The At­lantic Coun­cil: An­other Shadow Government of the United States?

Trillions - - Contents -

When Face­book an­nounced in mid-may it was part­ner­ing with the At­lantic Coun­cil to help keep dis­in­for­ma­tion off its web­site, two ques­tions came up. Why would! Face­book! do! this, when! it has the re­sources! on !its !own? And who is this At­lantic Coun­cil?

It turns out an­swer­ing the sec­ond ques­tion about who the At­lantic Coun­cil is and what it rep­re­sents pro­vides more than enough of an an­swer to why Face­book would part­ner with them.

Its own web­site at­lantic­coun­ is or­ga­nized more in terms of com­men­tary and con­tent, and! far less about mission and pur­pose. It does give hints of how it wants one to think about it on its “about” page, in which it says that, “The Coun­cil pro­vides an es­sen­tial fo­rum for nav­i­gat­ing the dra­matic eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal changes defin­ing the twen­ty­first century by in­form­ing and gal­va­niz­ing its uniquely in­flu­en­tial net­work of global lead­ers.” Un­for­tu­nately, that comes across as so much mar­ket­ing-speak that it does not re­ally tell one any­thing.

Its Wikipedia page at least pro­vides some in­sight into how the or­ga­ni­za­tion came to be. This Wash­ing­ton, D.C. based think tank was founded in 1961 with, as it says, “a mission to en­cour­age the con­tin­u­a­tion of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween North Amer­ica and Europe that be­gan af­ter World War II”. It did so ini­tially by pub­lish­ing pol­icy pa­pers and then later by spon­sor­ing gath­er­ings be­tween groups of peo­ple. Later on, those gath­er­ings, which in­clude some of the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal power elite from both sides of the aisle in Congress and from coun­tries around the world, started to take on more of a role in driv­ing what the or­ga­ni­za­tion does.

Un­for­tu­nately, when one gets past the ini­tial de­scrip­tions on the Wikipedia page, it be­comes close to im­pos­si­ble to! parse it for any­thing other than glow­ing praise for the group. Even Wikipedia it­self has a warn­ing at the top of its page say­ing that “This ar­ti­cle con­tains con­tent that is writ­ten like an ad­ver­tise­ment”, and asks for help from its read­ers to clean it up so the truth about it is eas­ier to un­der­stand.

Fol­low the Money

To dig deeper, one of the best ways to un­der­stand the mission of this and any or­ga­ni­za­tion is to un­der­stand who is be­hind its fund­ing for it. There one of the best

guides is the At­lantic Coun­cil web­site it­self. In its list of Cor­po­rate Back­ers, it lists the fol­low­ing as ma­jor con­trib­u­tors:

Global Lead­er­ship Cir­cle (with con­tri­bu­tions of $100,000 and above):

Air­bus, Baker Mcken­zie, Black­stone, Ca­lik Hold­ing, Che­niere, Chevron, Den­tons, Eni, Ford, Fron­tera Re­sources, gen­eral Atomics Aero­nau­ti­cal, Halk­bank, HNA, Ih­las Hold­ing, Kul­czyk In­vest­ments, Li­mak, Lock­heed Martin, MNG Ven­tures, Thomson Reuters, SAAB, The Scowcroft Group, Squire Patton Boggs, Thales, To­tal Wine & More, Turk­ish Air­lines, United Tech­nolo­gies, and Zurich.

Chair­man’s Cir­cle ($50,000 - $99,999):

21st Century Fox, ANA Hold­ings, Inc., Arab Bank, Boe­ing, Chubb Lim­ited/chubb Group, CIGNA Cor­po­ra­tion, Coca-cola Com­pany, DLA Piper LLP, Equinor, Gen­eral Atomics, Hanes­brands, KraussMaf­fei Weg­gmann, Leonardo, Len­nar Cor­po­ra­tion, Raytheon, SAIC, S&P Global, Sev­er­stral Group, SICPA S.A., To­tal S.A., and Zurich In­sur­ance Group Ltd.

Pres­i­dent’s Cir­cle ($25,000 - $49,999):

Ac­cen­ture Fed­eral Ser­vices, BP Plc, Chil­dren’s Na­tional Med­i­cal Cen­ter, Cono­cophilips, Ernst & Young LP, First Eastern (Hold­ings) Ltd., Lei­dos Hold­ings, Inc., Lex­is­nexis Le­gal & Pro­fes­sional, Mannheim LLC, Maroc Telema­tique, MBDA In­cor­po­rated, Mclarty As­so­ciates, Meridiam SAS, Metlife, Inc., Pa­triot Group In­ter­na­tional, Penguin Ran­dom House, Re­nais­sance Strate­gic Ad­vi­sors, Tex­tron, United States Cham­ber of Com­merce, Wal-mart Stores.

Re­or­ga­niz­ing these by types of com­pa­nies, the af­fil­i­a­tions be­come clearer:

• A sig­nif­i­cant rep­re­sen­ta­tion of ma­jor de­fense con­trac­tors (Black­stone, Lock­heed Martin, Raytheon, SAIC)

• Lead­ing in­ter­na­tional con­sul­tan­cies and project man­age­ment firms (Ac­cen­ture Fed­eral Ser­vices, Baker Mcken­zie, Re­nais­sance Strate­gic Ad­vi­sors, The Scowcroft Group,

• Many of the world largest oil com­pa­nies (BP, Chevron, Cono­cophillips, eni, To­tal)

• Ma­jor Aero­space Com­pa­nies (in­clud­ing Boe­ing, SAAB, Thales, United Tech­nolo­gies)

• Ma­jor bank­ing and fi­nan­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions (in­clud­ing in­sur­ance or­ga­ni­za­tions) (Arab Bank, Chubb Lim­ited/chubb Group, Halk­bank, Marsh & Mclen­nan, Metlife, Pa­triot Group In­ter­na­tional, Zurich, Zurich In­sur­ance Group) Even more il­lu­mi­nat­ing is what the At­lantic Coun­cil refers to as its Honor Roll of Con­trib­u­tors. It is this group which lays bare both the in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal pow­ers that have ma­jor in­flu­ence on the Coun­cil’s work. These in­clude:

At the $1,000,000 and above level:

Adri­enne Ar­sht (a phi­lan­thropist who made her for­tune in the Florida bank­ing industry), Ba­haa Hariri (a Le­banese-saudi bil­lion­aire and the brother of Le­banese Prime Min­is­ter Saad Hariri), United Arab Emi­rates.

$250,000 - $999,999:

This group in­cludes a num­ber of ma­jor oil com­pa­nies, just as in the pre­vi­ous cor­po­rate donor list, plus sev­eral ma­jor cor­po­rate donors. It also shows (high­lighted in bold) the mem­ber­ship by in­ter­na­tional mil­i­tary/de­fense or­ga­ni­za­tions and for­eign coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Abu Dhabi Na­tional Oil Com­pany, Air­bus Group SE, Carnegie Cor­po­ra­tion of New York, Che­niere Energy, Inc., Chevron, Cres­cent Pe­tro­leum, Den­tons, For­eign & Com­mon­wealth Of­fice of the United King­dom, Fron­tera Re­sources, Anis Hag­gar, Mar­i­anne and Mar­cus Wal­len­berg Foun­da­tion, MNG Group of Com­pa­nies, NATO, OCP Foun­da­tion, QUAL­COMM In­cor­po­rated, Royal Nor­we­gian Min­istry of De­fence, Saab North Amer­ica, Inc., SCM Hold­ings, SICPA Hold­ing SA, Smith Richard­son Foun­da­tion, Inc., Swedish Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, Zurich In­sur­ance Group Ltd.

The next lev­els down in do­na­tions are so nu­mer­ous it is not as im­por­tant to list them all as it is to list spe­cific cat­e­gories of con­trib­u­tors who are al­ways pro­vid­ing fund­ing to the Coun­cil. These in­clude:

• U.S. De­fense Agen­cies: United States Air Force,! United States Army, United States Ma­rine Corps,! United States Navy

• For­eign Coun­tries or Af­fil­i­ates: Min­istry of For­eign! Af­fairs of the Repub­lic of Fin­land, Korea Foun­da­tion, Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs for the Repub­lic! of Korea, Min­istry of De­fense of Latvia, Min­istry of! De­fense of the Repub­lic of Lithua­nia, Min­istry of! For­eign Af­fairs and Euro­pean In­te­gra­tion of Mon­tene­gro, Moroc­can-amer­i­can Cul­tural Cen­ter Inc.,! Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs of the Repub­lic of Cyprus, Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs of Slo­vakia, Min­istry of For­eign and Euro­pean Af­fairs of the Grand! Duchy of Lux­em­bourg, Us-an­gola Cham­ber of! Com­merce

• Bank­ing and Fi­nance: J.P. Mor­gan Chase & Co.,! Metlife

• Oil Com­pa­nies: BP Amer­ica Inc., Cono­cophillips,! Eni, Exxonmo­bil, Royal Dutch Shell, Sem­pra Energy,

Sta­toil ASA (Nor­way), Türkiye Petrol­leri Anonim Or­tak­lığı §

All these fund­ing lists, added to the many large cor­po­ra­tions (such as Wal-mart and In­tel) which are also rep­re­sented in the! above, and one has a bet­ter feel­ing for what the coun­cil is about. This is noth­ing less than a fund­ing body! made up of the es­tab­lished and set­tled power elite. This is a group ded­i­cated to pre­serv­ing the sta­tus quo of the on­go­ing war industry.. It in­cludes many rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the NATO al­liance. It in­cludes strong rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Arab in­flu­ences, in­clud­ing two of the top donors on the Honor Roll com­ing from a Le­banese-saudi bil­lion­aire and the United Arab Emi­rates, plus! the Arab Bank, whose head­quar­ters is in Am­man, Jor­dan. It also in­cludes rep­re­sen­ta­tives from some of the most pow­er­ful oil com­pa­nies of the world. These or­ga­ni­za­tions and their con­sol­i­dated in­ter­ests con­trol what this ex­tremely wealthy lob­by­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion does, as! it! re­lates!to!shap­ing!pol­icy!in!the!united!states.

If that were not proof enough, ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle from The New York Times in Au­gust 2016, the At­lantic Coun­cil had over ten years ear­lier made an­nounce­ments of­fer­ing “ac­cess to United States and for­eign government of­fi­cials in ex­change for con­tri­bu­tions”. This pol­icy was cred­ited for! why the Coun­cil’s an­nual rev­enues had soared in the ten years be­fore 2016 from $2 mil­lion to $21 mil­lion.

The Coun­cil’s Pro­grams

The Coun­cil has ma­jor ini­tia­tives in many ar­eas, ded­i­cated to serv­ing the in­ter­ests of those who pay the bills. Sev­eral of the more in­flu­en­tial of these are high­lighted be­low.

The Global Energy Cen­ter. This ap­pears to take a pos­i­tive po­si­tion to­wards elim­i­na­tion of green­house gases and the shift to re­new­able energy. A re­cent po­si­tion paper in the Coun­cil’s web­site speaks of “Trans­form­ing the Power Sec­tor in De­vel­op­ing Coun­tries: The Crit­i­cal Role of China in Post-paris Im­ple­men­ta­tion” and dis­cusses the im­por­tance of mov­ing to cleaner energy sources. Yet other head­lines in the same sec­tion are clearly walk­ing both sides of the talk on the sub­ject. One praises drilling in the East Mediter­ranean as “A Mile­stone in Turk­ish Energy His­tory”, and an­other fa­vor­ably re­views the “In­au­gu­ra­tion of TANAP Nat­u­ral Gas Pipeline”

The Scowcroft Cen­ter for Strat­egy and Se­cu­rity. This group ac­tively fol­lows global geopo­lit­i­cal events and rec­om­mends pol­icy ac­tions which can be fol­lowed by the U.S. as well as other for­eign gov­ern­ments who are part of this Coun­cil’s ac­tiv­i­ties, along with de­fense con­trac­tors and the U.S. de­fense agen­cies. Re­cent top­ics the group works on as of this writ­ing in­clude: “The Pos­si­bil­ity of a Trump-putin Sum­mit”, “Trump’s ‘Grand Bar­gain’ with Rus­sia is an Il­lu­sion”, and “The Af­ter­math of the Us-north Korea Sum­mit”. Think of this func­tion as the one which for­mu­lates the poli­cies which it would like to whis­per in the ear of the Pres­i­dent, his cabi­net, his staff, and the lead­ers of Congress.

The Dig­i­tal Foren­sic Re­search Lab. This is the pro­gram which is part­ner­ing with Face­book to look at dis­in­for­ma­tion on its web­site and help keep sto­ries truth­ful. Truth of course is de­fined here as what the Coun­cil would like to see go for­ward. So it will be un­der­stand­able if the Faus­tian bar­gain Face­book has struck with the At­lantic Coun­cil tends to sup­port the in­ter­ests of the Mil­i­tary-in­dus­trial Com­plex, NATO, Big Busi­ness, and the Fos­sil Fuel Industry. Those are, af­ter all, the groups fund­ing the Coun­cil. It would be fool­ish to ex­pect any­thing else from the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Two Spe­cific Ex­am­ples from the News of What The Coun­cil Stands For

As a fur­ther il­lus­tra­tion of what the At­lantic Coun­cil is all about, two news threads will help.

The Dis­info Por­tal

This new ini­tia­tive, Dis­in­fo­por­, was launched by the At­lantic Coun­cil on June 6, 2018. Ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s home web­site, this of­fers to pro­vide “an in­ter­ac­tive online guide to track the Krem­lin’s dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns abroad”. Sup­ported by “23 top or­ga­ni­za­tions and more than 80 ex­perts”, it is clearly a well-staffed and well-funded ef­fort by the Coun­cil to make sure its opin­ion on what is Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda and what is the truth are well-doc­u­mented.

One prob­lem with the ini­tia­tive is that in­stead of struc­tur­ing an open di­a­log on the topic of dis­in­for­ma­tion, the Coun­cil’s web­site dives right in with its own form of pro­pa­ganda to tilt the scales in its di­rec­tion. As an ex­am­ple of that, the land­ing page opens with gi­ant words say­ing that, “In 2014, Putin in­vaded Ukraine in the first an­nex­a­tion of ter­ri­tory in Europe since World War II”. Graphic icons for tanks roll across the screen as fur­ther words come up speak­ing of how Moscow has lied about it. The en­try into Ukraine is one thing, but the con­tent is mis­lead­ing at best. Turkey’s an­nex­a­tion of North­ern Cyprus in 1974 was ac­tu­ally the first such an­nex­a­tion of ter­ri­tory in Europe since World War II. That in it­self may be a mi­nor point with the web­site, but the overblown graph­ics and way-too-over-the-top pre­sen­ta­tion are a bit much.

An­other prob­lem with the por­tal is its choice of “ex­perts”

staffing the project. They in­clude a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als with du­bi­ous cre­den­tials and re­ported bi­ases. All ap­pear to rep­re­sent pri­mar­ily the in­ter­ests of the NATO Al­liance and the de­fense industry, with few gen­uine deep thinkers or skilled pol­icy an­a­lysts to guide their work.

The Con­nec­tions to the Cor­rupt and Dic­ta­to­rial Power Elite

Al­though this comes from ear­lier events, the is­sues in­volved are still rel­e­vant and do il­lus­trate how some of the Coun­cil’s work pro­ceeds and what kind of peo­ple they back.

In 2012, the At­lantic Coun­cil found it­self in trou­ble when it held a party for Kaza­khstan’s au­thor­i­tar­ian regime. Kaza­khstan’s lead­er­ship has for some time been crit­i­cized for cor­rup­tion and hu­man rights abuses within the coun­try. That should have been enough to cause the Coun­cil, which sup­pos­edly rep­re­sents non­par­ti­san po­si­tions on in­ter­na­tional is­sues, to do any­thing but back the coun­try’s lead­er­ship. But then some­thing else leaked that made the sit­u­a­tion even worse. It turns out that Alexan­der V. Mirtchev, both then and now a mem­ber of the At­lantic Coun­cil’s Board of Di­rec­tors and its Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee, was at least at the time of the party some­one who was also a con­sul­tant for that regime.

The Coun­cil’s abil­ity to be in­flu­enced by money and rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the top was also il­lus­trated when not long af­ter Bahrain be­came one of the then top public donors to the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Shortly af­ter that, de­spite the coun­try’s lead­er­ship hav­ing spent over five years bru­tally block­ing pro-democ­racy ac­tivists on a daily ba­sis, the Coun­cil showed its true val­ues. In one of the doc­u­ments pub­lished at the time, the Coun­cil said about Bahrain that “no coun­try in the Gulf re­gion and per­haps in the broader Arab world has thought about and ex­per­i­mented with re­form more than the King­dom of Bahrain”. Large amounts of money clearly can cover over even the dark­est of deeds by a coun­try’s lead­er­ship –!at least in this case.

Yet an­other ex­am­ple of this ap­proach came with the At­lantic Coun­cil’s past sup­port of yet an­other dic­ta­to­rial regime. The coun­try, some­times re­ferred to as the “North Korea of Africa”, is ruled by dic­ta­tor Isa­ias Afw­erki. Dur­ing Afw­erki’s decades of con­trol he has used an iron hand to con­trol the coun­try. Part of the means he uses to keep those who might speak against him in check is to send dis­si­dents to pris­ons on tiny is­lands in the Red Sea. The United Na­tions has taken note of all Afw­erki has done, with ac­cu­sa­tions sev­eral years ago which in­cluded crimes against hu­man­ity, with de­tails of Afw­erki’s ap­proach to en­slave­ment, rape and tor­ture.

When the op­por­tu­nity came for the Coun­cil to speak up against that regime, the Coun­cil’s deputy Africa di­rec­tor Bron­wyn Bru­ton wrote in the New York Times in June 2016 that “it’s bad in Eritrea, but not that bad”. What she didn’t say – and which might have in­flu­enced how she said what she said – was that Canada-based Nevsun Re­sources, which at the time had ma­jor min­ing in­ter­ests in Eritrea, was a six-fig­ure At­lantic Coun­cil donor.

A more re­cent ex­am­ple of the same con­flicts of in­ter­est hap­pened in 2016. Then At­lantic Coun­cil CEO Fred­er­ick Kempe and his staff chose to honor Ali Bongo Mbon­impa, the dic­ta­tor of Gabon, with a “Global Cit­i­zen Award”. Bongo, whose back­ground in­cludes a ca­reer of cor­rup­tion and vi­o­lent re­pres­sion of dis­si­dents, was go­ing to be given the award for “his life of public ser­vice and ef­forts to im­prove the lives of the peo­ple of Gabon”. The Award Gala sched­uled for Septem­ber 19, 2016, never hap­pened. That was in part be­cause the Hu­man Rights Foun­da­tion is­sued a public state­ment con­demn­ing the Coun­cil for cel­e­brat­ing some­one with a long list of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, elec­tion fraud and klep­toc­racy. Even­tu­ally Kempe’s staff an­nounced that “due to over­rid­ing pri­or­i­ties he has in his coun­try”, Bongo would not be com­ing to New York as sched­uled to ac­cept his award.

Af­ter All That, What Is The At­lantic Coun­cil?

Al­though it clearly could use bet­ter con­trol of its mes­sag­ing and avoid pub­licly of­fer­ing to give out hu­man­i­tar­ian awards to bru­tal dic­ta­tors, the At­lantic Coun­cil clearly has the back­ing, con­nec­tions and ac­cess to ex­per­tise to in­flu­ence many gov­ern­ments and their pol­icy. It can have a ma­jor in­flu­ence on the United States in a be­hind-the-scenes role, while pro­tect­ing the in­ter­ests of the in­ter­na­tional mil­i­tary estab­lish­ment, the oil industry, and pock­ets of power such as the Mid­dle East.

Fur­ther, with its new ini­tia­tives such as the Dis­info Por­tal and what it is do­ing to help Face­book cleanse it­self of any news items which act counter to its in­ter­ests, the At­lantic Coun­cil ap­pears to be well on track to act as a pup­peteer of sorts to po­lit­i­cal power sources through­out the world. It may not yet be a full “shadow government” of the United States in the 21st century, but it cer­tainly has the po­ten­tial to take that role in the not-to-dis­tant fu­ture. This is an or­ga­ni­za­tion that bears watch­ing and ex­pos­ing in the years to come.

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