Union Bank did have other connections; it was a joint-venture partner with the notorious BCCI in a Geneva-based bank, and was involved in a scandal surrounding the Nugan Hand Bank, a CIA operation in Australia whose executives were advised by William Quasha, the father of Harken's chairman (Alan Quasha.) Union Bank was also involved in scandals surrounding Panamanian money laundering by BCCI, and Ferdinand Marcos' movement of 325 tons of gold out of the Phillipines. That wasn't the only financing connection Junior brought; after the company won its Bahrain deal (see next item), the billionaire Bass brothers of Texas offered to underwrite the drilling operation. Robert Bass is also a member of Bush's Team 100, and he and his kin gave $226,000 to Bush Senior between 1988 and 1992.
The Bahrain Contract
In January 1990, Harken was chosen out of the blue by the small Mideast country Bahrain for an exclusive offshore oil drilling contract. They beat out Amoco, an experienced and major international conglomerate, despite having no offshore oil drilling experience at all. As of March 1995, the most recent report we could find, they had found no oil.
Junior has denied that he was involved in the deal, and even told the Wall Street Journal that he opposed it. But a company insider told Mother Jones Magazine "Like any member of the board, he was thrilled. His attitude was 'Holy shit, what a great deal!'" If he did oppose it, he wasn't much of a consultant. Charles Strain, an energy company analyst in Houston, told Mother Jones: "Harken is not hard to understand -- it's easy. The company has only one real asset -- its Bahrain contract. If that field turns out to be dry, Harken's stock is worth, at the most, 25 cents a share. If they hit it big over there, the stock could be worth $30 to $40 dollars a share." As of December 1998, Harken Energy Corp. (HEC on Amex) is trading at $2.69 a share.
Access to the President For Bush's Foreign Business Partner
The most troubling thing that happened to Harken after it bought George Bush Junior in, was that one of its Board of Directors members was suddenly admitted to the highest levels of United States foreign policy meetings. These were not Clintonesque meet-and-greet fundraisers, but actual working policy meetings during a critical period.
After the Harken-Bahrain deal was signed, Talat Othman was added to a group of Arabs who met with George Bush and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft three times in 1990 -- once just two days after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Othman was the representative of Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh, who purchased 10% of Harken stock and had several ties to the infamous BCCI bank. Bakhsh was a co-investor in Saudi Arabia with alleged BCCI front man Ghaith Pharaon. Bakhsh's banker, Khalid bin Mahfouz, was another BCCI figure and head of the largest bank in Saudi Arabia. Sheikh Kalifah, the prime minister of Bahrain, was a BCCI shareholder and played the key role in selecting Harken for the oil contract.
This is the crowd that gained entry to the President and the Security Adviser of the United States after George Junior made his deal with Harken.
Deal #2: Selling Oil Stock Just Before Iraq Invaded George Bush, Junior
sold 60% of his stock in Harken Oil in June, 1990 for $848,560. That was
brilliant timing; in August, Iraq invaded Kuwait and Harken's stock dropped 25%.
Soon after, a big quarterly loss caused it to drop further. A secret State
Deparment memo in May of that year had warned that Saddam was out of control,
and listed options for responding to him, including an oil ban that might affect
US oil prices. We can't be sure that the President or an aide mentioned these
developments to his son, or that Harken's representative who was admitted to
meetings with the President picked up something and reported back to Junior. But
it is the simplest and most logical explanation. The Bushes acknowledge that
George Senior and his sons consult on political strategy and other matters
Furthermore, Harken's internal financial advisers at Smith Barney had issued a report in May warning of the company's deteriorating finances. Harken owed more than $150 million to banks and other creditors at the time. George Bush, Jr. was a member of the board and also of Harken's restructuring committee, which met in May and worked directly with the Smith Barney consultants. He must have known of these warnings.
These are pretty clear-cut indications of illegal insider trading. The Securities and Exchange Commission, controlled at the time by President George Bush, investigated but chose not to press charges. Junior also violated another SEC rule explicitly. He was required to register his sale as an insider trade by July 10, 1990, but didn't until March 1991, after the Gulf War was over. He was not punished or cited. [ ** continued below -- insider business deals]
1. Pulled Strings to Get In. On May 27, 1968, George Bush Jr. was 12 days away from losing his student draft deferment, at a time when 350 Americans a week were dying in combat. The National Guard, seen by many as the most respectable way to avoid Vietnam, had a huge waiting list -- a year and a half in Texas, over 100,000 men nationwide. Yet Bush and his family friends pulled strings, and the young man was admitted the same day he applied, regardless of any waiting list.
Bush's unit commander, Col. "Buck" Staudt, was so excited about his VIP recruit that he staged a special ceremony for the press so he could have his picture taken administering the oath (even though the official oath had been given by a captain earlier.) Bush and his allies have tried to deny this with several changing stories, but Bush himself admits lobbying commander Staudt, who approved him, and court documents confirm that close family friend and oil magnate Sid Adger called Texas Speaker of the House Ben Barnes, who called General James Rose, the head of the Texas Air National Guard, to get Bush in. Rose, who is now dead, told his friend and former legislator Jake Johnson that "I got that Republican congressman's son from Houston into the Guard." Staudt's unit, the 147th, was infamous as a nesting place for politically connected and celebrity draft avoiders. Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen's son was in the unit, as was Republican Senator John Tower's, both of Sid Adger's sons and at least 7 members of the Dallas Cowboys.
2. Took a 2 month vacation in Florida after 8 weeks in the Guard. Just 8 weeks after joining, Bush was granted 2 months leave to go to Florida and work on a political campaign, the Senate race of Republican Edward Gurney. Bush took a leave every election season, in 1970 to work on his dad's campaign, and in 1972 to work in Alabama.
3. Skipped Officer Candidate School and got a special commission as 2nd Lt. As soon as Bush completed basic training, his commander approved him for a "direct appointment", which made him an officer without having to go through the usual (and difficult) Officer Candidate School. This special procedure also got Bush into flight school, despite his very low scores on aptitude tests -- he scored 25% on a pilot aptitude test, the absolute lowest acceptable grade, and 50% for navigator aptitude. (Bush did score 95% on the easier officer quality test, but then again the average is 88%). What made Bush's appointment doubly unusual was his total lack of special qualifications. This procedure was generally reserved for applicants with exceptional experience or skills, such as ROTC training or engineering, medical or aviation skills. Tom Hail, a historian for the Texas Air National Guard, reviewed the Guard's records on Bush for a special exhibit on his service after Bush became governor. Asked about Bush's direct appointment without special skills, Hail said "I've never heard of that. Generally they did that for doctors only, mostly because we needed extra flight surgeons." Charles Shoemake, an Air Force veteran who later joined the Texas Air National Guard and retired as a full colonel, said that direct appointments were rare and hard to get, and required extensive credentials. Asked about Bush, he said "His name didn't hurt, obviously. But it was a commander's decision in those days." Despite Bush Jr.'s weak qualifications, Col. Staudt was so excited about the direct appointment that he saged another special ceremony for the press, this time with Bush's father the congressman standing prominently in the background. The direct appointment process was discontinued in the 1970s.
4. Assigned to a safe plane -- the F-102 -- that was being phased out. As Bush has been quick to note, National Guard members do face the chance of being called up for active duty, though few actually did during the Vietnam war. So what a lucky break for Bush that he was assigned to fly the F-102 Delta Dagger, a plane already being phased out. In fact, the Air Force had ordered all overseas F-102 units shut down as of June 30, 1970 -- just 3 months after Bush finished his training. Since training is so airplane specific, Bush was guaranteed from the beginning to be safe from combat. Bush's campaign has even used his training on the obsolete plane to justify his early discharge, almost a year before his scheduled discharge, since other F-102 pilots were also being released early. But they can't answer the obvious question -- why spend so much money to train a National Guardsman for 2 years on a plane that was already being phased out, at a time when the Guard was letting F102 pilots leave early due to oversupply?
5. Celebrity Political Date. During his flight training, Bush's celebrity showed in a couple of ways. Most famously, President Nixon sent a jet to pick up the young flight student for a date with his daughter Tricia. Alas, the potential political marriage and dynasty was not to be. Also, the commencement speaker at Bush's graduation ceremony was -- his dad, Congressman George Bush Sr.
6. Illegal, overruled transfer to a base with no work. In 1972, Bush once again wanted to work on a political campaign, this time in Alabama. He applied for a transfer to a nearly defunct base with no active training or work, the 9921st Air Reserve Squadrom at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Bush's supervisors approved, but a higher headquarters overruled them, noting that the unit had no regular drills. Lt. Col. Reese Bricken, the unit's commander, told the Boston Globe "We met just one weeknight a month. We were only a postal unit. We had no airplanes. We had no pilots. We had no nothing." Even Albert Lloyd Jr., a retired Air Guard colonel who is helping the Bush campaign clarify the candidate's service, told the Globe he was mystified why Bush's superiors at the time would approve duty at such a unit. Lloyd was personnel director of the Texas Air Guard from 1969 to 1995. Now, the officer who did that has stepped forward and very directly admitted that he tried to get the easiest possible assignment for Bush. The personnel officer in charge of Bush's 147th Fighter Group, now-retired Col. Rufus G. Martin, says he tried to give Bush a light load when he told him to apply to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron in Montgomery, Ala. Martin said in an interview that he knew Bush wasn't eligible for the 9921st, an unpaid, general training squadron that met once a week to hear lectures on first aid and the like. "However," he said, "I thought it was worth a try. . . . It was the least participation of any type of unit."
7. Just didn't show up for a year -- with no punishment. National Guard records and Bush's own supervisor's and friends show no sign of him attending any drills or performing any service for nearly a year, from May 1972 until May 1973. This period began with Bush moving to Alabama for a political campaign. He later applied to transfer to a base that had no work; the transfer was first approved, then cancelled. Bush did nothing for several months; then in September he applied to transfer to Alabama's 187th Tactical Recon group for 3 months. This was approved, but the unit's commander, General William Turnipseed, and his then admnistrative officer, Kenneth Lott, have both said that Bush never showed up. "Had he reported in, I would have had some recall, and I do not," said Turnipseed. "I had been in Texas, done my flight training there. If we had had a first lieutenant from Texas, I would have remembered." Bush claims that he did some work in Alabama, but can't remember any details. “I can’t remember what I did,” he said. “I just—I fulfilled my obligation." Despite 2 years of searching through hundreds of records, his campaign has been unable to find any record of Bush's service there, nor could they find a single fellow serviceman who remembers his presence. The best they could produce was an ex-girlfriend from Alabama -- Emily Marks --who said George told her he would have to do some Guard duty later that year (1972) in Montgomery. But all that confirms is that he knew of his obligation. In December 1972, Bush returned to Houston and was scheduled to resume duty there. But in May 1973, Bush's supervising pilots wrote in his annual efficiency report: "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of the report" (i.e. through April 30, 1972). Bush described one of the supervisors, the late Col. Jerry Killian, as a personal friend, so it's likely he would have noticed Bush and given him the benefit of the doubt. Later that month, two special orders commanded Bush to appear for active duty. He served 36 days of active duty during May, June and July before leaving the Guard early. Amazingly, Bush was not disciplined in any way for his absence, and received an honorable discharge. Under Air National Guard rules at that time, guardsmen who missed duty could be reported to their Selective Service Board and inducted into the Army as draftees.
8. Skipped all his medical exams after they started drug tests. In April 1972, the military started including routine drug tests in servicemen's annual physical exam, including urinalysis, questions about drugs and "a close examination of the nasal cavities" (for cocaine). According to the regulation, the medical took place in the month after the serviceman's birthday. For George W. Bush, this meant August 1972. It was May, 1972 -- one month after the drug testing was announced -- that Bush stopped attending Guard duty. In August 1972, he was suspended from flight duty for failing to take his physical. (Click here to see the document.) A Bush campaign spokesman confirmed to the London Sunday Times that Bush knew he would be suspended. "He knew the suspension would have to take place." Bush never flew again, even though he returned to his Houston base where Guard pilots flew thousands of hours in the F-102 during 1973. The only barrier to him flying again was a medical exam (and his lack of attendance). Careful readers will recall that when Bush issued his partial denial of drug use, he said (or implied) that he hadn't used them since 1974, but he pointedly refused to deny drug use before then, i.e. during his military service. Several sources have also indicated that it was in December, 1972 -- 4 months after his medical suspension -- that a drunk Bush Jr. challenged his father to a fist fight during an argument over the son's drunk driving. (He had run over a neighbor's garbage cans.) Shortly thereafter, Bush Sr. arranged for his son to do community service at an inner city Houston charity. Bush's campaign aides first said he did not take the physical because he was in Alabama and his personal physician was in Houston. But flight physicals can be administered only by certified Air Force flight surgeons, and some were assigned at the time to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, where Bush was living. The staff now admits that this explanation was wrong.
9. Left service 10 months early. Even after that easy stint, Bush couldn't fulfill his obligation. He quickly made up the missed days he had to and applied for an early release, before he had to take his next annual physical exam (with drug test.) While the official discharge date was October 1, 1973, Bush's last day in uniform was actually July 31 -- a full 10 months before the end of his 6-year, part time commitment. Al Gore also requested and received an early discharge (from the Army, in his case) to go to school. Weasel words; his story keeps changing. When asked about his service, Bush has lied, changed his story repeatedly, and weaseled in a manner eerily reminiscent of Bill Clinton. First of all, he has flat-out lied. In his official autobiography, ''A Charge to Keep,'' Bush said he flew with his unit for ''several years'' after finishing flight training in June 1970. His campaign biography states that he flew with the unit until he won release from the service in September 1973, nine months early, for graduate school. Both statements are lies. Bush only flew with the 111th for one year and 10 months, until April 1972 when he was suspended for failing to take his medical exam (and drug test), and never flew again. Then there is his Clintonesque weaseling and word choice. Bush and his campaign claimed that no Bush family or friends pulled strings. Under pressure, this changed to "All I know is anybody named George Bush did not ask him [Ben Barnes] for help." By that he meant, himself or his dad. Of course, it later came out in court that a close Bush friend, Simon Adger, had asked Barnes to get Bush Jr. into the Guard, and that Barnes did so, via General Rose. Now's it's not even clear that a George Bush didn't ask for help. When pressed, the former president's spokeswoman (Jean Becker) said he is "almost positive" that he and Mr. Adger never discussed the Guard matter. "He [Bush Sr.] he is fairly certain - I mean he doesn't remember everything that happened in the 1960s..." In any case, Bush Sr. and Adger were very close. Ms. Becker acknowledged that "President Bush knew Sid Adger well. He loved him." Adger may have needed only a hint. Furthermore, George Bush Jr. admits that he knew Adger socially at the time, and further admits that he lobbied Col. "Buck" Staudt, the commander of the VIP unit Bush joined. Staudt claims that he, not General Rose (who he later replaced), was the one who made the decision on admissions anyway. Bush Jr. admits that he met Staudt in late 1967, during Christmas vacation of his senior year, called him later, and -- in Bush's words -- "found out what it took to apply." When asked how Bush came to call Staudt, his spokeswoman Karen Hughes said he "heard from friends while he was home over the Christmas break that ... Colonel Staudt was the person to contact." She says that Bush doesn't recall who those "friends" were. But we know that Sid Adger was also a friend of Staudt's, served with him on the Houston Chamber of Commerce's Aviation Committee, and in 1967 held a luncheon honoring Gen. Staudt and his unit for winning an Air Force commendation. In fact, both of Adger's sons also joined General Staudt's unit, in 1966 and 1968 respectively. Bush and his staff also claim that he vaulted ahead of the Air Guard waiting list because he was willing to fly an airplane, and there were openings. There is nothing to support this claim, however. For one thing, the F-102 was being phased out at the time and F-102 pilots were being released from service early, as indeed Bush himself was. And Tom Hail, a historian for the Texas Air National Guard, says flatly that there was no pilot shortage in the Guard squadron at that time. Bush's unit had 27 pilots at the time he applied; while they were authorized for 29 pilots, there were two more already in training and one awaiting a transfer. Bush also weasels on whether he was avoiding combat or not. He has stated on several occasions that he did not want to be an infantryman, and acknowledges that he came to oppose the war itself. He claims that he joined the guard to fly planes, and would have been happy to go to Vietnam, but ignores the obvious choice of the Air Force or the Navy -- which his dad, a genuine war hero, joined. Furthermore, when he signed up for the Guard, he checked a box saying "Do not volunteer for overseas service." Later, he made a perfunctory application to transfer to a program called "Palace Alert", which dispatched F-102 pilots to Europe or the Far East -- and just occasionally Vietnam -- for 3 or 6 month assignments. But Bush was not nearly qualified, as he must have known, and was immediately turned down, and the F-102 not used overseas after June, 1970 in any case. And, as noted above, his story also changed on why he refused to take a medical exam -- including a drug test - in 1972. (The refusal ended Bush's flying career.) His staff first claimed that he didn't take the physical because he was in Alabama and his personal physician was in Houston. But flight physicals can be administered only by certified Air Force flight surgeons, and there were surgeons assigned at the time to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, where Bush was living. His staff now admits that that explanation was "wrong", without saying where it came from or what the real reason was. Draft & National Guard Sources
**Insider Business Deals Bush Jr. has made a lot of money off of three business deals. In each one, his contribution is hard to perceive, yet he walked off with hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in deals arranged by his father's political cronies. The deals were 1. the sale of Junior's struggling oil company, 2. Junior's sale of oil stock just before the Gulf War, and 3. getting a cheap slice of the Texas Rangers baseball team, which he sold in 1999 for a huge profit (he paid $600,000, and sold for $14 million). The general pattern here is just as important as the details. Bush did no work in his business career that can clearly be called "excellent" or even "solid." The money he made is tangential to his efforts at best -- the oil companies lost a great deal of money during his tenure, and the Rangers cut a lot of corners -- which makes the cronyism that much more suspicious. It's not just that one or two of Bush's deals look funky; every major business deal he has been involved with included wealthy supporters of his father, and many of those investors later received favorable treatment from either the federal government under Bush, Sr. or the current Texas administration of Junior.
Deal #1: The Oil Business: Rewarded for Losing Money Like his dad, Junior struck out in Texas and founded an oil company, Arbusto Energy, Inc., with $20,000 of his own money. (Arbusto is the Spanish word for bush.) The company foundered in the early 1980s when oil prices dropped (and his dad was Vice President.) The 50 investors, who were "mainly friends of my uncle" in Junior's own words, put in $4.7 million and lost most of it. Junior claims that investors "did pretty good," but Bush family friend Russell Reynolds told the Dallas Morning News: "The bottom line was there were problems, and it didn't work out very well. I think we got maybe 20 cents on the dollar." As Arbusto neared collapse, Spectrum 7 Energy Corporation bought it in September 1984. Despite his poor track record, the owners made Bush, Jr. the president and gave him 13.6% of the parent company's stock. Spectrum 7 was a small oil firm owned by two staunch Reagan/Bush Sr. supporters -- William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds. These two were also owners of the Texas Rangers and allowed Bush Jr. to purchase a chunk of the team cheaply; he later sold it for over 24 times what he paid. Within two years of purchasing Arbusto and making Bush Jr. president, Spectrum 7 was itself in trouble; it lost $400,000 in its last 6 months of operation. That ended in 1986, when Harken Energy Corporation bought Spectrum 7's 180-well operation. Junior got $227,000 worth of Harken stock, and a lot more. He was named to the board of directors, made $80,000 to $100,000 a year well into the 1990s as a "consultant" to Harken, and was allowed to buy Harken stock at 40% below face value. He also borrowed $180,375 from Harken at very low rates; the company's 1989 and 1990 SEC filings said it "forgave" $341,000 in loans to unspecified executives.
So what did Junior do for all this money? It's hard to say exactly, but things happened for Harken after Junior came on board: it got a $25 million stock offering from an unusual bank with CIA ties, it won a surprise exclusive drilling contract with Bahrain, a small Mideast country, and an Arab member of its Board of Directors was invited to White House policy meetings with President George Bush and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.