The Carlyle Group
excerpted from the book
The Exception to the Rulers
by Amy Goodman
The feeding frenzy began the morning of
9/11. As my neighbors and coworkers were choking on the debris
of the World Trade Center, a windfall awaited a powerful group
gathered at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. The secretive
Carlyle Group was holding its annual investors' conference. The
private investment company, named for the swank Manhattan hotel
where the group was formed in 1987, has tentacles in both the
Washington power elite and the Saudi ruling class. In town for
the meetings was former President George H. W. Bush, then a senior
adviser to Carlyle. He was joined by a cast of characters who
have been fixtures in Bush regimes over the years.
There was Reagan's former secretary of
defense Frank Carlucci, then head of the Carlyle Group. James
Baker III, secretary of state under Bush Sr. - better known as
the choreographer of Bush Jr.'s theft of the 2000 election - was
also there in his capacity as Carlyle's senior counsel. But it
wasn't just Bush's inner circle gathering that day. They were
joined by a man by the name of Shafiq bin Laden, brother of Osama
bin Laden. It wasn't the first time a bin Laden had worked with
Washington's power elite, and this particular bin Laden was a
longtime friend and benefactor of the Bush clan. Bush Sr. left
the meetings early, but the rest of the men were just finishing
breakfast when Shafiq's brother's plot culminated in airplanes
slamming into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
A bizarre coincidence? No, the meeting
was just business as usual for the Bushes, whose family fortunes
have been greased by Saudi oil money for decades. That helps explain
why, when the United States grounded all aircraft on that terrible
day, one exception was made: Top White House officials authorized
planes to pick up 140 Saudis, including two dozen members of the
bin Laden family, from ten cities and spirit them back to Saudi
Arabia. Dale Watson, the former head of counterterrorism at the
FBI, conceded in Vanity Fair that the departing Saudis "were
not subject to serious interviews or interrogations. "
Tom Kinton, director of aviation at Boston's
Logan Airport, was incredulous, according to Vanity Fair. With
the airport still closed and reeling from the 9/11 attacks, Kinton
received the order to allow the bin Ladens to fly. "We were
in the midst of the worst terrorist act in history and here we
were seeing an evacuation of the bin Ladens!" he exclaimed...
A month after the terror attacks, the
Carlyle Group took its subsidiary, United Defense, public. It
noted in its financial filings that "the Bush administration's
recently published Quadrennial Defense Review calls for ... increasing
investment ... to enable U.S. military forces to more effectively
counter emerging threats."
Translation: We just got check-writing
privileges at the U.S. Treasury.
Carlyle netted profits of $237 million
in that one day, making three times as much on paper. The old
adage has never been truer: It pays to have friends in high places.
The Bush family has had a long and mutually
profitable connection with the corrupt Saudi oil dictatorship.
Prince Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the United States, has been
an honored guest both at the Bush I summer home in Kennebunkport,
Maine, and at Bush 11's getaway in Crawford, Texas (hence his
nickname, "Bandar Bush"). Bandar expressed his gratitude
to Bush I by donating $1 million to the Bush Presidential Library
in Texas. And Bandar's prodding prompted Saudi King Fahd to send
another $1 million to Barbara Bush's campaign against illiteracy.
Saudi Prince al-Walid contributed half
a million petrodollars to help launch the George Herbert Walker
Bush Scholarship Fund at Phillips Academy, the alma mater of both
Bush presidents. The depth of these connections was highlighted
when the former president visited the Saudis to "discuss
U.S.-Saudi business relations" with Crown Prince Abdullah
during his son's 2000 presidential campaign.
And then there is the bin Laden problem.
The bin Laden family, a key Carlyle investor, stood to make millions
of dollars from the war on terror-a war that has as its chief
villain a member of their own family. The bin Ladens withdrew
from the Carlyle Group in late October 200 1, but it's not just
the bin Laden family proper that was problematic for the Bushes.
It turns out that Prince Bandar's wife, Princess Haifa, had made
charitable contributions that may have helped finance two of the
It would be reasonable to think that U.S.
investigators would have great interest in getting to the bottom
of all these possible Saudi terror connections. But in mid-2003,
the Bush administration withheld 28 pages relating to Saudi Arabia's
role in the attacks from the 800-page final report of the congressional
President Bush justified this action by
saying that revealing the contents of the missing pages "would
show people how we collect information and on whom we're collecting
information, which would be harmful on the war against terror."
Or might it just be harmful to Bush's
family and friends? As Julian Borger wrote in The Guardian, "The
reason pages about the Saudi link to the hijackers (15 out of
19 of whom were Saudi nationals) are blanked out, while Al Qaeda's
questionable ties to Iraq and Iran are taken to the UN, is an
old but crucial story." The U.S. -Saudi connection "is
the mutual dependency of two wealthy junkies dragging each other
ever deeper into squalor. The U.S. is addicted to cheap oil, and
shows no inclination to wean itself off it. Washington officialdom
is hooked on the easy money Riyadh offers in the world of consultancies
and think tanks when they retire. The Saudi royal family, meanwhile,
has its own addictions. It depends on the U.S. arms industry,
of which it is the biggest foreign customer.
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