S E C U R A C O M
Dynasties in American politics are dangerous.
Since the Coup d'etat of I963,
specifically the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King,
American politics are now viewed worldwide to be run by the
assassins themselves. We saw it with the
Clintons and we certainly saw it with the Bushes. Between now
and the next election, it's crucial that ALL Americans come to
understand how four generations of one such family have embroiled
the United States in the Middle East through CIA connections, arms
shipments, rogue banks, inherited war policies and personal
As early as 1963, George H.W. Bush, running for the U.S. Senate from
Texas, was labeled by incumbent Democrat Ralph Yarborough as a
hireling of the sheik of Kuwait, for whom Bush's company drilled
offshore oil wells. Over the four decades since then, the
ever-reaching Bushes have emerged as the first U.S. political clan
to thoroughly entangle themselves with Middle Eastern royal families
and oil money. The family even had links to the Bin Ladens — though
not to family black sheep Osama bin Laden — going back to the
How these unusual relationships helped bring about 9/11 and then
distorted the U.S. response to Islamic terrorism requires thinking
of the Bush family as a dynasty. The two Bush presidencies are
inextricably linked by that dynasty.
The first family member lured by the Middle East's petroleum wealth
was George W. Bush's great-grandfather, George H. Walker, a
buccaneer who was president of Wall Street-based W.A. Harriman & Co.
In the 1920s, Walker and his firm participated in rebuilding the
Baku oil fields only a few hundred miles north of current-day Iraq.
As senior director of Dresser Industries (now part of Halliburton),
Walker's son-in-law Prescott Bush (George W. Bush's grandfather)
became involved with the Middle East in the years after World War
II. But it was George H.W. Bush, the former president's father, who
forged the dynasty's strongest ties to the region.
George H.W. Bush was the first CIA director to come from the oil
industry. He went on to became the first vice president — and then
the first president — to have either an oil or CIA background. This
helps to explain his persistent bent toward the Middle East, covert
operations and rogue banks like the Abu Dhabi-based Bank of Credit
and Commerce International (BCCI), which came to be known by the
nickname "Bank of Crooks and Criminals International." In each of
the government offices he held, he encouraged CIA involvement in
Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries, and
he pursued policies that helped make the Middle East into the
world's primary destination for arms shipments.
Taking the CIA helm in January 1976, Bush cemented strong relations
with the intelligence services of both Saudi Arabia and the shah of
Iran. He worked closely with Kamal Adham, the head of Saudi
intelligence, brother-in-law of King Faisal and an early BCCI
insider. After leaving the CIA in January 1977, Bush became chairman
of the executive committee of First International Bancshares and its
British subsidiary, where, according to journalists Peter Truell and
Larry Gurwin in their 1992 book "False Profits," Bush "traveled on
the bank's behalf and sometimes marketed to international banks in
London, including several Middle Eastern institutions."
Once in the White House, first as vice president to Ronald Reagan
and later as president, George H.W. Bush was linked to at least two
Middle East-centered scandals. It's never been entirely clear what
Bush's connection was to the Iran-Contra affair, in which
clandestine arms shipments to Iran, some BCCI-financed, helped
illegally fund the operations of the anti-Sandinista Contra rebels
in Nicaragua. But in 1992, special prosecutor Lawrence E. Walsh
asserted that Bush, despite his protestations, had indeed been "in
the loop" on multiple illegal acts.
Much clearer was Bush's pivotal role, both as vice president and
president, in "Iraqgate," the hidden aid provided by the U.S. and
its military to Saddam Hussein's Iraq in its high-stakes war with
Iran during the 1980s. The U.S. is known to have provided both
biological cultures that could have been used for weapons and
nuclear know-how to the regime, as well as conventional weapons. As
ABC-TV broadcaster Ted Koppel put it in a June 1992 "Nightline"
program after the 1991 Persian Gulf War: "It is becoming
increasingly clear that George [H.W.] Bush, operating largely behind
the scenes through the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the
financing, intelligence and military help that built Saddam's Iraq
into the aggressive power that the United States ultimately had to
During these years, Bush's four sons — George W, Jeb, Neil and
Marvin — were following in the family footsteps, lining up business
deals with Saudi, Kuwaiti and Bahraini moneymen and cozying up to BCCI. The Middle East was becoming a convenient family money spigot.
Eldest son George W. Bush made his first Middle East connection in
the late 1970s with James Bath, a Texas businessmen who served as
the North American representative for two rich Saudis (and Osama bin
Laden relatives) — billionaire Salem bin Laden and banker and BCCI
insider Khalid bin Mahfouz. Bath put $50,000 into Bush's 1979
Arbusto oil partnership, probably using Bin Laden-Bin Mahfouz
In the late 1980s, after several failed oil ventures, the future
43rd president let the ailing oil business in which he was a major
stockholder and chairman be bought out by another foreign-influenced
operation, Harken Energy. The Wall Street Journal commented in 1991,
"The mosaic of BCCI connections surrounding Harken Energy may prove
nothing more than how ubiquitous the rogue bank's ties were. But the
number of BCCI-connected people who had dealings with Harken — all
since George W. Bush came on board — likewise raises the question of
whether they mask an effort to cozy up to a presidential son."
Other hints of cronyism came in 1990 when inexperienced Harken got a
major contract to drill in the Persian Gulf for the government of
Bahrain. Time magazine reporters Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne, in
their book "The Outlaw Bank," concluded "that Mahfouz, or other BCCI
players, must have had a hand in steering the oil-drilling contract
to the president's son." The web entangling the Bush presidencies
was already being spun.
Second son Jeb Bush, now the governor of Florida, spent most of his
time in the early and mid-1980s hobnobbing with ex-Cuban
intelligence officers, Nicaraguan Contras and others plugged into
the lucrative orbit of Miami-area front groups for the CIA. But he
too had some Middle East connections. Two of his business
associates, Guillermo Hernandez-Cartaya and Camilo Padreda, both
indicted for financial dealings, were longtime associates of Middle
Eastern arms dealer, BCCI investor and Iran-Contra figure Adnan
Khashoggi. Prosecutors dropped the case against the two, and a
federal judge ordered Padreda's name expunged from the record. But a
few years later Padreda, a former Miami-Dade County GOP treasurer,
was convicted of fraud over a federally insured housing development
that Jeb Bush had helped to facilitate. Jeb Bush also socialized
with Adbur Sakhia, the Miami BCCI branch chief and later its top
Neil Bush, most famous for the scandal surrounding the corrupt
practices of Colorado's Silverado Savings & Loan, where he served as
a director during the 1980s, also picked plums from Persian Gulf
orchards. In 1993, after his father left the White House, Neil went
to Kuwait with his parents, brother Marvin and former Secretary of
State James A. Baker III. When his father left, Neil stayed to lobby
for business contracts, and after returning home evolved a set of
lucrative relationships with Syrian-American businessman Jamal
Daniel. One of their ventures, Ignite!, an educational software
company, also included representatives of at least three ruling
Persian Gulf families.
The Bush family's Middle Eastern commercial focus is further
exemplified by Marvin, the youngest brother of the former
president. From 1993 to 2000 he was a major shareholder, along with Mishal Youssef Saud al Sabah, a member of the Kuwaiti royal family,
in the Kuwait-American Corp., which had holdings in several U.S.
defense, aviation and industrial security companies.
George H.W. Bush's own Persian Gulf relationships kept expanding.
While serving in the Reagan White House during the 1980s, he was
known in the Middle East as "the Saudi vice president," and a New
Yorker article a few years ago described the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.
as "almost a member of the [Bush] family." Indeed, many saw the 1991
Gulf War to expel Iraq from Kuwait as an outgrowth of Bush's close
ties to the oil industry and to Persian Gulf royal families, who
felt threatened by Saddam Hussein's expansionism.
After losing his bid for a second term as president, Bush joined up
in 1993 with the Washington-based Carlyle Group. Under the
leadership of ex-officials like Baker and former Defense Secretary
Frank C. Carlucci, Carlyle developed a specialty in buying defense
companies and doubling or quadrupling their value. The ex-president
not only became an investor in Carlyle, but a member of the
company's Asia Advisory Board and a rainmaker who drummed up
investors. Twelve rich Saudi families, including the Bin Ladens,
were among them. In 2002, the Washington Post reported, "Saudis
close to Prince Sultan, the Saudi defense minister … were encouraged
to put money into Carlyle as a favor to the elder Bush." Bush
retired from the company last October, and Baker, who lobbied U.S.
allies to forgive Iraq's debt, remains a Carlyle senior
If the 1991 war with Iraq and its aftermath cemented the Bush ties
with oil elites and royalty in the Middle East,
it angered Islamic
true believers and radicals. By the late 1990s, many of the Islamic
insurgents who had been mobilized by the CIA and others to chase the
Soviets out of Afghanistan were becoming increasingly anti-American.
They found a kinship with Osama bin Laden, the renegade of his
billionaire Saudi family, who was outraged at the U.S. presence in
When the U.S. launched a second war against Iraq in 2003 but failed
to find weapons of mass destruction that Hussein was purported to
have, international polls, especially those by the Washington-based
Pew Center, charted a massive growth in anti-Bush and anti-American
sentiment in Muslim parts of the world — an obvious boon to
terrorist recruitment. Even before the war, some cynics had argued
that Iraq was targeted to divert attention from the administration's
failure to catch Osama bin Laden and stop Al Qaeda terrorism.
Bolder critics hinted that George W. Bush had sought to shift
attention away from how his family's ties to the Bin Ladens and to
rogue elements in the Middle East had
crippled U.S. investigations in the months leading up to 9/11.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.)
complained that even when Congress released the mid-2003
intelligence reports on the origins of the 9/11 attack, the Bush
administration heavily redacted a 28-page section dealing with the
Saudis and other foreign governments, leading him to conclude,
"There seems to be a systematic strategy of coddling and cover-up
when it comes to the Saudis."
There is certainly enough evidence to suggest
that the Coup d'etat of I963, and the Bush dynasty's many decades of entanglement and
money-hunting in the Middle East have created a major conflict of
interest that deserves to be part of the 20I6 political debate. No
previous presidency has had anything remotely similar. Not one.
Kevin Phillips' new book, "American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune
and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush,"
published by Viking Penguin.