Dark Side of Rev. Moon: Hooking George Bush
By Robert Parry
Last fall, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's latest foray into the high-priced
world of media and politics was in trouble. South American journalists
were writing scathingly about Moon's plan to open a regional newspaper
that the 77-year-old founder of the Korean-based Unification Church hoped
would give him the same influence in Latin America that the
ultra-conservative Washington Times had in the United States.
As opening day ticked closer for Moon's Tiempos del Mundo,
leading South American newspapers were busy recounting unsavory chapters
of Moon's history, including his links with South Korea's feared
intelligence service and with violent anti-communist organizations that
some commentaries said bordered on neo-fascist.
Indeed, in the early 1980s, amid widespread human rights abuses, Moon had
used friendships with the military dictators in Argentina and Uruguay to
invest in those two countries. Moon was such a pal of the Argentine
generals that he garnered an honorary award for siding with Argentina's
junta in the Falklands War. [UPI, Nov. 16, 1984]
More recently, Moon has been buying large tracts of agricultural lands in
Paraguay. La Nacion reported that Moon had discussed these
business ventures with Paraguay's ex-dictator Alfredo Stroessner.
[Nov. 19, 1996]
Moon's disciples fumed about the critical stories and accused the
Argentine news media of trying to sabotage the newspaper's inaugural gala
in Buenos Aires on Nov. 23. "The local press was trying to undermine the
event," complained the church's internal newsletter, Unification News.
Given the controversy, Argentina's elected president, Carlos Menem, did
decide to reject Moon's invitation. But Moon had a trump card to play in
his bid for South American respectability: the endorsement of an
ex-president of the United States, George Bush. Agreeing to speak at the
newspaper's launch, Bush flew aboard a private plane, arriving in Buenos
Aires on Nov. 22. Bush stayed at Menem's official residence, the Olivos.
But Bush failed to change the Argentine president's mind.
Still, Moon's followers gushed that Bush had saved the day, as he stepped
before about 900 Moon guests at the Sheraton Hotel. "Mr. Bush's presence
as keynote speaker gave the event invaluable prestige," wrote the
Unification News. "Father [Moon] and Mother [Mrs. Moon] sat with
several of the True Children [Moon's offspring] just a few feet from the
Bush lavished praise on Moon and his journalistic enterprises. "I want to
salute Reverend Moon, who is the founder of The Washington Times
and also of Tiempos del Mundo," Bush declared. "A lot of my
friends in South America don't know about The Washington Times,
but it is an independent voice. The editors of The Washington Times
tell me that never once has the man with the vision interfered with the
running of the paper, a paper that in my view brings sanity to Washington,
D.C. I am convinced that Tiempos del Mundo is going to do the
same thing" in Latin America.
Bush then held up the colorful new newspaper and complimented several
articles, including one flattering piece about Barbara Bush. Bush's
speech was so effusive that it surprised even Moon's followers.
"Once again, heaven turned a disappointment into a victory," the
Unification News exulted. "Everyone was delighted to hear his
compliments. We knew he would give an appropriate and 'nice' speech, but
praise in Father's presence was more than we expected. ... It was
vindication. We could just hear a sigh of relief from Heaven."
Bush's endorsement of The Washington Times' editorial
independence also was not truthful. Almost since it opened in 1982, a
string of senior editors and correspondents have resigned, citing the
manipulation of the news by Moon and his subordinates. The first editor,
James Whelan, resigned in 1984, confessing that he had "blood on his
hands" for helping the church achieve greater legitimacy.
But Bush's boosterism was just what Moon needed in South America. "The
day after," the Unification News observed, "the press did a
180-degree about-turn once they realized that the event had the support of
a U.S. president." With Bush's help, Moon had gained another beachhead
for his worldwide business-religious-political-media empire.
After the event, Menem told reporters from La Nacion that Bush
had claimed privately to be only a mercenary who did not really know
Moon. "Bush told me he came and charged money to do it," Menem said.
[Nov. 26, 1996]. But Bush was not telling Menem the whole story. By last
fall, Bush and Moon had been working in political tandem for at least a
decade and a half. The ex-president also had been moonlighting as a front
man for Moon for more than a year.
In September 1995, Bush and his wife, Barbara, gave six speeches in Asia
for the Women's Federation for World Peace, a group led by Moon's wife,
Hak Ja Han Moon. In one speech on Sept. 14 to 50,000 Moon supporters in
Tokyo, Bush insisted that "what really counts is faith, family and
friends." Mrs. Moon followed the ex-president to the podium and announced
that "it has to be Reverend Moon to save the United States, which is in
decline because of the destruction of the family and moral decay."
[Washington Post, Sept. 15, 1995]
In summer 1996, Bush was lending his prestige to Moon again. Bush
addressed the Moon-connected Family Federation for World Peace in
Washington, an event that gained notoriety when comedian Bill Cosby tried
to back out of his contract after learning of Moon's connection. Bush had
no such qualms. [WP, July 30, 1996]
Throughout these public appearances, Bush's office has refused to divulge
how much Moon-affiliated organizations have paid the ex-president. But
estimates of Bush's fee for the Buenos Aires appearance alone ran between
$100,000 and $500,000. Sources close to the Unification Church have put
the total Bush-Moon package in the millions, with one source telling
The Consortium that Bush stood to make as much as $10 million.
Bush also may have other Argentine business deals in the works with Moon.
On Nov. 16, 1996, La Nacion quoted businessmen as saying that
Bush and Moon were keeping an eye on plans to privatize the hydroelectric
complex of Yacyreta, a joint $12 billion Paraguayan-Argentine project to
dam the Parana River.
Still, the Bush-Moon alliance is not strictly about money -- and it did
not start in Bush's post-presidency. It dates back at least to the start
of the Reagan-Bush era -- when Moon was a VIP guest at the first
Reagan-Bush inauguration -- and it could extend into the next century as
the ex-president works to shore up conservative support for his eldest
son, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who is expected to run for the White House
Sources close to Bush say the ex-president has worked hard to pull well-to-do
conservatives and their money behind his son's candidacy. Without doubt,
Moon is one of the deepest pockets in right-wing circles, having financed
important conservative activists from both the Religious Right, such as
the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Inside-the-Beltway right-wing professionals.
A silent testimony to Moon's clout is the fact that his vast spending of
billions of dollars in secretive Asian money to influence U.S. politics --
spanning nearly a quarter century -- has gone virtually unmentioned amid
the current controversy over Asian donations to U.S. politicians.
With unintended irony, Moon's Washington Times repeatedly has
featured stories about secret Asian money going to Democrats. "More than
a million dollars of this foreign money is believed to have been
contributed to the Democrats, putting the election up for auction,"
charged Times' editor Wesley Pruden in a typical column.
[Oct. 18, 1996]
The blind spot on Moon is especially curious since there have been U.S.
government allegations dating back to the 1970s that Moon's organization
fronted for the South Korean CIA and funnelled money to Washington for
right-wing Japanese industrialists. For the past 15 years, The
Washington Times has been the most obvious conduit for this foreign
money. The newspaper and its sister publications -- Insight
and The World & I -- have cost Moon an estimated $1 billion in
losses. Yet, Moon has never accounted for the sources of his money.
Moon's jingle of deep-pocket cash also has caused conservatives to turn a
deaf ear toward Moon's recent anti-American diatribes. With growing
virulence, Moon has denounced the United States and its democratic
principles, often referring to America as "Satanic." But these statements
have gone virtually unreported, even though the texts of his sermons are
carried on the Internet and their timing has coincided with Bush's warm
endorsements of Moon.
"America has become the kingdom of individualism, and its people are
individualists," Moon preached in Tarrytown, N.Y., on March 5, 1995. "You
must realize that America has become the kingdom of Satan."
In similar remarks to followers on Aug. 4, 1996, Moon vowed that the
church's eventual dominance over the United States would be followed by
the liquidation of American individualism. "Americans who continue to
maintain their privacy and extreme individualism are foolish people," Moon
declared. "The world will reject Americans who continue to be so
foolish. Once you have this great power of love, which is big enough to
swallow entire America, there may be some individuals who complain inside
your stomach. However, they will be digested."
During the same sermon, Moon decried assertive American women. "American
women have the tendency to consider that women are in the subject
position," he said. "However, woman's shape is like that of a
receptacle. The concave shape is a receiving shape. Whereas, the convex
shape symbolizes giving. ... Since man contains the seed of life, he
should plant it in the deepest place.
"Does woman contain the seed of life? ["No."] Absolutely not. Then if
you desire to receive the seed of life, you have to become an absolute
object. In order to qualify as an absolute object, you need to
demonstrate absolute faith, love and obedience to your subject. Absolute
obedience means that you have to negate yourself 100 percent."
These pronouncements contrast with Moon's lavish praise of the United
States disseminated for public consumption during his early forays to
Washington. On Sept. 18, 1976, at a flag-draped rally at the Washington
Monument, Moon declared that "the United States of America, transcending
race and nationality, is already a model of the unified world." He called
America "the chosen nation of God" and added that "I not only respect
America, but truly love this nation."
Yet, even as Moon has soured on America, his recruiters continue to use
that flag-draped scene of the Washington Monument to lure new followers.
The patriotic image struck powerfully with John Stacey when the college
freshman watched a video of that speech while undergoing Unification
Church recruitment in 1992.
"American flags were everywhere," recalled Stacey, a thin young man from
central New Jersey. "The first video they showed me was Reverend Moon
praising America and praising Christianity." In 1992, Stacey considered
himself a patriotic American and a faithful Christian. He soon joined the
Stacey became a Pacific Northwest leader in Moon's Collegiate Association
for the Research of Principles [CARP]. "They liked to hang me up because
I'm young and I'm American," Stacey told me. "It's a good image for the
church. They try to create the all-American look, where I think they're
usurping American values, that they're anti-American."
At a 1995 leadership conference at a church compound in Anchorage, Alaska,
Stacey met face-to-face with Moon who was sitting on a throne-like chair
while a group of American followers, many middle-aged converts from the
1970s, sat at his feet like children.
"Reverend Moon looked at me straight in the eye and said, 'America is
Satanic. America is so Satanic that even hamburgers should be considered
evil, because they come from America'," recalled Stacey. "Hamburgers! My
father was a butcher, so that bothered me. ... I started feeling that I
was betraying my country."
Moon's criticism of Jesus also unsettled Stacey. "In the church, it's
very anti-Jesus," Stacey said. "Jesus failed miserably. He died a lonely
death. Reverend Moon is the hero that comes and saves pathetic Jesus.
Reverend Moon is better than God. ... That's why I left the Moonies.
Because it started to feel like idolatry. He's promoting idolatry."
Despite growing disaffection among many longtime followers and other
problems, Moon's empire still prospers financially, backed by vast sources
of mysterious wealth. "It's a multi-billion-dollar international
conglomerate," noted Steve Hassan, a former church leader who has written
a book about religious cults, entitled Combatting Cult Mind Control.
At his Internet site, Hassan has a 31-page list of organizations connected
to the Unification Church, many secretively.
"Here's a man [Moon] who says he wants to take over the world, where all
religions will be abolished except Unificationism, all languages will be
abolished except Korean, all governments will be abolished except his
one-world theocracy," Hassan said in an interview. "Yet he's wined and
dined very powerful people and convinced them that he's benign."
Hassan argued that perhaps the greatest danger of the Unification Church
is that it will outlive Moon, since the organization has grown so immense
and powerful that other leaders will step forward to lead it. "There are
groups out there that want to use this organization," Hassan said.
A couple of years ago, Moon shifted his personal base of operation to a
luxurious estate in Uruguay. The church has been investing tens of
millions of dollars in that nation since the early 1980s when Moon was
close to the military government. In a sermon on Jan. 2, 1996, Moon was
unusually blunt about how he expected the church's wealth to buy influence
among the powerful in South America, just as it did in Washington.
"Father has been practicing the philosophy of fishing here," Moon said,
through an interpreter who spoke of Moon in the third person. "He [Moon]
gave the bait to Uruguay and then the bigger fish of Argentina, Brazil and
Paraguay kept their mouths open, waiting for a bigger bait silently. The
bigger the fish, the bigger the mouth. Therefore, Father is able to hook
them more easily."
As part of his business strategy, Moon explained that he would dot the
continent with small airstrips and construct bases for submarines which
could evade Coast Guard patrols. His airfield project would allow
tourists to visit "hidden, untouched, small places" throughout South
America, he said.
"Therefore, they need small airplanes and small landing strips in the
remote countryside. ... In the near future, we will have many small
airports throughout the world." Moon wanted the submarines because "there
are so many restrictions due to national boundaries worldwide. If you
have a submarine, you don't have to be bound in that way."
Moon also recognized the importance of media in protecting his curious
operations, which sound like an invitation to drug traffickers. He
boasted to his followers that with his vast array of political and media
assets, he will dominate the new Information Age. "That is why Father has
been combining and organizing scholars from all over the world, and also
newspaper organizations -- in order to make propaganda," Moon said.
Central to that success in South America is Tiempos del Mundo.
Moon pursued a similar strategy in the United States. In the early 1980s,
Ronald Reagan hailed The Washington Times as his favorite
newspaper and Moon's editors rewarded the Reagan-Bush administration with
In the mid-1980s, for instance, when journalists and Congress began prying
into Oliver North's secret support for the Nicaraguan contras and their
ties to drug trafficking, Moon's paper led the counter-attack. "Story on
[contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy" was the subtitle of a
front-page Washington Times article criticizing a piece that
Brian Barger and I had written for The Associated Press about a
Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the contras.
[April 11, 1986]
When Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., uncovered more evidence of contra drug
trafficking in 1986, The Washington Times denounced him. The
newspaper first published articles suggesting that Kerry was on a wasteful
political witch hunt. "Kerry's anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive,
in vain," announced one Times article. [Aug. 13, 1986]
But when Kerry exposed more and more contra wrongdoing, The Washington
Times changed tactics. In 1987, it began intimidating Kerry's staff
with front-page accusations that they were obstructing justice. "Kerry
staffers damaged FBI probe," declared one Times article. It
opened with the assertion that "congressional investigators for Sen. John
Kerry severely damaged a federal drug investigation last summer by
interfering with a witness while pursuing allegations of drug smuggling by
the Nicaraguan resistance [the contras], federal law enforcement officials
said." [Jan. 21, 1987]
As the Iran-contra scandal continued to spread and threatened Bush's
public insistence that he was "out of the loop," Moon's paper turned its
fire on special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh. Over and over, the paper
attacked Walsh for allegedly wasting money with first-class air fare and
When former CIA clandestine services chief Clair George was on trial for
false statements, The Washington Times published a front-page
story with the two-column headline, "GOP Questions Walsh Spending."
[Aug. 4, 1992] That morning, George's CIA supporters held the headline up
so the jury could see the anti-Walsh allegations. Throughout the
Iran-contra scandal, the paper played a crucial role in protecting the
cover-up. [For details, see Walsh's new book, Firewall.]
Time and again, Moon's Washington Times went to bat for Bush.
When Bush lagged behind Michael Dukakis in the early days of the 1988
presidential race, the Times falsely implied that Dukakis had
undergone psychiatric care. The story drew national attention and raised
early doubts about Dukakis's fitness for the White House.
In 1992, the newspaper promoted Bush's re-election by running stories
about Bill Clinton's collegiate trip to Moscow. Those stories suggested
that the Rhodes scholar was a spy for the KGB. Four years later, with the
Republicans hoping to oust Clinton, The Washington Times
reversed field with a contradictory banner story: "Was Bill Clinton a
junior spy for the CIA?" [June 24, 1996]
In 2000, Moon's newspaper could give similar boosts to the expected
presidential candidacy of Gov. George W. Bush. After all, his father has
shown that he knows how to reward his allies no matter how unsavory.
For Moon's part, the self-proclaimed Korean messiah has succeeded in
hooking many big fish in Washington -- "the bigger the fish, the bigger
the mouth" -- but none bigger than former President George Bush. ~
(c) Copyright 1997
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