UNTANGLING THE OCTOPUS
by Steve Mizrach
October Surprise, Iran-Contra, Noriega, Iraqgate, and BCCI
Before he died in an ineptly performed 'suicide,' the young journalist Danny Casolaro was working on a book that he claimed tied together many of the 'gates' and 'miniscandals' surrounding the Bush presidency. The book identified the web which tied all the scandals together as the "Octopus," a mythical creature with tentacles stretching everywhere. Perhaps the birth of the Octopus lies in the 1980 Presidential election; and its growth occurred under the eight years of the Reagan presidency. Casolaro soon found that the Octopus may have consisted of a 'shadow government' apparatus that went back even further than Bush and Reagan. But what's left of his notes seem primarily to focus on events in the 80s and 90s.
It is very possible that in 1980, Bill Casey and other members of the Reagan team may have conspired with the Iranians to delay the release of the American hostages: they were afraid of an"October Surprise" which might damage Reagan's chances of defeating Carter. Sure enough, the hostages were released right as Reagan was being inaugurated, and in 1981, the first shipment of arms to Iran began. Gunther Rossbacher, an ex-Navy pilot, and two other foreign sources, insist that on October 21st and 22nd, Bush met with Iranian delegates in Paris. The "October Surprise" may have been how Bush and other Reagan team members located the Iranian 'moderates' that played a role in the Iran-Contra scandal. In 1984, the Boland amendment forbade any more military assistance to the Contras. So, in 1985, the underground "Enterprise" - Operation Yellowfruit - began selling arms to Iran and using the proceeds to furnish weapons to the Contras. George Bush claims Iran-Contra has nothing to do with him, but other administration figures' records show he was at the secret meetings - Poindexter, in particular. Amiram Nir, an Israeli terrorism expert, insists he discussed Iranian arms deals with Bush, but that can't be confirmed... he died in a mysterious plane crash in Mexico in 1988.
It turns out the Iran-Contra scandal may have been part of a larger arms-for-hostages deal. The Iranians needed weapons in their war against Iraq, and the Reagan administration felt that the Iranians might have been able to convince the Shiite terrorists in Lebanon to release the American hostages held there. Reagan claimed no "quid pro quo," but then he also claimed he really didn't remember much, either. In any case, additional hostages were seized after the 'non-deal', and many may remain in captivity today, including the Lebanon CIA station head. One man who may have known a great deal about the Iran-Contra business was Manuel Noriega, whose name came up in the 1988 Dukakis-Bush debates. Noriega knew about the Contra drug pipeline, because he was a pusher, himself, while on the CIA payroll throughout the 1980s, and during his trial in Miami in 1989, some testimony emerged which suggested he knew something about the Central American end of the Iran-Contra affair and where some on the missing money may have 'disappeared' into.
On the Middle Eastern end, another man who was a delighted beneficiary of American generosity throughout the 1980s was Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The Agriculture Department and other agencies gave Saddam agricultural credits worth millions of dollars which he used to purchase American attack helicopters, chemical weapons for using on the Kurds, and the components of a nuclear weapons program. It is suspected that the CIA and Justice Department overlooked, or aided, the Banco Nazionale Lavoro (BNL) of Italy while it funneled billions in military aid to Iraq. This recently burgeoning scandal, "Iraqgate," suggests we were playing both sides against the middle during the Iran-Iraq war. We were selling arms to both the Iranians and the Iraqis, and the CIA at various points double-crossed both sides. It is no wonder that America is so distrusted in that part of the world. In any case, there were two men that knew too much, and when Bush became president, he had to clean them up, and he would wage two "cleanup wars" to do it.
One link between Bush, Saddam, and Iran-Contra was the corrupt Middle Eastern bank, the Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI). BCCI, it turns out, laundered drug money, financed CIA and Mossad covert operations, and helped Bush, Saddam, and others split over $250 billion in extortion from the sale of Persian Gulf oil. (BCCI also might have had links to the corrupt drug-money-laundering-and-CIA scandals involving Australia's Nugan Hand Bank.) Attorney General Richard Thornburgh squashed an investigation into First American Bankshares, secretly controlled by BCCI, in October 1990; and William von Raab, former U.S. customs official, was fired by Treasury Secretary James Brady for delving too deeply into BCCI. This may have a lot to do with the links between Prescott Bush, First American director Stephens, Bahrain, and Iraq. Bush's family were oilmen, and if there is anything he stood for, it was Big Oil and its interests in the Middle East. (It might be pointed out, incidentally, that it was Norman Schwarzkopf's father who helped boot out Mossadegh in Iran when he threatened to nationalize holdings of British Petroleum.) The mess was in place, and President Bush had a lot of cleaning up to do.
The "Cleanup Wars"
The first "cleanup war" was so-called Operation Just Cause in Panama. We invaded with the ostensibly 'just' cause of arresting a drug dealer and bringing him to justice here in the U.S.. The fact that he was the leader of another country, and that this is a violation of international law, didn't raise a naysayer, although insiders knew that Noriega was working for us before Bush started to see him as a threat. He may have wanted to jail Noriega because of the Iran-Contra secrets he knew. The other ostensible reason was because of Bush family holdings in Panama. It seems that Prescott's friends in the Aoki Corporation of Japan have invested more than $350 million in Panama; their holdings include the luxury resort Caesar Park and the Mariott Hotel. Bush may have been afraid of Noriega nationalizing that property. While Bush claimed to be nailing a dealer, he replaced him with two other dope pushers. Panamanian president Guillermo Endara is a director of the bank used exclusively by the Medellin cartel, and vice president Guillermo Ford is part owner of Dadeland Bank of Florida, which stands accused of laundering South American drug money. This Bush cleanup cost 26 American and 2000 Panamanian (civilian) lives, and several million dollars. It's worth seeing the film The Panama Deceptionto see some of the chilling secrets of this operation, including hidden mass graves of murdered civilians.
The second 'cleanup war' was Operation Desert Storm, with the purposes of ostensibly 'liberating' Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. It is clear that, in fact, administration official April Glaspie succeeded in goading Hussein into invading Kuwait by saying that the U.S. would not interfere. And that the CIA and NSC provided doctored sattelite photographs making it look like Iraq was preparing to invade Saudi Arabia, when in fact Iraqi troops were nowhere near the Saudi border; further, that the CIA deliberately payed no attention to Iraqi troop buildup prior to the invasion of Kuwait. And that the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, appearing under a pseudonym, told a false story about how Iraqi soldiers were ripping Kuwaiti babies out of incubators. Saddam Hussein had been set up, and now so were the American people, who Bush promised this was about "jobs" and dealing with America's "VietNam syndrome."
The Desert Storm war never accomplished any of its supposed goals. Kuwait does not have 'democracy,' only a returned monarchy hell-bent on seeking blood vengeance on Palestinian citizens. Saddam Hussein was not toppled from power; and the Kurds who were incited to rise up against him received no U.S. help when Republican Guard American-made attack helicopters mowed them down. Saddam's chemical and nuclear arsenal were never eliminated. Instead, what was destroyed was the Iraqi infrastructure, causing thousands to suffer disease, hunger, and deprivation, in addition to the thousands who died in the 'smart' bombings which nonetheless hit plenty of civilian targets; and the environment of the Persian Gulf, when eco-terrorist Saddam Hussein dumped millions of gallons of oil out of his wells and set ablaze thousands of Kuwaiti oil wells. It was a pyrrhic victory, but not for American oil companies, who profited mightily from increased oil prices... and for George Bush, who used his "VietNam syndrome therapy" as an excuse to hold hundreds of parades celebrating his 'victory' nationwide with yellow ribbons and marching soldiers.
The Wackenhut Connection
The Wackenhut Security Corporation of Miami, Florida, has long been suspected of being a CIA front. The right-wing politics of George Wackenhut, who had ties to Belgian fascists and South American death squads, are well known. But few people realize that Wackenhut, a small company with "only a few" employees, gets some choice assignments, including guarding nuclear reactors, nuclear weapons facilities, the Alaskan Oil pipeline, and several American embassies; or that its board of directors contains several luminaries from the FBI, CIA, and Army Intelligence, including Bobby Ray Inman. Wackenhut has led a covert crusade against whistleblowers at many nuclear power plants, using wiretaps to eavesdrop on them and various 'subtle' techniques to convince them not to talk; it also spied on Chuck Hamel, a critic of the Aleyska Oil Consortium's drilling policies, by setting up a fake environmental-law firm which sought to "pump" him for his sources. Wackenhut may have even used some operatives to try and help topple President Perez of Venezuela through a (failed) military coup, largely for money (rather than politics) it was given by Blanca Ibanez, the mistress of Jaime Luinschi, the former president.
Also, a Wackenhut employee named Ernesto Bermudez was using 1500 'employees' in El Salvador for things he admitted "you wouldn't want your mother to know about" to a reporter from Spy magazine. Candian PM Pierre Trudeau refused to allow Wackenhut to purchase a weapons-propellant plant in Quebec, and it was refused a permit to open a security facility in France because President Francois Mitterand said "we had just gotten rid of the CIA." Wackenhut maintained files on over 4 million suspected 'subversives' of all types, including civil rights activists and antiwar protesters, well into the 1960s, making it the largest private holder of such information. In 1975, after a Congressional investigation into domestic intelligence operations and connections to private firms, Wackenhut turned its files over to the Anti-Communist Church League of America based in Wheaton, Illinois, which is now defunct. Florida Governor Claude Kirk claims to have worked closely with Wackenhut to "fight organized crime," although insiders maintain they were doing anything but fighting the Mob.
But there are direct links between Wackenhut and the 'Octopus'. It appears that Michael Riconsciuto, a convicted drug dealer, claims to have met with George Wackenhut, John Amarell (of Wackenhut's Executive Board), and Dr. John Philip Nichols (a CIA operative conducting shady activities on the Cabazon Indian Reservation in the California desert) in Las Vegas in the early 80s to discuss the theft of Inslaw's PROMIS software; he says Wackenhut asked him "how his software work was coming along." (Supposedly, Nichols was using the Cabazon reservation as his own private munitions proving ground, testing things ranging from super-lethal Fuel-Air Explosives and chemical-biological weapons to Electromagnetic Pulse [EMP] generators.) Ammarell confirms the meeting, but claims it was merely about the sale of a boat! Retired general Richard Secord arranged for the Wackenhut Corp. to work with Iraqi arms dealer Ihsan Barbouti; Wackenhut operative David Ramirez claims that he and Barbouti rode in a truck carrying chemical-weapons technology from Texas to Chicago, and then rode on a plane to Iraq. Ramirez indicates that he thinks Wackenhut may have been part of a "food stamp" scheme to get agricultural credits for Iraq which were in turn used to purchase nuclear-weapons technology, making Wackenhut part of the Iraqgate affair as well.
Assisting with Barbouti's arms schemes were two partners, James Tully (who sent Bill Clinton's 'draft-dodge' letter to ABC) and Jack Brennan, who currently works as director of administrative operations in President Bush's office. Brennan and Tully had been involved in a $181 million deal to supply uniforms for the Iraqi army, arranging them to be manufactured in Ceausescu's Romania, of all places. Other partners in that deal were Watergate felon John Mitchell and Sarkis Soghnalian, a Lebanese citizen who was credited with introducing Saddam Hussein to Gerald Bull, the inventor of the so-called "supergun." Soghnalian is currently in prison for selling 103 military helicopters to Iraq; and David Ramirez says that Wackenhut considered the Turkish man to be a "valuable client." Two thousand gallons of ferrocyanide - an important chemical-warfare binary ingredient - vanished from a Boca Raton cherry flavoring factory in 1990. That plant was guarded by - guess who - Wackenhut.
Barbouti owned shares in that company, and two others: TK-7, which makes a fuel additive that could extend the range of liquid-fueled missiles such as the SCUD, and Pipeline Recovery Systems, which coats pipes to make them useable in nuclear power plants. He admits having faked his own death several times, and having helped Moammar Khadafi build his infamous chemical-weapons plant at Rabta, Libya. Further, he owns about $100 million worth of real estate and oil-drilling equipment in Texas and Oklahoma. It is widely believed that the Middle Eastern architect is either currently dead (surprise), living in Jordan, or being kept in a CIA safe house in Florida. An engineering company owned by him in Frankfurt had a $552 million contract to build airfields in Iraq. And - no surprise here - Barbouti used the corrupt BCCI bank as his middleman in many deals.
The CenTrust Connection: the S & Ls, the Mob, and BCCI
The S & L failures of '89 were a massive blow to the banking system. Over 200 small savings and loan banks went under - just under half of those in existence - and had their assets seized by the federal 'dummy' company, the Resolution Trust Corp. Largely, this was a problem created by deregulation legislation passed by the congressional banking committees - the legislation allowed the S & Ls to make investments that were extremely risky and fiscally unsound. In fact, the failure can also be seen as the result of several years of deregulation of many industries under the Reagan administration - deregulation that was "bought" by the very industries which were supposed to be policed. But where were the regulators who were supposed to be the 'watchdogs' of the industry? Almost across the board they were 'bought off' by S & L moguls like Charles Keating, paid to look the other way while the S & Ls invested in fraudulent real estate schemes and sham projects which collapsed after a few years. But to maintain a veneer of solubility for their creditors, many S & Ls actually turned to "junk bond" king Michael Milliken, managing to "puff up" their investment profiles with airy money. There may have been even more crooked things going on, as some recent articles suggest that some of the S & L swindle may have gotten into the hands of the CIA and used to fund the Contras- most funds coming from the failed Palmer National Bank and Vision Savings Bank in Houston.
Even more daring reports, such as a recent book by investigative reporter Peter Brewton, suggest the Mafia may have been involved with some of the bank fraud - as they most certainly were with the Vatican Bank scandal in Italy. Author Dan Moldea notes extensive connections between the Hollywood motion picture company MCA, the defense/nuclear contractor General Electric, the corrupt Teamsters' Union, and the Mob. Strangely, former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan had connections to all of the above. The fact that there are close Republican ties to the Teamsters, despite the party's overt anti-labor stance, is very curious; but it must be examined in the light of the Teamsters' "patriotic" support of "guns and butter" and other right-wing stances, and their links to the Mafia. (It is widely suspected that Richard Nixon may have pardoned Jimmy Hoffa after making a deal with the Teamsters to give money to his 1972 presidential campaign - yet another unwritten chapter in the Watergate saga, along with the revelations that he may have tried to frame the Democrats for the assassination attempt on George Wallace.) Anthony Summers believes that J. Edgar Hoover was blackmailed by the Mob for his homosexuality, and that is why the former FBI director continued to deny the pervasiveness of "organized crime." One of Brewton's most amazing revelations is that Bush may have actively attempted to conceal the Texas oil - organized crime - S & L - CIA links during the 1988 campaign: but so did Lloyd Bentsen, who told Dukakis it would be "a losing issue for our ticket!"
The cost for fixing the S & L mess - for returning the depositors in the banks all their savings - will be quite high. Another cost involved in the process will be the liquidation of nearly valueless assets owned by the S & Ls - such as acres and acres of undeveloped land out in the Southwest. The properties of the failed S & Ls are being sold by RTC for businessmen for a steal; and taxpayers are being asked to pick up a large part of the tab. Some estimate that the S & L cleanup may cost each and every taxpayer as much as $1000. Each and every taxpayer, of the 200 million who pay taxes! There are economists who feel the beginning wave of the S & L collapse may have contributed to the massive stock market crash of 1987, and that its impact led to other bank failures and a real estate 'bust' contributing to the 1990 recession. Crooked S & L operators received, on the average, 2.4 years in prison for ripping off America with their white-collar crimes. But a robber who steals $200 from a convenience store gets, on average, 7.8 years. One need not be a math wizard to see something glaringly wrong with that. Why have the federal prosecutors under the Bush administration been so slow to prosecute, and so lenient with their sentences? Could it be connected to the extensive amounts of money that Bush himself got from the S & Ls during his 1988 campaign?
Was there also a link between the failed Savings & Loans and BCCI? It turns out, yes, and the (now defunct) Miami CenTrust bank chairman David Paul is the key. According to a NBC special on the S & L scandal, Dexter Lehtinen, the temporary appointee to the position of federal prosecutor for south Florida, claims he was obstructed by the government from serving subpoenas on many of the big figures connected to Paul. Lehtinen was never confirmed officially for the position after serving in it for several years - some say this was because of things in his background that might lead to a confirmation fight, but others feel it was because he was digging too deeply into CenTrust's failures. Lehtinen now claims that Paul may have bribed many local and federal officials to cover up for money laundering and secret Carribean accounts to sequester 'narcodollars.' Investigators found that Paul lived a lavish lifestyle, buying gold fixtures and priceless art treasures for his office in the CenTrust building. When CenTrust was starting to face insolvency, Paul found a cash influx from an unsuspected source - BCCI financier Farouk, who tried to use CenTrust to launder money from the Banco Nazionale Lavore (BNL) in Italy. The S & L scandal is, it seems, yet another arm within the Octopus.
Bush's Teapot Dome?: the INSLAW Affair
George Bush's predecessor, Ronald Reagan, had a terribly corrupt administration. There were huge numbers of indictments, resignations, scandals, and accusations of corruption and coverrup. Housing and Urban Development, under Sam "the Invisible Man" Pierce, turned a blind eye as shifty Republican financiers raked in profits off of shady deals involving public housing. Savings and Loan regulators allowed S & L's all over the country to make ridiculously unsound investments and disappear into bankruptcy. But the corruption in the Reagan administration may have been nowhere more shocking than in the Department of Justice, whose anti-pornography crusader, Edwin Meese III, was accused of improprieties regarding the transfer of a company called Wedtech.
Bush's new Attorney General, Richard Thornburgh, may have done Meese one better, bringing the Department of Injustice one step further. For it now stands accused of being a software pirate - of having stole the Inslaw PROMIS database program from its creators without recompensating them. That PROMIS is a program that can be used to track political dissidents, among other things, has been noted by many commentators. Because William Sessions of the FBI was investigating Justice's possible role in the Inslaw/BNL affair, Attorney General William Barr suddenly launched an investigation of Session's misuse of his phone for making personal calls and allowing his wife to be at meetings - hardly the most major of offenses among government bureaucrats! Curious infighting as the ship went down, it seems.
According to Riconsciouto, the INSLAW affair might have been, among other things, a political payoff for the role a former political operative and Justice Department official, Earl Brian, played in the October Surprise. INSLAW was originally a nonprofit organization basically of quasi-governmental nature, which went private in the 1980s in an effort to market its software commercially. PROMIS was marketed to law enforcement agencies as an efficient tool for tracking criminal cases. However, its versatility for use in such wide-ranging areas as political intelligence and monitoring caught the eye of the Justice Department - which would require modifying the program's original design. So Brian first tried to seize INSLAW Corp. in an illegally authorized "hostile takeover," and when that failed, basically stole the PROMIS software outright. Copies of the program were thought to be distributed or sold to, among others, Israel, South Africa, some Central American regimes, and perhaps Saddam Hussein - by the Bush administration - all without consent or compensation for the program's original authors. It is believed that some regimes even today still use chilling, modified versions of the program for tracking political dissidents.
Is the Octopus Still Alive?: Mena, Arkansas and a Clinton Compromise
Riconsciouto claims that Clinton, like Bush, has been "compromised" by the CIA. He says that he personally flew planes carrying illegal shipments of arms to and drugs from the Contra rebels which took off from a secret airstrip near Mena, Arkansas - one which apparently existed with the full knowledge and consent of then-governor Bill Clinton. He and others think that Clinton made a basic "deal" with Bush after he won -- Bush would not criticize Clinton or bring up too much about Whitewater or Mena airstrip, and in return Clinton would not pursue indictments against Bush Administration officials. Today, as the Clinton administration battles off a series of its own political scandals, writers for the alternative media still puzzle over the "mainstream" media's total refusal to look at whatever was going at Mena, in 1992 or now. Because then-governor Clinton may have been permitting the CIA to run a small scale "black operation" right in his own state. So it's obvious that Clinton has no interest in pursuing the Octopus, the question then becomes - even if his administration isn't involved, does it still thrive in its own shadowy centres?
Danny Casolaro may have been killed because he got too close to the truth. The Christic Institute may have been SLAPPed out of existence because of it. Even if the Octopus isn't still operating, there are likely to be various "tentacles" of it who want to cover up the roles that they played in it. It may have branched into things that Casolaro hadn't gotten around to investigating yet. Certainly it tied together a series of sinister forces and operations. George Bush was undoubtedly a key figure, but he isn't going to be running for President again. What's more tragic is the way that he and other co-conspirators may have basically gotten off scot-free. And at this point, it's too early to tell what role Clinton and his administration may or may not be playing in keeping the creature going. Which to me is more important than any unwise land investments he and his wife may have made during the 1980s.