(Update: A reader has pointed out that Charleston is not actually the oldest city in America. The author has redacted this error. We are so sorry a colloquialism has confused the message herein. )
The story you are about to read, it’s a bit of a novella. If you have the patience though, a better understanding of how America got into so much international policy trouble can be known. In the Republic of Georgia, in Ukraine, and for the chaos we see over Syria, there are common threads of causation. Bear with me in the first part painting my home town of Charleston, SC. With this portrait, you’ll see how our nation made such a gigantic mess. The oldest city in America, it’s a template for a aristocratic society gone too far. Fasten your seat belt, this piece is not a short ride to clarity, only a rewarding one.
“The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.” Napoleon Bonaparte
Things to Love About the South
On a crisp day in August of 1964, a stout and dignified man stands gazing through ship’s binoculars out the eighth story window of a vast apartment in the Sergeant Jasper apartment building in Charleston, SC. He scans the horizon, looking out over the rustling yet silent palmetto palms lining Broad Street, locking his gaze momentarily on the People’s Building across town, where his penthouse office offers a similar view, only with added perspective and panorama revealing the docks, the Cooper River, and Fort Sumter off in the distance. For a moment Charles Mullally (PDF) pondered the post-antebellum beauty of America’s oldest city. Then as meticulously as he’d looked over the broad view, he quickly aimed his binoculars directly down at the chain link fence bordering Moultrie Playground and Ashley Avenue. There, peddling a spanking new bicycle up the sidewalk, a little boy struggled to maintain the straight line between the palmetto trees to one side, and the fence on the other. The man smiled, taking notice of the brand new basket he’d installed on the bike earlier that day.
Charlie Mullally was the biggest figure I have ever called friend, a great big man of great big wealth and power, and acumen beyond what most people can imagine today. He was a sea captain, a pilot and adventurer, a collector of priceless things, and he was in love with my Mom too. It was their lifelong friendship, and short lived affairs, which flung me into an old south cultural maelstrom, a life of unlimited and eclectic learning, one which has plopped me down to write in front of all of you today. But that is another story altogether, a time Charlie watched over me. One of my great life-instructors, Charlie taught how me to set a table service, the way to chew my food and to set my utensils neatly across my plate, in the Irish or Scottish way, you see. He spoke of Persian how rugs were made, where mahogany came from, he even carried me to Fort Sumter, then seeing me so impressed, had a brick from the fort embellished with a plaque, just for this little Charleston boy. Yes Charley knew many things, he was a very, very smart man, but only this morning did I learn the most valuable of his teachings. For his part in revealing secrets today, I’ll hold off until the end. You’ll just have to wait and see.
On another hot Summer day in 1996, this one in Summerville, South Carolina, a solitary woodpecker bobs his head back and forth in that curious way such birds do. Darting a glance, back-and-forth, before resuming its relentless hammering, no wonder they made a cartoon character named “Woody” on account of this curious fellow. Looking down briefly, through its sharp little bird eyes, the comical bird catches a glimpse of the old man who lives with the black woman in the dented old trailer down below. The park where the tin can on wheels rests, it’s like 10,000 others across the United States, lively and fascinating on the one hand, and pitifully depressing on the other. It’s location in Summerville, the place where rich folk from Charleston used to “Summer” in order to avoid hordes of disease carrying mosquitoes downtown, It’s genuine southern Americana, on the other side of the dividing line between the “haves” and “have-nots” of South Carolina. All around, even in the trailer parks, wondrous azaleas and other flora bloom. Picturesque as the town is though, the story of John Drayton Ford, the old man who caught the woodpecker’s eye, it’s a national tragedy, a travesty that foretells of the other end of the spectrum of reality. On the day or little Woody Woodpecker watched Drayton Ford roll his oxygen tank over to the sink for a drink of water, a fascinating human being no doubt pondered how nearly 90 years could be so unkind.
Drayton Ford grew up amid a lifestyle and an atmosphere most people only see in movies. Named for John Drayton, South Carolina’s 40th governor, the planter and politician who founded the University of South Carolina, my stepfather was many things in his life. Old money, the privileges that go with it, preparatory schools, the yacht club, and being part of South Carolina’s most famous family of golf, it all went with hybrid Carolina style and charm. Drayton loved my Mom too, and marrying such a southern bell without the permission of the Ford family’s matriarch, it was Drayton’s ultimate fall from grace. The real story of John Drayton Ford is suitable for a novel, which I shall presently start, for now the reader only need understand that this honest and good man was not as smart as his contemporary Charles Mullaly. In fact, when my Mother Delilah (yes, I told you it would be a good story) bragged to Charlie she would marry Drayton, the jealous but indomitable tycoon replied; “You’d better first ask the permission of the lady on Logan Street Delilah.” Delilah did not, and Annie (Sissy) Ford never forgot or forgave her. Drayton died penniless, a step from homeless, cared for by a lady his nephew Billy Ford saw fit to hire. His name does not even appear in a Charleston obituary I can find, his grave in Magnolia Cemetery is at the far, far corner of a the biggest family plot in the famous acres there, unnoticed or attended. Meanwhile the millions his predecessors accumulated, I guess some of that goes to greens fees, drinks at the club, taxes on beach properties and the like. Oh, and Drayton’s part in my early morning drama here? Why Drayton, despite the finest schooling any American ever had, he was not smart like Charlie. No, not at all for conformity was not his mantle; some teacher at Woodberry Forest School in Virginia must have taught him differently.
The Allusion of Aristocracy
I warned you I might set the hook deep, now didn’t I? About now some of your are thinking; “Yeah, yeah, another story by a kid, born with a silver spoon in his mouth.” Oh but not so fast, you’ll miss the best parts if you rationalize now. There’s a gulf of reality in between someone who knows what a silver spoon looks and tastes like, and the Charlie Mullally(s) or Drayton Ford(s) of the world. This old boy telling you about “knowing”, he’s lived in a trailer and a mansion, he’s run a trout line and laced a 7 iron around a forked tree on Kiawah Island’s Ocean golf course too. Seeing and living is understanding, but I’ll adjoin myself to all of you at the end. This story of Charleston, of America, it gets much deeper and more interesting. From Charles Mullaly’s home on South Battery, where he lived in later life, or at Drayton Ford’s on the same street, where we lived for a time, kid I could walk in a minute to the front door of South Carolina Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings. In fact we used to climb a big tree in the senator’s back yard all the time. I mention Senator Hollings for one reason only. Okay two. Hollings was a sort of template for current South Carolina war policy, a man who reported frequently on the morality and righteousness of Vietnam, and on later wars too. Yes you read that right, for Hollings and many other politicians war may well be, ordained as righteous. And of course the Dupont(s), whose vast walled yard was a stone’s throw from Hollings or us, that family’s revenues from such commodities as gunpowder and later Agent Orange are well known. By now I hope the message has begun to sink in. Worry not though, it will.
Now for the hasty researcher or the vehement anti-war plebe stoking the fire beneath the industrialists such as the Dupont(s) or Rockefeller(s) may be a convenient conclusion to this parable I’m crafting here. Why even focusing on politicians like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham bears bountiful fruit, if old southern calls “God wills it” ever did suffice to fight wars in Vietnam or Syria. Just the other day on C-SPAN, I watched the legendary Strom Thurmond’s substitute politician play Big Daddy Pollitt, as if a Senate Arms Services Committee hearing were out of a scene from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Listening to the lecture he gives on full out war with Russia in Syria, nervous anti-war advocates will surely classify this tough talking former Air Force lawyer pip-squeak a psychopath. My home state is notorious for smartass, high hat wielding pseudo-aristocrats though. Graham is not unlike any of his predecessors, convinced (rationed) his ideologies are sound, just, even sanctimonious. What I’ll serve you next, a string of coincidences like nothing you’ve heard tell of, will prepare you for the ultimate truth – and that is NOT Senator Lindsey Graham types being the cause of all American wars now.
Steeped in Coincidence – The Clique
At what point would you say coincidence should become destiny, or evidentiary for that matter? I’ll tell you what, let me present some coincidence here and you be the judge on this, okay? I’ve established I’ve run about Charleston, SC quite a lot I guess. It’s no big deal, millions of people have probably. Certainly my associations early on, the fact my Dad was from there too, and that he played his role advising governors, senators, and even presidents on occasion, this is not so extraordinary either. Connections in such places are completely normal, and mostly unexceptional. For me, I guess going back to Charleston and graduating the College of Charleston at 40 extends my own “coincidental” path a bit. In 1996, when I walked out onto the Cistern there to receive my diploma, I had no inking about today though. In order to cut short all the parts essentially about “me” I need to skip past teaching geography, working as Phil the cable guy, being a tech blogger, and flying to Germany to meet and marry my partner and wife now. She won’t mind me skipping past our little boy’s birth, and our company’s successes and failures – she is a journalist, she understands.
South Carolina, Charleston, a new friend I made who graduated the Citadel there, the really extraordinary “happenstance” I refer to began some time after I began writing the dissenting view on Putin, Russia, Ukraine, Gaza, and my country’s immersion in constant conflict around the world. To give you an idea how dramatic and impactful these “coincidences” I speak of are, I know only one way to show it. Take for example a writer from Charleston a new colleague asked me to investigate. Will Cathcart writes for the Daily Beast, among his other pursuits. The Charleston native is a graduate of Porter Gaud, a school my half brother attended back in the 1950s. It’s a school most affluent Charlestonians attend. As a native of Mt. Pleasant, SC before traveling to the Republic of Georgia, I guess his house may have been just feet from where we lived, near the marsh, and around the corner from the Pitt Street Pharmacy where all us kids ate ice cream at the counter back when. He’s even on the cover of Porter Gaud’s magazine issue here. The chance variables in the author’s case are exceptional beyond the fact he and I are from the same hometown. Now we’ve arrived at the crux of my declaration today. Port capacities, maritime activities at the intersection of a master plan to compete against Russian natural gas business, is of paramount importance in these regional conflicts surrounding Russia’s western and southern borders.
Media and politics obviously play a vital role, but nowhere in this play do we find true morality, only the pursuit of comfort. Aristocrat or street walker, America is now in pursuit of sheer comfort and rationale, that is all.
“Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.” Immanuel Kant
What are the chances a Charlestonian and College of Charleston graduate ends up reporting the dissenting side of the whole West versus East fiasco going on today? Not so extraordinarily remote are they? After all, the boy Porter Gaud and Clemson were proud enough to shower with praise, the Daily Beast’s author, Will Cathcart reports from the western perspective, and then some. However inconsequential these “coincidences” may seem though, Cathcart becoming former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s advisor does my hometown more good service, on the face of this issue, that is. But to make your reader a bit easier, allow me to simply list some more “coincidence”, then you can arrive more easily at your destination.
- Will Cathcart just happens to work in Georgia for a company called Maybank Industries, from Charleston.
- Maybank Industries is a maritime outfit advised by another Charlestonian in Georgia, Admiral David Shimp, VP of Program Development
- Shimp is now a Professor of Government and Public Policy Caucasus University
Both Shimp and Cathcart are fellows at New Westminster College in Vancouver, which is essentially a breeding ground for cyber security spooks in my book.
- Admiral Shimp is also president of Anderson Consulting, a security firm some claim is a CIA front company#
- Will Cathcart is the individual Veterans Today’s Georgia Bureau Chief, Jeffrey Silverman accuses of having cracked his scull outside Dive Bar in Tibilisi.
- Silverman contends Anderson Consulting is Command & Control for an attempt at another coup in Georgia to reseat Saakashvili.
Cathcart has somehow managed (or fate has) to propel his name brand into the limelight of the current international upheaval. In my investigation for this story I talked with the aforementioned Veteran’s Today bureau chief about his situation. His contention Cathcart blind-sided him seemed extraordinary at first. Then Silverman led me to this story about the a lavish wedding in Tbilisi via the Georgia Journal. The attendees immediately peaked my interest, they included; U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland, Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Archil Talakvadze, Director of Palitra Media House Irakli Tevdorashvili, Georgian Journal Editor Nugzar Ruhadze, and many other dignitaries. Reading along, you’ll find Admiral Shimp conducted the ceremony, and then read “regards” from South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, and from former First Lady of South Carolina Ann Edwards.
At this juncture I must say I am not a believer in coincidence. While many of these associations can be explained by influence circles, business, and the acute political situation in Georgia, others seem outside the realm of the ordinary. The fact South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is the poster boy for American hegemony, and has received campaign funding from Maybank Industries may be the typically political. Admiral Shimp’s uncommon allegiance for the young Cathcart, his having introduced him to the likes of Crown Prince Regina, and Dr. Otto von Habsburg and others, this too can be explained as simply friendship. As for these people’s dedication to people like Mikheil Saakashvili, and allegedly bashing in journalist’s skulls, I’ll wrap these variables up presently.
A few days ago wiretapped recordings of two phone conversations emerged featuring Georgia’s ex-President and now governor of Odessa region in Ukraine, Saakashvili laying out plans for violent upheaval in Georgia. The US Embassy in Tbilisi made an announcement condemning any such violence, but now Ambassador Ian Kelly skillfully sidestepped any kind of US involvement. Cathcart, who’s editorial vehemently defends Saakshvili, was the media advisor to the former president of Georgia. Bashing Putin, Russia, and possessing a great deal of knowledge of Georgia and its energy value, the favored son of South Carolina seems to be being groomed for something. The Charleston, South Carolina connection to former Soviet republics seems a curious one. Just how a former Charleston Mercury editor got to Tbilisi, it seems less coincidental and a lot more planned to me. Just as the EU conglomerates planned the so-called Rhine-Main-Danube transit logistics years ago (see map below), so too the violence in Ukraine and elsewhere played a crucial role in brining the price of Russian natural gas into a range where LNG from various sources could compete. It’s as if the new Cold War were planned by business. The reader may glean more insight from this Danube Commission report on everything from LNG storage and route planning, to Rhine barges being constructed especially for transport up Europe’s rivers.
Turning back to media’s role in all this, let’s assume for a moment Putin is the enemy so many proclaim he is. If his goal has been to secure an energy corridor through Georgia, then what does any foe attempt to thwart? Russia does in fact want Georgia to rejoin in friendship and trade, but the west diatribe betrays a likewise solution in policy and practice. Meanwhile Cathcart is not along in his journalistic quest in support of NATO expansion, this Wall Street Journal piece by Tina Khidasheli calls begs NATO and America to give Georgians a sign! As if almighty God needs to send down an angelic messenger the Caucasus could be under the fiery wings of our militaristic fallacy. It should be noted here, Ms. Khidasheli is Georgia’s first ever female minister of defense as of May 1st of this year. In the past she was Chairperson of the Board of the Soros Foundation, just in case anyone thinks cliques don’t matter.
This piece by Cathcart is like many western journalist pieces of late, everyone seeming intent on damnning Putin. This most recent attempt he ends up damning America’s business aristocracy too though. Like my Mom always used to say with a hint of irony; “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” As we’ve seen from the US State Department and the White House the last few years, the rationale and rhetoric perfectly suits American business interests.
Finally, for those curious how a relatively small entity such as Maybank Industries even gets a tiny role internationally, this report details a SC trade delegation visit by Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Charles R. Sharpe, State Rep. Chip Limehouse, and executives of the aforementioned Maybank Shipping with none other than Fidel Castro. The delegation took home some Cohiba cigars in personally autographed wooden boxes bearing the name Fidel Castro.
That was back in 2004, I believe. Later, by coincidence perhaps, in an un-associated incident, Charles R. Sharpe was indicted by J. Strom Thurmond, Jr., United States Attorney District of South Carolina on 12 charges ranging from extortion to money laundering in connection with the illegal sport of cock fighting. As a South Carolina boy myself, while I sympathize with Shape’s “closeness” with Carolina gamecocks (the NCAA team), I do not think good’ole boys in politics need to be pardoned or forgiven at every turn. Charleston’s premier newspaper, the Post & Courier seems to be lobbying for Sharpe’s return to SC politics? But here again, we have fodder for another low country drama.
As for the media where the Daily Beast writer got his start, the Charleston Mercury is by far the most partisan and South Carolina aristocrat leaning media source. If I got a WikiLeaks cable this instant telling me the CIA, NSA, and the Brookings Institute dropped off a Brinks truck load of greenbacks there this morning, I’d not be the least bit surprised. Looking at the magazine this morning, Fritz Hollings is heralded and deified in one sentence, while Russia and Vladimir Putin are vilified in the next. Journalistically, the psychiatry of even Carl Jung would fix itself on where Charleston media arises, and policy ends. Researching all this, reading what these people write, what these politicians do, the effect is like reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf. As for the Daily Beast, Editor-in-Chief John Avlon’s professes to “confront bullies, bigots and hypocrites,” while harboring some of the biggest liars with vested interests on Earth. Not only is “the beast” tabloid journalism at its worst, the journal is more often wrong than right. A good example is Michael Weiss, who predicts Russian invasions every other week, most recently proclaiming Russia having given ISIL and air force. Weiss, a stooge of vehement Putin enemy, the dethroned oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has zero credibility left. I mention him only to serve as a poster boy for anti-Putin and Russia fable tellers, so Will Cathcart can’t be at the pinnacle just yet. The good news on Khodorkovsky and his Institute of Modern Russia media effort is, they seem to be running out of gas, unable to get journalists to contribute I’ll wager. The media has resorted to becoming a link farm for the New York Times and other Khodorkovsky friendly news.
North & South, East & West – US Overall
I began by mentioning a dear friend and mentor, Charles Mullally. His part in this mini-novella is to indemnify one idea, the idea really good men can be divisive without really even knowing it. Charles was a patriot you see. During World War II one of his companies built tug boats and ships for the US Navy. I remember how proud he actually was for having contributed to the war effort. Charles made a great deal of money and gained much influence from those contracts. Everything was, I assure you, completely above board. He was under no delusions; Charles was one of the “smart” ones, like I said. Smart men understand the necessity for conformity, for relationships in business, and for rocking the boat only when absolutely necessary. This is true whether one is in a leather chair in a penthouse office, or in a dilapidated recliner in a trailer wielding a remote control to change TV channels. In America in particular, comfort and floating downstream has become ever easier.
John Drayton Ford’s part in this drama is to signify what happens (usually) to those good men who challenge the splitting of morality or idealism hairs. Drayton was all about propriety, a sort of Don Quixote of the Woodberry Forest prep school rule book if you will. When he grew up cheating on a test, knowing of someone cheating demanded the bearer of truth come forward. Such novelty scarcely exists today, not even the concept is oft understood. Drayton lived and died by this code, though no other living soul I know of commended him for his sacrifice. Had he been like these politicians and writers I speak of, he’d surely have owned half of Charleston by now. As it is, I offer him as the antithesis for dirty dealings no matter how they are rationalized. Now to who is responsible for our never ending wars, and the surprise you’ve in store.
Most powerful men do not ever deem their machinations as either evil or good. Powerful men and women rationalized that “it’s all just business.” True enough, business is into everything including war and politics today. The idealists of the world, their ideas of separation of church, state, and commerce were lost in the shuffle long ago. These armchair quarterbacks, those soap box evangelists of such things as world peace, sustainability, human rights and all, those ideas are now convoluted – mostly these are corporate dogma, the pretense something good is at work. And the Drayton Fords of the world, end up doing little or nothing to change the status quo. The world will not let them you see.
So it is that in the early morning hours the perpetrators of world crimes, the armies of evil appear in the shaving mirror right before us. The Charleston tycoon, the Columbia big wig politician, the trailer park resident and Walmart worker all look chaos in the eye, each and every day of the year. This scene plays out not just in Charleston, South Carolina, but in every city large and small in America. We empower the Senators, the Senators empower the businesses, and the businesses fuel the perpetual hamster wheel. None of us present a better case, the high and mighty are never so brilliant or good, as to alter our condition. And we go forward to Armageddon together, only cocktail parties and wedding receptions separate us. Underneath high society, and often the ground too, brave people are hit with bricks in their heads, they have their citizenship revoked, or their lives, and the BBC or Post & Courier carry the good story – a story of the same old mediocrity of an aristocratic America. In the meantime an army of sensationalists and liars parrot the corporate line of the likes of NewsCorp’s Rupert Murdoch. Who can forget the silent coup that took out Vladimir Putin?
Who is guilty of all this chaos in the world? Surely not just our politicians and business leaders, for we are players in this human drama, are we not? We are involved, actively or passively, in all the misery of this world. Now that I have called your attention to the fact, I am only a smidgeon less obligated than you. Senators and authors of chaos, what say ye?
“Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness.” Werner Herzog
Ummmm, you lost me at “Charleston is the oldest city in America.” Um. No. By about 150 years….
Phil Butler says
Oh, I am sorry. Maybe you are from Childersburg, Alabama (1540), or Pensacola, Florida (1559), or El Mirador, Guatemala (950 BC)? Yes, Charleston (1670) is not actually the oldest settlement in the Americas, but imagine you are from there for a second. You see we grew up with this quaint bit of labeling. Kind of like the old saying, “The South’s Gonna Rise Again”….. Yeah, sorry Russ, you win.
Thanks for being my illusion police, and coming here to gently and so kindly nudge me back into reality? You a Yankee by any chance there Russ?