From Conspiracy, by Daniel Pipes

For those who wonder where the notion that the Council on Foreign Relations runs the U.S. government, here is a quick explanation, from my book Conspiracy, pp. 115-17.

In 1938, a time of cresting totalitarianism in Europe, the House of Representatives established the Committee on Un-American Activities to investigate "the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda."[1] But only with the cold war did this concern become an issue with national repercussions. Senator Joseph McCarthy (Republican of Wisconsin) gave its most famous exposition in a 1951 Senate speech during which he asked and answered his own question:

How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this Government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy, a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, when it is finally exposed, its principles shall be forever deserving of the malediction of all honest men.[2]

With great fanfare and the usual conspiracist disregard for evidence and procedure, McCarthy then proceeded to use his control of the Permanent Investigations Subcommittee to uncover American communists in government, show business, the academy, and other leading positions. Some individuals named were indeed communists, but many were not. McCarthy's sensational charges and uncontrolled methods may represent the most visible example of conspiracism's entering American mainstream politics. Only three years later, however, his campaign was defunct, felled by its own tendentiousness: the very prominence of his charges proved to be their undoing, for he needed to substantiate them and could not.

In the wake of this failure, an alternate conspiracy theory gained currency, one stressing not "the shabby people who staff the official apparatus of the Communist Party" but "well-intentioned people (in the PTA and similar organizations) who have been brainwashed with Communist ideas."[3] This theory focuses on the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a New York club that brings together Americans with an earnest interest in the outside world. Looking at its membership rolls, conspiracy theorists noted that its members staffed many of the highest positions in each presidential administration, Democratic or Republican, as well as many other key positions throughout American life.

Finding a hierarchy where none exists, reading discipline into a voluntary organization, the Right fingers the CFR as the "invisible government" that really runs the United States. What does the council use its immense power to achieve? Conspiracy theorists deem its goal "to get Americans to the point where entering a world government would seem as natural and American as baseball and apple pie."[4] This has other, more ominous implications: to "convert America into a socialist state" and achieve the Stalinist goals of "collectivization and subjugation of the human race."[5] Some leading members of the invisible government "know exactly what they are doing" in bringing America under the Kremlin's thumb;[6] but the great majority (and especially in the case of some anticommunist CFR members) do not realize they are working for its ends.[7] Yet others who have no taste for one-world government get coopted: "all it takes is a quiet word from the right person to destroy the future of any public company that is carrying a substantial debt."[8] Such power also explains why the national media never permit criticism of the CFR.

While membership in the CFR "has become a prerequisite for running for the presidency,"[9] the CFR's power reduced even the president to a figurehead. In the case of Dwight Eisenhower, the John Birch Society found that in return for his having "been guided by, and taken orders from, the Communist bosses, . . . the Communist push was behind him every step of the way" of his career. In all, he was "the most completely opportunistic and unprincipled politician America has ever raised to high office," and he played a leading part in "treasonous developments."[10] In the view of a right-wing priest, John Kennedy was "more or less a victim of his job in the White House. He had a lot of enemies and his wires were tapped all the time."[11]

[1]. Quoted in David Brion Davis, ed., The Fear of Conspiracy: Images of Un-American Subversion from the Revolution to the Present (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1971), p. 279.
[2]. 14 June 1951, Congressional Record, 82d Cong. 1st sess. vol. 97, pt. 5, p. 6602.
[3]. Dan Smoot, The Invisible Government, 2d ed. (Boston: Western Islands, 1977), p. 115. PTA stands for Parent-Teachers Association, a group that organizes parents' involvement in the schools their children attend.
[4]. Gary H. Kah, En Route to Global Occupation (Lafayette, La.: Huntington House, 1991), p. 36.
[5]. Smoot, Invisible Government, pp. 3, xvi.
[6]. Ibid., p. 141.
[7]. This presumably explains why my name is listed in James Perloff, The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline (Appleton, Wisc.: Western Islands, 1988), p. 261.
[8]. Pat Robertson, The New World Order (Dallas: Word, 1991), pp. 135-36.
[9]. Kah, En Route to Global Occupation, p. 55.
[10]. Robert Welch, The Politician (Belmont, Mass.: Privately printed., 1963), pp. 83, 17, 6.
[11]. Father Louis Rohr, quoted in Donald Warren, Radio Priest: Charles Coughlin, the Father of Hate Radio (New York: Free Press, 1996), p. 296.