ALBERTA VILLAGE: BARAGASTAN, Saturday, May 28, 2015 — Back in my suit and loose-tie days ( ended May Day, 18 years ago) one of my many tasks involved gathering intel on social and political developments in all the 150 or so countries where we operated. Much good info was fed to the Home Office by our employees, but we also relied on consultants and other means of keeping up with goings-on and focusing intel concerns for the future. One of my primary sources was INTELLIGENCE DIGEST: A REVIEW OF WORLD AFFAIRS, edited by Joseph de Courcy, some of whose relatives created the Intelligence group in 1934 with the aim of helping American and British business interests look at current and future risks. It was pricy when I subscribed, $500 a year, if I remember correctly, but well worth the expense, which was a fly drop in the corporate budget. The fact that the pub had such a long life was a pretty damn good indicator of its intrinsic value.
Jump now, today to be precise, and I found a pile of the old journals and was perusing them, and decided to share some of the observations that were being circulated way back in 1995 and 1996. The first of the two pieces makes me think immediately about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders supporters and all that surrounds those unexpected movements – think fruits of mass frustration.
“Taming the Terrorists” — (2 Aug 1996) — Once it became clear that the Atlanta bombing was the work of international terrorists, the finger of suspicion turned automatically to American right-wing malcontents. Even if proved innocent of this particular incident, there is little doubt that significant parts of white conservative America are now sufficiently resentful of central government as to be capable of throwing up occasional individuals prepared to resort to violence as an expression of their resentments. Given that America is the world’s most advanced democracy this needs some explaining to non-Americans.
The first thing to point out when considering what motivates such extreme action is that it is not in the least bit relevant whether the fears and resentments are justified. People are motivated by what they believe to be true not by what is actually true, and in backwoods America there is widespread resentment against a governmental system that is seen to be overbearing, particularly through the actions of such agencies as the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and firearms, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that minority groups that are considered less-deserving are seen to be pampered by the system.
The resentment of the conservative outsiders is further fueled by the proliferation of conspiracy theories (at the heart of which there is often more than a germ of truth) about the manipulation of American foreign and domestic policy by powerful and shadowy groups of Establishment insiders.
It is felt that administrations of all colours, certainly since Ronald Reagan gave way to George Bush, are manipulated by these interests and that the normal political process is no longer able to rectify what is wrong with America.
The Clinton Record
To all this is added the widely circulated reports about the misconduct – and worse – of President Clinton.
It is generally believed in conservative circles in the United States that President Clinton and his entourage are up to everything from drug running to murder, including killing White House aide Vince Foster (who is officially said to have committed suicide) and Commerce Secretary Ron Brown (whose plane crashed in Croatia) in order to prevent the exposure of past crimes.
Against such a background it is not difficult to see how the outsider is able to justify to himself the taking of unlawful action – even to the extent of shedding innocent blood.
The wider issues
But motive is not everything. Opportunity plays its part, and never have the opportunities for terrorism been better. Importantly, this point applies throughout the industrial world and not just in the United States.
Provided the target is a soft one, terrorism requires neither a great deal of money nor great expertise – and returns in terms of damage and created publicity received can be enormous.(The last IRA bomb in London caused $150M worth of damage – and it would be almost impossible to calculate how much a commercial operation would have to spend on advertising to get the amount of media coverage that the Atlanta bomb received.)
Furthermore, the downside risk is seen to be outweighed by the potential rewards. Anyone misguided enough to believe that their cause justifies the indiscriminate taking of innocent lives would not have trouble in persuading themselves that one day they might join the long list of terrorists now feted in the White House and Buckingham Palace.
“Peace Treaties Do Not Mean Peace.” – 6 Oct 1995)
The lesson of history is that peace treaties are just so much paper. Peace is kept by the balance of power, not fine words. The latest accord with the PLO and Israel will be no exception and needs to be judged by the measures of realpolitik not romantic idealism.
…The romantics should re-read the history of the Locarno pact, the series of diplomatic documents that were initialized in Locarno Switzerland on 16 Oct 1925 and formally signed in London on 1 Dec 1925. There has never been a more handsome treaty. Germany, Belgium, and France bound themselves to recognize as inviolable their existing mutual frontiers and the demilitarization of the Rhineland. The three countries further pledged that in no case would they attack, invade, or resort to war against one another. All these obligations were guaranteed by Italy and England.
An in case that was not enough, by the Kellogg Pact of 1928 the world’s nations renounced war as an instrument of policy. Neither document prevented the most- destructive war in history.
Pretty damn good thinking and reporting for two decades ago. Why do I post this? Because I love among and write about the “Backwoods America De Courcy writes about and because all the sorts of things he is reporting two decades ago are common topics of discussion — not domestic terrorism – but massive social discontent and an integral part of the fabric of the people and stories I write about. Think about it.