- Whatever benign star it is that tends George Bush’s destiny, lights his ambition, it was early on trapped in the flawed orbit of Richard Nixon. Bush’s meteoric ascent, in a decade’s time, from county GOP chairman to national chairman, including his prestigious ambassadorship to the United Nations, was due largely to the strong tug of Nixonian gravity. Likewise, his blunted hopes and dimmed future, like the Comet Kohoutek, result from the too-close approach to a fatal sun. [fn 1]
Several minutes before Ford appeared for the first time before the television cameras with Nelson Rockefeller, his vice president designate, he had placed a call to Bush to inform him that he had not been chosen, and to reassure him that he would be offered an important post as a consolation. Two days later, Bush met Ford at the White House. Bush claims that Ford told him that he could choose between a future as US envoy to the Court of St. James in London, or presenting his credentials to the Palais de l’Elysee in Paris. Bush would have us believe that he then told Ford that he wanted neither London nor Paris, but Beijing. Bush’s accounts then portray Ford, never the quickest, as tamping his pipe, scratching his head, and asking, “Why Beijing?” Here Bush is lying once again. Ford was certainly no genius, but no one was better situated than he to know that it would have been utter folly to propose Bush for an ambassadorship that had to be approved by the Senate.
Why Beijing? The first consideration, and it was an imperative one, was that under no circumstances could Bush face Senate confirmation hearings for any executive branch appointment for at least one to two years. There would have been questions about the Townhouse slush fund, about his intervention on Carmine Bellino, perhaps about Leon and Russell, and about many other acutely embarrassing themes. All of the reasons which had led Ford to exclude Bush as vice president, for which he would have needed the approval of both Houses of Congress, were valid in ruling out any nomination that had to get past the senate. After Watergate, Bush’s name was just too smelly to send up to the Hill for any reason, despite all the power of the usual Brown Brother, Harriman/Skull and Bones network mobilization. It would take time to cauterize certain lesions and to cool off certain investigative tracks. Certain scandals had to be fixed. Perhaps in a year or two things might cool down, and the climate of opinion alter. But while the psychology of Watergate dominated the legislative branch, a high-profile job for Bush was out of the question.
As Bush himself slyly notes: “The United States didn’t maintain formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic at the time, so my appointment wouldn’t need Senate confirmation.” An asterisk sends us to the additional fact that “because I’d been ambassador to the United Nations I carried the title ‘ambassador’ to China.” The person that would have to be convinced, Bush correctly noted, was Henry Kissinger, who monopolized all decisions on his prized China card. [fn 2] But George was right about the confirmation. Official diplomatic relations between the US and mainland China came only with the Carter China card of 1979. In 1974, what Bush was asking for was the US Laison Office (USLO), which did not have the official status of an embassy. The chief of that office was the president’s personal representative in China, but it was a post that did not require senate confirmation.
Bush’s notorious crony Robert Mosbacher, certainly well versed enough to qualify as a conoisseur of sleaze, was uncharacteristically close to the heart of the matter when he opined that in late August, 1974, Bush “wanted to get as far away from the stench [of Watergate] as possible.” [fn 3] Like Don Gregg in 1989, Bush wanted to get out of town and let things blow over for a while. His own story that Beijing would be a “challenge, a journey into the unknown” is pure tripe. More imaginative, but equally mendacious is the late Dean Burch’s explanation that Bush had “a Marco Polo complex, thinking he could pentrate the mystery of the place.” The truth is that with Washington teeming with Congressional committees, special prosecutors, grand juries, all in a furor of ostracism, Bush wanted to get as far away as he could, and Beijing was ideal.
Other attractions inherent in the Beijing posting are suggested by the fact that Bush’s predecessor in Beijing was David K.E. Bruce, who had opened the liason office in March, 1973. Bruce had been the chief of the London bureau of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, which meant that he had been the boss of all European OSS operations, including Allen Dulles in Switzerland and all the rest. The presence in Beijing of Bruce, a true eminence grise of Anglo-American intelligence, points up the importance of the post, especially in the covert and intelligence domain.
Otherwise, as Bush has already mentioned, serving in Beijing meant further close subordination to Henry Kissinger. Kissinger told Bush before he left that policy would be implemented directly by Kissinger himself, in contact with the Chinese liaison in Washington and the Chinese representative at the United Nations. In practice, Bush would be ordered about by such Kissinger clones as Richard Solomon of the NSC, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Habib, and Winston Lord, director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and the scion of an old Skull and Bones family. But then again, Bush was a leading Kissinger clone in his own right.
Finally, anyone who has observed Bush’s stubborn, obsessive, morally insane support for Deng Xiao-ping, Li Peng, and Yang Shankun during the aftermath of the Tien An Men massacre of June, 1989 is driven towards the conclusion that Bush gravitated towards China because of an elective affinity, because of a profound attraction for the methods and outlook of Chinese leaders like Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai, and Deng, for whom Bush has manifested a steadfast and unshakeable devotion in the face of heinous crimes and significant political pressure to repudiate them. Bush wanted to go to China because he found Chinese communists genuinely congenial.
When Bush was about to leave for China, his crony Dean Burch (no longer troubled, as we see, by Bush’s dermal diarrhea) arranged for a fifteen minute sendoff meeting with Ford, but this was reduced to 10 minutes by NSC director Scowcroft, at that time the most important Kissinger clone of them all. Before he left for Beijing, Bush could not resist making some sententious and self-serving pronouncements to the press about his experience in Watergate. He told David Broder of the Washington Post: “We’ve done a lot of running just to stay in place, and I was sometimes depressed by the amount of bickering that goes on. But then I look across town at Bob Strauss and his problems, and I feel like this was a 20-month honeymoon.” Bob Strauss was at this time Bush’s counterpart at the Democratic National Committee. Bush noted that there was “philosophical discontent” among right-wing Republicans about the policies of Nixon and Ford, but opined that these would never lead to a third party on the right. Bush defended “patronage” and said he was “worried about the health of the two-party system” even though he worried that this cause is “really not very popular right now.” [fn 4]
Bush’s staff in Beijing included deputy chief of mission John Holdridge, Don Anderson, Herbert Horowitz, Bill Thomas, and Bush’s “executive assistant,” Jennifer Fitzgerald, who has remained very close to Bush, and who has sometimes been rumored to be his mistress. Jennifer Fitzgerald in 1991 was the deputy chief of protocol in the White House; when German Chacellor Kohl visited Bush in the sping of 1991, he was greeted on the White House steps by Jennifer Fitzgerald. Bush’s closest contacts among Chinese officialdom included vice minister of foreign affairs Qiao Guanhua and his wife Zhang Hanzhi, also a top official of the foreign ministry. This is the same Qiao who is repeatedly mentioned in Kissinger’s memoirs as one of his most important Red Chinese diplomatic interlocutors. This is the “Lord Qiao” enigmatically mentioned by Mao during Kissinger’s meeting with Mao and Zhou En-lai on November 12, 1973. Qiao and Zhang later lost power because they sided with the left extremist Gang of Four after the death of Mao in 1976, Bush tells us. But in 1974-75, the power of the proto-Gang of Four faction was at its height, and it was towards this group that Bush quickly gravitated. In moving instinctively towards the hardline Mao faction, Bush was also doubtless aware of of Mao’s connections with the Yale in China program around the time of the First World War. The Skull and Bones network could turn up in unexpected places.
Bush and Barbara were careful to create the impression that they were rusticating away in Beijing. Barbara told Don Oberdorfer in early December: “Back in Washington or at the United Nations the telephone was ringing all the time. George would come home and say, excuse me, and pick up the phone. It’s very different here. In the first five weeks I think he received two telephone calls, except for the ones from me. I try to call him once a day. I think he misses the phone as much as anything.”
Was Mrs. Bush being entirely candid? Even if she was, Bush could console himself and his hyperkinetic thyroid with the fact that if there were no calls, there were also no subpoenas. Bush himself added: “A lot of people said, ‘You don’t know what you’re getting into,” but on the basis of a month I’m very happy. Sure, the place is very different but I wanted a change of pace. What the hell, I’m 50. It won’t hurt anything,” said Bush with a whining note of self-pity. [fn 5] The self-pity was a deception this time, since, as we will see, Bush had plenty to do in Beijing. The US Liason Office was located in a walled compound in an area occupied by other foreign missions in a Beijing suburb. A guard from the People’s Liberation Army was posted outside at all times. Bush told Oberdorfer that he started the day with the news on the Voice of America, followed by a yoghurt breakfast, then staff meetings and attempts at China-watching deciphering of the editorials of Ren Min Ribao (The People’s Daily). At 11:40, Bush and Barbara received their Chinese lesson from their Mandarin teacher, Mrs. Tang. Then came a multicourse lunch. Wednesday and Saturday afternoons were time off, as well as Sundays. Bush tried to attract attention by riding a bicycle to diplomatic engagements. “Everybody was astonished, particularly because it was so different from the dignified manner of David Bruce,” said one diplomat. “I think the Chinese probably thought they were doing it for effect.” George was having back trouble, and found an osteopath to treat his back at a public bathhouse. Bush’s attention-getting ploys had some effect on the Beijing of Mao Tse-tung, or at least on the foreigners. “Bush is an instant success around here, ” said a Canadian newsman. “The real test will come, though, when the novelty wears off and his enthusiasm runs down.”
When Bush had been in Beijing for about a month, Henry Kissinger arrived for one of his periodic visits to discuss current business with the Beijing leadership. Kissinger arrived with his usual army of retainers and Secret Service guards. During this visit, Bush went with Kissinger to see Vice-Premier Deng Xiao-ping and Foreign Minister Qiao. This was one of four reported visits by Kissinger that would punctuate Bush’s stay.
Bush’s tenure in Beijing must be understood in the context of the Malthusian and frankly genocidal policies of the Kissinger White House. These are aptly summed up for reference in the recently declassified National Security Study Memorandum 200, “Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests,” dated December 10, 1974. [fn 6] NSSM 200, a joint effort by Kissinger and his deputy General Brent Scowcroft, provided a hit list of 13 developing countries for which the NSC posited a “special US political and strategic interest” in population reduction or limitation. The list included India, Bengladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia, and Colombia. Demographic growth in these and other third world nations was to be halted and if possible reversed for the brutal reason that population growth represented increased strategic, and military power for the countries in question.
Population growth, argues NSSM 200, will also increase pressure for the economic and industrial development of these countries, an eventuality which the study sees as a threat to the United States. In addition, bigger populations in the third world are alleged to lead to higher prices and greater scarcity of strategic raw materials. As Kissinger summed up: “Development of a worldwide political and popular committment to population stabilization is fundamental to any effective strategy….The US should encourage LDC leaders to take the lead in advancing family planning.” When NSSM 200 goes on to ask, “would food be considered an instrument of national power?” it is clear to all that active measures of genocide are at the heart of the policy being propounded. A later Kissinger report praises the Chinese communist leadership for their committment to population control. During 1975, these Chinese communists, Henry Kissinger and George Bush were to team up to create a demonstration model of the NSSM 200 policy: the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia.
During the time that Bush was in Beijing, the fighting in Vietnam came to an end as the South Vietnamese army collapsed in the face of a large-scale invasion from the north. The insane adventure of Vietnam had been organized by Bush’s own Brown Brothers, Harriman/Skull and Bones network. When John F. Kennedy had been elected president in 1960, he had turned to Brown Brothers, Harriman partner Robert Lovett to provide him a list of likely choices for his cabinet. From this list were drawn Rusk and McNamara, the leadings hawks in the cabinet. McGeorge and William Bundy, descendants of the Lowells of Boston, but closely related to the Stimson-Acheson circles, were mainstays of the party of escalation. Henry Cabot Lodge was the US Ambassador in Saigon when the Harriman had insisted on assassinating President Diem, the leader of the country the US was supposedly defending. Harriman, starting as assistant secretary for Southeast Asian affairs, had worked his way up through the Kennedy-Johnson State Department with the same program of expanding the war. Now that Harriman-Lovett policy had led to the inevitable debacle. But the post-war suffering of southeast Asia was only beginning.
One of the gambits used by Kissinger to demonstrate to the Beijing communist leaders the utility of rapprochement with the US was the unhappy nation of Cambodia. The pro-US government of Cambodia was headed by Marshal Lon Nol, who had taken power in 1970, the year of the public and massive US ground incursion into the country. By the spring of 1975, while the North Vietnamese advanced on Saigon, the Lon Nol government was fighting for its life against the armed insurrection of the Khmer Rouge communist guerillas, who were supported by mainland China. Kissinger was as anxious as usual to serve the interests of Beijing, and now even more so, because of the alleged need to increase the power of the Chinese and their assets, the Khmer rouge, against the triumphant North Vietnamese. The most important consideration remained to ally with China, the second strongest land power, against the USSR. Secondarily, it was important to maintain the balance of power in Southeast Asia as the US policy collapsed. Kissinger’s policy was therefore to jettison the Lon Nol government, and to replace it with the Khmer rouge. George Bush, as Kissinger’s liaison man in Beijing, was one of the instruments through which this policy was executed. Bush did his part, and the result is known to world history under the heading of the Pol Pot regime, which committed a genocide against its own population proportionally greater than any other in recent world history.
Until 1970, the government of Cambodia was led by Prince Sihanouk, a former king who had stepped down from the throne to become prime minister. Despite his many limitations, Sihanouk was then, and remains today, the most viable symbol of the national unity and hope for sovereignty of Cambodia. Under Sihanouk, Cambodia had maintained a measure of stability and had above all managed to avoid being completely engulfed by the swirling maelstrom of the wars in Laos and in Vietnam. But during 1969, Nixon and Kissinger had ordered a secret bombing campaign against North Vietnamese troop concentrations on Cambodian territory under the code name of “Menu.” This bombing would have been a real and substantive grounds for the impeachment of Nixon, and it did constitute the fourth proposed article of impeachment against Nixon submitted to the House Judiciary Committee on July 30, 1974. But after three articles of impeachment having to do with the Watergate break-ins and subsequent coverup were approved by the committee, the most important article, the one on genocide in Cambodia, was defeated by a vote of 26 to 12.
Cambodia was dragged into the Indo-China war by the US-sponsored coup d’etat in Phnom Penh on March, 1970, which ousted Sihanouk in favor of Marshal Lon Nol of the Cambodian army, whose regime was never able to achieve even a modicum of stability. Shortly thereafter, at the end of April, 1970, Nixon and Kissinger launched a large-scale US military invasion of Cambodia, citing the use of Cambodian territory by the North Vietnamese armed forces for their “Ho Chi Minh trail” supply line to sustain their forces deployed in South Vietnam. The “parrot’s beak” area of Cambodia, which extended deep into South Vietnam, was occupied.
Prince Sihanouk, who described himself as a neutralist, established himself in Beijing after the seizure of power by Lon Nol. In May of 1970 he became the titular leader and head of state of a Cambodian government in exile, the Gouvernement Royal d’Union Nationale du Kampuchea, or GRUNK. The GRUNK was in essence a united front between Sihanouk and the Khmer Rouge, with the latter exercising most of the real power and commanding the armed forces and secret police. Sihanouk was merely a figurehead, and he knew it. He told Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci in 1973 that when “they [the Khmer Rouge] no longer need me, they will spit me out like a cherry pit.”
During these years, the Cambodian Communist party or Khmer Rouge, which had launched a small guerilla insurrection during 1968, was a negligeable military factor in Cambodia, fielding only a very few thousand guerilla fighters. One of its leaders was Saloth Sar, who had studied in Paris, and who had then sojourned at length in Red China at the height of the Red Guards’ agitation. Saloth Sar was one of the most important leaders of the Khmer Rouge, and would later become infamous under his nom de guerre of Pol Pot. Decisive support for Pol Pot and for the later genocidal policies of the Khmer Rouge always came from Beijing, despite the attempts to misguided or lying commentators (like Henry Kissinger) to depict the Khmer Rouge as a creation of Hanoi.
But in the years after 1970, the Khmer Rouge, who were determined immediately to transform Cambodia into a communist utopia beyond the dreams even of the wildest Maoist Red Guards, made rapid gains. The most important single ingedient in the rise of the Khmer Rouge was provided by Kissinger and Nixon, through their systematic campaign of terror bombing against Cambodian territory during 1973. This was called Arclight, and began shortly after the January, 1973 Paris accords on Vietnam. With the pretext of halting a Khmer Rouge attack on Phnom Penh, US forces carried out 79,959 officially confirmed sorties with B-52 and F-111 bombers against targets inside Cambodia, dropping 539,129 tons of explosives. Many of these bombs fell upon the most densely populated sections of Cambodia, including the countryside around Phnom Penh. The number of deaths caused by this genocidal campaign has been estimated as between 30,000 and 500,000. [fn 7] Accounts of the devastating impact of this mass terror bombing leave no doubt that it shattered most of what remained of Cambodian society and provided ideal preconditions for the further expansion of the Khmer Rouge insurgency, in much the same way that the catastrophe of the First World War weakened European society so as to open the door for the mass irrationalist movements of fascism and Bolshevism.
During 1974, the Khmer Rouge consolidated their hold over parts of Cambodia. In these enclaves they showed their characteristic methods of genocide, dispersing the inhabitants of the cities into the countryside, while executing teachers, civil servants, intellectuals– sometimes all those who could read and write. This policy was remarkably similar to the one being carried out by the US under Theodore Shackley’s Operation Phoenix in neighboring South Vietnam, and Kissinger and other officials began to see the potential of the Khmer Rouge for implementing the genocidal population reductions that had now been made the official doctrine of the US regime.
Support for the Khmer Rouge was even more attractive to Kissinger and Nixon because it provided an opportunity for the geopolitical propitiation of the Maoist regime in China. Indeed, in the development of the China card between 1973 and 1975, during most of Bush’s stay in Beijing, Cambodia loomed very large as the single most important bilateral issue between the US and Red China. Already in November, 1972 Kissinger told Bush’s later prime contact Qiao Guanhua that the US would have no real objection to a Sihanouk-Khmer Rouge government of the type that later emerged: “Whoever can best preserve it [Cambodia] as an independent neutral country, is consistent with our policy, and we believe with yours,” said Kissinger [fn 8] Zhou En-lai told Kissinger in February, 1973 that if North Vietnam were to extend its domination over Cambodia, this “would result in even greater problems.”
When Bush’s predecessor David Bruce arrived in Beijing to open the new US Liason Office in the spring of 1973, he sought contact with Zhou En-lai. On May 18, 1973 Zhou stressed that the only solution for Cambodia would be for North Vietnamese forces to leave that country entirely. A few days later Kissinger told Chinese delegate Huang Hua in New York that US and Red Chinese interests in Cambodia were compatible, since both sought to avoid “a bloc which could support the hegemonial objectives of outside powers,” meaning North Vietnam and Hanoi’s backers in Moscow. The genocidal terror bombing of Cambodia was ordered by Kissinger during this period. Kissinger was apoplectic over the move by the US Congress to prohibit further bombing of Cambodia after August 15, 1973, which he called “a totally unpredictable and senseless event.” [fn 9] Kissinger always pretends that the Khmer Rouge were a tool of Hanoi, and in his Memoirs he spins out an absurd theory that the weakening of Zhou and the ascendancy of the Gang of Four was caused by Kissinger’s own inability to keep bombing Cambodia. In reality, Beijing was backing its own allies, the Khmer Rouge, as is obvious from the account that Kissinger himself provides of his meeting with Bush’s friend Qiao in October, 1973. [fn 10]
Starting in the second half of 1974, George Bush was heavily engaged on this Sino-Cambodian front, particularly in his contacts with his main negotiating partner, Qiao. Bush had the advantage that secret diplomacy carried on with the Red Chinese regime during those days was subject to very little public scrutiny. The summaries of Bush’s dealings with the Red Chinese now await the liberation of the files of the Foreign Ministry in Beijing or of the State Department in Washington, whichever comes first. Bush’s involvement on the Cambodian question has been established by later interviews with Prince Sihanouk’s chef de cabinet, Pung Peng Cheng, as well as with French and US officials knowledgeable about Bush’s activities in Beijing during that time. What we have here is admittedly the tip of the iceberg, the merest hints of the monstrous iniquity yet to be unearthed. [fn 11]
The Khmer Rouge launched a dry-season offensive against Phnom Penh in early 1974, which fells short of its goal. They tried again the following year with a dry season offensive launched on January 1, 1975. Soon supplies to Phnom Penh were cut off, both on the land and along the Mekong River. Units of Lon Nol’s forces fought the battle of the Phnom Penh perimeter through March. On April 1, 1975, President Lon Nol resigned and fled the country under the pressure of the US Embassy, who wanted him out as quickly as possible as part of the program to appease Beijing. [fn 12]
When Lon Nol had left the country, Kissinger became concerned that the open conquest of Phnom Penh by the Khmer Rouge communist guerillas would create public relations and political problems for the shakey Ford regime in the United States. Kissinger accordingly became interested in having Prince Sihanouk, the titular head of the insurgent coalition of which the Khmer Rouge were the leading part, travel from Beijing to Phnom Penh so that the new government in Cambodia could be portrayed more as a neutralist-nationalist, and less as a frankly communist, regime. This turns out to be the episode of the Cambodian tragedy in which George Bush’s personal involvement is most readily demonstrated.
Prince Sihanouk had repeatedly sought direct contacts with Kissinger. At the end of March, 1975 he tried again to open a channel to Washington, this time with the help of the French Embassy in Beijing. Sihanouk’s chef de cabinet Pung Peng Chen requested a meeting with John Holdridge, Bush’s deputy chief of station. This meeting was held at the French Embassy. Pung told Holdridge that Prince Sihanouk had a favor to ask of President Ford:
- “in [ Sihanouk’s ] old home in Phnom Penh were copies of the films of Cambodia he had made in the sixties when he had been an enthusiastic cineaste. They constituted a unique cultural record of a Cambodia that was gone forever: would the Americans please rescue them? Kissinger ordered Dean [ the US Ambassador in Cambodia ] to find the films and also instructed Bush to seek a meeting with Sihanouk. The Prince refused, and during the first ten days of April, as the noose around Phnom Penh tightened, he continued his public tirades” against the US and its Cambodian puppets. [fn 13]
On the same day, April 11, Ford announced that he would not request any further aid for Cambodia from the US Congress, since any aid for Cambodia approved now would be “too late” anyway. Ford had originally been asking for $333 million to save the government of Cambodia. Several days later Ford would reverse himself and renew his request for the aid, but by that time it was really too late.
On April 11 the US Embassy was preparing a dramatic evacuation, but the embassy was being kept open as part of Kissinger’s effort to bring Prince Sihanouk back to Phnom Penh.
- “It was now, on April 11, 1975, as Dean was telling government leaders he might soon be leaving, that Kissinger decided that Sihanouk should be brought back to Cambodia. In Peking, George Bush was ordered to seek another meeting; that afternoon John Holdridge met once more with Pung Peng Cheng at the French Embassy. The American diplomat explained that Dr. Kissinger and President Ford were now convinced that only the Prince could end the crisis. Would he please ask the Chinese for an aircraft to fly him straight back to Phnomn Penh? The United States would guarantee to remain there until he arrived. Dr. Kissinger wished to impose no conditions.” “On April 12 at 5 AM Peking time Holdridge again met with Pung. He told him that the Phnom Penh perimeter was degenerating so fast that the Americans were pulling out at once. Sihanouk had already issued a statement rejecting and denouncing Kissinger’s invitation.” [fn 14]
Sihanouk had a certain following among liberal members of the US Senate, and his presence in Phnom Penh in the midst of the debacle of the old Lon Nol forces would doubtless have been reassuring for US public opinion. But Sihanouk at this time had no ability to act independently of the Khmer Rouge leaders, who were hostile to him and who held the real power, including the inside track to the Red Chinese. Prince Sihanouk did return to Phnom Penh later in 1975, and his strained relations with Pol Pot and his colleagues soon became evident. Early in 1976, Sihanouk was placed under house arrest by the Khmer Rouge, who appear to have intended to execute him. Sihanouk remained under detention until the North Vietnamese drove Pol Pot and his forces out of Phnom Penh in 1978 and set up their own government there.
In following the Kissinger-Bush machinations to bring Prince Sihanouk back to Cambodia in mid-April, 1975, one is also suspicious that an included option was to increase the likelihood that Sihanouk might be liquidated by the Khmer Rouge. When the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh, they immediately carried out a massacre on a grand scale, slaying any members of the Lon Nol and Long Boret cabinets they could get their hands on. There were mass executions of teachers and government officials, and all of the 2.5 million residents of Phnom Penh were driven into the countryside, including seriously ill hospital patients. Under these circumstances, it would have been relatively easy to assassinate Sihanouk amidst the general orgy of slaughter. Such an eventuality was explicitly referred to in a Kissinger NSC briefing paper circulated in March 1975, in which Sihanouk was quoted as follows in remarks made December 10, 1971: “If I go on as chief of state after victory, I run the risk of being pushed out the window by the Communists, like Masaryk, or that I might be imprisoned for revisionism or deviationism.”
More than 2 million Cambodians out of an estimated total population of slightly more than 7 million perished under the Khmer Rouge; according to some estimates, the genocide killed 32% of the total population. [fn 15] The United States and Red China, acting together under the Kissinger “China card” policy, had liquidated one Cambodian government, destroyed the fabric of civil society in the country, ousted a pro-US government, and installed a new regime they knew to be genocidal in its intentions. For Kissinger, it was the exemplification of the new US strategic doctrine contaied in NSSM 200. For George Bush, it was the fulfillment of his family’s fanatically held belief in the need for genocide to prevent the more prolific, but inferior races of the earth, in this case those with yellow skins, from “out-breeding” the imperial Anglo-Saxon racial stock. In addition to opportunities to promote genocide, Bush’s tenure in Beijing presented him with numerous occasions to exploit public office for the private gain of financiers and businessmen who were a part of his network.
Meeting of the Monsters
In September, 1975, as Ford was preparing for a year-end visit to China, Kissinger organized a Presidential reception at the White House for a delegation from the Beijing China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. This was the first high-level trade delegation to come to the United States from China. The meeting was carefully choreographed by Kissinger and Scowcroft. The Ford Library has preserved a supplementary memo to Scowcroft, at that time the NSC chief, from Richard H. Solomon of the NSC staff, which reads as follows: “Regarding the President’s meeting with the Chinese trade group, State has called me requesting that Ambassador Bush and [Kissinger henchman] Phil Habib attend the meeting. You will recall having approved Bush’s sitting in on the President’s meeting with the Congressional delegation that recently returned from China. Hence, Bush will be floating around the White House at this period of time anyway. I personally think it would be useful to have Bush and Habib sit in. The Cabinet Room should be able to hold them. Win Lord is someone else who might be invited.” This meeting was eventually held on September 8, 1975. A little earlier Bush en route to Washington, had sent a hand-written note to Scowcroft dated August 29, 1975. This missive urged Scowcroft to grant a request from Codel Anderson, who had just completed a visit to China complete with a meeting with Deng Xiao-ping, to be allowed to report back to Ford personally. These were the type of contacts which later paid off for Bush’s cronies. During 1977, Bush returned to China as a private citizen, taking with him his former Zapata business partner, J. Hugh Liedtke. In January, 1978, Liedtke was on hand when the Chinese oil minister was Bush’s guest for dinner at his home in Houston. In May, 1978, Liedtke and Pennzoil were at the top of the Chinese government’s list of US oil firms competing to be accorded contracts for drilling in China. Then, in the late summer of 1978, J. Hugh Liedtke of Pennzoil made another trip to China, during which he was allowed to view geological studies which had previously been held as state secrets by Beijing. Pennzoil was in the lead for a contract to begin offshore drilling in the South China sea. [fn 16] Kissinger made four visits to Beijing during Bush’s tenure there, three solo appearances and a final junket accompanied by Ford. On October 19, 1975, Kissinger arrived in Beijing to prepare for Ford’s visit, set for December. There were talks between Kissinger and Deng Xiao-ping, with Bush, Habib, Winston Lord and Foreign Minister Qiao taking part. It was during this visit that, Bush would have us believe, that he had his first face to face meeting with Mao Tse Tung, the leader of a communist revolution which had claimed the lives of some 100,000,000 Chinese since the end of the Second World War.
Mao, one of the greatest monsters of the twentieth century, was 81 years old at that time. He was in very bad health; when he opened his mouth to meet Kissinger, “only guttural noises emerged.” Mao’s study contained tables covered with tubes and medical apparatus, and a small oxygen tank. Mao was unable to speak coherently, but had to write Chinese characters and an occasional word in English on a note pad which he showed to his interpreters. Kissinger inquired as to Mao’s health. Mao pointed to his head saying, “This part works well. I can eat and sleep.” Then Mao tapped his legs: “These parts do not work well. They are not strong when I walk. I also have some trouble with my lungs. In a word, I am not well. I am a showcase for visitors, ” Mao summed up. The croaking, guttural voice continued: “I am going to heaven soon. I have already received an invitation from God.”
If Mao was a basso profondo of guttural croaking, then Kissinger was at least a bass-baritone: “Don’t accept it too soon,” he replied. “I accept the orders of the Doctor,” wrote Mao on his note pad. Mao at this point had slightly less than a year to live. Bush provided counterpoint to these lower registers with his own whining tenor.
Bush was much impressed by Mao’s rustic background and repertiore of Chinese barnyard expressions. Referring to a certain problem in Sino-American relations, Mao dismissed it as no more important than a “fang go pi,” no more important than a dog fart. Bush has always had a strange fascination for scatological references, which is probably rooted amid the taboos of his clenched Anglo-Saxon family background, where the boys never heard their father fart. We have seen Bush’s obsessive recounting of LBJ’s much-told “chicken shit” anecdote about the House of Representatives.
Mao went on, commenting about US military superiority, and then saying: “God blesses you, not us. God does not like us because I am a militant warlord, also a Communist. No, he doesn’t like me. He likes you three.” Mao pointed to Kissinger, Bush, and Winston Lord. Towards the end of the encounter, this lugubrious monster singled out Bush for special attention. Mao turned to Winston Lord. “This ambassador,” said Mao while gesturing towards Bush, “is in a plight. Why don’t you come visit ?” “I would be honored,” Bush replied according to his own account, “but I’m afraid you’re very busy.” “Oh, I’m not busy,” said Mao.”I don’t look after internal affairs. I only read the international news. You should really come visit.”
Bush claims [fn 17] that he never accepted Chairman Mao’s invitation to come around for private talks. Bush says that he was convinced by members of his own staff that Mao did not really mean to invite him, but was only being polite. Was Bush really so reticent, or is this another one of the falsifications with which his official biographies are studded? The world must await the opening of the Beijing and Foggy Bottom archives. In the meantime, we must take a moment to contemplate that gathering of October, 1975 in Chairman Mao’s private villa, secluded behind many courtyards and screens in the Chungnanhai enclave of Chinese rulers not far from the Great Hall of the People and Tien An Men, where less than a year later an initial round of pro-democracy demonstrations would be put down in blood in the wake of the funeral of Zhou En-lai.
Mao, Kissinger, and Bush: has history ever seen a tete-a-tete of such mass murderers? Mao, identifying himself with Chin Shih Huang, the first emperor of all of China and founder of the Chin dynasty, who had built the Great Wall, burned the books, and killed the Confucian scholars– this Mao had massacred ten per cent of his own people, ravaged Korea, strangled Tibet. Kissinger’s crimes were endless, from the Middle East to Vietnam, from the oil crisis of 73-74 with the endless death in the Sahel to India-Pakistan, Chile, and many more. Kissinger, Mao, and Bush had collaborated to install the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, which was now approaching the zenith of its genocidal career. Compared to the other two, Bush may have appeared as an apprentice of genocide: he had done some filibustering in the Caribbean, had been part of the cheering section for the Indonesia massacres of 1965, and then he had become a part of the Kissinger apparatus, sharing in the responsibility for India-Pakistan, the Middle East, Cambodia. But as Bush advanced through his personal cursus honorum, his power and his genocidal dexterity were growing, foreshadowing such future triumphs as the devastation of El Chorillo in Panama in December, 1989, and his later masterwork of savagery, the Gulf war of 1991. By the time of Bush’s administration, Anglo-American finance and the International Monetary Fund were averaging some 50,000,000 needless deaths per year in the developing sector.
But Mao, Kissinger, and Bush exchanged pleasantries that day in Mao’s sitting room in Chungnanhai. If the shades of Hitler or Stalin had sought admission to that colloqium, they might have been denied entrance. Later, in early December, Gerald Ford, accompanied by his hapless wife and daughter, came to see the moribund Mao for what amounted to a photo opportunity with a living cadaver. The AP wire issued that day hyped the fact that Mao had talked with Ford for 1 hour and fifty minutes, nearly twice as long as the Great Steersman had given to Nixon in 1972. Participants in this meeting included Kissinger, Bush, Scowcroft, and Winston Lord. Even such Kissingerian heavies as Undersecretary of State Joseph Sisco, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Richard Solomon of the NSC were not allowed to stay for the meeting. Bush was now truly a leading Kissinger clone. A joint communique issued after this session said that Mao and Ford had had “earnest and significant discussions …on wide-ranging issues in a friendly atmosphere.” At this meeting, Chairman Mao greeted Bush with the words, “You’ve been promoted.” Mao turned to Ford, and added: “We hate to see him go.” At a private lunch with Vice Premier Deng Xiao-ping, the rising star of the post-Mao succession, Deng assured Bush that he was considered a friend of the Chinese Communist hierarchy who would always be welcome in China, “even as head of the CIA.” For, as we will see, this was to be the next stop on Bush’s cursus honorum. Later Kissinger and Bush also met with Qiao Guanhua, still the Foreign Minister. According to newspaper accounts, the phraseology of the joint communique suggested that the meeting had been more than usually cordial. There had also been a two-hour meeting with Deng Xiao-ping reported by the Ford White House as “a constructive exchange of views on a wide range of international issues.” At a banquet, Deng used a toast for an anti-Soviet tirade which the Soviet news agency TASS criticized as “vicious attacks.” [fn 18] Ford thought, probably because he had been told by Kissinger, that the fact that Mao had accompanied him to the door of his villa after the meeting was a special honor, but he was disabused by Beijing-based correspondents who told him that this was Mao’s customary practice. Ford’s daughter Susan was sporting a full-length muskrat coat for her trip to the Great Wall. “It’s more than I ever expected,” she gushed. “I feel like I’m in a fantasy. It’s a whole other world.” Days after Ford departed from Beijing, Bush also left the Chinese capital. It was time for a new step in his imperial cursus honorum. During his entire stay in Beijing, Bush had never stopped scheming for new paths of personal advancement towards the very apex of power. Before Bush went to Beijing, he had talked to his network asset and crony Rogers C.B. Morton about his favorite topic, his own prospects for future career aggrandizement. Morton at that time was Secretary of Commerce, but he was planning to step down before much longer. Morton told Bush: “What you ought to think about is coming back to Washington to replace me when I leave. It’s a perfect springboard for a place on the ticket.” This idea is the theme of a Ford White House memo preserved in the Jack Marsh Files at the Ford Library in Ann Arbor. The memo is addressed to Jack Marsh, counsellor to the President, by Russell Rourke of Marsh’s staff. The memo, which is dated March 20, 1975, reads as follows: “It’s my impression and partial understanding that George Bush has probably had enough of egg rolls and Peking by now (and has probably gotten over his lost V.P. opportunity). He’s one hell of a Presidential surrogate, and would be an outstanding spokesman for the White House between now and November ’76. Don’t you think he would make an outstanding candidate for Secretary of Commerce or a similar post sometime during the next six months?”
The Next Step
Bush was now obsessed with the idea that he had a right to become vice president in 1976. As a member of the senatorial caste, he had a right to enter the senate, and if the plebeians with their changeable humors barred the elective route, then the only answer was to be appointed to the second spot on the ticket and enter the senate as its presiding officer. As Bush wrote in his campaign autobiography: “Having lost out to Rockefeller as Ford’s vice presidential choice in 1974, I might be considered by some as a leading contender for the number two spot in Kansas City….” [fn 19]
Bush possessed a remarkable capability for the blackmailing of Ford: he could enter the 1976 Republican presidential primaries as a candidate in his own right, and could occasion a hemorrhaging of liberal Republican support that might otherwise have gone to Ford. Ford, the first non-elected president, was the weakest of all incumbents, and he was already preparing to face a powerful challenge from his right mounted by the Ronald Reagan camp. The presence of an additional rival with Bush’s networks among liberal and moderate Republican layers might constitute a fatal impediment to Ford’s prospects of getting himself elected to a term of his own.
Accordingly, when Kissinger visited Bush in Beijing in October, 1975, he pointedly inquired as to whether Bush intended to enter any of the Republican presidential primaries during the 1976 season. This was the principal question that Ford had directed Kissinger to ask of Bush. Bush’s exit from Beijing occurred within the context of Ford’s celebrated Halloween Massacre of early November, 1975. This “massacre,” reminiscent of Nixon’s cabinet purge of 1973 (“the Saturday night massacre”), was a number of firings and transfers of high officials at the top of the executive branch through which Ford sought to figure forth the political profile which he intended to carry into the primaries and, if he were successful in the winter and spring, into the Republican convention and, beyond that, into the fall campaign. So each of these changes had a purpose that was ultimately rooted in electioneering.
In the Halloween massacre, it was announced that Vice President Nelson Rockefeller would under no circumstances be a candidate to continue in that office. Nelson’s negatives were simply too high. James “Rodney the Robot” Schlesinger was summarily ousted as the Secretary of Defense; Schlesinger’s “Dr. Strangelove” overtones were judged not presentable during an election year. To replace Schlesinger, Ford’s White House chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld was given the Pentagon. Henry Kissinger, who up to this moment had been running the administration from two posts, NSC director and Secretary of State, had to give up his White House office and was obliged to direct the business of the government from Foggy Bottom. In consolation to him, the NSC job was assigned to his devoted clone and later business associate, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, a Mormon who would later play the role of exterminating demon during Bush’s Gulf war adventure. At the Department of Commerce, the secretary’s post that had been so highly touted to Bush was being vacated by Rogers Morton. Finally, William Colby, his public reputation thoroughly delapidated as a result of the revelations made during the Church Committee and Pike Committee investigations of the abuses and crimes of the CIA, especially within the US domestic sphere, was canned as Director of Central Intelligence.
Could this elaborate reshuffle be made to yield a job for Bush? It was anything but guaranteed. The post of CIA director was offerred to Washington lawyer and influence broker Edward Bennett Williams. But he turned it down.
Then there was the post at Commerce. This was one that Bush came very close to getting. In the Jack Marsh files at the Gerald Ford Library there is a draft marked “Suggested cable to George Bush,” but which is undated. The telegram begins: “Congratulations on your selection by the President as Secretary of Commerce.” The job title is crossed out, and “Director of the Central Intelligence Agency” is pencilled in.
So Bush almost went to Commerce, but then was proposed for Langley instead. Bush in his campaign autobiography suggests that the CIA appointment was a tactical defeat, the one new job that was more or less guaranteed to keep him off the GOP ticket in 1976. As CIA Director, if he got that far, he would have to spend “the next six months serving as point man for a controversial agency being investigated by two major Congressional committees. The scars left by that experience would put me out of contention, leaving the spot open for others.” [fn 20] Bush suggests that “the Langley thing” was the handiwork of Donald Rumsfeld, who had a leading role in designing the reshuffle. (Some time later William Simon confided privately that he himself had been targetted for proscription by “Rummy,” who was more interested in the Treasury than he was in the Pentagon.)
On All Saints’ Day, November 1, 1975, Bush received a telegram from Kissinger informing him that “the President is planning to announce some major personnel shifts on Monday, November 3, at 7:30 PM, Washington time. Among those shifts will be the transfer of Bill Colby from CIA. The President asks that you consent to his nominating you as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency.” [fn 21]
Bush promptly accepted.
Return to the Table of Contents
1. Al Reinert, “Bob and George Go To Washington or The Post-Watergate Scramble” in Texas Monthly, April 1974.
2. Bush and Gold, Looking Forward, p. 130.
3. Walter Pincus and Bob Woodward, “Presidential Posts and Dashed Hopes,” Washington Post, August 9, 1988.
4. Washington Post, September 16, 1974.
5. Washington Post, December 2, 1974.
6. See Hassan Ahmed and Joseph Brewda, “Kissinger, Scowcroft, Bush Plotted Third World Genocide,” Executive Intelligence Review, May 3, 1991, pp. 26-30.
7. Russell R. Ross ed., Cambodia: A Country Study (Washington, 1990), p. 46.
8. Kissinger, Years of Upheaval (Boston, 1982), p. 341. This second volume of Kissinger’s memoirs, published when his close ally Bush had already become vice president, has much less to say about George’s activities, with only one reference to him in more than 1200 pages. We see again that Bush prefers that most of his actual record remain covert.
9. Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, p. 367.
10. Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, p. 681.
11. See William Shawcross, Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon, and the Destruction of Cambodia (New York, 1987), pp. 360-361.
12. Lt. Gen. Sak Sutsakhan, the leader of the last Cambodian government before the advent of the Khmer Rouge, argues that the victory of the communists was not a foregone conclusion, and that modest American aid, in the form of 20 aircraft and a few dozen obsolescent tanks waiting for delivery in Thailand, could have materially changed the military outcome. See Sutsakhan’s The Khmer Republic at War and the Final Collapse (Washington, DC), pp. 163, 166. 1
3. Shawcross, Sideshow, p. 360.
14. Shawcross, Sideshow, p. 361.
15. Cambodia: A Country Study, p. 51.
16. Forbes, September 4, 1978.
17. See Bush and Gold, pp. 145-149 for Bush’s account of his alleged first meeting with Mao.
18. New Orleans Times-Picayune, December 3, 1975.
19. Bush and Gold, p. 157.
20. Bush and Gold, pp. 157-158.
21. Bush and Gold, p. 153.