If you want to read a good, short book on how the business interests of Saudi Arabia - or the House of Saud, the royal family than runs the country - intermingles with that of George W. Bush, his family and political contacts, then this is an excellent book. According to author Craig Unger, the House of Saud has transferred some $1.5 billion dollars to entities and individuals tied to the house of Bush. There is even a special appendix devoted to the subject.
We all know loosely the material that Michael Moore has marshaled for his anti-Bush film Farenheit 911. House of Bush, House of Saud goes into the details, meticulously researched. You leave the book thinking: what the hell is the US doing dealing with a regime like this? Saudi Arabia is not exactly a haven of openness and responsible government. It's the opposite, highly secretive and utterly medieval. Public beheadings are the order of the day. The state religion is an extreme form of Islam, Wahhabi. What could Bush have in common with this? Oil, of course.
The book is chock-block full of paradoxes. For instance, George W. Bush, in order to get the American Muslim vote, started lobbying Muslim groups, without doing proper checks on the backgrounds of the people he was dealing with. Bush takes on board one Sami Al-Arian, a man under suspicion for having links to terrorist groups (he was arrested in 2003 on dozens of terrorist charges). From the book:
'Astonishingly enough, the fact that dangerous militant Islamists like Al-Arian were campaigning for Bush went almost entirely unnoticed. Noting the absence of criticism from the Democrats, Bush speechwriter David Frum later wrote, "There is one way that we Republicans are very lucky - we face political opponents too crippled by political correctness to make an issue of these kinds of security lapses."'
Ironically, many believe that the large slab of Muslim votes that Bush received got him across the line. And he had people like this campaigning for him. The mind boggles.
There is also much detail about the extent to which the House of Saud has been sponsoring terrorism. One of the top Al-Qaeda bosses they captured, Abu Zubadyah, claimed that the House of Saud made a deal that it would aid the Taliban as long as Al-Qaeda stayed out of Saudi Arabia. He also claimed that there were members of the House of Saud, living in the US, who knew that some type of attack was going to happen soon.
Mysteriously, large groups of the Saudi nationals, including some 14 members of the bin Laden family were flown quickly out the US following the September 11 attacks. Clearance came from the White House. Not only that, when the Congressional report was handed down on September 11, the 28 pages that dealt with Saudi Arabia's involvement were excised.
What's the take away from the book? Well, that if you play with fire you're going to get burnt. As I said, Saudi Arabia is the very opposite of an open democracy. It is based on an extreme strain of Islam. They can barely keep a lid on things, with regards to groups like Al Qaeda.
For Bush to be receiving money and support from such questionable people beggars belief. Yet it is so. The money and contacts just flows back and forth, back and forth.
I agree with Craig Unger's conclusion on Iraq. Bush's father, with Reagan, thought they had such a great success by recruiting Islamic extremists to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Not one drop of American blood was spilt, and they saw off the 'evil empire'. But in the process they created, by default, Al-Qaeda. Remember, the CIA were recruiting Islamic nut cases from all over the world, arming them, putting them in the one war together, thus creating a 'brotherhood'.
Having helped to create this terrorist monster to fight the Soviet Union, they are now having to fight the same people in Iraq. Osama bin Laden, like Che Guevera, learnt that a well fought guerilla war, with utterly devoted soldiers, could win a war against an Imperial power. Afghanistan was that lesson, in part funded by the US.
Now they can take their fight to another Imperial power, the US. No wonder terrorists are flooding into Iraq.
Imagine if bin Laden's dream was to come true. He knocks over the House of Saud, which he sees as decadent and corrupt to the bone. He eventually prevails in Iraq, and establishes a Taliban like government there. Think how much of the world's oil he would control! He could literally be pulling the levers of the world's economy. And we know how much glee he gets from crunching the numbers.
I don't think it's as far fetched a scenario as it sounds.