Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century (1999)

During our June Meeting we  discussed the following book selected by Stirling Smith:

Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century, Knopf; 1 Amer ed edition, 1999.


About Ron Boothe

I am a Professor Emeritus at Emory University, currently living in Tacoma Washington USA.
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4 Responses to Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century (1999)

  1. Ron Boothe says:

    I want to thank Stirling for picking this book, one that I would probably never have picked up off the shelf to read on my own, but one that I found fascinating once I sat down to read it for purposes of our book club discussion. This book created some of our most spirited discussion to date, and I hope some of us will use this blogsite to continue the discussion online.

    I want to start the discussion by making a comment about one (perhaps peripheral, but important) issue that came up during our discussion of the book. That issue had to do with how similar or dissimilar the current Obama presidency is to presidencies of our recent past. Some in the group (me included) argued that there is a sharp break from the recent past, perhaps even sufficiently large to consider it to be a qualitative change, due to the way the Obama presidency campaign was financed. The argument is that recent presidents have been beholden to a (relatively) small group of big donors, whereas Obama is less beholden to a few large special interest donors because he received more of his donations from a larger group of small donors. Others in our group argued that the Obama administration is just as beholden to a few “fat cat” special interest donors as any other recent president.

    Those of us taking the former position made a challenge to those taking the latter position. It was to look at the evidence regarding the distribution of contributions. I tried to pose the way I would approach answering this question during our discussion, but I would like to state it more formally here. Here is the algorithm I would use to decide the relative influence of “fat cat” donors. Construct a list of all of the donors to the Obama campaign and rank order the list from those who gave the most to those who gave the least. Start at the beginning of the list, accumulating the total amount of money contributed. Keep going down the list doing this until you have accounted for (just over) half of the total money contributed to the campaign. Call this the “list of fat cat donors” since they provide over half of the campaign contributions. Now, the question is, “What percentage of all donors are on this list?” In a perfectly egalitarian system, I suppose half of the donors would be on the list. But being realistic, what would constitute evidence that the presidency is “owned/controlled” by a small group of “fat cat” special interest contributors? I am not sure, but here are a few thoughts off the top of my head. If the answer is 1%, I concede that this is oligarchy. If the answer is 10%, I have to still agree that I am highly concerned about what are the interests of that 10%. If the answer is 20%, my concern is lessened considerably, although I would feel better if the answer is 25% or higher. I don’t know what the actual number is, but I assume it is available somewhere. Hopefully someone who knows the number will post it here. The hypothesis I asserted during our verbal discussion (without having any evidence) was that the percentage of this number for the Obama campaign was “significantly” lower than for any other recent presidency, and I challenged those who disagree with me to provide the evidence (since I am too lazy to take the time to look it up myself :-)) I look forward to seeing the evidence, and to further discussion of this topic.
    Ron Boothe

  2. David Gilmour says:

    It was a surprise to find 20th-century Europe the focus of Dark Continent. In his iconoclastic history, Mark Mazower must have received some very dirty marks for telling the truth that many would prefer to remain blind to. The very diligent, scholarly style of marshalling data and corroborative quotations will keep the majority in our text-messaging, twitter-flashing age from ever knowing this work and its importance. It is too bad the author didn’t wait a decade longer before he concluded his work. Since, the Balkans outbreaks, the depressing on-going history of wars would have revealed the darkened world getting darker as the 21st century opened to the USA’s last-ditch effort at global imperialism and its nightmarish instigation and entanglement in Middle East wars. “When will they ever learn, when will they e-eveeeer learn!” David Gilmour

  3. Roger Erickson says:

    Hi Guys,
    > I love a challenge so I hope you read the following about Obama and
    > Contributions and answer some of these questions in your own mind. I
    > am listening to BS by guy who apparently is writing a Book on Obama
    > at his request. Quote: “[Obama] is closer to Bush [personally] than
    > to Bill Clinton.” Renegade, Making of President by Richard Wolf
    > The president is supposed to be reading about himself[narcissism of a
    > celebrity] on the way to Egypt.
    > Regarding book club conversational challenge. I suggest the following
    > sites and another one to provoke more conversation. I claim no
    > expertise on these matters. How did Obama get started? Are their
    > known connections between the investment-banking-speculating
    > community and the CIA? How much money did 13,000,000 e-mail donors
    > donate? How many were duplicates? I have 4 different e-mails and at
    > least 18 blogs. What How many fake companies has the CIA set up? Have
    > they penetrated our engineering companies, consultancy firms etc?
    > How many internet addresses can you set up to donate money?
    > Fed. Election Commission numbers
    > $744,000,000 total for Obama
    > http://www.fec.gov/DisclosureSearch/mapApp.do?cand_id=P80003338
    > Use the site to see different configurations for categorizing donors
    > and who contributed. This table lists the top donors to this
    > candidate in the 2008 election cycle. The organizations themselves
    > did not donate , rather the money came from the organization’s PAC,
    > its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’
    > immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and
    > affiliates.
    > Because of contribution limits, organizations that bundle together
    > many individual contributions are often among the top donors to
    > presidential candidates. These contributions can come from the
    > organization’s members or employees (and their families). The
    > organization may support one candidate, or hedge its bets by
    > supporting multiple candidates. Groups with national networks of
    > donors – like EMILY’s List and Club for Growth – make for
    > particularly big bundlers.
    > http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cycle=2008&cid=N00009638
    > http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/summary.php?id=N00009638
    > Look at mind map or money web for easy summary.
    > Just to blow your minds consider the following at: Undernews.com
    > Sam Smith is Green Party leftist. He has been writing for over 40
    > years in the heart of the beast, Washington DC. I would add that a
    > book like Family of Secrets, The Bush Family Dynasty?would allow you
    > to read this article with a new understanding.
    > January 3, 2009
    > As we have noted, one of the unanswered questions about Barack Obama
    > is how a young politician of such little achievement got so far so
    > fast – from state senator to president in four years. Bill Blum
    > provides new light on the subject. To understand this phenomenon, it
    > is important to recognize that if a young Obama was vetted or
    > otherwise used by the CIA, it was not all that unusual. From the
    > 1950s on, the agency repeatedly interfered in the education of the
    > talented young by recruiting or co-opting them for its own purposes.
    > Yale’s Skull & Bones Club, for example, was a classic case of a
    > recruitment camp for future intelligence types. The purpose – for the
    > short run – is more information, and – for the long run – a supply of
    > US future government officials whom the agency trusts and can use.
    > And it often begins with a bright college student an insider thinks
    > might fill the bill. . . .
    > Bill Blum, Anti-Empire Report – The question that may never go away:
    > Who really is Barack Obama? In his autobiography, “Dreams From My
    > Fathers”, Barack Obama writes of taking a job at some point after
    > graduating from Columbia University in 1983. He describes his
    > employer as “a consulting house to multinational corporations” in New
    > York City, and his functions as a “research assistant” and “financial
    > writer.” The odd part of Obama’s story is that he doesn’t mention the
    > name of his employer.
    > However, a New York Times story of 2007 identifies the company as
    > Business International Corporation. Equally odd is that the Times did
    > not remind its readers that the newspaper itself had disclosed in
    > 1977 that Business International had provided cover for four CIA
    > employees in various countries between 1955 and 1960. The British
    > journal, Lobster Magazine — which, despite its incongruous name, is
    > a venerable international publication on intelligence matters — has
    > reported that Business International was active in the 1980s
    > promoting the candidacy of Washington-favored candidates in Australia
    > and Fiji. In 1987, the CIA overthrew the Fiji government after but
    > one month in office because of its policy of maintaining the island
    > as a nuclear-free zone, meaning that American nuclear-powered or
    > nuclear-weapons-carrying ships could not make port calls. After the
    > Fiji coup, the candidate supported by Business International, who was
    > much more amenable to
    > Washington’s nuclear desires, was reinstated to power.
    > In his book, not only doesn’t Obama mention his employer’s name; he
    > fails to say when he worked there, or why he left the job. There may
    > well be no significance to these omissions, but inasmuch as Business
    > International has a long association with the world of intelligence,
    > covert actions, and attempts to penetrate the radical left —
    > including Students for a Democratic Society — it’s valid to wonder
    > if the inscrutable Mr. Obama is concealing something about his own
    > association with this world.
    > Colony Net, 2008 – In an effort to shore up his foreign policy
    > credentials during the primary campaign, the junior senator from
    > Illinois – then in a tight primary contest with Hillary Clinton in
    > Pennsylvania – bragged about the time he had spent in Pakistan. He
    > argued that Clinton’s foreign policy “experience”ï¿1?2 consisted only
    > of quick photo ops, while he had spent “quality time”ï¿1?2 with “real
    > people.”ï¿1?2 Not only that, he had actually gone on a
    > partridge-hunting trip near the Pakistan city of Larkana. His
    > partridge-hunting apparently impressed the gun owners of Pennsylvania
    > very little, inasmuch as Clinton won that primary by 10 per cent.
    > Eager to impress the Pennsylvania crowd with his “foreign policy
    > experience”ï¿1?2 and knowledge of guns, Obama thus let slip the fact
    > that he’d been to Pakistan. (It is believed that he made two trips to
    > Pakistan.) There must have been more to that trip than meets the eye,
    > however, because the candidate has said virtually nothing about it
    > since. You won’t find anything on the Obama campaign site. . .
    > Astute readers may have begun to wonder how a struggling young
    > college student with a divorced, middle-class mother managed to fund
    > a three week trip to Pakistan. . . But Barry Obama-Soetoro was off
    > shooting partridges in Pakistan, hosted by a young man named Muhammed
    > Hasan Chandio. Chandio’s family owned a substantial amount of land in
    > the region, and Obama apparently met him while both were students.
    > (Chandio is currently a financial consultant in New York, and a donor
    > to the Obama campaign.). . .
    > Another of Obama’s hosts in Pakistan was Muhammadian Mian Soomro,
    > Obama’s senior by about 11 years, son of a Pakistani politician and
    > himself a politician, who became interim President of Pakistan when
    > Pervez Musharraf resigned in August of 2008. Soomro has said that
    > “someone”ï¿1?2 personally requested that he “watch over”ï¿1?2 Barack
    > Obama, but will not name that individual . . .
    > A trip to Pakistan is no doubt more than a jaunt to a Florida beach.
    > Few Americans would consider traveling there now, thinking it to be a
    > dangerous place. In 1981, when one of Obama’s possible two trips
    > there occurred, it was less safe. Because of the war between
    > Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, millions of Afghan refugees fled to
    > Pakistan, which was under martial law. The Afghan “mujahedeen”ï¿1?2
    > fighters had bases in Pakistan, and they moved back and forth to
    > fight the Soviets. . .
    > In the early 1980s, Pakistan was one of the destinations Americans
    > were prohibited from visiting – it was on the State Department’s list
    > of banned countries. Non-Muslims were not welcome, unless they were
    > on official business, formalized through the embassy of the country
    > of origin. The simple truth is that no young American would have a
    > reason to or be able to visit Pakistan in 1981, unless he was on
    > official government business of which the State Department was aware.
    > . .
    > Adding to the mix is the fact that Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, had
    > visited at least 13 countries in her lifetime, and had worked for
    > companies that required travel to Pakistan. Her employers appear to
    > have included the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Ford
    > Foundation, Women’s World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. Note
    > that USAID and the Ford Foundation have (allegedly) been used as
    > covers for CIA agents. . . .
    > The story of Business International also includes its 1960s joint
    > meetings with members of SDS at the prodding of Carl Oglesby. Not
    > everyone was happy at the idea – including Bernadette Dorn – and
    > probably for good cause.
    > Obama also was one of eight students selected to study sovietology by
    > Columbia professor Zbigniew Brzezinski who, if he wasn’t a CIA
    > official, was as close as you can otherwise get. Brzesinski is now a
    > member of Obama’s inner circle.
    > If the Obama Pakistan story sounds somewhat familiar, it may because
    > the Review was one of the few places that reported one of Bill
    > Clinton’s similarly interesting trips:
    > “1960s: Bill Clinton, according to several agency sources interviewed
    > by biographer Roger Morris, works as a CIA informer while briefly and
    > erratically a Rhodes Scholar in England. Although without visible
    > means of support, he travels around Europe and the Soviet Union,
    > staying at the ritziest hotel in Moscow. During this period the US
    > government is using well educated assets such as Clinton as part of
    > Operation Chaos, a major attempt to break student resistance to the
    > war and the draft. According to former White House FBI agent Gary
    > Aldrich Clinton is told by Oxford officials that he is no longer
    > welcome there.”
    > posted by TPR | 4:04 PM
    > Anonymous Mairead said…
    > This feels a little surprising and troubling in a way I’m not
    > sure I can identify.
    > Maybe it’s the implication that the CIA is at or nearly at the
    > top of the food chain.
    > If that’s so, and they’re not just another lackey-level tool of
    > the ownership class, then it seems to me that we’re in a trap that
    > nothing but maybe luck can get us out of.
    > January 4, 2009 9:06 AM ŠBlogger Joseph said…
    > This is change?
    > January 4, 2009 10:16 AM ŠOpenID buelahman said…
    > This truly clears up a lot of loose ends I had in my mind about him.
    > Thanks.
    > January 5, 2009 5:57 PM ŠAnonymous Anonymous said…
    > What is his connection to israel is the real question? I think
    > the answer to this question will blow us all away!
    > January 5, 2009 8:11 PM ŠAnonymous Anonymous said…
    > Yes. we are in for some “change” but I feel rather queasy
    > pondering how much and at what price?
    > January 19, 2009 6:56 PM ŠAnonymous Anonymous said…
    > Obama is nothing but a puppet of the C.I.A. and their masters in
    > the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg
    > Group and A.I.P.A.C.
    > He’s a fresh face for the same neo-con b.s.
    > March 17, 2009 11:21 PM Š
    > Post a Comment

  4. Ron Boothe says:

    When we discussed some of these ideas during our meeting last Spring, I assumed you were being serious. Now I see you are messing with us. I could not have come up with a better parody of the crazy paranoid thinking that appears to dominate so much of our society these days. We are subjected to this kind of blowhard, know-it-all, crazy talk all the time by the ilk of those on the right — Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck. Best way to deal with this kind of thing is not to take it seriously but to make fun of it by parodying the same logic, and “Sam Smith” does that in spades.
    …. (long pause)
    …. (longer pause)
    …. (really long continuing pause)
    What? It wasn’t meant to be a parody? It was serious!
    Yikes. I love you like a brother, but but but …
    Sorry I have to run now — busy working on my latest academic treatise titled, “Why I think our entire society has gone insane”. Hope it will be a best seller so we can discuss it in our book club.

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