As the Atlantic Bridge is thrust into a mire of legal wrangling I thought that it might be worth collecting my notes on the thing before it gets forgotten. Enjoy, anoraks all.

William Domhoff describes the Bilderberg Group as a place where elites can “reach consensus” and “affirm cohesion“. The Atlantic Bridge, though lower-key, was not dissimilar. Plutocrats and powermongers met to drink, dine and discuss their nation’s weighty role in geopolitics. It was billed as a “think tank” but doesn’t seem to have forged ideas; rather, hawkish and Atlanticist perceptions were affirmed. As it boasted so many figures from our Coalition it’s worth being inquisitive.

The Atlantic Bridge was formed in 1997 but gained charitable status in 2003. Dubbed an “education and research scheme“, it was led by Liam Fox, then the Shadow Secretary of State for Health. From the start its hawkish credentials were flaunted cheerfully: Fox proclaiming, at its launch event, that “peace without security is fear, peace without justice is tyranny, peace without freedom is slavery“. He liked this statement so much he pinned it to their website. The group’s stated mission was to form and promote politicies of Transatlanticism, while “establish[ing] a strong, well-positioned, network of those in politics, business, journalism and academe“. In a later dialogue with the Tribune Review, Fox expounded on the latter…

I think it is very important to create not only the intellectual framework that will strengthen the special relationship, but actually to create the network of individual people who can know one another. That needs to be in politics, and in the media, and in the military, and in academia. And that’s what we’re trying to do: We are trying to bring people together who have common interests and to recognize that in an ever-more globalized economy, we will all be called upon to defend those common interests.

Reaching a consensus, then. Affirming cohesion.

At first the group’s activities were influenced by Fox’s role. In May 2003 it held a conference to discuss “Scientific Research and Medical Provision” (“the Anglo-American Dynamic“, whatever that is). The agenda is unknown buts its attendees offer clues: among those who shared “common interests” with the Bridge was a host of figures from the pharmaceutical trade. Kevin Rigby of Novartis; Peter Farrow of Pfizer; Tim Morris of GlaxoSmithKline. Morris spoke in opposition to “threats to development“, which apparently included “regulation” and “militant activists“. This came on the heels of GlaxoSmithKline paying millions for deceptive promotion and was followed by a chain of scandalous mistruths in years ahead. Fox also spoke with Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Insitute, on “[whether] the…UK health care model [was] sustainable” and “what lessons could be learnt from [America]“. As the Institute is a reknowned foe of “government-controlled medicine” I think that one can guess the answers.

The Bridge’s stock began to grow as Fox attempted to unite the British and U.S. Conservatives. Shamelessly ignoring its non-partisan status[1] he told an audience that…

In the era where spin is king it is all the more vital to hold on to the truth.

How many Americans, for example, when admiring the backing given to the US by our Prime Minister Tony Blair will be aware that he could only deliver that backing through Parliament because of the support of the Conservative opposition, such was the anti-war split within his own Labour party.

Yes, Fox seems to be implying that the Big Lie of Iraq was that it was a Labour mission, not a Conservative one.

At the same event Margaret Thatcher pecked some U.S. rump, giving the “President Bush…credit for victory. First in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq, [where] the forces of tyranny and darkness have been routed“. Ah, hindsight: the greatest judge. All this sycophancy won the Bridge friends in high places. Karl Rove gave an address and Fox met with the vile John Ashcroft. Soon, he was made Shadow Secretary for Defence, and was joined by front-bench colleagues Michael Gove, George Osbourne, Chris Grayling and William Hague. U.S. hawks like Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman climbed aboard while Amanda Bowman, a ludicrous torture defendant, was hired as Chief Executive.

The unsavoury acquaintanceships continued to be made. Rudy Giuliani had his Presidential campaign boosted on receiving an “Atlantic Bridge Award“. Frank Gaffney, an absurd and nasty U.S. neocon, addressed the group on terrorism. Financial compadres were added to its corporate ones[2] as Lehman Brothers high-ups made several appearances. Finally, the Bridge announced that Liam Fox was to award the “Margaret Thatcher Medal of Freedom” to that bloody old crook Henry Kissinger. In his talk, to an audience who’d each paid £400 to attend, he claimed that Britain and America needed to “seek to bring order” – a “world order” – to a “world of turmoil“.

The Atlantic Bridge shows that some leading Coalition figures tend towards Atlanticist interventionism. Bullish rhetoric abounded on its much be-flagged website, with demands for policies “to bring about a resurgence of U.S strength, pride and global standing“. Modern-day ideologues – Gaffney and James Hirsen – and grizzled old “statesmen” – Kissinger, Giuliani – helped affirm a consensus for Anglo-U.S. domination. The sizeable influence of business and financial power might hint at a “common interest” in this theme and more besides.

European integration wasn’t favoured by the Bridge. Its donors and officials were stridently anti-EU, while it carried articles that damned the “Franco-German Axis” and plans for “a European super-state“. This isn’t a bother for me – I’m no friend to the EU – but considering the violence, lies and secrecy that an ox-strong U.S./U.K. alliance has wrought these fellows might end up replacing one corrupt union with another. And, besides some powermongers, that’s in no one’s interests. Still, perhaps it’s futile to try and worm out policies. The whole thing, with prizes, gala dinners and a procession of shart-suited, slick-tongued and cold-hearted “statesmen” reeks of nothing more than men tripping out on power. And now, of course, they are in power.

Notes

[1] I’m not too interested in the Bridge’s partisanship but, yes, it is quite partisan. It’s staffed by Tories and solely promotes Conservatives. Thatcher lauded it as a “bulwark…against the Left“; Fox used it to boost the Right and Bowman, under her title as C.E.O., “look[ed] forward to…Cameron assum[ing] power“. It’s funded by Michael Hintze, a Conservative donor.

[2] As well as Hintze, the Bridge received donations from one Michael Lewis, who has given to both Labour and the Tories, mostly, it would seem, in the interests of Israel. He was involved in the Conservative friends of the same and is central to BICOM, the British Israel Communications and Research Centre.

[3] The banner is courtesy of the Bridge’s old website. Uproariously they’d titled it “great_leaders“.

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