How Does the Saudi Relationship With the Bush Family Affect U.S. Foreign Policy?

Bush Has Given the Saudis a Free Pass
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
July 6 2004 9:47 AM

How Does the Saudi Relationship With the Bush Family Affect U.S. Foreign Policy?

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Rachel,

As far as I'm concerned, the elephant in the living room in American politics is that never before has a president of the United States been tied so closely to a foreign power that harbors and supports our mortal enemies. I'm talking about the Bush family relationship with the Saudis, of course. I believe that insofar as the Saudis have played a key role in fostering Islamist terrorism, Bush is compromised in leading a real war against terror.

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Don't get me wrong. I understand that we're an oil-dependent nation that has to have a strong relationship with the oil-rich Saudis. But that shouldn't mean we have to give the Saudis a free pass. Bush has done exactly that and continues to—even though he is posing as Mr. Macho Tough Guy Wartime President.

How are the Bushes compromised? In House of Bush, House of Saud, I trace more than $1.4 billion in contracts and investments from the House of Saud to companies in which the Bushes and their friends have had key roles. (Michael Moore uses this figure in Fahrenheit 9/11.) Saudi money bailed out Harken Energy when George W. Bush was on its board of directors. That's how he made his fortune. Bush 41 and James Baker traveled to Saudi Arabia repeatedly for the Carlyle Group to woo Saudi investors and win contracts. The Bush family remains close to Prince Bandar, even though Bandar's wife actually funded two 9/11 hijackers—indirectly and inadvertently, of course. Indirect and inadvertent—that's the Saudi way.

Has it ever occurred to the Bushes that the Saudi families they consort with contributed—indirectly and inadvertently—to the same Islamic charities cited as funneling money to terrorists? I doubt it.

Let's focus on the most glaring favor the Bush administration did for the Saudis, which I discuss both in my book and in Fahrenheit 9/11. Right after the horrifying events of Sept. 11, when there were still restrictions on U.S. airspace, the White House authorized the evacuation of at least 142 people, most of them Saudi. About two dozen were members of the Bin Laden family.

Let's think about what this really means. The biggest crime in American history had just taken place. A massive criminal investigation was under way. These flights should have been a focus of that investigation—not a privilege granted to friends of the Bushes. I don't mean to suggest that the people on board were necessarily guilty of anything, but many of them certainly should have been the subjects of serious interviews done through formal investigative procedures. There is no evidence that happened. But it is unquestionable that the Saudis were given White House authorization to fly.

Perhaps it was merely grotesque incompetence, but at some horribly ugly moment in the Bush White House, someone made a decision about whether to really try to get to the bottom of this horrifying crime or to perform a favor of convenience for Bush's Saudi friends. Can anyone possibly defend this? Can you, Rachel?

Craig

Craig Unger is the author ofHouse of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties. He appears in Fahrenheit 9/11.