Originally published by SF Weekly May 31, 1995
©2004 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.
One World, Under Gorby
Gorbachev Foundation prez Jim Garrison has something special in mind for San Francisco in September, an international palaver at the Fairmont Hotel. After that, a seat for himself in the U.S. Senate. And then, who knows? Chancellor of the world?
It's January 1951, and the villagers of Hwei Li, China, are still living as they did in the 1400s. Mao Tse-tung seized power three years earlier, but his revolutionary vanguard has yet to reach this remote hamlet near the border of Tibet.
All of which suits the Rev James Garrison, Hwei Li's Baptist missionary, just fine. He's far too busy tending to his newborn son, Jim Garrison Jr.
Besides, the Rev. Garrison is barely interested in communism. The New Testament is his metier, not dialectical materialism. Even so, he's been unknowingly dragged into the shadowy intrigue of revolutionary communism. One of his close acquaintances, a man he has welcomed into his home and taught English, is in fact a fifth columnist Communist spy sent in advance of the army to determine who is and who is not suited to Mao's new world order.
By spring, the Red Army pours into Hwei Li, and Garrison's acquaintance begins singling out malcontents for execution in a small clearing just beyond Garrison's parish rectory. Every morning as Garrison's wife, Virginia, feeds their newborn, the Communists paste to the parish wall a list of those sentenced to death. In the evening, as the Garrisons bed down their baby boy, they hear wolves and leopards in the nearby hills tearing at the fresh corpses.
Fast forward: Moscow. Winter 1991. The birthplace of world communism is unraveling. A coup by hard-liners has failed, and the raging bull of Russian politics, Boris Yelstin, is about to assume power. Isolated and powerless to control the forces of change he unleashed, "accidental revolutionary" Mikhail Gorbachev sits shellshocked in his Kremlin office planning his resignation, which will take place in less than a week. But first, a visitor - the last audience Gorbachev will give to a foreigner before retreating to his modest dacha outside Moscow. It's Jim Garrison Jr., all grown up with a doctorate in divinity from Cambridge and brimming with plans for a New World Order.
The two men have a good deal in common. Both have recently suffered political defeats. (Garrison was narrowly edged out in a 1988 congressional race.) And both are looking for new platforms, vehicles form which they can remain relevant - in play, as it were - as the world careens into uncharted territories full of possibility.
Gorbachev is particularly at a loss. The tradition of Soviet leaders who depart from office still breathing is a shallow one, never mind the prospects of such an official to assume a place in the national culture.
Garrison proposes that Gorbachev establish a foundation in Moscow - a think tank, a namesake, from which he can issue ideas and advice. Meanwhile, Garrison will set up an affiliate in the United States and dedicate it to the belief that nation-states will become meaningless. What's needed, says Garrison, is a "council of elders" drawn from the highest echelons of international politics, science, the arts and commerce to convene to plan what Garrison and Gorby refer to these days (with strikingly little humility) as "the next phase of human development."
Peace, human rights and democratci principles need to be writ global, Garrison stresses, and as one who rescued the world from superpower insanity, Gorbachev is the best candidate to lead this discussion.
WIth a parting handshake, the deal is sealed, and today, almost four years and many fundraising parties later, the Gorbachev Foundation USA readies itself to host such an independent world summit in San Francisco this coming September: "The State of the World Forum."
Hundreds of world leaders, corporate chieftains, bright lights from the academy - and a few celebrities - are scheduled to descend upon the Fairmont Hotel for five days of round tables and global mind-meld. (The Fairmont has been donated gratis by hotelier and socialite Richard Swig, one of the Gorbachev Foundation's chief financial backers.) The sessions boast squishy titles like:
Of course, the San Francisco edition of the State of the World Forum is only the beginning, says Gorbachev Foundation USA president Jim Garrison. He plans one mind-meld a year for the next five years, aimed at solving intractable world problems like environmental decay and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
And after that? Well, one world, says Garrison.
As he expounds, Garrison, 44, does this thing with his hands. Maybe it's his Italian hertiage (his mother's maiden name is La Rocca). Or maybe it's his days as top debator for Abraham Lincoln High School in San Jose. All the same, he strikes metaphors and gives them expression with his hands.
Talking about world government and global trends, he draws a a lot of globes in the air. He employs an upward flowering motion, both hands parting and forming a Y - fingers wiggling slightly - when he talks about his inner feelings. But his best gesture of the day is the one about "the undertow."
Describing his inexorability of world government, Garrrison's hand-jive metaphor is a wave. But for every wave on the sparkling surface, he says, there are dangerous undercurrents: the primitive horrors of Bosnia. The murderous lunacy of the Oklahoma City bombing.
To make his point, Garrison clenches one hand like a sinister claw, palm up, and drags it slowly, dramatically, under an open hand doing a peaceful wave thing.
"What is happening right now as you break down the Cold War," he says, "what is emerging now is ethnic identities. You are going to see more Yugoslavias, more Somalias, more Rowandas, more [Timothy] McVeighs and more nerve-gas attacks. But in and through this turbulence is the recognition that we have to empower the United Nations and that we have to govern and regulate human interaction, because an ecological disaster in the Ukraine can radiate tomatoes in Italy."
The solution in Garrison's mind is still fuzzy. But at times he seems to want a powerful international union with police and regulatory powers.
An overachiever since birth, Garrison's ego and drive haev projected him into the wealthiest board rooms and afforded him ingress to the highest of world power-brokers. In the process, the theologian/foreign-policy theorist/failed congressional candidate has also become a successful businessman, parlaying his peace and disarmament notions into a robust consulting firm that links U.S. and Russian enterprises. Add those consulting fees to the $100,000 - plus he collects each year from the Gorby Foundation and its appendages (whoever said one shouldn't make a comfortable living from promoting peace?) and you end up with one radiant one-worlder.
And an expedient one. A hellbent outrider of ambition, Garrison has aggressively mounted and dismounted political horses from the Kremlin stable in his crusade to merge East and West into One Big Government. In all likelihood, Garrison will outgrow Gorbachev, much in the same way Garrison Sr. says his son outgrew his first wife.
But ridicule Garrison at your own peril: He stands on the verge of making an impact on politics and foreign policy, and where he is going is an important issue. You see, Jim Garrison wants to take the rest of us with him.
The Gorbachev Foundation USA is located in a two-story colonial house in the Presidio on the edge of Crissy Field. Sheltered by an evergreen hedge and palm trees, the house owns a stunning view of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. About 20 feet from the front door is the breakwater, and standing there one feels caught inside a postcard. Sailboats seem within easy reach.
The offices, formerly the residence of a Coast Guard foundation and rented from the National Park Service for $3,800 a month, resemble your grandparents' house. They're painted in comforting creams and the windows are all done up in lace curtains. Art-mart paintings - many nautical scenes, all by the same artist - decorate the walls.
"God is good," Garrison says, referring to his pastoral settings.
In a first-floor office that was once a living room, earnest, cleanshaven twentytsomethings toil away at computers, organizing the upcoming forum. One of the young staffers - ponytail, Lennon glasses, Dockers, plaid shirt - is frustrated by his inability to quickly disassemble a box: Peeling off the packing tape is quite a hassle.
And there are letter to write. Two other young staffers, also dressed L.L. Bean-style, agonize over how to reply to one of the big names Garrison is recruiting for the forum. In walks Amy Vossbrinck, the foundation's matronly administrative director. She whispers to one of the young hands that Gorbachev's mother has died and it would be a good idea for the foundation to send a letter of condolence.
As the underlings type and file and peel, Garrison holds forth on globalism upstairs in his small, tidy office.
Garrison's metaphor, unfortunate in its allusion to the food chain, is more than confirmed by the list of people he's invited to the forum, his brain trust for developing global guidelines.
Alvin Toffler, Carl Sagan, Coretta Scott King, Maya Angelou and Mr. Communitatianism, Amitai Etzioni, have all been beckoned. Rigoberta Menchu, the Nobel laureate who stood up to the Guatemalan junta, has also been invited. And, of course, nothing involving globalism would be complete without asking Peter Gabriel to come. Garrison's sense of world unification is nothing but inclusive as one scans the list. There is Rupert Mudoch, the acquisitive media mogul whom The Nation recently dubbed "the Aussie sleaze peddler." Rupe will be helping gauge telecommunications' impact on society, while Microsoft Inc. chairman Bill Gates will expound on the future of technology. So much for checking coporate power in the New World Order. (To be fair, Gates' imperial air may be counteracted by felllow invitee Mitchell Kapor, the former Lotus chairman who's dedicated to small economic units.)
Since world peace and nuclear disarmament are on the agenda, perhaps it's only natural that Cold War architects like George Bush and Margaret Thatcher are invited. It's not all that hypo-critical to summon Maggie and George just because they waged war in the fight for peace. Remember, in the Baltic States Gorbachev is still known as the "Butcher of Vilnius."
Meanwhile, a focused discussion of human rights is noticeably absent. So much the better for the foreign minister os Indonesia, who's said he'll probably attend. How uncomfortable it would be if that nettle-some issue of East Timor were raised.
Another international power to be spared a guilt session over human rights will be major donor Pepisco. Pepsico rushes into Burma in 1989 to bottle its swill when the totalitarian dictatorship, which had just slaughtered thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators, asked for foreign investment to fill the economic gap dredged by international sanctions. "Burma is the South Africa of the 1990s," says Simon Billinness, a senior analyst at Franklin Research Inc., an investment firm in Boston. To repatriate its profits, Pepsico buys Burmese farm products, which are harvested by slave labor much of the time, and exports them to the U.S.
Look for the Gorby Foundation to extend similar slack to invitee Harry Merlo, chairman of Lousiana-Pacific Corp., even though Gorbachev's "environmental bill of rights," the Earth Charter, is a centerpiece of discussion at the forum and will eventually be presented to the United Nations for its consideration. Merlo's company concealed massive pollution emissions from the federal government, drawing an $11 million Clean Air Act fine, the largest in U.S. history.
Confronted with the contradictions of his fundraising, Garrison responds:
But why not just refuse the money? "Because I need the money to move forward," he says. "In the end, take Christ's dictum: 'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'"
Garrison says he'll never compromise his principles, but changing his plans isn't the foremost thing on the minds of Pepsico and other bad corporate citizens who dole out funds to the foundation. They're more interested in using the foundation as part of a public relations strategy to sanitize their images, much in the way that John D. Rockefeller converted his image of a monopolist who had striking men, women and children gunned down into a kindly philanthropist.
But more troubling than the Gorbachev's Foundation's unctuous bedfellows is Garrison and Gorby's assumption that global solutions are the purview of elites. Call it the "Best and the Brightest Syndrome." And, boy howdy, do they have a nasty case of it.
Nearly half the people responding positively to summit invitations are chairmen, presidents and CEOs of corporations or present and former statesmen, government officials and ambassadors. The rest are mostly drawn from universities and labs. Reliance on what Garrison refers to as "high-net-worth individuals" is probably equal parts pragmatism and philosophy. The sliding scale for participation in the forum is $5,000 to $250,000 - though those highstake fees are used to subsidize the not-so-high-net-worth. (Gorbachev Foundation spokesperson Vossbrinck stonewalls any questions about who have what. Perhaps Gorby's New World Order needs a Freedom of Information Act.)
Nary a grass-roots activist or representative of labor can be found on the marquee. And consider this cast of characters whom Garrison says represent the environmental movement: Al Gore, Ralph Nader, Ted Turner (for his Captain Planet cartoon show?), an economist who preaches corporate responsibility, a renewable energy expert, a Kenyan activist and the U.N. official who helped organize the Rio conference.
Proving the maxim that you should never call a meeting unless you know how you want it to come out, Garrison and company have assembled a select mix of strategic thinkers who are likely to embrace his warp-speed thoughts about politics, economics and technology. One needn't be a member of the Michigan Militia to worry about what sort of world Garrison and the "elders" have in mind. A smidgen of populism is all it takes.
More naive than frightening, the grand sweep of Garrison and Gorby's globalism is chimerical. Let's be real: The odds that the world's differing cultures and religions - never mind governments and states - will achieve the kind of consensus needed to form world governing bodies more powerful than the U.N. are nonexistent.
How do you draw up an Earth Charter when Russia can't even be convinced to withhold nuclear technology from Iran? How does the U.N. ask for more authority when it can't even police Sniper Alley in Sarajevo? And how do you talk about pluralistic principles for China, which just clamped down on its democracy movement again this month? Moreover, how do Garrison and Gorbachev expect to establish credibility when their efforts are fueled by dictators and polluters? Just how sincere is this harmonic convergence of elders And how much do they care about what the rest of us think?
Prior to his globalist incarnation, Jim Garrison was a grass-roots activist with the anti-nuke Sunbelt Alliance that battled Kerr-McGee and other nuclear power plants in Oklahoma and across the Southwest.
Rob Hager, the lead attorney on the Karen Silkwood case and a Sunbelt Alliance member, credits Garrison with saving the demoralized group from splintering in the very late '70s.
Hager, disillusioned by the erosion of the '60s radicalism, had been working overseas and was about to take a job in Oman with the World Bank. But he took Garrison up on his suggestion that the alliance leadership avail themselves of a good, long sweat and a little counseling session with the Indian wise man Frank Thomas.
Walking out of Thomas' sweat lodge that night, staring up at the big Oklahoma sky full of stars, Hager's faith in the left was reinvigorated, and he changed his mind about Oman.
Garrison says that after the initial sweat, he instituted a weekly sweat session on Saturday mornings with Thomas. Afterward, the alliance went on to stage several successful protests, including the largest-ever act of civil disobedience in the state: a 600-person sit-in at the Black Fox power plant.
"The sheriff looked at me and said 'We carry guns here in Oklahoma,'" Garrison recalls. "I told him we were bringing women and children." Garrisosn later convinced the leadership to conduct a night raid at the plant in which they chained themselves to bulldozers.
Nearly a decade later, Garrison was chumming with real estate magnate Walter Shorenstein, former Secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger and former President Ronald Reagan as he orchestrated Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev's barnstorming tour of the United States in 1992.
The tour, which hit nine cities in two weeks, included an entourage that was ferried from place to place on Malcom Forbes' private jet, The Capitalist Tool.
In San Francisco, the main thing on Garrison's mind was persuading socialites and corporate executives like Ingrid Hills and Chevron veep Dennis Bonney to organize a "tea" for Raisa Gorbachev. One pricey tea. The cost of sitting and sipping with the wife of the former president of the Soviet Union was five figures, with some of the proceeds going to the Raisa Gorbachev scholarship at Stanford University. Following the tea was a $1,000-a-plate dinner for Gorby at the Rtiz Carlton. According to some estimates, the Gorby tour collected $3 million for the Moscow and San Francisco offices of the Gorbachev Foundation.
From grass-roots activism to the foie gras and champagne circuit, form his birth in a fledgling Communist state to his political maturation in a dying one, Garrison has kept his ultimate destination in sight, says Duane Garrett, a political consultant, fundraiser and personal advisor to Sen. Diane Feinstein and Vice President Al Gore.
"He's an ambassador to Moscow in the making," says Garrett, who has worked with Garrison in numerous foundation projects and who regularly helps the foundation raise money. "Or he will be a very prominent person in the State Department," he adds. "Regardless, he will have a key role to play in international affairs."
Garrett was impressed by Garrison when the budding secretary of state ran against Anna Eschoo in the Democratic primary for the 12th District in San Mateo in 1988.
"He was a hustlerm," Garrett says - and when Duane Garrett, a man who has run national campaigns for more than 10 years, says you're good, that you have a future, believe it.
Indeed, the contacts Garrison is making through the Gorbachev Foundation could greatly assist him in what family members and friends say is his next goal: The U.S. Senate. Garrett, for one, is key. But more importantly, one of the foundation's top donors, and a personal friend of Garrison's is Dwayne Andreas.
Dwayne who? Let's refresh: Remember the scene in All the President's Men when Bob Woodward is following the money and he calls a guy in Minnesota who is the state's Republican chairman and who's en-dorsed a check over to Nixon's now-infamous Committee to Re-Elect the President that has ended up in a bank account used to pay off the Watergate burglers? It was Andreas' check.
Andreas is chairman and CEO of Archer Daniels Midland Co., one of the nation's largest flour millers, corn retailers and processors of oil-seeds and vegetable oil. In 1992, ADM had sales of $9.2 billion and employed 13,524 people. Andreas is also one of the country's top political donors and a close friend of Sen. Bob Dole. Since 1988, he and his family have donated $4 million to the Republican Party, according to the Council for Economic Priorities, a corporate watchdog group in New York. Andreas likes to hedge his bets when he plays high-stakes politics. He was also a big Clinton backer in 1992.
Andreas is so connected on Capitol Hill and at the White House that it's been suggested that he is the primary reason the EPA requires that 30 percent of all gas sold in the United States under a federal reformulated-gas program contains ethenol, an alternative fuel ADM produces.
Like many mega-corporations, ADM has had its share of run-ins with federal regulators and unions.
Still, Garrrison says notorious polluter Andreas has a heart of gold.
The nosebleed orbit occupied by Garrison's buddies continues to astonish Philip Muller, the globalist's campaign manager for the 1988 congressional campaign.
Muller remembers that Garrison raised the majority of his $250,000 campaign treasury from his Rolodex.
"He's tied into this club of heirs and heiresses called Donuts," Muller says. "It stands for do-nothings. People who are tied into major fortunes in American like Foster Gamble. They all got behind him in 1988."
Hobnobbing with the rich and powerful allows Garrison to engage in what he calls his central modus operandi: "I enjoy acts of imagination," he says. "Nothing's better than seeing an opportunity to do some good and seizing it."
He gives an account of one such opportunity and where it led him. One December evening in 1990, Garrison and his wife, Claire Ryle, the daughter of Noble laureate and physicist Martin Ryle, were watching Gorbachev's foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, on CNN as he gave his grave resignation speech. Shevardnadze warned of the "coming dictatorship" he feared Gorbachev was planning.
So Garrison mounted a mission to Moscow and convinced Shevardnadze that he should tour the United States the following year giving speeches, meeting leaders and socialites and raising money. Nine days and 11 cities of touring later, Garrison and Shevardnadze were great friends. Prefiguring thee Gorbachev Foundation, Garrison convinced Shevardnadze to join him in setting up a joint foundation called the International Foreign Policy Association. The first project of the IFPA, which still operates out of the same Presidio house as the Gorbachev Foundation, was humanitarian relief to help the people of Moscow during the first winter after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Garrison called on his pal, former Secretary of State George Schultz, to help, and they ultimately rounded up 1,000 tons of food and medical supplies. But merely shipping the food was not enough. Garrison saw the opportunity to make a symbolic statement about the end of the Cold War. He had Shevardnadze direct a Soviet Antonov, the largest military cargo plane in the world, to land at Andrews Air Force Base in Southern California, where it met its U.S. counterpart, a C5A Galaxy, and both picked up their cargo.
When the C5A landed at Moscow Airport, the U.S. general who piloted it experienced an emotional epiphany, claims Garrison.
"He broke into tears at the press conference," Garrison says. "He said, 'I've spent my whole professional life practicing bombing runs over this city. I thought that I would only fly over Soviet airspace to drop nuclear warheads. And here I am bringing vaccines.'"
Over the years, Garrison has orchestrated similar relief efforts in Bosnia to help the still-suffering victims of the Chernobyl disaster. All told, the foundation spent $41,000 on these efforts.
But Garrison's acts of imagination and humanitarianism aren't all that make him attractive to the rich and powerful. They also admire his ability to grease deals in the former Soviet Union.
When Garrison isn't conducting his new world symphony, he runs an extremely lucrative consulting and investment firm called Diomedes Inc. Located at a San Francisco PO box and his Mill Valley home, the company is named after two islands in the Bering Strait, big Diomedes and little Diomedes. Between the two islands runs the Russia/U.S.A. boundary.
"An ice bridge forms between the two islands during the winter," says Amy Vossbrinck, of the Gorbachev Foundation, who also serves as Diomedes Inc.'s treasurer.
Diomedes is a vertiable money bridge, serving as a conduit for American entrepreneurs in the fallen Communist states. Garrison's entrepreneurial exchange began in 1989 when a Diomedes board member asked Garrison to accompany his Spanish friends on a junket to the Soviet Union and help them connect with the right people.
"One man wanted to find a plant to make TV parts," Vossbrinck says. "A woman who was interested in selling fruit. And there was a gentlemen who was interested in computer software."
The middleman gig is a critical one, Duane Garrett says.
"Russia is a back-channel country," he says. "That's how you do business there. Russians are extremely suspicious of people they don't know. Just finding out who really has authority there is a real challenge. Jim is one who can do that for you. He can make a deal. He has a brilliant mind for making those kinds of connections."
Garrison is currently soliciting investors to build tens of thousands of houses in South Africa with partner Reg Morrow, a local developer. Morrow recently traveled to South Africa and won a personal audience with Nelson Mandela. When Morrow asked Mandela what he could do to help, Mandela replied, "Houses, son, build me houses." Almost immediately, Morrow got on the phone to Garrison asking him to corral investors.
Recently, Garrison called on Shevardnadze, the former president of the Republic of Georgia, to help his friend Eric Wente, of Wente Bros. Wines, create a joint venture with Georgian vintners.
"Diomedes stil has some equity in that," Garrison says. "They make very good wine."
Acting ona request from Russia, Diomedes also helped a New York auto broker sell a fleet of cars. Other clients include Sun Microsystems Inc., the Sunnyvale computer company, which Garrison introduced to members of the Russian scientific community.
But Garrison's most dramatic deal involved a mining company in Bakersfield called Tri-Valley Corp. In February 1990, the Soviet geological ministry that goes by the acronym TSNIGRI called Tri-Valley out of the blue and asked for its assistance in arranging a visit to the United States so that TSNIGRI could demonstrate its technical skills.
Just so happened that Tri-Valley had an Alaskan gold claim but not a lot of expertise in subartic drilling. Just so happened that TSNIGRI were experts in boring past tundra and accessing precious metals.
Tri-Valley, a donor to Shevardnadze/Garrison's IFPA, needed someone to visit Russia with company president Lynn Blystone and see if TSNIGRI was on the level. Garrison gave the green light and his consulting fees, which Tri-Valley would not discuss, were money well-spent. Thanks to TSNIGRI's help, Tri-Valley hit the friggin' mother lode on its 120-square-mile claim near Fairbanks.
"We found 60 deposits along a 20-mile swath," Blystone says. "It's gigantic."
Tri-Valley begins drilling this summer and figures to net $380 million just off the first sites.
Blystone got to meet Gorbachev when he paid to attend a reception held by the Gorbachev Foundation in 1992. Along with CEOs from banks and oil companies - "mammouth corporations," Blystone says - the Bakersfield CEO was shephereded by Garrison to an audience with Gorbachev and his wife Raisa.