Since World War II, Americans have been lulled into accepting a messianic 19th-century British Imperial agenda. One key British agent in the psychological war for American public opinion was RAF pilot Roald Dahl who, along with James Bond creator Ian Fleming, playwright Noel Coward and Gallup pollster David Ogilvy, were given free rein to propagandize "the natives" (Americans) through whatever means possible.
Five-Part Series: 15th anniversary of 9/11, 2016
(Image by Abbie Rowe, 1905-1967, Photographer (NARA record: 8451352)) Details DMCA
Willie Wonka & the National-Security State
The world watched in horror as New York's twin trade towers exploded and vaporized in a hypnotic Old Testament moment. It was as if some invisible dark force had reached out and in one swift stroke signaled that the Apocalypse had begun. The destruction seemed to defy gravity as 200,000 tons of steel and 425,000 cubic yards of concrete fell so freely to the street below, it resembled a controlled demolition. This was not a Pearl Harbor-style attack on a faraway American military base. This was a poisonous wound to the American psyche, an act of psychological warfare more devastating than any military strike could ever have accomplished. Fifteen years on, everything about 9/11 still feels otherworldly and irrational, the reasons for it, the apparent helplessness in the face of it, the curious identities of the people involved and the American government's response to it. It defied logic then and it still does today. The World Trade Towers were proud symbols of who Americans were, at least who they thought they were. The spiritual motto of the original 1939 Flushing, NY, World's Fair "World Trade Center" pavilion was dedicated to "world peace through trade."
There would be no peace after 9/11. The destruction loosed a demon that had been struggling for America's soul since the creation of the Cold War in 1947. The U.S. would now be freed to pursue "evil" wherever it could be found and there would be no turning back. The creation of the World Trade Towers by Rockefeller brothers Nelson and David had been steeped in psychological symbolism from their start in the early 1960s. As the most well-known scions of American business, the Rockefeller family brought more than just money to their endeavors; they brought a vision for the future of the planet and a philosophy to guide it.
Begun as a massive undertaking to revitalize lower Manhattan, Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman David and New York Governor Nelson pushed hard for the project and each tower stood as a symbol of their respective power. As metaphor, the towers were more than just two of the tallest buildings in the world. It might be said they were as important as the two pillars Joachim and Boaz, which stood at the entrance to Solomon's Temple; mystical gates to a Cathedral of wisdom in which all could worship under one religion; the religion of business, Capitalism.
The Rockefellers were no strangers to the power of psychological warfare and its impact on American opinion. During World War II Nelson headed the U.S. government's intelligence agency for Latin America, the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA). CIAA's film division guided the 1942 production of Walt Disney's Saludos Amigosto promote pro-American sentiment in South America. In 1954 Nelson was appointed as President Eisenhower's White House special assistant on Cold War tactics and psychological warfare. Nelson Rockefeller played a central role in formulating domestic-propaganda programs throughout the 1950s as chairman of the Planning Coordination Group that, in addition to its propaganda work, oversaw all CIA covert operations. His 1956 Special Studies Project directed by Rockefeller prote'ge' Henry Kissinger produced many of the domestic-policy recommendations that came to be known as President Kennedy's New Frontier. His family's philanthropic support of the arts had been carefully coordinated with the CIA and was both overtly and covertly propagandistic.
As a committed Anglophile, Rockefeller had aided British intelligence during World War II when he rented space in New York's Rockefeller Center at a steep discount to a number of British propaganda agencies including their secret intelligence service for the Americas, the British Security Coordination (BSC). The BSC's chief, Sir William Stephenson (Intrepid), set up shop in New York City with the help of some of New York's wealthiest families with one main objective in mind: Get the United States into the war in Europe on Britain's behalf.
One key agent in the psychological war for American public opinion was young RAF pilot Roald Dahl who, along with James Bond creator Ian Fleming, playwright Noel Coward and Gallup pollster David Ogilvy, were given free rein to commit sabotage, political subversion and propagandize "the natives" (Americans) through whatever means possible.
Dahl's creative fiction earned him praise from the New York Times and publishing contracts from Random House as well as entre'e to Hollywood where he would collaborate with Walt and Roy Disney in their studio's transformation into an arsenal of animation while inspiring numerous imitators. Dahl would go on to marry a movie star and become a Hollywood icon with perennial successes, most notably "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." The cult of intelligence would ultimately become so seamlessly blended into every aspect of publishing, television and film, the CIA would jokingly be referred to as "the Chocolate Factory." Along with Fleming, Ogilvy and Coward, Dahl would help to get the United States into the war with Germany and craft an enduring Anglo-centric cultural narrative in the public's mind whose main objective was the promotion of a British agenda for the United States. That agenda would quickly shift from anti-fascist to aggressive Cold War anti-communist (read anti-Russian) as World War II ended, with Britain playing a seminal role in the creation of America's national-security state.
President Harry Truman's March 12, 1947, proclamation laying out the rationale for the Cold War (Truman Doctrine) fundamentally altered America's identity by embedding a permanent psychology of fear. But a hidden aspect of this conflict was the slow, grinding corruption that its unreality fostered in America's leadership. That unreality was finally revealed in the catastrophe of Vietnam.
In a remarkably self-effacing (especially by today's standards) January 8, 1972, New Yorker article tracing the origins of the devastation caused by Vietnam titled "Reflections: In Thrall To Fear," Senator J. William Fulbright bemoaned the mental corruption caused by the Truman Doctrine during the 1940s, '50s and '60s, whereby "Our leaders became liberated from the normal rules of evidence and inference when it came to dealing with Communism. The effect of the anti-Communist ideology was to spare us the task of taking cognizance of the specific facts of specific situations. Our 'faith' liberated us, like the believers of old, from the requirements of empirical thinking. Like medieval theologians, we had a philosophy that explained everything to us in advance, and everything that did not fit could be readily identified as a fraud or a lie or an illusion."
What Fulbright's brilliant but tragic reflections fail to include is that America's assumptions about the Cold War were never empirical. In fact the assumptions weren't even necessarily American but had been crafted by America's Anglo-centric intelligence bureaucracy and rooted in messianic 19thcentury British designs for control of the Eurasian landmass. A release of classified documents in 2009 revealed that Britain's wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill was so obsessed with Eurasian conquest he'd envisioned rearming Germany and attacking the Soviet Union right up to the end of World War II in a plan named Operation Unthinkable. Faced with the absurdity of confronting an overwhelmingly superior Soviet ground force and starting World War III, Churchill's operation was shelved, but his famous Iron Curtain speech of 1946 would kick off the Cold War and establish the ideological narrative by which all future U.S./Soviet relations would be defined.
Join us next time when we explain how Americans of all stripes had been brainwashed into accepting the cultural narrative of an Anglo-Saxon American Empire long before the Soviets crossed the border into Afghanistan in our final installment of Psychological Warfare and the American Mind.
Copyright 2016 Fitzgerald & Gould All rights reserved
Part I--Psychological Warfare and the American Mind
Part II--Psychological Warfare and the American Mind
Part III--Psychological Warfare and the American Mind
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story, Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire, and The Voice. For more information visit their websites at invisiblehistory and grailwerk.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story and Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire and The Voice,a novel.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband and wife team began working together in 1979 co-producing a documentary for Paul's television show, Watchworks. Called, The Arms Race and the Economy, A Delicate Balance, they found themselves in the midst of a controversy that was to boil over a few months later with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Their acquisition of the first visas to enter Afghanistan granted to an American TV crew in 1981, brought them into the most heated Cold War controversy since Vietnam. But the people inside Soviet-occupied Afghanistan told a very different story from the one being broadcast on the evening news.
Following their news story for the CBS Evening News, they produced a documentary (Afghanistan Between Three Worlds) for PBS and in 1983 they returned to Kabul for ABC Nightline with Harvard Negotiation project director Roger Fisher. Arriving in Kabul that spring they were told that the Russians wanted to go home and negotiate their way out. But the story that President Carter called, "the greatest threat to peace since the second World War" had already been written by America's pundits was not about to change the script.
As the first American journalists to get behind the official propaganda on the war, they not only got a view of an unseen Afghan life, but a revelatory look at how the US defined itself under the veil of superpower confrontation. But as they pursued the reasons behind the propaganda, they were drawn into a story that was growing into mythic dimensions.
It was at the time of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 when they were working on the film version of their experience under contract to Oliver Stone, that they began to piece together the mythic implications of the story. During the research for the screenplay crucial documents were declassified. Over the next decade they trailed a labyrinth of clues to find a likeness in Washington's official policy towards Afghanistan - in the ancient Zoroastrian war of the light against the dark - whose origins began in the region now known as Afghanistan. It was a likeness that grows more visible as America's involvement deepens.
By 1998, as the horrors of the Taliban regime began to grab headlines, they started collaborating with Afghan human rights expert Sima Wali. They contributed to the Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future book project. In 2002 they filmed Wali's first return to Kabul since her exile in 1978. The film they produced about Wali's journey home, The Woman in Exile Returns, gave audiences the chance to discover the message of one of Afghanistan's most articulate voices and her hopes for her people.
In the years since 9/11 much has happened to bring their story into sharp focus. Their experience at combining personal diplomacy with activist journalism could become a model for restoring a healthy and vibrant dialogue to American democracy. Ultimately, Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story lays bare why it was inevitable that the Soviet Union and the U.S. should end up in Afghanistan and what that means to the future of the American emp