This article is the fourth part of a four-part series on Truthdig called “Universal Empire”—an examination of the current stage of the neocon takeover of American policy that began after World War ll. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3
By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould
The recent assertion by the Trump White House that Damascus and Moscow released “false narratives” to mislead the world about the April 4 sarin gas attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria, is a dangerous next step in the “fake news” propaganda war launched in the final days of the Obama administration. It is a step whose deep roots in Communist Trotsky’s Fourth International must be understood before deciding whether American democracy can be reclaimed.
Muddying the waters of accountability in a way not seen since Sen. Joe McCarthy at the height of the Red Scare in the 1950s, the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” signed into law without fanfare by Obama in December 2016 officially authorized a government censorship bureaucracy comparable only to George Orwell’s fictional Ministry of Truth in his novel “1984.” Referred to as “the Global Engagement Center,” the official purpose of this new bureaucracy is to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.” The real purpose of this Orwellian nightmare is to cook the books on anything that challenges Washington’s neoconservative pro-war narrative and to intimidate, harass or jail anyone who tries. As has already been demonstrated by President Trump’s firing of Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian government airbase, it is a recipe for a world war, and like it or not, that war has already begun.
This latest attack on Russia’s supposed false narrative takes us right back to 1953 and the beginnings of the cultural war between East and West. Its roots are tied to the Congress for Cultural Freedom, to James Burnham’s pivot from Trotsky’s Fourth International to right-wing conservatism and to the rise of the neoconservative Machiavellians as a political force. As Burnham’s “The Struggle for the World” stressed, the Third World War had already begun with the 1944 Communist-led Greek sailors’ revolt. In Burnham’s Manichean thinking, the West was under siege. George Kennan’s Cold War policy of containment was no different than Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement. Détente with the Soviet Union amounted to surrender. Peace was only a disguise for war, and that war would be fought with politics, subversion, terrorism and psychological warfare. Soviet influence had to be rolled back wherever possible. That meant subverting the Soviet Union and its proxies and, when necessary, subverting Western democracies as well.
The true irony of today’s late-stage efforts by Washington to monopolize “truth” and attack alternate narratives isn’t just in its blatant contempt for genuine free speech. The real irony is that the entire “Freedom Manifesto” employed by the United States and Britain since World War II was never free at all, but a concoction of the CIA’s Psychological Strategy Board’s (PSB) comprehensive psychological warfare program waged on friend and foe alike.
The CIA would come to view the entire program, beginning with the 1950 Berlin conference, to be a landmark in the Cold War, not just for solidifying the CIA’s control over the non-Communist left and the West’s “free” intellectuals, but for enabling the CIA to secretly disenfranchise Europeans and Americans from their own political culture in such a way they would never really know it.
As historian Christopher Lasch wrote in 1969 of the CIA’s cooptation of the American left, “The modern state … is an engine of propaganda, alternately manufacturing crises and claiming to be the only instrument that can effectively deal with them. This propaganda, in order to be successful, demands the cooperation of writers, teachers, and artists not as paid propagandists or state-censored time-servers but as ‘free’ intellectuals capable of policing their own jurisdictions and of enforcing acceptable standards of responsibility within the various intellectual professions.”
Key to turning these “free” intellectuals against their own interests was the CIA’s doctrinal program for Western cultural transformation contained in the document PSB D-33/2. PSB D-33/2 foretells of a “long-term intellectual movement, to: break down world-wide doctrinaire thought patterns” while “creating confusion, doubt and loss of confidence” in order to “weaken objectively the intellectual appeal of neutralism and to predispose its adherents towards the spirit of the West.” The goal was to “predispose local elites to the philosophy held by the planners,” while employing local elites “would help to disguise the American origin of the effort so that it appears to be a native development.”
While declaring itself as an antidote to Communist totalitarianism, one internal critic of the program, PSB officer Charles Burton Marshall, viewed PSB D-33/2 itself as frighteningly totalitarian, interposing “a wide doctrinal system” that “accepts uniformity as a substitute for diversity,” embracing “all fields of human thought—all fields of intellectual interests, from anthropology and artistic creations to sociology and scientific methodology.” He concluded: “That is just about as totalitarian as one can get.”
Burnham’s Machiavellian elitism lurks in every shadow of the document. As recounted in Frances Stoner Saunder’s “The Cultural Cold War,” “Marshall also took issue with the PSB’s reliance on ‘non-rational social theories’ which emphasized the role of an elite ‘in the manner reminiscent of Pareto, Sorel, Mussolini and so on.’ Weren’t these the models used by James Burnham in his book the Machiavellians? Perhaps there was a copy usefully to hand when PSB D-33/2 was being drafted. More likely, James Burnham himself was usefully to hand.”
Burnham was more than just at hand when it came to secretly implanting a fascist philosophy of extreme elitism into America’s Cold War orthodoxy. With “The Machiavellians,” Burnham had composed the manual that forged the old Trotskyist left together with a right-wing Anglo/American elite. The political offspring of that volatile union would be called neoconservatism, whose overt mission would be to roll back Russian/Soviet influence everywhere. Its covert mission would be to reassert a British cultural dominance over the emerging Anglo/American Empire and maintain it through propaganda.
Hard at work on that task since 1946 was the secret Information Research Department of the British and Commonwealth Foreign Office known as the IRD.
Rarely spoken of in the context of CIA-funded secret operations, the IRD served as a covert anti-Communist propaganda unit from 1946 until 1977. According to Paul Lashmar and James Oliver, authors of “Britain’s Secret Propaganda War,” “the vast IRD enterprise had one sole aim: To spread its ceaseless propaganda output (i.e. a mixture of outright lies and distorted facts) among top-ranking journalists who worked for major agencies and magazines, including Reuters and the BBC, as well as every other available channel. It worked abroad to discredit communist parties in Western Europe which might gain a share of power by entirely democratic means, and at home to discredit the British Left.”
IRD was to become a self-fulfilling disinformation machine for the far-right wing of the international intelligence elite, at once offering fabricated and distorted information to “independent” news outlets and then using the laundered story as “proof” of the false story’s validity. One such front enterprise established with CIA money was Forum World Features, operated at one time by Burnham acolyte Brian Rossiter Crozier. Described by Burnham’s biographer Daniel Kelly as a “British political analyst,” in reality, the legendary Brian Crozier functioned for over 50 years as one of Britain’s top propagandists and secret agents.
If anyone today is shocked by the biased, one-sided, xenophobic rush to judgment alleging Russian influence over the 2016 presidential election, they need look no further than to Brian Crozier’s closet for the blueprints. As we were told outright by an American military officer during the first war in Afghanistan in 1982, the U.S. didn’t need “proof the Soviets used poison gas” and they don’t need proof against Russia now. Crozier might best be described as a daydream believer, a dangerous imperialist who acts out his dreams with open eyes. From the beginning of the Cold War until his death in 2012, Crozier and his protégé Robert Moss propagandized on behalf of military dictators Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet, organized private intelligence organizations to destabilize governments in the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa and worked to delegitimize politicians in Europe and Britain viewed as insufficiently anti-Communist.
The mandate of his Institute for the Study of Conflict (ISC) set up in 1970 was to expose the supposed KGB campaign of worldwide subversion and put out stories smearing anyone who questioned it as a dupe, a traitor or Communist spy. Crozier regarded “The Machiavellians” as a major formative influence in his own intellectual development, and wrote in 1976 “indeed it was this book above all others that first taught me how [emphasis Crozier] to think about politics.” The key to Crozier’s thinking was Burnham’s distinction between the “formal” meaning of political speech and the “real,” a concept which was, of course, grasped only by elites. In a 1976 article, Crozier marveled at how Burnham’s understanding of politics had spanned 600 years and how the use of “the formal” to conceal “the real” was no different today than when used by Dante Alighieri’s “presumably enlightened Medieval mind.” “The point is as valid now as it was in ancient times and in the Florentine Middle Ages, or in 1943. Overwhelmingly, political writers and speakers still use Dante’s method. Depending on the degree of obfuscation required (either by circumstances or the person’s character), the divorce between formal and real meaning is more of less absolute.”
But Crozier was more than just a strategic thinker. Crozier was a high-level covert political agent who put Burnham’s talent for obfuscation and his Fourth International experience to use to undermine détente and set the stage for rolling back the Soviet Union.
In a secret meeting at a City of London bank in February 1977, he even patented a private-sector operational intelligence organization known at the Sixth International (6I) to pick up where Burnham left off: politicizing and privatizing many of the dirty tricks the CIA and other intelligence services could no longer be caught doing. As he explained in his memoir “Free Agent,” the name 6I was chosen “because the Fourth International split. The Fourth International was the Trotskyist one, and when it split, this meant that, on paper, there were five Internationals. In the numbers game, we would constitute the Sixth International, or ‘6I.’ ”
Crozier’s cooperation with numerous “able and diligent Congressional staffers” as well as “the remarkable General Vernon (‘Dick’) Walters, recently retired as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence,” cemented the rise of the neoconservatives. When Carter caved in to the Team B and his neoconservative National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski’s plot to lure the Soviets into their own Vietnam in Afghanistan, it fulfilled Burnham’s mission and delivered the world to the Machiavellians without anyone being the wiser. As George Orwell wrote in his “Second Thoughts on James Burnham”: “What Burnham is mainly concerned to show [in The Machiavellians] is that a democratic society has never existed and, so far as we can see, never will exist. Society is of its nature oligarchical, and the power of the oligarchy always rests upon force and fraud. … Power can sometimes be won and maintained without violence, but never without fraud.”
Today, Burnham’s use of Dante’s political treatise “De Monarchia” to explain his medieval understanding of politics might best be swapped for Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” a paranoid comedy of errors in which the door to Hell swings open to one and all, including the elites regardless of their status. Or as they say in Hell, “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” Abandon hope all ye who enter here.