Tuesday, December 22, 2009

House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger

This book is very revealing in terms of the degree to which the Bush administration, both father and son, set themselves up in a uniquely close relationship with Saudi Arabia - resulting in unimagined consequences in a post 9/11 world. All in the name of guaranteeing America oil for the foreseeable future. Craig Unger does a masterful job in relating the play-by-play history between the U.S. and the Kingdom, not just in terms of politics and the Gulf War, but also in terms of corporate involvement, especially the Carlyle Group. In a nutshell, the Saudis received military protection in exchange for cooperation on lucrative oil deals. Michael Moore's 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11 draws heavily from the book.
The evolving situation in Afghanistan was most interesting, where the U.S. and Saudis were supporting the Afghan rebels against the Soviet Union invasion. The Saudis wanted to show the support of the royal family to the jihad. But no Saudi prince wanted or needed to brave the Afghan mountains. Enter Osama bin Laden, age 22, who took a leadership position and went into Afghanistan without hesitation. The reason for his choice was a simple function of the extraordinary degreee to which the wealthy (construction) bin Laden family was tied to the royals. Unfortunately for Bush, the long-term implications of supporting a network of Islamic fundamentalist rebels was never considered. The Bush attitude was that the collapse of the Soviet Union was more important than the growth of the Taliban. The bottom line here is that bin Laden learned an important lesson in this war - mujahideen warriers fighting for Islam could bring a superpower to it's knees.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait, King Fahd allowed U.S. forces into the Kingdom. This was a calamity as far as bin Laden was concerned and set the wheels in motion for revenge. But the Bush regime turned a blind eye for years to come, funding the Taliban as late as May, 2001, under the guise of eliminating the opium trade.
The book ends with the repatriation of the U.S.-based Saudi royals in the days following 9/11. This is amazing, while the whole counry was grounded, a few charter flights rounded up high level Saudis and returned them safely home. This secret evacuation is mind boggling, to say the least.