Conspiracy – Fact or Fiction? Part 3: Good Intentions and the Abuse of Power

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Part
1: Games People Play

Part
2: The Hunger for Truth and the Role of the Media

For
libertarians in particular, conspiracy theories share a common concern
with the abuse of power. In contrast to the cowardice and kow-towing
to the established political and economic order practised by the
mainstream and politically correct media, libertarians can actually
take much of the so-called conspiracy theory comfortably in their
stride – because they know that those in government are, in Murray
Rothbard's words, a professional criminal class.

Well-meaning
non-libertarians protest this attitude, with remarks along the lines
of u2018How can you be so cynical about our democratically elected representatives?'
or u2018How can you believe that such violent acts could be perpetrated
by these people?' To which one can only respond that they have not
learned the lessons of history, have not understood Lord Acton's
dictum that u2018power corrupts…,' have forgotten that Hitler was democratically
elected, and most likely have not taken in what Machiavelli
or Zbigniew
Brzezinski
have to say about the strategic imperatives of empires
and their rulers.

Like
any other such grouping, the professional-criminal class of politicians
will conspire, that is to say, they will meet together to plan and
organize their actions. Who knows, they may even conspire to do
good – there is no golden rule which says that all conspiracy has
to be bad in intent: some of the worst outcomes of government action,
like the New Deal in its effects on agriculture, emerged from plans
and regulations made with the best of intentions by well-meaning
people.

Nevertheless,
such groups will also conspire continually to develop and perfect
their techniques for staying ahead of opponents or potential challengers,
both domestic and foreign. When applied to government, this mission
statement, implicitly understood and absorbed by all members of
the group, leads to a natural tendency to consolidate power, to
conduct its proceedings in ever greater secrecy, to restricting
the free flow of information, and to the erosion of the personal
and civil liberties of the ruled. Thus too it is almost inevitable
that over time, the holders of office will want to restrict even
more whatever degree of freedom of access to information exists.

These
tendencies have long been understood, and underpin the institution
of all systems which limit executive powers such as written constitutions
and charters of rights. I have suggested earlier that conspiracy
theories flourish at the heart of empire, and indeed those in the
US are flourishing and are of particular interest today precisely
because the US is the heart of the global empire and the centre
of power, not just geo-strategically, but in economic and cultural
terms as well, and that is why it is relevant to examine specifically
what goes on there. But I also believe it is because many people
in the US feel that the limitations of power and popular rights
and liberties, whether formally embodied or not in the Constitution
or the Bill of Rights, are under a fiercer challenge today than
ever before, and this factor too has brought more sharply into the
limelight those specific events which conspiracy theories usually
address — the assassination of political opponents, transparently
improbable suicides, imprisonment without trial, spying and surveillance,
and imperial conquest, to name just a few which spring immediately
to mind.

In
the past the nature of the electoral process in the US meant that
the elected political class generally had a short (4-year) window
of opportunity for emptying the collective treasury to its own benefit,
or for pursuing other, even more ambitious, items on its agenda
such as conquering other nation-states — or perhaps I should say
u2018making them safe for democracy.'

What
is interesting, and perhaps sinister, about the current administration
— and could be another reason for the upsurge in conspiracy theories – is its close linkages to the past, both in terms of the personnel
line-up, and in the fact that many of its pet projects, like the
invasion and break-up of Iraq, have been much longer in the planning – as long as 10 years or more – than the normal, shorter period
covering the days preceding the take-up by a new administration
and its early days in office.

Truly,
for the figures behind the throne who have prepared and honed these
projects, I believe the reign of Clinton was seen as a mere interlude,
or what has jokingly been labelled ‘sex between the Bushes.’
All the while the plans were being refined, and occasionally road-tested,
as in the intense campaign for greater military intervention surrounding
the so-called ‘Iraq Liberation Act’ of 1998.

It
is in this context too that we should understand the moves to restrict
access to the presidential archives of the administrations which
ruled from 1980 to 1992: every effort is being made to hide and
play down embarrassing facts such as the continuity of policy by
default (masking the absence of any new policies of any substance,
a factor which had led to increasing institutional malaise and all-time
administration popularity lows in polls taken prior to September
11th 2001), the appointment of a Cold War expert to the position
of National Security Adviser some 10 years after that u2018war' had
ended, the re-emergence of previously indicted criminals into positions
of decision-making power and influence today, and who knows, the
true nature of some of the political covenants and deals made by
the corporations previously headed by officers of the present government
and their buddies.

This
perfecting of the techniques for holding on to power and expanding
the empire, by taking a longer-term view (one of those long-term
plans, incidentally, is called the u2018Project
for the new American century
'), has tended to undermine the
rotational cycle whereby each of the major parties took its turn
at the trough (whether in Presidential or in mid-term Congressional
elections). Although it is by no means the only factor in the current
consolidation of state power and erosion of freedom, it has undoubtedly
helped to consolidate the power which remains in the hands of the
victorious party, to the ultimate detriment of the cause of liberty.

In
such a scenario there is a natural tendency for those who do not
hold power to incline towards the conspiracy theory view of things
— if only because the Leviathan has become much bigger and more
dangerous than before, and has made great strides in the art of
disguise, so that, while information is still coming out, no-one
knows for sure if it isn't disinformation, planted in the media
at strategic moments to befuddle and confuse the petrified masses
still further.

Conclusions

At
a certain point in the courtroom drama part of the 1992 film "A
Few Good Men
," there is a dialogue, which has now become
legendary, between the army camp commandant Colonel Jessup (played
by Jack Nicholson) and the young naval attorney Kaffee (played by
Tom Cruise):

Col.
Jessup
: You want answers?
Kaffee:
I think I’m entitled.
Col.
Jessup
: You want answers?
Kaffee:
I want the truth!
Col.
Jessup
: You can’t handle the truth!

Notice
how Jessup ignores Kaffee's ‘I think I'm entitled (to answers).’
As with so much in our age of political correctness, the debate
on conspiracy theories is dominated by those who fear that the truth
may be misinterpreted, or ‘get into the wrong hands.’
They are judge and jury, and they conclude that at a certain moment
in the process of consolidation of power it is better that the truth
get into no hands at all. Which of course is tantamount to usurping
total power for the rulers, and at the same time saying, for public
and international consumption, that individuals are incapable of
taking responsibility, of thinking for themselves, so the all-powerful
state must look after them.

But,
just as in education, if you have no expectations of people, you
should not subsequently be surprised if they fail to perform. You
have to have positive expectations of people, give them the benefit
of the doubt, and believe that they can indeed u2018handle the truth.'

And
so it should be with investigative reporting and uncomfortable truths.
As I have suggested in an earlier part of this series, it is up
to the individual man or woman, the individual reader or viewer
as the case may be, to decide if the u2018conspiracy theory' is the
whole truth, has elements of truth in it, has pointers to the truth
or to alternative angles on a given story, or is indeed a load of
rubbish. He or she may come to the wrong conclusion, but it is far
better that he should be free to make the investigative journey
and do so, that he should have the knowledge made available to him
and explore it fully, than that he should forever be mollycoddled
with comforting myths or diversions on the part of the state and
its media propaganda machine.

For
no state or government will ever protect him or her. At best, it
will perhaps provide a secretly located bunker for a few of its
own. For the rest, those myths and diversions may offer temporary
relief — but inevitably only until the next terrorist outrage takes
place, naturally arranged, conspiracy theorists would say, by henchmen
of the rulers, and hallmarked to look like the work of the latest
terrorist bogeyman. Or the next ever so conveniently timed plane
crash.

In
the final analysis, if my reader-viewer has the full information
but makes the wrong judgement, there is always a chance that he
will learn, and get it right the next time. If he stays in the dark,
or through private fear, social embarrassment or abject surrender
to the threat of intimidation decides that he will not open the
door and step out into the light, then he has only himself to blame
if he wakes up enslaved.

Oh,
and I almost forgot. Regarding November 22nd, 1963. Forget the conspiracy
theories. Lee Harvey Oswald did it. How can we be so sure? Because
he had a magic bullet, and it had u2018JFK' written all over it.

November
21, 2002

Richard
Wall (send him mail) is a freelance
translator, specializing in the social sciences, who lives in Estoril,
Portugal. This
article is the third in a 3-part series on the subject of “Conspiracy
— Fact or Fiction.”

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