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     Apr 14, 2007
Bush family does a Moon dance
By Bill Berkowitz

OAKLAND, California - When former president George H W Bush takes the stage to deliver the keynote address in honor of the 25th anniversary of the ultra-conservative Washington Times newspaper in mid-May, it will not be the first time he has spoken in support of one of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's enterprises.

And whatever fee Bush will realize from his appearance is only one aspect of what author Kevin Philips has termed Moon's "close" relationship with the Bush family.

While the elder Bush - and other family members - have benefited

both financially and politically from this relationship with Moon, the head of the Unification Church has a more varied agenda in mind, one that includes a pardon from current President George W Bush.

In the 1980s, Moon served a 13-month jail sentence for tax evasion. He doesn't want to be a considered a convicted felon and is hoping for a pardon before Bush leaves office.

The Bush family/Moon relationship dates "to the overlap between [H W] Bush's one-year tenure as CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] director [1976] and the arrival in Washington of Moon, whose Unification Church was widely reported to be a front group for the South Korean Central Intelligence Agency [KCIA]", Phillips wrote in his best-selling book American Dynasty, Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush.

During a time when the activities of the KCIA were the subject of a US congressional investigation - dubbed Koreagate - Phillips pointed out that "within Washington councils, Bush was a powerful voice against any unnecessary crackdown on the US activities of allied intelligence services".

"One of George H W Bush's first tasks as director of the CIA was managing the 'Koreagate' scandal, in which the government of South Korea and its intelligence agents had waged espionage against the US government," said Fred Clarkson, the author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy - which includes a chapter on the Moon organization.

"Some of those agents were leading members of Moon's Unification church. Some members managed to infiltrate congressional staffs - primarily Democrats," he said.

During the 1980s, Moon's Washington Times consistently supported the Ronald Reagan-Bush team in its version of the events surrounding the Iran-Contra scandal. According to Clarkson, "The Moon organization was part of the private supply lines to the Nicaraguan Contras, the Washington Times was given special access and provided consistently flattering coverage and the newspaper also set up a special fund for private funding of the Contras."

In 1996, the relationship became decidedly financial when the former president traveled to Latin America to help Moon launch Tiempos del Mundo (Times of the World). At the time Bush called Moon's flagship US publication, the Washington Times, "an independent voice" and assured the crowd that "Tiempos del Mundo ... [will be] the same thing". According to published reports, Bush received at least US$100,000 for his participation in that event.

More recently, Moon's Washington Times Foundation funneled a million dollars to Bush's presidential library through the Houston, Texas-based Greater Houston Community Foundation.

Moon has also contributed to the financial wellbeing of other Bush family members. In 2005, Neil Bush, the former president's son and current president's brother, accompanied Moon on a few legs of the reverend's "World Peace King Bridge-Tunnel" tour, showing up at his side in the Philippines and Taiwan.

Late last year, Business Week reported Neil Bush's Ignite! Inc - an educational software company featuring what it calls "curriculum on wheels", or COWs - received a million dollars from "a foundation linked to the controversial Reverend Sun Myung Moon ... for a COWs research project in Washington-area schools".

But perhaps the most tangible aspect of the close relationship between the Bush family and Moon is the unbending support the Washington Times has given to George W Bush ever since he announced he was running for the presidency. In recent years, the newspaper's editorial and opinion pages have consistently supported the president's "war on terror" and war in Iraq.

"The Reverend Moon is a monster in the laboratory of conservative politics; no one wants to think about him, yet in order to ensure his continued support they must periodically feed his appetite for tribute," said John Gorenfeld, an investigative reporter and a longtime chronicler of Moon's activities. "One of Moon's paybacks at Times-sponsored events is to have his picture taken and rub shoulders with the politically powerful and well connected."

"Besides the gift of the support of the Washington Times, Bush and his son have accepted large amounts of money from Moon's church," said Gorenfeld, the author of a forthcoming book about Moon and US politics.

"In the Clinton years, George and Barbara Bush toured Japan with Moon, as well as Argentina. He is believed to have taken over a million dollars. More recently, a Moon company funneled $250,000 to the fund for George W Bush's inauguration."

Moon's enterprises extend far beyond the Unification Church, said Steve Hassan, an expert on cults and a licensed mental health counselor who was once a leader in the Moon organization.

"There are a number of business and political fronts; it's a multibillion-dollar international conglomerate headed by a demagogue who claims that he's the greatest guy in history, who wants to abolish democracy, end or destroy the United Nations and set up a theocracy for his heirs to rule," said Hassan.

When the elder Bush takes to the podium next month, it would be surprising if the close relationship between the Bush family and Moon is scrutinized by the mainstream media, since it has been basically ignored or glossed over for decades, Hassan insists.

"It infuriates me, as one who has been in the group and often heard Moon say that he wanted to destroy democracy and take over the world, that the mainstream media has not gotten this story right," he said. "While they have talked about corporate lobbying, they've neglected to discuss the lobbying and political influence of cults. Moon has been basically mainstreamed."

Hassan also noted that Moon's operation in the US, which began with the "street recruiting" of members - especially in university towns - has shifted to lavish dinners and awards ceremonies where Moon is able to hobnob with powerful political figures and later claim their allegiance.

"Having George H W Bush come and speak at the Washington Times anniversary event is definitely a coup," Hassan pointed out.
"That George H W Bush has such a long-term alliance with the theocratic Reverend Moon, who for all of his flag waving is on record as hating American constitutional democracy, is disturbing and will no doubt come to be seen as a defining aspect of Bush's political career, before, during and since his presidency," Fred Clarkson added.

"Bush's headlining the Washington Times' 25th anniversary event couldn't be more appropriate, since the Rev Moon and Bush's fortunes, political and otherwise, have been closely intertwined for decades."

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column "Conservative Watch" documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the US Right.

(Inter Press Service)

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