Deconstructing Russiagate, Part 3: The Reagan 80s and the Lady Ghislaine

A young Trump and giggling Robert Maxwell discuss globalization

Previous entries of this series have demonstrated Russiagate as a modern myth and Donald Trump’s position within an American (not Russian) nexus of monopoly-capital, organized crime and national security. This portion will be devoted to demonstrating Trump and his family’s intimate ties to a network of American statecraft and bourgeois imperialism that in a sense, does include “outside influences.” However, these influences historically exist in an antagonistic relationship with Russia and other former Soviet states. Two of the most prominent “outside influences” in this network are Israel and Saudi Arabia (not Russia), which Trump also has personal connections to. More to the point, Trump’s administration saw him continuing a relationship between the United States government and both Saudi and Israeli agendas that predates his administration (not severing them in the name of Russian agendas).

To begin, I return to Roy Cohn, Roger Stone, and the era of Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr. Following Cohn’s lead, Stone “played hardball for Reagan, challenging George HW Bush’s New York primary delegates on a variety of technical grounds, getting many of them disqualified.” According to the official narrative, Bush became Reagan’s running mate after losing to him in the primary thanks to the intervention of mutual friends

Reagan himself moved in the nexus of national security and organized crime for years. As Dan E. Moldea notes, from his arrival in Hollywood in the late 1930s , throughout the peak of his acting career and SAG Presidency, to his time as Governor of California, Ronald Reagan “was an invention of the Hollywood conglomerate, MCA” which “with the help of the Mafia, was the most powerful force in Hollywood from the mid-1940s until the Bronfman family purchased the company in 1995.” (Recall the Bronfman family’s ties to Epstein and Lex Wessner and their historic involvement in Murder Inc). In 1940, when MCA bought out Reagan’s talent agency, Lew Wasserman became Reagan’s personal agent, negotiating a million dollar contract with Warner Brothers on the actor’s behalf. By 1946, one year before Reagan became president of SAG, Wasserman was running MCA. 

Wasserman cut his teeth as a member of the “predominantly Italian Mayfield Road Gang.” Mayfield and “its predominantly Jewish counterpart, the Cleveland Syndicate” were run by Meyer Lansky underling Moe Dalitz, the daughter of whom Wasserman would eventually marry. Throughout this time, Wasserman maintained contact with the underworlds of both Cleveland and Chicago; “MCA’s ascendance in Hollywood in the late 30s was simultaneous with the Chicago Mob’s infiltration, through union control, of the movie business, and with Sidney Korshak’s own move to the Coast. Wasserman was perhaps the most powerful and revered figure in Hollywood.” Korshack, a powerful fixer for the Chicago Mob, was one of Wasserman’s best friends.

Furthermore, as Daniel S. Luck notes in Reconsidering Reagan, as J. Edgar Hoover “…fixated his gaze on extirpating alleged Communists from Hollywood, he noticed Reagan and his political activities showing up in reports from the FBI’s Los Angeles field office…” According to Luck:

“…Hoover was eager to cultivate more informers in Hollywood, and he was aware that Reagan’s brother, Neil, a conservative advertising executive in Los Angeles, was working as an informer in the FBI’s investigation of the entertainment industry. Hoover also knew that Guthrie, the former FBI agent had helped secure Reagan’s comfortable job at the Hal Roach Studio in Culver City, and he thought that Reagan’s image as a wholesome all-American man might make him a good prospect in the quest to ferret out Communists in the film colony. 

Despite Reagan’s initial hesitation to get involved in informing, he changed his mind after the agents told him that the Communists in Hollywood despised him and had just held a meeting where someone said, “What are we going to do about that son-of-a-bitching bastard Reagan?” Later, he came to believe that the Soviets were not only intent on gaining control of Hollywood but also striving to influence the content of its films…His contacts with the FBI would become regular enough that Reagan earned the informer’s number T-10.” 

Luck points out that Reagan’s SAG leadership coincided with “the labor strife that convulsed Hollywood from 1945 through 1947” itself part of a larger strike wave that swept America after World War 2. Despite Reagan’s belief that the Hollywood strikes were caused by Communist subversion, “The Hollywood strikes were rooted in a complex and ferocious jurisdictional dispute that predated Reagan’s arrival and had nothing to do with the Soviet Union.” Instead, as Luck notes, it “involved a bitter struggle over control of the film industry pitting the newly formed Conference of Studio Unions (CSU) against the corrupt, Mafia-infested International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), one of the oldest and most powerful unions in the movie business.” 

After a long and violent dispute between the two unions, Reagan stepped in personally:

A month after CSU’s second strike, Reagan delivered a powerful address before a tumultuous crowd of SAG members at the Hollywood Legion Stadium in which he presented the board’s recommendation against supporting the strike.  Reagan’s captivating speech helped sway SAG members to vote to cross the picket line. Shortly thereafter, violence and mayhem flared again on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank as pitched battles between the police and union members resulted in property damage and bodily injury. Reagan, a recipient of anonymous threats, began to carry a .32 Smith & Wesson. The strike went on for months and led to the largest mass arrest in California history after strikers violated a court order limiting the number of pickets outside studio gates. By the end of 1947, however, without SAG’s support, the CSU ‘dissolved like sugar in hot water’…”

Throughout this dispute, Reagan was privately providing the names of suspected Communists to the FBI. Likewise, he was adopting Hoover’s virulent and hysterical racism. To quote Luck once more:

…Whatever youthful commitment Reagan harbored for the evil of racism vanished when he became an FBI informant and messianic anti-Communist amid the Hollywood labor strife of the 1940s. By the mid-1950s, Reagan would find common cause with a burgeoning movement of fellow conservatives that clashed with the onset of the modern phase of the civil rights movement…

…In 1954, with Reagan’s acting career in steep decline, MCA secured him a lucrative contract with General Electric to become the host of its General Electric Theater, the first major production of MCA’s new television unit, Revue Productions…Besides hosting the Sunday evening broadcast of GE Theater, Reagan served as a corporate pitchman and roving goodwill ambassador for GE, traveling at least sixteen weeks a year. It was this work that drove his metamorphosis from actor to politician. He visited all of GE’s 139 plants across the US and delivered thousands of speeches to approximately a quarter of a million employees…

…After the war, GE had also been beset by labor strife. Like many other corporations at the time, GE was closing plants in the industrial North and moving to the South, where labor costs were low and unions were weak. However, under the leadership of Lemuel Ricketts Boulware, an ardent conservative who served a GE executive, none of GE’s sixteen thousand workers went on strike. GE took notice and promoted Boulware to vice president of labor and community relations. In this capacity, Boulware eliminated labor unrest among company workers by cultivating GE’s image as a benevolent employer. He also hired Reagan, who had just resigned as SAG president, to spread the anti-union gospel to GE’s many thousands of blue-collar workers that their interests were in harmony with the company’s. Boulware also became a mentor to Reagan and a benefactor to National Review and other conservative causes…

…it wasn’t until William F. Buckley Jr. launched National Review in 1955 that conservativism gained intellectual coherence. On racial issues, both Buckley and the National Review were infused with a virulent dose of racism that had infected the conservative movement since its inception…a number of National Review’s contributors endorsed pseudoscientific racist opinions about Blacks’ inherent racial inferiority. By fusing the disparate strands of militant anti-Communism, libertarianism, and traditionalism into a comprehensible, if unwieldy, intellectual movement, National Review founded modern conservatism…

…Buckley and Reagan did not meet until 1961, but they quickly developed a warm relationship that lasted for the rest of Reagan’s life.

Three years later, Reagan became a staunch supporter of New Right legend Barry Goldwater’s ill-fated 1964 Presidential campaign. While disappointing, Goldwater’s failure did little to stunt the movement. Indeed, as Luck points out, “during the 1960s, Hoover would lend his power to aid Reagan’s political rise in California.” As Seth Rosenfeld writes, “Days after he took office in January 1967, Governor Reagan called the FBI and requested a briefing on the demonstrations at Berkeley. Hoover again obliged, confidentially providing information from the bureau’s domestic surveillance files.” In 1968, to combat the antiwar movement in California, Reagan organized a “Riots and Disorders Task Force” which represented a joint operation by the state-level FBI and CIA with the LAPD and was led by William W. Hermann. 

As journalist Tom O’Neill uncovered through FOIA requests, prior to joining the LAPD, Hermann had a head-spinning resume, including stints at top-level government posts, NGO jobs, and positions in various intelligence and military agencies. This included terms at the Air Force, the Secret Service, the Treasury Department, the President’s Office of Science and Technology, the Institute for Defense Analysis, the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office, and the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Most of Hermann’s work for these groups remains classified, but O’Neill, in his book Chaos,  managed to dig up one record of the lieutenant’s overseas work: Having spent four months in 1967 training Thai police in counterinsurgency tactics, Herrmann returned to Asia in September 1968 to join the U.S. effort in South Vietnam. Documents from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, listed him as a scientific ‘advisor’ to the army. His responsibility was to train South Vietnamese police in ‘paramilitary techniques’ to deploy against Viet Cong insurgents.” This means Hermann was likely part of the Phoenix Program, a covert CIA operation that killed tens of thousands of people, including innumerable innocent Vietnamese. While overseeing Reagan’s task force, Hermann told the London Observer that he had a  “secret plan” for “forestalling revolution in America.” 

Meanwhile, Reagan worked directly with the FBI and CIA to destroy the career of University of California President Clark Kerr. “The FBI…developed a ‘close and cordial’ relationship with Reagan, who made campus unrest a major issue and vowed to fire Kerr during his 1966 gubernatorial campaign…The FBI later secretly gave Gov. Reagan’s administration information it could use ‘against’ protesters.” Declassified campus files show that, “Following the violent 1969 People’s Park protests in Berkeley…The Reagan administration planned on ‘hounding’ protest groups as much as possible by ‘bringing any form of violation available against them.’ Reagan officials might bring tax cases against them…and would also mount a ‘psychological warfare campaign’ against protesters.” 

In case that wasn’t enough to demonstrate to you that Reagan was the Burger Hitler of the burgeoning “deep state”, consider that in 1969, Reagan appointed LA district attorney Evelle Younger, who had worked in both the FBI and CIA, to the Riots and Disorders Task Force. Younger’s second in command, Lynn “Buck” Compton, was an LAPD detective and WW2 veteran before getting his law degree and joining the DA’s office. Compton was the lead prosecutor in the trial of Sirhan B. Sirhan, the alleged assassin of Robert F. Kennedy. Five months before the Tate-LaBianca murders, Compton wrote a letter to William Hermann thanking him for, “obtaining good advance intelligence…on subversives and militants.” Furthermore, during the 1966 governorship race, former CIA director John McCone led an executive policy committee for Reagan’s campaign. Reagan proclaimed that, if elected, he would appoint McCone to head a formal investigation of UC’s “campus malcontents and filthy speech advocates.” During his 1970 fight for a second term, Reagan took things even further. “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with,” he blustered. “No more appeasement.” 

Before getting to Reagan’s administration, I must quickly explain Israel’s relevance to this study. On the one hand, because The Donald’s father, Fred Trump, was something of a pioneer when it comes to the union of New York WASPs with the Zionist movement. Fred’s donations to “Jewish” causes has been widely reported, but it’s clear that the interest had more to do with the State of Israel rather than improving the material conditions of Jews. Furthermore, the formation of Israel was heavily supported by the Jewish-American wing of the organized crime underworld at the same time it was contracting its services to the United States government. Likewise, among the “Jewish causes” Fred Trump patronized, two of the most important were the creation of Israel bonds and acting as treasurer of a large benefit concert for Israel. And not long after the Jerusalem Conference on International Terrorism, while Benjamin Netanyahu was still Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, he and Fred Trump became close friends. 

While America had maintained friendly relations with Israel since its illegal creation, the pivot towards the Zionist entity in Palestine as an American satellite really started in the 1960s. During the JFK years, the US-Israeli relationship became fraught with tension over the latter’s pursuit of an independent nuclear weapons program. This was the peak of a relatively lackluster relationship between the ruling class of the United States and that of Israel. JFK’s successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, took the first steps in changing that: “Indeed, it was Johnson, as Senate majority leader, who stood in the way years earlier of Dwight Eisenhower’s plans to cut off assistance to Israel…Historians generally regard Johnson as the president most uniformly friendly to Israel.” 

It’s worth noting that Johnson was made a Senate majority leader in 1955 on behalf of Southern Democrats as a bulwark against civil rights legislation. He would also become a member of the Suite 8F Group, an unofficial political lobby formed by some of the most powerful businessmen in Texas, exerting particular influence in the world of Big Oil. One such businessman, Herman Brown, went on to create the company now known as Haliburton, which Bush Jr. VP Dick Cheney controlled until technically leaving the company. After helping launch the Iraq War, which made his “former” company massive profits, Cheney joined the board of Genie Energy. This firm, whose board of directors also includes Trump’s old friend Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild, of the prominent Zionist banking dynasty, gained the first license from the Israeli government to look for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights. This conveniently placed a group of Anglo-American capitalists and warmakers in a position to observe outcomes in their “intervention” in Syria (Cheney urged Bush Jr. to bomb Syria as early as 2007), but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. 

Anyway, as Norman Finkelstein writes, after June 1967 Israel “now stood on the front lines defending America-indeed ‘Western civilization’-against the retrograde Arab hordes. Whereas before 1967 Israel conjured the bogey of dual loyalty, it now connoted super-loyalty. After all, it was not American but Israelis fighting and dying to protect US interests. And unlike the GIs in Vietnam, Israeli fighters were not being humiliated by Third World upstarts.” President Johnson, “increased arms sales to Israel and in 1968, after Israel’s primary supplier, France, imposed an embargo as a means of cultivating ties in the Arab world, the United States became Israel’s main supplier of weapons, notably launching the talks that would lead to the sale of Phantom fighter jets to Israel.” At the same time, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which was officially incorporated in 1963, came to prominence as a lobby group, becoming particularly influential during and after Nixon. As Israeli historian Michael Oren writes: “Though founded in 1953, AIPAC had only now in the mid-70s, achieved the financial and political clout necessary to sway congressional opinion.” 

To return to Reagan, while he is often portrayed in bourgeois history as “tough on Israel” this is mostly a myth. The Jewish Virtual Library, “a division of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise”, points out that in 1967 Reagan “strongly supported Israel during the Six-Day War and was the featured speaker at a pro-Israel rally in the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.” As governor, “he was instrumental in having a law passed in the California legislature in which banks and savings institutions were authorized to purchase and invest in State of Israel Bonds.” During his presidential campaign, Reagan stated that a “democratic” and anti-Soviet Israel was “the only remaining strategic asset in the region on which we can rely.” Furthermore, while the Reagan administration took a handful of positions that can be considered in conflict with Israeli interests, this is made irrelevant by the fact that Israel was a key node in the networks managing Iran-Contra.

According to Johnathan Marshall, Peter Dale Scott, and Jane Hunter’s The Iran-Contra Connection, “Although Israel’s leaders have officially denied aiding the Contras, the record of their involvement is clear and unequivocal…Haifa University professor Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi reports that ‘when the CIA was setting up the Contra organization in 1981, the Mossad was also there, carrying out the training and support for the first units.’” By 1982, Gen. Richard Secord took charge of a Pentagon operation “in which Israel shipped tons of weapons captured during its invasion of Lebanon to a CIA arms depot in San Antonio. From Texas, the guns were shipped to the Contras.” In March, 1984, Time reported that, “Israel’s motive in helping the Contras would not be just to curry favor with the US but to strike a blow against the Palestine Liberation Organization, which helped train the Sandinistas before they overthrew the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979. During a 1980 visit to Managua, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat declared to the Sandinistas that ‘the links between us are not new . . . Your enemies are our enemies.’” 

There is also the Reagan-Bush era theft of private security firm Inslaw’s PROMIS software by Israeli spy Rafi Eitan. PROMIS was developed by Inslaw in the late 1970s to digitally keep an eye on those accused of crimes without all of the inefficient paperwork. In fact, PROMIS is a direct predecessor to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) PRISM surveillance apparatus. By 1980, the FBI, CIA and Department of Justice (DoJ) had shown interest in PROMIS and “the following year, the DOJ provided a copy of the PROMIS software to an Israeli gentlemen who identified himself as Joseph Ben-Orr.” 

According to retired Israeli spy Ari Ben-Menashe, the name of Dr. Ben-Orr was “an alias of Israeli spymaster Rafi Eitan. A sworn affidavit obtained by journalist Gordon Thomas shows that  Eitan later admitted his role in the PROMIS affair, and was identified through photographs as the individual who visited Inslaw for a demonstration of their enhanced PROMIS software. Two years after the theft, the DoJ began withholding payments to Inslaw, which eventually led to its bankruptcy. Meanwhile, as the “Inslaw Affair” was playing out, a related scandal exploded over the role of the Bank of Credits and Commerce International (BCCI) and its relationship to the Iran-Contra network. 

BCCI, started by Agha Hasan Abedi, was officially headquartered in Pakistan. However, as Newsweek reported in 1992: 

“One former officer of the bank recalls a conversation he had in the early 1980s with a close associate of Abedi’s, a Pakistani who had worked for [his] United Bank and then joined BCCI when it was established. The Pakistani said that Abedi had worked with the CIA during his United Bank days and that the CIA had encouraged him in his project to launch BCCI, since the agency realized that an international bank could provide valuable cover for intelligence operations. The Pakistani mentioned one US intelligence official by name: Richard Helms, the director of the CIA until early 1973. Helms later became a legal client of Clark Clifford’s and a business partner of two BCCI insiders. ‘What I have been told,’ says this source, ‘is that it wasn’t a Pakistani bank at all. The guys behind the bank weren’t Pakistani at all. The whole thing was a front.’

Helms has described reports of his involvement in the BCCI takeover of First American as absolute nonsense. Yet regardless of what Helms says, no one can deny that virtually every major character in the takeover was connected in one way or another to U.S. intelligence:

George Olmsted, head of the OSS’s China section during the war, controlled Financial General Bankshares (later First American Bankshares) until 1977.

J. William Middendorf II, who headed the group that next acquired it. Middendorf was secretary of the Navy until a few months before the BCCI takeover, then a member of president-elect Ronald Reagan’s CIA transition team.

BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi, who arranged for clients of BCCI to buy the company from Middendorf’s group. On several occasions, former Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said publicly that Abedi was in league with the CIA.

Mohammed Rahim Motaghi Irvani, an Iranian businessman and founding director in the Safeer consulting firm that Helms set up after leaving the CIA, and chairman of one of the dummy companies set up to carry out BCCI’s acquisition.

Helms, who advised Irvani in connection with the takeover of First American.

Saudi intelligence chief Kamal Adham, the lead investor in Abedi’s group.

Former Defense Secretary Clifford, Helms’s attorney, who steered the deal through the regulatory maze and then became the chairman of the company.

After the BCCI group gained control of First American, two men with links to U.S. intelligence joined the board of its Washington, DC, bank. The lobbyist Robert Gray of Hill and Knowlton often boasted of his close relationship with the CIA’s William Casey, Gray used to say that before taking on a foreign client, he would clear it with Casey. Karl G. Harr, Jr., a lobbyist for the aerospace industry, had been on the staff of the National Security Council in the late 1950s. He had served on the Operations Coordinating Board, which was involved in overseeing CIA covert operations.” 

Danny Casolaro, a freelance journalist investigating the connections between the PROMIS and BCCI scandals, was found dead in his hotel room in West Virginia, where he was waiting to interview a source. Local authorities hastily ruled the death a suicide, but the Virginia state medical examiner’s office, after concluding a second autopsy, stated that while traces of antidepressants and alcohol were in Casolaro’s system; “There was nothing present in any way that could have incapacitated Casolaro so he would have been incapable of struggling against an assailant, let alone been sufficient to kill him.” According to the FBI, Casolaro, “believed INSLAW’s computer software, PROMIS, was being used by BCCI to keep track of secret accounts.” 

So why did Israel want PROMIS so badly? According to Gordon Thomas, one purpose was to streamline Israel’s settler-colonial genocide of the Palestinians for their land in the aftermath of the 80s Intifada: “Beset by deepening interservice strife, the Israeli intelligence community was unable to agree on a coordinated policy to deal with mass Arab resistance on a scale not seen since the War of Independence.” PROMIS offered the perfect solution to this problem: “Intelligence operatives, untrained in computer technology beyond knowing which keys to tap, would be able to access information and judgments far more comprehensive than they could ever carry in their own heads. A Promis disc could fit a laptop computer and choose from a myriad of alternatives the one that made most sense. It would eliminate the need for deductive reasoning because there were too many correct but irrelevant matters to simultaneously take into account for human reasoning alone to suffice. Promis could be programmed to eliminate all superfluous lines of inquiry and amass and correlate data at a speed and scale beyond human capability.” 

Furthermore, as Israeli arms dealer named Ariel Ben-Menashe told Thomas, once the Israeli government decided to sell PROMIS to other nations, they allegedly installed  a “a built-in chip that, unknown to any purchaser, would allow Rafi Eitan to know what information was being sought.” In order to market PROMIS globally, and in turn give Israel real leverage in the post-Cold War political economy, Eitan needed, “someone with superb international contacts, boundless energy, and proven negotiating skills. There was only one man Rafi Eitan knew who had those requirements: Robert Maxwell.” This was not just a result of Maxwell’s status as a particularly well-connected businessman. Indeed, Maxwell had worked as an Israeli intelligence asset for years. When he died, for instance, Maxwell was “buried on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives in the presence of numerous Israeli intelligence figures, & eulogized by then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.” Shamir stated that Maxwell, “has done more for Israel than can today be said.”

By 1989, Thomas writes, “over $500 million worth of Promis programs had been sold to Britain, Australia, South Korea, and Canada. The figure would have been even bigger but for the CIA marketing its own version to intelligence agencies. In Britain, Promis was used by MI5 in Northern Ireland to track terrorists and the movements of political leaders like Gerry Adams.” That same year, a House Judiciary Committee investigation reported that: “Several individuals testified under oath that Inslaw’s PROMIS software was stolen and distributed internationally to provide financial gain and to further intelligence and foreign policy objectives.” 

Meanwhile, Donald Trump took his now infamous first trip to Moscow. However, this was largely irrelevant in the news media of the era, which preferred to gossip about a party Trump attended on a yacht owned by Robert Maxwell, who was fresh off a failed attempt to take over The Jerusalem Post with his friend and business partner Charles Bronfman. Also in attendance was Adnan Khashoggi, who played a prominent role in the rise and fall of BCCI and whose nephew, Jamal Khashoggi, would allegedly be assassinated by the Saudi Royal Family on President Trump’s watch. The boat’s name-Ghislaine-belonged to Maxwell’s daughter, who would become the unofficial girlfriend of Bronfman’s business associate Jeffrey Epstein in 1991. 

The same year Epstein and Ghislaine hooked up, Bush Sr.’s Attorney General, William Barr, the son of Epstein’s former boss at Dalton and OSS agent Donald Barr and attendee of the same anticommunist private school as Roy Cohn, “refused to appoint an independent counsel to the Inslaw case, relying instead on a retired federal judge, in this case Nicholas Bua, who reported to Barr alone.” In other words, “the DOJ was responsible for investigating itself.Later that year, Robert Maxwell died mysteriously after allegedly falling off the same yacht he’d partied with Trump and Khasshogi on two years earlier.

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