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Geopolitical gossip about 'grand conspiracies' by US and other elites have been pervasive in relation to the September 11 attack in America, and subsequent attempts to eliminate the threat of terrorism (See also Competing Civilizations and Attack Implications). The Asian financial crisis also generated a fair amount of geopolitical gossip.
Some examples of 'grand conspiracy' theories are identified below - and various articles related to such theories are outlined in an attachment to this document. Examples of conspiratorial materials are categorized separately.
This document will suggest that systemic problems in the current global order provide a partial foundation for perceiving conspiracies, and that there are innumerable other ways that such perceptions can be created in the minds of observers from real and imaginary causes. A very high standard needs to be set in testing evidence of alleged conspiracies.
However geopolitical gossip tends not to gain credibility because: such standards do not seem to be met in assessing what is seen as evidence; collusion amongst diverse groups is presumed without clearly justifying motivations for doing so; and theories tend only to blame scapegoats and show little understanding of how the real world works. Because of the latter characteristic, conspiracy theories can perhaps be likened to primitive man's invention of 'evil spirits' to explain adverse events in the (then) incomprehensible natural world.
Various current 'grand' conspiracy theories seem to have limited credibility.
The way some philosophical 'idealists' view the world (ie those who see all efforts to understand as subjective and ideas as 'chips' for playing political games, rather than as a way to understand the requirements for success in practical affairs) could be considered as a factor in geopolitical gossip. Because conspiracy theorists tends to merely blame scapegoats and provide no practical suggestions about alternative options, they have limited prospects of ever actually changing anything.
The 'idealist' (postmodern / relativist) view has apparently become dominant in Western humanities faculties. This is positively dangerous in an integrating world because it contributes to ignorance of the practical (eg economic) implications of different cultural traditions - and this prevents those who suffer relative disadvantages from improving their position and encourages a belief that their problems must be due to 'oppression'. These factors seem significant in generating terrorist reactions.
Given the damage that undisciplined conspiracy theories can do and the presumed existence of cases of real wrong-doing that are swamped by a tidal wave of 'gossip', more effective ways of responding to this phenomenon seem to be needed.
A novel touch was added to the 'conspiracy theory' genre in 2010, when 'WikiLeaks' released large numbers of leaked documents from the US State Department apparently intending to reduce the US's ability to carry forward its presumed 'authoritarian conspiracies' - a conspiratorial move that had many parallels with the 'conspiracies' WikiLeaks' founder was apparently concerned about (see The Weirdness of WikiLeaks)
The author has become aware of various conspiracy theories which are presented as a presumed-reliable way to understand history and current events. For example:
Conspiracy theories can reflect real problems
Undoubtedly there are genuinely under-handed actions by powerful factions at times.
Of more significance is that systemic defects in the way the world currently operates can give rise to problems that can be perceived to be due to 'conspiracies'.
Conspiracy theories can also reflect distorted perceptions
Conspiracies can can also be created in the minds of observers by various real and imaginary problems.
The complexity of the real and imaginary factors that can give rise to perceptions of 'conspiracy' suggest that others should require a very high standard of evidence - not mere allegations - before accepting accounts of 'conspiracies'.
'Grand Conspiracy' Theories Lack Credibility
'Grand Conspiracy' theories tend not to gain mainstream credibility, perhaps because of:
Fahrenheit 9/11 seems a good illustration of these problems.
Another problem that 'grand conspiracies' face is that a high level of social cohesion would be required amongst insiders (as some 'grand conspiracies' imply complicity by people in many different organizations and levels of society) - and such cohesion is implausible in some contexts where 'grand conspiracies' are perceived.
Andrew Denton's movie, With God on our Side, implied that unity of action in a US-led war against Islamism might be motivated by evangelical Christians, and presented a 'conspiracy theory' about this in a novel way - ie by encouraging the suspects to speak for themselves. None-the-less there seem to be serious defects in the movie's basic premise.
Geopolitical gossip may arise (and fail to gain credibility) because 'grand conspiracy' theorists do not attempt to (or cannot) realistically understand the complexity of the 'big picture' that powerful individuals face, and concentrate on scapegoating them instead.
Because they are based on blaming someone rather than trying to understand what is going on, 'grand conspiracy' theories can perhaps be likened to primitive man's invention of 'evil spirits' to explain adverse events in the (then) incomprehensible natural world.
Even though there are real problems in the current international order, it seem to the author that there is a general lack of credibility in many of the 'grand conspiracy' theories that have circulated on the Internet since September 2001.
Another type of problem can be illustrated by the movie Loose Change, a conspiracy theory suggesting that the official account of 9/11 events is flawed, and those events were orchestrated by factions within the US administration.
While such claims are contested on technical grounds, an even more fundamental problem relates to motivation - as, while there are various factions that might have had a motive to orchestrate the 9/11 events, those who developed the US administration's response seem most implausible culprits.
The search for 'evil spirits' to blame for prevailing problems has continued for many years in the absence of any realistic understanding of the causes of those problems or of satisfactory solutions.
For example, it has been suggested that the problems confronting US middle classes were simply the result of efforts by elites to enrich themselves at others' expense - a view that reflects a clear lack of understanding of the competitive challenges that arose from the international economic environment and of the logic of the policies adopted to attempt to respond.
A narrow understanding of the international environment is also reflected in parallel claims that all that is required to create an effective liberal global order is for the US to cease trying to run the world as its empire.
Theories were developed suggesting that terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2025 were by jihadiists who are supported by US as a means for exerting influence in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Geopolitical gossip and philosophical 'idealism'
As implied above, 'grand conspiracy' theories (whose authors are not limited to radical Islamists) seem to reflect a lack of access to real-world information and / or understanding about how mainstream economic and political affairs are handled in practice.
There seems to be some merit in the view that conspiracy theories emerge mostly in disenfranchised cultures - ie that where people lack ability to witness chaotic workings of machinery of power they can easily believe that political affairs can be driven by sinister, implacable forces. 
Conspiracy theorists also seem to adopt the (Marxian?) view that economic success must be the result of exploiting others and to be intent on finding someone to blame for problems, rather than seeking practical alternative policies and programs.
The latter example suggests that one factor in geopolitical gossip may be the impact of the over-simplification of reality that is unavoidable in the mass media (and the need for drama in entertainment) on those without practical experience of how the world works .
However philosophical 'idealism' (ie the concept that knowledge is mainly assessed against individual or cultural preferences and has political implications) may be an even more significant factor in the origin of 'grand' conspiracy theories.
Taking an 'idealist' view can lead to a political interpretation of 'facts' and knowledge (ie that they reflects the arbitrary claims of elite groups to rationalize their dominance over others, rather than a genuine attempt to say what happened or understand cause-effect relationships). Moreover, complex situations can be oversimplified and not realistically understood. For example:
For all of these reasons 'grand conspiracy' theorists generally seem to have little to contribute.
However a most dangerous consequence of philosophical idealism (ie the 'relativist' view that knowledge is mainly assessed against individual or cultural preferences and has political implications) has been a general lack of analysis or discussion of the practical (eg economic) consequences of different cultural assumptions and institutions which:
The prevalence of 'grand conspiracy' theories appears to be only one of many practical problems and dangers associated with the post-modern confusion about the 'realism' of knowledge.
The fact that 'grand conspiracy' theories (a) are often (though not always) imaginary (b) tend to encounter official brush-offs because of the way they are presented and (c) are none-the-less influential in breeding more theories and political extremism, suggests that more constructive ways of responding to the phenomenon are needed.
It is in the interests of the community (and those who encounter evidence of real official mis-deeds) than the 'noise' represented by torrents of geopolitical gossip be reduced. It is the 'noise' which makes it harder to identify real criminal misdeeds when they occur.
Useful steps that those who circulate conspiracy theories could take to build credibility might involve:
Practical alternatives to blaming scapegoats might be available through:
From November 2002
|Attachment A: Articles||
Attachment A: Some articles about conspiracy theories (in reverse date order)
There is a widespread perception in Pakistan that recent arrests related to terrorism plot were an attempt to distract attention from Israel's aggression in Lebanon. Like all conspiracy theories this draws on paranoia and a desire to shift the blame. There is profound belief in the West's ingenuity - and ability to mastermind events - despite failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is assumed to be because the US wants civil war in Iraq to give it an excuse to stay. Another fact in conspiracy theories is awareness that Pakistan's' media do not tell the truth. Corruption is widespread. People know there are real problems, yet the media tries to tell them different. (Nazeer K 'Those cunning westerners', FR, 1/9/06).
The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories (McConnachie J and Tudge R) provides an outline of world according to conspiracy theorists. Authors suggest that in post-modern world one version of history is supposed to be as good as any other. But conspiracy theories emerge mostly in disenfranchised cultures - where people lack ability to witness chaotic workings of machinery of power they can easily believe that political affairs can be driven by sinister, implacable forces. Where there is a lack of understanding of history, conspiracy theories fill the vacuum. Conspiracy theories are increasing - especially on internet. There is no censorship or fact checking. Most conspiracy theories come from conservatives - especially those linked to religious fundamentalism (Tyler H 'Keep yourself in the loop on conspiracy theories', CM, 21-22/1/06).
There is nothing but lies and distortions in Fahrenheit 9/11. What is shocking is that some in the audience were impressed. The basic argument in the film is that George W Bush (a) stole the presidential election, (b) invaded Afghanistan and Iraq to please Saudis who bribed him, the oil companies who hired him and the armament companies who squired him and (c) is fighting a war against Americans rather than against terror. The film portrays Democrat candidate Gore celebrating under a Florida victory sign, when Fox News breaks in to say that Bush has won. This was said to be achieved because (a) Bush campaign secretary (Harris) was also in charge of vote counting (b) people who were likely to vote against Bush were excluded from rolls - on basis of race (c) Supreme Court friends ban recounts which would have shown Gore to win. However (a) video of Gore celebrating was taken before election (b) it was Bush-opposed CNN which first said Gore hadn't won - not Bush-supporting Fox (c) Harris was not in charge of vote counting (d) convicted felons (not blacks) were excluded from voter rolls and (d) 6 month study by Left-leaning media showed that Gore would still have lost if disputed votes had been counted. (Bolt A 'False Prophet', SM, 25/7/04)
Robert Jensen, University of Texas, has argued that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 panders to the lies Americans tell themselves about the US military protecting Americans' freedom, rather than projecting US power abroad. The film is conservative, rather than a far-Left view, and by emphasizing the business dealings of Bush family, obscures the empire building which is a regular feature of US foreign policy (Gowans S., 'Critiquing the critique', 6/7/04)
Fahrenheit 9/11 reveal the cynicism, greed and ineptitude in the U.S. government. It shows Bush as clueless in responding to 9/11 attack. Moore tackled corporate greed (Roger & Me) and gun control (Bowling for Columbine), and now strips the facade from a bully and a cabinet that is beginning to look like the Third Reich. He accuses them of lying about motivations for war against Iraq, which never threatened America, killing thousands of civilians, although no terrorists were from Iraq, and killing over 800 Americans. He shows Bush (a) justifying US atrocities against Hussein by saying, "He tried to kill my daddy." (b) pursuing a war that is losing the "hearts and minds" of even those fight it while earning the U.S. global hatred even from long-standing allies (c) being on vacation 42 percent of the time (d) never asking the right questions - but emphasizing fear and born-again religious ideology (e) having his car pelted with raw eggs on election night (f) sneaking into the White House through a back door. He reveals the $1.5 billion in profits the Bush clan has made from oil interests of the bin Laden family - and how the latter were allowed out of the country without interrogation (after 9/11) - because the family has denounced Osama. He reveals Dubya's dubious military records - which included protecting a friend who ultimately managed the bin Laden U.S. financial investments and bankrolled the Bush family. When Bush was investigated by SEC, the man who helped him out was appointed as ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Moore charges that the administration is hiding evidence of stupidity by censoring part of the independent report by the 9/11 commission. Bush welcomed Taliban to the State Department (the man who bombed the U.S.S. Cole). An underground pipeline through Afghanistan was planned by a company owned by the Vice President. All of this has been unreported by press. Saudis have $860bn invested in US business. Diversionary tactics are alleged to prevent attention to war dead and lack of WMD. Many people are shown voicing doubts the war which is said to defend freedom - which the movie alleges is just about making money. The movie was seen as a blockbuster documentary in Cannes. (Reed R. 'Moore's Magic: 9/11 Electrifies", The New York Observer, 28/6/04)
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is moral frivolity pretending to be serious. He makes no effort to be objective. The movie makes the following points: the Bin Laden group (if not Osama) has business relationship with Bush family; Saudi investment in US is significant; a Texas company discussed gas pipeline across Afghanistan with Taliban; Campaign in Afghanistan involved too few troops so many Taliban / al Qaida escaped; Afghan Government's only troops are American. These points do not cohere. Either Saudis run US policy or they don't - and either too many troops were sent to Afghanistan (Moore's view in 2002) or too few. The film fails to mention emerging Afghan army and NATO involvement. No pipeline has yet been built - but a highway which will inhibit warlordism has been. Secular Left in both Afghanistan and Iraq are in favour of regime changes. Innuendos are made about allowing bin Laden family out of US soon after 911 - yet this was done solely by Richard Clark. Bush is accused of taking lazy vacations - but as evidence is shown with UK PM. Bush's delay in responding to attacks on 9/11 is seen as evidence that he knew attack was coming. Iraq was shown as a peaceful place before coming of terror weapons of US imperialism. The fact that they are aimed at Saddam palaces is not mentioned. Insurgency is presented as justifiable outrage, while 30 years of Baathist war crimes are not mentioned - except in relation to earlier US support of Saddam. It is suggested that Iraq never threatened any American - though it was long home of Abu Nidal - who had blown up airports. In 2001 Saddam's regime was the only one in region to celebrate attack on US. If Bush and Saudis are allied, then how come Saudis forced US to shift its bases to Qatar. Why could they not stop US eliminating clone regime in Kabul and their oil competitor in Iraq? Moore quotes from Orwell's Nineteen Eight-four about contrived war between superpowers - but ignores Orwell's view that some pacifists are not humanitarians, but rather opponents of Western democracy and admirers of totalitarianism. (Hitchens C. 'Sneers and jeers', WA, 26-7/6/04)
"Fahrenheit 9/11" show that the American people have been lied to in the push for war. There were no WMD. Saddam was not a threat. Iraq had no link to 9-11. Iraq was not supporting Al Qaeda. The government of Iraq under Saddam killed fewer Iraqi people than the government of Iraq under Bush. The Kurds were actually gassed by Iran. Far from being the champion of human rights, the US is willing user of torture on often-innocent prisoners. But, Moore has either fallen for disinformation, or not done his homework, and accepts without question the official story of 9-11. He considers whether Saudi Arabia was responsible for 9/11. But why should they do it? Mossad agents were near when WTC collapsed. Passports of those on planes were of Saudi men - but these were fakes, so no one knows who was involved. Israeli companies received warnings of attacks before planes even left ground. If Saudi Arabia was a partner with Al Qaeda for 9-11, why is Al Qaeda carrying out terror attacks against the Saudi Royal family now? US provides huge help to Israel - and any nation that helped fake justification for war of conquest in middle east could use that fact for blackmail. "Fahrenheit 9/11" is just the tip of the iceberg. It is a (bipartisan) indictment of the entire US Government and the media. ('The Part of the 9-11 story Michael Moore Missed', 25/6/04)
Theories about Jewish conspiracy to take over the world have re-emerged - with Malaysia's PM claiming new 'elders of Zion' now rule the world by proxy. Anti-Semitic attacks have increased since fall of Berlin Wall. Rising hostility to Israel is part of the cause. But a backlash to globalisation (which can produce economic stress that can be blamed on financial institutions presumed to be Jewish controlled) is a bigger issue. In the Middle East, Islamists portray globalization as US-Zionist plot to subjugate Arab world. Bin Laden is seen as the man who says 'no' to globalization. In developing world, where 1997 Asian financial crisis revealed how contagion can spread, financial institutions are blamed - creating new equivalents of 19th century scapegoats such as Rothschilds. Anything bad that happens is blamed on IMF / World bank - who are seen to be US oriented, and controlled by Jews. Far right politicians in Europe blame Jews for their country's problems. Anti-globalisation activists have have to fight on two fronts - against WTO, IMF and World bank and against far right extremists who gate-crash their rallies. Neo-Nazis masquerade as anti-globalization protestors. Movement attracts anti-Semiticism by peddling conspiracy theories - that globalization is not a process but a plot hatched behind closed doors by unaccountable bureaucrats and companies. Underlying protestor's humanistic goals of promoting justice is the view that major institutions are exploiting the developing world and threatening sovereignty. Conspiracy theorists must have a conspirator - and these are often seen to be Jews. The far-right and new-left are thus now closely aligned. Far-right nationalists and fascists now closely study the work of left-wing anti-globalizers (such as Monbiot and Cholmsky). Mahathir claims Jews invented socialism to allow them to achieve equal rights with others. But he then re-invented an old idea that blames Jews for the ills of capitalism. (Strass M 'The oldest hatred fuels conspiracy theorists', FR, 25-6/10/03)
The media implies that anti-Americanism dominates the world. But while it exists everywhere, it is only deep rooted in the Muslim world. At present it is also widespread in some major countries. US popularity has declined significantly over the past 2 years - but it was very high before that. There are many countries in which Americans are admired as people, and as a nation. Australia is tied to US by self-interest and sentiment. US support has been sought for protection in an unstable region. But there is also shared values: love of democracy; liberty; rule of law. A common language is shared. The anti-Americanism that exists in Greens, and elsewhere is alien to majority views. Anti-Americanism is not involved in criticism of policy - but is a systematic ideological outlook - characterized by view that US foreign policy is always motivated by malevolent self-interest, and is the principal source of evil in the world. Its leaders are always lying to mobilize support for their evil policies. The basis of this view is US support for right-wing dictators in Cold War - which was true to a point. But when USSR collapsed, elections were held in countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvadore and Cambodia - and US enemies did not win. Anti-Americans are not noted for intellectual consistency or moral purity. Often they have supported dictatorial regimes, and ignored human rights abuses. Today US faces complicated challenge from fanatical movement whose goals are not equitable settlement of Israel-Palestine question - but liquidation of Israel and all Jews and Christians, and the creation of Islamic theocratic dictatorships world wide. Violence is not only directed against the US. One can't accuse US of lying about WMD in Iraq ignores the fact that everyone (including opponents of invasion) believed such weapons existed. When the US military has triumphed, prosperity and freedom have emerged (Morris S 'America, a valued friend', A, 23/10/03)
There is a rise of anti-Americaism, and a tendency for all problems to be blamed on US. This is nothing new. It existed at time of Vietnam war in support for various liberation movements which have since disappeared. Anti-Americanism has now been transformed into equating neo-cons with fascism, and 'Dubya' with terrorists. But those who do this are the most 'American' of all - because of their brash idealism. The US has always stressed political high-mindedness (eg Woodrow Wilson at Palace of Versailles). In the Quiet American it was US political idealism that was seen to lead to West's blunders - and the world would be much safer in hands of more cynical European colonists. US critics now take its traditional high-minded road. Those who are most critical of America are US liberals. They don't criticize tyranny elsewhere (eg in Soviet Union, in Islamist extremists) because they expect nothing better of them. Before Iraq war, it was seen to be about oil, and France and Russia (who profited most from Saddam Hussein's regime) were seen to be high-minded. . The problem is that the international battle lines are starting to force a more manipulative US foreign policy (Burchell D 'Paradox of anti-Americanism', A, 22/10/03)
Across Europe conspiracy theories are all the rage. Books that have been published show a deep mistrust of the US in Europe eg The CIA and September 11 - which suggests that CIA and Israeli intelligence blew up World Trade centre from the inside ('9/11? It never happened', Bulltein, 23/9/03)
The US went to war against Iraq because it needed to - because the economy was sinking and various institutions (eg corporate integrity, FBI and Catholic Church) had suffered a loss of face. The administration knew it had an effective military - which were used to build the white male ego. Justifications were fabricated. Even better reasons for military action were the reverses that male egos had experienced at women's hands over the last 30 years. There were no longer any white sports stars. (Mailer N 'Washington went to war to boost the white male ego', A, 5/5/03)
A Palestinian Christian souvenir trader in Jerusalem finds that sales have stopped as a result of Iraq war - and argues that Jews provoke the war in order to destroy competition in selling souvenirs. To Arabs the shifting of power in Iraq from Saddam to Bush is a matter of shame - and is ascribed to conspiracy. Hussein is believed to now be with Bush in private golfing estate in US. Collapse of Iraqi army was not seen as due to its outdated army, but to dirty deals. Americans will be blamed for everything that goes wrong while they are in Iraq. The 911 attacks are seen as work of Bush and the CIA (or Mossad) - because it was impossible otherwise for 4 planes with terrorists aboard to have taken off simultaneously. (Riminton H 'Jerusalem's lot', Bulletin, 29/4/03)
US far right argues that US government is seeking to engage country in wars that are not in US interests - in collusion with Israel. This will alienate friends worldwide. This view (from a person who objects to non-white migration) is shared in Europe - that US policy is influenced by Jewish lobby. But are are no Jews in major roles in administration; Jews give more support to Democrats than republicans. Bush's main Middle East vote base came from Muslims. Some advisers do support Israel - but this does not prove that they don't also see this in US interest. They argue that Arab world uses Palestinian problem to avoid facing up to their own need for reform and democratisation. - and that many extremists are aiding anti-Israeli terrorism. A new regime in Baghdad might move region along quickly. Many Jews and Jewish organisations also oppose the neo-con analysis. The US's motives are obvious. Irsael's enemies are also its enemies. And it always prefers democratic regimes. The war is against Islamist terrorism (Sullivan A 'Paranoids point to Jewish conspiracy but proof is hard to find' A, 17/3/03).
Allegations of financial support from Iraq to French political parties have continued to be made - and denied (Vickers M 'French elite suspected of putting on a brave two faces\', A, 10/3/03)
Gore Vidal’s book Dreaming War: Blood For Oil And The Cheney-Bush Junta (a) complains about the Bush / Gore election debacle (b) spends a great deal of time making reference to the oil connections of every member of the Bush administration and Bush family but devotes no effort to backing this up with verifiable sources or explaining what the depth of the involvement is or why it matters. He outlines four major cover-ups of our time. (a) Bush allowed 9/11 to happen because an offensive in Afghanistan was already being planned (b) FDR deliberately provoked the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor (c) Truman nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki even though the Japanese had been trying to surrender for over a year and (d) America was responsible for starting the Cold War by victimizing Stalin by reneging on agreements made at Yalta. He suggested (a) that the Soviets “stabbed us in the back by folding their empire in 1991” (b) “the American military currently gets over half of each year’s federal revenue,” - the actual figure being 17% (c) the Gulf has been the US's main source of imported oil - the actual figure being 10% (c) Politicians are merely puppets of big corporations; (d) polls showing support for Bush are rigged; (d) Bush will be impeached any day now; (e) corporate interests control the media; (f) New York Times peddles disinformation; (h) Germany and Japan paid for the Gulf War; (i) NATO was created not to protect Europe from the Soviets but so the US could dominate Europe; (j) millions of Americans agree with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who, like bin Laden, was provoked to violence by the misdeeds of the US government. (Townsley S, 'Dreaming Gore', Cornell Review, Feb 2003)
It is hypocritical of France and Germany to claim that US proposed war in Iraq is based on oil - and to object on moral grounds. The basis of their objection is self interest - and lucrative deals with Hussein that could be lost. France and Russia have greater oil driven motives for opposing removal of Hussein than US has for proposing it (Baume M 'Oil drives opponents of war', FR, 24/2/03)
America has entered its worst period of historical madness. The reaction to September 11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for. As in the McCarthy era the freedoms that made America the envy of the world have been eroded. A compliant media and vested corporate interests have stifled debate. The war against Iraq was planned years before bin Laden struck. Without the latter, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain its election, Enron, its favouring of the rich, its disregard for the world's poor, ecology, its abrogation of international treaties and favouring of Israel in contravention of UN resolutions. But shifting the focus from bin Laden to Iraq was a conjuring trick. Religious cant is being used to justify war, the policies that the US favours and Bush's connections - who have had extensive oil involvement. To be in, one must believe in absolute good and evil. The key issue is oil, not an Axis of Evil. Iraq is no threat to the US or even to its neighbours - and any weapons of mass destruction it has are inconsequential. The real issues are: US economic growth; US need to demonstrate its military power; and to show who rules America at home; and who America will rule abroad. (le Carre J. 'Bush might be riding with God but he's driven by Iraqi oil', A, 20/1/03)
Intellectuals divide themselves into camps to score points off each other rather than grappling seriously with issues. A SMH editorial on 27/2/02 argued that military action against Iraq would be motivated by greed for Iraqi oil. This Chomsky-Pilger like cynicism implies that political leaders in US, UK and Australia are lying - and is stated without proof or analysis. If US had been concerned mainly with oil it could have invaded Iraq at time of first gulf war, or now made commercial deal with Hussein. An article by Manne summarized all the politics of the year as evidence of Howard Government's reactionary agenda - which presents his own views as pure and anyone else's as evil. (Sheridan G. 'That petroleum emotionalism', A, 2/1/03)
Common conspiracy theories include (a) the moon landing were faked as there were flaws in pictures of moon landing - which NASA blames on poor quality of film in 1960s (b) Russia's leadership planted bombs pre elections in 1999 to blame Chechen terrorists - noting that Russian secret servicemen were found to have been running 'training' exercises with real bombs which suggests that the theory was correct (c) Clintons arranged a murder - a theory that has been thoroughly investigated and disproved (d) Dianna was murdered - for which there are many theories, especially in Arab world, though no plausible motive (e) Muslims / Jews were warned to stay away from WTC on 911 - of which there are two opposing versions (Hari J 'Well, they would say that, wouldn't they, FR, 31/12/02).
Some claim that Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was faked - so NASA could get more US government money. Mainstream Islamic fundamentalist opinion about the war on terror is more extreme. C4 explosives were used for the Bali bombing - and these can only be obtained by the military. As US navy visited Bali before the bombing, it is presumed to have provided explosives. Osama bin Laden is said to be dead, and that there is only a pretence by the US that he is still alive to allow the war against terror to continue. A Central Committee member of the Malaysian Islamic Party implied that the US navy was responsible for the Bali bombing, because it was well planned and organized, and very professional - and doubted reports about JI, or the existence of a Malaysian extremist group of the government has arrested 70 members. The attacks of September 11 were unlikely to have been organized by al Qaeda in a corner of Afghanistan - without communications being detected. Western media always talks about Islamic terrorists, but never other types. (Sheridan G. 'Conspiracy theories thrive in Islamic hothouse', A, 25/11/02)
Jakarta papers speculated that the latest suspect in the Bali bombing was a CIA agent. As soon as police come up with any new suspect, someone absorbs it into a theory that blames everyone but Muslims and Indonesians for the bombing. Observers suggest that the motive can be as crude as selling more newspapers in a newly liberalized press. Others suggest that it is inevitable that people speculate about the possibility of foreign involvement. (Greenless D 'Conspiracies point to all but Muslims', A, 20/11/02)
Efforts by Bush administration to take control of Iraq - by war, military coup or otherwise have led to various analyses of motives. Anatol Lieven (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) suggests this corresponds to classic modern strategy of endangered right-wing oligarchy to divert mass discontent into nationalism through fear of external enemies. The administration's goal is unilateral world domination through military superiority - and this is why much of the world is frightened. [MORE] (Chomsky Noel, 'Lesser of two evils can save US a lot of trouble and lives', A, 18/11/02)
A US senator who was involved in a close contest for control of Senate with Republicans, was killed in a plane crash. Within days an article appeared in a left-wing publication suggesting that this was political murder - and the view gained further endorsement with the view that Bush was capable of anything. Another conspiracy theory against Bush administration at same time involved Gore Vidal's view that the administration knew of September 11 attack in advance and allowed them to go ahead so as to be able to suppress domestic civil liberties, and wanted to invade Afghanistan the gateway to resource rich central Asia. The media is supposed to assume that there are no conspiracies in American public life - and this is seen as the reason it doesn't act on evidence of such problems. But the reality is that many people have the view that US public life is riddled with conspiracies. Hilary Clinton said in 1999 that her husband was the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy. 40 years ago Richard Hofstadter wrote about 'The paranoid style in American politics' - involving a long history of conspiratorial fantasies in the US. Since the 18th century, angry minds have been obsessed with fiendish plots by Masons, Catholics, Jews and others (even the Bavarian illuminati - a group of Enlightenment idealists). There are real conspiracies in history - and some current theories involve elements of truth. However the 'paranoid style' believes that there are rarely any accidents, and that events are always the outcome of vast sinister organizations with the power to carry out such deeds without being called to account. When Hofstadter wrote the major 'paranoid' style was on the extreme right - eg the John Birch society which saw President Eisenhower as a dedicated communist, and that water fluoridation was to damage people's minds to make them susceptible to communism. Right wing conspiratorial fantasies still exist today - but in Western societies they are on the margins. But on the Left conspiracy theories abound. Those who object to the term 'axis of evil' being applied to Iraq, Iran and North Korea are quite happy to believe that Bush administration would murder domestic opponents etc and get away with this despite free press, independent judiciary and the houses of Congress. (Brunton R 'They're all in it together', CM, 2/11/02)
A theory is being circulated that the CIA was responsible for the Bali bombing - to justify its war against Islam and intervention in Indonesian affairs. Such views gain support because the US did intervene covertly in Indonesia in the 1950s and 1960s. This shows the need to discriminate amongst hypothesis rationally - not simply label others as silly. (Monk P, Austhink, 'Silly, Mr Downer? Keep thinking', FR, 1/11/02)
Bashir (spiritual guru of Jemmaah Islamiyah) reveals world-view that is capturing hearts and minds of young, educated and militant Indonesians. From this view the US and Zionism have been plotting for decades to destroy Islam and dominate the world. To achieve this, the US engineered WTC attack, to justify global assault on enemies. More recently they claim that infidels perpetrated attacks in Bali. Bashir is a conspiracy theorist - seeing the world as in eschatological war between forces of Allah and US Great Satan. [MORE] (Jones D. 'Regional delusion and the Kuta bombing', FR, 25/10/02)
Almost everyone [in the school where Bashir taught] knows that claims of Bashir's links to Al Qaida are are fabrication because the Indonesian government is under pressure. His life consisted of teaching and praying. He had lived in Malaysia after repression of potential Muslim enemies of Soeharto regime. His group's aims included introduction of Islamic law into Indonesia, and the formation of an Islamic community. (Powell S. Teaching Allah's boys', A, 23/10/02)
There are mainstream objections to question of whether US should attack Iraq (eg world doesn't want to; Iraq hasn't attacked first; Middle East might be destabilized). But there is a more cynical anti-war leftist critique that the war proposal is really about oil - and US policy should not be dictated by this. This marginal view is pervasive outside the US, and has received little mainstream attention. The most sophisticated version is that: Iraq after Saudi Arabia, has the largest oil reserves. For the past 11 years, Iraq has pumped much less oil than previously - and in conjunction with Russian or European firms - not US ones. The US firms want a share - and want to be able to break OPEC production quotas by flooding the world with oil. However there are problems with this argument. Those who claim that the US wants war to get cheap oil, also claim that war could send oil prices sky high. However in the long term Iraq's production could perhaps increase to 6m barrels per day and reduce US dependence on Saudi Arabia. But if all the US wants is more oil (and talk about WMD is just a smokescreen) then why not just lift sanctions. Attacking Hussein entails huge costs - and lifting sanctions could achieve the same outcome. The US oil lobby has for years wanted an end to sanctions - not war. Lefties point out that vice-president Cheney had past links with an oil company - and use this as evidence of the oil industries support for war. But in that company, Cheney had sought removal of sanctions. For the first nine months in office the Bush administration favoured reducing sanctions - and only changed to proposing an attack on Iraq after September 11. And if oil was all that the US was after, then it wouldn't be promising to protect the Russian and French oil interests in a post Hussein Iraq (Beinart P 'A smokescreen in oiliness', WA, 5-6/10/02)
Hau J. 'Hooked on paranoia', Financial Review, 27-28/4/02
An overwhelming majority of Muslims said that they did not believe that Arabs carried out the September 11 attacks on the US and disapprove of US led military campaigns in Afghanistan. Though news reports indicated that 15 of 19 911 terrorists were Saudis, many blamed Israel or the US. Poll respondents overwhelmingly described the US as 'ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked and biased" ('Poll shows Muslims distrust arrogant US', Courier Mail, 28/2/02)
|Addendum: The Weirdness of WikiLeaks||
Addendum: The Weirdness of WikiLeaks (Notes only)
In November 2010 WikiLeaks caused a minor sensation when it started releasing confidential US State Department documents apparently with a view to preventing 'authoritarian conspiracies' by disrupting the international diplomatic process.
An Unrealistic Tactic
From one viewpoint Wikileaks seems like a case of the 'pot calling the kettle black', ie its activities appear to be based on Julian Assange's view that the world is in trouble because self-appointed elites run secretive conspiracies directed against the common good. However Wikileaks itself constitutes a self-appointed group engaged in a secretive conspiracy - noting the lack of any significant disclosure about the Wikileaks organisation or of its internal communications.
Assange's writings (see brief outlines above) have a traditional 'grand conspiracy theorists' character (as do the ideas of diverse totalitarian dictators, as well as Norway's accused mass murderer, Anders Behring Brevivik).
'Grand conspiracy theorists' seem to have limited practical experience or knowledge of how the world works, and create an imagined 'world' which justifies radical action. Assange's published theories (like those of Brevivik) could be seen as a symptom of social alienation.
As noted above, 'conspiracy' (ie having a strategy that is not revealed to the world at large) is characteristic of all sophisticated human organisations and factions. This characteristic is not likely to be reduced by eroding the confidentiality of internal communications within particular factions (eg those connected with the US State Department). .
While the adverse effect of leaking internal communications might be worse for secretive, unjust organisations - most of the secretive, unjust organisations in the world are not covered by WikiLeaks efforts. How much is coming out of North Korea or Iran or Ecuador, for example? And direct personal communications (rather than written communications) which are more important in East Asia (where the core of traditional strategy towards outsiders involves deception) are simply beyond being leaked on the Internet. Assange's 'world' almost (though not quite) starts and finishes with the US as the home of authoritarian conspiracy.
Also Animal Farm made the point that when one set of elites is displaced, another arises in its place and can be even worse. There is no point is targeting a particular elite. A far more effective strategy is to develop and promote better / positive alternative options for those (and other factions) to direct their 'strategies / conspiracies' towards.
Unintended Outcomes: Or Maybe Not
Some observers have suggested that Wikileaks' disclosures have had adverse impacts, eg
However, despite such short term inconvenience, the longer term effect of selective action to expose the internal communications of particular factions must be to increase their resistance to exposure - and this can be expected to confer a competitive advantage on the factions that are most exposed by Wikileaks (as a result of a sort of immunisation effect).
Furthermore in practice the main effects of Wikileaks' revelations has apparently been to:
As a consequence, and perhaps for other reasons, it has periodically been suggested that Wikileaks has been a front for (or the pawn of) a US counter-intelligence operation.
On the other hand, if Wikileaks is simply what it purports to be, then spreading rumours that it is a CIA counter-intelligence operation could be an obvious counter-intelligence option.