Old adversaries make a new bid for power.
The war that bin Laden wants.
Behind the Burka
Afghan women who fight the Taliban.
Humanitarian aid has become a weapon of war.
The terrorist money trail leads back to Midland, Texas.
Congress is making the economy worse.
Why the Democrats will get trounced in 2002.
A New Peace Movement?
Should the government be allowed to hold immigrants on "classified" charges?
Citibank attacks money-laundering regulations.
Immigration reform is derailed by attacks.
Coal Miners' Slaughter
Could an Alabama disaster have been prevented?
Time Is Tight
The cutoff is starting for welfare recipients.
FILM: Take a left turn at Mulholland Drive.
Shakespeare at the Barricades
BOOKS: Insurrections in the mind.
Trading on Terrorism.
Give War A Chance
Tracking bin Laden's money flow leads back to Midland, Texas
On September 24, President George W. Bush appeared at a press conference in
the White House Rose Garden to announce a crackdown on the financial networks
of terrorists and those who support them. U.S. banks that have assets
of these groups or individuals must freeze their accounts, Bush declared.
And U.S. citizens or businesses are prohibited from doing business with
But the president, who is now enjoying an astounding 92 percent approval rating,
hasnt always practiced what he is now preaching: Bushs own businesses
were once tied to financial figures in Saudi Arabia who currently support bin
In 1979, Bushs first business, Arbusto Energy, obtained financing from
James Bath, a Houstonian and close family friend. One of many investors, Bath
gave Bush $50,000 for a 5 percent stake in Arbusto. At the time, Bath was the
sole U.S. business representative for Salem bin Laden, head of the wealthy Saudi
Arabian family and a brother (one of 17) to Osama bin Laden. It has long been
suspected, but never proven, that the Arbusto money came directly from Salem
bin Laden. In a statement issued shortly after the September 11 attacks, the
White House vehemently denied the connection, insisting that Bath invested his
own money, not Salem bin Ladens, in Arbusto.
In conflicting statements, Bush at first denied ever knowing Bath, then acknowledged
his stake in Arbusto and that he was aware Bath represented Saudi interests.
In fact, Bath has extensive ties, both to the bin Laden family and major players
in the scandal-ridden Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) who have
gone on to fund Osama bin Laden. BCCI defrauded depositors of $10 billion in
the 80s in what has been called the largest bank fraud in world
financial history by former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
During the 80s, BCCI also acted as a main conduit for laundering money
intended for clandestine CIA activities, ranging from financial support to the
Afghan mujahedin to paying intermediaries in the Iran-Contra affair.
When Salem bin Laden died in 1988, powerful Saudi Arabian banker and BCCI principal
Khalid bin Mahfouz inherited his interests in Houston. Bath ran a business for
bin Mahfouz in Houston and joined a partnership with bin Mahfouz and Gaith Pharaon,
BCCIs frontman in Houstons Main Bank.
The Arbusto deal wasnt the last time Bush looked to highly questionable
sources to invest in his oil dealings. After several incarnations, Arbusto emerged
in 1986 as Harken Energy Corporation. When Harken ran into trouble a year later,
Saudi Sheik Abdullah Taha Bakhsh purchased a 17.6 percent stake in the company.
Bakhsh was a business partner with Pharaon in Saudi Arabia; his banker there
just happened to be bin Mahfouz.
Though Bush told the Wall Street Journal he had no idea
BCCI was involved in Harkens financial dealings, the network of connections
between Bush and BCCI is so extensive that the Journal concluded their
investigation of the matter in 1991 by stating: The number of BCCI-connected
people who had dealings with Harkenall since George W. Bush came on boardraises
the question of whether they mask an effort to cozy up to a presidential son.
Or even the president: Bath finally came under investigation by the FBI in 1992
for his Saudi business relationships, accused of funneling Saudi money through
Houston in order to influence the foreign policies of the Reagan and first Bush
Worst of all, bin Mahfouz allegedly has been financing the bin Laden terrorist
networkmaking Bush a U.S. citizen who has done business with those who
finance and support terrorists. According to USA Today, bin Mahfouz and
other Saudis attempted to transfer $3 million to various bin Laden front operations
in Saudi Arabia in 1999. ABC News reported the same year that Saudi officials
stopped bin Mahfouz from contributing money directly to bin Laden. (Bin Mahfouzs
sister is also a wife of Osama bin Laden, a fact that former CIA Director James
Woolsey revealed in 1998 Senate testimony.)
When President Bush announced he is hot on the trail of the money used over
the years to finance terrorism, he must realize that trail ultimately leads
not only to Saudi Arabia, but to some of the same financiers who originally
helped propel him into the oil business and later the White House. The ties
between bin Laden and the White House may be much closer than he is willing
Wayne Madsen, an investigative journalist based in Washington, is the author of Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999.