Video of Macron’s robo-cops beating the merde out of protesters in a Burger King:
Video of those forces “shooting” a peaceful protestor in the stomach:https://streamable.com/bl3or
And here’s Diana Johnstone’s very sound and thorough overview of why the French have taken to the streets
DIANA JOHNSTONE • DECEMBER 3, 2018
Every automobile in France is supposed to be equipped with a yellow vest. This is so that in case of accident or breakdown on a highway, the driver can put it on to ensure visibility and avoid getting run over.
So the idea of wearing your yellow vest to demonstrate against unpopular government measures caught on quickly. The costume was at hand and didn’t have to be provided by Soros for some more or less manufactured “color revolution”. The symbolism was fitting: in case of socio-economic emergency, show that you don’t want to be run over.Demonstrators gather near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during a protest on Saturday. Credit: AFP/Getty images
As everybody knows, what set off the protest movement was yet another rise in gasoline taxes. But it was immediately clear that much more was involved. The gasoline tax was the last straw in a long series of measures favoring the rich at the expense of the majority of the population. That is why the movement achieved almost instant popularity and support.
The Voices of the People
The Yellow Vests held their first demonstrations on Saturday, November 17 on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. It was totally unlike the usual trade union demonstrations, well organized to march down the boulevard between the Place de la République and the Place de la Bastille, or the other way around, carrying banners and listening to speeches from leaders at the end. The Gilets Jaunes just came, with no organization, no leaders to tell them where to go or to harangue the crowd. They were just there, in the yellow vests, angry and ready to explain their anger to any sympathetic listener.
Briefly, the message was this: we can’t make ends meet. The cost of living keeps going up, and our incomes keep going down. We just can’t take it any more. The government must stop, think and change course.
But so far, the reaction of the government was to send police to spray torrents of tear gas on the crowd, apparently to keep the people at a distance from the nearby Presidential residence, the Elysee Palace. President Macron was somewhere else, apparently considering himself above and beyond it all.
But those who were listening could learn a lot about the state of France today. Especially in the small towns and rural areas, where many protesters came from. Things are much worse than officials and media in Paris have let on.
There were young women who were working seven days a week and despaired of having enough money to feed and clothe their children.
People were angry but ready to explain very clearly the economic issues.
Colette, age 83, doesn’t own a car, but explained to whoever would listen that the steep rise of gasoline prices would also hurt people who don’t drive, by affecting prices of food and other necessities. She had done the calculations and figured it would cost a retired person 80 euros per month.
“Macron didn’t run on the promise to freeze pensions,” recalled a Yellow Vest, but that is what he has done, along with increasing solidarity taxes on pensioners.
A significant and recurring complaint concerned the matter of health care. France has long had the best public health program in the world, but this is being steadily undermined to meet the primary need of capital: profit. In the past few years, there has been a growing government campaign to encourage, and finally to oblige people to subscribe to a “mutuelle”, that is, a private health insurance plan, ostensibly to fill “the gaps” not covered by France’s universal health coverage. The “gaps” can be the 15% that is not covered for ordinary illnesses (grave illnesses are covered 100%), or for medicines taken off the “covered” list, or for dental work, among other things. The “gaps” to fill keep expanding, along with the cost of subscribing to the mutuelle. In reality, this program, sold to the public as modernizing improvement, is a gradual move toward privatization of health care. It is a sneaky method of opening the whole field of public health to international financial capital investment. This gambit has not fooled ordinary people and is high on the list of complaints by the Gilets Jaunes.
The degradation of care in the public hospitals is another complaint. There are fewer and fewer hospitals in rural areas, and one must “wait long enough to die” emergency rooms. Those who can afford it are turning to private hospitals. But most can’t. Nurses are overworked and underpaid. When one hears what nurses have to endure, one is reminded that this is indeed a noble profession.
In all this I was reminded of a young woman we met at a public picnic in southwestern France last summer. She cares for elderly people who live at home alone in rural areas, driving from one to another, to feed them, bathe them, offer a moment of cheerful company and understanding. She loves her vocation, loves helping old people, although it barely allows her to make a living. She will be among those who will have to pay more to get from one patient to the next.
People pay taxes willingly when they are getting something for it. But not when the things they are used to are being taken away. The tax evaders are the super-rich and the big corporations with their batteries of lawyers and safe havens, or intruders like Amazon and Google, but ordinary French people have been relatively disciplined in paying taxes in return for excellent public services: optimum health care, first class public transport, rapid and efficient postal service, free university education. But all that is under assault from the reign of financial capital called “neo-liberalism” here. In rural areas, more and more post offices, schools and hospitals are shut down, unprofitable train service is discontinued as “free competition” is introduced following European Union directives – measures which oblige people to drive their cars more than ever. Especially when huge shopping centers drain small towns of their traditional shops.
Incoherent Energy Policies
And the tax announced by the government – an additional 6.6 cents per liter for diesel and an additional 2.9 centers per liter of gasoline – are only the first steps in a series of planned increases over the next years. The measures are supposed to incite people to drive less or even better, to scrap their old vehicles and buy nice new electric cars.
More and more “governance” is an exercise in social engineering by technocrats who know what is best. This particular exercise goes directly opposite to an earlier government measure of social engineering which used economic incitements to get people to buy cars running on diesel. Now the government has changed its mind. Over half of personal vehicles still run on diesel, although the percentage has been dropping. Now their owners are told to go buy an electric car instead. But people living on the edge simply can’t afford the switch.
Besides, the energy policy is incoherent. In theory, the “green” economy includes shutting down France’s many nuclear power plants. Without them, where would the electricity come from to run the electric cars? And nuclear power is “clean”, no CO2. So what is going on? People wonder.
The most promising alternative sources of energy in France are the strong tides along northern coasts. But last July, the Tidal Energies project on the Normandy coast was suddenly dropped because it wasn’t profitable – not enough customers. This is symptomatic of what is wrong with the current government. Major new industrial projects are almost never profitable at first, which is why they need government support and subsidies to get going, with a view to the future. Such projects were supported under de Gaulle, raising France to the status of major industrial power, and providing unprecedented prosperity for the population as a whole. But the Macron government is not investing in the future nor doing anything to preserve industries that remain. The key French energy corporation Alstom was sold to General Electric under his watch.
Indeed, it is perfectly hypocritical to call the French gas tax an “ecotax” since the returns from a genuine ecotax would be invested to develop clean energies – such as tidal power plants. Rather, the benefits are earmarked to balance the budget, that is, to serve the government debt. The Macronian gas tax is just another austerity measure – along with cutting back public services and “selling the family jewels”, that is, selling potential money-makers like Alstom, port facilities and the Paris airports.
Click on the link above for the rest,
How low can they go?
Stay tuned (insofar as that’s possible).
ASSANGE CASE: U.S. ESPIONAGE ACT IS ILLEGAL, SAYS JOHN KIRIAKOU
NOV 15, 2018
Communication, both internal and external, are key in maintaining the health of any organization. This is particularly relevant for the pharmaceutical and health industry. Beyond working to maintain their public image, they also have to gain the trust of billions of patients that are using their products. Therefore, having solid communications and brand marketing is paramount for pharma companies.
Last week New Knowledge was on the ground at the annual Bio/Pharm Corporate Communications conference, to learn about the current brand challenges the pharmaceutical industry faces and new tactics and trends being used throughout corporate communications teams. Here are our key takeaways.
1)Reputation is king
Reputation was the central theme of the two day conference, and that isn’t without reason. Amid controversies of price inflation, the opioid crisis, and the overall public questioning of the ethical integrity of the industry, pharmaceutical companies have faced their share of reputation tarnishing in recent years. Yet, beyond having traditional crisis communications protocols in place, and issuing press releases, little is being done beyond to preserve the integrity of pharma brands.
30% of health and pharma companies say that 50-75% of their market value is attributed to reputation, making it clear that pharma companies need to be doing more. Reputation threats are taking on new forms and digital outlets have given these threats a longer lifeline. In a presentation done by Abbvie, Director of Communications Mary Kathryn Steel said that protecting reputation and building a reliable crisis management solution in today’s digital age requires empathy and thinking about who the target audience is that will be impacted and focusing remediation on that. All in all, pharma companies should be thinking outside of the box when it comes to preserving their reputation.
2)Bio and Pharm companies need to adjust their comms strategy to include disinformation defense
At this year’s event New Knowledge’s Director of Research Renee DiResta presented on how disinformation and information warfare is becoming a growing problem for pharmaceutical brands and the health industry as a whole.
Pharmaceutical companies are not unfamiliar with negative coverage in the media. However the difference with disinformation is that it is false information that has a goal of being intentionally damaging. New Knowledge was able to detect disinformation surrounding the controversial anti-vaccination movement, and presented the findings during our presentation.
Disinformation at the core is a brand problem, and it can greatly impact the reputation of an organization. But in the pharmaceutical and health industry the impact of disinformation can be more severe. Coordinated accounts pushing false narratives forward surrounding vaccines, medications, and wellness have the ability to undermine the health industry and put populations at risk. Immunization rates decline and the possibility of infectious disease outbreaks increase. It’s up to pharma companies to take action and prioritize reputation protection in the age of digital manipulation, to protect their communities and brand integrity.
3)The role of social media in evolving in this space
When you think of memorable social media, typically pharma marketing is not at the forefront. However pharma companies are beginning to adopt new marketing strategies like social media and influencer marketing to invest more in their social strategies. What this means is a shift in the matrix of tried and true marketing efforts that pharmaceutical companies have utilized for years. With consumers shifting their digital consumption habits from television to digital.
Pharma comms departments are beginning to explore new social media technology, like social listening, to help them to better connect with their end customers. The challenge with social media, since many users use it as a means to communicate sentiment or feedback, is cutting through the noise to get to what your target audience actually cares about. Leveraging social media technology can help brands better connect and understand an audience that they have traditionally been out of sync with.
4)Patients are more than just patients, they are also customers
At the end of the day patients are buying customers and they need to be treated as such. The same challenges that CPG brands, and retailers face in customer retention, brand loyalty, and new customer acquisition are all challenges that pharmaceutical companies need to prioritize to maintain and keep their customer base.
One way in which pharma companies are beginning to do this is by looking at their brand’s analytics relevant to customer activity and engagement. Beyond just looking at what medications/prescriptions customers are purchasing, they can dive into user journey data that can actually push the needle. Using this type of data helps to overall create greater relevance for the customer by helping to put messages in front of them that are more timely, in content forms that are more aligned with certain demographics, and for organizations to make more informed communications decisions. Patients are customers, and they need to be educated and engaged with in the same way that they would with any other brand.
by Tyler Durden
Dozens of US Air Force warplanes have hit the skies en masse under cover of night over the American Southwest for the Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (JFEX), December 08, reported The Drive.
The large-scale air mobility exercise, simulated forcible entry capabilities by the USAF of enemy territory with dozens of transport planes, fighter jets, and electronic warfare aircraft.
The first report of a massive military mobilization came from a social media account called @AChandlerCody, who allegedly shows video of 26 Lockheed C-130 Hercules preparing for takeoff at an undisclosed location at 8:47 pm.
About 38 minutes later, CivMilAir reported 17 C-130s over Texas headed for a region near the Area 51 Airbase in Lincoln County, Nevada.
Multiple #USAF C-17As with THUG callsigns are en route to March ARB from the Nevada desert as part of JFEX (Joint Forcible Entry Exercise) 18B. pic.twitter.com/jtNzXRnCOK— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) December 9, 2018
According to one Twitter user, there could have been as many as 38 warplanes participating in the JFEX.
Another Twitter user showed the C-130s flying over Canyon de Chelly National Monument, a vast park in northeastern Arizona, around 11:13 pm.
Twitter account @AircraftSpots spotted multiple “C-17As with THUG callsigns are en route to March ARB from the Nevada desert as part of JFEX.”
Multiple #USAF C-17As with THUG callsigns are en route to March ARB from the Nevada desert as part of JFEX (Joint Forcible Entry Exercise) 18B. pic.twitter.com/jtNzXRnCOK— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) December 9, 2018
“At this same time last year, social media was flooded with videos of lights filling up the night sky as strings of C-17s and C-130s crossed the U.S. on their way primarily to the Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) in desolate Southern Nevada. This unique large force employment exercise (LFE) is among the most complex drills the USAF executes and it combines assets of all types, including fighters, surveillance aircraft, electronic warfare platforms, and throngs of ground troops and equipment that are dropped into or dropped off in simulated enemy territory,” said The Drive.
Here is what JFEX looked like a few years ago during a daytime exercise:
“The C-17s are working out of Keno Airstrip in the NTTR. As you can see, it is one impressive display of airpower. Also, keep in mind that there are so many other moving parts you don’t see in the video.”
The Drive also points out that the Nellis Test and Training Range was very active during the JFEX. There were surveillance aircraft, from RQ-4 Global Hawks to RC-135 Rivet Joints, orbiting around the range complex around 11:22 pm.
There’s a right party going on over Nevada… 😎
🇺🇸 USAF E-8C JSTARS
🇺🇸 USAF E3 Sentry AWACS
🇺🇸 USAF RC135W Rivet Joint
🇺🇸 USAF EC-130H Compass Call
🇺🇸 USAF RQ4 Global Hawk
🇺🇸 USAF KC135 tanker pic.twitter.com/YmOfMGRAq4— CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) December 8, 2018
“JFEX has become far more relevant in recent years as the U.S. has started to come to terms with the reality that winning an expeditionary fight against a peer state competitor is an increasingly dubious challenge. Anti-access and area-denial strategies have left the services scrambling to adapt to having to fight an enemy over long distances and breaking open new avenues into their increasingly expansive and fortified domain. Being able to use the Pentagon’s potent but limited airlift capacity to rapidly open up new bases of operation and vectors of attack even at very austere and remote locales in becoming a key tenet of future combat operations. This is exactly what JFEX is all about, punching into contested territory over long distances by surprise and setting up a foothold for expanded operations,” said The Drive.
With massive war preparations underway, who is the USAF planning to invade next?
If you can’t get to London to protect Assange, please consider writing your local press, and reps, a letter like this one from Mike Gajda (whose excellent letter is below):
I can’t do anything in London. But I did somehow get this letter (link below) published in a local newspaper
out here in faraway Michigan. I first sent it to our two state senators and to my congressional representative,
then I sent it to the local paper to push the issue a little more publicFrom . I don’t know what the response will be,
but if a whole lot of people sent a similar letter to their local papers, I wonder if that might do something. Who knows?
I have no problem if anybody wants to use my letter as a template to use in any way they see fit.
[Anybody clicking on that link to read Mike’s letter will have to take a tedious online market-research quiz about smartwatches—MCM]
North Adams, Michigan 49262
Stand up for Julian Assange
To Sens. Stabenow and Peters and Rep. Walberg,
Please review and listen to this short video appeal in the link below from the mother of a courageous journalist. Please do what you can to bring justice and freedom for Julian Assange. Please make your voice known publicly on this important issue affecting this brave man.
We cannot claim to be a free and democratic nation if we try to silence truth-tellers while trying to marginalize and torture them into submission. What have we become? Where are the elected officials willing to stand up for Julian Assange and against the tyrannical way in which he is being abused by way of the obvious conspiracy of vengeance conspired in by the U.S. government, the U.K. government, along with the current government of Ecuador, while keeping him trapped and imprisoned in the Ecuadorian embassy for over six years without a charge of any kind?
Where do you stand on this? Where does your conscience lead you on this issue? Can you allow it to be honest with you? Julian Assange has shown himself to be a man of courage and integrity. A widely respected journalist willing to expose the corruptions of power, of governments, of powerful individuals, and of a cowardly and corroborating corporate media establishment which refuses to lift a finger in his defense. His only crime being that he is a threat to their own expanding criminal conspiracy of lies and manipulation.
Does money and power and greed so uniformly rule the world we live in anymore that courage, integrity, truth telling and doing what we know is right becomes so easily marginalized, dismissed, and even disdained? Please answer these questions as directly and publicly as your conscience allows.
There is no time to waste. At this very moment Julian Assange is undergoing extreme physical, mental and emotional isolation in an attempt to slowly assassinate not only his voice, but the man himself. It’s a disgrace of everything America claims to stand for.
Will you raise your own voice, even if it’s the only voice, to begin to turn this tragic and immoral situation around? Before it’s too late? I look forward to your honest response. Here’s the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nxigIRUkcU
Mike Gajda, North Adams
Can’t seem to find this story in the Times.
by Tyler Durden, 12/06/2018
The CFO of the Clinton Foundation, thinking he was “meeting an old professional acquaintance,” admitted to investigators that the charity had widespread problems with governance, accounting and conflicts of interest, and that Bill Clinton has been commingling business and personal expenses for a long time, reports The Hill‘s John Solomon.
Clinton Foundation CFO Andrew Kessel made the admissions to investigators from MDA Analytics LLC – a firm run by “accomplished ex-federal criminal investigators,” who have been probing the Clinton Foundation for some time.
Kessel told MDA “There is no controlling Bill Clinton. He does whatever he wants and runs up incredible expenses with foundation funds, according to MDA’s account of the interview. “Bill Clinton mixes and matches his personal business with that of the foundation. Many people within the foundation have tried to caution him about this but he does not listen, and there really is no talking to him.”
MDA compiled Kessel’s statements, as well as over 6,000 pages of evidence from a whistleblower they had been working with separately, which they secretly filed with the FBI and IRS over a year ago. MDA has alleged that the Clinton Foundation engaged in illegal activities, and may owe millions in unpaid taxes and penalties.
In addition to the IRS, the firm’s partners have had contact with prosecutors in the main Justice Department in Washington and FBI agents in Little Rock, Ark. And last week, a federal prosecutor suddenly asked for documents from their private investigation.
The memo also claims Kessel confirmed to the private investigators that private lawyers reviewed the foundation’s practices — once in 2008 and the other in 2011 — and each found widespread problems with governance, accounting and conflicts of interest.
“I have addressed it before and, let me tell you, I know where all the bodies are buried in this place,” the memo alleges Kessel said.
The 48-page submission, dated Aug. 11, 2017, supports its claims with 95 exhibits, including internal legal reviews that the foundation conducted on itself in 2008 and 2011. –The Hill
As Solomon noted in January, the Little Rock FBI field office has been spearhandling an investigation into pay-for-play schemes and tax code violations according to law enforcement officials.
The officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the probe is examining whether the Clintons promised or performed any policy favors in return for largesse to their charitable efforts or whether donors made commitments of donations in hopes of securing government outcomes.
The probe may also examine whether any tax-exempt assets were converted for personal or political use and whether the Foundation complied with applicable tax laws, the officials said. –The Hill
Meanwhile, the Clinton Foundation has been under investigation by the IRS since July, 2016 according to a January report by the Dallas Observer – after 64 GOP members of congress received letters urging them to push for an investigation. The investigation is being handled by their Dallas office – far away from Washington insiders.
FBI Offices, Little Rock, Arkansas
“There is probable cause that the Clinton Foundation has run afoul of IRS rules regarding tax-exempt charitable organizations and has acted inconsistently with its stated purpose,” MDA alleged in its memo, adding “The Foundation should be investigated for all of the above-mentioned improprieties. The tax rules, codes, statutes and the rule of law should and must be applied in this case.”
Foundation officials confirmed that Kessel met with MDA investigators, but said that he “strongly denies that he said or suggested hat the Clinton Foundation or President Clinton engaged in inappropriate or illegal activities.”
“Mr. Kessel believed he was meeting an old professional acquaintance who was looking for business from the Foundation,” the foundation added in a statement.
MDA was specifically created to investigate 501c3 charities, and researched the Clinton Foundation at its own expense in the hope that the whistleblower submission they compiled might result in a government reward if the IRS was able to corroborate wrongdoing and recover tax dollars.
The IRS sent multiple letters in 2017 and 2018 to MDA Analytics, confirming it had received the submission and it was “still open and under active investigation.” But, shortly before last month’s election, the agency sent a preliminary denial letter indicating it did not pursue the allegations for reasons that ranged from a lack of resources to possible expiration of the statute of limitations on some allegations.
I asked a half-dozen former federal investigators to review the submission and key evidence; all said the firm’s analysis of tax-exempt compliance issues would not be that useful to federal agencies that have their own legal experts for that. But they stressed the evidence of potential criminality was strong and warranted opening an FBI or IRS probe. –The Hill
According to retired FBI supervisory agent Jeffrey Danik, MDA’s work is “a very good roadmap for investigation, adding “When you have the organization’s own lawyers using words like ‘quid pro quo,’ ‘conflicts of interest’ and ‘whistleblower protections,’ you have enough to get permission to start interviewing and asking questions.”
While some of the documents MDA submitted were marked as attorney-client privileged, Danik doesn’t think that should be an issue for federal investigators – given that since special counsel Robert Mueller “got the OK to investigate Michael Cohen and his attorney-client communications with President Trump, I imagine that hurdle could be overcome under the crime-fraud exception.”
Meanwhile, next week a GOP Congressional subcommittee led by Rep. Mark Meadows (NC) will review the work of John Huber – the US attorney designated a year ago by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate “all things Clinton.” The hearing will establish how much money and resources Huber has dedicated, and whether we can expect to see any recommendations regarding Hillary Clinton’s transfer of classified information from her insecure private server, along with the foundation’s activities.
To that end, a prosecutor working under Huber called MDA analytics last week and requested copies of their Clinton Foundation evidence, according to Solomon.
A prosecutor working for Huber called MDA Analytics last week, seeking copies of their evidence, according to sources. The firm told the prosecutor that the FBI has possessed the evidence in its Little Rock office since early 2018, the sources said.
Some evidence that MDA investigators cited is public source, such as internal foundation reviews hacked in 2016 and given to WikiLeaks. Other materials were provided to the investigators by foreign governments that have done business with the charity, or by foundation insiders.
One of the nonpublic documents is an interview memo the MDA Analytics investigators penned after meeting with Kessel in late November 2016 at the Princeton Club in New York City. –The Hill
Kessel’s inadvertent admissions, meanwhile, track closely with comments made in 2008 written by a private lawyer named Kumiki Gibson – who the Clinton Foundation hired to study its governance. Gibson flagged concerns over improper commingling of charitable and private business.
“The work of the Foundation and the President are intertwined in a way that creates confusion at, and undermines the work of, the Foundation at virtually every level,” he wrote, warning that such actions pose “reputational and legal challenges, and with confusion, inefficiencies and waste.”
Specifically, the memo warned the foundation had not created policies and procedures “required by law” and that some of its leaders “appear to have interests that do not always align with those of the Foundation.”
It also raised the possibility of illegal activities, saying the foundation and its managers held an “anti-compliance attitude” and that there were lower-level employees who “begged” for whistleblower protections after witnessing “less than fully compliant behavior or even worse are asked to participate in or condone it.” –The Hill
Meanwhile, a 2011 review by the law firm Simpson Thatcher noted “material weaknesses” found by auditors in 2009 and 2010, such as a lack of board meetings and unsigned board minutes – and also found that some foundation employees “abuse expense privileges,” while others had conflicts of interest.
We look forward to hearing anything further from Solomon and The Hill on whatever Huber has been up to.
George H.W. Bush, Icon of the WASP Establishment—and of Brutal US Repression in the Third World
By Greg Grandin
December 4, 2018
George H.W. Bush is sworn in as director of the CIA on January 30, 1976. (dpa via AP Photo)
George Herbert Walker Bush represented a ruling class in decay. His WASP awkwardness, his famous syntactical struggles—described in obituaries as an ah-shucks genuineness, a goofy, “irreducible niceness”—was symptomatic of an Establishment in crisis. Franklin Foer, writing in The Atlantic, notes the nostalgia of the encomiums. The public apparently yearns for a time when politics were less coarse, when the country’s clubby elites were well-bred, well-voweled (compare the pleasantly rollingi’s and o’s found in the Harrimans and Roosevelts with the guttural u of today’s ruling clan), and well-mannered, their grasping and groping kept out of the press, for the most part.
What Foer doesn’t mention, and what is perhaps the single most important through-line in Bush’s life, is the way the extension of the national-security state, and easy recourse to political violence in the world’s poorer, darker precincts, allowed Anglo-Saxon men like Bush to stem the decomposition and to sharpen their class and status consciousness.
Raised in the shadow of legends, of a father (Prescott Bush) and two grandfathers (Samuel Bush and George H. Walker) who helped steer the expansive, epic era of Episcopalian capitalism—when American industry and politics had become interlocked with militarism—George H.W. Bush came into his own during the glory days of covert action in the Third World. This period ran from, say, the 1953 overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran through the Guatemala coup in 1954 and the Cuban Revolution in 1959 to the assassination of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba and the Bay of Pigs in 1961, until the eve of escalation in Vietnam.
Bush would serve for a year as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the mid-1970s, but, as Joseph McBride reported in The Nation in 1988, his involvement with the agency had started much earlier. In November 1963, shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wrote a memo to the State Department describing the briefing of “Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency” on the reaction to the assassination by anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Miami (it was feared by some that the exiles might take advantage of the chaotic situation by initiating an unauthorized raid against Cuba). McBride also cited a source with close connection to the intelligence community who confirmed that, as McBride put it, “Bush started working for the agency in 1960 or 1961, using his oil business as a cover for clandestine activities.”
Kevin Phillips’s American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush provides a helpful summary of the investigative journalism into the Bush family’s long-standing ties to this shadow world, a family linked by but a few degrees of separation to all the most-storied intrigues and collusions in postwar history, everything from the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala to the Iran/Contra scandal. Phillips provides thick descriptions not to prove any particular conspiracy theory but to establish sociological overlap and ideological affinity—the tight class and status connections between elites, like the Bush and Walker family, and foreign policy. According to Phillips, “from Yale’s class of 1943 alone, at least forty-two young men entered the intelligence services” (Bush attended from 1945 to 1948), and nearly every major player involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion had been in Yale’s secret Skull and Bones society. By the time Bush became director of the CIA in 1976, Phillips writes, “three generations of the Bush and Walker families already had some six decades of intelligence-related activity and experience under their belts,” which apparently also involved a Mexico-CIA “money line” that made its way into “the hands of the Watergate burglars.”
Through birth and breeding—at the Greenwich Country Day School, Phillips Academy, and Yale—Bush identified with an Eastern Establishment already, in the decades after World War II, threatened by democratization: by immigration, the rise of a meritocracy, the consolidation of an administrative state that socialized and bureaucratized private economic relations, and the spread of popular culture, which made the markings of WASP habitus available to the population at large. Anybody could wear a polo shirt, soon to be wildly popularized by Ralph Lauren, born Ralph Lifshitz in the Bronx to parents who had immigrated from Belarus.
Bush’s family, despite its Nazi entanglements, had done well under the New Deal. But H.W., out of Yale, made the jump to the libertarian rebel lands of West Texas, where “independent” Houston oilmen bridled at the privileged position of large petroleum companies—among others, Standard and Gulf—and their cozy relationship with foreign nations. As the war in Vietnam accelerated the crisis within the Establishment, and as Third World nationalism began to threaten their economic interests, this new class of carbon extractors gained in political influence and injected an intensified ideological fervor into covert ops. Phillips places Bush’s Zapata drilling company (named, apparently, after the 1952 Marlon Brando film Viva Zapata!) at the center of this transformation, involved in both the 1954 Guatemala coup and the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. (According to Phillips, the Walker-Bush sugar holdings in Cuba took a hit, as Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government “seized the company’s lands, mills, and machinery.”)
Obituaries have transformed the terror that Bush inflicted—as head of the CIA, as Ronald Reagan’s vice president, and as president, on poor countries—depicting it as heroism. The invasion of Panama is given scant notice, and the first Gulf War is judged “just.” But Bush helmed the CIA when it was working closely with Latin American death squads grouped under Operation Condor, naming Ted Shackley, implicated in terror operations in Southeast Asia and Latin America—including Vietnam’s Phoenix program and the 1973 coup against Chile’s Salvador Allende—the agency’s powerful associate deputy director for operations. Bush gave the go-head to the neoconservative Team B project, founded on the idea that, after the US debacle in Vietnam, the agency had become too soft on Third World nationalism. Politicizing intelligence, Team B provided the justification for Reagan’s escalation of the Cold War, including the various operations that made up Iran/Contra. As president, Bush set a precedent that Donald Trump might turn to, pardoning, on his last Christmas in office, six Iran/Contra conspirators, an act that “decapitated,” wrote The New York Times, the work of independent prosecutor Lawrence Walsh. “The Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed,” Walsh said of the pardons.
Bush’s wars in Panama and the Persian Gulf should be remembered for gratuitous killing. On the heels of the fall of the Berlin Wall, his 1989 invasion of Panama established the legal and political foundation (as I’ve written here) for his son’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003. The killing in Panama was on a smaller scale than in the Persian Gulf, but it was still horrific: Human Rights Watch wrote that even conservative estimates of civilian fatalities suggest “that the rule of proportionality and the duty to minimize harm to civilians…were not faithfully observed by the invading U.S. forces.” That’s an understatement. Civilians were given no notice. The University of Panama’s seismograph marked442 major explosions in the first 12 hours of the invasion, about one major bomb blast every two minutes. Fires engulfed the mostly wooden homes, destroying about 4,000 residences. Some residents began to call the ravaged Panama City neighborhood of El Chorrillo “Guernica” or “little Hiroshima.” After hostilities ended, bodies were shoveled into mass graves. “Buried like dogs,” said the mother of one of the civilian dead.
This was followed by the Highway of Death in Bush’s Persian Gulf. On February 26, 1991, US airstrikes massacred thousands of Iraqis fleeing Kuwait City in clear retreat on the road to Iraq. Here’s The Boston Globe (not available online, but published on March 2, 1991) describing the scene: “Flies hummed over the body of one decapitated Iraqi soldier. A charred tank, its hatch flung wide, still smoldered. A battered car lay flipped on its side, a trail of loot spilling from its half-open trunk: jewelry, sacks of potatoes, a pair of women’s red high heels. This was the doomed highway of escape for Iraqis attempting to flee Kuwait City too late. Four days after allied air and ground attacks turned this road into a blazing hell, the route remains a gruesome testament to the destruction rained down as Iraqi soldiers fled north Monday night. Mile after wreckage-jammed mile of highway appeared as if frozen in mid-battle. The remnants of a charred body still clung to a car door.…”The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill tweeted a reminder that Bush targeted civilian infrastructure in that war, including, on February 13, bombing the Amiriyah shelter in Iraq, which killed more than 400 civilians.
Bush famously had to counter the image of being a “wimp.” So for him, war in the Third World, whatever else it accomplished in terms of US interests, was more than (as Bush put it) “just foreign policy.” It was self-help. “You know,” he told soldiers returning from the Gulf in March 1991, “you all not only helped liberate Kuwait, you helped this country liberate itself from old ghosts and doubts.… No one in the whole world doubts us anymore,” he said. “What you did, you helped us revive the America of our old hopes and dreams.” Driving Iraq out of Kuwait “reignited Americans’ faith in themselves.” That faith was short-lived, destroyed by his son’s wars, but the social decay that both made and unmade the short-lived Bush dynasty—which has now delivered the nation to Trump—continues.
Greg Grandin teaches history at New York University and is the author, most recently, of Kissinger’s Shadow. His new book, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall, will be published in March 2019.