Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Family: Panama and the Pasadena Prophecy

Another modest document from the Family archives, Collection 459 of the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois. These are a few passages from an early 1980s address to a private Prayer Breakfast meeting. They're of significance mainly for the names involved. The speaker was Aquilino Edgardo Boyd de la Gard, heir to one of Panama's oligarchic ruling families and ambassador to the U.S. from 1982 to 1985, representing the military dictatorship of Manuel Noriega, another friend of the Family represented in their archives. He appreciated the contacts the Family brought him with "the Pentagon, the State Department, business and industry"--and the fact that the meetings were confidential. "By and large, the little groups meet on a private basis, completely off the record."
As a result of this association and because of the problems facing the Central American nations, I thought perhaps these friends could be helpful and have invited three of them, General Vessey, Mr. Ellingwood and Mr. Coe, to meet to discuss some Ideas which I believe will interest you. General Vessey has been involved for many years with the leadership/breakfast groups, and now serves as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Herb Ellingwood was a close friend of the President when he was the Governor of California, and now serves in the administration here in Washington.
Mr. Coe, of course, is Doug Coe, the longtime leader of the organization who in his very rare public utterances -- about once every ten years -- disavows any political intentions. General Vessey is John W. Vessey, Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from during the same period Boyd was ambassador to the U.S.  Herb Ellingwood was an aide to Family man Attorney General Ed Meese in the Justice Department, who put Ellingwood in charge of the Office of Liaison after congressional opponents blocked his appointment to the Office of Legal Policy--which is saying something, in the Meese Justice Department.

Here's what I wrote about Vessey in The Family:
In 1983, Doug Coe and General John W. Vessey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed the civilian ambassadors of the Central American nations that the Prayer Breakfast would be used to arrange “private sessions” for their generals with “responsible leaders” in the United States; the invitations would be sent from Republican senators Richard Lugar and Mark Hatfield, and Dixiecrat John Stennis, the Mississippi segregationist after whom an aircraft carrier is now named. The Family went on to build friendships between the Reagan administration and the Salvadoran general Carlos Eugenios Vides Casanova, found liable in 2002 by a Florida jury for the torture of thousands, and the Honduran general Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, who before his assassination was linked to both the CIA and death squads. El Salvador became one of the bloodiest battlegrounds of the Cold War; U.S. military aid to Honduras jumped from $4 million per year to $79 million. In Africa, the Family greased the switch of U.S. patronage from one client state, Ethiopia, to another that they felt was more promising: Somalia. “We work with power where we can,” Doug Coe explains, “build new power where we can’t.”
That was no joke in Somalia:
A document titled “Siad Barre’s Somalia and the USA,” prepared for the Family and marked “Very Confidential,” is one of the rare Family documents to move beyond what Elgin Groseclose called “the facade of brotherhood.” It is undated but appears to have been written near the beginning of the relationship. Siad, it begins, is the only head of state to have expelled the Soviets, and the only regional leader to offer “full military, air, and naval bases.” He pledges, too, to provide for a  pro-American successor, and to purge his government of all offi  cials linked to Somalia’s former patron, excepting himself, presumably. Then he notes that he has already supplied the Pentagon with a list of armaments he needed to fight the Cubans. Received. 
In 1983, Somalia’s minister of defense went to Washington at Coe’s invitation to meet with the new chairman of the joint chiefs, General John J. Vessey. The United States nearly doubled military aid to the regime, pouring guns into a country that before the decade was out would achieve a moment of unity it has not seen since, when nearly  everyone—politicians, warlords,  children—united in opposition to Siad. He fl ed in 1991, taking refuge in Kenya with arap Moi. One of his last acts as Somalia’s key man was to scorch as much of his enemy’s land as he could, a biblical punishment for a nation that had resisted God’s appointed authority.
Now here's Herb Ellingwood, from the footnote for the Coe-Vessey collaboration referred to above:
Minutes of a luncheon held at the Cedars, the Family’s Arlington, Virginia headquarters, October 19, 1983, collection 459, BGCA; no box number. The luncheon was organized by Aquilino E. Boyd, the Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega’s ambassador to the United States. Also in attendance was an  inner- circle member of the Family named Herb Ellingwood, a longtime Reagan aide who had been responsible for “psychological warfare” against student protestors in California. In 1970, Ellingwood was one of the small circle of men who laid hands on Reagan and heard a voice, allegedly God’s, promising Reagan the White  House. (Paul Kengor, God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life [Regan Books, 2004], pp. 135–36.) When Reagan ascended to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he took Ellingwood with him as a deputy counsel. Ellingwood’s advice? “Economic salvation and spiritual salvation go side by side.”
But not, apparently, electoral success: Ellingwood left Reagan and Meese in 1986 to join the presidential campaign of Christian Right leader Pat Robertson. Robertson had a strong showing in the early primaries, but the Republican establishment could not abide a man who'd put morality before money--even a morality that said God wants the poor to be poor and the rich to be rich--and so they closed ranks around a choice nobody was happy about, George H.W. Bush.

Here are some notes I made about better times for Ellingwood, the so-called "Pasadena Prophecy" referred to above, which foretold Reagan's ascendance:
A Sunday. Harald Bredesen, Herb Ellingwood, Pat Boone, wife, George Otis, and the Reagans gathered in the governor’s mansion a month before election for second term. The group form a prayer circle. “Otis, a pastor with High Adventure Ministries in Van Nuys,” recalls awkward seconds that go on a long while. Praying “the things that you’d expect… thanking the Lord for the Reagans…” when the Holy Spirit entered the room and his arm and the hand with which he held Reagan’s began to shake, “tensing,” “pulsing.” He tried to still his arm, but it continued shaking, like a current was zapping through muscle and bone, “a bolt of electricity.” Then, a voice: It was Otis’ own, but the words, tone, the great calm, were not. The voice was not even meant for him, but for the man on his right, Reagan. “My son,” the voice called him. The voice spoke in a diction Otis had learned from the King James Bible. It told Reagan that he was governor of a great land, “indeed, the size of many nations.” But it promised more: “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”