Monday, October 25, 2004

Kerry's strong record on terrorism...

is illustrated by his work on the BCCI scandal, which Washington Monthly reports on here.

[Kerry's] hearings began to expose the ways in which international terrorism was financed. As Kerry's subcommittee discovered, BCCI catered to many of the most notorious tyrants and thugs of the late 20th century, including Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the heads of the Medellin cocaine cartel, and Abu Nidal, the notorious Palestinian terrorist. According to the CIA, it also did business with those who went on to lead al Qaeda.

And BCCI went beyond merely offering financial assistance to dictators and terrorists: According to Time, the operation itself was an elaborate fraud, replete with a "global intelligence operation and a Mafia-like enforcement squad."

By July 1991, Kerry's work paid off. That month, British and U.S. regulators finally responded to the evidence provided by Kerry, Morgenthau, and a concurrent investigation by the Federal Reserve. BCCI was shut down in seven countries, restricted in dozens more, and served indictments for grand larceny, bribery, and money laundering. The actions effectively put it out of business what Morgenthau called, "one of the biggest criminal enterprises in world history." ...

Kerry's record in the BCCI affair, of course, contrasts sharply with Bush's. The current president's career as an oilman was always marked by the kind of insider cronyism that Kerry resisted. Even more startling, as a director of Texas-based Harken Energy, Bush himself did business with BCCI-connected institutions almost at the same time Kerry was fighting the bank. As The Wall Street Journal reported in 1991, there was a "mosaic of BCCI connections surrounding [Harken] since George W. Bush came on board." In 1987, Bush secured a critical $25 million-loan from a bank the Kerry Commission would later reveal to be a BCCI joint venture. Certainly, Bush did not suspect BCCI had such questionable connections at the time. But still, the president's history suggests his attacks on Kerry's national-security credentials come from a position of little authority.

As the presidential campaign enters its final stretch, Kerry's BCCI experience is important for two reasons. First, it reveals Kerry's foresight in fighting terrorism that is critical for any president in this age of asymmetrical threats. As The Washington Post noted, "years before money laundering became a centerpiece of antiterrorist efforts...Kerry crusaded for controls on global money laundering in the name of national security."

Make no mistake about it, BCCI would have been a player. A decade after Kerry helped shut the bank down, the CIA discovered Osama bin Laden was among those with accounts at the bank.

Again, this is why it's personal: Kerry's on the side of the good guys, and Bush, well, he's been canoodling with the bad guys for years.

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