It was a cold autumn morning a little over a decade ago when Mr. S, a middle-aged man from Ohio, stepped out of a taxi at the intersection of East 68th Street and Park Avenue in the Upper East Side of New York City. Although much smaller than many of the surrounding buildings, the Harold Pratt House, flanked by two leafless trees, stared resolutely down upon him. The invitation in his hand read, “We cordially invite you to join our Study Group at the Pratt House. Knock on the door twice, present this invitation to the butler and he will lead you to David.”
The butler wasted no time. “Follow me, Sir.” Up a steep spiral staircase and down a couple winding corridors they finally reached the private study. Although they passed what appeared to be conference rooms, there was no sign of anyone else in the building. In a flash, the butler was gone, too. A small ticking sound came from the steam pipes that had kept the building toasty warm for over 70 years. Pushing open the door revealed the host quietly sitting in an armchair next to a mahogany bookshelf. “Mr. Rockefeller, it’s an honor to meet you.” “Please, call me David. Take a seat wherever you like Mr. S.”
It was nerve-wracking to be sitting next to the patriarch of one of America’s most influential families. Mr. S wondered why someone as rich and influential as David would be interested in speaking with him about what he imagined was just a book club.
“Are you a Harvard man like myself, Mr. S?” asked David. “Yes, I am. Harvard and Georgetown,” responded Mr. S with a stammer.
“Did you have any courses with Professor Quigley?” asked David. “He was also a member, you know.”
“No sir,” answered Mr. S, “he stopped teaching a few years before I arrived.”
“Well,” replied David, “he had inquisitive mind that could quickly connect the dots. He was a thorough note-taker and served us well as the archivist. My only complaint is that he couldn’t keep a secret. Mr. S, can you keep our meetings to yourself?”
“Of course, David” replied Mr. S. “I worked around classified material in the military. Loose Lips, Sink Ships and all that. What’s said here, stays here.”
“Excellent. Well, I’ll start by explaining what our study group, the Council of Foreign Relations, is and isn’t. The CFR isn’t a country club or Junto book club. As you may have noticed on your way up, our 4,900 members are rarely assembled here. They are spread out to all fifty states and four corners of the world working on our Great Work. You’ll not only be working with other members of the CFR but also members of the other Round Table Groups.”
“Round Table Groups? What is this — an Arthurian legend?” asked Mr. S.
“Not quite,” answered David. “You see, our group is really just a franchise of a think tank founded in London called the Royal Institute for International Affairs. Every country has an Institute for International Affairs. There’s the South African Institute for International Affairs, Australian Institute for International Affairs, etc, etc. In the United States it is called the Council on Foreign Relations but its mission and origin are identical to all the other groups. The London group, founded by royal charter and located at the Chatham House is a mothership of sorts.”
“That’s great,” answered Mr. S. “Our mission must be important considering there are so many associations of helpers and fellow travelers out there.”
“Indeed,” replied David. “Our mission is quite simple and by and large published to the public. Perhaps Professor Quigley said it best when he wrote, “The powers of financial capitalism had a far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominant the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.”
“Where do you think concepts of NAFTA and GATT originated, Mr. S?” asked David. “What about the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership?”
“Well, I suppose not from forward thinking Democrats and Republicans….” mumbled Mr. S.
“That’s right. It came from us but you will help us lead the people to believe it came from you politicians,” stated David plainly. “Time is short and I have another meeting to attend. We’ll be sending you to Alaska. Everything will be paid for and you will be rewarded as long as you play your role in advancing our work.”
With that, the butler arrived with a wheelchair to move David to his next appointment. Mr. S. was left to find his way out of the building. He would never see David again.