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Neil Bush Meets the Messiah

Why is the President's younger brother, Neil, touring with the leader of the Moonies?
 
 
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"Those who stray from the heavenly way," the owner of the flagship Republican newspaper the Washington Times admonished an audience in Taipei on Friday, "will be punished."

This "heavenly way," the Rev. Sun Myung Moon explained, demands a 51-mile underwater highway spanning Alaska and Russia. Sitting in the front row: Neil Bush, the brother of the president of the United States.

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the South Korean giant of the religious right who owns the Washington Times , is on a 100-city speaking tour to promote his $200 billion "Peace King Tunnel" dream. As he describes it, the tunnel would be both a monument to his magnificence, and a totem to his prophecy of a unified Planet Earth. In this vision, the United Nations would be reinvented as an instrument of God's plan, and democracy and sexual freedom would crumble in the face of this faith-based glory.

The name Peace King Tunnel would allude to the title of authority to which Moon, 86, lays claim, and to which U.S. congressmen paid respect on Capitol Hill in last year's controversial " Crown of Peace" coronation ritual.

Moon's lobbying campaign is "ambitious and diffuse," as the D.C. newspaper The Hill reported last year, and the sheer range of guests revealed just how many Pacific Rim political leaders the Times owner has won over, including Filipino and Taiwanese politicians. And the head of the Arizona GOP attended a recent stop in San Francisco. But perhaps the most surprising VIP to tag along is Neil Bush, George H.W. Bush's youngest and most wayward son, who made both the Philippines and Taiwan legs of the journey, according to reports in newspapers from those countries and statements from Moon's Family Federation.

While Neil Bush and Moon's church couldn't be reached for comment on the tunnel or his speaking fees, a brochure from Moon's Family Federation underscores that the project is "God's fervent desire," dwarfing such past wonders as the Chunnel and heralding a "new era of automobile travel."

Moon, reviled in the 1980s as the leader of a group that separated young recruits from their families, says he is the Messiah. His far-flung business empire includes the UPI wire service, Washington, D.C. television studios, a gun factory, and enormous swaths of real estate, and he donates millions to conservative politics. In 1989, U.S. News & World Report linked his group to the Heritage Foundation and other conservative organizations. "Because almost all conservative organizations in Washington have some ties to [Moon's] church," wrote reporter John Judis, "conservatives ... fear repercussions if they expose the church's role."

The billionaire Moon has never been one to pander to the Sierra Club, having subsidized the anti-environmental "wise use" movement. Likewise, his group anticipates an anti-tunnel backlash by those who "demand the preservation of the polar region's ecosystem and the protection of polar bears and seals," and proposes an aggressive media strategy: "[P]ublic opinion polls must be carried out all over the world and it is absolutely essential that a public relations campaign to educate environmental groups, concerned organizations and residents near the proposed construction sites be carried out as well." (Moon has said in the past that Caucasians are descended from polar bears.)

In addition to the Taipei report, the Bush brother also surfaced in an article last week from the Manila Times , which placed him at a similar dinner in Manila attended by Washington Times president Dong Moon Joo and respected Filipino House Speaker Jose de Venecia. (It's unclear if Bush attended an intermediate stop in the Solomon Islands.) According to the Manila Times piece, Venecia proposed Moon's idea for a trans-religious council to President Bush in a 2003 meeting; President Bush was said to have called it "a brilliant idea."

The Taiwan paper similarly revealed high-powered support for Moon, describing Republic of China Vice President Annette Lu as listening "rapt" to his speech.

In the United States, Moon's end-of-democracy vision has been honored on the floor of Congress. According to the Congressional Record, on June 19, 2003, Democrat Danny K. Davis joined Republican Curt Weldon in recognizing Moon's "effort to create an international council of religious leaders ... this body will provide a direct link between international leaders and the various religious peoples in their constituencies," Davis said. "We are grateful to ... the Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung [Moon] for promoting the vision of world peace, and we commend their work."

Davis later took part in Moon's March 23, 2004 Capitol Hill ceremony in which he was brought a gold crown and royal robe to coronate him Peace King. The sponsor of the event was the Virginia Republican Senator John Warner, who later told the Washington Post he'd been "deceived" into hosting the event, a charge that organizers rejected, saying the ritual was taken out of context.

While Moon's proposal has been deliberated by politicians around the world as a mere religious council, church promotional materials make clear that it's intended to forge "God's fatherland," and not just idle talk. A video from his group stresses that the U.N. will give way to a "Peace United Nations," as Moon terms it, with fantastical reverberations.

"Like a candle that burns down, sacrificing itself to give light to the world, the light of wisdom and hope will shine from the headquarters of world governance -- the "Peace United Nations" -- into all realms of life," a narrator says in a Family Federation video (available here via BitTorrent). "This light will radiate beyond the high barrier separating nations and will illuminate the road to peace, the path to the fulfillment of humanity's hopes -- and dreams ..."

Moon has frequently gone on the record against Western-style democracy and individualism, calling them results of the fall of Adam. "There are three guiding principles for the world to choose from: democracy, Communism and Godism," he said in a 1987 sermon. "It is clear that democracy as the United States knows and practices it cannot be the model for the world."

"Individualism," he also said at the speech -- entitled "I Will Follow With Gratitude And Obedience" -- "is what God hates most and what Satan likes best."

Neil isn't the only Bush to attend Moon events. In 1996, his father, President George H.W. Bush, traveled to Buenos Aires with the Reverend in one of several such fundraising expeditions. "The 41st president, who told Argentine president Carlos Menem that he had joined Moon in Buenos Aires for the money, had actually known the Korean reasonably well for decades," writes former top GOP strategist Kevin Phillips in his book "American Dynasty." "Their relationship went back to the overlap between Bush's one-year tenure as CIA director (1976) and the arrival in Washington of Moon, whose Unification Church was widely reported to be a front group for the South Korean Central Intelligence Agency." Moon and his aides have called such claims bogus, saying his accusers were controlled by "Satan" to distract from his campaign to destroy communism.

Reverend Moon is the latest in a line of unusual partners for Neil Bush in recent years, including the son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and fugitive Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who has been promoting the younger Bush's educational software company, Ignite!, according to the Washington Post .

A messy divorce case in 2003 exposed his dalliances with prostitutes in Asia. Moon's group didn't return e-mails asking how this bore upon Neil Bush's contributions to last week's events, whose central theme was "Ideal Families."

John Gorenfeld is a freelance writer in San Francisco. He has a blog focused on Rev. Moon and his church: I Approve This Messiah .