William Rivers Pitt: The Carlyle White House
The Carlyle White House
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Tuesday 14 November 2006
It was bad enough when the Carlyle Group bought Dunkin' Donuts last year, forcing millions of conscientious caffeine addicts to look elsewhere for their daily fix. Now, it appears Carlyle has added 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to its formidable portfolio of acquisitions.
The Carlyle Group achieved national attention in the early days of the Iraq occupation, especially after Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" exposed the firm's umbilical ties to the Bush family and the House of Saud. For the uninitiated, Carlyle is a privately-owned equity firm organized and run by former members of the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations.
Currently, Carlyle manages more than $44 billion in 42 different investment funds, which is an interesting fact in and of itself: Carlyle could lay claim to only a meager $12 billion in funds in December of 2001. Thanks to their ownership of United Defense Industries, a major military contractor that sells a whole galaxy of weapons systems to the Pentagon, Carlyle's profits skyrocketed after the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Some notable present and former employees of Carlyle include former president George H.W. Bush, who resigned in 2003; James Baker III, Bush Sr.'s secretary of state and king fixer; and George W. Bush, who served on Carlyle's board of directors until his run for the Texas governorship. One notable former client of Carlyle was the Saudi BinLaden Group, which sold its investment back to the firm a month after the September 11 attacks. Until the October 2001 sellout, Osama bin Laden himself had a financial interest in the same firm that employed the two presidents Bush.
How has Carlyle managed to acquire the White House? The newest edition of Newsweek begins to tell the tale in a story titled "The Rescue Squad": "Bush Senior has been relegated to watching all those political talk shows his son refuses to watch, wincing each time he hears his son's name being mocked or criticized. George H.W. Bush has been, in effect, sidelined by nepotism. He has repeatedly told close friends that he does not believe it is appropriate or wise to second-guess his son, or even offer advice beyond loving support. This time, however, was different. A source who declined to be identified discussing presidential confidences told NEWSWEEK that Bush 41 left 'fingerprints' on the Rumsfeld-Gates decision, though the father's exact role remains shrouded in speculation."
There is much more to this than Big George simply trying to shove Little George in a different direction, because Big George never travels alone. All of a sudden, two of the elder's main men - James Baker III and Robert Gates - are back in the saddle. Baker has spent the last weeks riding herd over the Iraq Study Group, a collection of old foreign policy hands tasked to come up with a solution to the Iraq debacle. Gates was a member of this group until he was tapped to replace Don Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. The Iraq Study Group is slated to produce some tablets of wisdom come December.
A third member of the Iraq Study Group, former congressman Lee Hamilton, is the rope that ties this curious historical package together. During the Reagan days, Hamilton was chairman of the committee investigating the Iran/Contra scandal that nearly submarined Reagan's presidency and haunted Bush Sr. until his defeat in 1992. In essence, Hamilton took Reagan's people at their word when they assured the chairman that neither Reagan nor Bush were "in the loop" regarding the arms-for-hostages deal.
History and investigation have proven this to be quite separate from the truth, and Hamilton later admitted he should not have bought what Reagan's people were selling. The fact remains, however, that Hamilton let these guys slip the noose during what was, at the time, an investigation into one of the most serious abrogations of Constitutional law in our history. It is worthwhile to note that the man who brought the most pressure upon Hamilton within Congress to be "bipartisan" and avoid a protracted investigation was then-Wyoming representative Dick Cheney.
One of the men spared prosecution in the Iran/Contra scandal, thanks in no small part to the gentility of Mr. Hamilton, was Robert Gates. Gates, then a senior official within the CIA, was widely believed to have been neck-deep in the plot. During the investigation into the scandal, Gates parroted Reagan and claimed not to remember when he knew what he knew about everything that was happening down in Ollie North's office. In 1991, he was nominated and eventually appointed to be the head of CIA by Bush Sr. During his confirmation hearings, according to the New York Times, it was revealed that "Mr. Gates [had] distorted intelligence reports so they would conform to the political beliefs of his superiors."
That sounds familiar.
Gates's nomination to the post of secretary of defense was field-generaled behind the scenes by James Baker III, who has suddenly taken on a muscular role within the Bush White House since the spectacular Republican wipeout during the midterm elections last Tuesday. Baker's return, along with the new prominence of Bush Sr., has been hailed in the mainstream press as a healthy step toward stability and sanity.
One is forced to wonder, however, which masters Mr. Baker is actually serving. Baker's Carlyle Group has profited wildly from the conflict in Iraq, which begs the question: will the bottom line, augmented by Carlyle's defense contracts, trump any attempts to establish a just and lasting peace? It must also be noted that Baker's law firm, Baker Botts, is currently serving as defense counsel for Saudi Arabia against a suit brought by the families of 9/11 victims. The connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royals has been discussed ad nauseam, and Mr. Baker is so closely entwined with the Bush clan that he might as well be a blood relative.
The weakening of George W. Bush, in short, has opened the door for an alumnus of the Iran/Contra scandal, Robert Gates, to gain control of the Pentagon - his nomination, as yet, has met with little Congressional resistance. This process was managed by James Baker, whose Carlyle Group made billions off the Iraq occupation and whose fealty to the American people has all too often taken a back seat to the needs and desires of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. These two, along with Hamilton, have been instrumental in crafting, by way of the Iraq Study Group, what by all accounts will soon be America's foreign policy lynchpin in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.
Behind it all is George H.W. Bush, former employee of Carlyle, who has somehow managed to refashion his reputation into that of a grandfatherly, level-headed, steady hand, a foreign policy "realist" whose mere presence will soothe and calm the troubled waters we sail in. Unfortunately, his "realism" is a significant reason the United States finds itself in its current mess - until the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was a boon confederate of both the Reagan and Bush administrations in their fight against Iran - and the team of experts he has brought with him have done more to undermine the national security of the country than any other three people one could name.
The winner in all this, of course, is the Carlyle Group. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.