|May 8, 2006|
On the Conspiracy Theory
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
In his New York Times column of May 4, 2006, “The Paranoid Style,” David Brooks takes apart Kevin Phillips, author of American Theocracy: Tying Religion and Politics to an Impending U.S. Decline for engaging in “conspiracy theorizing” focused on the Republican Right and Republican Administrations, in both the foreign and domestic policy arenas. Given that this book is being heavily promoted by us here at BuzzFlash, this is a charge that we need to take seriously.
Although Brooks fails to do so, for the purposes of this review, let us first define the term. From its Latin root the word “conspiracy” means literally “with a secret.” In English usage, it refers to a secret plan, developed and implemented by a secret group. Further, if and when the desired outcome is achieved, the plan includes a basis for claiming that that outcome is not the result of any conspiracy. Public deniability is an absolutely essential element of any government-generated conspiracy. In this light, let us consider some foreign policy actions undertaken by Republican administrations since the 1950s.
In 1953 the government of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, was overthrown in a coup secretly organized by Theodore Roosevelt’s son Kermit, working for the CIA. The coup was claimed to be indigenous at the time. The formerly pro-Nazi Shah was re-installed on his throne and an essentially fascist regime was established. The secret U.S. involvement couldn’t possibly be termed a conspiracy, could it?
In 1954, the democratically elected government of Guatemala’s Pres. Jacopo Arbenz was overthrown by a military coup secretly organized by the CIA, although it was claimed to be indigenous at the time. The secret U.S. involvement couldn’t possibly be termed a conspiracy, could it?
In 1973, the democratically elected government of President Salvadore Allende of Chile was overthrown in a military coup secretly organized by the U.S., under the leadership of the then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Richard Helms, Director of the CIA. At the time, any and all U.S. participation was denied, even though Kissinger had started a secret anti-Allende campaign even before he took office in 1970. The secret U.S. involvement couldn’t possibly be termed a conspiracy, could it?
One could cite numerous other examples, from the totally secretive Reagan/North Iran/Contra affair to the Georgite invasion of Iraq under totally false pretenses, actually based on a not-so-secret plan for Middle East dominance and petroleum-supply security drawn up by Project for the New American Century in the mid-1990s, that was nevertheless not acknowledged as having anything to do with the Iraq invasion. The secret or falsely premised U.S. involvements couldn’t possibly be termed conspiracies, could they?
From this review, surely are we forced to come to the same conclusion as David Brooks: "when the left feels disinherited, liberals seize upon the conspiracy fantasies of Kevin Phillips?" Aren't we? Well, no. Upon a review of the evidence one must conclude that Brooks can see a conspiracy only when it is committed by a member of the opposite party. (And Democratic Administrations have done them too: JFK with the Bay of Pigs and the planned invasion of Cuba in 1962, Johnson with Brazil in 1964, the Dominican Republic in 1965, and Tonkin Gulf.) Republican administrations have been up to their eyeballs in foreign policy conspiracies for the past half-century. With that in mind, Dave, why don't you take a re-look at Mr. Phillips book? It brilliantly adds to the Republican criminal record.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and a weekly Contributing Author for The Political Junkies (www.thepoliticaljunkies.net).
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