George Herbert Walker Bush, the son of Prescott Bush, a senator from Connecticut, was born in Milton, Massachusetts, on 12th June 1924. On his 18th birthday he enlisted in the armed forces, becoming the country's youngest commissioned pilot. During the Second World War he served on 58 missions from 1942 to 1945 and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war he studied economics at Yale University. In 1951 he established Bush-Overby Oil Development, an oil-drilling business in Texas. Later he joined forces with Thomas J. Devine, a former CIA officer, to create Zapata Oil. Other major investors included Prescott Bush and Bill Liedtke.
In 1954, Zapata Off-Shore Company was formed as a subsidiary of Zapata Oil, with George H. W. Bush as president of the new company. According to Bush's autobiography, Eugene Meyer, the publisher of the Washington Post, and his son-in-law, Philip Graham, were major investors in the new company.
Zapata Corporation split in 1959 into independent companies Zapata Petroleum and Zapata Off-Shore, headed by Bush, who moved his offices from Midland to Houston. In 1960, Bush created a new company, Perforaciones Marinas del Golfo (Permargo) with Edwin Pauley of Pan American Petroleum. Pauley is alleged to have had close ties to Allen Dulles. During the Second World War Pauley aided the Dulles brothers former clients in shifting Nazi assets out of Europe.
In 1963, Zapata Petroleum merged with South Penn Oil and other companies to become Pennzoil. In his book Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty (2009) Russ Baker argues: "For Devine, who would have been about twenty-seven years old at the time, to resign at such a young age, so soon after the CIA had spent a great deal of time and money training him, was, at minimum, highly unusual. It would turn out, however, that Devine had a special relationship allowing him to come and go from the agency, enabling him to do other things without really leaving its employ."
Thomas J. Devine later rejoined the CIA under non-official cover (NOC) status on 12th June 1963, as a covert commercial asset for Project WUBRINY/LPDICTUM. Joan Mellen points out that: "This CIA document reveals that Thomas Devine had informed George Bush of a CIA project with the cryptonym WUBRINY/LPDICTUM. It involved CIA proprietary commercial operations in foreign countries."
Mellen goes onto argue that this links George Bush to George de Mohrenschildt and Lee Harvey Oswald. "WUBRINY involved Haitian operations, in which, the documents reveal, a participant was George de Mohrenschildt, the Dallas CIA handler of – Lee Oswald." Russ Baker interviewed Devine in 2008 and he refused to say whether he was involved with WUBRINY. However, another CIA officer, Gale Allen, confirmed in another interview that Devine did take part in the project.
There is strong evidence that Bush was working for the CIA during this period. Bush also provided information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on a proposed assassination attempt by James Parrott of John F. Kennedy. On 29th November, 1963, Bush informed J. Edgar Hoover about a conspiracy involving a group of pro-Castro Cubans in Miami.
Bush became involved in politics and was active in the Republican Party. He was elected to the Ninetieth Congress Congress. He was appointed to a series of high-level positions: Ambassador to the United Nations (1971-73), Chairman of the Republican National Committee (1973-74), Chief of the U. S. Liaison Office in the People's Republic of China (1974-76), and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (1976-77).
Bush was unsuccessfull in his attempts to obtain Republican nomination for President of the United States in 1980, but was elected Vice President of the United States on the Republican ticket with President Ronald Reagan.
On 17th March, 1983, Bush had a secret meeting with Donald P. Gregg and Felix Rodriguez in the White House. As a result the National Security Council established a secret scheme to provide aid to the Contras in Nicaragua. Rodriguez agreed to run the Contra supply depot in El Salvador. In a memo written to Robert McFarlane, Gregg argued that the plan grew out of the experience of running "anti-Vietcong operations in Vietnam from 1970-1972". Gregg added that "Felix Rodriguez, who wrote the attached plan, both worked for me in Vietnam and carried out the actual operations outlined above."
On 21st December, 1984, Bush had another meeting with Donald P. Gregg and Felix Rodriguez. This led to Gregg introducing Rodriguez to Oliver North. Later, Bush wrote a note to North where he thanked him for "your dedication and tireless work with the hostage thing and with Central America."
In October, 1985, Congress agreed to vote 27 million dollars in non-lethal aid for the Contras in Nicaragua. However, members of the Ronald Reagan administration, including Bush, decided to use this money to provide weapons to the Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
Gene Wheaton was recruited to use National Air to transport these weapons. He agreed but began to have second thoughts when he discovered that Richard Secord was involved in the operation and in May 1986 Wheaton told William Casey, director of the CIA, about what he knew about this illegal operation. Casey refused to take any action, claiming that the agency or the government were not involved in what later became known as Irangate.
Wheaton now took his story to Daniel Sheehan, a left-wing lawyer. Wheaton told him that Thomas G. Clines and Ted Shackley had been running a top-secret assassination unit since the early 1960s. According to Wheaton, it had begun with an assassination training program for Cuban exiles and the original target had been Fidel Castro.
Wheaton also contacted Newt Royce and Mike Acoca, two journalists based in Washington. The first article on this scandal appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on 27th July, 1986. As a result of this story, Congressman Dante Facell wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger, asking him if it "true that foreign money, kickback money on programs, was being used to fund foreign covert operations." Two months later, Weinberger denied that the government knew about this illegal operation.
On 5th October, 1986, a Sandinista patrol in Nicaragua shot down a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras. That night Felix Rodriguez made a telephone call to the office of George H. W. Bush. He told Bush aide, Samuel Watson, that the C-123k aircraft had gone missing.
Eugene Hasenfus, an Air America veteran, survived the crash and told his captors that he thought the CIA was behind the operation. He also provided information that several Cuban-Americans running the operation in El Salvador. This resulted in journalists being able to identify Rafael Quintero, Luis Posada and Felix Rodriguez as the Cuban-Americans mentioned by Hasenfus. It gradually emerged that Thomas Clines, Oliver North, Edwin Wilson and Richard Secord were also involved in this conspiracy to provide arms to the Contras.
This story brought George Bush into what became known as the Irangate. Ramon Milian Rodriguez, a convicted financier for the Meddellin drug cartel, talked about Rodriguez’s role in the CIA involvement in the drug trade: “If Felix had come to me and said I’m reporting to… Oliver North, I might have been more sceptical. I didn’t know who Oliver North was and I didn’t know his background. But if you have a CIA, or what you consider to be a CIA-man, coming to you saying, ‘I want to fight the war, we’re out of funds, can you help us out? I’m reporting directly to Bush on it,’ I mean it’s very real, very believable, have you have a CIA guy reporting to his old boss.”
Donald P. Gregg, Bush’s National Security Adviser, was another person who became involved in the scandal. In 1985, Gregg sent Felix Rodriguez to El Salvador to aid the Contra re-supply effort. General Paul Gorman, the head of U.S. military forces in Central America, wrote a memo to the U.S. ambassador in El Salvador. In it he said: “”Rodriquez is operating as a private citizen but his acquaintanceship to the VP (Bush) is real enough, going back to the latter days of DCI (Director of the CIA)”
Bush was eventually forced to admit that along with Donald P. Gregg he had met with Felix Rodriguez three times. However, he argued that he had not discussed Nicaragua with him. He also defended Gregg’s decision to deny these meetings with Rodriguez had taken place. According to Bush, Gregg had not lied, he merely “forgot” about these meetings. Bush’s story eventually became that Gregg was working on his own initiative and that he was unaware of his role in the Iran-Contra affair.
A handwritten note from George Bush to Oliver North that thanked him for his “dedication and tireless work with the hostage thing with Central America” also became public. When asked about this note, Bush said “he didn’t recall why he sent it”.
In an article in the Washington Post (11th October, 1986), the newspaper reported that George Bush and Donald P. Gregg were linked to Felix Rodriguez. It gradually emerged that Richard L. Armitage, William Casey, Thomas G. Clines, Oliver North, Edwin Wilson and Richard Secord were also involved in this conspiracy to provide arms to the Contras.
On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the Irangate scandal. He also claimed that Thomas G. Clines and Ted Shackley were running a private assassination program that had evolved from projects they ran while working for the CIA. Others named as being part of this assassination team included Rafael Quintero, Richard Secord, Felix Rodriguez and Albert Hakim. It later emerged that Gene Wheaton and Carl E. Jenkins were the two main sources for this affidavit.
Six days after the publication of Sheehan's affidavit, William Casey underwent an operation for a "brain tumor". As a result of the operation, Casey lost the power of speech and died, literally without ever talking. On 9th February, Robert McFarlane, another person involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal, took an overdose of drugs.
In November, 1986, Ronald Reagan set-up a three man commission (President's Special Review Board). The three men were John Tower, Brent Scowcroft and Edmund Muskie. Richard L. Armitage was interviewed by the committee. He admitted that he had arranged a series of meetings between Menachem Meron, the director general of Israel's Ministry of Defence, with Oliver North and Richard Secord. However, he denied that he discussed the replenishment of Israeli TOW missiles with Meron.
Armitage also claimed that he first learned that Israel had shipped missiles to Iran in 1985 when he heard William Casey testify on 21st November, 1986 that the United States had replenished Israel's TOW missile stocks. According to Lawrence E. Walsh, who carried out the official investigation into the scandal (Iran-Contra: The Final Report), claims that Armitage did not tell the truth to the President's Special Review Board. "Significant evidence from a variety of sources shows that Armitage's knowledge predated Casey's testimony. For instance, a North notebook entry on November 18, 1986, documents a discussion with Armitage about Israel's 1985 arms shipments to Iran - three days before Armitage supposedly learned for the first time that such shipments has occurred."
Walsh also adds that "classified evidence obtained from the Government of Israel... and evidence from North and Secord show that during the period Meron met with Armitage, Meron was discussing arms shipments to Iran and Israel's need for replenishment. Secord and North, on separate occasions, directed Meron to discuss these issues with Armitage."
The report implicated Oliver North, John Poindexter, Casper Weinberger and several others but did not mention the role played by Bush. It also claimed that Ronald Reagan had no knowledge of what had been going on.
The House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran was also established by Congress. The most important figure on the committee was the senior Republican member, Richard Cheney. As a result George Bush was totally exonerated when the report was published on 18th November, 1987. The report did state that Reagan's administration exhibited "secrecy, deception and disdain for the law."
Oliver North and John Poindexter were indicted on multiple charges on 16th March, 1988. North, indicted on twelve counts, was found guilty by a jury of three minor counts. The convictions were vacated on appeal on the grounds that North's Fifth Amendment rights may have been violated by the indirect use of his testimony to Congress which had been given under a grant of immunity. Poindexter was also convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and altering and destroying documents pertinent to the investigation. His convictions were also overturned on appeal.
In 1988 Bush was elected as the 41st President of the United States after defeating the representative of the Democratic Party, the Governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis. A beneficiary of the reforms made by Mikhail Gorbachev that led to the end of the Cold War, Bush could concentrate on other regions of the world. This included the sending of American troops into Panama to overthrow the government of General Manuel Noriega.
When George Bush became president he set about rewarding those who had helped him in the cover-up of the Iran-Contra Scandal. Bush nominated Robert Gates as Director of Central Intelligence on 14th May, 1991. Three of his colleagues in the CIA testified against Gates. Melvin Goodman, recently explained his reasons for taking this action: "Bob Gates, over the period of the 1980s, as a deputy for Intelligence and then as a deputy to CIA director Bill Casey, was politicizing intelligence. He was spinning intelligence on all of the major issues of the day, on the Soviet Union, on Central America, on the Middle East, on Southwest Asia. And I thought this record, this charge, should be presented before the Senate Intelligence Committee."
In an article published in July, 1991, Walter Pincus called for the Senate to approve Bush's nomination of Gates as director of the CIA. This time he was confirmed but he attracted 31 negative votes, more than all of the votes against all of the CIA directors in history. He served until 1993.
In 1992, Walter Pincus falsely claimed that "special prosecutors have told former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger that he might face indictment on felony charges in the Iran-Contra scandal, unless he provided them with evidence they believe he has against former President Reagan... The dramatic attempt to get a former cabinet officer to turn on his commander-in-chief occurred a few days ago as Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh tried to conclude his five and one-half year investigation of the affair."
A few days later Pincus wrote that Lawrence E. Walsh was considering indicting Ronald Reagan. This was again untrue and Walsh argues in his book, Firewall, that Bush was using Pincus to spread disinformation on the investigation. As Walsh pointed out: "Of all the sideswipes that we suffered during this period, the false report that we were considering indicting the nation's still-admired former president hurt us the most."
Walsh was attacked by the right-wing media of carrying out the "biggest witch hunt in America since Salem". The leader of the Republican Party in the Senate, Bob Dole, made a speech where he called on Walsh to close down the investigation. He criticized Walsh's "inability to understand the simple fact that it is time to leave Iran-Contra to the history books".
Others involved in the cover-up of the Iran-Contra Scandal who was rewarded included: Richard L. Armitage as a negotiator and mediator in the Middle East. Donald P. Gregg was appointed as his ambassador to South Korea. Brent Scowcroft became his chief national security adviser and John Tower became Secretary of Defence. When the Senate refused to confirm Tower, Bush gave the job to Richard Cheney. Later, Casper Weinberger, Robert McFarlane, Duane R. Clarridge, Clair E. George, Elliott Abrams and Alan D. Fiers, Jr., who had all been charged with offences related to the Iran-Contra scandal, were pardoned by Bush.
On 2nd August 1990 Saddam Hussein ordered an invasion of Kuwait. The United Nations immediately impose economic sanctions on Iraq and demanded an immediate withdrawal from Kuwait. In January 1991 a United States led coalition of 32 countries launch an attack on Iraq. Operation Desert Storm is a great success and after Iraq left Kuwait Bush was able to declare a cease-fire on 28th February.
In April 1991 Hussein agreed to accept the UN resolution calling on him to destroy weapons of mass destruction. He was also forced to allow UN inspectors into his country to monitor the disarmament. A no-fly zone was established in Northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussein. The following year a no-fly zone was also created to protect the Shiite population living near Kuwait and Iran.
At their fourth summit conference, Bush reached agreement with Mikhail Gorbachev on nuclear weapons and in July, 1991, they signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
Despite these foreign successes Bush was unable to deal with the country's faltering economy. His campaign pledge, no new taxes made it impossible to balance the budget and in 1992 was defeated by his Democratic Party challenger, Bill Clinton.