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Craig Unger on the U.S. and the Saudis
President George W. Bush joins Saudi King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, right, at a viewing of the King's prized horses Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2008 at the monarch's ranch in Al Janadriyah, Saudi Arabia. White House photo by Eric Draper
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January 18, 2008

As President Bush winds up what will probably be one of his final trips to the Middle East, Bill Moyers sits down with journalist Craig Unger, contributing editor of VANITY FAIR and author of the best-selling HOUSE OF BUSH, HOUSE OF SAUD and, most recently, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF BUSH for some analysis.

"Well, this is the story essentially of the oil addict coming to the dealer and not being treated too well. Yes, there's a lot of fine ceremony on the surface. But ... I think it's very unlikely that those oil prices will go down or that the Saudis are really in a position to help Bush fulfill his vision of reshaping the Middle East."

On January 3, 2008, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley announced that President George W. Bush was embarking on an eight day trip to the Middle East starting on January 8th.

The trip follows the Annapolis meeting, and offers an opportunity for the President to discuss with Israelis and Palestinians their efforts toward a negotiated peace and achievement of the President's vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. He will also encourage broader Israeli-Arab reconciliation, and regional support for Palestinian institution-building efforts, as they build the institutions for a Palestinian state.

The trip will be an opportunity to reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of our friends and allies in the Middle East, especially the Gulf nations. The trip will highlight our work in the region to combat terrorism and extremism, promote freedom, and seek peace and prosperity. The President will stress the importance of supporting the young democracies and the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinians. He will have an opportunity to discuss with friends and allies the challenges to the region, including the challenges presented by Iran, ways to strengthen regional security and advance our economic ties to the region.

On January 16th, summing up his trip online, President Bush echoed Hadley's sentiments:

"It's been a long trip and a successful trip. I had a chance to advance three major themes: first, that the United States is committed to helping Israel and the Palestinians achieve peace. Second, that in order for there to be peace, it's important for nations in the neighborhood to support both the Palestinians and the Israelis. And finally, I renewed our strong commitment to the security of the Gulf countries."

But reporters covering the trip caught glimpses of a larger story peering out from behind the official explanations.

On Monday, January 14, as the president arrived in Saudi Arabia, the Bush administration notified Congress of its plan to sell $120 million worth of bomb-guidance kits to Saudi Arabia as part of a package of arms sales to the Middle East that last year U.S. officials said could reach $20 billion.

And the following day, in THE NEW YORK TIMES, Stephen Lee Myers reported as President Bush's rhetoric turned from idealistic speeches on liberty and justice to the more mundane issue of oil — now at over $100 a barrel:

"President Bush on Tuesday urged Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC to consider the strain the high cost of oil was having on the American economy, addressing an issue that has begun to color the last year of his presidency and dominate the presidential election campaign."

"Tuesday's talk of oil overshadowed other issues that have dominated Mr. Bush's discussions with King Abdullah and other leaders. Those include the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the war in Iraq and the diplomatic confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program." (Read the full article.)

Craig Unger

Craig Unger, an award-winning investigative journalist and writer, has made it his business to find the big story behind the official press releases and the news of the day for over 30 years.Craig Unger, photo by Robin Holland In 1992, Unger co-wrote "In the Loop," with Murray Waas for THE NEW YORKER, revealing how the Reagan-Bush administration provided weapons, intelligence and funding to Saddam Hussein, in apparent violation of United States law.

Unger went on to explore the deep ties between Saudi Arabia and the Bush family in his 2004 book HOUSE OF BUSH, HOUSE OF SAUD which made the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list and became an international bestseller. In his most recent book, FALL OF THE HOUSE OF BUSH, Unger explores the influence of neo-cons and the Christian Right on United States foreign policy.

Unger is a contributing editor to VANITY FAIR magazine whose work has appeared in THE NEW YORKER, ESQUIRE, THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, and many other publications. He is a Fellow at the Center on Law and Security at NYU's School of Law.

Guest photo by Robin Holland.

Published on January 18, 2008.

References and Reading:
"Bush admin. notifies Congress of Saudi arms sale," REUTERS, January 14, 2008.

"Trip Notes from the Middle East," The White House Journal of the trip.

"Bush Prods Saudi Arabia on Oil Prices," Steven Lee Myers, THE NEW YORK TIMES, January 16, 2008

"From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq," Craig Unger, VANITY FAIR, March 2007

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