The Fall of the House of Bush: The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperils America's Future

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The presidency of George W. Bush has led to the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the United States -- the bloody, unwinnable war in Iraq. How did this happen? Bush's fateful decision was rooted in events that began decades ago, and until now this story has never been fully told.

From Craig Unger, the author of the bestseller House of Bush, House of Saud, comes a comprehensive, deeply sourced, and chilling account of the secret relationship between neoconservative ...

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Overview

The presidency of George W. Bush has led to the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the United States -- the bloody, unwinnable war in Iraq. How did this happen? Bush's fateful decision was rooted in events that began decades ago, and until now this story has never been fully told.

From Craig Unger, the author of the bestseller House of Bush, House of Saud, comes a comprehensive, deeply sourced, and chilling account of the secret relationship between neoconservative policy makers and the Christian Right, and how they assaulted the most vital safeguards of America's constitutional democracy while pushing the country into the catastrophic quagmire in the Middle East that is getting worse day by day.

Among the powerful revelations in this book:

  • Why George W. Bush ignored the sage advice of his father, George H.W. Bush, and took America into war.
  • How Bush was convinced he was doing God's will.
  • How Vice President Dick Cheney manipulated George W. Bush, disabled his enemies within the administration, and relentlessly pressed for an attack on Iraq.
  • Which veteran government official, with the assent of the president's father, protested passionately that the Bush administration was making a catastrophic mistake -- and was ignored.
  • How information from forged documents that had already been discredited fourteen times by various intelligence agencies found its way into President Bush's State of the Union address in which he made the case for war with Iraq.
  • How Cheney and the neocons assembled a shadow national security apparatus and created a disinformationpipeline to mislead America and start the war.

A seasoned, award-winning investigative reporter connected to many back-channel political and intelligence sources, Craig Unger knows how to get the big story -- and this one is his most explosive yet. Through scores of interviews with figures in the Christian Right, the neoconservative movement, the Bush administration, and sources close to the Bush family, as well as intelligence agents in the CIA, the Pentagon, and Israel, Unger shows how the Bush administration's certainty that it could bend history to its will has carried America into the disastrous war in Iraq, dooming Bush's presidency to failure and costing America thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. Far from ensuring our security, the Iraq War will be seen as a great strategic pivot point in history that could ignite wider war in the Middle East, particularly in Iran.

Provocative, timely, and disturbing, The Fall of the House of Bush stands as the most comprehensive and dramatic account of how and why George W. Bush took America to war in Iraq.

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Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
When Mr. Unger sticks to the facts…and focuses less on the personal lives of his subjects and more on policy making in the Bush administration, his narrative skills enable him to do a fluent job of putting the available jigsaw puzzle pieces together. He gives readers a powerful account of the long-standing campaign by neoconservatives (which long predated the terrorist attacks of 9/11) to topple Saddam Hussein, the ideological roots of the administration's ideas about pre-emption and unilateral action, and the efforts of hawks in the Pentagon and the vice president's office to bypass regular policymaking channels and use cherry-picked intelligence to push for war.
—The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
A sobering examination of the twin fundamentalisms that shape the current administration internally-to say nothing of the one it's supposed to be fighting. Compassionate conservatism? Nice, disarming rhetoric, writes Unger (Center on Law and Security/New York Univ.; House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties, 2004, etc.)-but merely a way of reframing the argument so that "the entire political spectrum-everyone from hardcore theocrats to liberal secularists-supported policies that would aid the Christian Right." The gloves came off as soon as Bush II entered the White House and turned operations over to the very neoconservatives whom his father had largely frozen out of power, writes Unger in a bit of psychodrama at the opening of the book, giving the son's repudiation of the father appropriately tragic undertones. The neocons-most of them former leftists and most of them without any apparent religious beliefs-made unlikely allies for the Christian right-wingers who entered government in droves on Bush's ascension, but they had many interests in common, including pressing the battle against Islam and advancing the American empire. Most of these fundamentalists, religious and political, notes Unger, have been idealists without much grounding in the real world-one reason, perhaps, that all band together in detesting Henry Kissinger, that master of realpolitik. But, however ethereal their thinking, they have plenty of real-world effects. Unger works much the same territory as Kevin Phillips did in his American Theocracy (2005), and he turns in plenty of news. One interesting bit: Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state soinstrumental in putting Bush in office in 2000, was an acolyte of the same fundamentalists who pushed Jerry Falwell and company into secular politics-and, as an aside, she helped see to it that more than a quarter of the votes cast in Florida were not recounted, contrary to law. What next? Fundamentalists and neocons alike have been thoroughly discredited-but, Unger hints, there's still plenty of damage yet to come. Armageddon, anyone?
The Barnes & Noble Review
There's something a little perverse about the subtitle of Craig Unger's The Fall of the House of Bush: The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperils America's Future. Nearly everything in it has been extensively, exhaustively told before -- indeed, it's surprising how little new information or analysis it contains. It has the feel of a hurried clip job, poorly edited and rushed into print, perhaps out of fear that the window of relevance was closing. It would be the perfect book to give to a thoughtful, intelligent reader who has been completely oblivious to American politics during the Bush administration.

This is terribly disappointing, because in the past Unger, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, has proven an excellent reporter. The author of the important 2004 book House of Bush, House of Saud, about the relationship between the president's family and the decadent rulers of the barbarous Saudi kingdom, he would seem like an ideal guide to the tangle of messianic delusions and Machiavellian scheming that has shaped America's foreign policy during the Bush regime. The Fall of the House of Bush attempts to show how the rise of the religious right and the rise of the neoconservatives worked in synergy to push the United States into its mad war in Iraq. It's an incredibly rich subject: the simple question of whether Bush is a genuine religious zealot, a cynic manipulating the faithful, or some strange combination of the two cries out for exploration. But Unger treats his terrain superficially. For the most part, he recapitulates events others have already written about rather than probing them for new meaning or uncovering the unknown.

The most interesting parts of Unger's book deal with the odd, potent alliance between born-against Christians and Israeli hardliners. Reaching back through history, he explains the evolution of premillenial dispensationalism, the end-times theology that dominates the American evangelical world. According to dispensationalist doctrine, the return of the Jews to the biblical state of Israel -- which includes the occupied territories -- will precede the second coming of Christ, making the annexation of Palestinian land a precondition of earthly paradise. So-called Christian Zionists have thus been among the fiercest champions of Israeli irredentism. And, Unger writes, because the Christian Zionists are politically useful, Jewish hawks have mostly been content to ignore the narrative of Christian triumph implicit in these "millennial dreams." (The New Republic's Leon Wieseltier has aptly called this ecumenical bargain a "grim comedy of mutual condescension.") Those outside the evangelical subculture -- which, as Unger shows, has come to dominate the Republican Party -- often underestimate the popularity of such apocalyptic beliefs. With conservative evangelicals playing a recently amplified role in the government and the military, it's worth scrutinizing the impact of dispensationalist theology on America's Middle East policy. But Unger doesn't do that. He simply explains the belief system (itself a central subject of several excellent books, including The End of Days by the Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg) and explains that Bush is an evangelical. He doesn't delve into reports about increasing proselytizing in the military or examine the way right-wing churches used end-times imagery to build support for the war in Iraq.

As the book goes on, the early focus on the Christian right gives way to a detailed account of the rise of the neoconservatives and their relentless drive for war in Iraq, a war they imagined would transform the Middle East to America and Israel's advantage. Unger offers an interesting inquiry into the connection of Michael Ledeen, one of the most fanatical of the neocons, to the forged documents the administration used to argue that Iraq sought uranium from Niger. Aside from that, though, Unger is just rehashing a story already told in George Packer's The Assassin's Gate; David Corn and Michael Isikoff's Hubris: The Inside Story Of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War; James Mann's Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet; among many others.

Unger is unabashed about relying on others' reporting; the book is dense with quotes and footnotes. One error, though, made me suspicious of how closely he read all this material. About a third of the way through The Fall of The House of Bush, he attributes a quote to the late televangelist D. James Kennedy ("It is dominion we are after. World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.") that actually comes from one of Kennedy's former employees, George Grant. Curious about Unger's source, I followed the footnote and was surprised to find it pointing to my own book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. The quote in my book clearly comes from Grant; one would have to be skimming pretty quickly to miss that.

That's a very minor error, one any author could make and few would notice. But there are others. "In deference to the Christian Right, morning-after contraceptive sales were banned, even after having been approved by the Food and Drug Administration," Unger writes. That's not precisely true -- it was only over-the-counter sales that were banned, a small but significant difference. Such mistakes aren't enough to undermine Unger's credibility, but they do add to the sense that the book was hastily written and edited.

His editor also should have caught numerous clunky repetitions. At the end of one page, he writes, "And in July 1996, just after taking office, newly elected Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on his way to the United States to speak before a joint session of Congress. Just as important, he would meet with Richard Perle and other principals of the neoconservative movement." Then, at the beginning of the next page: "On July 8, 1996, about six weeks after his election as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Washington to see Richard Perle, one of several neoconservative analysts who had mapped out a new strategy for him in a policy paper entitled 'A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.' " There's enough of this sort of thing to seriously slow down the story, which is an especial problem in a book like this. If you're going to recount a tale already told by others, you at least need to do it with more style. --Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg is the author of Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism. She was formerly a senior writer at Salon.com, and her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, New York, Glamour, The New York Observer, The Guardian (U.K.), and many other publications. Her next book, about the global battle over reproductive rights, will be published by Penguin Press in 2009.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743568272
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 11/13/2007
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Abridged, 5 CDs, 6 hours
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Unger
Craig Unger was deputy editor of the New York Observer and editor-in-chief of Boston Magazine. He has written about George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush for the New Yorker, Esquire, and Vanity Fair. He lives in New York City.

James Naughton has won Tony Awards for his starring roles in City of Angels and Chicago on Broadway, and a Mac Award for his one-man show James Naughton: Street of Dreams. He directed the acclaimed Broadway revivals of Our Town and Arthur Miller's The Price. On television, he appeared in Brooklyn Bridge, The Cosby Mysteries, and Ally McBeal. His films include The Devil Wears Prada, The Good Mother, The Glass Menagerie, and The Paper Chase.

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