Bush aides with hand in the till?

Issue 

By Jack Colhoun

WASHINGTON — A congressional investigation has revealed that backing by key Bush administration officials for arms shipments to Iraq before the Gulf War may have been in pursuit of the officials' private interests.

House Banking Committee chair Henry González has revealed that deputy secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger and national security adviser Brent Scowcroft are tied to corporations and banks that profited from trade with Iraq. González charges that the State Department and the National Security Council, which Scowcroft heads, facilitated that trade.

The pair are former executives with Kissinger Associates, a high- priced international political consulting firm headed by former secretary of state Henry Kissinger. The firm represented clients that exported militarily useful goods to Iraq.

Furthermore, González revealed on February 24, in 1988-89 Eagleburger was involved in the Bush administration's handling of the scandal around the Atlanta branch of the Banca Nazionale de Lavoro, despite Kissinger Associates links to the Italian bank. (Kissinger was a paid member of BNL's Consulting Board for International Policy.)

González also disclosed that Scowcroft, while working at Kissinger Associates, briefed the BNL international advisory board for a fee. Several Kissinger Associates clients used BNL loans to export products to Iraq. Some of the transactions took place after the 1988 cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq war. US officials justified trade with Baghdad during the war as necessary to prevent a victory for Iranian fundamentalism.

"There is no doubt that the BNL scandal was critical to US-Iraq relations", González, a liberal Texas Democrat, declared in a February 24 speech. "There is also no doubt that Eagleburger and Scowcroft continued to work on the US policy toward Iraq despite their past ties to BNL."

The administration played down the significance of the BNL scandal when it was learned in 1989 that the Atlanta branch provided more than $4 billion in unreported loans to Iraq, $2 billion of which was used by the secret Iraqi arms technology procurement network in the United States.

Eagleburger, who held high posts in the Reagan State Department from 1981 to 1984, served as Kissinger Associates president from 1984 until 1989, when Bush appointed him deputy secretary of state.

He served as US ambassador to Yugoslavia, 1977-81, and was a director of the BNL-linked LBS Bank, a subsidiary of Ljubjanska Banka, Yugoslavia's second largest bank.

A 1989 Federal Reserve examination of BNL found that the bank accounted for 20 to 25% of LBS business between 1986 and 1989, including tens of millions of dollars worth of BNL loans purchased by Iraq.

A 1991 US Justice Department indictment linked LBS to Entrade International, a New York-based trading company, which had been indicted for obtaining unauthorised loans from BNL to finance exports to Iraq.

Scowcroft joined Kissinger Associates in 1982 as vice chair. Scowcroft's financial disclosure statement, released when Bush appointed him national security adviser, indicated he owned stock in such giants of the military-industrial complex as Hewlett-Packard, ITT, General Motors, Westinghouse and AT&T, all members of the pro-Baghdad US-Iraq Business Forum.

González has cited a profit motive in the US officials' role. "Regarding the question of whether or not the companies that Scowcroft owned stock in benefited from the US policy toward Iraq, I can reveal one fact: together, those companies received over 100 out of the total 800 US export licences for sales to Iraq", he stated on April 25, 1991.
[Abridged from the US Guardian.]