Manufacturing Allies, Grooming Running Dogs
It’s easy to see the results of American recruitment of allies. There is never a shortage of countries, large and small, to join with the United States in their most varied international adventures, however grotesque these may be. This summer is seeing a bellicose campaign against Russia and China, featuring schoolyard-bully diplomatic initiatives, virulent media campaigns and too-close-for-comfort military maneuvers. In former times, the same deficient rationale gave us the American “sanctions” scams, the gratuitous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, before that, Vietnam. The daunting Cold War laid the groundwork for the ongoing campaign to recruit “allies” in the noble cause of American world hegemony.
But we are never shown the process of winning over those strange bedfellows. What are the mechanisms that permit the Americans to persuade the leaders of otherwise sane countries–places like Canada, Australia and even Norway, by all the usual yardsticks the most egalitarian, most humane country in the world, to join them in the Americans’ own version of the 1,000-year Reich?
This extravagant prophesy is not only a Hitlerian reference. The United States, a profoundly Christian if somewhat heterodox country, found its millenial vocation in the same place as Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister: in the Bible. It was revealed to both in the book of Revelations 20:6: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
Religion Rears Its Pious Head
Elaine Pagels, professor of religion at Yale, and one of the world’s most qualified biblical scholars, author of Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, commented in a 2012 interview:
… the book of Revelation opens with a series of visions in which Jesus appears to a prophet and tells him what’s going to happen soon, and then the prophet says he goes up into heaven and sees the throne of God and is told by angels the course of future history, which includes four horsemen of the apocalypse coming, each one representing disaster on Earth.
One brings war that kills a third of the inhabitants of the Earth. Another one brings famine and plague and catastrophe all over the world. These visions talk about cosmic war, in which the forces of evil seem to have taken over the world, and claim that God’s power is now going to come and challenge those forces, and there will be cataclysmic battles of monsters until finally Jesus returns with armies of angels and destroys all the forces of evil and creates an entirely new world.NPR.org
You may be inclined to accept or reject this apocalyptic view of the world’s imminent end, but there is no doubt that many of the United States’ past, present, and future leaders believe in it literally and are prepared to bet the farm on it. It’s ironic that Americans should put so much stock in this scenario, as it is not clear what their role in it might be. Are they the faithful who are awaiting liberation by armies of angels, or are they the bringers of war that “kill a third of the inhabitants of the earth,” and sow “famine and plague and catastrophe all over the world?” From here it looks as if they might be the latter. Today the all-powerful American military is the global Goliath busily seeking his David. According to Mark Twain, the quintessential American truth teller, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”
The Americans seem to be able to assemble a bank of allies almost at will for any of their lugubrious initiatives, even if some of them are laughable miniature Pacific islands. What are the steps in the American recruitment of allies? How do they go about luring normal countries into their strange games of propaganda, deception and war? Who has to be won over in each country to win collaboration in the Americans’ grimy geopolitical adventures? How many people, in what institutions, and at what level, do the Americans have to bring on board in order to create an “ally?”
Do they have to convince a majority of a country’s legislative and/or executive branches to get the job done, or just a few key flexible figures? (Here I can’t help but recall the famous photograph of American President, George W. Bush, British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Spanish President, José María Aznar, meeting in the Azores to sign Iraq’s unwarranted death warrant. Were these three sociopathic chief executives solely responsible for launching an invasion of Iraq which, four years later, had left a balance of 650,000 Iraqi dead, all of them innocent?
How Do They Do It?
How do the Americans achieve these macabre arrangements? It’s not always easy but they are experts with long experience in the business. Their techniques date at least from the passing of the National Security Act, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman in July 1947, which reorganized the structure of the U.S. armed forces following World War II.
It created the office of Secretary of Defense to oversee the nation’s military establishment. It also established the National Security Council (NSC) and separate departments for each branch of the armed forces, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The National Security Agency (NSA) was founded five years later, on November 4, 1952. Despite the CIA’s reputation for worldwide skullduggery, the NSA is the pre-eminent American intelligence agency, the largest both in terms of budget and personnel. (Source: Britannica.com)
Both agencies’ remit was limited by Congress to overseas espionage and counter-intelligence operations, the CIA with old-fashioned spies, the NSA with high-tech communications interceptions and code breaking. As time passed both organizations grew like baby gorillas into formidable personae that sometimes collaborated and sometimes competed, sometimes informing their supervisors in the government and sometimes not. The recent citizen surveillance revelations in the US have brought to light the role of the NSA in surveilling domestic communications and the massive gathering of data on US citizens. Was the CIA also involved? Are the American clandestine services running other shady, illegal operations at home? We don’t know and, barring a security leak or a whistleblower, we will never know. They’re secret.
Some of their shenanigans are so secret that not even the President is informed. One of these cases was uncovered during the Bush II presidency. Slate reporter, Fred Caplan, writes, “Of all the shocks and revelations in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture, one seems very strange and unlikely: that the agency misinformed the White House and didn’t even brief President George W. Bush about its controversial program until April 2006.” The Bush team’s cover story was that it was a measure to assure the president’s “credible deniability” should the operations inadvertently come to light. (Source: Slate , Dec. 10, 2014)
The Russkies Provide Cover for the Whole Show
Always under the banner of anti-communism and the Russian threat, the nascent American security state promoted a military association of North American and European countries by convincing them they needed to be protected by American troops, armour and aviation and, above all, harbored beneath their nuclear umbrella. They called this collective “the North Atlantic Treaty Organization” (NATO), and it was tremendously successful for the Americans on several levels.
Twelve countries took part in the founding of NATO: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1952, Greece and Turkey became members of the Alliance, joined later by West Germany (1955) and Spain (1982). In exchange for the promise of American military protection, NATO provided the rationale for what turned out to be a sinister information and influence superhighway into the heart of Europe.
The Americans soon discovered the convenience of grouping their allies together, thus dealing with a single collective contact, the NATO Secretary General. It is a much faster and effective way to maintain control, hinged only on the extent to which the incumbent Secretary General can be controlled. That’s usually not a problem. The current office holder, since 2014, is the Norwegian politician and two-time prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg.
The Scandinavian Playing Field
Ironically, it is Scandinavia, that fairy-tale cluster of ideal little countries, where two of the greatest mysteries of the last four decades lie. Though we don’t have space to look too deeply into them here, they are the seemingly gratuitous assassination of Swedish prime minister, Olof Palme in 1986, and the mass murders by means of a car bomb in the government quarter of Oslo and the gun killing of socialist youth on the Norwegian island of Utøya in 2011, leaving a total of 77 people dead and hundreds wounded.
Are these mysteries actually unsolved? Or are they just more of Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns?” The latter case has curious parallels with a series of senseless murders that occurred in the 1970s and 80s in Italy and were blamed on left-wing extremist militants. In 1990 the Italian judge, Felice Casson, discovered documents on “Operation Gladio” in the archives of the Italian secret service in Rome and forced Prime Minister, Giulio Andreotti, to confirm to the Italian parliament the existence of a clandestine army. This casual series of events let a massive cat out of the bag. Gladio was a decades-long, Europe-wide NATO-run terrorist operation with the objective of discrediting the rising European left. One wonders what NATO geostrategic genius thought that one up and what he’s got in mind for a second course. (Source: Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies, Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe)
The first thing the Americans gained with the creation of NATO was a series of invaluable footholds on Russia’s doorstep. Now that NATO membership has grown from 12 to 30 countries, the situation is gravely aggravated, with many of the new American allies tucked cozily up against Russia’s borders. At the same time the Americans added thousands of military personnel and untold tons of weaponry to their Europe-based war potential. Not to mention the sum of the intelligence collected over the years by the new members. NATO was a splendid windfall for the United States and its military-industrial-congressional complex.
Secrecy Trumps Democracy
The creation, seven decades ago, of two powerful and highly-secret American security agencies with virtually unlimited budgets and a worldwide field of operations, ostensibly for the purpose of safeguarding American democracy and propagating that ideology around the world, has had precisely the opposite results. The CIA has a decades-long reputation for direct and proxy bullying and subverting of countries that are unwilling to submit to the American ideological and military yoke.
The full list is too long to cite here but it includes Iran, today’s special American enemy. Their story of humiliation and exploitation at the hands of the ruthless American proxy, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, explains that country’s clear views today on the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Next came Guatemala and Chile and most of the rest of Latin America. Then, Panama and Grenada, left-wing mini states, both invaded by much superior US forces; a killing-sparrows-with-elephant-guns strategy that became an American favorite. They even coined a cute name for it: “shock and awe.”
Perhaps the best example of this penchant for overkill are the fleets of gigantic eight-engined Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers (called “BUFFs” by the in-crowd, Big Ugly Fat Fuckers) operating over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, day after day for years, killing every living thing in their path. The Stratofortresses entered service in the US Air Force in 1955, and 76 of them remain in service today. After being upgraded between 2013 and 2015, the last of them are expected to serve into the 2050s. An article in Wired magazine reminds us that mid-twenty-first-century B-52s would be the equivalent of First World War Sopwith Camels flying today, a century later.
The B-52’s bombing campaigns in Southeast Asia began in 1964 with Operation Rolling Thunder. Its objective was North Vietnam and it lasted almost four years. Rolling Thunder was later acknowledged as a strategic failure. Operation Arc Light, which ultimately included missions over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, lasted from 1965-73. There were many more “operations.” Of the 10-12,000 American aircraft brought down in Vietnam, 31 of them were B-52 Stratofortresses. The wreckage of one of them is on display today at Hanoi’s B-52 Victory Museum.
(Source: Herman L. Glister, The Air War in Southeast Asia, Case Studies of Selected Campaigns, 1993)
The Expert on the Subject
There’s an expert on the subject of the Americans international lying, bribing and arm twisting for patriotic, economic and recruiting ends, a whistleblower who participated in those activities in his youth. In his first book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004), that became a NY Times best seller translated into 30 languages, John Perkins relates his personal experience in the world of economic hit men (EHM), jackals, and well-dressed representatives of the CIA, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Perkins clearly knows what he’s talking about, though his proposed solutions for a brighter future sound like sophomoric wishful thinking. In his personal narration he tells us what he did in the offices of heads of state and corporate magnates and what happened then, even mentioning names of persons and companies in many instances. But he does not delve into the bucket of nuts and bolts that reveal just how the results were achieved. The closest he comes to revealing all is a reference to what happens when neither the economic hit men nor the jackals achieve the desired results. They were the not pretty stories that played out in Guatemala (Arbenz) Chile (Allende), Panama (Torrijos and Noriega), Ecuador (Roldos) …
The American establishment’s heavy-handed approach abroad is an open secret. Perkins cites an article from the Los Angeles Times on early meddling in Venezuela:
Bush administration officials acknowledged Tuesday that they had discussed the removal of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for months with military and civilian leaders from Venezuela.Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2002
In a later book , an older, wiser John Perkins reflects:
When you conquered with EHMs, you could do it secretly. This raised a question I was beginning to ask myself frequently about the toll such a concealment took on a democracy that presupposes an informed electorate. If voters were ignorant of their leaders’ most important tools, could a nation claim to be a democracy?John Perkins, The Secret History of the American Empire
A Case in Point
What has been the result of this prodigious partnering around the world since the end of the Second World War? Funnily enough, the Book of Revelation predicted the result. Like a true horseman of the Apocalypse the United States brings “famine and plague and catastrophe all over the world.” Let’s look at a single case, that of Panama, whose importance derives from the canal and not much else. Two Panamian leaders ran afoul of the American elite, and both paid with their lives.
Omar Torrijos demanded that the Pentagon remove from Panamanian soil the School of the Americas, their academy of torture, murder and subversion where Latin America’s most ruthless right-wing military men were formed. The school was then transferred to Ft. Benning, Georgia, and renamed The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), in 2001. Its motto is nicely ironic: “Libertad, Paz y Fraternidad” (“Freedom, Peace, and Fraternity”). Its alumni list reads like a Who’s Who of Latin American dictators. Torrijos also renegotiated the Panama Canal Treaties with the United States, achieving, by means of some brilliant maneuvering in the United Nations Security Council, the return of the canal to Panamanian control at noon on December 31, 1999.
But people who outsmart the US government do not get off easy. Torrijos’ plane crashed inexplicably in a mountainous zone of the country and all six passengers were killed on July 31, 1981. Manuel Noriega, Torrijos’ Chief of Military Intelligence, maneuvered his way into power in 1983. According to Perkins, Noriega’s fatal misstep was to film some of young George W. Bush’s excesses on the licentious Panamanian island of Contadora and store the material in a vault in Panama City. When President George H.W. Bush found out he sent an invasion force to Panama to destroy the evidence, and to extradite Noriega to the United States. He was to die in a Panama City prison in 2017 of blood poisoning at the age of 83. It was later revealed that Noriega was a longtime CIA asset formed at the School of the Americas, and that he had been involved in Torrijos’ fatal plane crash.
In the End, We Can Only Guess
So, what are the mechanisms at work and who, ultimately, decants a foreign country for a potentially dangerous liason with the United States? What are the issues–or the interests–that determine the decision? It’s not easy to know with any certainty, as these questions are cloaked in secrecy by professional–though imperfect–secret keepers. We get occasional glimpses under the tent, but seldom enough to crack the barrier of “plausible deniability” that protects critical information and powerful players. Does even the United States Congress know what is going on at all times? Or the President? We have seen that they do not. In the end, it seems we’re living in a world where the American clandestine power elite calls the shots, with little regard for legality or decency. Their priority seems to be almost exclusively military, but is military mastery enough? Are their moves motivated by authentic national interests or shadowy profit-driven influencers? How long can this unusual situation sustain itself? To find the answer these questions you’ll have to talk to the principal protagonists of international change for the future. Do you speak Mandarin?