Sunday, January 03, 2010

Family Of Secrets-- All Your Worst Fears About The Bushes Were True


I don't know which single book I liked most in 2009. The DWT Bookstore has pages of my faves-- the ones Ken and I are always referring to-- from Idiot America, Nixonland, Dateline Havana, Bloggers on the Bus and Turkmeniscam to The Progressive Revolution, The Eliminationists and, of course, Russ Baker's Family of Secrets, a 600 page thriller that digs more deeply into the Bush Family than anyone has ever done. The paperback is now in its third edition and I've been urging Russ to work with someone on doing a synopsis that we could use to turn people on who are intimidated by books with hundreds of pages. Yesterday he finally sent me something that can be used here at DWT. He starts with the questions many of us have asked over and over again: "How did the spectacularly unqualified George W. Bush come to be the President of the United States, and arguably the most powerful person in the world? What lay behind his improbable rise and disastrous policies? Was there more to his controversial reign than the pundits’ standard bromides?"
These are the questions that launched Russ Baker into five years of research. The answers, based on hundreds of interviews, including with persons close to the Bush family who had never talked with reporters, proved astounding.

Not only, Baker found, had we missed the very essence of W., but also of his father and grandfather and in fact the entire clan. Moreover, behind the secrets of the Bushes and their circle lay larger ones that cast decades of American history in a new and revealing light.

The Bushes have been portrayed as everything from incompetents to ideologues to outright crooks. Many of their transgressions  are now well known-- from grandfather Prescott’s involvement with Nazi-era financiers to W.’s initiatives that weakened Americans’ constitutional rights at every turn.

But Baker’s research took him to far deeper levels of insight into the American power machine, as it unearthed material of the sort more commonly identified with shady foreign regimes or Hollywood thrillers than with the still-hallowed U.S. presidency.

Baker explained this in a post-publication interview: “As I discovered, there was an entire hidden stratum of truth underlying the rise of the Bushes-- a truth that, if not reckoned with, threatens to derail the reforms we all hope are on the horizon.”  
The copious evidence Baker assembles points to one jarring conclusion: that the parade of faces in the Bush White House were in fact bit players in a long-playing “shadow government” establishment that continues to influence events regardless of who-- or what party-- occupies the White House. Power cliques in this country, it turns out, function much as they do elsewhere in the world. Here, however, they are better hidden, in part-- paradoxically-- because we think our society is so open that hidden centers of power could not exist.

There is a tendency in America to tar anyone who sees larger configurations and coalescences of interests, irrespective of the quality of their research, as "conspiracy nuts." Yet the revelations and lessons of Family of Secrets come at us on practically every page, and with sourcing and documentation that have stood up to scrutiny. Moreover, they offer us a glimpse into something deeply embedded in our body politic, and profoundly dangerous to our democratic traditions.
Below are brief summaries of the first seven chapters, hopefully enough to mkae you want to buy a copy of the whole thing.
Chapter 1: How Did Bush Happen?

Baker explains how he came to write this book, and the extent to which his discoveries surprised him and forced him to re-examine popular assumptions about George W. Bush, his father George H.W. Bush-- and, ultimately, about how power in America works. He began with a sense that behind the George W. Bush presidency lay “something more consequential and pervasive-- well beyond the missteps, overreaching, and palace intrigues one finds in all presidential administrations.”

“Above all, the deception at the root of the decision to invade Iraq and the disastrous occupation that followed only confirmed my feeling that the assumption of power by Bush pointed to something deeper than a callow and entitled president surrounded by enablers and Iagos with dark schemes.”

The inquiry into W. quickly leads to W’s father. “To my surprise, I began to see that understanding George H. W. Bush (Senior, or Poppy, as his relatives and friends call him) was really the key to understanding the son-- and not just in the simplistic, psychoanalytical terms to which some commentators have resorted.” Despite the conventional narrative of a father-son rivalry, the two were basically members of a single team with a deep bench and a long, if little-known, track record. It was this team that put W. into play: “George Bush the younger was essentially cleaned up, reconditioned, and then ‘managed’ into becoming his father’s successor in the White House.”
After recounting some of the more egregious acts of George W.’s administration, he writes: “None of these developments looks so surprising when one considers the untold story of what came before. This book is about that secret history, and the people and institutions that created it.”  

Baker explains the inherent paradox that defines the Bush clan: “[W]hile serving forces that operate best in the shadows, the Bushes craved for themselves a place in the spotlight. To get what they wanted and to do what they felt they must, they had to live what amounts to double lives. Even as the Bushes gained fame and power, they managed to somehow avoid careful scrutiny… So adept were they at this game that they are almost never mentioned in their colleagues’ writings… It is almost as if this clan never existed until the moment it occupied the White House.” 

Chapter 2: Poppy’s Secret

In the first of Family of Secrets’ many dramatic scenes, an entertainment reporter stumbles upon an obscure declassified document that reveals George H.W. “Poppy” Bush’s secret: Long before he was appointed CIA director under Gerald Ford in 1976, and labeled as an “intelligence virgin,” Poppy Bush already was connected to the CIA. More particularly, he had been working with extremist Cuban exiles at the time of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Poppy tried to ascribe the reference found by the reporter to “another George Bush.” But other documents indicate that he had been involved in super-secret covert domestic operations some two decades before his directorship, and that his 1950s offshore drilling company was a cover operation. Baker bolsters this discovery with evidence that Poppy Bush was engaged in intelligence work as early as World War II. Further, he provides background on the role of banking circles around Poppy’s father, Prescott, in creating America’s modern intelligence establishment.

Chapter 3: Viva Zapata

This chapter deals with the Bush family’s ties to the origins of the American intelligence establishment. We learn how the Bushes got into the “family business” of munitions, finance and intelligence work. And we take a behind-the-scenes look at Dresser Industries, an oilfield services firm through which the Bushes got into defense contracting and the petroleum industry.

After his Naval Intelligence work in World War II, Poppy goes to Yale, where the early CIA is busy recruiting-- particularly through secret societies like the Bush family favorite, Skull and Bones. Then we see how Poppy’s early days as an apprentice in oil and defense contractor affiliates of his family’s investment bank coincided with the growth of an oil-defense-intelligence hub in Texas. This led to Poppy Bush’s decision to leave the East Coast behind and move to the Lone Star State.

Meanwhile, US senator Prescott Bush and his former business partners are powers behind the throne during the Eisenhower presidency, a relationship sharpened by their close ties to Ike’s new CIA director, Allen Dulles, and Prescott’s personal role as a senator in supervising assassination activities abroad. In this context, it becomes apparent why powerful Washington figures, including the owner of the Washington Post, enamored of the spy apparatus and transfixed by the Cold War struggles, step up and fund Poppy’s obscure little oil company.
As the evidence builds that Poppy’s tiny offshore drilling outfit was an intelligence cover, we see how the Bush circle began moving against Fidel Castro after he expropriated their Cuban holdings.

Chapter 4: Where Was Poppy?

Poppy Bush has claimed not to remember where he was on November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas. That’s odd, since almost every other American alive at that time can recall where he or she was. Poppy’s amnesia become stranger still-- or perhaps, more understandable-- when declassified documents show (1) that he was working in Dallas for the CIA at the time, and (2) that he called the FBI from a town near Dallas at the very hour Kennedy’s death was being announced.

In that call, Bush Sr. introduced himself as a private citizen, and offered a supposed tip about a possible suspect-- a man who turned out to be innocent, and to have ties back to Bush himself.  Though the tip was a red herring, it served a clear purpose: to establish that Poppy was not in Dallas at the time of his call. Baker exhaustively explores Bush’s activities that week and day, which included spending time with a top CIA expert on removing government leaders. He also dissects a peculiar Nov. 22 letter purportedly written by Barbara Bush and published by her decades later, that explains-- too artfully by half-- the couple’s movements at the time.

Baker reveals the deep animus toward President John Kennedy harbored by the Bushes and their friend, CIA director Allen Dulles, whom JFK had fired in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs disaster.  And he describes the dramatic, sudden changes in the lives of both Prescott Bush and his son in the wake of that firing.

Chapter 5: Oswald’s Friend

In 1976, a letter arrives for CIA director George H. W. Bush. His aides assume it is from a crackpot-- the writer claims that some kind of net is closing in on him, and attributes this to his having been indiscreet in talking about Lee Harvey Oswald. 

Bush acknowledges to his perplexed staff that he actually knows the man, who is an anti-communist Russian émigré named George de Mohrenschildt. Poppy Bush confirms in an internal memo that de Mohrenschildt did indeed have some connection to Oswald-- but says he cannot recall the details of the Oswald connection. This is strange, stranger still for the head of the US spy agency.

Bush writes back to de Mohrenschildt that he has nothing to fear. Yet within a year the man is dead from a shotgun blast to the head. The official verdict is suicide. Baker begins a lengthy exploration of de Mohrenschildt’s ties to the Bush family, and to oil interests generally, dating back many decades. And he details the previously unknown military-oil-intelligence pipeline that brought anti-communist Russians out of the Soviet Union and settled them in Dallas, where they were plugged into business and society at the highest level. 

We learn of de Mohrenschildt’s involvement with lucrative oil investment schemes in Cuba that were upset by Fidel Castro’s revolution, and his ties to what is described as a “private CIA” serving the interests of wealthy Americans abroad. Also revealed are De Mohrenschildt’s links to many figures identified in one way or another with the JFK assassination story-- from Abe Zapruder, whose footage of the assassination became a crucial piece of the conventional narrative of that day, to the leader of a military intelligence unit whose members included many members of the Dallas police department, and whose associate forced himself into the pilot car of Kennedy’s motorcade.
Chapter 6: The Hit

In this chapter Baker identifies the large array of powerful interests who were furious at John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby, the attorney general-- and explains why these interests were glad to see an end to Camelot. Central to this story is JFK’s feud with the CIA and especially Allen Dulles.  Another important element is the threat posed by the Kennedys to the oil depletion allowance – the foundation of much of the oil barons’ wealth.The Pentagon also had reasons to want the Kennedys out of power. In revealing how Kennedy’s replacement, Lyndon Johnson, was tied to the same interests as the Bushes, Baker lays bare the close links between Johnson and the Bush family.

In weaving an alternative narrative of the Kennedy assassination, Baker details Allen Dulles’s activities after he was fired by Kennedy and relates them to Oswald’s background with intelligence and the military that suggests that his “defection” to the USSR was part of a US-run “false defector program.” There are indications that Oswald was actually doing intelligence work at the time he took his job in the Texas School Book Depository.

Poppy Bush’s old friend George de Mohrenschildt and his wife began to “manage” Lee Harvey Oswald’s life in the year prior to the assassination. Was this part of an elaborate attempt to focus attention on Oswald, and away from prominent Dallas figures and the CIA group? Baker also reports how de Mohrenschildt was moved offshore prior to November 1963, thereby minimizing his direct connection (and that of Bush and others) to the events of Nov. 22nd.

Baker unpacks the evidence that Oswald was falsely implicated in the assassination to cover for the real culprits. He reveals De Mohrenschildt’s ties to the owner of the Texas School Book Depository, the building from which Oswald purportedly fired the fatal shots. Baker shows how Oswald was guided into his job in the building, and reveals the military connections of the company that hired him. Finally, we see these key figures, all tied to super-secret military and intelligence activities, converging on November 22. In summarizing the copious facts that place Poppy and his circle much closer to the assassination than has ever been revealed, he asks the simple question: Can all this be coincidence?
Chapter 7: After Camelot

Beyond the outlines of a sophisticated operation behind Kennedy’s death, Baker’s research turns up new indications of something more enduring and hence perhaps even more unsettling. Namely, an ongoing effort to dissuade the public from connecting the dots and to perpetuate the increasingly untenable official story: that Oswald, operating alone, killed Kennedy.

We start with the role of Bush associates in the aftermath of the assassination and the ensuing investigation. Particular emphasis is placed on the role of Jack Crichton, an oil industry operative with an intelligence background who was, along with Poppy Bush, part of the cadre at the top of the small Texas GOP. 

Crichton was also head of a Dallas-based military intelligence unit tied to the Russian exile community. His role included controlling Marina Oswald’s translated comments to police, which were actually modified to implicate her husband. This circle used Oswald’s purported ties to the Soviets and Cubans to set off a chain of events that nearly precipitated a missile attack on Cuba.

Baker reveals how the discredited Warren Commission was practically run by Bush family friend Allen Dulles, the CIA director deposed by JFK. It was staffed almost exclusively by figures with ties to the CIA, the military-industrial complex, and right-wing business interests arrayed against the Kennedys. This explains the Commission’s transparent effort to ensure that their interviews of de Mohrenschildt would not lead back to powerful figures. De Mohrenschildt himself expressed bewilderment at the Commission’s feeble questioning of him.

In the fall of 1963, Poppy’s reason for traveling around the state was a futile bid for a US Senate seat. Having lost, he gets to Washington soon enough-- elected in 1966 to the House of Representatives. He quickly takes advantage of his official capacity to travel to Vietnam with the ex CIA-man who helped him launch his earlier intelligence-cover offshore oil business. Declassified documents show the man requesting that the Agency arrange cover for his trip with Bush.

It gets even better. You should consider picking up a copy. Here's a link to the paperback.

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At 11:14 AM, Blogger WarrenG said...

And lets not forget Bob Woodward. Since reading this book I've been waiting for some TV talking head to ask Woodward if he ever worked for the CIA. Great book!

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Albino Cavewoman said...

Am reading Idiot America now and loving it. Looking forward to tackling this beast in the near future.

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

Yah, grampa sold steel to the Nazis and Putin liked Bushies daddy cause he was a spy.

Please sir, MORE?

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Bob In Pacifica said...

Good book. Along with John Armstrong's out-of-print HARVEY AND LEE you will have a really good understanding of what happened in Dallas and how that's shaped America since then. After all, you have a coup on Friday you don't just go back to your desk on Monday morning.

(If you don't want to spring for $100 for HARVEY AND LEE you can pick up the collection of essays THE ASSASSINATIONS edited by Pease and DiEugenio which has an essay by Armstrong and a lot of other good essays.)

Basically, much of what passes for political discourse is like discussing who's the better pro wrestler. The game is fixed.

At 6:50 PM, Blogger Philosopher's Mess said...

Yeah, I loved Baker's book too! Academic and devastating!

At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WarrenG -- If memory serves, Woodward was at the Office of Naval Intelligence, under Al Haig.

At 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent synopsis and I'm certain an excellent book as well. There is nothing you could tell me about the Bush family that would surprise me. But face facts. The game is over. We lost. They won.

If you don't agree just look at the "change" that came to Washington after the last election for proof.

Everything that happens now is just for show. A passion play to keep the masses amused.

At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet to be mentioned about the Kennedy assassination is that Richaed Bissell's brother was Mayor of Dallas at the time Kennedy was murdered. So Allan Dulles heads the Commission investigating the assassination, while his number two guy in the CIA, Richard Bissell's brother is Mayor of Dallas.
Both Dulles and Bissell were fired by Kennedy for the disaster at the Bay of Pigs.

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, I believe there is a photo of George H.W.Bush standing in front of the book depository at the time of the assassination along with a plane ticket showing his flight from Dallas to D.C. on 11/22/63.
Certainly makes one wonder.

At 1:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush Sr in Dallas picture

At 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic book. I was riveted to my reading chair. I was 19 when Kennedy was assassinated and didn't understand the full ramifications at the time. Years ago, I remember Poppy waxing eloquent in a speech and talking about the "New World Order." He was so excited. At the time, I thought the phrase sounded ominous. Now, after the last 10 years of watching the dismantling of America, I really get it. I fear we're too late. These people in the shadow government are bastards. That certainly includes the Dark Lord Cheney who ordered "war games" at 8:30 A.M. and orders to "stand down" on 9/11. I'm still waiting for Obama to restore habeas corpus. New World Order is a done deal unless Americans wake up and revolt.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now we're getting to the bottom of the Poppy Bush. Who's benefitted, indeed; from LBJ, Nixon, 4 future national news anchors, Poppy (all prior: in or @ Dallas 11/22/63), Furd, Clintons, Jeb, W, down to Obama! Blackmail, anyone?

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nixon was in Dallas on the morning of the assassination.

At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And so it goes. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how The Bushies could've concocted 9/11. Hell, they let some people out of the country two days later when ALL flights were grounded. Tell me it's not a conspiracy when you put the pieces together. The take on this that "the game is fixed" is true, and the only way to crush their strangle-hold on America is...revolution. Right now they're doing a pretty fine job of hood-winking most conservative Americans into believing the most outlandish tales. The fish stinks from the head down, not the tail up. Anytime you're told to look into something more thoroughly, or get a "I don't recall..." response, remember you're looking at a lie. These kinds of people lie for a living, they create their dynasties off lies and the misery of millions. Look at the state America is now in and ask yourself, "Was this just an accident?" Nope. There is a grand design behind it, and we should NEVER stop at the "official" story. They got Dan Rather, didn't they? Hello.....

At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, it's important to note that each time (since Kennedy) we've been allowed to elect another Democratic President, the poor schmuck has inherited both the treasonous transgressions and war debt from the previous Republican Administrations. Both Carter and Clinton were those fall-guys, and take a look at what they inherited. We wonder why we are so far down the ladder with respect to how we care for our citizens, and why MORE than all our tax dollars combined for the next thousand years are tied up in foreign wars. Wake up, people.

At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And not one with the integrity of a gnat can be found in Congress who would publicly denounce these criminals and expose them for the traitors they are.

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you think this is a great book, or even only average, but with important information, you should by a copy and donate it to your local library. One person who is already informed reading about the minor details changes little. 100,000 entirely uninformed people reading about this because they happened upon it at their local library could change quite a bit.

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s. Jesus understood the game of the imperialists and he avoided them and the hellenized roman towns of Judea like the plague.

The only way to affect change in the system is to stop supporting and participating in it. Stop paying taxes, stop buying corporate products, stop funding them by buying bonds and stocks, stop using their banks, just stop being part of their system. The game is throughly rigged. The only way to change that is to stop playing the game.

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Jr said...

Even if members of the Bush lineage had some shady business dealings,I would not condemn them,as long as they have our country's best interests at heart.
It appears that they didn't. In order to do business among the world's wealthy and powerful,it is sometines necessary to suckle the teats of some power pigs. Examine the history of the Kennedy clan,and their involvement in the
boot legging business. Joe Kennedy senior,did what he had to do,in order to become wealthy and politically powerful. The CIA is a covert operations agency. It's job is to protect the interests of the U.S. Government. In order to do so,temporary alliances are sometimes formed,where no true allegiance exists. Durring the Iran-Iraq war,the U.S. Government sided with Iraq and the Saddam Hussein regime. They didn't want the danger of Iran becoming too powerful in the region. The U.S. supported the taliban in Afganastan,durring the soviet invasion. The weapons that were supplied,helped them defeat the Soviet Union. After W.W.II,some former nazi officials were broken out of prison. They had intelligence information,that was useful against communist Russia.
Before 911,emergency meetings were held to discuss the problem of peak oil. Peak oil meant massive increase in demand,with diminishing supply. It is a strange coincidence. One has to see the big picture,in order to understand.


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