Introduction: Journalist Russ Baker has authored Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last 50 Years–a potentially decisive, multi-generational political history and analysis of the Bush family. This fifth of six interviews with Mr. Baker focuses largely on events occurring in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, setting the stage and the dramatis personae for much of what happened in succeeding decades.
Even before Nixon’s resignation, Poppy Bush elevated a young GOP operative named Karl Rove to a position of influence that “Bush’s Brain” parlayed into Machiavellian largess during the administrations of the younger George Bush. Significantly, Rove came to Poppy’s attention because of apparent dirty tricks that he had engaged in–those dirty tricks are why the elder Bush found him intriguing and potentially useful. Rove was not the only GOP heavy hitter minted in the 1970’s.
After succeeding Richard Nixon as President, former Warren Commission member Gerald Ford executed what became known as the “Halloween Massacre,” so-named because it took place on November 1, 1975. Ford appointed Poppy Bush to be head of the CIA–this at a time when several investigations into intelligence community abuses were underway simultaneously. The most important investigation underway in this time period was the House Select Committee on Assassinations, investigating the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King. As discussed in the first three of the interviews, evidence suggests very strongly that Poppy Bush was deeply involved with the JFK killing. It was thus essential to have an inside player in charge at CIA with those investigations underway.
On that same day, Ford appointed several other key players to positions of power. Replacing Henry Kissinger with Brent Scowcroft, Ford found a hard-liner to replace Kissinger, who favored detente with the Soviet Union. Scowcroft went on to fill the same role in the administration of the elder George Bush when he became President.
In addition, the Halloween Massacre also brought to power two individuals who were to play major roles in succeeding years–Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Cheney became Ford’s White House Chief of Staff, replacing Rumsfeld, who became Secretary of Defense. In later years, of course, Cheney was to become Secretary of Defense under Poppy Bush, and then the “Imperial Vice-President” under Dubya. Rumsfeld would go on to positions with the Reagan administration and, ultimately, Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush.
Most significantly, Poppy’s brief tenure as head of the CIA saw the anointing of “Team B.” Rejecting previous, moderate Agency estimates of the Soviet Union (upon which the policy of detente was predicated), Bush hearkened to the war cries of the far right and brought in a team of outside analysts who presented an alarming, greatly exaggerated view of the USSR. It was this new, alarmist analysis of the Soviet Union that served as the ideological pretext for the enormous military buildup of the Reagan years. (That buildup, in combination with the Reagan tax cuts, more than tripled the national debt in eight years.) Poppy’s “Team B” also elevated yet another major player in subsequent years–Paul Wolfowitz.
One of the best known “neo-Cons,” Wolfowitz flourished first under Poppy’s Team B, then the Reagan years and, finally, became Deputy Defense Secretary under George W. Bush.
The younger George Bush’s professional interests were gaining steam during this same period, featuring employment stints with companies connected to the intelligence community, CIA in particular. An employee of Poppy’s Zapata Offshore Petroleum–an apparent intelligence front–Robert Gow went on to found Stratford of Texas, his own company. It, too, did intelligence work for CIA and it was an early employer of Dubya.
Another of George W. Bush’s early employers was Alaska International Industries’ air subsidiary. Company head Neil Bergt has been quite open about the firm’s doubling as a intelligence front, primarily CIA. Bergt has also been quite open about his company’s efforts on behalf of the Contra support effort.
Baker devotes a section of his book to Poppy Bush’s activities while heading CIA, which he titled “Poppy’s Web.” Among the creatures thriving in that web were James R. Bath. An expert pilot, Bath appears to have been requisitioned by the elder Bush to keep an eye on W while he was in the Texas Air National Guard. Bath’s presence afforded Dubya credibility support against the compelling charges that the future commander in chief went AWOL from his guard duties.
Later, Bath–apparently still working for Poppy and CIA–became involved with Saudi Arabian luminaries, including Salem bin Laden (Osama’s brother) and Khalid bin Mahfouz, key kingdom banker and an early supporter of Osama bin Laden. Entering into the aircraft business as head of a company called Skyway, Bath appears to have been capitalized by his Saudi associates. Skyway, in turn, appears to have been yet another intelligence front, doing work for the players in the Iran/Contra scandal.
As discussed in numerous programs, Bath was also an early investor in George W. Bush’s Arbusto Energy. Since Bath apparently had little money of his own at the time, this indicates that the Bin Laden family were among the early investors–albeit by proxy–in Dubya’s business career.
Among George W. Bush’s business ventures, Harken Energy stands out as among the most mysterious and corrupt. Growing out of Spectrum 7 Energy, Harken owes much of its success to an attorney named Allen Quasha. Son of William Quasha, a [Phillippine dictator Ferdinand] Marcos attorney who worked for the Manilla branch of the Nugan Hand Bank, Alan Quasha was deeply involved with gold trafficking. (The Nugan Hand Bank–a U.S. intelligence-connected drug bank– is discussed at length in AFA #25. Baker speculates that Harken Energy may well have been used to launder some of the Golden Lily loot recovered in the Phillippines.)
The available evidence suggests that Harken was essentially a money-laundering front. Eventually, the firm got the rights to drill for oil off Bahrain. The process by which Harken got the contract–which inflated its stock–is curious. Harken was selected because of its lack of experience with this type of operation–something that was viewed as an advantage!
Program Highlights Include: Poppy Bush’s work for Texas bank First International Bancshares after officially “leaving” the CIA; W’s work for the same institution in 1967; overlap between First International and Republic National Bank, another financial institution that financed the Texas power elite; First International’s close connections to members of the Saudi elite; indications that First International was involved in money laundering for the intelligence community; the failure and public bailout of First International after in merged with Republic; Poppy’s eulogy for Gerald Ford, in which he lauds him for helping to identify Oswald as the lone assassin of President Kennedy; Poppy’s rebuff of a plea for help by his former associate and Oswald “handler” George De Mohrenschildt, shortly before his timely “suicide;” Harken’s apparent role as a money-laundering vehicle for elements of the South African apartheid elite; the significant capital investment of Harvard University in Harken; the intelligence and power elite connections of Robert Stone, who oversaw Harvard’s investments during this period; the links between the Bush family milieu and that of General Douglas MacArthur; George Soros’s investments in Harken Energy.