Podcast — Russ Baker on the Deep State, Elites and Democracy

George W Bush, George HW. Bush
George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, March 23, 2008.  Photo credit: White House / Government Publishing Office

WhoWhatWhy readers come to the site for perspective they won’t find elsewhere. In this lengthy podcast, our editor-in-chief, Russ Baker fields questions about “Deep Politics” — the study of little-explored networks of power that shape events and undermine democracy.

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Greg Carlwood: All right, people. By now we know all too well that hidden behind the façade of democracy are the dynastic families that make up the bricks and mortar of the power pyramid. Groomed from a young age, preapproved for the finest schools, and inducted into their elusive and exclusive secret societies, we see the same names and faces fast track to wealth, power, and control, while the rest of us are force-fed the American dream like an overstuffed Christmas goose. And among your Rockefellers, Morgans, Du Ponts, and Windsors, you have the Bushes, one of the more public facing families when it comes to America’s puppet masters. But with deep roots in the oil industry, the Skull and Bones Society, and the CIA, should it be any wonder that both the father and son and nearly brother have wedged their way into the highest office in the land like it wasn’t no thing? Well, today we will hold the Bushes under the microscope with Russ Baker, who is the well-accomplished founder and editor of the great news site Whowhatwhy.org, and author of the biggest and best book I’ve seen on the Bushes, weighing in at a little over 500 pages, Family of Secrets – the Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty years. It’s an honor and pleasure to welcome the journalist who is digging deeper than most these days. Russ, my man, welcome to the Higherside.

Russ Baker: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.

Greg: Thanks for doing it. I know your book’s been out for a few years now, but it’s no less important and when trying to identify some of the hidden hands that are working the American machine, start us off by talking a little bit about the journey because this is a pretty massive undertaking. What drove you to focus on the Bushes and to dig so much deeper than most others have?

Russ Baker: Well, it goes back to 2003 as the Iraq war was about to get underway. I could see that the Bush administration wanted to go to war, and it was clear to me that they were creating a justification. I could not understand why the press couldn’t see it. In 2004, I was covering the Bush’s reelection and was sort of astonished at the fact that despite his having clearly lied about the basis for the war, that there he was running for reelection and doing pretty well. I saw how he was able to suppress various potential scandals about himself and also to put on the defensive John Kerry, a man who otherwise should have dominated that election especially since it was coming out that Bush’s Vietnam War record was very questionable. Kerry was known to have been on a Swift boat and very dangerous service. So I was surprised at how well the Bushes did to sort of bottle up their problems and put Kerry on the defensive. I did some reporting on that in 2004. That got me more and more interested in the Bush family itself, and I began saying how were they able to bottle all these things up. Then that got me trying to ask questions about them and their own trajectory to power, the larger constellation of people who supported them, abetted them, were behind them. That just got me asking questions that led me to look not just at George W. Bush, but at his father George H.W. Bush and then his grandfather, trying to understand the whole family’s remarkable relationship to American history. That really was an open-ended inquiry that led to the five years that I spent on Family of Secrets.

Greg: And so, obviously we know the Bushes are a multigenerational dynasty. How far back were you able to take this family?

Russ: I went back quite a few generations. The first indications I saw of a fledgling power center go all the way back to the sort of mid-1800s. I can’t remember how much of this ended up in the book or on the cutting room floor because I just had so much good stuff. But basically, I saw an ancestor who had relocated to Rochester, New York where he became a town clerk and befriended somebody who was involved with the founding of Skull and Bones. That was very important to me. Then the son of that man, say, was the son of the grandson, was a minister to some of the wealthiest congregations in America. He really got to know all the right people, and there were indications that he himself may have been involved in the Navy with early intelligence work. So he already showed a guy by the name of James Bush, Rev. James Bush. Then we go to his son. So we got pretty quickly to the Bush who then moves to Columbus, Ohio, where he gets into the manufacturing of parts for the railroad industry and gets hooked up to not one, but two branches of, that’s Samuel Bush, of the Rockefeller family. That’s where we start seeing that level of connection very visible. Then that man himself gets sent to Washington to become the main point man for the procurement of small arms for World War I. He has been chosen by these dynasties, the Du Ponts or what have you, who owned these giant arms manufacturing companies, and want to make sure that the US does get into World War I, and that their products are in play. There are also families like the Rockefellers and so on who are looking strategically at the spoils, looking at the tremendous oil supplies to be had. Places like Azerbaijan became part of the former Soviet Union. Generation after generation then, Samuel Bush’s son, Prescott Bush, goes to school at Yale and is in Skull and Bones and befriends the Harriman brothers. They then go into business with the investment banking firm called Brown Brothers Harriman, which becomes one of the major private and very discreet banks of the super wealthy with operations all over the world including tentacles into the bankers that bankrolled Adolf Hitler. It’s quite an astonishing journey for that family, and it’s a family that themselves were never really all that wealthy, but they certainly were powerful and they certainly were the go-to people for those who were extremely wealthy in terms of being able to carry out their agendas.

Greg: Yeah, you do such a great job in the book. I love those earlier threads because they are kind of the hardest to get a hold of. But for listening to your previous interviews and reading the book, I’ve heard that their family goes back to someone being an informant in the Civil War. One ancestor was burned at the stake as a witch. Another one was made to walk the plank by pirates. So some people have been kind of wise to their game over the years, it seems.

Russ: It’s an interesting story. I think there’s another book in going back to the very early family history certainly.

Greg: Shows like this call it conspiring and business circles call it networking. But that really has been one of their key tools, hasn’t it?

Russ: That’s right. I mean, I think most successful people understand the singular importance of connections. What some people call conspiracy, I think, is really the ultimate in working connection, developing working connections, maintaining those networks and those relationships. The Bush family absolutely unsurpassed. By the time you got to George H.W. or Poppy Bush, he really was evincing this in the form of things like his Christmas card list, which, I’m trying to remember what it had, tens of thousands of people would get Christmas cards from them every year. But they just maintain these tremendous networks. Most of us, you know, may talk to a few of our relatives or something. But they stayed in touch with every single one at every level. The Kennedys also were fairly good at it, but the Bushes really were just totally unsurpassed in keeping track of everybody they ever met. And not just that, but of course, there are the ways in which these people cooperate. So you see the joining of the various kinds of associations, some of them overt, some of them covert. You see them running certain channels into certain kinds of military service, more elite people, like Prescott Bush appears to have worked in military intelligence in World War One, just like his grandfather in the Navy. And so, you see those kind of patterns. You see them joining the social groups. Many cases, these kind of quasi-or fully Masonic enterprises, you see them certainly in their business ventures, in the choices of the people that they marry, very similar to what the royal families of Europe would do. Careful calculations in that regard. So they really work that to the maximum and this, of course, is exactly the sort of framework which enables you to do things out side of the public eye.

Greg: You mentioned Brown Brothers Harriman. That is one of the pieces of the puzzle that I knew least about. It was one of the key questions I had for you. I wrote down a quote from your book where you say that “Understanding the role of Brown Brothers Harriman is essential to understanding the Bush legacy and the vast, if unprecedented influence of the Bushes inner circle.” Can you elaborate on them at all? Is anything more to say on that other than, of course, they financed the Germans out of World War II to an extent?

Russ: Brown Brothers Harriman was originally the Brown Brothers Bank. This came out of the mills of England. They came to America. They were involved in all sorts of things, in the cotton trade and some connections to the Confederacy. They ended up  banking on the East Coast, in Baltimore and then other places. It was a very important pillar of the Anglo aristocracy connections into America. Then the Harrimans were this railroad dynasty. When the old man, E.H. Harriman, died, his two young sons, at that time in college, took over this whole thing. They had all of this money and all of this corporate power and were not sure what to do with it and they then brought in a man named George Herbert Walker. This was the father-in-law of Prescott Bush, and he was a prominent investment banker based in St. Louis. He was actually one of the most important money figures in America, though very little known in general. He was brought in, he moved to New York, and they merged the Harrimans into Brown Brothers and became Brown Brothers Harriman. Then Prescott Bush was brought in and eventually he became a partner there. Brown Brothers Harriman, because it was private, it was not publicly traded, did not have to do the kinds of filings that public companies did, was able to very discreetly handle the moneys of some of the most exclusive families in this country. The Brown Brothers, if you go back even before it was Brown Brothers Harriman, it was already involved in shaping much of American policy in [[funding…. ??? ]] I believe it was the 1922 issue of The Nation magazine. The cover story was called “The Republic of Brown Brothers”, and it was about how they were so influential. They were almost like a country unto themselves. They could get the US government to invade Nicaragua when their clients, companies like the United Fruit, Standard Fruit or what have you, were threatened, or their interests were threatened by the peoples of those countries who were put upon rather severely, virtually enslaved working under horrible conditions. The governments of those countries and throughout Central America and much of South America were really what they call the banana republic governments. They were often put into power and sustained by the forces like United Fruit and so on, and in turn outfits like Brown Brothers Harriman and then major corporate law firms of the sorts like O’Sullivan and Cromwell, the firm out of which Alan and John Dulles came. This is how all these people got to know each other. Then, of course, you see John Foster Dulles becomes the Secretary of State under Eisenhower. His brother Alan becomes the most influential director of the early Central Intelligence Agency. He’s a close friend of Prescott Bush. All of these entities are fundamentally focused on protecting the wealth and the interest and the power of this relatively small number of families that were and continue to dominate America.

Greg: Yes, it is a fascinating story how they do this. You mentioned Yale and the Skull and Bone society which is that bullet point is about as far as a lot of people dig when it comes to these connections. They know that he was in Skull and Bones, but that’s about it. That is an organization built for high-level networking. Did Skull and Bones come up beyond just a club they were in while in college?

Russ: Certainly it is a secret society and they’re all sworn not to reveal too much about the details. There are several books on Skull and Bones. My sense was that people pooh-pooh these things and if you start talking about them, they kind of try to make fun of you. But what I always say is the people who were members didn’t think that it was something to be pooh-poohed. They put great store in getting in and being a member. They thought this is extremely important. Now, unless you want dismiss them as silly people, those people went on to becoming some of the most powerful and influential people in America. I think we are to take it seriously and respect it. What it was, that, it’s hard to say what it is, and I think certainly people join these things for a sense of belonging just like they join fraternities and sororities. They want to be accepted by either by elites. They want to get a leg up. There is a sense of “you’re special” or “you’re elect”. You join and you have to make certain sacrifices. You have to presumably do certain rituals. In many cases in Skull and Bones and others you humiliate or debase yourself to prove how badly you want to be in. Then you swear oaths of loyalty and of secrecy. Once you’ve done that, that’s a lifelong thing. Flash forward to the 2004 presidential election where the extraordinary set of circumstances where the nominees of the two major parties were both from Yale and were both members of Skull and Bones. Even John Carey the liberal when asked about it said, “It’s secret, I can’t talk about it.” What does that mean? They were obviously able to face off in a pretty tough campaign against each other. For example, Carey seemed in some cases the sort of hold-his-fire. Some people thought he might have won if he had not done so. And you do wonder what they have on each other, what they’ve agreed to do, and not to do, their notion of sort of splitting up the pie and all of that. So it is not all that well understood, and I think all of these secret organizations deserve much, much more scrutiny.

Greg: From what I’ve heard blackmail plays a huge role in these secret societies. You get somebody to do something embarrassing like you mentioned, or something uncouth, and then if you put that person into a position of power years later you’ve got that dirt on them. So if you put people in powerful positions and then you stay in the shadows, you can get them to do a lot to not have those dirty secrets from back in the day revealed.

Russ: That’s right and there’s no question that blackmail, particularly relating to sexual matters but also to other things, has played a very important role in American politics. Maybe less so if you go back to the 19th century and part of the 20th century where the press had an understanding that they were not to speak about certain things. They remained quiet about, for example, Franklin Roosevelt’s health, John F. Kennedy’s health. There were many, many things they did not talk about. Many if not most of the presidents had lovers and they did not talk about that. At some point that changed. As that began to change, all bets were off because America is sort of famous for its somewhat Victorian mores, in public at least. This put these people very much on the defensive. They understood that if they were to get into power, or remain in power, that they could not afford for any of these things to come out. So yes, blackmail is very, very important. All we have to do is look at people like Gary Hart, John Edwards, and Ted Kennedy. We can go on and on and on. I mean, these things when they came out really damaged them, kept them from becoming presidents. So the ability to be ensured that whatever there was about you that perhaps made you all too human, to make sure that that did not come out, I think it was part of all this. And certainly in the course of my research, I’ve seen all sorts of things about George W. Bush, his father, and the grandfather that never did come out and that the public to this day doesn’t know about. Perhaps it was to some extent it was these networks that were protecting them.

Greg: There are some great revelations in the book. Obviously, we’re going to get to them. But one more question about the older generations and wealth creation. Tell us about Dresser Industries. This is one of the places where Prescott seemed to make a least a little bit of his money as I understand right?

Russ: Yes, Dresser Industries went back to the early days of the oil industry and it was what became known as an oil services company. It didn’t actually prospect or drill for oil or refined petroleum products. It provided all kinds of other things from well drilling equipment and derricks and what have you drills and so forth. Brown Brothers Harriman took over, bought out Dresser Industries. Then they appointed a friend of Prescott Bush to run the company, a fellow by the name of Neil Mallon. You see these names again and again just like George Herbert Walker becomes the name that goes throughout the Bush family. They even do it with some of their friends. So George W. Bush’s brother Neil, his name is actually Neil Mallon Bush. They named him after this friend of the family. Uncle Neil really wasn’t in the family at all, and he, Neil Mallon, was just basically told that he would run this company. There’s a story in my book Family of Secrets about that, where he comes back from a…  He’s young and he’s climbing mountains and traveling around Europe and carefree, and they just call him in and say “Okay, now you have to run this company.” It’s kind of amazing to hear those stories. There’s another one with Dick Cheney, where Dick Cheney was, you know, ladeeda, he’s out on a hunting trip and while he’s out hunting, some of the other people on the trip are at the lodge and they’ve decided that he’s going to take over and run another company called Halliburton. Eventually, by the way, Dresser and Halliburton become merged in part of the same company. These are the untold stories of the infrastructure of so much of American industry and how these interconnected. Dresser Industries interested me a great deal because I saw the role that it played very much as a cooperative entity with the American intelligence apparatus. Dresser Industries not only provided cover for people working in intelligence. I found documents where they were briefing, or talking to people in the CIA, including Allen Dulles, about various enterprises in the Caribbean dealing with Castro and what have you. He also provided a job for a young George H.W. Bush when he was starting out. We’ll get into that later. He ended up in what was essentially a kind of a no-show job that was cover for him so that he could do intelligence work.

Greg: That must be nice to have the lodge setting up company after company, to put you at the head of. Wish we were all so lucky. To jump ahead a little bit, one of the big revelations in Family of Secrets is Poppy’s secret life. A lot of people know that Poppy Bush, H.W. Bush, was director of the CIA for one year in 1976. But I’ve heard a lot of researchers suggested that these ties go much deeper. But you actually connect quite a few dots along with another researcher Joseph McBride to make a pretty conclusive case that his ties to the CIA go much deeper, don’t they?

Russ: Yes. I mean, McBride and one other person had found some obscure overlooked documents, or memos, that referenced a George Bush as being in the CIA in some capacity dating back to 1963, that’s the time of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. These stories came out in the late 80s as George H.W. Bush and vice president was about to be anointed as president. They were pretty much suppressed but they were important stories. I took a close look at that and wonder what does this all mean and was that the same man, or was that not. Through my research, I concluded that in fact it was the same man and that he had in fact been involved in intelligence work not just in 1976 when Gerald Ford appointed him CIA director as a supposed neophyte with no background or particular qualification to be CIA director. That never made any sense to me. I started looking at that separately and on my own saying “Why was this guy made CIA director?” That’s when I really started looking at these documents that the others had unearthed, and trying to do what I could to figure out what he was doing, and what his trajectory was. That got me into looking at some of the early papers of his own oil company called Zapata Oil. Concluding to my own and, I think, most people’s satisfaction, that the company was a little more than a cover entity for espionage work. Zapata Offshore was a small company that seemed to never turn a profit. Yet, they were traveling all over the world constantly, always in the hotspots, and often in places where they had no seeming business. I could see what that was, and I began to map out George H. W. Bush’s connections to all these other fellows who also had gone to the Ivy League schools and grown up together. There was no question that they were very important or high level CIA people. This developed this notion, this whole constellation of the substratum of American power where these corporations, these banks, and these oil companies are kind of operating seamlessly with the largely and almost completely opaque mysterious American intelligence apparatus, the foreign-policy apparatus, and so on that I began to see how this was all of it together a means of perpetuating the influence, wealth, and impact of this relatively small American elite.

Greg: With the CIA connections, it’s really interesting because something you talk about in the book that I hadn’t really considered is that before there was an official CIA, or office of strategic services, major companies had their own private agents and spies. So it makes perfect sense that when these government agencies opened, they’d hire some of these agents. That’s problematic right from the start, isn’t it?

Russ: Yes, in fact, governments always had a stream of intelligence reports – if you want to call it that – that they used even without having formal spy agencies in the United States. First of all, the military intelligence has existed for a long time. I think as long as there’s been a military, there’s always been an intelligence component because scouts and collecting information about the enemy troops has always been a core function of any military. On nonmilitary matters, you had these companies going abroad. They were doing business, they were having problems, they were collecting information, and they were conveying it to the American State Department and to others, to their own networks back home. So this was the main method. In fact, Franklin Roosevelt was firmly against creating a nonmilitary, peacetime intelligence organization. He saw it as dangerous and a potential threat to democracy. He was rather prescient, I think, in that regard. But yes, these informal networks. Then what happened was the great American corporations: the Ford Motor Company, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, United Fruit, and so on, they were essentially doing their own intelligence gathering. They had their operations all over the world and relationships with these leaders and dictators. They had all the information coming through. When the CIA was created, it was very easy to continue operating through these entities. IBM was another one and so was Singer Sewing Machine Company, which is regarded as the world’s first multinational corporation. They all were in this game.

Greg: It’s really impressive that you been able to put all this together and these H.W. CIA secret life connections because Poppy Bush has been notoriously careful about his paper trail ever since his early days in the Navy hasn’t he?

Russ: He has and there’s a story in Family of Secrets about that. I guess you recall that he had produced some sort of a report. He sent it in, wrote down a bunch of stuff, was excoriated by his commanding officer who said “Don’t ever put this stuff down on paper.” He certainly took that to heart, and he became a very, very secretive man. So secretive that he went to extreme measures to sort of not be implicated in much of anything. We see this playing out in matters like Iran Contra where, in all likelihood, he was a key figure and instigator – whatever you want to call it. The Bay of Pigs invasion where it appears he was an important figure there. As I get into it in my book, there were indications that something was afoot in Dallas 1963 that George Herbert Walker Bush, again, was part of. But he was so careful. And what I do In Family of Secrets, I go through some instances where we can actually unravel, despite his care, we can see where he’s creating alibis, misleading paper trails, and so forth. But in the end, of course, those things are also the things that show what he was really doing.

Greg: You had mentioned Zapata Oil. His partner starting it up was a guy named Thomas Devine. He very much was a CIA employee. You can definitely tell there was an early connection to some degree. I actually was really impressed how personally involved you got with this investigation. You actually called Thomas Devine up yourself and outside of a little back-and-forth he was instructed by H.W. not to cooperate, right?

Russ: That’s right. He actually, at this point, was well in his 80s or something. When I called him, he didn’t deny anything. He sounded very carefully and said, “Oh I see, what is this about. Let me make some calls and get back to you.” So it was exactly what you expect the consummate intelligence officer to do. He was sort of unflappable. There was no reason to know that I was going to call him, but then he actually asked me whether my book was authorized or approved. I thought that was very interesting because of the establishment. This is one of the main themes in Family of Secrets, in my work throughout my career, and a key point that we focus on with our news site whowhatwhy.org., is about how the public perceptions are manipulated through a controlled media. We see this in the form of the book publishing industry. That’s one component of it where, for example, a book came out not that long ago by the former editor of Newsweek. It was very much an authorized biography of George H.W. Bush. Even though my book was already out for a number of years, even though it’s a bestseller, he completely ignored all of the revelations in there and went back to the old stories, all the old phony stuff that the Bushes had been putting out. Of course, he, unlike me, was invited onto all the major television shows and radio. They staggeringly – this is revealing about the fundamental corruption of the media. Not just media but academia and book publishing and so forth –  that they are perfectly able to just look the other way and act like none of this scholarship or research has been done. Play the game and have these kinds of people on with their mythologies. So they don’t go and call the Thomas Devines, ask George Herbert Walker Bush what he was doing on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, why he was having lunch that week with a man named Alfred Ulmer, an old friend of his, who was the former CIA bureau chief in an number of countries when there was a military coup, when there were attempts to overthrow leaders who the US disapproved of. None of that ever seems to make it into those books. The only ones that most people hear about because they hear about almost all the stuff not through shows like yours but through the traditional media.

Greg: Right, and that is a component we’re looking at a lot recently; this PR machine that these elites have. Rockefeller had a great one and the Bushes are obviously no different. But I think a lot of people think these books are just kind of ego service, but they are clearly more than that. They use these books to kind of fudge their back story and create their alibis in some senses. You see this pretty clearly when it comes to their military record, especially in Poppy Bush’s case right?

Russ: Yes, that’s right. When I looked at his World War II service and, of course, that he was a war hero, a decorated pilot who had survived the downing of his plane, this is all part of what they use when he ran for office. And as I began looking at that, I was fascinated with that story because he was the pilot, his plane went down, his crew members died, and he survived. Being a journalist, I’d like to know more about the particulars there because the famous saying that “The captain of the ship is to be the last one to leave.” I wanted to know more about it. As I looked into it, I discovered that he had told several different dramatically conflicting versions of what had happened and why he had survived while his crewmates had perished. In fact, also that other witnesses including a man and the plane right behind his disputed his story that his plane had been hit in badly derailed and that he had no choice but to bail out. Bush’s story was that when he bailed out, he thought everybody else had already left the plane. So that kind of story, and then of course people say “Well, that’s so distasteful. How can you question somebody’s military record and their heroism?” It’s very selected because they had no problem questioning John Kerry’s record. The fact is that John Kerry volunteered for swift-boat service –whatever you want to say about that, that was an incredibly harrowing type of work – and he did it. And yet, they were able to raise questions about whether he was a coward and so on. It’s a very cynical machine that makes some people suspect. They went after George McGovern in 1972, though George McGovern had been a flyer in World War II and a hero. They made Nixon out to be a tough guy, but he wasn’t involved practically at all in World War II. He basically was…  belatedly got involved because he knew he would have a political career as a sort of a supply officer on a ship. This is what they do. They look for their enemies’ strengths and they try to turn those into weaknesses.

Greg: Yes, it’s all about perception. On another note I had here about Zapata Oil. Apparently, they had a rig off the coast of Medellin, Colombia during some key years. We’re talking about the CIA connections. So it begs the question: did drug running come up at all in your investigation of the Bushes’ wealth creation schemes?

Russ: First of all, Medellin is very strange. Medellin is not on the coast. It’s inland in Colombia. As far as I know it – I’m not an expert on this – and I wasn’t able to do a massive amount of  research on this. What research I could do seemed to me and I’d be happy to be corrected on this – that back in that period, which was the early 60s, Medellin was not yet an active center in the drug trade. So I don’t know what to make of that. What we found was that Zapata had hired a judge, who had helped fix the 1948 senate election of Lyndon Johnson. This is a whole other area about the unusual ties between the Bushes and Johnson, though they were ostensibly from opposite parties. They had hired this man Judge Manuel Bravo, and then given him this job in Medellin Colombia. It would look like kind of like a no-show job. Why they hired him, why he went there if they were, you know, did he have to leave the country, was he looking for a sinecure,  I don’t know. That all deserves more research, but it was very strange that they hired him, that they sent him to Columbia, even in the office and Medellin because it’s not one of the ports in Columbia where you would expect to find an offshore drilling company.

Greg: Yeah man, it’s a curious thing and I figure I just had to ask, I know it’s not a big part of the book, but alarm bells started going off when you hear Medellin, Colombia when people started talking about drug running, it always tends to come up.

Russ: It does. Let me just say, by the way, that I don’t want to skirt that issue. The CIA has been extremely complicit in the drug trade. Throughout the world, we see that even now with the poppies in Afghanistan. But we saw that very much in Laos, where a former Coca-Cola factory had been turned into a giant drug factory, where the planes of the CIA proprietors were being used to shuttle drugs. We saw that in the allegations regarding the introduction of crack cocaine into America. We saw it with the Iran Contra, with the role of the of the drug trade there. The intelligence world moves huge amounts of money. It’s probably the biggest activity. The term “intelligence”, by the way, is a misnomer. Although that’s the most acceptable work that we would see these organizations doing, it’s often the most dismissed internally. It’s the covert operations, or the often illegal aggressive behavior from sabotage to blackmail to assassination that often define these organizations. Another part, and probably the biggest part of what they do, is bribery. Moving billions of dollars a year to finance students, labor leaders, and journalists all over the world that are not only supplying information, but operating on behalf of so-called American interests. How do you move that money? Well you can’t just move it visibly. So you move it in other forms whether it’s drugs. In my book Family of Secrets, I get into the use of drugs, the use of gold, the use of all different substitute forms. There’s art and there’s property for shell companies. There’s many ways of moving this. The drugs have been a very important part of that. At a minimum, these entities including when George H.W. Bush was running it, were very much at the least looking the other way, if not explicitly condoning it.

Greg: Right. We recently did a show looking at the Clintons, and when Bill was governor of Arkansas, coke running with the CIA through the airport there. There was a lot of speculation that they were involved in that. So I figured I’d ask that. Another thing that came up in that show on the Clintons is the fact that a lot of their opponents and critics over the years had sometimes gone missing and that came up more than once. Have you seen any of this kind of thing with the Bush clan?

Russ: In the sort of work I do, there are so many strange stories and so many situations where key witnesses, my work relating to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, we see scores of people who had untimely deaths and simply vanished from the face of the earth. We see that again, again, and again. One of the stories … I don’t think this even is in Family of Secrets…There was a story of a young woman who supposedly had been impregnated by one of the Bushes out in West Texas. I talked to people who knew about that story. But as far as the young woman what I was told was that she and her entire family simply vanished. Some vehicle showed up and all their belongings were put into it, and they were never seen again. So yes, these kinds of things definitely do happen.


Greg: Jesus, man. I have heard you say something to the effect that the Bushes are just the worker bees of the network. They are obviously some the most public figures in it, but what can you tell us about their bosses?

Russ: Everybody’s always looking for a cabal of a number of people who meet together and control everything. You hear all these things over the years in long term about the various groups and families like the Rothschilds and so on. Of course all of those play a role, but the reality is that these things shift. Which families, which individual to which organization, and which networks are not necessarily constant. Every family, not everybody is in lockstep. Siblings don’t always agree, and the children don’t always want to be involved in the family business in the same way. It makes it difficult to do this kind of work. Just to give you an example, there was a story about the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the ranch that he was on. It’s very interesting to take a close look at the man whose ranch it was. These are very wealthy people who are not in the limelight. We never heard of them. They tend to own companies that manufacture, I think, some kind of industrial vehicles, I believe. We don’t think about a lot of those industries like Dresser Industries. We don’t think about oil derricks and drilling mud in those kinds of things. Even today we hear about Bill Gates, the twitter billionaire, the people who make the devices and products of Apple that we use and revere, but our lives are made functional and comfortable by the air-conditioning equipment and inside our phones are minerals that were mined by other companies, who make all kinds of things other than the insulation in our house. We tend not to think about those things. But those are companies and those companies deal very much at the base level of manufacturing and of the need for constant flow of resources, generally often either from places in the United States where there are competing interests, environmental groups and so forth, or bringing it from abroad where often the people in that country are being underpaid much against their will for their country’s heritage and for their labor. There are all of these interests in maintaining that kind of status quo and that kind of advantage. The Koch brothers, nobody heard of them. Very few people heard of them more than a few years ago. We need a good investigative media and researchers to be constantly studying these families, these individuals and so on. It’s not that simple. It’s very, very difficult.

Greg: Right, that seems like a real-life Game of Thrones to some extent. One of the most suspicious things about Poppy Bush is that when questioned, he said he just “couldn’t recall” where he was when JFK was shot, which you alluded to a couple times so far. It’s got to be rare for any American, really, but why do you think he’s been so coy about where he was at the time?

Russ: I wanted to know the answer to that, or, to put it another way, I simply just wanted to fill in that piece of his history to find out where he was. As the question went “Where were you when you heard that the president had been shot?” which is something that anybody who was probably five years old or over at that time could answer just like as they could about 9/11 and so forth. I just wanted to know where he was. So I went through what I could of his records, papers, books he had written, interviews with him, and he’s totally silent about it. In fact, it’s like he’ll have a history, and I’ll describe it. In 1962, the US was doing this. In early 1963, the US was doing this. The president… and I was doing this and this and this. Then suddenly, it’s 1964 and I’m like “Hello? The president of the United States was assassinated in one of the more spectacular acts of a century, of the history of the country. He was killed in Texas where Mr. Bush lived.” Mr. Bush in 1963 was a candidate, for the first time for the United States senate, running on the opposite platform critical of Kennedy. How could he not even say something about that day? That seemed so strange to me. So I began taking a closer look. The result, in my book Family of Secrets, is five chapters in a book about the Bush family that veers off into the Kennedy assassination. The book… I like people to read it. There’s a lot there. We don’t have time to go into all the details. But essentially, that’s where I began to focus on the indications that he was doing intelligence work in 1963. That he was connected to an array of individuals who were involved with the CIA cover corporations and what have you, who were in and out of Dallas at that time. I was astonished to find out that George H.W. Bush was a lifelong friend of a man by the name of George de Mohrenschildt, a Russian émigré from a wealthy Russian family that had problems when the Russian revolution took place, part of a network of very wealthy Russian émigrés who were involved in the early days of the American intelligence apparatus, also involved in the oil industry and other such things. And there was George de Mohrenschildt, and he was, I found, a friend of George H.W. Bush, dating all the way back to the 1930s when George H.W. Bush was a very young fellow; and that George de Mohrenschildt also was a very close friend of the man who, we are told, shot and killed John F. Kennedy. That was Lee Harvey Oswald. When I saw that it is documented that  George H.W. Bush was a long time associate and friend of Lee Harvey Oswald’s best friend, and that Bush went on to become the director the CIA, and he has never uttered a word about any of this as well… To begin with, that’s obviously a sort of malpractice of a person in intelligence work because what could be more important in intelligence work than preventing the president of the United States from being assassinated or figure out who had done it. The fact that he was one step removed from the killer of the president, and never saw fit to look into that, or talk about it, that in itself, of course, is just an incredible red flag.

Greg: George de Mohrenschildt’s connection is definitely telling, especially that it goes back so many years before the assassination. Going back to the 30s, I mean, they clearly knew each other. There is also strong indications that Poppy Bush was actually in Texas at the time of the assassination, right?

Russ: That’s right, I discovered a little notice in a newspaper which had clearly been overlooked by everyone. And when I found that I said, “Oh boy,” because it was a meeting of a Oil Drillers Association and was being held November 21. That’s the night before… John F. Kennedy was shot at 12:30 on November 22 in Dallas. This was the night before. This was November 21. It was an evening meeting and there was a George H.W. Bush speaking at this gathering. And so I was able to at least establish that he was in Dallas the night before. We know that the next day, early in the afternoon, he was in another place near Dallas. We do not know where he was between… at what point he left Dallas. So we know he was in Dallas the night before. We know he was near Dallas as of 1:45 PM. We don’t know where he was the intervening hours. We know that he was meeting, as I say, that week with a man who was in charge of CIA coups overseas. We know that he was one step removed from Lee Harvey Oswald. We know that his central running mate, for when he ran for U.S. Senate, the man who would be the Republican nominee for governor, was a high-level military intelligence person closely connected to him, closely connected into not only the military but also into the Dallas Police Department. Again, in Family of Secrets, I go into this in great detail because there’s a lot there. Pretty complicated.

Greg: It is, but it’s been long suspected that the assassination was a CIA operation. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he was involved in some degree.

Russ: It’s also important to remember that his family were very, very close personally with Allen Dulles, who was the CIA director, who Kennedy had deposed and removed. And so Allen Dulles and his network of top people were removed from the CIA, and they remained at large in a sense because they left at the end of ‘61 after the failed Bay of Pigs and so forth. In 1962/1963, there were two years in which Allen Dulles and all of his top coup plotters were essentially not working. Again, you’ve got to see that the Bush family, Prescott Bush and his son George H.W., were very closely tied into that network. It’s all documented in tremendous detail in Family of Secrets. There’s no question that there was a real animus for Kennedy on the part of this group. It’s also very interesting, the details of Allen Dulles. Allen Dulles visited Dallas shortly before Kennedy was killed ostensibly because he was writing a book about intelligence. He was working on the book with E. Howard Hunt, another CIA person very closely tied into all kinds of covert operations. He was alleged to have known some things and have been somewhat witting perhaps to what happened to John F. Kennedy. So, you see all these strands that everybody knew each other. I’m not suggesting that the CIA itself officially, or formally, was involved. I highly doubt that. I don’t think that you do those sorts of things on a basis where they can ever be formally connected to any kind of a government agency. Sure there were plenty of people in the CIA who, asked, would not have been willing to do something like that. But I think that this group of people, who were inside, were outside now, and their friends and colleagues, who were inside, were perhaps able to help along something that had a lot of different groups that were interested in seeing the president removed. It goes again into their ties to all these different groups and segments of society. In Family of Secrets, I have one whole chapter where I just go into all the different people who were furious with Kennedy and would love nothing better than to see him no longer in the White House.

Greg: Great points. It does seem like it’s one of their tricks to act as a type of covert parricide or backseat driver, in a sense, inside some of these larger organizations because then they’re harder to single out. You can never really properly pinpoint these people moving within the larger circle. So investigators get sloppy and say things like, “It was the CIA.” Okay, well, that’s not really detailed enough, and the string pullers know that. It’s another level of security for them.

Russ: That’s actually the fundamental way, you just touched on the fundamental way that these things operate because the keyword is secret. Everything is secret. That means that even inside an organization, most everything is still secret. It’s still compartmentalized. There are layers of deception and obfuscation. There are very few records. What records there are, are often themselves cover for what is really going on. And this goes back again to George H.W.’s experience in the Navy in World War II, where he learned about this, that that’s what they do. And also what they do is that they piggyback on other things. So, you try to find natural things. For example, the alleged role of organized crime in the Kennedy assassination. Well sure, the role of anti-Castro Cubans, or the far right in America, or the oil industry. All of these segments hated Kennedy and they were only too delighted to see him taken out. Did they have an agenda? Could they have been involved in running perhaps multiple plots? Absolutely. The goal in intelligence work is deniability. They always use assets. They don’t do it themselves. You almost never have actual CIA payroll employees who were committing murders or anything else. It’s always many steps removed and, moreover, they look for people who are criminals. They’re experienced criminals, who are only too happy to do anything to get paid for. They themselves are easy to discredit if and when they go public because they’re criminals. And so this is the sort of foolproof way that these things can be done. For those in the traditional media, academia, and book publishing, or what have you, will always put out this line that someone would’ve talked, or “It’s ridiculous”, “It’s too complicated, it could never have been done.” They understand almost nothing about how these things are done and are done constantly throughout the world.

Greg: Before we go, I wanted to ask you about your website Whowhatwhy.  Tell us a little bit about that project and some of the stories that you are covering there.

Russ: I started Whowhatwhy,  I began playing around with it right around the time that I was starting to write Family of Secrets. Already then, even before I was shut out with the book, I already had a sense that there were important stories that could not be told in the media. I experienced that in my years of working for respected news organizations in the United States and around the world. I could see that you had to self-censor, that you could not get into these kinds of fascinating and important topics that you and I have been discussing today. I saw that there was a need to create a whole new media that was not accountable to the establishment. But I also saw that the so-called alternative media wasn’t the solution I had in mind either because of the propensity to preach to the converted and to follow a particular party or ideological line. What I was seeking was whether it was possible to create a more pure journalism closer to the type of journalism that I was hoping to be part of when I was studying journalism and being told that this is what we ought to aspire towards. I looked for a journalism that was a combination of the best quality of the so-called mainstream media and the alternative media meaning, as objective and as fair and as unbiased as possible, going in to look at things and open to any discoveries or outcomes regardless of whom it might offend. But at the same time, being willing to draw conclusions and to not have false equivalencies between, on the one hand, powerful enterprises that are fundamentally self-serving and smaller entities that do have public spirited missions, that is to say non-profits and things. We do realize that we don’t want to create equivalencies. When a giant corporation says something, it may be true, but we understand that their job is to make money and to keep their positions. Sometimes, when an environmental organization says something, it may be untrue or exaggerated or serving their own purposes. But the missions of those two entities are fundamentally different. We ought to look at them differently and at their biases, their agendas, and so forth when we talk to them. We try to encompass all of these things and take them all into consideration. Whowhatwhy is a nonprofit and, unlike a lot of nonprofits, we are not taking large sums of money from big establishment foundations. We also do not accept any advertisements of any kind. So it is very difficult to do what we do because every penny that we take in and every penny that we pay our writers or editors is donated by ordinary people, by Americans, and by people, to a minor extent, around the world, wherever they may be. There are people elsewhere who care about America having good journalism. It affects them too. But in any case, we have run it on a shoestring. We continue to run on a shoestring. We’re hoping that the donations from people who read our site will continue to grow and people will support us so that we can expand. We are expanding, and we would like to expand much more. We would like to become a major news organization, a first or second read, if you will, where people can go on a daily or even hourly basis. When something happens in the world, and they say, “I want to know what’s really going on and I want to read quality work by skeptical, serious, fair-minded diggers.” That’s what we seek to do. We think it makes us not wholly unique but largely unique in the totality of what we represent. We also like to combine that with liveliness, fun, a bit of a sense of humor, edgy headlines, and pictures. We’re going to keep on experimenting and introducing new concepts all the time. We welcome members of the public to get involved, particularly those who have any kind of professional skills in any organization, not just a news organization can use. We welcome people and everything from social media to marketing, to management, to technology. We also welcome people who have skills in research, reporting, writing, or editing a video, all these kinds of things.  We’re to grow it as as a people-powered enterprise, and we hope and expect to be around for a very, very long time.

Greg: Amen, man. A noble effort for sure. It seems like we have very similar philosophies and the way to do these kind of things and that about does it for us. So informative, very insightful look at the Bush Dynasty, way more content than we could cover in just one conversation. I really do appreciate your time. Are there any new projects or websites to point people towards if they want to follow up on you a bit more of?

Russ: The elements are pretty simple. Whowhatwhy.org, meaning we are nonprofit. That’s the website. We have a twitter account at Whowhatwhy.org, we have a Facebook page, we’re also on some other social media platforms. We love it when people share our stories through any means at all. We… People can donate by going to the site. They can volunteer by going to the site. They can write to us by going to the site. I also have that book we talked about, Family of Secrets, which can be bought in bookstores or online. There are various forms, including hardback, paperback, e-book, audiobook. I got my own twitter where I have my more personal reflections. That’s @realRussBaker. I am working on a new book about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s been in the works for a number of years. I’m hoping it won’t be too many more years before that is out.

Greg: Awesome, great! Russ, it’s pleasure talking to you. Keep doing the important stuff that other people won’t. Take care of yourself out there. It is a dangerous game.

Russ: Thank you so much. I really appreciate your interest and your thoughtful questions.


Greg: Oh people, there we go. Good times. Another show in the bag. I think I incorrectly said at the beginning “Whowhatwhy.com”, but it’s actually “.org”. If you haven’t figured that out yet, you can also look at the links that come with the show, and I’ll take you right to it. But, good episode right? Russ does a lot of great stuff, but this book Family of Secrets is definitely my Bush family textbook now. It’s over two inches thick and very well sourced. It’s going to give you what you need when you start to forget the details of what’s so bad about them, if such a thing were even possible.

See, we’ve talked about Poppy Bush’s involvement with the CIA and heavily speculated that it was an older and deeper relationship than the one year where he was director. But it’s always good to go back and look at the evidence and the paper trail that verifies it. We don’t want to be hyperbolic. We don’t want to be overly speculative because these are the things that make us look crazy and people don’t listen. So I thought this was a return to just what we needed, and plus, a guest who knows what he wrote and can have an educated conversation about it is key. This is where I try to focus my next few guests after a few speculative UFO in life after death communication shows. They have a place, but I’d rather them be a once in a while type of thing rather than a type of topic and approach that defines us. I’d much rather have something like today’s show be the standard. I think this was a good time breaking down just how an elite family like the Bushes operates. I’m sure there’s obviously a lot more and a lot deeper we could go, and we will since this obviously isn’t the last time the Bush family is going to come up. But it does lay a nice space. Do check out whowhatwhy.org for Russ’s further geopolitical analysis. Hit him up on Twitter. Let him know you like the show. We want the good guests to know they’re not speaking into a vacuum. We do have people listening out there, right? I think so, and speaking of listeners, I do appreciate your time and I try to be a podcast that doesn’t waste it.

Some shows are heavily speculations but I still want to go there. I’ve heard a few people talking on various podcasts lately. They mock conspiracy theorists and say that they want their standard to be things that we know to be absolutely true and that’s a ridiculous Catch-22 standard because then they cite things like the Gulf of Tonkin incident or Operation Northwoods. Yeah, those are great pieces of evidence that there is a hidden hand manipulating events. But these things are so old and the only reason that you feel comfortable talking about them is because they’ve been verified by the official source. So where does that leave a person like this on something like 9/11? You’re just going to wait until 2045 where the government finally comes out and says, “Yeah, we did that”? Because that day might come when enough time goes by. After a few generations, it’s all new people and they’ll really feel responsible for the crimes of old and sometimes they come out. But if your standard is that things need to be verified by official mainstream sources that are controlled by the very people who are perpetrating these crimes, then you’re caught in a place where you’re never really going to understand what’s going on. So you do need to speculate, you do need to look at things like Operation Northwoods and the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and say “Yeah, these are the things we can verify, and these are the things that allow me to realize 9/11 fits a certain template that’s been suggested before and carried out before.” That’s its usefulness. Not to say: “These are real conspiracies and 9/11 is just wild speculation.” You can’t wait to accept these things until they’ve been proven in a court of law because a lot of times that isn’t going to happen. It’s about recognizing patterns, identifying agendas, and looking at events and saying “Does this fit? Does this further their goals?” If it does, you can probably assume it wasn’t random. You should be able to take an event and say that even though you can’t fully verify it based on things in the past and the agenda going forward, something’s fishy here. Something just doesn’t smell right. I know that sometimes the speculation goes too far. I guess that’s my point, and that’s what a show like this does. It breathes. It goes out maybe a little too far and then it pulls back. But we should take what we know and extrapolate further on and not just stop there and think that “Oh, that must be all there is to know. Edward Snowden told us all about the surveillance problems with the NSA and they tell me that on the news. I think he is a legitimate whistleblower. That’s probably the extent of these programs.” Or “Hey, I can study history and recognize half a dozen false flags, but I’m sure those don’t happen anymore.” That’s a really bad approach to things even if you think that we sometimes take it to extremes that seem ridiculous, you got to question everything. Personally, I’d say “Fuck ‘em.” I’d rather go too far than not far enough. And what’s with these vague statements. You’re thinking, “Carl, would you just tell us what your saying? What are you referring to?” Well, I’m referring to a lot of things. I’m referring to recent events in Orlando, I’m referring to last week’s show, and I’m just talking about a general approach I like to apply to all of these things. That’s all.

I’m rambling, but the next show is going to be really interesting in this context. I already recorded it, and it goes deeper into the idea of weaponized medicine in vaccines than we ever have before. This author also had quite a lot of documentation and research showing that it goes a lot further than just a tainted polio vaccine in the 50s. I think it’s going to be one of those episodes that lights a lot of people up. Some shows are just primed for a big response. Good or bad, I just know. Today’s episode probably didn’t surprise a lot of people, but it’s good to have some examples in concrete details about this kind of corruption. So when someone asks you at Thanksgiving dinner, “Well, what is it exactly about the Bushes that you hate so much?” Now you have a good amount of ammunition and you don’t even have to invoke 9/11. It’s good to be educated and be able to back up your points. Thanks to guys like Russ doing the hard work to put it all together, all we have to do is familiarize ourselves with it. But if you like the first hour, you know how to get more. Just sign up for THC Plus for five bucks a month to get in five two-hour shows. I know that everyone is doing this god damn model now but you just got to go at the shows that you think do the best job. I hope I’m one of them.

In the second hour of today’s show, we got into how Richard Nixon was a Bush Dynasty puppet. Details about how Poppy Bush groomed and nurtured people within his oil drilling company, the rise of George W. Bush, how he used family connections to climb the political ladder despite the skeletons in his closet and the lack of qualifications to run the country, how the bushes are connected to the Saudi royal family in the Middle East, and how that might connect to Al Qaeda and 9/11. Things were still dealing with today, and honestly just a lot more ammunition for that inevitably awkward holiday family argument. You’re going to have it, you might as well win. But that’s about it for me. Keep your head up in these troubled times and I’ll see you soon. Your move, Bush Dynasty and the pathetic puppets, drunk on the illusion of power, caught in their wicked web. Your f***ng move.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from George H.W. Bush at the United Nations (National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia) and Russ Baker (WhoWhatWhy)

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