Organized by Burnham and Hook, the American delegation represented a who’s who of America’s postwar intellectuals. Tickets to Berlin were paid for by Wisner’s Office of Policy Coordination through front organizations and the Department of State, which helped arrange travel, expenses and publicity. According to CIA historian Michael Warner, the conference sponsors considered it money well spent, with one Defense Department representative calling it “unconventional warfare at its best.”
Burnham functioned as a critical connection between Wisner’s office and the intelligentsia moving from the extreme left to the extreme right with ease. Burnham found the congress to be a place to inveigh not just against Communism but against the non-communist left as well and left many wondering whether his views weren’t as dangerous to liberal democracy as Communism. According to Frances Stoner Saunders, members of the British delegation found the rhetoric coming out of the congress to be a deeply troubling sign of things to come. “Hugh Trevor-Roper was appalled by the provocative tone. … There was a speech by Franz Borkenau which was very violent and indeed almost hysterical. He spoke in German and I regret to say that as I listened and I heard the baying voices of approval from the huge audiences, I felt, well, these are the same people who seven years ago were probably baying in the same way to similar German denunciations of Communism coming from Dr. Goebbels in the Sports Palast. And I felt, well, what sort of people are we identifying with? That was the greatest shock to me. There was a moment during the Congress when I felt that we were being invited to summon up Beelzebub in order to defeat Stalin.”
The Congress for Cultural Freedom didn’t need Beelzebub. It already had him in the form of Burnham, Hook and Wisner, and by 1952, the party was just getting started. Burnham worked overtime for Wisner legitimizing the congress as a platform for the Machiavellians alongside ex-Communists and even Nazis, including SS Gen. Reinhard Gehlen and his German army intelligence unit, which had been brought into the CIA after the war intact. E. Howard Hunt, Watergate “plumber” and famous CIA dirty trickster, remembered Burnham in his memoirs: “Burnham was a consultant to OPC on virtually every subject of interest to our organization. … He had extensive contacts in Europe and, by virtue of his Trotskyite background, was something of an authority on domestic and foreign Communist parties and front organizations.”
In 1953 Burnham was called upon again by Wisner to reach beyond Communism to help overthrow the democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh in Tehran, Iran, apparently because Wisner thought the plan needed “a touch of Machiavelli.” But Burnham’s greatest contribution as a Machiavellian was yet to come. His book, “The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom,” would become the CIA’s manual for displacing Western culture with an alternative doctrine for endless conflict in a world of oligarchs. In the end, it opened the gates to an Inferno from which there would be no return.
Part 4 of “Universal Empire” will be published Thursday and look beyond Soviet Communism into the creation of the sophisticated doctrinal campaign that led to the final stage of the Machiavellian elites’ takeover of America.
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of “Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story,” “Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire” and “The Voice.” Visit their websites at invisiblehistory.com and grailwerk.com.