SAUDIS - Behind all the root causesgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
October 15, 2001
Saudis are behind all the 'root causes'
Mark Steyn National Post
Last week, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal gave a $10-million donation to New York City's relief effort. He then said that "at times like this one, we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack. I believe the government of the United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East."
Mayor Giuliani told him to take his cheque and shove it. He had no time, he said, for "moral equivalence" over the deaths of 5,000 New Yorkers guilty of nothing other than going to work that morning. As he put it at the UN, "You're either with civilization or with terrorists."
But let's take up Prince Alwaleed's suggestion to "address some of the issues." In today's New Yorker, Seymour Hersh writes that since 1996 the Saudi Royal Family has been channeling hundreds of millions of dollars to Osama bin Laden's operations and to other terror groups. Giuliani may think that you're either with civilization or with terrorists, but as usual the Saudi position is more, ah, nuanced. If the U.S. is going to "re-examine its policies in the Middle East," it might like to start with its relationship with the House of Saud.
It's remarkable how, for all the surface flim-flam about Afghanistan, Israel, Iraq, Palestine and Pakistan, everything specific about this crisis circles back to Saudi Arabia:
Who were the suicide bombers?
Several were wealthy Saudis.
Who's their boss?
Osama bin Laden, another Saudi.
But doesn't he live in Afghanistan?
Yes, under the protection of the Taliban, who were trained in Islamic seminaries in Pakistan funded by the Saudis.
So what's his main beef?
The U.S. military has bases near the Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia.
Why are they there?
They've been there since the Gulf War, to protect the Saudis from Iraq.
What does Osama want to do?
Drive the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia.
How come he's got the dough to wage war on the world's pre-eminent power?
Because his dad got rich in the Saudi construction business.
Is being a general contractor that lucrative?
It is if you're in with the Saudi Royal Family.
Even so, that must have been some building boom.
It was, mainly because of U.S. development of the Saudi oil industry.
So the Saudis and Americans are pretty close?
Not exactly. They refuse to let the U.S. use their own bases in Saudi Arabia for the current campaign against Afghanistan, so the American bombers have to come from Missouri.
Expensive on the gas?
True, but that's all the more reason to kiss up to the Saudis.
Saudi, Saudi, Saudi ... American defence of Saudi Arabia gave Osama bin Laden his cause, American investment in Saudi Arabia gave him the money to bankroll it. If we're looking for "root causes" to this current situation, American support for Israel is a mere distraction next to its creation and maintenance of modern Saudi Arabia.
The Beltway guys may talk about realpolitik, but they're pikers compared to the House of Saud. Since King Fahd's stroke in 1995, his half-brother, Prince Abdullah, has come to the conclusion that appeasing Islamic fundamentalism is more important than cosying up to Washington. After all, as this last month has proved, you can be one of only three states with diplomatic relations with the Taliban, you can be militarily uncooperative, you can refuse to freeze Osama's assets, you can decline even to meet with Tony Blair, you can do whatever you like, and Washington will still insist you're a "staunch friend."
Even the joint Anglo-American military action must cause some mirth in Riyadh: Aside from his impressively bloody warmongering and his deflowering of (officially) 135 virgins, the principal skill of Ibn Saud, the founder of the Saudi kingdom, was his ability to drive a wedge between the British and Americans and play them off against each other. Many regimes have attempted to do this, but in the modern era none has pulled it off with the flair of Saudi Arabia's first king.
Both countries miscalculated: As the dominant power in Arabia between the wars, the British reckoned they didn't need Ibn Saud, whom they regarded as an unstable thug next to the preferred Hashemite kings they installed in Transjordan and Iraq. The Americans, lacking any other clients in the region, were flattered by Ibn Saud's eagerness to be their friend. He figured, quite correctly, that he'd have greater access in Washington than he would in London. So, in 1933, just a year after founding his kingdom, he signed his first oil contract with the U.S. and eventually gave them a monopoly on leases.
The result has been a spectacular transformation. A century ago, Ibn Saud was a desert warrior of no fixed abode. Today the House of Saud has approximately 7,000 members. In our own Royal Family, the title of Prince is restricted to children or grandchildren of the Sovereign: HRH The Duke of Kent, the grandson of King George V, is a Prince; his heir, the Earl of Ulster, being a mere great-grandson of a king, is not. But Saudi Arabia produces about 40 new princes a month. Chances are, while you're reading this, some hapless female member of the House of Saud is having contractions. Because if there's one thing Saudi Arabia can always use, it's another prince. The family hogs all the cabinet posts, big ambassadorships and key government agencies and owns all the important corporations: that takes a lot of princes. Public service in Saudi Arabia is an expensive business because salary is commensurate with Royal status: cabinet ministers can earn over US$6-million (base).
This isn't some quaint ancient culture that the U.S. was forced to go along with, but rather one largely of its own creation. American know-how fueled Saudi Arabia's rapid transformation from reactionary feudal backwater into the world's most technologically advanced and spectacularly wealthy reactionary feudal backwater. They've still got beheadings every Friday, but the schedule is computerized. As Ibn Saud told Colonel William Eddy, the first U.S. minister to Saudi Arabia in 1946, "We will use your iron, but you will leave our faith alone."
The "stability" junkies in D.C. still like the deal, but others are beginning to mull over the likely shape of a post-Saud Arabia. "How about we tell the Palestinians they can have Saudi Arabia if they'll move and leave the Israelis alone? The Palestinians are hard working and entrepreneurial," writes Virginia Postrel, "unlike the Saudis" -- which is true: The economy is mostly dependent on the six million foreign workers, who make up a quarter of the population. "The Palestinians aren't going to get Jerusalem," she points out. "Maybe they'd settle for Mecca and Medina." Professor Glenn Reynolds, whose Instapundit.com is having the best war of any Internet site (the guy seems to update it 22 hours a day: never mind having a night out, he barely takes bathroom breaks), prefers the idea of restoring the Hashemites -- the traditional rulers of the Hejaz and the ones the Brits had in mind for a pan-Arabic kingdom until Ibn Saud started slaughtering his way to the top. Reynolds' point is well-taken. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was a political afterthought -- Churchill, as Colonial Secretary, used to say he created the nation in an afternoon's work -- but generally it has proved more benign than its neighbours. It's possible to foresee (admittedly some way down the road) Jordan evolving into a modern constitutional monarchy, but not the decadent, bloated, corrupt House of Saud. It's not a question of if the Royal Family will fall, but when. Even if they were really the "good friend" Washington insists they are, their treatment of women, the restrictiveness of the state religion and their ludicrous reliance on government by clan make it impossible for the Saudi monarchy to evolve into anything with a long-term chance of success. By backing and enriching Ibn Saud's swollen progeny, the U.S. has put all its eggs into one basket case.
If Washington wasn't thinking about these things before Sept. 11, I hope it is now. America may be the engine of the global economy, but Saudi Arabia is the gas tank, producing more oil more easily than anywhere else on earth. Without Saudi oil, the USAF wouldn't be able to fly from Missouri to the end of the runway. So, if King Fahd's playboy princes are really paying off terrorists, it's time to make sure they get with the program or get off the stage. Newt Gingrich recently said that victory in this war would be defined by new governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the long run, we need to add Saudi Arabia to that list.
-- Anonymous, October 16, 2001
Prolly true - when others suggest that the Saudis are 'moderate' or our friends a grimace immediately occurs...for they are clearly neither. They have lengthy history of being among the most dedicated to fundamental Islamic traditions, beliefs & causes...perhaps worthy among Muslims, but not exactly helpful or useful in minimizing disharmony between differing cultures.
-- Anonymous, October 16, 2001