Washington, DC

Eyal Press’s biographical article on me in the May 10 issue contains several errors, mostly minor:

§ In the Path of God was finished before I arrived in Washington in 1982, not while I was living in that city.

§ The conclusion that I produced “little original research” after 1983 perhaps reflects the absence of most of my (as yet undigitized) writings from that era on, my website, where Press apparently did most of his research on me–and not an actual paucity of publications. I published during those years, for example, on such topics as “Mamluk Survival in Ottoman Egypt,” “The Rise of the Sa’di Dynasty in Morocco” and “Syria’s Imperial Dream.”

§ I am misquoted about not ever having been to the West Bank and Gaza. I repeatedly traveled in both areas between 1969 and 1996. Among other destinations, I visited Yasir Arafat in his Gaza office.

§ I did not say that Militant Islam Reaches America was “unpublishable” before 9/11, only that some of the articles in it were unpublishable before then–notably Chapter 11, “We Are Going to Conquer America.”

§ I did not complain about Muslim hygienic standards in my 1990 National Review article; I paraphrased French politicians on this topic.

§ That several “dissenting Middle Eastern specialists…received hate mail and death threats” as a result of Campus Watch’s or my critiquing them has yet to be established. Over a one-and-a-half-year period, I repeatedly asked for proof that such mail was received and have yet to be shown a single example. While I unequivocally denounce all hate mail and death threats, until proof is forthcoming I am skeptical about their existence in this case.



New York City

I agree that these matters are mostly minor. Nevertheless, I address each point in order:

§ Robert Dickson Crane, who worked with Daniel Pipes in the State Department, told me that Pipes was working on In the Path of God in the office they shared in Washington in the early 1980s. I’ll leave it to them to work out.

§ I stand by my claim that Pipes produced “little original research” after 1983. His voluminous output since then consists overwhelmingly of interpretive essays and op-eds on topical subjects, not original scholarship, along with books that rely mostly on secondary rather than archival sources.

§ In our tape-recorded interview, I asked Pipes whether he’d visited the occupied territories recently; he said no. “At all?” I asked. He answered, “Not a friendly place, no.” Evidently, he meant he had not visited the territories recently at all, as opposed to ever. My apologies for the misunderstanding.

§ A November 29, 2001, profile of Pipes in the Philadelphia Inquirer quotes him describing the manuscript of his book on Muslims in America as “unpublishable” before 9/11.

§ Pipes understandably wishes to distance himself from the remark about Muslim hygienic standards. Yet there were no quotes around the views he claims to have been paraphrasing, and in the preceding sentence he wrote that such fears have “substance.”

§ Juan Cole told me he received hate mail after being singled out by Pipes, and that his e-mail was flooded with spam. Hamid Dabashi, a professor at Columbia, went further, playing for me taped phone messages he had received. “You stinking Muslim terrorist pig. You terrorist bastard,” said one caller. “Listen, you Muslim terrorist bastard, we’re watching you. We know where you live. We know where you work,” said another.



Litchfield, Conn.

Thanks to The Nation for Elizabeth Drew’s March 1 “Bush Family Values,” a review of my book American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush. I would take some issue, however, with one of her points: that I was “wrong” on George W. Bush’s relations with the CIA. In fact, I barely discussed them, because when the book went to the printers in October 2003, the “weapons of mass destruction” issue and role of US intelligence was still hanging fire.

But knowing what we now know, the Bush family’s relationship to the US intelligence community going back four generations should have been bifurcated more than I did. On one hand, they have entwined with it in their ascent to power; on the other, they have periodically abused these connections. George W. Bush has more than once fallen into the second category.

By way of background, in the early twentieth century munitions and oil were the two private Anglo-American industries most involved with international cloak-and-dagger games. Compared with their resources and tentacles, government intelligence services were small-scale through the 1930s. Both the current President’s two great-grandfathers, investment banker George Herbert Walker and Buckeye Steel president Samuel P. Bush, had relevant connections.

Walker, closely involved with World War I finance and war contracts, in 1919 became the partner of Union Pacific heir W. Averell Harriman in a new Wall Street firm. They undertook major postwar investments and projects in Russia (manganese production and refurbishment of the Baku oil fields 400 miles from Iraq) and Germany (in conjunction with the Hamburg-America Line and the Thyssen steel interests). The US government was sometimes suspicious. Sam Bush’s Buckeye Steel, in turn, was partly owned by Frank Rockefeller (John D.’s younger brother) and Standard Oil. Bush doubled his fortune during the war–Buckeye products included gun barrels and shell casings. Moreover, after the United States entered the war, Bush became the head of the small arms, ammunition and ordnance section of the (federal) War Industries Board.

When Walker’s daughter Dottie married Sam Bush’s son Prescott, the union joined two families whose elevation onto a national stage reflected the rise of what Eisenhower later called the military-industrial complex. At Brown Brothers Harriman in the 1930s, Prescott Bush–the current President’s grandfather–was a partner not only of Harriman, later the US Mutual Security Administrator, but of Robert Lovett, the future Defense Secretary. Lovett also captained the secret postwar team that blueprinted the CIA. The lawyer that Bush used for the firm’s German business in the 1930s was Allen Dulles, the future head of the CIA.

In a nutshell, Prescott Bush’s son George H.W. Bush grew up in a family in which cloak-and-dagger relationships were as matter-of-fact as oil-based tax shelters and high-yield utility bonds. Chapter 6 of my book sets out the various theories suggesting that in the 1950s or early 1960s–long before he became CIA director under President Ford in 1976–George H.W. Bush may have become a CIA asset of sorts. I won’t go into them here, but I would have been interested to see Elizabeth Drew’s own observations on this possibility.

As Vice President and President, George H.W. Bush continued to concentrate on much of the subject matter that he had dealt with at the CIA–secret relationships with the Saudis, secret arms deals with Iran and even Iraq, and ongoing relationships with swashbucklers like Oliver North and a cadre of Iran/contra culprits (some reappointed to office in the second Bush administration). If this issues complex was one of the forty-first President’s major credentials and career escalators, it was also a connection that lent itself to periodic abuse.

It has been alleged, for example, that Bush Senior took part in the supposed “October Surprise,” in which representatives of the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign are said to have negotiated with Iran’s revolutionary government to keep the US hostages in Tehran until after the November election. For them to have come home beforehand had the potential to re-elect incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter. Bush Senior was supposedly working with ex-CIA agents and a rump faction within the CIA itself. In 1990, some have said, Bush used the CIA to overstate the case that Saddam’s troops and tanks were poised on the border of Saudi Arabia ready to invade that oil-rich nation as well as Kuwait.

That George W. Bush happily took advantage of this same milieu leaps out of his own business career. In the late 1970s, one early funder of his Arbusto oil business was James Bath, who had a CIA connection to Bush Senior. Bath was also the Texas representative and disbursing agent for two Saudi families–the bin Ladens and the bin Mahfouzes. In the late 1990s, yet another failed George W. Bush oil business had to be bought out. The willing financial angel, Harken Energy, had a half-dozen documented ties to BCCI–the Abu Dhabi-based Bank of Credit and Commerce International. The bank’s additional ties to the CIA have been described in a number of books.

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, one can imagine him having a sense of the US intelligence community as something to be used and occasionally abused. Clearly, that involved a White House attempt to focus a lot more on Saddam Hussein, the family bogeyman, and somewhat less on the bin Ladens. Apparently, the CIA was pressured to deliver one set of supposed weapons proofs and to suppress the other side, although director George Tenet himself appears to have been ready to slice the baloney in any way suggested. Sadly, White House appointments to the new “commission” investigating the intelligence failures in Iraq and elsewhere included federal judge Lawrence Silberman as co-chairman, doubtless because of his broad experience. Lawrence Walsh, the former Republican Deputy Attorney General who served as the Iran/contra special prosecutor from 1987 to 1992, criticized Silberman in his book Firewall as someone who had been on the periphery of the 1980 October Surprise negotiations and who, as a federal appeals court judge, helped to tank the Iran/contra prosecution. I regret that American Dynasty was written before George W. Bush could be so firmly placed on this lesser side of his family’s traditions.



Washington, DC

I am surprised that Kevin Phillips is quibbling with my positive review of his very interesting book. I wrote that I thought Phillips “goes too far” in claiming that the CIA put Bush and his father in power, and that he is exaggerating its current power, especially given the Pentagon’s setting up its own intelligence group to gather “information” about Iraq, which the President apparently found more convincing than the CIA’s doubts. I still think so. And I also still find his book highly valuable.