The Bushes: Fathers and Sons ( With Apologies to Turgenev)

In a story worthy of the great Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev, in the Bushes’ case the sins of the son were visited upon the father, who neglected an opportunity to stop them from happening, as Ray McGovern explains.

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Picture the late George H. W. Bush being welcomed with open arms last night by three of the Gang of Six white-collar criminals he pardoned on Christmas Eve, 1992, just before he left office. Waiting for him were former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, plus swashbuckling, CIA covert action chieftains “Dewey” Clarridge and Clair George — all of them charged (and George convicted) of perjury.

What a celebration is in store when the other three of the gang eventually join them. They are Robert McFarlane, the CIA’s Alan Fiers, and former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams — all of whom had already pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress before Bush Sr. let them off the hook.

It caused an outcry in some circles, as The New York Times reported: “Bush Pardons 6 in Iran Affair, Aborting a Weinberger Trial; Prosecutor Assails ‘Cover-Up.’”

Cover-up indeed. George H. W. Bush was up to his neck in the crimes of Iran-Contra, and so was his protege, Bobby Gates. Gates was so demonstrably involved that he had zero chance of being confirmed as CIA director the first time it was tried. In 1991, Bush had to move mountains to get him confirmed. Gates knew where the bodies were buried, so to speak, and could be counted on to keep them six feet under. (I learned all this well after I spent four years, from 1981 to 1985, for the CIA briefing then-Vice President Bush with The President’s Daily Brief.)

Lessons for Today

At risk of stating the obvious, is it not clear that, by the time the Supreme Court made Bush Jr. president, CIA operatives had long since internalized the idea they could literally get away with murder? It is not widely known, but several of the detainees in CIA custody following 9/11 died under torture. This came despite the lawyerly advice of Jonathan Fredman, Esq, chief counsel to CIA’s Counterterrorist Center on torture guidelines.

On October 2, 2002 Fredman briefed interrogators at Guantanamo to resolve questions they had about unfamiliar interrogation techniques, like water-boarding. With creepy nonchalance, Fredman claimed (falsely) that “the language of the [torture] statutes is written vaguely,” and summed up the legalities in this way: “It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.”

Needless to say, the Nicaraguan Contras, whom Bush Senior and his favorite CIA, now-pardoned, covert action operatives supported, paid no heed to such niceties in the violence facilitated by the crimes of Iran-Contra.
We are not supposed to blame sons for the sins of the father. And vice versa, we should also be careful not to blame fathers for the sins of sons. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to give Bush 1 total absolution in this case, as I found out after I wrote Bh Sr. suggesting that junior had fallen in with bad companions and that the consequences would likely be serious.

Bush Sr.’s answer to Ray McGovern

Writing to Bush

George H. W. Bush and I had a longstanding professional and, later, cordial relationship. For many years after he stopped being president, we stayed in touch — mostly by letter. On January 11, 2003, as the invasion of Iraq was gaining momentum, I wrote a letter to the elder Bush asking him to speak “privately to your son George about the crazies advising him on Iraq,” adding “I am aghast at the cavalier way in which the [Richard] Perles of the Pentagon are promoting the use of nuclear weapons as an acceptable option against Iraq.”

My letter continued: “That such people have the President’s ear is downright scary. I think he needs to know why you exercised such care to keep such folks at arms length. (And, as you may know, they are exerting unrelenting pressure on CIA analysts to come up with the ‘right’ answers. You know how that goes!)”

His reassuring answer–not to worry about any influence the “crazies” might have on his son was a great disappointment. 

The elder Bush may not have been fully conscious of it, but he was whistling in the dark, having long since decided to leave to surrogates like former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and former Secretary of State James Baker the task of highlighting publicly the criminal folly of attacking Iraq. 

Or the father may have tried privately; who knows.  It was, in my view, a tragedy that he did not speak out publicly.  He would have been very well aware that this was the only thing that would have had a chance of stopping his son from committing what the Nuremberg Tribunal defined as “the supreme international crime.” 

Junior is the poster child for the crying need in this country for basic instruction on parenting. See what “Mission Accomplished” looks like in the Middle East today.

After the invasion, Bush Sr. somewhat came to his senses, blaming his sons’ “iron-ass advisers”–namely Messrs. Cheney and Rumsfeld—for the disaster.

It didn’t get Senior off the hook. A lot of damage W. caused can be attributed — pure and simple — to poor parenting.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He worked for the senior Bush when he was director of the CIA and then briefed him mornings, one-on-one, with the President’s Daily Brief during the first Reagan administration. In Jan. 2003, Ray co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and still serves on its Steering Group.

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48 comments for “The Bushes: Fathers and Sons ( With Apologies to Turgenev)

  1. Zhu
    December 5, 2018 at 01:38

    Was Old George a Dispensationalist too?

  2. December 4, 2018 at 10:57

    And forget about the Texas School Book Depository photo. I place no trust in photos,but what about names? Where did he get the name “poppy”, and why does anyone who is not his child call him by that name. The only “poppies” I have ever heard of is an opium poppy and an HW Bush poppy.

  3. December 4, 2018 at 10:52

    Ray McGovern considered Bush Senior a better man than his son? Brother. He must have put on some act for McGovern. HW is as dirty as they get. It would not surprise me if he did not play some role in Reagan almost getting killed. There’s a clear photo of him outside the Texas School Depository on Nov. 22, 1963. . When his name was mentioned in Hoover’s memo about the Assassination 7 days after the assassination, he said it was another George Bush, and when the only other George Bush in the CIA was interviewed, he said he was a low level researcher and analyst, and the Hoover memo was certainly not meant for him. When HW was again questioned by a journalist from The Nation, he now said he would not “dignify” it with an answer. How is it below his dignity to answer this pertinent question about his role in the CIA (a relationship he denies before he became Director) and in the JFK Assassination. A man’s head was blown off, and he was not just any man. We had two federal investigations on this subject, and he believed he was above answering any questions put to him by the press on that subject? It was below JFK’s dignity to get his head blown off, – below JFK’s dignity, and below the dignity of the American people, whose President he was.

  4. mike k
    December 3, 2018 at 19:55

    Father and son; two cans of garbage.

    • mike k
      December 3, 2018 at 19:59

      Rich people stink, with the most horrible odor imaginable. Only deep, deep evil can smell like that.

      • Skip Scott
        December 4, 2018 at 12:50

        mike k-

        There is an oldish movie with Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges called K-PAX. I think you’d really enjoy it. One of the characters in the looney bin is a retired (fired) doorman who began to notice a retched odor coming off the rich folks and dared to tell them about it.

      • Gregory Herr
        December 4, 2018 at 18:10
  5. Uncle Bob
    December 3, 2018 at 19:48

    Wow..a chill went up my spine when I read the “Lessons for Today” paragraph; “It is not widely known, but several of the detainees in CIA custody following 9/11 died under torture. This came despite the lawyerly advice of Jonathan Fredman, Esq, chief counsel to CIA’s Counterterrorist Center on torture guidelines.”
    I’ve been reading “Dorectorate S” by Steve Coll. Last night I read through Chapter Nine; “His Rules were Different from Our Rules”, among other things, describes in vivid detail the beating death of Abdul Wali by David Passaro, in 2003..

  6. December 3, 2018 at 13:01

    All this article does for me is to confirm my fundamental premise as stated on my website – WeDaPeople blew this a long time ago by allowing our ‘two party’ system converge into an oligarchy ruled by the same gang of DeepState thugs.
    Yup – water is wet!

    • Mild - ly Facetious
      December 5, 2018 at 14:31

      “DeepState thugs.”

      … A person the Republican party and the billionaires it works for would rather the American public not read about because she happens to be one of the Republican Party’s masters of the dark arts of wielding ‘dark money’ in American politics: Nicole Schlinger, an influential Iowan Republican fundraiser and an important figure in a network of Republican political operatives who founded and operate American Future Fund (AFF), a 501(c)(4) (‘social welfare’) political super PAC.

      Nicole was AFF’s first president. And it turns out the story of AFF, which was started in 2008, two years before Citizens United, is the story of what was wrong with the US campaign finance system in the pre-Citizens United era and the story of how it got much worse in the post-Citizen United era.

      The story of American Future Fund is also a story about how the mega-donor networks operated by the Koch brothers and Karl Rove were responsible for the vast majority of new ‘dark money’ flowing into the US political system post-Citizens United. The right-wing donor networks operated by the Kochs and Rove have played a massive role in that worsening post-Citizens United situation and Nicole Schlinger’s AFF was an important tool for both networks in exploiting that worsening situation. AFF provides a full spectrum of political services, but one of its most important services is operating largely in the dark without the public knowing what its doing and who hired it.

      Schlinger also runs CampaignHQ, a call-center business that provides robo-calling and fundraising services for a number of the most anti-immigrant GOP politicians today, from Ted Cruz to Corey Stewart (the ‘Alt Right’ GOP gubernatorial candidate in Virginia this year). And in Ted Cruz’s and Corey Stewart’s cases, Schlinger raised funds for them in their races this year. Keep in mind that Cruz was locked in an exceptionally tight reelection race this year when this story broke, so this the kind of story that could have had significant political ramifications if it ended up making Cruz look like a hypocrite who will defend the employers of undocumented workers when they’re raising money for him. And Corey Stewart straight up says in the first article below that he doesn’t really care with Schlinger does “in her personal life” as long as she’s good a fundraising.

      That’s all part of why the Republican Party would likely prefer the American public remains in the dark about the story of Nicole Schlinger, her career as a Republican fundraiser and officer in dark money entities like American Future Fund, and her propensity for hiring undocumented immigrants. And in the context of the current fixation within the GOP today on illegal immigration, the fact that a key Republican master of dark money politics is the person who illegally hired Tibbetts murderer is a perfect storm story for shining a light on American’s dark money infrastructure.

      So when the right-wing noise machine suddenly stopped talking about Mollie’s murder shortly after Nicole Schlinger’s name entered the story it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that a desire to keep Schlinger’s personal biography as a master of the dark money politics out of the news. A biography that, again, really is like the quintessential story of how right-wing billionaire money has infested American politics.

      (deep state thugs and/or Dark Money “REALISTS” ?)

  7. mike k
    December 3, 2018 at 08:38

    That rich psychopaths like the Bushes are shoe horned into the Presidency is the tragedy of America. Their crimes are only too predictable. The pretense of these frauds to appear normal would be laughable if the public were awake to it – they are not however. The election of Donald Trump tells you all you need to know about the consciousness of most Americans.

  8. polistra
    December 3, 2018 at 07:20

    It’s a pretty safe bet that all “former” CIA employees are actually current CIA employees. I had wondered if McGovern was an exception to this rule. Now we see that he isn’t an exception.

  9. December 3, 2018 at 00:24

    Great article

  10. December 2, 2018 at 20:40

    Here is a very intriguing video about GW.

    As an amateur expert on the Kennedy assassination, I can assure you the individual facts are accurate.

    They are put together here in a way I’ve not seen before.

    On the matter of HW as career-long CIA – perhaps, America’s first “made man” as President – there is no doubt.

    They don’t rename the headquarters for you just because you served a brief stint as Director.

    Also, in his one term as President, he did an awful lot of CIA-friendly acts, from Noriega to Iraq.

    It does emphasize what has become of the country.

    On the assassination, this is very interesting:

  11. Maxim Gorki
    December 2, 2018 at 20:39

    I blame the people that keep voting for the lesser of two evils because they are afraid they’ll throw away their vote otherwise. That’s like bringing freedom and democracy to someone by killing them.

  12. Miatadon
    December 2, 2018 at 18:01

    An opt-repeated aphorism is “The victors write the history books.” In the USA, the ruling class determines most of what we are told, and what we end up believing.

  13. December 2, 2018 at 17:07
  14. December 2, 2018 at 16:37

    Some accept, some deny and others are indifferent to the concept which holds we as human beings are not bodies with a soul but souls with a body, and that the soul is eternal. The soul named George H.W. Bush moved from the Earthly realm to the realm of spirit in an inevitable process no human can escape, of which no human is immune, and of which there’s nothing anyone can do to stop. Men, women and children in the millions have come back to give accounts of what happened during their near death experiences (NDE), and one very common aspect of those accounts has become generally termed the “life review”.

    The most fascinating common denominator of NDE life review descriptions is that while the just-departed soul sees every detail of their life from birth to “death”, – their feelings are those felt by the persons they interacted with all along the way. In other words, if the soul comes across in his/her life review situations where he/she inflicted pain on another via their thoughts, words and actions, they felt the full extent of the other’s pain. On the positive side, if the soul brought joy or love to another they would correspondingly feel the full extent of those good emotions their thoughts, words and actions were responsible for creating in others while alive on Earth.

    Persons who’ve returned to share their NDE accounts are nearly unanimous in asserting they now have no fear of death, because from the life-changing experience they know death is not real, that indeed “All which is hidden shall be revealed”, and a core aspect of ultimate reality from their new perspective is that the soul is forever.


    • Maxim Gorki
      December 2, 2018 at 20:46

      Maybe another country will drop napalm and white phosphorous on us so we can have our souls liberated.

  15. Unfettered Fire
    December 2, 2018 at 16:11

    “This is our war, and we will carry it with us as we go from one battleground to another until it’s all over. We will win. I hope we can rejoice with victory, but humbly. That all together we will try, try out the memory of our anguish, to reassemble our broken world into a pattern so firm and so fair, that another great war can never again be possible. And for those beneath the wooden crosses, there is nothing we can do, except perhaps to pause and murmur, ‘Thanks pal. Thanks.'” ~ Ernie Pyle, The Story of GI Joe

    No one wants a final end to war more than those who’ve experienced that living hell. Shame on leaders who fail to share this view with them and actually strategize a vision of perpetual war based on lies, just for profit. The 1% are so enmeshed in acceptance and status that their brains turn into compliant mush. Profiting from economic war, literal war, drug and human trafficking is low road, weak-minded consciousness.

    “The lust for power is not rooted in strength but in weakness. It is the expression of the inability of the individual self to stand alone and live. It is the desperate attempt to gain secondary strength where genuine strength is lacking. The word power has a twofold meaning. One is the possession of power over somebody, the ability to dominate him; the other meaning is the possession of power to do something, to be able, to be potent. The latter meaning has nothing to do with domination; it expresses mastery in the sense of ability.” ~ Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom

    Bush, Sr. was truly a symbol of 20th century bombs over diplomacy mentality, the bloodiest century in the history of mankind.

    “If you’re not willing to kill everybody who has a different idea than yourself, you cannot have Frederick Hayek’s free market. You cannot have Alan Greenspan or the Chicago School, you cannot have the economic freedom that is freedom for the rentiers and the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) sector to reduce the rest of the economy to serfdom.” ~ Michael Hudson

  16. Stefan Moore
    December 2, 2018 at 15:03

    Bush Sr has his own crimes to answer for – a presidential campaign so racist that it would make The Donald blush, the first invasion of Iraq on a pack of lies that ended in over 150,000 deaths, the Iran/Contra deal and the arming of death squads in Latin America, a war on drugs that targeted the poor, etc. Why is it that people who are war criminals in life get showered with so many fawning accolades in death? As someone else commented, “nauseating”!

  17. December 2, 2018 at 13:54

    What is most interesting about Iran/Contra is that two future presidents were key figures. George was the V.P. at the time and had already previously headed the CIA, and Bill Clinton was a small time Arkansas governor. George of course had long since proved his bona fides to the deep state going all the way back to Dallas, and essentially the Bush family acted as the Republican Party “face” of the CIA. However, Bill Clinton, by squashing multiple Arkansas State police investigations into the Mean airport/Iran-Contra drug running also proved his bona fides to the deep state forces. Then of course he miraculously swooped in from out of literally nowhere to replace George as president, with Bill & Hillary becoming the Democratic Party “face” of the CIA. You can’t make this stuff up.

    PS – one suspects we haven’t seen the end of the “Obama” brand either.

  18. TTS
    December 2, 2018 at 12:54

    Greetings Ray! Per your bio above, you worked for GHWB when he was director of the CIA and then later briefed him mornings, one-on-one, with the President’s Daily Brief during the first Reagan administration. And per your article above, you also state that you “had a longstanding professional and, later, cordial relationship” with GHWB. Given your background then, what is your response to the more serious allegations against GHWB in the documentary below? Are you able to provide any solid evidence that would refute any of these allegations? Thanks!

  19. F. G. Sanford
    December 2, 2018 at 11:47

    Poppy Bush found himself now defunct…but his legacy not quite debunked.
    He said with a grin, thanks to media spin,
    “I’m sure old St. Pete can be punked!”

    He got up to that pearly white gate, loaded down with his philistine freight.
    St. Pete laughed out loud and exclaimed, “I’ll be plowed,
    He thinks denial’s a plausible skate!”

    “They’ve got pictures of you down in Dallas. You drank from the coup d’etat chalice.
    You trafficked cocaine with that CIA plane,
    Even Nixon had less evil malice!

    “You had Panama dealings with Manny. Your hookup with Hinckley – uncanny.
    Some floated a trope that your boy shot the Pope,
    We all know that you’ve groped lots of fanny!

    “You gave Cheney and Rumsfeld a pass. You were tight with the oil rich class.
    Your first campaign rant had that Ku Kluxer slant,
    And you said you kicked Geraldine’s ass!

    “You called civil rights unrealistic. Your reasons seemed oddly fascistic.
    With false logic beaming, and Rodney King screaming,
    All the world thought you seemed quite sadistic!

    “You’re wasting your time, you old sinner. My patience could not wear much thinner.
    Every word from your mouth says you need to head south,
    Where it’s hotter, you lie-ridden spinner!

    So Poppy showed up way down yonder. In a placer where they’d greet him much fonder.
    Weinberger’s there, also Dewey and Clair,
    He figured on old times to ponder!

    The Tempter had stoked up the flames. Warm welcomes are part of his games.
    “You could have confessed to Frank Church and been blessed,
    But instead you made fraudulent claims!”

    Bush was shown to three doors for selection. He could choose his eternal abjection.
    A room filled with sludge where a sewer drained fudge,
    The first door he met with rejection.

    The second found inmates near drowning. With the sludge to their chins they were frowning.
    The sewage was deep, in their mouths it would creep,
    So much brown stuff those convicts were downing!

    The third door seemed much more exciting. Dewey, Clair and Weinberger uniting!
    A mug in each fist, just a coffee klatch tryst,
    And the shallower sludge less affrighting!

    For the sake of langsyne it was golden. These buddies of his were beholden.
    They’d backslap and crow while sipping their joe,
    Celebrating good times that were olden!

    So Poppy just waded right in. The sewage no worse than his sin.
    He drew him a cup, and he bellied right up,
    To his fellow delinquents therein.

    The sewage was up to his waist. But his fear had been somewhat misplaced.
    The Devil decried with a sarcastic chide,
    Coffee break’s over boys, get back on your heads now post haste!

  20. Chucknobomb
    December 2, 2018 at 10:58

    Bush Lied People Died

  21. Chucknobomb
    December 2, 2018 at 10:50

    Bush Lies,People Die

  22. December 2, 2018 at 10:15

    It is always great privilege to read what Mr. McGovern has to say, describing what happened in the White House from the perspective of one who dealt with it. It is sad that the hard shelled folks who make such evil, criminal, and disastrous decisions are untouched by it all. For that we have to blame the complicit media and the corrupt manner we select our elected leaders and their consequential selection of our government officials. Perhaps that is too simple an explanation since public arousal does happen with identity issues but is virtually mute on issues that such men as Mr. McGovern address.

    Can anyone explain the lack of expressed interest in this website? It is hard not to notice. Perhaps the upcoming holiday season?

    • Skip Scott
      December 2, 2018 at 12:36


      I suspect that many have been put off by the way the comment section has functioned since about mid-October. Before I posted my test comment just now, the article supposedly had 8 comments. In fact, there were eleven. This has been going on for too long now, and it needs to be addressed. I suspect in the end it will negatively affect their contributions as well. Many commenters enjoy having timely interactions, and many regular commenters I enjoyed interacting with have already abandoned the CN comment section. IMHO, not having their input is a real loss.

  23. Skip Scott
    December 2, 2018 at 09:13

    I think Ray is taking it way too easy on HW. Caitlin Johnstone has really nailed it once again:

    • December 2, 2018 at 23:07

      Skip – “I think Ray is taking it way too easy on HW. Caitlin Johnstone has really nailed it once again”
      – spot on.

  24. Sam F
    December 2, 2018 at 06:51

    It is sad to watch the families of oligarchy bully-boys. They are very explicitly taught that anything goes and winner takes all. Their idea of honor derives from the theft proceeds, not conduct, so long as they stay within tribal dictates: the company, the party, the flag wins, and humanity and the People of the United States to the devil.

    The rich bring their children to fashionable competitive arenas, just as the poor take theirs to soccer matches. Both let oligarchy values infect children via mass media and parental example, hoping to get ahead. Getting money out of mass media would be a start, but the US would need generations of cultural regeneration to relearn what its oligarchy has trashed. Everywhere the civilized are embattled and isolated.

    • Realist
      December 3, 2018 at 06:21

      Sounds like you are saying that the plutocrats share a lot in common with the dons of organised crime. Anyone who gets in their way of “winning” is entirely expendable. Cultural norms serve to keep the little people in their place.

      • Sam F
        December 3, 2018 at 22:14

        Yes, plutocrats are racketeers, usually using indirect payback channels.
        Much of their crime is legalized or protected by the judges they appoint.
        The illusion of democracy is just overhead that they steadfastly reduce.

  25. Jared McCaskill
    December 2, 2018 at 00:11

    In the book”Bush on the couch. It discusses how George W Bush was very close to his sister. She died and his parents never explained to him what happened. Which he argues caused junior to not be able to imagine things like 911 beforehand.

  26. Skip Edwards
    December 1, 2018 at 22:02

    To have lived through Reagan, the Bush vendetta, the Clinton’s and now Trump (oops! I forgot Nixon) and now watching the flag waving so-called American Patriots screaming about one nation under God, how can one have faith in God. If God blesses America then what the hell would that God come down on? Yes, the MSM will try and rewrite history about how great that one term Bush Sr was. He very well could have been well liked by his friends; but, he was no friend to the morality we try and believe the United States of America represents. Bury the man and let us move on.

    • Realist
      December 3, 2018 at 06:35

      Everyday folks are forgotten amazingly soon once they are in the ground… or move to a distant town, for that matter.

      Public figures are basically the modeling clay that historians, journalists and scholars use to fashion their objets d’art. If objets de fait were the intention, the disparity of accounts should be considered appalling. Many persist indefinitely almost as Schroedinger’s cat on the printed page.

  27. Jeff Harrison
    December 1, 2018 at 21:36

    Interesting take, Ray. I put it down to bad genes.

  28. December 1, 2018 at 20:03

    i just watched the glowing account of george w.h. bush on the evening news and i was nauseated. it reminded me of the equally sickening adoration given to john mccain. disgusting!

    • Skip Edwards
      December 1, 2018 at 22:06

      Those people in Washington, DC, who have taken over our country deserve no respect from any of us. Those men and women live in their walled in city at our expense believing they are Greek Gods and Goddesses of old. Screw ‘en all.

      • OlyaPola
        December 2, 2018 at 05:43

        “who have taken over our country”

        You appear to have imaginings about relative status.

        In effect it is their country and you are a sometime tolerated guest.

  29. chris
    December 1, 2018 at 19:28

    “A lot of damage W. caused can be attributed — pure and simple — to poor parenting.” , …. malformed character and missing brains; in other words W’s a chip off the old block !

    • Skip Edwards
      December 1, 2018 at 22:08

      The ‘ol man was no better; just a little more sophisticated.

      • RnM
        December 2, 2018 at 13:21

        Let us not forget Sen. Prescott Bush in this discussion. Warmonger, War Financier, and Devil Incarnate.

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