Columnist Wayne Madsen takes us behind the scenes of two momentous events in recent US history where General Alexander Haig played a pivotal role by twice foiling an attempt against the constitutional order. First, during the Watergate scandal when Haig anticipated that Richard Nixon might mobilize the military to hold on to power. Then, as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, when Haig did not fall for the official story of the assassination attempt, pinned on an allegedly love-sick young man whose father just happened to have very close links with Vice-President George H.W. Bush.
There are two things that the corporate media will not report about former Secretary of State and consummate Washington insider Alexander Haig, who died on February 20 at age 86.
Watergate Scandal: 1974
- President Richard M. Nixon meets in the Oval Office with Vice President Gerald R. Ford, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, and Chief of Staff Alexander Haig. 1973.
In 1974, Haig, who was President Richard Nixon’s chief of staff. sent a classified message to the Secretary of Defense and all top echelon U.S. military commanders that any orders sent from the Commander-in-Chief without Haig’s authorization were to be ignored. In the weeks leading up to the Nixon resignation over the Watergate scandal, this editor was a 20-year old Navy midshipman who happened to be staying with a Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel who was assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. The Marine officer related to me a chilling event that day at the Pentagon. The Haig co-authorization order resulted from a fear that Nixon, in an effort to remain in office, might have ordered troop movements and Army Reserve and National Guard call-ups from surrounding bases in the Washington area, particularly from Fort A. P. Hill in Virginia and Fort George Meade in Maryland, to enter Washington and seize control of Congress. The reason would be the preservation of "national security."
Defense Secretary James Schlesinger sent Haig’s directive as a flash precedence, Top Secret, "’PERSONAL FOR" message to all top military commanders. Orders from Nixon, including that for a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, that did not go through the Pentagon were to be ignored.
Apparently, Haig did not trust Nixon or the Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger to not try to stage a military occupation of Washington in order to remain in power. In a dramatic move, the Joint Chiefs agreed with Haig and took steps to counteract any orders from Nixon to military commanders.
Attempted Assassination of President Ronald Reagan: March 30, 1981
- President Ronald Reagan waves to onlookers moments before an assassination attempt by John Hinckley Jr - March 30, 1981
On March 30, 1981, the son of John W. Hinckley, Sr. a close family friend and Midland, Texas oil industry associate of Vice President George H W Bush, John W. Hinckley, Jr., shot and seriously wounded President Ronald Reagan as he left the Washington Hilton hotel. Bush was sitting in Air Force Two in Austin, Texas with Texas Republican Governor Bill Clements, a close Bush ally. Furthermore, Hinckley Jr.’s brother Scott Hinckley was to have dinner with Bush’s son Neil Bush the day after the assassination. Neil was living at the time in Denver, where the Hinckleys had moved from Texas, and was working for AMOCO. Scott Hinckley was a Vice President for his father’s Vanderbilt Energy. The friendship mirrored that between John Hinckley, Sr. and George H. W. Bush. Bush’s Zapata Oil reportedly bailed out Vanderbilt Energy when it fell on hard times in the 1960s. Hinckley Sr. also served as president of the Christian evangelist organization World Vision, believed to be a major CIA conduit for operations in Third World countries.
A colleague of mine who knew Haig, related a story that when Haig first heard about a family connection between the Hinckley and Bush families, the veteran of the Nixon-Kissinger Watergate intrigue immediately conducted a virtual "lock down" of the White House as Reagan was being rushed to the hospital. Haig quickly left his office at Foggy Bottom and sped the few blocks to the White House Situation Room.
Haig may not be my or anyone else’s "cup of tea" but in the aftermath of the Reagan shooting when he let the world know that he was "in control" at the White House, he was sending a message to America’s friends and enemies, and particularly Vice President Bush, that nothing would happen that would upset the normal succession. If it turned out that Hinckley’s attempt on Reagan’s life was connected to a plot by the Vice President, Haig would ensure Bush got no where near the White House. Haig, as third in succession for the presidency after ordering the arrest of Bush, would transfer presidential power to Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts.
There is also the curious nature of Bush’s actions on the morning of March 30. Bush was flying on the Boeing 707 Air Force Two from Fort Worth to Austin while Hinckley was stalking the side entrance to the Washington Hilton, waiting for Reagan to depart after his address to an AFL-CIO meeting. Earlier in the morning, Bush had dedicated a historical plaque at the Fort Worth Hyatt Regency, the old Texas Hotel, the very same hotel where President Kennedy stayed on November 21, 1963, the night before his fateful trip to Dallas where he was assassinated. Bush was, like Hinckley, stalking the entrance to the Texas School Book Depository Building at the time of Kennedy’s assassination.
When his plane arrived in Austin, Bush remained on board with Texas Governor Clements. With Reagan laying gravely wounded and undergoing surgery at George Washington University Hospital, Bush decided to stay put. Was the reason for Bush to have easy access to a judge in order to be sworn into office upon learning of Reagan’s death. If Bush were to have taken off for Washington without knowing about Reagan’s status, Bush would be in the air without the ability to be sworn into office. By remaining on the tarmac at Austin, Bush would not only be able to be sworn in but he would be able to give his presidency legitimacy by flying back to Andrews Air Force Base with the governor of Texas at his side.
If Bush had risked having a judge on an airborne Air Force Two before knowing that Reagan had died, the entire conspiracy would have been exposed. Therefore, Bush and Clements remained on the tarmac in Austin waiting to hear about Reagan’s prognosis.
Haig was also undoubtedly aware that on March 31, 1981, the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) had been ordered to conduct and exercise simulating a Soviet ICBM missile attack on the United States. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman David Jones immediately ordered the exercise canceled after they became suspicious of the timing. Weinberger, who was close to Haig, was also suspicious about Reagan chief of staff James Baker, an old political crony of Bush, informing the White House Situation Room officials, including Haig, that the following day — the same day of the pre-planned NORAD missile attack simulation — the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), scheduled OPERATION NINE LIVES, an exercise on presidential succession. That exercise also was immediately canceled.
Bush did not arrive at the White House Situation Room until 7:00 pm and he appeared, according to Treasury Secretary Donald Regan, surprisingly calm in the face of the day’s events. It was also clear that Bush’s cabal at the White House included Baker and Ed Meese, the Counselor to the President for Policy. Curiously, Bush had stopped by the Vice President’s residence at the Naval Observatory instead of proceedinh directly to the White House.
When it appeared that Reagan would survive the assassination attempt, even after he was administered an "cold transfusion" of blood that could have also killed kim and may have brought about his Alzheimer’s condition, Bush and his media pals immediately began the disinformation campaign about the would-be assassin. Bush’s Press Secretary, Pete Teeley, caustically told inquiring reporters that he knew nothing about any Bush-Hinckley family connection.
Attorney General William French Smith, with Bush chairing the emergency Cabinet meeting, quickly ruled out any conspiracy with the attempt of Reagan’s life. As far as the FBI was concerned, Hinckley was a troubled lone assassin in the mold of Arthur Herman Bremer, the attempted assassin of Democratic presidential candidate George Wallace, and Mark David Chapman, the assassin of John Lennon. Never mind the fact that Chapman had worked for the senior Hinckley’s World Vision.
And then the press was treated to the zinger concerning Hinckley Jr. He shot Reagan to impress actress Jodie Foster. The following note was allegedly found in Hinckley’s Washington hotel room:
There is a definite possibility that I will be killed in my attempt to get Reagan. It is for this reason that I am writing you this letter now. As you well know by now, I love you very much. The past seven months I have left you dozens of poems, letters, and messages in the faint hope you would develop an interest in me. . . . Jodie, I’m asking you to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance with this historical deed to gain your respect and love.
I love you forever.
/s/ John Hinckley"
For the seasoned military leader Haig, the Hinckley-Foster connection must have seemed like a bad dream and a definite indication that a massive "psy-op" campaign was being initiated after Reagan did not die.
- John Hinckley Jr. escorted by police in Washington, D.C. on March 30, 1981, following his arrest after shooting and seriously wounding then U.S. president Ronald Reagan.
Those suspecting Bush of involvement in the attempt on Reagan, who Bush personally abhorred over Reagan’s outspoken criticisms of Bush’s favorite groups — the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission — included, first and foremost, Haig, but also Weinberger and Regan. Bush’s core team included Baker and Meese.
One Washington journalist who was not buying into the "lone gunman" theory was NBC News anchorman John Chancellor. Chancellor believed the relationship between the would-be assassin’s family and Bush was more than coincidental. NBC News reporter Judy Woodruff reported that at least one shot that was fired at the Hilton came from "above." Chancellor died from stomach cancer in 1996 at the age of 68.
Years ago, this editor spoke to Reagan’s personal Secret Service agent who quickly pushed Reagan into the presidential limousine when the shots rang out from Hinckley’s weapon. The standing Secret Service orders were for the limousine to proceed directly to the White House. When Parr noticed that Reagan was bleeding he wisely countermanded the standing order and re-directed the limousine to George Washington University Hospital. The decision most likely saved Reagan’s life and spared the nation from Bush assuming the presidency on March 30, 1981 instead of January 20, 1989. Anecdotally, when Parr covered the seriously wounded Reagan with his full body weight, Reagan in pain, yelled out: "Are you trying to fucking kill me?" The answer to that question that someone was trying to kill Reagan, not his Secret Service agent who saved his life, but his Vice President, George H. W. Bush.
And for ensuring that George H. W. Bush did not darken the Oval Office as early as March 30, 1981, we have Al Haig largely to thank for that. RIP, General Haig.