Several dozen participants of a secretive group thought to rule the world gathered in a suburban Virginia hotel last week, talked for three days, then went their separate ways.
The 2008 Bilderberg conference, an invitation-only event for about 120 of the world’s most influential bankers, businessmen, policymakers, and current and former government officials, took place at the Westfields Marriott, an elegant, 1,100-acre retreat near Washington Dulles International Airport.
If conspiracy theorists are to be believed, the assemblage – which featured U.S. power brokers such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and former banker David Rockefeller - weighed in on the next U.S. president, whether and when to bomb Iran, and how to fix the playing field to gain maximum advantage for their various business interests.
The group’s official press release suggests a more modest goal, however.
“Bilderberg is a small, flexible, informal and off-the-record international forum in which different viewpoints can be expressed and mutual understanding enhanced,” the release said, citing topics such as working towards a nuclear-free world, cyber-terrorism, Africa, Russia, finance, protectionism, U.S-European relations, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
“At the meetings, no resolutions are proposed, no votes taken and no policy statements issued.”
In fact, this is social networking at its most exclusive; a global confab of golf and gossip among leaders of the Western establishment, such as it is. Conspicuously absent from the meetings are emissaries from Asia, Africa or Latin America, not to mention the voices of rabble-rousers, rebels and regular folk.
If Davos is like a crowded public beach for displaying ideas, Bilderberg is a billionaire’s private island. Uninvited visitors are barred (although protesters certainly tried their best to gain entry). No media coverage is permitted and participants agree to keep quiet about what they hear and say.
This year’s hosts were the American Friends of Bilderberg, a nonprofit group whose sole function is to arrange the meetings when they rotate to the U.S. Besides Kissinger and Rockefeller, directors of the group include Carnegie Endowment President Jessica Tuchman Mathews, Washington lawyer Vernon Jordan Jr., former assistant defense secretary Richard Perle, former World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn and the Democrats’ just-departed vice-presidential vetter James Johnson, according to its 2006 tax filings, the most recent available.
Among this year’s U.S. participants were World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Washington Post Chairman Donald E. Graham and TV talk show host Charlie Rose.
The few signs of a changing world order, if you can even call it that, were the participation of Lebanese-born Fouad Ajami, a Middle East expert at Johns Hopkins University and an outspoken supporter of the war in Iraq, as well as Microsoft’s Craig Mundie.
Two-thirds of the participants are actually from outside the U.S. including Josef Ackermann of Germany’s Deutsche Bank, Paul Desmarais Jr. of the Power Corporation of Canada and Jacob Wallenberg, chairman of Sweden’s Investor AB.
Since its first meeting 54 years ago at the Hotel de Bilderberg, near Arnhem in The Netherlands to make common cause between the U.S. and Europe in the Cold War, the secretive retreats have provoked rumors of extraordinary exploits, among them, the creation of the European Union, the decision to invade Iraq, and the selection of Bill Clinton as U.S. president and Tony Blair as prime minister of Britain - all in service to the group’s goal to create a world government, of course.
“On every front, from the timing of the Iraq war to the selection of presidential candidates’ running mates in 2004 and 2008, to the economy - Bilderberg sets the agenda and the future pans out exactly as they had planned,” wrote Paul Joseph Watson at infowars.com.
“The outright complicity of the corporate media in blackballing Bilderberg coverage reminds us why the elite encounter little hindrance in conspiring in such a secretive and undemocratic manner every single year without facing any substantial public scrutiny.”
But evidence of a conspiracy to create a new world order is scant. Yes, powerful participants share information. Yes, they play golf together and slap backs. And yes, they influence one another’s views. There’s every reason to believe, for instance, as Time Magazine reported in 2004, that after John Edwards’ impressive performance at a Bilderberg session in Italy that year, John Kerry asked him to join his presidential ticket.
The arguments get shaky when they go beyond that sphere, however. As Slate’s Jack Shafer asks: “Would a shadow government, should it exist, really convene annually at a hotel to hash out the world’s fate?
“Would it really issue a press release about its latest meeting? Would it routinely assume the security risks of inviting new blood in? (Couldn’t the notorious Bilderberger Conrad Black negotiate his way out of prison by exposing the group? Or is Bilderberg so powerful that it controls the federal prison system, too?)”
We can’t wait to hear the explanations he gets back.