Poppy Bush's Seed and Bitter Harvest: Half Truths / History (Part 3)


This continues a Justice Integrity Project series on life and legacy of the President George H.W. Bush, who died on Nov. 30. He is shown below right in an official photo from his term as president from 1989 to 1993.

The material in this Part 3 covers his family life and career as he advanced from Texas politics to the national stage in Washington as a congressman, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, director of the Republican National Committee, U.S. envoy to China, CIA director and vice president to Ronald Reagan. The material is excerpted from this editor's book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters (2015 updated edition).

george hw bush HRThis segment, Part 3, covers the late president's biography highlighted below in red, taken from the book chapter  'George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest' (Part 2). 'Poppy'' was the late president's nickname amongst family.

  • Introduction and News Clippings (Part 1)
  • Poppy's Progress (Part 2)
  • Texas Politics, Bush-Style
  • Deep In the Heart of Washington Intrigue
  • Refueling In Houston
  • White House Years and Fears
  • Iran-Contra
  • Iraq War
  • Deregulation
  • The Rest of the Story

Presidential Puppetry charted recent presidents' secret ties to the nation's elite private sector power structure (including major media organizations), which sometimes work Presidential Puppetry by Andrew Kreigcollaboratively with the CIA and FBI operational arms. These professional ties helped enable the chosen aspirants to establish support for their political careers in ways that most of their political competitors and the public would never know, thus undermining the voting process (and implicating the corporate-owned media in a failure to inform).

The book included three chapters about the Bush family. The one about the late president, the focus of this series, was "George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest."  Preceding that chapter in Presidential Puppetry is a chapter about Poppy's father, "Prescott Bush: Roots of the Bushes." Following that in the book is a chapter about the more recent Bush president, "George W. Bush: Shameless, Heartless and Selected — Not Elected."


From the Chapter: 'George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest'

Texas Politics, Bush-Style

george h w bush with children

Poppy Bush fathered six children. The oldest was the future president George, born in 1946. The next, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953 at age of nearly four. Barbara Bush [shown above in a family photo with her husband and four of the children] says it turned her hair prematurely white. A second son, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush was born in 1953.

rnc logoAfter the family moved to Houston in 1959, Poppy became active in Texas Republican politics. His initial post was as Harris County GOP finance chairman. This enabled him to leverage his financial contacts, and prepare for a losing Senate campaign against Democrat Ralph Yarborough in 1964. Bush aimed lower for his next campaign, and won a Houston congressional seat in 1966. By then a millionaire, he exited from Zapata Offshore by selling his shares to fellow Yale Bonesman Robert Gow.

President Nixon persuaded Bush to run again for the Senate in 1970, and rewarded him after another losing effort with an appointment to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. As a consolation prize for Nixon twice bypassing him as a vice presidential nominee, Bush became Republican National Committee chairman in 1973.

Deep In the Heart of Washington Intrigue

In February 1973, the Watergate-besieged President Nixon dismissed his CIA Director Richard Helms for failure to hand over to the White House files on covert operations during richard nixon portraitprevious administrations, including what Nixon, right, described on tapes as “the Bay of Pigs stuff.” This was Nixon’s code phrase for files about the JFK assassination, according to former Nixon aide Roger Stone in his book Nixon’s Secrets. Historians are split on Nixon’s motives.

The conventional anti-Nixon view is that the president desperately sought leverage against Democrats and thus sought to meddle in secret affairs. A growing minority view is that Nixon also feared disloyalty by intelligence elites and wanted to prevent the CIA from toppling him, as it had Kennedy. The key point for now is that Nixon’s CIA director Helms refused to provide documents demanded by the nation’s elected commander-in-chief.

richard helms time coverDespite this insubordination, Nixon provided a safe landing for Helms (shown on a Time Magazine cover] by appointing him ambassador to Iran, a dictatorship allied with the United States and run by the brutal Shah Reza Pavlevi following overthrow of the left-leaning democracy in 1953.

Economist and White House aide James Schlesinger succeeded Helms for five stormy months at the agency before Nixon appointed him to be defense secretary. Nixon next named as CIA director William Colby, a career OSS and CIA executive with extensive experience in world trouble spots, including Vietnam and covert operations.

To an unusual degree, Colby cooperated with congressional and the media investigations of the agency. This helped enable shocking revelations of assassinations, secret wars, domestic propaganda, mind-control drug experiments on unwitting American citizens, and other sinister plots whose revelation temporarily energized Congress and the public. A landmark was a December 1974 New York Times article by Seymour Hersh based on leaked official documents. The main one has become known to historians as “The Family Jewels,” a 693-page report that Colby had sent to the FBI.

james angleton 1975 senate intelligence hearing ny times george tamesBehind the scenes, Colby forced the retirements of powerful old-timers such as James Jesus Angleton, the counter-intelligence chief for twenty years until December, 1974. Angleton (shown at right testifying to the Senate in 1975) was responsible for many of the most elaborate CIA plots being revealed. Colby reportedly reduced personnel in his counterintelligence unit to 80 from its previous total of 300.

At first, Bush defended Nixon from Watergate charges but ultimately called for his resignation.

Meanwhile, Ford had succeeded Nixon in August 1974. The new Republican president promptly pardoned Nixon for any crimes, and witnessed landslide Democratic victories in the mid-term congressional elections. Ford appointed George Bush to be the nation’s top representative to China, a post that lasted 14 months.

nelson rockefellerTo quell questions about the CIA, Ford asked Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, left, to lead a presidential commission to investigate CIA abuses. What became known as the Rockefeller Report in 1975 found “no credible evidence” of CIA involvement in the Kennedy assassination and otherwise timidly addressed previously forbidden topics. It was widely considered a whitewash. Democratic-led committees headed by New York congressman Otis Pike and Idaho senator Frank Church undertook more substantive inquiries, with Church unveiling shocking proof of massive surveillance by the almost unknown National Security Agency.

Ford’s contemporary image was far different from his actual performance and position as revealed by later historians. Tall and handsome, he had been an All-American football player from Michigan drafted by the Chicago Bears, a World War II officer and a graduate of Yale Law School. Representing Grand Rapids, Michigan in Congress as a Republican, he served as House minority leader before Nixon chose him to replace disgraced Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1973.

gerald ford oIn sketches by comedian Chevy Chase during the presidency, the NBC show Saturday Night Live created a long-lasting popular image of Ford as clumsy but essentially amiable bumbler.

A deeper look shows that Ford, left, was an ambitious and crafty bureaucratic in-fighter. But Ford knew enough of his limitations to be intimidated by those he regarded as more powerful, such as FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Ford secretly reported to Hoover and doctored crucial ballistics evidence when Ford served on the Warren Commission investigating President Kennedy’s death.

Those matters were revealed years later in declassified documents that we shall describe later in this book. In the fall of 1975, Ford faced two assassination attempts 17 days apart by women who fired shots at him but missed. They were reported as mentally disturbed, but as long as key evidence in other major assassinations and cover-ups remains suppressed questions will linger whether mind control (at least in the case of the Charles Manson follower) was a factor. The two shooters were sentenced to long prison terms with relatively little public explanation of their actions.

dick cheney wDuring this period, Ford presided as the front man for “The Halloween Massacre” of cabinet members and staff that he authorized in the fall of 1975. Ford’s Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Dick Cheney, orchestrated the far-reaching bureaucratic changes, thereby paving the way for their own vast influence for decades. That fall, Ford persuaded Rockefeller, the epitome of the Eastern Establishment, to drop off the 1976 re-election ticket to mollify GOP conservatives.

Among other White House-ordered changes: Brent Scowcroft replaced the longtime GOP Rockefeller minion Henry Kissinger as a national security advisor. Rumsfeld became defense secretary. Cheney [the future vice president shown at right] ascended to the White House chief of staff post. George H.W. Bush, his covert past still a secret except on a need-to-know basis, replaced Colby.

The net effect, wrote Russ Baker in his survey of the Bush clan Family of Secrets, “was to re-empower elements of the security-intelligence elite that had been shunted aside by Nixon and was seriously threatened by the post-Watergate cascade of disclosures.”

george hw bush cia director after assassinations in Beirut june17 1976 NARA wh photoMost relevant to our chapter here was Ford’s nomination of Bush, who became CIA director beginning on January 30, 1976. This appointment lasted just 357 days and yet would become a momentous development for Bush, the CIA, and the nation. With the confidence that springs from patrician lineage, Bush quietly led the beginnings of a CIA counter-offensive against the reforms of the post-Watergate era. The result was a greatly expanded CIA agenda that continues to the present with reduced oversight. Bush is shown a right in a portrait as CIA director.

Roger Stone, later a consultant to seven other GOP presidents or candidates, provides a harsh assessment of Bush in Stone’s biography Nixon’s Secrets: “Despite his ‘nice guy’ image, George Bush was high-handed, secretive, and fueled by an incredible sense of entitlement.” Stone made a blunt assessment also of Bush’s wife. “Barbara Bush,” Stone wrote, “brought a vindictive streak; she remembered everyone who was not for her husband.” Stone’s blunt views might pass for mere opinion from one observer, except that Stone has been a happy warrior in dark battles for decades. If he, an admirer of Nixon, believes the Bush family capable of misusing power that is worth noticing in view of the family’s power for so many generations.

Most of these power shifts received fleeting and otherwise superficial news coverage. To the press and the rest of the public, Bush’s preppy and avuncular demeanor and apparently skimpy intelligence background made him seem to be a relatively benign if not underqualified appointee, especially compared to his career-CIA predecessors, Richard Helms and William Colby.

Yet Bush would repeatedly reassert the CIA’s strength until he left office in 1977 because of Jimmy Carter’s election as president. As one Bush opportunity, he implemented an executive order by Ford increasing the CIA’s authority over other intelligence agencies, including at the defense department.

This conflicted with President Harry Truman’s original vision of the agency, which was to coordinate intelligence analysis as a convenience for the president and not to engage in covert operations with no effective outside scrutiny. Bush was also in a position to block or slow oversight investigations, including investigations of the murders of President Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which congress authorized in 1976 via a special House Select Committee on Assassinations. The committee experienced obstruction from both congress and the CIA according to all three of its most senior staff counsel, Richard Sprague, Robert Tanenbaum, Robert Blakey.

As another example of Bush’s lasting legacy at the CIA, he greatly enhanced an alliance between the oil-rich Gulf monarchies, especially Saudi Arabia, with the United States.

The Bush family and its business allies held the inside track then to benefit, as Craig Unger would document in his powerful 2004 analysis House of Saud, House of Bush. Also, retired CIA Western Hemisphere operations chief David Atlee Phillips, founded in 1975 what became the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), which has grown to more than five thousand members.

david atlee phillipsPhillips, right, was not just another functionary within the agency. He had been a key player in many plots throughout Latin America, including using many disguises and vast sums of CIA money to help the Cuban exile community to overthrow Fidel Castro. By the late 1970s, suspicions were solidifying among low-level official investigators and the JFK research community alike that Phillips may have functioned as an agency liaison to accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. More on that below.

For now, we know that AFIO members quietly supported Bush in the late 1970s while he prepared for his presidential run. The association has become a powerful political force to sustain the intelligence community and has served as a model for similar organizations for special forces and other veterans. Its honorary chairman is listed as of this writing as George H.W. Bush. Additionally, the CIA’s headquarters is named for him. These are remarkable tributes for someone popularly regarded as unqualified for CIA leadership and who served just 357 days, according to official bios.

Refueling In Houston

Following Bush’s CIA post, he returned to Houston to build bank-related businesses. One of its specialties was deals with oil-rich Arab nations. The basics of the deal were that Bush and his Texas allies would cement arms and energy deals whereby United States interests would use their clout to help protect the monarchies in exchange for insider status on the deals.

james bakerAmong Bush’s many banking and political allies were James A. Baker III, left, a lawyer, former undersecretary of commerce and grandson of the illustrious Houston banker James A. “Captain” Baker. Bush and the younger “Jim” Baker would use some of their vast clout to help Bush relatives succeed. One of them was Bush’s son Jeb Bush, who married Columba Garnica Gallo, whom he had met on student trip to her native Mexico. Jeb would go on to work for five years for fast-growing, Houston-based Texas Commerce Bank. This included a year and a half starting up the bank’s small branch office in Venezuela. The Texas National Bank, which had helped finance the development of the CIA-connected Zapata Offshore Co., was one of the two major predecessors of Jeb Bush’s employer, the Texas Commerce Bank. So it is not surprising that Jeb’s time in Venezuela is suspected of being partly intelligence-related NOC, or non-official cover.

Sons Jeb and George were among those in the Bush family who helped their father during the 1980 presidential campaign. Their dad also reunited with, among many others, a young consultant named Karl Rove, who had been Bush’s canny, loyal, and unscrupulous former assistant at the Republican National Committee.

Bush badly lost the GOP presidential nomination to Ronald Reagan. But Bush and his establishment allies pressured a reluctant Reagan to pick Bush as his running mate against incumbent Jimmy Carter. Carter, derided as weak in his domestic and foreign policies, suffered grievously from his national security team’s inability to free American hostages taken prisoner by Iran during the 1979 overthrow of Shah Reza Pahlavi, the brutal dictator installed by Americans in the 1963 CIA coup. Carter took several actions that antagonized the Iranian revolutionaries. For one, he authorized safe haven and medical treatment in the United States for the ailing shah. Also, Carter ordered seizure of Iranian assets, including vast sums that the corrupt shah had stashed overseas.

Even so, Carter hoped to secure release of hostages before the 1980 elections. But, as documented by former Carter aide Gary Sick and former Reagan-Bush White House aide Barbara Honegger in separate books [each entitled October Surprise], disloyal Carter and Reagan aides negotiating with Iranians delayed the release until the new administration could take credit. The taint of weakness undermined Carter both during his re-election campaign and in more general historical accounts. Reagan’s success in securing the hostage release, by fair means or foul, helped launch the Reagan-Bush presidency with a popular triumph and enhanced mandate.

White House Years and Fears

Bush became one of the most powerful vice presidents in history during his two terms, from 1981 to 1989. From the outset of the Reagan administration, the pattern was so obvious that a UPI writer described Bush as “co-president” as early as March 10, less than two months after inauguration.

ronald reagan 1981 wThen came the March 30 assassination attempt on Reagan, followed by a lengthy recovery. Bush solidified his role even more during Reagan’s recovery and the crucial early stages of the administration’s decision making. Furthermore, Secretary of State Alexander Haig, a former general regarded as Bush’s most capable rival for administration bureaucratic control, became an object of ridicule in the media. The scorn from colleagues and their media friends was ostensibly because of Haig’s comment, “I’m in control here,” after the assassination while the vice president was travelling. Haig would be forced to resign a year later.

The back story is that Haig was targeted for elimination by Bush allies in the Brown Brothers Harriman/Skull and Bones network in Washington. The former New York governor, Averell Harriman, and his younger bride, Pamela Harriman, presided over Washington thought-leaders from their Georgetown salon until his death in 1986.

henry luce time cover objective quotationSimilarly, Time-Life founder Henry Luce, a Bonesman and Bush friend of longstanding (shown at right), once described as the nation’s “most powerful private citizen,” had picked editors in his image who strived to maintain traditions -- including his inclination towards propaganda disguised as opinion -- long after his death in 1967.

The focus on Reagan’s valiant recovery, the crazy assailant John W. Hinckley, and perceived foibles by Haig largely obscured Bush’s consolidation of power and the bizarre coincidence that Hinckley’s brother, Scott Hinckley, had been scheduled to dine with Bush’s son, Neil Bush, on March 31 in Denver.

Bush’s foreign policy agenda helped guide the Reagan administration to a more aggressive and covert outlook than existed in the Carter administration. Bush was also influential in deregulatory efforts helping those in the energy industry and related fields long associated with the Bush dynasty and its cronies. ''

Ronald Reagan, to be sure, had the stature of a governor-turned president and a compelling presence as commander-in-chief. The former movie star and TV host of the GE Theater was fundamentally a pitchman-made-good, and was not himself a member of the ruling financial elite.

fidel castro speaksBush, while not especially wealthy, came from a different world. In it, his forebears ran the nation’s largest private bank at Brown Brothers Harriman. But some had lost vast fortunes, as Uncle Herbie had done when Fidel Castro, shown at left, nationalized their refineries and railroads in Cuba. Fighting communism was not merely an abstract goal. It was deeply personal and financial. Bush readily transferred that mind-set during his 1989 to 1993 presidency to the fight to maintain power for the Middle East royalty, most notably in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other oil-rich states that he and his family had long cultivated.

Bush leadership in the Iran-Contra scandal illustrates, among other things, the contempt that Bush and his peers held for any sense of accountability in a democratic society to Congress, the media, or anyone else. His supervision of the Reagan Administration’s major deregulatory initiatives shows the ruthless impact of crony capitalism in an era of spectacular speculation that especially benefited two of his peers and diminished circumstances for many others. The Iraq War is already well-known ground, yet Saddam Hussein was originally a creature of the United States.

Similarly, the CIA and its United Kingdom allies created today’s radical Islam state of Iran, in effect, by overthrowing an elected prime minister in 1953 who governed in a manner that would be considered highly pro-West by comparison with today’s Iranian leaders.


The Iran-Contra scandal erupted in late 1986, prompting the federal court appointment of Lawrence E. Walsh, left, as an independent counsel to investigate. Bush said, “I was out of the loop.” A deeper look heavily implicates Bush in the scandal and cover-up, which involved a shift of the U.S. constitutional system to enable Executive Branch insiders to launch lawrence walsh new york state bar asssociationunaccountable covert action and war on a global scale.

The scandal’s essence was that the Executive Branch violated its announced policies and clear congressional law, and instead pursued an illegal foreign policy of arms smuggling to Iran and elsewhere. The administration also engaged in drug running, creating a moral blemish on the United States and a slush fund for illegal paramilitary activities, potentially causing vast harm to United States communities, especially those hurt by the drugs. All of this was obscured with systematic lies to the public and the creation of “terror” incidents to build up public support.

The independent prosecutor Walsh found that Bush was involved, but with insufficient evidence to charge him criminally. This may have been in part because of Bush’s cover-up, which included failure to deliver requested personal diaries. The Walsh report stated:

The Office of Independent Counsel’s (OIC) investigation did not develop evidence that proved that Vice President Bush violated any criminal statute. Contrary to his public pronouncements, however, he was fully aware of the Iran arms sales. Bush was regularly briefed, along with the President, on the Iran arms sales, and he participated in discussions to obtain third-country support for the contras.

caspar weinberger oThe OIC obtained no evidence that Bush was aware of the diversion.

The OIC learned in December 1992 that Bush had failed to produce a diary containing contemporaneous notes relevant to Iran/contra, despite requests made in 1987 and again in early 1992 for the production of such material. Bush refused to be interviewed for a final time in light of evidence developed in the latter stages of OIC’s investigation, leaving unresolved a clear picture of his Iran/contra involvement. Bush’s pardon of Reagan Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger , right, (1981-1987) on December 24, 1992 on perjury and obstruction of justice charges preempted a trial in which defense counsel indicated that they intended to call Bush as a witness.

These same stalling and cover-up tactics are used by all administrations. But Poppy escaped accountability from especially serious violations, creating a leadership model that would encourage more abuses by his successors.

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Other George H. W. Bush Series Segments In This Series

Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest: Half Truths and History (Part 1)

  • Introduction and Recent News Clippings On Death and Legacy of George H. W. Bush

Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest: Half Truths and History (Part 2)

  • Poppy's Progress (Published on Dec. 11)

Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest: Half Truths and History (Part 3) (This column, Published on Dec. 13)

  • Texas Politics, Bush-Style
  • Deep In the Heart of Washington Intrigue
  • Refueling in Houston
  • White House Years and Fears
  • Iran-Contra

Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest: Half Truths and History (Part 4) (Published on Dec. 14)

  • Deregulation
  • Iraq War
  • The Rest of the Story