Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Nature of Parahistory, Part Three

The prevailing wisdom has a seductive charm. To accept it means one does not have to endure the scorn that attends departing from the herd. The prevailing wisdom is usually fairly simple and straight-forward and non threatening. Its better to think that one lone nut somehow got lucky and killed a president than that there could be powerful forces out there that can accomplish this, hide their tracks, and go on to accomplish their ends. It is known that in the heat of the Cold War that the CIA bought off some journalists, and some have said the practice was more widespread than admitted and that it continues. This suggestion is disquieting because we would be more comfortable believing that most journalists really want to be investigative reporters and that they are busy safeguarding the republic through their sleuthing.

Thomas Jefferson said that “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Given this definition, he would be considered a conspiracy theorist today. Americans forget that there was a time early in the Twentieth Century when leaders spoke against conspiracies against the people.
Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.

These were the words of one of the tamer of these leaders, Woodrow Wilson in “The New Freedom “ (1913) Since then concentrated corporate and money power has grown far greater, as has the mechanisms of the national security state. Yet, we have been so inoculated against conspiracy theory and related speech such as “class envy” that we would reject a politician as a dangerous extremist if he used similar words to discuss gasoline prices and how they can jump a dime in a twenty-four hour period

There has been a rash of conspiracy theories in the last 40 years partly because the US psyche had experienced so many traumas and because people have learned the hard way that those in government frequent lie to them. The media appears to have become more and more disinclined to track down the lies or dig up inconvenient truths. In 2002 and 2003, the mainstream press aided and abetted the Bush administration in peddling fabricated information about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, even though there were good reasons to doubt those claims.

Outlandish conspiracy theories often grow out of legitimate questions that emerge when the conventional wisdom is thin, overlooks obvious questions, or are clearly implausible in some regards. The outlandish explanations tend to explain too much on the basis of too little evidence, and they frequently trot out some historic villain or other, the Vatican, Free Masons, the Illuminati, the Rothschilds, or the Jews. Maybe they offer up-to date all purpose villains, such as advocates of the New World Order or Reptilian aliens, or just plain aliens. The existence of such outlooks strengthen the case of those who discourage questioning of the official story or the conventional wisdom.

The outlandish conspiracy theories are entertaining, and remind the reader that any story must be examined carefully. The trouble is that too often stories that contradict the conventional wisdom or suggest dangerous criminal conspiracies in government are simply ignored by the media. In January, 2008, the Times of London produced evidence that there was validity to Sibil Edmonds’ claim that high ranking figures in the State Department and Pentagon were selling nuclear secrets to other countries. The US media pretty much ignored the story.
When President Clinton appointed Webster Hubbell to a high post in the Department of Justice, he told him to get answers to two questions: are there UFOs and who killed John F. Kennedy. Of course, Hubbell could find answers to neither. We know what the simple answers to these questions are, but they are unsatisfying. Alternative answers are blocked by secrecy, missing evidence, and the unwillingness of “reputable” investigators to look into them. For that reason, we need something like’soft conspiracy theorists,” people who apply conventional historical techniques to investigations of these questions, insist upon plausibility, and and probably almost never come up with concrete, and full explanations. They cannot because there are so many barriers to their probing. The best they can do is learn which prevailing truths are least believable and perhaps suggest alternative explanations that are most worthy of pursuing.

There are many conspiracy theorists who construct massive interpretations out of very little evidence. They deserve sharp criticism. There are more than a few historians and journalists who do likewise; they are said to be wrong or “off-base.” There is what Alexander Cocburn called a ‘soft" version of the conspiracy theory” It raises questions, offers reasonable hypotheses about possible conspiracies, but seldom can offer rock solid explanations because complete evidence is rarely available. It questions “public truth” which so dominates our culture and offers the traditionally disempowered other possible explanations and challenges those who seek monopolies in the creation of public knowledge.

The work of historians and the conspiracy theorists both deal with the past. They could both be called “history.” The work of the outlandish conspiracy theorists do not deserve that name because they constitute very flimsy constructs. On the other hand, the soft conspiracy theorists carefully test information and only suggest fact- based possibilities that challenge “official” history. Although it relies too much upon inference and the assumption that people often have base motives, soft conspiracy theory probably falls within the boundary of legitimate knowledge but fall short of history as defined by professional historians. An appropriate term for their work might be “parahistory.” The trouble is that Peter Dale Ecott has used this term to describe the reconstructed histories of events that are based upon document once not available when the first accounts were produced. Scott is a good scholar, but is is mystifying why any term other than history should be applied to these revisionist accounts. Parahistory seems to be a good term to apply to tentative accounts, based on available knowledge, that raise the possibility of conspiracy.

The consolidation of media into fewer and fewer hands may make necessary some alternative to mainstream journalism. At this point in our history, government is anything but transparent and trustworthy. Some other approach to interpretating what occurs must be available as an alternative to approaches to rely too much upon official sources. Dr. Condoleezza Rice deliberately misrepresented the famous presidential intelligence briefing paper of August, 2001 to be a mere historical discussion about Al Qaeda when it really warned that that organization was now getting ready to attack in the United States. The president’s press secretary added to the lie by leaving out the word “in” from the title, which left the impression that Al Qaeda just wanted to attack the US. The proceedings of the 9/11 Commission made it clear that Condoleezza Rice was continually duplicitious in her dealing with it and that the Bush administration worked hard to prevent the commission from getting the information it needed. Its obsession with secrecy and track record for lying suggests that its official pronouncements cannot be trusted and the likelihood that it has much to hide. Fearful of being deprived of what information there is, the press has failed to get behind the regime’s spin and dissembling. Under these circumstances something like parahistory is necessary. Don Delillo has talked about that this does not really exist.

The trouble with relying on parahistory is that it leaves us in a situation where the public exists in a state of confusion because nothing can be known for sure. Perhaps it does little to reduce the political impotence of ordinary citizens, but it is an improvement upon leaving them to believe official lies doled out by government and the elite media and academy. Bill Moyers remarked, `Well, there's a legitimate government, but from time to time, to do a certain job, they hire a rather unseemly crew, and sometimes they get a little out of control and make trouble.' About the best the parahistorians can do is alert the public when this seems to be happening. The record shows that journalists and the academic historians will be the last to spot the problem.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Nature of Parahistory, Part Two

Only a few mainstream historians have not touched the assassination of JFK, RFK, or Martin Luther King, Jr. The exception is David Kaiser of the Navy War College, who has written a good book on the death of JFK that was published by the Harvard University Press. Questions have been raised as to whether Harvard should give legitimacy to conspiracy theory. He asked “Cui bono” and tackled a question that can probably never be resolved—two characteristics of “conspiracy theory.”

Historians have also steered away from 9/11. In all of these cases, there is not enough evidence to establish irrefutable cases that conspiracy was involved. By not seriously exploring those subjects, historians tacitly endorse the lone nut theory in respect to the assassinations and some implausible official explanations of 9/11. It is forgotten that George Orwell was not so wrong when he wrote, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful . . . and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” He also said, “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." This is why coincidences, discrepancies, and holes in official stories. We owe this to future generations.

Many leading historians were reared in a time when it was simply unthinkable that Americans, some of whom being security employees, would plot to murder a US president or prominent political figure. In dealing with a great deal of United States history, they could safely join A. M.Schlesinger, Jr. in accepting Blaise Pascal’s dictum that “Man is neither angel nor brute.” But there have been other times and places when the opposite might be operable: man can be both and brute. This was scertainly applicable to Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. One hesitates to place Oliver North and Dick Cheney in their company, but the possibility deserves examining.

In the 1950s, conservatives, led by Joe McCarthy, were propounding all sorts of conspiracy theories, and they enjoyed a lot of support in the mainstream press. Today, they offer knee-jerk denunciations of notions they violently oppose as “conspiracy theories,” and are joined in these comments by much of the mainstream press. They object to people who claim that some in government aim at enhancing the power and wealth of privileged elites. Of course, no one would gather in a Cabinet room, board room, or Pentagon office to strategize, plan, or conspire to accomplish goals that are not in the interest of most people. Watergate was not a conspiracy any more than effort to invade Iraq was! The suggestion that people at the top could have a secret agenda is usually met with a patronizing smile. We know they are just there to protect and serve.

“Conspiracy theorists” are said to be people who are inclined to doubt commonly accepted explanations of events and to look for more complex explanations. For example such people note that Winston Churchill’s grand history of World War II placed too emphasis upon the Soviet contribution to victory. They qestion the British official casualties figure for the third Battle of Ypres ( often called the battle of Passchendaele—238,000. Even General Haig put the figure at 500,000. The British Public Records Office is still sitting on records that could settle the matter. Even the cabinet records for 1914-1918 are still closed to the public. Since 1954, about 200,000 people in Guatemala have been tortured, raped, murdered, and disappeared. Much of this grisly activity was undertaken with the full cooperation of US intelligence agencies.

Our government refuses to open records on these deaths, though President Clinton reluctantly did open records on Americans who were killed there. More recently, the US seized the records of the thugs who ruled Haiti from 1991 to 1994 and has refused to return them. This is probably because those US-backed rulers killed 3,000 people and the records would show the complicity of our intelligence people. Who can forget Oliver North publicly explaining how he shredded hundreds of documents related to the Iran/Contra scandal? In all these matters, we are expected to accept the official explanation.
Most people would not object to the claim that the conspiracy theorists are probably psychologically disoriented in some way. The very term “conspiracy theorist” is a put-down and automatic dismissal and appeals to the belief that people work in secrecy very seldom, if ever. As William March said, “[G]ood people are rarely suspicious: they cannot imagine others doing the things they themselves are incapable of doing….” We don’t want to think ill of others, especially of those who rule. Most people are fundamentally decent and cannot imagine that elected officials would betray them in sinister ways. There are massive advertising operations, backed by deep research in psychology, that persuade people that nothing is amiss. A third rerason for being hostile to so-called conspiracy theories is that knowledge brings with it the responsibility to act on what we know.
We Americans know that in repressive societies the truth is manipulated on a daily basis because the ability to shape what is perceived is true is the untimate power mechanism. In a democracy, this cannot happen because we have an inquiring press and a well-informed public.

Over the years, the United States has become a national security state. To build this state, officials repeatedly relied on th eir own conspiracy theory, asserting that there was a communist conspiracy to take over the world. and domestically more and more power has been gathered in fewer and fewer corporate hands. These developments made it necessary and possible for the national security mechanism and the corporate powers to manipulate opinion more and more. To acknowledge such is not a pleasant matter, and some people can do so more easily than others. Even Albert Einstein lapsed into conspiracy theory when he suggested that there were powerful interests that benefited by continuation of the Cold War: “The men who possess real power in this country have no intention of ending the cold war."

It seems that denial is the best unconscious psychic self-defense mechanism for many. It shields us from anxiety and guilt. Six years after the US invaded Iraq, most Americans believe Saddah Husein was involved in 9/11. Not to believe so could bring about guilt that we are not doing enough to demand honesty in government. Or guilt that we twice entrusted the executive branch to scheming liars. Or the recognition could bring on fear. If Cheney and his friends could lie about Saddam and Weapons of Mass Destruction, they might lie about other things. This is why people talk about “unpleasant truths.” Truth is often very unsettling, and sometimes there is little we can do about really bad situations. To protect ones self from disinforemation, spin, and manipulation does not mean believing everything that comes down the pike.

Truth has a great deal to do with keeping democracy alive. When people stop looking hard for it, they have surrendered their power to influence what government does. Without truth, democracy and republicanism begin to wither. If someone can contol our view of the present they control us. Orwell noted "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." That is why it is so important that historians and journalists construct an accurate account of what is goind on today so that republicans and democracy can survive into tomorrow.

Mathematicians have combinatorial analysis, combinatory, or combinatorie. It uses the mathematics of probability to learn how likely it is for certain configurations of objects and sets to occur together. If only historians had a tool that precise. We know that odd coincidences sometimes occur in real life and that sometimes simple, seemingly explanations are accurate. At other times, simple explanations see all too facile and the coincidences seem too many and too improbable. We know that eye-witnesses to traumatic and chaotic events are often wrong, but what should we conclude when many of them insist they saw the same thing which is flat out excluded from an official account. These involve matters of judgment. Oddly, there is one great similarity between some people labeled as “conspiracy theorists” and those who willingly accept even the most improbably official explanations. They both want simple, all inclusive explanations that are built on too few facts. Hence, some build elaborate explanations that always lead back to the Vatican, Jesuits, Jews, Freemasons, or a murky group called the Illuminati. Those who seek the simplistic, thin explanations going back to the Illuminati or some other demonic group might deserve the term conspiracy theorist.
The problem is that the term “conspiracy theory” is used to marginalize other people who advance reasonable arguments based more than a few facts that are contrary to accepted truth. People in government and their apologist most commonly use the term and apply it to those who rock the boat by doubting official explanations. In earlier times, people who doubted the conventional wisdom were called heretics and witches. Even though the conspiracy theorists can point to implausible aspects of conventional wisdom and too many coincidences heaped upon coincidences, those who go about labeling people conspiracy theorists are really saying that those people should not be listened to. The word “theorist” is used to suggest that these people construct explanations out of thin air; hence, their views are based on theory and not evidence. A careful examination of “conspiracy theories” suggests that they are almost always based on facts. The problem is that they often rely on facts that have been overlooked by those who construct the conventional wisdom.

So called conspiracy theorists are accused of being paranoiac. Poet William Burroughs said “`Paranoia means having all the facts.” Of course, in dealing with historical events, all the facts simply cannot be found. It is enough to have fore reasonable factual information than that possessed by purveyors of the conventional wisdom. That justified raising questions, and, if there is ample evidence, even hypothesizing on what could be other explanations. Those who crave the CIA+Watergate stumble over the truth, but they pick themselves up and continue on as if nothing had happened.” None of us are that good at finding the truth. If we don’t look and develop a reverence for it, we mill rarely make its acquaintance.

The label came into widespread use after the assiassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. The implication was that the findings of the Warren Commission were to be taken on faith, including the crazy lone gunman and particularly the magical single bullet theory that claimed that the same bullet, following a very odd trajectory, hit Kennedy and Connally came out in pristine condition and turned up on a stretcher at Parkland Memorial Hospital. This is the famous exhibit #399, the mysterious, undamaged bullet. Conspiracy theories often attribute events to concealed plots by individuals or an individual effect events in some way. In this case, it might boil down to whether the death of Joyhn Kennedy was the work of one man’s plot or that of several people or groups. The official story is that three shots were fired, with one missing. That left two to inflict seven wounds in Kennedy and Connally. The House Select Committee on Assassinations ruled in the 1970s that four shots were fired.

Today, those who question the official explanation of 9/11 are considered unstable conspiracy theorists. The evidence is clear that just as J. Edgar Hoover moved heaven and earth to steer the Warren Commission toward predetermined conclusions. 9/11 staff director Philip Zelikow worked overtime to produce a report that concealed the Bush administration's low level of interest in the terrorist threat. The record shows that a NORAD two star general told the commission that he was above Washington coordinating a response when Flight 93 was to appear in the area. The fact is that commission investigators learned from NORAD tapes that he was lying; the Air Force was unaware of Flight 93, which was to crash in Pennsylvania. The commission would not have learned that had it not finally screwed up its courage to subpoena tapes, which it was first told did not exist. The Bush White House stonewalled on every front from the beginning, and Speaker Dennis Hastert stood in the way of the commission even getting all the records the congressional investigators had acquired. Yet, the so called benighted conspiracy theorists are denounced for not being sufficiently trusting.

Nellie Connelly kept notes on what she thought happened. She insisted that there three shots, but she seemed to reject the magic bullet theory.. The first bullet hit Kennedy, because the governor wheeled around and saw that Kennedy had been hit. The second hit John Connelly, and she said the third hit Kennedy in the head. New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison was generally considered a conspiracy theorist of the worst sort because his explanations of the assassination of John F. Kennedy seemed far-fetched. That judgment of Garrison was also rooted in solid fact and that there is a CIA memo dated April 1, 1967 reveals that the agency cranked up a disinformation campaign against Jim Garrison. When Garrison left office, his successor, Harry Connick, Sr., destroyed the records of the investigation.
TWA Flight 800, a 747-100, exploded over Long Island on July 17, 1996. 230 people perished. Scores of people saw something looking like a missile hit the plane. The official explanation was that the explosion was due to a bad electrical circuit. They were called “conspiracy theorists.” Three days after the crash, the Jerusalem Post reported that a French Defense official said the missile would have been US because terrorists weapons did not have the capability to do that much damage. .A retired White House press secretary, taken in by a former pilot trying to peddle a bogus radar tape, did himself some harm by claiming there was a cover-up and that he was privy to damning evidence. Two hundred miles south of the site and in September, 1996, two pilots reported seeing what they thought was a missile. We do not know if naval exercise were being conducted then, but they were underway when TWA exploded. Red residue was found in three rows of the plane, and some thought it similar to the color of rocket fuel. The NTSB report stated that Dr. Charles Bassett found that it was seat glue. However, the learned doctor later swore out a statement saying that was not what he found. . In this case, there probably is not enough evidence available to decide who is right or what happened. But if one persists in simply doubting what we have been told, one is a conspiracy theorist.

Some of us recall that The Washington Post insisted that those who claimed that Oliver North was engaged in illegal trade with Iran and forbidden supplying of right wing militias in Nicaragua were way off base. They were wacko conspiracy theorist. It even censored a Jack Anderson column on Iran/Contra. Readers had to be protected from conspiracy theorists! Then it distorted information coming out of Charles Rangel’s subcommittee investigation into the Contra drug trade and refused to print Rangel’s letter of complaint. More recently, the Post. joined the rest of the mainline press in protecting readers from information that the Bush Administration had lied about weapons of mass destruction in order to invade Iraq. There is a long history of the press avoiding such stories even though conspiracies of businessmen, politicians and others also have a long history. That’s how business is done here.

There is so much clamor about “conspiracy theories” that we have come to almost believe conspiracies do not occur. Adam Smith thought tradesmen got together to raise prices. There were all sorts of conspiracies to defraud US railroad investors in the late 19th century. In the early twentieth century, providers of electricity colluded to set p[ices and at mid century people met in hotel rooms to set prices in their bids for government contracts. How soon we forget. Watergate was a conspiracy, and who can be blamed for thinking there was a conspiracy to lead the US into invading Iraq. Someday, there might be enough printed evidence to prove this. At the moment, there are many intelligent people who canot figure out why the US made such a massive investment there. All they knmow is that the official story does not hold water.

Often so-called conspiracy theories gone too far in putting aside theories assign causation to large and distant social and economic forces. Conspiracy theorists prefer to look at concrete events and they believe that people are behind almost all events and that , as in the past, people have a way of scheming, lying, cheating, cooperating with others, and doing anything necessary to acquire money and power and then working overtime to cover their tracks.

If you were an historian writing a textbook about recent times, you might resort to stating that the US invaded Iraq, that the stated reason was belief that Saddam had WMDs, and that after the invasion many expressed doubts that the story about WMDs was fabricated. Rock solid evidence would not permit going much further. If one were to add a possible explanation that relied upon broad historical forces, or perhaps geopolitical theory, it would be methodologically acceptable and also could not be checked out. It can be argued that the default position for the historian is to fall back on official government sources and what is printed in newspapers of record. The method has a certain conservative bias. Four years after the invasion, the White House admitted that millions of its e-mails had inadvertently been lost. Are there aspects of what happened that could not be documented any other way than through those e-mails? Historians have a strong bias against conspiracy theories in part because they associate them with the ravings of the populists, Father Charles Coughlin, and Senator Joseph McCarthy.

On the other hand, leftists are not much given to conspiracy theories and are inclined to buy the official 9/11 story in its main outlines because they are more likely to think in terms of historical forces. A major basket of exceptions include the reasons for building and deploying the atomic bomb and US policy in t he early cold war. Perhaps some historians have come to consider conspiracies because a growing number of them no longer come from the moneyed elite, as had once been the case. It is still recalled with some embarrassment that a president of the American Historical Association nearly four decades ago worried about what would happen to the craft as Jews, Catholics, children of recent immigrants, and products of the working class entered the profession. Maybe these people would be less inclined to assume that those with power and wealth usually behaved as gentlemen and were animated by noblesse oblige.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Nature of Parahistory, Part One

The Nature of Parahistory

The late Murray Rothbard ( the original TRB of the New Republic) wrote in 1977,
Anytime that a hard-nosed analysis is put forth of who our rulers are, of how their political and economic interests interlock, it is invariably denounced by Establishment liberals and conservatives (and even by many libertarians) as a "conspiracy theory of history," "paranoid," "economic determinist," and even "Marxist."

Three decades ago, these investigators were able to make considerable progress by asking the ancient question “cui bono? ( Who benefits?)” Today things are so much more complicated, and that question often cannot be answered with any certainty. Indeed, One recent writer classified anyone who asked the question as a conspiracy theorist. Today, it seems that these theorists are more worried about the machinations of government than those of the so-called economic power elite. They should probably be looking at the links between government and the people who own massive corporations and media operation. One thing remains the same; when people complain about conspiracy theories, they often mean someone is getting too close to the truth.

Ellen J. Langer, the renowned Harvard psychologist, wrote, “Certainty is based on flimsier evidence than most of us realize.” Some of the ancient historians of Rome knew this and tried to break through what was then the official story to get at what was really going on. Appian, a Greek, focused on the decline of the republic. He was described as a “genuine historian” in part because he wanted to get at the heart of matters. He was contemporaneous with but younger than Plutarch and unfortunately was somewhat colorless, perhaps like the present writer. Cassius Dio, another Greek, pursued the same theme and found that Octavian was installing an autocracy by stealth. He saw a sharp division between the official version of events and even admitted to employing heresay when it seemed to help explain events. He was fortunate to have good contacts, being a member of the Senate, a consul, and once srving as a proconsul in Africa. Complaints about not being able to get at the real re4asons for events wre echoed by Tacitus, who wrote much about the difference between public claims and private motives. When Tacitus left the Senate for the last time, he said in Greek, “Men fit to be slaves.”

These historians also complained about how surveillance made it difficult for individuals in private discussions to learn what was going on around them.
Livy, the most famous historian of the era, was not concerned about asking tough questions and usually conveyed the conventional wisdom and found truth on the side of the establishment, and valued ccconciliation and moderation.
These historians had serious evidenciary problems then, and their succeessors today face similar if not greater problems. Surveilance techniques have improved greatly and those who put out the official line are the beneficiaries of remarkable advances in cognitive science. We still cannot condone relying on heresay, but investigators cannot be blamed if they use it to ask questions and seek out verifiable leads.
Historians, working from official sources, often put together a stories that are close to what those in power want them to produce. Nevertheless, they still encounter gaps that they fill as best they can, through digging and careful analysis. Writers who look into questions that go beyond the official sources have far many more gaps to fill, but they use the same tools to fill them. I.F. Stone, patron saint of investigative reporters, said it is best to assume that politicians are fcrequently lying. He added that “The search for meaning is very satisfying; its very pleasant, but it can be very far from the truth.” He thought it necessary to continually call attention to evidence that does not fit, and warned that this could mean the good reporter must repudiate what he wrote just a few weeks ago.

There has always been much more going on than historians have seen. Above all, it should be remembered that history and culture has many layers and is eeen from a variety of perspectives. Cultural and historical analysis should reveal a variety of perspectives, eschewing one consensus approach. It is best rendered through “think description,” and one important strand should concern itself with likely private motives and activities that are important in influencing events but are not intended for public scrutinity. Over time, people have learned to look into such matters, and they are now firmly anchored among human “webs of significance.” They are more important for some people than others, and it seems there are those who , even in the days of Tiberius, could not live with the possibility that his numerous homilies about civic virtue did not wholly reveal what was the essence of this complex man. For these people the “said” of discourse must be about all there is—something that smothers what are complexities and inconsistencies for others. On the other hand, many more will see uninterpreted data as mere data and expect layered, thick descriptions to make interpretation possible. But including many perspectives in a thick discourse means that different hearers or readers will take away different meanings, depending upon the outlooks they brought to the work.

There have always been political processes that fly under the normal political radar and are marked by deceit, disinformation, concealment, and covert action. This is what is called deep politics or parapolitics. If the historian does not resort to thick descriptions, she many never come to ask research questions that can turn up traces of what is going on below the radar. From time to time, most people suspect that deep politics exists, often in relation to the drug trade, but the consequences of investigating and pursuing this are disquieting, and we usually suppress such thoughts. One professional historian , Alfred McCoy carefully investigated the CIA drug trade during the Vietnam war and barely came out of the effort with his life. In recent times, it seems that deep politics probably account for much of reality.
The stuff of deep politics rarely appears in mainstream, conventional, or orthodox history. Traditional history is ruled by rigid methodological rules that privilege official government explanations. This history is ideologically safe and unthreatening and favors history’s winners. Its version of “objectivity” is sharing the biases of the conventional wisdom and those who wield power. It usually distorts through fear of heterodox explanations and a deep attachment to ideological respectability. Patriotism also plays a role, and the flag can be used as a blindfold when one simply cannot entertain the possibility that our leaders could do some truly despicable things.

J.Edgar Hoover once said "The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists.” It is perfectly natural for humans to want comforting, non-threatening answers to important questions and historical puzzles. If someone had told Julius Caesar that almost 30 Senators had conspired to kill him when he showed up at the Senate, he would have dismissed the story as too monstrous to believe. He had enemies, yes, but he did not face a threat of this magnitude. For one thing, too many people were involved in this story. Someone would have talked by then.

How many people today really believe the conventional wisdom about the Kennedy assassination? The Warren Commission is a classical example of orthodox or mainstream history at its worst. The editor who published the first serious critique of the Warren Commission Report was a paid CIA asset. When he published the critique, he noted that it did not represent the opinion of his magazine. But the editor later remarked to a friend that the critique was probably true, but "The truth is too terrible. The American people would never be able to stand it."
The conventional explanations of 9/11 are so lame that a growing number suspect there is far more to that terrible story. Sometimes outlandish scandals simply evaporate such as the BCCI affair. Only John Kerry showed an interest in pursuing the matter, and he was blocked at every turn and there were whispers in the corridors of power about how he was a little kooky and addicted to conspiracy theories. We never learned entirely what went on with BCCI, probably because it provided many keys to deep politics. Historians and journalists avoid deep politics for any number of reasons. Several amateur journalists who pursued aspects of this story were most probably suicided. One is that it is so hard to access evidence of parapolitical activity. Sometimes, as in the case of US complicity in the murders of priests, nuns, and thousands and thousands of dissidents in Central America, is ample, and the stories still are not pursued. All of that is so distasteful and challenges everything we want to believe about ourselves and this country.

John Zaller and Dennis Chiu studied how the mainstream media covered 42 foreign policy crises between 1945 and 1999, and found the media consistently functioned as “government’s little helper.” In the build up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the media simply parroted the Bush administration line. On May 26, 2004, The New York Times found it necessary to publish an editorial apologizing that covcerage of Bush claims about Iraq was “not as rigorous as it should have been.” There has been a steady dedterioration of the news media. Some of it is attributable to lack of zeal and human weakness. Some of the blame is due to the difficulty in obtaining accurate information from government.

Recently, the United States has begun the process of establishing nuclear missile bases in Czechoslovakia and Poland. The US consistently claims that the missiles are only aimed at Iran, which someday will have some nuclear weapons. The Soviets complain that the weapons are aimed at them and they sometimes sold a bit paranoiac, unless one notices that the US has recently been building these bases all around Russia. Absent proof that the missiles will be pointed at Russia the journalist and historian can only report what the US has said its intentions are. The possibility that the Russians could be partly right cannot be entertained without clear evidence that the Pentagon is lying. Historians build their work partly on what journalists have reported and upon government documents they have been able to study. Lacking a document revealing hostile intentions toward the Russians, the historian’s account will reflect what the US government claims. This writer recently attended a lecture given by a respected specialist on Russian history about this situation. The specialist is a long-time acquaintance and almost certainly doubts the statements made by Dr. Condoleezza Rice on this matter. But his lecture did not reflect any doubt. He was trapped by historical method and perhaps aware that there was a clean-cut young man in the front row carefully tape recording his every word.

There is such a thing as the’shadow” or’secret” government. Eliot Abrams, then Undersecretary of State, referred to it in the Iran/Contra hearings. The problem is that its operations are open and transparent. If one wants to get closer to a more accurate picture of how things happen, it is necessary to dig for traces of its operations and sometime make inferences. Critics refer to that as empty “theory,” as in conspiracy theory. But to refuse to look for its workings is to wholeheartedly assume another theory, that things are exactly as the official story goes. The trouble is that accepting the official story usually ends up with what onbe could call Disney history. As William Faulkner wrote, the “past is never dead and buried, it isn’t even past.” Past events continually affect present happenings; without something approaching a realistic view of the past, it becomes impossible to grasp what goes on now.

In 1965, Indonesian military and paramilitary forces carried out one of the worst massacres of that century against Communists and labor leaders. The CIA had funded the creation of hit lists and was behind a barrage of stories and sometimes forged documents attributing plots and atrocities to the leftists. Despite much evidence of the agency’s involvement, The New York Times simply denied that the CIA was involved. The false news coverage of the massacre will become the basis for fake history.

The 9/11 attack was the defining event of recent times, and yet there are many contradictions and improbabilities within the convention wisdom. For some unknown reason, the Bush administration held up the establishment of an independent investigative commission for a year. For a month almost 4000 people served on an FBI task force investigating the tragedy, then the task force was shut down because the bureau said these people were needed to investigate terrorist plots.

We do not even have a thorough official account of what wrong with our national defenses that made those tragic events possible. The 9/11 Commission issued its report in July, 2004, and it was soon reported that many of the commissioners thought that the NORAD generals had lied to them. NORAD and the FAA released a number of time lines that are contradictory and establish that there was plenty of time to shoot sown at least one of the first three planes. The FAA also held back vital information. The 9/11 commission that investigated these matters labored under so many disadvantages that it was unable to produce a solid report. Fearing that the report would show that the it had down played the terrorist threat, the White House’stonewalled” –in the words of Republican Commissioner John Lehman, making it very difficult to extract basic information. Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton, the two co-chairs, defended themselves in a 2006 book, essentially arguing that they were set up to fail. They wrote, "We were set up to fail. The thought occurred to both of us as we prepared to meet for the first time …" They also complained about how the CIA stonmewalled them. In 2007, it was learned that the CIA destroyed tapes that would have been very useful to the investigators. This prompted Keane and Hamilton to write to The New York Times, charging that the CIA had obstructed the investigation. The CIA had denied the commission access to captives and to their interrogators and was asked to make do with incomplete and poorly written summaries. Tenet’s testimony was filled with an unbelievable number of “I don’t remember’s and some commission members doubted the veracity of his testimony. Though spending money does not guarantee good results, the fact is that only $15 million was spent on the commission, while the government paid $40,000,000 exploring Bill Clinton’s sex life and a land deal in Arkansas.

AP reporter Leslie Miller wrote on May 6, 2004 that several hours after the attack a manager at New York air traffic control asked controllers who had handled two of the flights to record their experiences. A FAAquality assurance manager destropyed the casette sometime between December, 2001 and February, 2002. He used his hand to crush the case and then cut up the tape , throwing the pieces into multiple trash cans.

NORAD sent a two star general to the commission who claimed he was circling Washington coordinating efforts to shoot sown Flight 93, when the fact was that NORAD did not even know about the hijacking of that flight at the time he claimed to be in the air. It was reported soon after the 9/11 Commission Report was released that many of the commissioners thought the NORAD generals had lied to them, and that some wanted the Justice Department to review their testimony.

The same agency denied it had any tapes of what went on in traffic control towers. The commission learned about the tapes by accident and had to issue subpoenas to get them. NSA documents were only made available days before the report was to go to the printer. Speaker Dennis Hastert blocked the commission’s access to materials gathered by the House, even though one commissioner had just left Congress and had had access to those materials. . A close reading of the evidence indicates that the CIA twice warned President Bush that Al Qaeda was ready to seize planes in the United States and attack in the United States. Jane Mayer demonstrated that the CIA frequently briefed Bush on Al Qaeda.

Moreover, the evidence suggest that national security advisor deliberately mischaracterized the famous August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing paper, as did the White House press secretary. She seemed to be almost consistently duplicitous when discussing the National Security Council’s approach to terrorism. There is no good evidence that the staff director Philip Zelikow was planted by the White House. He had been on Bush’s transition team and had drafted a paper that helped justify the invasion of Iraq. It is clear that this good friend of Condoleezza Rice created a very hostile work environment for the staff, alienated and demeaned the 9/11 widows, and worked consistently to cover up Bush administration failures. He was accused by staff of trying to sabotage subpoenaing NORAD tapes, which were crucial for the investigation. He was in telephone contact with Carl Rove, visited Condoleezza Rice, and instructed his secretary not to log White House phone calls. Zelikow, who later became Counsellor at the State Department, was briefed on the findings of the Able Danger intelligence project on Al Qaeda, but did not let the commission see the information. To avoid internal turmoil, the commission ecided assign any blame for what had happened. Its report became the official story, from which mainstream journalists and historians would have to work.