In his farewell address to the nation in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower – who, as the former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in WWII, should have known – warned the United States about the pending threat from within. He said:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
It was almost as if he foresaw the rise in power of The Carlyle Group and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).
Named for the Carlyle Hotel, where it was organized, The Carlyle Group began in 1987 as a private equity investment corporation. A quick trip in the Wayback Machine reveals that 1987 was a period of rabid corporate takeovers and buyouts. Taft-Hartley had been eviscerated by the Reagan Administration, and whatever shreds of it remained were largely ignored. This was the era portrayed in the movie Wall Street, in which Gordon Gecko declared that “Greed is Good!”
In the beginning, the Carlyle Group, like many equity investment companies of the time, specialized in buying marginally-operating business and gutting them for their parts – selling off better performing divisions and liquidating the remaining assets. It was common practice at the time.
After George H. W. Bush (Bush41) left office in 1993, the direction of the Carlyle Group began to change. Many of the key players in the Reagan and Bush41 Administrations gravitated to the investment company, and its purpose began to transform.
Among the former government officials who defected to Carlyle were:
James Baker III, former Secretary of State
Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of Defense
Richard Darman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget
Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense
And, eventually, George H.W. Bush himself.
In fact, the Carlyle Group became something of a magnet for former heads of state after they left office, providing them with an opportunity to trade their political influence for some real bucks.
At one point, the Carlyle Group was considered to be something of an Ex-Presidents’ Club. Besides Bush41, the group included:
Peter Loughreed, former Premier of Alberta
John Major, former Prime Minister of Great Britain
Anand Panyarachund, former Prime Minister of Thailand
Thaksin Shinawatra, yet another former Prime Minister of Thailand
Fidel Ramos, former President of the Phillipines
Along with a smattering of former ambassadors, a former Chairman of the Chinese Securities and Exchange Commission, and at least one future POTUS, a brash lad named George W. Bush (Bush43), who was hired in 1990 to run CaterAir, an airline foodservice corporation owned by Carlyle – a company which, like every other endeavor he’s headed, including the United States, he quickly flew into the ground.
With such a collection of high-powered board members and advisory personnel, the Carlyle Group quickly morphed from your everyday corporate raider into something considerably more threatening. It was the place where public servants with clout went to cash in. And, it seems, the Carlyle Group discovered the opportunity to realize Ike’s worst fears, by becoming the preeminent military-industrial complex of our age.
Remember, campers, this entire string of articles is about the close relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi Royal Family. Here is where we start to pull the threads together.
After most of Bush41’s political cronies joined the Carlyle Group in 1993 – following the inauguration of Bill Clinton – they steered the company toward acquisition of BDM, a huge defense contractor. BDM had contracts worth many millions of dollars to help train the Saudi National Guard, and the Saudi Air Force.
In 1998, at the point where Bush41 became the Senior Advisor on the Carlyle Group Board, Carlyle sold controlling interest in BDM to the TRW Corporation. TRW Board Members included former CIA director Robert M. Gates (recall that Bush41 had himself been the Director of the CIA under President Ford) and Michael H. Armacost, Undersecretary of State during Reagan’s Administration, and Bush41’s Ambassador to Japan.
The Carlyle Group has long been the recipient of heavy investments from Saudi Arabia. In fact, the bin Laden family began investing in the Carlyle Group in 1994. Bush41’s role at Carlyle was as Senior Advisor to the Carlyle Asia Advisory Board, which was more or less a fancy name for his real role as the Saudi bag man. His primary duties consisted of getting the Saudis, with whom he had developed a relationship over his years in the oil business, as Director of the CIA, in the US Senate, and finally as POTUS, to part with large sums of money which would infuse Carlyle with working capital.
And, boy, did the Saudis invest. In 2002, The Washington Post reported that: ‘Saudis close to Prince Sultan, the Saudi defense minister ... were encouraged to put money into Carlyle as a favor to the elder Bush.’
These investments may have totaled $80 million or more, not including services contracted by the Saudi Royal Family through BDM prior to its sale to TRW.
And what did the Carlyle Group do with this money?
They invested in war.
Among their many defense-related holdings is United Defense Industries, maker of Crusader artillery and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle; LTV Corporation’s missile and aircraft units; Harsco Corporation, primarily for its BMY Combat Systems Division. According to Harsco’s own website: “In 1989 the U.S. Army chose to purchase the M88A1E1 made by BMY-Combat Systems. The vehicle is a 139,000-pound updated version of the company's M88 recovery vehicle that aids disabled tanks on the battlefield. With new tanks weighing 70 tons, a strong recovery vehicle is needed to tow the tanks to safety, when they are rendered inoperable in the midst of battle. In 1990 BMY-Combat Systems was awarded a contract to supply howitzers to South Korea. The Persian Gulf War of 1990 also helped to spur sales for "Big Foot," a five-ton truck whose tires partially deflate for sand travel.”
More recently, the Foster-Miller Company, a division of Carlyle-owned QinetiQ Corporation, announced its intention to develop a robot fighter named SWORDS (Special Weapons Operations Reconnaissance Detection Systems). This little doo-dah, a three-foot high track-driven war machine, can be fitted with standard-issue M249 or M240 rifle, has four cameras, night-vision and zoom lenses, and can travel over rocks and barbed wire. Controlled by radio from a distance using forward-looking cameras and a joystick, the tactical mission for these babies is reported to be “to wage war against insurgents in Iraq.”
You can have your very own SWORDS Robot for a little under a quarter of a million dollars, but you might want to wait, because the company is working to replace the clunky 1990’s technology joystick with “a Gameboy-style controller and virtual-reality goggles.” This, of course, will jack up the price to the U.S. military per unit, perhaps by as much as another hundred grand, but what price can you really put on turning real war into ‘World of Warcraft’.
(“Hey, Toby, that raghead blowed up real good! Let’s lob a grenade over there just to make sure he don’t spread no Radical Islamic terrorism in these parts again! While you’re up, can you get me some Cheetohs?”)
Here’s an idea – why not deploy a few thousand of these robots in Iraq, and sell time on them to the American public? They could control the robots through Internet connections, and get a feel for what Bush43’s illegal war in Iraq is really like! We can let EVERYONE get in on the fun in Fallujah. It could be a bigger blast than Wolfenstein 3D!
But I digress.
As if the connection between the Carlyle Group and the Saudi Royal Family wasn’t suspicious enough, consider the almost incestuous relationship – in the commercial sense only, of course – between the Bushes, pater et fils.
We have already established the relationship between Bush43 – then the owner of the fledgling oil company Arbusto – and the Saudis. It seems that any time a Bush needs money, he places an Iridium call to Riyadh for a top-off and a quick reach-around.
In one case, however, that call wasn’t necessary. In 2000, while Bush43 was Governor of Texas, and also while he was running for president, the Texas Teachers’ Retirement Fund voted to invest over $100 million with – you guessed it – the Carlyle Group, where the governor had been on the Board of Directors only six years earlier.
Every member of the Texas Teachers’ Retirement Fund Board of Directors was appointed by George W. Bush. They owed their livelihood to the governor.
Bush’s payoff? Hey, his daddy was still on the Board at that point, and stood to profit generously from all investments – both coming in and going out. Bush41, like all men, has to go to that Great Counting House in the Sky someday, and when he does who do you think will inherit his rapidly accumulating wealth?
Now, consider that, among the very first people appointed to the Bush43 Cabinet, Carlyle Group member Donald Rumsfeld became Bush43’s Secretary of Defense. Who pushed most strongly for the illegal war in Iraq, and later became its most ardent defender? Why, it was Carlyle Group member Donald Rumsfeld.
According to some estimates, The Carlyle Group received approximately $2.1 billion in defense contracts in 2003. It’s difficult to find more recent estimates, but with the circular relationship between the Bush43 White House and the King of the Military-Industrial Complexes, you can bet it’s a pretty penny.
And, considering how much Bush43 will almost certainly earn when he eventually rejoins the Carlyle Group Board in 2009, after leaving the White House, one has to wonder how much of his saber-rattling during the last eight misbegotten years has actually been intended to line his own nest before he moves in.
Next Time: The Bush43 Presidency, a leisure service of PNAC, The Project For A New American Century