First published in The Moscow Times, Jan. 31, 2003
When George W. Bush's first choice to head an "independent" probe into the Sept. 11 attacks – suspected war criminal Henry Kissinger – went down like a bad pretzel, he quickly plucked another warm body from the stagnant pool of Establishment worthies who are periodically called upon to roll out the whitewash when the big boys screw up.
Kissinger's replacement, retired New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, was a "safe pair of hands," we were assured by the professional assurers in the mainstream media. The fact that he'd been out of public life for years – and that he hadn't collaborated in the deaths of tens of thousands of Cambodians, Chileans and East Timorese – certainly made him less controversial than his predecessor, although to be fair, Kissinger's expertise in mass murder surely would have given the panel some unique insights into the terrorist atrocity.
But now it seems that Kean might possess some unique insights of his own. Fortune Magazine reports this week that both Kean and Bush share an unusually well-placed business partner: one Khalid bin Mahfouz – a shadowy figure who looms large in the financial web that binds the Bushes, the bin Ladens and the Saudis.
Kean, like so many worthies, followed the revolving door out of public service into lucrative sweetheart deals and well-wadded sinecures on corporate boards. One of these, of course, is an oil company – pretty much a requirement for White House work these days. (Or as the sign says on the Oval Office door: "If your rigs ain't rockin', don't come a-knockin'!") Kean is a director of Amerada Hess, an oil giant married up to Saudi Arabia's Delta Oil in a venture to pump black gold in Azerbaijan. (The partnership is incorporated in a secretive offshore "tax haven," natch. You can't expect a worthy like Kean to pay taxes like some grubby wage slave.)
Among Delta's biggest backers are close associates of the aforesaid Mahfouz, a Saudi wheeler-dealer who has helped bankroll some of most dubious players on the world scene: Abu Nidal, Manuel Noreiga, Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush. Mahfouz was also a front for the bin Laden family, funneling their vast wealth through American cut-outs in a bid to gain power and influence in the United States, reports Wayne Madsen of In These Times.
One of those cut-outs was Mahfouz factotum James Bath, a partner in George W.'s early oil venture, Arbusto (and a comrade in suspension from Bush's glory-less days as an AWOL National Guardsman). Bath has admitted serving as a pass-through for secret Saudi money. Years later, when Bush's maladroit business skills were about to sink another of his companies, Harken Energy, the firm was saved by a $25 million investment from a Swiss bank – a subsidiary of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BBCI), partly owned by the beneficent Mahfouz.
What was BCCI? Only "one of the largest criminal enterprises in history," according to the United States Senate. What did BCCI do? "It engaged in pandemic bribery of officials in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas," says journalist Christopher Bryon, who first exposed the operation. "It laundered money on a global scale, intimidated witnesses and law officers, engaged in extortion and blackmail. It supplied the financing for illegal arms trafficking and global terrorism. It financed and facilitated income tax evasion, smuggling and prostitution." Sort of an early version of the Bush Regime, then.
BCCI's bipartisan corruption first permeated the Carter Administration, then came to full flower in the Reagan-Bush years. The CIA uncovered the bank's criminal activities in 1981 – no great feat, considering how many of its own foreign "associates" were involved, including the head of Saudi intelligence, Kamal Adham, brother-in-law of King Faisal. But instead of stopping the drug-runners and terrorists, the agency decided to join them, using BCCI's secret channels to finance "black ops" all over the world.
The Italian bank BNL was one of BCCI's main tentacles. BNL's Atlanta branch was the primary funnel used by the first Bush Administration to send millions of secret dollars to Saddam for arms purchases, including deadly chemicals and other WMD materials supplied by the Chilean arms dealer Cardoen and various politically-connected operators in the United States like, weapons merchant Matrix Churchill. (As always with the Busha Nostra, geopolitics – in this case, helping Saddam wage aggressive war against Iran – and crony profits go hand in hand. Once the war was over and Iran was left a shattered hulk, with millions dead and displaced, the useful idiot Saddam was expendable, swiftly morphing from good buddy into budding Hitler.)
As soon as the BNL case broke, President Bush I moved to throttle the investigation. He appointed lawyers from both Cardoen and Matrix to top Justice Department posts – where they supervised the officials investigating their old companies. The overall probe was directed by Justice Department investigator Robert Mueller. Meanwhile, White House aides applied heavy pressure on other prosecutors to restrict the range of the probe – especially the fact that Bush cabinet officials Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger had served as consultants for BNL during their pre-White House days as spear-carriers for yet another secretive international front that profits from war, weapons, and the avid greasing of highly-placed palms: Kissinger Associates.
The U.S. Senate later found that the probe had been unaccountably "botched" – witnesses went missing, CIA records got "lost," all sorts of bad luck. Most of the big BCCI players went unpunished or, like Mahfouz, got off with wrist-slap fines and sanctions.
One of the White House aides who unlawfully intervened in the BNL prosecution was a certain factotum named Jay S. ByBee. Now said factotum has just been nominated by the current warmer of the Oval Office seat, George W. Bush, to a place on the federal appeals court – a lifetime sinecure of perks and power. Mueller, of course, wound up as head of the FBI, appointed to the post in July 2001 – by George W. Bush. Well done, thou good and faithful servants!
In the late 1990s, U.S. authorities charged that Mahfouz was a major financier of bin Laden's activities. He has strenuously denied it, just as he has denied persistent reports that the spooked Saudis put him under "house arrest" – or in his case, "palatial mansion arrest." In any event, he and his clan are still wheeling and dealing with Delta Oil and other worthies. Indeed, one of Mahfouz's hirelings – the director of a Pakistani bank he owns – sits on the advisory board of our old friend the Carlyle Group, cheek by jowl with the firm's most celebrated shill: George Herbert Walker Bush.
Somehow we doubt that worthy Kean – even though he's resigning from his Delta perch – will poke very hard at the nexus of intersections between his former business partners, and the bin Ladens, the Bushes, the Saudi royals, Saddam, the CIA and BCCI. We've only scratched the surface here, but even this cursory glance makes the current world crisis look less like some grand geopolitical "clash of civilizations" and more like a nasty falling out among thieves, with rival mafias – who sometimes collude, sometimes collide – now duking it out for turf, cloaking their murderous criminality with pious rhetoric about freedom, security, jihad and God.