OAKLAND, California - These days, while President George W. Bush is all about convincing the U.S. public that he has a "Plan for Victory" in Iraq, his younger brother, Neil, is all about taking advantage of the family name.
As the president was trumpeting a 35-page National Security Council document titled "Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq", Neil has been touting his company's prospectus. Over the past six months, Neil Bush has been shepherded around several former Soviet republics by a man wanted for fraud by Russian authorities, and has showed up in the Philippines and Taiwan at the side of a self-styled messiah.
If people know anything at all about the star-crossed Neil Bush, it likely relates to either his role in the failed Silverado Savings and Loan scandal during the 1980s, which cost taxpayers more than one billion dollars, or, more recently, the lurid details of his divorce from his wife of 23 years.
After a brief hiatus from the public spotlight, Neil Bush is back. Within a three-month period, Bush has shown up in Latvia, Ukraine and Georgia with Russian fugitive Boris Berezovsky, and has appeared at the side of the Unification Church's Rev. Sun Myung Moon in Taiwan and the Philippines.
In September, Bush visited Latvia with Boris Berezovsky, described by The Washington Post as "a fugitive Russian tycoon who made millions in the violent scramble for control of Russian government assets after the fall of communism".
Bush and Berezovsky, who currently lives in London where he has received political asylum, were toodling around the former Soviet republics to promote Ignite! Learning, the Texas-based interactive education software company Bush founded in 1999.
Berezovsky took Bush "on a tour of countries from the former Soviet Union that have spun out of Moscow's sphere of influence", the St. Petersburg Times reported. In June, it was Ukraine, then Georgia, "where Berezovsky's longtime partner and Tbilisi power broker Badri Patarkatsishvili was on hand to wine and dine the U.S. president's brother".
The Russian newspaper also pointed out that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow had disavowed any knowledge of Bush's activities, while the State Department denied any "involvement in, or any role in arranging, the activities of these two private individuals in Riga".
More recently, Bush showed up in the Philippines and Taiwan at the side of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the head of the controversial Unification Church. In the Philippines, Bush attended the inaugural convocation of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in Manila, the Manila Bulletin reported.
Bush, along with other "peace leaders", joined with Moon in meeting with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The president "praised Moon for his global peace efforts and God-centered, family-centered economic and social initiatives in various parts of the world, including projects in a number of Philippine cities", the Manila paper reported.
Moon's Philippines trip, one stop on a 100-day tour that is taking him to 100 cities in 67 nations and covering nearly 100,000 miles, was aimed at building momentum for his idea of developing a faith-based path to peace by revamping the United Nations.
Veteran investigative reporter John Gorenfeld told IPS that, "Moon speaks in parables from the Book of Genesis. He says the U.N. is like Cain, but he wants to build a second entity that is like Abel. Ideally his 'Abel U.N.' -- a body fusing all religions -- would be embraced by the U.N. But if not, he wants to set up his own alternative diplomatic machine to outshine the U.N."
During a May 2003 meeting with President Bush at the White House, Philippines President Arroyo suggested that the United States might consider co-sponsoring the proposal, the conservative online news magazine, NewsMax.com reported. According to that report, the president "expressed deep interest and asked his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to study the matter".
Neil Bush is no stranger to showing up at out of the way places searching for business: One month after the 9/11 attacks, Bush showed up at an international technology conference in Dubai where he was hunting for investors for Ignite!.
A few months later, he was in Saudi Arabia, where he delivered the keynote address on the concluding day of the three-day Jeddah Economic Forum. Bush told conferees that the best way to change perceptions in the United States about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was to expand their political lobbying.
Stained by his involvement in the savings and loan debacle, Neil Bush's reputation was further soiled by revelations contained in a deposition that was part of his divorce from his wife Sharon. In those documents, Bush revealed details about rewarding business deals and a series of sexual encounters with women in Asia.
Sharon Bush's lawyer, Marshall Davis Brown, questioned Bush about an August 2002 contract with Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., a firm backed by Jiang Mianheng, the son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, that would pay him two million dollars in stock over five years: "You have absolutely no educational background in semiconductors do you?"
"That's correct," Bush responded.
"And you have absolutely over the last 10, 15, 20 years not a lot of demonstrable business experience that would bring about a company investing two million dollars in you?" Brown persisted.
In the deposition, Bush also admitted to having had a series of sexual encounters with Asian woman, while on trips to Thailand and Hong Kong. According to Bush, the women knocked on his door, entered and engaged in sex with him. According to a CNN report, Bush "said he did not know if they were prostitutes because they never asked for money and he did not pay them".
Last month, Bush took time away from his busy schedule to attend a White House dinner in honour of Britain's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla.
Rev. Moon has been a longtime friend to the Bush family. After supporting Bush's election in 2000 through his flagship publication, The Washington Times, the newspaper's foundation sponsored a prayer luncheon attended by some 1,700 religious, civic, and political leaders the day before Bush's inauguration.
In 1995, former President George H. W. Bush received 10,000 dollars to speak at a Moon-sponsored Buenos Aires banquet that launched the Reverend's Latin American publication, "Tiempos del Mundo" (Times of the World).
"A lot of my friends in South America don't know about the Washington Times but it is an independent voice," the former president said. "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, DC."
Copyright © 2005 IPS - Inter Press Service