The history of the Neocon takeover of the USA (a 4 part analysis)
By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould
Foreword by the Saker: the four articles below, combined into one, are an exception to the normal rule which is that this blog doe not republish articles already published in the past. In this case, at the request of Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, I decided to make an exception due to the importance and interest of the topic: the origins of the Neocon movement. I am particularly grateful to Paul and Elizabeth who have agreed to my request to remove the original copyright restrictions on this material for publication on the Saker blog. The analysis they wrote offers a very valuable insight into the roots and history of the Neocon phenomenon.
Part 1 – American Imperialism Leads the World into Dante’s Vision of Hell
“The Gate of Hell” by Gustave Doré for Dante’s “Inferno.” (Wikimedia)
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate. (Abandon all hope ye who enter here.)”
—Dante, “The Divine Comedy,” Inferno (Part 1), Canto 3, Line 9
Before the Tomahawk Missiles start flying between Moscow and New York, Americans had better educate themselves fast about the forces and the people who claim that Russia covered up a Syrian government gas attack on its own people. Proof no longer seems to matter in the rush to further transform the world into Dante’s vision of Hell. Accusations made by anonymous sources, spurious sources and outright frauds have become enough. Washington’s paranoia and confusion bear an uncanny resemblance to the final days of the Third Reich, when the leadership in Berlin became completely unglued. Tensions have been building since fall with accusations that Russian media interfered with our presidential election and is a growing threat to America’s national security. The latest WikiLeaks release strongly suggested that it was the CIA’s own contract hackers behind Hillary Clinton’s email leaks and not Russians. The U.S. has a long reputation of accusing others of things they didn’t do and planting fake news stories to back it up in order to provide a cause for war. The work of secret counter intelligence services is to misinform the public in order to shape opinion and that’s what this is. The current U.S. government campaign to slander Russia over anything and everything it does bears all the earmarks of a classic disinformation campaign but this time even crazier. Considering that Washington has put Russia, China and Iran on its anti-globalist hit-list from which no one is allowed to escape, drummed up charges against them shouldn’t come as a surprise. But accusing the Russians of undermining American democracy and interfering in an election is tantamount to an act of war and that simply is not going to wash. This time the United States is not demonizing an ideological enemy (USSR) or a religious one (al Qaeda, ISIS, Daesh etc.). It’s making this latest venture into the blackest of propaganda a race war, the way the Nazis made their invasion of Russia a race war in 1941 and that is not a war the United States can justify or win.
The level and shrillness of the latest disinformation campaign has been growing for some time. But the American public has lived in a culture of fake news (formerly known as propaganda) for so long many have grown to accept fake news as real news. George Orwell saw this coming and here it is. As a big supporter of U.S. military intervention in Cuba and avowed practitioner of “yellow journalism”, in 1897 William Randolph Hearst admonished the illustrator he’d sent to Cuba who’d found no war to illustrate; “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” Hearst eventually got his war and America’s experiment in imperialism was off and running.
Americans should know by now that their country’s wars are fertile ground for biased, one-sided, xenophobic, fake news and the United States has been in a permanent state of war since 1941. Although the targets have shifted over the years, the purpose of the propaganda hasn’t. Most cultures are coerced, cajoled or simply threatened into accepting known falsehoods demonizing their enemies during wartime but no matter how frequently repeated or cleverly told—no lie can hold if the war never ends. The legendary Cold Warrior, Time and Life Magazine’s Henry Luce considered his personal fight against Communism to be “a declaration of private war.” He’d even asked one of his executives whether or not the idea was probably “unlawful and probably mad?” Nonetheless, despite his doubts about his own sanity, Luce allowed the CIA to use his Time/Life as a cover for the agency’s operations and to provide credentials to CIA personnel.
Luce was not alone in his service to the CIA’s propaganda wars. Recently declassified documents reveal the CIA’s propaganda extended to all the mainstream media outlets. Dozens of the most respected journalists and opinion makers during the Cold War considered it a privilege to keep American public opinion from straying away from CIA control.
Now that the new Cold War has turned hot, we are led to believe that the Russians have breached this wall of not-so-truthful journalists and rattled the foundation of everything we are supposed to hold dear about the purity of the U.S. election process and “freedom of the press” in America.
Black propaganda is all about lying. Authoritarian governments lie regularly. Totalitarian governments do it so often nobody believes them. A government based on democratic principles like the United States is supposed to speak the truth, but when the U.S. government’s own documents reveal it has been lying over and over again for decades, the jig is up.
Empires have been down this road before and it doesn’t end well. Americans are now being told they should consider all Russian opinion as fake and ignore any information that challenges the mainstream media and U.S. government on what is truth and what is the lie. But for the first time in memory Americans have become aware that the people Secretary of State Colin Powell once called “the crazies”, have taken the country over the cliff.
The neoconservative hitmen and hit-ladies of Washington have a long list of targets that pass from generation to generation. Their influence on American government has been catastrophic yet it never seems to end. Senator J. William Fulbright identified their irrational system for making endless war in Vietnam 45 years ago in a New Yorker article titled Reflections in Thrall to Fear.
“The truly remarkable thing about this Cold War psychology is the totally illogical transfer of the burden of proof from those who make charges to those who question them… The Cold Warriors, instead of having to say how they knew that Vietnam was part of a plan for the Communization of the world, so manipulated the terms of the public discussion as to be able to demand that the skeptics prove that it was not. If the skeptics could not then the war must go on—to end it would be recklessly risking the national security.”
Fulbright realized that Washington’s resident crazies had turned the world inside out by concluding, “We come to the ultimate illogic: war is the course of prudence and sobriety until the case for peace is proved under impossible rules of evidence [or never]–or until the enemy surrenders. Rational men cannot deal with each other on this basis.” But these were not rational men and their need to further their irrational quest only increased with the loss of the Vietnam War.
Having long forgotten the lessons of Vietnam and after a tragic repeat in Iraq that the highly respected General William Odom considered “equivalent to the Germans at Stalingrad,” the crazies are at it again. With no one to stop them, they have kicked off an updated version of the Cold War against Russia as if nothing had changed since the last one ended in 1992. The original Cold War was immensely expensive to the United States and was conducted at the height of America’s military and financial power. The United States is no longer that country. Since it was supposedly about the ideological “threat” of Communism, Americans need to ask before it’s too late exactly what kind of threat does a Capitalist/Christian Russia pose to the leader of the “Free World” this time?
Muddying the waters in a way not seen since Senator Joe McCarthy and the height of the Red Scare in the 1950s, the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” signed into law without fanfare by Obama in December 2016 officially authorizes a government censorship bureaucracy comparable only to George Orwell’s fictional Ministry of Truth in his novel 1984. Referred to as “The Global Engagement Center,” the official purpose of the new bureaucracy will be to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.” But the real purpose of this totally Orwellian Center will be to manage, eliminate or censor any dissenting views that challenge Washington’s newly manufactured version of the truth and to intimidate, harass or jail anyone who tries. Criminalizing dissent is nothing new in time of war, but after 16 years of ceaseless warfare in Afghanistan, a Stalingrad–like defeat in Iraq and with Henry Kissinger advising President Trump on foreign policy, the Global Engagement Center has already assumed the characteristics of a dangerous farce.
The brilliant American satirical songwriter of the 1950s and 60s Tom Lehrer once attributed his early retirement to Henry Kissinger, saying “Political satire became obsolete [in 1973] when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” Kissinger’s duplicitous attempts at securing an “honorable peace” in America’s war in Vietnam deserved at least ridicule. His long, drawn out negotiations extended the war for four years at the cost of 22,000 American lives and countless Vietnamese. According to University of California researcher Larry Berman, author of 2001’s No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam, the Paris peace accords negotiated by Kissinger were never even expected to work, but were only to serve as a justification for a brutal and permanent air war once they were violated. Berman writes, “Nixon recognized that winning the peace, like the war would be impossible to achieve, but he planned for indefinite stalemate by using the B 52s to prop up the government of South Vietnam until the end of his presidency… but Watergate derailed the plan.”
The Vietnam War had broken the eastern establishment’s hold over foreign policy long before Nixon and Kissinger’s entry onto the scene. Détente with the Soviet Union had come about during the Johnson administration in an effort to bring some order out of the chaos and Kissinger had carried it through Nixon and Ford. But while dampening one crisis, détente created an even worse one by breaking open the longstanding internal-deep-state-struggle for control of U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. Vietnam represented more than just a strategic defeat; it represented a conceptual failure in the half-century battle to contain Soviet-style Communism. The Pentagon Papers revealed the extent of the U.S. government’s deceit and incompetence but rather than concede that defeat and chart a new course, its proponents fought back with a Machiavellian ideological campaign known as the experiment in competitive analysis or for short; Team B.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times in August 2004 in an article titled It’s Time to Bench “Team B”, Lawrence J. Korb, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and assistant secretary of defense from 1981 to 1985 came forward on what he knew to be the real tragedy represented by 9/11. “The reports of the Sept. 11 commission and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence missed the real problem facing the intelligence community, which is not organization or culture but something known as the “Team B” concept. And the real villains are the hard-liners who created the concept out of an unwillingness to accept the unbiased and balanced judgments of intelligence professionals.”
Part 2 – How Neocons Push for War by Cooking the Books
An 1898 cartoon features newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst dressed as a cartoon character of the day, a satire of their papers’ role in drumming up U.S. public opinion for war by Leon Barritt (Wikimedia)) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PulitzerHearstWarYellowKids.jpg
Most Americans outside of Washington policy circles don’t know about Team B, where it came from or what it did, nor are they aware of its roots in the Fourth International, the Trotskyist branch of the Communist International. Lawrence J. Korb, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and assistant secretary of defense from 1981 to 1985 attributed the intelligence failure represented by 9/11 to Team B and had this to say about it in a 2004 article for the Los Angeles Times.
“The roots of the problem go back to May 6, 1976, when the director of Central Intelligence, George H.W. Bush, created the first Team B… The concept of a “competitive analysis” of the data done by an alternative team had been opposed by William Colby, Bush’s predecessor as CIA director and a career professional… Although the Team B report contained little factual data it was enthusiastically received by conservative groups such as the Committee on the Present Danger. But the report turned out to be grossly inaccurate… Team B was right about one thing. The CIA estimate was indeed flawed. But it was flawed in the other direction.”
Korb went on to explain that a 1978 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence review concluded; “that the selection of Team B members had yielded a flawed composition of political views and biases. And a 1989 review concluded that the Soviet threat had been ‘substantially overestimated’ in the CIA’s annual intelligence estimates… Still, the failure of Team B in 1976 did not deter the hard-liners from challenging the CIA’s judgments for the next three decades.”
Now long forgotten, the origins of the Team B “problem” actually stretched back to the radical political views and biases of James Burnham, his association with the Communist Revolutionary Leon Trotsky and the creation of powerful eastern establishment ad hoc groups; the Committee on the Present Danger and the American Security Council. From the outset of the Cold War in the late 1940s an odd coalition of ex-Trotskyist radicals and right wing business associations had lobbied heavily for big military budgets, advanced weapons systems and aggressive action to confront Soviet Communism. Vietnam was intended to prove the brilliance of their theories, but as described by author Fred Kaplan, “Vietnam brought out the dark side of nearly everyone inside America’s national security machine. And it exposed something seamy and disturbing about the very enterprise of the defense intellectuals. It revealed that the concept of force underlying all their formulations and scenarios was an abstraction, practically useless as a guide to action.” (Wizards of Armageddon page. 336) Kaplan ends by writing “The disillusionment for some became nearly total.” Vietnam represented more than just a strategic defeat for America’s defense intellectuals; it represented a conceptual failure in the half-century battle to contain Soviet-style Communism but for Team B, that disillusionment represented the opportunity of a lifetime.
Trotskyist Intellectuals become The New York Intellectuals become Defense Intellectuals
Populated by an inbred class of former Trotskyist intellectuals, the Team B approach represented a radical transformation of America’s national security bureaucracy into a new kind of elitist cult. In the 1960s Robert McNamara’s numbers and statistics justified bad policy decisions, now personal agendas and ethnic grudges would turn American foreign policy into an ideological crusade. Today those in control of that crusade fight desperately to maintain their grip, but only by de-encrypting the evolution of this secret “double government” can anyone understand America’s unrelenting post-Vietnam drift into despotism over the last 40 years.
Rooted in what can only be described as cult thinking, the Team B experiment tore down what was left of the CIA’s pre-Vietnam professional objectivity by subjecting it to politicization. Earlier in the decade, the CIA’s Office of Strategic Research (OSR) had been pressured by Nixon and Kissinger to corrupt their analysis to justify increased defense spending but the Team B’s ideological focus and partisan makeup so exaggerated the threat, the process could never return to normal.
The campaign was driven by the Russophobic neoconservative cabal which included Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pipes, Richard Perle and a handful of old anti-Soviet hardliners like Paul Nitze and General Danny Graham. It began with a 1974 article in the Wall Street Journal by the famed nuclear strategist and former Trotskyist Albert Wohlstetter decrying America’s supposed nuclear vulnerability. It ended 2 years later with a ritualistic bloodletting at the CIA, signaling that ideology and not fact-based analysis had gained an exclusive hold on America’s bureaucracy.
The ideology referred to as Neoconservatism can claim many godfathers if not godmothers. Roberta Wohlstetter’s reputation as one of RAND’s preeminent Cold Warriors was equal to her husband’s. The couple’s infamous parties at their Santa Monica home acted as a kind of initiation rite for the rising class of “defense intellectual”. But the title of founding-father might best be applied to James Burnham. A convert from Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky’s inner circle, Burnham’s 1941, The Managerial Revolution and 1943’s The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom championed the anti-democratic takeover then occurring in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy while in1945’s Lenin’s Heir he switched his admiration, if only tongue in cheek, from Trotsky to Stalin.
George Orwell criticized Burnham’s cynical elitist vision in his 1946 essay Second Thoughts on James Burnham, writing “What Burnham is mainly concerned to show [in The Machiavellians] is that a democratic society has never existed and, so far as we can see, never will exist. Society is of its nature oligarchical, and the power of the oligarchy always rests upon force and fraud… Power can sometimes be won and maintained without violence, but never without fraud.”
Orwell is said to have modelled his novel 1984 on Burnham’s vision of the coming totalitarian state which he described as “a new kind of society, neither capitalist nor Socialist, and probably based upon slavery.”
As a Princeton and Oxford educated English scholar (one of his professor’s at Balliol College was J.R.R Tolkien) Burnham landed a position as a writer and an instructor in the philosophy department at New York University just in time for the 1929 Wall Street crash. Although initially uninterested in politics and hostile to Marxism, by 1931Burnham had become radicalized by the Great Depression and alongside fellow NYU philosophy instructor Sidney Hook, drawn to Marxism.
Burnham found Trotsky’s use of “dialectical materialism” to explain the interplay between the human and the historical forces in his History of the Russian Revolution to be brilliant. His subsequent review of Trotsky’s book would bring the two men together and begin for Burnham a six year odyssey through America’s Communist left that would in this strange saga, ultimately transform him into the agent of its destruction.
As founder of the Red Army and a firebrand Marxist, Trotsky had dedicated his life to the spread of a worldwide Communist revolution. Stalin opposed Trotsky’s views as too ambitious and the power struggle that followed Lenin’s death splintered the party. By their very nature the Trotskyists were expert at infighting, infiltration and disruption. Burnham reveled in his role as a Trotskyist intellectual and the endless debates over the fundamental principle of Communism (dialectical materialism) behind Trotsky’s crusade. The Communist Manifesto approved the tactic of subverting larger and more populist political parties (entrism) and following Trotsky’s expulsion from the Communist party in November 1927, his followers exploited it. The most well-known example of entrism was the so called “French Turn” when in 1934 the French Trotskyists entered the much larger French Socialist Party the SFIO with the intention of winning over the more militant elements to their side.
That same year the American followers of Trotsky in the Communist League of America, the CLA did a French turn on the American Workers Party, the AWP in a move that elevated the AWP’s James Burnham into the role of a Trotsky lieutenant and chief advisor.
Burnham liked the toughness of the Bolsheviks and despised the weakness of the liberals. According to his biographer Daniel Kelly, “He took great pride in what he saw as its hard-headed view of the world in contrast to philosophies rooted in ‘dreams and illusions.’” He also delighted in the tactics of infiltrating and subverting other leftist parties and in 1935 “fought tirelessly for the French turn” of another and far larger Socialist Party the SP some twenty thousand strong. The Trotskyists intended “to capture its left wing and its youth division, the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL),” Kelly writes “and take the converts with them when they left.”
Burnham remained a “Trotskyist Intellectual” from 1934 until 1940. But although he labored six years for the party, it was said of him that he was never of the party and as the new decade began he renounced both Trotsky and “the ‘philosophy of Marxism’ dialectical materialism” altogether. He summed up his feelings in a letter of resignation on May 21, 1940. “Of the most important beliefs, which have been associated with the Marxist Movement, whether in its reformist, Leninist, Stalinist or Trotskyist variants, there is virtually none which I accept in its traditional form. I regard these beliefs as either false or obsolete or meaningless; or in a few cases, as at best true only in a form so restricted and modified as no longer properly to be called Marxist.”
In 1976 Burnham wrote to a legendary secret agent whom biographer Kelly referred to as “the British political analyst Brian Crozier” that he had never swallowed dialectical materialism or the ideology of Marxism but was merely being pragmatic given the rise of Hitler and the Depression.
But given the influential role Burnham would come to play in creating the new revolutionary class of neoconservatives, and their central role in using Trotsky’s tactics to lobby against any relationship with the Soviet Union, it’s hard to believe Burnham’s involvement with Trotsky’s Fourth International was only an intellectual exercise in pragmatism.
Part 3 – How the CIA Created a Fake Western Reality for ‘Unconventional Warfare’
“The Evil Spirits of the Modern Day Press”. Puck US magazine 1888 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Puck112188c.jpg ) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
The odd, psychologically conflicted and politically divisive ideology referred to as Neoconservatism can claim many godfathers. Irving Kristol, father of William Kristol, Albert Wohlstetter, Daniel Bell, Norman Podhoretz and Sidney Hook come to mind and there are many others. But in both theory and its practice the title of founding-father of the neoconservative agenda of endless warfare that rules the thinking of America’s defense and foreign policies today might best be applied to James Burnham.
His writings in the 1930s provided a refined Oxford intellectual’s gloss to the Socialist Workers party and as a close advisor to Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his Fourth International he learned the tactics and strategies of infiltration and political subversion first hand. Burnham reveled in his role as a “Trotskyist intellectual” pulling dirty tricks on his political foes in competing Marxist movements by turning their loyalties and looting their best talent.
Burnham renounced his allegiance to Trotsky and Marxism in all its forms in1940 but he would take their tactics and strategies for infiltration and subversion with him and would turn their method of dialectical materialism against them. His 1941book The Managerial Revolution would bring him fame and fortune and establish him as an astute, if not exactly accurate political prophet chronicling the rise of a new class of technocratic elite. His next book The Machiavellians would confirm his movement away from Marxist idealism to a very cynical and often cruel realism with his belief in the inevitable failure of democracy and the rise of the oligarch. In 1943 he would put it all to use in a memo for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services the OSS in which his Trotskyist anti-Stalinism would find its way into the agency’s thinking. And in his 1947 book The Struggle for the World, Burnham would expand his confrontational/adversarial dialectic toward the Soviet Union into a permanent, apocalyptic policy of endless war. By 1947 James Burnham’s transformation from Communist radical to New World Order American conservative was complete. His Struggle for the World had done a French Turn on Trotsky’s permanent Communist revolution and turned it into a permanent battle plan for a global American empire. All that was needed to complete Burnham’s dialectic was a permanent enemy and that would require a sophisticated psychological campaign to keep the hatred of Russia alive for generations.
The rise of the Machiavellians
In 1939 Sidney Hook, Burnham’s colleague at NYU and fellow Marxist philosopher had helped to found an anti-Stalinist Committee for Cultural Freedom as part of a campaign against Moscow. During the war Hook too had abandoned Marxism and like Burnham somehow found himself in the warm embrace of the right-wing of America’s intelligence community during and after World War II. Hook was viewed by the Communist Party as a traitor and “counter-revolutionary reptile” for his activities and by 1942 was informing on his fellow comrades to the FBI.
Selling impoverished and dispossessed European elites on the virtues of American culture was essential to building America’s empire after the war and Burnham’s early writings proved the inspiration from which a new counter-culture of “Freedom” would be built. As veterans of internecine Trotskyist warfare both Burnham and Hook were practiced at the arts of infiltration and subversion and with Burnham’s The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom as their blueprint they set out to color anything the Soviets did or said with dark intent.
As Burnham articulated clearly in his Machiavellians, his version of Freedom meant anything but intellectual freedom or those freedoms defined by America’s Constitution. What it really meant was conformity and submission. Burnham’s Freedom only applied to those intellectuals (the Machiavellians) willing to tell people the hard truth about the unpopular political realities they faced. These were the realities that would usher in a brave new world of the managerial class who would set about denying Americans the very democracy they thought they already owned. As Orwell observed about Burnham’s Machiavellian beliefs in his 1946 Second Thoughts, “Power can sometimes be won or maintained without violence, but never without fraud, because it is necessary to use the masses…”
By 1949 the CIA was actively in the business of defrauding the masses by secretly supporting the so called non-Communist left and behaving as if it was just a spontaneous outgrowth of a free society. By turning the left to the service of its expanding empire the CIA was applying a French Turn of its own by picking the best and the brightest and the creation of the National Security State in 1947 institutionalized it. Assisted by Britain’s Information Research Department the IRD, the CIA recruited key former Soviet disinformation agents trained before the war who had managed non-Communist front groups for Moscow and put them to work. As Frances Stoner Saunders writes in her book, The Cultural Cold War, “these former propagandists for the Soviets were recycled, bleached of the stain of Communism, embraced by government strategists who saw in their conversion an irresistible opportunity to sabotage the Soviet propaganda machine which they had once oiled.”
By its own admission the CIA’s strategy of promoting the non-Communist left would become the theoretical foundation of the Agency’s political operations against Communism for over the next two decades. But the no holds barred cultural war against Soviet Communism began in earnest in March 1949 when a group of 800 prominent literary and artistic figures gathered at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel for a Soviet sponsored “Cultural and Scientific” conference that would sue for peace. Both Sydney Hook and James Burnham were already actively involved in enlisting recruits to counter Moscow’s Communist Information Bureau’s (Cominform) efforts to influence Western Opinion. But the Waldorf conference gave them an opportunity for dirty tricks they could only have prayed for.
Demonstrators organized by a right-wing coalition of Catholic groups and the American legion heckled the guests as they arrived. Catholic nuns knelt in prayer for the souls of the Communist atheists in attendance. Gathered upstairs in a tenth floor bridal suite a gang of ex-Trotskyists and Communists led by Hook intercepted the conference’s mail, doctored official press releases and published pamphlets challenging speakers to admit their Communist past.
In the end the entire conference became a twisted theatre of the absurd and Hook and Burnham would use it to sell Frank Wisner at the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination on taking the show on the road.
The Congress for Cultural Freedom: By Hook or by Crook
Drawing on the untapped power of the Fourth International, the coming out party came on June 26, 1950 at the Titania Palace in occupied Berlin. Named for Hook’s 1939 concept for a cultural committee, The Congress for Cultural Freedom’s fourteen-point “Freedom Manifesto” was to identify the West with freedom. And since everything about the West was said to be free, free, free then it went without saying everything about the Soviet Union wasn’t.
Organized by Burnham and Hook, the American delegation represented a who’s who of America’s post war intellectuals. Tickets to Berlin were paid for by Wisner’s Office of Policy Coordination through front organizations as well as the Department of State which helped arrange travel, expenses and publicity. According to CIA Historian Michael Warner the conference’s sponsor’s considered it money well spent with one Defense Department representative calling it “unconventional warfare at its best.”
Burnham functioned as a critical connection between Wisner’s office and the intelligentsia moving from the extreme left to the extreme right with ease. Burnham found the Congress to be a place to inveigh not just against Communism but against the non-communist left as well and left many wondering whether his views weren’t as dangerous to liberal democracy as Communism. According to Frances Stoner Saunders, members of the British delegation found the rhetoric coming out of the Congress to be a deeply troubling sign of things to come. “Hugh Trevor-Roper was appalled by the provocative tone… ‘There was a speech by Franz Borkenau which was very violent and indeed almost hysterical. He spoke in German and I regret to say that as I listened and I heard the baying voices of approval from the huge audiences, I felt, well, these are the same people who seven years ago were probably baying in the same way to similar German denunciations of Communism coming from Dr. Goebbels in the Sports Palast. And I felt, well, what sort of people are we identifying with? That was the greatest shock to me. There was a moment during the Congress when I felt that we were being invited to summon up Beelzebub in order to defeat Stalin.’”
The Congress for Cultural Freedom didn’t need Beelzebub, it already had him in the form of Burnham, Hook and Wisner and by 1952 the party was just getting started. Burnham worked overtime for Wisner legitimizing the Congress as a platform for the Machiavellians alongside ex-Communists and even Nazis, including SS General Reinhard Gehlen and his German Army intelligence unit which had been brought into the CIA after the war, intact. E. Howard Hunt, Watergate “plumber” famous as a CIA dirty trickster remembered Burnham in his memoirs, “Burnham was a consultant to OPC on virtually every subject of interest to our organization… He had extensive contacts in Europe and, by virtue of his Trotskyite background, was something of an authority on domestic and foreign Communist parties and front organizations.”
In 1953 Burnham was called upon again by Wisner to reach beyond Communism to help overthrow the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh in Teheran apparently because Wisner thought the plan needed “a touch of Machiavelli.” But Burnham’s greatest contribution as a Machiavellian was yet to come. His book The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom would become the CIA’s manual for displacing Western culture with an alternative doctrine for endless conflict in a world of oligarchs and in the end open the gates to an Inferno from which there would be no return.
Part 4 – The Final Stage of the Machiavellian Elites’ Takeover of America
From Trotsky to Burnham, from Burnham to Machiavelli and Machiavelli to neoconservatism, the circle of British imperialism closes
Cover of the 1550 edition of Machiavelli’s Il Principe and La Vita di Castruccio Castracani da Lucca.
public domain wiki commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Machiavelli_Principe_Cover_Page.jpg
The recent assertion by the Trump White House that Damascus and Moscow released “false narratives” to mislead the world about the April 4 Sarin gas attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria is a dangerous next step in the “fake news” propaganda war launched in the final days of the Obama administration. It is a step whose deep roots in Communist Trotsky’s Fourth International must be understood before deciding whether American democracy can be reclaimed.
Muddying the waters of accountability in a way not seen since Senator Joe McCarthy at the height of the Red Scare in the 1950s, the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” signed into law without fanfare by Obama in December 2016 officially authorized a government censorship bureaucracy comparable only to George Orwell’s fictional Ministry of Truth in his novel 1984. Referred to as “The Global Engagement Center,” the official purpose of this new bureaucracy is to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.” The real purpose of this Orwellian nightmare is to cook the books on anything that challenges Washington’s neoconservative pro war narrative and to intimidate, harass or jail anyone who tries. As has already been demonstrated by President Trump’s firing of Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian government airbase, it is a recipe for a world war and like it or not, that war has already begun.
This latest attack on Russia’s supposed false narrative takes us right back to 1953 and the beginnings of the cultural war between East and West. Its roots are tied to the Congress for Cultural Freedom, to James Burnham’s pivot from Trotsky’s Fourth International to right-wing conservatism and to the rise of the neoconservative Machiavellians as a political force. As James Burnham’s The Struggle for the World stressed, the Third World War had already begun with the 1944 Communist-led Greek sailors’ revolt. In Burnham’s Manichean thinking the West was under siege. George Kennan’s Cold War policy of containment was no different than Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement. Détente with the Soviet Union amounted to surrender. Peace was only a disguise for war and that war would be fought with politics, subversion, terrorism and psychological warfare. Soviet influence had to be rolled back wherever possible. That meant subverting the Soviet Union and its proxies and when necessary, subverting Western democracies as well.
The true irony of today’s late stage efforts by Washington to monopolize “truth” and attack alternate narratives isn’t just in its blatant contempt for genuine free speech. The real irony is that the entire “Freedom Manifesto” employed by the United States and Britain since World War II was never free at all; but a concoction of the CIA’s Psychological Strategy Board’s (PSB) comprehensive psychological warfare program waged on friend and foe alike.
The CIA would come to view the entire program beginning with the 1950 Berlin conference to be a landmark in the Cold War not just for solidifying the CIA’s control over the non-Communist left and the West’s “free” intellectuals, but for enabling the CIA to secretly disenfranchise Europeans and Americans from their own political culture in such a way they would never really know it.
As historian Christopher Lasch wrote in 1969 of the CIA’s cooptation of the American left, “The modern state… is an engine of propaganda, alternately manufacturing crises and claiming to be the only instrument that can effectively deal with them. This propaganda, in order to be successful, demands the cooperation of writers, teachers, and artists not as paid propagandists or state-censored time-servers but as ‘free’ intellectuals capable of policing their own jurisdictions and of enforcing acceptable standards of responsibility within the various intellectual professions.”
Key to turning these “free” intellectuals against their own interests was the CIA’s doctrinal program for Western cultural transformation contained in the document PSB D-33/2. PSB D-33/2 foretells of a “long-term intellectual movement, to: break down world-wide doctrinaire thought patterns” while “creating confusion, doubt and loss of confidence” in order to “weaken objectively the intellectual appeal of neutralism and to predispose its adherents towards the spirit of the West;” to “predispose local elites to the philosophy held by the planners,” while employing local elites “would help to disguise the American origin of the effort so that it appears to be a native development.”
While declaring itself as an antidote to Communist totalitarianism, one internal critic of the Program, PSB officer Charles Burton Marshall, viewed PSB D-33/2 itself as frighteningly totalitarian, interposing “a wide doctrinal system” that “accepts uniformity as a substitute for diversity,” embracing “all fields of human thought – all fields of intellectual interests, from anthropology and artistic creations to sociology and scientific methodology;” concluding, “That is just about as totalitarian as one can get.”
Burnham’s Machiavellian elitism lurks in every shadow of the document. As recounted in Frances Stoner Saunder’s The Cultural Cold War, “Marshall also took issue with the PSB’s reliance on ‘non-rational social theories’ which emphasized the role of an elite ‘in the manner reminiscent of Pareto, Sorel, Mussolini and so on.’ Weren’t these the models used by James Burnham in his book the Machiavellians? Perhaps there was a copy usefully to hand when PSB D-33/2 was being drafted. More likely, James Burnham himself was usefully to hand.”
Burnham was more than just at hand when it came to secretly implanting a fascist philosophy of extreme elitism into America’s Cold War orthodoxy. With The Machiavellians, Burnham had composed the manual that forged the old Trotskyist left together with a right-wing Anglo/American elite. The political offspring of that volatile union would be called neoconservatism whose overt mission would be to roll back Russian/Soviet influence everywhere. Its covert mission would be to reassert a British cultural dominance over the emerging Anglo/American Empire and maintain it through propaganda.
Hard at work on that task since 1946 was the secret Information Research Department of the British and Commonwealth Foreign Office known as the IRD.
Rarely spoken of in the context of CIA-funded secret operations, the IRD served as a covert anti-Communist propaganda unit from 1946 until 1977. According to Paul Lashmar and James Oliver, authors of Britain’s Secret Propaganda War, “the vast IRD enterprise had one sole aim: To spread its ceaseless propaganda output (i.e. a mixture of outright lies and distorted facts) among top-ranking journalists who worked for major agencies and magazines, including Reuters and the BBC, as well as every other available channel. It worked abroad to discredit communist parties in Western Europe which might gain a share of power by entirely democratic means, and at home to discredit the British Left”.
IRD was to become a self-fulfilling disinformation machine for the far-right-wing of the international intelligence elite, at once offering fabricated and distorted information to “independent” news outlets and then using the laundered story as “proof” of the false story’s validity. One such front enterprise established with CIA money was Forum World Features, operated at one time by Burnham acolyte Brian Rossiter Crozier. Described by Burnham’s biographer Daniel Kelly as a “British political analyst” in reality the legendary Brian Crozier functioned for over fifty years as one of Britain’s top propagandists and secret agents.
If anyone today is shocked by the biased, one-sided, xenophobic rush to judgement alleging Russian influence over the 2016 presidential election, they need look no further than to Brian Crozier’s closet for the blueprints. As we were told outright by an American military officer during the first war in Afghanistan in 1982, the U.S. didn’t need “proof the Soviets used poison gas” and they don’t need proof against Russia now. Crozier might best be described as a daydream believer, a dangerous imperialist who acts out his dreams with open eyes. From the beginning of the Cold War until his death in 2012 Crozier and his protégé Robert Moss propagandized on behalf of military dictators Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet, organized private intelligence organizations to destabilize governments in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa and worked to delegitimize politicians in Europe and Britain viewed as insufficiently anti-Communist. The mandate of his Institute for the Study of Conflict (ISC) set up in 1970 was to expose the supposed KGB campaign of worldwide subversion and put out stories smearing anyone who questioned it as a dupe, a traitor or Communist spy. Crozier regarded The Machiavellians as a major formative influence in his own intellectual development, and wrote in 1976 “indeed it was this book above all others that first taught me how [emphasis Crozier] to think about politics”. The key to Crozier’s thinking was Burnham’s distinction between the “formal” meaning of political speech and the “real”, a concept which was of course grasped only by elites. In a 1976 article Crozier marveled at how Burnham’s understanding of politics had spanned 600 years and how the use of “the formal” to conceal “the real” was no different today than when used by Dante Alighieri’s “presumably enlightened Medieval mind.” “The point is as valid now as it was in ancient times and in the Florentine Middle Ages, or in 1943. Overwhelmingly, political writers and speakers still use Dante’s method. Depending on the degree of obfuscation required (either by circumstances or the person’s character), the divorce between formal and real meaning is more of less absolute.”
But Crozier was more than just a strategic thinker. Crozier was a high level covert political agent who put Burnham’s talent for obfuscation and his Fourth International experience to use to undermine détente and set the stage for rolling back the Soviet Union.
In a secret meeting at a City of London bank in February 1977 he even patented a private sector operational intelligence organization known at the 6th International (6I) to pick up where Burnham left off; politicizing and of course privatizing many of the dirty tricks the CIA and other intelligence services could no longer be caught doing. As he explained in his memoir Free Agent, the name 6I was chosen “Because the Fourth International split. The Fourth International was the Trotskyist one, and when it split, this meant that, on paper there were five Internationals. In the numbers game, we would constitute the Sixth International, or ‘6I’”.
Croziers cooperation with numerous “able and diligent Congressional staffers” as well as “the remarkable General Vernon (‘Dick’) Walters, recently retired as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence,..” cemented the rise of the neoconservatives. When Carter caved in to the Team B and his neoconservative National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s plot to lure the Soviets and into their own Vietnam in Afghanistan it fulfilled Burnham’s mission and delivered the world to the Machiavellians without anyone being the wiser. As George Orwell wrote in his Second Thoughts on James Burnham, “What Burnham is mainly concerned to show [in The Machiavellians] is that a democratic society has never existed and, so far as we can see, never will exist. Society is of its nature oligarchical, and the power of the oligarchy always rests upon force and fraud… Power can sometimes be won and maintained without violence, but never without fraud.”
Today Burnham’s use of Dante’s political Treatise, De Monarchia to explain his Medieval understanding of politics might best be swapped for Dante’s Divine Comedy, a paranoid comedy of errors in which the door to hell swings open to one and all, including the elites regardless of their status. Or as they say in Hell, Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story, Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire and The Voice. Visit their websites at invisiblehistory and grailwerk
Part 1: American Imperialism Leads the World Into Dante’s Vision of Hell
Part 2: How Neocons Push for War by Cooking the Books
Part 3: How the CIA Created a Fake Western Reality for ‘Unconventional Warfare’
Part 4 – The Final Stage of the Machiavellian Elites’ Takeover of America