Recently by Russ Baker: Dallas Diminishes JFK, His Legacy, and Those Who Care About Democracy
ANNOUNCER: This is the Lew Rockwell Show.
ROCKWELL: How wonderful to have as our guest this morning, Russ Baker. Russ is the author of a very important book. In fact, it’s a book that Gore Vidal says is one of the most important books of the last decade. It’s called Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years. Russ has been an investigative journalist for — an independent, I might say, investigative journalist for more than 25 years. He’s written for all the top publications — Vanity Fair, New York Times, New Yorker, Esquire. And Russ Baker represents what American journalism pretends to be, but so seldom is, an actual, honest investigative journalist who follows the facts, investigates a story. He started investigating the whole Bush family question and came up with this magnificent book.
And, Russ, I remember that J. Edgar Hoover admitted that there was a CIA agent named George Bush in Dallas on the day Kennedy was assassinated. Was that George H.W. Bush?
BAKER: What I do in Family of Secrets is I raise the issue of Mr. Bush’s past and indications that, prior to being made CIA director in 1976, supposedly, as an outsider, that, in fact, he was not an outsider, that he had a whole secret history working with the agency. I then address the question of why he claimed not to remember where he was on November 22, 1963. And then, as you know, in Family of Secrets, I present many, many factual and documented occurrences and connections of real interest. And one of those, as you mentioned, is a declassified document from Hoover naming Bush as a CIA officer, working somehow with Cuban exiles, and in some reference to the Kennedy assassination. There is a second declassified document that shows Mr. Bush, by name, with his home address, calling the FBI on November 22, and now representing himself as a private citizen, but offering some information that he says could lead to the shooter of President Kennedy. This, in itself, just remarkable, being the same person who says he can’t remember where he was.
But actually, I’ve got four chapters of all new information on the Kennedy assassination, information that was all new to me and that I simply came upon in the course of investigating this simple question of why he couldn’t remember where he was.
Certainly, when you look at it cumulatively, most people who’ve read this book feel that there’s so many interesting things there that it’s hard to simply dismiss it as all coincidence.
ROCKWELL: You know, we think of the Bush family as being out of power now, but aren’t they really at the sort of dark heart of the American establishment, as you say, for the last 50 years, maybe even longer?
BAKER: Well, that’s right. We dismiss them very much at our peril. This family has been not — I would say the idea that they run things is really not true. They have always sort of worked for more powerful and wealthier people. And in Family of Secrets, I describe a lot of those relationships, not just George W., but George H.W; and not just him, but Prescott; and not just him, but his father, Samuel Bush, who was working for elements of the Rockefeller family, the Harriman family, and was actually involved with the procurement of weapons for World War I and the effort to persuade President Woodrow Wilson, against his own better instincts, to go into that war. So you see these continuities. And it goes back even further than that. Even the father of this man I’m talking about, five generations, where you see them literally ministering — you see one of the Bush’s being the minister to the wealthiest congregations in America in New York and then on Nob Hill in the Gold Rush and really the railroad period out there. So they’ve always been inexplicably linked to power in this country.
ROCKWELL: And as you say, besides being in the Rockefeller ambit, involved for a very long time as “merchants of death,” as people might have said in the 1920s, about these people who both supply the munitions for war and help foment war.
BAKER: That’s right. They’ve always been war contractors. And, in fact, this Samuel Bush, the great grandfather, he was working for people who were invested in Remington Arms, which was the largest arms dealer, and which, up until the U.S. entered the war, was selling rifles to both sides in World War I. And then you flash-forward, of course, and you see H.W. involved with the Carlyle Group, a major military contractor, and with others as well.
ROCKWELL: So doesn’t your book show us that — how shall I say — the grammar-school civic-class view of how the American government operates is entirely baloney?
BAKER: It is entirely baloney. And I have to say, this took me a long time to come around to that view, because I always sort of keep one foot in the mainstream media and one foot out. I’ve done that my whole career. You know, it’s very difficult to do that, but I keep my credibility with those folks. And yet, very often, they’re uncomfortable with what I find. Because, yes, you see, what these books do and what most of these magazines do is they preserve this fantasy of America as this kind of shining beacon on the hill, that this country can do no wrong, that Americans are somehow better people than folks elsewhere. But the truth is that people are largely the same everywhere. We’re all individuals. And so you and I, Lew, can jump on a plane and fly somewhere else and find people that we would like instantly, that we would share values with; our family dynamics would be very, very similar and so on. And at the same time, there are people in this country who don’t share any interests with us, couldn’t care less about whether we suffer or not, you know? But they play to that. And so whenever the idea is to go to war and to send other Americans to fight and to die in these wars, suddenly, we’re all in it together. And it’s really kind of a fantasy.
ROCKWELL: Here we have the Obama administration, which pretends to be something entirely different from the Bush administration, but not only are they carrying on the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, all these things started under George W. Bush. Is Obama, in some sense, just a different sticky face on the lapel of the oligarchy?
BAKER: You see, I think the problem is that the maneuvering room for any president is very, very small. And we kind of make a mistake when we think that American elections and the personalities of presidents and would-be presidents are the key issue, because that’s not the key issue. The key issue is these continuities of power, of these elements that we simply don’t talk about and don’t look at. If you study, let’s say, the Forbes 100 or something like that, the wealthiest people in America, we’ve never even heard of most of those folks because they prefer to remain very much in the background, which makes sense, because when you have that much money and everybody else is losing their homes and so on, you don’t want to be in the spotlight.
But, so, a person like Obama, I mean, he comes in. Now clearly, he did not represent the same stance on those wars as Bush. And yet, what did he do? The telling symbol there is that he kept on Robert Gates as the defense secretary. Now, Robert Gates was not only George W.’s defense secretary, he was the CIA director for H.W. Bush. And in the years in between, he was essentially almost employed by the Bush family. They put him in at Texas A&M University, where the elder Bush’s papers are held, and onto boards of various oil companies and so forth that they were connected to. And so he’s kind of, I would say, largely captured by them. So it’s ironic that when Obama could have brought anybody in, and there were an awful lot of people he could have brought in, including experienced military figures who were very critical of the situation of going into Iraq in the first place, he chose to keep this man.
By the way, you had asked, mentioned the Bush family, and I think it’s important also to mention that literally they are not leaving the political scene. Jeb Bush is very much being positioned as a candidate for the presidency in 2012. And what they’re doing — and I’ve been studying this a bit recently. What they are doing is they are trying to use the B.P. oil blow-out disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as Obama’s Waterloo, as a kind of the Hurricane Katrina of the Obama administration, even though there really isn’t any fair comparison, because it was not Obama who gave them the permits to drill. It was not under Obama that the lax regulation was in place. It was under George W. Bush. And the Katrina response was entirely to be handled by the federal government, by people appointed by Bush. And yet, they are using this to attack Obama and to say that what we need now is we need a Bush with a strong hand on the tiller.
ROCKWELL: You know, it’s very interesting when you look at, in my view, what led to the disaster, which was a liability cap of $75 million, so that, on the margin, a company would be encouraged to do risky things and not really worry about it because of the $75 million cap. That was put on during the George H.W. Bush administration. And I noticed, although the liability cap has been mentioned in the news, there’s absolutely no investigation, not even of the most cursory sort as to who put this on. Who presented it in Congress? Who in the White House — of course, George Bush himself — but who was pushing for this? Who lobbied for it? It’s the kind of thing that, as you point out, mainstream American journalists never do.
BAKER: Well, they generally don’t do it. And, you see, Lew, that’s why I started a website called whowhatwhy.com. We’re just getting it off the ground. We’re trying to raise money from —
ROCKWELL: Great name, by the way.
BAKER: Thank you very much. We’re trying to raise money from the public for whowhatwhy.com because we don’t want to be beholden to corporations. And we want to do that kind of deep digging. The problem is that it takes a whole advanced skills set, tremendous experience, very good sources, and months and months and months of research just to do a single story, to get those deeper explanations. You kept saying who. You know, who did this? Who did this? And those are the right questions, who, and why. Why was the thing done?
And, for example, we’re talking about B.P. In Family of Secrets, I guess, towards the end of the book, I tell a back story involving B.P., the Bush family, Tony Blair, and the decision to invade Iraq, and why Britain was so loyal in pushing and backing the U.S. Because, keep in mind, if Blair had not so aggressively backed Bush, it would have been impossible to invade. And a lot of that not only had to do with the fact that they were already planning way before the invasion, actually before 9/11 to divvy up Iraq between these various oil companies, but there actually were personal relationships there that sort of created for Blair and Bush this bond from the moment that Bush got into office. People were surprised because Blair was supposed to be the good friend of Bill Clinton. They were so close. And then, here comes the Republican and he’s an even better friend of his. And the answer lies in these relationships, which go back to prep schools. They involve oil companies. And they involve the use of war to control strategic resources, something that has been a continuity between the United States and Britain, back through the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadegh in Iran, and really much earlier throughout the world.
ROCKWELL: And that was by the CIA and by British intelligence in order to benefit B.P. —
BAKER: That’s right.
ROCKWELL: — the overthrow of Mossadegh, which, of course, the Iranians have never forgotten, but since Americans have a memory of about 30 seconds as far as I can tell for political events of that sort, nobody in this country remembers it. But, as I say, other peoples do.
BAKER: Well, that’s right. And if you talk about Iran to the average American, they only know that this is this terrible, dangerous country. But actually, Iranians are perfectly decent people. A lot of them are very well educated. A lot of them now live in this country. And the fact that there is a theocracy there, that was essentially the result of a reaction to the meddling by foreign countries in Iran. It was not something that might have happened otherwise.
ROCKWELL: No, that’s right. And, of course, Britain and the U.S. installed the Shah, who was a very brutal dictator. And eventually, the Iranians tossed him out. And then we got Khomeini and all the rest. But this, of course, is a great civilization. There’s been a great civilization there for many thousands of years, when North America was just a forest. But as with any country that’s being demonized in preparation for war, we’re never shown any pictures of Iran; we’re never shown any pictures of the people, the cities, schools, restaurants, people’s businesses. It’s all erased, making it easier, of course, for the Bush family and others to profit mightily when we kill them all.
BAKER: Well, you know, Lew, one of the things I discovered in researching Family of Secrets was the extent to which — you mentioned the Shah — the extent to which the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos and other — the Saudi regime, these unelected dictatorial regimes are joined at the hip with the Bushes and they’re friends. As we talked about earlier, they stress nationalism when it comes to us, but for themselves, it’s all globalization. It’s all wealthy people who, in many cases, have ill-gotten gains. I mean, have literally — you know, they basically raped the treasury of their own country, impoverished their own people for their own personal gain. It was theft. And that money is being circulated and you see it — as I describe it in the book, they circulate it through these companies that George H.W. Bush was involved in. They circulate it through companies that George W. Bush was involved in before he got into politics.
ROCKWELL: Did the Bush family get paid off by the Kuwaitis to encourage them to start the first war against Iraq? That was always a rumor, that they had gotten a billion-dollar payoff from the Kuwaiti royal family to put them back in power.
BAKER: I don’t have any verification of that. But there’s no question that Saddam Hussein was basically sort of — he had a beef with the Kuwaitis over slant drilling, basically, drilling into his territory. And he felt that he had to put a stop to it. And, you know, other countries do things like that when they think people are out of hand. Like, look at Britain with Argentina in the Falkland Islands. I mean, many, many countries will take an action against another country when they feel that they’re infringing on their territory. And so, you know that story, he checked with the U.S. ambassador, and she said, we don’t think it’s our business.
BAKER: And then he went in there and then they came after him. So, in that sense, it sort of looked like a set up.
ROCKWELL: Yes, it did look like a set up. And I’ve always been suspicious that the Bushes profited in a number ways out of that.
But I want to —
BAKER: Well, it’s interesting to note, by the way, that if you look at the investments in B.P. — you know, B.P., of course, is a British company. But nowadays, all of these firms are so internationalized and so — this BlackRock, this big U.S. investment outfit, is the biggest shareholder there. And then you have all of these funds, you know, the sort of retirement funds, things like that; teachers and different states and so forth are invested in this company. And so, to some extent, what they do is they get everyone entangled. I believe Kuwait is invested in B.P., Singapore, and so all of the — China — they’re all invested in these things, and so everybody has a stake in these outfits surviving no matter what they do.
ROCKWELL: Well, for anyone interested in learning about what really happens in America and the world, I can’t recommend highly enough Russ Baker’s book, Family of Secrets — it’s now out in paperback — The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the last Fifty Years. Also, take a look at his new website; keep an eye on it: whowhatwhy.com.
And, Russ, I know you’re off on a two-month tour of Europe, and wish you all the best. And keep doing what you’re doing. It’s very, very important.
BAKER: Thank you very much, Lew. Enjoyed it.
ANNOUNCER: You’ve been listening to the Lew Rockwell Show, produced by LewRockwell.com, the best-read Libertarian website in the world, and thanks for listening.
Russ Baker is an award-winning investigative reporter. He has written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Village Voice and Esquire and dozens of other major domestic and foreign publications. He has also served as a contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. Baker received a 2005 Deadline Club award for his exclusive reporting on George W. Bush's military record. He is the author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America (Bloomsbury Press, 2009); it was released in paperback as Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years. For more information on Russ's work, see his sites, www.familyofsecrets.com and www.russbaker.com.