Before the first year of George W. Bush’s presidency was through, he had moved to keep the secrets of his father from becoming public. He issued Executive Order 13233, which enabled current presidents, past presidents and the heirs of past presidents to review and block the release of presidential records. In signing this order, George W. Bush guaranteed that none of George H. W. Bush’s secrets, from the Reagan years or from his own presidency, would be revealed… at least not during his time in the White House.
You see, President Barack Obama has the power to issue his own executive orders, which can overrule the executive orders of former presidents. Yesterday, Obama issued an order revoking Executive Order 13233. The heirs of Ronald Reagan no longer have the ability to block the release of White House documents from Reagan’s term, when George H.W. Bush was President. Neither do George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush have the power any longer to block the release of records from the elder Bush’s presidency.
George W. Bush had used his own executive order to keep 51 million public documents from the Reagan presidency secret. Those documents will now, after bureaucratic procedures, be released. Historians and journalists will then peruse this mountain of material, and when they write about it, the secrets will be out.
The results won’t be immediate, but over the next couple years, expect to learn a lot more about the dark side of activities of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Questions about connections to apartheid in South Africa, General Pinochet in Chile, the Iran-Contra arms shipments, early support for Islamic extremists in Afghanistan. Also expect to get some more insight about the real story behind the first Gulf War, a mess we are still dealing with all these years later.
Thank you, President Obama for opening the doors to a more honest history of the 20th century.