www.lobster-magazine.co.uk Lobster 64 Winter 2012 . Nobody told us we could do this by Simon Matthews . Chemtrails: the proof and the purpose by T. J. Coles . The view from the bridge by Robin Ramsay Book Reviews . From an Office Building with a High-powered Rifle by Don Adams . Misc Reviews by Robin Ramsay: (a) Who killed Dag Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and white supremacy in Africa by Susan Williams (b) Casa Pia. The making of a modern European witch hunt by Richard Webster (c) Intelligence Wars. American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda by Thomas Powers (d) Without Smoking Gun. Was the death of Lt. Cmdr Will Pitzer part of the JFK assassination cover-up conspiracy? by Ken Heiner (e) Counterknowledge by Damian Thompson (f) A Culture of Conspiracy. Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America by Michael Barkun (g) Real Enemies. Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy,World War 1 to 9/11 by Kathryn S. Olmsted . Megrahi – You Are My Jury: The Lockerbie Evidence by John Ashton . Just Boris by Sonia Purnell . A Memoir of Injustice by Jerry Ray . Gladio: NATO’s dagger at the Heart of Europe by Richard Cottrell . Cryptoscatology: Conspiracy Theory as Art Form by Robert Guffey . Ritual America: Secret Brotherhoods and their influence on American society by Adam Parfrey and Craig Heimbichner ‘Nobody told us we could do this’ The bluffer’s guide to running Britain Simon Matthews What is happening in UK politics? We are now two years into the first coalition government for over sixty years, dramatic changes are occurring (almost daily) to the fabric of peoples’ lives and a range of further radical alterations are being clearly signalled. And yet.....how much analysis has there been of either the politics or the economic assumptions that propel our government of national unity? A good account of the political side can be found in Rob Wilson’s Five Days to Power (Biteback, 2010) which provides a thorough look at the Cameron-Clegg negotiations. Although a Conservative MP, Wilson’s narrative is not noticeably partisan (perhaps because he began his career in the Social Democratic Party [SDP]) and he provides some intriguing background detail on this episode in British history.1 But is there a comparable book on the economic arguments that underpin the Coalition? We might normally expect Her Majesty’s Opposition to have something – substantial – to say. But, apart from occasional moments of denial, the Labour Party position appears to be that it accepts the general assumptions made by the new government and would pursue broadly similar policies – but would either take twice as long to implement them and/or would hope something beneficial might turn up in the meantime. Unlike the 1980s (or during its previous spells in the wilderness in the 1930s and ‘50s) there are no major arguments being made or proposals published by anyone in the Labour Party. The absence of real debate or consideration of possible alternatives is striking. 1 Wilson joined the SDP while at university in 1987. He followed a minority of its members into the Conservative Party (Danny Finkelstein being one), was elected a Conservative councillor in Reading in 1992 and became MP for Reading East in 2005. The 2010 crisis Perhaps the root cause of the Labour Party’s current difficulties is that it didn’t expect to lose the 2010 general election. The possibility of a hung Parliament appears to have genuinely taken it by surprise – at all levels.2 This is odd. Any reading of the 2005 result ought to have signalled problems: Labour had won a majority with a seriously diminished vote; the Conservatives had (finally) made some gains; the Liberal Democrats had advanced further; support for the SNP, Plaid Cymru, UKIP, the Green Party, the BNP and Respect had grown; and for the second successive election the largest bloc within the electorate was those who didn’t vote at all. Anyone with experience of electoral politics should have looked at the figures and concluded that the UK wasn’t that far off a hung Parliament in 2005. Or to put it another way: the next election would be very close indeed. The Conservative Party clearly had advisers who told them that. More importantly David Cameron, its new leader, was prepared to take a considered view about how to deal with this eventuality. In 2006 he invited Brian Walden to address the Conservative Parliamentary Party on likely scenarios it would face during and after the next general election. Walden was an astute choice to give this advice to a partisan audience. An experienced media pundit (and therefore deemed to be unbiased) he had been a follower of Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell in the 1950s, a Labour MP from 1964 to 1977, a supporter and associate of the founder members of the SDP, and, like them, an advocate of a centrist realignment of UK politics. During his career as an MP and TV commentator he frequently made vinegary assertions about 2 Personal experience – from speaking to several Labour MPs in 2008-2009. the Labour Party, particularly during the 1980s and ‘90s.3 Walden advised reaching out to the Liberal Democrats and finding common ground with them, because an election in 2009-2010 would result in a hung parliament. Further: in 2006 George Osborne approached Lib-Dem MP David Laws and asked him to join the Conservatives. This indicates a degree of planning unusual in contemporary UK politics and shows that long before 2010 Cameron and Osborne realised the commonalities they had with some of the more recently elected Liberal Democrat MP’s: a primary allegiance to personal liberty and a belief in free market economics.4 None of this mattered very much in 2006 or in 2007 when Gordon Brown finally ascended to the position of prime minister. If he thought about it at all, given his personal dealings with senior Liberal Democrats Ashdown, Kennedy, Campbell and Cable, Brown would have assumed that the Liberal Democrats would never do a deal with the Conservatives. But in late 2007 things changed. Firstly, Brown did not call an election to legitimise his position. Secondly, Sir Menzies Campbell – a friend of his – was ousted as leader of the Liberal Democrats. Campbell’s removal, following an extensive media campaign, led by the Murdoch press, which also disliked Brown,5 was based on nothing more than generalised 3 Walden was president of the Oxford Union in 1957. Talent-spotted by the GMWU, he was adopted as a parliamentary candidate by them, fighting a bye-election at Oswestry in 1961, before being elected for Birmingham All Saints in 1964. He resigned his seat in June 1977 to take up a job with London Weekend TV alongside Peter Jay. Given the number of Labour bye-election defeats at this time, and the fact that James Callaghan was running a minority government, his resignation was not helpful to his own party. 4 Laws’ career has a trajectory typical of those on the Westminster right: private education, Cambridge, career in investment banking. He was elected to parliament in 2001 as MP for Yeovil. 5 The Leveson Enquiry will no doubt ruminate on this relationship in detail. It appears that Brown doggedly tried to keep in with News International despite their interference in his private affairs, but did not impress. He was not regarded by Murdoch as ‘a winner’ and Murdoch, who likes to be on the winning side, therefore switched support to Cameron. innuendo.6 It led in due course to the emergence of Nick Clegg who conformed to the contemporary UK template for the leaders of political parties: boyish good looks, an automatic default to free market policies and a generally centre right, suburban outlook. Clegg defeated his closest rival Chris Huhne by a tiny margin, with a significant number of pro-Huhne votes being discounted.7 In his book Rob Wilson MP points out that Clegg had – apparently – been a member of the Conservative Association at Cambridge University, and that he later worked for Thatcher cabinet member Sir Leon Brittain when Brittain was an EU Commissioner. It was clear, then, that Clegg might be more inclined than his predecessors to talk to the Conservatives. With only a small amount of hindsight, and recognising the curious subplot that led to the demise of Kennedy, Campbell (and Huhne) in quick succession, can we say that by late 2007 the tectonic plates of UK domestic politics were starting to move? Certainly by 2008 there was a receptive audience at the highest levels of the Civil Service for a government that would ‘take decisions’. Such opinions should be seen in the context that Blair had already admitted that he spent his entire first term (1997-2001) learning the job and Brown’s priorities appeared to be endlessly gauging his immediate political advantage and calculating how to remain in control.8 Wilson 6 During Campbell’s spell as Liberal Democrat Leader (2006-2007) the party won the Dunfermline and West Fife bye-election. Campbell rebuffed an offer from Brown in June 2007 to include two Liberal Democrat peers in his newly formed government, reasoning at that point that with a majority of 60 Brown could not reasonably claim to need to form a coalition. 7 Clegg defeated Huhne by a margin of 511 votes. However 1,300 postal votes were ‘delayed in the Christmas post’ and missed the election deadline. A count of these showed that the bulk were from Huhne supporters: enough for him to have won the election. Huhne had been a Labour Party member from 1975 and (like Vincent Cable and Charles Kennedy) left Labour to join the SDP in 1981. Some consider that had he been Liberal Democrat leader in 2010 he would have been more open than Clegg to a deal with Gordon Brown. 8 As with many of Blair’s statements this is not strictly accurate. He had taken a prior position in 1994 (when making his deal with Brown) to hand over responsibility for the domestic agenda to Brown. He finally decided to wrest back control over some of this after his first term. notes that the Civil Service, Treasury and Bank of England were all eager for a change and states (without indicating the source) that ‘there was concern for some time that the government were putting off decisions.’ In particular Bank of English governor Mervyn King was terribly worried about ‘the size of the deficit’ and ‘government overspending’. In 2009, in accordance with the usual procedures that operated in the run-up to a general election, the Civil Service met with Cameron and Osborne and emerged enthused: Cameron and Osborne had plans and would carry them out. None of this indicates political bias per se. All senior civil servants want to know where they stand, want an idea about the consistency and direction of government policy, and want to be able to relay to those below them and the wider world, with confidence, when, how and by whom a decision will be made. They felt that they didn’t get much of this from Labour and found Cameron and Osborne refreshing by comparison. The supposed private views of the senior civil servants about politicians have been the subject of comedy and ribald drama for half a century.9 Unlike the past, though, private opinions such as these were now to be put on a firmer footing than had previously been the case in the UK. Wilson says that in 2009 (when Labour was so far behind in the polls that no historical precedent could be found for an electoral recovery from such a position) the Civil Service began ‘war gaming’ the possible outcomes of the 2010 general election. Sir Gus O’Donnell, its head, supervised this because he was ‘concerned that the rules in the case of a hung Parliament needed to be clear.’ Furthermore: ‘Buckingham Palace were 9 Notably in the radio series The Men from The Ministry (1962-1977) which portrayed the UK Civil Service as silly ass, public school-educated bureaucrats meddling comically in trivia, with MPs as lofty, remote figures; and in the immensely popular TV series, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister (1980-1988), which had as their central plot device a pathetic and hapless politician who is effortlessly outmanoeuvred by self-serving senior officials. They were co-written by Sir Anthony Jay, a right-wing polemicist, whose production company also produced the 1979 BBC series Free to Choose in which Peter Jay (his cousin) sympathetically interviewed Milton Friedman about his monetarist views. There is a clear undertow of cynicism and contempt for parliamentary democracy evident in these programmes. anxious to have it sorted out prior to Polling Day.’ O’Donnell’s activities were not given a great deal of publicity and culminated in a seminar, held at Ditchley Park, in November 2009, under the auspices of The Institute of Government. A selection of academics, civil servants, politicians and the chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee were invited to attend. Following this event O’Donnell drafted ‘A Compendium of the Laws, Conventions and Constitutional Underpinning of the UK System of Government’. Apparently anodyne, buried in its text were suggestions about how the Civil Service would ‘assist’ the formation of an administration if a general election failed to give any one party an overall majority in the House of Commons. It only remained that the document should – in some way – be ‘officially’ approved or accepted by Parliament. O’Donnell sent it to Dr Tony Wright MP, the chair of the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, who declined to consider it.10 It was then sent to Sir Alan Beith MP, chair of the Ministry of Justice Select Committee, where it was adopted on 23 February 2010. It was never debated or voted on in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. As Rob Wilson MP notes on page 59 of his book: ‘The Civil Service, rather covertly, had got what it wanted: a set of rules that it administered and therefore controlled.’ 11 The coalition After the 2010 general election Cabinet Secretary O’Donnell contacted the Liberal Democrats and ushered them into meetings with the Bank of England and the head of the Security Service on Friday 6 May 2010. He and his officials also briefed both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaderships on the latest economic figures – a briefing which the Liberal Democrats said afterwards presented a picture of 10 Because it would have split his committee along party lines, he said. 11 Although O’Donnell spoke to selected politicians, civil servants, academics and bankers in 2009-2010, at no point does he appear to have consulted either the leadership of the large trade unions or any of the significant players in UK manufacturing, both of whom were, once again, ignored in a matter of national importance. the economy being in a much worse position than had been known (or admitted) prior to the election. Following this O’Donnell organised direct talks between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, which started on Saturday 7 May. Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had been aware of the possibility of a hung Parliament for some time (the Conservatives since 2006-2007 and the Liberal Democrats since 2009) and had already assembled and given careful thought to the composition of their negotiating teams.12 Their discussions were staged with significant pomp and formality: elegant surroundings, Treasury officials and the Queen’s personal secretary present, the governor of the Bank of England on hand to underscore the gravity of the situation. While these events unfolded, Labour belatedly put together its negotiating team. Brown selected a curious bunch: Lord Adonis, Ed Balls, Harriet Harman, Lord Mandelson and Ed Miliband. As an ex-SDP activist, Adonis seems a reasonable enough choice and would have had been expected to have some appeal to the Liberal Democrats.13 It is not clear, though, what Miliband or Balls brought to the table other than a brusque, no nonsense attitude to the subsequent negotiations. Harman did not turn up to the first talks with Clegg’s team, and at the second round forgot which portfolios Huhne dealt with for the Liberal Democrats. The choice of Mandelson was poor – though his reputation and media profile probably made it inevitable that he simply had to be involved in anything important. But surely by 2010 there were some people in Labour who could have seen that he was a busted flush whose mannerisms and hauteur had been seen through? Why did Brown not choose Peter Hain or Alan 12 The Conservative team were William Hague, George Osborne (both approachable, clubbable, urbane and considered) and Oliver Letwin, a member of the Liberal Club at Cambridge University in the 1970s. The Liberal Democrat team were Danny Alexander, David Laws (both centre-right ‘modernisers’), Chris Huhne (a possible link with Labour) and Andrew Stunnell, a very traditional ‘old’ Liberal, active in the Party for nearly 40 years. 13 Adonis joined the SDP in 1984, was an SDP councillor in Oxford from 1987, wrote for the Financial Times from 1991 and was adopted as a Liberal Democrat PPC in 1994. He resigned in 1996 and joined the Labour Party in 1997 Johnson to negotiate with the Liberal Democrats? Another surprise – at this critical moment for the Labour Party – was the disappearance of David Miliband. Ordained by many as Brown’s automatic successor, no role was found for him.14 When the Labour-Liberal Democrat discussions did eventually take place they were far less grand than those O’Donnell arranged between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats: less opulent surroundings, fewer civil servants, no one from the Palace, the head of MI5 not around to give urgent advice. It all felt a bit perfunctory and was not helped by Labour failing to put a clear deal to the Liberal Democrats. (When asked by his team what they should present to the Liberal Democrats as a starting point for talks, Brown, apparently, suggested that they hand them the Labour Party manifesto.) The one thing Labour could have conceded that would have scuppered the Clegg-Cameron conversations – immediate introduction of changes to the voting system in the shape of the Alternative Vote (AV) system, without a referendum – was never offered, possibly because too many senior figures in the Labour Party were against it at any price.15 The general tone of the discussions was amateurish with a stumbling block emerging very early on: following O’Donnell’s and King’s briefing on the economy, the Liberal Democrat negotiating team (at least two of whom were in any case free market Liberals) were now convinced that there had to be an urgent and substantial programme of 14 The psychology of how to negotiate with another political party was clearly not thought through by Brown. Hain – with a long history in the Liberal Party – and Johnson, an extremely accessible and adroit negotiator who openly favoured electoral reform, would have been better choices than Balls, Miliband or Mandelson. 15 Why was AV such a big deal in 2010? In 1998 it was adopted by Labour – without a referendum – for elections to the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Greater London Assembly. cuts, something that Labour would not countenance.16 The Labour-Liberal Democrat talks finally came to an end on 11 May. A few hours later it was announced that there would be a formal Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, led by Cameron and Clegg, with significant government portfolios for the Liberal Democrats, and a written agreement that it would last until 2015. Some reflections Why did Brown let O’Donnell produce a guide on how to ‘deal’ with a hung parliament? Wilson and Heath wouldn’t have agreed to let the Civil Service referee the formation of a government. Nor would Thatcher.17 After all, there had been hung parliaments in 1923, 1929, 1974 and 1976; and John Major had no workable majority after 1994. The previous arrangements had actually been very simple. At the point the hung parliament came into existence, the incumbent was given some time by the Crown (usually a weekend, sometimes longer) to see if they could form an administration that could continue to conduct business by either formal (i.e. via a coalition) or informal (i.e. a minority government) means. The only crucial factor determining these arrangements in years past was ensuring that whatever government emerged could survive from vote to vote in the House of Commons – not that it had to have an absolute majority at all times, and certainly 16 Adonis’s ‘thesis [is] that the Lib Dems should have reached an agreement with Labour, having more in common with them than with the Tories, but never took the negotiations seriously. All they did, he suspects, is keep Labour talking to strengthen their hand in the only negotiations they took seriously, with the Conservatives.’ 17 Because in our ‘unwritten’ constitution the Civil Service is loyal and accountable to the Crown, not parliament. How easy it was for the establishment to get its way in 2009-2010, requiring only a little manoeuvring and the agreement of a small parliamentary committee. The lack of accountability the Civil Service has to parliament has recently been taken up as an issue by Margaret Hodge MP, who showed little interest in this previously. Perhaps Hodge, a well connected grande dame, is angry at being manoeuvred out of office, rather like Sidney Webb in 1931 (see below). not that there had to be a signed contract stating it would last 5 years.18 There had never been a lengthy ‘constitutional crisis’ in the UK, and there had never been a prolonged period without a functioning government. Why did O’Donnell change this? Did he just wake up one morning and decide to head off in this direction? Or were there discreet conversations that enabled him to run this agenda with confidence? Assuming the latter, it seems unlikely that the UK ‘establishment’ (a rarely sighted and careful beast) would admit to such a thing. But, given that the effect of the arrangements was to (a) prevent Brown being in pole position to put a deal together and (b) to ensure that, even if he did, anything he came up with would have to be agreed and codified by the Civil Service, it could be fairly claimed that O’Donnell’s intervention was always much more likely to clip Labour’s wings than those of any other participant. Why would the ‘establishment’ have wanted to do any of this? Some ideas: * Labour had reformed the House of Lords removing most of the hereditary peers. * Labour had banned hunting with dogs. (In a rare example of an overt Royal intervention, the Queen personally raised her concerns about this with a flustered and embarrassed Blair, who on this issue, found his party united against him). * Labour was starting to challenge the charitable status of public schools. * Labour withdrew the Royal Yacht Britannia from service. (The Queen wept when it was decommissioned.) * Blair behaved publicly like a president appearing to usurp the role reserved to the Crown. * The military were upset. Like most people who knew something about Saddam Hussein, they didn’t really want the second Iraq war, they wanted to leave Afghanistan much earlier, were fed up with Chancellor Brown’s cuts and 18 This reality was voiced by Lord Ashdown during the Cameron-Clegg talks, to no great effect. Ashdown was not an important party to the negotiations. disinterest and – possibly – were aggrieved at being so obviously subordinate to the US. * In 1998 Blair scrapped the last remaining nuclear weapons (some guided bombs dating from the 1960s and ‘70s) that could be used independently by the UK. Only Trident, borrowed from the US and under ‘joint’ (from the point of view of the US, sole US) control, was retained. An important conjuring trick of British foreign policy and an essential element of the stage management of UK domestic politics was laid bare. Alone of all the nuclear powers, the UK did not have an independent deterrent and a touch of the pathetic henceforth attended the grandiosity of British political leaders. It may have been thought in some quarters that things were getting to the point where the UK’s automatic slot on the UN Security Council would come to an end. This would be embarrassing. * As well as being very pro-US, Blair had been mildly pro- European. Even if only part of the above is true, it is deeply ironic that the Blair/Brown government – surely the apogee of centrist moderation – should have been seen as a threat by the UK establishment. In the days that followed Labour’s election loss in May 2010, Brown and his colleagues were put through the humiliating experience of having to remain at their ministerial desks while O’Donnell organised their replacements, signing the documents they were told to sign while powerless to change events.19 19 It was announced that O’Donnell would retire in August 2010, after the coalition had been formed and bedded down. He did so on 31 December 2011. Nine days earlier, in a kind of exit interview for a top person, he was quoted in the press as saying that the major challenge facing the government in the immediate future was ‘to keep our kingdom united’; i.e. to head off Alex Salmond and the SNP. O’Donnell moved to House of Lords and is politically active. In the spring of 2012 he promoted a former work colleague of his, Siobhain Benita, as an Independent candidate in the London Mayor elections. She gained 3.8% of the vote, more than the amount separating Johnson and Livingstone. I wonder if O’Donnell and Benita might launch a new centrist grouping to contest the 2014 Euro and 2015 Parliamentary elections; and, if they do, what their calculations might be. The 1976 crisis But, of course, we have been here before. Surely some of the participants, and others still on the political stage in 2010, remembered 1976, the IMF loan and the Lib-Lab pact? Liberal-Democrats Cable, Steel and Campbell certainly would; but, as noted, none were central figures in 2010. Peter Hain would – but again, Hain did not figure in the 2010 discussions. Gordon Brown? A parliamentary hopeful in 1976, and a keen student of Labour history, Brown might have been expected to know. Perhaps they should all have read their history books, or failing that, Andy Beckett’s excellent account of what happened in 1976 in his When The Lights Went Out (Faber and Faber, 2009). The 1976 events began when the Treasury mandarins advised Prime Minister James Callaghan and Chancellor of the Exchequer Dennis Healey that the Public Sector Borrowing Requirements for 1977-78 and 1978-79 would be exceptionally high, £22bn in total. On this basis the Labour government decided to request a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and did so on 29 September 1976. Responding to this, US President Gerald Ford sent his Treasury Secretary, William Simon, to London, on what was supposedly a private visit on 26 October.20 Here he met UK Treasury officials – without the knowledge of Prime Minister Callaghan and Chancellor of the Exchequer Healey – and agreed with them ‘the parameters’ for what the IMF (in which the US was the largest player) would offer the UK, and how the Callaghan government would have to comply with this. It turned out that these ‘parameters’ were very similar to the utterances that littered the 1970s from various US and IMF figures about whether or not (and it was usually not) the UK could ‘afford’ its 20 William E Simon was a staunch advocate of laissez-faire capitalism. The Washington Post commented on 26 October 2007: ‘Mr. Simon is commonly acknowledged as a legendary architect of the modern conservative movement. But he was also legendarily mean. “A mean, nasty, tough bond trader who took no BS from anyone,” in the words of his old friend Edwin Feulner, President of the Heritage Foundation. Simon was known to awaken his children on weekend mornings by dousing their heads with buckets of cold water.’ ‘very high’ levels of social and welfare expenditure (a commentary that the US did not necessarily offer other countries). Simon returned to Washington and reported to Ford the outcome of his secret talks; Ford contacted the head of the IMF, Johannes Witteveen, and suggested that the IMF send a team of advisers to London. This ensured maximum publicity for their negotiations with the Labour government.21 The IMF visit took place against a backdrop of press coverage that said that Labour were economically incompetent and that requesting a loan from the IMF was shameful and unprecedented. During the visit there were parliamentary byeelections at Walsall North (4 November 1976) and Workington (14 November 1976) both of which Labour failed to hold. These defeats cost Callaghan his majority in the House of Commons. Speculation abounded about whether his government could survive and whether the ‘crisis’ was worse than he or Chancellor of the Exchequer Healey were admitting. IMF head Witteveen came to London and told Callaghan on 1 December 1976 that his government would have to make cuts to get a loan. After a bit of bluster Callaghan agreed. To implement the IMF deal three weeks of cabinet meetings followed – all conducted in a gravely serious atmosphere – before the cuts were agreed and announced on 21 December 1976. Three months later the Treasury announced that fresh calculations now showed the PSBR for 1977-1978 would be 50% of the amount they had told Callaghan and Healey six months earlier. The cuts were not needed and nor was the IMF loan. The Lib-Lab pact The arguments used to create the IMF loan crisis were so 21 Johannes Witteveen came to prominence in the VVD/Peoples Party for Freedom and Democracy, a relatively centre-right, pro-free market Dutch political party. He served as head of the IMF 1973-1978. Negotiations between the IMF and borrowing nations are usually conducted in anonymous office buildings in unspectacular provincial locations, not in a capital city in the full glare of press and media publicity. artificial that one can only wonder if they were fabricated to produce a split in the Callaghan cabinet. Was it assumed that the cabinet would be unable to agree and that Callaghan would have to request a dissolution? Had this happened in, say, November/December 1976, with the opinion polls saying Conservatives 55%, Labour 30%, Margaret Thatcher would have been elected Prime Minister. Are we seeing here a repeat, in 1976, of the tactics used against Labour in 1931? If so, it is striking that they failed to produce the desired outcome. The Callaghan cabinet did not fall to pieces. Perhaps because the memory of 1931 as a ‘great betrayal’ was still so vivid to many in the labour movement, the cabinet showed a degree of resilience and cohesion that those working against it may not have expected.22 Jack Jones, general secretary of the TGWU and chief economic spokesman for the TUC at the time, spoke for the majority when he made the taciturn statement, ‘unity will be maintained’ when questioned by the press. But Tony Benn and Anthony Crosland, leaders of the those who wanted to defy the IMF, failed to get the cabinet to take a different course. Another interesting feature of the 1976 ‘crisis’ was how quickly it happened once Harold Wilson was no longer prime minister. Unlike Callaghan and Healey, Wilson knew a great deal about economics, and may have seen through the arguments made by the Treasury. He also had his own opinions about the loyalties, particularly toward a Labour government, of Her Majesty’s Civil Service, and had demonstrated, from time to time, an ability to outmanoeuvre 22 The historical parallels with 1931 were made clear by Tony Benn who requested the Cabinet minutes of 1931 and gave copies to some colleagues and Labour-supporting media. See his Against the Tide: Diaries 1973-76 (London: Hutchinson, 1989) pp. 649, 654, 680. them.23 Bernard Donoughue, senior policy adviser to both Wilson and Callaghan, recollected being told – rather jocularly – by a Treasury official in the summer of 1976 that ‘what you need is a crisis that frightens Ministers into accepting (the Treasury view)....The bigger the crisis the more you can frighten Ministers. It’s what we call the Treasury bounce....’ 24 Researching his book, Andy Beckett tracked down and interviewed Sir William Eyrie (UK Treasury up until 1975, IMF thereafter) and asked how he and his colleagues felt at the time about the 1976 events. Eyrie gave a classic, dry, understated, English reply: ‘The window had opened’. Beckett asks what he meant by this. Eyrie said carefully: ‘An opportunity to pursue better policies.’ Ah.....better policies; an admirable objective, against which no one could, surely, argue. Some reflections Was the UK economy in a crisis in 1976? Neither UK government spending, nor the UK national debt, nor taxation as an overall proportion of average earnings were as high in the UK in 1976 as they were in some other, comparable, countries. Inflation and unemployment, though difficult, were no longer rising and it could be claimed that the government had them under control.25 Much was made of ‘the country 23 Wilson was under constant pressure from the Treasury and Bank of England to cut public spending. He was also the subject of gossip about his loyalties, and, possibly, serious attempts at removal and replacement by a national government. The political difficulties faced by Callaghan started in July 1976 with the formation of the breakaway Scottish Labour Party, which two Labour MPs joined. This and the loss of the two bye-elections in November 1976 lost Labour its overall majority – though it could count, usually, on the support of the SDLP and, on a vote by vote basis, of the Welsh and Scots Nationalist MPs. A formal ‘pact’ with the Liberal Party was announced in March 1977 to ensure a workable parliamentary majority at all times. 24 A senior lecturer in politics at the LSE in the 1960s, Bernard Donoughue was appointed senior policy adviser to Harold Wilson in 1974 and maintained this position under James Callaghan. 25 For instance unemployment peaked in August 1976 and then fell slowly. running out of money’ and the shame of the UK asking for a loan. But asking for an IMF loan was not unusual. Many countries did so. Nor was it true that Labour had mismanaged the economy. The economic difficulties that Callaghan and Wilson faced, particularly with regard to inflation, were due to (1) the Heath/Barber credit boom of 1972/3 getting out of hand and (2) the tripling of oil prices after the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Andy Beckett interviewed Dennis Healey about 1976. Healey said of the Treasury: ‘...any excuse they can find for getting spending cut they will take. It wasn’t so much a conspiracy against the government as an attempt to get the policies they believed in....The whole thing was unnecessary. If I’d had the right figures I needn’t have gone to the IMF. Very irritating, but there you are.’ Very irritating? It must be, being first set up and then lied to by unaccountable civil servants. Beckett noted that Healey’s comments about it not being a conspiracy seemed to be a matter of semantics.26 The 1931 crisis But, of course, in 1976 we had been there before. The events in 1931 started when a vote of censure was proposed against Ramsay MacDonald’s minority Labour administration by the Conservative opposition on the grounds that a considerable amount of government expenditure was ‘wasteful’. The Conservatives justified this because of a series of poor monthly trade figures – this information then being regularly published for the first time. To head this off MacDonald and his chancellor, Philip Snowden, accepted a counter proposal from the Liberal Party to set up a Committee of National Expenditure, under Sir George May, to enquire into what measures were needed to strengthen the economy and 26 Some of the conspiratorial aspects of this incident, including the IMF secretly rewriting the conditions of the loan after the negotiations had concluded, are discussed by Robin Ramsay in ‘Back to the future’ in Lobster 34. maintain confidence in Sterling.27 The May Committee produced alarming, but not unanimous, conclusions. It recommended ‘savings’ of £96.5m, mainly by cutting pay and benefits, without which it declared a crisis as being imminent. It confirmed that the fault lay in government spending being too high; and, because Sterling was pegged to the Gold Standard, if deposits of gold held by the Bank of England were withdrawn from the UK either due to a ‘lack of confidence in Sterling’ or due to the owners of the gold requiring access to the metal elsewhere, the country would quickly ‘run out of money’. MacDonald and his Chancellor, Philip Snowden, made some tentative enquiries about how to remedy this situation. They were told by the Treasury that: (1) they could not reduce the annual payments to the Sinking Fund (i.e. the financial tool used to pay the interest on the National Debt); (2) that the pound must, at all costs, remain pegged to the Gold Standard; and (3) that the savings the Labour government proposed of £56m were not sufficient. The National Government At this point MacDonald told the King that he could not continue in office. But his offer to resign on 23 August 1931 was rejected. Instead the King asked him to remain as prime minister of a national government. The following day, without consulting his colleagues, he agreed to do so, so that sufficient cuts could be made to balance the budget. The bulk of MacDonald’s Labour Party colleagues went into opposition and refused to support the national government. Curiously, now that MacDonald and Snowden were no longer in a Labour government, the advice they received from the Treasury changed. Snowden was told he could reduce the annual payments to the Sinking Fund. He did so in an Emergency Budget announced on 10 September 1931 and promptly increased the projected savings by £14m to 27 Sir George May was Secretary of the Prudential Assurance Company from 1915 to 1931. £70m, which the Treasury now deemed sufficient to ‘maintain confidence’ in Sterling. Some of these new savings involved pay cuts for the armed forces. The threat of this produced a very brief refusal to obey orders in the Home Fleet prior to the summer manoeuvres. To foreign observers – with memories of the end result of naval mutinies in Russia and Germany in 1917-1918 – this looked ominous and some panicky withdrawals of gold from the Bank of England followed. The pay cuts in the armed forces were immediately reinstated and the Treasury changed its advice again. On 21 September they agreed that the Gold Standard would be suspended. There was no crisis. Allowing the UK banking sector to operate on the basis of carefully issuing credit – rather than a literal reliance on the amount of gold held in bank vaults – confidence in the economy and Sterling quickly recovered. The final act was political. Once Labour had been ousted from office and the cuts made, parliament was dissolved and a general election held on 27 October 1931. The Conservatives, the Liberals and a small ex-Labour remnant that had collected around Ramsay MacDonald, campaigned on the basis that they had come together in the national interest to reduce the deficit and sort the economy out after the mess left by the preceding Labour government. The three parties participating in the national government put up only one candidate from a pro-national government party in each constituency against Labour. This ensured that the anti-Labour vote would be collected behind a single individual in each constituency, and maximised the chance of gaining the seat and removing Labour from the political landscape. These tactics were brilliantly effective: 470 Conservatives and 67 Liberals were elected, against 52 Labour. Given the nature of the UK electoral system it was possible to think, at this point, that Labour would not be in a position to form another government for at least 20 years, if at all. Some reflections Hindsight is not required when making a critique of these events. In 1931 many saw through the arguments being used to remove Labour from office and enact a significant reduction in public spending. John Maynard Keynes described the May Committee report as ‘the most foolish document I have ever had the misfortune to read’. It was striking that the May Committee did not address or offer any solutions to the immediate cause of the UK’s economic difficulties in 1931, namely that UK banks had significant deposits in their Austrian and German counterparts and could not access these once US banks started to insist on the repayment of reparations due (to the US) in full after the 1929 Wall Street Crash.28 Another interesting feature of the ‘crisis’ stemmed from the apparently innocuous request in late 1930 for the Treasury to start publishing monthly balance of payments estimates. Prior to this date this had not been the case, as indeed was the procedure in most countries. The figures themselves were extremely broad brush and their accuracy was frequently not known for many months after their appearance – the precise reason pre-1930 for not producing them on a monthly basis. Once published, though, they attracted immense publicity and remained a critical feature of domestic UK political life, breathlessly anticipated each month by the media until the UK’s entry into the EEC in 1973 when regular bulletins about how the Sterling Area was performing became somewhat less important.29 The mixture of assertions and assumptions that the Treasury deployed when dealing (with a Labour administration) looked unconvincing even in 1931. Was it 28 Ramsay MacDonald did enquire if the major US banks would modify their demands – they declined. The issue of the ‘crisis’ revolving primarily around US banks, the implosion of a speculative bubble and the problems in obtaining reparations payments from Germany and Austria was not tackled – or mentioned – by Sir George May, who focussed narrowly on issues to do with UK government spending. This could have been because May had been manager of the American Dollars Securities Committee from 1915 to 1918. This was set up by the UK government to oversee the collection of securities held by British firms in the US to help advance the UK war effort. 29 See AJP Taylor’s English History 1914-1945 (London, 1965) p. 362. The reverence with which these estimates were treated was derided as early as 1948, by The Banker, a magazine specialising in City affairs. really necessary to go through the contortions of forming a national government merely to reduce public spending by an additional £14m per annum, an amount equivalent to 0.35% of GDP at the time? Was it really the case that public spending in the UK was ‘too high’ in 1931? Even then the UK did not spend as much on social insurance, education and health as some other European countries.30 Why did the Treasury not volunteer a range of advice? They could have mentioned, for instance, that, contrary to their view that it would be fatal to suspend the Gold Standard, when this had been done in 1847 and 1866 following damaging ‘runs’ on UK banks after extended periods of speculative expansion, the tactic had been very successful. Lord Passfield (Sidney Webb) a close observer of and participant in the 1931 manoeuvres, served as Colonial Secretary in MacDonald’s Labour government. A massively influential figure of the time, Passfield had been an early member of the Fabians in the 1880s, a founder of the London School of Economics in the 1890s and co-host with Beatrice Webb for over 30 years of the premier ‘left’ UK political and literary salon. In 1931, despite all his credentials and qualifications, he was clearly left bewildered by the approach toward him and his colleagues by the real establishment. His comment about the variation in the advice given by the Treasury to the coalition that replaced the minority Labour administration – ‘Nobody told us we could do this’ – was seen for many years thereafter as showing how out of its depth the Labour Party was at this stage in its development with major policy issues or trying to effectively pull the levers of power. Conclusions The politics Who acted as midwife at the birth of the 2010 coalition? Rob Wilson MP highlights the role played by Sir Gus O’Donnell, but something ought to be said, too, about the Institute of Government. Founded in 2009 by Lord Sainsbury – and 30 Czechoslovakia and Austria for instance. therefore a new organisation when running O’Donnell’s conference on how a hung parliament should be managed – the Institute of Government is funded by Sainsbury and includes on its Board of Governors Lord Simon and Lord Heseltine.31 It either employs directly or uses the services from time to time of an array of academics and ex-civil servants (as one would perhaps expect in an organisation of this type). Of greater interest are the names that can be found in the ‘Our People’ section of their website. Ten, including Jonathan Powell and Sir Michael Barber, had been Blairite staffers at 10 Downing Street. Another name that crops up is professor Vernon Bogdanor, also a member of the American free market think tank the Henry Jackson Society. What do we make of this? Is this merely a group of wellintentioned, technocratic centrists, engaged in their eternal pursuit of a more rational, less party-centred politics? Or does the presence of all those former Blair staffers – and Blair’s chief financial backer, Lord Sainsbury – suggest that it is a kind of Blairite revenge on Gordon Brown, the final method used to drag him down after all the attempted coups in 2008-2010 came to nought, foundering against the traditional mainstream loyalties of the Labour Party (loyalties ingrained, ironically, after the 1931 debacle)? Or was the brokering by the Institute of Government of O’Donnell’s arrangements in 2009 an attempt by Sainsbury and his friends to ensure that Labour stayed in office after 2010? Did they mistakenly think (not unreasonably) that Labour would still remain the biggest party 31 Lord Sainsbury joined the SDP on its formation in 1981, and throughout its existence was its largest single funder. He rejoined the Labour Party in 1996 and served for many years as a minor government minister, finally stepping down in late 2006. Sainsbury also funds Progress, which, like The Institute for Government, has a significant following among Blairite supporters and activists. The existence of Progress as a (comparatively) well resourced pro-free market, pro-US, pro-Israel body within the Labour Party had led some to describe it as a ‘party within a party’ a la Militant and to demand, somewhat theatrically, its expulsion from the Labour Party. On the subject of Blair and his followers continuing to be of influence, The Times published a piece on 30 May 2012 claiming that Cameron and Blair were in fairly regular contact and that Matthew Taylor and Geoff Mulgan were being consulted by the Downing Street policy unit. in a hung parliament and that Brown would therefore call the shots, until, with their benediction, he made a dignified exit and was replaced by a better, younger, leader (Miliband D.)? In other words, were they trying to be clever? Or is it just a group of well connected and opinionated people finding something with which they can meddle? Whatever the explanation, given the failure of the coalition’s absurd growth-through-austerity economic policies, it would have been a lot better for the country (and the Labour Party) if they had done nothing.32 Some mention should also be made of the Ditchley Foundation, the owners of the venue where O’Donnell held his conference. O’Donnell is a governor of the Ditchley Foundation, serving alongside a galaxy of Atlanticist contemporaries, including Lord Robertson, Baroness Williams, Lord Brittain, David Cameron, Lord Carrington, Lord Howe, Lord Hurd, Sir John Major, David Miliband, Lord Patten, Jack Straw, Lord Adonis, Gisela Stuart, Tessa Jowell, Geoff Mulgan, Will Hutton, Rory Stewart and Peter Jay.33 With the exception of Hutton most of the above could be considered centre-right in economic and foreign policy terms. Certainly, most of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat alumni connected with the 32 The possibility should also be entertained that the starting point for all O’Donnell’s activities might have been banal – the Queen was 84 years old in 2010 and might not have wanted the responsibility of being involved on a day-to-day basis with overseeing the formation of a workable government in the event of a hung parliament. The counter to this, however, would be that the Crown is not terribly involved even in these circumstances – the responsibility would always be left with the politicians, as was the case in 1974. Presumably even if the Queen were tired, ill or otherwise indisposed, her duties could always be delegated to her successor. All things considered there simply does not seem to have been a convincing case in favour of changing the arrangements for forming a government in the event of a hung parliament – other than that some in the establishment favoured having a say in the matter. 33 Peter Jay was UK ambassador to the US 1977-1979 and James Callaghan’s son-in-law. Beckett interviews him in his book on the 1970s where Jay calls Harold Wilson and Harold MacMillan ‘disgusting, horrible, contemptible people’.(p. 358) Both, of course, are dead and cannot sue. Both also believed in heavily expansionist roles for the state and usually found ways around, or simply ignored, the arguments of the Treasury. Ditchley Foundation (where they form an overwhelming majority) represent parties that have benefited from the O’Donnell arrangements. The economics The official narrative behind the formation of the Coalition is that – like 1931 – it was formed by the Conservatives and Liberals when they nobly set aside their differences and came together to sort out the dreadful mess in the national finances caused by the previous (Labour) government. An obvious problem with this version of events is that it is not supported, except in a highly generalised way (yes – there has been an implosion of a speculative banking bubble; and, yes – the Greek economy, 2% of the Euro area, has got problems) by any facts. On 19 January 2012, for instance, The Times published an article comparing the UK economy with its main international rivals. Its main observations were: * The UK has a low level of government debt (81%) compared to others (e.g. France 87%). * The UK has a low national debt (76% of GDP) compared to a world average of 79% with noticeably higher levels in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Canada, the USA and Japan. * The UK has high levels of personal debt (though not the highest in the world) and very high levels of corporate debt after extensive reliance on US financial models. (Essentially the problem with this level of debt is that individuals are either too worried to spend or do not long have the funds to do so. The orthodox Keynesian remedy for this is that the state should step in and replace the lost demand: this is what the Coalition will not recognise.) In the build-up to Osborne’s 2012 budget a further article appeared in The Times on 22 March comparing the UK economy with other, mainly, European countries. This concluded: * The standard rate of income tax is 59% in France, 50% in Italy, 36% in Germany, 36% in Ireland (after restructuring – it was lower before) and 33% in Sweden. It is 23% in the UK. * Taxes in the UK are 39% of GDP and the UK runs – due to its lowish taxes – a budget deficit proportionally the same as France. However Israel, Japan, Greece, Ireland and the US are all greater. * Government spending in the UK is 47% of GDP (France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Finland are all higher). The point about the low level of personal income tax in the UK being an inbuilt fault line in the economy was made in an opinion piece in The Times by Chris Mullin on 19 March. The figures as given seem to suggest that if the UK wants a good quality, advanced, European-style economy then it needs to have a standard rate of income tax that is at or higher than 33%. However, the UK has not had this level of taxation since 1978. When Churchill started his second term (1951) the standard rate of income tax was 45%; when Macmillan became PM (1959) it was 42.5%; when Wilson started (1964) it was 38.75%. Heath reduced it to 33%, arguably the lowest level required to maintain public services at a good standard. In 1978 Callaghan cut it to 30% (in anticipation of a forthcoming election; but he didn’t call the election and the rate was never reinstated). Thatcher then reduced it to 25% on ideological grounds, with Brown cutting it to 23% in his final budget in 2007 (in anticipation of a forthcoming election; but he didn’t call the election and the rate has not been reinstated). In a nutshell: virtually all the infrastructure of the welfare state, and the beneficial expansion of education, health and other public services that took place in the UK between 1945 and 1979 were paid for because taxes were set at a normal – European normal – level. An even more curious absence is the official silence on why the UK does not have – like Norway and many other oil producing nations – a sovereign wealth fund. The possibility of this was raised, in Cabinet, by Tony Benn in 1978 who proposed that £5 billion initially, rising to 50% of the revenues generated by North Sea oil licences and exports, should be taken by the government and invested.34 He suggested that the monies should be used to strengthen UK manufacturing and fund infrastructure improvements. This was the path Norway went down after 1990 with the result that Norway, today, is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. In 1978 Benn was heard in silence, there was a perfunctory debate (lasting approximately 30 minutes), followed by a majority decision to use the revenues for tax cuts instead. Perhaps we should cut Callaghan, Healey and their colleagues a bit of slack here. After all, 1978 was very early days in the North Sea oil boom and Benn was not popular. But even with the Norwegian example to hand after 1990, the possibility of the UK doing this was never raised by Major, Blair or Brown. Wasn’t what to do with the oil revenues worth talking about? Didn’t anyone think the public might be interested in this? What advice did the Treasury give? The lack of awareness of this amongst the political class is striking – but the crucial point is that even if aware, they appear to have no appetite for such matters, preferring instead a US-style low taxation economy. The 30 minute, 1978 debate about a sovereign wealth fund contrasts markedly with the 3 weeks of earnest meetings that Callaghan and Healey were prepared to spend arranging budget cuts in 1976 on what turned out to spurious grounds. The future? Are we witnessing the birth of a new Britain? Or, to put it another way, is it now becoming clear the type of country that is emerging from the 30 plus years of free market economics that we have lived with, and which may remain a political fixture for the foreseeable future? It could be summarised thus: the wide ranging responsibilities assumed by the state after 1945 have now largely vanished. The only thing that the UK state will definitely guarantee its subjects in the near future will be a minimal old age pension and an elementary education. The 34 His account of the Cabinet rejecting this is on pp. 280/281 of his Conflicts of Interest, Diaries 1977-80 (London: Random Century, 1990). schools themselves will be mainly privately run and further education will be dependent on access to personal funding; and in any case will be mainly targeted at attracting incoming foreign students. There will be few employment rights and the UK state will certainly not guarantee any of its own citizens employment. Instead costs will be kept down by welcoming migrant labour from anywhere in the world. There will be no publicly owned and affordable public transport. Likewise, public housing at affordable prices – with security of tenure – will not be available. The armed forces will be tiny with an increasing reliance on private, mercenary organisations. The police will be operated and managed by private security companies and jails will be privately run. There will be an increasing reliance on paying for health care. Considering this wide-ranging and consistent approach to ordering life in the UK, the only comparison that comes to mind is with 18th century style mercantilism. Are we returning to this? A society in which wealth is based on trade, commerce and property ownership rather than manufacturing? In which public spending is kept at the lowest level commensurate with public order? A country in which the political elites are essentially parliamentary factions (the Brownites, the Blairites, the Eurosceptics etc. rather like the Peelites, Lord Rockingham’s XI etc. in previous times) rather than distinct ideological groupings? A country in which the Civil Service has a primary loyalty, as do the judiciary and the armed forces, to the Crown, rather than parliament? A common critique of UK economic and political life since 1945 has been that one of the problems has been the failure to take long term decisions or have a long term strategy. In 2012 and the country in which we now live a riposte to this argument might be that the UK establishment has indeed been pursuing, very successfully, a long term strategy of its own since at least the mid 1970s (and possibly since the mid 1950s), that this strategy has been carefully disguised, is now more overt, and is returning them to the type of society they last enjoyed fully in the 1930s. Chemtrails: the proof and the purpose T. J. Coles In 1996 people across the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, began noticing unmarked aeroplanes operating over their towns. The aeroplanes laid long, thick, persistent trails across the sky. These came to be known as chemtrails (chemical trails). As the operations intensified, NASA, aviation authorities, and military organisations responded to queries made by concerned citizens that the trails in question were merely condensation trails (contrails) generated by jets, which, they claimed, have always persisted and expanded in all temperatures, humidity levels, and altitudes. In reality, this is not the case and the aforementioned authorities do not address the fact that the aeroplanes in question are unmarked and occasionally military planes. Those who enter the contrail vs. chemtrail debate have already lost, as military-linked scientists (such as media favourite Patrick Minnis)1 can invent any atmospheric science theory to explain away persistent condensation. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of academic publications on so-called ‘persistent contrails’ were published from 1996 onwards, with an intensification of interest in the subject during the 1998- 1 On Minnis see For a small sample of the vast literature on so-called ‘persistent contrails’ which either relies on Patrick Minnis as a primary source or is NASA-associated research, see: Kenneth Sassen, ‘Contrail-Cirrus and Their Potential for Regional Climate Change’, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 78, No. 9, September 1997; F. Stordal, G. Myhre1, W. Arlander, T. Svendby, E. J. G. Stordal, W. B. Rossow, and D. S. Lee, ‘Is there a trend in cirrus cloud cover due to aircrafttraffic?’, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, No. 4, 6473–6501, 2004; R. Paoli, J. Helie, T. J. Poinsot, and S. Ghosal, ‘Contrail formation in aircraft wakes using large-eddy simulations’, Center for Turbulence Research Proceedings of the Summer Program, 2002; A. Carleton, D.J. Travis, K. Master, S. Vezhapparambu, ‘Composite Atmospheric Environments of Jet Contrail Outbreaks for the United States’, American Meteorological Society, Vol. 47, May, 2008; S. Dietmuller, M. Ponater, R. Sausen, K-P. Hoinka, and S. Pechtl, ‘Contrails, Natural Clouds, and Diurnal Temperature Range’, American Meteorological Society, Vol. 21, October 2008. 2002 period. If ‘persistent contrails’ have existed since commercial aviation began, why did significant academic interest begin in 1996, the year in which the US Air Force announced it would ‘own the weather’ via ‘injection of chemical vapors’ into the atmosphere? (Discussed below.) The first question a critical observer needs to ask is, ‘Why are unmarked planes operating over my town?’ The next question to ask is, ‘Why are the jets deviating from commercial flight-paths, violating commercial spacing laws, and performing manoeuvres impossible for commercial jets (crossing, making ‘u-turns’, performing near-vertical trajectories, etc.)?’ The final question to ask is, ‘Why are the non-commercial, unmarked planes making long, thick, persistent, expanding trails, but the marked, commercial planes are not?’ The chemtrail operations are well documented by the US military and suggest that chemtrails are part of the Pentagon’s quest to achieve Full Spectrum Dominance by the year 2020. Because the ionosphere affects both, it has been understood for decades that weather modification and radio communications dominance are two sides of the same coin. By releasing vast amounts of piezoelectric substances [materials that generate electrical voltage in response to applied mechanical stress] into the upper atmosphere, the magnetic field lines of the Earth can be, and are being, influenced with the purpose of covert, geophysical war-fighting. Weather modification and ionospheric warfare In 1996 the US Air Force 2025 think tank announced that by the eponymous year, the United States will ‘own the weather’ by injecting ‘chemical vapors’ into the atmosphere.2 A timetable of current–to future capabilities is provided in the document, including ‘Chemicals’ and ‘Delivery vehicles’. The programme is actually operational, and is referred to in other, unclassified US Air Force papers discussed below. 2 Col. Tamzy J. House, Lt. Col. James B. Near, Jr., LTC William B. Shields, Maj. Ronald J. Celentano, Maj. David M. Husband, Maj. Ann E. Mercer, Maj. James E. Pugh, ‘Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025’, Air Force 2025, August 1996, Furthermore, the ‘owning the weather’ document not only proves the existence of chemtrails, but mentions their use in then current weather modification operations. The Air Force 2025 stated that by that year, the weather will be weaponised by numerous methods, ‘including injection of chemical vapors and heating or charging via electromagnetic radiation or particle beams (such as ions, neutral particles, xrays, MeV particles, and energetic electrons)’. On the confirmation of chemicals and current deployments, the paper states: ‘If clouds were seeded (using chemical nuclei similar to those used today or perhaps a more effective agent discovered through continued research) before their downwind arrival to a desired location, the result could be a suppression of precipitation’ (emphasis added).3 Further evidence of the existence of chemtrails can be found in a document published by the Air Force Phillips Laboratory and the Air Force Materiel Command (which has no disclaimer about ‘fictional scenarios’) which stated: ‘Measurements of effluent plumes and chemical clouds by ground-based and airborne Lidar [Light detection and ranging] will continue through FY99’.4 1999 was the year in which Sonoma State University’s Project Censored named chemtrails one of the most underreported stories of the year.5 According to US Air Force Colonel William Scott Bell, writing in 2008, ‘Today, NASA and several other organizations use space-based LIDAR to analyze cloud formations and atmospheric aerosols’. (empasis added)6 Given that Patrick Minnis works for NASA, specifically the Langley Institute which uses satellites to monitor (what it claims are condensation) 3 See note 5. 4 Air Force Materiel Command and Air Force Phillips Laboratory, ‘FY97 Geophysics Technology Area Plan’, 1 May 1996, Ohio: Wright- Patterson Air Force Base. 5 William Thomas, ‘Chemtrails in the Sky and the New Microbes’, Consumer Health, Vol. 23, issue 7, July, 2000, . 6 William Scott Bell (Maj.), ‘Commercial Eyes in Space’, Center for Strategy and Technology, Air War College, March, 2008, p. 7. trails,7 it is clear why Minnis is the media’s favoured spokesman. The Air Force Phillips-Materiel Command document added that the Air Force’s aims were to ‘Develop accurate and validated cloud and weather simulation for any world-wide location to support acquisition, training and war-gaming’,8 which explains why chemtrails have been observed all over the world. The four main countries in which chemtrails first appeared – US, UK, Canada, and Australia – have a history of working together on classified weather modification and biochemical warfare trial projects, according to the World Meteorological Organization9 and the UK Ministry of Defence. 10 After 1999, however, people in other countries, including European and North African states, began to notice the chemtrails. US Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s Space Preservation Act (2001) listed ‘chemtrails’ as ‘an exotic weapons system’.11 Few chemtrail debunkers cite Kucinich’s bill. The Wikipedia entry on chemtrails does mention the Kucinich bill, but attempts to discredit the bill by inferring that the bill was subjected to ridicule in Congress before being quashed, and that it refers to ‘extraterrestrial’ and ‘tectonic’ weapons, so by definition it must be frivolous.12 In reality, ‘extraterrestrial’ means weapons placed in the space medium (not ‘alien’ technology), and the existence of tectonic weapons was 7 NASA Langely Institute, ‘Contrails Wepage (Contrails not Chemtrail [sic])’, no date, . 8 See note 4. 9 Anthony Morrison, Steven Siems, Michael Manton, Alex Nazarov, John Denholm, Roger Stone, ‘An overview of current cloud seeding research in Australia and an analysis of the Tasmanian cloud seeding operations from 1964 to 2005’ in World Meteorological Organization and World Weather Research Programme, Ninth WMO Scientific Conference on Weather Modification (Antalya, Turkey, 22-24 October 2007), WMP No. 44, Geneva: United Nations, 10 Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Ministry of Defence (UK)), Annual Report and Accounts 2009/10, London: MoD. 11 Dennis Kucinich, ‘The Space Preservation Act (2001)’, United States Library of Congress, HR 2977 IH, 1st Session, 2 October, 2001, . 12 See Wikipedia ‘Chemtrail conspiracy theory’, no date. confirmed in 1997 by then US Defense Secretary Bill Cohen, who admitted that he and his Pentagon cronies were ‘intensify[ing] our efforts’ to ‘set off volcanoes, tsunamis using electromagnetic waves’,13 echoing the work of President Johnson’s science advisor, Gordon MacDonald, in the late- 1960s on earthquake weapons.14 Further evidence of the existence of not only chemtrails but the operational validity of the ‘owning the weather’ programme can be found in a US Air Force paper, circa 1999: ‘The joint Army/AF [Air Force] OTW [Owning the Weather] initiative will provide knowledge of current and forecast battlefield environment conditions, along with their effects on systems, soldiers, operations, and tactics, to contribute to the Army’s decisive advantage over its opponents. Within the DOD [Department of Defense], BE [the Battlefield Environment division] is the lead agency for multi-service R&D programs in transport and dispersion modelling..... [T]he Dugway Meteorology and Obscurants Division’s Modeling and Assessment Branch provides......prototype development of virtual proving ground meteorological support. Division members also serve on various national and international committees addressing issues related to meteorological measurements and atmospheric dispersion modeling’.15 This paper has not been cited by those seeking to debunk the ‘chemtrail conspiracy’. Aerosol obscuration is achieved by the creation of artificial cirrus clouds which originate as ‘contrails’ emitted from specialised aircraft. These operations have their 13 William Cohen, ‘Cohen address 4/28 at Conference on Terrorism: Weapons of Mass Destruction, and U.S. Strategy’, University of Georgia, 28 April 1997, . 14 Gordon J.F. MacDonald, ‘How To Wreck the Environment’, in Nigel Calder (ed.), Unless Peace Comes, (London: Penguin,1968,) pp. 177-8. 15 United States Air Force, ‘Department of Defense Weather Programmes’, no date, circa 1999, Section 3, origins in the US Air Force’s 1940s’ Project Cirrus.16 Shortly after it was recognised that the energy in the ionosphere could be harnessed for electromagnetic warfare. US Navy documents from the 1960s discuss injecting energy into the ionosphere in order to release more power. The Advanced Research Projects Agency began a project, titled ‘Some Upper Atmosphere Aspects of Chemical Geophysical Warfare’.17 Around that time, the US military began experimenting with atmospheric barium releases. Barium is a piezoelectric substance: i.e. it generates an electric field or electric potential in response to applied mechancial and electromagnetic stress; e.g. the stress of the Earth’s electromagnetic fields. A paper published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics, archived by the military, noted ‘The use of high altitude releases of barium vapor for the production of visible plasma clouds’.18 The global releases of barium as a means of altering the Earth’s magnetic field lines for the purpose of energy transfer found its way into the patents of Bernard Eastlund,19 an ‘inventor’ credited with designing the early phases of the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme (HAARP).20 Based in Alaska, HAARP is a 180-antenna array which modifies the ionosphere for experimental purposes. It has been condemned by the European Parliament for its potential 16 Arnold A. Barnes, ‘Weather Modification: Test Technology Symposium ’97: Session B: Advanced Weapons/Instrumentation Technologies’, Air Force Materiel Command, 19 March 1997, . 17 See note 20. 18 G.T. Best and H.S. Hoffan, ‘The initial behavior of high altitude barium releases - I. The particulate ring’, Journal of Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics, Vol. 36, issue 9, 1974. 19 Bernard J. Eastlund, ‘United States Patent 4,686,605’, United States Patent Office, 11 August, 1987,. 20 Nick Begich and Jeanne Manning, Angels Don’t Play This HAARP, (Anchorage: Earthpulse Press, 2007) (seventh edition) ‘manipulation of global weather patterns’.21 More than this, however, the HAARP can act as one of a dozen or so groundbased lasers that charge the barium particles present in chemtrails.22 An Air Force Phillips-Materiel Command symposium held in 1997 listed ‘Cloud modification – surveillance/coverage/ Hole Boring/Create/suppress Cirrus/contrails/Ionospheric modification’ on the same page. Why would the document list ‘contrails’ unless it referred to a modified form of contrail (i.e. an aerosol/chemtrail) which, the document acknowledged, the Air Force can ‘Create/suppress’ in relation to ‘Cirrus’ clouds and ‘Ionospheric modification’?23 This fits the cited 1996 plan, which admitted that the Air Force analyses ‘chemical clouds’ (quoted above). Most of the chemtrails documented by global citizens expand into cirrus clouds. There is also a picture of HAARP in the symposium slideshow. A SPACECAST 2020 paper published around 1994 explained: ‘This technology will involve temporarily modifying the ionosphere through insertion of gaseous compounds......at certain altitudes and locations to increase the neutral and electron density.....This effect, however, can also be enhanced by shooting a high energy laser, microwave, or particle beam (wavelength will be dependent on gaseous compounds used) into the chemical insertion region to accelerate the photoionization and dissociative recombination processes. End result from the chemical insertion will be increased electron density having a jamming effect on the enemy’s radio wave propagation capability due to absorption of the wave energy by the charged particles in the enhanced ionosphere. The downside is that your 21 Maj Britt Theorin (Rapporteur), ‘Report on the environment, security and foreign policy’, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy, European Parliament, 14 January, 1999, A4-0005/99, DOC_EN\RR\370\370003 PE 227.710/fin, 22 See note 20 above. 23 See note 16 above. own communications can be affected as well.’ 24 The last sentence is no longer applicable due to HAARP, which communicates within Ultra-, Very-, and Extremely-low frequencies. The Air Force Materiel-Phillips Lab document also mentions the dispersal of ‘chemical clouds’ in relation to HAARP: ‘Chemical and other techniques to mitigate deleterious ionization effects on GPS transmission will be tested and evaluated in FY97-99’,25 again, the years in which chemtrails were seen to be intensifying. The ‘owning the weather’ paper, which, as noted, at least two other Air Force publications acknowledge to be authentic and operational, notes that operations range ‘From enhancing friendly operations or disrupting those of the enemy via small-scale tailoring of natural weather patterns to complete dominance of global communications and counterspace control.’ 26 Likewise, the UK MoD in a thirty-year projection stated that ‘Weather modification will continue to be explored’ and the effects might be to ‘disrupt lines of communication’.27 Because civilian infrastructure is dependent upon space for telecommunications, the internet, banking, GPS, weather and climate prediction and analysis, etc., the goal of the Pentagon is to ‘dominat[e] the space dimension’ in order to ‘protect’ ‘dual-use’, civilian-military hardware and software from counter-space attacks, solar flares (space weather), and other damaging effects. By covering the troposphere in a blanket of artificial clouds, the Pentagon can disrupt Russian, Chinese, and other military and civilian communications, while maintaining its own and ‘protecting’ those of its allies. This will lead to Full Spectrum Dominance, as the Pentagon explains: ‘Information superiority relies heavily upon space 24 SPACECAST 2020, ‘Space weather support for communications’, no date, circa 1994, 29 See note 4 above. 26 See note 2 above. 27 Ministry of Defence, ‘Strategic Trends Programme: Out to 2040’, 4 February, 2010 (fourth edition), London: MoD, p. 156. capabilities to collect, process, and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while denying an adversary’s ability to fully leverage the same.... [T]he military must preserve certain core space capabilities, e.g., missile warning, assured space communications, and large portions of ISR [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance]. Other space capabilities, once the domain of the military, can reasonably migrate to the civil and commercial sectors, e.g., weather, GPS, and multispectral imagery.’28 Biochemical nanotech Aside from modifying the ionosphere for the purposes of ‘info dominance’, weather weaponisation, and geophysical warfare, chemtrails also play a part in biochemical warfare analysis, trials, and possibly binary nanotech. according to the journal of Science and Engineering Ethics, ‘Passive observation of people could.....be complemented by actively manipulating them – for instance, if it would be possible to gain direct technical access to their nervous system or brain...... Nanoparticles could eventually be transported as aerosols over great distances and be distributed diffusely. They could enter the human body by way of the lungs, through the skin, or the digestive tract’.29 As noted, NASA’s Langley Institute has been assigned to analyse the cloud formations and track the biochemical agents using infrared and ultraviolet LIDAR. In 2001, a PowerPoint presentation was given to delegates from the US Air Force 2025 (the ‘owning the weather’ team), DARPA, CIA, FBI, et al., attending a NASA Langley Institute meeting. Relative to chemtrails, the presentation included as the ‘Major Influences 28 US Space Command, ‘Vision for 2020’, February, 1997, 29 Armin Grunwald, ‘Nanotechnology – A New Field of Ethical Inquiry?’, Science and Engineering Ethics, No. 11, 2005, pp. 187-201, . of IT/Bio/Nano Upon Future Warfare’: ‘Ubiquitous miniaturized/networked multi-physics, hyperspectral sensors......Wonderous [sic: wandering?] /Ubiquitous land/sea/air/space multiphysics, hyperspectral sensor swarms (military/commercial/ scientific)..... Robotic/swarm technologies primarily commercial/endemic worldwide.....“Volumetric” weaponry.....fuel/air dust/air....Isomers [nuclei, which the Owning the Weather document confirmed are needed for cloud creation]......Carbon fibres.’ (The Owning the Weather document also mentioned the use of carbon black nano-dust.) The presentation also included a discussion on: ‘Airborne varieties of Ebola, Lassa, etc.....Aflatoxin (“natural,” parts-per-billion carcinogen[)].... Binary bio into nation’s agric./food distrib. system (every home/foxhole).....Genomicaly (individual/society) targeted pathogens.....Ubiquitous/Cheap micro-to-nano EVERYTHING......precision strike, volumetric warfare, “swarms”.......Binary bio (anti-functional/fauna)..... Inexp. Binary Bio into Food Supply.’ (Emphasis in original).30 The report listed ‘Vulnerabilities: Visual, lidar, IR [infrared], biolum [bio-luminescent?], turbidity.’ Why would ‘turbidity’, which means thickness and density, particularly in relation to atmospheric processes, be discussed unless it referred to purposefully created, wind-blown aerosols? The biochemical agents being released via chemtrails are therefore not only designed to monitor the health of targeted populations exposed to the pathogens, but also to test the efficacy of the LIDAR systems in preparation for ‘volumetric’ attacks on other countries. As the presentation clarified, this is an operation ‘endemic worldwide’.’ In 2007, the UK Ministry of Defence confirmed that ‘Certain sensitive applications, such as decisive or 30 Dennis M. Bushnell, ‘Future Strategic Issues/Future Warfare [Circa 2025]’, NASA Langley Research Center, undated circa 2001, archived by the Federation of American Scientists, at . revolutionary systems and weapons, especially those associated with deterrence and mass effect, will increasingly be developed in discreet (and discrete) partnerships. Specific national or closely allied expertise and investment will be required to address, for example nuclear, counter-terrorism and chemical and biological defence.’31 The ‘defence’ tag-on can be discounted because the 1940-79 biochemical-nuclear trials on the British public were also labelled ‘defensive’.32 In this MOD document we find the following: ‘In these cases, the supplier is likely to remain inhouse to Defence, or government-to-government. Direct investment will also remain important where there is no civilian counterpart, such as high-performance explosives, certain protection and guidance systems, and specific sensors......Military and civilian applications that require range and visibility, particularly sensing applications, are currently moving from ground to airborne use and, as they become practically and economically viable, many of these applications will be increasingly exploited either in the high atmosphere or in space.’ (Emphases in bold in original, other emphases added.)33 The reference to the ‘high atmosphere’ is key because that is where the chemtrails are being sprayed, according to the ‘owning the weather’ document, in relation to ionospheric weaponisation. Aside from ‘owning the weather’, the chemtrails being sprayed today are a continuation of this type of research. The US Air Force explained: ‘the Boundary Layer Meteorology and Aerosol Research Branch conducts a research program in the 31 Ministry of Defence, ‘Strategic Trends Programme: 2007-2036’, 23 January, 2007 (third edition), pp. 62-3. 32 See, for instance, Antony Barnett, ‘Millions were in germ war tests’, The Observer, 21 April, 2002, and Rob Evans, Gassed (London: House of Stratus, 2000) pp. 349-64. 33 See note 31. micrometeorological processes and structure of the atmospheric boundary layer. This program focuses on the interaction of the land-air interface with wind fields, turbulence, and fluxes and on optical methods of detection of aerosols (primarily chemical-biological agents) and the modeling of their transport and dispersion in the tactical environment’.34 According to Bradford University’s Neil Davison, ‘the Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defense have collaborated on “non-lethal” weapons, including related wargaming, through a Memorandum of Understanding signed in February 1998’ — around the time that chemtrailing intensified in the UK. As the Air Force Materiel Command listed ‘chemical clouds’ as part of its ‘wargaming’ programme which continued until at least 1999 (and in real terms far after), could these joint ‘exercises’ have involved chemtrails? In 1999, the year that the Air Force Material Command announced expanded operations, ‘A proposal to develop an Overhead Chemical Agent Dispersion System (OCADS) was accepted for funding....under the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate’s (JNLWD) Technology Investment Program (TIP).’ The purpose of the development effort was to provide the US military with: ‘.....the ability to rapidly disperse chemical agents over large areas. The dispersed agents can be used for crowd control or to provide a remotely generated protective barrier.’ This work was carried out by Primex Aerospace Company (since acquired by General Dynamics) in collaboration with the US Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey. The final report, published in April 2000, described the successful design, testing, and demonstration of a system comprising a launcher and dispersal device. Crucially: 34 See note 15. ‘The dispersal device itself consists of a liquid canister made of plastic with integrated gas generator to disperse the payload......[T]he technology is adaptable for delivering liquids with differing properties in varying droplet sizes (from 1cm to vapour) and for delivering powders, encapsulated liquids, or projectiles such as rubber pellets. It is also scalable for different distances and smaller or larger areas of dispersion. Subsequently, in September 2001, the Solid Propellant Systems Group at General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (formerly Primex Aerospace Company) was funded by JNLWD to carry out further work building on the Overhead Liquid Dispersion System (OLDS) to develop similar liquid dispersal technology for an 81mm “nonlethal” mortar in collaboration with ARDEC’.35 The ‘owning the weather’ document stated that unmanned aerial vehicles could be used to deliver nanoparticles for weather control.36 US Navy documents uncovered by Davison suggest that drones could also be used to deliver biochemical agents, and that tests had been conducted by the Joint Non- Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD), with Hunter and Exdrone UAVs from 1996 to 1997. The drone used smoke munitions in order to simulate ‘irritant chemical agent munitions’. A paper unearthed by Davison titled ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Non-Lethal (NL) Payload Delivery System’, which was presented at the Non-Lethal Defense III conference in 1998, stated that ‘a UAV-dispenser system could be used with any UAV with a 40 lb or more payload capability. This project was prioritised by the JNLWD during their 1998 review of existing programmes’. Davison goes on to cite a Southwest Research Institute report, regarding funds awarded to them for the delivery of biochemical weapons, stating that 35 Neil Davison, ‘ “Off the Rocker” and “On the Floor”: The Continued Development of Biochemical Incapacitating Weapons’, Bradford Disarmament Research Centre (BDRC), Department of Peace Studies, Bradford Science and Technology Report No. 8, August, 2007, Bradford: University of Bradford, pp. 5-17, 36 See note 2. ‘engineers developed a computer-controlled unmanned powered Para foil (UPP) equipped with a payload that dispenses liquid spray while in flight. Developed for the Marine Corps Non-Lethal Directorate, the system is intended to provide non-lethal crowd control options for the U.S. military. The UPP was fitted with a pan-tilt camera to continually locate the impact point of the liquid spray. Using computer-assisted flight modes and the camera image, a remote operator can direct the UPP over a target at low altitude and release the spray.’37 At his Langley address, Bushnell mentioned the use of binary weapons. It would appear that in addition to ‘owning the weather’, covert, global, binary warfare began a long time ago with chemtrail spraying. Keeping in mind that many anti-chemtrail activists have taken water samples after heavy spraying and claim to have found high concentrations of polymer,38 Davison wrote that in 1999, the JNLWD ‘funded a project at the Advanced Polymer Laboratory (APL) at the University of New Hampshire to carry out research in to the use of microencapsulation for delivery of chemical agents. Proposed chemicals included incapacitating agents such as anaesthetic drugs. Reasons for encapsulating chemicals include enabling controlled release and compartmentalization of binary systems. In addition they could be delivered from a variety of platforms such as shotguns, launchers, airburst munitions, mortars, and UAVs.’ According to Davison, Raytheon was awarded further contracts in 1999. ‘Military delivery system development, on the other hand, has focused on delivery of chemical agents over long distances to be released as an aerosol or spray over a wide area to affect a group of people rather than 37 See note 35. 38 ‘Don’t Talk About the Weather’, 2008, Ill Eagle Films, an individual.’ 39 In 2010, the UK MoD announced that out to 2040: ‘Environmental warfare will be capable of exploiting the delivery and spread of plant and human pathogens through the release of remote controlled insect-machine hybrids or insects, in order to cause physical, and subsequently, financial damage.’ The report added that ‘Such methods may be used as incapacitants or as lethal pathogens to attack humans’.40 In conclusion: people around the world have noticed the intensification of chemtrailing. A Google search from 2008 yielded 1 million results for ‘chemtrails’. Today, the figure is 8 million. The growing public awareness is met with media disinformation and silence. For all the government/militarylinked pseudo-science on so-called ‘persistent contrails’, scientists, the media, and government bodies cannot argue against the simple fact that unmarked aeroplanes are operating in civilian airspace. Instead of engaging in the pointless chemtrail vs. contrail debate, anti-chemtrail activists would do well to demand to know what unmarked planes are doing in the airspace over their towns. Politicians, air bases, local media, and aviation authorities must be sought and confronted. Activists need to demand to know the make, model, and serial number the planes; why they are deviating from commercial flight-paths; which companies make them; under whose command they are operating; who the pilots are; from where they take off; and where they land. The chemtrails are poisoning us all, and in the pursuit of Full Spectrum Dominance, the spraying will only intensify unless we act. * TJ Coles is a PhD student at the University of Plymouth, UK. 39 See note 35. 40 See note 31. The view from the bridge Robin Ramsay The right madness I was flipping through Richard Cockett’s Thinking the Unthinkable (Fontana, 1995) about the influence of the ‘think tanks’ on the Thatcher revolution, and noticed a quote from a 1968 Fabian pamphlet on the then politically insignificant ‘New Right’ – essentially the Institute for Economic Affairs – and read this short statement of their central belief. The IEA and its ilk sought: ‘perfect competition in which rational consumers indicate their preferences to profit-seeking producers by means of prices under conditions of perfect information.’ (p. 157) There are two ‘perfects’ and a ‘rational’ in that sentence. I have never met a ‘perfect’ where human arrangements were concerned (and little rationality); nor have conservative thinkers. Theirs is a generally pessimistic view of human potential: that we’re flawed and likely to mess things up and the best we can hope for is muddling through and keeping the conflict down to a minimum. How did anyone ever take such idealistic nonsense seriously? Put it another way: anyone who thinks like this has either inaccurately processed the data about the life before them or does not care what the reality is. It is striking is that there are people for whom this is the vision of a good society. We have all met people like this, for whom every transaction is about money and competition. It’s not their fault – upbringing, brain wiring (this, most likely, recent MRI scans suggest), hormones – but they are a very limited version of our species. Did he no ken? Let me recommend Simon Lee’s ‘Gordon Brown and the British Way of Risk-Based Modernization’.1 This is the author’s summary. ‘In Beyond the Crash: Overcoming the First Crisis of Globalisation, Gordon Brown has sought not only to demonstrate how his political leadership helped to save the world from what Gordon Brown has termed “the Great Recession”, but also to set out his recommendations for surmounting what he has depicted as “the first crisis of globalisation”. A series of spectacular market failures, most notably bank failure arising from undercapitalisation, caused in turn by “recklessness and irresponsibility all too often caused by greed”, has been presented to the reader as if Gordon Brown was a detached observer who could not have possibly previously been aware of the extent of risktaking made possible by his own risk-based model of financial regulation. This paper argues Gordon Brown’s analysis is fundamentally flawed. We are not now living through the first crisis of globalisation. On the contrary, what Gordon Brown has actually documented is the first crisis of his own deeply flawed British model of political economy, which socialised risks and privatised profits. The paper explores how Gordon Brown’s attempts to modernize the politics and political economy of the United Kingdom, using the City of London’s liberalized markets as a blueprint, has left the United Kingdom facing an age of austerity that was politically self-inflicted rather than financially imposed by external global market forces.’ Vampire squid news The excellent blog run by John Ward, The Slog, reported in November that files in the European Central Bank on Goldman Sachs’ role in faking Greek state debt figures to enable Greece to join the Euro will remain secret. The European Union 1 http://osb.revues.org/1115 general court in Luxembourg declared ‘Disclosure of those documents would have undermined the protection of the public interest so far as concerns the economic policy of the EU and Greece.’ Ward commented: ‘The ECB is of course headed by a former Goldman banker, Mario Draghi. Although comment about this was sparse, the new Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is also ex Goldman Sachs. The Prime Minister of Italy Mario Monti is ex Goldman Sachs. Hank Paulson – architect of the 2009 US bailout – was ex Goldman Sachs. Greece’s interim technocrat government in 2011 was headed by Lucas Papademos – also ex Goldman Sachs. The privatisation of public money in the West is thus more or less complete.’ 2 Bankers in Whitehall In September Ian Fraser commented on his blog: ‘When David Cameron reshuffled his cabinet earlier this week, the arrival of a trio City of London bankers and consultants at Her Majesty’s Treasury went almost unnoticed. This in my view was a lacuna. The three men are Paul Deighton, a former Goldman Sachs partner and chief operating officer for Europe, Sajid Javid, a former global head of credit trading at Deutsche Bank, and Greg Clark, a former consultant at Boston Consulting Group. Cameron promoted Javid, who was first elected as Conservative MP in May 2010, to economic secretary to the Treasury, and Clark, who has been a Tory MP since 2005, to the role of financial secretary to the Treasury. Most significantly, however Cameron appointed 2 See also Deighton, who isn’t even an elected politician, as commercial secretary to the Treasury. While Javid and Clark start at the Treasury with immediate effect, Deighton — who will be ennobled as Lord Deighton, giving him [sic] to sit in the House of Lords — doesn’t start until January...... I was talking to a City source yesterday (one who is strongly opposed to the investment bankers ‘soft coup’ of Westminster and Whitehall). He said that under New Labour, H.M. Treasury had been ‘utterly captured’ by the investment banking industry. He said it had happened through subscription to a ludicrously flawed ideology, the ‘revolving door’, secondments, quiet lobbying etc, and often if you are in foyer of 1 Horse Guards Road [address of HM Treasury], you’re likely to find that everyone but you is an investment banker!’ 3 Fixing facts, faking history I think that the phrase ‘the intelligence and the facts were being fixed round the policy’, which was in the 2002 memo from Matthew Rycroft to a section of those managing the UK’s relationship with the Bush regime in the months preceding the assault on Iraq,4 may turn out to be the most important diplomatic revelation of that atrocity. This is letting the cat out of the bag with a vengeance. But it was ever thus with the Americans. Look at the US’s history since the 1930s. The American war lobby encouraged war with Japan with increasingly impossible diplomatic demands on Japan and then by suppressing intelligence about the pending attack on Pearl Harbour.5 It then allowed MI6 to assemble a 1000 strong 3 www.ianfraser.org/dear-david-cameron-entrusting-economic-policyto- ex-investment-bankers-is-no-solution/ 4 The text is at 5 I haven’t read the vast literature on this but was reminded of this thesis by re-reading Gore Vidal’s ‘Japanese Intentions in the Second World War’ in his Dreaming War (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2002). force – British Security Co-ordination – in Washington and worked with it in 1940/41 in one the biggest covert operations ever seen to neutralise Congressional opposition to US entry into the war in Europe.6 It then fabricated the Soviet threat to Western Europe to justify continuing with the economy on a war footing. America’s economic and political managers feared that, left to itself, the return to the pre-war economy would produce a return to the slump which that war economy had ended. The ‘threat’ to the US wasn’t communism, or even socialism: it was economic nationalism. So economic nationalism was deemed to be ‘communism’ and thus worthy of attack. Decolonisation in the 1950s and 60 wasn’t about communism (though the CIA and IRD could always be relied upon to fabricate a communist link if one was need): it was about nationalism. It is curious how this has just been forgotten. The Soviet ‘threat’ in the post-war years was minutely deconstructed in the 1960s and early 70s by the so-called ‘revisionist historians’ of the Cold War, notably Gabriel Kolko. Did the Soviets ever seriously intend making a ground assault on Western Europe? With 20 million dead and the country devastated from the eastern border to the Ukraine? No, of course not. Yes, there ensued a competition between the competing blocs’ intelligence agencies which led to some deaths and has produced an enormous literature depicting very small beer in very great detail. Yes, there was an arms race, the perception of which in the West was manipulated by US intelligence to exaggerate Soviet capacities, which eventually bankrupted both the major players. JFK understood this; and he and Kruschev were trying to wind it down. It would be satisfying to say that JFK was killed to prevent him doing this but the truth is he was killed to stop LBJ going to jail. The willingness to fake US intelligence for bureaucratic ends continues. In the New York Review of Books of 12 July 6 Described in Thomas E. Mahl’s Desperate Deception (Virginia [USA]: Brassey’s, 1999). 2012 Alexander Cockburn, editor of Counterpunch, reports in a letter on p. 70 that the US Air Force produced a fake report on the success of air power during the bombing of Serbia in 1999. Cockburn quotes retired US Army Colonel James MacGregor: ‘Pressure to fabricate came from the top....the [Air Force] senior leadership was determined that whatever the truth, the campaign had to confirm the efficacy of air power and its dominance.’ Which isn’t proof by any means. But no doubt the US Air Force’s bureaucratic rivals for the shrinking US defence budget will come up with more evidence. RIP Whitney and Crozier Two of the the subversion-hunters of the 1970s died since the last edition of Lobster. Ray Whitney, whom my brain still records as ‘head of the Information Research Department [IRD]’, was the subject of an obituary in the Telegraph in August.7 There it was stated that he ended his diplomatic career as ‘head of the FCO’s Overseas Information Department, which handled counterpropaganda’. I think this is false: first, I think that Whitney did spend one year as head of IRD before it was nominally closed by then Foreign Secretary David Owen in 1977; and second the OID – IRD with a new 7 My essay on the British end of the current financial crisis, ‘Well how did we get here?’, which originally appeared in Lobster 60, has been published as a Kindle edition, available from Amazon.co.uk for £1.98 Well, How Did We Get Here? A Brief History of the British Economy, Minus the Wishful Thinking hat on – was not exclusively about counterpropaganda. (The Guardian obit by Julia Langdon repeats that phrase about the FCO’s counterpropaganda department; either she and the Telegraph writer received the same briefing or Langdon lifted it from the Telegraph.) Brian Crozier was the subject of lengthy obituaries in the Telegraph and Guardian.8 Oddly, both gave the name of his late 1970s private intelligence organisation as 61, when it was 6I, or sixth international – Crozier’s joke about the five ‘internationals’ on the Trotskyist left. Taken together the obits conveyed a reasonable sense of Crozier’s activities, though neither mentioned his international work with the Pinay Circle (Cercle Pinay) in the 1970s and 80s.9 But the Telegraph fudged Crozier’s links with the CIA, even though in his memoir Free Agent, Crozier is open about them and at one point (p. 92) refers to his ‘case officer’. The Telegraph omitted his work with IRD and in the Guardian Richard Norton-Taylor describes it as ‘a shady organisation whose unattributable reports distributed to susceptible journalists and MPs were designed to highlight the dangers of communist subversion.’ This is a seriously inadequate description of what, when it was closed, was the largest department of the Foreign Office, and whose activities were international. Crozier is a puzzle, the significance of whose activities remains difficult to evaluate. But it seems clear that he was essentially an agent of the CIA from the mid 1960s. His activities were curtailed when those in Washington who believed in détente with the Soviet bloc came out on top in the mid 1970s. It was then, as his belief in the reality of the ‘Soviet threat’ became the minority view, that his funding dried up and he was forced to ‘go private’. 8 and 9 On which see David Teacher’s enormous essay, downloadable at . Caro flunks it Looking at the role of LBJ in the Kennedy assassination has proved to be too difficult for Robert Caro. In The Passage of Power (2012), the fourth volume of his widely lauded biography of LBJ, – covering his accession to the presidency – while he devotes much attention to the Bobby Baker scandal of 1962/3, he omits Billie Sol Estes and the Department of Agriculture events: hundreds of millions of dollars and seven or eight murders. At a couple of places Caro writes that he found nothing to indicate that LBJ was involved in JFK’s assassination. He could only write this by ignoring the Estes- Texas material. And this wasn’t an obscure Texas scandal: Michael Carlson10 pointed out to me that Estes was on the cover of Time in the 1960s. He was indeed, on 25 May 1962, under the strap line ‘The Billie Sol Estes Scandal’. Estes was alive while Caro was writing his book and available for interview. As the title of the French book about Estes has it, he is Le Dernier Temoin, the last witness; and Caro took a pass. Caro’s need to flunk this is what poker players would call ‘a tell’, and a great big one, at that. That Caro, the world’s expert on the life, times – and, yes, to some extent the corruption – of LBJ has had to avert his eyes, is very striking indeed. Leveson disappears Henderson Robert Henderson, who had Special Branch sicced on him and then was the subject of a press smear campaign for the sin of writing letters to Tony Blair (see Lobster 39) submitted evidence to the Leveson inquiry about the way the media had treated him.11 Leveson did not call him to testify. (No celebrity value, perhaps.) When the Leveson report was published Henderson checked the list of those who had made submissions and discovered that he was not on it. See the Report’s appendices, submissions, page 1839. 10 His blog is at . 11 His initial submission can be found at . WHO’S AFRAID OF JOSEPH MILTEER? From an Office Building with a High-powered Rifle Don Adams Walterville, OR: TrineDay, 2012. x + 226 pps., illustrations, index, $24.95. The First Rule of FBI Club: Protect the Bureau! The codicil to which is: Protecting the Bureau trumps Truth, Justice, and everything else the great Republic holds dear. This was how J. Edgar Hoover operated; as, indeed, did every other employee down to the lowliest staffer in some forgotten tank town west of Butte, Montana. But here amongst the staffers another codicil had been added: Protect your ass. These were the unwritten, unspoken rules that might just as well have been etched in marble inside every Bureau office. Don Adams gives several examples of the rules in practice. Adams was thirty-two when he joined the Feds and one of his first jobs was investigating Joseph Milteer, a far right racist from Quitman, Georgia, who was prominent in the National States Rights Party, a member of the White Citizen’s Council of Atlanta, and the Congress of Freedom. He was also cosy with the leaders of the Ku Klux Klan and, to round off his catholic enthusiasms, was convinced there was a big Jewish/Communist conspiracy. On 9 November 1963 Willie Somersett (a name straight out of James Ellroy), a professional police informant and childhood friend of Milteer, met with him and tape recorded the conversation. Amongst which was this: SOMERSETT: I think Kennedy is coming here on the eighteenth, or something like that to make some kind of speech...... MILTEER: You can bet your bottom dollar he is going to have a lot to say about the Cubans. There are so many of them here. SOMERSETT: Yeah. Well, he will have a thousand bodyguards, don't worry about that. MILTEER: The more bodyguards he has the easier it is to get him. SOMERSETT: Well, how in the hell do you figure would be the best way to get him? MILTEER: From an office building with a high-powered rifle. SOMERSETT: Do you think he knows he’s a marked man? MILTEER: I’m sure he does. I’m sure he does. Yes. SOMERSETT: They are really going to try to kill him? MILTEER: Oh yeah, it’s in the working. SOMERSETT: Hitting this Kennedy, I’ll tell you is going to be a hard proposition, I believe. Now you may have it figured out to get him from an office building and all that, but I don’t know how, the Secret Service, they’d cover all them office buildings and anywhere he’s going. Do you know whether they’d do that or not? MILTEER: If they have any suspicions, they will of course. But without suspicions the chances are they wouldn’t. You wouldn’t have to take a gun up there. They’d take it up in pieces, assemble it and take it out in pieces. All those guns come knocked down and you can take them apart. SOMERSETT: Boy, if that Kennedy gets shot, we have to know where we are at. Because you know that will be a real shake if they do that. MILTEER: They wouldn’t leave any stone unturned there, no way. They will pick somebody up within hours afterwards, if anything like that would happen. Just to throw the public off. What Milteer says here has largely been interpreted by the critical community as advance knowledge of the assassination, but is it? A less widely reproduced part of the tape has Milteer saying a sharp shooter in a hotel overlooking the White House could pick JFK off in the garden, and he even names a possible assassin, a Jack Brown (who he?). Had Milteer described some unique way of killing JFK and had that transpired, then his statement would have carried some weight, but it doesn’t. He suggests instead what must be one of the most obvious ways of getting the president bar an up close ‘suicide’ mission with a gun or bomb. Others, too, were concerned about a high-powered rifle from a tall building. Here’s Forest Sorrels of the Secret Service giving testimony to the Warren Commission: STERN: Did you consider or discuss with Mr. Lawson the possibility of any danger to the President from the buildings along the route? SORRELS: Well — STERN: Did you think about any of the buildings as presenting any particular problem? SORRELS: All buildings are a problem, as far as we are concerned. That, insofar as I have been concerned — and I am sure that every member of the Service, especially the Detail — that is always of concern to us. We always consider it a hazard. During the time that we were making this survey with the police, I made the remark that if someone wanted to get the President of the United States, he could do it with a highpowered rifle and a telescopic sight from some building or some hillside, because that has always been a concern to us, about the buildings. And he wasn’t the only one. The presidential aide Kenny O’Donnell also had concerns that he expressed to the Commission: O'DONNELL: Well, as near as I can recollect he [JFK] was commenting to his wife on the function of the Secret Service and his interpretation of their role once the trip [Dallas] had commenced, in that their main function was to protect him from crowds, and to see that an unruly or sometimes an overexcited crowd did not generate into a riot, at which the president of the United States could be injured. But he said that if anybody really wanted to shoot the president of the United States, it was not a very difficult job, all one had to do was get a high building some day with a telescopic rifle, and there was nothing anybody could do to defend against such an attempt on the president’s life. Are we now to conclude that JFK had advance knowledge of his own assassination? Don Adams believes that Milteer was in Dealey Plaza at the time of assassination, had a role in it, and points to the widely reproduced photograph by James Altgens that shows someone who does, on first blush, look rather like Milteer. A closer look however reveals the figure to be bald at the front of his head whereas Milteer had a more luxuriant growth than Barton Fink. Adams also relies on the later utterances of Willie Somersett. Now, the First Rule of Paid Informer Club is: Tell them what they want to hear, you’ll earn more money. With the codicil: Let your imagination be unconfined! (Who could forget Curveball’s role in the Iraq debacle?) And Somersett certainly let his imagination run wild. So, Adams goes out looking for Milteer, eventually finds him, and puts to him the five questions that he has been ordered to put to him. Just these five, and no others. He then writes up a report and hands it to his superior, The bulk of the chapters are then taken up with what happened to this report: how it disappeared, how parts were lifted and attributed to others, how parts were backdated, and so on. Adams interprets these serpentine shenanigans as evidence of agents within the Bureau protecting Milteer whereas there is a more obvious interpretation, and that is the Fed agents protecting themselves, making sure that they are seen to be doing their job and, more importantly, being seen protecting the Bureau by those higher up the totem pole. Adams comes across as a decent and honest individual; but here he is misguided, I feel, despite his insider knowledge of how the Bureau operated. In the extremist far right world that Milteer moved around in there were probably plenty of individuals who were going to whack this liberal or whack that ‘negro’ and, by and large, it was just empty idle talk, bravado. Perhaps someone Milteer came across was more convincing than all the others. That would have been the origin of the carefully vouchsafed information given to Somersett. The more one reads about Milteer the more unlikely it seems that he would be privy to any clandestine job. He drove around in a clapped out VW bus with far right slogans stuck all over it, published a weekly racist newsletter, campaigned for office in his hometown on a whole raft of wacky issues, and so on. He died in 1974 after suffering 40% burns when a bathroom heater blew up. The ‘foreknowledge’ of the assassination was a coincidence or, to borrow a phrase from Oscar Wilde, one of life’s exaggerations Art can’t afford. Anthony Frewin Misc reviews These reviews of mine were written for other publications. Robin Ramsay Who killed Dag Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and white supremacy in Africa Susan Williams London: Hurst and Company, 2011, £20.00, h/b. After travelling thousands of miles, visiting many libraries and archives, interviewing the surviving eyewitnesses and reexamining the previous inquiries, Susan Williams still cannot tell us who did kill US Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, in 1961. Nor how it was done. Nor, for certain, that the plane crash in the Congo which killed him and everyone else on board, wasn’t an accident. Hardly anyone still believes the official version of the incident – pilot error – not least because of the behaviour of the authorities after the event: a perfunctory official inquiry took place at which witnesses who saw things which didn’t fit the official verdict of ‘pilot error’ were marginalised or ignored and photographs were doctored. It looks like the standard formula: conspiracy and cover-up. The evidence assembled over the 50 years since can be construed to plausibly support a scenario in which the plane was brought down by a bomb, or was shot down by another aircraft. Many of the eyewitnesses near the scene reported seeing a second, smaller aircraft near Hammarskjold’s plane before it crashed. And after the crash the authorities didn’t exactly rush to find the accident site, perhaps to allow time for people to arrive at the scene to make sure everyone was dead. (Another witness reported a vehicle coming and going from the scene hours before the plane was officially ‘found’.) Culprits? Many interests had reason to want Hammarskjold dead: the French, dickering in Central Africa; the Americans (CIA), obsessed with the red menace, who thought this meddling Swede was a bit pink; South Africa, afraid that the UN would encourage African nationalism in the region; the big companies (some British) in the Congo after its minerals. All of these trails are carefully explored by Williams and none lead to a conclusion. We have a confession (a pilot says he shot the plane down by accident while trying to force it to change direction); two people who say they heard radio transmissions from an aircraft apparently attacking Hammarskjold’s plane – not the ‘accidental’ confession; and documents (possibly faked) which appear to implicate an obscure South African organisation in planting a bomb on the plane. None of it adds up (which is probably the intent, at some level). If there is no final answer, the search takes her on many interesting trails through imperialism and the cold war in Africa, the territory suggested by her subtitle. A fascinating story, nicely written, thoroughly documented and presented in a well produced book on good paper and with a decent binding. As history or as historical whodunit this is very good indeed. * Casa Pia The making of a modern European witch hunt Richard Webster The Orwell Press, £7.95 (UK) 2011, p/b Webster’s analysis of the British children’s home pedophile panic of the 1980s and 90s, The Secret of Bryn Estyn, 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 pedophile networks preying on the residents of children’s’ homes, was a fantasy: the result of bad journalism, public officials afraid of being blamed for ignoring a scandal, and lies told by some of the children who were motivated by the police promise of large compensation for any abuse. Webster dismantles the whole thing and concludes that over a hundred wrongful convictions ensued. This much smaller book (Bryn Estyn was 750 pages; this is 105) describes a similar outbreak, again in a group of municipal children’s’ home, 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 pedophile ring in Bernado’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 (and one politician). The fact that the major witness and some of the 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. Much of Forteana takes place in the intersection of human perception, psychological need and religious belief, where answering the question ‘What is going on here?’ becomes more interesting as it gets more difficult; and little is currently more difficult to deal with than allegations of pedophilia. Webster shows that it is still possible to navigate through this foggy, booby-trapped interior landscape; but he also shows how difficult the journey becomes once the mob begins to gather. * Intelligence Wars American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda Thomas Powers New York Review Books, 2002, £16.99, h/b Somewhere between an academic and a journalist, Thomas Powers is a commentator on recent American history and the role in it of the American intelligence services. He won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism in 1971. This is his first collection of essays. They began as book reviews, mostly for the New York Review of Books. Powers is what the Americans call a ‘liberal’; but he is a liberal who has written a biography of former CIA Director Richard Helms. Since big time spooks won’t return your calls if you say nasty things about them, Powers doesn’t. These essays are mostly about the CIA. The problem is that there are two CIAs. There’s the CIA which does analysis, gathers information and conducts espionage and counterespionage. This is a central intelligence agency. But there’s another one, which kills, bribes, corrupts, overthrows. This is not an intelligence agency: it is a kind of secret army. Powers writes eloquently and interestingly about the intelligence agency and barely mentions the heavy mob down the corridor. This book’s essays were published in the period 1977- 2002 and cover subjects from WW2 onwards. What were the big stories about US intelligence in the period covered by this collection of book reviews? On my Top Ten List would the persistent involvement of the CIA with the drug trade. In Vietnam the CIA’s airline, Air America, transported opium for the Agency’s local allies. In the 1980s the CIA got permission from the US Attorney General in to allow contributors to the privately-funded war against the government of Nicaragua to import cocaine into the US. For a minute fraction of their monthly earnings, cocaine dealers got a ‘get out of jail’ card from Uncle Sam. If the ‘war on drugs’ is one of America’s leading domestic problems, the CIA has played a significant role in creating it. But this subject is missing. Not a word. Cocaine and Air America are not in the index. Indeed, the ghastly series of atrocities that was US foreign policy in the 1980s in Central America in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala – remember Blowtorch Bob, the Americans’ proxy psychopath in El Salvador? – is missing. Around half a million dead Central Americans do not merit comment, apparently. The domestic political spin-off, the Iran-Contra scandal, is there en passant. As are many other things. His introduction tell us that the Kennedy assassination was a landmark: but of all the hundreds of books on that event published in the period covered by these essays, he reviews only two of the least significant, both of which recycle the absurd Oswald-did-it cover story. Powers may think the Kennedy assassination was a landmark but he hasn’t bothered to understand it; and the other domestic assassinations of the period – King, Bobby Kennedy, the Black Panthers – are missing. Powers writes very well, has many interesting things to say and is a pleasure to read; he just doesn’t get close to the bone. The most important writers in Powers’ field, Noam Chomsky and Peter Dale Scott, published many books during the period covered by Powers’ essays: neither are mentioned, let alone reviewed. Powers devotes most of this book to the spy-vs-spy aspects of the espionage war with the Soviet Union. This is interesting but unimportant compared to – say – the CIA’s role in the slaughter of half a million ‘communists’ in Indonesia in 1965. Powers is unwilling or unable to face the brute reality of America. * Without Smoking Gun Was the death of Lt. Cmdr Will Pitzer part of the JFK assassination cover-up conspiracy?’ Ken Heiner Walterville (Oregon): Trine Day, 2005, $14.95 (US) (www.trineday.com) The Kennedy assassination literature is littered with sexylooking fragments. This book is about one such. As the book’s subtitle asks: ‘Was the death of Lt.Cmdr Will Pitzer part of the JFK assassination cover-up conspiracy?’ Alas, after 130 inadequately sourced pages, ‘Maybe’ is the only possible response to the question. Pitzer was present at the autopsy of President Kennedy. About the autopsy there are any number of unanswered questions. (Starting with: on whose body was the autopsy done? Yes, it may not have been JFK’s.) But what Pitzer saw which made him uniquely dangerous isn’t demonstrated by the author. A great many other people saw the autopsy and didn’t die. The author thinks Fitzer’s suicide was staged: but the evidence is not overwhelming. The ‘Fitzer question’ exists because a retired US soldier, Dan Marvin, a US Army Special Forces officer, has said, and says again here, in the foreword, that in 1965 he was asked by a CIA officer if he would ‘volunteer’ to kill Fitzer. The CIA officer said Pitzer was a spy, a traitor. Marvin declined – but only because the CIA officer wanted it done in the US: Marvin wouldn’t kill at home, only overseas. (To my knowledge Marvin is the first Special Forces officer to admit that people like him did conduct political assassinations.) When Fitzer apparently committed suicide a year later, Dan Marvin assumed that the CIA officer had found another ‘volunteer’. This is the story of Marvin’s suspicion. But even if we believe Marvin, the suicideautopsy stories have not been stood-up. * Counterknowledge Damian Thompson London: Atlantic Books, £12.99, 2008, h/b The author’s theme is given in his subtitle: ‘How we surrendered to conspiracy theories, quack medicine, bogus science and fake history.’ For anyone who has been reading the Bad Science column in The Guardian, for example, or who has read Francis Wheen’s How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World, much of this book will be familiar; and if you enjoy watching the usual suspects (complementary medicine and ‘alternative’ archaeology and history, for example) getting a good intellectual kicking, this will be rather enjoyable. (But Wheen worked the same territory more thoroughly.) But Thompson has some larger theses. He sees ‘a significant lowering of standards of proof in society generally’ and ‘counterknowledge.....corrupting intellectual standards across a range of disciplines’. He blames both the left, which ‘has helped to spread counterknowledge by insisting on the rights of ethnic, sexual and religious minorities to believe falsehoods that make them feel better about themselves’, and the free market – ‘the free market likes counterknowledge’ (because it sells) – and ‘the privatisation of knowledge caused by the explosion of intellectual choice’. Most of this is the consequence of the unregulated nature of the Internet; and this has one big danger for Thompson: ‘its ability to carry the virus of counterknowlege to societies that are not protected by evidence-based methodologies’. Clearly there is something to this. The Internet does not follow society’s ‘official’ rankings of knowledge and any old nonsense can be listed by Google next to academic writing; and acquiring the ability to use ‘evidence-based methodologies’ is a more complex proposition than getting a C in one of today’s devalued A levels. But how big is the danger? It is not yet clear to me that popular culture is that much crappier than it used to be. Quacks we have always had. People who can’t think clearly we have always had. He may be right. We may be going to Hell in a post-modern handcart driven by morons who cannot distinguish between the website of the British Medical Journal and Loonytuneshealthcures. com. But the author is in a weak position to tell us so. For he is the editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald, with a large axe to grind in many of the areas about which he has written, centrally the notion of intellectual authority; and, qua Catholic, his claims to rationality are difficult to take too seriously. Nonetheless this is an interesting and enjoyable polemic. * A Culture of Conspiracy Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America Michael Barkun Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 2003, £16.95, p/b Barkun is a professor of political science and this is a survey of some of the recent effusions from the American conspiracy theorists. He identifies three categories of conspiracy theory: event conspiracies, systemic conspiracies and superconspiracies. The first category – of which the assassination of John F Kennedy in 1963 is the best example – is a big problem for Barkun. Such conspiracy theories are open to empirical investigation – Oswald’s rifle could fire the shots or it couldn’t; the Zapruder film has been doctored or it hasn’t – and Burkun is not interested in whether or not conspiracy theories are true or false. So, despite giving us the category on page 6, he simply ignores his ‘event conspiracies’, concentrating on the other two. What follows is a history of the origins of American conspiracy theorising in the pre-WW2 period, followed by a survey – what he calls ‘mapping’, to make it sound grander – of some recent and contemporary theories, with an emphasis on UFO theories of the past 20 years and the way they have been incorporated into systemic and superconspiracies. So we got potted accounts of the nonsense spouted by the late William Cooper, David Icke, Val Valerian and a smattering of others. Quite what the point is of this ‘mapping’ exercise is unclear to me other than to show the reader that people willing to believe nonsense in one field are willing to believe nonsense in others. Did I write ‘nonsense’? Dear me: that’s the fuddy-duddy, old true/false thing and Bakun steadfastly declines to evaluate the material, this ‘stigmatized knowledge’. But nonsense most of this manifestly is and at the end of the book his unwillingness to use such a term struck me as being at least as strange as the territory he is ‘mapping’. * Real Enemies Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War 1 to 9/11 Kathryn S. Olmsted Oxford University Press, 2009, £12.99, p/b 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, for their own purposes.....If Antigovernment conspiracy theories get the details wrong – and the 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 do join the war and did so against the population’s wishes) and WW2 (ditto) and into the Cold War and through the McCarthy period. So far so 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’) ‘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 all too frequently short-handed as weapons-for-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, academic or professional (pilots, engineers, architects) 9-11 sceptics, 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 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. Lockerbie, 1988 Megrahi – You Are My Jury: The Lockerbie Evidence John Ashton Edinburgh: Birlinn (www.birlinn.co.uk/), 2012, £14.99 Within days of the death of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi in May, Scottish First Secretary Alec Salmond had refused international appeals for an independent inquiry into the 1988 Lockerbie bombing for which the Libyan had been convicted 11 years earlier. The plea – made by Kate Adie, Desmond Tutu, Terry Waite, Tam Dalyell and the father of one of the Lockerbie victims, Jim Swire, among others – claimed the ‘perverse judgment’ had left the Scottish criminal justice system a ‘mangled wreck’. Speaking at Holyrood in support of it, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: ‘This is not a normal case. It’s Scotland’s biggest terrorist atrocity. These are serious questions raised by serious people, and the world is watching.’ But Mr Salmond, following the precedents of Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron, was adamant in his refusal: ‘They’re looking for an inquiry for the responsibility, ultimately, for Lockerbie. That touches on matters of huge international importance which would be beyond the ability of the Scottish inquiry to summon witnesses, compel evidence, etcetera.’ According to John Ashton’s book, both men are right. The Scottish legal system, and many of its senior members, emerge from Lockerbie with little credit. But, as the canny First Minister also says, the fate of Pan Am Flight 103 on that December evening is caught up in matters of high political import. The feelings of al-Megrahi’s family and friends come very low on the agendas of the powerful. Nothing can be done now for the man who died of cancer aged 60. But we can at least read his own words between the detailed researches of Ashton, a member of al- Megrahi’s defence team, and try to pierce the mystery that has always surrounded Lockerbie. Some, like me, may be familiar with Ashton’s work on Lockerbie without knowing it. He worked with Paul Foot on the Private Eye special, Lockerbie: The Flight from Justice and Allan Francovich in his 1994 film The Maltese Double Cross.1 This new book not only gives us al-Megrahi’s story, but enormous detail about Lockerbie drawn from Ashton’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject. It is not the author’s intention to prove who was responsible for the fate of Flight 103, though he is clear that Iran, Syria and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command were involved. But he leaves us in no doubt that the culprit is not the one still portrayed by many in a position to know differently as ‘the Lockerbie bomber’. Ten days after the Maid of the Seas disintegrated early in its flight from London to New York, the Daily Express’s front page identified ‘The Bomb Carrier’ from an FBI source. No mention of al-Megrahi and Libya at that stage. Less than three months later, Conservative Transport Secretary Paul Channon briefed journalists about imminent arrests after brilliant police work by the Dumfries and Galloway force. No mention of al- Megrahi and Libya then either. In those early days there were repeated stories about warnings to passengers – some very specific – being given ahead of Flight 103. No mention then that al-Megrahi and Libya were part of the plot. In fact it was almost three years before the indictment of al-Megrahi and his fellow Libyan, Lamin Khlaifah Fhimah. Their trial opened before a Scottish Court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands nine years later in 2000, with Fhimah being found not guilty and al-Megrahi left to carry sole responsibility for the bombing. Dip into every category of material assembled to prove that al-Megrahi placed a bomb in a suitcase on a plane in Malta that, via Frankfurt, eventually found its way to Heathrow and on to Flight 103, and the holes become immediately clear. 1 Available online at . Unauthorised removal of debris from the crash site, improper identification methods, tainted witness evidence, incompatible timings, deficient forensic expertise (one of the UK’s two ‘expert’ scientists went off to retrain as a chiropodist part way through the investigation) and the regular denial of information relevant to the defence all reveal a shoddy approach to justice. The investigation took place under heavy direction from the US and its ‘findings’ were waved through the judicial process with little regard to the rights of the defendant. Even at the time of al-Megrahi’s trial and subsequent appeal, heavy criticism of that process was made by Professor Hans Köchler, the man appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to observe the case.2 But none of this made any difference until the deal made between Blair and Muammar Gaddafi in 2007 permitted prisoner transfer. This, in turn, allowed the Scottish Justice Secretary two years later to permit the fatally ill al-Megrahi to die with his family. Al-Megrahi, who by then had been waiting four years for the statement of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Board (SCCRB), tells us that he faced the almost impossible dilemma of whether to continue the second appeal afforded him by the SCCRB report. It cited six grounds on which al-Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice and that appeal would almost certainly have led to his release.3 Ashton records him as saying: ‘In order to obtain a transfer I had to abandon my appeal. It left me with an appalling choice: to die in prison in the hope of being cleared posthumously, or to die at home still bearing the weight of my conviction.’ The decision rested with the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill. Al-Megrahi says: ‘MacAskill was in a very difficult position. If he were to refuse the application [for transfer] and leave me to die 2 His reports are at 3 SCCRB statement is now available at . in prison, he would not only appear monstrously callous, but would also run the risk of the appeal bringing the Scottish criminal justice system into massive disrepute. However, granting it would breach the assurances given to the US government and the UN prior to the trial. It would be a tacit endorsement of an arrangement that had been foisted upon Scotland by Westminster.’ A third option was release on compassionate grounds. While success there would not legally require al-Megrahi to drop his appeal, he recounts being told by a Libyan minister who met MacAskill privately that the Justice Secretary said he would find it ‘easier to grant compassionate release if I dropped my appeal. He said he [MacAskill] was not demanding that I do so, but the message seemed to me to be clear. I was legally entitled to continue the appeal, but I could not risk doing so. It meant abandoning my quest for justice.’ The next day al-Megrahi decided to drop his appeal. Ashton records: ‘By a horrible irony Abdelbaset’s decision coincided with the destruction of the last major plank of the Crown case.’ That was critical evidence about the fragment of circuit board which the prosecution claimed through forensic examination to be part of a timer batch supplied to Libya, and whose discovery allegedly linked al- Megrahi to the downing of Flight 103. The author discloses that the defence team were from the outset denied information on this fragment that would have undermined this Crown position. This was far from an uncommon occurrence in the al-Megrahi case, one further eroded by other material protected by ‘public interest immunity’, a ruling which continues even after al-Megrahi’s death. The book makes clear that al-Megrahi was a vulnerable figure. He, along with many other Libyans, was a US sanctions buster, had intelligence connections, two passports and did not tell his wife about his regular trips abroad, including those to Malta. But Ashton also puts that into political context by reminding us that in the 1980s, when Iran enjoyed US support during its war with Iraq, Libya was clearly targeted by the Reagan Administration. The shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher in 1984 encouraged Thatcher to become the only European leader to allow her country to be used two years later for a US attempt to murder Gaddafy by bombing after the Berlin La Belle night club attack in which American soldiers died. Ashton does not devote much of his book to the London murder or the German explosion, but he points to sources who question the accepted version of Libyan responsibility for both. He also tells us that the man charged by Reagan in 1985 with drawing up concrete plans against Libya – code-named ‘Flower/Rose’ – was Robert Gates. He went on to become CIA director under George Bush Sr and stayed on as Defence Secretary when Barack Obama succeeded George Bush Jnr. With Libya having this powerful opponent in the upper reaches of the US defence and intelligence community for over 25 years, we should perhaps be not too surprised that the basics of independent police investigation and impartial judicial process were not followed. Many were complicit in what amounted to a show trial and their careers continue to flourish.4 But there were also those who swam against the tide of managed conformity. Al- Megrahi speaks well of his treatment by many individuals in the Scottish police and prison services, of families who wanted to know what really happened to their murdered relatives,5 of lawyers who battled the legal, political and intelligence establishments of the US and UK.6 The Scottish legal journal The Firm has kept constant vigil on Lockerbie. Its two-part archive is invaluable to those wishing to know more.7 Al-Jazeera has produced some good material, too, and the links to that are available through 4 A recent example is reported at . 5 6 7 and Ashton’s website.8 And there a few journalists and politicians who emerge with credit for taking an independent approach to Lockerbie when career considerations might well have taken them into less controversial areas. Yet overall the al-Megrahi story is a disgraceful one: the compounding of the grief of the Lockerbie bereaved by a corrupting, state-organised deception that identifies the wrong person as the cause of their anguish. It is a story told well here by a determined researcher and the man jailed for something he did not do. The last words for now are those of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi: ‘It is ironic that three of Scotland’s best legal minds believed me to be guilty, yet the ordinary Scots who got to know me believed I was innocent. To them, and to all the others who have shown me kindness over the past decade, I offer my heartfelt thanks. Almost certainly I will die with the weight of my conviction still on my shoulders. My conscience, however, will be clear, and until my last breath I shall pray that the real stories of Lockerbie will one day be known to all.’ Tom Easton Tom Easton is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Lobster. 8 Borisconi Just Boris Sonia Purnell London: Aurum, 2012, £8.99 Boris Johnson is the most popular politician, indeed the only popular politician, in Britain today. He is regarded by many commentators as by far the strongest contender to be the next leader of the Conservative Party, a prospect that most senior Conservatives regard with horror. He might well be our first pantomime prime minister. How has this British Berlusconi, this peculiar amalgam of Benny Hill and Mussolini, achieved such stardom? The Benny Hill aspect of his character has dominated so far, but there is every reason to believe that if he ever gets near real power we will see the Mussolini aspect coming to the fore. Johnson apparently has a ferocious temper in private and never forgives a slight. This makes Sonia Purnell’s Just Boris all the more timely. She provides a really quite incredible history of privilege, dishonesty, misjudgement and disaster. To be fair, he did spend his gap year in Africa, teaching orphaned children in the slums of Lagos. Only joking! He spent it teaching privileged children at Australia’s equivalent of Eton. He was sacked from his first job as a journalist on The Times for inventing an interview, only to move straight over to the Telegraph, where presumably such things were not considered so important. The question that inevitably comes to mind as one reads Purnell’s book is: how on earth does he get away with it? Certainly, his carefully constructed comical toff persona is an important factor. He has succeeded in identifying himself as one of Lord Snooty’s pals out of the Beano. Not to be taken too seriously no matter how disloyal, despicable or outrageous his conduct because after all it’s only Boris and he either did not know what he was doing or did not mean it. Purnell’s biography makes clear that this is all put on. He takes great care to muss his hair before any public appearance, for example. What emerges from her account is an extremely intelligent if erratic politician a man of great ruthlessness who is encumbered by very few beliefs or convictions beyond a general commitment to the right and to the interests of the rich and privileged. Even his Euroscepticism is largely a pose because, in reality, she suggests, he doesn’t actually care and is only really interested in self-advertisement. He is determined to become prime Minister but more to satisfy his own overpowering ego than out of any mundanely political considerations. The fear of many senior Conservatives is that it would never occur to Johnson that he should ever make any sacrifices for the benefit of the Party but that he would certainly not hesitate to sacrifice the Party for the benefit of Boris. One particular incident in Johnson’s rise to stardom is worth considering. On 14 October 2006, the Spectator carried an article attacking the people of Liverpool for their ‘peculiar and deeply unattractive psyche’, their ‘excessive predilection for welfarism’ and their wallowing in ‘victimhood’. The death of ’more than 50’ fans at Hillsborough was a great tragedy, ‘but that is no excuse for Liverpool’s failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans’. This piece was actually written by Simon Heffer, a sort of upmarket Kelvin Mackenzie, but the editor who took the decision to run it was Johnson. It is worth making the point that while the extent of police cover-up was not known at the time, it had already been established that drunken fans had absolutely not been a cause of the disaster. Facts should not be allowed to get in the way of abusing northerners, especially working class northerners. What made the display of casual contempt all the more transparent was the failure to even bother to get the number of fatalities correct. It was 96. At the time, Johnson was shadow arts minister. Incredibly, he was not asked to resign, but was instead sent to Liverpool to apologise, a visit that predictably degenerated into farce. What was to bring his career to a temporary halt at this point was his long-term affair with Petronella Wyatt becoming known. She had actually gone into hospital three days before his Liverpool trip to abort her second Johnson pregnancy. Disappointed at his failure to leave his wife, she went public, producing the Berlusconi-style headline in the News of the World, ‘BONKING BORIS MADE ME PREGNANT’. He had denied the affair and was asked to resign as shadow arts minister for having lied. He refused and was sacked. According to Purnell, when it comes to mistresses, Johnson always ‘goes for a certain upmarket type’ and there were usually ‘at least one or two well-bred Oxbridge women in short skirts starting out in journalism’ whom he would invite to the Spectator so he could give them ‘advice’. One young woman described his technique: ‘He invades your personal space, gets really close to you, and then with those slightly popping blue eyes of his says intently in a deep voice: “You really must come and write for me at the Spectator.”’ If the object of his attentions seemed unreceptive, he moved on to someone else. Johnson justifies his affairs on the grounds that he is ‘bursting with spunk’. All of this scandal that would normally have resulted in career death merely slowed him down. What of the future? Johnson has used his position as Mayor of London as a vehicle to undermine David Cameron and to campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party. The office has provided him with endless opportunities for selfadvertisement from appearing in East Enders to hijacking the Olympics. Is he unstoppable? In an obvious attempt to embarrass the Government, he recently called for the top rate of tax to be cut to 40%, massaging the fantasies of the Tory right with the possibility that his popularity is such that he, unlike Osborne, might actually be able to get away with such a massive handout to the rich during a recession. Many hardline right-wing Tories cannot understand why the Tea Party phenomenon has never taken off in Britain and see Johnson as a potential one-man Tea Party. In fact, his popularity rests on his comic persona, on his not being taken seriously, rather than on his politics. He is more Mad Hatter than Tea Party. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that people will be considerably less sympathetic to a caricature Old Etonian who actually tries in practice to redistribute wealth to the rich in such an open fashion while everyone else is suffering a cut in their living standards. He would not be able to pass this off as a joke. This has happened before. In 2006, in another exercise in self-advertisement, he stood for the Rectorship of Edinburgh University and was thought to be the certain winner. He was believed to be so popular, especially with students, that no one could stop him. His support for tuition fees led to his coming third. The Green candidate won. One last cloud on Johnson’s horizon is his relationship with Rupert Murdoch. He was every bit as close to News International as Cameron and, according to Purnell, actually had to pull out of a trip to a Take That concert with Rebekah Brooks and her husband, Charlie, an old school friend, when the ‘Hacking scandal’ went toxic. Whereas Cameron felt obliged to permanently distance himself from News International, Johnson very deliberately decided to publicly associate himself with Murdoch, dismissing the ‘Hacking scandal’ as ‘codswallop’ and a Labour stunt. He very publicly invited Murdoch to be his guest at the Olympics. Without much doubt his thinking is that Murdoch will ride out the ‘Hacking scandal’ and Leveson, and that it will be more than useful to have the backing of the Sun and The Times when he stands for the leadership of the Conservative Party. What might cause him problems are allegations that the Mayor’s office actually tried to interfere with the ‘Hacking’ inquiry, allegations that don’t seem likely to go away. Purnell herself raises serious concerns about Johnson’s earlier possible interference in policing matters, and this is certainly one of the most disturbing parts of her book. She provides the best account of the Damian Green episode so far. Johnson’s close relationship with Murdoch might well backfire. We shall see. John Newsinger John Newsinger is Senior Lecturer in History in the School of Humanities and Cultural Industries at Bath Spa University. A Memoir of Injustice Jerry Ray Walterville (Oregon): Trineday, 2012, $19.95, p/b Jerry Ray is the younger brother of the late James Earl Ray. Although the book is mildly interesting in showing life at the bottom of the pile in post-war America and how the Ray brothers became petty criminals, as far as I can see it contributes nothing to our understanding of the conspiracy which ensnared James Earl Ray and led him to becoming the patsy in Memphis. It may illustrate certain peripheral items, such as Ray’s experience of the judicial system, but brother Jerry knows no more about the actual murder conspiracy than we do. The only thought the book provoked in me, reading once again about the mysterious ‘Raoul’ who financed James Earl Ray’s travels around America, was this: how many other criminals were being kept on the road at the time for use as patsies? Was there a pool of them? If so, who identified them and financed it? Was it a state operation? Crime organisation? Or are we in Parallax View territory, with a private corporation providing assassins?1 Although detecting nothing more of consequence about the main event than I did, the estimable Jim DiEugenio found the book more interesting.2 Robin Ramsay 1 See . 2 At . Gladio NATO’s dagger at the Heart of Europe; the Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia Terror Axis Richard Cottrell Progressive Press, 2012, $17.00, p/b www.ProgressivePress.com The e-mail pitch was intriguing: a former Conservative MEP and journalist has written a big book about the Gladio network with ‘....entirely new accounts on the assassination of the ex Italian PM Aldo Moro, the Swedish premier Olof Palme and his star pupil Anna Lindh, and the real motives behind the attack on Pope John Paul II. I also expose the myths behind the killing in London of the Bulgarian émigré Georgi Markov, another fabulous media fest. In the chapter devoted to Belgium I advance evidence that the Heysel football stadium disaster in May 1985 was politically orchestrated .....For the first time anywhere in print, I point to General Lyman Lemnitzer, ex US Chief of the General Staff, later NATO supremo, as a key figure involved in the assassination of JFK.’ The reality is a disappointment, to say the least. There is almost no documentation. We have hundreds of pages of unsupported assertion; and if you are going to offer a sweeping new narrative it has to be solid, well documented. And this just isn’t. It’s full of speculation and assertion supported by..... Well, take this, for example: discussing the idea that Franceso Gullino and Michael Townley had been responsible for the Olof Palme shooting, he writes (p. 63): ‘The possibility that Townley was the set designer in Stockholm and Gullino the imported stage technician, is persuasive.’ ‘Persuasive possibility’? I prefer evidence. On page 12 he writes: [Mrs Thatcher’s] famous stock market ‘”Big Bang” deregulation exercise in 1986 introduced the corrosive forces of rampant corporatism at the expense of old fashioned outmoded manufacturing.’ It wasn’t corporatism: it was the opposite of corporatism. Nor did the ‘Big Bang’ have much to do with manufacturing, pro or con. It was about the stock market. It’s not that he’s got this wrong, that makes me nervous, but his assurance. Most of this book is about events in Europe about which I know little and would have difficulty checking. In this situation the reviewer heads for familiar territory and Cottrell has included the anti-Labour events of the 1960s and 70s which I know pretty well; and his account is error-strewn and fanciful. In the first two pages of that section he conflates events of the 1960s with the 1970s. He has a coup being plotted by David Stirling’s GB75 in 1974. For this there is no evidence and he offers none. Stirling was preoccupied by the ‘left threat’ in the trade unions; and GB75, if it ever really existed – it might just been a psy-ops job; all we saw were some bits of paper – was talking of stepping into the breach and keeping the UK power generation industry going in the event of a left shutdown. To this non-existent ‘coup’ plan of 1974 Cottrell has added the Cecil King-Lord Mountbatten meeting of 1968. (pp. 236/7) He has Sir Maurice Oldfield, a career-long SIS officer, as ‘MI5’s director of counter-intelligence and deputy controller’. He tells us (p. 240) that Peter Wright’s book ‘gave credence to [Harold] Wilson’s persistent claims that he was the target of a conspiracy against him by a cabal consisting of at least 30 extremist MI5 officers.’ Wilson didn’t claim that. The 30 figure came from Wright who said that ‘up to 30’ MI5 officers were involved in or cognisant of the attempts to unseat Wilson. As for Gladio being behind the Wilson plots, of that there is no evidence at all. But apparently he doesn’t need evidence: mere assertion will suffice. For example he says of Mrs Thatcher’s defeat of Edward Heath for the leadership of the Tory Party in 1975: ’Behind the scenes, it was Gladio’s triumph. Heath was destroyed by the libels revolving around his sexuality and his own loftiness, rooted in insecurity, which rendered him easy prey to ruthless secret service gossip mongers.’ (p. 248) Which is nonsense. The stories about Heath’s sexuality had no coverage and almost no impact. Heath was defeated by Thatcher because he lost the two elections of 1974 and caused the great inflation of the period. He might have he got away with what Mrs Thatcher and the late Sir Rhodes Boyson described as his ‘monetary incontinence’ but losing the elections as well – of course he would be challenged. Sometimes politics is just politics. Wilson’s surprise resignation in 1976 provides Cottrell with scope for more vivid imaginings. ‘The most likely explanation is that Wilson received visitors and, left in a room with a loaded pistol, pulled the metaphorical trigger.’ (p. 248) And he quotes a Dutch MEP as saying: ‘It was quite [well?] known in Dutch intelligence circles why Wilson really went in that sudden and abrupt fashion. It was because he had some relationship, I think it was supposed to be when he was a younger man, of a highly personal and secretive nature with one of his ministers, and the CIA were threatening to fish it out.’ (p. 252) Which rumour is about par for the course in all this. In fact we don’t need to speculate because we know what happened; and Cottrell could have found out had he wanted to. Wilson told his inner circle and his senior colleagues that he was retiring at 60 years of age and they didn’t leak it. He was tired, rather bored, drinking too much and worried that he would get what was then known as senile dementia which had afflicted his mother. So he got out while the going was good. As for the role of NATO’s General Lemnitzer in any of this, the author has nothing at all. His comment in his e-mail that he ‘point[s] to General Lyman Lemnitzer, ex US Chief of the General Staff, later NATO supremo, as a key figure involved in the assassination of JFK’ is accurate: he points but he has no evidence. He thinks the 7/7 London Tube-bus bombings was a phoney (though isn’t sure if it was Gladio or not) and offers some of the usual critique of the official version.10 As others have before him, Cottrell makes much of the Peter Power story. Former Met officer Power had been running a deskbased terrorism exercise on 7/7 which eerily echoed the events of that day, notably that the Tube stations in his exercise were those chosen for the real explosions. Cottrell spends almost two pages trying to portray this as something sinister. But the problem with all attempts to make something of this is that Power was a volunteer; he rang BBC Radio 5 Live on the afternoon of 7/7 to report this creepy coincidence. I was listening at the time. The author is offering a ‘hidden hand’ conspiracy theory about post-war European history. He has history X-ray specs on which enable him to see through the veil of falsehoods. The hidden hand was Gladio. In some areas it has been documented as true; in some of those he discusses here there is little or no evidence; and in the British section, about which I know enough to comment, he has neither the evidence to sustain his thesis nor the basic attention to detail required to do so even if he had it. Robin Ramsay Cryptoscatology Conspiracy Theory as Art Form Robert Guffey Walterville (OR): Trine Day, 2012, $19.95 (USA), p/b This is collection of the author’s essays on secret societies, the Masons and other esoterica, and various ways in which conspiracy theories are interacting with popular American culture. The book’s title is meaningless, as far as I can see, and the attempt to squeeze these disparate essays under one title is essentially futile. There is no central theme holding them together. The author belongs to the ‘conspiracy theories for the hell of it’ school. That is to say he is not too concerned whether or not any particular theory is true or false. He writes (p. 8): ‘I’m saying that the state of paranoia is a new art form, and people – either consciously or unconsciously – are well aware of this and use paranoia as a plaything, a palliative to help guide them through the intricacies of the post-post-modern world.’ To a modernist and positivist like me this is either meaningless – How can paranoia, a mental state or attitude, be an art form? – or simply false: I do not see people using paranoia as a palliative or plaything. But the author’s theoretical topdressing really is of little import: it’s the essays which matter. All of these are interesting to some extent. Freemasonry in Shakespeare? The life of American Mason and esotericist Albert Pike? William Burroughs as a 20th century Gnostic? But when he gets to more mainstream subjects, such as secret societies in history, his lack of interest in fuddy-duddy old true or false is a handicap. He tells us that H. G. Wells was a member of the Round Table and spent WW2 as the head of British intelligence. Neither claim is true; and the fact that on this he cites the late Jim Keith, one of the less reliable people in this area, for the intelligence claim says much about Guffey’s lack of interest in boring old facts. So: not uninteresting, just not reliable. But in putting it like that I am demonstrating that I am simply not on the same page as the author. Robin Ramsay Ritual America Secret Brotherhoods and their influence on American society A Visual Guide Adam Parfrey and Craig Heimbichner Feral House, 2012, $29.95 This is a big book. With 335 pages just a fraction under A4 sized, this weighs over 4 lbs. It is indeed a ‘a visual guide’ with hundreds of fascinating illustrations, photographs of, cartoons, spoofs, and advertisements for America’s..... well, the authors refer to them as ‘secret brotherhoods’. But most of them – Shriners, Elks, Oddfellows, Masons and all the other smaller examples – as shown by all the pictures, weren’t really secret. The authors acknowledge this in the heading of their introduction: ‘The not-so-secret secret life of America’. The book’s problem is that it was clearly done by fitting words round the pictures and the resulting text is fragmented and not very helpful, I suspect, unless you know something about this subject already. The authors would have been better writing a text and using the pictures to illustrate it. On the odd occasion when some detailed explanation would be useful – e.g. the alleged Masonic influence on the layout of Washington DC – we don’t get it. Nor do we get much analysis of these groups’ significance (though how could it be measured?). And what are Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, Wilhelm Reich, Ron Hubbard and and Madame Blavatsky doing in this? But it is a tremendous collection of pictures. Robin Ramsay