Everything’s set. The hotel is being primped and hoovered, the security is arriving, the press is nowhere to be seen, and I just had a really boring crab salad. It’s shaping up to be a vintage Bilderberg.
We were lunching in the Palm Court restaurant of the Westfields Marriott hotel, in Chantilly, Virginia. A few days from now, this hotel will be dripping with billionaires and bankers, industry CEOs and finance ministers, here for the annual Bilderberg summit. “The leaders of the world are coming to our hotel”, beams one member of staff. “Are you here for the brunch?”
We are. Most of the other guests have left by now. The hotel is edging towards lockdown. All that’s left is a team of nervy conference organizer who start filming us with their iPhones, several dozen security operatives, me, my wife and a really rather boring ‘spook’, brunching on an adjacent table.
He droned on for the full length of a crab salad about his “internal and external drivers”, about how “I got a panel of three-star admirals together” to secure a “$30m contract” and how “CACI excels in capture management”.
He talked fondly of CACI International Inc (a giant defense contractor), although more recently he’s had “a nice success rate with Booz Allen” (another giant defense contractor). His world was the deathly dull blur between the federal government and private defense corporations. The grim feeding trough of “systems solutions”, “security logistics” and “mission assurance”. My crab ended just as he was declaring, wisely: “When you leave the navy and you go to a contractor, you say: what’s my mission?”
His mission for the next week or so is to keep the queen of the Netherlands, the chairman of Barclays, and the chairman, vice-chairman and CEO of Shell Oil safe and sound for a three-day conference. The hotel is encircled by the offices of the world’s largest arms’ manufacturers, 15 minutes up the road from the headquarters of the CIA. I suspect they’ll be OK.
The Bilderberg conference was last here in Chantilly, at the exact same godforsaken spot, back in 2008 – which, like 2012, was a US election year, and the moment the current economic woes really started hitting the fan. You might remember, it was the year when then-senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton paid a flying visit to Bilderberg (aka ‘an event in northern Virginia’), after shaking off the press pack during the Democratic presidential campaign. AP had the story:
“Reporters travelling with Obama sensed something might be happening between the pair might when they arrived at Dulles International Airport after an event in northern Virginia and Obama was not aboard the airplane.”
You can watch the hilarious footage of Robert Gibbs, Obama’s press secretary, trying (and failing) to placate a furious press corp, who found themselves tricked aboard a flight to Chicago. “Others had a desire to meet with him in a private way,” he explains. This is an extraordinary admission from Gibbs – “others” clicked their fingers, and Obama came running, with Hillary in tow.
Bill Clinton was introduced to the political big league at Bilderberg 1991. The man who introduced him was Vernon Jackson, a lawyer, civil rights activist and currently board member of Lazard investment bank. Speaking last year about the occasion, Jackson recalls:
“In 1991, I took Bill Clinton to the Bilderberg meetings in Baden Baden, Germany. Bilderberg meetings have been going on since 1954, sort of the North-American / European Alliance.”
Later, after Clinton won the election:
“The steering committee of Bilderberg came to Washington in January, and I called the president up and I said ‘Mr President, they’re here’ – and he came to the Four Seasons hotel, and the Europeans felt like they owned him because they met him when he was totally unknown.”
That’s interesting: a meeting of the Bilderberg steering committee at the Four Seasons in Washington? In January? But according to Bilderberg’s official website, “Bilderberg’s only activity is its annual conference”.
As for this year’s election, rumours are already circulating about Bilderberg and presidential running mates, sparked off by a Washington Post report back in April on the matter of Republican senator Marco Rubio’s speech at the Summit of the Americas:
“[John] Edwards gave a speech in June 2004 at the Bilderberg conference that was widely credited as one reason John Kerry chose him.”
Aside from the US presidency, the big debate of Bilderberg 2012 is likely to be: what in Hades do we do about Greece? The Eurozone is Bilderberg’s biggest project, but it’s been looking distinctly shaky of late. What’s to be done? You can feel the unwillingness of Bilderberg to countenance a ‘Grexit’ in the stern words of Bilderberg spokesperson, the UK member of parliament for Rushcliffe, Kenneth Clarke. To leave the Euro, says Clarke, would be “disastrous” for the Greeks. “If they get a hopeless lot of rather cranky extremists elected at the next election then they will default on their debt.” Clarke took the time to brand eurosceptic British MPs “right-wing nationalists”, and euroscepticism itself “irresponsible”.
Clarke’s most telling remark is that: “It’s going to take a crisis, an absolute crisis, to make Europe’s leaders act.” This week’s Economist magazine agrees: “For the past six decades, steps forward to greater European union have taken place at moments of incipient crisis.”
“A consensus is slowly emerging that, whether a Greek exit is to be averted or weathered, there will have to be a greater level of integration in the euro zone, with tighter constraints on the freedom of national governments.”
This message, that out of the struggle will come a new strength, seems to be the Bilderbergian line. For example, EU Commissioner Joaquin Almunia (whom we spotted at Bilderberg 2010) says we need now to “reinforce the European Parliament’s role” which “will also strengthen the role of the [EU] Commission”. So his solution to the crisis: “I need a bigger office.”
The Economist says that if the “elite venture” of Europe is to survive and thrive, “Europe’s elites” have got their work cut out. It ventures to give the elites some “unashamedly technocratic” advice on how to forge their closer union, but it needn’t worry, the technocrats of Bilderberg seems to have the matter in hand. Mario Monti (unelected Italian PM, Bilderberg steering committee) said this week: “Europe can have euro bonds soon.”
But we’re not in Europe now, we’re in Chantilly, and the CIA is just up the road from the conference venue, so protestors had better stay on their best behaviour. And we’re expecting plenty of them – gathering under the activist umbrella: “Occupy Bilderberg”
What a difference a year makes. Occupy Bilderberg? I love it. The Occupy movement seems finally to have realised that the problem isn’t the 1%, it’s the 0.001%. It’s the guys and gals and whatever David Rockefeller is who are meeting in Chantilly, Virginia, at the end of the week. Many hundreds of protestors have pledged to show up. And who knows, they may just manage to drag the mainstream news media with them.
Historically, one of the biggest problems people have had with Occupy is that its aims and demands have been a little, shall we say, “diffuse”. Not the case with Occupy Bilderberg. That’s the nail getting hit squarely on the head. Occupy Bilderberg is keyhole activism. Picking the exact right spot and sticking the scissors in.
“We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis” was the cry from OccupyLSX back in the autumn. They demanded an end to “our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.” What Bilderberg represents is the fact that our democracy IS our corporations. And politics is just the wake behind a shark fin.
Time to go fishing.