Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fringe: The Strange and Terrible History of the Far Right and High Weirdness Part VII

Welcome to the seventh installment in my examination of the high weirdness that has intrigued the far right over the decades. Over the course of this series I've used high weirdness as a catch all for a host of fringe topics such as UFOs, psi, psychedelics, the occult, human potential and so on. As for the far right, I have primarily been looking at it through the prism of several key NGOs and think tanks such as the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) Mach I and the American Security Council that are closely aligned with the American military-industrial complex.

With first installment of this series I considered the bizarre Sikh temple shooting of 2012 and the possible deep political implications behind it as well as the high weirdness of the 2016 US presidential election cycle. Also briefly touched upon were the two primary US elite factions, the traditional conservative establishment largely centered around the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and other such think tanks, and the far right. Part two moved on to the origins of the military-industrial complex, which can be traced to a group of middle managers close to Secretary of War (and Bonesman) Henry Stimson and the emerging class of technocrats groomed by Vannevar Bush in the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) and the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD).

The third installment primarily focused on the rise of the far right within the military-industrial complex, a shift that was largely driven by a cabal of military officers that had served under/with General Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific Theater of World War II and/or Korea. Many of these military officers also turn up in the Roswell incident and would later go on to found the American Security Council, the premier lobby group for the military-industrial complex throughout the Cold War. Part four continued to examine Roswell, and the alleged technology recovered from it.

The fifth installment moved along to the extensive overlap between the ASC and the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). With the sixth and most recent installment I went to examine the ASC's involvement in spreading the Hangar 18 mythos and the flurry of UFO-related books Regnery (the family of which had helped found the ASC, as was noted before here) published during the late 1960s and early 1970s that profoundly influenced the development of UFOlogy. The early works of Jacques Vallee were largely published by Regnery and have proven to be especially influential in this regard.

Erhard and Patrick

Up to this point I've primarily focused on the far right's ties to Ufology, but by the early 1970s they appear to have publicly branched out to some other arcane and fringe topics. On the whole, this was a heady time for the American deep state. Project MKOFTEN had been initiated in 1966 and it appears to have represented the CIA and Pentagon's boldest forays into high weirdness yet. It was that kind of era.

Amidst the backdrop of the emerging counterculture countless Americans developed an interest in these same types of previously esoteric subjects. One particular American was a salesman who was given the name Jack Rosenberg at his birth. After abandoning in his wife and small children in Philadelphia he began a trek westward that would end with him emerging as a charismatic guru known as Werner Erhard in California. It was there that he would make his fortune as the founder of est, a peculiar form of self-improvement specializing in Large Group Awareness training.
"...This was est (Erhard Sensitivity Training), the organization founded in 1971 by Werner Erhard, a former Scientologist – and used car salesman – who decided to exploit and adapt some of Scientology's concepts and techniques for his own self-improvement system. The now notorious est held seminars that attracted such celebrities as Buzz Aldrin, Yoko Ono, John Denver and the future UFO abduction researcher John Mack, but it wasn't long before est became a dirty word. Attendees were disturbed by the fascistic regime and zombielike demeanor of the members, as well as Erhard's own dictatorial control of the organization. Media disapproval was intense, and soon est was relegated to the scrapheap of dangerous cult. Erhard himself fled from the United States after press revelations about his private life and financial affairs. He is now believed to be somewhere in Russia.
"Tellingly, Erhard's real name was Jack Rosenberg, but it is said that he changed his name 'to replace Jewish weakness with German strength'. (His father was Jewish, but he converted to Episcopal Christianity.) Erhard had close links with Esalen Institute and gave funds to SRI's remote viewing project..."
(The Stargate Conspiracy, Lynn Pickneet & Clive Prince, pg. 235)

Since the publication of The Stargate Conspiracy in 1999 Werner Erhard has once gain returned to respectability. He routinely lectures at prestigious universities (and seems especially loved by Harvard) while his leadership courses are embraced by numerous multinationals. Many swear by Erhard's methods, which were compiled from a host of curious sources. Scientology was of course one of them, along with more conventional self-improvement gurus such as Dale Carnegie.

Werner Erhard
One of the most intriguing interesting influences came from writer-producer Leslie Stevens, who credited the original The Outer Limits, among many other franchises. Under the name L. Clark Stevens, Stevens published a science fiction work posing as nonfiction entitled est: The Steersman Handbook in 1970. Erhard became obsessed with this work shortly after its publication and copied the name for his own Erhard Sensitivity Training racket.
"... Earlier in the year, a friend had handed Erhard a science fiction novel called est: The Steersman Handbook, written by an author named L. Clark Stevens. In his book, Stevens wrote that 'est' stood for 'electronic social transformation,' and heralded the arrival of 'est people' bent on transforming society. Erhard was excited about Steven's message and made sure other staff members read the book. It wouldn't be long before he borrowed 'est' to fit his own needs."
(Outrageous Betrayal, Steven Pressman, pg. 40) 

Curiously, both Stevens and Erhard also appear to have gotten mixed up in the bizarre saga of The Nine as well, although it does not appear that the two men ever met. The connections that either man had to The Nine are extremely fascinating, but well beyond the scope of this series. The great Christopher Knowles of The Secret Sun had does incredible work on this topic here.

Let us return now to Erhard's influences. Two other crucial ones appear to be equally dubious self-improvement organizations Erhard was involved with in the early 1970s called Mind Dynamics and Leadership Dynamics. There was much overlap between these two companies as well with a third, Holiday Magic, a company specializing in hawking cosmetics door to door that was revealed to have been a massive pyramid scheme in federal courts by the mid-1970s. But more on that in a moment.

Mind Dynamics was the organization that appears to have had the greatest and most direct influence on Erhard's path to self-improvement. Mind Dynamic and its methods were largely the creation of an Englishman known as Alexander Everett. While little known nowadays, Everett is generally considered one of the early pioneers in Large Group Awareness training and the Human Potential Movement in general. Everett largely devised his methods in the mid-1960s while living in Texas. There he found a most curious mentor.
"Launched in the Bay Area only a few months earlier, Mind Dynamics was the hybrid creation of Alexander Everett, a former English schoolmaster whose own fascination with mind-cure principles had begun in the 1950s, when he worked in Kansas City for one of the Unity Schools of Christianity, a mind-cure offshoot. From there Everett had wandered down to Texas, where he found work as an assistant principal at an exclusive private school in Fort Worth. It was in Texas that Everett ran across a man named José Silva who years earlier had concocted something called Mind Control that purported to teach its adherents over the course of four twelve-hour sessions how to relax and harness the power of their minds. By controlling the brain's alpha waves, Mind Control held out the promise of extraordinary results, from waking up without an alarm clock to ridding the body of dangerously addictive habits.
"By the late 1960s Everett had created a similar mental exercise program called Mind Dynamics. After a few courses in Texas, he soon realized that California with its free-spirited environment, might provide a more hospitable climate for his metaphysical theories about brain waves. Everett settled in San Francisco in the early spring of 1970. Not long after he began selling for $200 a thirty-two-hour course on controlling the brain's alpha waves. By mastering Mind Dynamics, students supposedly could achieve almost any goal they set, from improving their IQs and ending insomnia to curing cancer while learning to avoid other life-threatening illnesses.
(Outrageous Betray, Steven Pressman, pg. 34)
possibly Alexander Everett
Jose Silva and his famed "Silva Mind Control Method" (more recently shortened to the "Silva Method") are most curious. Silva appears to have devised the name "Mind Control" for his method in either the 1950s or early 1960s, before the phrase had taken on a very specific meaning. In this context, the "mind control" is more literal with the student learning how to utilize untapped regions of his or her brain. As such, Silva's techniques are far more closely related to remote viewing than what is generally thought to have been investigated under the auspices of ARTICHOKE and MK-Ultra. As such, the Silva Method appears to have been chiefly concerned with ESP and the like.

As far as this researcher can determine, Silva's methods do not appear to have been investigated directly by the national security apparatus. In point of fact, Silva apparently offered his methods and techniques to the US government in the mid-1960s only to be rebuffed. He served in the Army during WWII in the Signals Corp, and this appears to have been the extent of his involvement in national security.

It is possible, however, that Silva's theories indirectly influenced later interest of the deep state. And it has been reported that Silva had contact was famed parapsychologist J.B. Rhine of Duke University. As was noted before here, Rhine's parapsychological experiments at Duke were of especial interest to Project ARTICHOKE. It is possible Silva's theories were discovered in those heady days and indiscreetly investigated. Mind Dynamics may even have been such a project.

Jose Silva
I say this because of the man who eventually became Everett's silent partner in Mind Dynamics. This would be one William Penn Patrick, who also founded Holiday Magic and Leadership Dynamics. Patrick died at the age of forty-three in 1973 while piloting a P-51 Mustang (apparently one of his hobbies was flying old WWII-era fighter planes), but left a strange and long lasting legacy in the time that he had. Here's a rundown of his largely illegal activities and how he became involved in Mind Dynamics:
"To reach more people, Everett needed a better marketing plan than simply the promise of untapped human potential. He found one in William Penn Patrick, a ruggedly handsome and self-confidence master salesman, who presided at the time over a worldwide pyramid-sales network of companies that sold products ranging from motor oil additives to banana-flavored body lotion. Patrick, a former door-to-door salesman in Illinois, was impressed with Everett's seeming ability to motivate people and quickly realized that Mind Dynamics could play a part in expanding his own business empire. Together he and Everett created the unlikely marriage of mass-marketing sales techniques and the human potential movement.
"Six years earlier, at the age of thirty-three, Patrick had begun a pyramid-sales company called Holiday Magic that ostensibly sold a line of fruit-flavor cosmetics. Holding out the tantalizing promise of handsome profits, Patrick sold distribution franchises to thousands of men and women for coast to coast. More often than not, the hapless distributors ended up with basements or garages stacked to the ceiling with jars of avocado face cream or cases of Sta-Pro motor oil additive while they vainly searched for other 'distributors' to keep the endless chain letter of marketing in motion. At the top of the pyramid stood Patrick, who amassed a fortune estimated at $200 million and lived on a 6,000-acre ranch north of San Francisco, where he pursued his hobby of restoring and flying vintage military airplanes. 
"Patrick's decision in 1970 to add Mind Dynamics to his stable of pyramid-sales companies came at a time when other pieces of his enterprise were coming under increasing legal attack. By then the California attorney general's office had received a rash of complaints about Patrick's business methods at Holiday Magic. Around the time he met Alexander Everett, Patrick had added an even more bizarre new program called Leadership Dynamics, which eventually created additional legal headaches. The four-day 'sensitivity' course put participants through a physically and mentally abusive regime in the name of offering them a 'more creative and constructive life.'
(Outrageous Betrayal, Steven Pressman, pgs. 34-35)
Holiday Magic is still studied to this day as one of the earliest and most notorious pyramid schemes. It was initially denounced in the US Senate in 1974 and is still used an example of such in graduate level criminal justice coursework to analyze corporate scams. For our purposes here, however, it was his other 1970 business venture that is most intriguing.

Leadership Dynamics

Leadership Dynamics was exposed to the public at large in a 1972 work called The Pit: A Group Encounter Defiled. It was principally the work of Gene Church, a Mind Dynamics employee who later joined a class action lawsuit against Leadership Dynamics. At the onset of this work Church laid out the stated aims of Leadership Dynamics:
"Leadership Dynamics Institute was formed on the principles outlined in a booklet entitled 'Happiness and Success Through Principal' written in 1967 by William Penn Patrick, the founder and corporate king of Holiday Magic, Inc., and apparent co-owner of LDI. The foremost principle set forth by Patrick is honesty, complete and total honesty, both toward yourself and others. Another attribute stressed is courage, courage to stand up and fight for what you believe.
"A further major principle put forth by Patrick is the necessity to differentiate between selfishness and greed. Selfishness is a normal and necessary human quality that everyone has and uses. If we, as individuals, were not selfish we would never have anything. Selfishness to Patrick means that you want something and are willing to work to get it. Greed, on the other hand, is an extension of selfishness to the point of wanting something for nothing." 
(The Pit, Gene Church & Conrad D. Carnes, pg. 2)
The Pit was later adapted into the above film, also known as Circle of Power
The latter principal may indicate Patrick had a fondness of Randism, which would hardly be surprising given his politics (more on that in a moment). The first principal outlined would be embraced wholeheartedly by est, which frequently imposed radical honesty on participants. But they never went anywhere near the extremes that Leadership Dynamics did.

The Leadership Dynamics course lasted four grueling days and cost participants $1000 each, no small sum of money in the early 1970s. Before the training began participants were required to sign waivers (a process later adopted by est up to a certain point) that gave the Leadership Dynamics trainers free reign to do virtually anything to their chargers short of killing them.

Upon signing the waivers, participants were subjected to what can best described as a cross between basic training for the US Army, Fight Club and an initiation ritual for Skull and Bones. Armed with swagger sticks and other curious props, the Leadership Dynamics instructors subjected their charges to a host of bizarre psychological, physical and sexual abuse.
"... the Leadership Dynamics course had become the target of lawsuits brought by participants who had signed up only to find themselves the unwitting victims of cruel physical and emotional abuse during the sessions. In some cases instructors ordered participants into closed coffins. Others were hung onto large wooden crosses for hours at a time. Still others were forced to take off all their clothes while fellow participants taunted them with cruel insults. In one session, a man was forced to perform fellatio on an artificial penis while women attending a separate Leadership Dynamics class were brought in to watch...
"In depositions and other court documents, Patrick and other Leadership Dynamics officials acknowledged the accuracy of some of the charges leveled against them in several lawsuits that stemmed from the brutality of the courses. Asked about simulated sex with an artificial penis, Patrick responded: 'Well, to put it bluntly, there are a lot of men that come to class that have forgotten how to use theirs in their marriage.' Patrick also admitted that it was common practice to hit people during the sessions. 'I slap my children from time to time. It serves a useful function,' he told lawyers during his deposition. The lawsuits eventually settled out of court, and Leadership Dynamics soon after when out of business."
(Outrageous Betrayal, Steven Pressman, pg. 41)
Every Leadership Dynamics participant was forced to stand in "the pit," an area in the conference room outlined by chairs and such, that served as a ring and confessional in one. Typically men and women entered the pit in the nude and were forced to tell their greatest secrets. Frequently they were assaulted throughout these confessions. Sometimes they were forced to fight one another in "the pit." As was noted above, mock-crucifixions were also performed while participants were sometimes left in closed coffins overnight.

If you are wondering why anyone would go through four days of this, Leadership Dynamics had two effective methods of keeping their audiences captive: On the one hand participants were assigned a partner to room with and if one individual fled the course, his or her roomie would also be thrown out and both individuals' nonrefundable $1000 was down the drain. This encouraged participants to spy on one another and inform the instructors if someone was contemplating escape.

There was an even more effective method, however: Patrick required participation in Leadership Dynamics to advance in his other business ventures:
"Leadership Dynamics Institute (LDI) was a required seminar for anyone wishing to take a managerial position with the Holiday Magic organization.
"Though not then employed by Holiday Magic, I had not strayed for long from the Holiday Magic family. Earlier in my life I had been a distributor for their home care and cosmetic products, and now I was involved in another Holiday Magic affiliate, Mind Dynamics. It had been make clear to me by my superiors within Mind Dynamics that Leadership Dynamics Institute would be an important rung in my personal ladder of success..."
(The Pit, Gene Church & Conrad D. Carnes, pgs. 1-2)

Most other LDI participants were sent there by family and close friends. This made the LDI courses especially brutal as the instructors were able to gather intelligence on their next batch of students from coworkers and family. This led to some extremely awkward confessions in "the pit." Many Holiday Magic employees carried out extramarital affairs with one another, for instance, and these were frequently exposed in "the pit."

In one incredible confession described by Church, a Holiday Magic employee is forced to acknowledge that he had witnessed his mother having sex with another woman as a child and was later molested by his father. The instructors were told of these traumas by the participant's own mother, who also a Holiday Magic employee.

When est's ties to Patrick's business enterprises come up, whatever influences Erhard derived from them is attributed to Mind Dynamics, which Erhard also worked for in the early 1970s. And yet est on the whole bares more of the confrontational style of Life Dynamics, at times coming off as a watered down version of Patrick's pressure cooker. After witnessing the numerous lawsuits Patrick and Leadership Dynamics were subjected too, Erhard no doubt realized that there were certain lines he couldn't cross. So while est featured ample verbal abuse from the instructors, a certain degree of physical discomfort from the length of the sessions and frequently traumatic confessions, the shocking physical abuse of Leadership Dynamics was largely dropped. At least for the rank and file est participants, anyway.

At least one of Erhard's early lieutenants, the Australian Stewart Emery, had been through Leadership  Dynamics. In 1971 Erhard asked Emery to put himself and his chief aides through the same type of techniques. Emery obliged and Erhard was apparently impressed. He appears to have later developed his own version of Leadership Dynamics for est trainers and other important officials and his family. It was dubbed the "fish bowl" rather than "the pit." There are much disputed accounts of Erhard subjecting his then-wife to extreme physical abuse during one of these "fish bowl" sessions in 1977 that resulted in one of Erhard's aides nearly choking her to death.

Who Was William Penn Patrick?

Clearly Patrick seems to have had a much greater influence on est than is generally acknowledged. But who was this mysterious businessman who inserted himself via capital investments into the Human Potential Movement just as it was gaining mainstream acceptance?

Naturally very little is known about Patrick's doings until the mid-1960s, after he had established Holiday Magic as a viable source of income. But once the big bucks began rolling in Patrick wasted no time in become active in politics. And would you be surprised to learn, dear reader, that his politics appear to have been to the right of Joseph McCarthy?

Prior to becoming involved with Everett and Mind Dynamic, Patrick had forged ties with Robert DePugh, founder of the Minutemen. The Minutemen in turn were the first large scale right wing paramilitary network of the Cold War era. And not long after DePugh got the Minutemen off the ground, he was approached by Colonel William Potter Gale, a former military intelligence officer and Christian Identity minister who would go on to establish the Posse Comitatus.

Gale would establish his own paramilitary outfit, the California Rifles, not long after DePugh got the Minutemen off the ground. There was much overlap between Gale and DePugh's organizations in the early years, but DePugh broke with Gale in the mid-1960s after he became concerned that Gale was co-opting his organization and working for some branch of US intelligence.

Just how serious the break was is highly debatable, as Gale and DePugh appeared to have patched things up by the mid-1970s, after DePugh was released from prison for arms smuggling charges. They appear to have remained in contact up until the time of Gale's death in 1988. This bizarre chain of events was addressed on this blog before here.

At some point during DePugh's break with Gale he hooked up with Patrick while in the midst of trying to launch the "Patriot Party." At a 1967 convention of said party Du Pugh endorsed Patrick as the veep on a ticket headlined by George Wallace.
"One of the more intriguing facets of this convention was the role – or non-role – of William Penn Patrick, the cosmetics tycoon from San Rafael, California. A transplanted southerner, Patrick made a name for himself in ultraright circles by a quixotic campaign in the 1966 Republican gubernatorial primary against an idol of the respectable right, Ronald Reagan. After this debut, he helped finance recall effort against liberal Senator Frank Church of Idaho. DePugh envisioned as an ideal ticket Wallace for president with moneybags Patrick as his running mate. Patrick actually flew to Kansas City for a conference with the Patriotic Party brass, and at the convention the ticket was endorsed. Two months later, however, DePugh told his membership that Patrick would have to be dropped, explaining that Patrick had been recommended in the first place 'because he had promised to provide the money necessary to keep the Patriotic Party alive, to open Patriotic Party headquarters throughout most of the major cities in the United States, and to finance the printing, the transportation, the telephones, and all the other expenses.' But not a red cent have been forthcoming."
(Power on the Right, William Turner, pgs. 79-80)
George Wallace
The Wallace/Patrick ticket was also endorsed by the California Theocratic Party in 1967, though this researcher has been unable to determine if the Theocratic Party is the same as DePugh's Patriotic Party.

Patrick's early opposition to Senator Frank Church is most interesting. As I'm sure many of you are aware, Church is the Senator who headed the infamous Church Committee of the mid-1970s in which the public first caught a glimpse of the CIA's behavior modification programs in addition to a host of other outrages. Church would draw the ire of the US intelligence community for his role in the committee that bore his name and would lose his 1980 bid for re-election under curious circumstances. It has long been speculated that the US intelligence community heavily backed his opponent, Steve Symms, in their quest to unseat him.

And here is Patrick, attacking Church in 1967 after the Senator had begun to earn a name for himself for his support of Civil Rights and opposition to the Vietnam War. Was Patrick's opposition to Church something more than political? Certainly it seems rather curious that a prominent California businessman would become invested in unseating a then largely unknown Senator from Idaho.

Frank Church
Patrick does not appear to have been directly linked to the American Security Council, and may even have drawn its ire for his campaign against Ronnie Raygun in 1966, a long time darling of the ASC. But Patrick had ample ties to organizations closely linked to the ASC network. The Minutemen are one such connection. Another was the John Birch Society (the ties between these ASC and these groups was discussed before here and here).

Multiple sites report William Penn Patrick as being a Bircher, but I have not be able to reliably confirm this. He did frequently make common cause with the Birchers, however. And by the early 1970s he had become the chief financial backer of Dan Smoot, who frequently collaborated with the John Birch Society. Smoot was a former FBI agent who remade himself as a far right wing conspiracy theorist in the mid-1950s. Initially he published the newsletter Fact Forum with financial assistance of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt (who was himself close to several ASC members).

Dan Smoot
By the late 1950s he began publishing the Dan Smoot Report, which achieved 30,000 paying subscribers during its peak in 1965. By this time Smoot had also became a prominent conservative radio personality, something of a cross between Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones. Patrick appears to have picked up sponsorship of Smoot's radio program a few years before it was forced off the air via the Fairness Doctrine, since repelled by Ronnie Raygun.

Patrick then seems to have had ample links to the early ASC network and even bankrolled some of the most fringe elements therein throughout the late 1960s. And then, in 1970, he appears to have shifted gears, and delved head long into the emerging Human Potential Movement, but with his own fascist flair. He bankrolls Mind Dynamics and establishes his own bizarre Large Group Awareness Training institution with Leadership Dynamics several years before. Individuals who went through Leadership Dynamics, the bulk of whom were either Patrick's employees trying to get into upper management and/or their relatives, were subjected to methods often employed by cults as well as elements of the US national security apparatus to the ends of behavior modification (including the basic training the various US military branches subject recruits to).

And then, just as Patrick's business empire is under investigation on multiple fronts, he conveniently dies in a plane crash. A little under two years earlier Patrick's former employee, Werner Erhard, launches est, which will soon become a major craze by the mid-1970s. Erhard appears to have incorporated methods derived from various sources ranging from Everett, Patrick, Leslie Stevens, L. Ron Hubbard and even Dale Carnegie to cobble together est. But his inner circle was subjected to "fish bowl" sessions that were based upon methods taken from Leadership Dynamics. In both cases, Patrick and Erhard appear to have achieved a cult-like atmosphere within the upper hierarchies of their respective business empires. And Erhard recruited ample trusted aides out of the ashes of Patrick's empire.

William Penn Patrick
Needless to say, there appears to have been something very spooky about William Penn Patrick. He was obsessed with military trappings but I have been unable to determine if he ever served anywhere and in what capacity. On the whole, there is very little information available about his background prior to founding Holiday Magic and, despite his links to an infamous pyramid scheme, the far right and Werner Erhard, he has largely been forgotten. But I suspect that if more details ever come out they will be quite intriguing indeed.

And with that I shall wrap things up for now. I had meant to reach some of the ASC's shenanigans of the 1980s with this post, but I keep uncovering additional material. Perhaps we shall reach that particular decade that looks more and more relevant with each passing day. Regardless, there will be even more curiosities. Stay tuned dear reader.

Friday, February 24, 2017

McMaster and the National Security Council

The dust has finally settled, and General (surprise surprise) H.R. McMaster has emerged from the fallout as the United States' new National Security Advisor (NSA). McMaster took on the position on February 20th after a whirlwind week for the Trump administration that saw previous NSA General Michael T. Flynn resign under curious circumstances on February 13th and reputed first choice, Vice-Admiral Robert Harward, declining the post later in the week.

The position of National Security Advisor is of course one of the most powerful in the entire government. Previous NSAs such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have used the post as a stepping stone to even more prestigious posts such as Secretary of State. Kissinger and Brzezinski remain two of the most powerful and influential figures in foreign policy circles to this day. The NSA thus provides interesting insights into the direction a president's foreign policy is headed, as does his National Security Council (NSC) on the whole. Here I will try to briefly address the implications of McMaster and the overall composition of Trump's emerging NSC.

Meet the New Boss...

Flynn was one of the most controversial and despised figures in the Trump junta, so it should come as little surprise that there is must rejoicing in certain circles. Already the mainstream media is hailing McMaster's' appointment as a major victory for the forces of righteousness due to his alleged differences from his predecessor and Trump on certain key issues. The Raw Story crows:
"U. S. President Donald Trump has shown little patience for dissent, but that trait is likely to be tested by his new national security adviser, Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster. 
"McMaster is joining the White House staff with views on Russia, counterterrorism, strengthening the military and other major security issues that diverge not only from those of the Trump loyalists, but also from those the president himself has expressed.
"A military intellectual whose ideas have been shaped more by experience than by emotion, more by practice than by politics, and more by intellect than by impulse may also find himself in political terrain that may be as alien, and perhaps as hostile, to him as the sands and cities of Afghanistan and Iraq were.
"McMaster will not be alone, however. His prominent administration allies include Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; as well as many of the soldiers who have served with him. 
"Unlike his predecessor, Michael Flynn, and Trump himself, McMaster regards Moscow as an adversary rather than a potential partner.Last May, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, McMaster cited Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for rebels in eastern Ukraine as evidence of a broader effort 'to collapse the post-World War Two, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in Europe and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.' A third area where McMaster’s thinking differs from the president’s rhetoric is the size and shape of the U.S. military. 
"Trump has promised to add tens of thousands more soldiers, expand the Navy to 350 ships from 282, and 'provide the Air Force with the 1,200 fighter aircraft they need,' according to his campaign website.In his scholarly 2015 Military Review article, which has 39 footnotes, including one citing Greek historian Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War, McMaster argued that 'promising victory delivered rapidly from stand-off range, based on even better surveillance, intelligence, information, and precision strike capabilities' is a fallacy that 'confuses targeting enemy organizations with strategy.' The question now is whether McMaster’s views will have sufficient force to alter the course of U.S. policy set by the president and his closest aides." 
new NSA General HR McMaster
Whether McMaster will find the Trump administration "as alien, and perhaps as hostile, to him as the sands and cities of Afghanistan and Iraq were" is highly debatable. While McMaster does appear to have a reputation as something of maverick within the Pentagon, Trump does not seem the type to appoint someone to such a key post if their views diverge widely or he found McMaster to be untrust worthy. Indeed, arch neocon and Washington insider Elliott Abrams was recently nixed as the possible number two man at State because he was seen as being insufficiently loyal to Trump. And McMaster has already shown his ability to work with Trump by agreeing to keep KT McFarland and General Keith Kellogg (a major Trump loyalist) on his staff in key posts.

Many are hailing the ascension of the "Mattis clique" (which, in addition to McMaster and General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, also includes Director of Homeland Security John F. Kelly and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford) and predicting an inevitable conflict between this faction and the Trump loyalists (personified by "Chief Strategist" Steven Bannon) within the administration. Many point to Russia as a major point of contention.

General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who many increasingly see as a bastion of "rationality" and "restraint" within the Trump regime  
But just how gung ho is the Pentagon to escalate things with Russia at present? Throughout the flap over alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election the CIA, FBI, NSA, Director of National Intelligence and many other components of the intelligence community have all weighed in with the glaring exception of the military intelligence branches. In fact, the Pentagon has been rather quiet on the whole matter.

And let us not forget that just last year JCS Chairman General Joseph Dunford (who has a long history with Mattis) dismissed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's advocacy for establishing "no fly" zones in Syria on the basis that it would lead to war with Russia. On the whole, there seems to have been quite a divide between the Pentagon and the State Department over the issue of escalating tensions with Russia, with the civilian anti-Russian forces coming off as being far more militant than their military counterparts. And now Trump and new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (who has had extensive dealings with Russia) have cleaned house at State.

So in this regard, the arrival of McMaster and the ascension of Mattis may have very little influence on Trump's policy toward Russia.

As for many of the other differences, they appear to be very speculative.  The Intercept points to the alleged "ethno-nationalism" of the latter camp as a major point of contention:
"Unlike his short-lived predecessor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s new national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, has no history of openly associating with bigotry. In fact, McMaster has throughout his career emphasized the need to work constructively with foreign Muslim populations.
"But his presence only calls more attention to the dramatic divide among Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. On one side are career military personnel who understand that antagonizing Muslims is both offensive to American values and damaging to the country’s security. On the other side are inexperienced, radical ethno-nationalists who shrug off international norms and believe that peaceful coexistence with the world’s Muslims is unlikely and undesirable.
"The two views appear incompatible. But which group will emerge victorious is not at all clear. In fact, which group speaks for Trump at any given moment is not entirely clear either."
Steven Bannon
The Intercept describes McMaster and Mattis as part of the "rationalists' when it comes to dealing with the Islamic world, while listing Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller, Mike Pompeo and Jared Kushner as the radicals. But again, how far is this divide?

Mattis and McMaster may advocate a more politically correct approach, but does that change the fact that they've overseen the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in highly morally ambiguous (to put it mildly) conflicts? Both Bannon and Pompeo are themselves military veterans (and may well have been recruited by some branch of the US intelligence services after the respective services ended, as I noted before here) while Gorka has served as some type of instructor for the Joint Special Operations University. As such, I suspect the differences have far more to do with approach than ideology.

About the NSC

If anything, McMaster's appointment only seems to confirm the shakeup in foreign policy circles likely related to an ongoing conflict in the deep state. Typically the National Security Council is dominated by Ivy Leaguers and fellows of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Brookings, the Trilateral Commission and so forth. This is especially true of the president's National Security Advisor. And yet McMaster attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the think tanks he is associated with include the Hoover Institute, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and (like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson) the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). While these think tanks certainly have ample ties to the traditional conservative establishment, they are on the whole far more right leaning and defense oriented than the CFR, the Trilats, Brookings or the Atlantic Council.

Let's now briefly consider the composition of the National Security Council (NSC): It will typically feature four to five current or former generals (McMaster, Mattis, Kelly, Joints Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford, and NSC Chief of Staff General Keith Kellogg) with no links to the Ivy Leagues and only limited exposure to the tradition conservative establishment's network of think tanks. Bannon, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and likely Secretary of Energy Rick Perry also come from military backgrounds, though they were not lifers (at least as far as we know) like McMaster, Mattis, Kelly, Dunford and Kellogg. Likely Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also briefly served in the Army, but not to the extent as Bannon, Pompeo and Perry (all of whom were in the military for at least five years). UN Ambassador Nikki Haley was never in the military, but she is married to a military lifer.

Generals John F Kelly (top), Joseph Dunford (middle) and (Keith Kellogg (bottom)
Tillerson, Vice-President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not serve in the military, but like Perry, Coats, McMaster, Mattis, Kelly, Dunford and Kellogg, did not attend Ivy League schools and only have minimal exposure to the traditional conservative think tanks. The same is possibly true of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, though I suspect he has closer ties to the CFR network than many of his counterparts on the NSC, with the possible exception UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Both Priebus and Haley appear to be closer politically to the traditional conservative establishment than much of Trump's NSC, but neither are Ivy Leaguers and do not have glaring ties to the CFR and the like.

Only two NSC members appear to come from a "conventional" background for this type of posting -- Secretary of Treasurer Steven Mnuchin and Deputy National Security Advisor KT McFarland. Mnuchin is a Yale graduate and Skull and Bones to boot. McFarland did not attend the Ivy Leagues, but she has gone to the equally prestigious MIT and Oxford University (which has longstanding ties to the CFR) and is a protege of Henry Kissinger. The other two known Ivy Leaguers, Bannon and Pompeo, are both considered extremists in many circles.

But the same could be said for much of Trump's NSC. As was noted before here, Pence, Coats and Sessions are all members of the Christian fundamentalist cult variously known as "The Family" or "The Fellowship" (addressed at length before here). There is a strong chance that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is very close to Pence, is also a Family man as well. As regular reader AW pointed out here, both Rick Perry and Reince Priebus have been linked to another Christian cult known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), one of the most hardline Dominionist sects out there (much more information on Perry's affiliation with this budding cult can be found here). As was noted before here, Bannon appears to be close to the highly reactionary Sovereign Military Order of Malta while DHS head General John Kelly and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford have been described as hardline Catholics.

Rick Perry
On the whole then it would seem that Trump's National Security Council is almost totally dominated by the Pentagon with the Christian Right (the term "clerical fascist" may be more appropriate to many current members of the NSC) also having a strong presence on it. Meanwhile, the traditional foreign policy establishment is left with only Mnuchin, McFarland, Haley and possibly Tillerson. These are at least the only four members without extensive ties to the Pentagon and/or religious extremism.

Final Thoughts

Just where all this is heading is difficult to say, but the background of McMaster's is curious in another fashion. Typically the NSA has some background in intelligence and/or diplomacy. While McMaster is viewed as something of a counterinsurgency guru, he has largely been involved with convention forces for his entire career. On the whole, his background reads like someone who would make a fine Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rather than National Security Advisor.

And this may in and of itself be a clue. McMaster has been a leading figure in new initiatives to prepare the military for a ground war against Russia in Ukraine (and surely other locations) and it is likely he will push for the modernization of conventional US forces in anticipation of war with Russia and/or China down the road.

Russian T-90s
As noted above, I do not believe the Pentagon desires some type of World War... at present. The reality is that our conventional forces would likely not fair well against those of China or Russia, both of whom have invested considerable funds in beefing up their conventional forces in recent years. This would effectively leave the Pentagon with one of two choices, neither of which is particularly appealing: nukes or secret weapons.

The disadvantages of using the former are obvious, but the latter also come with a major risk: reverse engineering. As long as China and Russia remain major world powers, they will have the know-how and resources to reverse engineer practically any secret weapon in a fairly short period of time. And so goes the final remaining ace up the Pentagon's sleeve.

The State Department and the traditional conservative establishment, sensing their hold slipping, would prefer a war now in a final desperate bid to cling to the reigns of power. It is also possible they would like to know just what exactly the Pentagon is hiding, which may have been an underlining factor in UFOs becoming a talking point during the 2016 presidential election cycle after such a long black out.

But the Pentagon is clearly running the show now and they would surely prefer to rearm and regroup for the next stage. It is truly disturbing that this appears to be the most cautious approach the deep state has on tap, in comparison to war-now-at-all-cost fixation of the traditional conservative establishment, or the more extreme apocalyptic fantasies of the Christian Right in Trump's NSC. If the former gets their wish and remove Trump before his term ends, then the later will literally be moving into the Oval Office with the newly minted President Mike Pence. And if that happens, all bets are off.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Family Ties Updated: More Reflections on Flynn and the Purge

Just when one thinks the current political climate in these United States can't get anymore surreal, Washington has once again found a way to up the ante. For those of you living under a rock, on February 13th recently-sworn in National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn resigned amidst allegations that he had illegally discussed sanctions with a Russian ambassador in late December. These revelations were initially brought to the public by a journalist for The Washington Post with a long history of regurgitating to the public what he is fed by the CIA. Reportedly the source(s) for said Washington Post report and other that soon followed from The New York Times and the like is from within the US intelligence community.

As one might expect, the mainstream media and the Democratic Party are in rare form. Many within these institutions are already hailing the Flynn revelations and Trump's reputed Russian connection to be the most serious security breach in this nation's history. The air is thick with the invigorating vapers of neo-McCarthyism.

In many ways, the Democrats have completed their transformation into the Cold War-era Republican Party. The process was begun in earnest in the early 1990s with the party's embrace of neo-liberalism at the expense of economic justice. Under Obama, what semblance of the anti-War Left that was still standing within the Party soon gave way to the glories of the Imperial Presidency and the vast national security apparatus. Today's Democrats appear to be more certain of the rightness of a World War with Russia than ole Tail-Gunner Joe ever was.

And be assured, Flynn's removal had everything to do with escalating tensions with Russia. The general was easily one of the most moderate voices concerning Russia within Trump's administration and a major proponent of detente.

Trump may not totally abandon such a policy, one of the few rational ones his administration has rolled out. He still has another major Russian-backer in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and I do not expect a major reversal until Tillerson is forced out.

Glory to the Deep State

No doubt the wheels are already in motion in this regard. Elements of the US intelligence community opposed to Trump are throwing down the gauntlet:
"On Wednesday, former NSA intelligence analyst John Schindler provided some insight into the reaction of national security officials.
" 'Now we go nuclear,' he wrote on Twitter. '[Intelligence community] war going to new levels. Just got an [email from] senior [intelligence community] friend, it began: "He will die in jail." '
" 'US intelligence is not the problem here,' Schindler added in another tweet. 'The President’s collusion with Russian intelligence is. Many details, but the essence is simple.' "
This comes after reports that the Us intelligence community has been withholding intelligence reports from Trump, allegedly out of fear over his Russian connections. Such claims are utterly absurd. Even if Trump has extensive financial ties to the Russians, he would hardly be the first key US official to have lucrative dealings with countries not entirely friendly to the United States. The Clinton Foundation, for instance, received funds from a Chinese billionaire with close ties to the communist government. This was hardly the first brush the Clintons had with China, and appear to have been on the payroll since Bill's presidency.

Elsewhere, there is compelling evidence that congressional Republicans are almost totally subservient to the Israeli government. Mike Lofgren, a Republican congressional aide who worked in congress for over twenty-five years, has noted:
"The other factor is that domestic political considerations involving money increasingly determined foreign-policy. A visitor from outer space would find it peculiar that Netanyahu, a foreign head of government, has been called the leader of the Republican Party – the same party that habitually flaunts its xenophobic 'America First' patriotism. Senator Graham has gone so far as to say he would follow whatever policies the Israeli prime minister might propose, and arresting statement in light of the senator's oath to the Constitution and the voters he represents. It is all the more strange if one considers that well within living memory the Israeli prime minister and his coreligionists would have been barred from entering many of the social establishments run by the people who were once called 'country-club Republicans.'..."
(The Deep State, Mike Lofgren, pg. 69) 
Lofgren goes on to note of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC):
"When Tom DeLay was House majority leader, I found out that any legislative provisions having anything to do with the Middle East had to be vetted and approved by AIPAC before the bill could move forward."
(The Deep State, Mike Lofgren, pg. 69n) 

And be assured, the US intelligence community itself is hardly immune to foreign dollars and overtures. Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator that work on highly classified projects, has detailed the extent to which the US intelligence community has been penetrated by foreign assets and dollars in her groundbreaking Classified Woman. As to the former, she notes the following from her time with the FBI:
"I was told of frequent internecine sabotage: between the Hebrew division and Muslim Arab-origin translator; between the Indian and Pakistani Muslim translators – all were at war with one another, and it sometimes erupted in actual bloodshed. People were accusing one another of being spies: of spies spying on each other. Classified files were stolen, documents went missing, locks were tampered with. Rearranging how these groups were clustered within the unit seem to be the only department response; that and tepid reassurances."
(Classified Woman, Sibel Edmonds, pg. 34)

Foreign influences is one of the dirtiest secrets of Washington and the deep state as a whole. As such, it is typically dramatically downplayed by the mainstream media. Except when it comes to Trump, apparently. This smacks of desperation, for if the foreign ties of one politicians are extensively investigated, then others may also find themselves in the spotlight. And this would potentially lead to the type of revelations that would lead to the public questioning the legitimacy of the American government on the whole. Unless of course that is the ultimate plan.

Let all of this sink in for a moment: Elements of the US intelligence community are openly proclaiming that they're going to take down a sitting US president and the mainstream media and much of the Democratic Party are cheering them on. And they're going to do it on the basis that Trump is compromised by a former government, something that could be said of virtually every major figure in Washington. I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.

What is the appropriate response when the self-proclaimed champions of civil liberties and democracy championing the deep state's bid to overthrow a siting president? And be sure, it is this dire. Consider the latest intellectual navel gazing in this regard:
"With a docile Republican majority in Congress and a demoralized Democratic Party in opposition, the leaders of the Deep State are the most—perhaps the only—credible check in Washington on what Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calls Trump’s 'wrecking ball presidency.'
"The leaders of these agencies are generally disturbed by Trump’s cavalier treatment of their intelligence findings and particularly worried about contacts between Trump’s entourage and Russian intelligence officials."
The Deep State, the very definition of a shadow government, is the only "credible check in Washington" of Trump's presidency?  Wow, just wow.

Its Not Over Till Its Over

Trump, never one to sit ideally by, appears to have a counteroffensive in the works: an investigation into the leaks that are plaguing his administration. He already has support in Congress and what is described as a "close alley' lined up to head the investigation. The New York Times reports:
"President Trump plans to assign a New York billionaire to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies, according to administration officials, an effort that members of the intelligence community fear could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview.
"The possible role for Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has met fierce resistance among intelligence officials already on edge because of the criticism the intelligence community has received from Mr. Trump during the campaign and since he became president. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump blamed leaks from the intelligence community for the departure of Michael T. Flynn, his national security adviser, whose resignation he requested.
"There has been no announcement of Mr. Feinberg’s job, which would be based in the White House, but he recently told his company’s shareholders that he is in discussions to join the Trump administration. He is a member of Mr. Trump’s economic advisory council.
"Mr. Feinberg, who has close ties to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, declined to comment on his possible position. The White House, which is still working out the details of the intelligence review, also would not comment.
"Bringing Mr. Feinberg into the administration to conduct the review is seen as a way of injecting a Trump loyalist into a world the White House views with suspicion. But top intelligence officials fear that Mr. Feinberg is being groomed for a high position in one of the intelligence agencies.
 "Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner, according to current and former intelligence officials and Republican lawmakers, had at one point considered Mr. Feinberg for either director of national intelligence or chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine service, a role that is normally reserved for career intelligence officers, not friends of the president. Mr. Feinberg’s only experience with national security matters is his firm’s stakes in a private security company and two gun makers."
Stephen A. Feinberg
The Time's is being a bit disingenuous about Mr. Feinberg's ties to national security. Consider the holdings it goes on to acknowledge that his private equity firm, Cerberus Capital, possess:
"Through Cerberus, his private equity company, Mr. Feinberg has strong ties to the government contracting industry. Cerberus owns DynCorp International, which has had a wide array of large contracts providing security to the State Department and other agencies. DynCorp is now locked in a major legal dispute over the fate of a $10 billion State Department contract that it previously held to provide air support for counternarcotics operations overseas.
"John F. Kelly, the new Homeland Security secretary, was paid $166,000 a year as a DynCorp adviser until he was named to the new administration.
"Cerberus also owns Remington Outdoor, a major firearms manufacturer."

DynCorp was one of the first modern private military companies and still of the most powerful operating today. While it is not as well known as Blackwater, it has been involved in its fair share of controversy. And like Blackwater, it has been employed by both the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command to conduct highly classified work. Evidence has even emerged that DynCorp assisted the CIA in its Rendition Program.

The Times noted that Feinberg had even considered buying Blackwater itself in 2008. Curiously, he went to Blackwater's North Carolina facility in 2005 for firearms training as well. But the same could be said for Cerberus on the whole --it being curious, that is.

The New York Times has previously noted that Cerberus and Feinberg are highly secretive, with Feinberg generally avoiding even having his picture taken. Cerberus is a Byzantine organization and no doubt many of their business interests are fairly standard. But its ownership of DynCorp and several arms manufacturers strongly indicate that it has extensive involvement in national security. DynCorp alone is tasked with many highly sensitive projects, many of which being potentially illegal.

This is further evidence of Trump's closeness to the private military industry, which works closely with the JSOC and the CIA's National Clandestine Services. The latter is where I suspect much of Trump's support within the CIA comes from. As was noted before here, Trump has been meeting with Blackwater founder Erik Prince of late as well. Interestingly, Trump had apparently considered appointing Feinberg to head the National Clandestine Service, which Prince's Blackwater (and presumably DynCorp) did a lot of contract work for in the Special Activities Division.

Cui Bono?

As per usual, the person who appears to be benefiting the most from these shenanigans is veep Mike Pence. Unsurprisingly, Pence is keeping a safe distance from the chaos rocking the young Trump administration. Some have even gone so far as to describe Pence as being "not totally in the loop":
"Some close to Pence report that he was “blindsided” and “frustrated” by the misleading information. Pence was said to have urged Flynn to publicly apologize instead of resigning, however. It was the White House that found what Flynn did to be unacceptable and took action. After Pence, chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House counsel Don McGahn had a conversation with Flynn, Pence decided the former lieutenant general should go.
"According to the Post, Pence and Priebus were both troubled by the conversation, 'expressed dismay both with Flynn’s answers and the dawning reality that Flynn had deceived Pence.'
"White House officials told the Post that keeping Pence out of the loop wasn’t intentional, rather it was a result of confusion. Despite a long relationship with McGahn, the White house counsel briefed Trump, Priebus and Steve Bannon, assuming that they would pass the information on to the vice president if he needed to know."
Mike Pence
Pence is thus being depicted as a kind of outsider in the Trump regime despite multiple reports that he played a key role in sacking Flynn. This is rather shrewd of Pence, or whoever his directing his play. On the one hand, he is distancing himself from the increasingly dysfunctional Trump inner circle.

On the other hand, he has used this apparent slight to force out Flynn, a Trump loyalist, as the National Security Advisor. The NSA, along with the Director of the CIA (DCIA) and Director of National Intelligence (DNI), are arguably the three most senior figures in the US intelligence community. And it just so happens that the current DCIA and presumptive DNI are reportedly close to Pence:
"Against this backdrop, Mr. Trump has appointed Mike Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, to run the C.I.A., and former Senator Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican, to be the director of national intelligence (he is still awaiting confirmation). Both were the preferred choices of the Republican congressional leadership and Vice President Mike Pence and had no close or longstanding ties to Mr. Trump. In fact, they each endorsed Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for president during the 2016 Republican primaries."
Ah, but there's more. You see dear reader, Pence, Dan Coats and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are also members of the fundamentalist cult variously known as "The Family" or "The Fellowship":
"Certain Trump picks point to a religious-criminal cabal preparing for a Pence presidency. What do Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and certainly not least, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, have in common? Membership in ‘The Fellowship’, a quasi-religious organization-unregistered lobby with fingerprints all over past USA international crimes sprees. These three significant personalities all are under the ‘spiritual’ tutelage of Doug Coe, leader of ‘The Family’ where if you are ‘chosen’ there is a different standard, an unaccountable standard, where everything up to and inclusive of child rape is excused..."

Dan Coats (top) and Jeff Sessions (bottom)
This powerful Evangelical network is highly secretive and extensively connected to the deep state. Jeff Sharlet, who first exposed The Family in his classic 2008 work The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, noted in 2003:
"A lot of their key men in a country would be the intelligence officers in the American embassy. Throughout their correspondence, that's the kind of guy they would like to have involved. They always had a lot of Army intelligence guys involved, Pentagon guys. 
"Doug Coe in the early 70's was touring the frontlines in Vietnam with intelligence officers and South Vietnamese generals. That's the level of connections they are talking about, like the Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova [convicted by a Florida jury for the torture of thousands] and Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez [a minister also linked to the CIA and death squads]. They are the people who brought those people in. They said you need to meet this person. That's how it works."
Much more information on The Family can be found here.

But The Family does not appear to be the only cabal of religious extremists represented in the Trump regime. As was noted here, infamous campaign manager turned "chief strategist" Steve Bannon is close to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), an organization Trump cozied up to during his campaign. Many SMOM members are as reactionary Catholics as one is apt to encounter. And given the close ties Trump's regime has to the Pentagon, there are probably ample SMOM and Opus Dei members hiding within the ranks. As award winning journalist Seymour Hersh noted, SMOM and Opus Dei have extensively penetrated the Pentagon.

Effectively then various Christian fascists have secured positions of immense power within the Trump regime, up to the Vice-Presidency. And the only thing holding them at bay is Trump himself. And if Trump is removed, whether it be via assassination, coup or impeachment, this is who will be assuming the reigns of power.

It makes one wonder just where exactly those leaks plaguing the Trump regime are coming from. The standard answer is Obama holdovers or former officials such as ex-CIA director John Brennan. But Pence, with fellow Family members overseeing the Justice Department (which will be especially relevant if impeachment procedures are begun against Trump) and a key post in the US intelligence community, has as much to gain as anyone from Trump's ouster.

Pence is already carefully positioning himself as an outsider in the Trump regime, and if he is revealed to be one of the leakers and assists in bringing down the Trump presidency in the process, will no doubt become a major media darling --a patriot through and through who crossed party lines to remove an out of control president.

And curiously, no one in the Democratic Party, the press, or even the power brokers behind these groups seems overly concerned with what will happen next once a group of radical Christian fundamentalists bent on stealthy co-opting the government will do once they have the run of the White House.

Be afraid dear reader. Be very afraid.

P.S.: I've received many great comments and emails these past few weeks that I am once again behind in responding too. I shall make an effort to catch up during this weekend. I'm sorry that it takes me so long to respond, but many of you leave such thoughtful comments that require an in depth response. Please be patient and I will try to come up with something that rewards your patience.


It was quite an error on part for not thanking regular reader AW for his invaluable insights into the Family. Readers who are curious for more information on the ties between The Family and Pence and administration figures close to him are advised to check out the comment section on this post. AW provides quite a bit of information on this topic there.

On the topic of Pence, yet another Democrat has come out subtly lobbying for a Pence presidency --this time via the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. It is truly disturbing that the self proclaimed champions of secularism are so comfortable with the notion of a barely closeted cleric fascist like Pence sitting in the Oval Office.

Elsewhere, there are some interesting theories making the rounds about Flynn's resignation, which effectively argue that it is part of an elaborate sting by Trump and the general to purge his administration of leakers. As outlandish as this may seem, there is potentially merit in it. Two things have troubled me about Flynn's resignation.

General Michael Flynn
The first is Flynn's inexplicable sloppiness. This is a man with decades of experience in intelligence and who has made ample enemies during this time. What's more, he has drawn especial ire from Trump's detractors. He surely knows that there was a target on his back from the moment Trump won the election. And yet he would conduct potentially damaging conversations over the phone with a Russian ambassador when he well knows that these conversations would be monitored by the NSA and/or FBI?

Secondly, it was rather shocking that Trump would jettison Flynn so quickly. Trump is known for putting a premium on loyalty and Flynn has been a loyal backer since the onset of his campaign. At one point, Trump even considered Flynn for his veep. And yet he booted Flynn out of a key post even after the FBI cleared Flynn of any wrong doing. It is very un-Trump like to put up so little of a fight for a trusted aide facing rather flimsy charges.

Was Flynn's sacking then an elaborate ruse? Certainly it would be a most unconventional move to sacrifice a key adviser so early in presidency. But Trump is hardly a conventional president and if he and his backers are really planning on going to the lengths they have hinted at, then suppressing leaks will no doubt be crucial in avoiding far more serious charges down the line.

On the whole, it seems that a crucial part of Trump's early presidency has been establishing the loyalty of his national security apparatus. Many of the flurry of sloppy executive orders concerning immigration during the early days were no doubt part of this. He was able to remove officials in Justice (including the acting Attorney General, who allegedly played a role in Flynn's ousting) who opposed his orders and tested the loyalty of the Department of Homeland Security (which they largely appear to have passed) in the process. He's also cleaned house at State as well.

The Great Purge is well underway and Flynn may well have been playing a part in this. Only time will tell, but in the context of Trump's plans to review the intelligence community, this could be very advantageous. Pundits are already warning that a strategy of divide and conquer will be used to bring the whole of the intelligence community under Trump's control and singling out the leaks will aid in this process. The thinly veiled loyalty checks State, Justice and DHS are being subjected to are also part of this process. It will be most interesting to see where things go from here.