Propagandistic Presidential Pomp and Pageantry: From Bier to Eternity

On Christmas day Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic Vice was released, with John Hillner (Law & Order) portraying George Bush Sr. After the ex-president’s Nov. 30 death, as accolades were heaped upon George Herbert Walker Bush even before his cadaver was cold I wondered who were they talking about? The effusive eulogizing reminded me of Ted Rall’s August 28 column headlined “Please Speak Ill of the Dead.” The columnist/cartoonist wrote: “‘Too soon!’ That was a standard response to my criticisms of John McCain following his death… ‘Do not speak ill of the dead.’ This dictum, attributed to the 6th century BCE philosopher Chilon of Sparta, may be appropriate at your uncle’s funeral… Public figures are different.”

If this one-sided idolatry was true of Sen. McCain it’s even more so regarding former Pres. Bush Sr. The tributes were so over-the-top you’d think a burning bush, not George Bush, was being worshiped. Those who’d admonish critics to hold their tongues and refrain from voicing a counter-narrative until after the propagandistic pageantry unfolds remind me of those NRA shills who chide gun control advocates from speaking out while victims of the latest mass shooting outrage are being mourned. Of course, what these minders are really saying is: “Wait until the media limelight and public’s awareness are no longer focused on this issue/politician so that when you do finally speak out, few if anybody will still be interested.” Given the attention span of what Gore Vidal dubbed “the United States of Amnesia,” this admonition guarantees that dissenting points of view go straight down the memory hole.

Like the caissons the reels kept rolling along during the ceremonies’ endless televised coverage, repeating the same things at different venues - whether you wanted to watch or not, even preempting some non-news programs. How many times can you play “Hail to the Chief”? Move a body from here to there, with cameras shooting Air Force One, a motorcade, a train? Applaud Shrub for becoming the “patriarch of the family”? Dominating coverage for days ad nauseam. Leni Riefenstahl may have been embarrassed at being upstaged by all of the agitprop presented as “reportage.”

MSM’s non-stop hagiography of the one term 41st president suggested those lines from “Home On the Range”: “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word. And the skies are not cloudy all day.” To paraphrase Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Roman Empire tragedy Julius Caesar, “They came to praise George H.W. - not to bury him.”

Can We Talk?”

But now that a “decent interval” of about a month has passed, to quote that world famous philosopher - Joan Rivers - “Can We Talk?”


There was nary if any mention of Bush Sr.’s rein at the CIA (when anti-Pinochet Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier was car bombed in Washington) and H.W.’s involvement in: The Iran-Contra scandal and his subsequent pardons; demagogic Willy Horton and “revolving door” furlough campaign ads; the Panama invasion; April Gillespie and the Iraq invasion; his father’s alleged dealings with the Nazis; his son Neil’s role in the S&L scandal; George W.’s alleged evasion of Vietnam; and ad infinitum.


Amidst all the presidential pomp, on Dec. 5 George H.W. Bush’s casket was lifted off the black-shrouded bier that had carried Abraham Lincoln after the 16th president’s assassination and driven from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington National Cathedral. But as far as I’m concerned George H.W. Bush went from lying for the state to lying in state.


Mysterious Island: Bush and the Assassination of Nuclear Free Palau’s President


Since June 30, 1985 I’ve always wondered what, if anything, was the then-vice president’s role in the assassination of Haruo Remeliik, the President of Palau, located in Micronesia? I lived in this Western Pacific island nation from 1984-1986 and was an eyewitness, reporting for international and regional news agencies. I never suspected then-Pres. Ronald Reagan, who fought WWII in Culver City, was directly implicated in rubbing Remeliik out. But as the only foreign fulltime newsman then residing in Palau, as an objective observer I was struck by a singular salient fact: Regarding Palau’s presidents’ murders, going back to 1944, all roads led to George H.W. Bush.


Bush’s involvement in Micronesia dates back to World War II’s Pacific Theater campaign. On July 25, 1944, fighter pilot Bush’s plane sank a Japanese trawler at Kayangel atoll, the northernmost tip of what is now the Republic of Palau, or Belau. Interestingly, according to a 1993 Harper’s Magazine cover story, after Bush’s plane sank the Japanese ship, survivors in two lifeboats were strafed, a violation of international law. Decades later, when Harper’s Mark Hertsgaard asked Bush’s Houston office if Bush had committed this war crime, the response was: “no comment.”


(The Kayangel story was suppressed until after 1992’s election, although much was made of Clinton’s Vietnam-era draft record. During the Gulf War, some detractors, including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and journalists Seymour Hersh, John Pilger and Ted Rall were critical of Bush Sr. for allegedly committing similar war crimes in 1991 at the so-called “Highway of Death,” which linked Kuwait and Iraq.)


From September to November 1944, the Battle of Peleliu raged in southern Palau, and was one of the bloodiest conflicts during WWII’s island hopping campaign, costing the Marines and Navy 6,526 casualties. As a very young man, Navy pilot Bush had impressed upon him the strategic importance and value of this island chain that stretches across vital Australia/Japan/Indonesia shipping lanes in the southwestern Pacific. George Herbert Walker Bush’s mysterious connections to Palau would continue while he was CIA Director, Vice President and President.


After the U.S. conquered Palau, Washington administered the far-flung archipelago as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands from 1947 to the 1990s. Following WWII, America agreed to a sacred trust: to develop Micronesia so it could eventually exercise a legitimate act of self-determination via a plebiscite, with voters freely voting on the islands’ future political status. However, Washington recognized the military value of this 3 million square mile area stretching between Hawaii and the Philippines (with Palau as its southwestern tier), and it became the sole Strategic Trust of the 11 U.N. trusteeships.


After the U.S. A-bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the Defense Department used the Marshall Islands as a nuclear test site from 1946-1958. In the 1970s, as Palau prepared for self-rule, concerned about nuclear arms, fallout and irradiation, a super-majority of Palauans passed a nuclear free constitution. However, this clashed with Pentagon policy to neither confirm nor deny that its crafts are nuclear powered or armed, plus DOD plans to relocate U.S. forward bases from the Philippines to Micronesia. The conflict came to a head while Bush Sr., veteran of WWII’s Palau campaign, was CIA Director and in the Executive Branch.


According to Bob Woodward in The Washington Post, CIA chief Bush presided over illegal bugging of Micronesian political status negotiations in the 1970s, ordered by Henry Kissinger, carried out by longtime Bush ally Brent Scowcroft, and aimed at “exerting covert influence on key elements of the Micronesian independence movement.” While Vice President, Bush had his longtime crony Fred Zeder, a fellow ex-Pacific fighter pilot and Texas businessman, appointed as the President’s personal representative for Micronesian status negotiations in 1982.


Zeder had been admitted to the Young Presidents’ Organization in 1960 at the University of Michigan, where his roommate was Prescott S. Bush Jr., the brother of George Bush Sr. While chairman and CEO of the diversified manufacturing company Hydrometals Corporation, Zeder moved the firm from New York to Dallas in the early 1960s. Zeder was elected to the City Council in Dallas in 1971 and also served on the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport Board. His business interest in the Pacific Islands is evinced by the fact that he was chairman of the board of Paradise Cruise Corporation in Hawaii from 1978 to his death in 2004.


Zeder played a key role in bankrupting tiny Palau by supporting IPSECO - an apparent covert action in the guise of a power plant, with generators and a fuel farm far too big for Palau’s tiny population (but large enough to provide power and fuel for future possible U.S. military bases). The only way the emerging nation could pay off its enormous energy-related debt was by approving a treaty called the Compact of Free Association. The accord would nullify Palau’s antinuclear constitution - in exchange for U.S. aid.


Much was made about “regime change” in Iraq because of Saddam’s purported WMDs by Pres. Bush 43. But scant attention has been paid to the tragic tale of regime change in a Pacific Island of 15,000 indigenous people who dared oppose U.S. nukes - and to Bush 41’s connection to Palau. George W. Bush may ballyhoo “spreading democracy”, but while Bush Sr. was in the Executive Branch, Palauans were compelled to vote about 15 times in around as many years on self-rule and their nuclear free status. Palauans could vote - but their vote didn’t count unless it favored U.S. policy. Palauans had to keep casting their ballots until Washington attained its desired result: Rescinding the Palau constitution’s antinuclear clauses. It was a unique form of voter suppression.


During this display democracy, Palau was gripped by a reign of terror. On June 30, 1985, Pres. Haruo Remeliik was assassinated, which reopened the then-deadlocked treaty negotiations. Shortly after the liquidation, then-Vice Pres. Bush personally flew to Saipan in the Northern Marianas, located north of Palau and where the Trust Territory administration was HQ-ed, to reopen stalled status parleys, and struck a new deal.


However, antinuclear activists defeated the treaty in a tribunal, where Palau’s High Court ruled a 75% vote favoring a proposed Compact of Free Association was required in order to override the small nation’s antinuclear laws. In 1987, terrorists firebombed and shot Pacific pacifists, and besieged Palau’s congress. A U.S. Congressional General Accounting Office investigation found a $2 million U.S.-derived slush fund financed political violence. In 1988, Palau’s second elected president, pro-U.S. puppet Lazarus Salii, also mysteriously had his head blown off. Although this was officially declared a suicide, the elimination of Salii - who was unable to pass the Compact - untied the Gordian knot that led to the elimination of Palau’s nuclear bans.


Other high ranking U.S. officials during the Reagan-Bush era with links to Palau include: Secretary of State George Shultz, who secured Palauan beachheads as a Marine sergeant during WWII. Shultz returned to Palau in 1986 during the Compact re-negotiation process. In the late 1970s, Admiral William Crowe surveyed land in Palau for U.S. bases, and became CINCPAC Commander and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman 1985-1989. President Bush Sr. appointed Brent Scowcroft - who’d arranged the Kissinger-ordered surveillance of Micronesian status negotiations - National Security Adviser.


Black Ops in Paradise


Paris was Washington’s colonial partner in Oceania, and in the 1960s Moruroa atoll, at French-occupied Polynesia, became France’s South Pacific nuclear testing site for atmospheric and underwater N-blasts. On Jan. 12, 1985, Eloi Machoro, a militant leader of the Kanak indigenous people fighting for independence from France was killed by French police snipers. On March 2, 1985, shortly after he’d returned from meeting anti-nuke activists at Auckland, New Zealand, Tahitian activist Charlie Ching was arrested walking to a pro-independence, antinuclear rally in Papeete, Tahiti. On June 30, 1985 the first president of the world’s first national nuclear free zone was gunned down in Palau. Ten days later French General Directorate for External Security secret agents bombed the Rainbow Warrior at nuclear free New Zealand on July 10, 1985, as Greenpeace prepared to protest France’s nuclear testing near Tahiti. The DGSE saboteurs of the Rainbow Warrior were captured and convicted; the implicated chiefs of France’s military and intelligence services resigned.


The above appear to be part of a coordinated counterinsurgency program to defeat the nuclear free and independent Pacific movement. French state terrorism was indisputably responsible for bombing Greenpeace’s ship. Is it farfetched to think the assassination of Palau’s president(s) and reign of terror was American state terrorism? Inquiring minds want to know.


As former CIA chief, Bush headed what LBJ called “Murder, Inc.,” and, as mobsters say: “The fish stinks from the head down.” The Pentagon had motive: relocating bases from the Philippines (closed after Marcos’ overthrow) to Palau – but the world’s first nuclear free constitution thwarted this aspiration. To find out who commits a crime, see who benefits from it: The IPSECO debt and political violence finally wore Palauans down; in the 1990s their antinuclear framed rules lost at the polls. Palau was, in effect, annexed by Uncle Sam, as was the rest of Micronesia - which, as Bush knew from his WWII days, had vital strategic value.


Historical Ironies


The story of Palau is a case study in U.S. imperial rule and Bush governance full of irony. During Bush Jr.’s Iraq War, the beaten-into-submission islands joined the so-called “coalition of the willing.” Palau, a U.S. client state, is one of the few General Assembly members to vote with Washington on unpopular U.N. matters. Bush 43 claimed he invaded Iraq and imposed regime change because of its purported WMDs. On the other hand, regime change happened in antinuclear Palau because it refused to allow WMDs (that actually existed) to transit through its territory. The second Bush administration cited Iraqi ties to Al-Qaeda and international terrorism as another (subsequently debunked) rationale for war, but when tiny Palau dared resist Washington’s will, a real reign of terror was unleashed that included the gunshot deaths of its first two elected presidents. Although Bush II purported that spreading democracy was another reason for invading Iraq, Palauans were forced to keep going to the voting booths until the outcome of a vote was finally deemed acceptable to the White House.


If MSM spent 1% of the time investigating Bush’s ties to the covert actions in Palau as they did extolling his virtues during their funereal coverage, the case of who shot Pres. Remeliik might actually get solved. Instead of ballyhooing and worshipping a golden calf, MSM should mobilize at least some resources to look behind the curtain at the real record of George H.W. Bush and investigate what role, if any, he played in whacking the president of nuclear free Palau and subsequent events in the remote isles of Micronesia.


Ed Rampell covered Palau during Bush’s vice presidency for AP, Reuters, Newsweek, Radio New Zealand, Radio Australia, Gannett Press, Pacific Islands Monthly, etc. He initiated and was the investigative reporter for ABC News’ “20/20” segment, “The Puzzle of Palau,” which aired in July 1987 and proved three young men related to the opposition leader convicted of assassinating President Remeliik were framed political prisoners. Within two weeks of the Barbara Walters-introduced report, they were fully exonerated of the murder by Palau’s Supreme Court. Rampell went on to report for the Australian Broadcasting Corp.’s “Background Briefing” two-part expose that directly resulted in the conviction of Palau’s pro-Washington Minister of State for soliciting the homicide of President Remeliik. The newest books Rampell co-authored are “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book” and “Conversations with W.S. Merwin.”