THE ROVING EYE
The masters of the universe
By Pepe Escobar
It may be instructive to learn what US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the "Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle were doing last weekend. From May 15 to 18 they were guests at the Trianon Palace Hotel, close to the spectacular Versailles palace near Paris, for the annual meeting of the Bilderberg club.
Depending on the ideological prism applied, the Bilderberg club may be considered an ultra-VIP international lobby of the power elite of Europe and America, capable of steering international policy from behind closed doors; a harmless "discussion group" of politicians, academics and business tycoons; or a capitalist secret society operating entirely through self interest and plotting world domination.
The Bilderberg club is regarded by many financial and business elites as the high chamber of the high priests of capitalism. You can't apply for membership of such a club. Each year, a mysterious "steering committee" devises a selected invitation list with a maximum 100 names. The location of their annual meeting is not exactly secret: they even have a headquarters in Leiden, in the Netherlands. But the meetings are shrouded in the utmost secrecy. Participants and guests rarely reveal that they are attending. Their security is managed by military intelligence. But what is the secretive group really up to? Well, they talk. They lobby. They try to magnify their already immense political clout, on both sides of the Atlantic. And everybody pledges absolute secrecy on what has been discussed.
The Bilderberg mingles central bankers, defense experts, press barons, government ministers, prime ministers, royalty, international financiers and political leaders from Europe and America. Guests this year, along with Rumsfeld and Perle (US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is also a member) included banker David Rockefeller, as well as various members of the Rockefeller family, Henry Kissinger, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos of Spain, and high officials of assorted governments. The Bilderberg does not invite - or accept - Asians, Middle Easterners, Latin Americans or Africans.
Some of the Western world's leading financiers and foreign policy strategists attend Bilderberg, in their view, to polish and reinforce a virtual consensus, an illusion that globalization, defined under their terms - what's good for banking and big business is good for everybody else - is inevitable and for the greater good of mankind. If they have a hidden agenda, it is the fact that their fabulous concentration of wealth and power is completely dissociated from the explanation to their guests of how globalization benefits 6.2 billion people. Some of the club's earlier guests went on to become crucial players. Bill Clinton in 1991 and Tony Blair in 1993 were invited and duly "approved" by the Bilderberg before they took office.
There are innumerable shady, still unexplained connections between the early Bilderberg club and the Nazis, via Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, the father of Queen Beatrix, who founded the club in Bilderberg in 1954 (the name is taken from a Dutch hotel), aiming to "increase understanding between Europe and North America". Bernhard was a member of Adolf Hitler's SS. One of the founding members of the Bilderberg is Otto Wolff von Amerongen - who actively improved business links between Germany and the Soviet bloc and served on 26 boards of directors, including Deutsche Bank. Few people know him - and perhaps for some good reason: he has been linked to the Nazi's theft of Jewish holdings before and during World War II.
Rumsfeld is an active Bilderberger. So is General Peter Sutherland from Ireland, a former European Union commissioner and chairman of Goldman Sachs and BP. Rumsfeld and Sutherland served together in 2000 on the board of Swiss energy company ABB. And ABB happened to have sold two light-water nuclear reactors to North Korea. At the time, of course, North Korea was not an active member of the "axis of evil".
This year, the Bilderberg meeting in Versailles conveniently merged into the G8 meeting of finance ministers in Paris, a 20-minute car ride from Versailles, on May 19. The procedure is traditional: what happens in the Bilderberg is usually a preview of what is later discussed at the full G8 gathering, which this year will be held from June 1 to 3 at Evian-les-Bains in the French Alps.
On Bilderberg's first full working day on May 15, French President Jacques Chirac delivered a welcoming speech, trying to bury the bitter divisions among the guests over the war on Iraq by emphasizing that the US and Western Europe are longtime allies. But Chirac's gracious hosting may not have been enough to soothe the hawks in the US administration still miffed at "pacifist" France.
An influential Jewish European banker reveals that the ruling elite in Europe is now telling their minions that the West is on the brink of total financial meltdown; so the only way to save their precious investments is to bet on the new global crisis centered around the Middle East, which replaced the crisis evolving around the Cold War.
According to a banking source in the City of London connected to Versailles, what has transpired from the 2003 meeting is that American and European Bilderbergers have not exactly managed to control their split over the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as over Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's hardline policy against the Palestinians. As the Bilderbergers were chattering away, Sharon all but rejected Bush's Middle East road map, already endorsed by the other members of the so-called quartet: the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. This road map, as it stands, is over: even the presence of US Secretary of State Colin Powell - who stopped by Versailles to brief the Bilderbergers - was not enough to persuade Sharon to even discuss the dismantling of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
American imperial adventures are usually rehearsed at Bilderberg meetings. Europe's elite were opposed to an American invasion of Iraq since the 2002 Bilderberg meeting in Chantilly, Virginia. Rumsfeld himself had promised them it wouldn't happen. Last week, everybody struck back at Rumsfeld, asking about the infamous "weapons of mass destruction". Most of Europe's elite do not believe American promises that Iraq's oil will "benefit the Iraqi people". They know that revenues from Iraqi oil will be used to rebuild what America has bombed. And the debate is still raging on what kind of contracts which rewarded Bechtel and Halliburton will "benefit" Western Europe.
Europe's elite, according to those close to Bilderberg, are suspicious that the US does not need or even want a stable, legitimate central government in Iraq. When that happens, there will be no reason for the US to remain in the country. Europe's elite see the US establishing "facts on the ground": establishing a long-term military presence and getting the oil flowing again under American control. This could go on for years, as long as the Americans can guarantee enough essential services to prevent the Iraqi people from engaging in a war of national liberation.
It was also extremely hard at the Versailles meeting to forge a consensus on the necessity of a European Union army totally independent of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The US establishment, of course, is against the EU army. But so are some Europeans, starting with anti-army cheerleader Lord Robertson, NATO's secretary general. Europe's elite can't stand US domination of NATO any more. Some Europeans suggest a separate force, but controlled by NATO. Americans argue that a separate EU force would dissolve NATO's role as the UN's world army. And Americans insist that NATO is no longer confined to the defense of Europe: its troops now could go anywhere in the world, directed or not by the UN Security Council. The impasse remains.
All these crucial developments were discussed behind closed doors. The Trianon Palace Hotel in Versailles was closed to the public and all non-Bilderberg guests had to check out. Part-time employees were sent home. The ones who remained were told that they would be fired if caught revealing anything about the meeting. They couldn't speak to any Bilderberger unless spoken to. They couldn't look anybody in the eye. Armed guards completely isolated and cordoned off the hotel. Some members of the American corporate press were there - but the public will never know about it: Bilderberg news is not fit to print - or broadcast. No journalists from any media controlled by Bilderberg multinational tycoons such as Rupert Murdoch were or will be allowed to report it. Even if they somehow managed to crash the party. There's no business like (private) elite business.
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