By Youssef El-Gingihy @ElGingihy
At the end of the film adaptation of American Psycho, Patrick Bateman is watching Ronald Reagan on television talking to the American public about the folly of the Iran Contra saga. One of Bateman’s Wall Street bankster chums observes that Reagan presents himself as a harmless, old codger but inside…..The implication is that, just like them, Reagan is an amoral sociopath presenting himself as charming and charismatic when deep down he lacks empathy. Bateman’s unspoken response is that inside doesn’t matter.
Over this weekend, I’ve been thinking that this description is apt for Reagan’s Vice President and later POTUS himself George Herbert Walker Bush. The twinkle-eyed, grandpa persona of Bush Sr was carefully cultivated in his public-facing performances.
The passing away of George HW Bush at 94 — the paterfamilias of the Bush dynasty — has predictably led to a series of hagiographic pieces in the New York Times, Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets. These articles have managed to airbrush much of the controversial and dark record of Poppy Bush.
The mainstream outlets have focused on Bush Sr as a great statesman, who presided over the denouement of the Cold War. However, Bush Sr’s life has been far more colourful than commentators would have us believe.
The relationship between the Bush dynasty and the House of Saud has been at the heart of the decades long toxic US-Saudi geopolitical alliance. After all, it was the CIA together with Bandar Bin Sultan (friend and confidante of Bush Sr) as well as Saudi and Pakistani intelligence that funded and armed the Mujahideen and one Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan against the Soviets from 1979 throughout the Eighties.
Most well informed citizens are aware of this part of the story and it is easily dismissed as realpolitik during the Cold War.
But there is much, much more. The arming and funding of radical Jihadists did not stop with Afghanistan. It was bankrolled across former Soviet states in central Asia such as Azerbaijan (during the 1990s) in order to catalyse the downfall of communism. Later it was extended to the Middle East, north Africa and even Europe (the Balkans) with Islamists utilised against any government deemed to be inimicable to US interests (usually Arab socialist or nationalist).
So at the same time that the US has been prosecuting a war on terror, it has also been supporting the use of radical Islamist proxies up to the present day.
Bandar bin Sultan was so close to the Bushes that he referred to Bush Jr as Bandar Bush. In fact, Bush Sr asked him to tutor Dubya in foreign policy according to Bob Woodward. And Bandar knows a thing or two about this because he just so happens to keep popping up in some of the darkest deep events of recent times.
Not only was Bandar central to the narrative of the Mujahideen in the 1980s but according to former MI6 officer Alastair Crooke, it was Bandar who suggested to the Americans the use of Islamists to destabilise Assad in Syria.
Bandar was also at the heart of the BAE files allegations of corruption and bribery involving the British government and BAE in massive arms sales to the Saudis. And then astonishingly Bandar pops up in financial transactions linking him to 9/11 hijackers according to the declassified 28 pages of the 9/11 report.
As Craig Unger has shown in his book House of Bush House of Saud, the business relationship between the Bush dynasty and the mega wealthy Bin Laden construction billionaire family was entrenched. Not only did the Bin Ladens repeatedly invest in the business ventures of the Bush clan but both families were involved in the Carlyle Group — a private equity group heavily invested in the military industrial complex — which profited enormously from the post 9/11 War on Terror.
That the supposed black sheep of the family — Osama — would go from being CIA asset to public enemy number one in the war on terror seems conveniently like a fairly-tale fit for public consumption.
But let’s turn our attention back to Bush Sr. Once upon a time, he was civilian director of the CIA back in the 1970s. Bush had been appointed director of the CIA by President Gerald Ford, who had been on the Warren Commission investigation into the JFK assassination.
Bush claimed that he had never been previously involved with the CIA. Yet when he ran for president in 1988, The Nation managed to produce memos revealing that Bush had been involved with the agency back in the early 1960s specifically in anti-Castro covert actions.
Two FBI memos from the immediate aftermath of the JFK assassination have proven to be an aide memoire for Bush’s hazy recall. The first is a telegram reporting a phone call by Bush from Tyler, Texas on the afternoon of the assassination. The second, dated 29th November 1963, is authored by no less than FBI director J Edgar Hoover. Taken together, they inform us that George Bush of the Zapata oil company was working for the CIA at the time and that he was staying at the Sheraton Dallas on the night of the assassination.
George H.W. Bush could not even remember where he was at the time of the assassination (even though this seismic event is indelibly imprinted in the consciousness of every American). One might think that if you were staying in Dallas on the night JFK was assassinated you would struggle to forget such a powerful association however colourful your life has been. Unless there was an ulterior motive for deliberate amnesia.
When these memos later surfaced, they were brushed off as referring to another George Bush in the agency. However, The Nation tracked down this doppelganger, who turned out to be a lowly clerk and who signed a sworn affidavit that he was not the subject of the memos.
During his reign as head of the CIA, Bush oversaw the use of the international collaboration dubbed the Safari Club for covert intelligence ops funded by the petro-dollars of the Saudis. This enabled the agency to evade the domestic Senate clamp-down on intelligence activities in the wake of emerging scandals around CIA assassinations, regime change and domestic surveillance. In other words, unaccountable black ops funded by untraceable black budgets.
And so ladies and gentleman, there we have it or at least some of it — the alternative, dark history of Poppy Bush. We have not had time to delve into what Bush knew or did not know about the banking BCCI scandal with allegations of money laundering of terrorism and drugs financing (a repeated pattern in several banking scandals — think of HSBC recently), the Iran Contra saga or the first Gulf War not to mention the second Iraq war prosecuted by Bush Jr.
An unconfirmed 1992 Bush quote to the grand dame of the White House press corps and Texan journalist Sarah McLendon is revealing. McLendon had asked Bush: “What will the people do if they ever find out the truth about Iraq-gate and Iran contra?” Bush supposedly replied:- “Sarah, if the American people ever find out what we have done, they would chase us down the street and lynch us.”
If true, this response is telling for it seems that George Herbert Walker Bush has taken some very dark secrets to the grave with him.