Rejoinder: Speculation is not a Substitute for the Facts
By Will Banyan (Copyright 10 January 2015)
In his response to my article, Nicholas Hagger has sought to shore up the claim made by him and other researchers that David Rockefeller was somehow involved in the ouster of Nikita Khrushchev. In so doing, however, Hagger opts for a number of tactics that only serve to highlight the serious shortcomings of the research methodology utilised in his book The Syndicate; as well as the severe gap between his claims to scholarly objectivity and what he actually delivers. But the primary shortcoming of his defence is what seems to be his argument that the facts are optional and can be disregarded and replaced with speculation if they do not fit with the overall “pattern”.
The “Pattern” Lacks Integrity
Hagger gamely suggests that his book The Syndicate provided “context for activities of the New World Order and focused on the evidence”. His writes that his book “presented (say) a thousand facts like pieces of a jigsaw and fitted them together to convey a picture and a pattern.” This seemingly magnanimous approach apparently involved inviting the reader to pass judgement on whether the “New World Order” was desirable, included caveats acknowledging some of the evidence would not stand up in court, and concluded with a case for the “prosecution and defence”. In short, Hagger seems to be suggesting that The Syndicate embodied scholarly detachment, that it was balanced, and committed to the facts.
For these intimations to scholarly objectivity to be considered even remotely plausible, Hagger would need to demonstrate some even-handedness in his consideration of the allegations addressed in his book, and the evidence that supports them. Yet close scrutiny of The Syndicate shows this to be a false hope. Hagger casually boasts of “109 pages of notes/sources”, and indeed there are 660 endnotes filled with various references and commentary, but the majority of these references are to books that argue there is a nefarious conspiracy to establish a totalitarian world government.
To give a few examples: Emanuel Josephson is referenced 78 times; Daniel Rivera’s Final Warning: A History of the New World Order is cited 97 times; John Daniel’s The Scarlet and the Beast, 72 times; there are 25 citations of James Perloff’s The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline; Antony Sutton’s books are cited 26 times; Des Griffin’s two books (Descent into Slavery and Fourth Reich of the Rich) are cited 13 times; self-identified former MI6 agent John Coleman’s books are referenced 40 times; the works of Eustace Mullins are referred to 15 times; and Lindsay Evans’ Britain Held Hostage: The Coming Euro-Dictatorship (1997) is referenced 16 times.
References to academic works in The Syndicate are much fewer and far between. Niall Ferguson’s history of the House of Rothschild is cited only 10 times; Shoup and Minter’s history of Council on Foreign Relations is referenced just once, while other academic works on the CFR, such as Robert Schulzinger’s Wise Men of Foreign Affairs (1984) and Michael Wala’s The Council on Foreign Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Early Cold War (1994) (both of which would have been available to the British-based Hagger) are completely absent. The only academic source on the Round Table cited in The Syndicate is by Carroll Quigley, who is cited just 16 times – all other academic works on the Round Table is ignored. Hagger also appears to have allergic reaction to primary sources; more are listed in his Bibliography (as in the case of Rockefeller’s Memoirs and the Round Table journal) than are actually used.
In short, it is clear that the books alleging a New World Order conspiracy are Hagger’s preferred “evidence”, and consequently he makes few if any attempts to ascertain whether the allegations made in these books are true (only Coleman’s claims about the “Committee of 300” are subject to any critical scrutiny, though this a rudimentary exercise). This preference is made clear in the “Note to Readers on the Quality of Sources” (The Syndicate, p.325), where the reader is informed the sources were selected according to their “evidence of years, if not decades, of deep thinking in this area, impressive research, and a measure of balance and, where possible, impartiality.” Anyone familiar with these works will note not only the poor research and frequent conjecture, but their shrill tone and acute lack of balance. Hagger, though, can only concede that “indignation and outrage” may have “colored the impartiality of their work.” But Hagger finishes his “Note” by erasing all doubt as to his disinterest in testing any of their claims when he credits “Rivera, Daniel, Coleman, Mullins, and Josephson” with helping him to “arrive at the truth” (p.327).
This is of course consistent with Hagger’s aim of merely inviting readers to consider whether the conspiracy detailed in The Syndicate is something to be feared, rather than if it is actually true. This approach is akin to producing an assessment of Barack Obama’s presidency based on nothing more than Republican Party election propaganda, or a book considering the virtues of Kim Jong-Un using Korean Central News Agency reporting as one’s primary source. Establishing whether there is a conspiracy to establish a “World State” should be the first order for any serious study of the New World Order, this cannot be achieved by uncritically recycling the allegations made by those authors who claim there is a conspiracy. Their claims need to be tested. Yet, it would seem that in the case of The Syndicate, no such testing occurs, and the result is a blatantly one-sided account. This in turn calls into question the very integrity of Hagger’s much vaunted “pattern.”
Facts vs. Speculation
I should note that overall accuracy of the “pattern” that clearly exercises Hagger was not the subject of my original article. My focus was on the persistence of a myth that David Rockefeller’s meeting with Khrushchev in 1964 directly led to latter’s ousting, and to note this story was based on speculation that many researchers continued to promote despite the release of numerous sources which cast doubt on the more sensational version. But in his defence of his original contention, Hagger attempts to argue that the broader picture (i.e. the “pattern”) provides a context through which one can understand that Rockefeller being involved in the ousting of Khrushchev is possible.
Hagger’s approach, however, suggests a methodology where what counts as “evidence” is determined by what the researcher wants to believe, rather than what the facts actually are. Not surprisingly this flexible attitude towards establishing exactly what happened is reflected in the numerous errors in Hagger’s original account of the Rockefeller-Khrushchev meeting in The Syndicate, which drew largely on Emanuel Josephson’s fabrications:
- Hagger repeated Josephson’s error that Rockefeller was in Leningrad for a “Bilderberg” conference, when it was actually a Dartmouth conference.
- Hagger repeated Josephson’s fabrication that Khrushchev practically begged Rockefeller to come to visit him, when the records show that Rockefeller had gone to the USSR knowing the meeting was likely, as a scheduled meeting between Khrushchev and Dartmouth founder (and world government advocate) Norman Cousins could not go ahead. Rockefeller had sought advice from the US State Department on what to say at the meeting.
- Hagger, again channelling Josephson, claimed Rockefeller and Khrushchev had a “difficult” meeting, with the plutocrat chastising the Soviet premier for his apparent failure to protect Rockefeller “oil interests in China”. But the records of the meeting show that the discord was over Communist activities in Cuba and Southeast Asia, and the USSR’s lack of interest in paying off its Lend-Lease debts.
Now, in an attempt to partially update his account, Hagger finally consults Rockefeller’s Memoirs and suggests that his contention that Khrushchev was ousted “because of his failure to advance Rockefeller’s oil and banking interests” is supported by the meeting transcript reproduced in Memoirs. Hagger cites the Rockefeller-Khrushchev exchanges on China and on trade as the most supportive, but this is drawing a very long bow.
For one, there is no direct mention of Rockefeller’s oil and banking interests that were supposedly jeopardised by what Rockefeller claimed were the “aggressive policies” of the PRC and North Vietnam towards South Vietnam. And if Hagger has accepted the transcript as accurate, then he must acknowledge that at no point does Rockefeller mention his personal “business interests” at any point in the discussion. Instead Rockefeller’s criticisms of Soviet policy towards China, South Vietnam and Cuba reflected broader US strategic concerns. True, there may have been some economic benefits for Chase Manhattan in restraining Communist activities in Southeast Asia and Latin America, but neither Rockefeller’s heated exchange with Khrushchev, nor Khrushchev’s subsequent ouster had any impact on future Soviet policies in either geopolitical sphere: the USSR continued to support Cuba, provided arms and advisers (as did China) to North Vietnam, and its relations with China remained strained until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Hagger acknowledges that Khrushchev contested Rockefeller’s points but then suggests the “unsatisfactory meeting” may have “influenced the actions of the conspirators.” Hagger acknowledges he has no evidence, but invokes that old conspiratorial stand-by: the evidence has been deliberately suppressed and hidden. He notes that “two of the conspirators had strong KGB links” and suggests the KGB would have excluded evidence of a Western influence on the coup against Khrushchev. Hagger also cites his own experience with coup-plotting in Libya, which is apparently not documented, to suggest that:
In the same way, because there is no hard evidence for Rockefeller’s influence on the KGB/Soviet conspirators, we cannot say with certainty that such an influence or contact never happened.
Perhaps. Though it is hard not to see in Hagger’s phrasing an echo of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s use of the phrase “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”, when queried in 2002 on Saddam Hussein’s alleged willingness to transfer his WMD to terrorists. Of course no WMD was found, and the notion that Saddam would have provided his WMD to a third-party no longer seems credible. But the failure to discover Iraq’s mythical WMD stockpiles has not stopped former Bush Administration members from fantasising that Saddam Hussein must have smuggled his WMD into Syria ahead of the US invasion in 2003. Hagger employs this tactic in the same fashion: he presents his belief that such “evidence” of Rockefeller influence over Kremlin politics has been hidden as his evidence that it did occur. It’s also, conveniently, impossible to disprove.
Hagger also suggests Rockefeller’s subsequent relationship with coup plotter Alexei Kosygin suggests a pattern. Illustrated with selected quotes from Memoirs, this certainly appears at face value to reveal a long-term relationship. But Hagger overreaches and distorts Rockefeller’s account when he suggests that Rockefeller “benefitted from Khrushchev’s removal ‘almost every year during the 1970s’.” Rockefeller notes that he “first met Kosygin in the summer of 1971”, after a Dartmouth conference and seven years after Khrushchev’s ouster. While Rockefeller acknowledges that his communications with Kosygin, who became his “principal government contact”, were “pragmatic and business-orientated” (p.238), he also notes that his business activities in the USSR were “tightly circumscribed” and laments that for Chase and other US banks allowed to establish themselves in Moscow, “the Soviet market never developed for any of us…” (p.237).
It is important to recall the context for all of this: Rockefeller did not have contact with Kosygin until seven years after Khrushchev’s ouster, which naturally begs the question as to why it took so long for the coup to deliver any sort of benefit to Rockefeller. A more plausible explanation is that Rockefeller’s contacts with Kosygin owed more to the policy of detente introduced by the Nixon Administration than his supposed involvement in Khrushchev’s removal. Then there is the fact that despite the enormous political power Rockefeller supposedly wielded in the Soviet Union, his pursuit of closer business ties with the Communist bloc delivered such marginal economic benefits.
It is also worth considering why Khrushchev was eager to talk to David Rockefeller: as Rockefeller had noted in his Memoirs, the Soviets believed that he had enormous power in the US political system. Despite his modest denials, Rockefeller’s influence was considerable, though not as omnipotent as either the Soviets or many US conspiracists appear to believe. Khrushchev presumably saw value in talking to Rockefeller as they believed, rightly, that he had access across the US political system to the people that mattered. This belief can also be seen Kosygin’s lobbying of Rockefeller and his Dartmouth colleagues “to remove the obstacles” within the US to increased trade with the Soviet Union (p.238). Though with the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Trade Reform Act, which “killed any possibility of a trade accord between the United States and the USSR” (p.236), the limits to Rockefeller’s power became apparent, and in 1975 he faced a Kosygin who “displayed a confrontational style I had not seen before” (p.239).
On the “Council of Elders” that Hagger seems to put so much store in, here is a definition from the Farlex Free Dictionary, sourced from The Great Soviet Encyclopaedia, 3rd edition (1970-1979):
In the USSR, a consultative body formed on the strength of experience accumulated by each chamber of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and by the supreme soviets of Union and autonomous republics. The Council of Elders meets, jointly or singly, to hold a preliminary discussion of organizational questions concerning the work of the session—for example, the agenda, the sequence in which reports will be heard, and proposals concerning the personnel of the working bodies of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and its chambers.
As to whether this body had anything to do with Khrushchev’s ouster, as Hagger appears to believe, researchers interested in pursuing this further can do so by consulting the various tomes on Kremlin politics that are gathering dust in university libraries across the Western world.
Hagger also makes a remarkable attempt to defend his inaccurate claim – drawn from Emanuel Josephson – that Rockefeller was attending a “Bilderberg conference” in Leningrad in July 1964. He makes a series of unsourced claims that the Dartmouth Conferences were established “under the umbrella of the Bilderberg meetings”, and then adds that a “number of sources link the Dartmouth conferences to the Bilderberg meetings.” Yet Hagger manages to cite only one supposedly authoritative source: the same Emanuel Josephson book from which he first drew his inaccurate claim. If Hagger really believes that the Dartmouth Conference is the offspring of Bilderberg, he would do well to find some more convincing sources than repeating the unreliable claims of the author of Breathe Deeply and Avoid Colds (1957).
Finally Hagger offers an unconvincing and inadequate explanation as to why Rockefeller’s Memoirs are listed in the Bibliography but not actually cited anywhere else in The Syndicate. He claims they arrived “too late” for inclusion but he was able “add it to the Bibliography of the final proof.” This seems misleading: if Rockefeller’s Memoirs was not used, then why include it? One might also ask why Hagger failed to refer to Memoirs in his account of the Khrushchev-Rockefeller meeting in his subsequent book The Secret American Dream (2011). As noted previously, that book’s account merely summarises the version that appears in The Syndicate, with similar references.
In conclusion, reading Hagger’s response it is hard not to come to the conclusion that he believes that the broader “pattern” overrides the need to re-check sources and test controversial claims. The notion that a US businessman could have a decisive influence on Soviet internal politics in the 1960s is a truly extraordinary claim. Indeed, if true, it would have enormous ramifications for our understanding of the Cold War and the Soviet political system. To dismiss the need to check sources more carefully, particularly when those making the claims appear to have little direct evidence, thus strikes me as remarkable, if not reckless. Yet that is exactly what Hagger appears to be advocating.
In the case of The Syndicate it is evident that no effort was made by Hagger to check the accuracy of Emanuel Josephson’s claims about any aspect of Rockefeller’s relations with the Soviets or what happened during the meeting. There is no indication that Hagger even bothered to find the sole mainstream media source cited by Josephson on the Rockefeller-Khrushchev meeting – a two part article in the New Yorker – to check that Josephson accurately reported it. Nor did he consider other sources that were available at time. Moreover, neither Josephson, nor any other advocate of this theory has provided any first-hand evidence that would support their version, or even invoked the existence of a secret source on either side of the Iron Curtain. The whole story is built on speculation and that is no substitute for facts.
I say again: check your sources gentlemen!