Pacific Rim Review of Books

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Wall Street and the Death of the American Century

Reg Little

Gods of Money
William Engdahl
Global Research

William Engdahl’s latest book is another awesome exploration and explanation of the boldness and failings of Anglo-American global strategy over most of the past century and a half. Engdahl recalls in his introduction a statement from the 1970s attributed to then-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a protégé of the powerful Rockefeller circles, in which he declared, “If you control the oil, you control entire nations; if you control the food, you control the people; if you control the money, you control the entire world.”

With Gods of Money, Engdahl completes the trilogy, which with A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, and Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, explores the ways in which U.S. plutocrats and the people around them would appear to have sought to control oil, food and money in seeking to establish their sense of global order.

For anyone interested in the contemporary world, its politics and its tragedies, Engdahl’s books are obligatory reading. He explains how, as enormous wealth concentrated into the hands of a few American families, notably those of the Morgans and Rockefellers, the United States developed a remarkable strategy that concentrated power through the mastery of global finance, backed by military expedience. Like a growing number of other writers, however, he leaves no doubt that this strategy has run into serious troubles, devastating Americans as much as the intended subjects of an American Century.

Engdahl’s Left-leaning analysis highlights early the reality that “power, together with control over the nation’s economy, was being ruthlessly centralized in the hands of the wealthy few, every bit as much as it had been in the days of Imperial Rome.” He puts it brutally in these words:

Some 60 families—names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Dodge, Mellon, Pratt, Harkness, Whitney, Duke, Harriman, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, DuPont, Guggenheim, Astor, Lehman, Warburg, Taft, Huntington, Baruch and Rosenwald— formed a close network of plutocratic wealth that manipulated, bribed, and bullied its way to control the destiny of the United States.

He continues:

They operated in absolute secrecy, lest the general public understand how the banks’ money manipulated political decisions behind the scenes, including decisions to go to war or to keep the peace. The shock of these passages rests in the realization that these forces defined the 20th Century and are threatening various disasters for large populations at the beginning of the 21st Century, and yet remain largely unidentified in the mind of the voting electorate. Central to the story are the consequences of the legislation that established the Federal Reserve in 1913, placing it under the control of private bankers able to access the taxes of ordinary citizens

Engdahl draws attention to the fact that when the dominant role of the City of London over the terms of world trade was lost to the United States in the two great wars of the 20th Century, “America was to be an empire in much the same way that Great Britain had been an Empire after 1815, with one significant difference. America’s economic imperialism would disguise itself under the rhetorical cover of ‘spreading free enterprise,’ and supporting ‘national self-determination’ and ‘democracy.’ The term ‘empire’ was to be scrupulously avoided.”

Engdhal recounts how Americans believed propaganda that asserted America’s God-given ‘Manifest Destiny’ to expand its frontiers and plunder other countries. He argues that The Cold War, for example, was fought by ‘American democracy’ against ‘Godless Communism’ and gave the advance of American interests “a messianic religious cover that was astonishingly effective for decades.”

Paired with this propaganda mechanism was the construction of new International Financial Institutions after the Second World War, where the IMF become the global financial ‘policeman,’ under the control of America and, to a lesser degree, Britain. This was used to enforce the payment of “usurious debts through imposition of the most draconian austerity in history.” ‘Free trade’ and a ‘level playing field’ continued to be “the rallying cry of the strongest, most advanced economies, seeking to open up less developed markets for their goods.”

The consequences have been severe. As America’s most talented minds were increasingly drawn to Wall Street with its far greater executive compensation, the nation’s industrial base entered a terminal decline. Neglect with this decline in industrial, educational and scientific competitiveness made inevitable the off-shoring of American industry, something that remains poorly, if at all, understood in America. It is, of course well understood in Japan, China and elsewhere in Asia. Meanwhile, as industrial output has declined, education has deteriorated, and indebtedness has exploded.

By contrast, Engdahl observes that during the past 40 years, the financial sector’s share of total profits has grown from 2% to 40%. This highlights the manner in which American abuse of its global power in organizations like the IMF has also harmed the U.S. as much as anyone. Indeed, in a bizarre, unique equation, American consumption—which between 2000 and 2007 was still one-third of growth globally—had by 2009, as one estimate reports, produced an annual U.S. deficit of more than $5 trillion. With its concluding review of the decline of the Roman Empire, Engdahl’s latest has an ominous ring.

A former Ambassador, Reg Little writes on International Relations for PRRB from Brisbane, Australia.