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OUR WARPED MEDIA:
The GOP's $3 Billion Propaganda Organ - 3Part Three: Hating America—By the mid-1990s, Sun Myung Moon represented a potential embarrassment to the American Right because Moon had grown harshly anti-American after his political ally, George H.W. Bush, was ousted from office.
The conservatives were lucky that few American news outlets were interested in the increasingly bizarre utterances from the South Korean benefactor of U.S. conservative causes.
In earlier years, though privately disdaining America’s concept of individual liberty, Moon publicly stressed his love for the United States. On Sept. 18, 1976, for instance, Moon staged a red-white-and-blue flag-draped rally at the Washington Monument, declaring that “I not only respect America, but truly love this nation.”
“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.
Stacey soon joined the Unification Church and rose to become a Pacific Northwest leader in 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.”
But Stacey gradually discovered a different reality. 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,’” Stacey said. “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.”
After years in the sunlight of acceptance from the Reagan-Bush administrations, Moon’s entered years of eclipse as his influence faded during the Clinton administration and his animosity toward the United States grew.
“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 a speech to his 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 and the establishment of Moon’s theocratic rule.
“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? 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.”
Though Moon had downplayed his provocative sexual beliefs since coming to America, sometimes the old themes popped up. After Moon spoke in Minneapolis on Oct. 26, 1996, a reporter for the Unification News, an internal newsletter, commented that “what the audience heard was not the usual things that one would expect to hear from a minister. Reverend Moon’s talk included a very frank discussion of the purpose, role and true value of the sexual organs.” [See Unification News, December 1996]
Lashing out at the United States again, Moon decried American tolerance of homosexuals, whom he likened to “dirty dung-eating dogs.” For Americans who “truly love such dogs,” Moon said, “they also become like dung-eating dogs and produce that quality of life.” [Washington Post, Nov. 23-24, 1997]
Bush to the RescueIn fall 1996, another of Sun Myung Moon’s forays into the high-priced world of media and politics was in trouble. South American journalists were writing scathingly about his plan to open a regional newspaper that Moon hoped would give him the same influence in Latin America that the Washington Times had in the United States.
As publication day ticked closer for Moon’s Tiempos del Mundo, leading South American newspapers recounted unsavory chapters of Moon’s history, including his links with South Korea’s fearsome intelligence service and with violent anticommunist organizations that bordered on neo-fascist.
Moon’s disciples fumed about the critical stories and accused the Argentine news media of trying to sabotage Moon’s plans for an inaugural gala in Buenos Aires on Nov. 23, 1996. “The local press was trying to undermine the event,” complained the church’s internal newsletter, Unification News.
Given the controversy, Argentina’s president, Carlos Menem, rejected 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 H.W. 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, though Bush’s presence didn’t change Menem’s mind about attending the gala.
Still, as the biggest VIP at the inaugural gala, Bush saved the day, Moon’s followers gushed. “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 podium” where Bush spoke before about 900 of Moon’s guests at the Sheraton Hotel.
“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’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.”
While Bush’s assertion about Moon’s newspaper as a voice of “sanity” may be a matter of opinion, Bush’s vouching for the Washington Times’ editorial independence simply wasn’t true.
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 “I have blood on my hands” for helping Moon’s 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. [La Nacion, Nov. 26, 1996].
But Bush was not telling Menem the whole story. By fall 1996, Bush and Moon had been working in political tandem for at least a decade and a half. The ex-President also had been earning huge speaking fees 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. [Washington Post, July 30, 1996]
Throughout these public appearances for Moon, Bush’s office 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 me that Bush stood to make as much as $10 million total from Moon’s organization.
The senior George Bush may have had a political motive as well. By 1996, sources close to Bush were saying the ex-President was working hard to enlist well-to-do conservatives and their money behind the presidential candidacy of his son, George W. Bush. Moon was one of the deepest pockets in right-wing circles.
Fishing for InfluenceIn 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,” Moon said. “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.”
(As strange as Moon’s submarine project might sound, a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Japan, dated Feb. 18, 1994, cited press reports that a Moon-connected Japanese company, Toen Shoji, had bought 40 Russian submarines. The subs were supposedly bound for North Korea where they were to be dismantled and melted down as scrap.)
Moon also recognized the importance of media in protecting his curious operations, which sounded a lot 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.
With his background and prominence, Moon and his organization would seem a natural attraction for U.S. government scrutiny. But Moon may have purchased insurance against any intrusive investigation by buying so many powerful American politicians that Washington’s power centers can no more afford the scrutiny than he can.
Even as he turned his back on the United States in the 1990s, Moon remembered to keep up some of his important friendships in the United States. In 1997, his Washington Times Foundation made a $1 million-plus donation to George H.W. Bush’s presidential library in Texas. [Washington Post, Nov. 24, 1997]
Despite his confidence about hooking fish, Moon’s relocation to Uruguay didn’t go entirely without a hitch. More evidence surfaced about Moon’s alleged South American money laundry.
In 1996, the Uruguayan bank employees union blew the whistle on one scheme in which some 4,200 female Japanese followers of Moon allegedly walked into the Moon-controlled Banco de Credito in Montevideo and deposited as much as $25,000 each.
The money from the women went into the account of an anonymous association called Cami II, which was controlled by Moon’s Unification Church. In one day, Cami II received $19 million and, by the time the parade of women ended, the total had swelled to about $80 million.
It was not clear where the money originated, nor how many other times Moon’s organization has used this tactic – sometimes known as “smurfing” – to transfer untraceable cash into Uruguay. Authorities did not push the money-laundering investigation, apparently out of deference to Moon’s political influence and fear of disrupting Uruguay’s banking industry.
Still, Opus Dei, a powerful Roman Catholic group, and some investigative journalists kept up pressure for a fuller examination of financial irregularities at Moon’s bank. Sometimes, the critics found their work a risky business.
In January 1997, only two months after the money-laundering flap, Pablo Alfano, a reporter for El Observador who had been investigating Moon’s operations, was kidnapped by two unidentified men. The men claimed not to belong to Moon’s Unification Church, but threatened Alfano at gunpoint unless he revealed his sources on Moon’s operations.
One gunman shoved a revolver into Alfano’s mouth and warned “this is no joke.” After holding Alfano for 30 minutes, the gunmen returned the reporter to his house, with a warning that they knew his movements and those of his family. Despite the threats, the reporter said he refused to disclose his sources. But the message was clear: he should drop his investigation. [fn, FBIS, Jan. 30, 1997.]
Other critics condemned Moon’s heavy-handed tactics. “The first thing we ought to do is clarify to the people [of Uruguay] that Moon’s sect is a type of modern pirate that came to the country to perform obscure money operations, such as money laundering,” said Jorge Zabalza, who was a leader of the Movimiento de Participacion Popular, part of Montevideo’s ruling left-of-center political coalition. “This sect is a kind of religious mob that is trying to get public support to pursue its business.”
Finally, in 1998, Uruguayan Central Bank president Ramon Diaz pushed the long-whispered allegations against Moon’s bank into the parliamentary record. Diaz accused Banco de Credito of violating financial rules, operating at a constant loss, practicing dubious credit policies with insolvent customers and holding inadequate cash reserves.
Diaz demanded that the bank add $30 million in capital within 48 hours or face government intervention. Within hours, panicked customers pulled $10 million in deposits out of the bank. Diaz’s goal of forcing Moon to sell the bank seemed within reach. One senator claimed that Diaz hoped an Argentine investment group would step in and take over the bank.
Moon proved, however, that his seemingly bottomless well of cash could fill the bank’s vaults in a crisis. Before the 48-hour deadline, Moon transferred $30 million into the ailing bank and retained control. Banco de Credito continued to suffer chronic financial troubles. The bank again slipped into a deficit estimated at $120 million.
On September 18, 1998, Uruguay’s central bank intervened to seize control of the management of Moon’s Banco de Credito. The action followed a warning a day earlier that the bank was violating the nation’s liquidity rules by running massive debts and was in need of recapitalization. Instead, Moon-connected companies took out an additional $35 million in loans, leaving the bank effectively devoid of assets. Uruguay’s bank controller put the bank’s accumulated debt at $161 million.
Moon’s need to “crater” one of his principal financial institutions was not the sign of an up-and-up businessman who simply supported political projects because he had plenty of extra money and a strong sense of civic duty.
First-Hand EvidenceIn Nansook Moon’s 1998 memoirs, In the Shadow of the Moons, Moon’s ex-daughter-in-law – writing under her maiden name Nansook Hong – alleged that Moon’s organization had engaged in a long-running conspiracy to smuggle cash into the United States and to deceive U.S. Customs agents.
“The Unification Church was a cash operation,” Nansook Hong wrote. “I watched Japanese church leaders arrive at regular intervals at East Garden [the Moon compound north of New York City] with paper bags full of money, which the Reverend Moon would either pocket or distribute to the heads of various church-owned business enterprises at his breakfast table.
“The Japanese had no trouble bringing the cash into the United States; they would tell customs agents that they were in America to gamble at Atlantic City. In addition, many businesses run by the church were cash operations, including several Japanese restaurants in New York City. I saw deliveries of cash from church headquarters that went directly into the wall safe in Mrs. Moon’s closet.”
Mrs. Moon pressed her daughter-in-law into one cash-smuggling incident after a trip to Japan in 1992, Nansook Hong wrote.
Mrs. Moon had received “stacks of money” and divvied it up among her entourage for the return trip through Seattle, Nansook Hong wrote. “I was given $20,000 in two packs of crisp new bills,” she recalled. “I hid them beneath the tray in my makeup case. ... I knew that smuggling was illegal, but I believed the followers of Sun Myung Moon answered to higher laws.”
U.S. currency laws require that cash amounts above $10,000 be declared at Customs when the money enters or leaves the country. It is also illegal to conspire with couriers to bring in lesser amounts when the total exceeds the $10,000 figure.
In the Shadow of the Moons raised anew the question of whether Moon’s money laundering – from mysterious sources in both Asia and South America – has made him a conduit for illicit foreign money influencing the U.S. government and American politics.
Moon’s spokesmen have denied that he launders drug money or moves money from other criminal enterprises. They attribute his wealth to donations and business profits, but have refused to open Moon’s records for public inspection.
Still, Nansook Hong’s first-hand allegations and the alleged money-laundering in Uruguay might reasonably have prompted more questions in the United States about how Moon could continue lavishing billions of dollars on U.S. conservative publications and causes.
But those follow-up questions were never asked. Moon apparently had hooked too many large-mouthed fish in both South and North America.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.' This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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This story was published on December 27, 2006.