"Dead man, dead man. When will you arise?"
No, I'm not talking about that one.
"Cobwebs in your mind, dust upon your eyes."
After this and for a while, but not too long, I pledge a moratorium on Dylan lyrics. But following the weird scenes yesterday in St Peter's Basilica - particularly the sight of gentle Poppy clasping his hands in prayerful reflection - I can't get this one out of my head.
I feel like a dimensional traveller sometimes with respect to George HW Bush. In one reality, the one I see on CNN, he's a folksy yet dignified grandfather and war hero. In the other, the one I find in largely-unread books in the small hours, he's former President Hannibal Lector. Beyond the broad strokes there's not much shared between the two. The first is consensus reality, while the second, which lays an incredible count of both low and high crimes at his door, is never spoken in public. Can there be two Poppies? Could both be true? Or could so many be wrong, and so few right? It's hard to be arrogant about evidence which has persuaded me, when nearly everyone I know, and nearly everyone I don't, have no idea what I'm talking about. And I always need to embrace the humility that I could be mistaken.
Why should the word of a girl like Nelly Webb carry more weight for me than that of respected clergy and statesmen? Nelly claimed she was in the Franklin paedophile ring, and alleged she had seen the Vice President in the company of young boys at Lawrence King sex parties in Washington and Chicago. Or the testimony of Kimberly, which was much the same? Or Lisa's, "who came from a very underprivileged background with no knowledge of political affairs, [and] gave minute details of her attendance at political meetings around the country"? Or the report of an Omaha psychologist formerly employed by the CIA, who'd heard rumors when Bush was Director that corresponded with the allegations? The psychologist asked, "How do you investigate your boss?"
And how can we, who have neither credibility nor authority, nor hope for either, expect to rightfully assess claims made against figures beyond the reach of common justice?
There are many names of people who had both, and lost both, by overreaching. Do you know the name Darlene Novinger? Googling it registers many hits from old "Clinton Body Count" lists. (Danny Casolaro's on the Clinton list, too.) I've already written about the gaming of partisan conspiracy theories. Let's be clear: there is not, really, a Clinton Body Count, nor a Bush Body Count. There is just the Body Count. It's not a competition, it's a consortium.
Novinger was recruited by the FBI in 1979 to work as an undercover operative, and in 1982 was assigned to Atlanta by the Federal Strike Force. She worked on Operation Nimbus, investigating large-scale drug smuggling on the Eastern seaboard. The investigation revealed the narcotics operation of a powerful Lebanese family living in Miami and Jamaica, which was also tied to the Lebanese fascist Phalange. And Novinger claimed the operation implicated Vice President Bush and his son Jeb.
Perhaps this is what Bush meant when, at the end of his debate with Michael Dukakis in 1988, he said "I've unleashed the Bush family on America." As John Judge remarks, "that has always been my image of this family, steeped in corruption, crime, and fascism that has taken over machinery of the country."
"Satan got you by the heel, there's a birdsnest in your hair..."
After submitting her report, orders came to cease the investigation and destroy all documents. She said someone in the FBI's Miami office leaked to the traffickers that she had penetrated the operation. Before Operation Nimbus was shut down, veteran US Customs investigator Joe Price filed corroborating reports in September 1983 implicating Bush. And after he did, FBI agents arrested him on a narcotics trafficking charge.
Rodney Stich tells more, in his book Defrauding America:
Darlene Novinger said to me that she discovered during an FBI investigation that George Bush and two of his sons were using drugs and prostitutes in a Florida hotel while Bush was Vice President. She said that when she reported these findings to her FBI supervisors they warned her not to reveal what she had discovered. Novinger had been requested to infiltrate drug trafficking operations in South America and the United States. She was pressured to quit her FBI position; her husband was beaten to death; and four hours after she appeared on a July 1993 talk show describing her findings (after she was warned not to appear), her father mysteriously died. A dead white canary was left on his grave as a warning to her. After receiving death threats she went into hiding, from where she occasionally appeared as guest on talk shows, and called me from undisclosed locations.
Darlene Novinger died of cancer in January, 2003. Another public official who overreached the common bounds of justice.
A moratorium on Star Trek analogies will be forthcoming. But I'm reminded of the "Friendly Angel" of a particularly frightening episode from the original series. He's a creature who appears to children as a powerful, benign ally, basked in light. But he's a deceiver - a mind controller who binges on misery - and though the children invoke him for play, he uses them as agents to kill their parents and destroy their world, and carry him to another planet upon which he may gorge.
It wasn't until the children confronted their grief that his spell was broken, and they could see his true face.
"Hail, hail, fire and snow, call the angel we will go..."
If ignorance is bliss, perhaps knowledge is torment. Because what can we do with it, but bear it?