Friday, August 12, 2005

The Bush relationship to the Saudi family

Robert Scheer for the Los Angeles Times, reprinted in Common Dreams:

The only evidence you need that President Bush is losing the "war on terror" is this: On Sunday, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia said that relations with the United States "couldn't be better."

Tell that to the parents of those who have died in two wars defending this corrupt spawning ground of violent extremism. Never mind the ugly facts: We are deeply entwined with Saudi Arabia even though it shares none of our values and supports our enemies. ...

Yes, it has stuck deep in the craw of many of us Americans that after 9/11, Washington squandered global goodwill and a huge percentage of our resources invading a country that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, while continuing to pander to this dysfunctional dynasty. After all, Saudi Arabia is believed to have paid Bin Laden's murderous gang millions in protection money in the years before 9/11, and it lavishly funds extremist religious schools throughout the region that preach and teach anti-Western jihad.

"Al Qaeda found fertile fundraising ground in the kingdom," noted the 9/11 commission report in one of its many careful understatements. The fact is, without Saudi Arabia, there would be no Al Qaeda today.

Our president loves to use the word "evil" in his speeches, yet throughout his life he and his family have had deep personal, political and financial ties with a country that represents everything the American Revolution stood against: tyranny, religious intolerance, corrupt royalty and popular ignorance. This is a country where women aren't allowed to drive and those who show "too much skin" can be beaten in the street by officially sanctioned mobs of fanatics. A medieval land where newspapers routinely publish the most outlandish anti-Semitic rants. A place where executions are held in public, torture is the norm in prison and the most extreme and expansionist version of Islam is the state religion.

It's hard to see how Saddam Hussein's brutal and secular Iraq was worse than the brutal theocracy run by the House of Saud. Yet one nation we raze and the other we fete. Is it any wonder that much of the world sees the United States as the planet's biggest hypocrite?


At 8/15/2005 01:08:00 PM, Blogger The Gnat's Trumpet said...

What is your opinion of what would have happened in Saudi Arabia if we had toppled the monarchy there instead of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein? I'm not suggesting that it was either/or or trying to discuss the merits of taking either action. I'm just interested in hearing what you think would have happened in SA had we taken that action.

At 8/15/2005 03:47:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

That's not even on the table for discussion.

I don't think the United States should go around toppling regimes that haven't attacked us - period.

More importantly, I don't think the United States should support regimes that don't share a minimum level of respect for human rights and some semblance of democratic freedoms. We now find ourselves in the difficult situation of fighting ideologies of hatred that evolved under indefensible authoritarian regimes.

At 8/15/2005 06:27:00 PM, Blogger The Gnat's Trumpet said...

Okay, what would be your policy towards the middle east and what steps would you take to further such policy? You have lots of criticisms, I just want to see if you have any answers as well. It's easy to criticize, but extremely difficult to come up with solutions.

A favorite criticism of talk show hosts, like Hannity (who I really don't like by the way, mostly because of the way he mischaracterized the holdings of the courts in Florida and the 11th District in the Schiavo matter and, in general, his point of view on social issues), is that the critics of the president are devoid of ideas. I don't think that is a true statement, but to be fair I haven't heard any ideas about the middle east from those critics of the war, except for "we should get out." My opinion is that pulling out now, regardless of how you feel about whether we should be there in the first place, would be a disaster. I recently read on a site (the link may have come from you, I don't remember) a list of the reasons for the current problems in the middle east (not surprisingly, those reasons all centered around the policies of the U.S), and one of the reasons was that the U.S. abandoned and ignored Afghanistan after it was no longer useful in the struggle against the Soviet Union. Well leaving Iraq now would be similar to abandoning Afghanistan then.

Anyway, I've lost track of my point, which was that I would like to hear what you think should be done in the middle east by the U.S.

At 8/16/2005 04:16:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

My approach to the Middle East?

It's all about the oil and the Zionists.

Saudi Arabia sponsors terrorism. The United States should call a spade a spade and 1) support democratic forces in Saudi Arabia, and 2) undertake a publicity campaign throughout the Middle East that the United States supports democracy (not the doublespeak permanent bases in Iraq kind of "democracy." This would help enormously to win over at least the moderates in the Middle East. Notwithstanding my profound appreciation of the justification for why a Jewish state was needed, my own belief is that the State of Israel should never have been permitted. Okay, so the United States turned Jews away from Europe in WWII. I know. Would it ever happen again. I doubt it. Is the United States becoming the sort of fascist state that likes to pick on minority groups? Hmmm.... It's not an issue that has a happy compromise. Nevertheless, the United States should also call a spade a spade with regard to Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Yes, I know, everyone hates Israel in the Middle East (back to my argument against the creation of Israel). Bulldozing Palestinian homes and stealing olive groves from Palestinian families that have lived in the West Bank for centuries is shameful and should be resoundingly condemned by the President. I applaud President Bush for his courage to say that settlement activity should stop (although I don't credit Bush for coming up with the idea - being the dolt that he is). He has failed, however, to back his statements with any threat of a "stick" (e.g., *actually* withdrawing U.S. funding of the shell game that sponsors settlement ("housing") activity. The great tragedy is that a great horde of those settlers are expatriate Americans who cling to the dream of millenia that they would one day return to Israel, and that God wills it. So do many evangelical Christians in the U.S. who secretly hope for Armageddon when, they hope, they'll have bullied and killed enough Muslims in the world to prepare the way for Jesus Christ to return, for the heavens to open, and for them to be carried up into the sky in The Rapture.

The oil: President Bush was probably the best guy to do the job after 9/11 that needed to be done. But he's not a man of educated courage. He's a yes man in the pay of oil companies. HE SHOULD HAVE SAID NO TO THE OIL COMPANIES, AND HE SHOULD HAVE SAID NO TO ALL THE FRIGGIN' SUV-DRIVING AMERICANS!!! A guy whose family has deep ties to the oil business was the best guy to buck conventional practices. But Bush is barely capable of reading his script, much less think for himself. There is absolutely no justification after 9/11 for not realizing that sickness that pervades our society, and which infects the world. WE NEED TO DIMINISH OUR RELIANCE UPON OIL. Note, I'm not saying just foreign oil. I'm saying ALL oil. We need to come up with better solutions. We'll always need oil for some things (like airplanes), but there is absolutely no reason why we can't have a railway bill (not a highway bill) that invests $200 billion in the creation of MODERN mass transit systems like the ones Europeans enjoy, and some more enlightened cities like Washingon, D.C. There is absolutely no reason why we can't create raise CAFE standards and create incentives to get the lazy U.S. car companies to make the move to hybrids. There is ABSOLUTELY no friggin' reason why we can't have more of an economy based on solar and wind power. An idea I came up with years ago is one that Arnold Schwarzenegger is now backing - investing in solar cells installed on rooftops. This has a fourfold benefit. It creates an enormous job market to install the things. It takes homes partially or wholly off of the electricity network. Scales of economy help bring down the costs of solar panels to future consumers. It helps lessen the reliance upon oil. And finally (this makes five), it helps with the global warming problem, pollution and waste disposal by moving the economy toward a renewable source of energy. When Enron was raping California electricity consumers (and the Bush administration was looking the other way), a huge movement largely based in San Franscisco starting installing panels that proved this to be a viable strategy.

Does the United States bear all of the blame for problems in the Middle East?

Of course not. But the American experiment was uniquely built upon an ideal of creating a better society. That's why we're so hard on ourselves when the rhetoric of our leaders, and their actions, don't mesh with our democratic and humanitarian ideals. I'm no Middle East expert, although, as a history major in college, I was certainly exposed to enough to have a reasonable clue that western actions in the region were deplorable historically. I direct your attention to the following resource that outlines in a very cursory manner the role Britain in particular has played in Saudi Arabia - the divide and conquer strategy of pitting ethnic rivals against one another was repeated throughout the "British empire."

Would you agree with the following argument:

1) The ordinary Saudi knows that his country is the largest oil producer in the world, yet at the same time Saudis suffer from high taxes and poor services.

2) Saudi Arabia has become a colony of the United States.

If you do, you might be a supporter of Osama bin Laden (same article referenced above), or you might just be a supporter of the principles of sovereignty and popular democracy.

You suggested that "the U.S. abandoned and ignored Afghanistan after it was no longer useful in the struggle against the Soviet Union." True, but the first mistake was to support jihadist Muslims in the first place. One of the reasons I give Carter low marks is that he was just as much a cold warrior as was Reagan - unnecessarily so, I believe. Blowback (as we learn over and over again) is part or even most of the source of problems the U.S. has to deal with around the world. Should the United States have intervened in Afghanistan in some other way? I don't know. It doesn't much matter now. Certainly the first Bush, and later Clinton, should accept blame for not disarming the mujahadeen and helping Afghanistan transition to some sort of stable society.

"Leaving Iraq now would be similar to abandoning Afghanistan then."

Yes, I agree. I also say we never should have friggin' gone in there. Can you at least agree with that?

Bush needs to stop being a friggin' sissy boy, admit his mistake, admit that he shouldn't have fired General Shinseki, and put the troops in there that we need to secure the country, train Iraqi forces, and get the hell out of there. But, as we all know, the goal isn't really to leave. The goal is to maintain a very large presence in Iraq in perpetuity. Hey, the Corps of Engineers is now building an office there that will support the largest contingent of U.S. Corps personnel anywhere in the world. Why - once again, it's all about the oil. Back to square one.

I've made plenty of comments elsewhere that express my views on the Middle East for you to find if you need more. Stay tuned. I'm sure I'll have more.

At 8/16/2005 04:21:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

By the way, I should add my belief that the only way to fix all of the things I have mentioned is to get rid of the people who keep lying about the situation. And I don't think we need to wait until 2008.


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