The Consortium

Dark Side of Rev. Moon: Hooking George Bush

By Robert Parry

Last fall, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's latest foray into the high-priced world of media and politics was in trouble. South American journalists were writing scathingly about Moon's plan to open a regional newspaper that the 77-year-old founder of the Korean-based Unification Church hoped would give him the same influence in Latin America that the ultra-conservative Washington Times had in the United States.

As opening day ticked closer for Moon's Tiempos del Mundo, leading South American newspapers were busy recounting unsavory chapters of Moon's history, including his links with South Korea's feared intelligence service and with violent anti-communist organizations that some commentaries said bordered on neo-fascist.

Indeed, in the early 1980s, amid widespread human rights abuses, Moon had used friendships with the military dictators in Argentina and Uruguay to invest in those two countries. Moon was such a pal of the Argentine generals that he garnered an honorary award for siding with Argentina's junta in the Falklands War. [UPI, Nov. 16, 1984]

More recently, Moon has been buying large tracts of agricultural lands in Paraguay. La Nacion reported that Moon had discussed these business ventures with Paraguay's ex-dictator Alfredo Stroessner. [Nov. 19, 1996]

Moon's disciples fumed about the critical stories and accused the Argentine news media of trying to sabotage the newspaper's inaugural gala in Buenos Aires on Nov. 23. "The local press was trying to undermine the event," complained the church's internal newsletter, Unification News. [December 1996]

Given the controversy, Argentina's elected president, Carlos Menem, did decide to reject Moon's invitation. But Moon had a trump card to play in his bid for South American respectability: the endorsement of an ex-president of the United States, George Bush. Agreeing to speak at the newspaper's launch, Bush flew aboard a private plane, arriving in Buenos Aires on Nov. 22. Bush stayed at Menem's official residence, the Olivos. But Bush failed to change the Argentine president's mind.

Still, Moon's followers gushed that Bush had saved the day, as he stepped before about 900 Moon guests at the Sheraton Hotel. "Mr. Bush's presence as keynote speaker gave the event invaluable prestige," wrote the Unification News. "Father [Moon] and Mother [Mrs. Moon] sat with several of the True Children [Moon's offspring] just a few feet from the podium."

Bush lavished praise on Moon and his journalistic enterprises. "I want to salute Reverend Moon, who is the founder of The Washington Times and also of Tiempos del Mundo," Bush declared. "A lot of my friends in South America don't know about The Washington Times, but it is an independent voice. The editors of The Washington Times tell me that never once has the man with the vision interfered with the running of the paper, a paper that in my view brings sanity to Washington, D.C. I am convinced that Tiempos del Mundo is going to do the same thing" in Latin America.

Bush then held up the colorful new newspaper and complimented several articles, including one flattering piece about Barbara Bush. Bush's speech was so effusive that it surprised even Moon's followers.

"Once again, heaven turned a disappointment into a victory," the Unification News exulted. "Everyone was delighted to hear his compliments. We knew he would give an appropriate and 'nice' speech, but praise in Father's presence was more than we expected. ... It was vindication. We could just hear a sigh of relief from Heaven."

Bush's endorsement of The Washington Times' editorial independence also was not truthful. Almost since it opened in 1982, a string of senior editors and correspondents have resigned, citing the manipulation of the news by Moon and his subordinates. The first editor, James Whelan, resigned in 1984, confessing that he had "blood on his hands" for helping the church achieve greater legitimacy.

Money Talks

But Bush's boosterism was just what Moon needed in South America. "The day after," the Unification News observed, "the press did a 180-degree about-turn once they realized that the event had the support of a U.S. president." With Bush's help, Moon had gained another beachhead for his worldwide business-religious-political-media empire.

After the event, Menem told reporters from La Nacion that Bush had claimed privately to be only a mercenary who did not really know Moon. "Bush told me he came and charged money to do it," Menem said. [Nov. 26, 1996]. But Bush was not telling Menem the whole story. By last fall, Bush and Moon had been working in political tandem for at least a decade and a half. The ex-president also had been moonlighting as a front man for Moon for more than a year.

In September 1995, Bush and his wife, Barbara, gave six speeches in Asia for the Women's Federation for World Peace, a group led by Moon's wife, Hak Ja Han Moon. In one speech on Sept. 14 to 50,000 Moon supporters in Tokyo, Bush insisted that "what really counts is faith, family and friends." Mrs. Moon followed the ex-president to the podium and announced that "it has to be Reverend Moon to save the United States, which is in decline because of the destruction of the family and moral decay." [Washington Post, Sept. 15, 1995]

In summer 1996, Bush was lending his prestige to Moon again. Bush addressed the Moon-connected Family Federation for World Peace in Washington, an event that gained notoriety when comedian Bill Cosby tried to back out of his contract after learning of Moon's connection. Bush had no such qualms. [WP, July 30, 1996]

Throughout these public appearances, Bush's office has refused to divulge how much Moon-affiliated organizations have paid the ex-president. But estimates of Bush's fee for the Buenos Aires appearance alone ran between $100,000 and $500,000. Sources close to the Unification Church have put the total Bush-Moon package in the millions, with one source telling The Consortium that Bush stood to make as much as $10 million.

Bush also may have other Argentine business deals in the works with Moon. On Nov. 16, 1996, La Nacion quoted businessmen as saying that Bush and Moon were keeping an eye on plans to privatize the hydroelectric complex of Yacyreta, a joint $12 billion Paraguayan-Argentine project to dam the Parana River.

Foreign Influence

Still, the Bush-Moon alliance is not strictly about money -- and it did not start in Bush's post-presidency. It dates back at least to the start of the Reagan-Bush era -- when Moon was a VIP guest at the first Reagan-Bush inauguration -- and it could extend into the next century as the ex-president works to shore up conservative support for his eldest son, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who is expected to run for the White House in 2000.

Sources close to Bush say the ex-president has worked hard to pull well-to-do conservatives and their money behind his son's candidacy. Without doubt, Moon is one of the deepest pockets in right-wing circles, having financed important conservative activists from both the Religious Right, such as the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Inside-the-Beltway right-wing professionals.

A silent testimony to Moon's clout is the fact that his vast spending of billions of dollars in secretive Asian money to influence U.S. politics -- spanning nearly a quarter century -- has gone virtually unmentioned amid the current controversy over Asian donations to U.S. politicians.

With unintended irony, Moon's Washington Times repeatedly has featured stories about secret Asian money going to Democrats. "More than a million dollars of this foreign money is believed to have been contributed to the Democrats, putting the election up for auction," charged Times' editor Wesley Pruden in a typical column. [Oct. 18, 1996]

The blind spot on Moon is especially curious since there have been U.S. government allegations dating back to the 1970s that Moon's organization fronted for the South Korean CIA and funnelled money to Washington for right-wing Japanese industrialists. For the past 15 years, The Washington Times has been the most obvious conduit for this foreign money. The newspaper and its sister publications -- Insight and The World & I -- have cost Moon an estimated $1 billion in losses. Yet, Moon has never accounted for the sources of his money.

Moon's jingle of deep-pocket cash also has caused conservatives to turn a deaf ear toward Moon's recent anti-American diatribes. With growing virulence, Moon has denounced the United States and its democratic principles, often referring to America as "Satanic." But these statements have gone virtually unreported, even though the texts of his sermons are carried on the Internet and their timing has coincided with Bush's warm endorsements of Moon.

"America has become the kingdom of individualism, and its people are individualists," Moon preached in Tarrytown, N.Y., on March 5, 1995. "You must realize that America has become the kingdom of Satan."

In similar remarks to followers on Aug. 4, 1996, Moon vowed that the church's eventual dominance over the United States would be followed by the liquidation of American individualism. "Americans who continue to maintain their privacy and extreme individualism are foolish people," Moon declared. "The world will reject Americans who continue to be so foolish. Once you have this great power of love, which is big enough to swallow entire America, there may be some individuals who complain inside your stomach. However, they will be digested."

During the same sermon, Moon decried assertive American women. "American women have the tendency to consider that women are in the subject position," he said. "However, woman's shape is like that of a receptacle. The concave shape is a receiving shape. Whereas, the convex shape symbolizes giving. ... Since man contains the seed of life, he should plant it in the deepest place.

"Does woman contain the seed of life? ["No."] Absolutely not. Then if you desire to receive the seed of life, you have to become an absolute object. In order to qualify as an absolute object, you need to demonstrate absolute faith, love and obedience to your subject. Absolute obedience means that you have to negate yourself 100 percent."

Evil Hamburgers

These pronouncements contrast with Moon's lavish praise of the United States disseminated for public consumption during his early forays to Washington. On Sept. 18, 1976, at a flag-draped rally at the Washington Monument, Moon declared that "the United States of America, transcending race and nationality, is already a model of the unified world." He called America "the chosen nation of God" and added that "I not only respect America, but truly love this nation."

Yet, even as Moon has soured on America, his recruiters continue to use that flag-draped scene of the Washington Monument to lure new followers. The patriotic image struck powerfully with John Stacey when the college freshman watched a video of that speech while undergoing Unification Church recruitment in 1992.

"American flags were everywhere," recalled Stacey, a thin young man from central New Jersey. "The first video they showed me was Reverend Moon praising America and praising Christianity." In 1992, Stacey considered himself a patriotic American and a faithful Christian. He soon joined the Unification Church.

Stacey became a Pacific Northwest leader in Moon's Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles [CARP]. "They liked to hang me up because I'm young and I'm American," Stacey told me. "It's a good image for the church. They try to create the all-American look, where I think they're usurping American values, that they're anti-American."

At a 1995 leadership conference at a church compound in Anchorage, Alaska, Stacey met face-to-face with Moon who was sitting on a throne-like chair while a group of American followers, many middle-aged converts from the 1970s, sat at his feet like children.

"Reverend Moon looked at me straight in the eye and said, 'America is Satanic. America is so Satanic that even hamburgers should be considered evil, because they come from America'," recalled Stacey. "Hamburgers! My father was a butcher, so that bothered me. ... I started feeling that I was betraying my country."

Moon's criticism of Jesus also unsettled Stacey. "In the church, it's very anti-Jesus," Stacey said. "Jesus failed miserably. He died a lonely death. Reverend Moon is the hero that comes and saves pathetic Jesus. Reverend Moon is better than God. ... That's why I left the Moonies. Because it started to feel like idolatry. He's promoting idolatry."

One-World Theocracy

Despite growing disaffection among many longtime followers and other problems, Moon's empire still prospers financially, backed by vast sources of mysterious wealth. "It's a multi-billion-dollar international conglomerate," noted Steve Hassan, a former church leader who has written a book about religious cults, entitled Combatting Cult Mind Control. At his Internet site, Hassan has a 31-page list of organizations connected to the Unification Church, many secretively.

"Here's a man [Moon] who says he wants to take over the world, where all religions will be abolished except Unificationism, all languages will be abolished except Korean, all governments will be abolished except his one-world theocracy," Hassan said in an interview. "Yet he's wined and dined very powerful people and convinced them that he's benign."

Hassan argued that perhaps the greatest danger of the Unification Church is that it will outlive Moon, since the organization has grown so immense and powerful that other leaders will step forward to lead it. "There are groups out there that want to use this organization," Hassan said.

A couple of years ago, Moon shifted his personal base of operation to a luxurious estate in Uruguay. The church has been investing tens of millions of dollars in that nation since the early 1980s when Moon was close to the military government. In a sermon on Jan. 2, 1996, Moon was unusually blunt about how he expected the church's wealth to buy influence among the powerful in South America, just as it did in Washington.

"Father has been practicing the philosophy of fishing here," Moon said, through an interpreter who spoke of Moon in the third person. "He [Moon] gave the bait to Uruguay and then the bigger fish of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay kept their mouths open, waiting for a bigger bait silently. The bigger the fish, the bigger the mouth. Therefore, Father is able to hook them more easily."

As part of his business strategy, Moon explained that he would dot the continent with small airstrips and construct bases for submarines which could evade Coast Guard patrols. His airfield project would allow tourists to visit "hidden, untouched, small places" throughout South America, he said.

"Therefore, they need small airplanes and small landing strips in the remote countryside. ... In the near future, we will have many small airports throughout the world." Moon wanted the submarines because "there are so many restrictions due to national boundaries worldwide. If you have a submarine, you don't have to be bound in that way."

Moon also recognized the importance of media in protecting his curious operations, which sound like an invitation to drug traffickers. He boasted to his followers that with his vast array of political and media assets, he will dominate the new Information Age. "That is why Father has been combining and organizing scholars from all over the world, and also newspaper organizations -- in order to make propaganda," Moon said. Central to that success in South America is Tiempos del Mundo.

Iran-Contra Cover-up

Moon pursued a similar strategy in the United States. In the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan hailed The Washington Times as his favorite newspaper and Moon's editors rewarded the Reagan-Bush administration with unwavering loyalty.

In the mid-1980s, for instance, when journalists and Congress began prying into Oliver North's secret support for the Nicaraguan contras and their ties to drug trafficking, Moon's paper led the counter-attack. "Story on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy" was the subtitle of a front-page Washington Times article criticizing a piece that Brian Barger and I had written for The Associated Press about a Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the contras. [April 11, 1986]

When Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., uncovered more evidence of contra drug trafficking in 1986, The Washington Times denounced him. The newspaper first published articles suggesting that Kerry was on a wasteful political witch hunt. "Kerry's anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive, in vain," announced one Times article. [Aug. 13, 1986]

But when Kerry exposed more and more contra wrongdoing, The Washington Times changed tactics. In 1987, it began intimidating Kerry's staff with front-page accusations that they were obstructing justice. "Kerry staffers damaged FBI probe," declared one Times article. It opened with the assertion that "congressional investigators for Sen. John Kerry severely damaged a federal drug investigation last summer by interfering with a witness while pursuing allegations of drug smuggling by the Nicaraguan resistance [the contras], federal law enforcement officials said." [Jan. 21, 1987]

As the Iran-contra scandal continued to spread and threatened Bush's public insistence that he was "out of the loop," Moon's paper turned its fire on special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh. Over and over, the paper attacked Walsh for allegedly wasting money with first-class air fare and room-service meals.

When former CIA clandestine services chief Clair George was on trial for false statements, The Washington Times published a front-page story with the two-column headline, "GOP Questions Walsh Spending." [Aug. 4, 1992] That morning, George's CIA supporters held the headline up so the jury could see the anti-Walsh allegations. Throughout the Iran-contra scandal, the paper played a crucial role in protecting the cover-up. [For details, see Walsh's new book, Firewall.]

Time and again, Moon's Washington Times went to bat for Bush. When Bush lagged behind Michael Dukakis in the early days of the 1988 presidential race, the Times falsely implied that Dukakis had undergone psychiatric care. The story drew national attention and raised early doubts about Dukakis's fitness for the White House.

In 1992, the newspaper promoted Bush's re-election by running stories about Bill Clinton's collegiate trip to Moscow. Those stories suggested that the Rhodes scholar was a spy for the KGB. Four years later, with the Republicans hoping to oust Clinton, The Washington Times reversed field with a contradictory banner story: "Was Bill Clinton a junior spy for the CIA?" [June 24, 1996]

In 2000, Moon's newspaper could give similar boosts to the expected presidential candidacy of Gov. George W. Bush. After all, his father has shown that he knows how to reward his allies no matter how unsavory.

For Moon's part, the self-proclaimed Korean messiah has succeeded in hooking many big fish in Washington -- "the bigger the fish, the bigger the mouth" -- but none bigger than former President George Bush. ~

(c) Copyright 1997

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