House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties


Newsbreaking and controversial — an award-winning investigative journalist uncovers the thirty-year relationship between the Bush family and the House of Saud and explains its impact on American foreign policy, business, and national security.
House of Bush, House of Saud begins with a politically explosive question: How is it that two days after 9/11, when U.S. air traffic was tightly restricted, 140 Saudis, many immediate kin to Osama Bin ...

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House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties

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Newsbreaking and controversial — an award-winning investigative journalist uncovers the thirty-year relationship between the Bush family and the House of Saud and explains its impact on American foreign policy, business, and national security.
House of Bush, House of Saud begins with a politically explosive question: How is it that two days after 9/11, when U.S. air traffic was tightly restricted, 140 Saudis, many immediate kin to Osama Bin Laden, were permitted to leave the country without being questioned by U.S. intelligence?
The answer lies in a hidden relationship that began in the 1970s, when the oil-rich House of Saud began courting American politicians in a bid for military protection, influence, and investment opportunity. With the Bush family, the Saudis hit a gusher — direct access to presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. To trace the amazing weave of Saud- Bush connections, Unger interviewed three former directors of the CIA, top Saudi and Israeli intelligence officials, and more than one hundred other sources. His access to major players is unparalleled and often exclusive — including executives at the Carlyle Group, the giant investment firm where the House of Bush and the House of Saud each has a major stake.
Like Bob Woodward's The Veil, Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud features unprecedented reportage; like Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country? Unger's book offers a political counter-narrative to official explanations; this deeply sourced account has already been cited by Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, and sets 9/11, the two Gulf Wars, and the ongoing Middle East crisis in a new context: What really happened when America's most powerful political family became seduced by its Saudi counterparts?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Michael Moore, Director of Fahrenheit 9/11 Craig Unger has done America and the world a huge favor by clearly and precisely documenting how the Bush inner circle is in the very deep pockets of the brutal Saudi dictators.

The New York Times [An] explosive work of journalism.

The New York Times
Unger's best pages tell how, in the days of panic and recrimination after Sept. 11, Prince Bandar managed to spirit prominent members of the Saud and bin Laden families out of the United States on chartered aircraft. Beginning on Sept. 13, when private aviation was still restricted, some 140 Saudis, including about two dozen of the bin Ladens, were flown to Europe. "Didn't it make sense," asks Unger rhetorically, "to at least interview Osama bin Laden 's relatives?" — James Buchan
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743253390
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Edition description: First Scribner Trade Paperback Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 451,961
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig Unger

Craig Unger is the author of the New York Times bestselling House of Bush, House of Saud. He appears frequently as an analyst on CNN, the ABC Radio Network, and other broadcast outlets. The former 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.

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Table of Contents

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. 14 9/11 247
Ch. 15 Print the Legend 271
Appendices 283
Acknowledgments 299
Notes 303
Selected Bibliography 337
Index 341
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Craig Unger

Barnes & 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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& 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!

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2006

    Required Reading for all Americans

    In 'House of Bush House of Saud' Craig Unger has written a perfect examination of America's involvement in and relationship with the Middle East. This is a perfect read for someone who does not have a great understanding of the Middle East but wants somewhere to start. This book highlights why the Bush administration has allowed Saudi Arabia to imprison and torture their citizens illegally and support numerous terrorist organizations, among many transgressions. I would highly recomend the chapter 'Three Dimensional Chess', as it highlihgts how the US became entangled in various Middile Eastern conflitcts, and does a great job of examining the US relationship to many Middle Eastern entities such as Osama bin Laden, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran, to name a few.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2005

    Craig Unger wrote a poweful, very informative, and a must read for all supposed Americans

    This is one of the best books on President Bush and the 40 year relationship with the Bin Laden family. Author Craig Unger, details the dubious actions of President Bush and his faction in the preceeding days of the 9/11 attack, in New York City. Many other novelists or directors, have used Unger's information, including Michael Moore's film 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' and one independent film, by The Media Foundation, 'Hijacking Catastrophe,' which completely surpasses Mr. Moore's work and contentions. Unger also underscores the special privileges that were bestowed on Bin Laden's family members. President Bush and Vice-president Cheney did not want Usama's (or Osama's) family to be harassed and feared for the lives and well being. Thus, an exodus of 141 relatives are picked up and shipped out to Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, and more disturbingly, this protocol was implemented in the wake of ALL airports and airplanes being shut down and or grounded. This jumbo jet, was the only plane allowed to fly, land, and then leave this country. Why was this allowed? Only the most powerful people in a government could impose this mandate. Bush is not for the American people he is solely for his subsidizers and a Christian movement, to change the world and revert to being a global hegemon, i.e., an Empire with Imperial tenets, under a guise of democracy. When I first read these disturbing contentions, I felt sick and realized how Americans are in denial about what 'our' government is about, doing, and how it operates. Like Karl Marx wrote in 'The Communist Manifesto,' capitalism segregates society into two classes, e.g., the Bourgeoisie and the Proletarians. Thus, creating a minority, i.e., the rich and powerful, and the majority, the poor and hardworking, which is everybody else who isn't rich or royalty? This is a very scaring dogma to adhere to, but 'America' is being primed to be this way, which is what the settlers did when they came to America and extirpated and entire race, i.e., the Native Americans, and thus, subjugated them into conforming to our pious beliefs, and our vision of 'freedom.' President Bush is doing this currently, because he has invaded and occupied a foreign country to impose our ideals. That is an Empire and the antithesis of a democracy, but it was how America was 'founded' or more accurately, stolen, via fear, intimidation, extirpation, subjugation, manipulation, and most important, guided by God-fearing/pious tenets.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2004

    Consider it a 6 stars

    A great book which tells the real story about Bush´s family friends and major concerns and how it is affecting the US and the rest of the world. Know why Saddam was attacked, learn about the enviroment that brought up Osama bin Laden and who are his supporters

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2004

    The truth about our commander-in-thief

    No other president in history has had a family history so tainted with blood. If you want to get the dirt on the man occupying our white house, read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2004

    Well written

    This book is a well written, factual account of the connection between the Saud's and the Bush family. It provides a better understanding of some of the grave mistakes that have been made in the last few years.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2004

    Seduction & Corruption Of The Bushes By Saudi Royal Family!

    This superbly written and carefully documented book by Craig Unger, a noted author and investigative journalist, adds handsomely to the burgeoning list of substantive tomes covering the somewhat seedy and troublingly fulsome state of contemporary Saudi-American relationships, warts and all, and impressively serves the reader by masterfully describing and detailing the manifest ways in which the rise in the Bush family fortunes (both in terms of political and financial capital) is inextricably intertwined with that of the Saudi royal family. Indeed, the specter of blatant double-fisted corruption and cronyism depicted here is difficult to understand without understanding the kind of systematic familial linkages and connections that are explained and described here. As with Robert Baer's recent 'Sleeping With The Devil', author paints such a picture of consistent influence-peddling and access-enhancements at the highest levels of the federal government that the reader begins to see just how massively both American foreign policy on the one hand, and American electoral politics on the other, have been affected by the naked avarice and greed displayed by our one-time public officials such as James Baker, George H. W Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, and other Bush family associates. Of course, most often this level of crony capitalism is cloaked under the self-serving flag of life-long public service, and an apparent confusion over where the public interest ends, on the one hand, and their own selfish profit begins, on the other. In Baer's terrific book, the overall policy of Saudi influence peddling through use of money and highly valued services to its friends and allies is described and placed in context in terms of its potential impact for American foreign policy. Herein, the author masterfully illustrates how the Bush family has acted as the sword's edge for such Saudi efforts, providing the entry point for Saudi financial and political goals within the American polity in exchange for nearly 1.5 billion dollars in rewards from the Saudi royal family and its entourage. Indeed, such the extent to which the corruption has progressed can be gauged in the unrivaled personal access the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Bandar, enjoys at the White House, having virtually unfettered free access to the Oval office 24/7. Given the close financial ties between the houses of the Saudi royal family and the Bushes, one wonders to what degree the Faud family has been allowed either illegal or unethical influence over critical matters of commerce and state within this country. Needless to say, this kind of personal political access is unique, and is more than any of our closest allies such as Britain or Israel, can claim to enjoy. Given the fact that fifteen of the nineteen terrorists involved in the attack on 911 were Saudis, and that the government of Saudi Arabia has never cooperated in helping us to learn more about these individuals, or the individuals involved in any of the other Saudi-related terrorist incidents, the situation is indeed quite peculiar. Even more peculiar is the mysterious fashion in which dozens of Saudis were literally systematically spirited out of the country in the immediate aftermath of the 911 attack; and agencies like the state Department, the FBI, and The White House all aided and abetted these somewhat hurried efforts by Saudi nationals to leave before they could be either questioned or detained in connection with the events and circumstances surrounding the terrorist attacks. Likewise, the willingness of the Bush administration to significantly alter Middle East policy in favor of Palestinian interests based on a Saudi threat serves as an object lesson in just how powerful and fateful the sudden confluence of personal interests and foreign policy can be. Something appears to be rotten in the state of contemporary foreign policy as it pertains to Middle East affairs, and the economic and political ties

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2004

    Great Book

    I have read many books on the relationship between America and Saudia Arabia, yet this was one of the best I have seen. On top of that it offers great incite into many things people would not venture to think.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2004

    Well done, sir!

    A very intense and well researched historical overview of the 'Bush Politic' and the Saudi state since the Carter era. If you have ever said to your self, 'What?!?' as you listened to the recent news reports and White House releases and announcements, this book will definitely connect some dots for you. I have never taken anything I have heard from any administration at face value since the Nixon era. This well written piece convinces me that it is indeed a prudent perspective to maintain. Again, I say, 'Well done. sir!'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2004

    Must Read

    This is a must read for any free thinking person. It is very revealing and informative. The special relationship between the Bushes and the House of Saud explains the reasons for many of the decisions that have been made over the years.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2004

    Now I get it!

    What an amazing, well-reasearched, and well-documented book. Unger's tale is exciting, and all the more blood-boiling because it's true. Now I understand when people say 'Bush Sr. funded Osama bin Laden back in the '80s' what that means. Now when people talk about Bush and Reagan using Saddam Hussein, even after he gassed the Kurds, what that means. And how the current cast of characters -- Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, etc. -- were all there in the beginning, back during the first Bush's presidency. They created this mess and they can't seem to fix it. This book lays it all out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2004


    The author succesfully demystifies the various reasons the various actions that Bush Jr. took on foreign policy issues (read Middle East) just to help the Saudi Royal family

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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    Posted October 6, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2011

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