After World War II, the east/west schism between the forces of communism and capitalism solidified into the Cold War. According to a report entered into the Congressional Record by Bilderberg attendee Senator Jacob Javits in 1964, "The countries of the Western World felt the need for closer collaboration to protect their moral and ethical values, their democratic institutions, and their independence against the growing Communist threat."

This "collaboration" would soon focus on one key objective: to ensure that the United States, Canada and Western Europe maintained oligarchic control of a global system of export-based capitalism.

According to Bilderberg founder Prince Bernhard:

"If we could all agree beforehand in principle it would result, without doubt, not in Utopia, but in an extremely strong and healthy Europe. This in turn would bring the United States into the economic community. It would encourage a great deal of free trade throughout the world.

"Now, the more free trade you have the more difficult you will make it for the new countries of Africa and Asia to set up an autarchy and live in economic isolation, to adopt trade barriers and quotas which after a hundred years or more we are finding out don't pay. From sheer necessity these people will have to join in free trade. And once you get that you can help an underdeveloped county much more easily than if there are a hundred and fifty thousand restrictions. Also it would be easier for them -- their national pride -- to accept help. That to my mind is the best possible guaranty against Communist influence."

(Alden Hatch, H. R. H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands: An Authorized Biography, G. G. Harrap & Co. [London], 1962.)

The Bilderberg Group was actually the brainchild of Joseph Retinger, an American whose high-profile career brought him into contact with many high-ranking military and political leaders worldwide. Retinger had a dream: to unite the world in peace -- a peace brokered by powerful supra-national organizations which he believed would be less susceptible to the to the short-term ideological whims of national governments.

Economics were a secondary matter, as far as Retinger was concerned. Retinger believed that multinational organizations could create and enforce unity between nations by dictating and enforcing consistent and effective economic and military policies.

In his Congressional Record report, Senator Javits wrote: "In 1952 [Retinger] approached H.R.H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands with the suggestion of informal and unofficial meetings to discuss the problems facing the Atlantic community. Others in Europe wholeheartedly supported the idea, and proposals were submitted to American friends to join in the undertaking. A number of Americans, including C.D. Jackson, the late General Walter Bedell Smith, and the late John Coleman, agreed to cooperate."

(C.D. Jackson was a prominent member of the Council on Foreign Relations, another secretive think-tank whose members are drawn from the American political and economic elite. Like the Bilderberg Group, the CFR meets behind closed doors, and although many working journalists fill the group's ranks, deliberations and records are kept secret from the public. At the time of the Bilderberg's founding, General Smith was director of the CIA.)

Once Retinger had successfully drummed up a strong showing of interest, the first meeting was organized under Prince Bernhard's aegis. According to Senator Javits' Congressional Record report, "The first meeting that brought Americans and Europeans together took place under the chairmanship of Prince Bernhard at the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, Holland, from May 29 to May 31, 1954. Ever since, the meetings have been called Bilderberg meetings."

According to Senator Javits, who attended the Bilderberg's 1964 meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia, "Bilderberg meetings are held at irregular intervals but have taken place once or twice a year since 1954. All the early conferences were held in Europe, but a meeting is now held on this side of the Atlantic every few years to provide a convenient opportunity for American and Canadian participants to attend."

Bilderberg attendees represent the elite establishment of every Western nation: bankers, industrialists, politicians, CEOs of transnational corporations, European monarchs, chancellors, presidents, prime ministers, key ambassadors, ministers of finance, secretaries of state, representatives of the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, media executives, and military leaders. Each meeting typically consists of 120 delegates. Approximately two thirds of the attendees are from Europe, and the rest come from North America.

Bilderberg debates go unreported, and any consensus reached is unknown to those outside the Group. Records of the meetings are reportedly kept, but are held in secret as "strictly confidential." Furthermore, according to Alden Hatch's book H. R. H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands: An Authorized Biography, there is an "unwritten rule that anybody who has ever been to a Bilderberg Conference should be able to feel that he can, in a private capacity, call on any former member he has met. To this end a list of names and addresses is maintained to which all participants have access. This makes possible an expanding continuation of association for people who might not otherwise have met."

Security is always extremely tight at Bilderberg meetings. According to H. R. H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, at the first meeting in 1954:

There was absolutely no publicity. The hotel was ringed by security guards, so that not a single journalist got within a mile of the place. The participants were pledged not to repeat publicly what was said in the discussions. Every person present -- Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, leaders of political parties, heads of great banks and industrial companies, and representatives of such international organizations as the European Coal and Steel Community, as well as academicians -- was magically stripped of his office as he entered the door, and became a simple citizen of his country for the duration of the conference. Thus everybody could and did say what he really thought without fear of international, political, or financial repercussions.

Thus the Bilderberg Group was born in secrecy. And secrecy breeds suspicion. If the Bilderberg's purposes are truly benevolent, the Group could stand to be a little more open about its activities. It is little surprise that people often react with "frothing conspiracy theories" to the Bilderberg's general attitude of aloof secrecy, protected by armed guards.