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“Integrate, But Hedge”: China In the Age of Global Governance, Part I

“Integrate, But Hedge”: China In the Age of Global Governance, Part I

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

3 March 2016

Originally posted at Occupy.com on 26 January 2016

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This is the first article in a three-part series focusing on China’s transformed financial role on the world stage.

“Hide your brightness; bide your time,” cautioned Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of modern China who was the country’s supreme ruler from 1978 until the 1990s. Deng oversaw the “opening” of China into a modern state-capitalist society. He articulated a strategy for China’s integration into the global economic system – a strategy that progressed over the past four decades such that the world’s most populous nation is now its second largest economy, increasingly able to flex its new geopolitical and economic power and ambitions.

But China’s integration into the existing structures of global economic governance is not without risks and challenges. The country has grown economically as a result of slow, state-managed reforms to its economic system and the degree to which it has worked with the Western-created and -dominated economic system – in particular, those members of the Group of Seven (G-7) nations, the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada.

The G-7 was established a few years prior to China’s economic opening, and in the subsequent four decades has been the prime driving force in shaping the architecture of the global economic system. As emerging market economies implemented economic reforms encouraged by the G-7 nations and the institutions they dominate, they demanded more representation and power within the institutions and structures of global economic governance. China is chief among the emerging market economies, and has been at the forefront of pushing for representation and influence in the global economy and its governing institutions.

The G-7 nations, and in particular the United States, have accepted that emerging markets and China need to be integrated into the existing structure, but the challenge has been to manage the process in a slow, incremental way that allows the G-7 to continue pressuring emerging markets into implementing further reforms while maintaining G-7 nations’ own position at the center of the system. For this reason, the Group of 20 (G-20) was created in the late 1990s as a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors from the G-7 countries and several important emerging markets, including China.

Over the years and decades that China has implemented market reforms (albeit, managed by a totalitarian one-party state), the country has joined such institutions as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and gained elevated status within the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. However, its political, diplomatic and military power has also grown alongside its economic weight. East Asia, once the unquestioned domain of American and Japanese power, now has a new regional hegemon. This makes the imperative for China to integrate into the global economic architecture all the more imperative, as it would give the country a greater stake in the system as it exists, instead of potentially creating an alternative or rival system and institutions.

However, while integration is essential in the eyes of the West (and, indeed, in the eyes of many of China’s rulers, as well), it also carries immense risks. Unlike Japan, China is not dependent upon the U.S. for military protection and support, nor does it operate through a similar state democratic structure with which the industrialized world is familiar. Indeed, China and Japan are often antagonistic toward one another, a long product of Japan’s historical imperial war mongering and colonialism in the region. China has no desire to bow down to any outside power such as the U.S., nor submit to regional competitors such as Japan, and least of all does it intend to play second fiddle to any other power in its own backyard.

So, while there is a mutually beneficial economic relationship between China and the West, prompting the need for further integration into the structures of global economic governance, there is also a great deal of mistrust and uncertainty between China and the West, particularly on military and foreign policy matters. Historically, the rise of any new great power has always taken place in an environment of geopolitical tension and war. America, as the existing global hegemon, has designed its political and economic strategy toward China with these concerns in mind.

The American approach toward China was articulated, and in part designed, by the political scientist and former top U.S. government official and adviser Joseph Nye, as a strategy of “integrate, but hedge.” Nye, who formerly served in senior positions in both the State Department and Defense Department, is considered one of the most influential foreign policy intellectuals in the U.S. His influence extendsthrough multiple think tanks and advisory boards of which he is a member, including the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Aspen Strategy Group, and on advisory boards to the Defense Department and State Department.

Nye explained in The New York Times that in his role at the Defense Department in the 1990s, he helped develop the Pentagon’s East Asian Strategy Report, which identified three major powers in the region: the United States, Japan and China. It was at this time that the U.S. strategy of “integrate, but hedge” was designed, and it continued through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. Maintaining the U.S. alliance with Japan was central to the strategy, as it “would shape the environment into which China was emerging.” The objective was “to integrate China into the international system,” which included joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), but Nye added: “We needed to hedge against the danger that a future and stronger China might turn aggressive.”

In the Fall of 2011, high ranking members of the Obama administration began making clear that U.S. grand strategy envisioned an increased focus and presence in the Pacific Asian region. Writing in Foreign Policy in October of 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained that the U.S. was implementing “a strategic turn to the region” to maintain “peace and security” and “open markets.” Such a strategy would “secure and sustain America’s global leadership.” Clinton wrote that the U.S. relationship with China was “one of the most challenging and consequential bilateral relationships the United States has ever had to manage” which “calls for careful, steady, dynamic stewardship.”

In November of 2011, President Obama declared the “pivot” to Asia was a “top priority” for the United States. “The United States is a Pacific power and we are here to stay,” said the President, though he claimed that it was not a strategy designed to “contain” China. “We’ll seek more opportunities for co-operation with Beijing,” he said. “All our nations [of the Pacific region] have a profound interest in the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China.”

Thomas Donilon, President Obama’s National Security Advisor from 2010 to 2013, described the same strategy toward China while speaking to an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in November of 2012. One of the central elements of the pivot to Asia, explained Donilon, was “pursuing a stable and constructive relationship with China.” America’s relationship with China “has elements of both cooperation and competition,” and U.S. policy was designed “to seek to balance these two elements in a way that increases both the quantity and quality of our cooperation with China as well as our ability to compete.” The U.S. had made clear, he said, “that as China takes a seat at a growing number of international tables, it needs to assume responsibilities commensurate with its growing global impact and its national capabilities.”

Another component of the pivot to Asia was to advance the region’s “economic architecture,” which meant a stronger engagement with regional forums and multilateral institutions, and notably advancing the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional ‘trade’ deal driven by the United States to “deepen regional economic integration.” The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was finalized in 2015 as a “21st century trade agreement” between the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. The agreement was largely viewed by America’s allies as “a counterweight” to China’s regional and global economic and political ambitions.

The Financial Times described the TPP as the “economic backbone” of the U.S. pivot to Asia, writing that, “the goal for the U.S. and Japan is to get ahead of China… and to create an economic zone in the Pacific Rim that might balance Beijing’s economic heft in the region.” As President Obama said: “When more than 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy. We should write those rules.”

So while the United States continues to “write the rules” of global economic governance as it pursues its decades-long strategy of “integrate, but hedge,” China appears to still be following the original advice of Deng Xiaoping: “Hide your brightness, bide your time.” Time will tell.

 

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Power Politics and the Empire of Economics: An Introduction

Power Politics and the Empire of Economics: An Introduction

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By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

27 May 2015

The following is a sample chapter from an upcoming book.

You can download a pdf version here: Power Politics and the Empire of Economics 

The President sat and listened to his closest adviser as they plotted a strategy to maintain Western domination of the world economy. The challenge was immense: divisions between industrial countries were growing as the poor nations of the world were becoming increasingly united in opposition to the Western world order. From Africa, across the Middle East, to Asia and Latin America, the poor (or ‘developing’) countries were calling for the establishment of a ‘New International Economic Order,’ one which would not simply serve the interests of the United States, Western Europe, and the other rich, industrial nations, but the world as a whole. It was on the 24th of May 1975 when President Gerald Ford was meeting with his Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger, easily the two most powerful political officials in the world at the time. Kissinger told the President: “The trick in the world now is to use economics to build a world political structure.”[1]

Ford and Kissinger agreed that the United States could not accept a new ‘economic order’ that would undermine American and Western power throughout the world. Uprisings, revolutions and liberation movements across Africa, Asia and beyond had largely thrown off the shackles of European colonial domination, establishing themselves as independent political nation-states with their own interests and objectives. Chief among those goals was for economic independence to follow political independence, to take control of their own resources and economies from the Europeans and Americans, to determine their own economic policies and help to redistribute global wealth along equal and just lines.

The problem for the Western and industrial nations, with the United States at the center, was that formal colonial domination was no longer considered acceptable. In previous decades and centuries, the rich and powerful nations would directly colonize and control foreign societies, establishing puppet governments and protectorates, extracting resources, exploiting labour and expanding their own national power and international prestige. Following the end of World War II, such practices were no longer politically or publicly acceptable. The era of decolonization had taken hold, and the people of the world were failing to remain passive and obedient in the face of great injustices and inequality. War had become a bad word, colonialism was no longer en vogue, and belligerent political bullying by the rich countries increasingly risked a major backlash, threatening to unite the entire world against the West.

A new strategy for global domination had to be constructed. The West could not afford a direct political or ideological confrontation with the developing world, with many top American officials, including Henry Kissinger, acknowledging that if they were to pursue such a strategy they would be isolated and lost, with even the Europeans and Japanese abandoning them. Foreign ministers and heads of state could not appear to be attacking or seeking to dominate the developing world.

It was decided that the war would have to be waged largely in the world of economics and finance, where the conversation would change from that of colonialism and imperialism to the technical details of economic policy. The imperial interests and objectives of the powerful nations that had existed for centuries could no longer be articulated in a direct way. But those same interests and objectives would not vanish. Instead, they would be hidden behind bland, vague and technical rhetoric. The language of economics provides the appearance of impartiality, backed up by pseudo-scientific-sounding studies and ideologies, accessible only to those with the proper training, education and experience, otherwise inaccessible and incomprehensible to the general public. Empire was a thing of the past. In its place rose a new global economy, built by banks not bombs, expanding the reach of corporations not colonies, managing debt not dominions.

The “world political structure” which Kissinger described would not, however, make militaries and foreign ministers and diplomats irrelevant. They would still have a role to play in maintaining and expanding empire, though never calling it by its proper name, instead using words like ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘markets’. But the role of such officials would often become secondary to that of the financial and economic diplomats, who would increasingly become the first line of offense in constructing the “world political structure,” the Empire of Economics.

Two days after Kissinger articulated this strategy to President Ford, another meeting was held at the White House with several more high-level cabinet officials. The discussion was a follow-up on the U.S. strategy to construct such a system. Stressing that political diplomats and foreign ministers could not take on the developing world directly, Kissinger told the assembled officials, “it is better to have the Finance Ministers be bastards, that’s where I want it.”[2]

This book is the story of how financial diplomats, politicians, bankers, billionaires, family dynasties and powerful nations have used economics to build a “world political structure,” engaging in a constant game of power politics with and against each other and the rest of the world to construct and maintain their Empire of Economics for the benefit of a small ruling class, the global Mafiocracy: a super-rich, often criminal cartel of global oligarchs and family dynasties.

It is a brutal, vicious world of secret meetings, behind-the-scenes intrigue, financial warfare and coup d’états, economic colonization and debt domination. It is the unforgiving world of empire, an immense concentration of global wealth and power, a parasitic system of world domination built on the impoverishment and exploitation of billions. And it is a world obscured and hidden behind the dry, dull and seemingly empty rhetoric of economics. It is a language in need of translation, a reality in need of elucidation, and an empire in need of opposition.

Power Politics and Empire

It was the largest and most powerful empire the world had ever known. It spanned the globe, across oceans and seas, countries and continents, enveloping much of the known world – and the people throughout it – within the domineering shadows of its political, economic, social, cultural and financial institutions and ideologies. Those who ruled were the wealthy and war-like family dynasties, individual oligarchs, kings of coin, titans of industry, and a religious priesthood of proselytizing propagandists. These rulers would engage in a constant game of ‘power politics’ with and against each other in the quest to gain title, money and influence.

They lie, cheat, steal, kill and conquer; they plant their flags and preach their gospels, serve their interests and those of their unknown (or sometimes) masters. It requires a constant cunning, managing an endless lack of trust for all those around you, fearful that on your way up, others might seek to cut you down. To play the game of power politics in the age of empires is to be pragmatic, strategic and ruthless; it requires no less, but frequently more. It is a practice passed down through families, institutions and ideologies. No, this is not ‘Game of Thrones’, but rather, the Game of Globalization in the Empire of Economics: power politics of the 21st century.

But the game itself has been with humanity as long as empire, and was always seen at the center of the system of power within every empire. Human systems – that is, what we call ‘civilization’ and ‘society’ – are, ultimately, human creations with humans in control. Thus, power – at its center – is always dependent upon the interactions, relationships and emotions of the few individuals and families who rule. When such people get angry or throw a tantrum – because the neighbor boy stole his toy (or Russia annexed Crimea, for example) – wars are waged, and the poor are sent to go murder or be murdered, cities burn to the ground, nations crumble into dust.

The game is not known to many, save for those who play it. The masses are left with simple images, rumours and speculation, if anything at all. A public persona of the more visible rulers must be carefully constructed so as to legitimize their authority. The people must be satisfied to the bare minimum, so that they do not rise up in resentment and fury against the few who live in the most obscene opulence and imperial impunity. If the consent of the population is not maintained, a ruler must seek to control them in other ways, which generally means seeking to crush them, to punish them into submission and subservience. Kill and conquer at home and you can kill and conquer abroad.

Control is based upon a mixture of consent and coercion. The people must be either willing to let the rulers rule, to accept their position in society without question, or they must be made to fear the reach and wrath of the rulers, to be punished and persecuted, segregated and isolated, beaten, raped and murdered. The rulers must be vicious, but appear virtuous. If, however, a choice must be made between acting ruthless and appearing righteous, it is better for the rulers to be wretched and murderous, for the game of power politics is never won by virtue alone, but being vicious can get you far enough without assistance.

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote his book The Prince more than 500 years ago as an examination of power politics and methods through which one can achieve and maintain power within the old warring Italian city-states. Having long served as an adviser and strategist to various rulers, including princes, popes and dynasties, Machiavelli asserted that “it is desirable to be both loved and feared; but it is difficult to be both and, if one of them has to be lacking, it is much safer to be feared than loved.” He explained that this was so because “love is sustained by a bond of gratitude which, because men are excessively self-interested, is broken whenever they see a chance to benefit themselves.” On the other hand, “fear is sustained by a dread of punishment that is always effective.”[3] Machiavelli has long been accused of being a cynic or pessimist in his interpretations of human nature, but this misses the point.

Machiavelli’s work was examining the attitudes, nature and actions of those who wielded significant power, which was always a small minority of the population. Indeed, far from a cynical interpretation, The Prince is rather a pragmatic and accurate interpretation of a deeply cynical world where every institution and individual wielding significant influence engages in a constant game of power politics designed to benefit themselves, maintaining or expanding their own power, often at the expense of others. It is a world where every relationship, title, position and even marriage holds strategic significance. For those individuals and families who rule, every decision must be made as a calculated attempt to preserve and expand their power. If this is not done, they will not remain rulers long, for this is how the game is played and won, and if one does not play by the rules, others will. Thus, the more cunning and ruthless a strategist, the more likely they are to elevate through the hierarchy because they will do what others will not, acting without hesitation to manipulate or crush others in order to rise higher.

It is a game – like that of all empires past – in which the few compete and cooperate with one another in the advancement of their own individual, familial, national or global interests, expanding their empires. It is a game in which the vast majority of humanity are – as they have long been – left to suffer the consequences, fight the wars, drown in debt, poverty, hunger and misery. On occasion, and increasingly often, groups of people – segments of the population – rise up in resistance, riot, revolt or even revolution. This is when the people are able to engage more directly in the game of power politics, because they change the game. Suddenly, all the key players at the top notice the building fury of the masses and so the game itself is put at risk. The key players will almost always – even in spite of their frequent competition and opposition to each other – work together if it means protecting the game itself.

A useful comparison is that of a Mafia crime network, in which the various heads of families may sit at the same table though they often feud with one another, working together to mutual benefit when possible, though occasionally whacking one another off when the competition grows fierce. It is a delicate balancing act of competition and cooperation, but when the criminal network is itself threatened, perhaps through the efforts of an ambitious district attorney or crackdown on organized crime, the various families will seek to unite in their efforts to protect the racket which benefits them all. If they remain divided in the face of growing opposition and potential external threats, they increase the risk that they will be conquered. When the game is threatened, the players must stand together or fall apart.

For successful rulers, the balance of competition and cooperation – vicious and virtuous – is present both in their relationships with other rulers, and with the larger populations. And so the rulers themselves – the oligarchs and dynasties – span both private and public realms: they are presidents and prime ministers, kings, queens and sultans, corporate chiefs, billionaires and bankers, consultants and advisers, academics and intellectuals, technocratic tyrants and plutocratic princelings. Their world is not our world. But it rules, wrecks and ravages our world and the people and life within it. It is a game that steers humanity toward certain extinction resulting from excessive environmental devastation, guided by that ever-present drive within those who have the most for more, more, more.

The game is little more, at its core, than basic gangsterism, its players little more than petty tyrants. Such personalities, egos and interests populate all sectors of society, all institutions, frequently appearing in inter-personal relationships. The more power they have, the greater the repercussions of the game. At the top of the global power structure are the personalities and families of immense wealth, political influence and prestige. With the same basic principles of a Mafia structure, the individuals and institutions that play the game of power politics in the age of globalization – in the Empire of Economics – are perhaps best understood as a global Mafiocracy. It makes no difference whether a nation is ruled by a monarchy, a dictatorship or democracy: the Mafiocracy is ever-present, and ever-expanding in its wretched reach.

The State of Empire

The world is defined and dominated largely by institutions, individuals and ideologies. The institution of the nation-state is perhaps the most obvious example, best represented by the world’s most powerful country, the United States of America. The government of the United States is composed of three separate branches (or institutions): the executive (President and Cabinet), legislative (Congress/Senate) and judiciary (the Supreme Court). The executive leads the government, while the role of the legislative and judiciary is (theoretically) designed to keep a check on executive power, preventing it from accumulating too much authority in one branch, threatening the potential for tyranny.

Since World War II, the executive branch has accumulated increased powers within the U.S. government, with a wide mandate to manage foreign and economic policies specifically, with little oversight and few checks from the legislative and judiciary branches. The executive is composed of a wide array of institutions itself, each with their own specific mandates, interests, and varying degrees of influence. These include the many cabinet departments, such as the Treasury Department, Defense Department (Pentagon), State Department, CIA, National Security Council (NSC), Department of Homeland Security, and many more. In addition, since 1913, the Federal Reserve has functioned as the central bank of the United States, operating with a large degree of independence from the other branches of government, including political independence from the executive branch (apart from the President’s ability to appoint the Chairman and Board of Governors), and no oversight from Congress (though the Fed chairman will occasionally testify to Congress).

Individually and collectively, these government departments and institutions manage hundreds of billions and even trillions of dollars in assets and funds, making them individually larger than most multinational corporations and banks in the world. These departments within the U.S. government are largely responsible for the maintenance and expansion of the American imperial system. Since the time of ancient Nubia and Egypt thousands of years ago, much of the world has been dominated by empires, rising, expanding and collapsing over centuries and millennia, running through ancient Greece, Rome, China, Aztec and Inca, Persian, Ottoman, and in the past five hundred years with the rise and demise of the European empires whose reach expanded the globe. For the most part, imperial systems have been dominated by families, often called royalty, sultanates, emperors or emirs. The essential interest and priority of all empires has been to protect and expand their empire, largely for the benefit of its ruling class or groups, with the imperial family at the center of power.

It is only a phenomenon of the post-World War II period that denial of the existence of empire is commonplace. Through the two World Wars of the 20th century, empires collapsed and faded into history. World War I led to the collapse of the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. World War II led to the collapse of the Japanese and Nazi empires, and its aftermath resulted in the erosion of European colonial domination, as the British, French, and other European colonial powers had to adjust to a new global order under American hegemony. It was in the post-World War II period that the United States had achieved unprecedented economic and political power. With just over 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. controlled roughly half the world’s wealth. Citing this very statistic, the U.S. State Department (responsible for managing diplomacy and foreign policy) published a policy paper in which top officials acknowledged that the global inequality that existed between the U.S. and the rest of the world would lead to “envy and resentment.” The “real task” of the United States was “to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security,” doing away with “the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.”[4]

Europe was devastated by the war, and the United States occupied the West with the Soviet Union occupying the East of the continent. The European empires were crumbling, and the process of decolonization had begun to take the world by storm, with the U.S. attempting to manage the process on behalf of its Western European allies. In its strategy for world domination, the United States sought to rebuild its former war-time enemies – Germany and Japan – into economic powerhouses, with West Germany acting as the locomotive for European integration (into what is now the European Union) and Japan acting as a counterweight to the spread of Communism in East Asia. Western Europe, Japan and other allies depended upon the United States military to protect their ‘security’ interests around the world, arming favorable dictators, supporting coups, fuelling civil wars, undertaking large occupations and counter-insurgency operations targeting independence, anti-colonial and revolutionary movements around the world.

Despite the imperial realities of this system, there was an overwhelming tendency within the United States and its industrial allies to deny the existence of imperialism altogether. Instead, these nations were merely economically and technologically advanced democracies who sought to protect ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ around the world in a largely ideological confrontation with the Soviet Union, which presented itself as the image of socialism and communism in a struggle against the capitalist imperial powers of the West. The Soviet Union’s influence was dominant in Eastern Europe, with a few close allies scattered across the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The United States and its Western allies, however, were the dominant powers across much of the rest of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America. The only real sense in which the Soviet Union presented a challenge for the United States was in its military and nuclear capabilities. This was the period known as the ‘Cold War’, though despite its confrontational rhetoric dividing East and West, communist states from capitalist democracies, it was largely a struggle waged against the rest of the world, the ‘Third World’, otherwise known as the developing world or ‘Global South’. It was in the poor, colonized nations and regions of the world where the majority of the world’s resources were located, and thus, where the Western imperial powers needed to maintain control.

While the United States rebuilt Germany and Japan into economic locomotives, becoming the second and third richest countries in the world, American economic power experienced a relative decline. This created strong allies for the United States, and while they remained militarily dependent upon their imperial patron, their growing economic power gave them increased leverage. With their increased economic power came increased potential to act independently of the U.S. and other rich nations. Competition between the great powers increased during the same period that newly independent nations of the developing world were increasingly uniting in opposition to a Western-dominated world order.

On May 1, 1974, the vast majority of the world’s nations voted in favour of the U.N. Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO), proclaiming that “the greatest and most significant achievement during the last decades has been the independence from colonial and alien domination of a large number of peoples and nations which has enabled them to become members of the community of free people.” Among the ‘principles’ adopted in forming the NIEO were “equality of States, self-determination of all peoples,” and the outlawing of war, seeking “the broadest co-operation” of all nations of the world in banishing the “prevailing disparities” and securing “prosperity for all.”[5]

Each nation of the world would have the right “to adopt the economic and social system that it deems the most appropriate for its own development,” and establish control over their own natural resources. The people who continued to live under colonial domination, racial oppression and foreign occupation had a right “to achieve their liberation and the regain effective control over their natural resources and economic activities.” In 1974, this would include Israeli-occupied Palestine, South African apartheid, and U.S.-occupied Vietnam. The last line in the document stated that the Declaration should “be one of the most important bases of economic relations between all peoples and all nations.”[6]

But Henry Kissinger had other plans. As Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, Kissinger was the chief imperial strategist in the United States, and remains one of the most influential foreign policy strategists in the nearly four decades since he left office. Kissinger’s “trick” to use economics in building a “world political structure” would largely be pursued through the finance ministries, central banks and international organizations (such as the IMF and World Bank) which are controlled by the rich and powerful nations. In the face of a growing threat, the rich nations banded together in various forums, conferences and diplomatic gatherings, the most notable of which came to be known as the Group of Seven, bringing together the U.S., Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada. Through these various institutions and initiatives, a “world political structure” would be incrementally constructed as the Empire of Economics.

A Family Affair

Empires don’t just happen; they are constructed, protected, expanded and destroyed. Empires need imperialists, even if they don’t refer to themselves as such. In the Empire of Economics, the imperialists are a diverse group, including the obvious presidents, prime ministers, chancellors and other heads of state; foreign, military and intelligence officials and ministries; finance ministers, central bankers and the heads of international organizations; the large banks, corporations and institutions that control the world’s wealth and resources, and the powerful individual oligarchs and family dynasties that lie behind these institutions.

As with most empires through history, the central unit of power is often that of a ‘family’, be it royal, financial, corporate or crime. After all, the first institution into which people are born and raised is very often that of the ‘family unit’. Power becomes hereditary, passed down through generations of children raised to take the place of their fathers and mothers in expanding the influence and protecting the legacy of the family. As with any imperial – or dynastic – family structures, they are plagued with rivalries, power struggles, tragedies, divisions and declines. The modern imperial family in the Empire of Economics – emanating from the vast industrial, corporate and banking fortunes established over past centuries – is no exception to the drama and decadence of earlier imperial dynasties.

Every nation has their dynasties, some better known than others. In the United States, over the past century, several names have become synonymous with wealth, power and prestige: Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Morgan, Harriman, Astor and Rockefeller. In 2006, roughly a third of the Fortune 500 companies (that is, the largest corporations in America) were family-run businesses, often performing better than ‘professionally’ managed companies. Among them is one of the largest corporations in the world, Wal-Mart, run and largely owned by the Walton family.[7] In 2010, six of the top ten richest individuals in the United States had inherited wealth, meaning that the richest of the rich in America were not self-made billionaires, but members of wealthy dynasties.[8]

Rich families are often able to preserve their dynastic wealth through a family ‘trust’, which allow the super-rich to provide for future generations of the family largely free of taxes and outside claims. The proliferation of family trusts has led to what one commentator in the New York Times referred to as “an American aristocracy.”[9] Perhaps the most recognizable family trust – and most ‘royal’ of the American dynasties – is that of the Rockefeller family. In the 19th century, John D. Rockefeller amassed a vast fortune monopolizing the oil industry into Standard Oil. In the early 20th century, the company was broken up by the government into multiple smaller companies, some of which are known today as Exxon Mobil and Chevron, among others. The Rockefeller fortune expanded into other industries and banking, and with that came an increased role in founding universities, foundations and think tanks, which were central to the process of generating the institutional and ideological foundations for American imperialism in the 20th century.

The patriarch of the family today, David Rockefeller, is currently in his 100th year. On the occasion of his 90th birthday in 2005, then-President of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he said, “it’s fair to say that there has been no other single family influence greater than the Rockefeller’s in the whole issue of globalization.”[10]

As of 2014, Rockefeller Financial Services, the family investment company, held over $100 million in investments in several large American and foreign corporations, including JPMorgan Chase, Chevron, Microsoft, Oracle, Merck & Co., TD Bank, and Wells Fargo. Rockefeller Financial also maintains significant holdings in Honeywell International, Capital One Financial Corporation, Google, Exxon Mobil, Comcast, eBay, Wal-Mart, VISA, and Royal Dutch Shell, BP, IBM, McGraw Hill Financial, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, UPS, General Electric, Ford Motor Company, Apple, Intel, Boeing, Pfizer, The Walt Disney Company, Coca-Cola, Halliburton, U.S. Bancorp, Verizon and Goldman Sachs, among many others.[11]

Not only does the Rockefeller family office invest in major banks and corporations (on behalf of the family and its clients), but some major banks have also invested in the family office itself. In 2008, one of France’s largest banks, Société Générale, purchased a 37% stake in Rockefeller & Co. In 2012, that stake was sold to another major financial dynasty, the Rothschilds, who purchased it through RIT Capital Partners, the investment arm of the London branch of the Rothschild family, overseen by Lord Jacob Rothschild. As Barron’s magazine noted at the time, the union of these financial dynasties “should provide some valuable marketing opportunities” in which “new wealth” around the world would want “to tap the joint expertise of these experienced families that have managed to keep their heads down and their assets intact over several generations and right through the upheavals of history.”[12]

The Rothschild banking dynasty, which has its roots in late 18th century Europe, had established several branches of the family spread throughout major European nations and capitals, with two of the most prominent being the London and Paris arms. In 2012, the French and British Rothschild banks were planning to merge their assets into a single entity, under the name of Paris Orléans, headed by David de Rothschild. Upon the announcement of the merger, David de Rothschild explained that its purpose was to “allow the bank to better meet the requirements of globalization… while ensuring my family’s control over the long term.”[13] David, one of the richest Rothschilds today, noted in a 2010 interview with Ha’aretz that as a member of the Rothschild family, “We have an obligation to continue the dynasty.”[14]

The Rothschilds have a long history, marred with tragedies and rivalries so common to historical dynastic clans. In the 1990s, as the French and British branches of the family were increasing their cooperation under the leadership of Baron David de Rothschild and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, respectively, Sir Evelyn commented that, “The first important strength of the family is unity.” Evelyn viewed Jacob Rothschild – another member of the British family branch – as a potential rival in control over the British bank, N.M. Rothschild, but Jacob went off to found RIT Capital Partners. Jacob’s half-brother, Amschel Rothschild, was pressured by his father to join the family business, despite his lack of interest and talent for it. Shortly after the death of his mother in 1996, Amschel attended a business meeting in Paris, after which he went to his hotel room and hung himself at the age of 41. With his death, a crisis was seen in the future of the family dynasty, which prompted the closer connections between the British and French branches.[15]

Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and his wife, Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild (an American), count two prominent dynasties among their close friends: the Clintons and the British Royal Family. Lynn has long-standing ties to the Clintons, and considers Hillary to be “the woman she most admires,” while Sir Evelyn served as an usher at Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding. The couple spends occasional weekends with the Queen at Windsor Castle, and would also be frequent guests at the White House during the Clinton administration.[16]

In Italy, the Agnelli family – presided over today by the young patriarch, John Elkann – has been considered Italian royalty for the past century. The previous patriarch, Giovanni (‘Gianni’) Agnelli, ruled the family empire from the 1960s until his death in the early 2000s. The Agnelli empire controlled the large auto-company Fiat, as well as managing a wide array of companies and investments “in shipping, oil refining, armaments, banking, insurance, retailing and manufacturing.”[17] When the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, visited Italy, he singled out Gianni in a room filled with several Italian cabinet ministers and took the patriarch aside. “I want to talk to you,” said Khrushchev, “because you will always be in power.” The Soviet leader signaled to the cabinet ministers, adding, “That lot will never do more than just come and go.”[18] By the late 1990s, the Fiat group was the largest employer in Italy, accounting for roughly 5 percent of the country’s gross national product (GNP), and, when combined with the other family’s holdings, the Agnelli family controlled roughly a quarter of the entire capitalization of the Milan stock market.[19]

The Wallenberg family has dominated banking and industry in Sweden for over 200 years.[20] In the mid-1990s, the New York Times referred to the Wallenbergs as “one of the most powerful business families in the world” and “Sweden’s answer to the Rockefellers.”[21] For the post-war period, the business was under the leadership of Marcus Wallenberg Jr., who died in 1982 and had established “an industrial and financial empire of unprecedented scope,” with the family having controlling or influential shares in half of Sweden’s largest corporations, including Electrolux, L.M. Ericsson, Saab, and the Skandinaviska Enskilda Bank (SEB), one of Sweden’s largest multinational banks. By the mid-1980s, the family’s business empire accounted for roughly 30 percent of Sweden’s gross national product.[22]

By the mid-1990s, the Wallenberg empire controlled companies accounting for 40 percent of the Swedish stock market, just as the fifth generation of the family was taking over the reins. Jacob and his cousin, Marcus Wallenberg, were to take over the business from Jacob’s father, Peter, determined on “making the empire a global one.” The family’s holding company, Investor AB, was valued at $6.4 billion, which was in turn owned by a foundation trust controlled by the Wallenberg family.[23] As The Economist noted in 2006, “There is little that happens in Swedish business that does not involve the Wallenbergs,” with one prominent Swedish hedge fund manager commenting, “They are a bit like royalty.”[24] Jacob Wallenberg told the Financial Times in 2014 that, “I think our family is very strong on tradition, it is very strong on responsibility, it is very strong on nation, and I should say family.”[25]

In Canada, a quiet dynasty rules behind the scenes, with “undeniable” influence on provincial and federal politics, according to former U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson, who discussed the Desmarais family in a diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks.[26] The family’s economic empire goes by the name Power Corporation, based in the French-speaking province of Quebec and the city of Montreal. Through its various subsidiaries and shareholdings, the corporate and financial influence of the family reaches to all significant sectors of corporate Canada, as well as Europe, Asia and the United States.

The family was presided over by Paul Desmarais, Sr. from the time he began the business in the 1950s and 60s until his death in 2013, at which time the family empire was passed on to his two sons, Paul, Jr. and André Desmarais. As the Globe & Mail reported upon the patriarch’s death in 2013, “he knew and influenced, in small ways or large, every Canadian prime minister and Quebec premier over the past five decades.” Desmarais helped Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau open relations with China in the 1970s, and established the Canada China Business Council in 1978. Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin also maintained very close connections with Desmarais and the Power Corp. empire. Jean Chrétien’s daughter, France Chrétien, even married Paul’s son, André. Paul Martin worked for Desmarais at Power Corp. for 13 years before entering politics, eventually becoming finance minister and Prime Minister. Brian Mulroney, a close friend for nearly five decades, said of Desmarais, “I loved him like a brother… He was one of the most significant players in Canadian economic history.”[27]

The Wall Street Journal referred to Desmarais as “one of Canada’s wealthiest and most powerful businessmen” who “was closely involved in the nation’s politics.” Canada’s current Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised Desmarais for his “leadership, integrity, global vision, and profound attachment to his country.” Among the patriarch’s friends were former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.[28]

Asian nations are not to be outdone, with long traditions and new manifestations for family rule with powerful dynasties in the political and economic sphere, as well as a host of monarchs. As The Australian reported in 2014, “the big family business in Asia today is not running companies, but controlling countries,” noting that apart from the obvious in North Korea, many of Asia’s nations were “permeated with political leaderships that keep governance in the family.” The newly installed Chinese President, Xi Jinping, was a ‘princeling’ – a child of the Communist Party founders and bosses – whose father was a former Vice Premier. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, comes from a prominent political family. His grandfather was a Member of Parliament, his father was a foreign minister, and his mother’s father was a former Prime Minister. The President of Korea, Park Geun-hye, was the daughter of a previous president.[29]

This pattern was repeated in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka, their own versions of names like Kennedy, Bush and Clinton in the United States. An associate professor at the University of Queensland, David Martin Jones, commented, “The rise of dynasticism within democracy is little understood, and fits with a loss of popular support for mainstream parties, while these dynastic figures fit with the media/celebrity culture and spin that has undermined politics as a mode of persuasion.”[30]

Japan was, for many years, the world’s second largest economy after the United States. Today, it stands in third place, with China picking up the mantle at second. China began its economic ‘opening’ in 1978 under the leadership of Party leader Deng Xiaoping. As the world’s most populous nation increasingly embraced Western forms of ‘capitalism’, the Communist Party leadership which dominated the country acted as patrons and subsequently profiteers of China’s economic development. The highly efficient mixture of a single-party technocratic dictatorship and state-capitalism led to rapid economic growth and immense riches being accumulated by the nation’s new oligarchy. The princelings have become a rich and powerful class, using their political contacts to study at prestigious schools in Europe and America, taking control of large businesses inside China and rising up the Party apparatus.[31] As Bloomberg reported, in China, “wealth and influence is concentrated in the hands of as few as 14 and as many as several hundred families.”[32]

In Turkey, two families largely dominate the economy, Koc and Sabanci, having reached their third generations with interests in banking, energy, automobiles, retail and other markets. Together, Koc Holding and Sabanci Holding – and their various subsidiaries – “make up more than a quarter of the market capitalization of the Istanbul stock market.” The U.S.-based credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, gave Koc Holding a higher credit rating than Turkey.[33]

In another ‘emerging market’ economy, South Africa, one family reigns supreme: Oppenheimer. Harry F. Oppenheimer, who died in 2000, was known as the “king of diamonds,” with an empire controlling most of South Africa’s diamonds, gold, uranium and copper, “wielding extraordinary power over some of the world’s strategic metals and minerals.” Through a complex web of corporate subsidiaries and shareholdings, the Oppenheimer family controlled the supply of the world’s diamonds through their monopoly of De Beers, which also held “vast holdings in banking, real estate, pulp and paper, bricks and pipe, coal and potash, locomotives and beer.” As head of Anglo American Corporation, Harry Oppenheimer spent twenty-five years as “the most powerful figure in his country’s economy as well as one of the richest men in the world,” noted the New York Times.[34]

India, the world’s largest ‘democracy,’ second most populous country and one of the fastest-growing economies, is yet another example of a family business. Politically, India has long been dominated by the Gandhi and Nehru families, but behind the scenes, the families of old and new industrialists dominate the economy. Among India’s largest and most respected conglomerates is the Tata family, which has run the Tata Group for nearly 150 years. Ratan Tata took over the Tata Group in 1991, with its more than 100 companies operating in everything from steel to software. The Tata family had run the company for over a century, but was based almost entirely in India, which began opening its economy up to the West the same year Ratan took over the company. He turned the Tata Group into a global conglomerate, acquiring major British companies, including Tetley Tea, Jaguar Land Rover and Corus, a steelmaker. Ratan became, in the words of the Financial Times, “a pioneer in the country’s move toward globalization,” and both he and the Group “came to embody India’s own emergence as a world economic player over the course of the past decade.”[35]

Germany, the second largest exporter in the world (after China) and the fourth largest economy in the world (after the U.S., China and Japan) is also no stranger to family dynasties and business empires. According to a 2012 study cited by Forbes, roughly 43% of all German exports in 2011 were accounted for by the country’s 4,400 largest family-owned firms. Many of the large companies that are not directly owned by families are often owned by foundations, which are in turn owned by prominent families.[36] The archetypal head of a German business empire, the Financial Times explained in 2007, is “very wealthy but low-profile and frugal.” In other words, they’re rich, cheap and stay behind the scenes.[37] Some of Germany’s wealthiest families and individuals stay so far out of the spotlight that there are few known photographs of them in existence. Susanne Klatten, daughter of the German industrialist Herbert Quandt, who built the BMW empire, is the 44th richest person in the world, with a very low public profile, even spending parts of her life operating under false names.[38]

One reason for the publicity-shy nature of Germany’s corporate, industrial and financial elite could be due to the fact that many of them date back to Germany’s industrialization and prospered immensely through the Nazi era, where they frequently collaborated with Hitler’s murderous regime. Just as the Japanese industries and families of the imperial age were re-established to manage Japan’s post-war industrialization, so too was German industry rebranded after the Nazi era to lead Germany’s reindustrialization and rapid economic growth. The Quandt family behind BMW had collaborated heavily with Nazi Germany, with one German historian, Joachim Scholtyseck, noting, “The Quandts were linked inseparably with the crimes of the Nazis,” using some 50,000 concentration camp slave laborers at the company’s factories, building weapons for the Nazi war machine. “The family patriarch was part of the regime,” Scholtyseck added. The Quandt family also took over dozens of businesses which were seized from Jewish families.[39]

Since the early 1970s, the Arab dictatorships – virtually all run by political dynasties – have accumulated massive wealth and influence, and have invested that wealth into Western banks and corporations. Saudi Arabia is the best example, but the Gulf monarchs include the families that run the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait. One such individual who has made a name for himself in the world of finance is the Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who has been referred to as the “Arabian Warren Buffett,” having become one of the largest shareholders in Citicorp by the early 1990s. In 1999, the Economist noted that while the Saudi royals were “secretive, venal and backward,” Prince Alwaleed was “open, intelligent and successful.”[40]

As of 2013, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was worth an estimated $27 billion, and was the second largest shareholder in the global media conglomerate, News Corp. (after the principal shareholders and owners, the Murdoch family), and is also a stockholder in Apple, TimeWarner, Citigroup, Motorola, Saks, AOL, eBay and EuroDisney, and even owns part of Twitter. Further, the Prince owns several luxury hotels in London, New York and elsewhere, partnering up with major banks and other billionaires like Bill Gates. The Prince has a fleet of some 300 cars, a 280-foot yacht which was originally built for a world famous Saudi arms dealer (Adnan Khashoggi), and a fleet of jets, one of which includes a golden throne. He became the subject of minor scandal when it was reported that at his desert encampment in Saudi Arabia, one of the Prince’s past-times is, literally, “dwarf-tossing.” But the Prince’s defenders were quick to reassure an American audience of “his great beneficence,” noting that dwarves were “outcasts” in the Saudi Kingdom, and so the Prince simply hired them as jesters, providing them with “a work ethic,” which included having them “dive for $100 bills in bonfires.”[41]

Russia and several countries in Eastern Europe (notably Ukraine) are dominated by a handful of oligarchs, who concentrated control of resources and the economy in their hands following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There are also individual oligarchs all across the world, and if they pass their fortunes on to their children they could establish new financial and corporate dynasties. One example in the United States is Warren Buffett, a billionaire investor who founded Berkshire Hathaway, which is a major shareholder in American Express, Coca-Cola, Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Moody’s Corporation, Munich Re, Procter & Gamble, U.S. Bancorp, Wal-Mart and Wells Fargo, among others.[42] Buffet’s friend, fellow billionaire oligarch Bill Gates, is also a major shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway, through his own holding company, Cascade Investment.[43]

These are just a few of the world’s major dynasties and oligarchs in the Empire of Economics, cooperating and competing with one another in what could be interpreted as globalization’s Game of Thrones. Individually, these family dynasties and oligarchs are able to exert significant and varying degrees of control over their respective national economies. Collectively, they wield immense global financial and economic power, largely unknown to outsiders. As banks and corporations became increasingly global in scope and size, so too did the interests of the individuals and families behind many of the world’s major companies. The world’s top banks and corporations, in turn, collectively own each other through shareholdings, as well as much of the rest of the network of global corporations.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich published a study in 2011 of the ownership structure of the world’s largest 43,000 multinational corporations. The researchers traced the shareholdings of the companies to a small network ‘core’ of the largest 1,318 corporations, which collectively accounted for roughly 80 percent of the global revenues of the entire sample of 43,000 corporations. Within the ‘core’ is what the researchers called the ‘super-entity’, a grouping of roughly 147 closely knit companies – mostly banks and insurance companies – who own each other and collectively control 40 percent of the entire network of 43,000 companies.[44] Thus, a global economic order in which less than 150 of the world’s top banks and financial institutions control not only each other but a large percentage of the world’s remaining corporations can hardly be said to be a “free market” of competition. In truth, the “super-entity” more closely resembles a cartel, the global financial mafia.

Among the top 50 companies of the ‘super-entity’ (as of 2008), were: Barclays, Capital Group Companies, FMR Corporation, AXA, State Street Corporation, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Société Générale, Bank of America, Lloyds TSB, ING Group and BNP Paribas, among others.[45] As of late 2014, the list of top institutions within the super-entity has changed slightly, with some previous banks merging or collapsing as a result of the financial crisis, and with the rise of asset management firms such as BlackRock.

BlackRock is the world’s largest asset management company, with roughly $4 trillion of assets under management, standing as the single largest shareholder in one out of every five corporations in the United States, owning at least 5 percent of almost half of all corporations in the country. As the New York Times noted in 2013, BlackRock has “tremendous influence.”[46] As the Financial Times noted in 2012, when one includes the assets which BlackRock advises on (on top of managing), the total sum that the company monitors amounts to roughly $12 trillion, almost the same size as the entire U.S. economy, putting the company “in an extraordinarily influential position.”[47] Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock who started his career as “a prince of Wall Street,” rose to what the Financial Times called “the pinnacle of US finance,” where he “slips in and out of the offices of the world’s financial and political elite with ease.” Fink and BlackRock have extensive influence with the major American and European banks and corporations, as well as sovereign wealth funds in the Arab world and Asia.[48]

Fink turned BlackRock from a virtually unknown entity in 2008 to “a global colossus” with its $13.5 billion purchase of Barclays Global Investors in 2009. Vanity Fair referred to Fink in 2010 as “the leading member of the country’s financial oligarchy.” Throughout the financial crisis, Fink and BlackRock played a role as key adviser to all of Wall Street’s top CEOs, as well as the heads of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the U.S. Treasury Department, playing a central role in the major bailouts and mergers that marked the crisis. One senior bank official referred to BlackRock as “almost a shadow government.” Another bank executive commented, “Larry has always wanted to be important… And now that he’s more important than he ever dreamed of, he’s loving it.” Fink also maintained very close ties to the two U.S. Treasury Secretaries who served tenures during the financial crisis, Hank Paulson (former CEO of Goldman Sachs) and Timothy Geithner (former President of the New York Fed), whom Fink referred to as “two of our best Treasury secretaries.”[49]

This interconnected and interdependent network of the global financial mafia is in turn controlled by the shareholdings of individual oligarchs and family dynasties. After all, most mafias are ultimately family businesses, and the world of finance is no exception. But there are other key players as well, including sovereign wealth funds (state-run investment companies), central banks, and other investment vehicles. The use of the term ‘mafia’ or Mafiocracy is not simply rhetorical, as the banks and corporations which sit at the heart of this network – the “super-entity” – are repeatedly caught, fined and slapped on the wrist for excessive criminal behavior, including massive fraud and the formation of illegal cartels designed to manipulate prices and increase profits.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the financial sector, plagued by multiple scandals since the financial crisis, including the role of banks in creating the crisis in the first place. In addition to that, however, a small network of banks has been found to function as a criminal cartel in manipulating interest rates (specifically, the LIBOR rate) and the foreign exchange (forex) market. In addition, the world’s major banks also reap immense profits (and commit grave crimes) through the laundering of billions of dollars in drug money, terrorist financing and providing other services to organized crime.[50] And this is to say nothing of the economic and financial support that corporations and banks provide for dictators, tyrants, mass murderers, war mongering and state violence, environmental degradation and the physical plundering of the planet for short-term profit.

But the global financial mafia – and the oligarchs and dynasties who sit at its core – cannot wield significant influence without the political legitimacy that comes with state power. Successful financial dynasties (with the Rockefellers as perhaps the best example) establish complex networks of influence, building institutions and supporting ideologies that in turn influence the state and shape the minds and careers of those who rise through it. The Rockefeller family established the University of Chicago and have long been patrons of Harvard. They created philanthropic foundations which provided strategic funding to universities, research centers, think tanks and international forums, having a lasting impact on the shaping of the social sciences (notably Political Science and Economics). The Rockefeller name has made its imprint on some of the most influential American and international think tanks and forums, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg meetings and the Trilateral Commission, which was founded by David Rockefeller in 1973 in an effort to encourage cooperation between the ‘trilateral’ regions of North America, Western Europe and Japan.

The effect of these networks – which are replicated to varying degrees by members of the global financial mafia in their respective nations – was to create a new elite class of technocrats and professionals, strategists and policymakers whose ideologies and interests aligned with that of the Mafiocracy. For dynasties and oligarchs to exert influence over economic and political policies and society at large, they need much more than a large economic share of corporate, banking and stock market capitalization. More than anything, they need access to policymakers: presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, finance ministers, central bankers, technocrats and the leaders of international organizations.

In short, they need to engage and integrate actively with the world of economic and financial diplomacy, interacting and building relationships with the policymakers of the rich and powerful nations, those who have the political authority necessary to implement policies that affect the Mafiocracy. Together, policy-makers, technocrats, financial diplomats and the Mafiocracy of oligarchs and dynasties are the central players in the game of global power politics, and are the key architects in the system of global economic and financial governance, the Empire of Economics.

Machiavelli to the Mafiocracy

Dynastic control of corporations and banks, while supporting long-term influence and interests, has obvious downsides, since talent and skills are not hereditary, and thus, there is no guarantee that family members and descendants will be as savvy or effective in their management of the family business. For this reason, many oligarchs and dynasties turn to individuals outside of the family to manage their companies, advise on their wealth management strategies, and run the day-to-day business of the family empire. Such advisers, confidantes and interlocutors exist in the world of financial dynasties well beyond the scope of the family business, but help to manage the family’s social and political interests and relationships as well.

Some five hundred years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli advised Popes, princes and other rulers, writing The Prince as a dedication to the first modern financial dynasty, the Medici family of Florence. If Machiavelli were writing The Prince today, he would likely still dedicate it to the major family dynasties, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Wallenberg or perhaps the Agnelli family of Italy and other modern Medicis. With few exceptions, however, the modern imperial families of finance do not directly control the state or political apparatus as they did in past centuries. So for the Machiavellis of the modern era, they must establish close relationships not simply with the top families, but the top political authorities as well.

They act as ‘friends’ and networking agents to the major dynasties while sitting as advisers and cabinet ministers to the world’s major presidents and prime ministers. They run consulting firms, outsourcing their strategic insight and networks of contacts to the highest bidder. They sit on the boards of corporations, think tanks and foundations, fostering the development of future generations of advisers and strategists, regularly appearing in the media to voice their own “independent” analysis of world events and strategic advice. They are the Machiavellis to the global Mafiocracy, moving in and out of government but always remaining in the upper echelons of the ruling institutions. They attend international conferences, forums, professional and social events. They are essential to the global Mafiocracy, with extensive experience in the highest positions of power, understanding how state power is wielded and shaped, they know the key policy-makers at home and abroad, and are able to open doors with their recognizable names, yielding endless benefits to their dynastic patrons and friends.

Perhaps the most recognizable and “respected” consigliere to the Mafiocracy is none other than Henry Kissinger. A German émigré to the United States in the late 1930s, Kissinger became a noted academic at Harvard University, where he became acquainted with the politics of academic life, preparing him “for world politics.” With the help of his academic mentors, he established a seminar and an academic journal which effectively expanded his network of contacts with other young leaders in government, business, media and finance.[51]

In the mid-1950s, Kissinger was invited to join the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the premier U.S.-based think tank focusing on foreign policy, long considered a type of training ground (or rite of passage) for any top future foreign policy officials in the United States government. The Council, founded in 1921, also happened to be an institution which was dominated by Rockefeller men and money. Kissinger was appointed as a staff director of a study group on nuclear weapons and foreign policy on behalf of the Council, out of which he wrote a book that advocated for “limited nuclear war” with the Soviet Union. From there, Kissinger was appointed as the director of a Special Studies Project run by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. At this time, Kissinger developed a close relationship with Nelson Rockefeller, who would become the young Henry’s patron.[52] Kissinger later recalled first meeting Nelson Rockefeller, noting that he and the other young ‘experts’ who formed a study group under Rockefeller’s patronage were “intoxicated by the proximity of power” and sought to impress Nelson in offering “tactical advice on how to manipulate events.”[53]

Kissinger received tenure at Harvard in 1959, and served as a part-time consultant to Nelson Rockefeller, who became the Governor of New York State in 1959 (a position he would hold until 1973). He did part-time consulting with the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s, and with the Lyndon Johnson administration that followed Kennedy’s assassination. When Richard Nixon became president in 1969, Henry Kissinger joined the administration as National Security Adviser, and took on the additional role as Secretary of State in 1973. When Kissinger joined the Nixon administration, Nelson Rockefeller gave Henry a ‘gift’ of $50,000.[54] When Nixon resigned in disgrace in August of 1974, replaced by Gerald Ford, Kissinger remained as National Security Adviser until 1975 and as Secretary of State until the end of the Ford administration in early 1977. Nelson Rockefeller, who had long sought the presidency, was appointed Vice President in the Ford administration.

During these years, Henry Kissinger was the most influential figure shaping U.S. foreign policy, and he did so with a ruthlessly pragmatic understanding of power and its uses. He oversaw the war in Vietnam, the illegal bombing of Cambodia, killing several million civilians during the Nixon administration alone. In addition to his many war crimes in Indochina (for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973), Kissinger supported Pakistan’s genocide in Bangladesh, killing several million, after which he congratulated the dictator of Pakistan for his “delicacy and tact.” He was also central in the CIA coup to overthrow the democratically elected government of Chile in 1973, of which he said, “The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” The result was the establishment of a U.S.-supported dictator, Augusto Pinochet, who murdered many thousands and tortured many tens of thousands more.[55]

Kissinger also supported the murderous Argentine military regime which killed tens of thousands, along with the Indonesian dictator, Suharto, in his genocide in East Timor, killing several hundred thousand civilians. He supported the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and the war against the government of Angola, which ultimately killed millions in southern Africa. These are but a few examples of Kissinger’s influence on foreign policy, resulting in the deaths of many millions of people around the world, in addition to the displacement, torture and suffering of many millions of others. With the blood of so many innocent people on his hands, Kissinger had acquired the status of a highly respected “statesman.”[56]

When Kissinger left the government, he did not lose much influence. He remained a central figure within the foreign policy establishment. The ‘Establishment’, as it was known to many, had consisted of prominent Wall Street bankers and lawyers who effectively monopolized the key foreign-policy positions within the government in the decades leading up to and following World War II. By the 1970s, the ‘Establishment’ had given way to what Leslie Gelb (currently a president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations) called the “foreign policy community,” which functions as “an aristocracy of professionals.” This community consisted of roughly 300 professors, lawyers, businessmen, think tank ‘experts’, foundation officials and journalists (though today it is likely a far greater number). Whereas previous leaders in the foreign policy establishment were primarily bankers who took time off to manage foreign policy, members of the community tend to focus on foreign policy as “a full-time job.” The community had “first infiltrated, then subsumed the older and familiar establishment,” and by the 1970s it was “monopolizing the top foreign and national security posts in any administration.”[57]

Gelb, writing in the New York Times, noted that members of the earlier Establishment “were insiders, who knew the right persons to telephone, meeting quietly, avoiding publicity.” The Community, on the other hand, “operate far more openly,” noting that, “unlike the Rockefellers, they cannot pick up the phone and speak to the President. They talk to the President indirectly, through the articles they write in journals such as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy or in the op-ed pages of [the New York Times] and other newspapers, or in testimony to Congressional committees, through attending conferences with high Government officials at the Brookings Institution in Washington or the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.” Citing Kissinger as one of several examples, Gelb wrote that “the professors had moved to the center of power.” The members of the foreign policy community, explained Gelb, “sometimes actually make the decisions, usually define what is to be debated and invariably manage the resulting policies.”[58]

This foreign policy community links together major universities (particularly the Ivy League schools), philanthropic foundations (Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie), think tanks, international conferences and forums. Among the most important think tanks in the foreign policy community are the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), among many others. These think tanks are typically dominated by boards and trustees who are former high level government officials, top corporate executives, bankers, university professors and chancellors, foundation officials, media barons, and of course, individual oligarchs and members of financial dynasties. In addition to major national think tanks, there are a host of international think tanks and forums that bring together the members of the global Mafiocracy with policy-makers and other influential individuals. The three most important and influential of these international forums are the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission and the World Economic Forum.

The Bilderberg meetings began in 1954 as a conference of high-ranking government officials, bankers, corporate executives, European royalty, media barons, military and intelligence chiefs, academics and think tank officials drawn almost exclusively from North American and Western European nations. The meetings take place once a year, drawing roughly 130 participants who meet for a long weekend in a four-star hotel to engage in off-the-record, secret discussions behind closed doors. The meetings are governed by a Steering Committee of roughly forty individuals who are responsible for inviting other participants from their respective nations. Families such as the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Agnellis and Wallenbergs have long been represented at Bilderberg meetings.

The Trilateral Commission, which was founded by David Rockefeller, functions as an international think tank and series of conferences uniting the policy-oriented, political, academic, corporate and financial elites of Western Europe, North America and Japan (having expanded since its founding in 1973 to include more Asian nations, notably China and India). David Rockefeller still sits as honorary chairman of the Commission, which consists of roughly 350 members who hold a full membership meeting once yearly, while holding regional meetings separately, of the North America, European and Japanese/Asian groups respectively.

The annual meetings of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, bring together thousands of the world’s top corporate executives, bankers and financiers with leading heads of state, finance and trade ministers, central bankers and policymakers from dozens of the world’s largest economies; the heads of all major international organizations including the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization, Bank for International Settlements, UN, OECD and others, as well as hundreds of academics, economists, political scientists, journalists, cultural elites and occasional celebrities.

Henry Kissinger is a regular fixture at these various think tanks, forums and conferences. He currently sits as a trustee and counselor of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a member (and former board member) of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the Trilateral Commission, a participant in World Economic Forum meetings, and as a participant (and former Steering Committee member) of the Bilderberg Group.

After he left government in 1977, Kissinger remained an important figure in foreign policy and establishment circles, making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year as an author, lecturer, academic and consultant, notably for NBC and Goldman Sachs.[59] In 1982, Kissinger founded his own consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, which for a fee of roughly $250,000 per year, advises its clients on “strategic planning.” To help with the consultancy, Kissinger brought in his former deputy national security adviser in the Nixon administration, Brent Scowcroft, as well as a former British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington.[60]

Kissinger Associates was headquartered on the corner of Park Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City, located in the same office building as the First American Bank of New York and Chase Private Banking International. Among the client list for Kissinger’s firm are several big names, including H.J. Heinz, Arco, American Express, Shearson Lehman, as well as FIAT (Agnelli), Volvo, Fluor Corporation, International Energy Corporation, Midland Bank, and L.M. Ericsson of Sweden (controlled by the Wallenbergs). As the New York Times noted in 1986, “Kissinger and his associates are by all accounts the most successful of this new breed of former senior Government officials who have decided to advise big businesses rather than join them,” noting that Defense Secretaries, State Secretaries and Treasury Secretaries had overseen millions of people and enormous budgets with which most multinational conglomerates cannot compete, and thus, “big business is too small for many of the new generation of Government superstars.”[61]

As Kissinger himself explained, “I think that in the modern world, if you don’t understand the relationship between economics and politics, you cannot be a great statesman. You cannot do it with foreign policy and security knowledge alone.”[62] In 2002, Leslie Gelb, a top official at the Council on Foreign Relations, commented that, “Within the foreign policy world, and among many corporate CEOs, Henry Kissinger carries more weight than any senior individual in the world today.”[63]

Kissinger has long functioned as a glorified errand boy for the ruling global Mafiocracy. Among his close friends and associates are many of the world’s most powerful dynasties, including his original patrons, the Rockefellers, as well as the Agnelli family of Italy, the Rothschilds of Europe, the Oppenheimer family in South Africa, and a whole coterie of ruling elites in China. Sir Evelyn de Rothschild was introduced to his present wife, Lynn Forester, by their “mutual friend” Henry Kissinger at a 1998 meeting of the Bilderberg Group.[64] Of the late patriarch of Italy’s ruling family, Kissinger said that in “the last two decades of his life, no one was closer to me than Gianni Agnelli,” noting that they spoke on the phone roughly twice a week and would visit each other “every month or so.” Kissinger described Agnelli as “the uncrowned king of Italy” and a “powerful personality who was the most influential Italian of his era.”[65] Kissinger even helped to rebuild ties between the diamond and gold empire headed by Harry Oppenheimer and the South African president.[66]

Kissinger has known the many powerful leaders of China over the past four decades, since he led the diplomatic ‘opening’ of U.S. relations with China in the early 1970s. As he officially established relations with Mao Zedong’s China in 1973, David Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank became the first U.S. bank to get into the country since the Communists came to power in 1949. Chase Manhattan became the “correspondent” for the Bank of China in the United States, for the purposes of financing commerce. The deal was reached following a 10-day visit by Rockefeller to China in the summer of 1973.[67] Some four decades later, China would be the second largest economy in the world, governed by an elite new class of ‘Princelings’ and technocratic tyrants. China’s economic growth has increasingly translated in growing political power in the international arena. But behind the dry, technocratic exterior of Chinese politics lies a brutal world of factional power politics, in-fighting, scandal, corruption and a struggle for control.

China: Globalization’s Gangster State

Following Mao and Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping would become China’s most powerful leader from 1979 until 1989. Henry Kissinger described Mao as “a prophet who was consumed by the objectives he had set,” and Zhou Enlai as a “most skillful diplomat.” But Deng Xiaoping, for Kissinger, was “a greater reformer,” adding, “I certainly met no other Chinese who had the vision and the courage to move China into the international system and… in instituting a market system.”[68]

Deng Xiaoping was first among the ‘Eight Immortals’ of modern China, and principal architect of modern China.[69] The Immortals were those who supported Deng Xiaoping’s leadership of the Communist Party, believing that only by “opening China to the outside world” would they be able to “raise living standards” and avoid “social upheaval that would threaten the Communist Party’s grip on power.” A Bloomberg special report on the influence of the descendants of the Eight Immortals noted that they ultimately “sowed the seeds of one of the biggest challenges to the Party’s authority,” by entrusting major state assets to their children, “many of whom became wealthy.” This marked “the beginning of a new elite class, now known as princelings.” Over the decades, the emergence and growth of the princeling class would increasingly fuel “public anger over unequal accumulation of wealth, unfair access to opportunity and exploitation of privilege – all at odds with the original aims of the communist revolution.”[70]

The Deng Xiaoping era lasted roughly from 1978 until 2012, when the first princeling came to take the highest seat of power in China, with the rise of Xi Jinping. Prior to that, Deng and the Eight Immortals “towered over China,” first through Deng’s rule, and then “through Deng’s hand-chosen successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao,” noted a special report in The Diplomat.[71] Deng Xiaoping’s China also saw the rapid rise of the factional backroom power politics that dominate the Chinese Communist Party, and by extension, the government and society. Deng articulated the strategy for China to take in its global rise: “hide your brightness; bide your time.”[72]

The Chinese state has always presented an image of itself to its domestic population and a foreign audience as one of being united with a well-oiled political system. But since the era of Deng, the Party system – which determines who rises to the top positions of power in the country – has been governed not by a visible and public structure, but by “back-room patronage and shadowy negotiations among party elders.” The “problem” with this system, suggested the New York Times in 2012, was that “the power of those elders have diminished with each generation,” noting that then-President and party chief, Hu Jintao, who ruled from 2003 until 2013, was “weaker than his predecessor, Jiang Zemin,” who had ruled China from 1989 until 2002, “who was much weaker than Mr. Deng,” who was paramount from 1978 until his death in the 1990s.[73]

In Chinese factional power politics, the top leaders and former top leaders establish their own networks of patronage, passing benefits and favors to others in exchange for various support, making deals, trades, negotiations and much deeper intrigues. These powerful factions occasionally go to battle with each other, orchestrating all sorts of technocratic coups (the removal of top officials loyal to one boss over the other).[74] The large party factions, headed by their respective party bosses (sitting and former top Chinese leaders) would hold conclaves and secret meetings in which they would negotiate and horse-trade over the appointments to be made to the top ruling body in China, the Politburo Standing Committee.[75]

In 2010, the two main party factions led by then-president Hu Jintao and former president Jiang Zemin decided upon a successor to be president of China, Xi Jinping, with Li Keqiang chosen to be the future prime minister, Hu’s first choice for president.[76] Xi Jinping, who was allied with the Jiang Zemin faction, was ultimately considered to be a compromise candidate between the major faction leaders.[77] Another fast-rising official in the Chinese state apparatus was Bo Xilai, allied with Jiang’s faction, and touted as a possible member of the next Politburo Standing Committee. Bo was viewed by many as “dangerous” and “capable of anything,” creating powerful enemies among top-level Chinese officials.[78]

Bo Xilai was well known both within China and internationally among ruling circles, having risen to the position of party boss in Chongqing City in central China. Under his leadership, Chongqing built strong ties to corporate America and he even won the endorsement of none other than Henry Kissinger, who met with Bo in 2011, after which Kissinger said, “I saw the vision for the future by the Chinese leaders.”[79]

Within a year, Bo Xilai would become the subject of a major scandal which provided a glimpse into the backroom power politics waged by China’s ruling elite and its influential factions and personalities. In a spectacular tale worthy of the palace intrigue of ancient imperial China, Bo went from rising star to serving a life sentence in prison. After making himself a powerful enemy in the form of then-Chinese president Hu Jintao, Bo and his police chief – and long-time confidante – Wang Lijun, became the targets of a quiet corruption investigation designed to prevent his rise to the Politburo Standing Committee.[80]

In January of 2012, Wang Lijun went to his patron, increasingly worried about his own future as the investigation clamped down, hoping to secure the protection of Bo. Instead, Bo decided to toss Wang to the wolves and save himself. Bo fired him from his official post and put a police tail on him. When Wang managed to elude his unwanted entourage, he fled to the American consulate in a nearby city where he asked for asylum, claiming his life was under threat and providing evidence that Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, had murdered a British banker (and possible spy) with cyanide in a hotel room a few months before, which he subsequently helped cover up. Suddenly, the quiet backroom attempt to remove Bo as a threat to the Party leadership became a very public scandal revealing the gangster-state nature of China’s power politics.[81]

In a seemingly bizarre twist, the scandal even had repercussions in Canada, as Bo Xilai was “Canada’s closest ally in China’s power structure.” Specifically, Bo had close connections to Canada’s imperial family of finance, the Desmarais family of Montreal, who own Power Corporation. The Desmarais clan had close relations with Bo since the 1970s, when Bo’s father, the Chinese vice premier, Bo Yibo, established a connection with Paul Desmarais, Sr. As Bo’s power within China grew, so too did the market access of the Desmarais economic empire. Through the Desmarais network, Canada’s political elite also established close connections with Bo Xilai. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was one of the last foreign officials to have visited Bo before he was arrested on corruption charges. In fact, André Desmarais, son of Paul, Sr., was accompanied by his father-in-law, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, on a trip to China on behalf of the Canada China Business Council. A mere eight days after Bo’s wife murdered a British banker in a hotel room in Bo’s fiefdom of Chongqing, Bo Xilai smiled and shook the hands of Desmarais and Chrétien, greeting them “like old friends.”[82]

A Financial Times article from 2014 explained that many top Chinese leaders, including former vice-premier of finance and current Standing Committee member, Wang Qishan, are fans of the Netflix original show, House of Cards. The show depicts a politician (Frank Underwood) and his wife, who, through their back-room deals, secret machinations, lies, deception and even murder, are able to rapidly ascend through the ranks of political power in Washington, D.C., first as a top Congressional official making his way to become Vice President and ultimately, President.[83]

Kurt Campbell, writing in the Financial Times, noted that one possible reason for the popularity of shows like House of Cards among the Chinese leadership was that they may view the portrayal of politics in the show “as quintessentially American – perhaps even an accurate depiction of workings of U.S. government.” It was “widely believed” in China, he wrote, that “beneath the surface, America’s vaunted democracy is rife with injustice and corruption.” Not to be discounted, of course, was that the show also provided a parallel in the scandal surrounding Bo Xilai and his wife, Gu Kailai, with their rapid rise and dramatic downfall from the near-heights of Chinese political power. The scandal was “eerily reminiscent of the dirty political deeds perpetrated by Underwood in his quest for power.” Even U.S. President Barack Obama had commented that he was fascinated with the show, though he “confessed a pang of envy for the ‘efficiency’ with which things get done in the fictional Washington of its creation.”[84]

Indeed, House of Cards more closely resembles the realities of power politics exercised at the highest levels than is reflected in most other television and cinematic productions. While often criticized as being highly ‘cynical’ (much like Machiavelli’s The Prince), the truth is that it is a more accurate interpretation of a deeply cynical power structure. The Netflix show was an American adaptation of an earlier British television miniseries of the same name, which was itself based upon a series of books written by Michael Dobbs, a former adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and chief of staff to the British Conservative Party. Dobbs was once dubbed “Westminster’s baby-faced hit man,” with the British press noting that many of his political enemies said that he was “as calculating and conceited as some of his fictional characters.”[85]

Dobbs, in fact, wrote the original book, House of Cards, following “a blazing row” with Margaret Thatcher, in which she delivered upon him “a verbal hand-bagging” and subsequently fired him. After that, Dobbs sat down to write his book, which was “inspired by the shenanigans he’d seen and been involved in.” In a recent interview, Dobbs told a journalist, “All of the wickedness you see on House of Cards, I’d seen or even been responsible for.”[86] In a 2015 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dobbs, who is now a member of Britain’s House of Lords, said, “I don’t think it matters whether it’s in Westminster or Washington – it could be in Beijing or Moscow – because it’s the story about passions, ambitions, weaknesses and wickedness, which I think is universal and almost timeless.”[87]

It is a rarity for power to be accurately portrayed in art and cultural media. Its complexities can hardly be summarized in simple and short journalistic prose, and television news stands as an obscene testament to intellectual infantilism in modern society. Some 500 years ago, when Machiavelli was writing about the realities of power in his era, he could get away with a deliberate and direct approach since he was writing during a time where the vast majority of the population was illiterate, where those who would potentially read his text were the wealthy and powerful, those to whom it would be useful.

Over the past several centuries, with the spread of technology, education, mass communication and democracy, the global political world has become far more complex, with more players, interests, rivals and potential problems than ever before. As a corollary, the “passions, ambitions, weaknesses and wickedness” – as Dobbs described it – have become more global, impactful and entrenched. Whereas Machiavelli wrote about warring city-states, today we have competing continents and large economies, the global system of nation-states, banks and corporations. In addition, the public – the populations of nations and regions – have become literate, better educated, with more access to more information than ever before. They have become more active participants in their respective political systems than they were in past centuries and millennia.

At once, the tools of control and conquest are more advanced and efficient than ever, while the ability to exercise and justify the use of power politics and empire-building is at an historic low. The realities of mass culture and communication, largely a product of the 20th century, have changed the rhetoric and presentation of power in the modern world, though not necessarily the realities and priorities of power. The exercise of power has thus increasingly become coupled with and dependent upon the public use of vague, euphemistic, obscure and often incomprehensible language.

It is a language spoken and understood by those who are invested and involved with the world of high-powered politics, in which the key leaders and players must be able to speak publicly and purposefully in an effort to expand their interests, build their empires and play their games, but which also requires enough obscurity and evasion in order to ensure that the mass publics and populations of the world remain in the dark about the realities playing out behind the scenes. “Political language,” wrote George Orwell in a 1946 essay, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” In his essay, written two years prior to the publication of his famous book, 1984, Orwell explained some of the many uses of political language, writing:

It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.[88]

Orwell suggested that political language was most often used to defend the indefensible, citing examples of maintaining British rule in India, Russian purges, and the use of nuclear bombs in Japan. Such things, he wrote, “can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties.” Thus, he noted, “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” When poor villages are bombed by foreign militaries, its residents machine-gunned and murdered, homes destroyed and survivors scattered, this, wrote Orwell, “is called pacification.” Political leaders cannot publicly state that they intend to murder and destroy entire communities and nations all for the benefit of imperial ambitions, so they claim instead that they must pacify the population, to secure ‘order’ and ‘stability’. The term “pacification” is never actually defined, but the policies and effects which occur under the cloaking of that rhetoric provides as clear a definition as one will get. Orwell continued:

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms… All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia… But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can be spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.[89]

Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, is perhaps more relevant today than it was when it was written in 1946. One journalist, Matt Schiavenza, discussed the uses of political language in an article he wrote for The Atlantic discussing modern politics in China. With names of powerful institutions and conferences such as the Politburo Standing Committee, the Plenum and Plenary sessions of the Party Congress which promise a host of undefined ‘reforms’, Shiavenza wrote, “for lovers of clear, concise language, Chinese politics are a nightmare.” But he acknowledged its purpose: “If this language seems vague and boring, well, that’s the point: Chinese politics are designed to attract as little attention as possible.”[90]

The same can and should be said for American, European, Japanese and other modern, advanced political societies. China is an extreme case, but by no means the exception. Chinese politics has a heavily technocratic element, in which ‘experts’ (engineers, economists, academics) frequently rule the political apparatus and manage the public debate, designing and implementing large-scale social engineering projects; reshaping, en masse, the nature and structure of society, defining purpose for the population, steering the direction and managing the many crises that result from the totalitarian domination of 1.3 billion people.

In 2010 alone, China experienced 180,000 protests, riots and mass demonstrations, an average of 500 per day, and this was in the midst of an economic ‘boom’ for the country.[91] In such circumstances it is necessary for the Chinese elite to present an image of themselves not as in-fighting, factional, power-mad, super-rich oligarchs competing for domination, but as highly-qualified ‘experts’ who are able to make decisions and implement policies through ‘consensus’ in the interests of China and its population as a whole. Obviously, this is a fantasy world, behind which is a totalitarian system that controls the media, education, communication, transportation, and with all the necessary tools of violent repression.

Technocracy – that is, rule by experts – establishes the institutional ideology, and communicates through the technical language of Chinese politics. Only other ‘experts’ have the technical skills to understand what is being said and to participate in the process of decision-making. The public is left with obscure generalizations, flashy distractions, empty sound-bites and pre-packaged conclusions. But perhaps even worse than the “nightmare” of Chinese politics and its “vague and boring” language, is that of the global financial structure and economic diplomacy. It is within this world where the ideologies, individuals and institutions of global governance have constructed and advanced the architecture and interests of the global Empire of Economics.

The Language of Empire

The language of economics and finance is designed to be incomprehensible to those who are not ‘experts’ or experienced in the fields of economics and finance. The language reflects an ideology that is heavily institutionalized in modern ‘industrial’ society, obscuring realities behind its vague and undefined terms and concepts. We are presented with a world of trained economists, experts in the economic ‘science’ of society; politicians, presidents, prime ministers, chancellors and other heads of state who speak and decide on important matters; the finance ministers and central bank governors who meet, speak, plan and implement the world’s major economic and financial policies; the heads of acronym-named international organizations and their technocratic administrations; the banks, corporations, institutions and individuals who control most of the wealth, resources, trade and ‘financial markets’; the universities, think tanks and foundations who shape the education and training of future financial diplomats, who define the debate and discussion, who determine the policy-options and objectives; and the journalists and news publications who disseminate the economic and financial ‘news’ of the day, whose primary audience is composed of the diplomats and key players in the world of finance and economics.

It is a world little understood to outsiders, obscure and unknown even to most trained economists. Like their counterparts in political science, economists are ‘educated’ (aka: trained, indoctrinated) so that they know just enough to be active participants and administrators of the political (or economic) system, but not enough to understand its actual structure and purpose, nor question its legitimacy. Mired and focused on the technical details, ‘specialized’ in their education to focus and only understand specific sectors of the economic and financial system, the experts are segregated, knowledge is divided and divisive. With a tunnel vision focus on the technical details, most economists and experts are incapable of seeing the larger, institutional, ideological and indeed, the deeply political nature and realities of the financial and economic system.

The economic and financial system is designed this way, precisely because – much like Chinese politics – behind its technical terms, opaque objectives, and insurmountable institutions lies a world of brutal power politics, national and transnational factional battles between rivals and regions, engineering empire, enforcing state tyranny and violence, undertaking dramatic coup d’états and maintaining dynastic dominance. The world of financial power politics stands at the core of the Empire of Economics.

Economic and financial diplomacy is concerned with the design and construction of the Empire of Economics. Diplomats, by definition, hold political authority. Their job is to represent the interests of their nation, their ministry or government department, their embassies, outposts and ‘missions’. In the realm of economic and financial diplomacy, the key participants and players, those with the most political authority, are the central bankers, finance ministers, treasury secretaries, the leadership of international organizations, trade negotiators, economic advisers and of course, the presidents, prime ministers and chancellors – the heads of state.

Foreign diplomacy and international relations present itself with the public image of a convoluted and never-ending attempt at failing to help others around the world, to advance democracy, freedom, human rights, civilization and the ‘common interest’. But behind the media, the rhetoric of diplomacy, the coded language and confused causes, is an unforgiving world of empire. This world erupts in wars, coups, civil conflicts, dictators taking power or falling from it, bombs, bullets and occupation.

The famed linguist and prolific social critic, Noam Chomsky (one of the most cited intellectuals in history), has accurately described the world of ‘international relations’ between nations as functioning according to ‘Mafia principles.’ For decades, Chomsky has been one of the best known, most articulate and well-researched critics of U.S. and Western foreign policy and empire. He has spoken and written consistently that since World War II, regardless of political party or affiliation, successive presidents and their administrations were guided in their foreign policy by the “godfather principle, straight out of the mafia: that defiance cannot be tolerated.” Countries that defy the United States or its allies must be “punished” before “the contagion spreads.”[92] Chomsky elaborated on the ‘Mafia principle’ of international relations, writing, “The Godfather does not tolerate ‘successful defiance,’ even from a small storekeeper who fails to pay protection money. It is too dangerous. It must therefore be stamped out, and brutally, so that others understand that disobedience is not an option.” This principle has been “a leading doctrine of foreign policy for the US during the period of its global dominance.”[93]

Economic diplomacy has its parallels as the most powerful nations compete and cooperate for influence within the global Empire of Economics, also adhering to ‘Mafia principles’ in the exercise of financial power.

Diplomacy and Design of the “World Political Structure”

The Empire of Economics had been long in the making, but its modern manifestation – the various institutions, ideologies and interests that comprise the global economic and financial system – is largely a product of the 1970s. It was an era of profound monetary (currency) and economic crises and transformations. The global currency system that had existed in managing the monetary and economic relations between nations from the end of World War II was abandoned by the United States in 1971. Thereafter, the world of economic diplomacy was thrown to the center of the storm. Decisions of immense political importance had to be made and a new global monetary and financial system needed to be constructed. This task was handed to the central bankers and finance ministers of the rich and powerful nations of the world, first and foremost, the United States, followed by West Germany, France, Britain, Japan, Italy, Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Nordic nations.

Suddenly, finance ministers and central bankers were pushed to the forefront of advancing the global imperial interests of the rich, powerful nations, at times even eclipsing foreign and state ministers responsible for managing the nation’s foreign policy. It is through the frequent private meetings, international forums, conferences, social events and state visits where the finance ministers, central bankers and other technocrats engage in the very long and incremental process of negotiating the construction and evolution of the global economic and financial system. This was what Kissinger defined as the “trick” to use in creating “a world political structure.”

Banks, financial institutions, corporations and global markets were reaching far beyond the nation-state, becoming transnational in character, objectives and ideology. Political power had to follow financial and corporate power, to provide the political legitimacy necessary to advance the interests of the Mafiocracy. A bank can make a loan, but only powerful nations can force compliance to pay, to demand policies be changed, and to enforce the repercussions of failure. It was in the finance ministries and central banks of the powerful nations where state power and authority was to be exercised in closer coordination with other influential nations, and where they would consult and cooperate with concentrated transnational financial power.

Since the early 1930s, central bankers from the rich and powerful Western nations would meet in secret (usually in Basel, Switzerland) at the headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bank to the world’s major central banks. These meetings of central bankers take place behind closed doors every two months, in off-the-record conversations, after which no communiqué or press release is issued, no reporters informed. The cooperation of central bankers was in turn supported and enhanced through the establishment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1944, which brought in not only central bankers, but also finance ministers from the member nations of the Fund.

Liaquat Ahamed is a widely read and respected author within the economic world, and particularly among financial diplomats. He has worked at the World Bank, with banks, hedge funds, asset managers and is currently on the board of trustees of the Brookings Institution, an influential American think tank. In 2009, he published Lords of Finance about the major Western central bankers during the early 20th century, winning multiple awards, including the 2010 Pulitzer Price for History. In 2014, he published another work, Money and Tough Love: On Tour with the IMF, looking at the history and workings of the International Monetary Fund, interviewing many IMF officials and even attending several meetings and travelling with IMF missions to various nations.

Ahamed noted that from its origins at the end of World War II, the annual meetings of the IMF (usually taking place in September or October), consisted primarily of top financial diplomats from the founding 29 members of the Fund, which “functioned as a sort of conclave of the cardinals of capitalism, intent on rebuilding the Western financial system after thirty years of war and depression.” The annual meetings of the IMF were “grand affairs,” as most of the “financial statesmen of the era had either been bankers at the tail-end of the Gilded Age or, in the case of the British, colonial administrators.” In the late 1950s, the IMF membership had grown to sixty-eight, with several hundred officials showing up to the annual meetings.[94]

The IMF, BIS and other international institutions such as the World Bank, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) would play central roles in the management and expansion of the global Empire of Economics. But a great deal of power was organized often outside of these institutions, by relatively smaller groups of nations who would meet in private as ad hoc groups of finance ministers, central bankers their deputies and other technocrats and international organization officials. Together, as representatives of the rich and powerful nations and institutions, they would seek to forge a consensus between themselves, which they could then extend through the various other (larger) forums and institutions.

The first of these ad hoc groups was known as the Group of Ten (G-10), established in 1962. The G-10 would periodically bring together the central bankers and finance ministers of ten rich nations: Belgium, Canada, France, [West] Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Very soon after its establishment, Switzerland was invited, yet it continued to call itself the Group of Ten. Through this forum, these nations would “consult and co-operate on economic, monetary and financial matters.”[95]

Over the first half of the 1970s, a series of committees would be formed to further coordinate policies and strategies among the powerful nations. The Group of Ten agreed to form a special group at the IMF in 1972 known as the Committee of 20 (C-20), bringing together the finance ministers and central bankers from the key constituencies represented on the IMF’s executive board, coming together at the annual and spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank in order to function as a type of steering committee for the Fund, providing strategic direction the Board of Governors.[96]

In 1973, a separate group was formed, known as the Group of Five (G-5), bringing together the finance ministers (and occasionally the central bankers) from the United States, West Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and France.[97] The following year, the IMF’s C-20 was institutionalized as the Interim Committee of the IMF, and would later become known as the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), which still exists and meets today. It has a parallel group that provides strategic advice to the World Bank, known as the Joint Development Committee.[98]

A hierarchy of these groups began to emerge, with the richest five countries holding their secretive meetings of the Group of Five, where they would seek to establish a consensus among themselves and subsequently push their agreements through the wider G-10, from where they would then advance their collective interests through the Interim Committee of the IMF. The era of ad-hoc committees to run the world had begun. The IMF’s own publication, Finance & Development, would later describe these groups as “a steering committee for the world economy,” driving the process of global governance.[99] In 1975, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, William E. Simon, wrote to President Ford, “I believe that bringing together finance ministers from time to time in these forums is a useful way of getting decisions on difficult and technically complex financial issues.”[100]

A few months later, Henry Kissinger would explain to President Ford the strategy “to use economics to build a world political structure.” Two days after Kissinger made that statement to the President, a larger meeting was held at the White House which included all of the top financial diplomats and economic advisers in the Ford administration, where the strategy was further discussed. As Kissinger told the other ministers during the meeting, “it is better to have the Finance Ministers be bastards, that’s where I want it.”[101]

Before the end of the year, the Group of Five would meet for the first time at the level of heads of state, holding their inaugural meeting in Rambouillet, France, where Italy was also invited as an additional member. The following year, Canada would be invited to join, thus crowning the annual meeting as the Group of Seven (G7), which continues to meet to this very day, functioning as “an informal Western directorate,” as the New York Times described it in 1975.[102] The ministers and central bankers of the G5 would continue to function as the primary forum for economic coordination until the mid-1980s, when the G7 ministers and central bank governors would officially replace it.

The financial and corporate power that was concentrated in the G-7 nations began to expand across the world, and so too did major economic, financial and debt crises. The powerful nations would then have to come to the rescue of their own banks by providing bailouts for foreign nations who owed the banks money and were too poor to pay. In return for financial ‘aid’, largely channeled through the IMF, the Group of Seven nations would demand strict conditions to be met, including sweeping changes to the economic, political and social structure of the nation getting the bailout. Their economies would be forced to reform to the ‘market system’, benefitting domestic oligarchs and elites, as well as large banks and corporations in the G-7 nations. A financial or debt crisis would manifest as a form of financial warfare, while the bailout programs would function as economic occupations designed to advance the interests of the Empire.

From the early 1980s to the early 2000s, these debt crises spread from Latin America to Africa, Eastern Europe, East Asia, Russia and back to Latin America. The International Monetary Fund functioned like an imperial management facility, controlling entire nations and regions like an occupying power. As early as 1977, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Michael Blumenthal, wrote to President Jimmy Carter discussing the importance of the IMF, while acknowledging that many nations of the world were complaining about the harsh conditions attached to IMF loans. Blumenthal wrote, “The IMF for years served as a kind of whipping boy,” noting that countries that were in crisis and needed to take drastic measures to solve their financial situations (usually in the form of painful austerity measures) would “often need an external source to blame. The IMF is an ideal candidate and is accustomed to being in that position.” Further, he wrote, “If we didn’t have the IMF, we would have to invent another institution to perform this function.”[103]

In the early 1990s, the IMF was managing ‘programs’ in over 50 countries around the world, which “helps explain why it has long been demonized as an all-powerful, behind-the-scenes puppeteer for the third world,” in the words of the New York Times.[104] In 1992, the Financial Times noted that the fall of the Soviet Union “left the IMF and G7 to rule the world and create a new imperial age,” which “works through a system of indirect rule that has involved the integration of leaders of developing countries into the network of the new ruling class.”[105] When Russia was invited to these special meetings, they would be known as the Group of Eight (G-8), but the G-7 still served as the core of global governance.

In the late 1990s, a new committee was formed, known as the Group of Twenty (G-20), which consisted of the finance ministers and central bankers of the G-7 nations, the European Union and twelve major “emerging market” economies: Russia, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Argentina, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Australia and South Korea.[106] It would not be until the global financial crisis of 2008 that the G-20 would meet at the level of heads of state, when it held its first meeting in Washington, D.C. on November 15.[107] By September of 2009, the G20 had effectively become “the new global economic coordinator” and “steering committee” for the world economy.[108] From 2011 onwards, the G7 would only meet “informally,” with the G20 finance ministers and central bankers gathering prior to the IMF and World Bank spring and annual meetings in order to coordinate strategy and policies.[109]

Despite the dry and uninspiring names of the groupings, the reality is that they function as conclaves of empire, where ministers and governors align in their respective cliques – such as advanced versus emerging market economies – and pursue their individual national and collective interests. The emerging market economies push for greater representation and authority in international organizations such as the IMF, attempting to increase their own power within the apparatus of global governance and empire. Power struggles and financial warfare between nations are left to behind-the-scenes negotiations and discussions, kept largely out of the public eye.

In 2010, the then-chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (formerly the Interim Committee of the IMF) was Youssef Boutros-Ghali, the finance minister of the Egyptian dictatorship, widely respected in financial circles, though much hated among Egyptians as a representation of the dictatorship’s extreme corruption. That year, a currency war had erupted between the rich nations and the emerging market economies, in which countries like China and Brazil were seeking to make their currencies more competitive than Western currencies, thus making their exports cheaper and more attractive. Financial diplomats began to fret about the potential implications of the currency warfare. The issue was to be taken up at the IMFC meeting, though Boutros-Ghali stressed that the subject “will not be on the public agenda” during the IMF meetings. “These are issues that you solve in closed rooms,” he said, and needed “to be handled quietly and in a spirit of cooperation.” Such important issues were not for public discussion, as it could frighten markets and accidentally reveal to the public the true nature of the global economic system. Instead, Boutros-Ghali explained, “It is something that needs quiet discussions, quiet diplomacy to get things moving.”[110]

The “quiet diplomacy” of “closed room” meetings of finance ministers and central bankers is one of the defining characteristics of the modern imperial system. There is no better example of this system today than that of the European Union and its debt crisis, which began in 2010.

Europe Under Empire

One of the most important institutions in Europe is called the ‘Eurogroup’, consisting of the finance ministers of the 19 nations that use the euro as their common currency within the 28-nation European Union. From the time that Europe’s debt crisis began in early 2010, the Eurogroup would hold meetings at least once a month, with top officials from the IMF, the European Commission (the executive body of the EU) and the European Central Bank (ECB) also participating. The Eurogroup was presided over by a president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who also served as the Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Luxembourg.

The Eurogroup functions as a type of board of directors for the eurozone economies, meeting behind closed doors at various locations across Europe where they negotiate and attempt to establish a consensus in managing the debt crisis, forcing countries in crisis (such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain) to impose austerity measures, cutting social spending and increasing unemployment and poverty for the benefit of banks and financial markets. The future of the European Union and its 500 million citizens is decided in these “secret meetings” of finance ministers, central bankers and transnational technocrats.[111]

In April of 2011, Jean-Claude Juncker was speaking at a conference of European elites when he said, “Monetary policy is a serious issue. We should discuss this in secret, in the Eurogroup.” Juncker explained that throughout his more than two decades as prime minister of Luxembourg, making him the longest-sitting head of state in the E.U. at the time, he often “had to lie” in order to prevent financial markets from panicking. Just as monetary policy had long been discussed and decided in secret meetings of central bankers, Juncker felt that all major economic decisions should be discussed and agreed upon in the same way. “I’m ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious,” he explained, “I am for secret, dark debates.”[112] The following month, he lived up to his reputation and became the target of criticism after he lied to the press about a secret meeting of the Eurogroup that was taking place in a Luxembourg castle to discuss a second possible bailout for Greece.[113]

Presented to the public as an essentially economic issue, Europe’s debt crisis is discussed and debated through the use of financial rhetoric and terminology in all its bland and vague varieties: fiscal discipline, structural reform, austerity, labour flexibility, budget and trade deficits, external imbalances, internal adjustments, strict conditionality and deficit reduction strategies. Many of these terms are interchangeable, and while they all provide the appearance of technical expertise and understanding, they have profoundly important meanings and implications.

For example, the main policy pushed on countries in crisis is to demand that they cut all forms of social spending, including health care, education, welfare, social services, firing large amounts of public-sector workers, dismantling government programs and policies which benefit the majority of the population, creating mass unemployment and poverty. This systematic impoverishment of the population is a brutal process that results in mass misery, increased suffering, hunger, disease, skyrocketing suicide rates and social devastation. To describe this process in these terms, however, would be to prevent the policies from ever being implemented. Instead, these policies and programs are described with the following terms: austerity, fiscal discipline, fiscal adjustment, belt-tightening, deficit reduction, balancing the books, and budget consolidation.

The brutality of the European and global economic empires remains hidden behind these bland terms. But the truth is revealed in the countries and on the streets of those nations most affected by the debt crisis, in Greece and Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal. Unemployment has soared, particularly among youth, of whom more than 50 percent remained unemployed in Greece and Spain by 2015. Poverty and suffering under the E.U.’s economic colonization programs have prompted social unrest, resistance, riots and rebellions, new social movements, anti-austerity political parties and even the rapid rise of fascism. Germany dominates Europe and its major institutions, as the largest economy on the continent, second-largest exporter in the world after China, and fourth largest economy in the world as a whole (following the U.S., China and Japan). Its economic weight makes it the most powerful nation influencing and directing the apparatus of the European Union, including the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Eurogroup, with significant influence (especially alongside other rich EU nations) in the IMF and Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

Germany leads a bloc of rich nations within the European Union who are the strongest advocates of “fiscal discipline” and “austerity,” among them the Netherlands, Finland, Luxembourg and Austria, generally referred to as the northern bloc or creditor countries. France, the second-largest economy in the European Union, generally leads a bloc consisting of the ‘southern’ nations, the debtor nations. The rich countries provide the majority of funding to the E.U.’s institutions, and thus wield the greatest influence.

Germany and France were the two most influential countries in constructing the European Union over the course of the previous six decades, with consistent cooperation and support among the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), and occasionally the United Kingdom, though its influence has dramatically decreased in recent years. As a result of this process, the rules that were written were done so in such a way as to benefit this ‘core’ group of nations more than any others. Despite the fact that there are 28 nations in the European Union, the collective weight of a core group consisting of a handful of rich nations is able to direct the process of integration and force the other member nations to change their policies and transform their societies.

As financial markets began to punish countries for having high debt levels, plunging them into crisis, the European Union, its key institutions and leaders began to mobilize to provide large ‘bailouts’ to these countries. Big banks, most notably those based in Germany and France, had lent large amounts of money to several nations, including Greece, and wanted their interest payments to be made on time. The banking systems in the rich countries were thus under threat of potentially facing the consequences of their own bad loans. To prevent the banks from having to suffer, the rich nations agreed to establish bailout programs which would be managed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These three institutions, collectively known as the Troika, would provide the money for the bailouts and in turn would set the conditions demanded by the core nations for the bailout countries to implement, namely, austerity and impoverishment. The Troika institutions are entirely unaccountable to voters and publics, representing unelected and anti-democratic technocratic tyrannies, yet they wield unprecedented power over entire populations and societies.

The European Commission functions as the executive branch of the E.U., writing legislation and managing roughly two dozen governmental cabinet departments, headed by individual Commissioners, the most influential and important of which is the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. For much of the debt crisis, this individual was Olli Rehn, a Finnish politician who served in that position from 2009 to 2014. Coming from Finland, Rehn was closely aligned with the core group of rich nations and was among the strongest individual proponents of austerity throughout the crisis. The Commission itself was presided over by a President, personified in the former Portuguese Prime Minister, José Manuel Barroso, who served in the role from 2004 to 2014.

The European Central Bank (ECB) manages the monetary policy for the 19 member nations of the eurozone who share a common currency. The ECB is run by a president, a role held from 2003 to 2011 by a Frenchman, Jean-Claude Trichet, a former governor of France’s central bank, the Banque du France. From late 2011 on, the role of president was held by an Italian, Mario Draghi, previously the governor of the Bank of Italy. The ECB is further managed by an Executive Board, consisting of the president, vice president and four other members appointed from different EU countries. In addition, the ECB has a Governing Council made up of the governors of the national central banks of the eurozone economies, collectively comprising what is called the Eurosystem. The German Bundesbank and its president is the most powerful individual central bank in the ECB, often allied with its Dutch, Finnish and Austrian counterparts.[114] Both the Executive Board and Governing Board are responsible for making the major decisions in the central bank’s policies and play a highly influential role in managing the European debt crisis, especially in crisis-hit countries.

Technically speaking, the ECB is an independent institution, meaning that it is given political independence from the nation states of the European Union, serving its mandate as a technocratic institution interested only in a stable monetary policy, free of interference from political leaders. The core countries of the EU, however, wield significant influence on the ECB, and not only through their appointments to the Executive Board and their respective national central banks, but in behind-the-scenes negotiations and secret meetings. As the heads of state of the core eurozone nations frequently formed an allied bloc in their negotiations and management of the European debt crisis, these blocs were reflected inside the ECB and other EU institutions,[115] and Germany remained the most influential of all.[116]

The behind-the-scenes power politics between nations was also reflected in the Eurogroup of finance ministers, where Germany and France would have to negotiate an agreement, with Germany leading the group of countries demanding harsh measures, alongside the Netherlands and Finland.[117] This has allowed Germany, the Netherlands and Finland to have some of the most influential finance ministers in managing the entire process and policies of reform and deeper integration in the European Union.[118] Many of these policies and programs are agreed through the “secret, dark debates” of the Eurogroup meetings, to borrow Jean-Claude Juncker’s phrase.

The German Finance Ministry is located in Berlin, housed in a Nazi-era building which previously served as the headquarters for the Nazi air force, the Luftwaffe, from which Hitler’s second-in-command, Herman Goering, plotted the bombing campaigns across Europe. Today, the same building serves as the main center for managing Germany’s economic empire in the EU and the Troika occupations of crisis countries. The building “is a monument to both the Nazis’ ambition and their taste,” noted Vanity Fair, though the statues of eagles sitting atop large swastikas have been removed.[119]

In late 2011, Europe’s debt crisis was reaching new heights, with financial markets waging a vicious assault against Greece and Italy for their failure to impose brutal austerity measures on their populations. It was at the Old Opera House in Frankfurt, Germany, where a farewell party was being held for Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the ECB, resigning from his post at the end of the month (to be replaced by Mario Draghi). Nearly all of Europe’s key policymakers were present at the party, but as the crisis escalated, a small group of top officials held an “explosive” behind-the-scenes meeting to try to come to an agreement on forming a response. Nicolas Sarkozy squared off against Trichet, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel coming to the central banker’s side. But the real significance of the meeting was that it established the formation of a small ad hoc group of eight individuals at the top of the EU’s power structure who would be able to collectively steer the course of Europe.[120]

They called themselves the ‘Frankfurt Group’, though the media dubbed them Europe’s new ‘Politburo’, reflecting the similar functions of China’s top ruling body. The group consisted of the German Chancellor, French President, the head of the ECB, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, the President of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the Managing Director of the IMF, former French finance minister Christine Lagarde.[121]

Within the following three weeks, the Frankfurt Group would orchestrate coup d’états in both Greece and Italy, removing democratically-elected prime ministers and political parties from power, replacing them with economists and central bankers, technocratic tyrants whose sole purpose was to impose the brutal austerity measures demanded by banks and financial markets. One of the key battlegrounds in the war waged by the Frankfurt Group was in the lead-up to and during the G20 summit of leaders and ministers at Cannes, France in early November of 2011.[122]

Less than a week before the G20 summit, Greece’s prime minister, George Papandreou, surprised members of his own cabinet and infuriated Europe’s rulers when he decided to hold a referendum asking Greek citizens if they were willing to follow the conditions set by the bailout agreement with the Troika. Sarkozy went “ballistic” and summoned Papandreou to Cannes for a meeting with several officials of the Frankfurt Group in order “to put Papandreou against the wall, in the corner,” in the words of one person present at the meeting. Over the following weeks, the Group would orchestrate the removal of Papandreou from power, replacing him with Lucas Papademos, the former Vice President of the European Central Bank from 2002 to 2010, prior to which he was the governor of the central bank of Greece from 1994, simultaneously sitting as a member of the ECB’s governing council from its creation in 1998 until 2002. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso had played a central role in removing Papandreou from power, operating secretly from hotel rooms with his close aides and without the knowledge of Merkel or Sarkozy.[123]

When the world’s major leaders headed to Cannes in early November for the G20 summit, President Obama was given an inside look into the inner workings of European power politics, even attending a meeting of the Frankfurt Group. The European debt crisis took international headlines and was the main topic of discussion at the summit. The Obama administration, with Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary, had for months been working quietly through financial diplomacy to encourage a more comprehensive solution to Europe’s crisis, attempting to balance the interests of global financial markets with those of Germany. Obama told Chancellor Merkel and other leaders, “Our preference is that the ECB should act a bit like the Federal Reserve did,” referring to its role in acting as a “lender of last resort,” providing funds for states or banks that needed quick cash to avoid a crisis.[124]

The ECB’s legal mandate reflected that of its major national backer, the German Bundesbank, the chief architect and prototype of the ECB structure. Holding a far more conservative and ‘hawkish’ approach to monetary policy than most of the world’s other central banks, the mandate stressed that the central bank was not allowed to finance governments, and so instead of acting quickly to bailout governments in need, financial markets wage war against nations in need of funds while EU leaders squabble and negotiate the details of programs that require the countries to restructure their entire societies. The longer the negotiations drag out, the more vicious the assault of financial markets will be. This exacerbates the crisis and weakens the negotiating position of the crisis country, allowing the powerful countries to extract more concessions and impose more demands.

Central bankers frequently refer to the term and concept of “creative destruction,” referring to the role that financial crises play in providing the needed pressure on countries to change their policies and restructure their societies, following the orders of central bankers, finance ministers and other technocrats. Andrew Crockett was the former head of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bank to the world’s central banks, who was one of the most respected international monetary diplomats of his era. Crockett described “creative destruction” as a process of financial instability that “is not only inevitable but also positive.” It forces various governing and social systems “to change and adapt,” destroying old and creating new institutions and structures. This process “has to be allowed to work.”[125] Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan referred to creative destruction as the “partner” of “free-market competition,” noting that where markets go, crises follow.[126]

As financial markets creatively destroyed European countries, the Frankfurt Group held four meetings on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Cannes, with its eight ‘Politburo’ members wearing badges marked ‘Groupe de Francfort’. Obama was invited to one of the meetings where he received a “crash course” in Europe’s ruling structures and processes. One participant in the meeting referred to the American president as “a quick learner.” Obama continued to meet with other European leaders assembled at Cannes, attempting to help forge a response to the crisis. At one point, he pulled Angela Merkel aside just prior to a G20 working session and said, “I guess you guys have to be creative here.”[127]

And they got creative with Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire media oligarch who was long a thorn in the side of EU leaders, consistently failing to impose the austerity measures demanded by Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin. Chancellor Merkel had been quietly working behind the scenes for weeks to remove Berlusconi from power.[128] On November 12, Berlusconi was forced to resign and his replacement was Mario Monti, an economist and former European Commissioner.[129] Monti was also a founder and honorary chairman of Bruegel, a Brussels-based international economic think tank. He served on advisory boards to Coca-Cola and Goldman Sachs, was a former Steering Committee member of the Bilderberg Group, and at the time of his appointment as Prime Minister, he was serving as the European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, the transnational think tank founded by David Rockefeller in 1973. Lucas Papademos, the technocratic prime minister of Greece, was also drawn from among the membership of the Trilateral Commission.

It no doubt helped matters that Mario Monti was “an old family friend” of the Agnelli family, whose young patriarch, John Elkann, was also a Trilateral Commission member. Monti even served on the board of Fiat for some time. After Monti assumed his position as Prime Minister of Italy, he would meet regularly with John Elkann, who lobbied on behalf of Italian industry to promote reforms that benefit large companies.[130] Six months into his technocratic government, John Elkann said that there was “no doubt that Monti becoming prime minister has been positive for Italy.”[131]

Following the Frankfurt Group’s two coups, the Wall Street Journal praised the moves as “exactly the kind of game-changing display of political power euro-zone leaders have promised but failed to deliver since the start of the crisis,” adding that it was “sure to be greeted with similar jubilation in the market.” The “self-appointed Frankfurt Group,” however, lacked legitimacy and was representative of a “democratic deficit” in the European Union.[132] The Financial Times referred to technocrats as “efficient, calculating machines” who might “lack a democratic mandate but they’re fantastically well-regarded in Frankfurt.” The job of the “brilliant but bloodless functionaries” was to push through “unpopular measures” without concern for citizens.[133]

The New York Times referred to the technocratic coups as “the cold reality of 21st-century politics,” in which Greek and Italian citizens “have just watched democratically elected governments toppled by pressure from financiers, European Union bureaucrats and foreign heads of state.” Democracy and national sovereignty might be pleasant concepts, but when it comes to a crisis, “it’s the technocrats who really get to call the shots,” with stability for the euro and the European Union pursued “at the expense of democracy.” Real power in the European Union “would pass permanently to the forces represented by the so-called Frankfurt Group.”[134]

Roger Altman is the chairman of Evercore Partners, a major U.S. investment bank, and a former top U.S. Treasury Department official during the Clinton administration, having served a long career between Wall Street and Washington. Altman also happens to be a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg meetings, as well as writing regular columns in the financial press. In December of 2011, Altman reflected on the events of previous months in an article for the Financial Times, concluding that financial markets were “acting like a global supra-government” which is able to “oust entrenched regimes where normal political processes could not do so,” and “force austerity, banking bail-outs and other major policy changes.”

Their influence “dwarfs” that of institutions like the IMF, and apart from “unusable nuclear weapons,” financial markets “have become the most powerful force on earth.” When their power is “flexed,” he wrote, “the immediate impact on society can be painful,” with growing unemployment and the collapse of governments. Whether the power of financial markets was “healthy” for the world was not important, he suggested, but their power “is permanent.” Altman concluded, “above all, there is no stopping the new policing role of the financial markets. There may be more frequent market crises. We should not rush to conclude that they will end in tears.” At least, not in tears for those who run large banks.[135]

Financial markets, technocrats, central bankers, finance ministers and the top political leaders of the dominant nations have wreaked havoc on Europe. The process of economic colonization of the ‘periphery’ nations of the E.U. has advanced year after year. Nations were repeatedly put under Troika occupation, with policies dictated by technocrats and politicians in Brussels, Frankfurt, Berlin, Paris and Washington. The policies create mass suffering as austerity destroys the countries, impoverishes their populations, while the various ‘structural reforms’ open up the economy to be plundered cheaply by foreign banks and corporations. Commentators in the press, however, began to increasingly warn about Europe’s “democratic deficit” and its crisis of legitimacy in the eyes of its 500 million citizens.[136]

One of the world’s largest banks, JPMorgan Chase, published a report on Europe’s debt crisis in May of 2013, stating that the process of “adjustment” in the eurozone was “about halfway done on average,” and warning that austerity would need to continue “for a very extended period” and that leaders would need to deal with “deep seated” political problems. The bank identified what it viewed as the main problems, embedded in the constitutions and political systems of many of the countries in crisis, including the “constitutional protection of labor rights” and “the right to protest if unwelcome changes are made to the political status quo.”[137]

There was, of course, a reason why the EU’s technocratic, political and financial elite were growing increasingly worried about “democratic legitimacy” and people exercising “the right to protest.” The citizens of Europe, especially the ‘periphery’ nations under various forms of Troika and financial market pressure, had been increasingly involved in social unrest, protests, urban rebellions and the emergence of new, populist, anti-austerity and increasingly revolutionary movements. These processes were not confined to Europe, however, as resistance movements were taking place with increased frequency and ferocity around the world in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The Age of Rage

It was in late 2010 and early 2011 that the world witnessed the start of a new phase of global uprisings, with the Arab Spring erupting and spreading across much of the Middle East and North Africa, leading to the removal of long-time U.S. and European-supported dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, with protests spreading across many more nations, upsetting the established order. The Saudis, along with the other Gulf Arab dynastic dictatorships, led the counter-revolution against the move to democracy, spreading violence, chaos and civil war from Libya to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and beyond.

In the European Union, the year 2011 also turned out to be a very dramatic one in terms of protests, social unrest and anti-austerity movements. Protests of tens of thousands in Greece would erupt in violent confrontations with the police,[138] as a new anti-austerity movement began spreading across the country, going by the name, ‘I Won’t Pay’ (for someone else’s crisis).[139] As Portugal was strong-armed into a bailout program, the “desperate generation” of youth, inspired by the Arab Spring protests, sparked a new social movement organized via social media, struggling against the “wasted aspirations of a whole generation,” with more than 30 percent of youth unemployed across the country.[140] Even Brussels experienced instances of riot police turning water cannons and tear gas on protesters who were opposing the E.U.’s policies and increased powers.[141]

The protests in Portugal in turn inspired a new protest movement in Spain, where thousands of youth occupied the Puerto del Sol square in Madrid in opposition to the main political parties and austerity. Known as the ‘Indignados’ (the indignant ones), the movement spread across much of the country as unemployment among youth soared to 45 percent.[142] The Guardian noted that, “a youth-led rebellion is spreading across southern Europe.”[143] Thousands of protesters turned up to voice their opposition to the Group of 8 (G-7 plus Russia) summit in May of 2011.[144] At the end of that month, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Europe, from Spain to Germany, France, Greece, Portugal and beyond, answering the call for a “European Revolution” in over one hundred cities across the continent.[145] Spain’s Indignados paved the way for similar movements to be replicated in several other countries, notably including Greece.[146]

In the pages of the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman wrote that “2011 is turning into the year of global indignation,” from the Arab world, to Europe, India, China, Chile and even Israel. “Many of the countries hit by unrest,” he noted, “have explicitly accepted rising inequality as a price worth paying for rapid economic growth.”[147] Protests and social unrest spread across Europe throughout the summer, particularly in Greece and Italy. In September, a protest following the examples set in the Arab world and Europe began in New York City, starting what would later be known as the Occupy Wall Street Movement.[148] The occupation continued through the month, facing increased police repression countered with growing numbers of supporters.[149] At the same time, Greece was facing growing domestic unrest as the Troika auditors were in Athens pressuring the government to meet ‘reform’ targets.[150]

By October of 2011, thousands were on the streets in Portugal,[151] over 700 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge,[152] and the Occupy Movement began spreading across the United States to dozens of other cities.[153] Tens of thousands of protesters continued to take to the streets of Athens, where they were met with the oppressive state apparatus in the form of riot police tear gassing Greek citizens.[154] In mid-October, Occupy Wall Street had become international, igniting Occupy protests and encampments across Europe and Canada.[155] On a global day of protest on October 15, there were demonstrations in roughly 951 different cities across 87 different countries.[156] Roughly 150,000 people marched in Rome, thousands marched toward Angela Merkel’s Chancellery office in Berlin, with several thousand more marching on the European Central Bank headquarters in Frankfurt,[157] as Germany experienced protests bringing out roughly 40,000 people in 50 different cities.[158] The German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schauble, told the media that he was taking the protests “very seriously.”[159]

The Financial Times noted that protesters were “united in their loathing of bankers on both sides of the Atlantic,” and despite their different circumstances, they “find common ground in their outrage at the lack of economic opportunities and their alienation from mainstream politics.” The editorial warned politicians not to ignore the protests, as “failure to address these concerns would risk reinforcing the protesters’ sense of disengagement, transforming their alienation into a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy.” The demands of most protesters were not “yet a rejection of capitalism,” many were simply expressing that they wanted “a more equitable share” in the benefits of the system. “It is therefore in everyone’s interest,” noted the editorial, “that their energy be directed into making capitalism work better rather than overturning it.”[160]

Martin Wolf in the Financial Times suggested that protesters were “raising some big questions,” but “for this to be the beginning of a new leftwing politics” there must be the emergence of “a credible new ideology.” In discussing the issue of inequality which was raised by the protests, Wolf wrote that while it would be “impossible to define an acceptable level of inequality,” it is ultimately “corrosive if those with wealth are believed to have rigged the game rather than won in honest competition.” Thus, with growing inequality, “the sense that we are equal as citizens weakens” while “democracy is sold to the highest bidder.” Wolf concluded: “The left does not know how to replace the market. But pro-marketeers still need to take the protests seriously. All is not well.”[161]

An Empire Under Threat

In 2012, Dominic Barton, the CEO of McKinsey & Company, the world’s largest consulting firm, wrote and published a small essay entitled, “Capitalism for the Long-Term”. Barton described the world since the global financial crisis began three years earlier, in which dramatic changes in power were taking place between the West and East (with the growth of Asia and the emerging market economies), as “a rise in populist politics and social stresses” combined with “significant strains on global governance systems.” These combinations would likely result in “increased geopolitical rivalries”, “security challenges”, and other “rising tensions.” The most important consequence of the crisis for the corporate oligarchy, however, was “the challenge to capitalism itself.” Barton noted that the crisis had “exacerbated the friction between business and society,” forcing leaders to confront “rising income inequality” and “understandable anger over high unemployment” as well as “a host of other issues.”[162]

A March 2013 report by the large Swiss bank, UBS, referred to social unrest as “a systemic phenomenon” which “is highly uncertain, complex and ambiguous,” warning that “it is highly likely to generate ripple effects into other sectors of the economy and society, possibly leading to the toppling of governments, or even political systems.”[163] A July 2013 report from the French insurance giant, AXA, reflected on protests and urban rebellions erupting in what were previously considered ‘stable’ emerging market nations, such as Turkey and Brazil. AXA’s Investment Managers report noted that many emerging market nations were “currently experiencing a surge in political risk due to social unrest,” the main cause of which “is the rise of the middle class in these countries.”[164]

The World Economic Forum published its report on Global Risks in 2014 just in time for its annual meeting, having prepared the report in collaboration large insurance giants and prestigious universities. The report noted that “the generation coming of age in the 2010s faces high unemployment and precarious job situations, hampering their efforts to build a future and raising the risk of social unrest.”[165] In general, it wrote, “the mentality of this generation is realistic, adaptive and versatile,” and while they are “full of ambition to make the world a better place,” they feel “disconnected from traditional politics and government.”[166]

The report cited a recent global opinion survey of youth which noted that young people “think independently” of past generations, and that this “points to a wider distrust of authorities and institutions.” Having witnessed the response of governments in the wake of the financial crisis, as well as the NSA Internet spying scandals, youth populations are increasingly alienated from authorities. “Anti-austerity movements and other protests give voice to an increasing distrust in current socio-economic and political systems,” said the report, as youth populations accounted for an “important” segment of the population which expressed their “general disappointment” with both “regional and global governance bodies such as the EU and the [IMF].” The report noted that the “digital revolution” had provided youth around the world with “unprecedented access to knowledge and information worldwide,” allowing them “to build abstract networks addressing single issues and place less importance on traditionally organized political parties and leadership.”[167] This youth population represented a “lost generation” who could fuel social unrest, “vulnerable to being sucked into criminal or extremist movements.”[168]

The global Mafiocracy was so concerned with growing unrest, protests and the potential for revolution, that the Rothschild banking dynasty itself organized a special conference on the subject. Hosted by Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, wife of Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, the ‘Conference on Inclusive Capitalism’ was held in the very exclusive Mansion House in London’s financial district, closed to the public and press. The May 2014 conference was exclusively for the world’s super-rich oligarchs, institutions and dynasties. Some 250 individuals were invited, collectively responsible for managing more than $30 trillion in assets, accounting for roughly one-third of the world’s investable wealth located in one room. As NPR noted, “If money is power, then this is the most powerful group of people ever to focus on income inequality.”[169]

Among the speakers at the Conference were Prince Charles; former President Bill Clinton (a close friend of Jacob and Lynn de Rothschild); Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF; Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England and a top international central banking official; Lionel Barber, an editor at the Financial Times; Dominic Barton of McKinsey & Co., as well as top executives from Honeywell, UBS, BlackRock, The Dow Chemical Company, Unilever, Google, GlaxoSmithKline and Prudential.[170]

“Now is the time to be famous or fortunate,” said the central banker Mark Carney. He told the assembled members of the Mafiocracy, “just as any revolution eats its children, unchecked market fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the long-term dynamism of capitalism itself.” In other words, the capitalist system was eating itself. “Capitalism loses its sense of moderation,” said Carney, “when the belief in the power of markets enters the realm of faith.” This kind of religious “radicalism came to dominate economic ideas and became a pattern of social behaviour,” and in the decades leading up to the global financial crisis, “we moved from a market economy to a market society.”[171]

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, began her speech by discussing Karl Marx, “who predicted that capitalism, in its excesses, carried the seeds of its own destruction,” as “the accumulation of capital in the hands of a few” would lead “to major conflicts, and cyclical crises.” Lagarde warned that capitalism has increasingly “been associated with high unemployment, rising social tensions, and growing political disillusion.” Among the “main casualties,” she said, “has been trust – in leaders, in institutions, in the free-market system itself,” citing a recent poll which revealed that only one in five people “believed that government or business leaders would tell the truth on an important issue.” This, she explained, “is a wakeup call,” adding, “in a world that is more networked than ever, trust is harder to earn and easier to lose.”[172]

As the global Mafiocracy grows increasingly worried about the potential revolutionary implications of the “lost generation” of youth around the world, struggling to make their parasitic planetary system of Empire legitimate in the eyes of the citizens of the world, the youth are left behind, already written off as “lost.” Youth and young adults are better educated and have more access to information and communication than ever before in human history, yet their prospects for jobs, social elevation and opportunities appear increasingly grim and uneasy. Frustrated and furious youth have been the leading force behind the resistance movements, riots, rebellions and revolutions that have spread across much of the world in the wake of the global financial crisis, from Eastern Europe to the Middle East and North Africa, the European Union, to the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore in the United States.

Western ‘democratic’ society is becoming increasingly closed. It is evolving into a high-tech police and surveillance state. The United States government continues to wage a race war against the minority black population who are treated as an internally colonized population, with high rates of police repression and imprisonment. The political system is visibly ruled by parasites, with all the pomposity of the Roman Senate. The plutocrats have lavish and distant lives, segregated in their obscene wealth and unseen influence. The middle class is a debt-slave class, fueling consumption through credit, now in the slow and painful process of being exsanguinated of their economic vitality and opportunities. Some will rise to the higher ranks, but the rest will be pushed down to where the poor have always been. Increasingly, much larger segments of the American population will find themselves in similar circumstances as their fellow black, Hispanic, Indigenous and immigrant neighbours.

In this environment, the United States still sits at the center of global monetary, financial, economic and corporate power. The U.S. dollar remains the world’s reserve currency, and the country is still the largest economy. Through the process of integrating the increasingly rich and powerful nations of Latin America, the Middle East and Asia into the Empire of Economics, the stakes have become higher and the challenges greater, as the U.S. seeks to maintain its dominant position, and thus its ability to shape the changing global order. With many new players in the game of global power politics, there are more negotiations, consultations, forums for cooperation and frequent confrontations. As the United States and Europe increasingly aggravate Russia by expanding their empire to its border, the threat for economic competition to break out into actual warfare grows.

The human species is in a deeply precarious situation. As the Empire of Economics increasingly benefits the comparatively small global Mafiocracy at the expense of most of the world’s remaining 7 billion people, the economic and military structures of global empire are rapidly accelerating their devastation of the natural environment and ecosystem upon which all life on the planet depends. Human beings are confronted with a profound question: As we soar forward on our current path toward increased poverty, exploitation and environmental destruction, at what point do we begin to more directly question the legitimacy of the existing global system which determines the fate and direction of the species? As we face the increasing possibility of a mass extinction of our species over the coming century, as the democratic facades of modern society crumble and high-tech totalitarian police states rise in their place, there has perhaps never been a time in history where it was more essential for the people of the world to begin to create alternatives to the existing global system.

The concept of a truly global, transformative revolution in the organization of human society, power relations and purpose must be contemplated in a more serious, deliberate effort. This book hopes to encourage this discussion through an expanded understanding of the realities of global power politics, the ruling Mafiocracy and the Empire of Economics. A genuine global revolution is an absolute necessity. But far from promoting a mere ideological or philosophical alternative, this text hopes to encourage a more pragmatic approach to organizing resistance both outside and within the existing global order and its various institutions.

A dual strategy is required in operating outside the global hierarchy, experimenting with creative alternatives constructed from the bottom-up, while simultaneously playing the game of power politics to directly challenge the Empire of Economics in its own arena. Instead of dividing these efforts between those who advocate for revolutionary alternatives and those who encourage reformist initiatives, a more coherent and organized strategy should be invoked, establishing alternative forums, organizations and avenues of cooperation between revolutionaries and reformers. This serves multiple purposes, as it would allow for revolutionary movements to maintain contact and provide direction to reformers and new political parties, instead of leaving them to engage only with the existing power structures, thus increasing the chances that they may be co-opted by the Empire and undermine the efforts of revolutionary groups. Instead, revolutionary movements would be encouraged to co-opt and even control the direction and efforts of reformist groups and political parties.

Strategic thinking and planning should become commonplace among revolutionary movements and efforts. Debate, discussion, coordination and creative construction among opposition groups must increasingly come to replace division, derision, co-optation and ‘creative destruction’. For this to emerge, the initiative must be taken by revolutionary groups to create the organizations and opportunities to engage with each other and reformist groups, to create a space for cooperation and provide the impetus for strategic direction. Just as the Mafiocracy has created forums and institutions through which they engage and influence policy-makers, educational and media structures, so too must revolutionary groups form parallel systems with similar functions, but opposing objectives.

This task can effectively be pursued by the “lost generation” of global youth who can become capable of finding their own way, charting their own path, imagining and creating their own world. It could be a world in which the human species has a higher purpose beyond that of contributing to “economic growth,” with greater prospects beyond that of probable extinction. Nothing less than everything we have and everyone we know is at stake.

What is frightfully clear is that the Empire of Economics does not serve the collective interests of humanity and the planetary system upon which life depends. We must do this ourselves, individually and collectively. The worst that could happen is to try and fail, remaining where we currently stand. The best that could happen is nothing if not unknown and unforeseeable, but altogether possible, if we wish and work to make it so. The future may yet belong to the people of the world, but only if we empower ourselves in the present. So perhaps it is time to become properly acquainted with the unforgiving, brutal realities of power politics, empire and resistance.

Notes

[1] Memorandum of Conversation, 24 May 1975: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1973-1976, Vol. XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, Document 292:

http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v31/d292

[2] Memorandum of Conversation, 26 May 1975: Foreign Relations of the United States, 1973-1976, Vol. XXXI, Foreign Economic Policy, Document 294:
http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v31/d294

[3] Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (Cambridge University Press, 1988), page 59.

[4] Memo by George Kennan, Head of the US State Department Policy Planning Staff. Written February 28, 1948, Declassified June 17, 1974. George Kennan, “Review of Current Trends, U.S. Foreign Policy, Policy Planning Staff, PPS No. 23. Top Secret. Included in the U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948, volume 1, part 2 (Washington DC Government Printing Office, 1976), 509-529:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Memo_PPS23_by_George_Kennan

[5] General Assembly, “Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order,” Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, United Nations, Resolution 3201 (S-VI), 1 May 1974:

http://www.un-documents.net/s6r3201.htm

[6] General Assembly, “Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order,” Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, United Nations, Resolution 3201 (S-VI), 1 May 1974:

http://www.un-documents.net/s6r3201.htm

[7] Charles R. Morris, “Old Money,” New York Times, 29 October 2006:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/29/books/review/Morris.t.html?pagewanted

[8] Stephen Foley, “Richest dynasties back in the money after crunch,” The Independent, 24 September 2010:

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[9] Ray D. Madoff, “America Builds an Aristocracy,” New York Times, 11 July 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/12/opinion/12madoff.html

[10] James D. Wolfensohn, Council on Foreign Relations Special Symposium in honor of David Rockefeller’s 90th Birthday, The Council on Foreign Relations, 23 May 2005: http://www.cfr.org/world/council-foreign-relations-special-symposium-honor-david-rockefellers-90th-birthday/p8133

[11] Nasdaq Institutional Portfolios, Rockefeller Financial Services, 31 December 2014: http://www.nasdaq.com/quotes/institutional-portfolio/rockefeller-financial-services-inc-66951;

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[23] Stephanie Strom, “In Sweden, a Shy Dynasty Steps Out,” New York Times, 12 May 1996:

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[24] “The Wallenbergs: Sweden’s enduring business dynasty,” The Economist, 12 October 2006:

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[25] Richard Milne, “Jacob Wallenberg, Investor head with more influence than money,” Financial Times, 29 June 2014:

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[27] Sandra Martin, “Behind the scenes, Paul Desmarais was a force in Canadian politics,” Globe and Mail, 9 October 2013:

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[28] Paul Vieira and Stephen Miller, “Canadian Mogul Paul Desmarais Dead at 86,” Wall Street Journal, 9 October 2013:

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[29] Rowan Callick, “Keeping it in the family,” The Australian, 27 February 2014:

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[30] Rowan Callick, “Keeping it in the family,” The Australian, 27 February 2014:

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[31] Jeremy Page, “Children of the Revolution,” Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2011:

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[32] Bloomberg News, “Heirs of Mao’s Comrades Rise as New Capitalist Nobility,” Bloomberg, 26 December 2012:

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[33] “Turkish conglomerates: Too big to fail, but in a good way,” The Economist, 1 February 2014:

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21595463-two-huge-family-firms-koc-and-sabanci-should-weather-turkeys-crisis-too-big-fail

[34] Marilyn Berger, “Harry Oppenheimer, 91, South African Industrialist, Dies,” New York Times, 21 August 2000:
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[35] James Crabtree, “Indian pioneers combine profitability and probity,” Financial Times, 2 February 2015:

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[36] Frederick E. Allen, “The Family Secret That Makes German Companies So Successful,” Forbes, 14 August 2012:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2012/08/14/the-family-secret-that-makes-german-companies-so-successful/

[37] Ralph Atkins, “Archetypal family business head is wealthy but frugal,” Financial Times, 16 May 2007:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/2b3a7a96-0349-11dc-a023-000b5df10621.html#axzz3XjoejstQ

[38] Stephen Evans, “Germany’s super-shy super-rich,” BBC, 28 July 2014:

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28472884

[39] Fiona Govan, “BMW dynasty breaks silence over Nazi past,” The Telegraph, 29 September 2011:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/8796157/BMW-dynasty-breaks-silence-over-Nazi-past.html

[40] “The mystery of the world’s second-richest businessman,” The Economist, 25 February 1999:

http://www.economist.com/node/187913

[41] William D. Cohan, “The Stockholder in the Sand,” Vanity Fair, 21 March 2013:

http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2013/03/myth-prince-alwaleed-bin-talal-saudi

[42] Berkshire Hathaway, Annual Report 2013, Page 16:

http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/2013ar/2013ar.pdf

[43] Jack Witzig and Pamela Roux, “Bill Gates Fattens Wealth Gap Over Slim as Cascade Surges,” Bloomberg, 29 March 2013:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-05-29/bill-gates-fattens-wealth-gap-over-slim-as-cascade-surges

[44] Andy Coghlan and Debora MacKenzie, “Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world,” New Scientist, 24 October 2011:

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[45] Andy Coghlan and Debora MacKenzie, “Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world,” New Scientist, 24 October 2011:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21228354.500-revealed–the-capitalist-network-that-runs-the-world.html

[46] Susanne Craig, “The Giant of Shareholders, Quietly Stirring,” New York Times, 18 May 2013:

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[47] Gillian Tett, “‘BlackRock envy’ replaces Goldman allure,” Financial Times, 14 June 2012:

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[48] Henny Sender and Dan McCrum, “BlackRock: Ahead of the Street,” Financial Times, 28 November 2012:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/2a24b71e-37c5-11e2-8edf-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2noNtCpOd

[49] Suzanna Andrews, “Larry Fink’s $12 Trillion Shadow,” Vanity Fair, April 2010:

http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2010/04/fink-201004

[50] Andrew Gavin Marshall, “The Global Banking ‘Super-Entity’ Drug Cartel: The “Free Market” of Finance Capital,” Andrewgavinmarshall.com, 28 October 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/10/28/the-global-banking-super-entity-drug-cartel-the-free-market-of-finance-capital/

[51] Theodore Draper, “Little Heinz And Big Henry,” New York Review of Books, 6 September 1992:

https://www.nytimes.com/books/98/12/06/specials/isaacson-kissinger.html

[52] Theodore Draper, “Little Heinz And Big Henry,” New York Review of Books, 6 September 1992:

https://www.nytimes.com/books/98/12/06/specials/isaacson-kissinger.html

[53] Remembrances, Words of Commemoration: Memorial Service for Nelson Rockefeller, 2 February 1979:

http://www.henryakissinger.com/eulogies/020279.html

[54] Judith Miller, “Kissinger Co.,” New York Times, 26 May 1979.

[55] Gerald Caplan, “Toronto welcomes Henry Kissinger, accused war criminal,” Globe & Mail, 3 June 2011:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/munk-debates/toronto-welcomes-henry-kissinger-accused-war-criminal/article4192522/;

Omar Aziz, “The Ivy League’s favorite war criminal: Why the atrocities of Henry Kissinger should be mandatory reading,” Salon, 17 April 2015:

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/17/the_ivy_leagues_favorite_war_criminal_why_the_atrocities_of_henry_kissinger_should_be_mandatory_reading/;

Fred Branfman, “The Top 10 Most Inhuman Henry Kissinger Quotes,” AlterNet, 24 April 2013:

http://www.alternet.org/world/top-10-most-inhuman-henry-kissinger-quotes;

Christopher Hitchens, “Kissinger Declassified,” Vanity Fair, December 2004:

http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2004/12/hitchens200412;

Sean O’Grady, “Henry Kissinger: A diplomatic colossus who is still a key influence in US amid Syria crisis,” The Independent, 13 September 2013:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/henry-kissinger-a-diplomatic-colossus-who-is-still-a-key-influence-in-us-amid-syria-crisis-8815533.html

[56] Gerald Caplan, “Toronto welcomes Henry Kissinger, accused war criminal,” Globe & Mail, 3 June 2011:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/munk-debates/toronto-welcomes-henry-kissinger-accused-war-criminal/article4192522/;

Omar Aziz, “The Ivy League’s favorite war criminal: Why the atrocities of Henry Kissinger should be mandatory reading,” Salon, 17 April 2015:

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/17/the_ivy_leagues_favorite_war_criminal_why_the_atrocities_of_henry_kissinger_should_be_mandatory_reading/;

Fred Branfman, “The Top 10 Most Inhuman Henry Kissinger Quotes,” AlterNet, 24 April 2013:

http://www.alternet.org/world/top-10-most-inhuman-henry-kissinger-quotes;

Christopher Hitchens, “Kissinger Declassified,” Vanity Fair, December 2004:

http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2004/12/hitchens200412;

Sean O’Grady, “Henry Kissinger: A diplomatic colossus who is still a key influence in US amid Syria crisis,” The Independent, 13 September 2013:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/henry-kissinger-a-diplomatic-colossus-who-is-still-a-key-influence-in-us-amid-syria-crisis-8815533.html

[57] Leslie H. Gelb, “The New American Establishment is Called the Community,” New York Times, 19 December 1976.

[58] Leslie H. Gelb, “The New American Establishment is Called the Community,” New York Times, 19 December 1976.

[59] Judith Miller, “Kissinger Co.,” New York Times, 26 May 1979.

[60] Lynn Rosellini, “Kissinger and the Art of Staying in the Public Eye,” New York Times, 27 October 1982:

http://www.nytimes.com/1982/10/27/us/kissinger-and-the-art-of-staying-in-the-public-eye.html

[61] Leslie H. Gelb, “Kissinger Means Business,” New York Times, 20 April 1986:

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[62] Leslie H. Gelb, “Kissinger Means Business,” New York Times, 20 April 1986:

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From Ferguson to Freedom, Part 1: Race, Repression and Resistance in America

From Ferguson to Freedom, Part 1: Race, Repression and Resistance in America

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

11 December 2014

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On 9 August 2014, a white cop murdered an unarmed black teen in a predominantly black neighborhood and black city dominated by white police with a history of violence toward poor, black communities, and in a city dominated by white power structures and with a long history of racism and segregation. More than three months later, that white cop was exonerated of any wrongdoing.

The cop, Darren Wilson, was not simply exonerated for the murder, but he was rewarded. The white cop who murdered 18-year-old Michael Brown was rewarded with a crowd-funded amount of more than $400,000 – as racists around the country sought to throw a few dollars in support of murdering unarmed black teens. On October 24, one month to the day before the verdict was announced, as Michael Brown’s family was still coming to terms with his murder, Darren Wilson got married to Barbara Spradling, also a member of the Ferguson Police Department. Since he murdered the unarmed 18-year-old Brown in August, Wilson had been rewarded with being on “paid administrative leave.” After the verdict was delivered, Wilson remained on paid leave. And as Wilson was rewarded for taking the life of an innocent boy, he announced that he and his wife were expecting a child of their own.

On August 10, a candlelight vigil for Michael Brown erupted into an urban rebellion (commonly called “riots”), as people expressed their anger and frustration of the systemic and institutionalized injustice, and were met with overwhelming police force. As the protests continued and further rebellions erupted, the police sent in the SWAT team, already having shot protesters with rubber bullets and engaged in chemical warfare shooting teargas at them. The police were even arresting reporters, from the Huffington Post and Washington Post, and journalists from Al-Jazeera were shot at with rubber bullets and then tear gassed. Protests continued, and police continued to shoot rubber bullets, use excessive amounts of tear gas, flash grenades and smoke bombs against demonstrators, which then had the effect of triggering the rebellions (or ‘riots’). Wearing military fatigues and riot gear, police deployed armored vehicles similar to those in Afghanistan and Iraq, aiming high-powered rifles at American citizens in a town of 20,000 people.

On August 16, a week after Michael Brown was murdered, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and implemented a curfew in Ferguson. The top cop in charge of Ferguson at the time, State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, stated that, “We won’t enforce [the curfew] with trucks, we won’t enforce it with tear gar.” The police then used trucks, smoke and tear gas against protesters to enforce the curfew, in what became the fiercest night of violence until that point. Another curfew was announced for the following night. Two hours before the curfew went into effect, police fired tear gas and flash grenades into assembled protesters in order “to disperse the crowd.”

The Governor then deployed the National Guard in Ferguson on August 18. Obama appealed for “calm.” More reporters were arrested. Three days later, the National Guard was removed from Ferguson. The following few days were relatively calm, though police continued to arrest people. The calm followed the convening of a grand jury to investigate Darren Wilson’s murder of Michael Brown. The US Attorney General Eric Holder even flew to Ferguson, and later commented than an FBI investigation into civil rights violations in Ferguson “will take some time.” Throughout this period, police in Ferguson and St. Louis continued to threaten protesters, aim weapons at them, and even murdered another man. The protests largely calmed down, and thousands attended the funeral of Michael Brown on August 25.

Smaller protests continued into September, and in late September the Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson decided to march in civilian clothes with a crowd of people demanding his resignation, hours after he released a “video apology” to the Brown family. In less than 30 seconds of Jackson joining the crowd, agitating many of those assembled, riot cops moved in to ‘protect’ him, prompting a confrontation with the protesters and declaring the protest an “unlawful assembly.” Protests continued for the following few days with police continuing to declare protests as unlawful, threatening to arrest people who stayed in one place for too long or who moved off the sidewalk and onto the street.

However, over a dozen protesters who were assembled on the sidewalk were arrested outside the Ferguson Police Department in early October, after which they were fitted in orange jumpsuits, locked behind bars for several hours with higher bail amounts than usual, some as high as $2700. Their charges included “failure to comply with police, noise ordinance violations and resisting arrest,” when assembled peacefully – and legally – on a sidewalk. Among those arrested was a journalist. Ferguson Police Chief Jackson then handed his responsibility for “managing protests” to the St. Louis County police department. In early October, a St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performance was interrupted by protesters who sang a civil rights song, ‘Which Side Are You On?

On 11 October, hundreds of people took to the streets for a weekend of protests what they called ‘Ferguson October’. Roughly 43 people were arrested for assembling outside the Ferguson Police Department, including professor and author Cornel West. A Missouri State Senator was also arrested during a protest several days later.

On 17 November, one week before the grand jury decision was to be announced, Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and authorized the National Guard to again be deployed in Ferguson. At the same time, the St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar declared that police in Ferguson had not used rubber bullets or force against “peaceful protesters,” but against “criminal activity.” Days prior to the verdict, buildings were being barricaded around Ferguson in anticipation of “unrest.”

The Department of Homeland Security showed up in St. Louis prior to the verdict. As Homeland Security vehicles began to mass near Ferguson, a local Navy veteran was fired from his job and called a ‘terrorist’ after posting pictures of the vehicles on Facebook. Federal officials began arriving in Ferguson and St. Louis a few days before Governor Nixon declared his state of emergency. Despite announcements to “review” the transfer of military equipment to domestic police forces following the earlier social unrest in August, the Pentagon had continued to supply police forces in Missouri with “surplus military gear.”

Police forces in America have been increasingly militarized, starting with the ‘War on Drugs’ (aka: War OF Drugs) and rapidly expanded under the ‘War [on/of] Terror’. Across the country, police forces “have purchased military equipment, adopted military training, and sought to inculcate a ‘soldier’s mentality’ among their ranks,” noted The Atlantic in 2011. Since the 1960s, SWAT teams emerged in cities across the United States, marking the rise of the “warrior cop,” initially prompted by the urban rebellions of the 1960s in predominantly poor black communities. Since 2002, the Department of Homeland Security has handed out over $35 billion in grants to purchase military gear. The Pentagon has distributed more than $4.2 billion of equipment to local law enforcement agencies across the US.

These were the highly militarized police forces originally deployed against protesters in Ferguson in August of 2014, with armored vehicles, sound weapons, shotguns, M4 rifles, rubber bullets and tear gas. At the time, former Army officer and international policing operations analyst, Jason Fritz, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “You see the police are standing in line with bulletproof vests and rifles pointed at people’s chests… That’s not controlling the crowd, that’s intimidating them.” The New York Times referred to Ferguson as “a virtual war zone,” warning that if nothing is done to stop the national militarization of police forces by the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon, then “the future of law enforcement everywhere will look a lot like Ferguson.”

The verdict on November 24, giving Wilson the gift of freedom for depriving Michael Brown of his own freedom (and life) prompted quick reactions in the streets. Protests started in Ferguson, and quickly erupted into urban rebellion with cars and buildings torched and destroyed. Governor Nixon then deployed more National Guard troops in Ferguson, with more than 2,200 deployed in the town of 22,000 people. Protests spread the following day to 37 different states in over 130 demonstrations, with significant numbers and acts of social disobedience in New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. More than 170 U.S. cities experienced protests on the night of November 25, drawing thousands of people to the streets, “blocking bridges, tunnels and major highways.”

Obama declared that he did “not have any sympathy” with “those who think that what happened in Ferguson is an excuse for violence.” As protests spread, more than 400 people were arrested around the US. In Los Angeles, over 150 people were arrested. Reflecting on the lessons he drew from the rebellions on the night of November 24, St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar said, “you can never have too many policemen.”

Protests not only spread across the United States, but internationally. Protests spread across cities in Canada, including Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Montreal. Protests also spread to London, where thousands assembled outside the U.S. Embassy, drawing parallels to the case of Mark Duggan, a young black man whose murder by police in August of 2011 prompted the largest riots in recent British history.

One week after the grand jury decision on Darren Wilson prompted nation-wide and international protests, another grand jury decision – this time for one based in Staten Island – was reached regarding the choking death of an unarmed black man (Eric Garner) killed by a white cop. The entire murder was caught on film for all to see, and the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, had no charges laid against him. The verdict was in, and the killer cop was exonerated of any wrongdoing. The announcement prompted protests all across New York, with demonstrators repeating Eric Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe.”

The protests continued in New York nightly, with several taking place elsewhere across the country, in a continuation from the spark that lit with Ferguson. The day after the New York verdict, an unarmed black man was shot dead by police in Phoenix, Arizona, sparking protests there. In Times Square, several thousand protesters confronted police chanting, ‘Who do you protect?’ Police responded by arresting 200 of those assembled.

The protests in New York were drawing upwards of 10,000 people, and in the first three days alone, the NYPD arrested over 300 demonstrators, with the Police Commissioner declaring that, “the city should be feeling quite proud of itself at this juncture,” because the police were “showing remarkable restraint.”

As with Ferguson, the results in New York sparked protests across the country, with people taking to the streets in Washington, D.C., Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Atlanta and beyond, blocking bridges and traffic, engaging in ‘sit ins’ or ‘die ins’ in public places, transport hubs, universities and elsewhere. Protests that took place in Berkeley, California, quickly turned violent as police used excessive force, tear gas and batons. The police violence in turn sparked ‘riots’ (urban rebellion) in the streets. Clashes between police and protesters also took place in Seattle, with more peaceful demonstrations continuing in New York, Chicago and Miami.

The protests continued daily, with new groups, new cities and states participating, new sparks, new collective actions, civil disobedience, with every new day. Demonstrators took to the streets, department stores, highways and intersections, to Ivy League universities, basketball games, and train stations. In Chicago, protesters continued well into December, with roughly 200 demonstrators gathering outside of Obama’s family home.

President Obama was holding a series of meetings on the social unrest resulting from Ferguson. He was meeting with Cabinet and Congressional officials, law enforcement and civil rights leaders, and an “unusual” meeting was granted to a group of young black activists from around the country. They held a 45-minute meeting with the president in the Oval Office. They spoke honestly about the problems they see and solutions they advocate, with Obama offering encouragement, though he stressed that, “incremental changes were progress.”

One of the youth organizers present at the meeting, Phillip Agnew, wrote about his experience for an article in the Guardian. Agnew described the assembled group as “representatives from a community in active struggle against state sanctioned killing, violence and repression.” They were not “civil rights leaders,” “activists”, “spokespeople” or “respectable negroes,” they were from Missouri, Ohio, New York and Florida. Agnew wrote of the expectations of those assembled: “We all knew that the White House stood to benefit more from this meeting than we did. We knew that our movement families would fear the almighty co-opt and a political press photo-op. We have been underestimated at every juncture… But this was an invitation that you accept – period.”

The group of youth, as young as 20, with artists, activists, teachers, and organizers, told the president that they were not the “People’s Spokespeople,” and that they “had neither the power, positions, nor desires to stop the eruptions in the streets and that they would continue until a radical change happened in this country,” that they “had no faith in anything, church or state… that the country was on the brink and that nothing short of major capitulations at all levels of the government to the demands of the people could prevent it.” Obama listened, discussed and debated, promoted “gradualism” and “asked for our help.” Agnew commented that, “We did not budge,” walking out of the meeting “unbought and unbowed. We held no punches… no concessions, politicking or posturing. The movement got its meeting. Unrest earned this invite, and we can’t stop. If we don’t get what we came for, we will shut it down. President Obama knows that and we know it. No meeting can stop that.”

History will perhaps view present-day America through the lens of pre-Ferguson and post-Ferguson. The spark which lit the fire was the continuous murder of unarmed black men, women and children by mostly-white police. Police beating, oppressing, and murdering black people in the United States is far from a new phenomenon. It’s a practice which is, in many ways, as old as the country itself (or older, in fact). The fundamental change is this: pre-Ferguson, the murder of unarmed black men, women and children was considered ‘unworthy’ of national attention, it was not news, not an issue, largely continuing unknown and unacknowledged by white America. Post-Ferguson, when black Americans are murdered by police, it starts to make headlines, people start to pay attention, and people increasingly take to the streets in opposition.

Ferguson is not a wake-up call to black America, which has been well aware of the injustices and oppression their communities have faced daily, yearly, and over the course of decades and centuries. Ferguson is a wake-up call for white America, to look and learn from the lived experiences of black America, and to join with their brothers and sisters in active struggle against the system which has made Ferguson the status quo.

Pre-Ferguson, black lives did not matter. At least, they did not matter so far as the national consciousness was concerned. White America could proclaim itself a ‘post-racial society’, feeling good about themselves for voting for a black president, having black friends, and not saying ‘Nigger’. Ferguson has changed the frame through which America views itself, and is viewed by others. White America increasingly looks at the reality of black America and sees great injustice and inequality. The rest of the world looks into America and sees a deeply racist society, repressive and brutal, reflective of the perceptions of America’s actions around the world.

Pre-Ferguson, black America was kept out of sight, black communities were kept under control, and black lives did not matter. Post-Ferguson, black America has taken center stage, black communities are the front-lines of a national struggle for justice and equality, and now, Black Lives Matter.

Counterinsurgency, Death Squads, and the Population as the Target: Empire Under Obama, Part 4

Counterinsurgency, Death Squads, and the Population as the Target: Empire Under Obama, Part 4

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at The Hampton Institute

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Part 1: Political Language and the ‘Mafia Principles’ of International Relations

Part 2: Barack Obama’s Global Terror Campaign

Part 3: America’s “Secret Wars” in Over 100 Countries Around the World

While the American Empire – and much of the policies being pursued – did not begin under President Obama, the focus of “Empire Under Obama” is to bring awareness about the nature of empire to those who may have – or continue – to support Barack Obama and who may believe in the empty promises of “hope” and “change.” Empire is institutional, not individual. My focus on the imperial structure during the Obama administration is not to suggest that it does not predate Obama, but rather, that Obama represents ‘continuity’ in imperialism, not “change.” This part examines the concept of ‘counterinsurgency’ as a war against the populations of Iraq, Afghanistan and spreading into Pakistan.

Continuity in the imperialistic policies of the United States is especially evident when it comes to the strategy of ‘counterinsurgency,’ notably in Afghanistan. As examined in Part 1 of this series, language plays a powerful role in the extension and justification of empire. George Orwell noted that political language was “largely the defense of the indefensible,” where horrific acts and policies – such as maintaining colonial domination, dropping atomic bombs on cities – can only be defended “by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face.” Thus, political language is employed, consisting “largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” One specific example was provided by Orwell in his essay – Politics and the English Language – which holds particular relevance for the present essay: “Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification.” Virtually the same process or strategy is today employed using words like counterinsurgency or counterterrorism. These military strategies are frequently employed, and the words are carelessly thrown around by military officials, politicians, intellectuals and media talking heads, yet little – if any – discussion is given to what they actually mean.

Near the end of the Bush administration in 2008, General David Petraeus was appointed as the Commander of CENTCOM (Central Command), the Pentagon’s military command structure over the Middle East and Central Asia, overseeing the two major ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010, Obama had appointed Petraeus as commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, and in 2011, he was appointed as CIA Director. Petraeus is a good starting point for the discussion on counterinsurgency.

Petraeus was previously commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, having quickly risen through the ranks to lead Bush’s “surge” in 2007. Prior to the surge, Petraeus was initially sent to Iraq in 2004 given the responsibility of training “a new Iraqi police force with an emphasis on counterinsurgency.” While in Iraq, Petraeus worked with a retired Colonel named Jim Steele, who was sent to Iraq as a personal envoy of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Steele acquired a name for himself in ‘counterinsurgency’ circles having led the U.S. Special Forces training of paramilitary units in El Salvador in the 1980s, where he turned them into efficient and highly effective death squads waging a massive terror war against the leftist insurgency and the population which supported them, resulting in the deaths of roughly 70,000 people.[1]

Jim Steele had to leave a promising military career after his involvement with the Iran-Contra scandal – trading arms to the Iranians for their war against Iraq to finance the death squads in Central America – and so he naturally turned to the private sector. But he had so impressed a Congressman named Dick Cheney, that when Cheney was Vice President, he and Rumsfeld maintained a cozy relationship with Steele who was then sent to Iraq in 2003 to help train the Iraqi paramilitary forces. Steele, working with David Petraeus and others, helped establish “a fearsome paramilitary force” which was designed to counter the Sunni insurgency which had developed in reaction to the U.S. invasion and occupation, running ruthless death squads which helped plunge the country into a deep civil war. Petraeus’ role in helping to create some of Iraq’s most feared death squads was revealed in a 2013 Guardian investigation.[2]

However, in 2005, the Pentagon had openly acknowledged that it was considering employing “the Salvador option” in Iraq in order “to take the offensive against the insurgents.” John Negroponte, who had been the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras when the U.S. was running death squads out of Honduras in Central America was, in 2005, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. The Pentagon and the CIA were considering what roles they could play, possibly using U.S. Special Forces, to help train Iraqi “death squads” to hunt down and kill “insurgents.”[3]

Within the first three years of the Iraq war and occupation, the British medical journal, The Lancet, published research indicating that between 2003 and 2006, an estimated 650,000 – 940,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war.[4] A survey from 2008 indicated that there had been more than one million deaths in Iraq caused by the war.[5]

This is referred to as a “counterinsurgency” strategy. In 2006, General Petraeus wrote the foreward to the Department of the Army’s Field Manual on Counterinsurgency, in which he noted that, “all insurgencies, even today’s highly adaptable strains, remain wars amongst the people.”[6] A 1962 U.S. counterinsurgency guide for the U.S. war in Vietnam said it even more bluntly when it noted that, “The ultimate and decisive target is the people… Society itself is at war and the resources, motives, and targets of the struggle are found almost wholly within the local population.”[7]

At the risk of being redundant, let me put it even more simply: counterinsurgency implies a war against the population. An insurgency is an armed rebellion by a significant portion – or sector – of a population against an institutional authority or power structure (usually a state or imperial power). Thus, for the American Empire – adhering to its rigid ‘Mafia Principles’ of international relations – an ‘insurgency’ is always a threat to imperial domination: if people are able to resist domestic power structures (say, a specific U.S. ally/client state), then other people around the world may try the same. The United States will seek to counter insurgencies for several reasons: to maintain the stability of their ally, to maintain the confidence of other allies, to maintain its reputation as the global hegemon, and to counter more direct threats to U.S./Western interests, such as the loss of access to resources or key strategic points, or in the case of U.S. military occupations, to crush any and all resistance.

In Part 1 of this series, I briefly summarized some major strategic reports written by key U.S. imperial planners, such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft. A 1988 National Security Council-Defense Department Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy was co-chaired by Kissinger and Brzezinski, and directly acknowledged that most conflicts across the world were “insurgencies, organized terrorism, [and] paramilitary crime,” including “guerilla forces” and “armed subversives.” The report stated that the U.S. would have to intervene in these “low intensity conflicts” in which the “enemy” was “omnipresent” (or, in other words, in which the target was the population), because if the U.S. did not wage war against armed rebellions or uprisings around the world, “we will surely lose the support of many Third World countries that want to believe the United States can protect its friends, not to mention its own interests.”

This is a key example of ‘Mafia Principles.’ The Mafia is able to expand its influence not simply through coercion, but through offering ‘protection.’ Thus, businessmen, politicians or other individuals who pay dues to the Mafia are in turn given protection by the Mafia. If they are confronted with a problem – competition, threats to their position, etc. – the Mafia will use threats or force in order to protect their patrons.

Take, for example, a corrupt politician (I know, how redundant!) who is in the pocket of the Mafia. A mob boss may ask for a favour – to pass (or block) a particular law – and in turn, the politician gets protection from the mob. Suddenly, an up-and-coming young politician gains in popularity in opposition to the corrupted political figure. The politician asks the mob for some help (after all, the mob doesn’t want to lose the person in their pocket for the one who appears to be a wild card), and so the mob attempts to bribe or makes some threats to the aspiring political figure. If the bribes and/or threats don’t work, then force may be used. Suddenly, the aspiring political figure was found washed ashore along the city’s riverbanks.

This has served several purposes: the politician is kept in the pocket of the Mafia (always easier than trying to find a new point man), the mob maintains its reputation as an organization not to be challenged or disobeyed (fear plays a essential part in maintaining power), and the politician is more indebted than ever to the mob. Interests are secured, reputations are maintained, and power is strengthened.

An ‘insurgency’ in a client state or against a Western occupation poses such a threat to the local and international power structures of imperialism. Thus, the Empire must counter the insurgency in order to undermine the immediate threat to its forces (or those of its allies/clients), to maintain its reputation as what Obama recently referred to as “the anchor of global security,”[8] and thus, to maintain the confidence of other allies around the world, and to pose a powerful threatening force to other populations which may attempt resistance. Interests are secured, reputations are maintained, and power is strengthened.

The notion that a counterinsurgency campaign is targeting a population resisting some form of authority – whether justified or not – and that such a strategy leads to enormous human tragedy, civilian casualties, suffering, chaos, destruction and human social devastation simply is of little significance to those who advocate for such doctrines. If the interest is in maintaining ‘power,’ the suffering of people is irrelevant. For the Empire, power and profit are what matters, people are incidental, and most often, in the way.

In the midst of the massive civil war in Iraq that Petraeus helped to bring about (with his ‘counterinsurgency’ operations of building death squads), Bush appointed Petraeus to head the planned “surge” of 20,000 U.S. troops into the country in 2007, which was hailed in the media and by the political class and their intellectual sycophants as a profound success.

By 2008, violence in Iraq was down, and this was of course interpreted as a success of the counterinsurgency/surge strategy. The reality was, as several commentators and analysts have pointed out, that the violence decreased because most of the ethnic cleansing in Iraq had taken place by then, and the Shia had won.[9] One academic study noted that just prior to the surge, there was a massive ethnic cleansing that took place within Iraq, and so by the time the surge began, noted one researcher, “many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country,” and that, “violence has declined in Baghdad because of inter-communal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning.” The effect of the surge was not to reduce violence, but rather, noted the report: “it has helped to provide a seal of approval for a process of ethno-sectarian neighborhood homogenization that is now largely achieved.”[10]

Even General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO who led the NATO war against Yugoslavia in the 1990s, wrote in 2007 that as the surge was taking place, “vicious ethnic cleansing is under way right under the noses of our troops.”[11] Upon the disgraced resignation of Petraeus from the position of CIA Director (due to some insignificant political sex scandal) in 2012, the Washington Post reflected on the “surge” strategy back in 2007 which propelled Petraeus “to the top,” writing that the surge strategy was “about helping Iraqis.”[12] Naturally, such a notion – in the Western media – is a given ‘fact’ without the need for qualification: we did it, therefore it is ‘good’; we did it in Iraq, therefore it was for the benefit of Iraq; we did it to Iraqis, therefore it was for Iraqis.

Counterinsurgency strategy – or ‘COIN’ as it is referred to in military parlance – shares a great deal with terrorist strategy, namely that, “the target is the people.” The difference, however, is that one is employed by a massive state-military power structure while the other is used by small networks of individuals (often) operating outside of state structures. Both, however, are typically driven by relatively small groups of violent extremists.

Obama briefly appointed General Stanley McChrystal – former commander of the JSOC forces running secret wars around the world – as the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2009, who was a strong advocate of “counterinsurgency tactics.”[13] In March of 2009, Obama announced his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan as a dual ‘AfPak’ strategy, expanding the Afghan war theatre directly into Pakistan, a nation of some 180 million people and armed with nuclear weapons.[14]

The strategy in Afghanistan was expected to drive militants into neighboring Pakistan, likely destabilizing the country.[15] As the Obama administration began its “surge” into Afghanistan in March of 2009, under the leadership of General McChrystal, who formerly ran Cheney’s “executive assassination ring,” an additional 21,000 troops were sent to the country. The Pakistani military warned the Americans that they were worried that U.S. actions in Afghanistan would not only send an increased level of militants, including the Taliban, into Pakistan’s lawless areas, but that it could also “prompt an exodus of refugees from southern Afghanistan.” In May of 2009, under U.S. pressure, the Pakistani military launched an offensive against the stateless North West Frontier Province (NWFP), displacing over 2 million people.[16]

This offensive was urged by State Department official Richard Holbrooke, as well as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen and General David Petraeus.[17] The Independent referred to the displacement which resulted as “an exodus that is beyond biblical,” creating roughly 2.4 million internal refugees within the span of a month. Across the world, only Sudan, Iraq and Colombia had larger internal refugee populations. The speed of the “displacement” reached up to 85,000 per day, matched only by the Rwandan genocide in 1994.[18] The refugee crisis had subsequently “inflamed murderous ethnic rivalries” across Pakistan, noted the Wall Street Journal.[19] However, by late August, Pakistan had returned roughly 1.3 million of the refugees to the areas from which they were displaced.[20]

In October, Obama sent an addition 13,000 troops to Afghanistan.[21] The Pakistani Prime Minister warned that this would “destabilize his country.”[22] In December, Obama announced an intention to send an additional 30,000 U.S. forces to Afghanistan, bringing the total number of U.S. troops in the country to roughly 100,000.[23]

In a 2009 State Department cable from Pakistan, Anne Patterson reported that U.S. policy and actions in Pakistan “risks destabilizing the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis in Pakistan without finally achieving the goal.” However, Patterson, seemingly without paradox, wrote that the U.S. strategy was “an important component of dealing with the overall threat” of terrorism.[24]

Further, noted Patterson, the U.S. strategy in relation to Afghanistan, which included supporting an increased role for India, Pakistan’s long-standing state-enemy, was pushing the Pakistanis “to embrace Taliban groups all the more closely,” and that U.S. arms deals with India “feeds Pakistani establishment paranoia and pushes them close to both Afghan and Kashmir-focused terrorist groups while reinforcing doubts about U.S. intentions.”[25]

Another 2009 diplomatic cable from Patterson in Pakistan noted that nuclear proliferations was “a bigger threat than terrorism,” while Pakistan had been building nuclear weapons “at a faster rate than any other country in the world,” according to a U.S. national intelligence official in 2008. U.S. support for India’s nuclear program (which is not a signatory to the NPT), has continued to cause Pakistan to refuse to sign the NPT, and had encouraged Pakistan to instead develop more nuclear weapons. Patterson described the relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. as one of “mutual distrust,” explaining that, “the relationship is one of co-dependency we grudgingly admit – Pakistan knows the US cannot afford to walk away; the US knows Pakistan cannot survive without our support.”[26]

Patterson noted in a 2009 cable that most Pakistanis view America with “suspicion,” and that the Pakistani government was worried about the influx of militants and refugees from the U.S.-NATO war in Afghanistan, and that they would prefer to implement a strategy of “dialogue, deterrence and development” (instead of military operations) in regards to the country’s own troubled regions which were becoming hot-beds for the growth of extremist groups. Patterson recommended that the U.S. government instruct the Pakistanis that, “it will be difficult for international donors to support a government that is not prepared to go all-out to defend its own territory.” In other words: if Pakistan wants military and economic aid and IMF ‘assistance,’ it will have to continue military operations.[27]

Fred Branfman, who examined in detail Wikileaks cables related to Pakistan, summarized their findings as thus: “A disastrously bungled U.S. policy toward Pakistan has led a majority of the Pakistani people to see the U.S. as their ‘enemy’ and strengthened jihadi forces in both the northwest territories and Punjab heartland and thus made it more likely that anti-American forces could obtain Pakistani nuclear materials.” As America continues its war in Afghanistan, it will “continue to destabilize the Pakistani state,” not to mention, so too will undertaking a ‘secret war’ inside Pakistan itself.[28]

Since General Petraeus had so much “success” with creating death squads in Iraq, plunging the country into a deeper civil war, supporting the massive ethnic cleansing and undertaking a war against the population (“counterinsurgency” campaign), he was naturally the right choice for Obama to appoint in 2010 when it came to leading the “counterinsurgency” and “surge” into Afghanistan, replacing General McChrystal.

As revealed by Bob Woodward in 2010, under the Obama administration, the CIA was “running and paying for a secret 3,000-strong army of Afghan paramilitaries whose main aim is assassinating Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives not just in Afghanistan but across the border in neighboring Pakistan’s tribal areas,” likely working “in close tandem” with U.S. Special Forces undertaking “kill-or-capture” missions, all of which is approved by the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus.[29]

The Afghan “surge” of the Obama administration was a profound failure. Following the first year of the surge, 2010 was recorded as the “deadliest year” for Afghan civilians since the war and occupation began in 2001, with over 2,700 civilians killed, up 15% from the previous year, according to the UN.[30] In 2011, the death toll reached another record high, with more than 3,000 civilians killed, according to the UN, an 8% increase from the previous year, and the number of deaths caused by suicide bombings increased by 80% from the previous year.[31]

The U.S. troops presence was to be reduced significantly following the formal “withdrawal” in 2014, after which time Obama pledged to keep a “small troops presence” in the country.[32] The remaining force would largely be geared toward “counterterrorism” operations in the country.[33] In June of 2013, the “formal” handing over of security operations from U.S.-NATO forces to Afghan forces was initiated, with a 350,000-strong military and police force trained by NATO and the US to manage internal ‘security’ against the continued ‘insurgency’ in the country.[34]

In other words, nearly thirteen years after a U.S.-NATO war and occupation began in Afghanistan, the war will continue indefinitely, and the “target” will remain as the population. In our media, we hear about deaths of “militants” or “Taliban” as if these are easily confirmed card-carrying or uniform-wearing groups and individuals (just as we report in regards to Obama’s global drone bombing terror campaign). Yet, these reports often go unquestioned, much like during the massive counterinsurgency war the U.S. waged in Vietnam, where the majority of the population was largely opposed to the imperial presence of the United States, and where those whom the U.S. killed were given the all-encompassing label of ‘Viet Cong’ – the “enemy.” So long as those who we murder in our foreign occupations are given the correct ‘label’ (whether Viet Cong, Taliban, al-Qaeda, or the ever-bland ‘militants’ and ‘terrorists’), our continued slaughtering is continuously justified.

Few comments are made about the notion of the right of populations to resist foreign military occupations. Regardless as to whether or not we – as individuals – approve of particular militant groups in places like Afghanistan or Pakistan, we do not have the ‘right’ to dictate who rules those nations. And, in fact, our presence strengthens the more extremist, militant, violent and deplorable groups precisely because they are those which are best equipped to resist another – far more – violent, extremist, militant and deplorable group: namely, Western military occupation forces.

Here is a hypothetical: imagine you live in the United States, and the government collapses amid disarray and disagreement (I know, I’m being redundant again!), but then, China suddenly decides to send in its army of 2.2 million forces to occupy the United States in order to act as an “anchor of security” for the world. Imagine Chinese forces installed a puppet government, maintained an occupation for over a decade, and ultimately ruled the country by force. Surely, in the United States, armed resistance would emerge. Yet, who – in the U.S. – are those most likely to resort to armed resistance?

Chances are, such groups would emerge among the militant right-wing Christian groups spread out across much of the country, holding extremist ideologies which much of the population finds deplorable, but also being among the best armed members of the domestic American population. Other gangs and criminal groups would likely flourish, war lords and drug lords would rise to high places (as they have in Afghanistan, Mexico, and Colombia), and then the Chinese would resort to a ‘counterinsurgency’ strategy, in which the whole population is punished. This would ultimately increase support for the domestic militants, despite their deplorable ideologies, and a subsequent cycle of violence and destruction would likely ensue.

Surely, such a scenario is not desired – at least not by the many Americans I know and consider friends and family – but such is the scenario we impose upon countries and people all across the planet. This insanity must stop. There must be – in the West and most especially within the United States itself – the development of an anti-imperial/anti-empire social movement. It is not only a requirement out of some uncomfortable argument about the ‘economic costs’ of extending an empire around the world, but it is a moral necessity. As Obama himself stated in September of 2013, “for nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security.”[35] That is seven decades of American imperialism on a truly global scale, for which the populations of the West must now make amends, and that can only be done by ending the empire. Nothing less than the absolute abolishment of imperialism – in all its modern forms – is of the utmost human necessity.

We can have destruction, or we can have dignity. We can have hypocrisy, or we can have honesty. We can have fascism, or we can have a future. We can have hatred, or we can have humility. We can have repression, or we can have possibility. We can have war, or we can have no more. We can have Empire, or we can have Humanity. We cannot have both. Clearly, those in power are not equipped with the principles or possible threat of having a ‘moral moment’ in order to make such decisions: Barack Obama is no exception. Obama is merely the latest political personification of imperial phlegm spewed forth from the charred chest of the American oligarchy as their chief representative, diligently applying Mafia principles to international relations.

The future of humanity – and the ending of empire – can only exist in hands of humanity itself, not a single human being with concentrated power, but rather, with the actualization – the decentralization – of power among the population.

When Hitler’s second in command – Hermann Goering – was asked at the Nuremberg trials about Nazi Germany plunging the world into war, he replied: “Why, of course, the people don’t want war… Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship… voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”[36]

It would seem, then, that the only ones qualified to determine foreign policy are those it affects the most – those who are sent off to kill, and those who are targeted to be killed – in short: the population. Peace is possible, if people are empowered. Otherwise, imperialism is inevitable, and extinction is nearly ensured. There is a choice: we can passively accept imperialism and internalize a sense of insignificance and apathy; or, we can acknowledge that the whole global imperial system and structures of domination were established and are maintained precisely because those few in power – the tiny minority of global oligarchs – who rule the world are very well aware that when people work together, locally and globally, change is inevitable. If people were so easily controllable, so automatically apathetic, or inherently insignificant, why are there so many institutions, ideologies, techniques, structures and systems designed to keep people that way?

We can have Empire, or we can have Humanity. The choice is yours.
Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

Notes

[1] Mona Mahmood, et. al., “From El Salvador to Iraq: Washington’s man behind brutal police squads,” The Guardian, 6 March 2013:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/06/el-salvador-iraq-police-squads-washington

[2] Ibid.

[3] John Barry, “‘The Salvador Option’,” Newsweek – The Daily Beast, 7 January 2005:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2005/01/07/the-salvador-option.html

[4] “The Iraq deaths study was valid and correct,” The Age, 21 October 2006:

http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/the-iraq-deaths-study-was-valid-and-correct/2006/10/20/1160851135985.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1

[5] Luke Baker, “Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey,” Reuters, 30 January 2008:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/01/30/us-iraq-deaths-survey-idUSL3048857920080130

[6] Thomas A. Bass, “Counterinsurgency and Torture,” American Quarterly (Vol. 60, No. 2, June 2008), page 233.

[7] Nick Cullather, “‘The Target is the People’: Representations of the Village in Modernization and U.S. National Security Doctrine,” Cultural Politics (Vol. 2, No. 1, 2006), page 41.

[8] Barack Obama, “Transcript: President Obama’s Address To The Nation On Syria,” NPR, 10 September 2013:

http://www.npr.org/2013/09/10/221186456/transcript-president-obamas-address-to-the-nation-on-syria

[9] Patrick Cockburn, “Iraq: Violence is down – but not because of America’s ‘surge’,” The Independent, 14 September 2008:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iraq-violence-is-down-ndash-but-not-because-of-americas-surge-929896.html

[10] Maggie Fox, “Satellite images show ethnic cleanout in Iraq,” Reuters, 19 September 2008:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/09/19/us-iraq-lights-idUSN1953066020080919

[11] Wesley Clark, “Bush’s ‘surge’ will backfire,” The Independent, 7 January 2007:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/wesley-clark-bushs-surge-will-backfire-431053.html

[12] Max Fisher, “The Iraq success story that propelled David Petraeus to the top,” The Washington Post, 9 November 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/11/09/the-iraq-success-story-that-propelled-david-petraeus-to-the-top/

[13] Ann Scott Tyson, Top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Is Fired. The Washington Post: May 12, 2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/11/AR2009051101864.html

[14] George Packer, The Last Mission. The New Yorker: September 28, 2009: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/28/090928fa_fact_packer

[15] Andrew Gray, US Afghan surge could push militants into Pakistan. Reuters: May 21, 2009: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N21412211.htm

[16] AP, Afghanistan surge tied to Pakistan stability. MSNBC: May 21, 2009: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30871807/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/

[17] George Packer, The Last Mission. The New Yorker: September 28, 2009: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/28/090928fa_fact_packer

[18] Andrew Buncombe, In Pakistan, an exodus that is beyond biblical. The Independent: May 31, 2009: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/in-pakistan-an-exodus-that-is-beyond-biblical-1693513.html

[19] YAROSLAV TROFIMOV, Refugee Crisis Inflames Ethnic Strife in Pakistan. The Wall Street Journal: May 30, 2009: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124363974401367773.html

[20] Nita Bhalla, Some Pakistan war displaced must winter in camps: U.N. Reuters: August 20, 2009: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE57J2N020090820

[21] Ann Scott Tyson, Support Troops Swelling U.S. Force in Afghanistan. The Washington Post: October 13, 2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/12/AR2009101203142.html?hpid=topnews

[22] US surge in Afghanistan ‘may destablize Pakistan’. Press TV: November 30, 2009: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=112484&sectionid=351020401

[23] Scott Wilson, Obama: U.S. security is still at stake. The Washington Post: December 2, 2009: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/01/AR2009120101231.html

[24] US Embassy Cables, “US embassy cables: ‘Reviewing our Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy’,” The Guardian, 30 November 2010:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/226531

[25] Ibid.

[26] Fred Branfman, “WikiLeaks Revelation: How US Policy in Pakistan Heightens the Risk of Nuclear Attack,” AlterNet, 16 January 2011:

http://www.alternet.org/story/149547/wikileaks_revelation%3A_how_us_policy_in_pakistan_heightens_the_risk_of_nuclear_attack?paging=off

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Julius Cavendish, “How the CIA ran a secret army of 3,000 assassins,” The Independent, 23 September 2010:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/how-the-cia-ran-a-secret-army-of-3000-assassins-2087039.html

[30] Laura King, “U.N.: 2010 deadliest year for Afghan civilians,” Los Angeles Times, 10 March 2011:

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/10/world/la-fg-afghan-civilian-deaths-20110310

[31] Damien Pearse, “Afghan civilian death toll reaches record high,” The Guardian, 4 February 2012:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/feb/04/afghan-civilian-death-toll-record

[32] Scott Wilson and David Nakamura, “Obama announces reduced U.S. role in Afghanistan starting this spring,” The Washington Post, 11 January 2013:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/karzai-meets-obama-to-discuss-us-drawdown-in-afghanistan/2013/01/11/b50c72ec-5c03-11e2-9fa9-5fbdc9530eb9_story.html?hpid=z1

[33] Michael R. Gordon, “Time Slipping, U.S. Ponders Afghan Role After 2014,” The New York Times, 25 November 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/26/world/asia/us-planning-a-force-to-stay-in-afghanistan.html?pagewanted=all

[34] Nathan Hodge, “Blast Mars Day of Security Handover in Kabul,” The Wall Street Journal, 18 June 2013:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323566804578552593026745674.html

[35] Barack Obama, “Transcript: President Obama’s Address To The Nation On Syria,” NPR, 10 September 2013:

http://www.npr.org/2013/09/10/221186456/transcript-president-obamas-address-to-the-nation-on-syria

[36] G.M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (New York: Signet, 1961), pages 255-256.

Egypt Under Empire, Part 4: Dancing Between Dictatorship and Democracy

Egypt Under Empire, Part 4: Dancing Between Dictatorship and Democracy

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally published at The Hampton Institute

US President Barack Obama (L) shakes han

Part 1: Working Class Resistance and European Imperial Ambitions

Part 2: The “Threat” Of Arab Nationalism

Part 3: From Nasser to Mubarak

America’s Mambo with Mubarak

America’s ruling elites – and those of the Western world more generally – are comfortable dealing with ruthless tyrants and dictators all over the world, partly because they’ve just had more practice with it than dealing with ‘democratic’ governments in so-called ‘Third World’ nations. This is especially true when it comes to the Arab world, where the West has only ever dealt with dictatorships, and often by arming them and supporting them to repress their own populations, and in return, they support US and Western geopolitical, strategic and economic interests in the region. America’s relationship with Egypt – and most notably with Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt from 1981 to 2011 – has been especially revealing of this imperial-proxy relationship between so-called ‘democracies’ and dictatorships.

Maintaining cozy relationships with ruthless tyrants is something US presidents and their administrations have done for a very long time, but in recent decades and years, it has become more challenging. The United States champions its domestic propaganda outwardly, presenting itself as a beacon of democratic hope, a light of liberty in a dark world, espousing highfalutin rhetoric as the expression of an adamantine code of values – beliefs in ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ as untouchable and non-negotiable – all the while arming despots, tyrants, and ruthless repressors to protect themselves against their own populations and to stem the inevitable tide of human history.

Simply by virtue of the fact that people are more connected than ever before, that more information is available now than ever before, and with more people rising up and demanding change in disparate regions all over the world, it has become more challenging for the United States and its imperial partners to maintain their domination over the world, and to maintain their propagandized fantasies in the face of glaring hypocrisies. In short, it’s harder for the world to take America seriously about democracy when it so consistently arms and works with dictatorships. And so, for those who justify such injustice, they must dance between rhetoric and reality, attempting to find some thin line of reasoning between both to present some pretense of rationality; all the while, attempting to undermine any attempts to understand America as an empire. This dance is difficult, often very spastic and erratic, but America is a championship dancer with dictatorships. America’s ‘Mambo with Mubarak’, however, revealed the challenges of being the ultimate global hypocrite in a world of mass awakening and popular uprisings.

Shortly after becoming president, in June 2009, Barack Obama was asked by a BBC reporter, “Do you regard President Mubarak as an authoritarian ruler?” to which Obama replied, “No, I tend not to use labels for folks. I haven’t met him. I’ve spoken to him on the phone.” Obama continued, calling Mubarak a “stalwart ally” to the United States, who has “sustained peace with Israel” and “has been a force for stability.”[1] A few months earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an interview with an Arab television network in Egypt in which she said, “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family,” and added, “I hope to see him often.”[2]

In May of 2009, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey wrote in a diplomatic cable that Mubarak would more likely die than ever step down as president, noting, “The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2011 and if Mubarak is still alive it is likely he will run again and, inevitably, win.” The “most likely” successor to Mubarak, noted Scobey, was his son Gamal, adding, “some suggest that intelligence chief Omar Soliman [sic] might seek the office; or dark horse Arab League secretary general Amre Moussa.” Ultimately, Scobey noted, in terms of choosing a successor, Mubarak “seems to be trusting to God and the ubiquitous military and civilian security services to ensure an orderly transition.”[3]

Before Mubarak was to visit Washington in August of 2009, Scobey wrote to the State Department that Mubarak was “a tried and true realist” with “little time for idealistic goals.” Further, Scobey noted, Mubarak’s “world view” is most revealed by his reaction to U.S. pressure to “open Egypt” to political participation and relax the police state dictatorship, of which he had only “strengthened his determination not to accommodate our views.” Scobey further reported that Egypt’s defense minister Tantawi “keeps the armed forces appearing reasonably sharp,” while Omar Suleiman and the interior minister, al-Adly, “keep the domestic beasts at bay, and Mubarak is not one to lose sleep over their tactics,” which is to say, torture and human rights abuses. Further, Scobey warned, “Mubarak will likely resist further economic reform,” which is to say, to enhance and deepen neoliberal measures which facilitate impoverishment, plundering and exploitation by a small domestic and international oligarchy at the expense of the domestic population at large, noting that Mubarak might view further reforms “as potentially harmful to public order and stability.”[4]

Another cable from 2009 reported how, “Mubarak and [Egyptian] military leaders view our military assistance program as the cornerstone of our mil-mil [military to military] relationship and consider the $1.3b in annual [military aid] as ‘untouchable compensation’ for making and maintaining peace with Israel,” as well as ensuring that “the US military enjoys priority access to the Suez canal and Egyptian airspace.”[5]

A 2009 cable prepared for the Pentagon’s CENTOM (Central Command) chief, General David Patraeus, in the lead-up to a visit to Egypt, noted that the United States has avoided “the public confrontations that had become routine over the past several years,” with the Bush administration. Ambassador Scobey had pressured Egypt’s interior minister to release three bloggers, a Coptic priest, and grant three U.S.-based “pro-democracy” groups to operate in the country (the latter of which was denied). In anticipation of Hillary Clinton’s visit to Mubarak in 2009, Scobey recommended that Clinton not thank Mubarak for releasing a political opponent, Ayman Nour, whose imprisonment in 2005 was condemned around the world, including by the Bush administration.[6]

Scobey noted in another 2009 cable that Mubarak took the issue of Ayman Nour “personally, and it makes him seethe when we raise it, particularly in public.” Referring to Egypt as a “very stubborn and recalcitrant ally,” Scobey explained: “The Egyptians have long felt that, at best, we take them for granted; and at worst, we deliberately ignore their advice while trying to force our point of view on them.”[7]

When Mubarak visited the White House in August of 2009, in a joint press conference following their meeting, Obama referred to Mubarak as “a leader and a counselor and a friend to the United States,” and went on to thank Egypt for its support to Iraq in its “transition to a more stable democracy.” Mubarak explained that it was the third time in three months he had met with Obama, describing relations between the US and Egypt as “very good” and “strategic.”[8]

Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations explained that the Obama administration did not want to view its relationship with Egypt through the issue of ‘democracy,’ noting: “I think there is an effort to see the relationship in broader terms, because the experience of looking at it through the straw hole of democracy and democracy promotion and reform proved damaging to the relationship.” Cook added, “Let’s be realistic – Hosni Mubarak and the people in the regime don’t really have an interest in reform.” At the White House, Mubarak went on to meet with Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, after all, as Hillary previously noted, they were “family friends.”[9]

On his trip, Mubarak was also accompanied by his Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and the intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman. The dictator also met with Vice President Joseph Biden. The purpose of the meeting, noted the New York Times, was to signal “an effort to re-establish Egypt as the United States’ chief strategic Arab ally.” Former Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Abdel Raouf al-Reedy, commented, “The United States has to have a regional power to coordinate its policies with and Egypt cannot be a regional power without the United States… So there is some kind of a complementary relationship.”[10]

To Tango with Tyranny

This “complementary relationship” between regional dictatorships and imperial powers is not confined to Egypt (or America), nor are its various rationales. The Arab Spring sparked in Tunisia in December of 2010 and led to the overthrow of its long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011. Tunisia was, in the words of international law professor and former United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard A. Falk, a “model U.S. client.”[11] Between 1987 – when Ben Ali came to power – and 2009, the United States provided Tunisia with $349 million in military aid,[12] and in 2010 alone, the U.S. provided Ben Ali’s dictatorship with $13.7 million in military aid.[13]

Tunisia, which was a former French colony, also had strong relations with France. During the outbreak of the crisis in December of 2010, the French suggested they would help Ben Ali by sending security forces to Tunisia to “resolve the situation” in a show of “friendship” to the regime.[14] The French foreign minister suggested that France could provide better training to Tunisian police to restore order since the French were adept in “security situations of this type.” Jacques Lanxade, a retired French admiral, former military chief of staff and former French ambassador to Tunis noted that the French had “continued public support of this regime because of economic interests,” and added: “We didn’t take account of Tunisian public opinion and thought Ben Ali would re-establish his position.”[15] In other words: we support dictators, and don’t care about human populations as a whole. So surprised were the French at the thought of a popular uprising overthrowing their stalwart ally in Tunisia, that Sarkozy later – after the fall of Ben Ali – stated that the French had “underestimated” the “despair… suffering,” and “sense of suffocation” among Tunisians.[16] Perhaps a delicate way of suggesting that the French government does not care about the despair, suffering or suffocation of people until the people overthrow the French-subsidized dictators, forcing the imperial power to do a little dance with democratic rhetoric until it can find a replacement to support, and return to its habitual ‘underestimations’ of entire populations.

This imperial logic has been given terms and justifications from establishment intellectuals and academics in the United States and other Western powers. Academics with the Brookings Institution, an influential U.S. think tank, suggested in 2009 that this was the logic of “authoritarian bargains,” in which dictatorships in the region were able to maintain power through a type of “bargain,” where “citizens relinquish political influence in exchange for public spending,” suggesting that: “non-democratic rulers secure regime support through the allocation of two substitutable ‘goods’ to the public: economic transfers and the ability to influence policy making.”[17]

Of course, these ‘intellectuals’ failed to acknowledge the fact that in the previous three decades, the “bargain” part of the “authoritarian bargain” was dismantled under neoliberal reforms. But facts are trifling obstructions to justifications for injustice, and such ‘intellectuals’ – who serve power structures – will wind their way with words through any and all frustrating truths, so long as the end result is to continue in their support for power. Such a “bargain” could have been argued under the likes of Nasser, but Mubarak was another creature altogether, and the intellectual discourse built around support for dictatorships had not evolved over the course of several decades, save for the words used to describe it.

In 2011, those same academics wrote an article for the Brookings Institution in which they noted that as economic conditions deteriorated and unemployment rose, with neoliberal reforms failing to provide economic opportunities for the majority of the populations, the “Arab authoritarian bargain” – or “contract” – between dictators and the populations was “now collapsing,” adding that, “the strategies used by Arab leaders to maintain power may have run their course.” They added: “Partial political liberalization may not be enough at this point to make up for the current inability to deliver economic security and prosperity, spelling the final demise of Arab authoritarian bargain.”[18]

F. Gregory Gause III, writing in Foreign Affairs, the establishment journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, the most prominent foreign policy think tank in the United States, referred to this concept as “authoritarian stability” theory. Following the initial Arab Spring uprisings, he wrote about the “myth” of authoritarian stability, noting that many academics had focused on trying to understand “the persistence of undemocratic rulers” in the region, though implicitly without questioning the imperial relations between the local governments and the dominant Western powers. Gause himself acknowledged that he had written an article for Foreign Affairs in 2005 in which he argued that, “the United States should not encourage democracy in the Arab world because Washington’s authoritarian Arab allies represented stable bets for the future,” and that, “democratic Arab governments would prove much less likely to cooperate with U.S. foreign policy goals in the region.” Gause then reflected in 2011 that, “I was spectacularly wrong.”[19]

Marwan Muasher is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, a prominent American think tank, and was previously foreign minister and deputy prime minister in the Jordanian dictatorship. Following events in Tunisia, Muasher wrote an article for the Carnegie Endowment in which he explained why the events were not foreseen, noting that: “The traditional argument put forward in and out of the Arab world is that there is nothing wrong, everything is under control.” Thus, wrote Muasher, “entrenched forces argue that opponents and outsiders calling for reform are exaggerating the conditions on the ground,” an argument which he noted, “has been fundamentally undermined by the unfolding events in Tunisia.” Because Tunisia had comparably low economic problems, a small opposition, and a “strong security establishment,” it was thought that “the risk of revolt was considered low.” Muasher wrote: “It wasn’t supposed to happen in Tunisia and the fact that it did proves that fundamental political reforms – widening the decision-making process and combating corruption – are needed around the entire Arab world.”[20]

This concept of “there is nothing wrong, everything is under control,” has been referred to by Noam Chomsky as the “Muasher doctrine,” noting that this has been consistent U.S. policy in the region since at least 1958, when Eisenhower’s National Security Council acknowledged that the US supported dictators and opposed democracy, and that this was a rational policy to serve American interests in the region.[21]

There are, however, factions within the American elite that understand that the ‘Muasher Doctrine’ is unsustainable and that they must push for ‘reform’ within the Arab world over the short-term in order to ultimately maintain ‘order’ and ‘stability’ over the long term. This is where ‘democracy promotion’ comes into play.

U.S. Democracy Promotion in Egypt: A Hidden Plot or Hedging Bets?

Following the Arab Spring’s toppling of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, some commentators in the West have critically noted the U.S. and Western support for pro-democracy groups within the Arab world – likening them to the Western-funded ‘colour revolutions’ that swept several former Soviet bloc countries – and concluded that the Arab Spring was a U.S.-supported attempt at ‘regime change.’

Indeed, the United States and its Western allies provided extensive funding and organizational support to civil society groups, media organizations, activists and political parties in several countries where – through contested elections – they helped to overthrow entrenched political leaders, replacing them with more favourable leaders (in the eyes of the West). In Serbia, U.S. non-governmental and even governmental organizations poured funding into the organization Otpor which helped engineer the ousting of Milosevic, providing hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in support through organizations like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), among other agencies.[22]

As several former Soviet republics slowly ‘opened’ their societies, Western-funded NGOs and civil society organizations flooded in, with powerful financial backers. Over the course of years, funding, training, organizational support, technical and material support was provided for a number of organizations and political groups that helped overthrow regimes in Georgia (2003), the Ukraine (2004), and Kyrgyzstan (2005). Not only were there government funded NGOs involved, but also private foundations, such as billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Institute.[23]

These Western-backed ‘color revolutions’ included major organizational support from the local American embassies in whichever country they were seeking a change of government. The activists who made up Serbia’s Otpor organization aided in the training of other groups in countries like Ukraine. In Serbia, the U.S. government officially spent $41 million “organizing and funding” the operation to remove Milosevic. A primary strategy in funding these ‘colour revolutions’ was to organize the opposition within a country “behind a single candidate.”[24] Such Western organizations also provided extensive funding for so-called “independent” media networks to promote their particular agenda in the country, following a pattern set by the CIA some decades earlier in terms of covertly funding opposition groups and media outlets.[25]

In Ukraine, the Bush administration spent some $65 million over two years to aid in the ‘colour revolution’ which took place in 2004, and several other Western countries contributed to the process and funding as well, including Great Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.[26] Such immense funding programs trained hundreds of thousands of activists, and when elections and protests took place, tents, cameras, television screens, food and other equipment were provided en masse, and the events were met with an immediately favourable reception in the Western media.[27]

When it comes to Egypt and the Arab Spring, the United States did attempt to provide some funding and organizational support to various pro-democracy groups. The April 6 movement in Egypt, which was pivotal in organizing the January 25 protest in Cairo that led to the overthrow of Mubarak on February 11, was one group that received some U.S. support. Other groups in Bahrain and Yemen also received U.S. support. Egyptian youth leaders attended a ‘technology meeting’ in New York sponsored by the State Department, Facebook, Google, MTV and Colombia Law School, where they received training “to use social networking and mobile technologies to promote democracy.”[28]

One Egyptian youth leader commented upon the meeting and U.S. support, stating, “We learned how to organize and build coalitions… This certainly helped during the revolution.” Another Egyptian activist noted the hypocrisy of the U.S., which, while funding some pro-democracy groups, was providing billions in financial support to the military dictatorship the activists had to struggle under, stating, “While we appreciated the training we received through the NGOs sponsored by the U.S. government, and it did help us in our struggles, we are also aware that the same government also trained the state security investigative service, which was responsible for the harassment and jailing of many of us.”[29]

As several Wikileaks cables showed, however, the Western-backed Arab dictatorships were extremely suspicious of U.S.-supported democracy groups and activists. This was especially true in Egypt, where one cable from 2007 reported that Mubarak was “deeply skeptical of the U.S. role in democracy promotion.” The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs complained to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in 2006 about the “arrogant tactics in promoting reform in Egypt.” Mubarak’s son, Gamal, was described in one 2008 cable as being “irritable about direct U.S. democracy and governance funding of Egyptian NGOs.” Ultimately, the local dictatorships would increasingly clamp down on such organizations, attempting to prevent their functioning or interaction with Americans institutions.[30]

A December 2008 cable from the U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey in Cairo noted that one activist from the April 6 movement had met with U.S. government officials in the United States as well as with various think tanks. The activist (presumably Maher) reported to Scobey that the Egyptian government “will never undertake significant reform, and therefore, Egyptians need to replace the current regime with a parliamentary democracy,” noting that the activist further “alleged that several opposition parties and movements have accepted an unwritten plan for democratic transition by 2011.” However, Scobey added, “we are doubtful of this claim.” After noting that several April 6 activists had been arrested and harassed by the Egyptian dictatorship, Scobey continued: “April 6’s stated goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections is highly unrealistic, and is not supported by the mainstream opposition.”[31]

Scobey further reported that the April 6 activist told her that “Mubarak derives his legitimacy from U.S. support,” and thus, that the U.S. was “responsible” for Mubarak’s “crimes,” and the activist suggested that those NGOs which sought to promote “political and economic reform” were living in a “fantasy world.” Finally, Scobey noted, the activist “offered no roadmap of concrete steps toward April 6’s highly unrealistic goal of replacing the current regime with a parliamentary democracy prior to the 2011 presidential elections.” She then noted that most of the “opposition parties and independent NGOs work toward achieving tangible, incremental reform within the current political context,” and that the activists “wholesale rejection of such an approach places him outside this mainstream of opposition politicians and activists.”[32]

The U.S. government also provided assistance to many activists in the Arab world – including Egypt – in gaining access to technology which allows dissidents “to get online without being tracked or to visit news or social media sites that governments have blocked.” Many of the tech firms and non-profits that received funding saw huge increases in the use of their technology across the Arab world during the start of the Arab Spring, much to their surprise. As one tech firm executive stated, “We didn’t start this company to go against any government… and here we are impacting millions of people in the Middle East and helping revolutions in Tunisia and Libya. We didn’t set out to do this, but we really think it’s cool we’re doing this.”[33]

Such funding and organizational initiatives from the U.S. government and related institutions for pro-democracy groups in the Arab world, and notably Egypt, has led some commentators to suggest that the Arab Spring is simply the Middle Eastern version of the U.S.-sponsored ‘colour revolutions’ over the previous decade, even writing that such U.S.-supported activist groups “indelibly serve US interests” in terms of “controlling the political opposition,” to “ensure that the US funded civil society opposition will not direct their energies against the puppet masters behind the Mubarak regime, namely the US government.”[34]

There are some fundamental problems with this position. A 2011 article in EurasiaNet noted that while there were “some similarities” between the Arab Spring and the Color Revolutions the previous decade, “there are key differences as well,” primary among them being that the Arab dictatorships “were far more authoritarian and brutal than their counterparts in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine,” which meant that the Color Revolutions “occurred in more semi-democratic contexts, in which the regimes… allowed for more media and political freedom, and were generally less repressive.” Further, the Color Revolutions based their model for ‘regime change’ exclusively upon “an electoral breakthrough in which ballot fraud became the focal point around which the civic and political opposition could rally.” Such was not the case in Tunisia or Egypt, where the sparks for revolution were unforeseen and rapid, “suggesting that the electoral breakthrough model is only possible in countries where there is some degree of political pluralism,” noted Lincoln Mitchell, an Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University.[35]

Further, the Color Revolutions had a “geopolitical element” in which they were incorporated into the “freedom agenda” of the Bush administration, and “occurred in countries that had been the beneficiaries of ample US democracy assistance.” While the U.S. was credited – or accused (depending upon who was speaking) – of having “an almost magical role in organizing the opposition, spreading democracy, funding various organizations and the like,” in the context of the Arab Spring, “social networking technology has displaced the United States as the apparent catalyst for protest,” with Twitter and Facebook being “perceived as the magic explanatory variable.”[36]

Indeed, while the U.S. provided funding for several dissident groups in the Arab world, it was not comparable in to the previous ‘Color Revolutions’ in terms of dollars, training, equipment or technical assistance in any capacity. The dissidents were not organized around a single leader or singular oppositional group, and while the U.S. Embassies were establishing contacts with dissidents, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest they were heavily involved or ‘directing’ them. The fact that much of the assistance for dissidents was in the form of training and gaining access to technologies is also noteworthy. Technology – in and of itself – is neutral: it can be used for good or not. It is entirely dependent upon how the person(s) using it choose to wield it. The United States sought to help activists gain access to technologies to work around the authoritarian regimes (which the US was supporting with billions in military and economic aid), and to slowly push for ‘reforms.’ The U.S. can help activists with getting training and access to technologies, but it has no control over how those activists ultimately utilize these technologies.

Further, as was revealed by the 2008 diplomatic cable from the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, while the Embassy and U.S. government had established contact with the April 6 Movement, Scobey portrayed their objectives as “highly unrealistic,” and the unnamed activist in the cable even stressed that the U.S. was “responsible” for the “crimes” of Mubarak. The cable stressed that the U.S. was in contact with mainstream opposition forces in Egypt, none of which were determining factors in the revolution, whereas the April 6 Movement, as Scobey noted, was “outside this mainstream of opposition and activists,” proposing the “unrealistic goal of replacing the current regime.”[37]

The U.S. interest in doing this was not altruistic, of course, but was ultimately aimed at ‘hedging their bets.’ Certainly, the U.S. government would be seeking to use activists and dissident groups for its own purposes, but one must also acknowledge that activists and dissident groups use the U.S. government (and its funding) for their own purposes. The State Department and USAID (which provide the majority of funding for pro-democracy groups and activists from the U.S. government) know what they are told by those groups, what the groups write in reports and grant applications. In a country like Egypt, which was ruled by a repressive military dictator for three decades, sources of funding for democracy projects and activism is not easy to come by. As an activist, you would likely take whatever sources of funding and support you could get, so long as you can use the access and support for your own objectives, which is exactly what the April 6 Movement did.

Indeed, in the Arab world, the United States and its Western allies have not been interested in promoting revolution, but rather an incremental process of reform. Top US policy planners at the Council on Foreign Relations produced a report – and strategic blueprint – for the United States to follow in 2005, entitled, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How, co-chaired by former Clinton-era Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who sits on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Institute, and is chair of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, one of the major pro-democracy funding groups based out of the US.

The other co-chair of the Task Force report was Vin Weber, former Congressman and member of the board of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the primary ‘democracy promotion’ organization funded by the U.S. government. Other members of the Task Force which produced the report held previous or present affiliations with First National Bank of Chicago, Occidental Petroleum, the Carnegie Endowment, the World Bank, Brookings Institution, Hoover Institution, the U.S. State Department, National Security Council, National Intelligence Council, the American Enterprise Institute, the IMF, AOL-Time Warner, and Goldman Sachs.[38] In other words, the strategic blueprint for promoting ‘democracy’ in the Arab world was developed by major U.S. strategic and corporate elites, including those who literally run the major democracy promotion organizations (including those that funded such groups in Egypt and elsewhere).

So what did the report have to say about the American Empire’s strategy for promoting democracy in the Arab world? Firstly, the report noted that, while “democracy entails certain inherent risks, the denial of freedom carries much more significant long-term dangers. If Arab citizens are able to express grievances freely and peacefully, they will be less likely to turn to more extreme measures.” Thus, the report noted, “the United States should promote the development of democratic institutions and practices over the long term, mindful that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside and that sudden, traumatic change is neither necessary nor desirable.” Most importantly, however, the report noted: “America’s goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution.”[39]

So how can we interpret this? Democracy, as the United States defines it, is more “secure” precisely because it provides an institutional framework in which control may still be exercised, but where there are various degrees of freedom, enough to allow social pressures to be released, dissent to exist, and thus, contribute to the overall stability of a society through building consent to the power structures which rule it. Dictatorships are supported by coercion, not consent.

As America’s most influential political commentator of his time, Walter Lippmann, articulated in the 1920s, that modern democracies required the “manufacture of consent” of the public by the powerful, because “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us [elites] may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.” Manufacturing the consent of the public to the social order – and its prevailing power structures and hierarchies – would allow for “the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.” A system in which the public’s consent was manufactured, noted Lippmann, “would provide the modern state with a foundation upon which a new stability might be realized.”[40]

That “stability” has been understood by U.S. elites for nearly a century, and it is known to be built upon the “manufacture of consent.” This is why the Task Force report on promoting Arab democracy noted that, “the denial of freedom carries much more significant long-term dangers.” The Arab Spring revolutions did not follow the criteria established by the U.S. strategy, which specifically said that, “sudden, traumatic change is neither necessary nor desirable,” though it is exactly what took place, and of course, that democracy should be promoted through “evolution, not revolution.” As the Task Force report further noted, there was a risk that, “if Washington pushes Arab leaders too hard on reform, contributing to the collapse of friendly Arab governments, this would likely have a deleterious effect on regional stability, peace, and counterterrorism operations.” While instability may arise “in the short term” from promoting democracy, the report suggested, “a policy geared toward maintaining the authoritarian status quo in the Middle East poses greater risks to U.S. interests and foreign policy goals.”[41]

For the United States and its Western allies, “democracy” is not the goal, but rather a means to a goal. The goal is, always has been, and always will be, “stability and prosperity;” control and profit. When the dictatorships fail to bring about stability and prosperity, “democracy” – so long as it is constructed along Western liberal state-capitalist lines – will be the preferred option. The European Union, when reporting on its own efforts to promote democracy in the Mediterranean region, noted that, “we believe that democracy, good governance, rule of law, and gender equality are essential for stability and prosperity.” In other words, democracy is not the goal: control and profit are the goals. The means are merely incidental, whether they be through dictatorships, or top-down democratic structures.[42]

The problem in the Arab world is deepened for the United States when one looks at public opinion polls from the region. Just prior to the outbreak of protests in Tunisia, a major Western poll on Arab public opinion was conducted by the University of Maryland and Zogby International, published in the summer of 2010. The results were very interesting, noting that only 5% and 6% of respondents in 2010 believed that “promoting democracy” and “spreading human rights” were the two factors (respectively) which were most important in America’s foreign policy in the region. At the top of the list of priorities, with 49% and 45% respectively, were “protecting Israel” and “controlling oil,” followed by 33% each for “weakening the Muslim world” and “preserving regional and global dominance.”[43]

Further, 92% of respondents felt that Iran has a right to its nuclear program if it is peaceful, and 70% feel that right remains even if Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. Roughly 57% of respondents felt that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, things would be “more positive” for the region, compared to 21% who thought it would be “more negative.” The poll asked which two countries posed the largest threat to the region, with Israel at 88% and the United States at 77%, while Iran was viewed as one of the two major threats to the region by only 10% of respondents, just above China and equal to Algeria.[44]

In other words, if truly representative – or genuine – democracies emerged in the region, they would be completely counter to U.S. strategic interests in the region, and thus, real democracy in the Arab world is not in the American interest. Top-down democracy, however, largely influenced by Western ideas and institutions, in which people are able to select between a couple parties which articulate social differences but implement largely identical economic and strategic policies, is an ideal circumstance for imperial powers.

Interestingly, Barack Obama’s 2010 budget sought to cut funding for democracy and governance aid to both Egypt and Jordan by roughly 40%, and for Egypt specifically, “funding has been cut by nearly 75 per cent for pro-democracy NGOs of which the Egyptian government does not approve.” These are hardly the actions of an American government seeking to implement ‘regime change’ through funding pro-democracy groups. Michele Dunne, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment, a major U.S. based think tank, noted that the cuts to funding pro-democracy groups in Egypt (and elsewhere) show that, “the Obama administration has decided on a more conciliatory approach toward the autocratic regimes, such as Egypt’s, that dominate Middle Eastern politics.”[45]

While funding for democracy groups in Egypt was cut by 75% for 2010, U.S. aid to the Egyptian government would amount to $1.55 billion for 2010, of which $1.3 billion was in the form of military aid. Michele Dunne noted, “My conversations with members of the [Obama] administration have made it clear that they did not want economic assistance to irritate the Egyptian government,” whereas the Bush administration’s funding for civil society groups in Egypt had caused a great deal of frustration from Mubarak and his regime. Under Bush, such funding had “doubled and tripled.” Under Obama, much of this was undone. Safwat Girgis, who runs two Egyptian-based NGOs, said that Obama’s “decision is in the best interest of the Egyptian government, not the people nor the civil society organizations… In my opinion, this is just an exchange of interests between Egypt and the United States.”[46]

The ‘Liberal Opposition’ in Egypt

When powerful Western states seek to influence or manage ‘transitions to democracy,’ they generally support whatever elite most closely resembles themselves, usually a variation of liberal democratic state-capitalist groups. But whatever dominant institutions pre-exist in that society have to be integrated with the new ‘method’ of governance (political parties, elections, etc.), though the pre-existing oligarchy generally remains in charge. Transitions to ‘democracy’ are promoted by the American Empire as if the United States had some sort of ‘God complex,’ seeking to remake the world in its own image… or delusion, rather.

Political parties need to be organized. Those which are more ‘Western’ are deemed more acceptable to Western elites, usually the ‘liberal democrats,’ or some variation thereof. In Egypt, there was not such an organized opposition in time for the revolution. There were attempts within Egypt to develop a liberal opposition, but the dictatorship kept a firm fist over political life. One such liberal opposition figure was Mohamed ElBaradei, an international diplomat who had, for decades, lived in the West.

In 2009, the former head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, announced that he would consider running for president of Egypt in the planned 2011 elections, commenting, “I have been listening tentatively, and deeply appreciate the calls for my candidacy for president.” He explained that he would “only consider it if there is a free and fair election, and that is a question mark still in Egypt.” ElBaradei received support in running for president from the liberal Wafd party, as well as from groups within the Kefaya (“Enough”) movement.[47]

As ElBaradei arrived in Egypt in February of 2010, he was greeted by hundreds of Egyptians welcoming him, hopeful for his potential presidential bid. The first multiparty elections in Egypt were held in 2005, though the entire process was “marred by fraud,” unsurprisingly. While 2011 was set to have a follow-up election, most assumed that Hosni Mubarak would attempt to hand power over to his son, Gamal.[48] That same month, ElBaradei announced that he was going to form “a national association for change” in Egypt, opening the invite for “anyone who wanted a change to the ruling party” to join the association, following talks with several opposition figures and civil society leaders, including a representative of the Muslim brotherhood.[49] The National Association for Change would have as its “main target” to “be pushing for constitutional reforms and social justice,” explained ElBaradei.[50]

In June of 2010, the Muslim Brotherhood officially endorsed the ‘reform campaign’ of ElBaradei, following a meeting between ElBaradei and Said al Katani, the leader of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc. Both the Brotherhood and ElBaradei’s National Association for Change announced that they would plan to co-ordinate and work together in the future on promoting reform in Egypt.[51]

The National Association for Change (NAC) created a petition which called for constitutional amendments allowing independent political candidates to run in the upcoming election, as well as providing independent supervision of the elections. Only 70,000 signatures were attached to the petition within a few months, though ElBaradei had been anticipating millions. ElBaradei had been hoping for mass protests and a boycott against the upcoming legislative elections planned for the fall of 2010, commenting that, “anyone who will participate in this charade will be giving legitimacy or pseudo-legitimacy to a regime desperate to get legitimacy.” ElBaradei also extended his criticisms to the Egyptian population, suggesting that there was “a high level of apathy and despair that anything is going to change,” and that “people need to mature… I can be a leader if I have the people behind me. I can’t bring about change single-handed.”[52]

The following month of July 2010, Mohamed ElBaradei was appointed to the board of trustees of the International Crisis Group (ICG). The ICG describes its goals as being to work “through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict,” producing “regular analytical reports containing practical recommendations targeted at key international decision-takers.”

The board of trustees was made up of a number of prominent Western elites from the state, military, think tanks, corporations and international organizations, including: Thomas Pickering, former US Ambassador; George Soros, billionaire investor and chair of the Open Society Institute; Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General (now on the international advisory board of JPMorgan Chase); Samuel Berger, former U.S. National Security Adviser and chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group; Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander; Carla A. Hills, former U.S. trade representative and member of numerous corporate boards; Jessica Tuchman Matthews, the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Javier Solana, former NATO Secretary-General, among many others.[53]

Senior advisers to the International Crisis Group also include Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi Ambassador to the United States; former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico, among many other former top government officials and current corporate and think tank leaders.[54]

Further revealing how entrenched the ICG is within the Western imperial establishment, roughly 49% of its funding comes from governments, including the foreign affairs departments and aid agencies of the governments of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Roughly 20% of the ICG’s funding comes from private foundations, such as the Carnegie Corporation, Elders Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Open Society Foundations (run by the Soros family), the Radcliffe Foundation, Stanley Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Private sector support for the ICG accounts for 31% of its funding, from individuals and institutions such as: Dow Chemical, McKinsey & Company, Anglo American PLC, BG Group, BP, Chevron, Shell, Statoil, the Clinton Family Foundation, ENI, and many others.[55]

Western elites were obviously taking note of potential changes in Egypt, and certain groups within elite circles seek to get ahead of change and try to steer ‘reforms’ into safe areas (for entrenched power structures). They were aiming to encourage ‘reform’ in Egypt, not revolution. The International Crisis Group (ICG) is a good example of this, an organization with a focus on monitoring and providing ‘advice’ to states and other powerful institutions on preventing and managing crises, bringing together corporate, financial, ‘philanthropic,’ strategic and intellectual power players into a single institution. Inviting Mohamed ElBaradei into the group was an opening to attempt to bring Egypt’s potential future leadership more closely aligned with the interests and ideas of the Western elite. When ElBaradei returned to Egypt once again – though days after the uprising began – he suspended his membership with the International Crisis Group.[56]

Mohamed ElBaradei, after forming the National Association for Change in Egypt, spent most of his summer in 2010 abroad, though he returned in September to meet with opposition groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, at the Brotherhood’s annual Ramadan iftar banquet, where one leader from the Kefaya movement lambasted the Brotherhood for not taking an official stance in announcing it would boycott the coming legislative elections. Since the Brotherhood was the only large organized opposition within Egypt, the more liberal-leaning opposition groups formed a tenuous alliance with the organization.[57]

As a leader in the National Association for Change – Cairo University political scientist Hassan Nafaa – said: “We are forced to come together.” A spokesperson for the Brotherhood commented, “There are now only two possibilities: the regime or the Muslim Brotherhood.” Still, the Brotherhood, which held the largest opposition seats in the Parliament (with 20% of the total), “has been careful not to criticize Mubarak directly and insists it would never nominate its own candidate for the presidency.” The official stance of the Brotherhood has, however, “alienated many of its most active young members,” many of whom resigned in protest. Mohamed Salmawy, the president of the Egyptian Writers’ Union, referred to the Brotherhood, saying, “They can never come up with a real platform… If they did, it would give them away. They would be found out as people who do not believe in democracy.”[58]

That same month, ElBaradei went on to call for a national boycott of the elections and told several activists that, “regime change was possible in the coming year.” The National Association for Change had compiled nearly one million signatures demanding constitutional change, and ElBaradei commented, “If the whole people boycott the elections it will be, in my view, the end of the regime.”[59]

Intelligent Imperialism: The Working Group on Egypt

The Working Group on Egypt was formed in April of 2010 as a co-operative effort by officials from multiple prominent U.S. think tanks to encourage a change in policy toward Egypt, and more specifically, to encourage ‘democratic reforms.’ The Working Group consisted of nine different individuals: Elliott Abrams, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, former State Department official who also served on the National Security Council in both the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations; Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, former senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former member of the State Department in the Reagan administration, and he also currently sits on the Secretary of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board; Scott Carpenter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, previously served as a Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush administration, and served as an adviser in managing the Iraqi occupation, previously having worked with the International Republican Institute (IRI); Ambassador Edward Walker of the Middle East Institute, a former Assistant Secretary of State and ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

Other members of the Working Group included: Tom Malinowski, a director of Human Rights Watch, and former member of the National Security Council in the Clinton administration and former speechwriter for Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright; Ellen Bork of the Foreign Policy Initiative, former director at Freedom House, former deputy director of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), former State Department official and member of the Council on Foreign Relations; Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recognized as a ‘foremost’ authority on democracy-assistance programs, he served in the State Department working with USAID on ‘democracy assistance’ to Latin America during the Reagan administration; Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment, a former member of the National Security Council staff and the State Department’s Policy Planning staff, she also served as a diplomat in Israel and Egypt, and currently is a vice president at the Atlantic Council and is on the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy; and Daniel Calingaert, vice president of Freedom House, formerly with the International Republican Institute (IRI), and was a researcher at RAND Corporation.

Of the nine officials that make up the Working Group on Egypt, Calingaert was the only one who did not previously serve on the National Security Council or State Department. Moreover, several of the most influential U.S.-based ‘democracy promotion’ organizations were heavily represented in the Group, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, and Freedom House.

Thomas Carothers, a member of the Working Group, is considered by the major think tanks and establishment journals to be “one of the world’s foremost experts on democracy building.”[60] In 1997, he wrote an article explaining the general strategy of “democracy assistance” by the United States, primarily focused on supporting ‘institutions’ that the state views as “constituent elements of democracy.” This is broken down into three areas, providing support to “the electoral arena, governmental institutions, and civil society.” In the electoral arena, the focus is on providing for “free and fair elections.” They also “aid” in the development of political parties, “primarily through technical assistance and training on campaign methods and institutional development,” with the ultimate aim of creating a “party system” in which there are several different parties which differ only in “mild ideological shadings.”[61]

In terms of providing assistance to ‘governmental institutions,’ Carothers noted the U.S. democracy aid “seeks to help build democracy from the top down,” as opposed to allowing for democracy to generate from the bottom up (aka: genuine democracy). One of the primary facets of this program is for the U.S. to “aid” in the writing of a new constitution, “to help steer the country toward adopting a constitution that guarantees democratic government and a full range of political and civil rights,” of course including private property rights for corporations and specific privileges for elites.[62]

The U.S. also offers “assistance” in helping to form parliamentary bodies and undertake “judicial reform… to increase the efficiency and independence of judicial systems.” In terms of support to ‘civil society,’ U.S. assistance tends to pour into NGOs, the media, and unions. The key determinant of support for NGOs is if they “seek to influence governmental policy on some specific set of issues.” Support for media aims to make it an “independent, professionalized media,” which is to say, corporate controlled; and support for unions, Carothers explained, was an older ‘assistance’ program by the U.S. government aimed at building up unions “not affiliated with leftist political parties or movements.” Again, for the United States, “democracy” is all about “top down,” which is to say, democracy engineered by (and for) elites.[63]

In their first statement, issued to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in April of 2010, the Working Group urged Clinton “to promote democratic reform in Egypt in advance of the upcoming elections,” warning that, “rather than progressing gradually on a path of desirable reform, Egypt is instead sliding backwards into increased authoritarianism.” Noting that, “Egypt is at a critical turning point,” the Working Group recommended that the Egyptian government should respond “to demands for responsible political change… [and] face the future as a more democratic nation with greater domestic and international support,” which is to say, ‘order and stability.'[64]

If this is not done, they warned, “prospects for stability and prosperity in Egypt will be in doubt,” which would “have serious consequences for the United States, Egypt’s neighbors, the U.S.-Egyptian relationship, and regional stability.” The United States, they wrote, “has a stake in the path Egypt takes.” Noting that Egypt had a massive population of unemployed youth, the statement declared: “To fulfill expectations and to prevent the onset of frustration and radicalism, Egypt must expand citizens’ say in how they are governed,” explaining that there was “now an opportunity to support gradual, responsible democratic reform,” noting that the longer the U.S. waits, “the harder it will be to reverse a dangerous trend.”[65]

The Working Group sent a follow-up letter to Clinton the next month, upon Mubarak’s decision to extend the “state of emergency” (which he initially passed when he came to power in 1981) for another two years, noting that the situation “heightens our concern that the administration’s practice of quiet diplomacy is not bearing fruit,” and that, “we are more convinced than ever of the importance of U.S. engagement… the United States is uniquely positioned to engage the Egyptian government and civil society and encourage them along a path toward reform. The time to use that leverage is now.”[66]

Noting that when rebels ousted the corrupt Kyrgyzstan government in April of 2010, the population complained of the U.S.’s silence in the face of rigged elections and human rights abuses, “placing a clear priority on strategic cooperation with the government.” Watch out, Kagan and Dunne warned: “If the Obama administration does not figure out how to make clear that it supports the political and human rights of Egyptian citizens, while cooperating with the Egyptian government on diplomatic and security affairs, people will be saying that about the United States in Cairo one of these days – and maybe sooner than we expect.”[67]

In November of 2010, members of the Working Group on Egypt held a meeting with members of the Obama administration’s National Security Council staff, including Dennis Ross, Samantha Power, Pradeep Ramamurthy, Dan Shapiro, and Gayle Smith. The meeting was “to discuss Egypt’s upcoming elections, prospects for political reform, and the implications for U.S. policy.”[68]

The Working Group on Egypt was made up of a group of strategists from the dominant think tanks and ‘democracy’ promotion organizations embedded within the U.S. elite establishment, organized in an effort to promote a strategy which would secure long-term Western interests in the Arab world and Egypt in particular, pushing for ‘democratic’ reforms in order to placate the inevitable tide of history from tossing the United States out of Egypt in a revolutionary fervor. When the uprising began, and thereafter, those involved with the Working Group on Egypt became increasingly influential within U.S. policy circles, most notably at the National Security Council (NSC).

The Secret Report

In August of 2010, Obama issued a Presidential Study Directive to be undertaken by some of his advisers “to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world.” The 18-page report was produced by Dennis Ross, the senior adviser on the Middle East, and senior director of the National Security Council Samantha Power, along with another NSC staffer, Gayle Smith. Weekly meetings were held between these officials and representatives from the State Department, CIA, and other agencies. The conclusions of the report were – as the New York Times reported – “without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt,” with particular ‘flashpoints’ being identified, including Egypt.[69]

The report suggested that proposals be put forward on how to pressure Arab regimes to implement reforms before such circumstances arose. A senior official who helped draft the report later commented, “There’s no question Egypt was very much on the mind of the president… You had all the unknowns created by Egypt’s succession picture – and Egypt is the anchor of the region.”[70]

Yemen, long ruled by Ali Abdullah Saleh, was another nation that figured prominently in the report. Another administration official acknowledged that with rising youth populations, increasingly educated, yet with few economic opportunities and access to social media and the Internet, there was a “real prescription for trouble… whether it was Yemen or other countries in the region, you saw a set of trends.” Obama also pressed his advisers to look at the popular uprisings in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia to draw parallels and assess successes and failures. The report laid out a basis upon which the U.S. attempted to navigate its initial strategy during the uprisings of the Arab Spring.[71]

Imperial Dilemma: Choosing Dictatorship or Democracy?

The stage was set, change was inevitable, strategy was lagging – though developing – and the empire was thrown into a crisis when Egypt’s 18-day revolt took the world by shock. When one of the most important strategic ‘allies’ (aka: proxies) of the United States was thrown into a crisis in the form of a popular domestic uprising against the U.S.-subsidized dictatorship, the American Empire attempted to dance its way between the rhetoric – and strategic interest – of ‘democracy’ and the known stability and comfort of dictatorship. This dance over the 18-day uprising will be the focus of the next part in this series.

This report described some of the key ideas and characters that would become intimately involved in attempting to manage the situation within Egypt during the 18-day revolt and in the years since the uprising overthrew Mubarak. From the dictatorship, to democracy-promotion, and Egypt’s ‘liberal opposition,’ the Obama administration – and most especially the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council (often working closely with the Working Group on Egypt) sought to manage the dance between dictatorship and democracy for the Arab world’s most populous country in the midst of a popular uprising.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

 

Notes

[1] Justin Webb, “Obama interview: the transcript,” BBC, 2 June 2009:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2009/06/090602_obama_transcript.shtml

[2] Political Punch, “Secretary Clinton in 2009: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family”,” ABC News, 31 January 2011:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/01/secretary-clinton-in-2009-i-really-consider-president-and-mrs-mubarak-to-be-friends-of-my-family/

[3] Simon Tisdall, “WikiLeaks cables cast Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s ruler for life,” The Guardian, 9 December 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/09/wikileaks-cables-hosni-mubarak-succession

[4] Ibid.

[5] Luke Harding, “WikiLeaks cables show close US relationship with Egyptian president,” The Guardian, 28 January 2011:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/28/wikileaks-cairo-cables-egypt-president

[6] Mark Landler and Andrew W. Lehren, “Cables Show Delicate U.S. Dealings With Egypt’s Leaders,” The New York Times, 27 January 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/middleeast/28diplo.html?pagewanted=all

[7] Jeffrey Fleishman, “WikiLeaks: Diplomatic cables show Egyptian leader’s acrimony with Iran,” The Los Angeles Times, 29 November 2010:

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/29/world/la-fg-wikileaks-arabs-20101130

[8] Press Release, “Remarks by President Obama and President Mubarak of Egypt During Press Availability,” The White House, 18 August 2009:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-President-Obama-and-President-Mubarak-of-Egypt-during-press-availability

[9] Anne E. Kornblut and Mary Beth Sheridan, “Obama Optimistic About Mideast Peace,” The Washington Post, 19 August 2009:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-08-19/world/36857472_1_egyptian-president-hosni-mubarak-president-obama-egypt-and-jordan

[10] Michael Slackman, “Mubarak to Tell U.S. Israel Must Make Overture,” The New York Times, 16 August 2009:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/17/world/middleeast/17mubarak.html

[11] Richard Falk, “Ben Ali Tunisia was model US client,” Al-Jazeera, 25 January 2011:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/01/201112314530411972.html

[12] Daya Gamage, “Massive U.S. Military Aid to Tunisia despite human rights abuses,” Asian Tribune, 18 January 2011:

http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2011/01/18/massive-us-military-aid-tunisia-despite-human-rights-abuses

[13] NYT, “Challenges Facing Countries Across North Africa and the Middle East,” The New York Times, 17 February 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/0217-mideast-region-graphic.html

[14] Samer al-Atrush, “Tunisia: Why the Jasmine Revolution won’t bloom,” The Telegraph, 16 January 2011:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/tunisia/8261961/Tunisia-Why-the-Jasmine-Revolution-wont-bloom.html

[15] Steven Erlanger, “France Seen Wary of Interfering in Tunisia Crisis,” The New York Times, 16 January 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/world/africa/17france.html

[16] Angelique Chrisafis, “Sarkozy admits France made mistakes over Tunisia,” The Guardian, 24 January 2011:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jan/24/nicolas-sarkozy-tunisia-protests

[17] Raj M. Desai, Anders Olofsgard, and Tarik M. Yousef, “The Logic of Authoritarian Bargains,” Economics & Politics (Vol. 21, No. 1, March 2009), pages 93-94.

[18] Raj M. Desai, Anders Olofsgard and Tarik Yousef, “Is the Arab Authoritarian Bargain Collapsing?,” The Brookings Institution, 9 February 2011:

http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2011/02/09-arab-economies-desai-yousef

[19] F. Gregory Gause III, “Why Middle East Studies Missed the Arab Spring: The Myth of Authoritarian Stability,” Foreign Affairs (Vol. 90, No. 4, July/August 2011), pages 81-82.

[20] Marwan Muasher, “Tunisia’s Crisis and the Arab World,” the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 24 January 2011:

http://carnegieendowment.org/2011/01/24/tunisia-s-crisis-and-arab-world/1n0e

[21] Noam Chomsky, “Is the world too big to fail?,” Al-Jazeera, 29 September 2011:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/09/201192514364490977.html

[22] Roger Cohen, “Who Really Brought Down Milosevic?” The New York Times, 26 November 2000:

http://www.nytimes.com/2000/11/26/magazine/who-really-brought-down-milosevic.html

[23] Philip Shishkin, “In Putin’s Backyard, Democracy Stirs — With U.S. Help,” The Wall Street Journal, 25 February 2005:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB110929289650463886.html

[24] Ian Traynor, “US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev,” The Guardian, 26 November 2004:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.usa

[25] Mark Almond, “The price of People Power,” The Guardian, 7 December 2004:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/dec/07/ukraine.comment

[26] Matt Kelley, “U.S. money has helped opposition in Ukraine,” Associated Press, 11 December 2004:

http://www.utsandiego.com/uniontrib/20041211/news_1n11usaid.html

[27] Daniel Wolf, “A 21st century revolt,” The Guardian, 13 May 2005:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/may/13/ukraine.features11 ;

Craig S. Smith, “U.S. Helped to Prepare the Way for Kyrgyzstan’s Uprising,” The New York Times, 30 March 2005:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9806E4D9123FF933A05750C0A9639C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all ;

John Laughland, “The mythology of people power,” The Guardian, 1 April 2005:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/01/usa.russia ;

Jonathan Steele, “Ukraine’s postmodern coup d’etat,” The Guardian, 26 November 2004:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/26/ukraine.comment

[28] Ron Nixon, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” The New York Times, 14 April 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/world/15aid.html?pagewanted=all

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] “Egypt protests: secret US document discloses support for protesters,” The Telegraph, 28 January 2011:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8289698/Egypt-protests-secret-US-document-discloses-support-for-protesters.html

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ian Shapira, “U.S. funding tech firms that help Mideast dissidents evade government censors,” The Washington Post, 10 March 2011:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/09/AR2011030905716.html

[34] Michel Chossudovsky, “The Protest Movement in Egypt: “Dictators” do not Dictate, They Obey Orders,” Global Research, 29 January 2011:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-protest-movement-in-egypt-dictators-do-not-dictate-they-obey-orders/22993

[35] Lincoln Mitchell, “North Africa through the Lens of the Color Revolutions,” EurasiaNet, 4 February 2011:

http://www.eurasianet.org/node/62832

[36] Ibid.

[37] “Egypt protests: secret US document discloses support for protesters,” The Telegraph, 28 January 2011:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8289698/Egypt-protests-secret-US-document-discloses-support-for-protesters.html

[38] Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How (Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, 2005), pages 49-54.

[39] Ibid, pages 3-4.

[40] Andrew Gavin Marshall, “‘A Lot of People Believe This Stuff’: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations,” Andrewgavinmarshall.com, 7 September 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/09/07/a-lot-of-people-believe-this-stuff-bill-clinton-barack-obama-and-the-politics-of-public-relations/

[41] Madeleine Albright and Vin Weber, In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How (Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, 2005), pages 12-13.

[42] Michelle Pace, “Paradoxes and contradictions in EU democracy promotion in the Mediterranean: the limits of EU normative power,” Democratization (Vol. 16, No. 1, February 2009), page 42.

[43] Report, “2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll: Results of Arab Opinion Survey Conducted June 29-July 20, 2010,” The Brookings Institution, 5 August 2010:

http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2010/08/05-arab-opinion-poll-telhami

[44] Ibid.

[45] Matt Bradley, “Egypt’s democracy groups fear shift in US policy will harm their work,” The National, 29 January 2010:

http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/africa/egypts-democracy-groups-fear-shift-in-us-policy-will-harm-their-work

[46] Ibid.

[47] Opposition hopeful for an ElBaradei presidential run,” The National, 6 December 2009:

http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/opposition-hopeful-for-an-elbaradei-presidential-run

[48] Abigail Hauslohner, “Will ElBaradei Run for President of Egypt?” Time Magazine, 20 February 2010:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1966922,00.html

[49] “ElBaradei to form ‘national association for change’,” BBC News, 24 February 2010:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8534365.stm

[50] Amro Hassan and Jeffrey Fleishman, “Egypt’s Mohamed ElBaradei creates National Front for Change,” The Los Angeles Times, 24 February 2010:

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/24/world/la-fg-egypt-elbaradei25-2010feb25

[51] Matt Bradley, “Brotherhood sides with ElBaradei,” The National, 6 June 2010:

http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/brotherhood-sides-with-elbaradei

[52] Nadia Abou el Magd, “Mohammed ElBaradei, Egypt’s wake-up caller,” The National, 26 June 2010:

http://www.thenational.ae/news/mohammed-elbaradei-egypts-wake-up-caller#full

[53] Brussels, “Crisis Group Announces New Board Members,” International Crisis Group, 1 July 2010:

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/media-releases/2010/crisis-group-announces-new-board-members.aspx

[54] ICG, “Crisis Group Senior Advisers,” International Crisis Group:

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/about/~/link.aspx?_id=AFAAD992BC154C93B71B1E76D6151F3F&_z=z

[55] ICG, “Who Supports Crisis Group?” The International Crisis Group, funding for the year ending 30 June 2012:

http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/support/who-supports-crisisgroup.aspx

[56] International Crisis Group, “Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (I): Egypt Victorious?” Middle East/North Africa Report, (No. 101, 24 February 2011), page 4 (footnote #33).

[57] Thanassis Cambanis, “Thin Line for Group of Muslims in Egypt,” The New York Times, 5 September 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/06/world/middleeast/06egypt.html?pagewanted=all

[58] Ibid.

[59] Jack Shenker, “Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei urges election boycott,” The Guardian, 7 September 2010:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/07/egypt-mohamed-elbaradei

[60] Thomas Carothers, “Think Again: Arab Democracy,” Foreign Policy, 10 March 2011:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/10/think_again_arab_democracy

[61] Thomas Carothers, “Democracy Assistance: The Question of Strategy,” Democratization (Vol. 4, No. 3, Autumn 1997), pages 112-113.

[62] Ibid, page 113.

[63] Ibid, pages 113-114.

[64] Working Group on Egypt, “A Letter to Secretary Clinton From the Working Group on Egypt,” Carnegie Middle East Center, 7 April 2010:

http://carnegie-mec.org/2010/04/07/letter-to-secretary-clinton-from-working-group-on-egypt/b983

[65] Ibid.

[66] The Working Group on Egypt, “A Second Letter to Clinton from the Working Group on Egypt,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 12 May 2010:

http://carnegieendowment.org/2010/05/12/second-letter-to-clinton-from-working-group-on-egypt/9je

[67] Michele Dunne and Robert Kagan, “Obama needs to support Egyptians as well as Mubarak,” The Washington Post, 4 June 2010:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060303935.html

[68] Press Release, “Working Group on Egypt meets with NSC staff,” The Carnegie Endowment for International peace, 2 November 2010:

http://carnegieendowment.org/2010/11/02/working-group-on-egypt-meets-with-nsc-staff/q0c

[69] Mark Landler, “Secret Report Ordered by Obama Identified Potential Uprisings,” The New York Times, 16 February 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/17diplomacy.html

[70] Ibid.

[71] Ibid.

Large Corporations Seek U.S.–European ‘Free Trade Agreement’ to Further Global Dominance

Large Corporations Seek U.S.–European ‘Free Trade Agreement’ to Further Global Dominance

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is the latest plan of conglomerates to strengthen their grip over the planet.

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at: AlterNet

Image
Shutterstock.com/Nightman1965
 
A corporate world order is emerging, and like any parasite, it is slowly killing off its host. Unfortunately, the “host” happens to be the planet, and all life upon and within it. So, while the extinction of the species will be the end result of passively accepting a corporate-driven world, on the other hand, it’s very profitable for those corporations and their shareholders.
 

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the latest corporate-driven agenda in what is commonly called a “free trade agreement,” but which really amounts to  ‘cosmopolitical corporate consolidation’: large corporations dictating and directing the policies of states – both nationally and internationally – into constructing structures which facilitate regional and global consolidation of financial, economic, and political power into the hands of relatively few large corporations.

Such agreements have little to do with actual ‘trade,’ and everything to do with expanding the rights and powers of large corporations. Corporations have become powerful economic and political entities – competing in size and wealth with the world’s largest national economies – and thus have taken on a distinctly ‘cosmopolitical’ nature. Acting through industry associations, lobby groups, think tanks and foundations, cosmopolitical corporations are engineering large projects aimed at transnational economic and political consolidation of power… into their hands. With the construction of “a European-American free-trade zone” as “an ambitious project,” we are witnessing the advancement of a new and unprecedented global project of transatlantic corporate colonization.

The Atlantic Fortress as “Grand Strategy”

In a 2006 article for Der Spiegel, Gabor Steingart suggested that, “to combat the rise of China and Asia,” the “role NATO played in an age of military threat could be played by a trans-Atlantic free-trade zone in today’s age of economic confrontation.” With the possible “addition of Canada,” the US and EU “could stem the dwindling of Western market power by joining forces… [which] would inevitably lead to a convergence of the two economic systems.” In a process that would likely take decades, “a mega-merger of markets” would send a “new message” to the East, to “serve as a fortress.”

During the worst of the initial financial and economic crisis in January of 2009, Henry Kissinger wrote an article for the New York Times in which he noted that America’s “prescription for a world financial order has generally been unchallenged,” though the crisis had changed this, as “disillusionment” became “widespread.” Nations now wanted to protect themselves from the global markets and thus, become more independent. Kissinger warned against this, proclaiming: “An international order will emerge if a system of compatible priorities comes into being. It will fragment disastrously if the various priorities cannot be reconciled… The alternative to a new international order is chaos.”

Kissinger noted that the economic world was “globalized,” yet the political world was not, and in the midst of “political crises around the world” accelerated by “instantaneous communication,” the political and economic systems had to become “harmonized in only one of two ways: by creating an international political regulatory system with the same reach as that of the economic world; or by shrinking the economic units to a size manageable by existing political structures, which is likely to lead to a new mercantilism, perhaps of regional units.” President Obama’s election victory was an “opportunity” in “shaping a new world order.” But that opportunity had to become “a policy” as manifested through “a grand strategy.” A central facet to that grand strategy would include the strengthening of the “Atlantic partnership,” which “will depend much more on common policies.”

Some four years later, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski praised the “enormous promise” in the new transatlantic agreement, “It can shape a new balance between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceanic regions, while at the same time generating in the West a new vitality, more security and greater cohesion.” Not worth mentioning, apparently, was that this was all about “cohesion” of power interests. In the same speech where Brzezinski endorsed “greater cohesion” between the U.S. and the European Union, he criticized the EU for being “a Europe more of banks than of people, more of commercial convenience than an emotional commitment of the European peoples.”

It’s the type of “cohesion” that only bankers, corporations, and “grand strategists” like Kissinger and Brzezinski could like. So naturally, such an agreement has a great deal of support, encouragement, and organized planning. While the idea of ‘transatlantic integration’ has long been on the lips and in the documents of grand strategists and corporate-financed think tanks, it kept its distance from formal policy. In 2007, the EU-US summit meeting of leaders – US President Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso – established the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) to promote economic cooperation between the two regions.

The economic crisis itself delayed any progress from taking place, as countries focused on rescuing their banks and imposing austerity measures in order to punish their populations into poverty, privatize society, and create the conditions ripe for unhindered plundering of resources and exploitation of labour. This is called “structural reform.” But structural reforms only show “success” when corporations begin profiting from them. That’s called an “economic recovery.” There is an entire language to the European debt crisis – and to political economy in general – which, when translated, helps to elucidate the rationality of policy choices.

Political Language: Words or Weapons?

As George Orwell once wrote: “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

In a world undergoing radical transformations in political, economic, and social structures and relations – from the Arab Spring, the global economic crisis, food crisis and land grabs, to the global spread of protest movements – political language becomes weaponized. Hiding behind seemingly meaningless words, obscured by over-used rhetoric and abstract, undefined terms and concepts, political and economic language function by preventing the population from understanding the true meaning and implications of the policies pursued.

Take, for example, the word ‘austerity.’ It has been used endlessly – in rhetoric and policies – as the ‘solution’ to the economic, financial, and debt crises, but it’s meaning is obscured as an abstract notion of cutting public spending in order to decrease the debt, and thus, increase investor confidence in the country. This is supposed to lead to an economic “recovery.” The problem is that it doesn’t: it leads to a very deep depression. Yet, the policies continue to be promoted and pursued.

What can one deduct from this? If the rhetoric promotes specific policies for a desired effect, and the desired effect is never met, yet the rhetoric and policies continue to be promoted, we can assume one of two things: either, as Einstein defined it, the world’s decision-makers are all insane (“doing the same thing over again, expecting different results”); or, they are simply speaking a different language, and we lack an understanding of it. In such circumstances, it is helpful to attempt translating this language.

The policies of ‘austerity’ include firing public sector workers, cutting spending on health care, education, welfare, social services, pensions, increasing the retirement age, increasing taxes and decreasing wages. The results, inevitably, is impoverishment of the general population, increased unemployment, the elimination of health and social services when needed most, increased cost of living and decreased standards of living. Thus, we can loosely translate ‘austerity’ as impoverishment, since that is what the actual effects of the policies have.

In March 2010, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) suggested Europe undertake a program of austerity lasting for no less than six years from 2011 to 2017, which the Financial Times referred to as “highly sensible.” In April of 2010, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) – the central bank to the world’s central banks – called for European nations to begin implementing austerity measures. In June of 2010, the G20 finance ministers agreed: it was time to enter the age of austerity! German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the European midwife of austerity, set an example for the EU by imposing austerity measures at home in Germany. The G20 leaders met and agreed that the time for stimulus had come to an end, and the time for austerity poverty was at hand. This was of course endorsed by the unelected technocratic president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.

The unelected president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, also agreed, explaining in his unrelenting economic wisdom that austerity “has no real effect on economic growth.” Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank (ECB), also hopped on the austerity train, writing in the Financial Times that, “now is the time to restore fiscal sustainability.” Jaime Caruana, General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) stated in June of 2011 that the need for austerity was “more urgent” than ever, while BIS chairman, Christian Noyer, also the governor of the Bank of France (and board member of the ECB), stated that apart from austerity, “there’s no solution possible” for Greece.

But of course, austerity is not complete without its sister-program of ‘structural reform’ (or ‘structural adjustment’), which includes policies aimed at privatizing all state-owned assets, resources, and services, the dismantling of labour and environmental protections and regulations, the opening of new ‘markets,’ and enormous subsidies and protections for multinational banks and corporations.

Why is this done? To promote investment, competition, and growth. Privatizing everything in sight – including airports, land, water management, roads and resources – encourages investment because corporations can come in and purchase national assets for pennies on the dollars. Indeed, most privatization programs include enormous subsidies and protections for corporations in order to provide an incentive for them to invest. And competition is best promoted by allowing just a handful of transnational conglomerates to cheaply acquire a nation’s wealth and resources, and then by promoting what’s called “labour flexibility.” These ‘reforms’ mean that workers’ rights are to be dismantled, cutting wages, benefits, protections, the ability to unionize and make demands, to make the labour force flexible to the demand of big business, who demand little more than a cheap labour force (as well as absolute control of the global economy). Thus, across markets – Europe for the EU, North America for NAFTA – and indeed, across the world, labour forces are put into competition with one another in a race to the bottom of who can be the best, and therefore, cheapest labour available – in order to attract investment and jobs.

Thus, the effect of ‘structural reforms’ is to facilitate the exploitation of resources and people and to consolidate economic and political power into corporate hands. Austerity thus serves the purpose of impoverishing the population to make them ready and willing to accept the structural reforms (or “adjustment”) which adjust them to a situation of social devastation by making them into an employable – and cheap – labour force. Unhindered corporate plundering is facilitated by dismantling all “barriers” to investment, and thus, control of the entire economy. Austerity and structural reform create the conditions for investment, competition, and growth. Investment essentially means subsidized acquisition/control over the economy by corporations, competition implies protection for corporate interests, and growth means that corporations are making massive profits. The effect of all these policies and programs is to consolidate regional and global economic and political power into the hands of cosmopolitical corporations.

Austerity is impoverishment for populations.

Structural reform is exploitation of people/resources, and consolidation of political power in corporate hands.

Investment is corporate control of the economy.

Competition is protectionism for corporations.

Growth is corporate profits.

Mario Draghi is the president of the European Central Bank (ECB) – one of the three institutions of the ‘Troika’ with the European Commission and IMF – imposing austerity and structural reform measures across Europe in return for bailing out bankers. In February of 2012, he gave an interview with the Wall Street Journalin which he explained that, “there was no alternative to fiscal consolidation,” meaning austerity, and that Europe’s social contract was “obsolete” and the social model was “already gone.” However, Draghi explained, it was now necessary to promote “growth,” adding, “and that’s why structural reforms are so important.”

In addition to austerity and structural reforms, new markets are required, and thus, “free trade” must be promoted. This is all part of the road to ‘recovery.’ Free trade also has a technical definition: its policies dismantle environmental, labour, and other social protections, increase privatization, deregulation, and include large subsidies and protections for corporations. And today’s ‘free trade’ agreements grant unprecedented rights to corporations to sue governments directly for having laws or regulations which corporations view as “barriers to investment.” Free trade thus promotes competition between populations – in a race to the bottom – and protection for the powerful, for corporations and banks. What we call free trade agreements essentially function as a process of corporate colonialism: the regional and global consolidation of financial, economic, political and social power into relatively few corporate hands.

With the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008, countries turned to bailouts to rescue the large banks that destroyed their economies. In doing this, they accumulated large debts, handing the bill to the populations. The people pay for the debts through austerity, and thus, poverty, which in turn necessitates structural reform, and thus, exploitation. Free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), being negotiated between 12 Pacific-rim countries, facilitate transnational corporate colonialism.

A new corporate world is emerging, and the transatlantic partnership is a centerpiece in constructing this ‘new world order.’ While the crisis had initially stalled the process, it was revived at the EU-US summit meeting in November of 2011, when political leaders ordered the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) to create a High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth, led by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, “tasked to identify policies and measures to increase U.S.-E.U. trade and investment to support mutually beneficial job creation, economic growth, and international competitiveness,” by working closely with both public and private sector/corporate groups.

The Transatlantic Corporate Complex

The impetus for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was provided by a plethora of corporate-dominated think tanks and big business organizations, including the Atlantic Council, Brookings Institution, the German Marshall Fund, BusinessEurope, the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the European Round Table of Industrialists, among several others. These institutions collectively form a transatlantic corporate complex, uniting elites from major corporations, banks, think tanks, foundations, academia and policy circles in order to establish consensus on elite agendas and to provide the strategies and objectives to be implemented.

The Atlantic Council was founded in 1961 by former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson and several other prominent citizens in the United States in order to help consolidate support for the ‘Atlantic Alliance.’ The Atlantic Council’s first published volume, Building the American-European Market: Planning for the 1970s, was published in 1967, and the Council continued to publish policy papers, books, monographs and other reports throughout the 1970s.

The Atlantic Council’s leadership and direction is provided by the members of its boards, consisting of the foreign policy elite of the United States as well as major cosmopolitical corporations, including the likes of Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Madeleine Albright along with executives from corporations such as Deutsche Bank, BAE, and Lockheed Martin. [For a look at some of the other names of directors and advisors, see Appendix 1]

The Atlantic Council thus represents the interests of trans-Atlantic corporate and financial interests and the foreign policy elite within the United States. Thus, what issues and agendas they promote tend to wield significant influence behind them, with extensive access to policy-makers and processes. Back in 2004, the Atlantic Council published a report, The Transatlantic Economy in 2020: A Partnership for the Future? in which they recommended increasing integration between the two economies and regions, the joint management of the world economy, and more “transgovernmental cooperation.”

The German Marshall Fund of the United States was founded in 1972 with a donation from the German government to Harvard University, where 25-years prior U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall announced the Marshall Plan for Europe’s economic recovery after World War II. The German Marshall Fund (GMF) “is dedicated to the promotion of greater understanding and common action between Europe and the United States,” and includes a number of corporate executives, news commentators and other elites on its leadership boards [See Appendix 2].

The Business Roundtable (BRT) is an organization of CEOs from major U.S. corporations “with more than $7.3 trillion in annual revenues,” according to its website. The BRT was founded in 1972 “on the belief that… businesses should play an active and effective role in the formation of public policy.” The Chairman of the Executive Committee of the BRT is W. James McNerney, the president and CEO of Boeing. The Executive Committee includes the CEOs of a number of other major cosmopolitical corporations [see Appendix 3].

The European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), founded in 1983, is an organization of several dozens CEOs of major European corporations. As Bastiaan van Apeldoorn wrote in the journal New Political Economy(Vol. 5, No. 2, 2000), the ERT “developed into an elite platform for an emergent European transnational capitalist class from which it can formulate a common strategy and – on the basis of that strategy – seek to shape European socioeconomic governance through its privileged access to the European institutions.” Wisse Dekker, former Chairman of the ERT, once stated: “I would consider the Round Table to be more than a lobby group as it helps to shape policies. The Round Table’s relationship with Brussels [the EU] is one of strong co-operation. It is a dialogue which often begins at a very early stage in the development of policies and directives.”

The ERT was a central institution in the re-launching of European integration from the 1980s onward, and as former European Commissioner (and former ERT member) Peter Sutherland stated, “one can argue that the whole completion of the internal market project was initiated not by governments but by the Round Table, and by members of it… And I think it played a fairly consistent role subsequently in dialoguing with the Commission on practical steps to implement market liberalization.” Sutherland also explained that the ERT and its members “have to be at the highest levels of companies and virtually all of them have unimpeded access to government leaders because of the position of their companies… So, by definition, each member of the ERT has access at the highest level to government.” [For a list of other corporations represented on the board of the ERT, see Appendix 4]

BusinessEurope is Europe’s main business group, representing 41 business federations in 35 countries with its “main task” – according to its website – being “to ensure that companies’ interests are represented and defended vis-à-vis the European institutions with the principal aim of preserving and strengthening corporate competitiveness.” [For a look at some of the companies that made up the Corporate Advisory and Support Group, see Appendix 5]

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1912 as an umbrella organization representing the voice of business throughout the United States. According to its website, the Chamber “works with more than 1,500 volunteers from member corporations, organizations, and the academic community who serve on committees, subcommittees, task forces, and councils to develop and implement policy on major issues affecting business.” Their “overarching mission” is “to strengthen the competitiveness of the U.S. economy.” [For a look at some of the companies represented on the board of directors of the Chamber, see Appendix 6]

The Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) was formed in 1995 by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Commission in an effort to “serve as the official dialogue between American and European business leaders and U.S. cabinet secretaries and EU commissioners,” composed of CEOs of U.S. and European transnational corporations.

Transatlantic Corporate Colonialism in Action: Shaping the Agenda

As with any “free trade” agreement (read: cosmopolitical corporate consolidation agreement), corporations must be consulted throughout the entire process to allow them to shape the agenda and encourage specific policies, to ensure that their interests are met. Think tanks employ academics and foreign policy elites to undertake studies and produce reports which advocate policies beneficial to western political and economic domination of the world. Big business groups organize the corporate community around agendas and provide a direct “voice” to the corporate world. The boards of think tanks are dominated by political and corporate elites, and once think tanks begin to establish consensus on agendas, academics and other officials from the organizations write articles or are interviewed frequently in the media (which is owned by the same corporations), to ensure that what little is said in public about such agreements is indeed, positive and encouraging.  

When the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) created the High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth in November of 2011, it announced its intent to ‘consult’ with private sector organizations on the process of transatlantic integration.

The Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) was one of the first major corporate organizations to support the announcement of the High-Level Working Group. In January of 2012, the TABD met with high level EU and US officials at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. They released a report, Vision for the Future of EU-US Economic Relations, which established a consensus “to press for urgent action on an visionary and ambitious agenda,” as well as for the creation of a “CEO Task Force” which would “provide direct input and support the High Level Working Group.”

The meeting was attended not only by the 21 members of the executive board of the TABD (all corporate executives), but officials representing the Atlantic Council, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), the US Chamber of Commerce, World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Competition, Joaquin Almunia; Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, and Michael Froman, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs.

That same month, the TABD and the Business Roundtable (BRT) released a joint statement outlining their “vision” of a Transatlantic Partnership (TAP) – modeled along similar lines as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – which would require a further “opening” of the trans-Atlantic market, being able to “compete” with other major economies (such as China), and “deepening the multilateral commitment to open markets.” As major CEOs and executives, the statement wrote, “we need nothing less” than a “strategic vision and structure [which] will need to serve as a global template.”

In February of 2012, the German Marshall Fund released a report from the Transatlantic Task Force on Trade and Investment entitled, A New Era for Transatlantic Trade Leadership. The task force was co-chaired by Ewa Bjorling, the Swedish Minister for Trade, and Jim Kolbe, a former U.S. Congressman and Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the GMF. [For other members of the Task Force, see Appendix 7] The Task Force was launched as a cooperative effort between the German Marshall Fund and the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE) in May of 2011.

The report called for the EU and US to pursue “deeper transatlantic economic integration” as “essential for recovery from the current economic crisis.” The report called for “high-level commitment from political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic” and “it will require active involvement of private sector stakeholders,” or in other words, corporations.

In March of 2012, BusinessEurope released a report to contribute to the EU-US High Level Working Group entitled, Jobs and Growth: Through a Transatlantic Economic and Trade Partnership, in which it was recommended to eliminate tariffs and barriers, to trade in services, ensure access and protection for investments, “opening markets,” to establish “global standards” for intellectual property rights, and to build on the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) for regulatory cooperation.

That same month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Congress in which the U.S. Chamber, BusinessEurope, American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union, the Business Roundtable, European-American Business Council, the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue, and several other big business associations called upon political leaders “to move swiftly to deepen the transatlantic economic and commercial relationship through ambitious trade, investment, and regulatory policy initiatives.” Thus, in the midst of an economic and social crisis created by the very corporations and banks these associations represent, and with the emergence of new economic giants like China and India, “we believe now is the time to create a barrier-free transatlantic market to drive the job creation and growth” that Europe and America “urgently need.”

The High Level Working Group – chaired by USTR Ron Kirk and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht – should have a “far-reaching” agenda, the statement wrote, which would cover: “tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods and services, investment, regulatory cooperation, intellectual property protection and innovation, public procurement, cross-border data flows, and business mobility.” The statement noted that they had received “support” from Angela Merkel, David Cameron, and then-President of France Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as from the European Council (presided over by Herman van Rompuy). From the American side, support was given by Hillary Clinton.

In May of 2012, the Business Roundtable, European Round Table of Industrialists and the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue sent a joint letter to President Obama, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Merkel, Italian PM Mario Monti, UK prime minister David Cameron, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht and USTR Ron Kirk. The letter noted that the three organizations of corporate executives from across the Atlantic “have come together to lay out a strategic vision for a new Transatlantic Partnership (TAP),” and they together produced the report, Forging a Transatlantic Partnership for the 21st Century, to do just that. The report called for US and EU officials to launch “ambitious and comprehensive transatlantic trade, investment and regulatory negotiations by the end of this year.”

That same month, just to press the message, the presidents of the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers sent a joint letter to Obama urging him to launch negotiations to “trail blaze a true 21st century trade, investment, and regulatory cooperation initiative,” which apart from further integrating the economies, would also “have important benefits for defense and military cooperation as well.”

In June of 2012, Obama’s Export Council sent him a letter applauding the president for establishing the High Level Working Group the previous year, but urged him to “take the critical next step, in consultation with the private sector, to move forward quickly to define and launch a comprehensive and ambitious Transatlantic Partnership (TAP) negotiation.” They recommended the usual protections for intellectual property rights, liberalization of services, “elimination of industrial and agricultural goods tariffs,” among many things. The letter was signed by Export Council chairman Jim McNerney, the president and CEO of the Boeing Company.

The U.S. President’s Export Council (PEC) “is the principal national advisory committee on international trade,” founded in 1973, consisting of 28 private sector members, as well as Congress members and cabinet secretaries. The PEC reports to the president through the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. [For a list of corporations represented by the PEC, see Appendix 8]

Not wasting any time, the High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth released their interim report to their leaders in June of 2012 from the co-chairs, De Gucht and Kirk. Among other things, they recommended the “elimination” of “barriers to trade” in goods, services, and investment. They recommended a “comprehensive agreement” which “could promote a forward-looking agenda for multilateral trade liberalization.” The “aim” of the negotiations, they wrote, would be to “bind” the EU and US “at the highest level of liberalization” and “achieve new market access.” They were taking the recommendations from corporate groups seriously, and pushing those words into policies.

Paula Dobriansky, a prominent academic at the Atlantic Institute, co-authored an article for the Wall Street Journal in which she called for “a trans-Atlantic free-trade agreement” between the EU and US in order to “strengthen American and European leadership for decades to come.” Frances Burwell, Atlantic Council vice president and director of the Program on Transatlantic Relations published an article for US News & World Report in November of 2012 in which she wrote that “creating a single transatlantic market… makes a great deal of sense.”

In November of 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the Brookings Institution entitled, U.S. and Europe: A Revitalized Global Partnership, in which she noted: “we have to realize the untapped potential of the transatlantic market…  is as much a strategic imperative as an economic one.” Informing the audience that the Obama administration was “discussing possible negotiations” with the EU on such an agreement, Clinton said it “would shore up our global competitiveness for the next century.”

Also in November, Atlantic Council board member James L. Jones (former U.S. National Security Advisor to Barack Obama) and Thomas J. Donohue (President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce) co-authored an article for Investor’s Business Dailyin which they suggested that the simultaneous economic crises in Europe and the U.S. – which they defined as “flagging competitiveness, unsustainable entitlement spending, and the ticking time bomb of oversize sovereign debt” – were a threat to the future of NATO’s ability to “tackle urgent security threats” and that this poses “the greatest challenge to the future of the trans-Atlantic community since the Cold War.”

Sustainable growth, they wrote, “only comes from one place – the private sector.” Governments have a “responsibility… to create conditions in which the private sector can drive economic expansion, investment and job creation.” An “ambitious trans-Atlantic economic and trade pact” would certainly fit this prescription of increasing “growth” and “competitiveness.” It was time, they wrote, “to move decisively to the next level of trans-Atlantic economic integration.”

Within days of Obama winning his re-election, European leaders such as David Cameron and Angela Merkel urged him to move forward with the agreement, and the New York Times even noted that “corporations and business groups on both sides of the Atlantic are also pushing hard for a pact.” Former deputy U.S. trade representative and current vice president at General Electric, Karan Bhatia, noted: “This could be the biggest, most valuable free-trade agreement by far, even if it produces only a marginal increase in trade.”

The Financial Times said that a “transatlantic partnership” would yield “geostrategic benefits,” since the EU and US account for half the world’s economy, and thus, they will “possess the leverage to set the global standards that others, including China, are likely to follow.” Since “both the EU and US are desperate for new growth,” wrote Edward Luce, the “only realistic route is via higher productivity,” implying cheaper costs and larger profits for corporations. It would be “an ambitious agenda for transatlantic market integration” including harmonizing regulations and product standards. In other words, wrote Luce: “if a drug were approved by the European Medicines Agency, the Food and Drug Administration would accept it too.” The same would apply for “financial regulation” (or lack thereof), as well as agricultural (GMO) standards, a key issue, since the EU has a ban on such products. The EU had recently shown its enthusiasm for change when it “dropped its objections to imports of US meat from abattoirs [slaughterhouses] decontaminated with lactic acid.” In the EU, “the climate of austerity ought to work in their favour” for reducing protections to do with agriculture.

In January of 2013, the Brookings Institution sent a ‘memorandum to the president’ to Barack Obama entitled, Free Trade Game Changer, in which the authors recommended pursuing both the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) as “the most realistic way to reclaim U.S. economic leadership.” The agreements have “deep strategic implications” since they would provide the US with a leading “role in setting the global rules of the road.” While the TPP “would help define the standard for economic integration in Asia,” the TAFTA “would give American and European businesses an edge in setting industrial standards for tomorrow’s global economy.” While “the erosion of support for FTAs [free trade agreements] in Congress and among the public is likely to hamper this effort,” the memo reminded Obama that public opinion must be disregarded in the corporate interest: “the time has come to launch new initiatives in these spheres.”

In early 2013, the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue merged with the European-American Business Council to become the Transatlantic Business Council (TBC), a group consisting of corporate executives who hold “semi-annual meetings with U.S. Cabinet Secretaries and European Commissioners (in Davos and elsewhere),” acting as the “business advisor to the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC).” It represents some 70 major corporations, including: AIG, AT&T, BASF, BP, Deutsche Bank, EADS, ENI, Ford, GE, IBM, Intel, Merck, Pfizer, Siemens, TOTAL, Verizon, and Xerox, among others.

In January of 2013, the Transatlantic Business Council (TBC) met in Davos, Switzerland during the annual World Economic Forum, holding a meeting with high level officials in the U.S. and E.U. Michael Froman, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs, spoke at the TBC meeting, declaring that “the transatlantic economy is to become the global benchmark for standards in a globalized world.” Froman and the leaders of the TBC “agreed that support from corporations operating on both sides of the Atlantic is crucial to advance transatlantic trade.”

Tim Bennett, the Director General of the TBC, stated that the structure of the TBC “allows for a combination of strong business message to policy makers as well as substantive input through working groups,” referring to high level meetings in Washington and Brussels. Other participants at the TBC meeting included the Secretary General of the OECD, Angel Gurria, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, European Commission Director-General for Trade, Jean-Luc Demarty, European Commission for Trade official, Marc Vanheukelen, and a former Citigroup executive.

On the Transnational Business Council (TBC)’s website, they promote specific think tanks as providing “resources”: the Atlantic Council, Bertelsmann Foundation, Brookings Institution, Center for Transatlantic Relations, Chatham House, the German Marshall Fund, and the Peterson Institute for International Relations.

The Final Report: Time to Do What the Corporations Demand!

On February 11, 2013, the U.S.-EU High Level Working Group (HLWG) on Jobs and Growth released their final report in which they predictably recommended harmonizing standards and regulations in “a comprehensive trade and investment agreement.” The report recommended “a further deepening of economic integration… to achieve a market access package that goes beyond what the United States and the EU have achieve in previous agreements.” The report further recommended increasing “government procurement,” a euphemism for privatization and state subsidies for corporations, noting: “the goal of negotiations should be to enhance business opportunities through substantially improved access to government procurement opportunities at all levels of government.”

Two days following the publication of this report, on 13 February 2013, a joint statement was issued by Barack Obama, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, stating: “We, the Leaders of the United States and the European Union, are pleased to announce that… the United States and the European Union will each initiate the internal procedures necessary to launch negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”

With the announcement of the TTIP in February, then-U.S. Trade representative Ron Kirk stated that, “[f]or us, everything is on the table, across all sectors, including across the agricultural sector, whether it is GMOs or other issues.” He explained that “we should be ambitious and we should deal with all of these issues.” João Vale de Almeida, the European Union ambassador to the United States, wrote in an article that “an ambitious economic agreement between us would send a powerful message to the rest of the world about our leadership in shaping global economic governance in line with our values,” which is to say, corporate “values.”

The German media – and government officials – erupted in admiration of the potential for this “economic NATO” in creating “the world’s largest free trade zone.” One German publication noted that “a new economic alliance” between NATO powers was appropriate, since “the old industrialized nations fear they are falling behind the emerging economic power of China.” Another German publication noted that not only would a “trans-Atlantic free-trade zone” have major economic “benefits” and implications, “but it also makes clear that only an ever-closer West can succeed in decisively helping to determine global policy.”

The corporate world expressed immediate admiration for the announced negotiations, with the chairman and CEO of Caterpillar “commending” US and EU leaders and the High-Level Working Group “for promoting much needed economic growth and job creation.” The president of the Business Roundtable (BRT), John Engler, noted that the Roundtable itself “was an early advocate” for such an agreement, and that “negotiations should launch as soon as possible.”

C. Boyden Gray, a member of the Atlantic Council’s board of directors and former U.S. ambassador to the European Union, published a report for the Atlantic Council in February of 2013 entitled, An Economic NATO: A New Alliance for a New Global Order. Gray warned that unless the Atlantic powers “rise to the challenge… of the post-recession era together… they risk ceding to rising powers their economic and political influence.” This must not be simply a “free trade agreement,” but rather, the US and EU “must put economic cooperation on the same robust footing as military security… we need to create an ‘economic NATO’.”

The Wall Street Journal noted that the announcement “represents a nod to business interests by Mr. Obama,” noting that it was less about ‘trade’ and more about establishing global standards. European Commission president Barroso expressed as much when he said, “this is going to be the biggest free-trade agreement ever done, [and] it will certainly have an impact on global standards.” Obama’s international economic policy adviser Michael Froman noted that the agreement would “further integrate our economies and help set global rules.” EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht added: “What we want to do is make an internal market between the US and EU.”

The Financial Times noted that while it was “commonplace” to imagine that the future belonged to the emerging economies, “the old economic powers can still pack a punch.” The agreement “promises a prize whose political value is even greater than its considerable economic benefits.” Hence, we must understand these “free trade agreements” as, in actuality, cosmopolitical corporate consolidation agreements.

While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Berlin in late February, he endorsed the agreement, suggesting that it “can lift the economy of Europe, strengthen our economy, create jobs for Americans, for Germans, for all Europeans and create one of the largest allied markets in the world.”

The German press warned that Internet activists, environmental, labour and consumer groups were “preparing to fight the treaty with all means at their disposal,” as they feared that “bad compromises will be made at the expense of consumers in secret negotiations between the European Commission and the Obama administration.” Enforcing equal standards for food products worries many in the EU regarding American-produced genetically engineered food products, such as corn, soybeans and beets; while intellectual property rights issues increasingly threaten the freedom of the Internet for the benefit of corporate and financial interests, such as through the failed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was overcome by a large Internet campaign and protests against it. One of the organizers for the anti-ACTA movement, Jérémie Zimmermann, stated: “Millions of citizens can be mobilized if their freedoms are threatened.” Still, despite the growing unease and opposition to such an agreement, which would be based primarily around these highly contentious issues as opposed to actual “trade” or tariffs, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared the deal as “by far our most important project for the future.”

Max Baucus, the chairman of the U.S. Senate finance committee, wrote an article for the Financial Times in which he stated that the agreement was “a deal that must be done, it must be done now, and it must be done right… As chairman of the committee overseeing US trade, I will support a deal only if it gives America’s producers the opportunity to compete in the world’s biggest market.”

Speaking at Harvard in early March, Karel de Gucht referred to the agreement as “the cheapest stimulus package you can imagine,” adding that it was “a policy laboratory for the new trade rules we need – on issues like regulatory barriers, competition policy, localization requirements, raw materials and energy.”

Barack Obama stated that he was “modestly optimistic” about the agreement, as the US was moving “aggressively” while the EU was “hungrier for a deal than they have been in the past.” Speaking to the President’s Export Council, composed of executives from major corporations acting as ‘advisors,’ Obama reaffirmed that, “we want our Fortune 500 companies to be selling as much as possible.” John Kerry told a group of French business leaders that, “if we move rapidly… [the agreement] can have a profound impact on the rest of the world.”

Robert Zoellick, former president of the World Bank, strongly endorsed the agreement, noting that it could “set a precedent” in setting standards for the global economy, adding: “We need to create a new structure for the global system.” However, he warned, agriculture was “going to be one of the most difficult issues,” due to the concern over genetically modified organisms. Barroso warned that, “the EU will only go so far.” Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch observed: “This whole negotiation is about eliminating ‘trade irritants’ but in the US consumer movement we envy and admire and seek to emulate the European food safety standards, while industry is seeking to kill them.”

In April of 2013, a “coalition” was launched to promote the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership called the Business Coalition for Transatlantic Trade (BCTT), which “seeks to promote growth, jobs, and competitiveness on both sides of the Atlantic through an ambitious, comprehensive and high-standard trade and investment agreement.” The Steering Committee for the BCTT consists of a number of multinational corporations and business associations, and the secretariat is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The corporate co-chairs for the coalition include Amway, Chrysler, Citi, Dow, FedEx, Ford, GE, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, MetLife, UPS, and JPMorgan Chase. Partner associations of the BCTT include the Business Roundtable, Coalition of Service Industries, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Foreign Trade Council, the Transatlantic Business Council (TBC), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Council for International Business. The initial objective of the BCTT was to urge the formal launching of negotiations by June or July of 2013, as well as “sustaining broad bipartisan support and on providing detailed inputs once negotiations are underway.”

At the launch of the BCTT, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president and head of international affairs, Myron Brilliant, noted that there was “vast support” for the agreement “both in the government and the private sector.” The business community, he explained, “is committed to assisting with the negotiation of a transatlantic agreement… and we will continue our efforts to encourage both governments to get this deal done quickly.” The Business Roundtable, a member of the BCTT, endorsed the new coalition in a statement from John Engler, who explained, “we look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to ensure a comprehensive and ambitious agreement.” While speaking to an American business group, the British ambassador to the United States said that financial services would also be “covered by these negotiations,” noting that the U.S. and U.K. are home to “the two most significant international financial centres, on either side of the Atlantic,” on Wall Street and the City of London.

According to an Obama administration official involved in the talks, the agreement “would grant corporations new political power to challenge an array of regulations both at home and abroad.” Environmental, consumer, and other interest groups fear that the agreement “will lead to a rollback of important rules and put multinational companies on the same political plane as sovereign nations.” This would be facilitated by an “investor-state dispute resolution” mechanism, which means that corporations could directly sue governments over what they perceive as “barriers to investment” – possibly through an international tribunal (perhaps even through the World Bank). Such a tribunal “would be given authority to impose economic sanctions against any country that violated its verdict.”

Such provisions, noted a trade specialist with the Sierra Club, “elevate corporations to the level of nation states and allow them to sue governments over nearly any law or policy which reduces their future profits.” These mechanisms are “terribly risky for communities, the environment, and our climate.” The “dirty little secret,” noted Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach, “is that it is not mainly about trade, but rather would target for elimination the strongest consumer, health, safety, privacy, environmental and other public interest policies on either side of the Atlantic.”

Thomas Donohue, the president of the US Chamber of Commerce, couldn’t be happier.  “If they made a deal tomorrow,” he said in April of 2013, “US and European companies are sitting on a boatload of cash and they’d be moving this thing up as fast as they can move.” Corporations would be able to make a profit faster than anticipated, he noted: “You open a door and say there’s money on the other side, there’s opportunity to expand, to export, to sell their products, to make partnerships… You think they’re going to wait around till 2027? They’ll be through the door before you know it.” Donohue encouraged negotiations to begin as soon as possible, “they must, they need to,” adding: “We don’t need to take our time.

A Transatlantic Agenda for Austerity, Exploitation and Corporate Consolidation

On April 22, 2013, there was a conference hosted at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in co-operation with the European Commission’s Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs, “bring[ing] together US-and Europe-based policy makers, regulators, market analysts and academics.” The aim of the conference was to “evaluate the prospects for sustainable economic growth and financial stability, and discuss challenges to transatlantic economic relations posed by the recent episodes of the economic crisis.” Speakers included New York Fed president William Dudley and Vice President of the European Commission, Olli Rehn. [For a list of other participants, see Appendix 9]

William Dudley has been president of the New York Fed since 2009, when the previous president – Timothy Geithner – became Obama’s Treasury Secretary. Prior to his new position, Dudley was a partner and managing director at Goldman Sachs; and currently he also serves as chairman of the Committee on the Global Financial System at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), and is vice chairman of the Economic Club of New York.

Dudley opened the ‘invitation only’ event by suggesting, “in a global economy with a global financial system… regulation and supervision have a decidedly national orientation.” Thus, he explained, “we [must] seek to balance our domestic needs against the benefits from having a harmonized and integrated global system.” What is needed, said Dudley, is “growth.” But there was “good news” in the U.S., the housing sector was re-inflating – what’s called “recovering,” the middle class “household sector” was struggling under a heavy debt burden (called “deleveraging”), but the banking sector was “healthier” (meaning more profitable), and “the corporate sector is highly profitable and awash in cash.” That’s the “good news.”

A Bloomberg article from 2010 referred to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as “a black-ops outfit for the nation’s central bank,” noting that it was in fact a “quasi-governmental institution,” whose leadership is appointed by the major banks of Wall Street to represent their interests, and was “the preferred vehicle for many of the Fed’s bailout programs.” The New York Fed is actually a private bank with a great deal of public authority, and is subject to a “culture of secrecy” which was described as “pervasive.” On the board of directors of the New York Fed is Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, as well as several other bankers.

In his speech, Dudley explained that he has guided the New York Fed to purchase long-term U.S. Treasuries (U.S. government debt) and mortgage-backed securities (the same purchases which helped create the previous housing bubble) to the tune of $85 billion “each month.” Noting that the United States has begun down the path of national austerity – “fiscal consolidation” – and must continue deeper, there was a “tug of war” between having a good economy and having austerity, which is a delicate way of saying that the austerity measures will destroy the economy (something the Europeans already know very well). Thus, as Dudley explained, with immense corporate and bank profits, an asset bubble, and a coming austerity-driven economic nose-dive, “the level of uncertainty about the near-term outlook in the United States remains quite high.” But the United States was not geared “toward a growth path” based upon “business investment” and “trade,” instead having only focused on debt-based consumption.

In Europe, however, the outlook was “less bright.” But again, there was “good news,” since the “peripheral countries” such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, and others, were successfully imposing harsh austerity measures, despite resistance from the population being impoverished. This, Dudley calls, “substantial efforts to bring down their structural budget deficits.” There was also progress on improving their “international competitiveness,” which is to say they are opening up to exploitation and plundering, though there was still “an opportunity for further structural reforms in labor and product markets.” Though of course this shouldn’t be done “just in the periphery,” that type of “opportunity” exists everywhere, in order to bring efficiency in exploitation, and thus, more profits: “to increase productivity and strengthen long term growth prospects.”

Sadly, noted Dudley, there was also “bad news” in the EU, since the economy was “still in a recession” – or what could more accurately be described as a deep depression in the so-called “periphery” countries – where it was becoming harder to impose austerity measures and impoverish populations: “the political support for further rounds of budget-tightening has clearly lessened.” Without “growth” – meaning, without corporate and financial profits – “then the political support for continued fiscal and structural adjustment could further erode.” Europe also needed to pursue “deeper integration” at the governance level, and the development of a “pan-European banking union with the ECB [European Central Bank] as the primary overseer” was a “critically important next step.” This will of course demand each country in the EU “to give up a small amount of sovereignty with respect to banking oversight,” and hand it to the ECB, which is unaccountable and remains a driving force behind the austerity and adjustment programs. Dudley referred to this as the “one money, one market” concept.

Olli Rehn, European Commission Vice President and Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs – a major driving force behind the austerity and adjustment programs – gave the keynote speech at the New York Fed conference. He began by welcoming the newly announced Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, explaining that they must work hard to make it “a reality.” Europe, however, is “deleveraging” – which is to say the continent is being crushed by a heavy debt burden whose owners demand ‘austerity’ and ‘adjustment’ in addition to bailouts – and this “deleveraging process is going to take time, and we need to find new sources of growth to ease the burden of adjustment.” Thus, Rehn explained, “opening up global trade opportunities is so very important.” While many EU countries were continuing with harsh austerity measures, “structural reforms” – which facilitate exploitation of labour and resources – “are the key to raising the growth potential of the European economy.”

He finished his speech, stating: “we must stay the reform course. We need to deliver in terms of free trade, financial sector reform, structural reforms that boost growth potential, and consistent consolidation of public finances. We must do so in order to create the foundations for sustainable growth and job creation. Facing these challenges, we are indeed partners on both sides of the Atlantic.”

A Call for Trans-Atlantic Resistance to Corporate Tyranny

Europe is eating itself through austerity, plunging its population into poverty while simultaneously undertaking “structural reforms” designed to facilitate the unhindered exploitation of resources, markets and labour by transnational corporations. The United States has also been implementing austerity measures, though opting instead to create fallacious ‘debt dramas’ involving the pompous parading of meaningless words – ‘fiscal cliff’ and ‘sequester’ – to avoid the blatant promotion of ‘austerity,’ which might encourage people to correctly think of Greece as an example.

So-called “free trade” agreements function as transnational austerity and ‘structural reform’ treaties: they grant corporations unlimited access to markets, protect them from competition, heavily subsidize them, privatize anything and everything, deregulate as much as possible, destroy the environment, and facilitate the unimpeded plundering of resources and exploitation of labour.

Make no mistake: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is little more than a transatlantic corporate coup. Corporations created the demand for the agreement, lobbied and promoted the agenda with political elites, and direct the entire process, ensuring that their interests are met.

It would seem, then, that it is time for activists, intellectuals, and communities and organizations of people to reach out across the Atlantic in an effort to create an organized resistance to transatlantic corporate tyranny, consolidation and colonization.

Corporations are undertaking unprecedented drives for the accumulation of profit and power, promoting agendas and projects which re-shape the world in their image, treating governments as toys, the environment as an enemy, and impoverishing populations around the world. We are witnessing a transnational social engineering project, driven by large corporations, aimed at facilitating economic, financial, political and social consolidation into their hands.

Welcome to the era of Cosmopolitical Corporate Consolidation and Colonization.

Will you accept that as legitimate? Will you accept such an agreement? Who agreed to it? Did you? Were you consulted? Have you even heard of it before?

The real question is: will we sit passively as we are led to Extinction Inc., or will we actually stand up, organize, and do something about it?

Appendix 1: Leadership of the Atlantic Council

Among the leadership on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council are Brent Scowcroft, former U.S. National Security Adviser (to presidents Ford and Bush, Sr.), Richard Armitage, James E. Cartwright, Wesley Clark, Paula Dobriansky, Christopher Dodd, Stephen Hadley, Michael Hayden, James L. Jones, Henry Kissinger, Thomas Pickering, Anne-Marie Slaughter, James Steinberg, John C. Whitehead, and with a group of honorary directors including: Madeleine Albright, James Baker, Harold Brown, Frank Carlucci, Robert Gates, Michael Mullen, William Perry, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, James Schlesinger, George Shultz, and John Warner, among others.

On the Business and Economics Advisors Group to the Atlantic Council, there are executives and management from the following companies and institutions: Deutsche Bank, Institute of International Finance, Center for Global Development, AIG, BNP-Paribas, Rock Creek Global Advisors, the Stern Group, Harvard, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The International Advisory Board of the Atlantic Council includes Josef Ackermann (Chairman of Zurich Insurance), Shaukat Aziz (former prime minister of Pakistan), Jose Maria Aznar (former PM of Spain), Zbigniew Brzezinski (former US National Security Advisor), and with top executives from: Occidental Petroleum, SAIC, the Coca-Cola Company, PwC, News Corporation, Royal Bank of Canada, BAE Systems, the Blackstone Group, Thomson Reuters, Lockheed Martin, Bertelsmann, Novartis, and Investor AB, among others.

Appendix 2: Leadership of the German Marshall Fund

The board of trustees of the GMF includes a host of corporate executives and news commentators, and their funding also comes from a coterie of governments, major foundations, and multinational corporations including: Bank of America Foundation, BP, Daimler, Eli Lilly & Company, General Dynamics, IBM, NATO, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and USAID, among many others.

Appendix 3: Leadership of the Business Roundtable

Other members of the executive committee include the CEOs of Honeywell, Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, MasterCard, Xerox, American Express, Eaton, JPMorgan Chase, Wal-Mart, General Electric, Caesars Entertainment, Caterpillar, McGraw-Hill, State Farm Insurance, AT&T, Frontier Communications, and ExxonMobil.

Appendix 4: Leadership of the ERT

As of 2013, members of the ERT included the CEOs of Ericsson, Siemens, Telecom Italia, BASF, Nestlé, Repsol, ThyssenKrupp, TOTAL, Rio Tinto, Fiat, Nokia, EADS, ABB, Lafarge, GDF SUEZ, BMW, Eni, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Investor AB, among many others.

Appendix 5: Corporate Partners of BusinessEurope

BusinessEurope counts among its “partner companies,” notable multinational conglomerates that make up the Corporate Advisory and Support Group who “enjoy an important status within BUSINESSEUROPE,” including: Accenture, Alcoa, BASF, Bayer, BMW, BP, Caterpillar, Diamler, DuPont, ExxonMobil, GDF Suez, GE, IBM, Microsoft, Pfizer, Shell, Siemens, Total, and Unilever, among many others.

Appendix 6: Companies Represented on the Board of the US Chamber of Commerce

The board of directors of the Chamber includes top executives and representatives from the following institutions and corporations: Accenture, Allianz of America, AT&T, Pfizer, FedEx, The Charles Schwab Corporation, Xerox, Rolls-Royce North America, Dow Chemical, Alcoa, UPS, Caterpillar, New York Life Insurance Company, Deloitte, the Carlyle Group, 3M, Duke Energy, Siemens, Verizon, IBM, and Allstate Insurance, among many others.

Appendix 7: Task Force Members

Other task force members represented such institutions as: Tufts University, Foreign Policy magazine, Standard Chartered Bank, the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD, Facebook, a former EU Ambassador to the US, a former senior VP of the World Bank, Deloitte Touche, and Susan Schwab, a former United States Trade Representative.

Appendix 8: Corporate Representatives on the PEC

Obama’s PEC includes CEOs and executives from Boeing, Xerox, Dow Chemical, UPS, Walt Disney Company, Warburg Pincus, Caesars Entertainment, Ford, Verizon, JPMorgan Chase, Ernst & Young, and Archer Daniels Midland, among others.

Appendix 9: Participants in New York Fed Conference

The program for the event was to include opening remarks from the president of the New York Fed, William Dudley, and would also include the EU’s ambassador to the United States, Joao Vale de Almdeida; the European Commission’s director-general for Economic and Financial Affairs, Marco Buti; and individuals from Columbia University, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, MIT, the Brookings Institution, University of Cambridge, the EU-based think tank Bruegel, Morgan Stanley, European Banking Authority, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker was chair of the panel on ‘Transatlantic Dimensions of Financial Reform,’ and with Olli Rehn, Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs (a central figure of the ‘austerity’ hierarchy) as the ‘keynote’ speaker.

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Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, head of the Geopolitics Division of the Hampton Institute, Research Director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project and hosts a weekly podcast show at BoilingFrogsPost.

“A Lot of People Believe This Stuff”: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations

“A Lot of People Believe This Stuff”: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” – George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

“It’s important, because a lot of people believe this stuff.”  – Bill Clinton, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, 5 September 2012

In case you were unaware, Bill Clinton gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention on the evening of September 5, which, the media tells us, revealed Clinton’s “special gift”[1] to “give a boost to Obama’s middle-class hero image.”[2] The speech has been hailed as Clinton’s “come back,”[3] and a “spirited defense” of Obama..[4] The “rock star,”[5] Bill Clinton, received heaps of praise from celebrities who endorsed his speech, and it’s obviously very important that the public know what Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, and Alicia Silverstone think of the speech, so lucky for us, the media tells us. It was, “fantastic… common sense,” that Clinton was “up there teaching,” and “breaking it down.”[6]

But it’s also important that the public receive more ‘expert’ analysis from political commentators and reporters, so CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer explained that he had been watching Clinton since 1992 when he was CNN’s White House correspondent, and that, “[t]his may have been the best speech I have ever heard Bill Clinton deliver,” while GOP strategist Alex Castellanos proclaimed, “This will be the moment that probably re-elected Barack Obama.” Brit Hume on Fox News (“fair and balanced”) said that Clinton, “is the most talented politician I’ve ever covered and the most charming man I’ve ever met… No one in my view can frame an argument more effectively than he can.” Anderson Cooper shared his wisdom and analysis, explaining that, “[t]he level of detail in the speech was quite surprising… and yet there was a personality.” Chris Matthews on MSNBC chimed in, “I wouldn’t want to be the guy fighting Bill Clinton if the issue is Barack Obama.” But of course, there was some “intelligent criticism” of the speech within the media, so it wasn’t all praise. For example, John King of CNN noted that the speech could “use an editor,” because as various other critics noted, it was “too long.”[7]

So what exactly did Bill Clinton say that was so inspiring and praiseworthy? Well, he went up on stage, and for fifty minutes, successfully achieved the highest degree of hypocrisy possible. His speech could not have been better constructed if it had been written by a public relations firm, itself. And perhaps it was. After all, it’s not that the Clinton’s don’t have a cozy relationship with public relations firms, as Burson-Marsteller, the most prominent PR firm in the United States, ran Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign in 2008.[8] The firm is venerable and highly respected, and has built a very prominent resume of individuals and institutions it has represented, such as Ceausescu in Romania, the Saudi royal family, the Nigerian government when it wanted to discredit claims of genocide during the Biafran war, the Argentine dictatorship which killed roughly 35,000 of its own people, the Indonesian government as it committed genocide in East Timor (ultimately eliminating a third of the entire population while Bill Clinton armed it to do so). Burson-Marsteller also represented Union Carbide following the Bhopal gas leak that killed 15,000 people in India, among other reputable clients.[9]

Controlling the “Bewildered Herd” of “Ignorant and Meddlesome Outsiders”

I mention the public relations industry, because elections are essentially run by the PR industry, and public relations is the officially-sanctioned term for “propaganda.” It is no small coincidence that the founder of the public relations industry, a man named Edward Bernays, also happened to have literally written the book on Propaganda (1928), in which he wrote, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” He added: “it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.” Naturally, explained Bernays, this is merely “a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized.”[10]

Bernays of course had experience. In 1917, he was asked by President Woodrow Wilson to join the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a propaganda agency created by the government to rally the American population to support entering World War I, which was popularly perceived at the time as “a rich man’s war.” The CPI was highly successful, and the American people went to war. Bernays and the other propagandists who were involved were so impressed with their manipulation of the public during war-time, that they felt they could do it during peace time as well. Thus, after the war, Bernays soon founded one of the first PR firms in the United States. Walter Lippmann, the most influential intellectual in the United States at that time, encouraged President Wilson to create the CPI, and even suggested the concept of “making the world safe for democracy,” which became Wilson’s “idealistic” democratic vision for the world, still discussed in political science today. Lippmann and other intellectuals of the era recommended using social scientists and other intellectual elites to undertake “systematic intelligence and information control” as a “regular organ of popular government.” This was what Lippmann called the “manufacture of consent.”[11]

Lippmann wrote that, “propaganda, as the advocacy of ideas and doctrines, has a legitimate and desirable part to play in our democratic system.” Harold Lasswell, another leading political scientist of the era, wrote that, “[p]ropaganda is surely here to stay.” In his 1922 book, Public Opinion, Lippmann wrote that for the “manufacture of consent,” society needed “intelligence bureaus” or “observatories” which would distribute “disinterested” information to journalists, governments, businesses, and the society at large. This essentially is the function of think tanks and PR firms. The term “disinterested” is used to refer to the concept that the information and ideas are not shaped by emotional, irrational, or utopian concepts like “morality” or “ethics,” they are simply facts without a perceived ideology.[12]

In his 1925 book, The Phantom Public, Lippmann defined democracy for the modern state-capitalist system, which would not only be firmly entrenched within the United States, but exported around the world. Lippmann was quite emphatic: “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny.” That “tyranny,” of course, was the public interfering in the affairs of the state. Lippmann wrote that, “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us may live free of the trampling of a bewildered herd.” Referring to the public as “interested spectators of action,” Lippmann explained that, “the opinions of the spectators must be essentially different from those of the actors,” designed in such a way that the rulers of society – the corporate-financial elite and the intellectuals that serve them – would be able to continue controlling society with “the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.” What Lippmann recommended in 1922 as the “manufacture of consent,” Bernays recommended in 1923 as “the engineering of consent.” Engineering consent, Bernays later wrote in 1947, “affects almost every aspect of our daily lives.” He explained: “When used for social purposes, it is among our most valuable contributions to the efficient functioning of modern society.”[13]

Presidents and politicians are products of public relations. We are presented with officially sanctioned concepts of democracy, politics, and ideology. We are subsequently given a ‘choice’ between – usually two – different accepted views. This is called “balance.” The difference between the views are primarily tactical, but the fundamentals remain the same. Thus, no matter the political party in power, war and empire are on the agenda, but different views can proliferate on the tactics and assessment of the results of imperial policies. Imperialism itself cannot be questioned, or even acknowledged; it’s simply accepted. The same goes for serving the interests of the corporate and financial elite, which of course are the main actors in determining foreign imperial policy itself. Imperialism and war for the benefit of a parasitic economic and financial elite, however, is not something which the public could openly accept, so we are given different words, definitions, and mythologies of our society and its policies, so that the “invisible governors” – as Bernays referred to them – may continue to “manufacture consent” to the system; thus maintaining ‘social order’, which means to maintain the social hierarchy of power.

Idealistic Democracy in the Land of Simplistic Hypocrisy

When we discuss Woodrow Wilson as president, we give warm and boisterous praise to his “enlightened” vision of “democratic idealism.” In fact, so consistent and engrained is our officially sanctioned respect for Woodrow Wilson’s profound vision, that it was given a special name: “Wilsonian idealism” or “Wilsonian liberalism,” to “make the world safe for democracy.” It was conceived of as a kind of “internationalist” vision for world order predicated on “international cooperation and integration,” countering political realism which viewed the international arena as one of anarchy where states act in their own self-interest.[14]

Wilson of course, was not concerned with acting in “self-interest,” because he had an enlightened vision of “liberal idealism.” No doubt it was this “idealism” upon which Wilson based his invasions and occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, literally sending the Marines into the Parliament to disband it at gunpoint, killing tens of thousands of Haitians and crushing a liberation struggle in the country-side, and re-writing the constitution to allow American corporations to control the resources and buy land. In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt, another democratic “idealist” president, was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the Haitian occupation (which began in 1915 and lasted until the Roosevelt administration in 1934). FDR took credit for writing the Haitian constitution, and claimed that he was responsible for “running several Caribbean republics.” Roosevelt referred to the Haitian occupation and his work on the new constitution as “an excellent piece of constructive work,” for which “the world ought to thank us.” He explained the common view of elites toward the general population – foreign and domestic – when he explained that in relation to Latin Americans, “You have to treat them like children.” The American media, with the New York Times at the helm, praised the ruthless occupation as a way for America to “advance” the Haitians, who were “a horde of naked niggers.” Wilson’s Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan reflected on his profound knowledge of Haitians when he stated, “Dear me, think of it! Niggers speaking French.”[15]

Wilson occupied the Dominican Republic in 1916, the neighbouring country to Haiti on the island once called Hispaniola when Columbus landed there and eradicated the indigenous population. When the U.S. ended the occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1924, a US-army trained commander, Rafael Trujillo, rigged the elections and became the country’s new dictator. President Hoover congratulated Trujillo on his “auspicious” victory. When FDR became president in 1933, he implemented his “Good Neighbor” policy for Latin America, meaning that America would be a “good neighbour” to ruthless tyrants like Trujillo so long as they served American interests. During this time, Trujillo, America’s “staunch friend” – as one American businessman referred to him – murdered roughly 25,000 Haitians in Dominican territory in an effort to “purify” and protect the ethnic superiority of the Dominican race. The genocide, however, created bad publicity for America’s support of Trujillo, since it drew obvious comparisons to similar dictators of the same era in Italy and Germany. So FDR’s administration undertook a “massive public relations effort” for the Trujillo regime, which included having biographies written about Trujillo in which he was described as emblematic of “democratic” and “humanitarian” virtues.[16]

In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton referenced all the good work he has done for Haiti, explaining that he was “honored” to have worked with both president’s Bush and Obama in Haiti through various crises in the impoverished country. He presented this as evidence of how he is not a divisive politician, but seeks to work “with Democrats, Republicans and independents,” and that they “focus on solving problems and seizing opportunities.”[17] Well, how is Clinton’s record in Haiti? Should this question not be asked?

After the American occupation of Haiti ended, a dynastic dictatorship emerged as father and son Duvaliers ruled Haiti with an iron fist, and US support. When the dictatorship could no longer be sustained, it collapsed in the mid-80s, and following a series of military governments, Haiti undertook mass democratic elections in 1990, through which a populist priest and practitioner of Liberation Theology (the view that the purpose of Christianity was to fight for and liberate the poor from their poverty and oppression), Jean Bertrand Aristide, became victorious in securing the presidency. Aristide campaigned on empowering the extremely poor peasant population, which infuriated the local economic elite, who called him “the devil,” as well as U.S. corporate investors, since he attempted to implement the rather radical policy of doubling the minimum wage in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. This was obviously unacceptable and “irresponsible,” so in September of 1991, less than a year after being elected President, Aristide was deposed in a military coup. The CIA had formed close links with Aristide’s political opponents, and undertook a campaign to discredit him. Officially, the American government denounced the coup, though within days urged the military dictatorship “toward sharing power with the Parliament.” Economic sanctions were imposed, but quickly lifted in 1992 for the benefit of American corporations in Haiti as the State Department sought an “acceptable” political compromise. Aristide was pressured to sign an agreement that would allow him to “share” power and return to Haiti to continue the rest of his term as little more tan a figurehead.[18]

When Clinton came to power in 1993, his administration continued the process of negotiations aiming to bring Aristide into the “solution,” but only “when conditions permit,” and he agreed to share power with the US-favored candidate in the 1990 elections, a former World Bank official who was installed by the military coup. Meanwhile, the military government had killed thousands of Haitian civilians who were Aristide supporters. When an agreement was announced with Aristide, the military government in Haiti – armed by the US – quickly accelerated its murderous campaign. The US negotiations with Aristide focused on the perceived “need” for Aristide to “share” power with the military, because the Americans – who created the Haitian military force during the first US occupation of the country – viewed it as a source of “stability.” However, the military government refused to have Aristide return and share power with him in any capacity. Thus, Clinton’s National Security Advisor Anthony Lake instructed his staff at the National Security Council (NSC) to construct “Haitian invasion scenarios.”  The United States, however, was a promoter of “democracy,” so it needed to install a “civilian” government, and not be seen supporting a ruthless military dictatorship so openly. Aristide was given advice by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), run by the U.S. State Department, as well as the World Bank and IMF, who “educated” Aristide on “suitable” economic plans for Haiti once he returned to power. It should be noted, however, that the CIA, several State Department officials, as well as several Democratic and Republican politicians felt it was a bad idea to return Aristide to power, and commonly referred to him as a “psychopath.” Obviously, someone would have to be a “psychopath” to attempt to raise the minimum wage in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.[19]

In 1994, Clinton invaded Haiti with 20,000 troops in what was called “Operation Uphold Democracy,” which not only re-installed Aristide to finish his term, but ensured that the coup leaders and perpetrators of atrocities were not held to account for their crimes, the result of a deal brokered by the “human rights” president Jimmy Carter, whom Clinton dispatched to Haiti in order to negotiate a deal with the military. The United States occupation forces handed over “control” of Haiti to a United Nations ‘mission’ of 6,000 soldiers in 1995, with US forces expected to leave in 1996, when Aristide’s term finished and he was replaced with a business-friendly leader. Though in 1995, Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, reassured the U.S. Senate that, “even after our exit in February 1996, we will remain in charge by means of USAID and the private sector.”[20]

This is called the “restoration of democracy.” While Clinton sent 20,000 troops to Haiti to “restore democracy,” Obama sent 10,000 troops to Haiti to “restore order” following the devastating earthquake which killed several hundred thousand people who were living in the slums that were created through World Bank and IMF policies of austerity and structural adjustment, many of which were imposed during the Clinton administration. When Obama sent his troops to Haiti, he pledged that the “United States is in Haiti for the long haul.”[21] Indeed the U.S. has been invading and exploiting Haiti and punishing its population for over 200 years, so why stop now?

“The Price is Worth It”: How To Get Away With Murdering Half a Million Children

In his speech at the DNC, Clinton also praised Obama’s “successful end of the war in Iraq.” Clinton, of course, has had a great deal of experience when it comes to Iraq. After Iraq had stopped being a pliant U.S. puppet, George Bush Sr. waged a brutal war against the country, after which economic sanctions were imposed, lasting through the duration of the Clinton administration. The sanctions, in fact, began in 1990 before the first Gulf War, which destroyed the entire infrastructure of the country. Margaret Thatcher explained that the purpose of the Iraq war was to “destroy the entire military, and perhaps industrial, potential of that country.” The sanctions from 1990 to 2000 resulted in the deaths of roughly 1.5 million Iraqis, over 500,000 of which were children under the age of 12. The New York Times praised the sanctions as one of the “greatest successes” for the UN in Iraq. Three top UN officials who were sent to Iraq to monitor the sanctions and provide humanitarian assistance resigned in protest against the sanctions, explaining that they were causing immense harm to the civilian population. When Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked in 1996 about the 500,000 children killed by the sanctions, Albright stated, “we think the price is worth it.”[22]

Obama of course, has learned a valuable lesson from Clinton, and imposed sanctions on Iran in order to punish the Iranian population. The day before Clinton spoke at the DNC endorsing Obama, the Financial Times reported that the US-imposed sanctions on Iran were having the predictable effect as they were hitting medical patients especially hard, as deliveries of medicine and raw material for Iranian pharmaceutical companies was either stopped or delayed, as “access to medicine has become increasingly limited.” One Iranian medical NGO official commented, “This is a blatant hostage-taking of the most vulnerable people by countries which claim they care about human rights.”[23]

However, these are exactly the intentions of sanctions. When Castro overthrew the U.S.-supported dictatorship in Cuba in 1959, Cuba became the primary enemy of the United States because, in the words of a 1960 National Intelligence Estimate, of Cuba’s “successful defiance of the U.S.” As the Eisenhower administration – and the Kennedy administration following him – designed and implemented harsh economic sanctions, top officials were quite blunt in their internal discussions about the effects and intent of the policies. Eisenhower noted that if the Cuban people “are hungry, they will throw Castro out,” since the “primary objective” of the sanctions, the president noted, was “to establish conditions which will bring home to the Cuban people the cost of Castro’s policies.” Kennedy administration officials explained that the sanctions – and the accompanying covert warfare – were designed to alienate “internal support” in Cuba to Castro’s government, “based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship,” which meant that US policy had to aim “to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of the government,” explained one State Department official.[24]

“It Takes Some Brass”: Serving the Corporate Consensus with the Politics of Poverty

The media outlet, PolitiFact, reported on Bill Clinton’s DNC speech, writing that the former president “received a hero’s welcome,” and then confirmed Clinton’s statements on the economy as “true.”[25] Well, what are some things that Clinton said about the economy? One thing Clinton stated was that, “It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics,” adding that, “poverty, discrimination and ignorance restrict growth.” He proclaimed that the Democrats “think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it.” Clinton noted that the Republicans “want to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts.” Clinton, while referring to a Republican politician, noted, “it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”[26] While the audience laughed, applauded, and cheered at that statement, the irony was lost on the fact that Clinton was doing just that: “attacking a guy for doing what [he] did.” Clearly, Clinton has “some brass” to not only do that, but to actually comment on that technique.

It’s truly an amazing exercise in absolute hypocrisy to see a man stand up in front of millions of people and blame Republicans for wanting to get rid of “pesky financial regulations” when his administration was largely responsible for getting rid of the most important “pesky financial regulations” – such as the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act – which Obama has obviously not even considered re-instating. The economic crisis – which is only going to get worse, since Obama has ensured that the next financial crisis will be much more severe than the last one – was not caused by a political party, it was caused by a socio-political and economic ideology that we call ‘neoliberalism.’ This ideology was and still is endorsed and promoted by Republicans and Democrats alike. So from Reagan onwards, every single U.S. president is responsible for creating and making the economic crisis worse, because they implemented policies which were designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many. And when the system crashes, as it inevitably does, the government moves in to save the banks and financial institutions from their crimes, and hand the people the bill.[27]

Under Bill Clinton, the derivatives market exploded as financial institutions were deregulated, major mergers approved – creating what we now call “too big to fail” banks – which since Obama’s “economic recovery” are bigger and more dangerous than ever. Under Clinton, the Federal Reserve kept interest rates at historic lows and provided liquidity (money) to help build the housing bubble, with which Clinton’s unregulated derivatives market saw an explosion in speculation, not only allowing banks and hedge funds to help create the financial crisis, but also to profit from it, as Goldman Sachs did (which was Obama’s main campaign contributor in his 2008 election). Clinton’s administration had the Department of Housing and Urban Development pressure the mortgage giants – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – to provide mortgages to low-income borrowers, which helped build the housing bubble under an illusion of prosperity. The Glass-Steagall Act, which was put in place in 1933 in response to the Great Depression, was designed to prevent another Great Depression. So of course, banks like JP Morgan, Citicorp and others lobbied heavily to have it repealed (as a barrier to “growth”), and the Federal Reserve and Clinton’s Treasury Department responded to the demands of their constituents – the banks and corporations that they represent in government – by dismantling these “pesky financial regulations.” Thus, Alan Greenspan at the Fed, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers at the Treasury were among the key architects of the economic collapse, along with their constituents at JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.[28]

So naturally, when Obama became president, it was important to appoint all the people who caused the crisis to positions in which they are responsible for solving the crisis they helped create. So Obama appointed Larry Summers to be his chief economic adviser, and of course, Timothy Geithner who previously served as President of the New York Federal Reserve, where he was appointed to that position by the major Wall Street banks he was to represent. Geithner was also a protégé of Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Rubin had since become an executive at Citigroup, rewarded for his work in dismantling “pesky financial regulations” and thus able to profit from the crisis he helped create. Summers had previously shown his propensity for “morally right and good economics” – as Clinton described it – when he was Chief Economist at the World Bank in 1991, where he wrote a secret memo advocating Western nations and corporations to dump toxic waste in poor African countries because by the time the effects of cancer emerge, statistically speaking, the population would already be dead because their life expectancy was so low. Thus, wrote Summers, “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”[29]

Clearly, Clinton’s economic policies as president – and those of which he has endorsed in Obama’s administration – were a triumphant success for the dominant banks, financial institutions and corporations that own the government. Despite all the evidence of Goldman Sachs having engaged in repeated criminal activity in causing the financial crisis and profiting off of it (not to mention getting massive bailout funds from Obama), Obama’s [In]Justice Department recently announced that the U.S. government “will not prosecute Goldman Sachs.”[30] And of course not, why would Obama prosecute the bank that was his number one financial contributor in his 2008 election campaign. Though of course, it should be noted, that Obama’s 2008 campaign had some diversity among its top donors: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and UBS, among others. The financial institutions preferred Obama over John McCain in 2008, and it was a smart investment for them.[31] After all, Obama’s bailouts gave the banks $16 trillion.[32]

No surprise then, to see that Obama’s top campaign donors in 2012 include Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. And since the U.S. Supreme Court voted in January of 2010 to allow corporations to contribute as much money as they want to election campaigns – under “constitutional free-speech rights” – campaign spending has increased dramatically.[33] Thus, while Wall Street gave the Obama campaign $16 million in 2008, that number has soared during the current election, with the same contributors donating to Romney.[34] Among Romney’s current top supporters are Morgan Stanley, Bank of American, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs, with Obama getting more support from Microsoft, Google, IBM, and others.[35] While Obama parades around calling Wall Street executives “fat cats,” Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised more than $14 million from the “fat cats” through the end of April 2012.[36]

Clinton stated at the Democratic Convention, reflecting upon his economic policies of the 1990s, “We could see that the policies were working, that the economy was growing… [and] by 1996 the economy was roaring,” neglecting to mention it was a roaring bubble built upon speculation and debt. This, of course, received a thunderous applause for Clinton as he spoke, adding that President Obama “has laid the foundation for a new, modern successful economy of shared prosperity. And if you renew the president’s contract, you will feel it. You will feel it.”[37] He had to repeat that part because people haven’t been “feeling it,” so it was important to remind them that current conditions are no basis for assessing the future. One must assess the future based upon pure “faith.” Hence, “you will feel it” is repeated despite all the policies that indicate otherwise.

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general responsible for oversight of Obama’s bailout program, recently published a book entitled, “Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street,” in which he wrote, “I had no idea that the U.S. government had been captured by the banks,” but this became clear as the bailouts were “setting the country up for potentially catastrophic losses.”[38] In his final report as inspector of the bailouts, Barofsky wrote: “The prospect of more bailouts will continue to fuel more bad behavior with potentially disastrous results.” In other words, the concept of “too big to fail” is an insurance policy for banks, telling them that the government will always be there to save them, and thus, they have no incentive to engage in safe financial practices, and are actually encouraged to continue making highly risky and speculative investments, paving the way for the next financial crisis at which time they will be bailed out again. Barofsky called the bailouts a “colossal failure,” under which the Treasury Department “made almost no effort to hold [the banks] accountable, and the bounteous terms delivered by the government seemed to border on being corrupt.”[39] Just more of Clinton’s “morally right and good economics,” no doubt.

“Free Trade” and Costly Poverty: A Bi-Partisan Consensus

Clinton of course, also implemented the NAFTA agreement, which is a protectionist corporate-dominated system of economic integration and exploitation between Mexico, Canada, and the US, undermining labour, de-industrializing the northern countries, exploiting the labour of poor Mexicans, and undertaking a concerted assault against the middle class. Thus, it is called a “free trade agreement,” though it consists of thousands of pages of rules and regulations expanding corporate rights and domination of the economy. This is perhaps what Clinton was referring to when he said that Democrats work towards “advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment” in order to provide “real opportunities” for “a strong middle class.” Those statements were of course met with thunderous applause and cheers.

Back during the 2008 campaign, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said that they would renegotiate NAFTA, and even suggested that the United States would pull out of the agreement. While campaigning, they made these statements at a debate in Cleveland, Ohio, where NAFTA is “wildly unpopular with blue-collar workers,” due to all the manufacturing jobs that were lost as a result of the trade agreement. Hillary Clinton stated that she would “renegotiate it on terms that are favourable to all of America.” Obama agreed with Hillary at the debate, stating, “I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about, and I think actually Senator Clinton’s answer on this one is right.” Obama said that he would “ensure that we actually get labour and environmental standards that are enforced… That is something that I have been consistent about.”[40]

The Canadian business and financial elite – and their mouthpieces in the media – immediately declared the sky to be falling as a result of presidential hopefuls suggesting to renegotiate NAFTA. It was leaked to the Canadian media that a senior member of Obama’s campaign team contacted the Canadian Consulate in Chicago to inform them that when Obama talks about renegotiating or “opting out” of NAFTA, “it was just campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously.” In other words, he was just lying to get into power. The statements were made by Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s senior economic adviser during his campaign.[41] Goolsbee further informed Canadian officials that Obama’s stand on free trade during the campaign trail was “more reflective of political maneuvering than policy,” and that Obama’s language “should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”[42] In other words, it is important to completely ignore everything Obama says while he is campaigning for president, because it is all lies meant to be consumed by the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders,” the voting public. It does not reflect the actual policies and plans of Obama, which the public is not to be informed of.

So why lie about NAFTA? In Ohio, where the pledges to renegotiate NAFTA were made, the trade agreement led to the loss of roughly 200,000 manufacturing jobs, while the U.S. as a whole lost some 3.1 million jobs between 1994 and 2009 due to NAFTA, which also led to a trade deficit with Mexico and Canada that was $9.1 billion in 1993, and has since risen to $138.5 billion in 2007. During the presidential campaign, national polls revealed that 56% of the American population was in favour of renegotiating NAFTA. In Mexico, hundreds of thousands of people had marched in opposition to NAFTA, demanding renegotiations, and in Canada, 61% of the population favour renegotiation.[43]

Public opinion polls are extensively studied by the public relations industry and political strategists, who advise politicians during their campaigns (and once they take power). Because public opinion is in favour of renegotiating NAFTA, the rhetoric of politicians must reflect public opinion, so that the politicians are viewed in a good light and get the votes they need to get into power. However, because politicians are put in power to serve the interests of corporate and financial institutions, it can only remain as rhetoric, because renegotiating is against the interests and desires of the economic and financial elite, who are, after all, the major financial contributors to electoral advertising campaigns. So public opinion must be studied so that it can be used to manipulate the public – “the engineering of consent” – but then it must also be immediately undermined and dismissed, so that policy does not actually follow public opinion. Rather, public opinion – to the best degree possible – must be influenced to follow policy.

Raymond Chretien, former Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. and nephew of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien (who implemented NAFTA in cooperation with Bill Clinton), said in November of 2008, just following Obama’s successful election, that Obama “will likely find a way to back off his election campaign promise to renegotiate” the agreement, adding, “once in power in January, once apprised of what is at stake here,” meaning, massive corporate profits, “I doubt very much that he will want to reopen that.”[44] Within less than a month of becoming president, Obama stated that his promise to renegotiate NAFTA “will have to wait”; forever, no doubt.[45] Kind of like closing the torture camp at Guantanamo.

So apart from just lying about trade agreements to get into power, what is Obama’s actual record as president on trade agreements? Negotiations were begun under the Bush administration in 2008 for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and of course, since the difference between Obama and Bush was one of rhetoric, the negotiations continued in the same manner: secretly.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has been working for over three years on a massive so-called “trade agreement” behind closed doors, with input given only to 600 corporate lobbyists who have had access to the draft deal and negotiations, which have otherwise been kept secret from the public. Just part of Obama’s promised “transparency,” no doubt. The agreement includes the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam, among others. Roughly 133 Democratic representatives wrote a letter to Obama demanding access to the “secret texts” of the trade deal, with public interest groups warning that millions of jobs could be lost as a result of the agreement.[46]

While it is called a “trade agreement,” only 2 of the 26 chapters in the TPP have to do with trade, with the majority of the rest dealing with establishing corporate rights, protections, privileges, as well as constraints on “pesky” government regulations. Among these new “rights” and “privileges” for corporations (who obviously do not have enough rights and privileges as it is) include more job offshoring, protections to allow monopolies to raise prices, as well as new corporate controls established over natural resources. The deal also includes threats to food safety, land use, environmental protection, energy use and control, as well as a special chapter on “copyrights” which includes a massive threat to Internet freedom, which was previously stalled in Congress with the attempted Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Obviously, dismantling Internet freedom through a corrupt institution like Congress failed due to public pressure, and thus, Congress is still too influenced by the “meddlesome and ignorant outsiders,” so it’s better that such an agreement be negotiated in secret with 600 corporations.[47]

Documents from the deal have been leaked, which is the only way that any of this information has become public. When the documents were leaked, it was reported that the Obama administration “intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations.” In the documents, it was revealed that Obama’s administration has emerged as a very strong advocate “for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.” In other words, the already ineffective and almost-useless and toothless environmental, financial, and labour protections that exist are simply unacceptable to the Obama administration and the 600 corporations Obama is taking his orders from. The agreement stipulates that foreign corporations operating in the United States would no longer be subject to domestic US laws regarding protections for the environment, finance, or labour rights, and could appeal to an “international tribunal” which would be given the power to overrule American law and impose sanctions on the U.S. for violating the new “rights” of corporations.[48]

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama stated, “We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; [or] require the privatization of our vital public services.” I suppose that was somewhat true, since technically it isn’t a “bilateral” agreement, but rather a “multi-lateral” agreement. Referring to the changed rules for medication – which would allow companies to increase prices and control monopolies over life-saving medications, as well as prevent poor countries from developing cheap alternatives – the U.S. manger of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, stated, “Bush was better than Obama on this.” The agreement would of course grant similar rights to American corporations in the other countries of the TPP agreement, thus, it serves as a profitable and exploitative bonanza for all multinational corporations involved, and of course, all the populations from the countries involved will suffer as a result. The “international tribunal” which would dictate the laws of the countries would be staffed by corporate lawyers acting as “judges,” thus ensuring that cases taken before them have a “fair and balanced” hearing, as in, fairly balanced in favour of corporate rights over… everything else. The TPP deal is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobby in the United States, as well as by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who has urged the U.S. to finalize the deal as fast as possible.[49]

Public Citizen is the organization that published the leaked document, a public research institution whose director, Todd Tucker, stated, “The leaked document… shows that in all of the major respects, this is exactly the same template that was used in NAFTA and other agreements that President Obama campaigned against,” and noted that the TPP has provisions that allow other countries to join in the future, potentially becoming a new “global trade agreement, larger than NAFTA.”[50] The American Prospect reported on the TPP leaks, writing that, “the TPP now threatens a slow-motion stealth attack against a century of progressive domestic policy,” though it’s hardly slow-motion, and the policies that exist can hardly be said to be “progressive,” but nonetheless, all the little concessions granted to the demands of the “bewildered herd” of “interested spectators” were simply too much to bear for corporate dominance. Gary Horlick, a former U.S. trade official who had spent four decades involved in trade deals, stated, “This is the least transparent trade negotiation I have ever seen.” In fact, participants in the negotiations and discussions have to sign a memorandum of understanding which forbids them from releasing any “negotiating documents until four years after a deal is done or abandoned.” In short, Obama’s TPP is a “corporate coup.”[51]

The objective with the “unprecedented secrecy” in the negotiations is to have the deal signed before the elections. As the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk noted, “I believe … that we have very faithfully operated within the spirit of the Obama administration to have the most engaged and transparent process as we possibly could.” Though he explained what he meant by “as we possibly could,” when he added that, “there’s a practical reason” for all the secrecy: “for our ability both to preserve negotiating strength and to encourage our partners to be willing to put issues on the table they may not otherwise, that we have to preserve some measure of discretion and confidentiality.” In other words, the secrecy is necessary because if people knew what we were doing behind closed doors, they would oppose it, and the deal would be stopped. Yes, that is very “practical.” When asked if he would release a draft text of the agreement, Kirk replied that it was too early to do that, “there will be a time, once we have agreed on text, that we may – as we have with other agreements – be able to release that.” In other words: “maybe, and by maybe, I mean… nope!” Meanwhile, other nations don’t want to be left out of such an ambitious and “prosperous” trade agreement, as Japan, Canada, and Mexico have been lobbying to be included. But this would require the three countries to implement changes to their already-existing policies which would allow them to even be considered to enter the TPP. In other words, even Mexico doesn’t meet the required standards of desirable corporate exploitation and domination to be considered.[52]

All the secrecy is very important, because as public opinion polls show, the entire population is adamantly opposed to these types of negotiations. An opinion poll from 2011 revealed that the American population has – just over the previous few years – moved from “broad opposition” to “overwhelming opposition” to NAFTA-style trade deals. A major NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll from September of 2010 revealed that “the impact of trade and outsourcing is one of the only issues on which Americans of different classes, occupations and political persuasions agree,” with 86% saying that outsourcing jobs by U.S. companies to poor countries was “a top cause of our economic woes,” with 69% thinking that “free trade agreements between the United States and other countries cost the U.S. jobs,” and only 17% of Americans in 2010 feel that “free trade agreements” benefit the U.S., compared to 28% in 2007. A Democratic Party polling firm revealed that 45% of voters were much more likely to support a Democratic candidate if the candidate pointed out how their opponent supported various “free trade agreements” negotiated by George Bush. The same polling agency revealed in 2010 that Americans do not feel “warmly” towards corporations and banks, with only 29% of voters feeling “warm” toward corporations (compared to 13% among non-voters), and 12% of voters felt “warm” toward banks (compared to 16% among non-voters). These are lower ratings than those for Obama, Sarah Palin, the GOP, Democrats, Newt Gingrich, the NRA, labor unions, and much more. Polling showed that voters who vote for Democrats cited “job offshoring” as “the most important issue facing the country,” and felt that Republican support for offshoring was the “most important reason to not vote Republican.”[53]

The extensive polling, which politicians are well aware of, reflects a view that citizens look at corporations and banks unfavorably, and that issues of “free trade” and “job offshoring” feature extremely high in their concerns, and whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, the population is overwhelming in opposition to “free trade” agreements. So, the lesson from all this research on public opinion is not to change the policy to meet the demands of the public, but rather to change the discussion. So “free trade” agreements are simply not discussed, hence the enormous secrecy behind the TPP. Since corporations and banks are viewed so unfavorably, you simply remove them from the discussion. After all, it is the corporations and banks that the politicians are there to serve, and you don’t want to bad mouth your bosses in public too much or too loud (unless it’s “just campaign rhetoric”). Thus, when it comes to blaming the economic crisis on someone, the discussion must be simplified to an absurd little fairy tale in which you remove facts from reality, and create an image and establish a political discourse in which it was either: a) the Republicans did it, or b) the Democrats did it. By framing the discourse at this very basic, black and white manner, you immediately divide people against each other, instead of uniting them in opposition to the banks and corporations which control the politicians and the government. This is done for obvious reasons. You can’t expect a parasite to help you find a way to get rid of parasites. That’s why public relations was invented.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs jobby-jobs, jobby job-jobbin… Jobs.” – Every Politician Ever

When politicians blather about, they almost always mention this magical word called “jobs.” They usually state that their intention is to “create jobs” or that they have already “created jobs.” This is taken as a testament to their tireless work on behalf of the population that elected them. Jobs are good. So if politicians create jobs, they are doing good… right? Well, what if the word “jobs” meant something different when politicians say it? Perhaps, it would be helpful to seek a definition, so that we can translate political language and understand what is really being said. After all, if you only speak English, and you’re listening to someone who only speaks Spanish, you might recognize a couple of words now and again, but ultimately, you need a translation in order to understand what is being said. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out in countless public speaking events, when politicians say “jobs,” what they mean to say is, “profits.” Perhaps this is worth investigating, no?

First, we must ask some basic questions. Why are jobs important? Because they provide a means of living, of earning income, and thus, generating wealth and prosperity for all. That’s the story, anyway. But essentially we can deduce that jobs are important because they provide income, which we depend on to live. So, if we are to talk about jobs, we have to talk about income.

In June of 2012, the OECD – an international organization of economists representing 34 of the wealthiest countries on earth – released a report noting that the United States is facing “record long-term unemployment, income inequality and lack of investment in education and innovation.” The report noted that for the U.S., “income inequality and relative poverty are among the highest in the OECD.” Only Chile, Mexico, and Turkey rank higher among OECD nations in terms of income inequality. The chances of staying poor are higher in the U.S. than in Europe. As Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD and former State Department official Richard Boucher explained, “If your parents are poor, the chances are you are going to stay poor.” As the comedian George Carlin once said, “It’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe in it.” The OECD report also noted, “the ongoing tide of foreclosures will continue to put downward pressure on house prices.” Just more of that “economic recovery” that we are told we are experiencing. Long-term unemployment in the U.S. is especially bad, with 40% of the unemployed – that’s officially 5.3 million Americans – have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. As the report also noted: “Although the middle class have seen their taxes remain roughly constant, or slightly increase, average income taxes have significantly declined for the most wealthy, especially the 1% top earners.”[54]

In 2008, the average household income for the top 1% was $1.2 million, though the percentage is highly skewed, as entry to the top 1% starts at $380,000. The share of total national income going to the top 1% reached an 80-year high in 2007, of 23.5% (and 17.6% in 2009 as the financial market deflated). For the top 0.1%, the inequality is even more pronounced. Their share of total income for the United States was 12.3% in 2007, sinking to a “still disproportionate” level of 8.1% in 2009 with the financial crash. Though this is a general trend in most countries of the OECD nations, it “began sooner, and has gone further, in America.” Increasingly, those who are within the top 1% work in finance, a trend which has increased faster than any comparable business between 1979 and 2005. In 1979, 8% of those within the top 1% worked in finance; in 2005, 13.9% of those in the top percentile worked in finance. For the top 0.1%, in 1979 roughly 11% were in finance, and in 2005 roughly 18% were in finance. The last time that income inequality was even comparable to the present day situation was during the Great Depression.[55]

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said in June of 2012 that the United Sates is “no longer the land of opportunity” and “the ‘American dream’ is a myth.” As he detailed in his newest book, The Price of Inequality, “America has the least equality of opportunity of any of the advanced industrial economies.” This inequality will only widen in the coming decades, he warned, because the lack of mobility makes it a reinforcing system, and America will become a two-class society: “People will live in gated communities with armed guards. It’s an ugly picture. There will be political, social and economic turmoil.” Stiglitz, however, said there was a solution: eliminating “corporate welfare” and policies that “create wealth but not economic growth.”[56] In other words, instead of just creating profits for the few, focus on prosperity for the many. However, all U.S. administrations – whether Democrat or Republican – have done the exact opposite.

Between 1979 and 2006, the share of national income that went to the top 1% doubled, while the top 0.1% have amassed a larger share of the national income than at any other point on record. Between 2009 and 2011, the S&P500 (the stock prices of the top 500 companies) went up by over 80%, while median household income declined by more than 10%. While the bottom 50% of Americans own 2.5% of the national wealth, the top 1% own 33.8%. The bottom half of Americans own 0.5% of stocks, bonds, and other investment assets, while the top 1% own 50.9%. As of 2007, the top 1% had 5% of the debt, while the bottom 90% had 73% of the debt. Tax rates for the richest Americans are almost the lowest they have ever been. Productivity of workers has increased exponentially since 1947, but inflation-adjusted wages have remained flat for the same period of time. Between 1990 and 2005, the average pay for a CEO increased by 300%, and corporate profits have doubled, while pay for “production workers” (labour) has increased by 4% and the minimum wage has dropped. In 1970, the top CEOs earned 45 times as much as the average worker; in 2006, the top CEOs earned 1,723 times as much as the average worker. America has more income inequality than Egypt, India, China, Russia, and Iran. This inequality is further strengthened when you examine the generational divide. Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of people under the age of 35 has dropped by 68%, while seniors have gotten 42% richer. Adjusted for inflation, in 1984, the median wealth of someone under 35 was $11,521; in 2009, it was $3,662.[57]

Now we get to the actual subject of “jobs,” of which Clinton spent so much time discussing in his speech at the DNC, that Democrats are better at creating “private-sector jobs” than Republicans, which was met with thunderous applause, and endless articles in the media explaining how “right” he was. Well yes, the “private sector” has added some jobs. This led Obama to say in June that the private sector was “doing fine.” When this created a public relations problem for Obama, he later clarified that it is “absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine.” He added: “If you look at what I said… we’ve actually seen some good momentum in the private sector… record corporate profits… so that has not been the greatest drag on the economy.”[58] Indeed, this is partly true. In May of 2012, the largest 500 corporations (the Fortune 500, as they are called) reported record-breaking profits, with ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart in the top spots. Further, “the combined earnings for the Fortune 500 corporations rose 16% from 2010 to a record high of $825 billion in 2011.”[59] As profits increase, the pay for CEOs increases too, jumping just 6% in one year.[60] In June of 2012, the Federal Reserve revealed that between 2007 and 2010, Americans saw their wealth plummet by 40%.[61] So, Obama was correct in saying that we have seen “record corporate profits,” but incorrect in saying that this was not a “drag on the economy,” as it rapidly accelerates income inequality, which, quite directly, creates a drag on the economy, to say the least.

While the private sector has been adding jobs, the public sector has been cutting them, at both the state and federal level, which has been hitting black Americans the hardest.[62] This has been a significant “drag” on economic growth (it’s called “austerity”), and it is a growing trend, and will continue regardless of whether a Democratic or Republican politician is in office, because it is what is demanded by the economic and financial elite and neoliberal ideology: which dictates “austerity” and “structural reform” as a response to a crisis. When you translate those words, you get “impoverishment” and “exploitation.” This leads to “growth,” which means “profits.” Just like the word “jobs” also often means profits.

When Obama created his “Jobs and Competitiveness Council,” he asked 26 CEOs to form a group to advise the president on how to “create jobs.” The council was headed by Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, but also included other “job creators” like the CEO of American Express.[63] And who better than the CEO of General Electric to lead the charge on “job creation”? After all, General Electric has cut significant amounts of American jobs, so naturally, it’s a logical choice from which to appoint a “jobs czar.” Between 2000 and 2009, the number of Americans employed by GE declined from 162,000 to 134,000, a general trend which saw U.S. multinational corporations reduce their domestic American workforce by 2.9 million people in the past decade, while increasing their overseas workforce by 2.4 million. When Obama appointed GE’s CEO, Jeff Immelt as “jobs czar,” President Obama stated that Mr. Immelt “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.”[64] Indeed, it “takes” undermining labour, worker exploitation, deregulation, offshoring, job insecurity, and government subsidy for corporations. In fact, the ten largest companies on Obama’s “jobs council” have shed over 91,000 jobs since 2009, with General Electric contributing 19,000 job losses to that number.[65]

So, if we do translate the word “jobs” into the word profits, then things tend to make more sense. After all, Obama appointed Immelt as his “jobs czar,” after Immelt cut 19,000 U.S. jobs but helped GE make record profits, and not only that, but GE does not pay any taxes, and instead, claims billions of dollars in tax benefits.[66] Thus, it makes more sense to think of Immelt as the “profits czar” who was put on Obama’s “profits council” to “create profits.” When you translate political language, everything suddenly makes much more sense, because it becomes comprehensible and logical. It just also happens to be rather monstrous and corrupt and infuriating, but that’s why political language is constructed: to not be properly understood. Thus, it was perfectly understandable for Bill Clinton, who implemented NAFTA which led to massive job losses, declining wages and standards of living, increased debt, offshoring, but also immense corporate profits, to explain in his speech that, “we need a lot more new jobs,” but pointed out what a good record Democrats have for “creating jobs.” Indeed, General Electric and Goldman Sachs would agree.

Public Relations Shapes the Debate

Since the economy is a disaster, it is very important to properly shape the discourse on economic issues, most especially during a political advertising campaign, otherwise it would be difficult to maintain any legitimacy. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is a public opinion research and strategic consulting firm that often works with the Democratic Party. Essentially, it is the Democratic Party’s public relations organization. In June of 2012, James Carville, a long-time Democratic Party political strategist who was the lead strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign, produced a research report along with other top political strategists for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. The report was entitled, Shifting the Economic Narrative, which suggested that the “prevailing narratives articulated by national Democratic leaders” are “vulnerable” in regards to the economic situation. In other words, the Democratic rhetoric and talking points on the economy don’t have much legitimacy. The report wrote that Democrats face an impossible situation in the elections “if we do not move to a new narrative,” or, to construct a new story. This would mean to change the story to “one that contextualizes the recovery but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class.” The report stated that voters “know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle – and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand,” thus, the narrative must shift to discussing “the plans for making things better.” While noting that the Democrats were losing voters on the economy, the report added that the same voters were still leaning toward the Democrats “because Romney is very vulnerable,” since “[t]hey do not trust him because of who he is for and because he is out of touch with ordinary people.” The report noted that the result was that, “it produces a fairly diminished embrace of Obama and the Democrats, the lesser of two evils, without much feeling of hope.”[67]

What voters “want to know,” wrote the report, was that Obama “understands the struggle of working families and has plans to make things better.” It doesn’t matter whether or not this is true, of course, but just that people believe it, and that they “want to know” it. The report noted that it had conducted several focus group research studies on college-educated voters who are ‘independents’ or ‘weak partisans,’ meaning that they only somewhat align with a particular political party. The research was revealing: while most had jobs, they had lower wages and fewer benefits which has left them struggling to pay for groceries. For non-college graduates, the situation is even worse, largely dependent upon food stamps and with many expressing that they feel as if they live in the 1900s where “you’re just slave labour.” Young people also have a disproportionate struggle, and are increasingly moving back home with their parents. Even in affluent suburbs people are “struggling with new realities,” such as “stagnant incomes, pay cuts, and layoffs.” Wile bills go up, paychecks either remain stagnant or go down, and this is most keenly felt in the cost of groceries, gas, cable bills, and medical insurance. These voters, the report suggested, “are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction,” with “no conceivable recovery in the year ahead that will change the view of the new state of the country.” These people, stated the report, “actually have a very realistic view,” and thus, “the current narrative about progress just misses the opportunity to connect and point forward.”[68]

While most of these voters support Obama, “they say it cannot get worse and you have to believe it will get better.” The “optimism” is predicated on the basis that “this has to be rock bottom,” which the report defined as “pessimistic optimism.” The type of “leaders” they are looking for are those “who understand the uncertainty and can lead a way forward.” While the Obama campaign talks about “jobs gained,” wrote the report, “it gains no support beyond 2008 Obama supporters.” On the economy, Romney supporters typically cannot say anything positive except that he is “not Obama.” However, many voters would still choose Romney over Obama when it comes to the economy, but when forced to choose between the two on the whole, “many of the Obama voters work to figure out a way to support him, though it lacks the kind of emotion and rationale that would drive engagement.” In other words, support for Obama tends to be driven more by the fact that he is “not Romney.” In the words of the report, it was that Obama was “the evil you know” and the “lesser of two evils.” While the patience of voters on Obama was “wearing very thin, they still want to believe in him.” All the ideas of voters that support Obama “center on what he should do – not what he has done.”[69] In other words, support is maintained in false hope.

In terms of “shifting the economic narrative,” the research report suggested that, “the strongest message was one focused on the future of the middle class – with minimal discussion of the recovery and jobs created and maximal empathy for the challenges people face.” Thus, the election needs to be about the “future of the middle class.” Two-thirds of those who partook in the focus groups responded positively to this message of helping the middle class, and they reacted well to references of the Clinton era economy (when their wealth was constructed on an illusion of debt and consumption). Ultimately, the report suggested that the best advertising campaign for the Democratic Party and Obama in particular was to “connect on a pocketbook level” and “commit to the programs voters rely on most,” such as Medicaid, Social Security and foodstamps. This rhetoric has “the capacity to be very powerful, particularly when the offer on the other side is suspicious and weak.”[70]

This “shifting message” was well received in Bill Clinton’s speech, where he talked about moving people “out of poverty [and] into the middle class,” and warning people that the Republicans will “hurt the middle class and the poor and put the future on hold.” That phrase, in particular, hit all the right points of discussion as suggested by the Democratic Party’s polling agency: to talk about the middle class, to protect the poor, and to focus on “the future.” That is why, as Clinton was finishing his speech, he said that, “If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining… you have to vote for Obama.”[71] Or that Democrats “think the country works better with a strong middle class.” Or that Republicans want to cut programs “that help the middle class and poor children,” which, of course, is true. But the statement neglects the problematic context that while Democrats may not necessarily “cut” these programs (though again, the evidence of this is scant, but let’s imagine as a hypothetical), the Democrats do continue to create the social conditions in which the middle class and poor struggle more, and thus, become more dependent upon various programs of support. It’s sort of like saying that, “After my opponent beats you with a stick, he won’t let you have a bandaid… But after I beat you with a stick, I at least give you a bandaid.”

Brand Obama: No ‘Hope’ in Hell for ‘Change’

Since the public relations industry runs election campaigns and a good deal of public politics, it only makes sense that the industry itself acknowledges this fact. When it came to Obama’s 2008 election campaign, the public relations and advertising industry were completely ecstatic. Before even being elected president, Obama won the Advertising Age’s “marketer of the year” award for 2008, winning the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and other industry representatives at the annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers. Obama’s campaign of “hope” and “change” beat Apple for the coveted prize that year. The Vice President of Rodale marketing solutions stated, “I honestly look at [Obama’s] campaign and I look at it as something that we can all learn from as marketers.”[72]

At the Cannes Lion International Advertising Awards in June of 2009, the Obama campaign claimed two of the top awards at the prestigious international advertising and public relations industry awards. His campaign won the Titanium grand prix award, for which the criteria is an advertising campaign that is “provocative, challenges assumptions and points to a new direction.” For example, “hope” and “change.” The Titanium award, according to the organizers at the Cannes ceremony, “celebrates work that causes the industry to stop in its tracks and reconsider the way forward.” The other coveted prize that the Obama advertising campaign received was the Integrated Lions award, referring to a campaign that uses three or more media, such as the press, Internet and television, which is “high standard and state-of-the-art.”[73] One advertising executive commented, “They turned (political advertising) from being one dimensional to something the whole country could contribute to. It was a fantastic idea.” Another advertising executive stated, “it was effective. You couldn’t ignore it. There will never be a political campaign that doesn’t use these tools.”[74]

That same month, Obama’s White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs received the Public Relations Professional of the Year award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), “for his groundbreaking use of new communications techniques and technologies, as well as successful delivery of campaign messages to a broad electorate.” The chairman and CEO of the PRSA, delivered the award to Gibbs, stating, “Robert Gibbs and his team revolutionized the way presidential candidates speak to voters by engaging best practices in current communications techniques and technologies,” adding: “He transformed static, one-way messaging into a dynamic dialogue to engage an expansive electorate like never before.” Upon accepting the award, Gibbs explained that his campaign had to “focus on the message of change being communicated by our candidate… we knew our success depended on our ability to stay focused on that message and relay it honestly and consistently to people across the country.”[75]

“You Have to Treat Them Like Children” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Whether Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, they are all parasites, whose purpose is to manipulate the public into granting them the “consent” to govern, while they govern for the benefit of corporations and banks to plunder, exploit, and profit at the expense of the population, both at home and around the world, which is often facilitated through war, coups, repression of liberation movements, genocide, and impoverishment. To these people, the public – you and I – are nothing but a “bewildered herd” of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” who must be kept as the “interested spectators of action.” The more talented a politician is at “manufacturing consent,” the more praise he or she gets from the media, and thus, from the public, itself. It is important to expose the spectacle of “public relations politics” so that we can look underneath the surface of power, and understand the real functions and structure of our society, and thus, we can be more capable of changing it. To take a quote from Bill Clinton out of context when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, “It’s important, because a lot of people believe this stuff.” When he said this, he was referring to the views of Republicans, but the quote is revealing of Clinton’s arrogance and indeed, his talent as a manipulator of the public mind, because it applies precisely to a public relations event like the Democratic National Convention itself: “a lot of people believe this stuff.”

It seems that it is time that people now place their beliefs in more tangible, factual, and logical realities. As children, we were told fairy tales; as adults, we believe fairy tales. Just as Franklin D. Roosevelt said of Latin Americans back in the early 20th century, “You have to treat them like children.” Well that applies to their view of the domestic population as well. Even though our political parasites continue to treat us like children, we have the choice – and the capacity – to act like adults. That means that we have to begin by dismantling the fairy tales that we believe in. Parents know that there comes a time when they must tell their children that there is no Santa Claus, and while this reality may be difficult for the children at first to accept, they are able to deal with that reality, and intellectually evolve and mature beyond it. People as a whole have the same capacity. Whether or not we utilize that capacity is entirely up to us, because our politicians have no interest in doing so, nor will they. It is up to us to dismantle the mythology ourselves.

The most effective way to do this is to take a very practical and logical first step of applying the same standards to our own society that we apply to others. In other words, instead of pointing to the crimes of state-sanctioned “enemies,” instead of blaming either Republicans or Democrats for all the woes of society, one must engage in social self-reflectionand apply the exact same method of inquiry into the ideas, individuals and institutions of our “enemies” as we do to our own ideas, individuals, and institutions.

I think it’s relatively safe to assume that most people would not want a mass murderer as a close friend, but for some reason, millions of people cheer and applaud mass murderers as their leaders. This obviously has no basis in logic. If mass murder is wrong and immoral, those who commit it or participate in it are also immoral. When someone has clearly demonstrated their capacity for immorality – and their willingness to commit mass atrocities – as Clinton, Bush, and Obama all have, it does not make any logical sense to support these people on other claims of “morality” such as: gay rights, family values, abortion, etc. These are designed specifically as issues which limit the political discourse, which remove any discussion of empire, war, mass murder, genocide, corruption, impoverishment, the dismantling of rights and freedoms, torture, assassinations, coups, exploitation, environmental devastation, surveillance and the construction of a police state apparatus. These divisive issues, which in a functioning democracy would have been solved almost immediately, are designed to facilitate a back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats, to distract the “bewildered herd” with only a few acceptable issues of discussion. Thus, anyone who raises other issues, of much greater relevance, ends up sounding like a Martian; they are perceived as suffering from some sort of “fringe” insanity. But insanity is not “fringe,” insanity is very much mainstream.

If, by chance, issues like war are raised in the political discourse – and most especially during advertising campaigns (which we commonly refer to as “election campaigns”) – then the critique of war policies are themselves confined to an “acceptable” discourse: either the war was a “success”, or it was a “tactical failure.” This implies, immediately, that the objectives of war are always inherently good, because if we wage war, it must be with good intentions. The morality of war – and the reality of empire – are not to be questioned.

When Obama was campaigning for president in 2008, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he referred to the Iraq war as a “distraction” for which he would make “tactical adjustments.” He wrote that the Iraq war was a “strategic blunder.”[76] That “strategic blunder” led to the deaths of over one million Iraqis between 2003 and 2008.[77] Yet, Obama was given praise for his “enlightened” critique of the Iraq war.

We must apply very basic standards of human decency to those who parade about as our leaders and saviors. An enormous amount of effort is put into preventing people from assessing political leadership in a logical, coherent, and rational manner. That is what the public relations industry does. Politicians are products to be marketed, bought and sold, and like most modern products, they fall apart quickly and have to be replaced. We have to begin questioning our political consumption patterns, otherwise we won’t change them, and it is glaringly obvious that what we have, simply isn’t working.

Watching Bill Clinton speak at the Democratic National Convention reminded me of why I don’t watch political speeches. The man stood up on stage for nearly an hour, and talked about how he cared about what poor families will do if the Republicans come to power, that Obama has fixed the economy, and he even felt it necessary to literally state, “Look, I love our country so much,” just in case you had any doubts. Clinton reached divine levels of absurdity and double-think when he stated:

If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American dream is really alive and well again and where the United States maintains its leadership as a force for peace and justice and prosperity in this highly competitive world, you have to vote for Barack Obama.[78]

Considering that none of those fantasies exist under Republicans or Democrats, let alone Clinton or Obama, I will simply end with my favourite quote from Clinton during his speech: “a lot of people believe this stuff.” Let’s hope not for long.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Ryan Lizza, “Clinton’s Speech: The Power of a Hug,” The New Yorker – News Desk, 6 September 2012:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/09/bill-clinton-convention-speech-the-power-of-a-hug.html

[2]            Konrad Yakabuski, “Clinton gives a boost to Obama’s middle-class-hero image,” The Globe and Mail, 5 September, 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/us-election/clinton-gives-a-boost-to-obamas-middle-class-hero-image/article4522804/

[3]            David Giambusso, “Congressman Pascrell: Bill Clinton’s speech tonight is ‘his comeback’,” The Star-Ledger, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/09/bill_clinton_hits_the_stump_fo.html

[4]            Dan Balz and Philip Rucker, “Bill Clinton offers forceful defense of Obama’s record,” The Washington Post, 5 September 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bill-clinton-will-highlight-convention-tonight/2012/09/05/f6d5dcf2-f797-11e1-8398-0327ab83ab91_story.html

[5]            Mark Gollom, “Obama turns to ‘rock star’ Bill Clinton to boost support,” CBC News, 5 September 2012:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/09/05/democratic-convention-clinton-obama.html

[6]            Natalie Finn, “Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention: Celebs React to Teleprompter-Busting Speech,” E! News, 6 September 2012:

http://ca.eonline.com/news/343617/bill-clinton-at-the-democratic-national-convention-celebs-react-to-teleprompter-busting-speech

[7]            Rebecca Shapiro, “Bill Clinton Media Reactions: Pundits Praise Former President’s DNC Speech, Some Criticize Length,” Huffington Post, 6 September 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/bill-clinton-media-reactions-dnc-speech_n_1859892.html

[8]            Rachel Maddow, “’The Rachel Maddow Show’ for Thursday, August 2nd, 2012,” NBC News, 2 August 2012:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48492324/ns/msnbc-rachel_maddow_show/t/rachel-maddow-show-thursday-august-nd/#.UDXF-ERQhgA

[9]            Josh Halliday, “Burson-Marsteller: PR firm at centre of Facebook row,” The Guardian, 12 May 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/12/burson-masteller-pr-firm-facebook-row

[10]            Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: Ig Publishing, 1928), page 37.

[11]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Power, Propaganda, and Purpose in American Democracy,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 18 January 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/01/18/power-propaganda-and-purpose-in-american-democracy/

[12]            Ibid.

[13]            Ibid.

[14]            Bruce Cummings, “Trilateralism and the New World Order,” World Policy Journal, Vol. 8, No. 2, Spring 1991, page 206.

[15]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Punishing the Population: The American Occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 21 February 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/02/21/punishing-the-population-the-american-occupations-of-haiti-and-the-dominican-republic/

[16]            Ibid.

[17]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[18]            Morris Morley and Chris McGillion, “”Disobedient” Generals and the Politics of Redemocratization: The Clinton Administration and Haiti,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 112, No. 3, Autumn 1997; David Malone, “Haiti and the international community: A case study,” Survival, Vol. 39, Issue 2, 1997; Scott Turner, “The Dilemma of Double Standards in U.S. Human Rights Policy,” Peace & Change, Vol. 28, No. 4, October 2003.

[19]            Ibid.

[20]            Ibid.

[21]            Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, “U.S. Mulls Role in Haiti After the Crisis,” The New York Times, 17 January 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/world/americas/18policy.html

[22]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 6 March 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/03/06/economic-warfare-and-strangling-sanctions-punishing-iran-for-its-defiance-of-the-united-states/

[23]            Najmeh Bozorgmehr, “Sanctions take toll on Iran’s sick,” The Financial Times, 4 September 2012:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/43abcb36-f5cc-11e1-a6bb-00144feabdc0.html#axzz25dqZrNTh

[24]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 6 March 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/03/06/economic-warfare-and-strangling-sanctions-punishing-iran-for-its-defiance-of-the-united-states/

[25]            Molly Moorhead, “Bill Clinton’s night at the Democratic convention,” PolitiFact, 5 September 2012:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/sep/05/Bill-Clinton-Democratic-convention/

[26]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[27]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “The Great Global Debt Depression: It’s All Greek To Me,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 15 July 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2011/07/15/167/

[28]            Ibid.

[29]            Ibid.

[30]            Reuters, “Justice Department will not prosecute Goldman Sachs, employees for Abacus deal,” Reuters, 9 August 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/09/us-usa-goldman-no-charges-idUSBRE8781LA20120809

[31]            Andrew Clark, “Bankers and academics at top of donor list,” The Guardian, 8 November 2008:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/08/barackobama-wallstreet-bankers-campaign-donations-goldmansachs

[32]            Tracy Greenstein, “The Fed’s $16 Trillion Bailouts Under-reported,” Forbes, 20 September 2011:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/traceygreenstein/2011/09/20/the-feds-16-trillion-bailouts-under-reported/

[33]            James Vicini, “Supreme Court permits no limits on state campaign funds,” Reuters, 25 June 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/25/us-usa-campaign-court-idUSBRE85O0P520120625

[34]            Jonathan D. Salant, “JPMorgan Employees Join Goldman Sachs Among Top Obama Donors,” Bloomberg, 21 March 2012:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-20/jpmorgan-employees-join-goldman-sachs-among-top-obama-donors.html

[35]            Greg Giroux and Jonathan D. Salant, “Obama Outspends Romney 2-1 With $43 Million in Funds for Ads,” Bloomberg, 21 July 2012:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-20/obama-raises-45-9-million-in-june-to-33-million-for-romney-1-.html

[36]            Peter Nicholas and Daniel Lippman, “Wall Street Is Still Giving to President,” The Wall Street Journal, 3 July 2012:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303933404577500810740985338.html

[37]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[38]            Jackie Calmes, “Bad Banks, Big Bailouts and Bruises,” The New York Times, 24 July 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/books/bailout-by-neil-barofsky.html?pagewanted=all

[39]            Deborah Solomon, “Neil Barofsky, the Democrat Taking Digs at Obama,” Bloomberg, 12 July 2012:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-12/neil-barofsky-the-democrat-taking-digs-at-obama

[40]            AP, “Clinton, Obama threaten to withdraw from NAFTA,” CBC News, 27 February 2008: http://www.cbc.ca/world/usvotes/story/2008/02/27/debate-nafta.html

[41]            CTV, “Obama campaign mum on NAFTA contact with Canada,” CTV News, 29 February 2008:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/obama-campaign-mum-on-nafta-contact-with-canada-1.279448

[42]            Michael Luo, “Memo Gives Canada’s Account of Obama Campaign’s Meeting on Nafta,” The New York Times, 4 March 2008:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/us/politics/04nafta.html

[43]            Laura Carlsen, “Obama Reaffirms Promise to Renegotiate NAFTA,” Huffington Post, 12 January 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-carlsen/obama-reaffirms-promise-t_b_157316.html

[44]            Canwest News Service, “Obama not likely to renegotiate NAFTA, ex-diplomat says,” Canada.com, 13 November 2008:

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=ae15ed12-326f-4187-8cd1-85ceef892b9a

[45]            Michael D. Shear, “NAFTA Renegotiation Must Wait, Obama Says,” The Washington Post, 20 February 2009:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/02/19/ST2009021903268.html

[46]            Donna Marykwas, “Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations creating ‘NAFTA on steroids’,” The Examiner, 24 August 2012:

http://www.examiner.com/article/secret-trans-pacific-partnership-trade-negotiations-creating-nafta-on-steroids

[47]            Lori Wallach, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Under Cover of Darkness, a Corporate Coup Is Underway,” AlterNet, 29 June 2012:

http://www.alternet.org/story/156059/trans-pacific_partnership%3A_under_cover_of_darkness%2C_a_corporate_coup_is_underway?page=0%2C0

[48]            Zach Carter, “Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises,” The Huffington Post, 13 June 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html

[49]            Zach Carter, “Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises,” The Huffington Post, 13 June 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html

[50]            Josh Eidelson, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Larger than NAFTA?,” Salon, 14 June 2012:

http://www.salon.com/2012/06/14/trans_pacific_partnership_larger_than_nafta/

[51]            Lori Wallach, “A Stealth Attack on Democratic Governance,” The American Prospect, 13 March 2012:

http://prospect.org/article/stealth-attack-democratic-governance

[52]            Doug Palmer, “Secrecy needed in trade talks: USTR Kirk,” NBC News, 13 May 2012:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47405479/ns/world_news-americas/t/secrecy-needed-trade-talks-ustr-kirk/#.UEldH0RQhgA

[53]            PC, “Unfair Trade Deals Becoming Even More Unpopular, U.S. Polling Shows,” Public Citizen: www.citizen.org/documents/polling-memo-july-2011.pdf

[54]            Ewen MacAskill and Dominic Rushe, “OECD says US economy is recovering but income inequality problematic,” The Guardian, 26 June 2012:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jun/26/oecd-us-economy-income-inequality

[55]            “Income inequality: Who exactly are the 1%?” The Economist, 21 January 2012:

http://www.economist.com/node/21543178

[56]            Aaron Task, “The ‘American Dream’ Is a Myth: Joseph Stiglitz on ‘The Price of Inequality’,” Yahoo! Finance, 8 June 2012:

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/american-dream-myth-joseph-stiglitz-price-inequality-124338674.html

[57]            Gus Lubin, “23 Mind-Blowing Facts About Income Inequality In America,” Business Insider, 7 November 2011:

http://www.businessinsider.com/new-charts-about-inequality-2011-11#

[58]            Leigh Ann Caldwell, “Obama backtracks on comments that private sector is doing “fine”,” CBS News, 8 June 2012:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57449822-503544/obama-backtracks-on-comments-that-private-sector-is-doing-fine/?tag=contentMain;contentBody

[59]            AFP, “Fortune 500 smash profit record; Exxon back on top,” AFP, 7 May 2012:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gbj6XIng0Cu2YL2nn9uBvWN74EgA?docId=CNG.3b6426af1a176d2c5108891890072a79.101

[60]            Christina Rexrode and Bernard Condon, “Record profits for big companies spur 6% rise in CEO pay,” Seattle Times, 25 May 2012:

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2018290135_usceopay26.html

[61]            Ylan Q. Mui, “Americans saw wealth plummet 40 percent from 2007 to 2010, Federal Reserve says,” The Washington Post, 11 June 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/fed-americans-wealth-dropped-40-percent/2012/06/11/gJQAlIsCVV_story.html

[62]            Timothy Williams, “As Public Sector Sheds Jobs, Blacks Are Hit Hardest,” The New York Times, 28 November 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/us/as-public-sector-sheds-jobs-black-americans-are-hit-hard.html

[63]            Zachary Karabell, “The White House and Jeff Immelt on Jobs: Compelling, Infuriating or Simply Irrelevant?” Time Magazine, 15 June 2012:

http://moneyland.time.com/2011/06/15/the-white-house-jeff-immelt-and-jobs-compelling-infuriating-or-simply-irrelevant/

[64]            Zachary Roth, “With jobs czar under fire, new data confirm offshoring trend,” Yahoo! News, 19 April 2011:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/jobs-czar-under-fire-data-confirm-offshoring-trend-155235152.html

[65]            Susanna Kim, “10 Largest Companies on Obama’s Jobs Council Lost 91K Jobs,” ABC News, 12 October 2011:

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/10-largest-companies-obamas-jobs-council-lost-91000/story?id=14714319#.UEmh3kRQhgA

[66]            David Kocieniewski, “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether,” The New York Times, 24 March 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/business/economy/25tax.html?pagewanted=all

[67]            Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and Erica Seifert, “Shifting the Economic Narrative,” Democracy Corps/Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 11 June 2012:

www.democracycorps.com

[68]            Ibid.

[69]            Ibid.

[69]            Ibid.

[70]            Ibid.

[71]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[72]            Matthew Creamer, “Obama Wins! … Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year,” AdAge, 17 October 2008:

http://adage.com/article/moy-2008/obama-wins-ad-age-s-marketer-year/131810/

[73]            Mark Sweney, “Barack Obama campaign claims two top prizes at Cannes Lion ad awards,” The Guardian, 29 June 2009:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jun/29/barack-obama-cannes-lions

[74]            Theresa Howard, “Obama Campaign Takes Top Ad Prizes,” ABC News, June 2009:

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Politics/story?id=7947528&page=1#.UEk6zURQhgA

[75]            PRSA, “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Receives Public Relations Professional of the Year Honors From PRSA,” Reuters Press Release, 5 June 2009:

http://pilot.us.reuters.com/article/2009/06/05/idUS121576+05-Jun-2009+BW20090605

[76]            Barack Obama, “My Plan for Iraq,” The New York Times, 14 July 2008:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/opinion/14obama.html

[77]            “Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey,” Reuters, 30 January 2008:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/01/30/us-iraq-deaths-survey-idUSL3048857920080130

[78]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all