FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

The Cars Issue

Literary

FORTUNATE SON: GEORGE BUSH AND THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN PRESIDENTAfter September 11 it might be difficult to write anything critical about the
EM
Κείμενο Eddy Moretti

Fortunate Son: George Bush and the Making of an American President
J.H. Hatfield
Soft Skull Press After September 11 it might be difficult to write anything critical about the life of George W Bush without sounding unpatriotic. As we witness Bush’s retaliation against the perpetrators of the World Trade Center bombing there may not be any time to reflect on the man leading the attack, and in fact there may be no popular sentiment to do so. But, as the recently re-issued J.H. Hatfield biography Fortunate Son illustrates, we need to take another look at the man who has been charged with the protection of our freedom. The most striking aspect of the ascendancy of George W. Bush, something that Hatfield perhaps did not intend to convey, is its utter banality. His rise to power is a massive “I-told-you-so” from start to finish. Whenever we learn of the greased palms of privilege held out to help him along his way, there’s the immediate shock and obligatory head shake, but then it’s inevitably followed by a deflating feeling of helplessness as we resign ourselves to the fact that this is the way things have always been. That’s just how it is for the rich and powerful. Among all the unsavory minutiae that Hatfield has collected in one easy-to-access volume, however, is a particularly telling anecdote about Dubya that is interesting (if not disturbing) in light of the World Trade Center disaster last month. Hatfield, like most investigative journalists, is eager to find the tangled lines that connect events and people. One of his findings involves an early contributor to Junior’s first oil company, the glorious Arbusto Energy (Arbusto went belly up, like most of George W’s business ventures). In any case, one of the first investors in Arbusto was James R. Bath, a Texas businessman that was friends with Bush Jr. but had some dangerous links. In 1991 he is said to have involved Bush Jr. in a junk bonds scandal with the Bank of Credit and Commerce that almost destroyed the world’s economy. Bush was exonerated but others were not. Others like Sheikh bin Laden, father of Osama bin Laden. The bin Ladens, who own the biggest construction company in the Middle East, had been using American businessmen throughout the 70s, and particularly in Texas, as trustees to invest their money. “Ironically,” Hatfield writes, “the money used to underwrite the first business venture of a future president may have been derived, at least in part, from the family fortune of Osama bin Laden.” And as information arises of possible insider trading by bin Laden and other terrorist organizations just prior to the September 11 attacks, consider this: In 1987 Bush Jr. “invested” in Harken Energy, a huge company that was looking for oil and drilling in the Middle East through a Bank of Credit and Commerce-connected firm Stephens Inc. Bush had no investment money of his own, but became consultant, director, and second-largest shareholder. Four months after a major deal was struck to drill in Bahrain in 1990, the US State Department issued a top secret report to Bush Sr. that warned that Saddam Hussein was getting ready to strike somewhere in the region. “On June 22, 1990, Bush suddenly unloaded 60 percent of his Harken stock for a tidy profit of $848 560, more than two-and-a-half times their original value.” The SEC investigated Bush Jr. for possible insider trading but ended their investigation without filing charges. For the most part, the American public has not been skeptical enough about the way that Bush Jr. has risen to power. To follow one of the many epigrams in Hatfield’s book, Americans have let the “kids born on third base feel as though they’ve hit a triple.” Hatfield is protesting this passivity, whether he’s writing about the way in which Bush’s name helped him get into Yale and the Texas Air National Guard, how it helped him off a conviction of cocaine possession or an impaired driving charge, how it gained him access to the oil industry and government insiders of Texas, the Republican Party, the White House… But there’s much more to the story. In the middle of July of this year, J.H. Hatfield was found dead in an Arkansas hotel room from an overdose of prescription anti-depressants. Some say it was CIA pressure to kill the book that drove him to suicide. Some say it was his history of mental illness that led him there. St. Martin’s “pulped” the book, claiming they were not intimidated by the CIA. It was Hatfield’s criminal past that had troubled them. He served 12 years for attempted murder in Arkansas. When the Lower East Side punk publisher Soft Skull picked up the title, they began an intense public relations campaign. Though details of Hatfield’s mental state are sketchy, he was understandably paranoid in that he had created some very powerful enemies. This added pressure combined with his other emotional problems eventually tipped the scale, resulting in a depression that ended in suicide. Unfortunately, some of the book’s credibility, rightly or wrongly, may have self-destructed along with its author. EDDY MORETTI