The Power Elite is usually associated with the beliefs of conspiracy theorists.
Thanks to a whole cottage industry that has sprung up over the past half century, the mainstream media is quick to quash anything that smacks of conspiracy theory, which it associates with cranks.
As a result, salient facts get ignored.
The Power Elite are not conspirators, but super-lobbyists on an international scale; a serious moneyed elite that float in and out of government service and who take it upon themselves to shape foreign and finance policies, usually from behind the scenes.
Knowing that this elite was responsible for two world wars (not by design, as the conspiracy buffs would have you believe, but through miscalculation), and understanding that CIA's own brief is to stave off war, even if this means fighting one secretly, it decided -- in 1947, soon after its formation -- to hijack the Power Elite.
CIA would endeavor to shape the shapers -- or at least monitor their ideas, and if it couldn't shape them, thwart them if their profiteering got in the way of national security.
To this end, CIA needed to establish a new Power Elite forum.
It began with CIA's recruitment of an enigmatic Polish adventurer named Joseph Retinger, perhaps the least known important figure of the 20th century.
Retinger was an odd little man who hobbled around on a gnarled cane and smoked effeminately with a long cigarette holder.
Smart and brazen, he moved easily in aristocratic and political circles throughout Europe. He was not a businessman, but a socializer extraordinaire, a mixer of people. Retinger brought leading figures together, as if they were chemicals, then waited around to see what reactions his formula might set off.
Retinger came to CIA's attention through the FBI, which had taken a wartime interest in the Pole when he traveled to Washington as part of the Polish-Government-in-Exile's delegation headed by Sikorski.
The Bureau suspected that Retinger was up to no good, probably in the pay of the Reds. So FBI gumshoes trailed him everywhere, and CIA eventually got wind of it.
Retinger was well traveled, erudite and resourceful. More important, he possessed amazing contacts throughout Europe, all of whom basked in his mystique as a gray eminence.
But best of all, in the early 1930s Retinger had conceived an outlandish plan for European unity: a united Europe with no borders and a single currency.
No one was interested, except Retinger's father-in-law, a British politician named E.D. Morel, whose plan to raise the issue in Parliament faded as war clouds gathered over Germany.
Retinger settled in London after the war, distressed by the Western sell-out of his native Poland.
CIA determined that Retinger had two hot buttons:
1) A free Poland;
2) A united Europe.
These were the buttons CIA pushed when they sent senior intelligence officers to London to meet Retinger.
Almost immediately, Retinger got talking about his old intellection of European unity. Retinger wanted to rekindle this concept, and he believed that the political climate was better than ever as Europe recovered from war; indeed, he had made a speech eighteen months earlier to the Royal Institute for International Affairs (RIIA) in an attempt to arouse support for his concept.
(A few words about RIIA or Chatham House, the handsome mansion it occupies at 10 St. James's Square in London. It is the skeletal framework for the existing Power Elite, fronted by tweedy academics, usually from All Souls College, Oxford University.)
The members who heard Retinger's speech in the privacy of Chatham House Rules (off-the-record, no attribution) were modestly impressed.
But no cigar.
CIA pitched Retinger with a lifetime supply.
The Pole was ecstatic. He didn't care from whence the money came; it was his noble idea that mattered.
CIA offered Retinger the means with which to pursue his dream -- a black salary (cash money, no 1099) and funding that would cover everything including his kitchen sink.
Then Retinger went to work, which, for him, meant chummy lunches at Claridges and cocktails in a quiet corner at the Savoy. And several furtive excursions to the continent.
Retinger went to see his closest power elite buddies: Paul van Zeeland, the Belgian foreign minister, and Paul Rijkens, chairman of Unilever.
With their political and industrial clout, Retinger organized the First Congress of Europe, convened in the Hague, Holland, in 1948. (CIA bankrolled everything, from Retinger's whiskey and soda to the convention hall.)
Throw an important-sounding conference with the right names attached, and leaders, present and future, will come.
They came, they argued -- and finally they agreed: A Council of Europe would be established, along with national committees in each European country.
Simultaneously, CIA created a front organization called the American Committee for a Unified Europe (ACUE). Its purpose was to lobby American support for Retinger's brainchild, a united Europe.
ACUE's chairman was William "Wild Bill" Donovan, who ran the war-time OSS.
ACUE's vice chairman was Allen Dulles, another OSS veteran and future CIA director.
ACUE's executive director was Thomas Braden, chief of CIA's division on international organizations.
It should have been no secret was was going down. Except in those days, CIA itself was secret.
ACUE became the mechanism CIA used for funding Retinger's next step: the European Movement -- headquartered in Brussels -- of which Retinger was secretary-general.
From 1949 till 1953, the operation cost CIA less than a million-and-half dollars.
The Soviet Union, CIA's chief adversary, watched in alarm as Western Europe began to unify.
More important, the power elite signed on, adopting Retinger as their own.
Out of this mixture evolved Bilderberg.
So what the hell is a Bilderberg?
Hang tight, we're getting there.
Having now positioned Retinger in a respectable mode, with an office and important-sounding title, CIA had him suggest to his power elite buddies that they create a new international forum, based upon Chatham House Rules, whose purpose would be to push European unity from behind the scenes and to establish an unofficial Atlantic Alliance for improving relations between Europe and the United States.
Something private, cozy -- with the refinement and decorum of a St. James's men's club.
CIA felt that someone with a royal title should nominally head the group, to give it that special cachet needed to attract power-brokers.
Retinger analyzed the possibilities.
It needed to be a reigning royal, not an exile.
Retinger's first choice was Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, partly because he knew a quick introduction could be arranged through Paul Rijkens of Unilever. Also, Bernhard had married into the Dutch royal family and hence was not cursed with the madness and retardation that troubled the related (some say inbred) royals of Europe.
Bernhard, sensing new opportunities for himself in such high-level networking, was happy to accept the role of Honorary Chairman.
Of what, they had not yet decided.
Retinger traveled through Europe and Britain, putting together a circle of initiates, approved in advance by CIA.
Hugh Gaitskell (Labour MP) and Sir Colin Gubbins (British Intelligence) of Britain.
Alcide de Gasperi, prime minister of Italy.
Antoine Pinay, prime minister of France.
The first meeting of the initiates took place in Paris, on September 25th, 1953, in an apartment belonging to the parents of Jan Pomian, Retinger's personal assistant.
Around an old ping-pong table, the assorted power-brokers fleshed out what their new forum should be, and who should be invited to join.
Bottom line: They agreed to press on.
And, following CIA's instructions, Retinger steered the proceedings in favor of drawing the United States into the picture.
Retinger escorted Prince Bernhard on a trip to Washington, where CIA arranged for both to meet CIA Director Walter Bedell "Beetle" Smith, and Charles "C.D." Jackson, National Security Adviser to President Eisenhower.
The result: An American circle of initiates was formed.
Its members included David Rockefeller of Chase Manhattan Bank, Dean Rusk of the Rockefeller Foundation (later, secretary of state), and ketchup king Henry Heinz II.
Both circles worked toward organizing a conference.
It was held over the weekend of May 29-31, 1954 in Oosterbeek, Holland, at Hotel de Bilderberg.
Hence the name: Bilderberg Meetings; or, the Bilderberg Group.
The Dutch government anted up, but CIA picked up most of the tab.
CIA also paid for the equipment that recorded everything everybody said.
There were about eighty participants at Hotel de Bilderberg, the first and last time their annual conference was held at that site.
Original initiates attended, plus other politicians, bankers and industrialists -- hand-picked on the basis of their good-standing at Chatham House, and its American equivalent, the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.
The proceedings were strictly confidential; the conference, itself, un-reported in the media, despite the presence of so many heavy-hitters in one place.
To give you an idea of how the Power Elite thinks, this from their recorded minutes in 1954:
When the time is ripe, our present concepts of world affairs should be extended to the whole world.
Bilderberg continued to meet through the 1950s, sometimes twice a year, into the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and into this century.
It still meets today, usually in June, always before a G-7 summit. A secluded luxury resort hotel is fully-booked for the weekend pow-wow.
Bilderberg members and guests arrive quietly -- mostly by private jet -- and depart just as quietly.
No press copnferences; no statements to the press. Chatham House Rules.
The only hiccup occurred in 1976, when Prince Bernhard was exposed for taking bribes from the Lockheed Corporation.
His chairmanship of Bilderberg was not publicized, but no chances were taken: the conference for scheduled for Hot Springs, West Virginia was cancelled; Bernhard stepped down as chairman, replaced in the interim by Lord Home, a former British prime minister.
In 1979, former German President Walter Scheel took the gavel. Former NATO general-secretary Lord Carrington took over from Scheel.
Bilderberg has become the power elite's top tamale.
The shapers have shaped, and continue to shape, within earshot of CIA.
European unity became a reality, nurtured as it was by Bilderberg, though its true father, Joseph Retinger, did not live to see it. (The gray eminence died in 1960 with everyone around him still puzzled about who paid his bills.)
If you have any doubt that Bilderberg played a major role in European unity, check this out from the minutes of their September 1955 conference in Garmisch, West Germany:
It was generally recognized that it is our common responsibility to arrive in the shortest possible time at the highest degree of integration, beginning with a common European market.
On an extended front, relations between Europe and the United States were greatly strengthened. When socialist governments occasionally came to power in European countries, Bilderberg ensured that they were tame socialists, bred at Bilderberg conferences, overseen by CIA.
Through Bilderberg, CIA built a rock-solid front against the Soviet Bloc.
(From the minutes of Bilderberg's 1956 conference in Fredensborg, Denmark: "Participants were warned to 'keep in mind' the necessity to maintain our security arrangements. Lenin is always a dominant force in the USSR and he taught communists that the big historical questions can only be resolved through violence.")
Bilderberg also capitalized on the power elite's favorite pastime: sizing up and filtering potential political leaders.
Example: Henry Kissinger was a regular attender of Bilderberg for a dozen-plus years before claiming fame as Nixon's national security adviser.
Example: Bill Clinton attended Bilderberg in 1991 -- at the invitation of steering committee member Vernon Jordan -- before announcing his candidacy for the White House. Some say Clinton needed the final nod.
CIA ran the whole Bilderberg kaboosh out of a small office in New York City, first at 39 East 51st Street, later at 477 Madison Avenue.
The old-fashioned, drab interior of Murden & Company looked like a Hopper painting.
Its business of setting agendas and compiling potential invitees for Bilderberg was presided over by a "former" CIA officer. He worked closely with another former CIA official, William Bundy, who became Bilderberg's Secretary for North America in 1976.
As a registered charity, American Friends of Bilderberg, Inc., administrated by Murden & Company, raised operating costs from foundations and corporations -- mostly from the Exxon Corporation and the Ford Foundation.
If you want a true definition of how the Power Plite operates, it is on page thirty-nine of their "strictly confidential" minutes from Bilderberg's 1955 conference:
The discussions were remarkable for the measure of agreement expressed... participants will return to their various countries enriched by a clearer knowledge and understanding. Participants may, in light of their consensus of opinions, be able to pass these views on to public opinion in their own spheres of influence, without disclosing their source.
With European unity a slam-dunk, Bilderberg moved onto loftier goals.
One such goal: The New World Order, in which a heavily-supported UN force polices the globe.
But let's not jump ahead so quickly.
Let us return to 1971, when it was thought by the power-brokers that Japan had become wealthy and significant enough to qualify for membership in...