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 9/11 hijackers.

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 9/11 Commission.

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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