Lobster 61 Summer 2011 Gareth Llewellyn, CSIS and the Canadian stasi Dr. Scott Newton Is there a political class? Robin Ramsay The economic crisis continues JFK’s assassination: a big new book and a strange memoir The view from the bridge Dr. T. P. Wilkinson Disclosure and deceit: secrecy as the manipulation of history, not its concealment Matthew Zarb-Cousin Murdoch, Rothschild and the nuclear lobby Book reviews Parish Notices Robin Ramsay Occasionally I get asked to give a short description of Lobster. That used to be reasonably simple: it is little magazine which is centrally interested in the role of the covert world on our history. What should I now say? It used to be that but is now a website whose editor has recently been centrally interested in the current economic crisis? Put that way it sounds as though there has been some big shift; and in a sense there has been. I am no longer collecting every scrap of information about the British intelligence and security services in the way that I did once. Why not? A number of things have come together. Firstly, it no longer seems as important. Other people are doing this, which they weren’t in the mid 1980s. (I just googled ‘MI5’ and got 2.8 million hits.) Secondly, when Lobster began in 1983 I had just joined the Labour Party, and the events of the 1960s and 70s, which led to the disaster of Thatcher, were still fresh in the collective party memory. The pursuit of the covert state operations against Labour governments, the Labour Party and wider left seemed politically relevant. My interest in MI5 was in MI5 qua enemy of the left. But as the wider left disintegrated in the UK after the fall of the Soviet bloc, and the British secret state more or less gave up surveilling, penetrating and manipulating it, the political point of trying to find out what the spooks were doing diminished. In 1986 when Lobster 11 appeared, detailing some of the anti-Labour activities of the 1970s, many of the people involved were still alive, as were the consequences of those operations. Now such research is just history. It’s still interesting but not as interesting. Secondly, the shift to economic politics isn’t in fact something new for me; but in the past I didn’t think it apposite Page 2 to put much of it in Lobster. I was always interested in our economic history. ‘What to do about the City?’ was on the agenda of the British left in the early 1980s – before ‘Big Bang’ in 1986 sold the City off to the Americans and London became merely a less regulated outpost of Wall Street. I still have the 1982 Labour Party publication The City: a socialist approach and Richard Minns’ Take Over the City (Pluto) from the same year. The City-versus-industry debate was alive in the Labour Party until 1987/8, when Neil Kinnock and those around him decided to surrender to the City, for reasons that are still not entirely clear to me but are probably simple careerism. I wrote about this economic and political history in Prawn Cocktail Party (1998) and again in The Rise of New Labour (2002), to no effect.1 But here we are, North Sea oil is fading away, manufacturing has had 30 years of neglect and contempt, and the City-versus-industry perspective on the British economy is now back on the agenda having been buried under North Sea oil revenues and the delusions signified by the phrase ‘the knowledge economy’. Thus what had been on my back burner has moved to the front. 1 Prawn Cocktail Party was irretrievably mangled by the publisher and consequently blanked by me and The Rise of New Labour sold only a few hundred copies. Page 2 Contents CSIS and the Canadian stasi Gareth Llewellyn 4 Is there a political class? Dr. Scott Newton 12 The economic crisis continues Robin Ramsay 17 JFK’s assassination: a big new book and a strange memoir 32 Robin Ramsay The view from the bridge Robin Ramsay 38 Disclosure and deceit: secrecy as the manipulation of history, not its concealment Dr. T. P. Wilkinson 60 Murdoch, Rothschild and the nuclear lobby Matthew Zarb-Cousin 76 Books reviewed 82 Books reviewed John W. Dower: Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq H. Paul Jeffers: The Bilderberg Conspiracy: Inside the world’s most powerful secret society Kathryn S. Olmsted: Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War 1 to 9/11 Carne Ross: Independent Diplomat: Despatches from an Unaccountable Elite John Loftus: America’s Nazi Secret Cheri Seymour: The Last Circle: Danny Casolaro’s Investigation into The Octopus and the Promis Software Scandal Matt Taibbi: Griftopia Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids and the Long Con That Is Breaking America Richard Webster: Casa Pia: The making of a modern European witch hunt Page 3 Lobster 61 Gareth Llewellyn, CSIS and the Canadian stasi What follows is a section of a much longer document written by a senior Canadian federal intelligence official named Gareth LLewellyn about the actions against him of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS). This story is notable for his account of being ‘gang-stalked’ by CSIS. The whole document can be read at . (Yes, I did notice that this site is anti-semitic but of the two versions of the complete document I found online this version is the more clearly laid out.) January 2011 Dear Reader: Would it affect your vote if you learned that the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper [Prime Minister] was a CSIS [Canadian Security and Intelligence Service] operative in the late 1980s and early 1990s? This interesting-but-not-scandalous information (as once described by Jeff Sallot, a noted journalist and now teaching media at Carleton University) has been deemed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) as an item of ‘national security,’ and I, in turn, was deemed as ‘prejudicial to the safety and interests of the [Canadian] state’ under the Security of Information Act (SOIA). My career was ruined as a result. So, congratulations… you are now privy to a nationalsecurity secret. If, after a moment of contemplation, you find something fishy about this ‘secret,’ as if Canada’s security wouldn’t change one iota if it were broadcast around the world, you are Page 4 privy to what this package is really about: the lack of judgment by CSIS, their dirty tricks, harassment and above all, their denial of basic justice to innocent Canadians. The Liberal Party of Canada is aware of this information, but according to a letter from Michael Ignatieff’s office (copied to the Evidence directory), the Liberals are not interested in this issue. The reasons for the Liberal’s lack of interest may include the fact that CSIS may have also protected a Liberal Prime Minister from another ‘national security secret’ – i.e., a brief affair with a Peterborough woman in or around 2005 – by harassing her to an extreme degree. Read the article about her ordeal at the hands of CSIS in the Evidence directory (#23a and b). This package is a book proposal seeking a publisher. Four chapters and an introduction tentatively entitled Life Under CSIS Rule are included, as well as a book synopsis and letter to a prospective literary agent. A series of magazine articles are also feasible, as is internet publication. The Gangstalker Directory contains ‘About Gangstalkers’ to explain the role of ‘gangstalkers’ – simply, a network of louts recruited to harass a whistleblower – including some photos of them in action. The phenomenon of gangstalking has been developed very well at the website, gangstalkingworld.com, to which I refer the reader. In my case, CSIS has rented apartments in my neighbourhood to house them, so I enclose some photos of those houses as well. My resume and a photograph of my wife and I are included to identify us, as well as a Contact sheet to warn of the difficulties of communication when you are under CSIS investigation. My proposed book isn’t as important as the country. If you don’t want my experiences in Life Under CSIS Rule to be a regular occurrence in Canada, all under the excuse of ‘national security,’ please pass my story along. Please accept my legal permission to do so. Page 5 Sincerely, Gareth Llewellyn Synopsis of Proposed Book Working Title: Life Under CSIS Rule Summary: In January 2007, I was ‘gang-stalked’ by CSIS. According to the leaked diplomatic cables by Wikileaks, this activity was called ‘vigorous harassment’ by the former Director of CSIS, Jim Judd, a process that involves dozens of people, vehicles and radios. At the time, I didn’t know why it was happening, and throughout 2007, despite my efforts with my superiors at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the fact I was an intelligence analyst cleared to Top Secret Special Access, one of the highest in government, I couldn’t get answers. It wasn’t until February 2008 that I learned that CSIS thought I was an American spy. I had done nothing to justify this. I complained to the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), and in so doing I revealed that the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, our Prime Minister, was used by CSIS as an operative against me previously in 1988, at a time when CSIS thought I was a neo-Nazi and a South African agent. After learning that I knew about Harper (it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise), CSIS deemed me a security risk ‘prejudicial to the safety and interests of Canada’ under the Security of Information Act (SOIA). My career was finished. CSIS mounted a campaign to force me out of my job and brand me as delusional in order to protect Harper. The SOIA has empowered CSIS to deprive the innocent of a solicitor-client Page 6 privilege and patient-doctor relationship, as well as other mechanisms of justice. This book is about errors of judgment by CSIS so massive that they involve two Prime Ministers and a former Leader of the Opposition. During the past 22 years, CSIS suspected me of being a neo-Nazi, a South Africa agent, an American spy and now a enemy of the state. They were wrong on all counts. When CSIS thought I was a neo-Nazi, they fomented an investigation into me by Internal Affairs in Revenue, from which I was cleared. CSIS thought I was funneling money from the South African embassy to Preston Manning’s campaign against Joe Clark. Here, Preston Manning was investigated. This story is told as a first/second-person narrative in chronological time with flashbacks recounting the backstory. The story doesn’t end there. Another victim is a Peterborough woman operating under the alias ‘Anne’, who had an alleged affair with a Prime Minister in 2005, probably the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin. Two newspaper articles have been written about her, but the mainline media hasn’t realized what has happened. CSIS abuses normal Canadians under a program entitled ‘diffuse and disrupt’ – a program, in theory, that is meant to halt a terrorist attack against Canada, and formed, in the words of a former Deputy Director of Operations at CSIS, ‘because we had all this information and nothing to do with it.’ In practice, CSIS doesn’t enjoy the competence to differentiate between the innocent and the guilty. A brief introduction and proposed chapters 1- 4 are included. Substantial documentary evidence proving CSIS actions to some extent are provided. Photographs of gangstalkers, including the homes they use as a home base in my neighbourhood, are presented here as a stand-alone section for the middle of the book. All the names, dates and places are authentic. Some names may need to be changed Page 7 for liability purposes, but not all. The central question in this proposed book is, how could a brief affair by one Prime Minister and the knowledge that another Prime Minister worked for CSIS many years ago become a ‘national security threat’ requiring extreme extra-judicial remedies? Chapters 1- 4 Provided (approx. 25,000 words). They present my early exposure to ‘gangstalking’ and my work life under CSIS investigation between January 2007 and September 2008. Backstory elements include my past relationship with Stephen Harper and the incidents that lead to the investigation of Preston Manning’s federal campaign in Yellowhead in 1988. Also included is their ‘disrupt activities’ against me as an alleged American spy. Illegal activities by my employer, CBSA, and CSIS are presented, and how my solicitor-client and patient-doctor relationship were abrogated. It includes how CSIS tried to brand me as ‘delusional’ in order to protect the Prime Minister. It ends with my discovery of the plight of ‘Anne,’ a Peterborough woman who had an affair with a PM and CSIS’s efforts to try to kill me in a traffic accident Chapters 5-6 Unwritten. These two chapters are reserved for ‘Anne’s Story’, a woman from Peterborough now in her early thirties who had a brief liaison with a Prime Minister, probably the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin. Evidence obtained from the national media indicates that the PM may have had marital problems with his wife, Sheila, at that time (or was caused by?). Information to be provided by Erin, ‘Anne’s’ real first name. Middle section of photographic inserts: Provided in the ‘Gangstalkers’ and the “Evidence” directories. Page 8 This includes a proposed section called About Gangstalkers..., a presentation of pictures I have taken along with captions, and includes the ‘safehouses’ used by CSIS to monitor me and to house the gangstalkers. It may also include assorted letters provided in ‘Evidence’ from CSIS alleging I was a ‘subversive’ at the time I was cleared to TSSA, indicating that this status was attributed because I knew the PM was a former CSIS operative, as well as redacted documents obtained through the Privacy Act indicating I was suspected of being an American spy; photographs and documents showing a CSIS officer impersonating Michelle Shephard, a Toronto Star reporter; photograph showing the CSIS officer impersonating Lois Tuffin, a Peterborough This Week editor; a letter from my employer, CBSA, threatening my job after posting a early draft of the PM’s early activity on behalf of CSIS on the internet; a copy of the Security of Information Act; proposed pictures of CSIS officers and managers; etc. Approximate length: 40 pages. Suggested Chapter 7 Unwritten. A proposed chapter to be written by a lawyer conversant with the origins and workings of the Security of Information Act, with a focus on the implications on the lives of innocent Canadians by CSIS actions, and a explanation of why the power under SOIA does not extend below PM level. Remuneration by the publisher could be sent directory to the lawyer. Chapter 8 Unwritten. This chapter will show how CSIS gangstalking and incompetent investigating has damaged the lives of innocent Muslim Canadians, merging information presented here with Page 9 media accounts and interviews with the subjects. Focus on one or two cases of Muslim Canadians is proposed, and specifically the ‘extra-legal’ behaviour by CSIS. This chapter might flow into a discussion on the origins of gangstalking and the ‘diffuse and disrupt’ policy in CSIS. Some discussion of gangstalking efforts in the U.S. and in the U.K., and discussion of other books on gangstalking, etc. Research will be required. Chapter 9 Unwritten. This chapter (or two) will continue my story relating from September 2008 to the winter of 2010-11. It will include my failure to obtain assistance by Ottawa Police; my complaint to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director; failure to obtain a lawyer through CSIS interference; efforts to contact the media; efforts to broker a deal with the government; frequent CSIS attempts to impersonate others; CSIS suborning my extended family and sister; CSIS in the legal field, media, etc. Epilogue Unwritten. The character of this concluding chapter depends on how the theme has been understood by the reader. It could present this story as a ‘danger signal’ to conclude with prescriptive remedies; i.e., ideas for reform, merging human rights with national security; reform of SIRC; reform for the chain of command within the Canadian state as approached by the SOIA, particularly in situations of national emergency; ideas to define ‘national security’.’ Alternatively, the theme could be understood as illustrative of our descent into Canadian fascism, in which corroborative evidence could be presented to show how liberal Canada has died. Either way, Page 10 discussions and research would be required. Anticipated length: 200 pages Page 11 Is there a ‘political class’? Scott Newton It has become fashionable to argue that Britain is in the grip of its own ‘political class’. Most recently the idea has been promulgated by Peter Oborne, in his 2007 book, The Triumph of the Political Class. I have been sceptical about this, remembering the dominance of Oxbridge-educated elites in British politics during the 1960s and 1970s when I was a young man. Recently, however, I changed my mind. The key moment for me was an MA dissertation by a student of mine, on the impact of the 1979 Brandt Report (North-South: a programme for survival) on politics in the UK. I thought I remembered this quite well; but had forgotten what my student's research showed, which was the public reception of this document – it was massively favourable and stimulated real interest and activity throughout ‘Big Society’. Yet it was shelved, indeed marginalised by Mrs Thatcher, who, along with President Reagan, successfully pushed the advanced industrial states to take the free market rather than the Keynesian approach to global development advocated by Brandt. The new line, the foundation of what later became known as the Washington Consensus, was announced at the 1981 Cancun summit. Reading this and noting the very considerable support shown for Brandt in the opinion polls at the time (well in excess of 50%) it occurred to me that this may have been the first, but certainly not the last time, when politicians ignored popular sentiment and went their own way. The Thatcher government’s commitment to a free market political economy, it is true, was modified in practice on a number of occasions in the 1980s – but never when a move away from it would have represented a fundamental shift of philosophy. And as far as Page 12 the question of international development was concerned the adoption of Brandt would have reflected just such a shift. For several years prior to 1979 the neo-liberals who clustered around Hayek and the Mont Pelerin group had been promoting the idea that foreign aid involved a waste of resources and that trade and the free market were the motors of economic development for the developing world. Moreover, overseas aid (they said) too often put money in the pockets of socialist politicians who were (by definition) corrupt and incompetent. Brandt’s recommendations, if implemented, would mean a continuation of this process but now was the time to walk away from that kind of interventionism, not retreat back into it. So the Brandt report gathered dust. Since then we have seen a significant range of issues emerge where very large and organised numbers of private citizens and voluntary groups have taken one line, while governments have just ignored them and followed a different agenda entirely. There was the refusal to take Keynesian measures as the economy tanked in 1981-2; the repudiation of any compromise with the miners in 1984-5 (though I accept that Scargill made this much easier for the government); the determination not to build council houses which has marked every administration since Mrs Thatcher’s; the poll tax (only repealed because Mrs Thatcher had been ejected); railway privatisation; the Iraq war; the constant ‘reforms’ to the NHS and education; the privatisation of the utilities and of the defence research industry; the PPP system for the London Tube; the introduction and now trebling of tuition fees – in complete contradiction of pledges made by the political parties responsible for implementing these decisions when they were fighting their corners at very recent General Elections. I am sure we could all think of more examples. The point is that there was no consensus for any of these policies, which have together worked to transform the nature of British society in the last 30 years. More: just about every single one of these has been heavily opposed and not just by the people who worked in the industries and sectors affected but by a Page 13 broad coalition of citizens, unions, voluntary organisations and (at various times) political parties. These groups have been ignored, even when their warnings about likely disasters (as, for example with railway privatisation, the PPP for the Tube, the absence of affordable housing or the Iraq war) were timely and prescient. Their alternatives, often serious and costed, have been disregarded or marginalised, the proponents treated as subversive, deluded, unrealistic, etc etc. This process does not strike me as part of the normal give and take of politics. It looks like the onward march of a particular agenda (neo-liberalism), promoted (and this is the point) by the inner core of all the major political parties, leaving no settled institutional outlet for opposition or the construction of alternative policies and strategies. The most telling example of this was the Liberal performance last year: having gone into the General Election on a Keynesian politicoeconomic platform some way to the left of the other two major parties, they appeared just a week after polling day in a Conservative-dominated coalition committed to an economic strategy which could have come from the 1920s; and which committed them to policies they had been deriding only a few days, let alone weeks, earlier. In a way their experience was a more vivid, concentrated and dramatic version of what happened to Labour after Neil Kinnock embraced the liberal rather than the social-democratic path to ‘modernisation’ after 1987. Maybe the result of the 1979 election was the watershed here – a common observation – but not just in the sense that it brought about a shift in the British political economy. It also seems to have had some of the qualities of a coup d’état, in that since that time we have been unable to alter the trajectory of the state, economy and society, whose journey to the market order continues, frequently in the teeth of public opinion: the forms of democratic politics exist, but the reality of this has long gone because the ability of the people to affect genuine change in any direction except one (towards Page 14 laissez-faire capitalism) has been removed. Who is conducting this operation? The modern state, like any before it, has its own set of administrators, politicians, bankers, police, journalists and broadcast media, and its own thinkers. These people seem to circulate within a particular kind of socio-political milieu which embraces think tanks, TV and radio, fashionable columnists, MPs and City types (there are not many from industry unless it is the big corporate and multinational such as BP; Lord Browne is a good example) . They live in a world of centre-right politics, where the ‘correct’ positions are usually some compound of social and economic liberalism, and they reproduce themselves across the generations, with the children moving seamlessly from (usually) private school to university, to political intern/private office/journalism/BBC, to think tanks like Reform, Policy Exchange or the Centre for Policy Studies, or to polling organisations like YouGov, and thence to Parliament. If they want to discuss a new policy or ‘test’ the effectiveness or popularity of another one, they just talk to each other, and so it goes on, round and round while the rest of us are ignored or reduced to the kind of mayhem we saw in London recently if we want to gain any kind of hearing. And the response of the authorities? Not to listen, not to compromise, not (to go back to my earlier phrase) to indulge in the give and take of politics, but instead to start talking about whether or not to use water cannon. It seems to me that the state of British democracy now is as low as it has ever been, and that there is a case to be made for the existence of a self-referential and selfperpetuating political class at the heart of the state itself (look at the casual fiddling of expense claims as a surface indicator of this). Where can one go from here? Onto the street, or into silence, exile and cunning? Dr. Scott Newton is Reader in Modern British and International Page 15 History at Cardiff University. Page 16 The economic crisis continues Robin Ramsay The bottom line (of the bottom line) At the end of December 2010 Her Majesty’s Treasury put out a document which stated: ‘...net debt excluding the temporary effects of financial interventions was £889.1 billion, equivalent to 59.3 per cent of gross domestic product (£2322.7 billion, equivalent to 154.9% including interventions).’1 A sum equivalent to almost 100% of this country’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been ‘borrowed’ (created, magicked) to bail out the banks. We are going to be paying for the banks for ever. But the underlying borrowing – ‘net debt excluding the temporary effects of financial interventions’ – is still not significantly greater than other comparable EU economies. On page 127 of the IMF ‘s 2011 Fiscal Monitor is statistical table 7, which lists General Government Gross Debt as a percentage of GDP. The UK figure for 2011 is 83, France 85, Germany 80.2 The present ‘crisis’ of government borrowing is about paying for the bankers’ fuck-ups.3 As the editor of The Spectator, Fraser Nelson, said in 2009, the UK is now a bankocracy. 1 2 How this figure is reconciled with the different UK Treasury figure I have not tried to ascertain. The Treasury figure will be a fake of some kind, aimed at showing that the UK is still within the EU’s 60% of GDP rule; it probably excludes things like PFI contracts. 3 In ‘Chinese rating agency downgrades UK debt’, Daily Telegraph 24 May, the UK figure was given as 82.5pc of GDP. Page 17 ‘It is as if there has been a silent coup d’état – instead of the taxpayers owning the banks, the banks now seem to own the taxpayers. They have been given access to the present and future earnings of the British public, which will plug their mind-blowing losses....What’s happening with RBS, B&B, Northern Rock and, soon, Lloyds is what the bankers call a reverse takeover. The scale is mindblowing. RBS’s £2 trillion of liabilities dwarfs not only the government reserves but the entire UK economy. Brown hasn’t so much nationalised the banks, he has bank-ised the nation.’ 4 Nelson used the term ‘bankocracy’, which I thought was recent; Anne Pettifor has used it, for example.5 But then I noticed a letter in the London Review of Books pointing out that Marx had used the term in the first volume of Capital.6 Brown’s mea culpa (or: we didnae ken) In April Gordon Brown was at a conference in Bretton Woods in New England and said: ‘We set up the FSA believing the problem would come from the failure of an individual institution. That was the big mistake. We didn’t understand just how entangled things were.’ Well, that would be one way of looking at it. And he was not alone in not understanding what was going on. Here’s a 2006 statement from the IMF which could hardly have been more wrong. ‘There is growing recognition that the dispersion of 4 In each of the UK, Germany, France and Ireland, the combined assets of the three largest banks were greater than national GDP in 2008. See . 5 Her very good blog is 6 Page 18 credit risk by banks to a broader and more diverse group of investors, rather than warehousing such risk on their balance sheets, has helped to make the banking and overall financial system more resilient..... the commercial banks, a core segment of the financial system, may be less vulnerable today to credit or economic shocks’ potential for market disruptions.’ 7 The idea that ‘the dispersion of credit risk’ would make the banks ‘less vulnerable’ was coming from the bankers busy expanding the debt. But as for Gordon’s cry of ‘We didnae ken’, he and everybody else that mattered were warned. They just didn’t want to hear the warnings. ‘On April 17, 2007, famed short-seller Jim Chanos and other hedge fund managers met under tight security at the World Bank in Washington for the G-8 meeting. Chanos and Paul Singer briefed prominent policy officials [including Gordon Brown] about the growing financial instability. They gave irrefutable evidence that a catastrophe was building. They told officials that banks were about to sink the global economy. They called for decisive action. And they were ignored.’ 8 The Irish were warned in a series of newspaper articles by an Irish academic economic historian, Morgan Kelly. But Kelly was ignored until it was too late. This is from the Michael Lewis essay ‘When Irish Eyes Are Crying’: ‘In [Colm] McCarthy’s9 view, the dominant narrative inside the head of the average Irish citizen – and his receptiveness to the story Kelly was telling – changed at roughly 10 o’clock in the evening on October 2, 2008. On that night, Ireland’s financial regulator, a lifelong Central 7 IMF Global Financial Stability Report, chapter 2: ‘The influence of credit derivative and structured credit markets on financial stability’. 8 9 Lecturer in economics at University College, Dublin. Page 19 Bank bureaucrat in his 60s named Patrick Neary, came live on national television to be interviewed....Now the Irish people finally caught a glimpse of the guy meant to be safeguarding them: the crazy uncle had been sprung from the family cellar. Here he was, on their televisions, insisting that the Irish banks were “resilient” and “more than adequately capitalized”.......when everyone in Ireland could see, in the vacant skyscrapers and empty housing developments around them, evidence of bank loans that were not merely bad but insane. “What happened was that everyone in Ireland had the idea that somewhere in Ireland there was a little wise old man who was in charge of the money, and this was the first time they’d ever seen this little man,” says McCarthy. “And then they saw him and said, Who the fuck was that??? Is that the fucking guy who is in charge of the money??? That’s when everyone panicked.” ’10 Away from the collapse of the banks, Brown was repeatedly warned by the IMF that he was allowing a housing bubble to be inflated in the UK economy and that the government and its citizens were borrowing too much. In 2003 the IMF warned about government borrowing;11 in 2005 about the expanding UK personal debt which had then reached £1 trillion;12 then about government borrowing;13 the trade deficit,14 and 10 Lewis was the author of the classic account of 1980s Wall St. rackets, Liar’s Poker. 11 BBC News on-line, 19 December, 2003, ‘IMF gives Brown borrowing warning’ 12 13 ‘Brown besieged over growth and borrowing plans’, The Times, 22 September 2005 14 20 Dec 2005, ‘IMF fires new warning over Britain’s finances’, Page 20 repeatedly about the house price bubble.15 But Brown had spent his entire parliamentary career in a world in which only one economic indicator really mattered: the inflation figure. Managing inflation was the only task given to the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. And from the early 1990s onwards Brown had been educated on his trips to America to accept the ‘Washington consensus’, one of whose central edicts was that the state should do as little as possible and leave the macro-economy to the market. And so it transpired that while Gordon Brown was nominally in charge of the economy from 1997 onwards, NuLab allowed the manufacturing base to be further diminished by imports (mostly Chinese) and tried to compensate for this loss of economic activity with increased personal and public debt. Gordon Brown hasn’t said much since he quit but he did give an interview to Der Spiegel. Here is the key section, which illustrates Brown’s picture of the world. The emphases have been added by me. SPIEGEL: Critics argue that you not only helped solve the crisis, but that you also had a hand in creating it in the first place. In 2005, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, you told managers that government should not only ‘have a light touch, but a limited touch’ in banking regulation. Brown: You’ve got to understand the atmosphere in Britain at the time. We had introduced the Financial Services Authority and had removed the system of self regulation in the City. We had merged all the different supervisory organizations.... SPIEGEL: ....but the result was an extreme dearth of regulation. There is a reason that Lehman Brothers did much of its business in London. 15 In 2005 ; in 2006 and ; and in 2008 Page 21 Brown: Lehman Brothers failed to declare its financial position. You cannot blame the regulator for not picking up something when there was a failure to declare. In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered whether regulation was a little stronger or a little weaker. What we hadn’t factored in was the interdependence between the different financial institutions. What happens to one bank has implications for a lot of others. SPIEGEL: Regulators in Canada, Australia and Sweden have obviously done a better job. Banking systems in those countries weren’t hit nearly as hard. Do you not see any errors at all in hindsight? Brown: I wish that we had had a better understanding. We did a trans-Atlantic simulation exercise in early 2007 which included US Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke. We looked at what would happen if an individual institution collapsed. People realized that there were consequences that went beyond that individual institution. But we didn’t analyze what would happen to the system in its entirety, due to connections and entanglements. We should have built a global control system for the financial sector much earlier. SPIEGEL: Both Germany and the European Union had tried to adopt tougher regulations long before the crisis. But London always stood in the way. Brown: That’s a misunderstanding. I was always in favor of intervention but wanted to do it on a global level. If you regulate in Europe, but not in America or Hong Kong, Singapore or Switzerland, banks will be basing more of their operations abroad. You need a global system, and that is now recognized. But I see the problem that we're not yet implementing rules at a global level that cover all the major financial centers. SPIEGEL: There will always be someone who doesn’t play by the rules. Isn't the call for global supervision just a lazy excuse for doing nothing? Page 22 At which point Brown began more evasive manoeuvres. He has been nailed by the Spiegel interviewer, has he not? All this appeal to the global is evasive flimflam. Brown was a supporter of the City’s desire for regulatory inactivity (because the status quo benefited London), which he rationalised with the globalisation nonsense. This is a similar psychological mechanism to that which I heard used by the late Ken Coates MEP at a meeting in the 1980s: when confronted with examples of the idiocy and corruption of the EU, Coates replied that he was working towards a united socialist states of Europe. I thought, but was too polite to say, ‘Good luck with that one, Ken!’ Independent Commission on Banking Meanwhile, having narrowly avoided financial armageddon, the government did what British governments always do, it appointed a committee, an ‘Independent Commission on Banking’, which produced its interim – i.e. open to consultation; i.e. open to watering down by the City – report in April. This was greeted with derision from many quarters. And no wonder: you only had to read the introductory pages to see what was what. The comments in italics are mine. ‘Banks must have greater loss-absorbing capacity and/or simpler and safer structures. One policy approach would be structural radicalism (radical: bad thing) – for example to require retail banking and wholesale and investment banking to be in wholly separate firms.’ Which would reduce banking profits ‘Another would be to be laissez-faire about structure and to seek to achieve stability by very high capital requirements across the board.’ Page 23 Which would reduce banking profits. ‘The Commission, however, believes that the most effective approach is likely to be a complementary combination of more moderate (moderate: good thing) measures towards loss absorbence and structure..... In case we hadn’t got the message it was repeated a couple of paragraphs later. ‘Rather than pursuing more radical (bad) policies towards capital or structure, the approach outlined above is a combination of more moderate (good) measures.’ ‘As to the form that separation might take, a balance (balance: good thing) must be struck between the benefits to society of making banks safer and the costs (to the bankers) that this necessarily entails. Full separation – i.e. into separate entities with restrictions on cross-ownership – might provide the strongest firewall to protect retail banking services from contagion effects of external shocks. But it would lose some benefits of universal banking.’ And what are the ‘benefits of universal banking’? They get to gamble with our savings and make a lot money for themselves. So instead of a ‘firewall’ they propose a ‘ring-fence’ (details to follow). This, I imagine, will be about as robust as the ’Chinese walls’ erected between sections of banks in the 1980s after ‘big bang’. The banks will not be asked – let alone be legally obliged – to cease the so-called trading (gambling) activities which got them into the mire in the first place, and they will Page 24 continue. The banks will be asked to retain a little more capital but the sums involved will be neither here nor there, entirely incapable of coping with the massive losses when trading (gambling) goes wrong. And even the piffling required increase in retained capital will be partially evaded with a financial device called a co-co or ‘contingent convertible’, a form of debt which will be issued with the understanding that the bank might need it back if things go wrong.16 The red old lady of Threadneedle Street Meanwhile those notorious radicals at the Bank of England continue with their subversive analyses. Andy Haldane, Executive Director, Financial Stability, has been looking at the history of bubbles and the rise of the financial sector and in a lecture, ‘The Contribution of the Financial Sector: Miracle or Mirage?’ 17 he made the following comments (the italicised sections in parentheses are mine): ‘Risk illusion (gambling), rather than a productivity miracle, appears to have driven high returns to finance. The recent history of banking appears to be as much mirage as miracle.... Philippon and Reshef (2009) have undertaken a careful study of “excess” wages in the US financial industry since the start of the previous century, relative to a benchmark wage.....This shows a dramatic spike upwards which commenced in the early 1980s, but which exploded from the 1990s onwards. The only equivalent wage spike was in the run-up to the Great Crash in 1929. Philippon and Reshef attribute both of these wage spikes to financial deregulation......’ (emphasis added) 16 17 Page 25 ‘Essentially, high returns to finance may have been driven by banks assuming higher risk (gambling). Banks’ profits, like their contribution to GDP, may have been flattered by the mis-measurement of risk..... this increase in risk was to some extent hidden by the opacity of accounting disclosures (Enron accounting; lying) or the complexity of the products involved..... ‘.....because banks are in the risk business it should be no surprise that the run-up to crisis was hallmarked by imaginative ways of manufacturing this commodity (gambling), with a view to boosting returns to labour and capital. Risk illusion is no accident; it is there by design. It is in bank managers’ interest to make mirages seem like miracles.’ Even more striking, the Governor, Mervyn King, in a lecture in October 2010: ‘.....it is hard to see why institutions whose failure cannot be contemplated should be in the private sector in the first place.’ 18 Back to the future: manufacturing There has been a good deal of talk in and around Westminster on the need to expand the British manufacturing economy. For example: ‘The UK has been making some progress towards building the foundations of sustainable growth, for which manufacturers can take significant credit. The past four quarters have seen a strong and positive contribution from the UK’s industrial sector, where output has been expanding at its fastest pace since the end of 18 ‘Banking: From Bagehot to Basel, and Back Again’: Page 26 the last economy-wide recession in 1994.’ 19 But nothing has actually been done. This is not surprising. How do the British state and the Conservative Party now decide to build an industrial strategy? Does the British state have people in its upper echelons who believe in the economically active state (except to save bankers)? Its senior figures are too young to remember how an industrial strategy was done before the arrival of Mrs Thatcher. Institutionally the Conservative Party hasn’t believed in an industrial strategy since 1979. The John Major government in the 1990s, mainly in the shape of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kenneth Clarke, showed glimmers of appreciating the need for one after the pound was forced out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992, but that government was overwhelmed by the recession it had created trying to stay in the ERM. In the Guardian on 25 April there was an interesting editorial on the economy and the difficulties of an industrial strategy. It claimed that if one talks of such things, ‘you get drowned in a wave of fatalism. You cannot beat cheap Chinese competition, runs the argument.’ The Guardian editorialist then offered this as the prescription: ‘The government should direct the state-owned banks to lend more at lower rates to key sectors, and give tax relief to firms that produce and employ staff in the UK.’ Which are decent ideas but are not an industrial strategy. They are two of the preconditions of an industrial strategy. And how far away is such a thing when this present regime – and its Labour predecessor – wouldn’t dare to ‘direct stateowned banks’? Back to the future (again) Scott Newton and Peter Cain’s ‘Crisis and recovery: historical 19 Terry Scuoler, ‘Manufacturers can help make Britain a world leader’, the Daily Telegraph 22 November 2010. Page 27 perspectives on the Coalition's economic policies’ is a short (3,500 words) sharp account of this government’s economic policies by two economic historians who conclude: ‘What differentiates the present crisis markedly from both of the pre-1945 financial crises we have examined, and from anything that has happened since 1945, is that the coalition is adopting 1920s-style cuts in the context of 1890s and 1930s-style international financial crises... ...... the government is taking a gamble of unprecedented proportions that could result in historically low rates of growth for many years.’ 20 Similar views were expressed by the former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, David ‘Danny’ Blanchflower, who said in a recent interview: ‘This Government has not been in office before, has no background in economics and are plunging into something. But the risks are greater than they know. It would be great if they’re right and millions of jobs are created and everything is nirvana... but boy, that’s what they said in the US in 1937. If you don’t learn from the mistakes of history, you simply repeat them.’ 21 Enter the spooks On 3 February the American magazine Manufacturing and Technology News reported: ‘The Director for National Intelligence is undertaking a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the state of American manufacturing. Growing concern over loss of domestic capability and dependence on foreign nations 20 21 Jonathan Sibun, ‘Danny Blanchflower: The MPC is broken and blinkered’, Daily Telegraph 6 December 2010. 1937 saw a recession in the US economy generally attributed to the government cutting back its public spending. The private sector did not then spring into action creating the jobs required. Page 28 for key high-tech materials, components and systems has led the DNI office to start such an effort.’ 22 There is no exact British equivalent of the DNI, but can you imagine how far the British political world would have to change for the state of British manufacturing to become an issue for either the Joint Intelligence Committee or the 2010–formed British National Security Council? 23 Goldman Sachs Amidst the thousands of inches of hard copy and screen pages discussing the ongoing Greek financial crisis, did anyone remind readers that the Greek government was only able to join the Euro in 2002 because it had faked its public debt figures with the help of Goldman Sachs? 24 Not that I have seen. It was Matt Taibbi who described Goldman Sachs in an article in Rolling Stone as ‘a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood 22 23 The British NSC is officially described thus: ‘The Prime Minister chairs the newly formed [2010] National Security Council (NSC), whose permanent members include the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Defence Secretary, the Security Minister, the Secretary of State for International Development, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Cabinet Office Minister of State. Other Ministers and senior officials, including the Heads of the Intelligence Agencies, attend as required. The Council meets every week and is charged with overseeing and co-ordinating all aspects of Britain’s security.’ 24 They used some so-called ‘cross-currency swaps’ which enabled the Greek economy to meet the figure of debt at 60% of GDP demanded by the EU. See for example Page 29 funnel into anything that smells like money.’25 Without that kind of language, a report by staffers on the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, comes to similar conclusions.26 This is the introduction to its analysis of Goldman Sachs: ‘The Goldman Sachs case study shows how one investment bank profited from the collapse of the mortgage market and engaged in troubling and sometimes abusive practices that raise multiple conflict of interest concerns. The first part of this case study shows how Goldman used structured finance products, including CDO, CDS, and ABX instruments, to take a proprietary net short position against the subprime mortgage market. Reaching its peak at $13.9 billion, Goldman’s net short investments realized record gains for the Structured Products Group in 2007 of over $3.7 billion which, when combined with other mortgage losses, resulted in overall net revenues for Goldman’s Mortgage Department of $1.1 billion. The second half of the case study shows how Goldman engaged in securitization practices that magnified risk in the market by selling high risk, poor quality mortgage products to investors around the world. The Hudson, Anderson, Timberwolf, and Abacus CDOs show how Goldman used these financial instruments to transfer risk associated with its high risk assets, assist a favored client make a $1 billion gain, and profit at the direct expense of the clients that invested in the Goldman CDOs. In addition, the case study shows how conflicts of interest related to proprietary investments led Goldman to conceal its adverse financial interests from potential investors, sell investors poor quality investments, and place its financial interests 25 This essay is included in Taibbi’s book Griftopia which is reviewed below and is on-line at 26 Page 30 before those of its clients.’ (p. 376) In other words, they created and sold a bunch of shitty financial products and then placed bets that the value of said products would fall. So why aren’t they all in jail? This may have something to do with the fact that large numbers of Goldman Sachs people are or have been in the Obama administration.27 27 The details are at . Page 31 JFK’s assassination: a big new book and a strange memoir Robin Ramsay LBJ: the mastermind of JFK’s assassination Phillip F. Nelson Xlibris 2010 ISBN 978-1-4535-0301-0 Available from Amazon.co.uk for a little over £12 plus postage. This a 700 page, self-published synthesis of the recent Kennedy assassination literature, inside which is about 100 pages relevant to the book’s title. It’s a pity the author simply didn’t publish those 100 pages, because they contain a good account of LBJ’s corruption; the Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes cases; the inquiries into both; how they were blocked and derailed; and the extant evidence suggesting, as I currently believe, that those threats to LBJ’s political career were the immediate cause of JFK’s assassination. I didn’t think the author would have any new evidence on the actual assassination (the JFK networks would be humming with it if he had) and he doesn’t. But it is a good, detailed summary of what is out there. As a synthesis of where the wider JFK story is, this is not badly done (it may be self-published but the author has had other eyes on the text) but the book’s problem is this: if you’re not familiar with the literature, it will be all but unintelligible; and if you are familiar with the Page 32 literature, much of the book will be.....familiar.1 Still, worth getting for the LBJ material. Also on the LBJ end of things is a very curious memoir, The Men That Don’t Fit In, by Roderick A. MacKenzie III.2 It is difficult to convey how odd this publication is. It purports to be a brief autobiography of a former circus showman, stunt man, carny operator, counterfeiter and thief. Now 77 years old, he met some of the mob during his career, and ended up in Dallas in 1963, managing a safe house for them while also working as a nurse. (He had trained as a nurse while in the US Army.) In Dallas he met some of the characters involved in the assassination; and from one of them learned the inside story. Or so he says. Is the author who he claims to be? He reproduces at the end of the text a couple of photographs from what appear to be some kind of showmen’s directory, which purport to show him as Mackenzie and also as an alias, Ward Alexander, which he created for himself after the assassination when he decided to disappear. But he claims to have been an expert counterfeiter, so who knows? The text is in upper case, apparently written on old bulletin typewriter; except it wasn’t. Occasionally for emphasis the type gets a couple of points bigger; typewriters don’t do this. A chunk lurches off into italics at one point. He’s found a typeface which looks like a bulletin typewriter. No-one has proof-read it and it is littered with spelling errors. The author writes in his introduction that he doesn’t care about his 1 There is a long, critical review of this book at A very good summary of the ‘LBJ dunnit’ theory is at 2 This is downloadable at (down at the bottom). He’s also done a long interview – basically a monologue – at . I’ve listened to bits of this and if it’s a fake, he tells the same story on air as he does in the manuscript. Page 33 spelling and lack of grammatical knowledge. Mackenzie’s version of the events in Dallas can be summarised thus: everybody was involved – mob, military, anti-Castro Cubans, FBI, Oswald and Ruby, LBJ, ‘Mac’ Wallace....but not, apparently, the CIA. The CIA are almost entirely missing from this story. It’s the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) Mackenzie writes about frequently. For a JFK buff the oddity of Mackenzie’s account is the way he brings together a collection of minor trails – many presumed previously to be disinformation – and offers them as true. Here’s a quote from the interview cited in footnote 2 above which conveys this better than any single quote in the manuscript. The bits in parenthesis are mine. ‘The bunch at the Holland Ave safe house were from Rubenstein [Jack Ruby]. The other Mob people and Jake Miranda, who was in contact daily with me, I got my orders from him. Tippit the cop was in the know and brought money and people to me. I don’t think Tippit was a bad cop though. I never thought that Marcello was sending people to the safe house, but that phoney preacher/missionary Bowen [aka Osborne] sure sent a lot of “resters” there for very short times. It all came through Miranda, though Rubenstein tried to get directly involved a time or two, but when I called Miranda he backed off. He did get a couple of signs for the Carousel out of me though. The Mob, DISC, FBI-5 through Rev. Bowen, Percy [Chauncey] Holt were my contacts, plus Tippit a few times. Otherwise I can’t say who ran the safe house.’ In this paragraph he offers the Defence Industrial Security Command (DISC) and MI5 Division 5, who were in a version of the assassination story circulating in the 1970s called The Torbitt Memorandum (which originated in the cast of characters thrown up by the Garrison inquiry); plus the late Chauncey Holt who surfaced in the 1990s claiming to have been a part of Page 34 the conspiracy.3 In the text he also tells us that Permindex – ‘those Permindex bastards’ (‘bastards’ unexplained) – were involved. Dramatically the most interesting of the cast he gives us is the phoney branch of the American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC) and its putative preacher, the ‘Reverend’ Osborne, also known as Bowen.4 ACCC, we were told in Torbitt, was used as cover for an FBI Division 5 assassination gang, based in Mexico and run by a Brit, from Grimsby, Albert Osborne: the Kennedy assassination as envisaged by that great fictional chronicler of the borderlands, the late James Crumley, had he any politics. Permindex did exist, though what it did isn’t clear. If the DISC was a real organisation, no convincing evidence of its existence has yet surfaced. MI5 had a division 5 but nothing elsewhere has ever suggested it did the kinds of things attributed to it in the Torbitt document. The ACCC did and still does exist5 but there is no evidence of this group of assassins: Mackenzie’s is the first reference to it since Torbitt to my knowledge. Most important to his story, while in Dallas, Mackenzie claims he met and drank with Malcolm ‘Mac’ Wallace, a convicted murderer and allegedly LBJ’s personal assassin; and it is Wallace who tells him a couple of days after the assassination what had gone down. From Wallace he learns all the details – names and locations of the shooter teams (most of these names are new to me; some of those I recognise are profoundly implausible) – and the personnel who were at a big meeting in Dallas just before the assassination. This account of the meeting is similar though not identical to the material in the memoir of LBJ’s putative 3 There is a long and complicated Wiki entry on the late Holt, the veracity of whose tales I am entirely unable to ascertain. 4 What little is known about the fascinating Osborne/Bowen is assembled at 5 See . There is also a Wiki entry on the organisation. Page 35 mistress, the late Madeleine Brown, Texas in the Morning 6 and the version attributed to the late ‘Loy’ Factor in The Men on the Sixth Floor, originally a book and now a website.7 So: very odd. Occam’s notorious cutting instrument tells us it’s all phooey, a piece of nonsense cobbled together from extant material. And, indeed, much of it can be explained that way. But if so, Mackenzie has been rooting about in some of the more obscure corners of the research and has assembled a very strange and ramshackle version. If this is deliberate disinformation, on the other hand, it is rather subtle. For example, take his comment quoted above in the interview: ‘It all came through Miranda, though Rubenstein tried to get directly involved a time or two, but when I called Miranda he backed off. He did get a couple of signs for the Carousel out of me though.’ He just throws away the line that he made some signs for Ruby’s strip club. If this is invention, it is rather clever. For example, one of the shooter teams he describes is that involving ‘Loy’ Factor and ‘Mac’ Wallace in the Texas Book Depository. In the version attributed to Factor, also on the 6th floor with them was a young Mexican American woman, named Ruth Anne – no surname. Mackenzie tells us that she was Ruth Anne Martinez, and he introduces her prior to the shooting as a young assassin. Later he tells us that the last time he heard of her she was supposedly the woman in the polka dot dress involved in the killing of Robert Kennedy.... My guess would be that the story up to and including the safe house in Dallas is true or true-ish. But he has added to it material he has got from other sources, notably Torbitt, Madeleine Brown’s memoir for the story about the meeting before the shooting and the ‘Loy’ Factor story. But even it is fiction – or part fiction – some of it, the 6 Which seems to have been falsified; if there was such a meeting it wasn’t that night. 7 Page 36 account of the frauds involved in working as a circus carny, and his account of the Dallas crime-politics-law enforcement nexus in 1963, is very interesting. And there is even an outside chance that he is what he says he is: a living witness to some of these events. Page 37 The view from the bridge Robin Ramsay Harold Smith RIP Harold Smith has died. In Lobster 24 I summarised Smith’s account of witnessing the outgoing British state rigging the pre-independence elections in Nigeria which, he argued, led to the Biafran war and millions of dead. Smith’s story can be found by Googling ‘Harold Smith + Nigeria’. The comments in the online condolence book for Smith at show that Harold was held in high regard by Nigerians. * Revolutionary defeatism A piece in the Guardian (19 March 2011), ‘Thatcher papers reveal how she stoked rightwing rebellion in war against “wets”’, notes that Thatcher’s private secretary, Ian Gow MP, met with Labour MP Neville Sandelson, six months before Sandelson joined the SDP when it went public. Gow’s report includes this paragraph: ‘Sandelson says that his remaining political purpose is to ensure the re-election of the Conservative Party at the next Election, because only by another Conservative victory will there come about that split in the Labour Page 38 Party, which he considers to be an essential precondition for a real purge of the Labour Left.’ 1 Sandelson was then one of the Labour MPs, about to defect to the SDP, who had voted for Michael Foot rather than Denis Healey in the leadership election contest of 1982. This, plus the decision by the party’s right (and trade unions) not to challenge the left over the content of the manifesto for the 1983 election, gave the party Michael Foot as leader and the notorious ‘longest suicide note in history’ as its manifesto. * Storming teacups At Robert Eringer tells us that he is being sued by Prince Albert of Monaco. Eringer claims to have created an intelligence agency for Prince Albert and is the author of Ruse, which recounts his years working undercover missions for the FBI. Those with longer memories will recall Eringer as the author of one of the first books on the elite management groups, the The Global Manipulators (1980). We were briefly in touch in the mid-1980s when I lent him my copy of the early LaRouche masterwork, Dope Inc., which he never returned. * Not even true lies One of the Wiki releases from the US State Department is a 2006 briefing paper (06MANAGUA1002, NICARAGUA’S MOST WANTED) from the US embassy in Managua, Nicaragua, which details the life and high crimes of Daniel Ortega. How much of this is true? Given the level of disinformation produced against the Sandinistas by the US government, this is difficult to 1 The Gow memorandum can be read at . Page 39 evaluate without reading the local media, which I can’t do. However, the cable includes the story of the Sandinistas and the cocaine trade, and this we know something about. This is the version in the cable. ‘Interior Minister Tomas Borge and his subordinates went so far as to assist Escobar with the loading and unloading of drugs onto his airplanes in Nicaragua. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) managed to place a hidden camera on one of Escobar’s airplanes and obtained film of Escobar and Ministry of the Interior officials loading cocaine onto one of Escobar’s planes at Managua’s international airport. CBS news later broadcast the film and the entire story of Escobar- Ortega-FSLN collaboration.’ Pablo Escobar, multibillionaire coke dealer, actually loading a plane? Don’t think so. And why have we not seen said film? It would have been dynamite. The answer, of course, is that the story is disinformation. It is based on a fragment of the Barry Seal story. Seal was a big-time cocaine smuggler who got busted and became an informant for the US authorities. The CIA, not the DEA, installed a camera on his plane which malfunctioned and all Seal got were some murky stills of men, one of whom Seal identified as Frederico Vaughn, allegedly an aide of Tomas Borge, and another as Escobar. However, on closer examination Vaughn turned out not to be an aide to Borge but a businessman who himself was involved in the cocaine trade and may have also been a CIA informant.2 Nonetheless the Sandinista-cocaine story was launched by the US government. ‘The [American] press initially accepted the Nicaraguan drug trafficking story without question, even though Seal’s charges were a little thin. As U.S. Attorney Stanley Marcus and DEA chief Peter Gruden in Miami said, they had no evidence implicating any Nicaraguan official 2 Gary Webb, Dark alliance: the CIA, the contras, and the crack cocaine explosion, p. 264; this is on-line. Page 40 besides Vaughn. Nevertheless, the White House exploited the Seal case to the hilt. Officials from the president on down mentioned it at every opportunity as proof of the Sandinistas’ immorality. “High level officials” of both Nicaragua and Cuba “have been personally implicated” in drug smuggling, Reagan said during the 1985 debates over contra aid (Reagan 1987:673–76). The State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy, which managed the administration’s public-relations campaign against the Sandinistas, added the drug trafficking charge to its litany of Nicaragua’s evil deeds, and distributed the photograph of Vaughn loading cocaine onto Seal’s plane (U.S. State Department and Defense Department 1985:38–39).’ 3 In short, in 2006 the US embassy in Managua was feeding back to Washington an exaggerated version of its own 20 year-old disinformation. * False flag ops Another ‘false flag’ operation has been acknowledged by a retired Turkish general. ‘In remarks published in the Haber Türk daily yesterday as part of an interview with Gen. Sabri Yirmibesoglu, who led the Special War Department in 1971 and also worked to mobilize civilian resistance during Turkey's military intervention on Cyprus in 1974, said: “In Special War, certain acts of sabotage are staged and blamed on the enemy to increase public resistance. We did this on Cyprus; we even burnt down a mosque.”’4 3 William M. LeoGrande, ‘Did the Prestige Press Miss the Nicaraguan Drug Story?’ at 4 Page 41 * Life after Tony An article in the Jewish Chronicle of 13 January reported that the Labour Friends of Israel is going to rebrand itself ‘as a membership organisation to argue actively for the two-state solution and develop the “progressive case” for Israel.’ Its new director, Jennifer Gerber, was quoted as saying: ‘People seem to forget that Israel was founded on social democratic values and remains an example of a socially and economically progressive country – in a region where progressive values are in short supply.’5 Israel is ‘a socially progressive country’ – but is also engaged in the slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. On the successful negotiation of such contradictions are political careers built. Watch out for Ms Gerber! * British politics today Among the Wikileaks cables released so far was the US Embassy in London’s account of a 2010 conversation with Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, about messieurs Osborne and Cameron. The cable says: ‘Both Cameron and Osborne have a tendency to think about issues only in terms of politics, and how they might affect Tory electorability. King also raised concerns that Osborne’s dual roles as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer but also as the Party’s general election coordinator could create potential problems in the approach on economic issues......King also expressed concern about the Tory party’s lack of depth. Cameron 5 Page 42 and Osborne have only a few advisors, and seemed resistant to reaching out beyond their small inner circle.’ What does this sound like? It sounds like NuLab. And it sounds like the Liberal Democrats. All three major parties are now in the grip of little cliques with predictable consequences: as the parties’ members are not of interest or value to the leadership cliques (except as sources of money and election workers), the members are abandoning the parties. On the Tories, there was an interesting piece in one of the Daily Telegraph blogs, Ed West’s ‘My local Tory party has just died. What the hell is going on?’ ‘In a “mystery shopper” exercise, CCHQ [Conservative Campaign Headquarters] wrote to over 300 associations under the guise of being a person who wanted to join up, and asking how to do so. Over half of the letters received no response at all, which is bad enough. Weirdly, a handful wrote back saying the applicant would need to pass a membership interview before they could join the Conservatives. Most worryingly, though, around 10 per cent wrote back to the pretend applicant saying they were “closed to new members”.’ 6 The membership of the Liberal Democrats is also falling, though not quite so rapidly.7 The years of PR politics, inauthenticity and kissing the butts of the rich and powerful have taken their toll on all three major parties. In effect British parliamentary politics has been reduced to four elements: * focus groups and opinion sampling; * getting the support of Rupert Murdoch; * promising the City what it wants; * raising operating/campaigning money by selling policies or selling-off parts of what’s left of the state to the private sector. 6 7 Page 43 With this present regime the most obvious links are to the City, from whence comes more than half of the Tories’ current money,8 and the private health care business which is being given access to the NHS resources and the tax streams within it.9 Tax farming, the Americans call it. What the British do not yet seem to have grasped is that if you copy America, you get America. * Duuuuh Speaking at the Davos meeting in January 2011, David Cameron concluded his remarks by calling for more deregulation in the EU. ‘It is time for Europe to move in a different direction that really encourages growth in our economies.’ What, the EU should copy the disastrous Anglo-American deregulation? Does he really think this? Or is it that he has to pretend to think this because of his party’s thinking? Or is asking of a modern politician, ’Does he really think this?’, just a dumb question? * The McGurk’s bar massacre In December 1971 a bomb exploded at McGurk’s bar in Belfast, killing 15 Catholics. The response of the Army and police was to blame the IRA for an ‘own goal’ – the accidental detonation of an IRA bomb intended for somewhere else. Almost 30 years 8 See for example Not that this makes a change from NuLab. See James Chapman, ‘Meet Labour’s City cronies: The roll call of bankers rewarded by Brown and Blair’, The Daily Mail 12 February 2009. 9 These are detailed in James Lyons, ‘NHS reform leaves Tory backers with links to private healthcare firms set for bonanza’, Daily Mirror 19 January 2011. Page 44 later a report was issued by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman which denied claims that there had been collusion between the Crown forces and the Protestant paramilitaries which carried out the bombing but stated that there had been an ‘investigative bias’ by the Royal Ulster Constabulary which had prevented a proper inquiry. Uh-huh.... A relative of one of those killed in the explosion runs , at which he has assembled a good deal of interesting material documenting the cover-up of the event by the British and Northern Irish states and does some informed speculation that the explosion was part of the counterinsurgency strategies of Brigadier Frank Kitson then being tried out in Belfast. My (barely informed) view would be that this might be the case. Whether it is or not, it raises the big issue of that period which none of the official inquires to date have been willing to contemplate: the extent to which the military and intelligence services were working in Northern Ireland without political control. The Bloody Sunday tribunal, for example, spent a reported £400 million, gave everyone their day in court, enriched many barristers, and conspicuously flunked the central question: had the Army checked with the politicians before it decided to go and shoot some of the bog-wogs?10 * Bill Wilson MSP For much of the developing world the basic message is this: challenge America and it bombs and shells you with depleted uranium (DU), irradiating you, your children (born and unborn) 10 ‘Bog-wogs’ was the term used by one of Colin Wallace’s superior English officers in Northern Ireland at the time. This is the period when the British Army’s MRF was active. A recent book, Tom Siegrist, SAS Warlord (2010), purports to be a memoir of the MRF period. As to its veracity, I have no idea. Page 45 and your land.11 A member of the Scottish Parliament has taken on the issue of the military use of depleted uranium and has sent the Minister of Defence a long list of pertinent questions and useful sources of data. Wilson’s letter with the links therein can be read at . Since what Wilson is doing is in effect challenging the US military, on past experience we may reasonably expect them to do their best to ruin his career and/or his life. * 1976, the IMF crisis and all that One of the major stepping stones on the way to the world-asit- is-now in this country was the IMF crisis of 1976. On its 30th anniversary there was an interesting (though not revelatory) discussion of those events by some of those who witnessed them: Peter Hennessy, Bernard Donoughue, Shirley Williams, Tom McNally, Adam Raphael, William Keegan, Hugh Stephenson, Peter Jay and Sir Alan Bailey. Out of which one item looms large: the ‘crisis’ was manufactured by the Treasury exaggerating the size of the deficit in the public finances. Now, why does this sound familiar? * Ooops! Occasionally someone in public life tells it as they see it.12 Former ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles KCMG, LVO,13 did when he told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee: ‘The war in Afghanistan has given the British Army a raison d’être it has lacked for many years, and new 11 For details see the case of Fallujah in Iraq discussed at 12 The joke has it that a political gaff is a politician telling the truth. 13 LVO = Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order. Page 46 resources on an unprecedented scale. In the eyes of the Army, Afghanistan has also given our forces the chance to redeem themselves, in the eyes of the Americans, in the wake of negative perceptions, whether or not they were justified, of the British Army’s performance in Basra. Not surprisingly, in a profession paid to fight, most have been enjoying the campaign. Against that background, the then Chief of the General Staff, Sir Richard Dannatt, told me in the summer of 2007 that, if he didn’t use in Afghanistan the battle groups then starting to come free from Iraq, he would lose them in a future defence review. "It’s use them, or lose them", he said. In my view, the Army’s "strategy" in Helmand was driven at least as much by the level of resources available to the British Army as by an objective assessment of the needs of a proper counterinsurgency campaign in the province.’ (emphasis added) Dannatt, of course, denied saying this.14 * About face Scott Newton in his piece ‘Is there a political class?’, posted here, notes the way the Liberal-Democrats joined the coalition with the Tories and committed themselves to economic policies to which they had been formally diametrically opposed only days before. The account of the formation of the coalition by Conservative MP Rob Wilson, 5 Days To Power (London: Biteback, 2010), shows how this transformation took place. In the first instance, the Conservative Party had become 14 He also had a go at the conduct of the war in Afghanistan, describing General Petraeus’ tactics of increasing the violence and boasting of the increasing deaths as ‘profoundly wrong’. Good job he has his gongs already: he wouldn’t get them now! Page 47 the mouthpiece of the Bank of England: ‘...the Conservatives had listened carefully to what the Governor was telling them at a number of meetings held at the Bank, and drew up their plans accordingly.’ (p. 107) As the negotiations with the Lib-Dems began, the Conservative deficit reduction plan was nonnegotiable: ‘George Osborne....believed that any government formed would fall apart without taking the action deemed necessary by the Bank of England. There had been a preliminary discussion about the economy....when the Liberal Democrats had been offered and declined briefings with the Treasury and the Bank of England. Governor Mervyn King had been on standby to speak to negotiators.’ (p. 164) A gap had opened between what the Liberal-Democrats were saying in their election campaign and its literature and what their leader was thinking. ‘Even during the election, Clegg had been moving on the issue - but without telling the electorate. He later told the BBC that he had changed his view during the general election: “Remember between March and the actual general election, a financial earthquake occurred on our European doorstep.” ’(p. 168) ‘One Clegg aide said: “The thing that changed minds was George Osborne saying that he had seen the figures and it was quite horrific in real life as opposed to spin life... .” ‘Clegg....had already changed his mind about the deficit reduction plans. He was concerned about the firestorm engulfing Greece, and worried that it would spread across Europe, as Spain appeared vulnerable ....he felt that if an incoming government did not do something more than the previous government, the country would find itself pushed around by the markets. Page 48 Clegg said to Brown: “If doing some fiscal contractions this year keeps the markets at bay, surely it’s worth it.”’ (pp. 182/3) So it was just as it appeared: another group of economic illiterates were stampeded by the Bank of England. Shades of 1966 and the governor of the Bank’s demand for big public spending cuts – except Harold Wilson knew too much to be bullied by the then governor, Lord Cromer. * Dodgy dossiers The headline on the BBC News website on 12 May was ‘ Iraq inquiry: Campbell dossier evidence questioned’; in the Daily Mail ‘The proof that Campbell and Blair DID lie about the Iraq War’.15 They were referring to the publication of Michael Laurie’s e-mail to the Chilcott Inquiry (complete with redactions). The emphases are mine. Dear Sir John I am writing to comment on the position taken by Alistair Campbell during his evidence to you on the 12th of January when he stated that the purpose of the Dossier was not to make a case for war; I and those involved in its production saw it exactly as that, and that was the direction we were given. In 2002 and 2003 I was the Director General Intelligence Collection in the Defence Intelligence Staff, in the rank of Major General. I reported to the Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI), Air Marshall Sir Joe French. My responsibility was to command all defence intelligence collection operations, delivering raw or analysed intelligence to the Defence Intelligence 15 Page 49 Assessment Staff, who also worked for CDI. – 5 line redaction – I was one removed (sic) from the discussions in the Cabinet Office and the JIC though I attended the latter occasionally, but not during the period in question as CDI was always present. Obviously he would come back from such meetings with feedback and fresh requirements. Alistair Campbell said to the Inquiry that the purpose of the Dossier was not “to make a case for war”. I had no doubt at that time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used. The previous paper, drafted in February and March, known to us then also as the Dossier, was rejected because it did not make a strong enough case. From then until September we were under pressure to find intelligence that could reinforce the case. – 4 line redaction – I recall Joe French frequently enquiring whether we were missing something; he was under pressure. We could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to WMD, generally concluding that they must have been dismantled, buried or taken abroad. There has probably never been a greater detailed scrutiny of every piece of ground in any country. During the drafting of the final Dossier, every fact was managed to make it as strong as possible, the final statements reaching beyond the conclusions intelligence assessments would normally draw from such facts. It was clear to me that there was direction and pressure being applied on the JIC and its drafters. In summary, we knew at the time that the purpose Page 50 of the Dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care. The question that needs to be asked is, if there had been no remit to draft the “Dossier”, would the JIC in their normal process have produced papers that would have come to the same assessment as the Dossier?’16 A former DIS colleague of Laurie’s, Dr Brian Jones, commented on Laurie’s letter in The Independent on 16 May: ‘In 2002 Major-General Laurie was one of the three most senior members of the Defence Intelligence Staff. As a more junior member, it is interesting to learn all these years later, that our top man, Air Marshal Sir Joe French, explicitly told him something that was not revealed to us lesser mortals – that the purpose of the Iraq dossier was to make a case for war (‘Campbell “misled” Chilcot over dossier’, 13 May). It was more than a nod and a wink. If that was the case, as I could only infer it was at the time, it is even more important that the insistent objections of DIS analysts were circumvented through a deception apparently perpetrated on their own colleagues by MI6 and senior Cabinet Office intelligence officials. They claimed to have new intelligence that overcame our reservations, but were not prepared to disclose it to us. Almost unnoticed, the Chilcot inquiry has recently published important evidence from a senior MI6 officer, identified as SIS4, which strongly indicates that the undisclosed intelligence did no such thing. According to SIS4, that intelligence report merely promised that the required “golden bullet” would, hopefully, become available within a few weeks – but unfortunately too 16 Page 51 late for the dossier. It never materialised. It may well be that Gen Laurie was not in the loop when these matters were a hot issues in the DIS in September 2002, or in 2003 when they hit the headlines in the Hutton inquiry. However, it worries me that the Chilcot committee appear to have asked him nothing about this issue. Perhaps they already know the answers. Perhaps they will at last publish the intelligence report that did not provide the “golden bullet”, or give us a clearer idea about how inadequate it really was.’ Former ambassador Craig Murray also commented on the publication of this letter on his blog: ‘It is five years since I published in Murder in Samarkand and this FCO insider account, given to me in 2002 while I was Ambassador in Tashkent: “You’re wondering why we signed up to it? Well, I can promise you it was awful. The pressure was unbelievable. People were threatened with the end of their careers. I saw analysts in tears. We felt, as a group, absolutely shafted. Actually, we still do. You know, I think that we are all a bit ashamed that nobody had the guts to go public, resign and say that the WMD thing is a myth. But MI6 really hyped it. The DIS tried to block it, but they couldn’t.”’ 17 More accurately: the DIS tried to block it but could not do so without someone damaging their career and no-one thought thousands of dead people more important than their careers. We knew that Campbell and Blair had lied. If the purpose of the dossier wasn’t to make the case for war, what was its purpose? The denials by Campbell and Blair were absurd and insulting.18 17 Entry for 13 May. 18 Also worth reading on this was the comment by former BBC chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, ‘A gross media manipulation that has eroded public trust in Government’, The Independent 14 May 2011. Page 52 * Obama as CIA? While the ‘birthers’ are still trying to prove that President Obama was not a legitimate candidate for president, and other sections of the American right believe Obama to be a communist/socialist/Muslim, former US intelligence officer, Wayne Madsen, has had a second, more detailed go at showing that, au contraire, Obama is a creature of the CIA.19 Madsen tries to show Obama’s parents were either sponsored by the CIA (father) or worked for the agency (mother) and that Obama himself worked for a company with CIA links. This last is true but we don’t know any more than that. My problem is that while making one of the guilt-by-association moves, which is what his evidence mostly consists of, Madsen describes someone as CIA because they were so named in the 1968 Who’s Who in the CIA, published by East German intelligence (or the KGB). Madsen does not want to acknowledge the book’s provenance and tells us that the book was published in West Berlin. This book is well known enough to have its own Wiki entry (even I have a photocopy of it somewhere). Not good enough, Mr Madsen. A lot of his material is very interesting but I never trust it. Ignoring that, Madsen doesn’t quite succeed in showing us that Obama is some kind of CIA agent/recruit but he certainly shows that Obama’s parents were by no means some vaguely black-radical-hippy couple, but good corporate citizens, who were around a number of American state operations in the cold war (as the US saw it; imperialism as the rest of us saw it) in the developing world. As for Obama – he’s followed in their footsteps, has he not? 19 Page 53 * More bad news about mobile phones At is a paper followed by a resolution, ‘Electromagnetic fields from mobile phones: health effect on children and teenagers’, by the Russian National Committee on Nonionizing Radiation Protection . This contains enough data to make any mobile phone user, of any age, nervous. But this is pissing into the wind, isn’t it? Even if irrefutable proof that mobile phones – say – caused cancer was provided to and accepted by the governments of the world,20 there is no way that their use is going to be significantly curtailed. We are addicted – in many cases, literally addicted – to our hand-held devices. Personal observation of their use by friends and teenagers suggest that they might be as addictive as cigarettes to some people. Meanwhile British scientists have shown that ‘brain activity increased significantly after using a handset for 50 minutes, in the area closest to the antenna.’ 21 As far as I could see, this report was ignored by the mobile phone industry which had hitherto claimed that the only impact on the brain was a slight heating effect. * Against the wind The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics, edited by Edward S. Herman, foreword by Phillip Corwin, is a 300 page study of that event and events around it, challenging the received story. It is a free download at and its relevance has only increased with the 20 As compared to the later May report from the World Health Organisation which concluded that they are ‘possibly carcinogenic’. . 21 Martin Beckford, ‘Mobile phones do affect brain activity, study finds’, Daily Telegraph, 22 February 2011. Page 54 arrest of Ratco Mladic. * IPRD ‘The Institute for Policy Research & Development (IPRD) is an independent, non-profit, transdisciplinary research organisation promoting equality, sustainability and security. Based in London and founded in April 2001, the IPRD operates as a voluntary collective and global network of scholars, scientists and researchers.’ Thus the IPRD’s mission statement on their site, . Among those listed on its advisory board are the Canadian, John McMurtry, whose book, Value Wars, was reviewed in Lobster 44, Peter Dale Scott and Daniele Ganser, whose book on the Gladio network was reviewed in Lobster 49. Of particular interest on the IPRD site is a study by Sam Urquhart, Crevice Revisited: Violent Extremism and the British Secret State, whose introduction is this: ‘In April 2007, five British Muslims were sent to jail, in each case for at least twenty years under anti-terrorism legislation. Their crimes were said to be heinous – planning to set off explosive devices in packed nightclubs and shopping centres, plotting to poison burger vans at football matches and even contemplating the assassination of the Prime Minister. So wicked were their intentions that the presiding judge in the case warned them that they may never be released. It seemed that the British public had dodged a bullet. Efficient intelligence and police work had quashed a plot that could have murdered hundreds. Justice had been served on a group of men who posed a pressing danger to society. Page 55 However, a closer examination of what was instantly labelled the “fertiliser bomb” case suggests that this is incorrect. Although the plotters may have been genuine, strong evidence suggests that at all stages of their activity, intelligence agencies monitored their progress. Not only were they monitored, but evidence also suggests that their training and preparation was facilitated by individuals who now enjoy protection by the British state. This raises serious questions about the relationship between the British government and terrorist networks.’ * Uncle Sam’s military empire There is an interesting essay by Nick Nurse describing his attempts to nail down from official US sources just how many US bases there are in the world. It appears that no-one actually knows, in part because no-one can agree on the definition of ‘a base’. ‘Empire of Bases 2.0 Does the Pentagon Really Have 1,180 Foreign Bases?’ at The most important research currently available on NATO and all its doings is that by Rick Rozoff at and many other sites, notably Global Research. I know nothing about Mr Rozoff, and there is little readily accessible on the Net about him, but he makes me feel lazy. Try his April essay on the NATO deployments against Libya, ‘Libyan War In Third Week As NATO Takes Command’, which lists all the countries involved and what they have contributed so far. For example, Bulgaria and Romania have each sent a frigate.22 * 22 Page 56 Policing dissent in Britain In the early days of Lobster policing was among the subjects with which I tried to keep up to speed. But it has been many years since I did so. However there was a very interesting essay on changing styles in British political policing on the Global Research site, Nathan Allonby’s ‘Britain’s police state: London arrests based on cctv identification’. As you would expect it is technology – especially identification software – which is driving the train. (And input from our elected representatives appears to be nil, as usual.) 23 * Nukes for sale In Lobster 56, in ‘Britain spinning in the Sibel Edmonds web’,24 Danny Weston wrote about the A. K. Khan nuclear proliferation network. David Albright and Paul Brannan’s ‘The Tinner Case: Time for a Frank, Open Evaluation’ is a 15,000 word report for ISIS (Institute for Science and International Security) on one aspect of the story, the role of a Swiss family, the Tinners, in the Khan network’s sale of nuclear technology secrets, and the subsequent international politics, overt and covert, thus generated. This is one of several detailed reports on the Tinner case on the ISIS site; and it is presumably the complexity of the story which explains why thus far no major British media have found it worthy of note. Go to and search there for ‘Tinners’ . * America’s gopher 23 9 Sybil Edmonds now has her own website, . Page 57 In his Telegraph blog Peter Oborne, that paper’s chief political commentator, commented that President Obama’s visit ‘had been a national embarrassment’ and that he detected ‘very little sense that Britain is a proud, independent nation with a distinct sense of our own values and traditions many of which are very sharply different and, in some cases, contradictory to America’s.’25 Oborne was echoing the sentiments in an editorial in the Daily Mail some months earlier by Stephen Glover titled ‘Obama’s right. There is no special relationship... and the sooner we realise that the better’.26 Glover made the obvious point that ‘For most of the time we are regarded with indifference: an ally at once so loyal, dependable and uncritical that we can be taken for granted’. Glover noted: ‘When he became Prime Minister, David Cameron lost little time in jumping on a plane to pay court to the American President. He was so keen to abase himself that he claimed that “Britain was the junior partner in 1940 when we were fighting against Hitler”. America did not declare war on Germany until December 1941.’ In the months before the Obama visit there were examples of the UK’s role as the loyal sidekick, courtesy of leaked State Department cables from Wikileaks. In December a cable revealed that UK objections in 2008 to the use of RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus to fly American U-2 spy planes over Lebanon were overridden.27 In 2009 Jon Day, the Ministry of Defence’s director general for security policy, told US under-secretary of state 25 ‘This isn’t a special relationship, it’s sinister and sycophantic’ 26 27 Page 58 Ellen Tauscher that the UK had ‘put measures in place to protect your interests during the UK inquiry into the causes of the Iraq war’.28 And in 2008, according to another leaked cable, foreign secretary David Miliband approved the use of a loophole to manoeuvre around a proposed ban on cluster bombs, to allow the US to keep them on British territory.29 28 29 Page 59 Disclosure and deceit: Secrecy as the manipulation of history, not its concealment Dr. T. P. Wilkinson The declassification of official secrets is often seen as either a challenge or a prerequisite for obtaining accurate data on the history of political and economic events. Yet at the same time high government intelligence officials have said that their policy is one of 'plausible deniability'. Official US government policy for example is never to acknowledge or deny the presence of nuclear weapons anywhere its forces are deployed, especially its naval forces. The British have their ‘Official Secrets’ Act. When the Wikileaks site was launched in 2007 and attained notoriety for publication of infamous actions by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, this platform was heralded and condemned for its disclosures and exposures. Julian Assange is quoted as saying that when he receives documents classified under the UK Official Secrets Act he responds in accordance with the letter of the law – since it is forbidden to withhold or destroy, his only option is to publish. The question remains for historians, investigators, and educated citizens: what is the real value of disclosures or declassification? Given the practice of plausible deniablity, does disclosure or declassification constitute proof, and if so by what criteria? Both facts and non-facts can be concealed or disclosed. Information is not self-defining Ultimately there remain two questions: does the secret document (now public) really constitute the 'secret'? To what Page 60 'secret' does the document we use actually refer? Is secrecy the difference between the known and unknown, or the known and untold? Some benefit can be found by borrowing theological concepts. We can distinguish between a mystery revealed and a supernatural truth which, by its very nature, lies above the finite intelligence. But a secret is something unknowable either by accident or on account of accessibility. I believe that the popularised form of disclosure embodied in Wikileaks should force us to distinguish between those beliefs we have about the nature of official action and the conduct of people working within those institutions and the data produced. Wikileaks is clearly a platform for publishing data but much of the response to these documents is more based on mystery than on secrecy. That is to say that the disclosures are treated as revelation in the religious sense – and not as discovery in the sense of scientia – knowledge. Why is this so? Wikileaks is described as a continuation of the ethical and social responsibility of journalism as an instrument to educate and inform the public – based on the principle that an informed public is essential to a democracy and selfgovernance. By collecting, collating and disclosing documents 'leaked’ to it, Wikileaks also attacks what Assange calls the invisible government, the people and institutions who rule by concealing their activities from the people – and brings to light their wrongdoing. There are two traditions involved here that partially overlap. In the US the prime examples are the 'muckraking journalism’ originating in the so-called Progressive Era, spanning from 1890s to 1920s, and more recently the publication of the Pentagon Papers through Daniel Ellsberg. While liberals treat both of these examples favourably, their histories, however, are far more ambivalent than sentimentally presented. To understand this ambivalence, itself a sort of plausible Page 61 deniability, it is necessary to sketch the history of journalism in the US – the emergence of an unnamed but essential political actor – and some of the goals of US foreign policy since the end of the 19th century. This very brief sketch offers what I call the preponderance of facticity – as opposed to an unimpeachable explanation for the overt and covert actions of the US. First of all it is necessary to acknowledge that in 1886 the US Supreme Court endowed the modern business corporation with all the properties of citizenship in the US – a ruling reiterated with more vehemence in 2010 by another Supreme Court decision. As of 1886, business corporations in the US had more civil rights than freed slaves or women. By the end of the First World War, the business corporation had eclipsed the natural person as a political actor in the US. By 1924 US immigration law and the actions of the FBI had succeeded in damming the flow of European radicalism and suppressing domestic challenges to corporate supremacy. Thus by the time Franklin Roosevelt was elected, the US had been fully constituted as a corporatist state. US government policy was thereafter made mainly by and for business corporations and their representatives. Second, professional journalism emerged from the conflict between partisan media tied to social movements and those tied to business. The first journalism school was founded in 1908 at the University of Missouri with money from newspaper baron Joseph Pulitzer. As in all other emerging professions at that time, it was claimed that uniform training within an academic curriculum would produce writers who were neutral, objective, and dispassionate – that is to say somehow scientific in their writing. A professional journalist would not allow his or her writing to be corrupted by bribery or political allegiances. These professional journalists would work for commercial enterprises but be trained to produce valuefree texts for publication. Page 62 The US has always refused to call itself an empire or to acknowledge that its expansion from the very beginning was imperial. The dogma of manifest destiny sought to resolve this contradiction by stipulating that domestic conquest was not imperial. Control of the Western hemisphere has always been defined as national security, not of asserting US domination. Likewise, it is impossible to understand the actions of the US government in Asia since 1910 without acknowledging that the US is an empire and recognising its imperial interests in the Asia–Pacific region. It is also impossible to understand the period called the Cold War without knowing that the US invaded the Soviet Union in 1918 with 13,000 troops along with some 40,000 British troops and thousands of troops recruited by the ‘West’ to support the Tsarist armies and fascist Siberian Republic. It is essential to bear these over-arching contextual points in mind when considering the value of classified US documents and their disclosure, whether by Wikileaks or Bob Woodward. It is essential to bear these points in mind because the value or the ambivalence of ‘leaks’ or declassification depends entirely on whether the data is viewed as ‘revelation’ or as mere scientific data to be interpreted. Revelation and heresy For the most part the disclosures by Wikileaks have been and continue to be treated as ‘revelation’ and the disclosure itself as heresy. This is particularly the case in the batches of State Department cables containing diplomatic jargon and liturgy. The ‘revelation’ comprises the emotional response to scripture generated by members of the US foreign service and the confirmation this scripture appears to give to opinions held about the US – whether justified or not. Just as reading books and even the bible was a capital offence for those without ecclesiastical license in the high Middle Ages, the response of the US government is Page 63 comprehensible. It is bound to assert that Wikileaks is criminal activity and to compel punishment. Yet there is another reason why the US government reaction is so intense. As argued above, the primary political actor in the US polity is the business corporation. In Europe and North America at least it is understood: (1) that the ultimate values for state action are those which serve the interests of private property; and (2) that the business corporation is the representative form of private property. This in turn means that information rights are in fact property rights manifest as patents, copyrights, and trade or industrial secrets. Since the state is the guardian of the corporation, it argues that the disclosure of government documents should only be allowed where the government itself has surrendered some of its privacy rights. This is quite different from the arguments for feudal diplomatic privilege, even though business corporations have superseded princely states. The argument for state secrecy now is that the democratic state constituted by business corporations is obliged to protect the rights and privileges of those citizens as embodied in their private property rights – rights deemed to be even more absolute than those historically attributed to natural persons, if for no other reason than that corporations enjoy limited liability and immortality, unlike natural persons. When the US government says it is necessary for other states to treat Assange as an outlaw and Wikileaks as a criminal activity, it is appealing on one hand to the global corporate citizenry and on the other, asserting its role – not unlike the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages – as the sole arbiter of those rights and privileges subsumed by Democracy in the world. Many of those who lack a religious commitment to the American way of life have still recognised the appeal to privacy and ultimately to private property which are now deemed the highest values in the world – so that trade, the commerce in private property, takes precedence over every other human Page 64 activity and supersedes even human rights, not to mention civil rights. Ellsberg In 1971 Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, which began their publication. This leak was treated as a landmark, although it would take several years before the US withdrew its forces from Vietnam and many more before hostilities were formally ended. What then was the significance of the ‘leak’? The documents generally point to the failures of the military, omitting the role of the CIA almost entirely. Today it is still largely unknown that Ellsberg was working with the CIA in counter-insurgency programs in Vietnam. Did the Pentagon Papers thus serve the interests of plausible deniability – a disclosure of secrets designed not to reveal truth, but to conceal a larger truth by revealing smaller ones? On the other hand, the collection of essays, Dirty Work, edited by Philip Agee and Lou Wolf, showed how the identity of CIA officers could be deciphered from their official biographies, especially as published in the Foreign Service List and other government registers. This type of disclosure allows the competent researcher to recognise ‘real’ Foreign Service officers as opposed to CIA officers operating under diplomatic cover. Agee and his colleague Lou Wolf maintained that disclosure of CIA activities was not a matter of lifting secrets but of recognising the context in which disparate information has to be viewed to allow its interpretation. To put it trivially: in order to find something you have to know the thing for which you are searching. In order to be meaningful, disclosures of intelligence information must explain that intelligence information seeks to deceive the US public. For example, the CIA and those in the multi-agency task forces under its control produced an enormous amount of reports and documentation to show Page 65 what was being done to fulfil the official US policy objectives in Vietnam. One of these programs was called Rural Development. This CIA program was run ostensibly by the USAID and the State Department to support the economic and social development of the countryside. This policy was articulated in Washington to fit with the dominant ‘development’ paradigm – to package the US policy as aid and not military occupation. And yet, as Douglas Valentine shows in his book The Phoenix Program, Rural Development was a cover for counterinsurgency from the beginning. The Phoenix Program only became known in the US after 1971, and then only superficially. The information released to the US Congress and reported in the major media outlets lacked sufficient context to allow interpretation. There was so little context that the same people who worked in the Phoenix program in Vietnam as 20-year-olds have been able to continue careers operating the same kinds of programmes in other countries with almost no scrutiny. Two people come to mind: John Negroponte, who is alleged to have provided support to death squads in Honduras during the US war against Nicaragua and later served as ambassador to occupied Iraq, began his foreign service career in Vietnam with one of the agencies instrumental in Phoenix. The other person died recently: Richard Holbrooke began his career with USAID in Vietnam, went on to advise the Indonesian dictatorship, went to manage the ‘diplomatic’ part of the US war in Yugoslavia and finally served as a kind of pro-consul for Central Asia with responsibility for the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. As the secret weapon in US imperial policy, the counterinsurgency or rural development or ‘surge’ policies of the US government never include an examination of the professionals who managed them. It used to be said among some critics that one could follow General Vernon Walters’ travel itinerary and predict military coups. But that was not Page 66 something ‘leaked’ and it did not appear in the mainstream media analysis. The illusion of objective neutrality So if much of what we see ‘leaked’ is gossip in the service of plausible deniability, what separates the important gossip from the trivial? I suggest it is a return to consciously interested, humanistic values in historical research. We have to abandon the idea that the perfect form of knowledge is embodied in the privilege of corporate ownership of ideas, and domination of the state. We also have to abandon the illusion of objective neutrality inherited from Positivism and Progressivism, with its exclusionary professionalism. Until such time as human beings can be restored to the centre of social, political and economic history we have to recognise the full consequences of the enfranchisement of the business corporation and the subordination of the individual to role of a mere consumer. If we take the business corporation, an irresponsible and immortal entity, endowed with absolute property rights and absolved of any liability for its actions or those of its officers and agents, as the subject of history it has become, then we have to disclose more than diplomatic cables. We have to analyse its actions just as historians have tried to understand the behaviour of princes and dynasties in the past. This is too rarely done and when often only in a superficial way. I would like to provide an example, a sketch if you will, of one such historical analysis, taking the business corporation and not the natural person as the focus of action. In 1945, George Orwell referred to the threat of nuclear war between the West and the Soviet Union as a ‘cold war’. He made no reference to the 1918 invasion of the Soviet Union by British troops. In 1947, US Secretary of State Bernard Baruch gave a speech in South Carolina saying ‘Let us not be deceived: we are today in the midst of a cold war’. The speech Page 67 had been written by a rich newspaperman named Herbert Swope. In 1947, George Kennan published his containment essay, ‘The Sources of Soviet Conduct’, in Foreign Affairs under the name ‘X’. In it he describes a supposed innate expansionist tendency of the Soviet Union – also no mention of the US invasion or the devastation of WWII, which virtually destroyed the Soviet Union’s manpower and industrial base. In April 1950, NSC 68 is published – classified top secret until 1975 – outlining the necessity for the US to massively rearm to assert and maintain its role as the world’s superpower. At the end of summer 1950, war breaks out in Korea. President Truman declared an emergency and gets UN Security Council approval for a war that lasts three years, killing at least 3 million Koreans – most of whom die as a result of US Air Force saturation bombing of Korea north of the 38th parallel. Truman proclaims that US intervention will be used to prevent the expansion of the Soviet Union or as Ronald Reagan put it then – Russian aggression. After being utterly routed by the army of North Korea, the US bombs its way to the Yalu only to be thrown back to the 38th parallel by China. In 1954, the US organises the overthrow of the Arbenz regime in Guatemala and begins its aid and covert intervention in Vietnam beginning a war that only ends in 1976. Meanwhile Britain suppresses the Malaysian independence movement. Between 1960 and 1968, nationalist governments have been overthrown in Indonesia, Congo, Ghana, and Brazil. Cuba is the great surprise amidst the literally hundreds of nationalist, anti-colonial movements and governments suppressed by the US. William Blum has catalogued the enormous number of overt and covert interventions by the US in his book Killing Hope. The amazing thing about much of what Blum compiled is that it was not ‘secret’. It was simply not reported or misreported. Blum makes clear – what should be obvious – that the Soviet Union was not a party to a single war or coup from 1945 to 1989 and that the US government knew this. Page 68 Much of this early action took place when John Foster Dulles was US Secretary of State and his brother was head of the CIA. The Dulles brothers were intimately connected to corporations they represented in their capacity as ‘white shoe’ lawyers in New York. In fact the founder of the OSS, the CIA’s predecessor, William Donovan, was also a corporate lawyer both before and after his service in the OSS. In other words the people who have commanded these foreign policy instruments have almost without exception been the direct representatives of major US business corporations. In each case the public pretext has been the threat of communism or Soviet expansion. Yet the only consistent quality all of these actions had was the suppression of governments that restricted the activities of US or UK corporations. Of course, communism has long been merely a term for any opposition to the unrestricted rights of business corporations. One could say people like Donovan or Dulles were seconded to government office. However, the direct financial benefit that someone like Dulles obtained when he succeeded in deposing Arbenz in Guatemala came from his shareholding in United Fruit, the instigator and financial backer of the CIA co-ordinated coup. Perhaps the more accurate interpretation of this secret activity is that the business corporation, which previously employed law firms and Pinkertons, had shifted the burden of implementing corporate foreign policy to the taxpayer and the state. Now the interest of the US in Latin America has been well researched and documented. But the persistence of the Vietnam War and the silence about the Korean War have only been matched by the virtual absence of debate about the overthrow of Sukarno and the Philippine insurgency. The Philippines became a footnote in the controversy about US torture methods in Iraq and elsewhere as it was shown that the ‘water cure’ was applied rigorously by American troops when suppressing the Philippine independence movement at the beginning of the 20th century. Page 69 Lack of context not knowledge The study of each of these Asian countries – and one can add the so-called Golden Triangle; and I would argue Afghanistan now – has been clouded not by lack of evidence or documentation but by lack of context. If the supposed threat posed by communism, especially Soviet communism is taken at face value – as also reiterated in innumerable official documents both originally public and originally confidential – then the US actions in Asia seem like mere religious fanaticism. The government officials and military and those who work with them are so indoctrinated that they will do anything to oppose communism in whatever form. Thus even respected scholars of these wars will focus on the delusions or information deficits or ideological blinders of the actors. This leads to a confused and incoherent perception of US relations in Asia and the Pacific. The virtual absence of any coherent criticism of the Afghanistan War, let alone the so-called War on Terror, is symptomatic not of inadequate information, leaked or otherwise. It is a result of failure to establish the context necessary for evaluating the data available. It should not surprise anyone that ‘counter-terror’ practices by US Forces are ‘discovered’ in Afghanistan or Iraq, if the professional careers of the theatre and field commanders (in and out of uniform) are seriously examined. Virtually all those responsible for fighting the war in Central Asia come from Special Operations/CIA backgrounds. That is what they have been trained to do. If we shift our attention for a moment to the economic basis of this region, it has been said that the war against drugs is also being fought there. However, this is counterfactual. Since the 1840s the region from Afghanistan to Indochina has been part of what was originally the British opium industry. China tried to suppress the opium trade twice leading to war with Britain – wars China lost. The bulk of the Hong Kong banking sector developed out of the British opium Page 70 trade protected by the British army and Royal Navy. Throughout World War II and especially the Vietnam War the opium trade expanded to become an important economic sector in Southern Asia – under the protection of the secret services of the US, primarily the CIA. Respected scholars have documented this history to the present day. However it does not appear to play any role in interpreting the policies of the US government whether publicly or confidentially documented. Is it because, as a senior UN official reported last year, major parts of the global financial sector – headquartered in New York and London – were saved by billions in drug money in 2008? Does the fact that Japan exploited both Korea and Vietnam to provide cheap food for its industrial labour force have any bearing on the US decision to invade those countries when its official Asia policy was to rebuild Japan as an Asian platform for US corporations – before China became reaccessible (deemed lost to the Communists in 1948)? Did the importance of Korean tungsten for the US steel industry contribute to the willingness of people like Preston Goodfellow, a CIA officer in Korea, to introduce a right-wing Korean to rule as a dictator of the US occupied zone? Is there continuity between Admiral Dewey’s refusal to recognise the Philippine Republic after Spain’s defeat – because the 1898 treaty with Spain ceded the archipelago to the US – and the refusal of General Hodge to recognise the Korean People’s Republic in Seoul when he led the occupation of Korea in 1945? As John Pilger suggests, were the million people massacred by Suharto with US and UK support a small price to pay for controlling the richest archipelago in the Pacific? Was the Pol Pot regime not itself a creation of the US war against Vietnam – by other means? Is it an accident that while the US was firmly anchored in Subic Bay, armed and funded Jakarta, occupied Japan and half of Korea, that the US was prepared to bomb the Vietnamese nationalists ‘into the Stone Age’? It only makes sense if the US is understood as an empire and its corporate interests are taken seriously when researching the Page 71 history of the US attempts to create and hold an Asian empire. The resistance to this perception can be explained and it is not because of an impenetrable veil of secrecy. It is not because of the accidentally or inaccessibly unknown. Rather it is because US policy and practice in the world remains a ‘mystery’, a supernatural truth, one that of its very nature lies above the finite intelligence. The quasi-divine status of the universal democracy for which the USA is supposed to stand is an obstacle of faith. Engineering consent In the twentieth century two conflicting tendencies can be identified. The first was the emergence of mass democratic movements. The second was the emergence of the international business corporation. When the Great War ended in 1918, the struggle between these two forces crystallised in the mass audience or consumer on one hand and the mass production and communication on the other. As Edward Bernays put it: ‘This is an age of mass production. In the mass production of materials a broad technique has been developed and applied to their distribution. In this age too there must be a technique for the mass distribution of ideas.’ In his book, Propaganda, he wrote ‘The conscious and intelligent manipulation of organised habits and opinions of the masses…’ was necessary in a democracy, calling that ‘invisible government’. Like his contemporary Walter Lippmann, a journalist, he believed that democracy was a technique for ‘engineering the consent’ of the masses to those policies and practices adopted by the country’s elite – the rulers of its great business corporations. By the 1980s the state throughout the West – and after 1989 in the former Soviet bloc – was being defined only by ‘business criteria’, e.g. efficiency, profitability, cost minimisation, shareholder value, consumer satisfaction, etc. Page 72 Political and social criteria such as participatory rights or income equity or equality, provision of basic needs such as education, work, housing, nutrition, healthcare on a universal basis had been transformed from citizenship to consumerism. The individual lost status in return for means tested access to the ‘market’. In order for the state to function like a business it had to adopt both the organisational and ethical forms of the business corporation – a non-democratic system, usually dictatorial, at best operating as an expert system. As an extension of the property-holding entities upon which it was to be remodelled, the state converted its power into secretive, jealous, and rigid hierarchies driven by the highest ethical value of the corporation – profit. Journalists and ‘corporate stenographers’ While historical research should not be merely deductive, it is dependent on documents. The veracity of those documents depends among other things on authenticity, judgements as to the status, knowledge or competence of the author, the preponderance of reported data corresponding to data reported elsewhere or in other media. A public document is tested against a private or confidential document – hence the great interest in memoirs, diaries and private correspondence. There is an assumption that the private document is more sincere or even reliable than public documents. This is merely axiomatic since there is no way to determine from a document itself whether its author lied, distorted or concealed in his private correspondence, too. Discrepancies can be explained in part by accepting that every author is a limited informant or interpreter. The assumptions about the integrity of the author shape the historical evaluation. In contemporary history – especially since the emergence of industrial-scale communications – the journalist has become the model and nexus of data collection, author, analyst, and investigator. Here the journalist is most like a Page 73 scholar. The journalist is also a vicarious observer. The journalist is supposed to share precisely those attributes of the people to whom or about whom he reports. This has given us the plethora of reality TV, talk shows, embedded reporters, and the revolving door between media journalists and corporate/state press officers. In the latter the journalist straddles the chasm between salesman and consumer. This is the role that the Creel Committee and the public relations industry learned to exploit. The journalist George Creel called his memoir of the Committee on Public Information he chaired – formed by Woodrow Wilson to sell US entry into World War I – How We Advertised America. The campaign was successful in gaining mass support for a policy designed to assure that Britain and France would be able to repay the billions borrowed from J. P. Morgan & Co. to finance their war against Germany and seize the Mesopotamian oilfields from the Ottoman Empire. Industrial communications techniques were applied to sell the political product of the dominant financial and industrial corporations of the day. The professional journalist, freed from any social movement or popular ideology, had already become a mercenary for corporate mass media. The profession eased access to secure employment and to the rich and powerful. The journalists’ job was to produce ideas for mass distribution – either for the state or for the business corporation. Supporting private enterprise was at the very least a recognition that one’s job depended on the media owner. Editorial independence meant writers and editors could write whatever they pleased as long as it sold and did not challenge the economic or political foundation of the media enterprise itself. In sum the notion of the independent, truth-finding, investigative journalist is naïve at best. We must be careful to distinguish between journalists and what John Pilger has called ‘corporate stenographers’. This does not mean that no journalists supply us with useful information or provide us access to meaningful data. It Page 74 means that journalism, as institution, as praxis, is flawed – because it too is subordinated to the business corporation and its immoral imperatives. Wikileaks takes as its frame of reference the journalism as it emerged in the Positivist – Progressive Era – a profession ripe with contradictions, as I have attempted to illustrate. Were Wikileaks to fulfil that Positivist–Progressive model, it would still risk overwhelming us with the apparently objective and unbiased data – facts deemed to stand for themselves. Without a historical framework – and I believe such a framework must also be humanist – the mass of data produced or collated by such a platform as Wikileaks may sate but not nourish us. We have to be responsible for our interpretation. We can only be responsible however when we are aware of the foundations and framework for the data we analyse. The deliberate choice of framework forces us to be conscious of our own values and commitments. This stands in contrast to a hypothetically neutral, objective, or non-partisan foundation that risks decaying into opportunism – and a flood of deceit from which no mountain of disclosure can save us. The author lectures in economic history in Cologne and Duesseldorf and is associate director of the Institute for Advanced Cultural Studies, Europe. Page 75 Murdoch, Rothschild and the nuclear lobby 1 Matthew Zarb-Cousin In his 1956 book The Power Elite, C. Wright Mills illustrated the way in which the elite work together, are interconnected – both socially and in business – and therefore take each other into account when they make decisions..... Rupert Murdoch and the financial sector Lord Jacob Rothschild was appointed to the board of British Sky Broadcasting in 2003 as Senior Independent Non- Executive Director and Deputy Chairman of Murdoch’s organisation. (Shah 2003) Having graduated from Oxford University, Rothschild joined the family bank N. M. Rothschild & Sons before leaving in 1980 to pursue his own interests in the financial sector. (Shah 2003) Rothschild co-founded Global Asset Management and J Rothschild Assurance, now part of the St James’s Palace Group. A less direct connection is through Murdoch’s daughter, Elisabeth, who married the grandson of Sigmund Freud, Matthew in 2001. (BBC 2001) Matthew Freud is the multimillionaire owner of PR company Freud Communications (Harris 2008) and, aside from being Rupert Murdoch’s son-in-law, British Sky Broadcasting is one of Freud’s clients. (Sanghera 2001) In 1997 Freud Communications is listed as a Labour Party sponsor, donating a sum in excess of £5,000. (Aisbitt 1998) Freud had previously sold Freud Communications in 1994, when it was known as Matthew Freud Associates, and 1 This an extract from the author’s undergraduate thesis at the University of Birmingham, The Labour Party’s movement to the Centre: an explanation using the Wright Mills approach. Page 76 he continued to run the company until 2001, when he bought it back with money borrowed from the directors of the company, Barclays Bank and Neil Blackley – a Merrill Lynch media analyst – illustrating Freud’s connection to the financial sector. (Sanghera 2001) Freud’s clients included Pepsi, KFC, Asda and Nike. (Harris 2008) Peter Mandelson, Minister without Portfolio from 1997 until 1998, when he became Trade and Industry Secretary, acquired responsibility for the Millennium Dome. Despite opposition from most of the Cabinet, Blair decided that the project would go ahead. (Carrell 2000) The Millennium Dome was granted £400m of lottery money, and British Sky Broadcasting were among an array of corporate sponsors. (Carrell 2000) Prior to Mandelson’s appointment as Secretary of State for the DTI, Freud allegedly set about galvanising support for him in the press, placing the story ‘Peter’s Friends’ in The Sun (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation) which stated that Mandelson was a friend of various celebrities, including Tom Cruise, whom he had never met. (Guardian 2000) Mandelson subsequently appointed Freud to work on one of the Millennium Dome’s senior committees, (Harris 2008) and he had a significant impact on the arena’s content. (Guardian 2000) Freud organised the party that celebrated Labour’s general election victory in 2001, and played a role in recruiting one of his clients, Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, to Labour’s party political broadcast in 2001, and persuading Chris Evans to campaign with Tony Blair in 2005. (Harris 2008) According to Harris, ‘It is Freud’s talent for hosting high-powered gettogethers that underpins the bond with Blair.’ In 2005, Blair’s former special advisor Kate Garvey became Freud Communications’ head of public and social affairs, (Harris 2008) and Blair’s former health secretary Alan Milburn is paid £25,000 a year to sit on sit on the nutritional advisory board (sic) of one of Freud’s clients, Pepsi. (Harris 2008) Page 77 Shortly after Elisabeth Murdoch’s 40th birthday party in 2008, Rothschild hosted a dinner at his family’s villa in Corfu, where Peter Mandelson was also a guest. (Harris 2008) Jacob Rothschild and the nuclear power lobby Rothschild’s interests extend beyond the financial sector. In 2005, the newspaper Sunday Business reported, ‘N. M. Rothschild, the London merchant bank, is leading an initiative to finance, build and manage Britain’s next generation of nuclear power stations.’ (Orange 2005) Rothschild’s involvement in nuclear power was centred on his ambition to ‘dominate the next phase of nuclear power development’. (Orange 2005) British Nuclear Fuels plc is an international company owned by the government, involved in all stages of the nuclear process: designing reactors, manufacturing fuel, decommissioning reactors and dealing with radioactive waste. (British Nuclear Fuels 2006) In 2005, Rothschild assembled a plan for British Nuclear Fuels plc suggesting the means for funding nuclear power through the private sector. (Orange 2005) In April 2006, Rothschild was appointed by British Nuclear Fuels plc to handle the £1bn sale of the organisation’s nuclear clean-up arm, British Nuclear Group. (Pfeifer 2006) By 2003 David Sainsbury had donated over £11 million to the Labour Party. (Brennan & Hastings 1998) Mark Seddon, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, referred to Sainsbury in an interview with the BBC, in which he said: ‘In any other country I think a government minister donating such vast amounts of money and effectively buying a political party would be seen for what it is, a form of corruption of the political process.’ (Brennan & Hastings 1998) In October 2005, having been made a Labour peer, he declared his support for nuclear energy in the House of Lords, saying, ‘Lady O’Cathain offered me the opportunity of… Page 78 agreeing that nuclear is a renewable energy source – it clearly is so.’ (Mortished 2005). One month later, Vincent de Rivaz – Chief Executive of EDF energy, which has at least two contracts with British Nuclear Fuels plc (British Nuclear Group 2011) – called for the relaxation of planning and licensing laws, arguing that if this were to happen, new nuclear power stations could be built within ten years. (Parliament 2005) De Rivaz’s more explicit connection with the New Labour government was through Gordon Brown’s younger brother Andrew, who joined EDF Energy, as head of media relations. (He is now director of corporate communications.) Andrew Brown previously worked for Weber Shandwick, where Philip Dewhurst – now Director of Corporate Affairs at British Nuclear Fuels – was the UK Chief Executive. (Private Eye 2006) Weber Shandwick also provided consultancy services for British Nuclear Fuels plc in 2005. (Register of members and clients 2005) In 2009, EDF energy acquired British Energy, which owns and operates two thirds of the UK’s nuclear power stations. Incidentally, de Rivaz shared corporate ties with David Sainsbury until 2010, as Sainsbury’s supermarket offered ‘Sainsbury’s Energy’ in a partnership with EDF. (Williams 2011) The former Labour government Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper, also has links to the nuclear industry through her father, Tony Cooper, who is the former chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association and is currently the director of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. (Wheeler 2010a) One might conclude that New Labour’s ties with the nuclear lobby heavily influenced policy formulation with regards to energy prioritisation. Sources Aisbitt, J. (1998) ‘Donations of More Than pounds 5,000 to Labour in 1997’ – Brennan, Z. & Hastings, C. (1998) ‘Lord “Midas” puts millions Page 79 Labour’s way’ – The Sunday Times, 30 August 1998 BBC (2001) ‘Murdoch and Freud wed’ – British Nuclear Fuels (2006) British Nuclear Fuels plc. – Carrell, S. (2000) ‘Page told ministers to stay away from Dome’ – Guardian, author unknown (2000) ‘King of spin’ – Harris, J. (2008) ‘Inside the court of London’s golden couple, Elisabeth Murdoch and Matthew Freud’ – Mortished, C. (2005) ‘Minister declares nuclear “renewable” ’ – Orange, R. (2005) ‘Rothschild Champions Nuclear Joint Venture ‘ – Parliament (2005) Uncorrected Transcript of Oral Evidence – House of Commons – Environmental Audit Committee – Pfeifer, S. (2006) ‘Rothschild to handle £1bn nuclear sale’ – Private Eye, author unknown – Issue 1151, p.8 (2006) Register of members and clients 2005 Sanghera, S. (2001) ‘Can Matthew Freud be serious?’ – Page 80 Shah, S. (2003) ‘Rothschild brought on board at Sky as sop to anti-Murdoch camp’ – Wheeler, B. (2010a) ‘Labour and the nuclear lobby’ – Williams, J. (2011) ‘Sainsbury’s Energy ditch EDF for partnership with British Gas’ – Page 81 Books Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq John W. Dower New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, $29.95 (US), around £20 (UK), h/b Simon Matthews John Dower is a retired Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an expert on USJapanese relations. His book compares Al Qaeda’s surprise attack on the US in 2001 with the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941; the conduct of WW2 in the Pacific with the conduct of the 2003 Iraq War; the 1945-1952 occupation of Japan with the ongoing occupation of Iraq; and the postconflict reconstruction of Japan with the continuing reconstruction efforts in Iraq. This is a significant and well written academic work that draws from a very wide variety of sources but suffers slightly from being US centric and somewhat high-minded. One conclusion the author reaches early on is that just as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the six months of runaway victories that followed stemmed from a delusion that Japan would force an isolationist US to request peace, so the US political and military hierarchy were similarly deluded in 2003, thinking that an intervention in Iraq needed no postinvasion planning and would produce peace in the Middle East. For Dower the actions of the US after 2003, a vulgar, coarser, and significantly less competent version of its actions in Japan Page 82 after 1945, were a result of their adherence to an extreme version of free market capitalism (favoured almost to the point of being a religious belief system). He rightly questions the legality of many of the decisions made by the US in Iraq in recent years. The author discusses a number of interesting points. Firstly: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was not a complete surprise to the US. The Japanese preference for attacking without a declaration of war, as they had done against China in 1894, 1931 and 1937, and against Russia in 1904, was well known; but for political reasons (possibly due to the need to overcome the objections of the America First isolationists, to whom Japan gave so much credence), the US wanted Japan to strike first. The extent to which US opinion has agonised subsequently over whether or not Pearl Harbor – an event in which 2403 people were killed – could or should have been avoided is fascinating to a non-American reader. Compared to the atrocities inflicted by Japan on China (200,000 killed in Nanking in 1937), and by Germany across Europe (5.7 million dead in Poland alone after an attack without a declaration of war), the length and verbosity of the various US enquiries set up to determine culpability for being ‘unprepared’ at Pearl Harbour, suggest a widespread frame of mind that takes as its starting point that America is entitled to regard itself as invulnerable.1 This conclusion is strengthened by the author neglecting to discuss the 1940-1941 Japanese consideration and rejection of the option to attack the USSR instead. Had this happened the history of the world might have been very different: Germany at the gates of Moscow, while simultaneously a Japanese strike deep into Siberia from their existing occupied territories in Manchuria. In such 1 An irony here: both the US Army and Navy commanders at Pearl Harbour were dismissed and severely criticised for being ‘surprised’ by the Japanese attack. General MacArthur, though, who allowed his air force to be destroyed on the ground in the Philippines, became a US war hero. Page 83 circumstances the prospect of a Soviet collapse would have been very real, followed by a quick and nasty settling of scores between Germany and the UK. The reason Japan did not do this – not spelt out by Dower – is that its army had already attacked the USSR in May 1939, only to be routed at Nomonhan by Marshal Zhukhov on 25 August 1939, an event little known in the US, but regarded elsewhere as one of the strategic battles of the twentieth century. Nor does he point out that the Japanese attack on the British positions at Kota Bharu in Malaya started two hours before Pearl Harbor and this event is, in fact, often referred to in Japan as ‘the first battle of the war’.2 Secondly, the book contains an extensive analysis of the US decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, and is very critical of this. At the risk of sounding slightly flippant, the usual concerns are raised: (1) Japan was almost defeated by that point so why use atomic bombs? (2) The use of such weapons against targets that were significantly civilian (as well as military) should not have been considered by a civilised nation. (3) A demonstration of the bomb should have been carried out to which the Japanese would have been invited with a view to persuading them that resistance was now futile. (4) The Japanese should have been ‘warned’ about the impending use of the weapons etc. None of these arguments really convince. Although it is true that Japan was considerably weakened by the late summer of 1945, its loyalty to its imperial system and capacity for determined resistance meant that most commentators thought that a finish to the war in the Pacific might not come until 1947. At the risk of venturing into what looks like moral equivalence, is it correct to regard atomic weapons as uniquely uncivilised? In terms of deaths, 166,000 were killed at Hiroshima (fewer than at Nanking – see above) and 80,000 2 See The Japan Times, 12 December 2009. Page 84 at Nagasaki (compared to 200,000 dead in the 1944 Warsaw uprising). The extensive fire raids on Tokyo, which dropped conventional incendiary devices, are an interesting comparison, with 100,000 people killed in a single day by the US Air Force in March 1945. Unless one is of the view that all force is wrong and that pure pacifism is the bench mark against which all human behaviour should be judged, considering solely the numbers of casualties, it does rather look as if dropping the atomic bombs, in such a bloody war, might almost be regarded as a proportionate use of force. Could a ‘demonstration’ of the bomb have been laid on? Where? Would the Japanese have turned up? Even if they had, would their very different attitude toward what constituted an acceptable level of casualties have led them to seek an armistice? What about the practical difficulties in arranging a test explosion? In August 1945 the uranium bomb (later dropped on Hiroshima) had not been tested anywhere, while the plutonium bomb (dropped on Nagasaki) had only been tested once, in New Mexico on 17 July 1945. Suppose the device selected for the demonstration before Japanese and other international witnesses had failed to explode? Apologists for the use of the bomb also point out that both Japan and Germany had programmes of their own to develop atomic weapons and that in this context the US ‘getting in first’ by using its own was a justified tactic. Germany in fact had produced two one-ton composite bombs (consisting of alternate layers of paraffin and uranium) by April 1945 and planned – had the war continued – to drop these on Manhattan at some point in 1945/1946. Dower is clearly right to point out that the US was significantly more advanced in this field and that the Japanese were really nowhere near producing either a Hiroshima or a Nagasaki style weapon. He does not comment, however, on Page 85 their much more interesting efforts to produce a ‘dirty bomb’.3 This is peculiar because it is now widely known that in May 1945 a German submarine (U-234) surrendered in the US while on passage to Japan with a cargo of uranium oxide. How should the US have reacted to this? Taken no action? Although they might not have known how much uranium had been transported from Germany to Japan at that point in time, the US was aware, from its ability to read Japanese signals intelligence, that the Japanese Navy had a flotilla of aircraftcarrying submarines and were considering using these to carry out a long distance raid against a major target on the US west cost. Would this attack have resulted in the Japanese dropping a ‘dirty bomb’ on San Francisco? One has to consider that even if the likelihood of such an action were judged to be very low in mid-1945, no conscientious US commander or politician would have ignored such a threat. When debating these points the author answers some of his own questions about why the bomb was dropped: there was a determination to show the Soviets that the US was now the leading power in the world. This view was articulated as early as March 1944 by the head of the Manhattan Project, General Groves (‘you realize, of course, that the main purpose of this project is to subdue the Russians’), was repeated in May 1945 by Secretary of State Byrnes (dropping the bomb on Japan would ‘make the Russians more manageable’), and retrospectively confirmed by Vannevar Bush (its use had ‘prevented Russia from sweeping over Europe after we 3 For a full discussion of these subjects see Philip Henshall, The Nuclear Axis – Germany, Japan and the Atom Bomb Race 1939-1945 (2000) and David Myrha, The Horten Brothers and Their All Wing Aircraft (1998), chapter 17, ‘The German Atomic Bomb and the Horten 18’, pp, 217- 227. The French troops who captured the two prototype uranium/ paraffin bombs destroyed them. Page 86 demobilized’).4 The rationale behind this approach was down to the Americans being fearful of the Soviet Union intruding into China (a traditional area of US influence), particularly as Stalin – in international diplomacy a stickler for punctilious adherence to the letter of any agreement – had promised at the Yalta Conference to attack Japan precisely three months after defeating Germany. This meant that the Soviet land assault on the Japanese in Manchuria would begin on either 9 or 10 August 1945. This, in turn, determined that the US ‘had’ to have used its bombs by these dates if it were to ‘impress’ the Russians. Accordingly Hiroshima was attacked on 6 August and Nagasaki on the 8th. Another book would be needed to comment on how mistaken the US were in this respect. While it is true that using the bomb was justifiable in a narrow military context,5 the assumptions made by the US about containing the Soviets were offensive – given a comparison of the casualties incurred in the field by both sides. Stalin and the USSR did not become ‘more manageable’ as a result of the US dropping two atomic bombs. There was no Soviet plan to ‘sweep across Europe’ after the defeat of Germany.6 Stalin already knew – in detail – about the Manhattan Project and, presumably, was familiar also with the motivations for using the bomb to ‘subdue the 4 Dower notes that some of the European scientists, who had assumed that they were working on a scheme that would thwart Hitler building the first atomic weapons, were dismayed by the steady drift of the Manhattan Project toward an anti-Soviet outcome. It is interesting to consider at what point the US decided this. If Groves (who never commanded troops in action) was saying this in early 1944, it may have been the case that the US took the view in late 1943 that they should obtain the bomb as a future bargaining chip against the USSR. 5 There may also have been humanitarian considerations in dropping the bomb. It was suspected that the Japanese were planning a final massacre of the remaining 120,000 Allied prisoners of war. Forcing a Japanese surrender by the use of a fantastic weapon was considered by some to be a way of saving these lives. 6 Those who doubt the intentions of the Soviets can now read the Politburo minutes. These are quoted in some detail in Jurgen Rohwer and Mikhail Monakov Stalin’s Ocean Going Fleet 1935-1953 (2001). Page 87 Russians’ expressed above. For their part there are many on the Japanese side who regard the Soviet attack on Manchuria and Korea, and not the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as the final determining factor in their decision to surrender. As the Soviets also consider this likely, the argument that the use of atomic weapons ended the Second World War – and saved lives – is clearly debatable. Thirdly: the author decries the use between 1945 and 1949 of surrendered Japanese forces to ‘restore order’ by the British, French, Dutch and Chinese in Vietnam, the East Indies and China. He is probably right when he says this is against international law, which determines that once an army has surrendered it should not be used for any military purpose by its captors. However, the circumstances prevailing in the area in late 1945 might have looked different to those dealing with practicalities. While part of the motive of the British, French and Dutch in this matter may have been to quickly and cheaply extinguish nationalist movements in their colonial possessions, it was also true that extensive lawlessness existed at this time across much of the Far East and China; and that a need to keep some of the surrendered Japanese forces under arms to accelerate a return to normalcy appeared justified. In comparison with this, Dower does not comment on the existence of extensive US interests in the Philippines for decades after 1945. The reader could be forgiven for thinking that there is a subtext at work here of European colonialism bad, enlightened US arrangements good. Fourthly: nowhere in the very extensive discussions in this book about Iraq is any mention made of the significant role played by Israel in persistently lobbying the US (and others) that a pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein was justified, and in providing ‘intelligence’ of a dubious value. Given the range of material now in the public domain, this is simply not good enough.7 The author is on stronger ground when he points out 7 See in particular John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby (2007) pp. 250-253. Page 88 the degree of US contempt for its enemies – whether Japan in 1941 (‘slitty eyed Nips’) or any of the perceived adversaries in the contemporary ‘War on Terror’ (‘ragheads’). In the latter case the contempt took the form of insisting that 9/11 was ‘too sophisticated’ for al-Qaeda (according to Paul Wolfowitz) and that someone else must be responsible (‘see if Saddam did this’ being asked by President Bush on 12 September 2001). The propensity of senior US figures to hold such views has been remarked on by Michael Scheuer, a former CIA official, who is quoted on page 58 about the intellectual proclivities of Wolfowitz, Bush and others: ‘They....cannot imagine the rest of the world does not want to be like us; and believe that an American Empire in the twenty first century not only is our destiny, but our duty to mankind.’ Dower also makes the interesting point that it was the conduct of the US occupation of Iraq, rather than solely the war, that clearly breached international law. One example of this was the forced privatisation of the country’s assets; or, as Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, would have it, altering the ‘cockeyed socialist economic theory’ that had foolishly existed before the US take-over. Whatever one might think about Iraqi law, it decreed that national assets – such as oil – could only be owned by the state and that the constitution of Iraq could only be changed by the Iraqi government. After 2003 this ceased to be the case. In these circumstances the only basis for Mr Bremer’s actions appears to be military force – a concept with no legal validity anywhere in the world. Even a partisan anti-American reader would concede that the involvement of the US in World War II produced a conclusion to the conflict that was preferable to allowing a German and Japanese victory. But at the conclusion of this depressing book we may wonder if the time has come for a broader critique of US foreign policy and the baleful influence it has exerted in the past century. Such an account would start Page 89 with the pursuit of economic liberalism by Woodrow Wilson; his decision (while campaigning amongst various ethnic blocs resident in the US during the mid-term elections in 1918) to support the dismantling of Austria-Hungary, Imperial Germany and the Ottoman Empire; the insistence by US banks on the payment of reparations in full; the misreading of Soviet intentions in 1947-1948 and the instigation (and continuation) of the Cold War; the decision to undermine the 1954 Geneva Peace Agreement on Vietnam; the absurd blockade of Cuba; and the unprecedented support for and identification with Israel. Why does the US behave like this? Is there a common thread here? Is its detached geographical position, occupying part of a continental block that is thousands of miles from Europe-Asia-Africa a determining factor? If so, how should the rest of the world relate to the Americans? The Bilderberg Conspiracy: Inside the world’s most powerful secret society H. Paul Jeffers New York: Citadel Press, 2009, $14.95 (US), p/b Colin Challen I feel cheated. Once again, a publisher’s desire for an eyecatching title has led to an anticlimax. Jeffers goes out of his way to provide a balanced judgement on the Bilderberg group8 of high-ranking businessmen, politicians and others who meet annually to hold secret discussions about how the world should be run. Certainly there’s enough evidence in the operation of the Bilderberg group to satisfy credulous conspiracists – the secrecy, the high security, the guest lists – but there is no evidence to support the proposition that despite their obvious influence, the participants have sufficient power, jointly – which implies agreement between themselves 8 Named after the Dutch hotel where it first met in the 1950s. Page 90 – to carry out the plans sometimes ascribed to them; such as developing a world government for and on behalf of bankers. That we may have a world which is plainly in the grip of bankers and their aberrant market philosophy is not the same thing. Few Bilderbergers (as attendees are called) have changed the world, despite their efforts. At one level you have people like environmentalist Jonathan Porritt, whose influence seems to have waned (perhaps the most important body that he once chaired, the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission has been wound up), and at another level you have some of the West’s leading industrialists, bankers and government officials. But as we shall see, even they don’t always share a common line. And regardless of which party is in power in Washington, their luminaries have flocked to Bilderberg meetings in equal numbers: so if there’s a conspiracy going on here at all it is merely to continue to expand the set of loosely defined values which keep these folk in thrall – capitalism and capitalist democracy. The Bilderberg Network would be a more apt title for a book charting the history of this glittering nexus and its detractors. The Bilderbergers are people who certainly know how to network. Gordon Brown attended in 1991. His boss at the time was John Smith, leader of the Labour Party and a member of the Bilderberg steering committee. Another attendee in 1991 was Bill Clinton. One can see the value to them of these people mixing with each other, many on the launch pad of their careers. One can imagine Clinton chatting to his British cousins, ‘Jus’ give me a call, y’all.’ And out of such friendships, groupthink can safely develop along with the strengthening of tribal loyalties – or should we say ruling class tribal loyalties. There is, after all, a certain kind of tautological quality about Bilderberg: we are the Powerful Ones, therefore we are powerful. Keeping that power, along with its attendant privileges (and Jeffers does not skip over the luxury, the Page 91 exclusivity, etc. of the meetings) becomes important. One of Bilderberg’s most egregious participants knew this: Conrad Black helped many fellow Bilderbergers maintain a lifestyle of luxury and exclusivity by creating his own faux Bilderberg setups, this time paid for by his companies. He recruited such luminaries as Henry Kissinger to advise his Hollinger press on global affairs. Presumably Kissinger had his staffers read Hollinger titles such as the Daily Telegraph and the Jerusalem Post to tell him what to tell Hollinger was going on in the world. The proceedings of the Bilderberg group are never published, but Jeffers quotes from an ‘official report’ of the 1999 meeting.9 Here (p. 112) we learn the following: ‘The meeting then turned to “redesigning the international financial architecture.” There was “a general sense that the global capital markets had run a little ahead of their regulators.” Nobody disputed the idea that recent crises in emerging markets should be blamed primarily on the countries concerned. But many people thought that the recent series of dramatic upsets also seemed to highlight failings within the international financial system. The regulators present insisted that these failings were now being addressed. But many of the other participants remained sceptical.’ Of the ‘regulators’ present at the 1999 meeting, the UK had Kenneth Clarke and Peter Mandelson,10 two people for whom hubris is no stranger. Clarke congratulated himself for setting the UK on a growth path in the 1990s, and Mandelson was part of the New Labour cabal that invented the ‘no more boom and bust’ myth – a myth based on New Labour’s commitment to stick with Tory spending plans for two years after the 1997 9 Disappointingly, Jeffers’ book contains no references, but his reference here to an ‘official report’ quotes directly from the minutes of the meeting which are available at 10 Page 92 election to demonstrate their ‘responsibility’ and deference to City interests. If there ever was such a thing as a Bilderberg ‘conspiracy’ perhaps it should be known as the conspiracy of the complacent. At that time a prolonged, global bull market and economic confidence was quite strong enough to see off regional difficulties such as the Asian crisis, or a sectoral flop like the bursting of the dot-com bubble. In such a market it is very difficult for anyone to make mistakes, least of all the regulators who are under even more pressure to ‘leave well alone.’ Perhaps the real dichotomy in the 1999 Bilderberg meeting was between those who would leave well alone and those who wanted a little private moral hazard protectionism against the market forces they were otherwise happy to encourage. Either way, it’s a sloppy kind of conspiracy. Perhaps one should regret the absence of a real Bilderberg conspiracy. Perhaps with a little more decisiveness from the great and the good, with clearly established goals for good or ill, there could be a New World Order, rather than a hotchpotch of partial solutions and wacky theories. The obvious dangers posed by a growing population with an exponential thirst for material wealth combined with climate change makes the global economic outlook dire. The start of 2011 was littered with reports from the UN about what we already know: food and energy price inflation is tied precisely to the destabilising effects of unmitigated population growth and climate change. So perhaps we should demand that if the Bilderberg meetings continue, a wider public should set the agenda. I’m not against meetings held under ‘Chatham House’ rules, where what is said can be reported publicly while keeping the speakers’ identities secret. It is the agenda that matters. What offends is the idea that our fate can be kicked around in secret as if it were of no concern to outsiders. Free discussion on issues that affect us all should be possible without the need for secret clubs. And as we have seen, if people like Gordon Brown feel the need to get advice from the Page 93 likes of Senator Ted Kennedy on when to hold a general election in the UK, he can just pick up the phone. Colin Challen writes at Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War 1 to 9/11 Kathryn S. Olmsted Oxford University Press, 2009, £12.99, p/b 11 If I was going to be generous I would say ‘Close but no cigar’ to professor Olmsted’s account. She has at any rate identified one of the central issues, expressed in her final paragraph: ‘Since the first World War officials of the U.S. government have encouraged conspiracy theories, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes intentionally. They have engaged in conspiracies and used the cloak of national security to hide their actions from the American people. With cool calculation, they have promoted official conspiracy theories, sometimes demonstrably false ones, their own purposes.....If antigovernment conspiracy theories get the details wrong – and they often do – they get the basic issue right: it is the secret actions of the government that are the real enemies of democracy.’ But why should I be generous? She has the time, the academic tenure (at the University of California) and the access to the material, and still hasn’t done a half decent job. For the first third of the book she guides us through the conspiracy theories generated by the US entry into WW1 (led by a president who promised not to join the war and who did so against the population’s wishes), WW2 (ditto); and into the Cold War and through the McCarthy period. So far so 11 A version of this originally appeared in the Fortean Times. Page 94 unexceptional. But when we start moving through the sixties towards the present day, it all goes off the rails. Once again Oswald, Sirhan and Ray are presented as the assassins of the Kennedys and King. None of the more substantial research which suggests they were innocent is even suggested. Olmsted says (p. 8) that her ‘goal is not to prove or disprove the conspiracy theories discussed in this book.’ But by her choice of which version of them to present she judges the theories. Had she presented the minutely documented and cautious views on JFK’s death of – say – Professor Peter Dale Scott or former CIA officer John Newman, she could not have so blithely dismissed the JFK researchers as ‘amateurs’. Iran-Contra is sketched in and she flunks the central issue of the CIA’s role in facilitating the wholesale importation of cocaine. She notes that CIA officers (she calls them ‘agents’, often a sign of someone not familiar with the territory) ‘turned a blind eye’ to the import of cocaine if the dealers contributed to the (illegal) war against Nicaragua. But it’s worse (or better) than that. In 1982 the Agency actually went to the Attorney General of the United States to get his permission to ignore drug dealing. In effect the CIA, with government permission, gave cocaine dealers in Central and South America a ‘get out of jail free’ card: for a few thousand dollars of support for the contras they could fly their product in unhindered. And so the guns out and drugs back pattern began. Iran-Contra is frequently short-handed as weaponsfor- hostages. More significantly it was guns-for-coke. The MJ-12 theories about alien-government contact are presented but she forbears to tell her readers that the whole thing was cooked-up by the US Air Force. Rather than the more considered views of the better end of the 9-11 sceptics – the academics or professionals (pilots, engineers, architects) – she devotes most of her attention to the Internet documentary, Loose Change, and the activities of the group of 9-11 widows, the so-called ‘Jersey girls’. She quotes Hilary Page 95 Clinton’s 1998 reference to a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ against her husband without mentioning that the conspiracy has been documented in great detail and one of its leading members has written a memoir about his role in it. And so on. Simply because she hasn’t read the material, she gets some of the post 1963 stuff wrong; and her presentation of the other material is designed to reduce its impact. Her central thesis, that state conspiracies have produced conspiracy theories, is true; but how much more oomph it would have carried had she been able to look the covert nature of American politics since the Cold War in the face. RR Independent Diplomat Despatches from an Unaccountable Elite Carne Ross London: C. Hurst and Co., 2009, £15.00, h/b This has been out a while (first edition was in 2006) but it is worth a look. Ross was the indentikit young British diplomat who began to acquire that most dreadful of professional handicaps, politics. His memoir illustrates the bizarre amateurism (the ‘effortless excellence’ which is so highly prized) of the British civil service compared with their well trained European counterparts, the stultifying nature of the British diplomatic culture, as well as providing many telling and occasionally comic examples of its sheer uselessness. RR America’s Nazi Secret John Loftus Walterville, Oregon: Trineday, 2010, $24.95, p/b This a reprint of Loftus’s earlier book The Belarus Secret Page 96 (Penguin 1983 in the UK), though with some passages edited out of the original apparently restored. These restored sections appear to be those in square brackets in the text, though Loftus doesn’t seem to tell the reader this and I don’t have the patience to check the entire text. Certainly some sections in square brackets are not in the 1983 edition For the general reader like me this is impossible to evaluate and I don’t know anyone with the specialised knowledge required to review this book. Loftus was a lawyer employed by the US Department of Justice who joined a unit in the late 1970s which was investigating Nazi war crimes. He thus gained access to a lot of classified files and discovered ‘the Belarus secret’: that hundreds of Belorussian (or Byelorussian) collaborators with the occupying Nazi forces during WW2, many of whom were guilty of war crimes, were recruited by the US intelligence services of the period and/or were allowed into the United States following the end of WW2. This is the secret. This edition has a new introduction in which Loftus describes the long processes of official review and censorship of his text, as well as presenting something of a political manifesto, which contains this on p. 12 (fn 20). He writes about Operation Safehaven: ‘....a program to trace Nazi flight-capital back to the western investors....the Safehaven files were stolen by Eleanor Dulles and given to the Zionist intelligence service. They then blackmailed Nelson Rockefeller into pressuring the Latin American nations to give the extra votes in the UN to create the State of Israel.’ (fn 20 p. 12). But this startling claim is not documented.12 Unable to review this, I can merely report that the original 1982/3 edition received a severely critical academic 12 Operation Safehaven is discussed at . Page 97 review which is on-line13 and, more recently, it has been attacked in a 2006 report from Loftus’ former employer, the Department of Justice.14 Loftus is one of the cofounders of the Intelligence Summit which now exists as a Website15 at which some of the usual suspects and some new ones do their best to crank up Islam as a threat to replace communism. RR The Last Circle Danny Casolaro’s Investigation into The Octopus and the Promis Software Scandal Cheri Seymour Walterville (Oregon): Trineday: 2010, $24.95 (US) This is almost 450 pages of text and another 130 pages of evidence and photographs, at the end which I had enjoyed the ride but still had almost no idea of (a) what was and wasn’t important here (never mind what was and wasn’t true); (b) how close Danny Casolaro had got to any of this; (c) who had killed him. One of the few clear things that emerge is that while trying to wrestle with this enormously complex and elusive material might have depressed someone whose life was in good shape, never mind someone like Casolaro whose life was falling apart, it is nonetheless pretty clear his death was murder and not suicide. And presumably because someone thought he was getting too close to something. But who? And what? remain almost as opaque at the end of the book as at the beginning. I say ‘almost’ because halfway 13 14 The Office of Special Investigations: Striving for Accountability in the Aftermath of the Holocaust, by Judy Feigin, edited by Mark M Richard at . Pages 356-366 contain the critique: basically the report claims that he was incompetent and sloppy; citations were misread or non-existent. But this Office has an axe to grind with Loftus.... 15 Page 98 through the book, into the narrative of spies and the mob and hitmen and the theft of the PROMIS software, international spookery, and military developments in secret on an Indian reservation, comes a murderous, drug-dealing criminal gang composed of ex-policemen and ex-soldiers. Well now.... Way back when this magazine began, in the days when getting access to copies of the International Herald Tribune in Britain seemed exciting, there was the vague notion that if we read enough public material we would be able to reconstruct the secret world beneath it. This book shows as well as anything I have read that these notions were simply the views of naive people who had never been near real criminal investigations, nor tried to deal with people from the covert world who were blowing smoke (let alone who might kill you if you found something interesting). The author of this book has been on the case, off and on, for twenty years and is still unable to decide how many of the tales told her by this story’s two central figures, Michael Riconosciuto and Robert Booth Nichols are true. The core narratives here are so complex, and the waters so muddied by people lying, as to be almost impenetrable. The author doesn’t help by taking the reader down all manner of interesting trails leading off the main drag – mind control and viruses and remote viewing I remember – with little bearing on the central story (but who was to know where the trail would lead when the excursion began?) So I would say this: anyone looking for a straightforward narrative which begins with a puzzle and ends with a resolution, don’t buy this. On the other hand, if you want a fascinating kaleidoscope of crimes and covert operations from the dark side of American life, facilitated by American moral hypocrisy and funded by the largely unregulated development of the military-industrial-intelligence complex, with enough ‘stories’ to keep a Sunday Times ‘Insight’ team going for decades, this is for you. RR Page 99 Griftopia Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids and the Long Con That Is Breaking America Matt Taibbi New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2010, $26.00 (US); (around £10 plus p and p from Amazon.co.uk), h/b John Lanchester’s Whoops! Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay (published as I.O.U. in America) may be the best account I have read of the financial crisis which began in 2008, but the three chapters on it in Taibbi’s book are much the most entertaining. The thing about Taibbi is that where Lanchester’s book (like the others) tries to explain how a system failed, Taibbi thinks that Wall Street is the enemy, bankers, financiers and hedge fund wallahs are mostly crooks, and the financial markets are devices for fleecing the citizens. As well as wonderful, splenetic rhetoric, there are nice clear explanatory passages within the narrative. He educates as well as entertaining. After reading this you will understand the mechanics of ‘the long con’, the several subsidiary cons that are described, several of the major episodes which contributed to the meltdown, and the Wall St. grifters’ repertoire – CDOs and CDSs and all the rest of them. But what rhetoric! His most famous quote, the one that got a lot of major media attention when the essay first appeared in Rolling Stone, was his description of Goldman Sachs as ‘a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money’. But his essay on former Federal Reserve Chair, Alan Greenspan, titled ‘The Biggest Asshole in the Universe’, is nearly as brutal: ‘Former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan is that one-in-a-billion asshole who made America the dissembling mess that it is today.....Greenspan’s rise.... is a tale of a gerbilish mirror-gazer who flattered and bullshitted his way up the Matterhorn of American power Page 100 and then once he got to the top, feverishly jacked himself off to the attentions of Wall Street for twenty consecutive years – in the process laying the intellectual foundation for a generation of orgiastic greed and overconsumption and turning the Federal Reserve into a permanent bailout mechanism for the super-rich.’ (p. 36)16 And so on. There is something worth quoting on almost every page. In the other equally entertaining and lucid chapters Taibbi discusses the Tea Party and what it means, social security and the attempts by the Republicans to get their hands on it, oil prices (and commodity speculation in general) and the selling-off of American infrastructure – yes, they’re even selling roads – to foreign capital. Because Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone, it is tempting to compare him to that journal’s other famous political writer, the late Hunter S. Thompson. But Thompson’s political writing hasn’t worn well – who now reads Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail, for example? – and Taibbi is a much more important figure (and a much better writer). It it interesting that both he and Lanchester were not financial journalists but just intelligent writers who educated themselves in these fields and thus began with (and have maintained) a critical distance from the subject – the people and the bullshit theories – impossible for financial journalists, none of whom, to my knowledge, have written adequate accounts of the mess we are in. Gillian Tett’s Fool’s Gold is about the best of them but she works for the Financial Times and is unable or unwilling to look this vast set of frauds and thefts in the face. RR 16 En passant Taibbi makes short work of the adolescent ‘philosophy’ of Greenspan’s mentor, Ayn Rand, who was given so much undeserved prominence in the Adam Curtis documentary, ‘All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace’, shown on BBC2 in late May 2011. Page 101 Casa Pia The making of a modern European witch hunt Richard Webster The Orwell Press, £7.95 (UK), 2011, p/back Webster’s analysis of the British children’s home paedophile panic of the 1980s and 90s, The Secret of Bryn Estyn,17 is one of the great solo investigations. Webster showed that the entire series of episodes, the result of a nation-wide ‘trawling’ by the police for paedophile networks preying on the residents of children’s homes, was a fantasy; the result of sloppy journalism, public officials afraid of being blamed for ignoring a scandal, and lies told by some of the former residents who were motivated by the police promise of large compensation for any abuse. Webster dismantles the whole thing and concludes that many wrongful convictions ensued. This much smaller book (Bryn Estyn was 750 pages; this is 105) describes a similar outbreak, again in a group of children’s homes, Casa Pia, this time in Portugal. But while in the British witch hunt the tales of children being abused by the Great and the Good never got beyond rumour, in Portugal a group of public figures – politicians and Portugal’s best known television personality among them – were accused and eventually tried and convicted in 2010. It is as if Ken Livingstone and Terry Wogan (among others) were found guilty of being part of a homosexual paedophile ring in children’s homes in London. Once again Webster shows that the evidence is false, the result of the same elements which caused the British version: amplification and invention by the media; the fear and incompetence of politicians, social workers and the prosecuting authorities; and the lies of some children, a key witness offered a plea bargain by the prosecution and one politician. The fact that the major witness and some of the 17 Discussed by Simon Matthews in Lobster 52. Page 102 children have recanted since the verdicts has not yet overcome the profound embarrassment of a huge section of Portugal’s civil society at being swept along in the holy hunt for today’s witches. In his conclusion Webster suggests that in this secular age the human need for ‘devils’ has resulted in paedophiles becoming ‘the most prominent of our modern evils’; and that ‘human beings in modern cultures still seem to need the sense that they are battling against an evil conspiracy.’ Of this second claim I am unconvinced. Webster’s analysis of the Bryn Estyn case and this more recent one seems to me to explain how these mistaken beliefs came about without needing societal need for devils or evil conspiracies. In neither case would the nonsense have run as far as it did had journalists been more careful, had police and lawyers been a bit more sceptical (and more careful); and, in the case of Bryn Estyn, certainly, had more ridicule been applied to the nonsense about satanic child abuse, which was imported in the years before from American Christian circles and took root here in some Christian social workers (who believed in the literal existence of Satan). RR Page 103