"Our Putin" and Son: the Bushes Revealed

Click to listen to Chris’s conversation with Russ Baker. (36 minutes, 16 mb mp3)

Russ Baker: “on assignment… but not ours”

A perceptual gap is at the essence of the Bush enterprise. The actuality has tended toward wars for resources and the preservation of class prerogative, all abetted by secrecy, intimidation and the dark arts of both psychological and covert ops. The appearance has been of a genial Poppy and a born-again if bumptious George W. …

What Poppy had done quietly, even furtively, W. often did with the swagger of the entitled prince. The result was a government that in essence was not unlike those of third-world oligarchs — a vehicle for military dominance and bountiful favors for supporters and friends. The ruler would preside unchallenged. Dissonant truths would be suppressed, and the tellers of them banished.

Russ Baker on the lingering Bush mystery, in Family of Secrets, page 466.

Who were those masked men, after all, “41” and “43”? They were spooks, Russ Baker reports, persuasively enough. They were our version of Vladimir Putin. Men “on assignment,” as he says in conversation, “but not our assignment.” They were political operators in service for generations to the “extractive” industries (oil, gold and other minerals) and the CIA. For all the cute speculations about an Oedipal rift between Poppy and “W,” they were always more like than different. The essential outlines were obvious from afar.

Baker says his main questions came into focus when he was teaching journalism in the former Yugoslavia five years ago, and people kept asking him: who are these Bushes, really? Telescope once again beats microscope for the best take on politics. If our 2000 presidential election had unfolded in Zimbabwe, I note, we would have seen the essentials: son of ex-prez (and ex-spy chief) in dead-heat election takes power on disputed votes from a province run by his brother, and on a “supreme court” ruling by judges his daddy appointed. We’d have recognized the game, and we’d not have called it democracy in action.

So much of the long Bush story flunks the “if it had happened in Zimbabwe…” test. The 2004 “war-time” reelection, for example, without debate on the war, against a weak opponent from the secret brotherhood of Skull-and-Bones. The war on Iraq, more egregiously. As if Zimbabwe, sneak-attacked from the general direction of Zambia, had turned and invaded oil-rich Angola — not for the oil, of course, but to “bring freedom” or “spread democracy”.

George H. W. Bush is the rare ex-president who has not produced a serious memoir or authorized a detailed biography. George W. Bush will likely be another. Through a long, murky career, Russ Baker notes, “Poppy always had perfect cover.” Yet the labels on both father and son were always beyond belief. Really compassionate? Really conservative? Real patricians? Real ranchers? Real Christians? Real Texans? “Real Texans,” as the sainted Mollie Ivins used to say, “don’t use ‘summer’ as a verb.” We can’t say we were outright fooled by the cover stories, but we didn’t have a plausible real one to repair to. It’s too late, of course, but Russ Baker’s earnest inquiry helps fill an abysmal gap.

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