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The New York Times [An] explosive work of journalism.
|Ch. 1||The Great Escape||1|
|Ch. 2||The Houston-Jeddah Connection||19|
|Ch. 3||The Ascendancy of George H. W. Bush||37|
|Ch. 4||Three-Dimensional Chess||57|
|Ch. 5||The Double Marriage||83|
|Ch. 6||Another Frankenstein||97|
|Ch. 7||Friends in High Places||113|
|Ch. 8||War Drums||129|
|Ch. 9||The Breaking Point||143|
|Ch. 10||Masters of the Universe||155|
|Ch. 11||A House Divided||171|
|Ch. 12||The Arabian Candidate||191|
|Ch. 13||Lost in Transition||217|
|Ch. 15||Print the Legend||271|
Barnes & Noble.com: House of Bush, House of Saud is subtitled "The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties." What was the impetus to write it?
Craig Unger: In the wake of 9/11, virtually everyone in the United States saw the attacks as coming entirely out of the blue. I didn't. I had reported on the role of George H. W. Bush in the Iran-contra and Iraqgate scandals, and I had become aware of the Bush family's close relationship with the Saudis. I immediately began to see the events of 9/11 as the product of secret relationship between the two most powerful families in the world -- the Bushes and the royal House of Saud.
B&N.com: You reveal that one of the 140 Saudis that were inexplicably allowed to leave the U.S. immediately after 9/11 was an alleged al Queda go-between who may have had previous knowledge of the attacks. How could this have happened?
CU: Even those who were innocent should have been questioned; that is a basic investigative procedure in even commonplace crimes, much less one in which 3,000 people are murdered. The White House has declined to comment on its role in the Saudi evacuation; in fact, a White House spokesman told me he was "absolutely confident" that the flights did not even take place. I believe that the real answer lies in a basic piece of logic that has been largely missing from the American conversation. Without the Saudis, 9/11 would never have taken place, but the Bushes have been so close to them that they turned a blind eye to the Saudi role in allowing the rise of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism -- and even allowed a Saudi prince with alleged ties to al Qaeda to leave immediately after the attacks.
B&N.com: Do you think we will ever know conclusively who authorized the evacuation of the Saudis?
CU: Unfortunately, we've had a docile media that has not pressed the issue. Real answers are likely to be forthcoming only if this becomes a major issue in the presidential campaign or the 9/11 commission investigating the attacks pursues the issue. Richard Clarke told me, and later the 9/11 commission, that the Saudi evacuation was discussed in the White House and his response was that the FBI would have to vet departing passengers before they were allowed to leave. However, the FBI merely identified them and did not subject them to serious interrogations. Clarke further testified that presidential chief of staff Andy Card might have initiated the conversation. However, the White House has not responded to that assertion and has denied that that the flights even took place.
B&N.com: The Bush family is heavily involved in the Carlyle Group, an international investment firm. Is it true that the bin Laden family was also part of Carlyle?
CU: The bin Ladens had a small investment in Carlyle, and they were forced out not long after 9/11 because of the negative publicity. In addition, other Saudis invested approximately $80 million in the Carlyle Group and sent hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to companies owned by Carlyle. A number of key figures in the House of Bush either have links or have had ties to Carlyle: George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, James Baker, Richard Darman, Frank Carlucci, and former prime minister John Major. The Carlyle Group has been the single biggest center of business between the Saudis and the Bushes.
B&N.com: In your estimation, how much money has changed hands between the Bush and Saud families?
CU: Never before has a president of the United States had such a close relationship with another foreign power as have the two George Bushes, and one way of quantifying that relationship is money. I discovered that the House of Saud and its allies have sent at least $1.477 billion in investments, contracts, and charitable contributions to companies and other institutions in which the Bushes and their allies play a prominent role. I might add that the relationship has been largely a one-way street, with the Bushes on the receiving end.
B&N.com: Should this close connection between the president's family and a ruling culture that appears to actively support terrorism give pause to Americans as they enter the voting booths this fall?
CU: Absolutely. Without Saudi participation, it is likely that 9/11 would not have happened. It is not just that 15 out of 19 hijackers were Saudi. Much of the infrastructure and financing of al Qaeda can be traced to Saudi origins. Given its long and lucrative relationship with the Saudis, the Bush administration has been thoroughly compromised in dealing with them. Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, and many other officials from both the Clinton and Bush administrations have made it clear that the Saudis have had a key role in terrorism and have not been cooperative, yet the Bush White House has characterized the Saudi role in fighting terrorism as "superb" and even allowed a potential treasure trove of intelligence to leave the U.S. after 9/11. Among the people on the planes was Prince Ahmed bin Salman, who allegedly had ties to al Qaeda and advance knowledge of 9/11.
B&N.com: Did the Bush-Saud connection have an effect on the contentious 2000 electoral battle for Florida?
CU: It is a little-known fact that Bush would not have won Florida -- and therefore would not have become president -- but for his secret strategy to win the Muslim-American vote. There is nothing wrong with trying to woo any constituency, of course, but in the course of campaigning for Muslim-American votes, Bush enlisted the support of Sami Al-Arian, who is now under arrest for his alleged role in financing suicide attacks as a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Bush even invited Al-Arian to the White House after the election as a special guest. It was just one of many factors, of course, but Bush's Muslim-American support more than provided the margin of victory in Florida.
By the way, my book contains a photo of George and Laura Bush campaigning with the Al-Arians in Florida.
B&N.com: Richard Clarke's book Against All Enemies has reignited the debate over whether the Bush administration did enough about terrorism both prior to and following the 9/11 attacks. What's your opinion of Clarke, who figures prominently in your narrative?
CU: In my book Clarke is very much a thwarted hero, a hero inasmuch as by the mid-'90s he recognized the transnational nature of Osama bin Laden's and al Qaeda's terrorism and how different it was from the state-sponsored terrorism coming from rogue states such as Libya. I believe he devised a fairly forceful and aggressive strategy to fight it but was thwarted during the Clinton administration, largely because the Monica Lewinsky scandal robbed the White House of the political capital necessary to respond effectively against bin Laden. (Readers may well remember the "Wag the Dog" furor that erupted when Clinton struck at Afghanistan during the height of the Lewinsky scandal.)
Once Bush took office, Clarke was effectively demoted, and his plans to attack Al Qaeda were put on the back burner. The Bush administration did not even retaliate against Al Qaeda's attack on the USS Cole. Vice President Cheney has asserted that Clarke was out of the loop. I would suggest that means the Bush administration was not even in touch with its own point man on counterterrorism.
B&N.com: Do you think Bush has tried to link Saddam Hussein with 9/11 in a deliberate attempt to shield his Saudi "brothers" from intense scrutiny? If so, is that plan working?
CU: That explanation is too conspiratorial for me. Neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz had regime change in Iraq on their agenda dating back to 1992, but policy papers show they realized that their strategy was considered too radical to implement -- unless they had a cataclysmic event like Pearl Harbor to rationalize an invasion. When Bush came into power he began considering regime change even before 9/11, and the administration instantly began using the attacks as justification for potential action against Iraq.
As I report on p. 251, according to notes taken by a deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, by 2 p.m. on September 11th, just five hours after the attacks began, the secretary of defense said he wanted "best info fast, judge whether good enough to hit SH [meaning Saddam Hussein]. Go massive, sweep it all up, things related and not." The point in this was not so much to shield the Saudis as to use 9/11 as an excuse to go after Saddam. However, two other events stand out in terms of the administration shielding the Saudis: the evacuation just after 9/11 and the censorship of 28 pages in Congress's report on 9/11.
B&N.com: What was the most surprising fact you learned in your research?
CU: George W. Bush and I both attended Camp Longhorn in the late '50s in Texas -- we were both voted Campfire Lighter of the Week!