The Dark Side of Rev. Sun Myung Moon
Part 1, Hooking George Bush
By Robert Parry
July 28, 1997
Last fall, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's latest foray into the
high-priced world of media and politics was in trouble. South American journalists
were writing scathingly about Moon's plan to open a regional newspaper that
the 77-year-old founder of the Korean-based Unification Church hoped would
give him the same influence in Latin America that the ultra-conservative
Washington Times had in the United States.
As opening day ticked closer for Moon's Tiempos del Mundo, leading
South American newspapers were busy recounting unsavory chapters of Moon's
history, including his links with South Korea's feared intelligence service
and with violent anti-communist organizations that some commentaries said
bordered on neo-fascist.
Indeed, in the early 1980s, amid widespread human rights abuses, Moon had
used friendships with the military dictators in Argentina and Uruguay to
invest in those two countries. Moon was such a pal of the Argentine generals
that he garnered an honorary award for siding with Argentina's junta in
the Falklands War. [UPI, Nov. 16, 1984]
More recently, Moon has been buying large tracts of agricultural lands in
Paraguay. La Nacion reported that Moon had discussed these business
ventures with Paraguay's ex-dictator Alfredo Stroessner. [Nov. 19, 1996]
Moon's disciples fumed about the critical stories and accused the Argentine
news media of trying to sabotage the newspaper's inaugural gala in Buenos
Aires on Nov. 23. "The local press was trying to undermine the event," complained
the church's internal newsletter, Unification News. [December 1996]
Given the controversy, Argentina's elected president, Carlos Menem, did
decide to reject 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 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. But Bush failed
to change the Argentine president's mind.
Still, Moon's followers gushed that Bush had saved the day, as he stepped
before about 900 Moon guests at the Sheraton Hotel. "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."
Bush lavished praise on Moon and his journalistic enterprises. "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 then held up the colorful new newspaper and complimented several articles,
including one flattering piece about Barbara Bush. 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."
Bush's endorsement of The Washington Times' editorial independence
also was not truthful. 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 he had "blood on his hands" for helping the 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
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. [Nov. 26,
1996]. But Bush was not telling Menem the whole story. By last fall, Bush
and Moon had been working in political tandem for at least a decade and
a half. The ex-president also had been moonlighting 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. [WP,
July 30, 1996]
Throughout these public appearances, Bush's office has 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 The Consortium
that Bush stood to make as much as $10 million.
Bush also may have other Argentine business deals in the works with Moon.
On Nov. 16, 1996, La Nacion quoted businessmen as saying that Bush
and Moon were keeping an eye on plans to privatize the hydroelectric complex
of Yacyreta, a joint $12 billion Paraguayan-Argentine project to dam the
Still, the Bush-Moon alliance is not strictly about money
-- and it did not start in Bush's post-presidency. It dates back at least
to the start of the Reagan-Bush era -- when Moon was a VIP guest at the
first Reagan-Bush inauguration -- and it could extend into the next century
as the ex-president works to shore up conservative support for his eldest
son, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who is expected to run for the White House
Sources close to Bush say the ex-president has worked hard to pull well-to-do
conservatives and their money behind his son's candidacy. Without doubt,
Moon is one of the deepest pockets in right-wing circles, having financed
important conservative activists from both the Religious Right, such as
the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Inside-the-Beltway right-wing professionals.
A silent testimony to Moon's clout is the fact that his vast spending of
billions of dollars in secretive Asian money to influence U.S. politics
-- spanning nearly a quarter century -- has gone virtually unmentioned amid
the current controversy over Asian donations to U.S. politicians.
With unintended irony, Moon's Washington Times repeatedly has featured
stories about secret Asian money going to Democrats. "More than a million
dollars of this foreign money is believed to have been contributed to the
Democrats, putting the election up for auction," charged Times'
editor Wesley Pruden in a typical column. [Oct. 18, 1996]
The blind spot on Moon is especially curious since there have been U.S.
government allegations dating back to the 1970s that Moon's organization
fronted for the South Korean CIA and funnelled money to Washington for right-wing
Japanese industrialists. For the past 15 years, The Washington Times
has been the most obvious conduit for this foreign money. The newspaper
and its sister publications -- Insight and The World & I
-- have cost Moon an estimated $1 billion in losses. Yet, Moon has never
accounted for the sources of his money.
Moon's jingle of deep-pocket cash also has caused conservatives to turn
a deaf ear toward Moon's recent anti-American diatribes. With growing virulence,
Moon has denounced the United States and its democratic principles, often
referring to America as "Satanic." But these statements have gone virtually
unreported, even though the texts of his sermons are carried on the Internet
and their timing has coincided with Bush's warm endorsements of Moon.
"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 similar remarks to 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. "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
"Does woman contain the seed of life? ["No."] 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."
These pronouncements contrast with Moon's lavish praise of the United
States disseminated for public consumption during his early forays to
Washington. On Sept. 18, 1976, at a flag-draped rally at the Washington
Monument, Moon declared that "the United States of America, transcending
race and nationality, is already a model of the unified world." He called
America "the chosen nation of God" and added that "I not only respect
America, but truly love this nation."
Yet, even as Moon has soured on America, his recruiters continue to use
that flag-draped scene of the Washington Monument to lure new followers.
The patriotic image struck powerfully with John Stacey when the college
freshman watched a video of that speech while undergoing Unification Church
recruitment in 1992.
"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. He soon joined
the Unification Church.
Stacey became a Pacific Northwest leader in Moon's Collegiate Association
for the Research of Principles [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, where I think they're
usurping American values, that they're anti-American."
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'," recalled Stacey. "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."
Despite growing disaffection among many longtime followers and other
problems, Moon's empire still prospers financially, backed by vast sources
of mysterious wealth. "It's a multi-billion-dollar international conglomerate,"
noted Steve Hassan, a former church leader who has written a book about
religious cults, entitled Combatting Cult Mind Control. At his
Internet site, Hassan has a 31-page list of organizations connected to
the Unification Church, many secretively.
"Here's a man [Moon] who says he wants to take over the world, where all
religions will be abolished except Unificationism, all languages will
be abolished except Korean, all governments will be abolished except his
one-world theocracy," Hassan said in an interview. "Yet he's wined and
dined very powerful people and convinced them that he's benign."
Hassan argued that perhaps the greatest danger of the Unification Church
is that it will outlive Moon, since the organization has grown so immense
and powerful that other leaders will step forward to lead it. "There are
groups out there that want to use this organization," Hassan said.
A couple of years ago, Moon shifted his personal base of operation to
a luxurious estate in Uruguay. The church has been investing tens of millions
of dollars in that nation since the early 1980s when Moon was close to
the military government. In 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
"Therefore, they need small airplanes and small landing strips in the
remote countryside. ... 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."
Moon also recognized the importance of media in protecting his curious
operations, which sound 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. Central to that
success in South America is Tiempos del Mundo.
Moon pursued a similar strategy in the United States. In the early 1980s,
Ronald Reagan hailed The Washington Times as his favorite newspaper
and Moon's editors rewarded the Reagan-Bush administration with unwavering
In the mid-1980s, for instance, when journalists and Congress began prying
into Oliver North's secret support for the Nicaraguan contras and their
ties to drug trafficking, Moon's paper led the counter-attack. "Story
on [contra] drug smuggling denounced as political ploy" was the subtitle
of a front-page Washington Times article criticizing a piece
that Brian Barger and I had written for The Associated Press
about a Miami-based federal probe into gun- and drug-running by the contras.
[April 11, 1986]
When Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., uncovered more evidence of contra drug
trafficking in 1986, The Washington Times denounced him. The
newspaper first published articles suggesting that Kerry was on a wasteful
political witch hunt. "Kerry's anti-contra efforts extensive, expensive,
in vain," announced one Times article. [Aug. 13, 1986]
But when Kerry exposed more and more contra wrongdoing, The Washington
Times changed tactics. In 1987, it began intimidating Kerry's staff
with front-page accusations that they were obstructing justice. "Kerry
staffers damaged FBI probe," declared one Times article. It opened
with the assertion that "congressional investigators for Sen. John Kerry
severely damaged a federal drug investigation last summer by interfering
with a witness while pursuing allegations of drug smuggling by the Nicaraguan
resistance [the contras], federal law enforcement officials said." [Jan.
As the Iran-contra scandal continued to spread and threatened Bush's public
insistence that he was "out of the loop," Moon's paper turned its fire
on special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh. Over and over, the paper attacked
Walsh for allegedly wasting money with first-class air fare and room-service
When former CIA clandestine services chief Clair George was on trial for
false statements, The Washington Times published a front-page
story with the two-column headline, "GOP Questions Walsh Spending." [Aug.
4, 1992] That morning, George's CIA supporters held the headline up so
the jury could see the anti-Walsh allegations. Throughout the Iran-contra
scandal, the paper played a crucial role in protecting the cover-up. [For
details, see Walsh's new book, Firewall.]
Time and again, Moon's Washington Times went to bat for Bush.
When Bush lagged behind Michael Dukakis in the early days of the 1988
presidential race, the Times falsely implied that Dukakis had
undergone psychiatric care. The story drew national attention and raised
early doubts about Dukakis's fitness for the White House.
In 1992, the newspaper promoted Bush's re-election by running stories
about Bill Clinton's collegiate trip to Moscow. Those stories suggested
that the Rhodes scholar was a spy for the KGB. Four years later, with
the Republicans hoping to oust Clinton, The Washington Times
reversed field with a contradictory banner story: "Was Bill Clinton a
junior spy for the CIA?" [June 24, 1996]
In 2000, Moon's newspaper could give similar boosts to the expected presidential
candidacy of Gov. George W. Bush. After all, his father has shown that
he knows how to reward his allies no matter how unsavory.
For Moon's part, the self-proclaimed Korean messiah has succeeded in hooking
many big fish in Washington -- "the bigger the fish, the bigger the mouth"
-- but none bigger than former President George Bush. ~
Robert Parry is a veteran investigative reporter, who broke
many of the Iran-contra stories in the 1980s for The Associated Press
and Newsweek. Robert Parry's latest book is Secrecy & Privilege:
Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. It can be purchased
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