Sembler for the Defense
There's a retired businessman named Red
Cast down from heaven and he's out of his head - Bob Dylan
For the longest time I was meaning to write something about Mel Sembler. Too long as it happens, because a lot of good things have been written about him in the meantime. Last month's "Ambassador de Sade", for one instance, and this thread on the RI forum for another.
(Which reminds me, before I turn belatedly to Mel, if you don't often visit the board you may want to rethink that, because there have been some fascinating threads of late, such as this consideration of the Bush/military/mind control backstory to the family of Mary Kay Letourneau, and this conversation concerning Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut.)
I'm sure you know who Sembler is, and the mind control atrocity called Straight Inc. he and wife Betty perpetrated on American youth in Florida for nearly two decades. Straight bent itself out of shape in the early '90s and became the "Drug Free America Foundation" only after, finally, exposure and public outcry at its virtual "psychic murder" of kids in its alleged care for addiction recovery. Though it no longer directly treats addicts it still influences US drug policy, and survivors who haven't killed themselves or lost their minds are still living with the trauma of their "treatment," including repeated rape with objects such as curling irons. Arthur Trebach, author of The Great Drug War, said in a recent interview that he "got a call two days ago from a man in Texas who sent his son to Straight, Inc. ten years ago":
The father told me it was an awful mistake, that they imposed sexual activities on the young man, that they peed on him. According to the father, his son still refuses to talk about his experience at Straight, Inc. Dad said his brother, a drug counselor, had recommended the place as the best in the country.
There are political connections here. Straight, Inc. was endorsed by George Herbert Walker Bush, who visited the place with Nancy Reagan and Mel and Betty Sembler and Joe Zappala, who are, as best as we can determine, the founders of Straight, Inc. Both Sembler and Zappala were heavy contributors to the elder Bush's campaign, and both were rewarded with ambassadorships. I saw Ambassador Sembler give a speech in Australia in which he proudly said he founded Straight, Inc. and held it up as a model. More recently, Mel Sembler was the co-chair of finance for the Republican National Committee for the 2000 election.... And Jeb Bush last fall declared a "Betty Sembler Day" in Florida, commending her for her work with drug abuse control, especially with Straight, Inc. Betty claims she has the ear of the president.
Sembler, of course, enjoyed a second ambassadorship at the pleasure of another President Bush. He was sent to Rome, though he can't speak Italian. This White House has a penchant for making excruciatingly inappropriate appointments, doling out ambassadorships to party and family bagmen whose only qualifications are the size of their bags. Sembler's reward with the Italian Job looked to be more of the same. But let's remember the parapolitical bonds between the American and Italian far right and their institutions of control. Witness, for example, Michael Ledeen's history with SISMI and P2 (of which Silvio Berlusconi was a member), and the coincident Italian connection to the Niger forgeries. (By the way, Cooperative Research has a couple of interesting entries in it's Iraq timeline pertaining to visits Ledeen paid to Sembler in Rome the year before the invasion.)
The easy assumption has been that Sembler's Italian ambassadorship was just another prestigious sinecure for a faithful flunky. That should be dispelled by this story (via Joshua Marshall):
Mel Sembler of St. Petersburg, a Republican fundraiser and former ambassador, is chairman of the legal defense fund for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney.
A longtime political supporter of Cheney, Sembler was recruited to join the effort by Barbara Comstock, a Washington lawyer and friend of Libby, Comstock said.
Sembler will head what Comstock called "a distinguished and bipartisan group of friends, colleagues and former government officials" who have formed the Libby Legal Defense Trust.
So to recap, the former ambassador to Italy is chairing the defense fund of a White House official implicated in a scandal that began with the delivery of forged documents to his embassy.
And then there's the other covert constellation finding alignment: the Bush and Cheney backroom man who founded a mind control treatment program that tortured young people with acts of sexual degradation has come to the rescue of Cheney's former chief of staff, and author of a novel of sexual sadism, bestiality and paedophilia which depicts the rape of children in a bear cage.
Sembler's a busy Bush factotum. He's also recently joined the board of an extremely flush new bank starting up in Florida, a state said to be popular with international crime because of its proximity to the United States. CEO of the American Commerce Bank, "Texas tycoon" Donald A. Adam, said, rather queerly, that "You want to touch every tentacle you can within the state, because of its enormity and its mass." I don't know whether I'm reading too much Casolaro into those remarks, or Adam is reading too much Lovecraft.