Mazur: Deeper Into The Clintons' CIA Drug Nexus
Roger Morris Interview: Deeper Into Clintons & CIA Drug Nexus
By Suzan Mazur
L to R - Barry Seal, Mena Airport (Map), Mena Airport (Image)
[CIA asset Barry Seal, abandoned by the Agency, was assassinated in February 1986, reportedly by the Medellin cartel, outside a Salvation Army halfway house in New Orleans where Seal was serving a six-month sentence for trafficking in Quaaludes. He operated for years as the CIA’s point man in a $3 billion - $5 billion drugs for arms business based in and around the Intermountain Regional Airport at Mena, Arkansas on Bill and Hillary Clinton’s watch as Governor and First Lady.]
“Ask them what happened to Barry Seal,” Jon Kwitny, the late investigative journalist of Nugan-Hand Bank and other CIA-linked mysteries, said with a Cheshire grin as I left The Kwitny Report television show’s offices in New York and boarded an Avianca flight to Colombia in 1989. Seal, a CIA operative had been gunned down, supposedly by the Medellin cartel, a few years earlier in New Orleans where he was serving a sentence for trafficking in Quaaludes. Seal ran the drugs for arms business for the Agency in Mena, Arkansas during Governor Bill and First Lady Hillary Clinton’s watch in the 1980s.
I never did get any answers in Colombia about Barry Seal, Kwitny’s show was cancelled and Colombian drug politics became exponentially convoluted.
The Mena story died in the commercial media. And even though the crimes of Mena resulted in the drug poisoning of millions of Americans, Bill and Hillary Clinton moved into the White House.
With the Clintons again running for President, it is crucial that we now look hard at Mena.
My interest in the drugs smuggling story began with a chance meeting of a polo player from Bogota – David Puyana – a young Jack Kennedy look-alike, from one of the handful of families then controlling Colombia. He was the brother-in-law of Andres Pastrana, the former president of the country, who at the time had been overwhelmingly elected the first mayor of Bogota following his kidnapping and escape from the Medellin cartel.
Pastrana currently serves as Colombia’s ambassador to Washington and comes from an important political dynasty – his father, Misael, having been president in the 1970s.
In 1991 David’s father,
businessman Eduardo Puyana – who was Andres Pastrana’s
father-in-law and someone I knew and liked – was kidnapped
and murdered. His body turned up two years later followed by
stories like this.
I was told by violentologists I interviewed at one of the universities in Colombia that two million people were involved in the drug trade at the time. But what were the comparable numbers in the US?
Some of the most astute reporting of the crimes of Mena has been done by historian and investigative journalist Roger Morris. Morris is a former foreign service officer and has also served on Presidents Lyndon Johnson’s and Richard Nixon’s National Security Council senior staff. He resigned, however, over the invasion of Cambodia.
Roger Morris is now a fellow at the Green Institute , a lecturer, and the author of several books, among them, Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America – about Mena; Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician; and writing with his wife, Sally Denton, The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and its Hold on America.
Among the many awards he’s received is the Bronze Medal “for the finest investigative journalism in all media nationwide”.
In Partners in Power Morris has established that Mena was not only a point of transfer of drugs for arms to the Nicaraguan Contras but that it was a drugs distribution “hub” linked to US airports in half a dozen or so other states. And that Bill and Hillary Clinton essentially knew about the operation from the start.
Our interview follows:
Roger Morris & his book on the Clintons
Suzan Mazur: Jackie Kennedy once made an ink drawing adorned with lace of Washington “fixer” Clark Clifford, who helped draft the National Security Act that created the CIA and who ended his career infamously as one of BCCI’s central figures. She sketched a tall fashion icon in formal attire with walking stick and spiffy pointed shoes. In one hand Clifford carries a wrapped gift, roses and a bottle of champagne, and in the other a theatrically monogrammed briefcase with several documents tucked inside entitled: “Places of Exile, Tortures and List of Jails.”The President's Man
You suggest in your book, Partners in Power , based on what you describe as “a numbing accumulation” of evidence following numerous trips to Arkansas,100 interviews and the review of thousands of documents – that Bill and Hillary Clinton, as Governor and First Lady of Arkansas, knew about the ongoing CIA drugs & gun running by CIA asset Barry Seal, et al., out of Mena’s Intermountain Regional Airport in the Ouachitas in the 1980s. The operation armed the Nicaraguan Contras and delivered $3 billion to $5 billion worth of cocaine for distribution throughout the American homeland – as you note, “the single largest cocaine smuggling operation in US history”.
But wasn’t a CIA rogue operation already
in place in and around Mena prior to the Clintons assuming
office in 1983, so that the Clintons didn’t even have to
choose between champagne, roses and promotion to higher
office – and torture & exile? Bill and Hillary made their
pact with the Devil by accepting a second term – Mena was
part of the job.
Doesn’t that now make Hillary Clinton the “Manchurian Candidate” for US president?
Roger Morris: I don’t know about Manchurian Candidate, I just think that the Clintons are the quintessential compromised American politicians. That’s a tragedy as well as an outrage. These are two people who were young people of promise, and I think for all we know about them, of some initial idealism and some purpose and goals beyond their own ambition, although that ambition was outsized in both cases.
We don’t know, of course, how much of the detail they were aware of regarding Mena, but I’m convinced they were both aware of what was essentially going on there.
Suzan Mazur: How early did they know?
Roger Morris: My guess is they learned of it very soon after it started, if not at the very inception.
Suzan Mazur: It started in 1982, which is just before they assumed their second term in 1983 as Governor and First Lady of Arkansas.
Roger Morris: Right. Bill Clinton was out of office. But he was sill very connected, as the single most powerful figure in Arkansas.
Suzan Mazur: So they became sort of caretakers of Mena? Mena was part of the job?
Roger Morris: I don’t think they would have seen it that way. This is a seamless web of corruption and compromise in Arkansas. It was part of the job after all to tend to these large corporate interests – Walmart and Tyson’s Foods and all of the other big hitters in Arkansas. Hillary was working for a law firm that represented most of those interests in Arkansas and elsewhere throughout the South. I think they simply saw this as part of what one had to do in political life and political office.
Suzan Mazur: But this is something quite serious because it had to do with the poisoning of millions of Americans with drugs smuggled in through Arkansas from Latin America.
Roger Morris: Absolutely. It’s not a casual corruption.
Suzan Mazur: The other
person who moved on up to higher office from the Mena
episode is Asa Hutchinson. Hutchinson was US Attorney for
Mena and western Arkansas and oversaw the quashing of the
drugs & guns smuggling investigation by the grand jury.
Hutchinson was subsequently promoted to DEA Director and now
serves as the Department of Homeland Security’s Under
Secretary for Border & Transportation Security.
What does Hutchinson’s promotion tell us?
Roger Morris: Well Hutchinson again is part of the same culture of accommodation and compromise. It’s clear that he was aware of something going on, whether it was rationalized to him as a national security operation or there were payoffs involved, I don’t know. But his career flourished as a result of having brushed up against this, as a result of having been right there on the scene. That’s not what happens to people who blow the whistle. So that (a) he undoubtedly knew something about was going on, (b) he certainly had to have known that it involved illegality and (c) he benefits and profits accordingly.
Suzan Mazur: You also note in the book that Mena was the US hub for the smuggling of drugs, weapons and other contraband from “meticulously maintained” rural airports in six other states: Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida and Arizona. We know of the Marana airport, south of Phoenix, Arizona, which during the Vietnam years was the US base for Air America, and that some of Seal’s planes were former CIA-owned Air America craft – a Lear, helicopters and US military transports.
Sally Denton, the
distinguished historian and investigative journalist [LINK], who you acknowledge in your book
as its “guardian angel” in intellect and spirit, has
“The other airports I recall being involved were the airport in Baton Rouge where Barry Seal operated, Homestead Air Force Base, Greybull in Wyoming, and Evergreen (??) in Arizona.”
Sally may be referring to Pinal Air
Park, just north of Marana that was used as an Evergreen/CIA
base and/or Firebird Lake Airstrip at Gila Indian
Reservation in Arizona where Evergreen and Southern Air flew
She said that there were as well “some private landing strips in Lexington, Kentucky and Angel Fire, New Mexico” and that she thinks “they used a landing strip in Nevada near the test site”.
Any more airstrips come to mind?
Marana Air Strip, AZ
Roger Morris: Those are the airstrips that I remember as well. And her memory was better than mine. The Angel Fire airstrip is quite illustrative. We know from internal evidence in New Mexico where Sally and I lived that there was a flourishing drug traffic there.
Suzan Mazur: Angel Fire is near Santa Fe?
Roger Morris: Angel Fire is near Taos actually. It’s north and northeast of Santa Fe. And it’s a very posh ski resort and summer resort area as well. Scattered recreational homes. Some estates up there. But quite secluded in the mountains. It did have a sizeable landing strip that was used of course by private planes. Private planes come and go all the time in America at smaller private strips like that.
What was unusual about Angel Fire, as reporters from the Albuquerque Journal and elsewhere discovered, was that it was also getting these not so common black-painted night jets coming in at strange hours.
Suzan Mazur: The reports were that the Mena operation started up in 1982. But if the operation having to do with drugs from Vietnam, you know the CIA operation in Marana was going on back in the 1970s, is it possible that that sort of activity never stopped? It materialized at Mena in 1982, but it may have been going on seamlessly.
Roger Morris: You know that’s my sense really of this whole world, this empire of drug trafficking, which the CIA ignited in some cases, joined in others, but was a silent partner or not so silent partner in several parts of the world. My sense is that as these operations go on – even as the wars end, even as the CIA stops its most intensive involvement, if the subsidies stop, if the operatives shift from one payroll to another or whatever – the drug trafficking, the actual buying and selling of drugs goes on regardless of what’s happening in geopolitics. It’s quite possible it’s what you describe – that it’s a leftover of the Vietnam trafficking.
Suzan Mazur: It’s the same aircraft.
Roger Morris: The same aircraft.
Suzan Mazur: Seal was using the Air America aircraft.
Click for big version
Roger Morris: The Agency was not in the business of calling in its used assets like that, its people or its aircraft or its hardware. Air America had a huge inventory, which was never really accounted for, that simply disappeared. Those planes didn’t go off and crash in the sea. They were used.
Suzan Mazur: Is it conceivable the
polygamist airstrip on the Utah-Arizona border just north of
the Grand Canyon, which has existed since the 1960s, was
Scoop: The AZ Polygamy Town Airport Built With Fed $$$Mns
After Mena came under scrutiny following the October 1986 crash of the CIA’s Fat Lady plane over Nicaragua “with a load of arms for the Contras” and CIA asset Eugene Hasenfus' capture [LINK]– the Colorado City Municipal Airport run by the FLDS polygamists began receiving the first payment of what would eventually become $3 million in federal, state and local funding. I believe Bruce Babbitt was governor of Arizona at the time – he then went on to become Secretary of the Interior. Would you comment?
Former CIA asset Eugene Hasenfus
Roger Morris: I once interviewed a DEA agent who was retired and was quite cynical about all of this and he compared it to – the whole thing should have been written about by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He said they had the gulags, the archipelago. We have the drug running archipelago. That the map of the United States is a map of leopard spots, of airstrips, of depots, of centers of distribution. And, of course, it tends to be heavier in the Southern states closer to the supply when the supply was mainly the South. But the West is heavily populated with it as well.
Suzan Mazur: So you’ve got the Clintons. The Clintons came under scrutiny because of Mena, but you’ve got a half dozen or so other governors who were also mixed up in this.
Roger Morris: Well the Clintons never really came under scrutiny. Sally and I did our piece for the Washington Post and it was quashed by the paper, by the Editor. [LINK]
We then took the piece to Penthouse. And it did get published and it created something of a sensation. My book certainly created a sensation.
Mena was one of these marginalized subjects that the American body politic, certainly the culture of media and certainly certainly respectable historians, biographers, etc., people who pretend to write about what’s real in American political life – never really wanted to touch.
Suzan Mazur: Sixty Minutes dropped it.
Roger Morris: Oh Sixty Minutes was fascinated initially and wanted to talk about it and when they got a diffident – I don’t know – from Congressman Jim Leach, who was in the process of investigating Mena at the time, Sixty Minutes dropped it as well.
Suzan Mazur: It may be time for Sixty Minutes to look at it again.
Roger Morris: You know, it’s like so much in foreign policy. We’re never going to come to terms with the crises we face in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world until we face the history of our involvement there. We’re not going to come to terms with the corruption in American politics as huge as the tyranny of money is until we understand how it works.
Suzan Mazur: Mena is a case study.
Roger Morris: Mena wasn’t, as you point out, just a plundering corporation – a health care, an insurance giant, or somebody giving money to protect a venal interest – this was a criminal empire that victimized millions of Americans. That used its money for the most nefarious purposes around the world.
Suzan Mazur: Aside from Mena serving as the air hub for the trafficking of drugs & guns – you report in the book that Nella, Arkansas, just outside Mena, was a training grounds for Contra pilots and guerrillas. And you note that Seal also flew in to Mena Medellin cartel kingpin Jorge Ochoa to show him the operation.
You also describe secretaries from a bank close to the airport telling investigators that couriers from the Mena drugs for arms operation brought bags of money there, and that in order to avoid scrutiny, they purchased cashier checks in amounts just under $10,000. Would you expand on this about the bags of cash?
Roger Morris: We don’t know very much about the sheer size of that traffic. We simply know that it happened from time to time – from locals from people who worked in the banks, people who were in local law enforcement and those who worked around the airport.
Suzan Mazur: When was that?
Roger Morris: Early to mid 1980s.
Suzan Mazur: Was it one bank or a couple of banks?
Roger Morris: The people I talked to worked at one bank.
Suzan Mazur: Can you say which bank?
Roger Morris: Something like “The Bank of Mena”. It was a sizeable local bank in Mena. Mena is a classic small American town. The first sign you see outside coming in on the highway is: Welcome to Mena, Home of the Bearcats.
Suzan Mazur: There was a town adjacent to the airport, so it wasn’t a secluded airport in a land that time forgot.
Roger Morris: The airport was always incongruous. State of the art. Long runway. Very sophisticated maintenance. For all intents and purposes, it could have been a very advanced Air Force base or government installation with a small town nearby, but of course it wasn’t. It was essentially a private airport. The traffic that went in and out of Mena – they weren’t resident in the town. These were not people who lived there. They were always on their way somewhere else. They got picked up in limousines or helicopters or whatever and taken off to Little Rock or to other places.
Suzan Mazur: You cite an Arkansas arms manufacturer – William Holmes – who described meeting Barry Seal and collecting payment in cash for his guns that were going to the Contras. The gunsmith said he’d also made 250 automatic pistols with silencers as a special order for the CIA. And you say that Seal was transporting guns to Bolivia, Argentina, Peru and Brazil as well as to Nicaragua.
Why should anyone again vote for the Clintons?
Roger Morris: Well, you know this is the way the Agency works. There may be a perception among even conspiracy enthusiasts that it all begins with a systematic meeting of some sort in a conference room in Washington and then they radiate out and everything is enormously efficient and great sums of money are expended and operations are massively impressive.
In most cases, from the end of WWII to the beginning of the CIA in 1947 down to the present – including, my God we know, in Iraq and Afghanistan – in most cases it’s much less impressive than that, much less organized. There’s a lot of local initiative. There’s a lot of local subcontracting.
Operators like Seal were given the opportunity to make extra money by transporting, by taking weapons down as well as running the drugs and bringing the money in and out. He was freelancing in a number of ways consistent with the Agency. He was being rewarded accordingly. So with sort of minimum security measures he could buy and sell commodities that they were trafficking in, including weapons, in the first instance, beyond the drugs.
Suzan Mazur: You seem to find former Arkansas trooper L.D. Brown’s “firsthand evidence” compelling about Bill Clinton pulling some strings to get him into the CIA, about Brown meeting and flying with Seal, and about his being “privy to some of the Clintons’ most personal liaisons” – including the “sustained affair”, dating from the mid-80s, between Hillary Clinton and Rose [Law Firm] partner Vince Foster. Would you comment on the credibility of LD Brown?
Roger Morris: I thought Brown was a credible witness. I thought most of the other troopers were credible as well. We’ve gone through a kind of ebb and flow of credibility with the troopers. They were first on the scene with exposes in the American Spectator. We often forget that they also talked to reporters from the Los Angeles Times who did a very similar series. For whatever one thinks of the American Spectator, the LA Times did much the same thing. They were roundly attacked, of course, personally as well as professionally by the Clinton camp. They sort of receded. And they’ve now reappeared – lately.
If one looks at these recent biographies of the Clintons – you can’t write a biography about either one of them without writing about both of them – the troopers are very much there, for example, in Carl Bernstein’s book, Woman in Charge, about Hillary. And there’s no question that the troopers were with him at every turn. That they witnessed these affairs, much to Hillary’s dismay and agony. And LD Brown was among them, of course.
Suzan Mazur: Did LD Brown say that Seal was his first person-to-person contact with the Agency?
Roger Morris: You know, I’m not sure. I think he’d gone through a recruitment process. He was not being hired as an analyst or covert operator on the conventional track in Washington. He was applying for that kind of thing, but the Agency has a whole other category of contract people. And poor LD had wandered into a no-man’s land that involved people like Seal.
Suzan Mazur: Is there documentation that LD Brown was CIA?
Roger Morris: What I saw were exchanges of letters and applications and so on showing that he had started that process. And at a certain point he was contacted orally. This is, of course, apart from the formal application process. He was contacted and put in touch with Seal and did those runs described in the book and had the encounters that he had with Bill Clinton.
Let me just say that everything he told me about everything else with the Clintons – details large and small – personal and political – everything checked out. And everything he told me about his experience with the drug running and all the rest checked out similarly as much as I could check it with other sources. You’re always up against credibility issues in this world and you make choices. But there was so much other evidence that this was going on.
Sixty Minutes was very interested because they wanted one single talking head, a simple story line to pin on Clinton and those simple story lines are the easiest to knock down as the Clintons have always understood. You destroy the credibility of a Gennifer Flowers or an LD Brown or Paula.
Suzan Mazur: Was there a draft of the letter LD Brown sent to the CIA that Clinton made notes on?
Roger Morris: I don’t know about the notes. There was a recommendation Clinton made. And as the book explains, Clinton’s connections with the Agency go back a long way. Since the book was published, I’ve had people come forward and tell me that they knew much more than even the informants I was talking to, and I was talking to people who were retired from the Agency, who were quite categorical about Bill Clinton having been a source for Operation Chaos [LINK] and for informing on American students abroad while he was at Oxford and all the rest.
Since then I’ve had people come to me and say, well don’t you know you missed the story, he was actually recruited at Georgetown. Georgetown was a veritable recruiting center in those days for the CIA – not just for Americans but for the large number of foreign students, the sons of foreign wealthy who were at Georgetown. So Bill’s contact with the Agency went back for years and years.
Suzan Mazur: You’ve said “Danny Ray Lasater would signify their most telling relationship of all – the man Bill Clinton mentioned on impulse when he assured his security guard, ‘That’s Lasater’s deal.’ Bush I, then Reagan’s Vice President, and Bill & Hillary were close to Lasater”, correct? And, who was Lasater?
Roger Morris: Lasater was a bond Daddy. Lasater was a wheeler-dealer in Little Rock in this very fast and furious period of the 1980s. So he was making a lot of money very quickly in finance.
Suzan Mazur: In drugs also?
Roger Morris: Well, we don’t know beyond what Clinton said to LD Brown. [“That’s Lasater’s deal.”] We don’t really have hard evidence of his connection to the Seal operation. There were all sorts of allegations. There was all sorts of circumstantial evidence, but we don’t know that. All we know is what Bill said to LD and Lasater’s proximity, certainly, to all of this world was pretty clear.
[According to Sam Smith's Progressive Review Clinton timeline, in 1986: Dan Lasater "pleads guilty to cocaine distribution charges" and serves a brief prison term.]
Suzan Mazur: Do you believe Foster’s death was a suicide, and was there anything to the story about his being an Israeli spy as former Forbes editor Jim Norman writes in “Fostergate”.[LINK]
Roger Morris: I just don’t know frankly enough about the Foster case to really have an informed opinion. Like the James Forrestal death. [LINK]
I wrote in a recent series on the CIA saying that Forrestal had jumped to his death after confinement at Bethesda and I got a very detailed disquisition from a scholar in Washington saying: No no no, he was pushed. Forrestal was anti-Israeli and was the last remaining powerful voice in the Truman administration. And he was killed as a result.
I don’t know the answer to that one and I don’t know really what happened to Vince Foster. I know that like so much else in the Clinton story, it absolutely cries out for further investigation. There are so many loose ends. There are so many unanswered questions about the circumstances of the suicide. About the run up to it. Almost anything, it seems to me, including this, the Norman theory, is possible.
Suzan Mazur: Do
you believe Gary Webb’s death was a suicide?
Webb looked at the CIA being involved in drug trafficking in a series for the San Jose Mercury News, writing "that a CIA-related drug ring sent 'millions' of dollars to the Contras; that it launched an epidemic of cocaine use in South-Central Los Angeles and America's other inner cities; and that the agency either approved the scheme or deliberately turned a blind eye." The series grew into a book. [" Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion"by Gary Webb.].
Roger Morris: Well I knew Gary. I don’t know, again, any details about his death per se except, of course, the written reports. I can tell you that the way he was treated was absolutely savage and unconscionable. Whether he was a suicide or not, he was de facto killed by a combination of the American media – the giants, the Washington Post, the New York Times – the reporters there were compromised by their relations with the National Security Establishment – who had attacked him so wantonly, so viciously for a series that end up being vindicated on the facts even by the CIA’s own Inspector General’s report.
discovered in doing the Robert Gates’ piece
as they were attacking Webb, these people as they always do of course -- this is how they make a living. They went back and relied on Agency moguls, one of whom was then in retirement and no longer with the Agency, but now of course is back in the Pentagon – Robert Gates – who roundly and firmly denied that any of this was going on.
The irony of this is that it was just literally a matter of months until the Inspector General’s report came out vindicating much of what Webb had written.
Suzan Mazur: So you’re saying you can never know if a person’s suicidal or not? You say you knew Gary Webb personally.
Roger Morris: I knew him personally in a professional context. I didn’t know anything about problems with his family or about his personal financial difficulties. I knew that he’d been let go by the Mercury News. I knew that he was despondent. I knew that he had been viciously attacked. And we talked a lot about that. I always tried to encourage him. It was unfounded, but this is a very nasty, dirty world in that respect. And suicides happen and certainly murders that are portrayed as suicides happen. We do that all the time abroad. I’m not really qualified as a forensic detective to follow it.
Suzan Mazur: You served on the senior staff of both President Lyndon Johnson’s and Richard Nixon’s National Security Council – and resigned from Nixon’s over the Cambodia invasion. Would you comment on what can be done to end these secret charters of the CIA?
During the time Robert McNamara and Clark Clifford served as Secretary of Defense, for example, organized crime figures who were weapons manufacturers were given security clearance. We’ve now got the CIA’s former Director of Operations as NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence.
Clifford, again, who helped draft the National Security Act that created the CIA – and he had some really serious personal demons – scored the following language in two books on espionage in his collection, which I saw following their purchase at auction a few years ago by a retired military officer:
–“Of the greatest and most far-reaching consequence was the provision in the 1947 law that permitted the CIA to ‘perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence . . . as the National Security Council may from time to time direct’.” – The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence
–“Although it was commonly assumed when the CIA was created that it was restricted to foreign operations, the Agency’s home-front activity had become so extensive by 1964 that a special section, the Domestic Operations Division, was secretly created to handle it.” – The Espionage Establishment
So the question is, what can be done to end these secret charters of the CIA? And does it makes a difference now with the intelligence apparatus having gotten even more convoluted?
Roger Morris: It makes an enormous difference. It’s part of an almost revolutionary kind of change in the way we do business with ourselves and with the world.
The beginning ingredients here it seems to be are quite clear: You have to get the corrupting power of money out of politics so that you even have a chance at electing a constitutionally co-equal balancing branch in the Congress that can maintain any kind of independence, any kind of integrity. The executive branch will always be beyond their reach to a certain extent, but at least they’ll have power. At least they will have a constitutional chance at balancing off some of this.
The media clearly has a role here. And their independence, their fearlessness, their sheer sophistication of knowledge of these matters, their courage in facing up to what the reality is rather than getting along, going along, playing along in a public game – becoming mere entertainers – which is what they are now. Of course, becoming journalists again is part of this process.
And you’ve got to have an active and informed public. These are all massive, massive changes.
Suzan Mazur: But it keeps getting more and more convoluted with the Department of Homeland Security now, for example.
Roger Morris: Well absolutely. The government is hardening up. And the CIA is arguably worse now than it’s ever been in its history. It’s more far-flung, it’s more powerful. You’ve got this whole shadow world of mercenaries. The Agency always had contract people out there, but it’s true now you’ve got literally a shadow armed forces in the mercenaries, in the Pentagon. You’ve got a shadow intelligence operation in the Pentagon.
Suzan Mazur: The hiring of foreign nationals to conduct our foreign policy – Tony Blair, for example.
Roger Morris: It’s a huge shadow world. And the reason it’s come into existence is that it’s occupied a vacuum. There’s no one on the other side to even look at it. The average Congressman, even a newly empowered Democratic committee chairman in the House or the Senate, looks at all of this with a sense of being overwhelmed and not even knowing where to begin, so massive is the enormity they face.
I remember an old movie, not to be corny about this. When I was a kid there was a movie called Sands of Iwo Jima with John Wayne. Very famous movie. They’ve done remakes. And at one point the nervous young Marines are gathered around John Wayne on the ship. This is the night before they land the next day and they say: Gee Sarge, what have the Japanese got out on that island out there? And he says: Well I don’t know boys, but they’ve had 40 years to put it there. And the camera pans back to these worried faces.
It makes the point that we always have to remember about the National Security Establishment. This thing hasn’t happened overnight. It didn’t just happen in the George W. Bush administration. This is a product of a very long, convoluted, very well financed, in some respects well planned and in other respects entirely spontaneous and almost random development of a process which is now HUGE. It’s now vast.
Suzan Mazur: The recent
biographies of Hillary Clinton seem to be looking the other
way when it comes to Mena. Carl Bernstein does however, in
his book Woman in Charge
touch on the fact that Hillary’s father was from Wyoming Valley’s Scranton, Pennsylvania. I grew up there in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s long been part of America’s soft underbelly.
late Chicago court investigator, Sherman Skolnick, wrote
that Hillary’s father was tied into the Gambino family in
Russell Bufalino, who was a trustee of the Genovese family, and believed to be at the center of the disappearance of Teamsters’ boss Jimmy Hoffa, also lived and operated in Wyoming Valley, PA. [LINK]
Many of the landmark
buildings of Scranton, incidentally, were built by Frank
Carlucci I, grandfather of Carlyle Group Chairman Emeritus
Frank Carlucci III.
Scoop: Suzan Mazur: Frank Carlucci I, "Sublime Prince" ]
However, Frank Carlucci III grew up
in the nearby Poconos Mountains away from the tough crowd in
Scranton – though some of the tough crowd’s families
sent their kids to the same elite prep school in Wyoming
Valley that Frank attended.
[Scoop: Suzan Mazur: Unspooking Frank Carlucci
According to Bernstein, Hillary spent a couple of weeks visiting Scranton every summer with her father, mother and siblings. He describes her father as not being a big spender, but notes that following one visit to Pennsylvania, he took the family to Saks Fifth Avenue for a shopping spree. I thought this may have been Bernstein speaking in code.
Can you add anything to this. I believe you have some insight into her father’s business dealings in Chicago.
Roger Morris: Well I don’t know what code Carl Bernstein is speaking in. I was disappointed in the book. I think it turns out to be a recitation of some very old, I would call essentially, gossip about Hillary and Bill. We’re subjected to this endless soap opera of their relationship. He could have done a lot more digging into her origins. I was just beginning to do that when my book came along and the evidence was just beginning to become available in the mid 1990s. My book was published in 1996.
There’s no question that her father operated in a milieu – I think that’s the best way to put it – because we don’t have any other hard evidence here. But in a milieu which was heavily influenced by organized crime in Chicago. He got contracts at the Chicago airport for airlines, and other business dealings that normally just didn’t just go to people that were not connected. And we don’t know whether this is traced to his origins in Pennsylvania or this was something he came across in Chicago. But there’s no question that he operated in that world with proximity.
The other simple fact is – and this is part of this enormity that I was talking about earlier of the system. No American politician – nobody who holds public office, certainly not at the level of prominence of a Bill or Hillary Clinton, can operate for very long without being aware of and coming in contact with this enormous shadow world that exists.
Suzan Mazur: You also suggest in your book that Clinton’s Uncle Raymond Clinton had his mob connections. And I believe you’ve said that Raymond may have been Bill’s ticket into Georgetown’s school of Foreign Service.
Roger Morris: Uncle Raymond was pure and simple mob proconsul for Hot Springs, Arkansas.
[Sam Smith notes in his Clinton timeline: "He [Uncle Raymond] was a minion of the organized crime overlord who controlled the American Middle South for decades, New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello or "Mafia Kingfish" as his biographer John David called him."]
Suzan Mazur: You think he may have been Bill’s ticket in to Georgetown’s school of Foreign Service?
Roger Morris: Absolutely. He was a very instrumental patron for Bill. I didn’t know that when the book came out. But I’ve since learned that Uncle Raymond was instrumental in getting Bill into Georgetown. It was always something of a mystery. Why would this Southern Baptist boy from Hot Springs end up in this Jesuit college on the Potomac.
Suzan Mazur: So that Bill became aware early on of the – as you put it – “netherworld where government and crime were joined”?
Roger Morris: Yes. Georgetown was one of those places where the syndicate, the mob rubbed shoulders with the establishment. That went on a lot at various points of contact in places in the United States. Georgetown was one of those places. Uncle Raymond was instrumental in getting Bill in.
But coming back to what I was saying earlier, about Hillary and Bill – you can’t do business in American politics without coming upon this absolutely shady world that operates in a kind of no-man’s land between crime and legality. And of course much of organized crime – billions and billions, now trillions of dollars in profits from gambling and everything else – has been washed clean, as it would, and legalized in all sorts of things – electronics, land, agribusiness, and all the rest. Hillary has an extraordinary number of donors and contributors, supporters, etc., who have dubious records of legality, both here in the US and in the world at large. It’s commonly thought that Giuliani has a set of seedy contacts but Hillary can match’em seedy-for-seedy.
Suzan Mazur: Can you tell us a bit about your new book Shadows of the Eagle – when it will be out and what it’s about?
Roger Morris: Well, I’m hoping it’ll be out early next year. It started out to be a book about American policy in Afghanistan. It began right after 9/11 with a commission from Harper’s Magazine. Lewis Lapham knew that I had worked on the NSC staff and had known the king and other officials in the old Afghan government and been there a lot and asked me to do a piece. And it just grew, grew, grew. Not only with the subject but with advance.
I always say you should never write a book about a subject which appears on the front page of the New York Times. It’s endless. It’s turned out to be a rather comprehensive history of American covert intervention and involvement from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas all the way across this arc of crisis that we’re still dealing with. It tells that story from the 1940s. The key event in all of this is the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. And that really establishes. By the end of 1980, the world that we inherited in 2001 with 9/11 and the world we’re still in was essentially made.
Suzan Mazur: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the Clintons?
Roger Morris: It may sound corny but I think it’s genuinely an American tragedy. I think this is a woman who is acting out a personal tragedy in the most dramatic and historic political terms. She’s going to be obviously the first serious woman contender for the presidency of the United States and it’s going to be such a freighted choice, such a fraught campaign, simply because of the character of her background and her own compromise over the years. It may have been inevitable. Being wooed and won by this winning young Southerner, this Sisyphus who kept pushing the rock of his seedy background up the hill only to find it falling back down again. This wanton libido that overtook him.
I really do feel a sense of sorrow and compassion about her tragedy, because I think she loved him. I think this was a devastating blow to her life as well as a great humiliation because she always thought she was smarter, better, more disciplined, etc., more able to lead than he. And it didn’t work that way of course. It hasn’t worked out. She’s trying to salvage it even as we speak.
Suzan Mazur: Any of the candidates look good to you?
Roger Morris: I think this is going to be the most terrible choice and I’ve said that before. I think it’s “Roger’s Rule of American Politics” that things always get worse. Certainly my rule of non-redemption in writing history is that if you think that the worst contemporary interpretation is bad – just wait for the archives. Just wait for the emails and the documents and the transcripts, because it’s so much worse.
The Bush administration that we think of here as being some kind of awful nightmare is going to look so much worse when the real records come out.
Suzan Mazur: One thing I didn’t ask in relation to Mena is that you mention a Southern family very much involved in organized crime, but you don’t name them. Who were you referring to ?
Roger Morris: Well there must have been a perfectly good reason for that. Other than the Holt lawyers. I don’t remember. But there were so many people who were compromised. This was part of a larger thing called the Dixie Mafia, which operated part of a distribution system. You bring drugs into the United States, flying it past the laissez-passer the CIA had arranged with the federal government. But getting the drugs into the country for Barry Seal was just the beginning of a very differentiated and sophisticated operation of distribution in the United States. That distribution was not handled by the CIA, it was not handled by politicians, by the people who waved all of this by for whatever reason. That was handled by organized crime. By both local and regional organized crime.
Suzan Mazur: How powerful do you think organized crime is at this point?
Roger Morris: I think we’re in a wholly new era with Iraq and with post 9/11 and the Bush administration. The privatization of armed forces and of national security and of intelligence is absolutely unprecedented. And so too is this open looting of a war. We’ve always had plunderers and profiteers in war time, but what’s gone on in Iraq with cash and suitcases full of it and with the overcharging and the looting by the Halliburtons and others is absolutely unprecedented.
Suzan Mazur: It’s dizzying.
Roger Morris: It’s absolutely dizzying. And we’ll never catch up with it. That looses into the body politics untold amounts of cash and influence so that this stands to be by far the most corrupt political campaign in the history of the republic. And we’ve had some very corrupt ones. But all of this money you see headlined, $30 million raised here, $27 million raised there. ALL OF THIS IS A FRACTION OF WHAT’S REALLY CHANGING HANDS.
Suzan Mazur: Are you optimistic about the effect of the flow of information that now challenges the existing corrupt system?
Roger Morris: It’s a paradox. Right along with this unprecedented exploitation and abuse of power, we have the Internet. The very outrage of the Bush policies I think inspired, provoked, stirred a public consciousness and awareness. We have a more broadly educated and aware public than we’ve ever had before, thanks in part to the Internet.
The Internet would only have been used and utilized because of the sheer outrage of the Bush administration, who’ve been over the top in so many ways. So that George W. has escalated, has accelerated the process of public awareness and public consciousness. The political system will have to catch up to that institutionally, of course. And the commercial media will be the last to get on the train.
Suzan Mazur: But there’s clearly a meltdown of institutions underway, wouldn’t you say?
Roger Morris: Including the media. Yes. The media’s trust is at an all time low. But the very establishment forces, for example, who savaged and ended up killing in one way or another Gary Webb seems to me are at the very lowest point of credibility. They’re going to retire and collect pensions and go off and live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland or whatever. It will never be the same again. And their credibility, their power will never be the same. There’s a much greater pluralism and diversity out there on the Internet than ever before. A lot of schlock, but a lot of real authority, as well. And just more voices. More informed than we’ve ever had before.
I’m mildly optimistic. I think this could be a very traumatic political year. But we could come out the better for it. I have absolutely no hope that the Democratic party in its present form is going to rescue anybody. The Republicans are hopeless. They’re doomed to where they’ve always belonged – in a regional cave. Being the permanent party of the Old Confederacy. And the deepest and worst part of it at that. The fringes will go somewhere else.
WE’RE LOOKING AT A POTENTIAL REVOLUTION IN AMERICAN POLITICS. The population, the country is much more conscious and aware than it was eight years ago. And I think it’s much more aware of how its basic interests in economic and social terms have been exploited and really devastated.
Suzan Mazur: The political process has been more or less nullified?
Roger Morris: They wouldn’t call it by this name yet, but they’re coming to understand they’re governed by an oligarchy and it’s an oligarchy of not two parties but one. Look at Michael Moore’s film which is getting such incredible response, Sicko. There’s not a thing in that film that wasn’t true essentially of the medical system back in 1992 when Bill Clinton was running for president or in 1993 when Hillary Rodham Clinton was in charge of drafting a new health initiative for the Clinton administration.
Nothing in Sicko is new in American politics. There are two lobbyists for every member of Congress. That’s been true for a very long while. And the insurance and health giants are nothing compared to the military industrial complex.
Suzan Mazur: So you’re saying that Michael Moore waxes over the fact that the Clintons were also part of the problem?
Roger Morris: Michael Moore has simply begun to popularize here facts that were on the ground and should have been plain to us 10, 15 or even 20 years ago.
I mean I think that’s the service that George W. Bush has performed. He has made it possible because of the very outrage of his rule and the very excess that’s just so undeniable now. He’s made it possible for us to recognize this in a way that we may have taken much longer to see. And I think that’s very positive.
Suzan Mazur: So that’s Bush’s lasting contribution?
Roger Morris: Yes. And it’s a very real contribution. We just have to survive Bush and Cheney without attacking Iran. If we can get to January 21, 2009 without a catastrophe, I’ll be happy.
Suzan Mazur covered developments in Colombia in the late 1980s for The Economist, The Kwitny Report, Newday's editorial pages, TV Asahi and Archaeology Magazine (cover). Other reports have appeared in the Financial Times, Forbes, Philadelphia Inquirer, CounterPunch and Scoop, among others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Email: sznmzr @ aol.com