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Friday, June 6, 2008

Glenn Greenwald

NYT front page reports on McCain's reversal on spying, executive power

On Wednesday, I documented John McCain's complete reversal of views -- in the last six months alone -- on FISA, warrantless eavesdropping and executive power. McCain's diametrically opposite views were contained in a questionnaire McCain completed for The Boston Globe last December (wherein he rejected many of the Bush/Cheney theories of presidential omnipotence and warrantless eavesdropping) and then a statement McCain issued this week to National Review (wherein he embraced those same theories in order to persuade the Right that he approves of and would continue Bush's lawless surveillance policies).

The reporter who circulated the spying/executive power questionnaire in December to all of the candidates for the Globe was Charlie Savage, one of the very few national reporters who has reported continuously and insightfully about Bush's executive power abuses over the past several years. Savage won the Pulitzer Prize for his work exposing Bush's radical use of signing statements to vest himself with the power to break the law.

In what might be one of the most significant and under-noted media developments of the year, it was announced last month that Savage was leaving the Globe and joining The New York Times. Already, that move has paid dividends, as the NYT today publishes a front-page story by Savage detailing McCain's reversal this week. The article begins this way:

A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.
The article quotes my Wednesday column to make this point:
And Glenn Greenwald, a Salon columnist and critic of the Bush administration's legal claims, wrote that the statement was a "complete reversal" by Mr. McCain, accusing the candidate of seeking "to shore up the support of right-wing extremists."
An Obama spokesman was extremely critical of McCain's blatantly opportunistic switch: "anyone reading Mr. McCain's answers to The Globe and the more recent statement would be 'totally confused' about 'what Senator McCain thinks about what the Constitution means and what President Bush did.'" Amazingly, after being forced to repudiate comments by a McCain representative at a campaign event two weeks ago which suggested McCain would oppose telecom amnesty, McCain now appears close to repudiating the follow-up "clarifying" comments from another adviser, the one who gave the statement to National Review:
Asked whether the views Mr. Holtz-Eakin imputed to Mr. McCain were inaccurate, Mr. Bounds did not repudiate the statement. But late Thursday Mr. Bounds called and said, “to the extent that the comments of members of our staff are misinterpreted, they shouldn’t be read into as anything otherwise."

Neither Mr. McCain nor Mr. Holtz-Eakin, a former head of the Congressional Budget Office who primarily advises the campaign on economic issues, were available for comment, Mr. Bounds said.

I'm actually giving a seminar this morning on precisely these issues and thus don't have the time until later today to give Savage's article the attention it deserves. But as is typical, Savage's article is comprehensive and reports on all of the key facts.

There are two critical conclusions highlighted by this episode: (1) whether McCain embraces the Bush/Cheney/Yoo theories of the omnipotent executive is, far and away, one of the most vital questions of the campaign, since the vast bulk of the radicalism and accompanying controversies of the last eight years -- from spying to detention to torture to extreme government secrecy -- arise out of those theories; despite that fact, those issues have been missing almost entirely from the media's coverage of the campaign -- until now; and (2) despite how central these issues have been, McCain is simply incapable of forming a coherent position on what he thinks about any of this, dramatically changing his answers almost from one day to the next depending on who is asking. This behavior, culminating in his embrace this week of the Bush/Cheney/Yoo theories, severely undermines the two attributes the media relentlessly uses to depict him -- his "moderate" ideology and his straight-talking, principled independence.

-- Glenn Greenwald

Original here

Katrina Kerfuffle

McCain claims he "supported every investigation" into the government's role regarding the hurricane, when in fact he twice voted against an independent commission.
McCain was asked by a New Orleans reporter why he voted twice against an independent commission to investigate the government’s failings before and after Hurricane Katrina, and he incorrectly stated that he had "voted for every investigation."

McCain actually voted twice, in 2005 and 2006, to defeat a Democratic amendment that would have set up an independent commission along the lines of the 9/11 Commission. At the time of the second vote, members of both parties were complaining that the White House was refusing requests by Senate investigators for information.

The McCain campaign accused the Obama campaign of "tired negative attacks" for pointing out and documenting McCain’s gaffe.
A New Orleans television reporter asked John McCain at a June 4 town hall meeting in Louisiana why he had voted twice against the creation of a commission to investigate preparedness for Hurricane Katrina. McCain responded that he "supported every investigation and ways of finding out what caused the tragedy." That's not true.

McCain did, as the reporter said, twice vote against legislation that would have created an independent commission, much like the 9/11 Commission, to investigate the government's role in preparedness for and response to the hurricane. Here's the exchange:
Reporter: Senator, Maya Rodriguez at the CBS station out of New Orleans. My understanding is you have voted twice against the creation of a commission to investigate the levee failures in New Orleans. And my question is, why have you voted against that?

McCain: I’ve supported every investigation and ways of finding out what caused the tragedy. I’ve been here to New Orleans. I’ve met with people on the ground. I’ve met with the governor. I’m not familiar with exactly what you said, but I’ve been as active as anybody in efforts to restore the city.
The reporter was referring to votes on an amendment offered by Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2005 and 2006 to set up an independent commission to look into the government's actions regarding Katrina. The commission would have been made up of non-federal-government employees, appointed by the president and Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress. Republicans defeated both attempts, with yeas and nays cast completely along party lines.

Defending the White House

McCain lined up with his party at a time when the White House was being accused on all sides of withholding information from the Senate.

Before the second vote, on Feb. 2, 2006, Clinton charged: "We are seeing the administration withholding documents, testimony, and information from the ongoing investigations by the House and Senate."

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who co-chaired a Senate investigation into Katrina by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, argued against the measure, saying her committee "has been conducting a thoroughly comprehensive, bipartisan, and thorough investigation into the preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina.
" But about a week earlier Collins had been telling reporters that it was "completely inappropriate" for the White House to forbid government officials from talking to the committee and that "the White House has gone too far in restricting basic information about who called whom on what day."

The other co-chair of that Senate investigation, Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, more forcefully chastised the White House and other federal agencies for withholding documents, refusing interviews and derailing the Senate's work.
Lieberman, Jan. 24, 2006: There has been a near-total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation we have a responsibility to do.
Lieberman voted for the creation of an independent commission, both times. He was later defeated for his party's nomination in 2006 but won reelection to the Senate as an independent and is now backing McCain.

We don't know whether an independent commission would have gotten more information from the Bush White House, and we take no position on whether creating such a commission was appropriate or needed. But McCain's statement that he "supported every investigation" is false. The record shows McCain lined up with his party as it circled the wagons to defend the Bush administration against a more aggressive probe of what went wrong before and after Katrina.

Why Vote Against It?

McCain suggested that he was merely voting against wasteful spending. He told the Louisiana reporter that he voted against "one of the bills" because it was riddled with pork.
McCain: I also voted against one of the bills that came down that was loaded with pork barrel projects that had nothing to do with New Orleans too. It had billions for projects and programs that had nothing to do with the recovery of the city of New Orleans.
The Clinton amendments, however, would have provided $3 million for the investigation but no funds for anything else.

"Tired negative attacks"

McCain's gaffe put his campaign on the defensive. A spokesman issued a statement accusing Sen. Barack Obama of "launching ... tired negative attacks."
McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers: It doesn't bode well for Senator Obama's pledges to run a campaign of hope and change when on the first day of the general election he's launching the same tired negative attacks that the American people are so sick and tired of.
That referred to an e-mail that the Obama campaign sent to reporters. It said: "Whether he simply wasn't aware of his voting record again or he was intentionally misleading the people of Louisiana, John McCain certainly isn't offering us 'leadership you can believe in.' " Other than that, the e-mail simply quoted McCain and gave the dates and Senate numbers of the votes.

The McCain campaign also said that in his response to the reporter he was
"speaking to his strong support" for the Homeland Security Committee probe:
McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers (continuing): As Sen. McCain said, he wasn't familiar with the specific votes the questioner was asking about. Instead he was speaking to his strong support for the Homeland Security Committee's comprehensive, bipartisan investigation of Hurricane Katrina, which was already fully underway when these other proposals were suggested.
It's true that McCain did tell the reporter that he wasn't "familiar with exactly what you said." However, his response to the reporter made no specific mention of the Senate investigation. Furthermore, the Senate investigation was not "fully underway" when the idea of an independent commission was suggested. The first vote on Sept. 14, 2005, was held the same day the committee opened its first hearing.

-by Lori Robertson

Original here

McCain Supports Bush's Warrantless Wiretaps

The New York Times reports today on how John McCain has flipped his position on warrantless wiretapping to look very similar to George Bush's. Below are a couple paragraphs from the article that reflect how John McCain has flip-flopped toward Bush:
A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush's program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.

In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans' international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance...

...But Mr. McCain had previously stopped short of endorsing the view that Mr. Bush's program of surveillance without warrants was lawful all along because a president's wartime powers can trump statutory limits.

Andrew C. McCarthy, a National Review columnist who has defended the administration's legal theories, wrote that Mr. Holtz-Eakin's statement "implicitly shows Senator McCain's thinking has changed as time has gone on and he has educated himself on this issue."

And Glenn Greenwald, a Salon columnist and critic of the Bush administration's legal claims, wrote that the statement was a "complete reversal" by Mr. McCain, accusing the candidate of seeking "to shore up the support of right-wing extremists."

Original here

Bob Dylan says Barack Obama is 'changin' America

Read the exclusive Times interview

His 1964 track 'The Times They are a-Changin' became the anthem for his generation, symbolising the era-defining social struggle against the establishment.

Now Bob Dylan - who could justifiably claim to be the architect of Barack Obama's 'change' catchphrase - has backed the Illinois senator to do for modern America what the generation before did in the 1960s.

In an exclusive interview with The Times, published today, Dylan gives a ringing endorsement to Mr Obama, the first ever black presidential candidate, claiming he is "redefining the nature of politics from the ground up".

Dylan, 67, made the comments when being interviewed in Denmark, where he stopped over in a hotel during a tour of Scandinavia.

Asked about his views on American politics, he said: "Well, you know right now America is in a state of upheaval. Poverty is demoralising. You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor.

"But we've got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up...Barack Obama.

"He's redefining what a politician is, so we'll have to see how things play out. Am I hopeful? Yes, I'm hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to."

He added: “You should always take the best from the past, leave the worst back there and go forward into the future."

Dylan's endorsement contains much symbolic significance. The legendary singer-songwriter, who has an art exhibition opening in London next week, became a focal point for young people worldwide when he released the album 'The times they are a-changin'," including the famous song of that name, in 1964.

The track, which he wrote as the social liberation of the '60s astonished politicians and parents, included lines urging people to accept and embrace what was happening around them.

Memorable lines included: "Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call. Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall," and: "Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don't criticise what you can't understand. Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command. Your old road is rapidly agin'."

Original here

What's the real federal deficit?

Rob Portman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, presents "The Mid-Year Budget Review" at the National Press Club on July 11. Due to increased tax receipts, the Bush administration says it's goal of cutting the federal deficit in half by 2009 is a year ahead of schedule. But deficit numbers vary depending on who's counting.
By Win McNamee, Getty Images
Rob Portman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, presents "The Mid-Year Budget Review" at the National Press Club on July 11. Due to increased tax receipts, the Bush administration says it's goal of cutting the federal deficit in half by 2009 is a year ahead of schedule. But deficit numbers vary depending on who's counting.

The federal government keeps two sets of books.

The set the government promotes to the public has a healthier bottom line: a $318 billion deficit in 2005.

The set the government doesn't talk about is the audited financial statement produced by the government's accountants following standard accounting rules. It reports a more ominous financial picture: a $760 billion deficit for 2005. If Social Security and Medicare were included — as the board that sets accounting rules is considering — the federal deficit would have been $3.5 trillion.

Congress has written its own accounting rules — which would be illegal for a corporation to use because they ignore important costs such as the growing expense of retirement benefits for civil servants and military personnel.

Last year, the audited statement produced by the accountants said the government ran a deficit equal to $6,700 for every American household. The number given to the public put the deficit at $2,800 per household.

A growing number of Congress members and accounting experts say it's time for Congress to start using the audited financial statement when it makes budget decisions. They say accurate accounting would force Congress to show more restraint before approving popular measures to boost spending or cut taxes.

"We're a bottom-line culture, and we've been hiding the bottom line from the American people," says Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., a former investment banker. "It's not fair to them, and it's delusional on our part."

The House of Representatives supported Cooper's proposal this year to ask the president to include the audited numbers in his budgets, but the Senate did not consider the measure.

Good accounting is crucial at a time when the government faces long-term challenges in paying benefits to tens of millions of Americans for Medicare, Social Security and government pensions, say advocates of stricter accounting rules in federal budgeting.

"Accounting matters," says Harvard University law professor Howell Jackson, who specializes in business law. "The deficit number affects how politicians act. We need a good number so politicians can have a target worth looking at."

The audited financial statement — prepared by the Treasury Department — reveals a federal government in far worse financial shape than official budget reports indicate, a USA TODAY analysis found. The government has run a deficit of $2.9 trillion since 1997, according to the audited number. The official deficit since then is just $729 billion. The difference is equal to an entire year's worth of federal spending.

Surplus or deficit?

Congress and the president are able to report a lower deficit mostly because they don't count the growing burden of future pensions and medical care for federal retirees and military personnel. These obligations are so large and are growing so fast that budget surpluses of the late 1990s actually were deficits when the costs are included.

The Clinton administration reported a surplus of $559 billion in its final four budget years. The audited numbers showed a deficit of $484 billion.

In addition, neither of these figures counts the financial deterioration in Social Security or Medicare. Including these retirement programs in the bottom line, as proposed by a board that oversees accounting methods used by the federal government, would show the government running annual deficits of trillions of dollars.

The Bush administration opposes including Social Security and Medicare in the audited deficit. Its reason: Congress can cancel or cut the retirement programs at any time, so they should not be considered a government liability for accounting purposes.

Policing the numbers

The government's record-keeping was in such disarray 15 years ago that both parties agreed drastic steps were needed. Congress and two presidents took a series of actions from 1990 to 1996 that:

• Created the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board to establish accounting rules, a role similar to what the powerful Financial Accounting Standards Board does for corporations.

• Added chief financial officers to all major government departments and agencies.

• Required annual audited financial reports of those departments and agencies.

• Ordered the Treasury Department to publish, for the first time, a comprehensive annual financial report for the federal government — an audited report like those published every year by corporations.

These laws have dramatically improved federal financial reporting. Today, 18 of 24 departments and agencies produce annual reports certified by auditors. (The others, including the Defense Department, still have record-keeping troubles so severe that auditors refuse to certify the reliability of their books, according to the government's annual report.)

The culmination of improved record-keeping is the "Financial Report of the U.S. Government," an annual report similar to a corporate annual report. (The 158-page report for 2005 is available online at

The House Budget Committee has tried to increase the prominence of the audited financial results. When the House passed its version of a budget this year, it included Cooper's proposal asking Bush to add the audited numbers to the annual budget he submits to Congress. The request died when the House and Senate couldn't agree on a budget. Cooper has reintroduced the proposal.

The Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, established under the first President Bush in 1990 to set federal accounting rules, is considering adding Social Security and Medicare to the government's audited bottom line.

Recognizing costly programs

Adding those costs would make federal accounting similar to that used by corporations, state and local governments and large non-profit entities such as universities and charities. It would show the government recording enormous losses because the deficit would reflect the growing shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare.

The government would have reported nearly $40 trillion in losses since 1997 if the deterioration of Social Security and Medicare had been included, according to a USA TODAY analysis of the proposed accounting change. That's because generally accepted accounting principles require reporting financial burdens when they are incurred, not when they come due.

For example: If Microsoft announced today that it would add a drug benefit for its retirees, the company would be required to count the future cost of the program, in today's dollars, as a business expense. If the benefit cost $1 billion in today's dollars and retirees were expected to pay $200 million of the cost, Microsoft would be required to report a reduction in net income of $800 million.

This accounting rule is a major reason corporations have reduced and limited retirement benefits over the last 15 years.

The federal government's audited financial statement now accounts for the retirement costs of civil servants and military personnel — but not the cost of Social Security and Medicare.

The new Medicare prescription-drug benefit alone would have added $8 trillion to the government's audited deficit. That's the amount the government would need today, set aside and earning interest, to pay for the tens of trillions of dollars the benefit will cost in future years.

Standard accounting concepts say that $8 trillion should be reported as an expense. Combined with other new liabilities and operating losses, the government would have reported an $11 trillion deficit in 2004 — about the size of the nation's entire economy.

The federal government also would have had a $12.7 trillion deficit in 2000 because that was the first year that Social Security and Medicare reported broader measures of the programs' unfunded liabilities. That created a one-time expense.

The proposal to add Social Security and Medicare to the bottom line has deeply divided the federal accounting board, composed of government officials and "public" members, who are accounting experts from outside government.

The six public members support the change. "Our job is to give people a clear picture of the financial condition of the government," board Chairman David Mosso says. "Whether those numbers are good or bad and what you do about them is up to Congress and the administration."

The four government members, who represent the president, Congress and the Government Accountability Office, oppose the change. The retirement programs do "not represent a legal obligation because Congress has the authority to increase or reduce social insurance benefits at any time," wrote Clay Johnson III, then acting director of the president's Office of Management Budget, in a letter to the board in May.

Ways of accounting

Why the big difference between the official government deficit and the audited one?

The official number is based on "cash accounting," similar to the way you track what comes into your checking account and what goes out. That works fine for paying today's bills, but it's a poor way to measure a financial condition that could include credit card debt, car loans, a mortgage and an overdue electric bill.

The audited number is based on accrual accounting. This method doesn't care about your checking account. It measures income and expenses when they occur, or accrue. If you buy a velvet Elvis painting online, the cost goes on the books immediately, regardless of when the check clears or your eBay purchase arrives.

Cash accounting lets income and expenses land in different reporting periods. Accrual accounting links them. Under cash accounting, a $25,000 cash advance on a credit card to pay for a vacation makes the books look great. You are $25,000 richer! Repaying the credit card debt? No worries today. That will show up in the future.

Under accrual accounting, the $25,000 cash from your credit card is offset immediately by the $25,000 you now owe. Your bottom line hasn't changed. An accountant might even make you report a loss on the transaction because of the interest you're going to pay.

"The problem with cash accounting is that there's a tremendous opportunity for manipulation," says University of Texas accounting professor Michael Granof. "It's not just that you fool others. You end up fooling yourself, too."

Federal law requires that companies and institutions that have revenue of $1 million or more use accrual accounting. Microsoft used accrual accounting when it reported $12 billion in net income last year. The American Red Cross used accrual accounting when it reported a $445 million net gain.

Congress used cash accounting when it reported the $318 billion deficit last year.

Social Security chief actuary Stephen Goss says it would be a mistake to apply accrual accounting to Social Security and Medicare. These programs are not pensions or legally binding federal obligations, although many people view them that way, he says.

Social Security and Medicare are pay-as-you go programs and should be treated like food stamps and fighter jets, not like a Treasury bond that must be repaid in the future, he adds. "A country doesn't record a liability every time a kid is born to reflect the cost of providing that baby with a K-12 education one day," Goss says.

Tom Allen, who will become the chairman of the federal accounting board in December, says sound accounting principles require that financial statements reflect the economic value of an obligation.

"It's hard to argue that there's no economic substance to the promises made for Social Security and Medicare," he says.

Social Security and Medicare should be reflected in the bottom line because that's the most important number in any financial report, Allen says.

"The point of the number is to tell the public: Did the government's financial condition improve or deteriorate over the last year?" he says.

If you count Social Security and Medicare, the federal government's financial health got $3.5 trillion worse last year.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, a certified public accountant, says the numbers reported under accrual accounting give an accurate picture of the government's condition. "An old photographer's adage says, 'If you want a prettier picture, bring me a prettier face,' " he says.

Original here

The Fascist Plot to Seize Washington

John Spivak

By John Spivak

The following article is an edited version of two chapters from John Spivak's autobiography (A Man in His Time, 1967).

All of the photos and links on this web site were added to John Spivak's work by Richard Sanders, editor of Press for Conversion!, quarterly magazine of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT).

This site is a web version of "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," issue #53 of Press for Conversion! (April 2004). A hard copy of this 54-page magazine can be ordered from COAT. (Click here for details on how to order.)

Samuel DicksteinJohn W. MacCormackAround the beginning of July 1933, the first overt move was made in one of the most fantastic plots in American history. A representative of a group of conspirators opened negotiations with a noted military man to head a 500,000-man army, seize the Government of the United States, put an end to American democracy and supplant it with a dictatorship. The McCormack-Dickstein House Committee, investigating un-American activities, turned its attention to the plot, but that probe ended abruptly. Even a generation later, those who are still alive and know all the facts have kept their silence so well that the conspiracy is not even a footnote in American histories. It would be regrettable if historians neglected this episode and future generations never learned of it.

When the plot actually began, or whose inspiration it was, is not known, for the Committee avoided probing into these aspects. News of the plot, reported to have backing of "three million dollars on the line and three hundred million...should it be necessary," reached the nation in a time which saw greater changes in political systems than any previous period.

Gerald C. ("Jerry") MacGuireThe takeover plot failed because although those involved had astonishing talents for making breathtaking millions of dollars, they lacked an elementary understanding of people and the moral forces that activate them. In a money-standard civilization such as ours, the universal regard for anyone who is rich tends to persuade some millionaires that they are knowledgeable in fields other than the making of money. The conspirators went about the plot as if they were hiring an office manager; all they needed was to send a messenger to the man they had selected. In this case, as recorded in sworn testimony before the Congressional Committee, the messenger was a bond salesman named Gerald C. ("Jerry") MacGuire, who earned about $150 a week. I record his wage not as proof of his competence or lack of it, but because, as brought out in the testimony, when he was ready for the first overt move to get the conspiracy off the ground, his bank account flowered with cash deposits of over $100,000 for "expenses."

MacGuire was a short, stocky man tending toward three chins. His bullet-shaped head had a silver plate in it due to a wound received in battle. His close-cropped hair was usually topped by a black derby, the popular headgear of the day. A reporter described his bright blue eyes as glittering with the sharpness of a fox about to spring.

Grayson Mallet-Prevost MurphyMacGuire worked for a leading brokerage house headed by Grayson Mallet-Prevost Murphy, a West Point graduate who had seen action in the Spanish-American War and WWI. Murphy had extensive industrial and financial interests as a director of Anaconda, Goodyear Tire, Bethlehem Steel and a number of Morgan-controlled banks. His personal appearance was impressive: tall, heavy-set and giving evidence that in his younger years, he must have been quite handsome.

American Legion - logoI heard rumors [of the fascist plot] in Washington more than a month before news of it broke. The talk was that the American Legion would be the nucleus for a fascist army which would seize Washington. Even in a city notorious as a gossip center, this sounded like something out of a Central American "banana republic."

According to these early rumours, the Committee knew about the conspiracy and that Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, until his retirement a few years earlier the highest ranking officer in the U.S. Marines, had been chosen to head the putsch. For the first time a name was mentioned, and it was a famous name....Major General Smedley Darlington Butler

Bill DoyleButler was first approached by two former state commanders of the American Legion. One [Bill Doyle] dropped out of the picture after the initial meeting. "The other said his name was Jerry MacGuire," the General told the Committee: "MacGuire said he had been State Commander, the year before,... in Connecticut."

These men, Butler later told me, eventually described "what was tantamount to a plot to seize the Government, by force if necessary."

The General placed little stock in what his visitors said until they showed that they meant business by displaying a bank book listing cash deposits of over $100,000 for "expenses."

Butler: They took out a bank book and showed me deposits of $42,000 on one occasion and $64,000 on another. I said ... There is something in this, Jerry MacGuire, besides what you have told me.... He said, "Well, I am a business man ... [and] if you want to take my advice, you would be a business man, too."

Butler testified that the first suggestion made to him was to lead a movement to unseat the ruling group of the American Legion by taking 200-300 Legionnaires to its annual convention in Chicago; the second was to deliver a prepared speech to that convention, urging passage of a resolution favoring the gold standard.

Here is the story in the General's own words:

"Butler: I said, 'Listen. These friends of mine, even if they wanted to go [to the Legion convention] could not afford to go. It would cost them $100-$150 dollars to go there and stay for 5 days and come back.'

They said, 'Well, we will pay that.'

I said, 'How can you pay it? You are disabled soldiers. How do you get the money to do that?'

'Oh, we have friends. We will get the money.' I began to smell a rat... [and] said, 'I do not believe you have got this money.'

It was then or the next time, ...they hauled out a bank deposit book..

The next time I saw [MacGuire] was about the first of September, in a hotel in Newark. I went over to the [Legion's 29th Division] convention. Sunday morning he walked into my room and asked if I was getting ready to take these men to Chicago.... I said, 'You people are bluffing. You have not got the money' ...he took out a big wallet...and a great, big mass of thousand dollar bills and threw them on the bed.

I said, 'What's all this?'

He said, 'This is for you, for expenses. You will need some money to pay them.'

'How much money have you got there?' He said, '$18,000.'

Robert Sterling ClarkI said, 'Don't you try to give me any thousand dollar bills. Remember, I was a cop once. Every one of the numbers on these bills has been taken. I know...what you are trying to do....If I try to cash one of those thousand dollar bills, you will have me by the neck.... I know one thing. Somebody is using you. You are a wounded man.... You have got a silver plate in your head.... You were wounded. You are being used...and I want to know the fellows who are using you. I am not going to talk to you any more. You are only an agent. I want some of the principals.' He said, 'Well, I will send see you.' I said 'Who?' He said, 'I will send Mr. [Robert Sterling] Clark.... He is a banker.'....

A few days later, Clark called Butler and asked if he could visit. They lunched at the General's home on Sunday. Butler continues:

Clark said, 'You got the [gold standard] speech?' I said, 'Yes.. They wrote a hell of a good speech, too.' He said, 'Did those fellows say they wrote that speech?' I said, 'Yes, they did. They told me that was their business, writing speeches.' He laughed and said, 'That speech cost a lot of money.'.. He thought it was a big joke that these fellows were claiming authorship..

Clark said, 'I have $30 million. I do not want to lose it. I am willing to spend half of the $30 million to save the other half. If you go out and make this speech in Chicago, I am certain that they will adopt the resolution and that will be one step toward the return to gold, to have the soldiers stand up for it. We can get the soldiers to go out in great bodies to stand up for it.'

[Clark then offered Butler a bribe, saying: "Why do you want to be stubborn? Why do you want to be different from other people? We can take care of you. You have a mortgage on this house.... That can all be taken care of. It is perfectly legal, perfectly proper."

When Butler declined the offer, Clark used the General's phone to call MacGuire at Palmer House, an exclusive Chicago hotel. In Butler's presence, Clark told MacGuire: 'General Butler is not coming to the convention.... You have got $45,000. You can send those telegrams. You will have to do it that way.... I am going to Canada to rest..... You have got enough money to go through with it.'

Butler later told the Committee that: "The convention came off and the gold standard was endorsed.... I read about it with a great deal of interest. There...some talk about a flood of telegrams that came in and influenced them... I was so much amused, because it all happened right in my room."

MacGuire continued to arrange sporadic meetings with Butler, doggedly trying to enlist his support. After Butler's return from a cross-country speaking tour, Butler got another call from MacGuire who insisted on an immediate meeting to discuss "something of the utmost importance." Butler agreed to meet at a fancy hotel in Philadelphia. It was August 22, 1934, three days after the plebescite that confirmed Hitler as Nazi fuhrer.]

Croix de Feu attempts coup in FranceMacGuire said, 'I went abroad [Dec. 1, 1933-Aug. 1934] to study the part that the veteran plays in the various setups of the governments...abroad. I went to Italy for 2 or 3 months and studied the position that veterans occupy in the fascist setup of government, and I discovered that they are the background of Mussolini. They keep them on the payrolls in various ways and keep them contented and happy. They are his real backbone, the force on which he may depend, in case of trouble, to sustain him. But that setup would not suit us. The soldiers of America would not like that. I then went to Germany to see what Hitler was doing, and his whole strength lies in organizations of soldiers, too. But that would not do.... Then I went to France, and I found just exactly the organization we are going to have. It is an organization of super-soldiers.' [Later testimony revealed this to be the Croix de feu which assisted a failed coup attempt in France on Feb 6, 1934.] He told me they had about 500,000 [members] and that each one was a leader of 10 others, so that it gave them 5,000,000 votes. And he said, 'Now, this is our idea here in America - to get up an organization of this support the President.'

I said, 'The President has got the whole American people. Why does he want them?'

He said, 'Don't you understand the setup has got to be changed a bit? Now, we have got him. We have got the President.'

I said, 'This great group of soldiers, is to sort of frighten him?'

'No, no, no; not to frighten him. This is to sustain him when others assault him.... Did it ever occur to you that the President is overwork-ed? We might have an Assistant take the blame; and if things do not work out, he can drop him.' He [said] that it did not take any Constitutional change to authorize another Cabinet official... to take over the details of the office - take them off the President's shoulders. He mentioned the position would be a secretary of general affairs - a sort of super-secretary.... or a secretary of general welfare, I cannot recall which.... They talked about the kind of relief that ought to be given the President. [MacGuire] said: 'You know the American people will swallow that. We have got the newspapers. We will start a campaign that the President's health is failing. Everybody can tell that by looking at him, and the dumb American people will fall for it in a second.'..

There was something said in one of the conversations...that the President's health was bad, that he might resign, and [Vice President John N.] Garner did not want it anyhow, and then this super-secretary would take the place of the Secretary of the order of succession [and] would become the President. That was the idea. I said, 'Is there anything stirring about it yet?'

'Yes,' he said; 'you watch; in 2 or 3 weeks you will see it come out in the papers. There will be big fellows in it. This is to be the background of it. These are to be the villagers in the opera. The papers will come out with it.' He did not give me the name of it, but he said it would all be made public; a society to maintain the Constitution, and so forth."

American Liberty League

J.P. Morgan Jr.Irenee DuPontAmerican Liberty League - logoThe formation of the American Liberty League, "to combat radicalism" and "defend and uphold the Constitution," was announced shortly afterward. Heading and directing this organization were men from the du Pont and J.P. Morgan companies.

It is common for public officials to develop close friendships with certain newsmen who become their confidants.... Butler had learned to trust Paul Comly French, a reporter for the Philadelphia Record and the New York Post. Butler...told French about the MacGuire and asked him to check on the bond salesman and find out "what the hell it's all about."

When Butler finished testifying to the Committee..., French was sworn in. He told of calling on MacGuire on Sept. 13, 1934, in his office on 52 Broadway. The entire floor was occupied by Grayson M.-P. Murphy & Co. Before the bond salesman would talk with French, he phoned Butler to be sure the General had sent him. French told the Committee:

I have here direct quotes from him. As soon as I left his office I got to a typewriter and made a memorandum of everything he told me.

'We need a fascist government in this save the nation from the communists who want to tear it down and wreck all that we have built in America. The only men who have the patriotism to do it are the soldiers and Smedley Butler is the ideal leader. He could organize a million men overnight.'

He told me he had been in Italy and Germany during the summer of 1934 and had made an intensive study...of Nazi and fascist movements.... He said he had obtained enough information on fascist and Nazi movements and the part played by the veterans, to properly set up one in this country..

He warmed up considerably... and said, 'We might go along with Roosevelt and then do with him what Mussolini did with the King of Italy' [i.e., stripping him of power and making him a figurehead.] It fits in with what he told the General, that we would have a Secretary of General Affairs, and if Roosevelt played ball, swell; if he did not, they would push him out..

During the conversation.... he brought in the names of former national commanders of the American Legion, to give the impression that, whether justly or unjustly, a group in the American Legion were actively interested in this proposition.

French had written an article naming the very prominent Americans revealed in Butler's testimony. When the hearing finished, the sensational story was already on the news-stands.

The General's reputation for honesty and patriotism made what he said under oath impossible to ignore. The Secretaries of War and the Navy, U.S. Senators and Representatives urged that the Committee get to the bottom of the conspiracy. McCormack assured newsmen: "We will call all the men mentioned in the story." Co-chairman Dickstein added: "From present indications Butler has the evidence. He's not going to make any serious charges unless he has something to back them up. We'll have men here with bigger names than his."

General Hugh Samuel JohnsonGeneral Douglas MacArthurDispatches from Philadelphia reported that Butler, former head of the Marine Corps., had told friends that General [Hugh Samuel] Johnson, the former NRA [National Recovery Administration] administrator, had been chosen for the role of dictator if Butler turned it down; also considered was General Douglas MacArthur.

The Committee subpoenaed MacGuire and...his reports from Europe:

McCormack: Now, in your report dated May 6, 1934, from say that the...Croix de feu "is getting a great number of new recruits, and I recently attended a meeting of this organization and was quite impressed with the type of men belonging. These fellows are interested only in the salvation of France, and I feel sure that the country could not be in better hands because they are not politicians, they are a cross section of the best people of the country from all walks of life, people who gave their 'all' between 1914 and 1918 that France might be saved, and I feel sure if a crucial test ever comes to the Republic that these men will be the bulwark upon which France will be saved"..

[The Committee examined reports on fascist veterans groups such as Italy's Black Shirts and Germany's Brown Shirts that MacGuire mailed to his backers. Examining another report sent by the witness, McCormack said:]

And in this report you also said:

"I was informed that there is a Fascist Party springing up in Holland under the leadership of a man named Mussait who is an engineer ...who has approximately 50,000 followers..., ranging in age from 18 to 25 years.... It is said this man is in close touch with Berlin and is modeling his entire program along the lines followed by Hitler."

After French published his story, there was a noticeable sense of public uneasiness when not one of those named was called to testify.... The talk was that those named in Butler's testimony were too powerful, and nothing would be done about the plot...

Frank N. BelgranoThe only person known to have been called to testify was California banker Frank N. Belgrano, who was very influential in the American Legion.... Without being asked one question, he was abruptly told to go home.... Congressman McCormack refused to answer questions about him. Co-chairman Dickstein told me that he did not know why Belgrano was sent home....

As speculation grew,...the Committee issued a press release:

Hanford MacNider"This Committee has had no evidence that would in the slightest degree warrant calling before it such men as John W. Davis, Gen. Hugh Johnson,...or Hanford MacNider."

The Committee will not take cognizance of names brought into the testimony which constitutes mere hearsay."

On December 17, McCormack announced that Albert Christmas, Clark's attorney, had returned from Europe and would testify in two or three days. The Committee questioned him in executive session. Though national concern about the plot was keen, the attorney was not questioned publicly until, for all practical purposes, the Committee was dead and could do nothing about what the witness said. Christmas was heard on the last day of the Committee's life and then the questions were limited only to money given to MacGuire by the lawyer and Clark. No questions were asked about conversations or correspondence between an alleged principal in the plot and his attorney. In explaining the large sums of money given to the go-between, there was an item of some $65,000 which MacGuire had testified he had used for traveling and entertaining in Europe.

None of the prominent persons named in Butler's testimony were questioned. Had the Committee found that the plot was too hot to handle?

Too Hot to Handle

Not long after the Committee's explanatory news release, a correspondent told me, "I hear some of Butler's testimony has been deleted."

"It's possible. Probably some stuff involving national security."

"What's been cut has nothing to do with national security."

I had a good deal of confidence in him. It was from him that I had first heard of the plot, and I knew that his list of contacts and news sources was amazingly long.

New Masses magazine coverI had met both McCormack and Dickstein. Athough I wrote for a magazine [New Masses] which they touched only with extra-long fire tongs lest they be contaminated, they knew that I was intensely concerned about Nazi activities here. It looked as if the Committee would die in a matter of weeks, and I asked to see the transcript of Butler's testimony for possible leads that I could follow up. Since news stories and the Committee's own press release had named some of the prominent persons Butler mentioned, I persisted in asking why, if there were no secrets involving the national security, I could not see it. Other newsmen joined me in asking for the Butler testimony. Presumably to quiet the growing public concern over why it was not made public, the Committee published a 125-page document containing the testimonies of the General and others. The report was clearly marked "Extracts." On the last page, a note appeared saying that "the committee had ordered stricken... certain immaterial and incompetent evidence, or evidence which was not pertinent to the inquiry."

The extracts held me spellbound; this was living history - personalities, colorful characters, secret maneuvers on national and international scales. This was a planned gamble with the most powerful government in the world as the stakes.

The reasons given for making public only extracts of the Committee testimony smelled like what my cat does in his pan. The Committee had already published hearsay evidence, and this sudden sensitivity about publishing similar testimony was puzzling. For days I tried to learn what Butler testimony had been cut out. All of my efforts were fruitless. A wall of granite had suddenly appeared, but all that did was whet my appetite to know what was going on. The Committee had announced that it intended to subpoena all of those named by Butler, yet it later issued an announcement that it had no evidence on which to question the prominent persons named.

I met for a drink with a correspondent who was very knowledgeable about what was going on in the capital and was as perturbed by a fascist threat as I was. I asked if he had any idea why the Committee had published only extracts. "I was told that a member of the President's Cabinet asked that certain testimony be deleted," he said.

John W. Davis"Any idea of what was cut out?"

"Names, mostly. Two were Democratic candidates for President."

"The Committee's press release mentioned John W. Davis. Who was the other?"

Al Smith"Al Smith."

"In a fascist plot? I don't believe it!"

Davis had been a candidate in 1924 and was now one of the chief attorneys for J. P. Morgan & Company. It was possible that, without being told everything, he had been drawn into some aspects of the conspiracy, though he had publicly denied writing the speech Butler was asked to deliver at the Legion convention in Chicago. But Alfred E. Smith, "the happy warrior," a man who had risen to political heights from the sidewalks of New York, a very good Governor whose trusted adviser was Jewish, would certainly not be pro-fascist or pro-Nazi! I knew that he was bitter against Roosevelt, but that was for personal reasons.

John J. RaskobYet, Al Smith was very close to John J. Raskob and was a co-director with him and Irénée du Pont of the American Liberty League. The idea of Al Smith being mentioned in connection with this plot was incredible, but such things had happened in other countries faced with severe political and economic stress.

I resumed my search for what had been deleted, but I still got nowhere. Even usually garrulous politicians walked about with padlocks dangling from their lips.

Al Smith and John W. DavisThe McCormack-Dickstein Committee had asked the House to extend its life to January 3, 1937, so that it could continue with its investigations, but the House refused; the Committee died. It even seemed possible that the Committee had been killed because unidentified, influential forces feared that public opinion might compel a deeper investigation into the fascist plot and concluded it would be better to forego even investigations into communist activities than risk that.

On January 11, 1935, about a week or so after the Committee died, Congressman Dickstein gave me a letter of introduction to Frank P. Randolph, the Committee's secretary, saying, "Will you please permit him to examine the official exhibits and make photo-static copies of exhibits which were made public."

Randolph, harried by the mountain of work required to close the Committee's records, gave me stacks of documents, exhibits and transcripts of testimony. Among them I was amazed to find not only the Butler testimony in executive session which I had tried so hard to get, but also a typed copy of the Committee's report to the House on its investigations. The report to the House was lengthy, but the heart of it was contained in a few paragraphs:

In the last few weeks of the committee's life, it received evidence showing that certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist organization in this country..

There is no question that these attempts were discussed, planned and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient.

This committee received evidence from Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler (retired), twice decorated by the Congress of the United States. He testified before the committee as to conversations with one Gerald C. MacGuire in which the latter is alleged to have suggested the formation of a fascist army under the leadership of General Butler.

MacGuire denied these allegations under oath, but your committee was able to verify all the pertinent statements made to General Butler, with the exception of the direct statement suggesting the creation of the organization. This, however, was corroborated in the correspondence of MacGuire with his principal Robert Sterling Clark, of New York City, while MacGuire was abroad studying the various form of veterans' organizations of Fascist character.

I compared the transcript of Butler's testimony in executive session with the one made public and marked "Extracts." The names French mentioned in his news story were not the only ones deleted, and not everything cut from Butler's and French's testimonies was hearsay. I copied the parts... deleted from Butler's description of his talk with Clark. This was direct evidence of a conversation with a named principal in the conspiracy.

[Clark] said, "You know the President is weak. He will come right along with us. He was born in this class. He was raised in this class, and he will come back. He will run true to form. In the end he will come around. But we have got to be prepared to sustain him when he does."

Butler then Clark offered him a bribe

[Clark] said, "Why do you want to be stubborn? Why do you want to be different from other people? We can take care of you. You have got a mortgage on this house.... "That can all be taken care of. It is perfectly legal, perfectly proper."

"Yes," I said, "but I do not want to do it, that's all." Finally I said, "....You are trying to bribe me in my own house. You are very polite about it...but it looks kind of funny to me, making that kind of proposition.

Deleted from Butler's testimony was the new organization [American Liberty League] set up by Irénée du Pont, known for his financial support of reactionary groups, an organization of which Raskob and Al Smith were directors. The treasurer was Grayson Murphy, for whom MacGuire worked. Also deleted was Butler's testimony that MacGuire had advance knowledge of Alfred Smith's plans to break with President Roosevelt and attack him:

Butler: I said, "What is the idea of Al Smith in this?"

"Well," he [MacGuire] said, "Al Smith is getting ready to assault the Administration in his magazine. It will appear in a month or so. He is going to take a shot at the money question. He has definitely broken with the President."

About a month later he did, and the New Outlook took the shot that he [MacGuire] told me a month before they were going to take. This fellow has been able to tell me a month or six weeks ahead of time everything that happened.

Such testimony certainly warranted asking the go-between from whom he got such accurate information about moves that seemed related to a fascist plot. Though McCormack and Dickstein, questioned MacGuire about many things, nothing was asked about how the bond salesman knew of Al Smith's plans.

Butler quoted MacGuire: "Morgan interests say you cannot be trusted.. They want either [Douglas] MacArthur or [Hanford] MacNider. You know as well as I do that MacArthur is the son-in-law of [banker Edward] Stotesbury... Morgan's representative in Philadelphia."

Instead of asking MacGuire who told him what the Morgan interests were doing in this, the Committee simply deleted this from the published testimony.

In Paul Comly French's testimony of his talk with MacGuire, the following was deleted:

"French: [MacGuire] said he could go to John W. Davis or [James H.] Perkins of the National City Bank, and any number of persons and get it [money for the organization]..

We discussed the question of arms and equipment, and he suggested that they could be obtained from the Remington Arms Co. on credit through the du Ponts. I do not think that at that time he mentioned the connection of du Pont with the American Liberty League, but he skirted all around it.... he suggested that Roosevelt would be in sympathy with us and proposed the idea that Butler would be named as head of CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] camps by the President.

The CCC was a government work project giving employment to young men of military age. Another fascist army using CCC men was allegedly proposed by a Wall Street operator who said he controlled $700 million which he could make available; this second plot - if it was a separate one - did not attract as much attention as the one involving General Butler."

These illustrative passages, crying for more probing, were deleted by the Committee. [For more examples of what the Committee deleted from it's witnesses testimony, read "Wall Street's Fascist Conspiracy: Testimony that the Dickstein MacCormack Committee Suppressed," by John Spivak in the New Masses, Jan 29, 1935 .] I knew that the Constitution authorized Congress to delete such matters as required secrecy. This was usually interpreted to mean matters of national security. Certainly national security was involved, but this was a plot that the people were not only entitled to know about, but had to know about, for their own protection.

I felt a very definite resentment against this Committee, for which I otherwise had strong approval. It had subpoenaed Nazis, fascists and communists, yet did not question those whose names were mentioned in testimony about a treasonable plot against the U.S. The rich and influential seemed to have a unique ability to avoid being called before a committee investigating un-American activities. So far as I could determine, there had not been even one phone call to these personages to ask - just for the record and with the greatest apologies - if they had ever heard of this plot. Instead, it did not even ask MacGuire who told him the things he told the General.

It was possible, of course, that the deletions were not due to pressures by any of those named by Butler, but to a policy decision on the highest level. What would be the public gain from delving deeper into a plot which was already exposed and whose principals could be kept under surveillance? Roosevelt had enough headaches in those troubled days without having to confront men of great wealth and power. Was it avoidance of such a confrontation that curtailed the investigation? Was it a desire by the head of the Democratic Party to avoid matters which could split the party down the middle, considering that Davis and Smith, two former party heads, were among those named by Butler?

I was both angry and troubled that after a conspiracy of this magnitude had been disclosed by a national hero and verified by a committee of the Congress, nothing was being done.

Since MacGuire had denied essential parts of Butler's testimony, which the Committee said it had proved by documents, bank records and letters, I went to the Department of Justice to ask what it planned to do about MacGuire's testimony. I was told that it had no plans to prosecute.

I interviewed Congressman McCormack. When I got to the sixth or seventh question, dealing with deletions from Butler's testimony, he said abruptly: "I don't have to give you an interview.... I'll take your questions and answer such of them as I wish."

Father Charles E. CoughlinAmong the questions I left with him were: "Did you ever look into the potentially fascist groups like the American Liberty League, Father [Charles Edward] Coughlin's organization, the Crusaders, etc?"

To one of my questions, McCormack gave me definite assurances:

You were...anxious to find out if the Nazi movement in this country is as active today as when the investigation started. As a result of the investigation, and the disclosures made, this movement has been stopped and is practically broken up.

Unhappily, the Congressman was incorrect. It was in this very period that the invasion of the U.S. by Nazi secret agents, along with an intensification of anti-democratic and hate propaganda, was moving towards its peak. I am sure McCormack, Dick-stein and their colleagues believed that disclosures before their Committee had broken up the Nazi propaganda and spy rings. They saw no threat from Nazis, though they did see a dangerous one from U.S. communists. The country was bedevilled by seemingly endless strikes, and these were attributed chiefly to communists - as if communists created conflict between employers and employees.

I went to co-chairman Samuel Dickstein, who said the Committee had deleted certain parts of the testimony because they were "hearsay." I asked: "Why wasn't Grayson Murphy called? Your Committee knew that Murphy's men are in the anti-Semitic espionage organization Order of '76?" He replied: "We didn't have the time. We'd have taken care of the Wall Street groups if we had time. I would have [had] no hesitation in going after the Morgans."

I assumed General Butler did not know that portions of his testimony had been deleted. If he knew and said so publicly, he would reach a vastly greater audience than I could through the New Masses. I phoned him at his home, said I was from the New Masses and wanted to see him about his testimony before the Committee.

"Come on out," he said heartily. He was a slender, almost spare man, with receding hair, lined and sunken cheeks, thick eyebrows and furrowed lines between his keen eyes. His nose was generous, his underlip set in a permanent pout. He looked at me almost with affection as he extended his hand. There are people one meets and may never meet again with whom something clicks at the moment when hands clasp. I felt a strong attachment to him immediately. I heard later of highly complimentary comments he made about me. I felt as if I had known him all my life and apparently he felt the same about me. He said, "I think you're the man I've been hoping to run into to help me do an autobiography. There are things I've seen, things I've learned that should not be left unsaid. War is a racket to protect economic interests, not our country, and our soldiers are sent to die on foreign soil to protect investments by big business."

Butler was occupied with the thought that American boys were being killed not to protect their country, but to protect investments. He returned to this theme several times in the hours we talked. His life, his adventures and activities and what he had learned from first-hand experience would have made a fascinating book. I would have liked to do it, but I begged off. Nazi activities in the U.S. were assuming alarming proportions and no publication, other than the New Masses, had shown any interest. The Government seemed to ignore these activities completely. When I said I should concentrate on anti-Nazi activities, he nodded approvingly and offered to help. He too was troubled by the hate propaganda gaining momentum almost daily.

The New Haven GreenHe said things about big business and politics, sometimes in earthy, four-letter words, the like of which I had never heard from the most excited agitators crying on street corners, from socialists speaking on the New Haven Green or, later, from communists.

He was describing a primitive variation of what we are learning today [1967] about the activities of our CIA. We use military power to enforce our political and economic policies. It is always done, according to official announcements, for high, shining moral objectives. In our schools, our churches and synagogues, as in unctuous pronouncements by heads of state, we are told to live by a set of nobly-expressed morals but are expected to acquiesce when governments openly or surreptitiously violate them. We still tamper with governments that displease us; we still instigate revolutions in countries which will not accept our "guidance;" we still send our men to fight in foreign lands, to kill and be killed, without having declared war. If any average citizen violated the U.S. Constitution as constantly and consistently as those who took solemn oaths before God and their fellow men to uphold, defend and protect it, he would be behind bars in short order.

I had heard radicals of every stripe say similar things, but now the man who had commanded our occupying and shooting forces in foreign countries was saying them, adding matter-of-factly such comments as: "We supervised elections in Haiti, and wherever we supervised them our candidate always won." When speakers on the Green denounced our military invasions and "dollar diplomacy," I was always conscious that they were political radicals, theoreticians who had read histories, economic philosophies and mountains of statistics, and concluded that "war is a racket" and took to their stands to tell all passersby. But this thin man was not a bookish theoretician; Butler had directed our Marines to land on foreign soil to protect American investments, and he was saying things stronger than I had ever heard on the Green.

I explained again that I was from the New Masses. "It's supposed to be a communist magazine," I said.

"So who the hell cares?" he said. "There wouldn't be a United States if it wasn't for a bunch of radicals." An impish look came over his face. "I once heard of a radical named George Washington. As a matter of fact from what I read he was an extremist - a goddamn revolutionist!"

I gave him copies of what had been deleted from his testimony. I explained that although the Committee reported to Congress that it had verified the plot, it did nothing about MacGuire's denials under oath. When I finished, he said: "I'll be god-damned! You can be sure I'll say something about this!"

I made public [in New Masses, Jan. 29, 1935] the parts that the Committee had edited out of his testimony. On Feb. 17, Butler got on national radio and denounced the Committee.

When the Committee's report appeared, Roger Baldwin, who did not look with friendly eyes on communists, issued a statement as director of the American Civil Liberties Union:

The Congressional Committee investigating un-American activities has reported that the Fascist plot to seize the government...was proved; yet not a single participant will be prosecuted under the perfectly plain language of the federal conspiracy act making this a high crime. Imagine the action if such a plot were discovered among Communists!

Which is, of course, only to emphasize the nature of our government as representative of the interests of the controllers of property. Violence, even to the seizure of government, is excusable on the part of those whose lofty motive is to preserve the profit system.

The Committee's report gave 6 pages to the threat by Nazi agents in this country, 11 pages to the threat by communists and one page to the plot to seize the government and destroy America's democratic system.

Press for Conversion! #54Source: Excerpts from John Spivak's autobiography, A Man in His Time, 1967, pp. 294-331.

All of the photos and links on this web site were added by Richard Sanders, editor of Press for Conversion!, quarterly magazine of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT). Most of the above links to the descriptions of key fascists, corporations and groups connected to the plot were written for Press for Conversion! (#53) by editor Richard Sanders. Most of the references are listed at the end of each item. Other references were also used in the creation of these items.

Click here for additional sources.

This site is a web version of "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," issue #53 of Press for Conversion! (April 2004).

Original here

America's Medicated Army

Seven months after Sergeant Christopher LeJeune started scouting Baghdad's dangerous roads — acting as bait to lure insurgents into the open so his Army unit could kill them — he found himself growing increasingly despondent. "We'd been doing some heavy missions, and things were starting to bother me," LeJeune says. His unit had been protecting Iraqi police stations targeted by rocket-propelled grenades, hunting down mortars hidden in dark Baghdad basements and cleaning up its own messes. He recalls the order his unit got after a nighttime firefight to roll back out and collect the enemy dead. When LeJeune and his buddies arrived, they discovered that some of the bodies were still alive. "You don't always know who the bad guys are," he says. "When you search someone's house, you have it built up in your mind that these guys are terrorists, but when you go in, there's little bitty tiny shoes and toys on the floor — things like that started affecting me a lot more than I thought they would."

So LeJeune visited a military doctor in Iraq, who, after a quick session, diagnosed depression. The doctor sent him back to war armed with the antidepressant Zoloft and the antianxiety drug clonazepam. "It's not easy for soldiers to admit the problems that they're having over there for a variety of reasons," LeJeune says. "If they do admit it, then the only solution given is pills."

While the headline-grabbing weapons in this war have been high-tech wonders, like unmanned drones that drop Hellfire missiles on the enemy below, troops like LeJeune are going into battle with a different kind of weapon, one so stealthy that few Americans even know of its deployment. For the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The medicines are intended not only to help troops keep their cool but also to enable the already strapped Army to preserve its most precious resource: soldiers on the front lines. Data contained in the Army's fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. Escalating violence in Afghanistan and the more isolated mission have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, military officials say.

At a Pentagon that keeps statistics on just about everything, there is no central clearinghouse for this kind of data, and the Army hasn't consistently asked about prescription-drug use, which makes it difficult to track. Given the traditional stigma associated with soldiers seeking mental help, the survey, released in March, probably underestimates antidepressant use. But if the Army numbers reflect those of other services — the Army has by far the most troops deployed to the war zones — about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were on such medications last fall. The Army estimates that authorized drug use splits roughly fifty-fifty between troops taking antidepressants — largely the class of drugs that includes Prozac and Zoloft — and those taking prescription sleeping pills like Ambien.

In some ways, the prescriptions may seem unremarkable. Generals, history shows, have plied their troops with medicinal palliatives at least since George Washington ordered rum rations at Valley Forge. During World War II, the Nazis fueled their blitzkrieg into France and Poland with the help of an amphetamine known as Pervitin. The U.S. Army also used amphetamines during the Vietnam War.

The military's rising use of antidepressants also reflects their prevalence in the civilian population. In 2004, the last year for which complete data for the U.S. are available, doctors wrote 147 million prescriptions for antidepressants, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical-market-research firm. This number reflects in part the common practice of cycling through different medications to find the most effective drug. A 2006 federally funded study found that 70% of those taking antidepressants along with therapy experience some improvement in mood.

When it comes to fighting wars, though, troops have historically been barred from using such drugs in combat. And soldiers — who are younger and healthier on average than the general population — have been prescreened for mental illnesses before enlisting.

The increase in the use of medication among U.S. troops suggests the heavy mental and psychological price being paid by soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pentagon surveys show that while all soldiers deployed to a war zone will feel stressed, 70% will manage to bounce back to normalcy. But about 20% will suffer from what the military calls "temporary stress injuries," and 10% will be afflicted with "stress illnesses." Such ailments, according to briefings commanders get before deploying, begin with mild anxiety and irritability, difficulty sleeping, and growing feelings of apathy and pessimism. As the condition worsens, the feelings last longer and can come to include panic, rage, uncontrolled shaking and temporary paralysis. The symptoms often continue back home, playing a key role in broken marriages, suicides and psychiatric breakdowns. The mental trauma has become so common that the Pentagon may expand the list of "qualifying wounds" for a Purple Heart — historically limited to those physically injured on the battlefield — to include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on May 2 that it's "clearly something" that needs to be considered, and the Pentagon is weighing the change.

Using drugs to cope with battlefield traumas is not discussed much outside the Army, but inside the service it has been the subject of debate for years. "No magic pill can erase the image of a best friend's shattered body or assuage the guilt from having traded duty with him that day," says Combat Stress Injury, a 2006 medical book edited by Charles Figley and William Nash that details how troops can be helped by such drugs. "Medication can, however, alleviate some debilitating and nearly intolerable symptoms of combat and operational stress injuries" and "help restore personnel to full functioning capacity."

Which means that any drug that keeps a soldier deployed and fighting also saves money on training and deploying replacements. But there is a downside: the number of soldiers requiring long-term mental-health services soars with repeated deployments and lengthy combat tours. If troops do not get sufficient time away from combat — both while in theater and during the "dwell time" at home before they go back to war — it's possible that antidepressants and sleeping aids will be used to stretch an already taut force even tighter. "This is what happens when you try to fight a long war with an army that wasn't designed for a long war," says Lawrence Korb, Pentagon personnel chief during the Reagan Administration.

Military families wonder about the change, according to Joyce Raezer of the private National Military Family Association. "Boy, it's really nice to have these drugs," she recalls a military doctor saying, "so we can keep people deployed." And professionals have their doubts. "Are we trying to bandage up what is essentially an insufficient fighting force?" asks Dr. Frank Ochberg, a veteran psychiatrist and founding board member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Such questions have assumed greater urgency as more is revealed about the side effects of some mental-health medications. Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged the makers of antidepressants to expand a 2004 "black box" warning that the drugs may increase the risk of suicide in children and adolescents. The agency asked for — and got — an expanded warning that included young adults ages 18 to 24, the age group at the heart of the Army. The question now is whether there is a link between the increased use of the drugs in the Iraqi and Afghan theaters and the rising suicide rate in those places. There have been 164 Army suicides in Afghanistan and Iraq from the wars' start through 2007, and the annual rate there is now double the service's 2001 rate.

At least 115 soldiers killed themselves last year, including 36 in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army said on May 29. That's the highest toll since it started keeping such records in 1980. Nearly 40% of Army suicide victims in 2006 and 2007 took psychotropic drugs — overwhelmingly, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac and Zoloft. While the Army cites failed relationships as the primary cause, some outside experts sense a link between suicides and prescription-drug use — though there is also no way of knowing how many suicide attempts the antidepressants may have prevented by improving a soldier's spirits. "The high percentage of U.S. soldiers attempting suicide after taking SSRIs should raise serious concerns," says Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, who teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "And there's no question they're using them to prop people up in difficult circumstances."

The Trauma of War
Before the advent of SSRIs — Lilly's Prozac was the first to be approved by the FDA, in 1987, followed by Zoloft from Pfizer, Paxil from GlaxoSmithKline, Celexa from Forest Pharmaceuticals and others — existing antidepressants had many disabling side effects. Impaired memory and judgment, dizziness, drowsiness and other complications made them ill suited for troops in combat. The newer drugs have fewer side effects and, unlike earlier drugs, are generally not addictive or toxic, even when taken in large quantities. They work by keeping neural connections bathed in a brain chemical known as serotonin. That amplifies serotonin's mood-brightening effect, at least for some people.

In 1994 then Major E. Cameron Ritchie, an Army psychiatrist, was among the first to suggest that SSRIs should deploy with Army combat units. In a paper written and published after she returned from a combat deployment to Somalia, Ritchie noted that the sick-call chests used by military doctors "contain either outdated or no psychiatric medications." She concluded, "If depressive symptoms are moderate and manageable, medication may be preferable to medical evacuation."

By 1999, military docs were debating the matter among themselves. Nash, a Navy psychiatrist, wrote that Navy doctors — who also provide Marines with medical care — had "sharp differences of opinion" over letting troops in war zones use SSRIs. Skeptics argued that their "real safety" in combat had not been proved. Supporters countered that their use could "avoid depleting manpower resources and damaging individual careers through unnecessary removals from operational duty." Nash reviewed the medical literature and reported that SSRIs "can be safely administered to deploying and deployed personnel."

The trickle of new drugs became a flood after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Details of America's medicated wars come from the mental-health surveys the Army has conducted each year since the war began. If the surveys are right, many U.S. soldiers experience a common but haunting mismatch in combat life: while nearly two-thirds of the soldiers surveyed in Iraq in 2006 knew someone who had been killed or wounded, fewer than 15% knew for certain that they had actually killed a member of the enemy in return. That imbalance between seeing the price of war up close and yet not feeling able to do much about it, the survey suggests, contributes to feelings of "intense fear, helplessness or horror" that plant the seeds of mental distress. "A friend was liquefied in the driver's position on a tank, and I saw everything," was a typical comment. Another: "A huge f______ bomb blew my friend's head off like 50 meters from me." Such indelible scenes — and wondering when and where the next one will happen — are driving thousands of soldiers to take antidepressants, military psychiatrists say. It's not hard to imagine why.

Repeated deployments to the war zones also contribute to the onset of mental-health problems. Nearly 30% of troops on their third deployment suffer from serious mental-health problems, a top Army psychiatrist told Congress in March. The doctor, Colonel Charles Hoge, added that recent research has shown the current 12 months between combat tours "is insufficient time" for soldiers "to reset" and recover from the stress of a combat tour before heading back to war.

Colonel Joseph Horam says antidepressants have made "a striking difference" in the way troops are treated in war. A doctor in the Wyoming Army National Guard, Horam served in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War and has been deployed to Iraq twice during this war. "In the Persian Gulf War, we didn't have these medications, so our basic philosophy was 'three hots and a cot'" — giving stressed troops a little rest and relaxation to see if they improved. "If they didn't get better right away, they'd need to head to the rear and probably out of theater." But in his most recent stint in Baghdad in 2006, he treated a soldier who guarded Iraqi detainees. "He was distraught while he was having high-level interactions with detainees, having emotional confrontations with them — and carrying weapons," Horam says. "But he was part of a highly trained team, and we didn't want to lose him. So we put him on an SSRI, and within a week, he was a new person, and we got him back to full duty."

It wasn't until November 2006 that the Pentagon set a uniform policy for all the services. But the curious thing about it was that it didn't mention the new antidepressants. Instead, it simply barred troops from taking older drugs, including "lithium, anticonvulsants and antipsychotics." The goal, a participant in crafting the policy said, was to give SSRIs a "green light" without saying so. Last July, a paper published by three military psychiatrists in Military Medicine, the independent journal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, urged military doctors headed for Afghanistan and Iraq to "request a considerable quantity of the SSRI they are most comfortable prescribing" for the "treatment of new-onset depressive disorders" once in the war zones. The medications, the doctors concluded, help "to 'conserve the fighting strength,'" the motto of the Army Medical Corps.

These days Ritchie — now a colonel and a psychiatric consultant to the Army surgeon general — thinks the military's use of SSRIs has helped destigmatize mental problems. "What we're trying to do is make treating depression and PTSD — especially PTSD, which is quite common for soldiers now — fairly routine," she says. "We don't want to make it harder for folks to do their job and their mission by saying they can't use these medications." Ritchie, who communicates "six times a day" with her colleagues in the war zones, says she is unaware of "any bad outcomes" resulting from soldiers taking SSRIs.

William Winkenwerder Jr., who issued the 2006 policy as the Pentagon's top doctor before stepping down last year, says the new medicines are working well. "Combat presents some unique and important caveats — obviously, those who are being treated have access to firearms, and they may be under significant stress, so they need to be very carefully evaluated, and good clinical decisions need to be made," Winkenwerder tells TIME. "It's my belief that is happening."

"In a Total Daze"
And yet the battlefield seems an imperfect environment for widespread prescription of these medicines. LeJeune, who spent 15 months in Iraq before returning home in May 2004, says many more troops need help — pharmaceutical or otherwise — but don't get it because of fears that it will hurt their chance for promotion. "They don't want to destroy their career or make everybody go in a convoy to pick up your prescription," says LeJeune, now 34 and living in Utah. "In the civilian world, when you have a problem, you go to the doctor, and you have therapy followed up by some medication. In Iraq, you see the doctor only once or twice, but you continue to get drugs constantly." LeJeune says the medications — combined with the war's other stressors — created unfit soldiers. "There were more than a few convoys going out in a total daze."

About a third of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq say they can't see a mental-health professional when they need to. When the number of troops in Iraq surged by 30,000 last year, the number of Army mental-health workers remained the same — about 200 — making counseling and care even tougher to get.

"Burnout and compassion fatigue" are rising among such personnel, and there have been "recent psychiatric evacuations" of Army mental-health workers from Iraq, the 2007 survey says. Soldiers are often stationed at outposts so isolated that follow-up visits with counselors are difficult. "In a perfect world," admits Nash, who has just retired from the Navy, "you would not want to rely on medications as your first-line treatment, but in deployed settings, that is often all you have."

And just as more troops are taking these drugs, there are new doubts about the drugs' effectiveness. A pair of recent reports from Rand and the federal Institute of Medicine (iom) raise doubts about just how much the new medicines can do to alleviate PTSD. The Rand study, released in April, says the "overall effects for SSRIs, even in the largest clinical trials, are modest." Last October the iom concluded, "The evidence is inadequate to determine the efficacy of SSRIs in the treatment of PTSD."

Chris LeJeune could have told them that. When he returned home in May 2004, he remained on clonazepam and other drugs. He became one of 300,000 Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffer from PTSD or depression. "But PTSD isn't fixed by taking pills — it's just numbed," he claims now. "And I felt like I was drugged all the time." So a year ago, he simply stopped taking them. "I just started trying to fight my demons myself," he says, with help from VA counseling. He laughs when asked how he's doing. "I'd like to think," he says, "that I'm really damn close back to normal."

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