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"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible."
Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals, p. 58
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Wurmser gone - 18 months to go for Bush
Cheney losing David Wurmser
Vice President Cheney is losing a trusted aide: David Wurmser, Cheney's chief adviser on Middle East affairs and perhaps the Bush administration's most radical hawk. According to multiple sources, Wurmser will leave the office of the vice president (OVP) in August for the private sector, where he will start a risk-consulting business.
Wurmser's departure is just the latest in a long series of neoconservatives who've bailed out of the Bush administration since 2005, including I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, John Bolton, Robert Joseph, and J.D. Crouch, along with Richard Perle, who earlier resigned under pressure from the Defense Policy Board, and Elizabeth Cheney, the vice president's daughter, who left the State Department's Near East affairs bureau last summer to have her second child.
Wurmser's departure is not totally a surprise. "He's been looking for a way out for a year," said a conservative friend of Wurmser's, who added that former vice presidential staffers don't necessarily command a premium in the job market. In addition, said this source: "He thinks there's a purge going on, and that people are out to get him."
In June, Wurmser's name appeared in a front-page New York Times story. In that account, based in part on reporting that first surfaced in Steve Clemons' blog, The Washington Note, Wurmser was alleged to have told thinktanks and conservative policy analysts that Vice President Cheney disagreed with President Bush's decision to use diplomacy to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. According to the Times, Wurmser said "that Mr. Cheney believed that [Condi] Rice's diplomatic strategy was failing, and that by next spring Mr. Bush might have to decide whether to take military action."
Reflecting Wurmser's close ties to the Israeli military establishment and Israel's right-wing Likud bloc led by Bibi Netanyahu, Clemons reported that Wurmser was colluding with Israel to force a showdown: "Cheney is planning to deploy an 'end run strategy' around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument," wrote Clemons. "The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff … to mount a small-scale conventional strike" on Iran's nuclear facilities, thus forcing a U.S.-Iran confrontation in its wake.
Meyrav Wurmser, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute and David's wife, ridiculed the stories from Clemons and the Times. "They are all categorically wrong, and there not one thing in those articles that is correct." But Meyrav Wurmser herself is a strong advocate for confronting Iran, including support for Iranian opposition groups and military action. "You don't need to attack the nukes," she says. You can do something against the oil facilities. You can do something against the parliament building. You can give them an ultimatum: stop building nukes or every week we will take another building down."
In the 1990s, David and Meyrav Wurmser joined Richard Perle and Douglas Feith to author the famous "Clean Break" paper that they presented to Netanyahu, in which they called for strong Israeli action to force regime change in Iraq and Syria and to redraw the map of the Middle East. Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, David Wurmser worked at the American Enterprise Institute and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
In the Bush administration, David Wurmser and a colleague, Michael Maloof, founded the predecessor organization to the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, where they sought to develop intelligence linking Saddam Hussein's Iraq to Al Qaeda. That work, carried out under Feith's supervision, has been widely discredited, and a recent report from the Pentagon's own inspector general declared that their conclusions were not supported by the underlying intelligence. Wurmser also spent time as an aide to John Bolton at the State Department before joining Cheney's OVP as his chief Middle East specialist.
The ...summary of Wurmser and Feith's duplicity and its ideological foundation, "A Clean Break," appears to be the answer to why the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq, yet for some reason seems to be a prohibited narrative in American mass-media. (Why is that?) I rarely see it explained so succinctly. A citizen applauds your courageous journalism.
Furthermore, for balance I presume, you included Mrs. Wurmser's wonderfully cinematic statement, "They are all categorically wrong, and there not one thing in those articles that is correct." Adjusted to the past tense, Mrs. Wurmser might consider it a bold and appropriate choice for her epitaph.
Bush has but 18 months to go, as good a time as any to make some predictions about what will happen, and not happen, before he is replaced by President Giuliani (and the current times subsequently become known as the 'Golden Age of American Politics'). What gives for the last 18 months?:
1. The United States won't attack Iran (or any other place of significance).
2. Bush and Cheney will keep up their weekly assault on the American Constitution, but, despite much bloviating from the Democrats and their blogging fellow travellers, neither will come even close to impeachment. It is not impossible that Cheney resigns for 'health reasons'.
3. There won't be any domestic terrorist attack on the United States. The idea that one would be necessary gives the American political system way too much credit, as it will go along with what Bush wants with or without another attack.
4. The Democrats will continue to wiggle around to try to fool Americans into believing that they want American troops out of Iraq. Americans won't be fooled.
5. On the day Bush leaves office, there will still be more than 100,000 American troops in Iraq.
6. The next American elections will be rife with vote fraud, both the old kinds (which won't have been stopped), and whatever new kinds Rove cooks up.
Special Forces Soldiers Planting Bombs in Basra! Caught Red-Handed!
arrest by Iraqi police of two British SAS agents at a Basra checkpoint. ...Cressida packed with explosives wired to detonate by remote control...
Were British Special Forces Soldiers Planting Bombs in Basra? Suspicions Strengthened by Earlier Reports
by Michael Keefer September 25, 2005 GlobalResearch.ca
Does anyone remember the shock with which the British public greeted the revelation four years ago that one of the members of the Real IRA unit whose bombing attack in Omagh on August 15, 1998 killed twenty-nine civilians had been a double agent, a British army soldier?
That soldier was not Britain’s only terrorist double agent. A second British soldier planted within the IRA claimed he had given forty-eight hours advance notice of the Omagh car-bomb attack to his handlers within the Royal Ulster Constabulary, including "details of one of the bombing team and the man’s car registration." Although the agent had made an audio tape of his tip-off call, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, chief constable of the RUC, declared that "no such information was received" (http://www.sundayherald.com/17827).
This second double agent went public in June 2002 with the claim that from 1981 to 1994, while on full British army pay, he had worked for "the Force Research Unit, an ultra-secret wing of British military intelligence," as an IRA mole. With the full knowledge and consent of his FRU and MI5 handlers, he became a bombing specialist who "mixed explosive and … helped to develop new types of bombs," including "light-sensitive bombs, activated by photographic flashes, to overcome the problem of IRA remote-control devices having their signal jammed by army radio units." He went on to become "a member of the Provisional IRA’s ‘internal security squad’—also known as the ‘torture unit’—which interrogated and executed suspected informers" (http://www.sundayherald.com/print25646).
The much-feared commander of that same "torture unit" was likewise a mole, who had previously served in the Royal Marines’ Special Boat Squadron (an elite special forces unit, the Marines’ equivalent to the better-known SAS). A fourth mole, a soldier code-named "Stakeknife" whose military handlers "allowed him to carry out large numbers of terrorist murders in order to protect his cover within the IRA," was still active in December 2002 as "one of Belfast’s leading Provisionals" (http://www.sundayherald.com/29997).
Reliable evidence also emerged in late 2002 that the British army had been using its double agents in terrorist organizations "to carry out proxy assassinations for the British state"—most notoriously in the case of Belfast solicitor and human rights activist Pat Finucane, who was murdered in 1989 by the Protestant Ulster Defence Association. It appears that the FRU passed on details about Finucane to a British soldier who had infiltrated the UDA; he in turn "supplied UDA murder teams with the information" (http://www.sundayherald.com/29997).
Recent events in Basra have raised suspicions that the British army may have reactivated these same tactics in Iraq.
Articles published by Michel Chossudovsky, Larry Chin and Mike Whitney at the Centre for Research on Globalization’s website on September 20, 2005 have offered preliminary assessments of the claims of Iraqi authorities that two British soldiers in civilian clothes who were arrested by Iraqi police in Basra on September 19—and in short order released by a British tank and helicopter assault on the prison where they were being held—had been engaged in planting bombs in the city
A further article by Kurt Nimmo points to false-flag operations carried out by British special forces troops in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, and to Donald Rumsfeld’s formation of the P2OG, or Proactive Preemptive Operations Group, as directly relevant to Iraqi charges of possible false-flag terror operations by the occupying powers in Iraq (http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=20050924&articleid=992).
These accusations by Iraqi officials echo insistent but unsubstantiated claims, going back at least to the spring of 2004, to the effect that many of the terror bombings carried out against civilian targets in Iraq have actually been perpetrated by U.S. and British forces rather than by Iraqi insurgents.
Some such claims can be briskly dismissed. In mid-May 2005, for example, a group calling itself "Al Qaeda in Iraq" accused U.S. troops "of detonating car bombs and falsely accusing militants" (http://siteinstitute.org/bin/articles.cgi?ID=publications45605&Category=publications&Subcategory=0). For even the most credulous, this could at best be a case of the pot calling the kettle soot-stained. But it’s not clear why anyone would want to believe this claim, coming as it does from a group or groupuscule purportedly led by the wholly mythical al-Zarqawi—and one whose very name affiliates it with terror bombers. These people, if they exist, might themselves have good reason to blame their own crimes on others.
Other claims, however, are cumulatively more troubling.
The American journalist Dahr Jamail wrote in April 20, 2004 that the recent spate of car bombings in Baghdad was widely rumoured to have been the work of the CIA:
"The word on the street in Baghdad is that the cessation of suicide car bombings is proof that the CIA was behind them. Why? Because as one man states, ‘[CIA agents are] too busy fighting now, and the unrest they wanted to cause by the bombings is now upon them.’ True or not, it doesn’t bode well for the occupiers’ image in Iraq." (http://www.countercurrents.org/iraq-jamail200404.htm)
Two days later, on April 22, 2004, Agence France-Presse reported that five car-bombings in Basra—three near-simultaneous attacks outside police stations in Basra that killed sixty-eight people, including twenty children, and two follow-up bombings—were being blamed by supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on the British. While eight hundred supporters demonstrated outside Sadr’s offices, a Sadr spokesman claimed to have "evidence that the British were involved in these attacks" (http://www.inq7.net/wnw/2004/apr/23/wnw_3_1.htm).
An anonymous senior military officer said on April 22, 2004 of these Basra attacks that "It looks like Al-Qaeda. It’s got all the hallmarks: it was suicidal, it was spectacular and it was symbolic." Brigadier General Nick Carter, commander of the British garrison in Basra, stated more ambiguously that Al Qaeda was not necessarily to blame for the five bombings, but that those responsible came from outside Basra and "quite possibly" from outside Iraq: "’All that we can be certain of is that this is something that came from outside,’ Carter said" (http://www.inq7.net/wnw/2004/apr/23/wnw_4_1.htm). Moqtada al-Sadr’s supporters of course believed exactly the same thing—differing only in their identification of the criminal outsiders as British agents rather than as Islamist mujaheddin from other Arab countries.
In May 2005 ‘Riverbend’, the Baghdad author of the widely-read blog Baghdad Burning, reported that what the international press was reporting as suicide bombings were often in fact "car bombs that are either being remotely detonated or maybe time bombs." After one of the larger recent blasts, which occurred in the middle-class Ma’moun area of west Baghdad, a man living in a house in front of the blast site was reportedly arrested for having sniped an Iraqi National Guardsman. But according to ‘Riverbend’, his neighbours had a different story:
"People from the area claim that the man was taken away not because he shot anyone, but because he knew too much about the bomb. Rumor has it that he saw an American patrol passing through the area and pausing at the bomb site minutes before the explosion. Soon after they drove away, the bomb went off and chaos ensued. He ran out of his house screaming to the neighbors and bystanders that the Americans had either planted the bomb or seen the bomb and done nothing about it. He was promptly taken away." (http://riverbendblog.blogspit.com/2005_05_01_riverbendblog_archive.html#111636281930496496)
Also in May 2005, Imad Khadduri, the Iraqi-exile physicist whose writings helped to discredit American and British fabrications about weapons of mass destruction, reported a story that in Baghdad a driver whose license had been confiscated at an American check-point was told "to report to an American military camp near Baghdad airport for interrogation and in order to retrieve his license." After being questioned for half an hour, he was informed that there was nothing against him, but that his license had been forwarded to the Iraqi police at the al-Khadimiya station "for processing"—and that he should get there quickly before the lieutenant whose name he was given went off his shift.
"The driver did leave in a hurry, but was soon alarmed with a feeling that his car was driving as if carrying a heavy load, and he also became suspicious of a low flying helicopter that kept hovering overhead, as if trailing him. He stopped the car and inspected it carefully. He found nearly 100 kilograms of explosives hidden in the back seat and along the two back doors. The only feasible explanation for this incident is that the car was indeed booby trapped by the Americans and intended for the al-Khadimiya Shiite district of Baghdad. The helicopter was monitoring his movement and witnessing the anticipated ‘hideous attack by foreign elements’." (http://www.albasrah.net/maqalat/english/0505/Combat-terrorism_160505.htm)
According to Khadduri, "The same scenario was repeated in Mosul, in the north of Iraq." On this occasion, the driver’s life was saved when his car broke down on the way to the police station where he was supposed to reclaim his license, and when the mechanic to whom he had recourse "discovered that the spare tire was fully laden with explosives."
Khadduri mentions, as deserving of investigation, a "perhaps unrelated incident" in Baghdad on April 28, 2005 in which a Canadian truck-driver with dual Canadian-Iraqi citizenship was killed. He quotes a CBC report according to which "Some media cited unidentified sources who said he may have died after U.S. forces ‘tracked’ a target, using a helicopter gunship, but Foreign Affairs said it’s still investigating conflicting reports of the death. U. S. officials have denied any involvement."
Another incident, also from April 2005, calls more urgently for investigation, since one of its victims remains alive. Abdul Amir Younes, a CBS cameraman, was lightly wounded by U.S. forces on April 5 "while filming the aftermath of a car bombing in Mosul." American military authorities were initially apologetic about his injuries, but three days later arrested him on the grounds that he had been "engaged in anti-coalition activity" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/Kafka-does-iraq-the-dist_b_7796.html).
Arianna Huffington, in her detailed account of this case, quite rightly emphasizes its Kafkaesque qualities: Younes has now been detained, in Abu Graib and elsewhere, for more than five months—without charges, without any hint of what evidence the Pentagon may hold against him, and without any indication that he will ever be permitted to stand trial, challenge that evidence, and disprove the charges that might at some future moment be laid. But in addition to confirming, yet again, the Pentagon’s willingness to violate the most fundamental principles of humane and democratic jurisprudence, this case also raises a further question. Was Younes perhaps arrested, like the Iraqi whose rumoured fate was mentioned by ‘Riverbend’, because he had seen—and in Younes’ case photographed—more than was good for him?
Spokesmen for the American and British occupation of Iraq, together with newspapers like the Daily Telegraph, have of course rejected with indignation any suggestion that their forces could have been involved in false-flag terrorist operations in Iraq.
It may be remembered that during the 1980s spokesmen for the government of Ronald Reagan likewise heaped ridicule on Nicaraguan accusations that the U.S. was illegally supplying weapons to the ‘Contras’—until, that is, a CIA-operated C-123 cargo aircraft full of weaponry was shot down over Nicaragua, and Eugene Hasenfus, a cargo handler who survived the crash, testified that his supervisors (one of whom was Luis Posada Carriles, the CIA agent responsible for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner) were working for then-Vice-President George H. W. Bush.
The arrest—and the urgent liberation—of the two undercover British soldiers in Iraq might in a similar manner be interpreted as casting a retrospective light on previously unsubstantiated claims about the involvement of members of the occupying armies in terrorist bombing attacks on civilians.
The parallel is far from exact: in this case there has been no dramatic confession like that of Hasenfus, and there are no directly incriminating documents like the pilot’s log of the downed C-123. There is, moreover, a marked lack of consensus as to what actually happened in Basra. Should we therefore, with Juan Cole, dismiss the possibility British soldiers were acting as agents provocateurs as a "theory [that] has almost no facts behind it" (http://www.juancole.com)?
Members of Britain's Elite SAS Forces
It appears that when on September 19 suspicious Iraqi police stopped the Toyota Cressida the undercover British soldiers were driving, the two men opened fire, killing one policeman and wounding another. But the soldiers, identified by the BBC as "members of the SAS elite special forces" (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4264614.stm), were subdued by the police and arrested. A report published by The Guardian on September 24 adds the further detail that the SAS men "are thought to have been on a surveillance mission outside a police station in Basra when they were challenged by an Iraqi police patrol" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/iraq/Story/0,2763,1577575,00.html).
As Justin Raimondo has observed in an article published on September 23 at Antiwar.com, nearly every other aspect of this episode is disputed.
The Washington Post dismissively remarked, in the eighteenth paragraph of its report on these events, that "Iraqi security officials variously accused the two Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi forces or trying to plant explosives" (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/09/20/MNGSSEQNGN1.DTL). Iraqi officials in fact accused them not of one or the other act, but of both.
Fattah al-Shaykh, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly, told Al-Jazeera TV on September 19 that the soldiers opened fire when the police sought to arrest them, and that their car was booby-trapped "and was meant to explode in the centre of the city of Basra in the popular market" (quoted by Chossudovsky). A deliberately inflammatory press release sent out on the same day by the office of Moqtada al-Sadr (and posted in English translation at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment blog on September 20) states that the soldiers’ arrest was prompted by their having "opened fire on passers-by" near a Basra mosque, and that they were found to have "in their possession explosives and remote-control devices, as well as light and medium weapons and other accessories" (http://www.juancole.com).
What credence can be given to the claim about explosives? Justin Raimondo writes that while initial BBC Radio reports acknowledged that the two men indeed had explosives in their car, subsequent reports from the same source indicated that the Iraqi police found nothing beyond "assault rifles, a light machine gun, an anti-tank weapon, radio gear, and medical kit. This is thought to be standard kit for the SAS operating in such a theater of operations" (http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=7366).
One might well wonder, with Raimondo, whether an anti-tank weapon is "standard operating equipment"—or what use SAS men on "a surveillance mission outside a police station" intended to make of it. But more importantly, a photograph published by the Iraqi police and distributed by Reuters shows that—unless the equipment is a plant—the SAS men were carrying a good deal more than just the items acknowledged by the BBC. (http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=20050923&articleid=989)
I would want the opinion of an arms expert before risking a definitive judgment about the objects shown, which could easily have filled the trunk and much of the back seat of a Cressida. But this photograph makes plausible the statement of Sheik Hassan al-Zarqani, a spokesman for Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia:
"What our police found in their car was very disturbing—weapons, explosives, and a remote control detonator. These are the weapons of terrorists. We believe these soldiers were planning an attack on a market or other civilian targets…" (quoted by Raimondo)
The fierce determination of the British army to remove these men from any danger of interrogation by their own supposed allies in the government the British are propping up—even when their rescue entailed the destruction of an Iraqi prison and the release of a large number of prisoners, gun-battles with Iraqi police and with Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, a large popular mobilization against the British occupying force, and a subsequent withdrawal of any cooperation on the part of the regional government—tends, if anything, to support the view that this episode involved something much darker and more serious than a mere flare-up of bad tempers at a check-point.
US-UK Sponsored Civil War
There is reason to believe, moreover, that the open civil war which car-bomb attacks on civilians seem intended to produce would not be an unwelcome development in the eyes of the occupation forces.
Writers in the English-language corporate media have repeatedly noted that recent terror-bomb attacks which have caused massive casualties among civilians appear to be pushing Iraq towards a civil war of Sunnis against Shiites, and of Kurds against both. For example, on September 18, 2005 Peter Beaumont proposed in The Observer that the slaughter of civilians, which he ascribes to Al Qaeda alone, "has one aim: civil war" (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,1572936,00.html). But H. D. S. Greenway had already suggested on June 17, 2005 in the Boston Globe that "Given the large number of Sunni-led attacks against Shia targets, the emerging Shia-led attacks against Sunnis, and the extralegal abductions of Arabs by Kurdish authorities in Kirkut, one has to wonder whether the long-feared Iraqi civil war hasn’t already begun" (http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/06/17/facing_factsin_iraq?mode=PF). And on September 21, 2005 Nancy Youssef and Mohammed al Dulaimy of the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau wrote that the ethnic cleansing of Shiites in predominantly Sunni Baghdad neighbourhoods "is proceeding at an alarming and potentially destabilizing pace," and quoted the despairing view of an Iraqi expert:
"’Civil war today is closer than any time before,’ said Hazim Abdel Hamid al Nuaimi, a professor of politics at al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. ‘All of these explosions, the efforts by police and purging of neighbourhoods is a battle to control Baghdad.’" (http://www.realcities.com/mid/krwashington/12704935.htm)
Whether or not it has already begun or will occur, the eruption of a full-blown civil war, leading to the fragmentation of the country, would clearly be welcomed in some circles. Israeli strategists and journalists proposed as long ago as 1982 that one of their country’s strategic goals should be the partitioning of Iraq into a Shiite state, a Sunni state, and a separate Kurdish part. (See foreign ministry official Oded Yinon’s "A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s," Kivunim 14 [February 1982]; a similar proposal put forward by Ze’ev Schiff in Ha’aretz in the same month is noted by Noam Chomsky in Fateful Triangle [2nd ed., Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999], p. 457).
A partitioning of Iraq into sections defined by ethnicity and by Sunni-Shia differences would entail, obviously enough, both civil war and ethnic cleansing on a massive scale. But these considerations did not deter Leslie H. Gelb from advocating in the New York Times, on November 25, 2003, what he called "The Three-State Solution". (http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/iraq/three.htm).
Gelb, a former senior State Department and Pentagon official, a former editor and columnist for the New York Times, and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, is an insider’s insider. And if the essays of Yinon and Schiff are nasty stuff, especially in the context of Israel’s 1981 bombing attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, there is still some difference between speculatively proposing the dismemberment of a powerful neighbouring country, and actively advocating the dismemberment of a country that one’s own nation has conquered in a war of unprovoked aggression. The former might be described as a diseased imagining of war and criminality; the latter belongs very clearly to the category of war crimes.
Gelb’s essay proposes punishing the Sunni-led insurgency by separating the largely Sunni centre of present-day Iraq from the oil-rich Kurdish north and the oil-rich Shia south. It holds out the dismembering of the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s (with the appalling slaughters that ensued) as a "hopeful precedent."
Gelb’s essay has been widely interpreted as signaling the intentions of a dominant faction in the U.S. government. It has also, very appropriately, been denounced by Bill Vann as openly promoting "a war crime of world-historic proportions" (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/nov2003/gelb-n26.shtml).
Given the increasing desperation of the American and British governments in the face of an insurgency that their tactics of mass arbitrary arrest and torture, Phoenix-Program or "Salvadoran-option" death squads, unrestrained use of overwhelming military force, and murderous collective punishment have failed to suppress, it comes as no surprise that in recent military actions such as the assault on Tal Afar the U.S. army has been deploying Kurdish peshmerga troops and Shiite militias in a manner that seems designed to inflame ethnic hatreds.
No one, I should hope, is surprised any longer by the fact that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—that fictional construct of the Pentagon’s serried ranks of little Tom Clancies, that one-legged Dalek, that Scarlet Pimpernel of terrorism, who manages to be here, there, and everywhere at once—should be so ferociously devoted to the terrorizing and extermination of his Shiite co-religionists.
Should we be any more surprised, then, to see evidence emerging in Iraq of false-flag terrorist bombings conducted by the major occupying powers? The secret services and special forces of both the U.S. and Britain have, after all, had some experience in these matters.
Global Research Contributing Editor Michael Keefer is Associate Professor of English at the University of Guelph. He is a former President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English. His most recent writings include a series of articles on electoral fraud in the 2004 US presidential election published by the Centre for Research on Globalization
At least half a dozen British tanks sensationally smashed through the walls of the Basra's central jail tonight and freed two UK soldiers arrested earlier in the day after a lethal gunbattle with Iraqi policemen.
The two men, said to be on an undercover intelligence mission, "A British force of more than 10 tanks backed by helicopters attacked the central jail and destroyed it. Aquil Jabbar, an Iraqi television cameraman who lives across the street from the jail, said about 150 Iraqi prisoners also fled as British commandos stormed inside and rescued their comrades.
An Iraqi official told the Reuters news agency that the two "undercover" British soldiers, who were travelling in a civilian car, were arrested this morning after clashing with Iraqi police. Reports said the soldiers killed one Iraqi policeman and wounded another.
The official said he had been informed by the British military that they were "undercover soldiers". It was not clear what unit the men were from - whether they were regular soldiers or from the special forces.
"They were driving a civilian car and were dressed in civilian clothes when a shooting took place between them and Iraqi patrols," he said. "We are investigating and an Iraqi judge is on the case questioning them."
A Basra police source said the two men, who he said were wearing Arab costume, had opened fired at a police patrol when they were asked to stop. Photographs of the British soldiers showed them with light beards. One of them was wearing bandage around his head.
Mohammed al-Abadi, an official at the Basra governorate, said the two men looked suspicious to the police.
"A policeman approached them and then one of these guys fired at him. Then the police managed to capture them," Mr Abadi told reporters. "They refused to say what their mission was. They said they were British soldiers and to ask their commander about their mission."
Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesman, said from the party conference in Blackpool: "It is hard to see how relations between the British military and the civilian Iraqi authorities in Basra will ever be the same again.
"This is bound to be seen as a humiliation by many Iraqis - something the insurgents will use to their advantage. An operation of this kind must have gone to the highest level - "I would be surprised if the Prime Minister had not been consulted."
September 22, 2005
Fascinating. No really, the ‘evolution’ of state disinformation has probably never been better displayed than in the case of the two (more than likely) SAS soldiers who were ‘liberated’ after being arrested by the Iraqi police on 19 September by a phalanx of tanks and helicopter gunships that stormed the police station where the two undercover soldiers were being held after they allegedly failed to stop at an Iraqi police roadblock and subsequently opened fire on the Iraqi police, killing one and wounding another.
The car they were travelling in was loaded with weapons including allegedly, assault rifles, a light machine gun, an anti-tank weapon, radio gear and a medical kit (’standard’ SAS issue according to the BBC). According to at least two reports, the car they were traveling in (A Toyota Cressida) was “booby-trapped”.
Subsequent accounts vary according to the source but according to the initial story broadcast on the BBC (19/9/05), the two men wore traditional Arab dress but then this changed to “civilian dress” (BBC TV News).
As more information trickled out, a BBC story reported that the men were freed after the police station had been attacked by British tanks, a report that the British government initially denied saying that “the release of the soldiers had been negotiated” (BBC Website 20/0/05).
Britain’s Ministry of Defence says the release of the two soldiers had been negotiated and it did not believe the prison had been stormed.
“We’ve heard nothing to suggest we stormed the prison,” a ministry spokesman said.
“We understand there were negotiations.”
Lisa Glover, spokeswoman for the British embassy in Baghdad, says three people have been wounded in the operation to free the soldiers.
She did not give further details of how the soldiers were freed.
Then the story changed yet again, only now the ‘official’ story, dutifully reported by the British State Broadcasting Company (BSBC), was that “negotiations broke down” and that the two men were in the hands of the Mehdi Army in another building, in which case, why was the police station stormed?
Then yet another version was issued by the British government only now the police station was indeed attacked but only after “negotiations broke down”. So were the two SAS men in the police station or not?
According to yet another BSBC report, after breaking into the police station, the Brits discovered that they had been moved to a Mehdi Army house for “interrogation”. Yet subsequent accounts revealed that they had in fact, been in the police station all along and, according to a CNN report, were being questioned by an Iraqi judge, not, as the British government alleged, by the ‘insurgents’.
By now, in a classic disinformation campaign, so many stories were being circulated that sorting out the truth from fiction was virtually impossible unless one is prepared to dig and dig deep.
What is clear is that the two SAS “undercover operatives” had been caught red-handed by the British government’s alleged allies, the Iraqi police, dressed as Arabs, replete with wigs and armed to the teeth and in a car which according to one report, was packed with explosives (the car by the way, has been taken away by the British occupation forces).
The question the BSBC was not and still is not asking, is what were they up to, creeping around dressed up as Iraqis in what is meant to be a relatively peaceful Basra?
Once more the BSBC answered the question, sort of, courtesy yet another ‘official’ story, one that was to emerge only after a very angry crowd attacked two British armoured vehicles, setting at least one on fire. The “mob”, as the BSBC described them, were according to the report, angry over the arrest of two Mehdi Army members, also on 19 September, and that it had nothing to with the freeing of the two SAS. In reality of course, the ‘mob’ had already been informed about the two SAS undercover guys and were understandably upset.
So now, the two undercover SAS men were, it is imputed, searching for ‘insurgents’ as part of a counter-insurgency operation, which if true, what were they doing dressed as Iraqis?
Were they on some kind of provocative operation? According to one report, this is exactly what they were up to. Fattah al-Shaykh, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly told this account to al-Jazeera
If you really want to look for truth, then we should resort to the Iraqi justice away from the British provocations against the sons of Basra, particularly what happened today when the sons of Basra caught two non-Iraqis, who seem to be Britons and were in a car of the Cressida type. It was a booby-trapped car laden with ammunition and was meant to explode in the centre of the city of Basra in the popular market. However, the sons of the city of Basra arrested them. They [the two non-Iraqis] then fired at the people there and killed some of them. The two arrested persons are now at the Intelligence Department in Basra, and they were held by the National Guard force, but the British occupation forces are still surrounding this department in an attempt to absolve them of the crime.
And in yet another report from Syrian TV we read
[Al-Munajjid] In fact, Nidal, this incident gave answers to questions and suspicions that were lacking evidence about the participation of the occupation in some armed operations in Iraq. Many analysts and observers here had suspicions that the occupation was involved in some armed operations against civilians and places of worship and in the killing of scientists. But those were only suspicions that lacked proof. The proof came today through the arrest of the two British soldiers while they were planting explosives in one of the Basra streets. This proves, according to observers, that the occupation is not far from many operations that seek to sow sedition and maintain disorder, as this would give the occupation the justification to stay in Iraq for a longer period.
When viewed in the context of all the stories that have been circulating about the mythical ‘al-Zarqawi’ and the alleged role of al-Queda, the events in Basra are the first real evidence that we have of the role of occupation forces in destabilising Iraq through the use of agents provocateurs masquerading as ‘insurgents’.
And, as I have long alleged here, it is now almost certain that ‘al-Zarqawi’ is probably long dead. An AFP story tells us
[The] Imam of Baghdad’s al-Kazimeya mosque, Jawad al-Kalesi said, that “al-Zarqawi is dead but Washington continues to use him as a bogeyman to justify a prolonged military occupation…He’s simply an invention by the occupiers to divide the people.” Al-Kalesi added that al-Zarqawi was killed in the beginning of the war in the Kurdish north and that “His family in Jordan even held a ceremony after his death.”
And indeed, last year, in a piece I wrote about ‘al-Zarqawi’, I referred to a report about ‘al-Zarqawi’ being killed when the US flattened the ‘base’ of his group Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq in early 2003, a report that actually originated with the US government.
Yet the BSBC, along with the rest of the Western media continues to put out endless reams of disinformation about ‘al-Zarqawi’ and his connection to the fictitious ‘al-Queda in Iraq’. Given the long-held assertion by the West that goes back to 2003, that Iraq was on the verge of ‘civil war’, it’s instructive to note that as the military situation of the occupation forces has deteriorated, so too has the level of so-called al-Queda operations increased, in a transparent attempt to divide the Iraqi national resistance, thus the increasing stories about impending civil war and the wave of ‘suicide’ bombings.
The exposure of the undercover SAS operations will only add to the resolve of Iraqi resistance forces to step up their campaign to expel the occupiers regardless of what kind of blatant propaganda line the UK government puts out.
It furthermore exposes the untenable position of the Iraqi ‘government’ which is now being squeezed by both sides, thus we get contradictory positions from the Iraqi ‘government’, with one denying that the SAS operatives had been handed over to ‘Shiite militia’ and the other trying desperately to tread an almost invisible line between condemning the actions of the British government whilst blaming the actions of the Iraqi police in Basra on ‘insurgents’ who have ‘infiltrated’ the police force. Yet it is a fact that at best, perhaps only 25% of the Iraqi military can be relied upon to serve their colonial masters.
Continuing to call them insurgents is itself an admission that the majority of Iraqis are opposed to the occupation and indeed, the bulk of the fighting is being carried out by the Kurdish Peshmerga as Iraqi forces simply cannot be relied on. It’s a classic situation that the US and UK military top brass know only too well having ‘been there and done that’ before.
Thus the occupiers become more desperate to destabilise the situation and no doubt we’ll see more SAS and US provocations revealed over the coming weeks as the situation continues to deteriorate.
BRITISH UNDERCOVER OPERATIVES IN IRAQ
Zarqawi Eat Your Heart Out
Basra is relatively stable compared to central Iraq where violence involving insurgents, civilians and coalition forces is a daily routine. The city has rarely been a site of clashes between insurgents and coalition troops, nor is it a victim of regular terrorist attacks. This week, however, things changed, but not thanks to Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda ilk.
On Monday, two British soldiers were arrested and detained by Iraqi police in Basra. Within a matter of hours, the British military responded with overwhelming force, despite subsequent denials by the Ministry of Defence, which insisted that the two men had been retrieved solely through "negotiations."
British military officials, including Brigadier John Lorimer, told BBC News (9/20/05) that the British Army had stormed an Iraqi police station to locate the detainees. Ministry of Defence sources confirmed that "British vehicles" had attempted to "maintain a cordon" outside the police station.
After British Army tanks "flattened the wall" of the station, UK troops "broke into the police station to confirm the men were not there" and then "staged a rescue from a house in Basra", according a commanding officer familiar with the operation. Both men, British defence sources told the BBC's Richard Galpin in Baghdad, were "members of the SAS elite special forces." After their arrest, the soldiers were over to the local militia.
What had prompted this bizarre turn of events? Why had the Iraqi police forces, which normally work in close cooperation with coalition military forces, arrested two British SAS soldiers, and then handed them over to the local militia? A review of the initial on-the-ground reports leads to a clearer picture.
Fancy Dress and Big Guns Don't Mix
According to the BBC's Galpin, reporting for BBC Radio 4 (9/20/05, 18 hrs news script), Iraqi police sources in Basra told the BBC the "two British men were arrested after failing to stop at a checkpoint. There was an exchange of gunfire. The men were wearing traditional Arab clothing, and when the police eventually stopped them, they said they found explosives and weapons in their car…It's widely believed the two British servicemen were operating undercover."
Undercover? Dressed as Arabs? What were they trying to do that had caught the attention of their colleagues, the Iraqi police?
According to the Washington Post (9/20/05), "Iraqi security officials on Monday variously accused the two Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi forces or trying to plant explosives." Reuters (9/19/05) cited police, local officials and other witnesses who confirmed that "the two undercover soldiers were arrested after opening fire on Iraqi police who approached them." Officials said that "the men were wearing traditional Arab headscarves and sitting in an unmarked car."
According to Mohammed al-Abadi, an official in the Basra governorate, “A policeman approached them and then one of these guys fired at him. Then the police managed to capture them.”
In an interview with Al Jazeerah TV, the popular Iraqi leader Fattah al-Sheikh, a member of the Iraqi National Assembly and deputy official in the Basra governorate, said that police had "caught two non-Iraqis, who seem to be Britons and were in a car of the Cressida type. It was a booby-trapped car laden with ammunition and was meant to explode in the centre of the city of Basra in the popular market." Contrary to British authorities' claims that the soldiers had been immediately handed to local militia, al-Sheikh confirmed that they were "at the Intelligence Department in Basra, and they were held by the National Guard force, but the British occupation forces are still surrounding this department in an attempt to absolve them of the crime."
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment and British Covert Operations
British defence sources told the Scotsman (9/20/05) that the soldiers were part of an "undercover special forces detachment" set up this year to "bridge the intelligence void” in Basra, drawing on 'special forces' experience in Northern Ireland and Aden, where British troops went 'deep' undercover in local communities to try to break the code of silence against foreign forces."
These elite forces operate under the Special Reconnaissance Regiment and were formed last year by then defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, "to gather human intelligence during counter-terrorist missions."
The question, of course, is how does firing at Iraqi police while dressed as Arabs and carrying explosives constitute "countering terrorism" or even gathering "intelligence"?
The admission by British defence officials is revealing. A glance at the Special Reconnaissance Regiment gives a more concrete idea of the sort of operations these two British soldiers were involved in.
The Regiment, formed recently, is "modelled on an undercover unit that operated in Northern Ireland" according to Whitehall sources. The Regiment had "absorbed the 14th Intelligence Company, known as '14 Int,' a plainclothes unit set up to gather intelligence covertly on suspect terrorists in Northern Ireland. Its recruits are trained by the SAS."
This is the same Regiment that was involved in the unlawful July 22 execution - multiple head-shots - of the innocent Brazilian, Mr. Jean Charles de Menezes, after he boarded a tube train in Stockwell Underground station.
According to Detective Sergeant Nicholas Benwell, member of the Scotland Yard team that had been investigating the activities of an ultra-secret wing of British military intelligence, the Force Research Unit (FRU), the team found that "military intelligence was colluding with terrorists to help them kill so-called 'legitimate targets' such as active republicans... many of the victims of these government-backed hit squads were innocent civilians."
Benwell's revelations were corroborated in detail by British double agent Kevin Fulton, who was recruited to the FRU in 1981, when he began to infiltrate the ranks of IRA. In his role as a British FRU agent inside the IRA, he was told by his military intelligence handlers to "do anything" to win the confidence of the terrorist group.
"I mixed explosive and I helped develop new types of bombs," he told Scotland's Sunday Herald (6/23/02). "I moved weapons… if you ask me if the materials I handled killed anyone, then I will have to say that some of the things I helped develop did kill… my handlers knew everything I did. I was never told not to do something that was discussed. How can you pretend to be a terrorist and not act like one? You can't. You’ve got to do what they do… They did a lot of murders… I broke the law seven days a week and my handlers knew that. They knew that I was making bombs and giving them to other members of the IRA and they did nothing about it… The idea was that the only way to beat the enemy was to penetrate the enemy and be the enemy."
Most startlingly, Fulton said that his handlers told him his operations were "sanctioned right at the top… this goes the whole way to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister knows what you are doing."
Zarqawi, Ba'athists and the Seeds of Discord
So, based on the methodology of their Regiment, the two British SAS operatives were in Iraq to "penetrate the enemy and be the enemy," in order of course to "beat the enemy." Instead of beating the enemy, however, they ended up fomenting massive chaos and killing innocent people, a familiar pattern for critical students of the British role in the Northern Ireland conflict.
In November 2004, a joint statement was released on several Islamist websites on behalf of al-Qaeda's man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Saddam Hussein's old Ba'ath Party loyalists. Zarqawi’s network had "joined other extremist Islamists and Saddam Hussein's old Baath party to threaten increased attacks on US-led forces." Zarqawi's group said they signed "the statement written by the Iraqi Baath party, not because we support the party or Saddam, but because it expresses the demands of resistance groups in Iraq."
The statement formalized what had been known for a year already – that, as post-Saddam Iraqi intelligence and US military officials told the London Times (8/9/2003), "Al Qaeda terrorists who have infiltrated Iraq from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have formed an alliance with former intelligence agents of Saddam Hussein to fight their common enemy, the American forces." Al Qaeda leaders "recruit from the pool" of Saddam's former "security and intelligence officers who are unemployed and embittered by their loss of status." After vetting, "they begin Al-Qaeda-style training, such as how to make remote-controlled bombs."
Yet Pakistani military sources revealed in February 2005 that the US has "resolved to arm small militias backed by US troops and entrenched in the population," consisting of "former members of the Ba'ath Party" – the same people already teamed up with Zarqawi's al-Qaeda network.
In a highly clandestine operation, the US procured “Pakistan-manufactured weapons, including rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, ammunition, rockets and other light weaponry.” A Pakistani military analyst noted that the “arms could not be destined for the Iraqi security forces because US arms would be given to them.” Rather, the US is playing a double-game to “head off” the threat of a “Shi’ite clergy-driven religious movement” – in other words, to exacerbate the deterioration of security by penetrating, manipulating and arming the terrorist insurgency.
What could be the end-game of such a covert strategy? The view on-the-ground in Iraq, among both Sunnis and Shi'ites, is worth noting. Sheikh Jawad al-Kalesi, the Shi'ite Imam of the al-Kadhimiyah mosque in Baghdad, told Le Monde: "I don’t think that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi exists as such. He’s simply an invention by the occupiers to divide the people."
Iraq’s most powerful Sunni Arab religious authority, the Association of Muslim Scholars, concurs, condemning the call to arms against Shi’ites as a “very dangerous” phenomenon that “plays into the hands of the occupier who wants to split up the country and spark a sectarian war.” In colonial terms, the strategy is known as “divide and rule.”
Whether or not Zarqawi can be said to exist, it is indeed difficult to avoid the conclusion that this interpretation is plausible. It seems the only ones who don’t understand the clandestine dynamics of Anglo-American covert strategy in Iraq are we, the people, in the west. It’s high time we got informed.
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, London. He teaches courses in political theory, international relations and contemporary history at the School of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton.
I find myself increasingly becoming the old fogey of the conspiracy field. While the youngsters continue to come up with new and exciting conspiracies, xymphora slowly deteriorates into a lousy debunking blog. Witness the latest revelations from Basra. To summarize, two British soldiers, disguised as Arabs and with a car full of explosives, somehow find themselves in a contretemps with an Iraqi policeman, shoot him dead, are arrested by local authorities, refuse to explain what they were doing, end up in detention, and finally become the subject of negotiations between the British and Iraqis concerning their release, 'negotiations' apparently meaning to the British driving up to the prison with tanks and knocking the walls down (a fact which the British finally, but grudgingly, admitted), causing a riot which results in civilian deaths and the escape of other prisoners (and the soldiers weren't even in the prison!). Everybody has come to the obvious conclusion that this is the first documented proof of the fact that much of the sectarian violence in Iraq is the work of coalition agents provocateurs, attempting to cause a civil war in Iraq. While I have no doubt that this intentionalprocess is going on elsewhere in Iraq (and largely to fit the Israeli agenda, described here many times before, of breaking the country up into small, unthreatening statelets, with the additional motive of leading to the new Israeli ally, the Shi'ite Empire, to counter the largely Sunni opposition to Israeli imperial plans), I doubt that the Basra case is an example of it. There seems to be another conspiracy afoot.
The British have made a big deal of how much better they are than the Americans at shouldering the 'white man's burden' of policing their portion of Iraq. Of course, the Americans are so arrogant, culturally insensitive, and generally stupid, it is not difficult to do a better job. As well, the South is easier to police just because it is majority Shi'ite, and not interested in causing trouble for the central government. Nevertheless, it is true that the British have done a much better job than the Americans, and have some right to feel superior. And yet, just recently, everything has gone sideways. Here is the timeline:
In the early Spring, British officials anticipated that British troops would soon be withdrawing from Iraq.
In July, plansareleaked of a British plan to withdraw almost all British troops from Iraq (sending some of them to Afghanistan). This withdrawal would have started next month. Almost immediately, the deaths of British contractors is said to 'threaten' these plans.
In early August, journalist Steven Vincent, who worked for the New York Times, is found murdered outside of Basra. He had been shot and was found with his hands bound. Days before his death, he "had written an Op-Ed piece for The Times in which he criticized British security forces for failing to act against the Shiite militias' growing power in the local police force." It's unlikely, even given the ubiquity of the internet, that local militias would be on top of very recently published New York Times Op-Eds (although Vincent had written previously on the matter).
Normally quiescent Basra starts to become dangerous for British troops, and three are actually killed. While there has been a constant series of British deaths in Iraq, these most recent deaths seem to cause a new type of overreaction. On Sunday, September 18, the British arrest local leaders Sheik Ahmed Majid Farttusi and Sayyid Sajjad, arrests that almost certainly will lead to more trouble (Juan Cole has the timeline).
The British plans to withdraw are indefinitely cancelled, as conditions have worsened.
The two British soldiers are arrested near a protest arranged against the arrest of Sheik Ahmed Majid Farttusi, and rescued with a completely unnecessary, show of lethal violence.
Journalist Fakher Haider, who also worked for the New York Times, is found murdered on the same day as the British soldiers were arrested. He also had his hands bound and was shot. He had been taken away for 'questioning' by people claiming to be Iraqi police, a claim backed up by the fact they arrived in a police car (!). He "had recently reported on the growing friction and violence among Basra's rival Shiite militias, which are widely believed to have infiltrated the police." Now there are two murdered journalists in Basra, each of whom wrote about the growing power of Shi'ite militias in Basra (scuttlebutt that Steven Vincent's murder was related to his relationship with his Iraqi female translator seems to be disproved by the nature of the second murder). Local militia leaders would almost certainly have been unaware of the writings of these journalists (and you have to wonder why they would care if they did know). Somebody wants to remove Western journalists with good local contacts from Basra.
What I see here is an attempt to sabotage the British withdrawal, and the murders of both journalists may well be associated with this.
Creating sectarian violence doesn't really make sense in Basra, as the Zionist planners intend to keep the South whole, and part of the Shi'ite Empire. Causing trouble in Basra will only mess up those plans. On the other hand, setting a bomb off in Basra would have continued the campaign, started right after the announcement of withdrawal was made, to ensure that the British troops cannot be withdrawn from the South. Who benefits from non-withdrawal?:
the Americans, who would have been all alone in their battle against Islam once the British left;
elements in the British military, who so rarely get to be in a real war these days, are probably loathe having to go back to more endless marching drills in the rain (or, at best, in Afghanistan);
the international cadre of war financiers, who still derive considerable income from the British presence in Iraq; and
Tony Blair, who works for the financiers and has this extremely weird relationship with the United States (he seems to be under the misapprehension that he is Prime Minister of the United States).
I think there is a conspiracy here, but not necessarily the obvious one.
The following article is an edited version of two chapters from John Spivak's autobiography (A Man in His Time, 1967).
All of the photos and links on this web site were added to John Spivak's work by Richard Sanders, editor of Press for Conversion!, quarterly magazine of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT).
This site is a web version of "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," issue #53 of Press for Conversion! (April 2004). A hard copy of this 54-page magazine can be ordered from COAT. (Click here for details on how to order.)
Around the beginning of July 1933, the first overt move was made in one of the most fantastic plots in American history. A representative of a group of conspirators opened negotiations with a noted military man to head a 500,000-man army, seize the Government of the United States, put an end to American democracy and supplant it with a dictatorship. The McCormack-Dickstein House Committee, investigating un-American activities, turned its attention to the plot, but that probe ended abruptly. Even a generation later, those who are still alive and know all the facts have kept their silence so well that the conspiracy is not even a footnote in American histories. It would be regrettable if historians neglected this episode and future generations never learned of it.
When the plot actually began, or whose inspiration it was, is not known, for the Committee avoided probing into these aspects. News of the plot, reported to have backing of "three million dollars on the line and three hundred million...should it be necessary," reached the nation in a time which saw greater changes in political systems than any previous period.
The takeover plot failed because although those involved had astonishing talents for making breathtaking millions of dollars, they lacked an elementary understanding of people and the moral forces that activate them. In a money-standard civilization such as ours, the universal regard for anyone who is rich tends to persuade some millionaires that they are knowledgeable in fields other than the making of money. The conspirators went about the plot as if they were hiring an office manager; all they needed was to send a messenger to the man they had selected. In this case, as recorded in sworn testimony before the Congressional Committee, the messenger was a bond salesman named Gerald C. ("Jerry") MacGuire, who earned about $150 a week. I record his wage not as proof of his competence or lack of it, but because, as brought out in the testimony, when he was ready for the first overt move to get the conspiracy off the ground, his bank account flowered with cash deposits of over $100,000 for "expenses."
MacGuire was a short, stocky man tending toward three chins. His bullet-shaped head had a silver plate in it due to a wound received in battle. His close-cropped hair was usually topped by a black derby, the popular headgear of the day. A reporter described his bright blue eyes as glittering with the sharpness of a fox about to spring.
MacGuire worked for a leading brokerage house headed by Grayson Mallet-Prevost Murphy, a West Point graduate who had seen action in the Spanish-American War and WWI. Murphy had extensive industrial and financial interests as a director of Anaconda, Goodyear Tire, Bethlehem Steel and a number of Morgan-controlled banks. His personal appearance was impressive: tall, heavy-set and giving evidence that in his younger years, he must have been quite handsome.
I heard rumors [of the fascist plot] in Washington more than a month before news of it broke. The talk was that the American Legion would be the nucleus for a fascist army which would seize Washington. Even in a city notorious as a gossip center, this sounded like something out of a Central American "banana republic."
According to these early rumours, the Committee knew about the conspiracy and that Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, until his retirement a few years earlier the highest ranking officer in the U.S. Marines, had been chosen to head the putsch. For the first time a name was mentioned, and it was a famous name....
Butler was first approached by two former state commanders of the American Legion. One [Bill Doyle] dropped out of the picture after the initial meeting. "The other said his name was Jerry MacGuire," the General told the Committee: "MacGuire said he had been State Commander, the year before,... in Connecticut."
These men, Butler later told me, eventually described "what was tantamount to a plot to seize the Government, by force if necessary."
The General placed little stock in what his visitors said until they showed that they meant business by displaying a bank book listing cash deposits of over $100,000 for "expenses."
Butler: They took out a bank book and showed me deposits of $42,000 on one occasion and $64,000 on another. I said ... There is something in this, Jerry MacGuire, besides what you have told me.... He said, "Well, I am a business man ... [and] if you want to take my advice, you would be a business man, too."
Butler testified that the first suggestion made to him was to lead a movement to unseat the ruling group of the American Legion by taking 200-300 Legionnaires to its annual convention in Chicago; the second was to deliver a prepared speech to that convention, urging passage of a resolution favoring the gold standard.
Here is the story in the General's own words:
"Butler: I said, 'Listen. These friends of mine, even if they wanted to go [to the Legion convention] could not afford to go. It would cost them $100-$150 dollars to go there and stay for 5 days and come back.'
They said, 'Well, we will pay that.'
I said, 'How can you pay it? You are disabled soldiers. How do you get the money to do that?'
'Oh, we have friends. We will get the money.' I began to smell a rat... [and] said, 'I do not believe you have got this money.'
It was then or the next time, ...they hauled out a bank deposit book..
The next time I saw [MacGuire] was about the first of September, in a hotel in Newark. I went over to the [Legion's 29th Division] convention. Sunday morning he walked into my room and asked if I was getting ready to take these men to Chicago.... I said, 'You people are bluffing. You have not got the money' ...he took out a big wallet...and a great, big mass of thousand dollar bills and threw them on the bed.
I said, 'What's all this?'
He said, 'This is for you, for expenses. You will need some money to pay them.'
'How much money have you got there?' He said, '$18,000.'
I said, 'Don't you try to give me any thousand dollar bills. Remember, I was a cop once. Every one of the numbers on these bills has been taken. I know...what you are trying to do....If I try to cash one of those thousand dollar bills, you will have me by the neck.... I know one thing. Somebody is using you. You are a wounded man.... You have got a silver plate in your head.... You were wounded. You are being used...and I want to know the fellows who are using you. I am not going to talk to you any more. You are only an agent. I want some of the principals.' He said, 'Well, I will send one...to see you.' I said 'Who?' He said, 'I will send Mr. [Robert Sterling] Clark.... He is a banker.'....
A few days later, Clark called Butler and asked if he could visit. They lunched at the General's home on Sunday. Butler continues:
Clark said, 'You got the [gold standard] speech?' I said, 'Yes.. They wrote a hell of a good speech, too.' He said, 'Did those fellows say they wrote that speech?' I said, 'Yes, they did. They told me that was their business, writing speeches.' He laughed and said, 'That speech cost a lot of money.'.. He thought it was a big joke that these fellows were claiming authorship..
Clark said, 'I have $30 million. I do not want to lose it. I am willing to spend half of the $30 million to save the other half. If you go out and make this speech in Chicago, I am certain that they will adopt the resolution and that will be one step toward the return to gold, to have the soldiers stand up for it. We can get the soldiers to go out in great bodies to stand up for it.'
[Clark then offered Butler a bribe, saying: "Why do you want to be stubborn? Why do you want to be different from other people? We can take care of you. You have a mortgage on this house.... That can all be taken care of. It is perfectly legal, perfectly proper."
When Butler declined the offer, Clark used the General's phone to call MacGuire at Palmer House, an exclusive Chicago hotel. In Butler's presence, Clark told MacGuire: 'General Butler is not coming to the convention.... You have got $45,000. You can send those telegrams. You will have to do it that way.... I am going to Canada to rest..... You have got enough money to go through with it.'
Butler later told the Committee that: "The convention came off and the gold standard was endorsed.... I read about it with a great deal of interest. There...some talk about a flood of telegrams that came in and influenced them... I was so much amused, because it all happened right in my room."
MacGuire continued to arrange sporadic meetings with Butler, doggedly trying to enlist his support. After Butler's return from a cross-country speaking tour, Butler got another call from MacGuire who insisted on an immediate meeting to discuss "something of the utmost importance." Butler agreed to meet at a fancy hotel in Philadelphia. It was August 22, 1934, three days after the plebescite that confirmed Hitler as Nazi fuhrer.]
MacGuire said, 'I went abroad [Dec. 1, 1933-Aug. 1934] to study the part that the veteran plays in the various setups of the governments...abroad. I went to Italy for 2 or 3 months and studied the position that veterans occupy in the fascist setup of government, and I discovered that they are the background of Mussolini. They keep them on the payrolls in various ways and keep them contented and happy. They are his real backbone, the force on which he may depend, in case of trouble, to sustain him. But that setup would not suit us. The soldiers of America would not like that. I then went to Germany to see what Hitler was doing, and his whole strength lies in organizations of soldiers, too. But that would not do.... Then I went to France, and I found just exactly the organization we are going to have. It is an organization of super-soldiers.' [Later testimony revealed this to be the Croix de feu which assisted a failed coup attempt in France on Feb 6, 1934.] He told me they had about 500,000 [members] and that each one was a leader of 10 others, so that it gave them 5,000,000 votes. And he said, 'Now, this is our idea here in America - to get up an organization of this kind...to support the President.'
I said, 'The President has got the whole American people. Why does he want them?'
He said, 'Don't you understand the setup has got to be changed a bit? Now, we have got him. We have got the President.'
I said, 'This great group of soldiers, is to sort of frighten him?'
'No, no, no; not to frighten him. This is to sustain him when others assault him.... Did it ever occur to you that the President is overwork-ed? We might have an Assistant President...to take the blame; and if things do not work out, he can drop him.' He [said] that it did not take any Constitutional change to authorize another Cabinet official... to take over the details of the office - take them off the President's shoulders. He mentioned the position would be a secretary of general affairs - a sort of super-secretary.... or a secretary of general welfare, I cannot recall which.... They talked about the kind of relief that ought to be given the President. [MacGuire] said: 'You know the American people will swallow that. We have got the newspapers. We will start a campaign that the President's health is failing. Everybody can tell that by looking at him, and the dumb American people will fall for it in a second.'..
There was something said in one of the conversations...that the President's health was bad, that he might resign, and [Vice President John N.] Garner did not want it anyhow, and then this super-secretary would take the place of the Secretary of State...in the order of succession [and] would become the President. That was the idea. I said, 'Is there anything stirring about it yet?'
'Yes,' he said; 'you watch; in 2 or 3 weeks you will see it come out in the papers. There will be big fellows in it. This is to be the background of it. These are to be the villagers in the opera. The papers will come out with it.' He did not give me the name of it, but he said it would all be made public; a society to maintain the Constitution, and so forth."
American Liberty League
The formation of the American Liberty League, "to combat radicalism" and "defend and uphold the Constitution," was announced shortly afterward. Heading and directing this organization were men from the du Pont and J.P. Morgan companies.
It is common for public officials to develop close friendships with certain newsmen who become their confidants.... Butler had learned to trust Paul Comly French, a reporter for the Philadelphia Record and the New York Post. Butler...told French about the propositions...by MacGuire and asked him to check on the bond salesman and find out "what the hell it's all about."
When Butler finished testifying to the Committee..., French was sworn in. He told of calling on MacGuire on Sept. 13, 1934, in his office on 52 Broadway. The entire floor was occupied by Grayson M.-P. Murphy & Co. Before the bond salesman would talk with French, he phoned Butler to be sure the General had sent him. French told the Committee:
I have here direct quotes from him. As soon as I left his office I got to a typewriter and made a memorandum of everything he told me.
'We need a fascist government in this country...to save the nation from the communists who want to tear it down and wreck all that we have built in America. The only men who have the patriotism to do it are the soldiers and Smedley Butler is the ideal leader. He could organize a million men overnight.'
He told me he had been in Italy and Germany during the summer of 1934 and had made an intensive study...of Nazi and fascist movements.... He said he had obtained enough information on fascist and Nazi movements and the part played by the veterans, to properly set up one in this country..
He warmed up considerably... and said, 'We might go along with Roosevelt and then do with him what Mussolini did with the King of Italy' [i.e., stripping him of power and making him a figurehead.] It fits in with what he told the General, that we would have a Secretary of General Affairs, and if Roosevelt played ball, swell; if he did not, they would push him out..
During the conversation.... he brought in the names of former national commanders of the American Legion, to give the impression that, whether justly or unjustly, a group in the American Legion were actively interested in this proposition.
French had written an article naming the very prominent Americans revealed in Butler's testimony. When the hearing finished, the sensational story was already on the news-stands.
The General's reputation for honesty and patriotism made what he said under oath impossible to ignore. The Secretaries of War and the Navy, U.S. Senators and Representatives urged that the Committee get to the bottom of the conspiracy. McCormack assured newsmen: "We will call all the men mentioned in the story." Co-chairman Dickstein added: "From present indications Butler has the evidence. He's not going to make any serious charges unless he has something to back them up. We'll have men here with bigger names than his."
Dispatches from Philadelphia reported that Butler, former head of the Marine Corps., had told friends that General [Hugh Samuel] Johnson, the former NRA [National Recovery Administration] administrator, had been chosen for the role of dictator if Butler turned it down; also considered was General Douglas MacArthur.
The Committee subpoenaed MacGuire and...his reports from Europe:
McCormack: Now, in your report dated May 6, 1934, from Paris...you say that the...Croix de feu "is getting a great number of new recruits, and I recently attended a meeting of this organization and was quite impressed with the type of men belonging. These fellows are interested only in the salvation of France, and I feel sure that the country could not be in better hands because they are not politicians, they are a cross section of the best people of the country from all walks of life, people who gave their 'all' between 1914 and 1918 that France might be saved, and I feel sure if a crucial test ever comes to the Republic that these men will be the bulwark upon which France will be saved"..
[The Committee examined reports on fascist veterans groups such as Italy's Black Shirts and Germany's Brown Shirts that MacGuire mailed to his backers. Examining another report sent by the witness, McCormack said:]
And in this report you also said:
"I was informed that there is a Fascist Party springing up in Holland under the leadership of a man named Mussait who is an engineer ...who has approximately 50,000 followers..., ranging in age from 18 to 25 years.... It is said this man is in close touch with Berlin and is modeling his entire program along the lines followed by Hitler."
After French published his story, there was a noticeable sense of public uneasiness when not one of those named was called to testify.... The talk was that those named in Butler's testimony were too powerful, and nothing would be done about the plot...
The only person known to have been called to testify was California banker Frank N. Belgrano, who was very influential in the American Legion.... Without being asked one question, he was abruptly told to go home.... Congressman McCormack refused to answer questions about him. Co-chairman Dickstein told me that he did not know why Belgrano was sent home....
As speculation grew,...the Committee issued a press release:
"This Committee has had no evidence that would in the slightest degree warrant calling before it such men as John W. Davis, Gen. Hugh Johnson,...or Hanford MacNider."
The Committee will not take cognizance of names brought into the testimony which constitutes mere hearsay."
On December 17, McCormack announced that Albert Christmas, Clark's attorney, had returned from Europe and would testify in two or three days. The Committee questioned him in executive session. Though national concern about the plot was keen, the attorney was not questioned publicly until, for all practical purposes, the Committee was dead and could do nothing about what the witness said. Christmas was heard on the last day of the Committee's life and then the questions were limited only to money given to MacGuire by the lawyer and Clark. No questions were asked about conversations or correspondence between an alleged principal in the plot and his attorney. In explaining the large sums of money given to the go-between, there was an item of some $65,000 which MacGuire had testified he had used for traveling and entertaining in Europe.
None of the prominent persons named in Butler's testimony were questioned. Had the Committee found that the plot was too hot to handle?
Too Hot to Handle
Not long after the Committee's explanatory news release, a correspondent told me, "I hear some of Butler's testimony has been deleted."
"It's possible. Probably some stuff involving national security."
"What's been cut has nothing to do with national security."
I had a good deal of confidence in him. It was from him that I had first heard of the plot, and I knew that his list of contacts and news sources was amazingly long.
I had met both McCormack and Dickstein. Athough I wrote for a magazine [New Masses] which they touched only with extra-long fire tongs lest they be contaminated, they knew that I was intensely concerned about Nazi activities here. It looked as if the Committee would die in a matter of weeks, and I asked to see the transcript of Butler's testimony for possible leads that I could follow up. Since news stories and the Committee's own press release had named some of the prominent persons Butler mentioned, I persisted in asking why, if there were no secrets involving the national security, I could not see it. Other newsmen joined me in asking for the Butler testimony. Presumably to quiet the growing public concern over why it was not made public, the Committee published a 125-page document containing the testimonies of the General and others. The report was clearly marked "Extracts." On the last page, a note appeared saying that "the committee had ordered stricken... certain immaterial and incompetent evidence, or evidence which was not pertinent to the inquiry."
The extracts held me spellbound; this was living history - personalities, colorful characters, secret maneuvers on national and international scales. This was a planned gamble with the most powerful government in the world as the stakes.
The reasons given for making public only extracts of the Committee testimony smelled like what my cat does in his pan. The Committee had already published hearsay evidence, and this sudden sensitivity about publishing similar testimony was puzzling. For days I tried to learn what Butler testimony had been cut out. All of my efforts were fruitless. A wall of granite had suddenly appeared, but all that did was whet my appetite to know what was going on. The Committee had announced that it intended to subpoena all of those named by Butler, yet it later issued an announcement that it had no evidence on which to question the prominent persons named.
I met for a drink with a correspondent who was very knowledgeable about what was going on in the capital and was as perturbed by a fascist threat as I was. I asked if he had any idea why the Committee had published only extracts. "I was told that a member of the President's Cabinet asked that certain testimony be deleted," he said.
"Any idea of what was cut out?"
"Names, mostly. Two were Democratic candidates for President."
"The Committee's press release mentioned John W. Davis. Who was the other?"
Davis had been a candidate in 1924 and was now one of the chief attorneys for J. P. Morgan & Company. It was possible that, without being told everything, he had been drawn into some aspects of the conspiracy, though he had publicly denied writing the speech Butler was asked to deliver at the Legion convention in Chicago. But Alfred E. Smith, "the happy warrior," a man who had risen to political heights from the sidewalks of New York, a very good Governor whose trusted adviser was Jewish, would certainly not be pro-fascist or pro-Nazi! I knew that he was bitter against Roosevelt, but that was for personal reasons.
Yet, Al Smith was very close to John J. Raskob and was a co-director with him and Irénée du Pont of the American Liberty League. The idea of Al Smith being mentioned in connection with this plot was incredible, but such things had happened in other countries faced with severe political and economic stress.
I resumed my search for what had been deleted, but I still got nowhere. Even usually garrulous politicians walked about with padlocks dangling from their lips.
The McCormack-Dickstein Committee had asked the House to extend its life to January 3, 1937, so that it could continue with its investigations, but the House refused; the Committee died. It even seemed possible that the Committee had been killed because unidentified, influential forces feared that public opinion might compel a deeper investigation into the fascist plot and concluded it would be better to forego even investigations into communist activities than risk that.
On January 11, 1935, about a week or so after the Committee died, Congressman Dickstein gave me a letter of introduction to Frank P. Randolph, the Committee's secretary, saying, "Will you please permit him to examine the official exhibits and make photo-static copies of exhibits which were made public."
Randolph, harried by the mountain of work required to close the Committee's records, gave me stacks of documents, exhibits and transcripts of testimony. Among them I was amazed to find not only the Butler testimony in executive session which I had tried so hard to get, but also a typed copy of the Committee's report to the House on its investigations. The report to the House was lengthy, but the heart of it was contained in a few paragraphs:
In the last few weeks of the committee's life, it received evidence showing that certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist organization in this country..
There is no question that these attempts were discussed, planned and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient.
This committee received evidence from Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler (retired), twice decorated by the Congress of the United States. He testified before the committee as to conversations with one Gerald C. MacGuire in which the latter is alleged to have suggested the formation of a fascist army under the leadership of General Butler.
MacGuire denied these allegations under oath, but your committee was able to verify all the pertinent statements made to General Butler, with the exception of the direct statement suggesting the creation of the organization. This, however, was corroborated in the correspondence of MacGuire with his principal Robert Sterling Clark, of New York City, while MacGuire was abroad studying the various form of veterans' organizations of Fascist character.
I compared the transcript of Butler's testimony in executive session with the one made public and marked "Extracts." The names French mentioned in his news story were not the only ones deleted, and not everything cut from Butler's and French's testimonies was hearsay. I copied the parts... deleted from Butler's description of his talk with Clark. This was direct evidence of a conversation with a named principal in the conspiracy.
[Clark] said, "You know the President is weak. He will come right along with us. He was born in this class. He was raised in this class, and he will come back. He will run true to form. In the end he will come around. But we have got to be prepared to sustain him when he does."
Butler then Clark offered him a bribe
[Clark] said, "Why do you want to be stubborn? Why do you want to be different from other people? We can take care of you. You have got a mortgage on this house.... "That can all be taken care of. It is perfectly legal, perfectly proper."
"Yes," I said, "but I do not want to do it, that's all." Finally I said, "....You are trying to bribe me in my own house. You are very polite about it...but it looks kind of funny to me, making that kind of proposition.
Deleted from Butler's testimony was the new organization [American Liberty League] set up by Irénée du Pont, known for his financial support of reactionary groups, an organization of which Raskob and Al Smith were directors. The treasurer was Grayson Murphy, for whom MacGuire worked. Also deleted was Butler's testimony that MacGuire had advance knowledge of Alfred Smith's plans to break with President Roosevelt and attack him:
Butler: I said, "What is the idea of Al Smith in this?"
"Well," he [MacGuire] said, "Al Smith is getting ready to assault the Administration in his magazine. It will appear in a month or so. He is going to take a shot at the money question. He has definitely broken with the President."
About a month later he did, and the New Outlook took the shot that he [MacGuire] told me a month before they were going to take. This fellow has been able to tell me a month or six weeks ahead of time everything that happened.
Such testimony certainly warranted asking the go-between from whom he got such accurate information about moves that seemed related to a fascist plot. Though McCormack and Dickstein, questioned MacGuire about many things, nothing was asked about how the bond salesman knew of Al Smith's plans.
Butler quoted MacGuire: "Morgan interests say you cannot be trusted.. They want either [Douglas] MacArthur or [Hanford] MacNider. You know as well as I do that MacArthur is the son-in-law of [banker Edward] Stotesbury... Morgan's representative in Philadelphia."
Instead of asking MacGuire who told him what the Morgan interests were doing in this, the Committee simply deleted this from the published testimony.
In Paul Comly French's testimony of his talk with MacGuire, the following was deleted:
"French: [MacGuire] said he could go to John W. Davis or [James H.] Perkins of the National City Bank, and any number of persons and get it [money for the organization]..
We discussed the question of arms and equipment, and he suggested that they could be obtained from the Remington Arms Co. on credit through the du Ponts. I do not think that at that time he mentioned the connection of du Pont with the American Liberty League, but he skirted all around it.... he suggested that Roosevelt would be in sympathy with us and proposed the idea that Butler would be named as head of CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] camps by the President.
The CCC was a government work project giving employment to young men of military age. Another fascist army using CCC men was allegedly proposed by a Wall Street operator who said he controlled $700 million which he could make available; this second plot - if it was a separate one - did not attract as much attention as the one involving General Butler."
These illustrative passages, crying for more probing, were deleted by the Committee. [For more examples of what the Committee deleted from it's witnesses testimony, read "Wall Street's Fascist Conspiracy: Testimony that the Dickstein MacCormack Committee Suppressed," by John Spivak in the New Masses, Jan 29, 1935 .] I knew that the Constitution authorized Congress to delete such matters as required secrecy. This was usually interpreted to mean matters of national security. Certainly national security was involved, but this was a plot that the people were not only entitled to know about, but had to know about, for their own protection.
I felt a very definite resentment against this Committee, for which I otherwise had strong approval. It had subpoenaed Nazis, fascists and communists, yet did not question those whose names were mentioned in testimony about a treasonable plot against the U.S. The rich and influential seemed to have a unique ability to avoid being called before a committee investigating un-American activities. So far as I could determine, there had not been even one phone call to these personages to ask - just for the record and with the greatest apologies - if they had ever heard of this plot. Instead, it did not even ask MacGuire who told him the things he told the General.
It was possible, of course, that the deletions were not due to pressures by any of those named by Butler, but to a policy decision on the highest level. What would be the public gain from delving deeper into a plot which was already exposed and whose principals could be kept under surveillance? Roosevelt had enough headaches in those troubled days without having to confront men of great wealth and power. Was it avoidance of such a confrontation that curtailed the investigation? Was it a desire by the head of the Democratic Party to avoid matters which could split the party down the middle, considering that Davis and Smith, two former party heads, were among those named by Butler?
I was both angry and troubled that after a conspiracy of this magnitude had been disclosed by a national hero and verified by a committee of the Congress, nothing was being done.
Since MacGuire had denied essential parts of Butler's testimony, which the Committee said it had proved by documents, bank records and letters, I went to the Department of Justice to ask what it planned to do about MacGuire's testimony. I was told that it had no plans to prosecute.
I interviewed Congressman McCormack. When I got to the sixth or seventh question, dealing with deletions from Butler's testimony, he said abruptly: "I don't have to give you an interview.... I'll take your questions and answer such of them as I wish."
To one of my questions, McCormack gave me definite assurances:
You were...anxious to find out if the Nazi movement in this country is as active today as when the investigation started. As a result of the investigation, and the disclosures made, this movement has been stopped and is practically broken up.
Unhappily, the Congressman was incorrect. It was in this very period that the invasion of the U.S. by Nazi secret agents, along with an intensification of anti-democratic and hate propaganda, was moving towards its peak. I am sure McCormack, Dick-stein and their colleagues believed that disclosures before their Committee had broken up the Nazi propaganda and spy rings. They saw no threat from Nazis, though they did see a dangerous one from U.S. communists. The country was bedevilled by seemingly endless strikes, and these were attributed chiefly to communists - as if communists created conflict between employers and employees.
I went to co-chairman Samuel Dickstein, who said the Committee had deleted certain parts of the testimony because they were "hearsay." I asked: "Why wasn't Grayson Murphy called? Your Committee knew that Murphy's men are in the anti-Semitic espionage organization Order of '76?" He replied: "We didn't have the time. We'd have taken care of the Wall Street groups if we had time. I would have [had] no hesitation in going after the Morgans."
I assumed General Butler did not know that portions of his testimony had been deleted. If he knew and said so publicly, he would reach a vastly greater audience than I could through the New Masses. I phoned him at his home, said I was from the New Masses and wanted to see him about his testimony before the Committee.
"Come on out," he said heartily. He was a slender, almost spare man, with receding hair, lined and sunken cheeks, thick eyebrows and furrowed lines between his keen eyes. His nose was generous, his underlip set in a permanent pout. He looked at me almost with affection as he extended his hand. There are people one meets and may never meet again with whom something clicks at the moment when hands clasp. I felt a strong attachment to him immediately. I heard later of highly complimentary comments he made about me. I felt as if I had known him all my life and apparently he felt the same about me. He said, "I think you're the man I've been hoping to run into to help me do an autobiography. There are things I've seen, things I've learned that should not be left unsaid. War is a racket to protect economic interests, not our country, and our soldiers are sent to die on foreign soil to protect investments by big business."
Butler was occupied with the thought that American boys were being killed not to protect their country, but to protect investments. He returned to this theme several times in the hours we talked. His life, his adventures and activities and what he had learned from first-hand experience would have made a fascinating book. I would have liked to do it, but I begged off. Nazi activities in the U.S. were assuming alarming proportions and no publication, other than the New Masses, had shown any interest. The Government seemed to ignore these activities completely. When I said I should concentrate on anti-Nazi activities, he nodded approvingly and offered to help. He too was troubled by the hate propaganda gaining momentum almost daily.
He said things about big business and politics, sometimes in earthy, four-letter words, the like of which I had never heard from the most excited agitators crying on street corners, from socialists speaking on the New Haven Green or, later, from communists.
He was describing a primitive variation of what we are learning today  about the activities of our CIA. We use military power to enforce our political and economic policies. It is always done, according to official announcements, for high, shining moral objectives. In our schools, our churches and synagogues, as in unctuous pronouncements by heads of state, we are told to live by a set of nobly-expressed morals but are expected to acquiesce when governments openly or surreptitiously violate them. We still tamper with governments that displease us; we still instigate revolutions in countries which will not accept our "guidance;" we still send our men to fight in foreign lands, to kill and be killed, without having declared war. If any average citizen violated the U.S. Constitution as constantly and consistently as those who took solemn oaths before God and their fellow men to uphold, defend and protect it, he would be behind bars in short order.
I had heard radicals of every stripe say similar things, but now the man who had commanded our occupying and shooting forces in foreign countries was saying them, adding matter-of-factly such comments as: "We supervised elections in Haiti, and wherever we supervised them our candidate always won." When speakers on the Green denounced our military invasions and "dollar diplomacy," I was always conscious that they were political radicals, theoreticians who had read histories, economic philosophies and mountains of statistics, and concluded that "war is a racket" and took to their stands to tell all passersby. But this thin man was not a bookish theoretician; Butler had directed our Marines to land on foreign soil to protect American investments, and he was saying things stronger than I had ever heard on the Green.
I explained again that I was from the New Masses. "It's supposed to be a communist magazine," I said.
"So who the hell cares?" he said. "There wouldn't be a United States if it wasn't for a bunch of radicals." An impish look came over his face. "I once heard of a radical named George Washington. As a matter of fact from what I read he was an extremist - a goddamn revolutionist!"
I gave him copies of what had been deleted from his testimony. I explained that although the Committee reported to Congress that it had verified the plot, it did nothing about MacGuire's denials under oath. When I finished, he said: "I'll be god-damned! You can be sure I'll say something about this!"
I made public [in New Masses, Jan. 29, 1935] the parts that the Committee had edited out of his testimony. On Feb. 17, Butler got on national radio and denounced the Committee.
When the Committee's report appeared, Roger Baldwin, who did not look with friendly eyes on communists, issued a statement as director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
The Congressional Committee investigating un-American activities has reported that the Fascist plot to seize the government...was proved; yet not a single participant will be prosecuted under the perfectly plain language of the federal conspiracy act making this a high crime. Imagine the action if such a plot were discovered among Communists!
Which is, of course, only to emphasize the nature of our government as representative of the interests of the controllers of property. Violence, even to the seizure of government, is excusable on the part of those whose lofty motive is to preserve the profit system.
The Committee's report gave 6 pages to the threat by Nazi agents in this country, 11 pages to the threat by communists and one page to the plot to seize the government and destroy America's democratic system.
Source: Excerpts from John Spivak's autobiography, A Man in His Time, 1967, pp. 294-331.
All of the photos and links on this web site were added by Richard Sanders, editor of Press for Conversion!, quarterly magazine of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT). Most of the above links to the descriptions of key fascists, corporations and groups connected to the plot were written for Press for Conversion! (#53)by editor Richard Sanders. Most of the references are listed at the end of each item. Other references were also used in the creation of these items.
Despite his father's desire that he remain in school, Smedley Butler dropped out when the United States declared war against Spain in 1898. As he was only 16 years old, Butler lied about his age to secure a second lieutenant's commission in the Marines.
After six weeks of basic training, Second Lieutenant Butler was sent to Guantanamo, Cuba, in July 1898. The bay was already secured, but a Spanish sniper's bullet barely missed Butler's head one night.
Butler was twice wounded during the Boxer Rebellion. During the Battle of Tientsin on July 13, 1900, Butler climbed out of a trench to retrieve a wounded officer for medical attention, whereupon he was shot in the thigh. Another Marine helped the wounded Butler to safety but was himself shot; Butler continued to assist the first man to the rear. Four enlisted men received the Medal of Honor; though officers were not eligible to receive the award, in recognition of his bravery in the incident, Butler was commissioned a captain by brevet. Butler received his promotion while in the hospital recovering, two weeks before his nineteenth birthday. Butler was also shot in the chest at San Tan Pating.
In 1903, Butler fought to protect the U.S. Consulate in Honduras from rebels. An incident during that expedition allegedly earned him the first of several colorful nicknames, "Old Gimlet Eye," attributed to the feverish, bloodshot eyes which enhanced his habitually penetrating and bellicose stare.
Butler was married in 1905 to Ethel C. Peters, of Philadelphia. They had a daughter, Ethel Peters, and two sons, Smedley Darlington and Thomas Richard.
Between the Spanish-American War and the American entry into the first World War in 1917, Butler achieved the distinction, shared with only one other Marine (Dan Daly) since that time, of being twice awarded the Medal of Honor for outstanding gallantry in action.
The first award was for his activities in the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, Mexico in 1914. But the large number of Medals of Honor awarded during that campaign — one for the Army, nine for Marines and 46 to Navy personnel — diminished the medal's prestige. During World War I, Butler, then a major, attempted to return his Medal of Honor, explaining that he had done nothing to deserve it. It was returned with orders that not only would he keep it, but that he would wear it as well.
Second Medal of Honor, Haiti (1915)
Capture of Fort Riviere, Haiti, 1915, by D. J. Neary; illustrations of Maj Smedley Butler, Sgt Iams, and Pvt Gross (USMC art collection)
The Marines tried to secure Haiti against the "Cacos" rebels in 1915. On October 24, 1915, a patrol of forty-four mounted Marines led by Butler was ambushed by some 400 Cacos. The Marines maintained their perimeter throughout the night, and early the next morning they charged the much larger enemy force from three directions. The startled Haitians fled. Sergeant Major Dan Daly received a Medal of Honor for his gallantry in the battle.
By mid-November 1915, most of the Cacos had been dispersed from the Haitian region. The remainder took refuge at Fort Rivière, an old French-built stronghold deep within the country. Fort Rivière sat atop Montagne Noire, the front reachable by a steep, rocky slope. The other three sides fell away so steeply that an approach from those directions was impossible. Some Marine officers argued that it should be assaulted by a regiment supported by artillery, but Butler convinced his colonel to allow him to attack with just four companies of 24 men each, plus two machine gun detachments. Butler and his men took the rebel stronghold on November 17, 1915, in which he received his second Medal of Honor, for which he also received the Haitian Medal of Honor. Major Butler recalled that his troops "hunted the Cacos like pigs." His exploits impressed FDR, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, who awarded the medal for an engagement in which 200 Cacos were killed and no prisoners taken, while one Marine was struck by a rock and lost two teeth.
Later, as the initial organizer and commanding officer of the Haitian Gendarmerie, the native police force, Butler established a record as a capable administrator; under his supervision, order was largely restored, and many vital public works projects were successfully completed.
It is conceivable Butler might have become the only three-time recipient of the Medal of Honor. However, at the time of the Boxer Rebellion, Marine Corps regulations did not allow officers to receive this decoration. For his bravery he received the Marine Corps Brevet Medal. Only 20 men have ever earned this award, and only three men have received both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal and the Medal of Honor.
World War I
During World War I, Butler, much to his disappointment, was not assigned to a combat command on the Western Front. While his superiors considered him brave and brilliant, they also described him as "unreliable." He was, however, promoted to the rank of brigadier general at the age of 37 and placed in command of Camp Pontanezen at Brest, France. In October 1918, a debarkation depot near Brest funneled troops of the American Expeditionary Force to the battlefields. U.S. Secretary of WarNewton Baker sent novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart to report on the camp. She later described how Butler solved the mud problem: "[T]he ground under the tents was nothing but mud, [so] he had raided the wharf at Brest of the duckboards no longer needed for the trenches, carted the first one himself up that four-mile hill to the camp, and thus provided something in the way of protection for the men to sleep on." General John J. Pershing authorized a duckboard shoulder patch for the units. This won Butler another nickname, "Old Duckboard." For his services, Butler earned not only the Distinguished Service Medal of both the Army and the Navy but also the French Order of the Black Star.
Director of Public Safety
On official leave of absence from the Marine Corps from January 1924 to December 1925, Butler briefly became the Director of Public Safety in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Due to the influence of Butler's father, the congressman, the newly elected mayor of Philadelphia, W. Freeland Kendrick, asked Butler to leave the Marines to become Director of Public Safety, the official in charge of running the police and fire departments. Philadelphia's municipal government was notoriously corrupt. Butler refused at first, but when Kendrick asked President Calvin Coolidge to intervene, and Coolidge contacted Butler to say that he could take the necessary leave from the Corps, Butler agreed.
Within days, Butler ordered raids on more than 900 speakeasies. Butler also went after bootleggers, prostitutes, gamblers and corrupt police officers. He had roofs removed from police cars so that the officers could not sleep during their shifts, which had apparently been a fairly common practice prior to his appointment. Butler was more zealous than politic in his duties; in addition to going after gangsters and the working-class joints, Butler raided the social elites' favorite speakeasies, the Ritz-Carlton and the Union League. A week later, Kendrick fired Butler. Butler later said "cleaning up Philadelphia was worse than any battle I was ever in."
China and stateside service
From 1927 to 1929, Butler was commander of the Marine Expeditionary Force in China. He cleverly parlayed among various nationalist generals and warlords in order to protect American lives and property, and ultimately won the public acclaim of contending Chinese leaders.
When Butler returned to the United States, in 1929, he was promoted. At 48, he became the Marine Corps' youngest major general. Butler helped to preserve the Marine Corps' existence against critics in the Army and the Congress who, during budget fights, argued that the Army could do the work of the Marines. He directed the Quantico camp's growth until it became the "showplace" of the Corps. He also set about vigorously to keep the Marines in the public limelight. In four years, his Quantico Marines football team amassed a record of 38-2-2 against powerful service teams as well as civilian schools, and bulldog mascot "Sergeant Major Jiggs" became a national symbol of Marine tenacity and aggressiveness. Butler also won national attention by taking thousands of his men on long field marches, many of which he led from the front, to Gettysburg and other Civil War battle sites, where they conducted large-scale re-enactments before crowds of often distinguished spectators.
In 1931, Butler publicly recounted gossip about Benito Mussolini in which the dictator allegedly struck a child with his automobile in a hit-and-run accident. The Italian government protested, and President Hoover, who strongly disliked Butler, forced Secretary of the Navy Adams to court-martial Butler. Butler became the first general officer to be placed under arrest since the Civil War. Butler apologized (to Adams) and the court martial was cancelled with only a reprimand.
When Major General Wendell C. Neville died in July 1930, many expected Butler to succeed him as Commandant of the Marine Corps. Butler, however, had criticized too many things too often, and the recent death of his father, the congressman, had removed some of his protection from the hostility of his civilian superiors. Butler failed to receive the appointment, although he was then the senior major general on the active list. The position went instead to Major General Ben H. Fuller. At his own request, Butler retired from active duty on October 1, 1931.
In his 1935 book, War Is a Racket, Butler presented an exposé and trenchant condemnation of the profit motive behind warfare. His views on the subject are well summarized in the following passage from a 1935 issue of "the non-Marxist, socialist" magazine, Common Sense — one of Butler's most widely quoted statements:
The Business Plot, The Plot Against FDR, or The White House Putsch, was an uncovered conspiracy involving several wealthy businessmen to overthrow PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt in 1933.
Purported details of the matter came to light when retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler testified before a Congressional committee that a group of men had attempted to recruit him to serve as the leader of a plot and to assume and wield power once the coup was successful. Butler testified before the McCormack-Dickstein Committee in 1934 . In his testimony, Butler claimed that a group of several men had approached him as part of a plot to overthrow Roosevelt in a military coup. One of the alleged plotters, Gerald MacGuire, vehemently denied any such plot. In their final report, the Congressional committee supported Butler's allegations on the existence of the plot, but no prosecutions or further investigations followed, and the matter was mostly forgotten.
Shacks, put up by the Bonus Army on the Anacostia flats, Washington, D.C., burning after the battle with the military (1932).
On July 17, 1932, thousands of World War I veterans converged on Washington, D.C., set up tent camps, and demanded immediate payment of bonuses due them in 1945 according to the Adjusted Service Certificate Law of 1924. Called the Bonus Army, they were led by Walter W. Waters, a former Army sergeant, and encouraged by an appearance from retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, who had considerable influence over the veterans, being one of the most popular military figures of the time. A few days after Butler's appearance, President Herbert Hoover ordered the marchers removed, and their camps were destroyed by US Army cavalry troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur.
Butler, although a prominent Republican, responded by supporting Roosevelt in that year's election.
Clayton Cramer, in a 1995 History Today article, reminded readers that the devastation of the Great Depression had caused many Americans to question the foundations of liberal democracy. "Many traditionalists, here and in Europe, toyed with the ideas of Fascism and National Socialism; many liberals dallied with Socialism and Communism." This helps explain why some American business leaders viewed fascism as a viable system to both preserve their interests and end the economic woes of the Depression. 
The events testified to in the McCormack-Dickstein Committee happened between July and November 1933. The Committee began examining evidence a year later, on November 20, 1934. On November 24 the committee released a statement detailing the testimony it had heard about the plot and its preliminary findings. On February 15, 1935, the committee submitted to the House of Representatives its final report. The McCormack-Dickstein Committee was the precursor to the former House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC); its materials are archived with those of the HUAC.
During the McCormack-Dickstein Committee hearings, Butler testified that through MacGuire and Bill Doyle, who was then the department commander of the American Legion in Massachusetts, the conspirators attempted to recruit him to lead a coup, promising him an army of 500,000 men for a march on Washington, D.C., $30 million in financial backing, and generous media spin control.
[BUTLER:] I said, "The idea of this great group of soldiers, then, is to sort of frighten him, is it?"
"No, no, no; not to frighten him. This is to sustain him when others assault him."
I said, "Well, I do not know about that. How would the President explain it?"
He said: "He will not necessarily have to explain it, because we are going to help him out. Now, did it ever occur to you that the President is overworked? We might have an Assistant President, somebody to take the blame; and if things do not work out, he can drop him."
He went on to say that it did not take any constitutional change to authorize another Cabinet official, somebody to take over the details of the office-take them off the President's shoulders. He mentioned that the position would be a secretary of general affairs-a sort of a supersecretary.
CHAIRMAN: A secretary of general affairs?
BUTLER: That is the term used by him-or a secretary of general welfare-I cannot recall which. I came out of the interview with that name in my head. I got that idea from talking to both of them, you see [MacGuire and Clark]. They had both talked about the same kind of relief that ought to be given the President, and he [MacGuire] said: "You know, the American people will swallow that. We have got the newspapers. We will start a campaign that the President's health is failing. Everybody can tell that by looking at him, and the dumb American people will fall for it in a second."Archer, Jules (1973), p. 155.
Despite Butler's support for Roosevelt in the election, and his reputation as a strong critic of capitalism, Butler said the plotters felt his good reputation and popularity were vital in attracting support amongst the general public, and saw him as easier to manipulate than others.
Butler said he spoke for thirty minutes with Gerald MacGuire. MacGuire was a bond salesman for Robert Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, an art collector who lived mostly in Paris, and one of Wall Street's richest investors. MacGuire was a former commander of the Connecticut American Legion and had been an activist for the gold currency movement that Clark sponsored. 
In attempting to recruit Butler, MacGuire may have played on the general's loyalty toward his fellow veterans. Knowing of an upcoming bonus in 1945 for World War I veterans, Butler said MacGuire told him, "We want to see the soldiers' bonus paid in gold. We do not want the soldier to have rubber money or paper money." Such names as Al Smith, Roosevelt's political foe and former governor of New York, and Irénée du Pont, a chemical industrialist, were said to be the financial and organizational backbone of the plot. Butler stated that once the conspirators were in power, they would protect Roosevelt from other plotters.
Given a successful coup, Butler said that the plan was for him to have held near-absolute power in the newly created position of "Secretary of General Affairs," while Roosevelt would have assumed a figurehead role.
Reaction to Butler's testimony by the media and business elite was dismissive or hostile. The majority of media outlets, including The New York Times, Philadelphia Post, and Time Magazine ridiculed or downplayed his claims, saying they lacked evidence. After the committee concluded, The New York Times and Time Magazine downplayed the conclusions of the committee.
The committee deleted extensive excerpts from the report relating to Wall Street financiers including J. P. Morgan, the Du Pont interests, Remington Arms, and others allegedly involved in the plot attempt. As of 1975, a full transcript of the hearings had yet to be traced.
Those accused of the plotting by Butler all denied any involvement. MacGuire was the only figure identified by Butler who testified before the committee. Others involved were actually called to appear to testify, though never were forced to testify.
Partial corroboration of Butler's story
Portions of Butler's story were corroborated by:
Veterans of Foreign Wars commander James E. Van Zandt. "Less than two months" after General Butler warned him, he said "he had been approached by 'agents of Wall Street' to lead a Fascist dictatorship in the United States under the guise of a 'Veterans Organization.' "
Captain Samuel Glazier—testifying under oath about plans of a plot to install a dictatorship in the United States.
Reporter Paul Comly French, reporter for the Philadelphia Record and the New York Evening Post.
Mike Thomson, The Whitehouse Coup, details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by right-wing American businessmen
The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.
Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy.