Craig Unger goes behind the scenes of the George W. Bush administration in a new book entitled The Fall of the House of Bush.  --  In a long interview posted Tuesday by Buzzflash, Unger said:  "If you go from 1998 to the present, you see this war between the realists of Bush '41 and the neocons of Bush '43, and the neocons end up winning."[1]  --  Unger has concluded that the Iraq war represents "an intelligence success.  And by that, I mean successful disinformation operations, successful black propaganda operations.  I had nine sources on the record — people who were in the intelligence world, officials who are in the Pentagon, in the the military world — who said precisely that.  This was a very calculated operation to mislead the American people."  --  Among many interesting points:  "If that part of the story has a hero, it's Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor of Bush Senior." ...


A Buzzflash interview

By Craig Unger

** How Radical Extremists Came Together and Undermined America **

December 11, 2007

"We've been told again and again we got into Iraq because of intelligence failures. I think it's exactly the opposite. I think it's an intelligence success. And by that, I mean successful disinformation operations, successful black propaganda operations. I had nine sources on the record -- people who were in the intelligence world, officials who are in the Pentagon, in the the military world -- who said precisely that. This was a very calculated operation to mislead the American people. -- Craig Unger, Investigative Reporter and Author, The Fall of the House of Bush: How a Group of True Believers Put America on the Road to Armageddon.

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Some time ago we interviewed Craig Unger about his revealing and prescient book House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties. Unger -- who writes for a variety of top-flight publications including the New Yorker, Esquire and Vanity Fair -- nailed down the details of a long-term Bush family "friendship" with the Saudis that supercedes our national interest.

Now, Unger is back with the damning The Fall of the House of Bush: The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperils America's Future. For anyone who isn't yet totally numbed by the barbarians in the White House who threaten our national security, The Fall of the House of Bush should be essential reading.

Radar Magazine recently wrote of Unger's latest book: "Run, don't walk to buy Craig Unger's brilliant new book The Fall of the House of Bush. Forget about the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. Unger's subject is the war that really matters: the one between Islamic, Jewish, and Christian fundamentalists on one side, and the scientific (reality-based!) post-Enlightenment world that some of us still prefer to inhabit. . . . Unger combines reams of original reporting (he went undercover with a group of Evangelical tourists to "walk where Jesus walked") and all the previously available data to produce the rarest kind of political book -- a page-turner that reads like a grim thriller.

Unger is a freelance writer because, as he told the London Guardian, "My feeling is that reporters in the White House bureau of the Times and other major papers have effectively become stenographers who . . . are so obsessed with getting that next interview with Rumsfeld or Cheney that they don't want to wreck their chances by writing something critical."

Ah, yes, Craig Unger is our kind of journalist, one who is relentlessly pursuing the truth.

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BuzzFlash: We talked with you back when you published the very insightful House of Bush, House of Saud, The Secret Relationship Between the World's Most Powerful Dynasties. And now your new book has just been released, The Fall of the House of Bush, The Untold Story About How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperil America's Future. What is the relationship between the two books?

Craig Unger: As I was finishing the last book, the Iraq war was starting. The attacks on 9/11 had been a traumatic event. I think almost everyone has looked at the Iraq war in terms of 9/11. That has sort of been the prism through which it is discussed. We hear again and again that we're in the Middle East because there's a conflict between Islam versus the West, Islam versus the West.

I see it very differently with a different paradigm that I think is perhaps more valuable, if we really want to explore the roots of war. I see fundamentalism's pull -- and I include not just Islamic fundamentalism, but Christian, Jewish, and even the secular sort of fundamentalism, which is how I see neoconservatism -- arrayed against a rational, post-Enlightenment world view.

As we watched the Iraq war unfold, we saw it linked to 9/11. But when I talked to various people in the State Department who were watching the rise of the neocons, I asked one of them, would the Iraq war have happened anyway? We may never know the real answer, but one of them said, "Absolutely." These forces were very much in the works. So I went back and started to trace how they came together.

BuzzFlash: That goes back to the theories that have been proposed about the PNAC letter sent to Clinton in 1998, which urged the overthrow of Saddam and the assertion of American hegemony over Iraq -- three years prior to 9/11. If the people who signed PNAC -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Abrams, and Wolfowitz and so forth -- basically the same crew that were behind the invasion of Iraq -- if they were going to invade Iraq anyway, overthrow Saddam, or make Iraq a colonial outpost under the influence of the United States in one way or another, why did they want to do that?

Craig Unger: Ideology is the main reason, I think. You can trace the course of this specific policy back much earlier, to early in 1992, to what was known as the Defense Policy Guidance paper, sometimes called the Wolfowitz doctrine. At the time, Cheney was Secretary of Defense. He had a number of neoconservatives under him in the Pentagon -- this is right after the Gulf War. Officially, Cheney is staying with the stated policy that Bush Senior has articulated -- that we made the right decision in not going after Saddam. And he says this again and again. But at the same time, in the Pentagon, you see these policies come about that sort of sow the seeds for the invasion of Iraq. And it is a grand strategic vision of overhauling the Middle East.

In many ways, the neocons are saying that this is a great transitional period in history, sort of like just after World War II, in which the United States had an opportunity to reshape the world. More specifically, the thinking was to reshape the Middle East in a way to create an environment that would be more pro-West. We'll ensure regional security -- that means for Israel -- and make sure that there are pro-West governments in places like Iraq, and even Iran, and that it will also ensure strategic resources, which, of course, means oil.

BuzzFlash: Now that begs the question, the oil issue. What if 60% of the oil reserves in the world were located in Chad, and there was a dictator there like Saddam Hussein, who had formerly cooperated with the U.S. in a war with another country, but now was kind of being defiant with the U.S., and saber-rattling, and so forth. Would we have invaded Chad?

Craig Unger: I don't know.

BuzzFlash: In essence, what I'm saying is, why the Middle East? Is there another issue other than oil?

Craig Unger: Yes, I think Israel is a big component of this. These policies were then much allied with Benjamin Netanyahu in many ways. One of the most important policy papers was in 1996. "A Clean Break," was written by Richard Perle, David Wurmser, Douglas Feith, and others for Netanyahu -- for an Israeli-American think tank. So that's really a part of the strategic vision.

BuzzFlash: If Israel were located in another region, would things have been different? Israel's an outpost in a region that has all this oil. Cheney and Bush are of the old-style, depend-upon-depletable-natural-resources type of guys. This is the way they look at things. Israel is a pro-Western ally in the Middle East.

Craig Unger: There are two powerful reasons there. It has to do with oil and Israel.

BuzzFlash: Your book is called Fall of the House of Bush. You're making an assumption in the title and the book that this kind of didn't work out -- the whole enterprise. If we're talking about the assertion of the lone superpower, as the neocons perceive the United States, what went wrong with their theory?

Craig Unger: The war has been an utter disaster, in so many different ways, obviously. It's not just that Bush's approval has fallen. There have been nearly 4,000 American casualties, 4 million refugees in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of dead, hundreds of billions of dollars. In U.S. strategic terms, we're in worse shape than ever before, especially when it comes to oil, which has gone up from $22 to above $90 a barrel.

Why did it go so wrong? If you read the work of neocons like David Wurmser, who wrote Tyranny's Ally and went on to become Cheney's Middle East adviser, they clearly expected someone like Chalabi to take over Iraq and put in a pro-West government that would recognize Israel and give favorable oil deals to the West. Wurmser even wrote that when Saddam was toppled and the Shi'ites took over, the Shi'ites would help us overthrow the Mullahs in Iran!

So they saw Iraq as a beachhead from which the U.S. could go after the crown jewel of the Middle East -- Iran. That way, Israel would be secure, and the U.S. would have cozy oil deals with Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran all in the Western camp. This was never about democratizing the Middle East -- if that were the case the neocons would have been screaming to overthrow the Saudis. It was about winning strategic dominance for the U.S. throughout the entire region, with Israeli security and oil being the two great prizes.

The only problem was that this was based on sheer fantasy. The Shi'ites who took over had grown out of the Dawa Party which helped found Hezbollah and still had strong ties to Iran. So there was no way they were going to implement the neocon vision. Even after the surge, this contradiction remains. But, again, if you read the various neocon papers, they seem to have no real knowledge of the region and simply quote each other -- it's the echo chamber effect.

Nevertheless, up until the recent release of the National Intelligence Estimate about Iran, there were strong indications that the neocons hoped to follow through with their grand plan of reshaping the Middle East -- and that would have meant bombing Iran with an eye towards regime change. Now that it's been revealed that Iran terminated any nuclear weapons plan it may have had, obviously, it will be far, far more difficult for the Bush administration to start such a war.

I should add, however, that even now I don't think it is impossible for such actions to take place. If Iran is blamed for American deaths in Iraq, or if Israel goes to war again with Hezbollah, such incidents might lead to a larger military conflict with Iran. And if that were to happen, I think the results could be catastrophic.

BuzzFlash: Well, as it's emerged, the main Shiite force in Iraq is an army that's aligned with Iran.

Craig Unger: Precisely. What I'm saying is they completely misread who the Shiites were in Iran. They believed you'd have someone like Chalabi at the helm, and they would recognize Israel and grant us favorable oil deals.

BuzzFlash: Let me ask you a hypothetical question. Would you care to speculate on what George Bush might have been as president without Dick Cheney?

Craig Unger: Well, Dick Cheney plays a very, very crucial role here, and I see the dynamics as revolving more around the father-son relationship. Cheney played a very pivotal role in all this.

I call the first chapter of the new book "Oedipus Tex." If you look at the Bush administration, you realize Bush put together a team consisting of his father's worst enemies.

His father was a rather congenial man who only had one or two bitter enemies, but one of them was Donald Rumsfeld. His father also was not terribly fond of the Christian right. At one point, he actually called them the extra chromosome crowd. Of course, his son was part of it.

And his father had differences with the neocons that you can trace back to 1976 when he was head of the CIA. Wolfowitz and Perle were allied with what was known as Team B. They fought the CIA over intelligence with regard to détente and the Soviet Union. They thought the CIA was being much too soft on the Soviets, and they argued for a much harder-line policy. They began to politicize intelligence in a way that prefigures what we've been going through recently with Iraq and, I think, with Iran as well. So you see these forces arrayed just before Bush Junior becomes President.

In 1998, when his candidacy first began, George W. Bush was completely a tabula rasa when it came to foreign policy. And his father began to coach -- the father-son duo did a crash course. They started a series of seminars, and Condi Rice was one of the people running them. I think his father thought that his son would mature and would come to the presidency very much in the realist mold. If you look at some of the figures around his father who were part of that process, you have people like Colin Powell, James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, and Scowcroft's protégé, Condi Rice. They were very much giants on the world stage. These seminars had started by late '98.

But you didn't just have the realists there. The neocons started to show up as well. They started making semi-secret trips down to Austin, where Bush was governor. You had Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliott Abrams, and so on. And Cheney, of course, is part of all this, to go back to your question. What began to happen is that the neocons began to out-flank the realists. Cheney, I think, was one figure who played his cards so close to his vest they fooled Bush.

I think there had been a lot of problems with his father, as well. I interviewed Mickey Herskowitz, who ghost-wrote Bush's campaign autobiography, A Charge to Keep. And the neocons came down and told him that his father didn't go far enough with Iraq. He thought he would go further -- and he felt he had to be a Commander-in-Chief to really become a powerful chief of state. So the neocon vision played into this, as well.

One by one, they began to outflank the realists. Wolfowitz emerges as a key figure in educating Bush, and Scowcroft becomes uninvited. James Baker is sort of frozen out, and Condi Rice doesn't really stand up to the neocons.

BuzzFlash: If we could play armchair psychologist, a little bit, as the psychiatrist Justin Frank did in Bush on the Couch, let's just take a look at Bush's behavior during his administration. Is it likely that he was attracted to Cheney because it gave Bush the chance to act like a cowboy and a tough guy without any risk personally to his well-being? Here was a guy who had been through business failures and never really fought in Vietnam, who really had avoided putting himself on the line for anything, and been bailed out by Daddy. Suddenly he gets a chance to be a tough guy. And Cheney's doing all this behind-the-scenes work.

Craig Unger: That may be part of it. Cheney has the demeanor of a much older man and was someone Bush could go to for advice. But he doesn't have the spotlight. He doesn't have his own ambitions. He's not going to be president. He's someone who likes to work in the background. He became the guy who could frame all the questions for Bush. Again, here you have in Bush a man who was a tabula rasa, who knows nothing about foreign policy. Cheney provided the framework, pointed in the neoconservative direction.

BuzzFlash: We heard you say when you were being interviewed by Rachel Maddow on Air America that the PNAC group had this all sort of planned out -- the assertion of American power, particularly in the Middle East. Then 9/11 gave them the opportunity to just, on a dime, launch their plan. But you felt they were going to do it inevitably, and we agree with that. One of the things they had planned was to put Paul Wolfowitz, you said, in the Defense Department. But that didn't happen. Can you explain that?

Craig Unger: You do see all of this being planned out. Remember, too, that the Niger break-in was taking place around this time, before Bush actually takes office, but after the election controversy has been settled in December of 2000.

If the neocons were to win popular support for toppling Saddam, they realized they had to control the intelligence apparatus. They had to drum up popular support by coming up with intelligence that would justify an invasion of Iraq. They thought that they would be able to do that by having a neocon like Paul Wolfowitz as head of the CIA.

Cheney wanted Wolfowitz to be head of the CIA. But there was an unforeseen obstacle -- Wolfowitz seems to have been having an extramarital affair. We know now that the woman in question was named Shaha Riza. She, of course, was the girlfriend to whom Wolfowitz gave a major raise when he became president of the World Bank. But at the time, she was sort of the romantic embodiment of the neocon vision of the new Middle East. Wolfowitz is a secular Jew. She is a secular Muslim. You saw this wonderful romantic couple going off in the sunset as embodying the new democratized Middle East. And she was very much in favor of overthrowing Saddam. Wolfowitz would escort her in neocon social circles in Washington.

BuzzFlash: He was still married at the time.

Craig Unger: Right. And one person who was not particularly fond of this new vision was Clare Wolfowitz, his wife of many years and mother of his children. She was so upset, I'm told, that she wrote a letter that went something like this: Dear George W. Bush, You can't possibly make my husband head of the CIA. He represents a real security risk. It's not just his undisclosed relationship. It happens to be with a foreign national, and this poses a real security risk to the United States.

I'm told the letter was sent out, but it never got to then-president-elect Bush. It was intercepted, I'm told, by Scooter Libby, who, of course, had been Wolfowitz' protégé when Wolfowitz taught at Yale. Libby was about to become Chief of Staff for Vice President Cheney. Boy, is that Freudian.

There was a problem with the plans to make Wolfowitz head of the CIA because they didn't want to go through an ugly Senatorial confirmation hearing in which all this messy stuff about Wolfowitz' affairs might come out. Instead, they decided to put Wolfowitz in the Pentagon. They brought Rumsfeld in on the discussion, and Rumsfeld, in effect, told Wolfowitz: Look, from now on, keep your fly zippered, and don't mess around. And they put him in the Pentagon. There you see what ultimately became the Office of Special Plans, and some of the highly, highly dubious intelligence that was fabricated and disseminated, and that helped start the Iraq war.

BuzzFlash: In other words, it was the CIA, not the Defense Department, which they had planned for Wolfowitz. They just put him under Rumsfeld in sort of a special status position. And Douglas Feith basically headed the propaganda office there, the Office of Special Plans, as they called it, that really coopted the CIA on a lot of the statements that Cheney and Bush made.

Craig Unger: Right. One of the fascinating things is to go back to the Seventies and look at the staff of Henry "Scoop" Jackson, the Senator from Washington State, who was one of the "fathers" of many of the neocons. If you look at his staff, there's Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams. They all became key players and operatives, and some of the architects of the Iraq war.

Cheney is sort of a top dog in this, in creating what is effectively an alternative national security apparatus. You see him operating as though it was 1976. It was the Team B approach, in which they created an alternative intelligence assessment. But in the Bush-Cheney administration, you see it operating on a far, far larger scale. And they begin to subvert and circumvent the entire national security apparatus. We spend about $40 billion a year on intelligence. And they were able to create their own alternative intelligence apparatus that circumvented all that.

BuzzFlash: You've said that the infamous Niger documents were discredited fourteen times and still found their way into President Bush's State of the Union address. One of the times they were discredited was a few months before the State of the Union. George Tenet personally made sure they weren't in a Bush speech, and yet they still ended up in Bush's State of the Union speech. Is the attitude of Cheney and Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld and, perhaps, Bush, simply to keep repeating a lie until it becomes a fact?

Craig Unger: I talked to Colonel Larry Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell's Chief of Staff. He said they were ruthlessly relentless. If we took something out 47 times, they would put it in 48 times. You see this with the Niger documents, as you say.

Stephen Hadley said, well, he forgot they were forged -- that they had been discredited. Well, it's hard to believe. Maybe you can forget once or twice, which, in itself, is sort of astounding. But to forget it fourteen times -- I think that stretches the imagination.

We've been told again and again we got into Iraq because of intelligence failures. I think it's exactly the opposite. I think it's an intelligence success. And by that, I mean successful disinformation operations, successful black propaganda operations. I had nine sources on the record -- people who were in the intelligence world, officials who are in the Pentagon, in the the military world -- who said precisely that. This was a very calculated operation to mislead the American people.

BuzzFlash: In an excerpt from your book that appeared in Salon, you assert that Bush had a kind of a narrative saying that he had been "born again" due to a conversation with Reverend Billy Graham. You point out that this was not true -- really it was a much shadier character who, in Midland, kind of brought Bush into thinking he had been born again. What's the significance of this?

Craig Unger: I believe Bush is a real Evangelical. But, here, you have an episode that is part of his most sacred bond with his base of Evangelicals. Frankly, the story he has told about it -- that he was converted by Billy Graham -- is not true.

He's told it many times. It says in his campaign autobiography, A Charge to Keep, that in 1985, Billy Graham visited him and his family in Kennebunkport, Maine, at the Bush compound. They took a long walk, and this is where he was born again.

For one thing, Billy Graham was interviewed about it separately and said he had absolutely no recollection of this episode. I also interviewed Mickey Herskowitz, who helped to ghost-write this autobiography, and he interviewed Bush about it. When Herskowitz spoke to Bush, he asked, can you tell me the specifics about this conversation? But Bush couldn't remember anything. Herskowitz became so exasperated -- how was it possible that Bush couldn't remember such a significant moment in his life -- that he finally prodded Bush and asked, ‘Well, did Graham say something like: ‘Are you right with Jesus?'" But Bush said no, Billy Graham said nothing of the kind.

Then, later, Herskowitz gave the tapes to Karen Hughes, who was then Communications Director for Bush. When the book was finally published, Herskowitz was astonished to see that Karen Hughes had put Herskowitz' words in Billy Graham's mouth. In other words, Graham is quoted as asking the question Herskowitz had asked. [NOTE:  Unger is misremembering. The question Graham is said to asked is "Are you right with God?" —H.A.]

Later I went ahead and interviewed Arthur Blessitt. He was "the man who's walked with the cross of Jesus on his back," a twelve-foot cross, through over 300 countries all over the world as a missionary. In 1984, he was in Midland, Texas, and that is where Bush was born again. There were three people present at the meeting. Bush, of course, was one of them. I did not speak to him, but I talked to the other two. One was a member of his Bible study group named Jim Sale, and Blessitt himself told me the story.

I certainly wouldn't describe Blessitt as shady. But he wasn't as distinguished a figure as Billy Graham, and, obviously, I don't think he plays as well politically as Graham, who's been a counselor to many other presidents in the Oval Office over many decades. By contrast, Arthur Blessitt really grew out of the "Jesus freak" movement of the Sixties. He had a coffee house on Sunset Strip where he was known for what was called the toilet baptism. Many of his parishioners were Hell's Angels members, bikers, and hippies. They would come in and dump their controlled substances in the toilet, flush them away, and embrace Jesus. And this became known as the toilet baptism. So it certainly appears that a political decision was made to go with Billy Graham as the man who converted Bush -- but the story is not true.

BuzzFlash: So the heroic narrative that Bush was converted by Billy Graham fit much more in with his life story narrative of redemption than some sketchy guy who converted some very sketchy people.

Craig Unger: Absolutely. I think it just played much, much better politically. Again, I don't doubt that Bush is an authentic Evangelical. But it's striking that he would lie effectively about what is arguably his most sacred bond with his base -- that is, how he was actually born again.

BuzzFlash: You describe in your book a very strong relationship between Bush and Cheney. You said that, although they're not that far apart in age, you do think of Cheney as the alternative father figure for Bush. So, what the heck is going on with Bush and his father? That's evidently a very strange sort of relationship.

Craig Unger: Right. It's interesting. Every once in awhile, you'll see the stories reporting that they have a wonderful relationship, and they play horseshoes at Kennebunkport, or whatever. On the surface it is quite congenial. But Bob Woodward has reported Bush does not talk to his father about things like Iraq. Bush has said he turns to a higher father.

I interviewed Bob Strauss, for example. He had been Chairman of the National Democratic Party and Ambassador to Moscow under Bush Senior, and he was friendly with both of them. He says when the two men get together, they may gossip about how's Susie doing in Midland, or stuff like that, but they don't talk about Iraq. What I see is a real sub-rosa conflict there. If you go from 1998 to the present, you see this war between the realists of Bush '41 and the neocons of Bush '43, and the neocons end up winning.

If that part of the story has a hero, it's Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor of Bush Senior. He has a condo in Kennebunkport, as well, so he can be close to his friend. He's in a very delicate position because of his function with the former president. But he has spoken out clearly, forcefully, and often. He started to see it coming fairly early on. For one thing, he was beginning to be frozen out of some of the meetings with Bush.

And in October of 2001, Scowcroft began to speak out. Now, I did talk to people who were close to Scowcroft, and he would not have spoken out without the assent of Bush Senior. If you go back to the Gulf War of 1992 and the memoir that Scowcroft wrote with Bush Senior about it called The World Transformed, Scowcroft and Bush made a very deliberate and calculated decision not to go on to Baghdad to overthrow Saddam. They wrote about it in this book, and in many ways, their analysis proved to be quite brilliant. It suggested we would be in a quagmire for many years. We would be stuck in a situation where there were forces that were out of control. We would have alienated all of our allies and been enmeshed in a bloody, bloody quagmire.

So, Scowcroft speaks out again and again. He sees the policy start to unfold. He wrote an op-ed in the fall of 2002 in the Wall Street Journal saying "Don't Attack Saddam" -- that's the headline. And it is a losing battle. But he continues to speak out, even through 2006.

And when you see the Iraq Study Group start to take shape, you see friends of the father -- all of Bush ‘41's real friends. There's James Baker leading the way. There's Brent Scowcroft working in the background, talking regularly to James Baker. Flying off with the knowledge and assent of Bush Senior to Saudi Arabia, to Egypt, to get their approval for what turns out to be the plan for the Iraq Study Group, and then lobbying with Condi Rice. Condi Rice, of course, is a protégée of Brent Scowcroft. He followed her as a member of the realist group. And she is the last link who has real close access to Bush '43.

Scowcroft goes to Rice and says, now is the time you have to really talk to President Bush and help lobby through the Iraq Study Group. She says something like, well, when should we do it? Scowcroft says: Not we -- you. You have to do it. But Condi Rice never steps up to the plate.

BuzzFlash: We don't often quote Donald Trump around here, but we did hear him briefly as we were flipping through stations being interviewed. He said: You know, Condi Rice -- I got nothing against her personally. But she just never can close a deal. That's the first thing Donald Trump has said that I found interesting.

Craig Unger: He was terrific on her, absolutely.

BuzzFlash: In relation to the father, we had the Baker report, which seemed to offer some promise for a time. This was going to allow George W. Bush some wiggle room to look at some alternative ways to get out of Iraq with some degree of honor and some degree of restoring stability to the Middle East. When it was completed -- and, clearly, Baker being a close friend of his father's, and representing the father's kind of kitchen cabinet -- George W. Bush, and one can assume, Cheney, just dismissed it out of hand, basically. They just threw it in the garbage can. That must have been stinging to George Herbert Walker Bush.

Craig Unger: Absolutely. I can't corroborate it entirely, but George W. Bush supposedly called the report a hanging turd. And in truth, it eviscerated his policies.

In many ways, I think it was James Baker's finest hour -- that it was a realistic, cost-minded assessment of what had really happened and the political mess that had been created in Iraq. So I'm not surprised that he rejected it.

But it's precisely here that you see the conflict. The report was presented to Bush on December 6 of 2006. The day before that, on December 5, the other George Bush was in Tallahassee, Florida, delivering a speech before the state legislature, where his son, Jeb, was governor.

Keep in mind that Bush Senior had to know what was in the report. One of his best lifelong friends, James Baker, was the co-chair of the Iraq Study Group. Bush senior was to deliver a rather innocuous speech about leadership, and he talked about Jeb Bush's defeat in 1994. And suddenly, he broke down in tears.

A lot of people who were friendly with him, such as Peggy Noonan, who'd been a speechwriter for Bush Senior, said: Look, in this breakdown -- and it's quite striking -- you can find it on YouTube -- he's not just breaking into tears -- he is really, really breaking down. Peggy Noonan was saying he really wasn't crying for his son Jeb. He was crying for the other son, whose presidency was in such dire straits.

BuzzFlash: Craig, thank you so much. A very fine book, as was your previous one, and a great contribution to understanding this administration.

Craig Unger: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. And I've enjoyed BuzzFlash over the years. Thanks an awful lot.

--BuzzFlash interview conducted by Mark Karlin.