"Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it
concentrates his mind wonderfully." - Samuel Johnson
Some time just before January 7th, 2002, an asteroid capable of pulverizing a
good-sized nation flashed through the void, passing perilously close to
Earth. Had it struck our planet, the impact would have had global
consequences. The energy of the strike would have been equivalent to the
explosion of a number of large atomic weapons. From the media perspective, it
would have been the biggest story since the extinction of the dinosaurs.
At some point in the next six months, a small, darkened corner of George W.
Bush's consciousness will wish the thing had hit us. The apocalypse he and
his fundamentalist buddies have been waiting for would have been at hand, and
a number of potentially calamitous questions about to be put to his
administration would have been avoided.
Sadly for him, the planet spins on. Beneath the unpierced stratosphere, the
electronic beams of news agencies like CNN and the Associated Press have
begun to spread like a widow's web from city to city and house to house.
Carried on this invisible wind are rumors of doom, negligence and greed. Each
and every one of these rumors lead inexorably back to 1600 Pennsylvania
Avenue, which will soon be issuing significant numbers of visitor passes to
lawyers if the pattern holds much longer.
Whichever part of the nation that never heard of the energy giant Enron
Corporation has recently been introduced to the company in odious context.
The story thus far is nothing less than astounding: Enron, a company valued
in the billions on Wall Street, suddenly filed for the largest bankruptcy
claim in the history of the known universe. 4,000 employees were abruptly
shown the door after having been barred from dumping the company stock, meant
to fund their retirement, while it was worth something. Meanwhile, Enron
executives in the know were able to dump the stock, back when it was the gold
standard on the Street, for a cool $1 billion.
Apparently, Enron was ailing for quite a long time. The aforementioned
executives were able to maintain the mirage of financial viability by
stuffing the debt into what are called 'off-balance-sheet partnerships.' In
essence, each of the executives built personal banking bunkers and hid what
has been revealed to be staggering Enron debts within them, keeping fact that
the company was hemorrhaging money off the publicly displayed balance sheets.
This maintained the company's credit rating, and allowed it to continue doing
This went on for four years, which means several things. It means most of the
Enron executives were aware of and/or actively participating in this highly
criminal and irresponsible activity. It means the stockholders, including
4,000 loyal Enron employees, were lied to. It probably means that the
executives knew the stock value was doomed when they bailed out and
cashed in several months ago. It means they let their employees lose the
retirement funds they believed were growing within their Enron stock
portfolios. It means a lot of people got screwed by a pack of sharp operators
who didn't give a damn about anyone but themselves.
All this could simply be chalked up as yet another story of corporate greed
run amok, until the umbilical political and financial connections between
Bush and Enron are illuminated. Enron's capo, Kenneth Lay, was perhaps the
best financial friend George W. Bush has ever known. Lay and a number of
Enron employees essentially bankrolled Bush's 2000 Presidential campaign,
going so far as to lend Bush an Enron corporate jet for trips between whistle
stops. Before Bush got White House stars in his eyes, he worked very closely
with Enron on energy policy in Texas.
This close connection led to the Bush administration's hiring of a number of
influential individuals within Enron's orbit for important government
The trail of influence left by Enron leads also to the scabrous heart
ventricles of Vice President Dick Cheney, who admitted recently to six
separate meetings with Enron executives while formulating the Bush
administration's energy policy. Cheney, a former executive of the Halliburton
Petroleum interest, was in charge of creating this policy. For reasons soon
to be exposed by subpoena, Cheney refused to detail the specifics of the
creation of this policy, which included the multiple Enron meetings.
The General Accounting Office was preparing to sue Cheney to reveal this
information when the September 11th attacks took place. Those subpoenas may
be dusted off and mailed within a month. In the meantime, the Justice
Department is preparing a serious criminal investigation into the collapse of
Enron. The democratically-controlled Senate is planning hearings on the
matter as well. Columnist Robert Scheer has referred to the Bush
administration's involvement in the Enron debacle as "Whitewater in spades."
One wonders if "Watergate" would be a more appropriate comparison.
Bush's own dealings within the energy industry carry a disturbingly familiar
echo to the Enron situation: once upon a time, he was a high-ranking officer
of a petroleum interest called Harken Oil. On June 22, 1990, Bush sold his
Harken stock and made $848,560, earning him a 200% profit. One week later,
Harken announced a $23.2 million loss in quarterly earnings and its stock
dropped sharply, losing 60 percent of its value over the next six months.
Bush made a bundle while the other investors lost millions. Harken was Enron
in miniature, and might have served as a warning to the American people if
the press had chosen to pay any attention to it during the 2000 Presidential
There is a school of thought, espoused primarily by Republicans, that any
investigation into potentially dishonorable or illegal actions by the Bush
administration is tantamount to treason. We are at war, undeclared though it
may be, and Bush must be free to prosecute this war vigorously, so as to
defend our freedom and bring the murderers of American civilians to justice.
If reports recently aired on CNN have any credence, however, Bush and his
people may well have to answer for actions that make the Enron catastrophe
look like a jaywalking offense, actions that led directly to the incredible
carnage in New York and Washington, D.C.
In 1998, during the Clinton administration, the U.S.-based energy concern
Unocal canceled plans to exploit massive natural gas deposits in
Turkmenistan. They had planned to run a pipeline from Turkmenistan to
Pakistan, where the natural gas could have been processed for Asian and
Western energy markets. The idea was scuttled after Clinton ordered the
cruise missile bombing of Afghanistan in response to a terrorist attack upon
U.S. embassies in Africa which were planned and executed by Osama bin Laden.
The pipeline would have had to pass through Afghanistan, and Unocal was given
the message in Technicolor by Clinton's people that Taliban-controlled
Afghanistan was not to be given any sort of financial boon.
Apparently, the Bush administration found no moral dilemma in dealing with
the Taliban to get to the gas. Immediately upon their arrival in Washington,
a vigorous courtship of the Taliban was undertaken by Bush's people. In fact,
if former U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler is to be believed, the Bush
administration had a vested interest in strengthening and stabilizing the
Taliban regime, because a stable regime would compel investors to revive the
Turkmenistan natural gas pipeline deal. The Taliban, demon of the moment, was
the Bush administration's idea of a 'stable' government. Stable enough,
anyway, to see the pipeline through.
The connections between Bush and the Taliban became so close that the Taliban
went so far as to hire an expert on U.S. public relations named Laila Helms,
so as to smooth the way between the two regimes. Meetings between the two
nations continued at a high level, the last of which occurred in August,
scant weeks before the September 11th attacks. All of these actions were
taken to exploit the vast energy reserves in Turkmenistan for the benefit of
American energy corporations.
The cozy relationship between Bush and the Taliban frustrated the
investigative efforts of former Deputy Director of the FBI John O'Neill.
O'Neill was the FBI's chief bin Laden hunter, in charge of the investigations
into the bin Laden-connected bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993, the
destruction of an American troop barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the
African embassy bombings in 1998, and the attack upon the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.
O'Neill quit the FBI in protest two weeks before the destruction of the World
Trade Center towers. He did so because his investigation was hindered by the
Bush administration's connections to the Taliban, and by the interests of
American petroleum companies. O'Neill was quoted as stating, "The main
obstacles to investigating Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil
corporate interests, and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it." After
leaving the FBI, O'Neill took a position as head of security for the World
Trade Center. He died on September 11th, 2001, trying to save people trapped
by the attack, when the towers came down on top of him. The irony in this,
simply, is horrifying.
In essence, the Federal agent who knew more about bin Laden than any living
American was kept from investigating terrorist threats against this country.
He was hindered because the Bush administration was desperate to cultivate
the favor of the Taliban, who held terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden in
great esteem, so as to gain access to lucrative natural gas deposits in
If these allegations prove true, Bush and his friends allowed this affinity
to hamstring investigations that could have thwarted bin Laden's September
plans. If these allegations prove true, everything since September 11th has
been a massive cover-up operation in which American soldiers and thousands of
Afghan civilians have died. If these allegations prove true, the Bush
administration has the blood of thousands of American civilians on its hands.
If these allegations carry even the faintest whiff of credibility, George W.
Bush and members of his administration stand in taint of high treason and
On November 7th, 2000, a clear majority of Americans came to the conclusion
that George W. Bush was unfit to govern this nation. For a variety of dark
and controversial reasons, that conclusion was thrown over. Sometime soon, if
the media's electronic web continues to carry these sordid stories of
corruption, greed and death, the American people will come to fully
understand the consequences of that failed election.
It is one thing to coddle and court a corrupt energy company for political
and financial gain. It is quite another to coddle and court a murderous
terrorist-supporting regime, hindering anti-terrorism investigations in the
process, for the purpose of exploiting valuable natural resources. The former
cost a number of people their retirement funds. The latter has cost thousands
of people their lives. One is criminal. The other is abominable. George W.
Bush is deeply implicated in both. There will be hell to pay.
William Pitt is a teacher in Boston (www.willpitt.com)
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