Pope in America: Opus Dei, Washington & Holy Counterinsurgency

While visiting New York City this week, Pope Benedict is sure to visit the offices of his "personal prelature," the Opus Dei organization. Most certainly, he’ll marvel at their spanking new 17-story national headquarters, an imposing red brick building on 34th and Lexington, which the highly secretive Catholic lay organization purchased for a cool $69 million back during all the hoopla over the Da Vinci Code, a timely public relations boon to their efforts. Opening for business during the fateful year of 2001, at the dawn of the new crusades against the oil rich Islamic infidels of Eurasia, Opus Dei and its elite backers, most prominently Pope Benedict, have since continued to manifest a singular, Holy Coincidence of agendas with Bush administration foreign policy, particularly the kind that does not always make the headlines.

Opus Dei, Decoded

Opus Dei is arguably the most powerful and virulent of the fundamentalist religious fervor sweeping the globe; only this time it’s Catholic fundamentalists we’re talking about, hard-liners who trace their origins back to the Holy Inquisition and the bloody Crusades. These guys make Jerry Falwell and his Protestant come latelies look like Little Leaguers. Now mind you, they have a somewhat different opinion of themselves. According to their website, "Opus Dei is a Catholic institution and adheres to Catholic doctrine, which clearly condemns immoral behavior, including murder, lying, stealing, and generally injuring people."

It was during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco in 1928 Spain that Catholic priest José María Escriva de Balaguer founded the Opus Dei organization. As Franco’s spiritual advisor, Balaguer chose and trained the elite members of the dictatorship, placing him and his Opus Dei at the center of authoritarian power. Later, Balaguer was sent to the Vatican, and from there he worked to spread the influence of Opus Dei, especially to Latin America, where it sought to carry out its ongoing campaign to tame those Catholic liberation theology priests, condemned for appreciating Marxist analyses and opposing military or Catholic dictatorships and the ideal of a fascist theocratic regime.

Balaguer, who was fast-tracked into sainthood in 2002, concocted a series of axioms for a radically right-wing, anti-women lay movement which has over the years aligned itself with some of the most brutal dictatorships in modern times, including that of Augusto Pinochet’s Chile during the 1970s, and most recently, the 2002 aborted coup in Venezuela. While exceedingly sophisticated in its political and business practice, Opus Dei is profoundly anti-modern in its ideology. Spiritual cousin to the "practical Christianity" of the Hitler youth, half of Franco’s cabinet, back in the dark ages of WWII, were members of Opus Dei.

Though he was never a member of the Nazi party, as a seminarian, Ratzinger was briefly enrolled in the Hitler Youth in the early 1940s. In 1943 he was conscripted into an anti-aircraft unit guarding a BMW plant outside Munich. Later, he was sent to Austria’s border with Hungary to erect tank traps. After being shipped back to Bavaria, he apparently deserted. When the war ended, he was an American prisoner of war. Perhaps he was one of scores of other Nazis who were sheltered, protected and eventually employed by our own government’s newly erected intelligence agencies and their emerging cold war obsession with the Soviet threat.

In 1982, the Opus Dei organization became a personal prelature of the Vatican-that is, a separate church entity beholden only to the Pope. From that moment on, Opus Dei members escaped the authority of the bishops in the territories in which they reside. Consequently, they function as a sort of instrument of Vatican social control, like its very own global SS-something that brings to mind another historic sect which ruled with religious terror in the Spain of the 16th Century before imposing and exporting its fanaticism to the universal Church: the Inquisition.

Although Opus Dei is a part of the church’s structure, it’s not like traditional dioceses, which are defined geographically, but instead by its "worldwide purpose," which is to dominate the church and selected governments while promoting extremist, right-wing policies aligned to a corporate, imperialist, and big business agendas. With roughly 88,000 members worldwide, including about 2,000 priests, the organization spans some 61 countries, including roughly 3,000 members in the United States.

Estimated to hold assets of about $3 billion, the free-floating personal prelature, which purports to do "the work of God" ("Opus Dei," translated), is beholden to no one but the Pope, whose spokesperson, Cardinal Joaquin Navarro-Valls, is also an Opus Dei member. Appointing its own priests and bishops to rule over the lay membership, it runs 15 universities, 7 hospitals, 11 business schools and a great number of primary, secondary and technical schools, functioning as an underground force for political reaction within the Catholic church, keen on the tactics of infiltration and "holy deception."

The organization’s membership includes elite elements who wield influence at the highest levels of government, the Vatican, and the Vatican Bank. The individuals that Opus Dei chooses to recruit for membership are the cream of American, European and Latin American society. They include owners of big multinational companies, members of Congress, the press and finance magnates, as well as heads of state, governmental, religious and even secular educational bodies. U.S. Supreme Court judges Alito, Scalia and Thomas have been inked to Opus Dei, as have Congressmen Brownback and former Congressman Rick Santorum.

One current Opus Dei member worth noting is Joseph E Schmitz. A former Pentagon Inspector General, he became Chief of Operations for Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm, back in 2005. While at the Pentagon, he’d been tasked with the job of overseeing all war contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. His connection to war profiteers became well known. At least $2 trillion went "missing" from the Pentagon during his watch. Shortly after Schmitz exonerated his friends in the war industry, he announced that he was going to work for Blackwater, where he is today.

In a 2004 speech Schmitz said "No American today should ever doubt that we
hold ourselves accountable to the rule of law under God. Here lies the fundamental difference between us and the terrorists." Aside from his membership in Opus Dei, Schmitz is also a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Christian militia formed in the 11th century, before the first Crusades, with the mission of defending territories that the Crusaders had conquered from the Moslems. Blackwater leadership, like Joseph Schmitz, think they are following in that tradition.

To target our own nation’s brightest students, Opus Dei runs off-campus housing and centers around Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island; Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey and numerous other elite universities and business schools. Situated out front of these institutions, along with military recruiters, they troll for the young and impressionable, the up-and- coming with the right set of ideas, teaching them to worship money and repress sexuality, saturating them with all the tricks of psycho-moonie cults-an oppressive group therapy designed to produce obedient soldiers in the war for the soul of America.

As mentioned, thus far they have signed up about 3,000 U.S. members and are on the way to fulfilling their goal, which their founder articulated some years back when he stated, "What is the end? To promote in the world the greatest possible number of souls dedicated to God in Opus Dei." In her book, People of God, Penny Lernoux notes that Opus Dei "is an efficient machine run to achieve world power." Their reactionary politics and globalist pretensions just so happen, in a match surely not made in heaven, to coincide with the Bush agenda for world domination.

Vatican meets Pentagon Inc.

Evidence of the hand of Opus Dei within the machinations of U.S. imperialism becomes manifest when one examines the manner by which the Catholic organization secures it financing. According to Charity Navigator, a philanthropic evaluation service, "The Woodlawn Foundation supports activities conducted by the Roman Catholic Prelature Opus Dei…(whose) Services extend to the broad general public." Located in New Rochelle, the Woodlawn Foundation is the primary conduit of financing for the Opus Dei organization. According to Guidestar, Woodlawn provides "grants to over 40 Opus Dei-affiliated foundations," while maintaining assets of about $15 million. John B. Haley, an Opus Dei member, is the President and Director of the foundation.

Now, according to Hoover On-Line, a business database and information resource, the Woodlawn Foundation, as of 6/25/2001, controlled some 10,000 shares, with estimated proceeds of $415,000, of the AES Corporation, or the Advanced Energy Systems Corporation. Who are they? Well, only the largest producer of energy in the world, with nearly $12 billion in revenue!

Again, according to Hoover: "The right place at the right time — is it kismet? No, it’s AES, one of the world’s leading independent power producers. The company has interests in 120 generation facilities in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean that give it a combined net generating capacity of more than 44 gigawatts of power (primarily fossil-fueled); it also has power plants under construction. AES sells electricity to utilities and other energy marketers through wholesale contracts or on the spot market. AES also sells power directly to customers worldwide through its interests in distribution utilities, mainly in Latin America."

Known by some for their sleazy business practices, an 11/17/02 Associated Press piece entitled, "Evidence of Price Gouging During California Energy Crisis," reported that during the 2002 California energy scandal the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which was looking into corruption in the California energy industry, focused on "discussions between employees of Williams and AES Corporation about prolonging an outage at a power plant to take advantage of higher prices the state was paying at the height of the crisis." Corp Watch (8/28/03) meanwhile, pointed out that, "Virginia-based AES, the world’s largest independent energy producer is currently under investigation by the Ugandan Inspectorate of Government and the US Justice Department for alleged bribery, in violation of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act."

Dennis Bakke, a co-founder of AES in the mid-80s, is a devotee of Opus Dei and their way of doing business. In 2005, Bakke, CEO of AES, preached a sermon in Falls Church, Virginia, during which he intoned that, "labor and opus are two Latin words for work.  Labor is where we get our word labor. It conjures up work as hard, something I have to do but would rather not…Our Catholic friends use the word opus in their Opus Dei, or ‘God’s work,’ that celebrates our calling to secular work in a profoundly Biblical way. On Monday when we go back to God’s work, Opus Dei, secular work to which we are called, let us do it with passion, with joy, and with love, befitting God’s call on our life.  It is our primary mission, done for the glory of God.  Do it and enter into the Master’s joy."

The former master chairman of AES, recently deceased, was Richard G. Darman, former director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget; former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Treasury; former Assistant U.S. Secretary of Commerce; and member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. A director of AES from July 2002; he was elected Chairman of the Board on May 1, 2003. Strikingly, in addition to his service as Chairman of AES, he was a Partner and Managing Director of the Carlyle Group, joining Carlyle in February 1993, after serving in the cabinet of the first Bush administration.

The Carlyle Group, the high-flying financier of the Pentagon Incorporated, is perhaps the most well-connected enterprise on earth linking business to the voracious appetite of U.S. militarism. The 11th largest defense contractor on the planet, they are, according to the Washington Post, "the largest private equity manager in the world," which "buys and sells whole companies the way some firms trade shares of stock." In fact, they treat whole countries that way. Other Carlyle Group members include James Baker, former English Prime Minister John Major, and former president and CIA chief George Bush Sr. In short, Carlyle represents the very essence of the "military-industrial complex," a complex blessed, apparently, by the likes of Opus Dei.

Holy Counterinsurgency

Over the years, Pope Benedict has served Balaguer’s vision and the Opus Dei brand of fascist social policy with zeal. According to Thierry Meyssan’s article, "Opus Dei Sets Out to Conquer the World", as president of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Office of the Holy Inquisition, the former Josef Ratzinger oversaw, during the Reagan era, the setting up of a "surveillance center in Bogotá, Colombia, with a powerful computer of strategic capacity that was connected to the Vatican." Its purpose: to record all data and political activities of designated leftist Latin American priests and religious people dedicated to the vision and practice of liberation theology, a movement that sees justice for the poor as synonymous with God’s will.

As a consequence of the intelligence data that was gathered, and its dissemination to U.S. trained so-called counterinsurgency experts, the death squads were able to identify and assassinate many people, as was the case in El Salvador, with the murder of scores of religious workers, including the outspoken "voice of the poor," Archbishop Oscar Romero. According to an article by Marianne Johnson entitled, "The Hand of Opus Dei in El Salvador," "under Archbishop Sáenz Lacalle, an Opus Dei man," who in 1997 accepted the title of Brigadier General from the U.S. supported Salvadoran military, "the strategy has not been to reform liberation theology, but to undo and remove all traces of it." The ground for this ‘strategy’ had been prepared by Cardinal Ratzinger, who in 1996 had gone so far as to make the nakedly fraudulent claim, during a press conference in Mexico City, that liberation theology is an "ideological stream which is the source of many violent actions on the Continent."

The Coup in Venezuela

Interestingly, the Popes’ visit to New York this week just about coincides with the sixth anniversary of the abortive U.S.- backed Venezuelan coup attempt, which was in no small measure aided and abetted by the Pope’s Opus Dei organization. According to the Los Angeles Times (4/22/02), following the April 11, 2002 Venezuelan coup, newly appointed president "Carmona had named a government that included several members of the ultraconservative Roman Catholic group Opus Dei." The Guardian (4/22/02) stated that after "the military appeared in full uniform on national television to announce that Chavez had resigned, Carmona was installed and almost immediately issued a decree dissolving the national assembly and the supreme court, and announced a far-right government including, as foreign minister, Jose Rodriguez Iturbe, a member of the rightwing Catholic organization Opus Dei."

And though the coup was relatively bloodless, the London Observer (4/21/02) reported that, "more than 100 people died in events before and after the coup." It’s probable that it was worse than that. According to eye-witness reports, the newly installed Opus Dei cabinet under Carmona went about some frenzied house-cleaning. Luis Duno Gottberg, reporting from Venezuela told Left Turn magazine that immediately following the coup, "the president was made prisoner and taken from the capital," whereupon "a cabinet composed of high bourgeois elements and members of Opus Dei, a conspiratorial right wing Catholic organization, suspended the National Assembly and began the removal of various democratically elected state governors."

According to Gottberg, "brutal repression was not long in coming. There were house-to-house searches, lynchings and executions of community leaders and Chavez partisans that took place with the utmost impunity. The television stations and the national press supported the new de facto government and silenced dissident voices." Well, as we know, what came to pass was that a few days later, by April 13th, Chavez was back in the driver’s seat, heading a victorious counter-coup, sparked by an uprising of the poor and the workers of Venezuela.

Since that time, further information has surfaced pointing to the fact that elements of the Bush regime were, alongside Opus Dei, also involved in the attempted removal of Hugo Chavez from power in Venezuela. The Observer (4/21/02) pointed this out in a bold headline, "Venezuela Coup Linked to Bush Team," making reference to certain American "specialists in the ‘dirty wars’ of the eighties," who "encouraged the plotters who tried to topple President Chavez." These officials were named: Otto Reich, John Negroponte (our former intelligence czar, currently envoy to Iraq), and Elliot Abrams, all veterans of the Reagan administration’s illegal and bloody wars throughout Central America; all of whom were subsequently indicted for various crimes.

It turns out that more than simply involved, the Bush administration knew the coup attempt was coming. According to an Associated Press (12/3/04) report entitled "Documents Show CIA Knew of Venezuelan Coup," the CIA was on board nearly a week before the doomed putsch. According to the AP story, "an April 6 senior intelligence executive brief – just five days before a coup that briefly ousted Chavez – said ‘disgruntled senior officers and a group of radical junior officers are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chavez, possibly as early as this month.’" This "executive brief," along with others, are available at www.venezuelafoia.info, albeit in a somewhat censored form.

In addition, as reported in the London Guardian, (4/29/02) the "American Navy Helped Venezuelan Coup." According to the Guardian report, Venezuelan congressman Roger Rondon "claimed that the (U.S.) military officers, whom he named as (James) Rogers and (Ronald) MacCammon, had been at the Fuerte Tiuna military headquarters with the coup leaders," presumably including members of Opus Dei, "during the night of April 11-12," the night of the coup. "The congressman went on, accusing the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Charles Shapiro, and two U.S. embassy military attaches of involvement in the coup. Referring to Mr Shapiro, Mr Rondon said, ‘we saw him leaving Miraflores palace, all smiles and embraces, with the dictator Pedro Carmona Estanga [who was installed by the military for a day] … [His] satisfaction was obvious. Shapiro’s participation in the coup d’état in Venezuela is evident.’"

The Bushes and the Pope

Finally, according to the Israeli journalist Zvi Ba’rel, writing in Haaretz (7/7/04), the "British American Security Information Council (BASIC), a Washington, D.C. think tank, revealed that a Carlyle consultant, Richard Burt, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, also heads another company, Diligence, a firm that provides private security services in Iraq." Set up in 2003, "Diligence was founded by William Webster, a former director of the CIA and the FBI. Former senior CIA officials are now at its helm, among them Whitley Bruner, formerly head of the agency’s Baghdad station, is now director of the Iraq branch of Diligence. The deputy chairman of Diligence, Joe Allbaugh, was the current President Bush’s presidential campaign manager in 2000…" Established in Baghdad in 2003, Diligence is a member of the Private Security Company Association of

According to Ba’rel, in 2004, "Diligence signed a contract with New Bridge Strategies, a firm headed by Allbaugh, to supply business information about postwar Iraq." New Bridge Strategies provides "security services and intelligence information to private companies seeking to do business in Iraq. According to one U.S. diplomat recently back from Iraq, these companies are a kind of private army. They have their own security personnel and their own intelligence corps. They even make agreements with heads of local tribes to supply defense and information, a major source of their income, according to the diplomat." New Bridge has a presence in Baghdad, Beirut, Geneva, Houston, Kuwait, and Washington, DC. According to their former website, www.newbridgestrategies.com, "the opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C., and on the ground in Iraq." And the "opportunities involve more than contracting for "private security," which we already know is big business.

According to Douglas Jehl, writing in the New York Times (9/30/03), in an article entitled, "Washington Insiders’ New Firm Consults on Contracts in Iraq," "a group of businessmen linked by their close ties to President Bush, his family and his administration have set up a consulting firm to advise companies that want to do business in Iraq, including those seeking pieces of taxpayer-financed reconstruction projects." With praise from the likes of former Iraqi golden boy Ahmed Chalabi, who stated that, "New Bridge Strategies has done a stellar job of recommending to me the best contractors for the jobs to be done," they can’t go wrong, especially when they have the Bush’s around. And they do.

According to the Financial Times of London (12/11/03) in a piece entitled, "Middle East: Bush’s Brother Helped New Bridge Strategies Businessmen," "two businessmen instrumental in setting up New Bridge Strategies, a well-connected Washington firm designed to help clients win contracts in Iraq, have previously used an association with the younger brother of President George W. Bush to seek business in the Middle East…John Howland, the company president, and Jamal Daniel, a principal, have maintained an important business relationship with Neil Bush stretching back several

Ah yes, the young Neil-ster, an embarrassment to not one, but two presidents. According to the Washington Post (12/28/03), in a piece entitled "The Relatively Charmed Life Of Neil Bush," "in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Bush embarrassed his father, George H.W. Bush, with his shady dealings as a board member of the infamous Silverado Savings and Loan, whose collapse cost taxpayers $1 billion… Now, Bush has embarrassed his brother George W. Bush with a made-for-the-tabloids divorce that featured paternity rumors, a defamation suit and, believe it or not, allegations of voodoo…" Apparently, "during Bush’s very nasty divorce battle" when "asked by his wife’s attorney whether he’d had any extramarital affairs, Bush told the story of his Asian hotel room escapades. ‘Mr. Bush,’ said the attorney, Marshall Davis Brown, ‘you have to admit that it’s a pretty remarkable thing for a man just to go to a hotel room door and open it and have a woman standing there and have sex with her.’ ‘It was very unusual,’ Bush replied. Actually, it wasn’t that unusual. It happened at least three or four times during Bush’s business trips to Asia. "’I don’t remember the exact number,’" Neil admitted.

Neil’s womanizing, divorcing and dabbling in voodoo though wasn’t sufficient to alienate one very important business co-partner, namely the likes of Pope Benedict XVI, aka Josef Ratzinger. According to New York Newsday (4/21/05), "Neil Bush, the president’s controversial younger brother, six years ago joined the cardinal who this week became Pope Benedict XVI as a founding board member of a little known Swiss ecumenical foundation. The charter members of the board were all well-known international religious figures, except for Bush and his close friend and business partner, Jamal Daniel, whose family has extensive holdings in the United States and Switzerland, public records show. The Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1999 to promote ecumenical understanding and publish original religious texts, said a foundation official." Maybe those are all the original religious texts being ripped off in Iraq.