Sunday, September 6, 2009

Obama and Business International Corporation

I have hesitated on commenting on some of the rather odd and mysterious aspects to Obama's pre-public years. But John Pilger recently mentioned one of them, Obama's year spent with Business International Corporation. After graduating from Colombia in 1983, Obama describes in Dreams of My Father as being hired by a "consulting house to multinational corporations".

In profiling Obama during the campaign, print newspapers also had some rather benign things to say about Business International Corporation. The New York Times mentions it as "a small newsletter-publishing and research firm, with about 250 employees worldwide, that helped companies with foreign operations". The Boston Globe writes: "Founded in 1954 to publish a magazine targeted at an increasingly globalized managerial class, Business International covered a broad array of subjects, including reports on economic policy making and recommendations for executive insurance policies". NPR reports only that it was "a firm that catered to multinational corporations".

But back in 1977, the New York Times reported that Business International Corporation fronted CIA agents during the 1950's. It's unlikely that these type of activities ended with the Red Scare. It had a role in the 1987 Fijian coup, at least according to Lobster Magazine , the U.K. based publication described as "The Journal of Parapolitics". Interpreting their 1987 article on the coup, the BIC acted as a front for wealthy businessmen, who could thereupon funnel money to US-friendly political groups. (The same 1987 article in Lobster also notes Wolfowitz's involvement with the coup, which was instigated because Fiji's elected government was to declare the country a nuclear-free zone.)

Pilger mentions it as infiltrating labor groups in Australia. Note also that the CIA has been accused of having a role in toppling Australia's government in 1975.

Obama's time at BIC has been described in all public quarters as very mundane. For instance, the Boston Globe writes "Obama took charge of updating Financing Foreign Operations, a yearbook for which he edited manuscripts from correspondents in 40 countries. Obama also wrote for Business International Money Report, a newsletter covering currency issues and monetary policy." Other interviewees describe it as "high school with ashtrays" or "a company full of low-paid, hard-working, fun-loving young people".

So, as Pilger says, "there may be absolutely nothing sinister". What is most incongruent is how mainstream newspapers have memory loss regarding the firm's covert history, and how it belies Obama's campaign claim of being an outsider.
1 John Pilger Speaking at the Socialism 2009 Conference (BIC reference at 1:30)
2 "Obama’s Account of New York Years Often Differs From What Others Say" - NYT
3 "Obama's Early Brush With Financial Markets" - NPR
4 "Obama shows hints of his year in global finance" -
5 Business International Corporation - Wikipedia
Lobster Magazine, Issue 14, 1987 - Author's Personal Collection
"CIA Established Many Links to Journalists in U.S. and Abroad" - NYT, December 27th, 1977

No comments: