Report from Iron Mountain

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The Report from Iron Mountain: On the Possibility & Desirability of Peace is an anti-war spoof book published in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War.


The book purports to be a leaked government study which concludes that a lasting peace would not be in society's best interest because warfare is the main organizing principle of government, as well as the primary driver of both cultural values and scientific progress. It states that warfare's main purposes, far from being to settle disputes between nation-states, are to control unemployment, reduce the population, drive scientific and artistic development, provide legitimacy and growth to the government, and to control crime, gangs, and vagrancy by providing a publicly acceptable outlet for society's undesirable urges. If warfare were to end, the book concludes, society would collapse:

In advanced modern democratic societies, the war system has provided political leaders with another political-economic function of increasing importance: it has served as the last great safeguard against the elimination of necessary social classes. As economic productivity increases to a level further and further above that of minimum subsistence, it becomes more and more difficult for a society to maintain distribution patterns insuring the existence of "hewers of wood and drawers of water."

The further progress of automation can be expected to differentiate still more sharply between "superior" workers and what Ricardo called "menials," while simultaneously aggravating the problem of maintaining an unskilled labor supply.

The arbitrary nature of war expenditures and of other military activities make them ideally suited to control these essential class relationships. Obviously, if the war system were to be discarded, new political machinery would be needed at once to serve this vital subfunction.

Until it is developed, the continuance of the war system must be assured, if for no other reason, among others, than to preserve whatever quality and degree of poverty a society requires as an incentive, as well as to maintain the stability of its internal organization of power.
The Report from Iron Mountain, ss. 5: "The Functions of War".

It suggests that substitutes for all of war's functions in society must be found in case of a transition to peace in order to prevent society's collapse, and goes on to suggest, with a straight face, the re-institution of slavery, government-sponsored ritual blood or war games, and the creation of substitute enemies posing a viable threat to the people which would take the place of enemy nation-states. It suggests the most viable such substitute enemy is the "environmental-pollution model", looming environmental catastrophe, and proposes the government surreptitiously pump more pollution into the environment to create a disaster society will unite over. It proposes that government create fake UFO incidents, and hints that past UFO sightings were also faked by the government as a test run. For blood games, it suggests ritualized manhunts for the purpose of "state security" modeled after the Inquisition. It also contains a seemingly serious discussion of the necessity of a eugenics function in society, and addresses the question of whether or not warfare best fills this function. It suggests that in a world without war, human reproduction would have to be strictly controlled, perhaps through artificial insemination administered by the government according to principles of eugenics.

The truth[edit]

The book is, of course, a satire of the military-industrial complex and its think tank studies. (Compare, for example, to the cold-hearted references to "megadeaths" in Dr. Strangelove, or to the suggestion in A Modest ProposalWikipedia that selling babies to rich Englishmen as food is a solution to Irish poverty.) The book's intent was to make a point about the absurdity of the Cold War and the Vietnam War which seemed like they would never end, and to suggest that perhaps the government had ulterior motives for not ending the war. Another intent was to demonstrate how the passive tone and technocratic language used by think tanks can make otherwise outrageous ideas sound reasonable; the book reads like a real well-reasoned policy study until the reader realizes just what is being advocated and does a double take.

The real author is Leonard C. LewinWikipedia. Lewin conceived of the book as part of a larger group based around the political satire magazine Monocle, which also included John Kenneth Galbraith, and Victor Navasky (later of Nation magazine). Lewin established his authorship as a part of a copyright lawsuit against the Liberty Lobby, which was distributing copies of the bogus report assuming that it was a legitimate production of the U.S. government.[1]

Media reaction[edit]

The book's November 1967 appearance caused a minor uproar in the media and government alike, trying to determine whether the book was authentic or a hoax. Several media stories treated the book as if it was real or could conceivably be real. Only a New York Times article by Eliot Fremont-Smith on November 20, 1967 guessed the truth: "My own guess is that the report is the work of Mr. Lewin himself, perhaps with some consultative aid from the editors of Monacle magazine."

Government agencies were "unable to confirm or deny", partly because the book was plausible enough and agencies were operating with such poor coordination and communication that one agency really did not know what the others were doing. John Kenneth Galbraith, who was in on the joke, and the publisher Dial Press, who was also in on the joke, both played along by making noncommital statements in support of the book's authenticity.

Finally, after a few years of speculation, Leonard Lewin came forward in 1972 to 'fess up that it was a spoof and he wrote it.

Conspiracy nutters[edit]

That should have settled the matter, and with the end of the Vietnam War, interest in the book quickly waned anyway. Then something strange happened at the start of the 1990s. Rumors among the New World Order conspiracy crowd began circulating that a long-forgotten book from the 1960s called the Report from Iron Mountain was the New World Order's secret plan for world domination. Bootleg editions of the book began coming into print published by Liberty Lobby and others, on the claim that as a "government document", it was in the public domain; Lewin successfully sued for copyright infringement, and finally an authorized republication was issued in 1996 by Simon & Schuster. The 1996 reissue contains an extended commentary on how the book came to be by Lewin and by Victor Navasky, who was also involved in the original spoof.

This hasn't stopped the New World Order conspiracy nutters from continuing to believe the book is a real leaked government document; indeed, many of them believe that Lewin and Navasky were only providing cover for the conspiracy. They further cite John Kenneth Galbraith's statements of the book's authenticity (which he made as part of the joke) as proof the book is genuine.

Bottom line[edit]

If you see the Report from Iron Mountain cited on conspiracy websites as proof The Powers That Be plan on reinstituting slavery, eugenics, creating deliberate environmental crises, a world police force, ritual manhunts, staged UFO incidents, etc. as part of a world disarmament program, keep in mind this book was a spoof. It is not a real government study and is not proof of anything.

Read it instead for what it is: A brilliant, subversive satire of government bureaucracy and the warfare state, that was so well done it had government agencies scrambling to confirm whether, in fact, this was real (further making the book's point about bureaucracy), had Lyndon Johnson reportedly "hitting the roof" upon its release thinking it was real, and even pulled one over on the Washington Post.

External links[edit]