in the hemisphere is Obama's policy - you're setting his words to the NAACP about the civil rights movement against his own foreign policy. Can you doubt that Obama himself doesn't want Zelaya to return without a negotiated agreement? That VP Biden, General Jones, and Sec'ty Gates don't agree with the President's assessment? Do you suggest Sec'ty Clinton is freelancing that position?

While I think the U.S. should be doing much more - there we agree entirely - I think you have the wrong target. You should be pushing the President directly, not his cabinet. He can make change in Honduras....he just won't (right now).


Excellent piece Al. Really, really great parsing of diplo-speak. Good thing Obama seems to be sidelining Hillary.

@ Tom W.

Tom W. - As you know (because you've followed it more closely than most) I have given Secretary Clinton every benefit of the doubt since her promotion to State.

But unless you are suggesting that her choice of words in a relatively low level press briefing with two other secretaries of state from neighboring countries that got almost no press attention were words that the White House put in her mouth - which, really, would be suggesting that they already don't trust her if they have to micro-manage even her smallest of public statements - you have to come to grips with the fact that she said it.

For her to plead aloud to others to “refrain from any actions that could lead to violence" in the context of Honduras reveals the same dense and stumbling mentality that showed itself through so many campaign gaffes in 2008. And what is a gaffe? It is something, usually, that reveals how the gaffer really thinks.

To, at the precise moment that tens - if not hundreds - of thousands of Hondurans were putting their lives and safety on the line to blockade the country's highways pacifically, undercut them by insinuating that their actions are somehow akin to any violence they provoke are no different than those of Sheriff Bull Connor using the civil rights organizers' actions to blame them for the violence against them. It shows a profound level of insensitivity and a lack of political depth or smarts on Clinton's part. It was an insult to every nonviolent struggler throughout history, not to mention in the present.

She. Just. Doesn't. Get. It.

As for your unsupported prediction that " He can make change in Honduras....he just won't (right now)" - said, I would note, in the same smug Clintonista terms with which we were told throughout 2007 that her nomination was "inevitable" - the jury is still out and the moves are still very much in play. You have no inside knowledge of that, and I don't think you're claiming that.

I just hope that you're not now "hoping" that is the case out of your oft stated belief in the persona of Secretary Clinton. Something much bigger is at stake here than her precious reputation or her position at State. If both have to be thrown under the bus to defend democracy in this hemisphere, to prevent further coups d'etat in more countries, so be it!


Tom W.: "Can you doubt that Obama himself doesn't want Zelaya to return without a negotiated agreement?"


I think that hits the nail on the head.  Zelaya can return "restoring consitutional order", IF HE NEGOTIATES, i.e. stopping the constitutional referendum process.  The ONLY reason for him to accede to such a demand is...  violence of the coup-mongers.  Secretary Clinton's words legitimize the coup's violent usurpation of power, imply that all must bow down to avoid the violent outburts that occur when the powers-that-be are challenged.


Keep up the good work reporting on this story, it's heartening to hear what the Honduran people are doing, "ignorant" of their duty to negotiate away their freedoms and autonomy, yet demonstrating the fragility of the coup's power more and more each day.

@Al - disagree!

I think Sec. Clinton gets it fine (though I disagree) - to me, it looks like the Obama Administration doesn't want Zelaya returning without a deal they approve of. That's clearly where the language is aimed.

Had no intention of suggesting that "smugly" - just the way I'm reading it. And maybe it can change, perhaps with some prodding from below (and I'm sensitive to the reasoning and strategy behind this post as well). Perhaps the grassroots action on the highways of Honduras will inspire the President to adjust U.S. policy - or inspire the Secretary to argue in favor of that change (inside the Administration, not in public), as she did with Iran.

Remember, Secretary Clinton and President Obama last crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge together. I don't think either of them is insensible to nonviolent struggle.

You're right, something much bigger is at stake here - for the U.S. in general, as well as for its top public servants. Policy is shifting. I'll put this in cartoonish fashion perhaps, but I think that under Obama (and his SoS) there is a discernable movement away from secret military ops in favor of more diplomacy and the effective use of American aid...and slightly away from the militaristic knee-jerk reaction to leftist governments that has characterized most of U.S. policy.

Far, far from perfect of course. But I've still got high hopes for this Administration. Let's keep pushing.

Fidel Castro: Coup organized by men appointed by Bush

"...The coup was conceived of and organized by unscrupulous
individuals on the extreme right, dependable officials of George W.
Bush and promoted by him.

All of them, without exception, have a bulky file of anti-Cuba
activities. Hugo Llorens, the ambassador in Honduras since mid-2008,
is a Cuban-American. He is part of a group of aggressive U.S.
ambassadors in Central America comprising Robert Blau, ambassador in El Salvador; Stephen McFarland in Guatemala; and Robert Callahan in Nicaragua, all appointed by Bush in the months of July and August of 2008.

The four are continuing the line of Otto Reich and John Negroponte
who, together with Oliver North, were responsible for the dirty war in
Nicaragua and the death squads in Central America, which cost the
peoples of the region tens of thousands of lives.

Negroponte was Bush's representative at the United Nations, czar of
U.S. intelligence and finally assistant secretary of state. In
distinct ways, both of them were behind the Honduras coup.

The Soto Cano base in that country, headquarters of the Joint Task
Force Bravo belonging to the Armed Forces of the United States, is the
central support point of the coup d'état in Honduras.

The United States has the sinister plan of creating five further
military bases around Venezuela, on the pretext of replacing the Manta one in Ecuador.


The ridiculous adventure of the coup d'état in Honduras has created a really complicated situation in Central America, which will not be
resolved by traps, deceptions and lies.

Every day, new details are emerging of the implication of the United
States in that action, which will also have serious repercussions in
all of Latin America.

The idea of a peace initiative based in Costa Rica was transmitted to
the president of that country from the State Department, when Obama was in Moscow and when he stated, in a Russian university, that the only president of Honduras was Manuel Zelaya.

The coup perpetrators were in a difficult situation..."

Power to the people! To hell with oligarchy!

Very shrewd and 

Very shrewd and  well-written piece. Kudos. I sincerely hope you and all the others working on this succeed in splitting State and the Oval office on this issue. The contradictions are indeed overwhelming. In the final analysis, however, all this will be decided in the street. Just hope Obama has enough resolve to keep US military forces at bay.

@ Tom W.

Tom W. asks us to "Remember, Secretary Clinton and President Obama last crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge together. I don't think either of them is insensible [sic] to nonviolent struggle."

At least on Clinton's part, that was obviously routine, and I'd say cynical, political pandering.  As on the spot proof of tone deaf cynicism, remember too that Clinton went to a mainly black church in Selma and spoke condescendingly to the congregation in a painfully phony black accent.  Yet another example of what All calls her "profound level of insensitivity and a lack of political depth or smarts."

Chavez says that 'within hours' Zelaya will enter Honduras

From the Colombian liberal daily El Espectador running an article by Spain's EFE agency:

Chávez dice que en las próximas horas Zelaya entrará a Honduras

Por: Agencia EFE

El mandatario venezolano dijo que al depuesto presidente “hay que apoyarlo”.

El presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, afirmó que en las próximas horas el mandatario depuesto de Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, ingresará a su país y hay que apoyarlo.

“Zelaya dijo que en las próximas horas entra en Honduras, pues nosotros estamos con Zelaya. Hay que apoyarlo. Zelaya va entrar a Honduras y ya verán los gorilas qué van a hacer”, dijo Chávez, quien se encuentra en la sede del Gobierno boliviano desde el jueves, si bien no estaba anunciada la ampliación de su visita al viernes.

El mandatario venezolano fue recibido por el presidente Evo Morales a las puertas del Palacio de Gobierno, donde, según dijo Chávez, analizarán la situación de Honduras.

“El país está paralizado, es un país ingobernable y todo el pueblo pide que vuelva Zelaya y lo que tienen que hacer los golpistas es entregar el Gobierno al legitimo presidente y nosotros todos apoyarlo”, agregó Chávez.

Good catch

I would be tempted to give her a pass at those words and not zero in on that distinction. One has to tolerate so much happy talk and diplo-speak from people holding this office.

But after reflecting, I think you may be right on the money Al. Clinton has had numerous chances to point out the abuses of the coup leaders and everytime that I have seen falls short. I would give her all the praise due her if she could just once stand unambiguously on the side of the Honduran people.

This remark and your analysis bring up a couple of other memories for me. One is Clinton's "it took a president" remark during the campaign. For me it was clear that in her heart of hearts she didn't get the scope of the civil rights movement and just what extraordinary efforts that took. For me it was clearly dismissive.

I also wanted to share with your readers another non-violent movement we don't hear much about in this country. It was undertaken by the same ethnic group from which the Taliban grew, the Pakhtun. But this was against the British in the days of the south Asian freedom struggle. The main leader was often called the Frontier Gandhi and his name is Abdul Ghaffar Khan. In terms of the number of non-violent followers that were killed their movement makes most other non-violent movements look like a picnic. There is an excellent book about him that is a quick read and revealing about the culture in that area. This should be essential reading for anyone who is a student of non-violent resistence.

Badshah Khan

Jeff, thanks for bringing up Abdul Ghaffar (affectionately known as Badshah) Khan. He is one of the great nonviolent leaders of all time and his leadership unmasks the prejudice against Pashtuns (the same people from whom the Taliban come). We should remember that our CIA trained the Taliban fighters.

Never before or since have a people been more courageous in the face of violence than the people of present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. Remember, unlike in India, the British did not have to worry about reporters and publicity when torturing and murdering Pashtuns.

My favorite book about Khan is called "Nonviolent Soldier of Islam," a title which captures another prejudice shattering notion. There is nothing inherently violent about Islam, though, like other religions, it can be misused to promote violence by those with an agenda. I really like the emphasis on the close relationship between Khan and Ghandi and their extensive travels together.

Khan, who was born into priviledge, could have sidestepped the conflict and lived the life on an insider; a life without dignity, essentially a houseboy to the British, but nevertheless a life of priviledge. He could have taken up violence. Instead, he inspired a people to live by the true teachings of their religion, united them in nonviolent struggle and spent over one-third of his life in jail.

Here's a link to that title:

Clinton and Obama

Don't be fooled. There is no split or dispute between Barack and Hillary. Divide and rule works everytime. They are one as are Clinton and Obama on this file.

Final Hour in Honduras

Ousted Honduras leader gives talks until midnight.

Great article, Al, but why

Great article, Al, but why no mention of Clinton's bosses at the CFR? After all, only the other day was she thanking the CFR for setting up a DC office so's she didn't have to slog it in her Lear up to New York every week.

@ jg and @ jgsman

jg - By CFR I imagine you are referring to the Council on Foreign Relations. While CFR has many of the most powerful politicians and diplomats on earth on its board and committees, and I have been harshly critical over the years of its position papers, I reject the theories that place it at some kind of foreign policy pinnacle that gives orders to the governments whose members belong to it.

That kind of "connection by board of directors" is the sort of thing that is overly used in the interpretations of many both on the left and on the right (i.e. during the 2008 campaign in the US, that Obama had served on a board with former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, as if that suggested that their politics were the same, which both would deny and which ought to be fairly obvious to attentive eyes anyway).

jgsman - This story - unlike some others on the Internet - does not state that there is a "split or dispute" between Obama and Clinton, nor does it say that there is not one. We do not yet know.

What does exist, and what this story documents, are two very different sets of experiences and ways of viewing nonviolent civil resistance campaigns. One has experience in them. The other does not. And that is coloring policy.

As I note in the piece I wrote last November, linked in the above article, it is impossible for the President of the United States to micro-manage his cabinet members in all areas. It's clear that level of nuance in understanding how power works is difficult to impossible for some commentators. When, years ago, I was a political reporter in the United States, I had a front-row seat to those machinations, and I saw and learned first-hand that governments are never as united as they or their opponents claim them to be.


Thanks, they are the same book but yours is the newer edition and more readily available.

@Al re: experiences

Al, you wrote:

What does exist, and what this story documents, are two very different sets of experiences and ways of viewing nonviolent civil resistance campaigns. One has experience in them. The other does not. And that is coloring policy.

But I'm honestly not sure what you mean on the experience side of the ledger. To me, their experiences are pretty similar, though seperated by half a generation: high-achieving students half a generation apart who went into public service. Clinton organized the student strike at Wellesley after King's assassination, wrote her senior thesis on Alinksy's methods there, worked on migrant workers' issues for the Mondale committee, and led the student nonviolent negotiating committee at Yale during law school. Clinton then interned for a radical law, defending draft resisters and war protesters (her firm did Black Panther work, not clear if she ever did) and worked for the Watergate committee, before joining the Children's Defense Fund. (All this before marrying Bill Clinton). All in all, a fairly close-in view of nonviolent organizing for progressive issues, I think.

Now, does she emphasize a lot of this experience? No. She does not. And you might fairly interpret her world view based on that. But she does, in fact, have it.

Incidentally, an under-reported bit of Obama's background in this area is his time at Columbia, where he was involved in the anti-Apartheid movement and wrote some relatively leftist articles about non-violence and disarmament. He's never emphasized that part of his life, either, but I do think that some day, historians will find some fertile ground there for the shaping of Obama's world views. For the early 80s, the Columbia divestment protests were rare in American college life: campus rallies, sit-ins, marches, organizing etc. I was there (though, I'll admit with some chagrin, involved only very slightly) and vividly remember Jesse Jackson leading some old school (for the Reagan era) mass student rallies - I'm pretty sure Obama was a participant in '83 or so.

I agree with those

who think Clinton and Obama are on the same page.  He's been in office several months now, and has proven (to me, at least) that much of his lofty rhetoric is just that - lofty rhetoric.  I look forward to the day when Al (finally) agrees.  But for me, who was desperate not to have a third Clinton administration, it seems that that is just what we have.  Very discouraging.

For what it's worth (a few words from Thomas Friedman)

Last fall, during the speculations concerning Secretary Clinton's nomination, Thomas Friedman (not my favorite thinker, but I think he was on to something) offered this:

"Foreign leaders can spot daylight between a president and a secretary of state from 1,000 miles away. They know when they’re talking to the secretary of state alone and when they are talking through the secretary of state to the president. And when they think they are talking to the president, they sit up straight; and when they think they are talking only to the secretary of state, they slouch in their chairs."

Wonderful Post on The Weapon of Non-Violence.

Great article, Al.  You really caught the powerful spirit of the American civil rights movement and how it continually dared the racists to beat them until the conscience of a whole nation was awakened.

When people in rebellion against an injustice don't have  the power of an effective vote or the power of a fully equipped army, the only weapon they have is to put their bodies on the line for justice.  This is what happened in the U.S. civil rights movement, as you so ably explain.  This is what happened in Ghandi's India.This is what is happening today in Iran and Honduras.

The power of people in the streets is what restored Venezuela's President Chavez to power  in the U.S. supported coup against him in 2002.  That, I am sure, Hillary Clinton understands.  Of course she does not want that same power of non-violent street protests to restore the quasi-leftist Zelaya to power in Honduras, she represents the interests of the oligarchy and their wealthy corporations who seek to protect their profits by whatever means are most expedient.

Obama does not want that either.  However much eloquent lip service he gives to democracy and freedom movements, the bottom line is that to stay in power Obama believes he needs to carry out the commands of the corporatists.

Obama wants to effect a negotiated settlement which gives the appearance of pursuing democracy in Honduras, but which is denuded of its leftist content.  He wants Zelaya to be returned to nominal power, having promised, in return for restoration, not to further rock the boat of the Honduran (and U.S.) ruling class.

The truth is that, once the people are in the streets and feeling their power, their demands may extend way beyond those of their putative leaders, such as Zelaya.  Thus, both Clinton and Obama share the fear that the provacative masses will end up installing a truly reolutionary government in Honduras. The last thing they want is another Venezuela.

You were absolutely correct to spot that in Clinton's words.  Obama may use greater artifice in expressing it, but both Clinton and Obama will "dance with the guys with the money that brung them."

From a progressive perspective, it is tragic that Obama has aligned himself with the oligarchy.  He could have made a great revolutionary, or, more modestly, a great reformer like Roosevelt.  Sad that he has chosen so differently.

Campesinos Honduras

I need you Al to work with me in building our Campesino Agricultural movement...

You need to get the word out to the world...
Where I live was the former bread basket of Central America - Olancho...
There are tens of thousands of acres of abandoned farm land around me...
The Honduran elite import grains into Honduras...
Suppress agri Campesinos...
The same elite who went to Washington...
The world must know...
I have been here 23 years...
I have organized Campesinos...
I have been shot, deported, defamed, jailed - for my work in Honduras...
I know Olancho better than anyone...
I am a Gringo...
Born and raised in Miami, Florida...
Came here in 1987 looking for Placer gold...
Found some...
But what I really found...
Was imposed poverty on the Honduran people...
My wife is a Honduran Campesina...
My three young children were born in Olancho...
My homes and farm are in Olancho...
I am pro Zelaya...
But he did make huge mistakes with the Campesinos...
Yet there is a huge conspiracy behind him that led to the coup...
This is true...
I am in favor of ALBA...
And Chavez...
ALBA would have brought power back to the Campesino...
The elite who import grains into Honduras DID NOT want this...
You need to help us...
I can give you thousands of Campesinos...
And Indigenous people...
I have a friend who is talking to you as well...
World Bank destroyed farming in Honduras...
Thanks to pres Callejas...
The number one activist in Honduras for the poor -


Honduras, but not Iran

I would note that we heard none of this sort of this language which serve to trim and undercut non-violent democratic resistance being uttered by top US officials toward the Iranian opposition.  It's always a useful undertaking to examine double standards.

@ Tom W.

Tom W - The big fat hole in Secretary Clinton's experience is hands-on work in the streets as a community organizer.

I've read her thesis on Alinsky (it appears online). Like most of what passes for academic work it is sympathetic but stand-offish.

You encapsulate what you call her "experience" with this summary:

"worked on migrant workers' issues for the Mondale committee, and led the student nonviolent negotiating committee at Yale during law school. Clinton then interned for a radical law, defending draft resisters and war protesters (her firm did Black Panther work, not clear if she ever did) and worked for the Watergate committee, before joining the Children's Defense Fund. (All this before marrying Bill Clinton). All in all, a fairly close-in view of nonviolent organizing for progressive issues, I think."

Other than some student organizing on campus (very isolated and different than organizing of actual multi-generational and multi-racial communities), she has no real world organizing experience. Working at a radical law firm, or for the Watergate committee, or for Fritz Mondale, is not "community organizing" as I and others who have spent years practicing it define it.

The experience of actually doing it - rather than doing theses on it or being at its margins through institutions - is extremely qualitatively different: it is in the street and in the church basements with hands-on praxis with working class and poor people in specific struggles against powerful institutions that one develops an understanding of the dynamics of how change is made to happen from below.

There are also people who have involved themselves in it but still did not "get" it.

And my observation here is that no matter what Secretary Clinton's experience may or may not be (even if I were to stipulate to your characterization of that experience as somehow being organizer experience, which I do not), her words on Thursday absolutely reveal the same dismissive contempt for nonviolent civil resistance that she revealed during the campaign when she claimed that it "took a President" - Lyndon Johnson - to win the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Are there people with the same lack of direct hands-on organizing experience that Secretary Clinton suffers but that nonetheless "get" it: You bet!

So, in any case, regardless of her inexperience or experience, or how anyone wants to spin it, her words this week indicate that her own experiences have not led her to have the slightest understanding of the difference between "refraining from violence" and "refraining from actions that could cause violence" (from above).

All the great nonviolence theoreticians and practitioners including Gandhi and King have said it in different words: that the institutional reality is violent by its nature but the violence is often hidden, and that nonviolent action both absorbs that violence and makes it visible to the larger public.

Nonviolent actions like the blockades and civil resistance in Honduras, or like Zelaya's attempted return and the protests in the streets by hundreds of thousands on July 5, which resulted in the assassination of Isis Obed Murillo, did not "cause violence" to happen. They simply make the pre-existing violence visible and tangible, discrediting those who deploy it.

Clinton's disgraceful call on Thursday was in effect asking that the institutional violence of the coup regime in Honduras be left invisible and in place.

I've been arrested 27 times in nonviolent political acts. I've felt the blow of the lead pipe upon me, been dragged down five flights of stairs by handcuffs (bump, bump, bump...) emerging black and blue, been the guest of a good number of prisons, been thrown into solitary in some, and have had a front row seat to how those dynamics have made existing violence visible so that it could be toppled.

And I've knocked on thousands doors in this life as part of community organizing campaigns, organized those community meetings in church basements and such, and trained hundreds in nonviolent civil disobedience. And I frankly find the suggestion that some campus protesting and working for law firms - worthy though it may be - are comparable experience that reveal the same truths to be disrespectful to all the people who have really lived it rather than just watched it and thought they understood it from the sidelines.

One more thought: A Palin Moment

One more thought for Tom W. - Remember how we community organizers responded to Sarah Palin's acceptance speech when she said that being a small town mayor "is sort of like being a community organizer... except that you have actual responsibilities"?

Clinton's words on Thursday offered that kind of moment for many of us, too.

The right kind of Power...


Inspiring artice brother Al. It would be nice to see and report what are the constructive programmes (ala Gandhi's center-of-the-solar-system of the Independence of India) that our siblings in Honduras are performing in the face of repression and attacks by the old Empire mentality.


The creation of a new paradigm in the contemporary society is not about putting the right kind of people in power, but the right kind of power in people.

If you want to be a rebel, be kind. Human-kind, be both.
In service & solidarity,

PS: This is why the Clintons are doing what they are doing:

US Lobbyists with Clinton Ties Hired to Defend Honduran Military Coup Regime. A Honduran business group has hired lobbyist Lanny Davis, who served as White House counsel for President Bill Clinton. The coup government has also hired Bennet Ratcliff, a public relations specialist with ties to former President Bill Clinton:

Update on talks

Zelaya says yes, interim government says no to Arias' mediation proposal


Mediator Proposes Path Out of Honduras Showdown

Clinton's wording is not clear-probably deliberately so.

"We support a peaceful, negotiated resolution and urge other countries to play a positive role in achieving that outcome, and to refrain from any actions that could lead to violence."

In this sentence, the only thing which "to refrain from any actions that could lead to violence" can possibly refer to  is "other countries." The statement is warning other nations to refrain from any actions which could lead to violence, which is interesting in that it assumes other nations are planning such actions. Now Chavez said something about taking action IF the putschists took some kind of action against Venezuela. Clinton's statement seems more of a slur against Chavez than against any demonstrators within Honduras.

What is very clear is that no one I've heard in the US government is making any statements in support of the protestors against the coup, which indeed is far different from how the US reacted to the Iran situation.

The loudest statement from the US is the one not spoken, which would be to call the actions of the putschists a coup. Thus, there is no real condemnation of what was done against the elected government. Now, in the negotiations, the US is trying to remove Zelaya and his entire government by demanding a "government of unity and reconciliation." Zelaya would return as a powerless president...and elections would be held a month early. I have no idea what that really accomplishes, but it underlines that the US wants Zelaya out of office ASAP.

I'm sickened by this -- and deeply disappointed in Hillary Clinton.






To make History one has to, first, ...enter History. The Game Changer co-opts the Game, score one for the mandated, aims for its crux, embeds his core into its own, begets 'mutatis mutandis' its reality, sets 'ipso facto' its rules.


A community organizer extraordinaire toils away fine-tuning the World's socio-political dissonance. What better way to go about it than to have the reactionary pulpit's prima donna  at right arm's length.
Little harms done for much thespian fun if you ask me.


Apparel Companies

Pancho Ramos-Stierle linked to a transcript from Democracy Now. This paragraph leapt out at me:

"And I would also add here that the coup was backed by the apparel industry. And Davis is working on behalf of some Honduran business groups, including the apparel industry, and there are American businesses active in Honduras, like Russell, Fruit of the Loom and Hanes, who are members of the apparel trade group that are backing the coup. So it’s also important to note that you have American companies, and they say, “Oh, we can’t—we don’t want to get involved in this. We’re not political.” So they won’t take a stand on the coup. They have taken a stand. They’re supporting the coup government."

First up, does anyone know (what other sources are there to verify this) if this statement about apparel companies is true?

If true, shouldn't we non-Hondurans start targeting these companies in our own backyards?

Maybe something like returning (dumping on their doorsteps) whatever items from these brands we might have in our wardrobes to the flagship stores or corporate headquarters of these brands.


@Michael Chapman

If you want to check that info, go to your nearest WALMART (I´m assuming you are in USA) and check where Hanes´s underware is made. But to make it short, they are made in Honduras "maquilas". Some facilities that I know of are own by "Chucri Kafie". Maquila employees have been force to go to "Peace and Democracy Rallies" in support of the coup leaders.

Two faces of U.S. on protest: Iran and Honduras

As one poster noted briefly, there's a vast discrepancy between official U.S. response to protest in Honduras and Iran.  While the Secretary of State implicitly condemns non-violent protest that might "lead to" violence against themselves, the administration openly expresses sympathy for non-violent demonstrations in Iran which not only "might lead" to government violence, but in fact has done so, after which the U.S. duly condemns that government's violence; even the U.S. congress passes a near-unanimous resolution in support of the Iranian protesters.  Anybody heard anything like this in support of the Honduran protesters, either by Obama administration or Congress? Talk about a two-faced foreign policy, which invokes different moral standards of protest depending on whether is supports or attacks U.S. interests.

Hillary Incompetence or Willful Ignorance at Work in Haiti Also

Us, haitians were flabbergasted when she came in Haiti three days before parliamentary elections in April 19 to endorse an election that was about to be boycotted by more than 90% of the electorate because the election organizers refused to allow the largest political party from participating. 

Again on the fourth anniversary of the UN largest raid/massacre in Haiti, her husband (Bill Clinton) chose to visit Haiti and to praise the UN for their 'work' in Haiti.  Time and time again they have made the choice lately to side with the human rights violators, the small elites in these impoverished countries and against the suffering masses.  The question one asks oneself is this calculated or is it willfull ignorance.  They are both well privy to information, classified and published reports about these countries.  They have a wealth of experience.  Why do they act like this?


Was meaning: confirming exactly how 'in bed' they are with the coup.

And am in Australia (and we do get Hanes Beefy-Ts).



Isn't the point of this putsch to eat up the few remaining months of President Zelaya's term, much as what was done to Aristide in Haiti, so that the subsequent election can be manipulated?

Words matter

I don't understand how this can be discussed accurately while continuing to ignore the SOS' use of the words "other countries". It seems that ingnoring the fact she used those words makes all discussions about the effects on the Hondurans' peacful protest hard to link. Are we inventing another logic here? 

@ Kevin

Kevin - Even if we accept your narrow interpretation of those words, they would still reveal the ignorance of she who spoke them.

"Violence" isn't going to be "caused" by any external factor: The violence is already there. It exists not only in the tangible violence already committed by the coup regime (the assassination of Isis Obed Murillo, the illegal arrests of at least 1,046 citizens, the military occupations of TV and radio stations, etcetera) but in the threats of State violence.

Acts of intimidation by the State are themselves violent already. Nothing that any other country says or does is going to cause more violence than exists already.

What exactly (short of military invasion, which no rational observer views as a plausible scenario) could another country do to "cause violence" in Honduras?

If the Secretary was restricting her comments to "other countries" - and I think that ignores the way government officials so often and usually speak in code - there is only one rational interpretation: that she didn't want those other countries to encourage the people of Honduras to nonviolently expose the violence that already exists in latent form.

I don't subscribe to your narrow interpretation, but even if I did, it would not change the thrust of this critique: that the Secretary does not understand violence or nonviolence and the dynamics at work between the two.

Have to roll my eyes here, Al

The buck stops with the President.  His name is Barack Obama.


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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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