Posts Tagged ‘George H.W. Bush’

The ‘deep state’ in the Reagan administration

February 4, 2019

When George H.W. Bush served as Vice President to Ronald Reagan, I was one of those who thought of him as merely a product of the upper crust who was always trying to seem like an average joe, and never quite succeeding.

But, as Seymour Hersh wrote in a recent article in the London Review of Books—

There was another view of Bush: the one held by the military men and civilian professionals who worked for him on national security issues.  Unlike the president, he knew what was going on and how to get things done. For them, Reagan was ‘a dimwit’ who didn’t get it, or even try to get it.  [snip]

George H.W. Bush (AP)

Bush was different: he got it.  At his direction, a team of military operatives was set up that bypassed the national security establishment – including the CIA – and wasn’t answerable to congressional oversight.  It was led by Vice-Admiral Arthur Moreau, a brilliant navy officer who would be known to those on the inside as ‘M’.  [snip]

In May 1983 he was promoted to assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Vessey, and over the next couple of years he oversaw a secret team – operating in part out of the office of Daniel Murphy, Bush’s chief of staff – which quietly conducted at least 35 covert operations against drug trafficking, terrorism and, most important, perceived Soviet expansionism in more than twenty countries, including Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, Libya, Senegal, Chad, Algeria, Tunisia, the Congo, Kenya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia and Vietnam.

Source: London Review of Books

The “Star Wars” missile defense plan was a disinformation campaign, designed to make the Soviet rulers think the United States actually could defend against a nuclear attack.  Nobody on the Joint Chiefs of Staff actually believed it would work, according to Hersh’s informants.

Bush’s team sent out special Marine and Delta Force teams to kill drug lords, Soviet agents and terrorists, based names provided by the  CIA from the files of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Justice Department and National Security Agency—just as the Joint Special Operations Command does today.

President Reagan knew nothing of this.  Neither did CIA Director William Casey, who the team regarded as reckless, uninformed and overly read to talk to the press.  The press itself never caught on.  The only member of Congress who was told was Rep. Dick Cheney, R-Wyoming.

One of the team’s efforts was an abortive plot to assassinate Libya’ Muammar Qaddafi.  Another was support of the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, which was forbidden by Congress.

This is what is meant by a “deep state”—a decision-making center within government that is hidden from the public, not accountable to the public, but greatly affects the public welfare for good ill.

(more…)

The sad legacy of George H.W. Bush

December 10, 2018

George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, is being mourned as if he were a great and beloved figure.  But when he was in office, and running for office, he was widely mocked as an out-of-touch New England blueblood and as a wimp.

He tried to over-compensate for this and present himself as something he wasn’t.  Matt Taibbi wrote a fine article about this.

George H.W. Bush

He was an Episcopalian, but he tried to re-invent himself as a member of the religious right.  He had been a supporter of Planned Parenthood, but after he ran for national office, he opposed it. He opposed Planned Parenthood, AIDS research and drug legalization.  But the members of the real religious right never trusted him, no matter how well he served their agenda.

There is no reason to think that he personally was a racist, but his henchman Lee Atwater used the image of convicted rapist Willie Horton to stir up racial fears in order to defeat Michael Dukakis.  The political tactics of Atwater and his successor Karl Rove, in the younger George Bush’s administration, set the stage for Donald Trump.

In foreign affairs, the elder Bush’s goal was to end the so-called Vietnam syndrome, which was the reluctance of Americans to go to war with small nations that do not threaten us.  President Reagan took a baby step in this direction with the invasion of the tiny island nation of Grenada.  Bush took it a step further with the invasion of Panama, and then the first Gulf War against Iraq.

The real Vietnam syndrome is the desire of U.S. militarists to fight another Vietnam-like war and this time win.

I admit I was caught up in the propaganda for the first Gulf War.  I only later learned that the U.S. ambassador to Iraq had virtually invited Saddam to invade.  But we Americans learned that is it possible to kill large numbers of foreigners, have the thrill of a victory and not suffer any consequences—no immediate consequences, anyhow.

I can think of at least three good things about the elder George Bush.

He was a gentleman of the old school who treated people around him with courtesy and consideration.  He was famous for hand-written thank-you notes, a small thing, but not nothing.

He was a genuine hero in World War Two—at least as much so as John F. Kennedy.  He flew 58 combat missions and was shot down over the Pacific.

He had the wisdom to stand aside when the Soviet Union was losing control of eastern Europe and then breaking up itself.  If his administration had tried to take advantage of the situation in any obvious way, there might have been war.

I think his vision of a “new world order” was a kind of council of the stronger nations, like Prince Metternich’s Council of Europe after the defeat of Napoleon.  That’s not my ideal, but it is better than the idea of the U.S. be the world’s sole superpower, which took hold in the Clinton administration and after.

I hope that when U.S. hegemony collapses, we have a leader as rational as Gorbachev and leaders of other great powers are as restrained as Bush and Secretary of State James Baker.

That’s not nothing.  And then, in many people’s eyes, Bush had the merit of not being Donald Trump.  But his policies helped pave the way for Trump.

LINKS

George W. Bush’s Wimpy Image Had Consequences by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

I’m Sorry But This is Sheer Propaganda by Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs.

The Ignored Legacy of George H.W. Bush: War Crimes, Racism and Obstruction of Justice by Mehdi Hasan for The Intercept.

Bush and Reagan on illegal immigrants, 1980

November 23, 2014

During the 1980 Republican Presidential primary campaign in Texas, George H.W. Bush said the children of unauthorized immigrants should have the right to attend public schools, and Ronald Reagan advocated an open border so that Mexicans could work temporarily in the United States.

The video above cuts off Reagan’s statement in mid-sentence.  His full statement is:

I think the time has come that the United States, and our neighbors, particularly our neighbor to the south, should have a better understanding and a better relationship than we’ve ever had.  And I think that we haven’t been sensitive enough to our size and our power.  They have a problem of 40 to 50 percent unemployment.

Now this cannot continue without the possibility arising—with regard to that other country that we talked about, of Cuba and what it is stirring up—of the possibility of trouble below the border.  And we could have a very hostile and strange neighbor on our border.

Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems?  Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then, while they’re working and earning here, they’d pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back.  They can cross.  Open the borders both ways.

This is the only safety valve right now they have, with that unemployment, that probably keeps the lid from blowing off down there.

Republicans have changed a lot in the past 30-some years.

As have we all.

SOURCES

What Reagan said about a border wall by Chris Ladd on GOPLifer.

Ronald Reagan Says ‘Open the Border Both Ways’  by Jesse Walker for Reason magazine.