Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Who the [expletive] do these guys think they are, anyway?

Well, the BBC has chosen to enlighten us with an exclusive interview with Prince Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Tremendous.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has said that any unilateral military action by the US would appear as an "act of aggression".

as distinct, presumably from Saddam Hussein's acts against the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs, and all the appalling acts of terrorism throughout the world that have been funded by Saudi oil money.

"Independent action in this, we don't believe is good for the United States," he told the BBC's world affairs editor John Simpson at a meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo. It would encourage people to think... that what they're doing is a war of aggression rather than a war for the implementation of the United Nations resolutions."

Saudi Arabia has been a longstanding ally of the US, but relations since the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington have been strained. The majority of the 19 suicide hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, whose government has been accused in Washington political circles of not doing enough to counter Islamic fundamentalism among its population.

Some of us would accuse the entire nation of Saudi Arabia of being a dreadful festering sore on the face of the earth that is fundamentally the core of the problem, rather than just "not doing enough", but that interpretation would be, well, aggressive.

Prince Saud added that if an attack on Iraq was sanctioned by the UN Security Council, it would not be considered an aggression.

Ah, splendid. The UN gives the Saudis a back door with which they can say later that they were really in favour of the attack, but just not the American procedure by which they went about it, and that they are still allies after all. I think this is quite frankly easier argument than the "People we funded and supported attacked New York and Washington and murdered 3000 people, but we are still really your friends" argument they managed before. They are experts at this kind of thing. That said, I am not sure how a UN resolution (or not) makes bombing Iraq any more or less aggressive.

Regime change would lead to the destruction of Iraq, and would threaten to destabilise the entire Middle East region, Prince Saud said.

This is as distinct from the way it is now? We have the tremendously stable Islamic Republic of Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq in which Kurds are murdered in the North and Shia Muslims in the south, and in which the only moderating factor is the American enforced no-fly zones, we have Saudi Arabia, which somehow manages to allow its oil money to fund terrorism throughout the world, and we have Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Israel. Heaven forbid we should destabilise this region.

For the last half century, the American oil industry and their friends in the CIA and the State department have cosied up to the Saudi elite in order to buy their oil, and have turned a blind eye to what a wretched and disgusting place the Kingdom is. Even now, I hear some suggestions (links via Andrew Sullivan) that rather than attempting to create some kind of a coherent modern state in Iraq, these organisations simply want to prop up some replacement, initially more American friendly (and acceptable to the Saudis) dictator in Iraq, so that they can "maintain stability" in the rest of the region. In the long term all this will do is cause more resentment and more anti-Americanism and anti-Westernism. What is actually necessary is for something resembling a modern nation to be created in Iraq. This means democracy. This means civil society. This means a society in which Iraqis can actually enjoy life. And once we have this, the contrast with Saudi Arabia will be obvious. That is what scares the Saudis - that their stinking, oppressive country will be revealed for what it is. And that once this is happened, either the Americans will continue the war, or the country will collapse under its own vileness. And if Iraq has been liberated, the West will actually be able to afford to allow this.

However, word is also that the Pentagon, much of Congress, and much of the Bush adminstration does not want to prop up another dictator. President Bush has at times in his life been an oil man, and comes from a family of oil men. His vice President also comes from that culture. The question is whether he himself can resist the innate tendency that these people seem to have to be friendly to the Sauds. This may be one of the biggest tests of his presidency. I am cautiously optimistic, but we must wait and see.

If the choice is you destroy Iraq in order to get Saddam Hussein, it is a self-defeating policy, isn't it? I mean, you destroy a country to get a person out - it doesn't work

The trouble with Iraq is fundamentally that it is a created nation. It is a mixture of relatively incompatible ethnic groups. Nation building is not going to be easy, but the status quo is a catastrophe. It isn't just about removing one man, but removing the institutions that make it such an awful place. If the "country" is the institutions for dictatorship and oppression, then the country needs to be destroyed, in the same way that the Soviet Union needed to be destroyed.

"If change of regime comes with the destruction of Iraq, then you are solving one problem and creating five more problems.
"That is the consideration that we have to make, because we are living in the region. We will suffer the consequences of any military action."

Indeed. America might look at Saudi Arabia, conclude that now that it has a base in Iraq it no longer needs to even pretend that Saudi Arabia is a friend, and then Saudi Arabia might really suffer the consequences of aiding, abetting, and funding terrorism. Heaven forbid.

Regime change can only be a possibility if it is done "indigenously", he said. There has never been in the history of the world a country in which a regime change happened at the bayonets of guns that has led to stability."

Oh yes. Absolutely correct. The Americans caused no end of catastrophe and instability when they effected regime change by force in Germany and Japan in 1945. At least they managed to restrain themselves and not invade Spain at the same time. If they had done that, the Spanish might also have had to suffer an extra 30 years of democracy and freedom. How terrible that would have been.

"Our worry is the new emerging fundamentalism in the United States and in the West. Fundamentalism in our region is on the wane. There, it's in the ascendancy. That's the threat."

Oh yes. An unholy alliance between the decadent house of Saud and the medieval Wahhabist strain of Islam, in which the Sauds buy off the fundamentalist clerics with oil money by spreading anti-Americanism throughout their country, and then the clerics then use the money to spread their poisonous hate to the mosques of the world is in fact a tea party, compared to to the rising fundamentalism that is ascendant in the United States and the West. As the Saudi population explodes and there is less and less oil money per person to go around, there are absolutely no new angry young potential fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia. The problem is in decline and is going away.

And my goodness, they have open debate in the West. They allow women to drive cars, and to actually uncover their hair. And they actually allow homosexual people fundamentalist and immoral lives, rather than stoning them to death (along with rape victims) like all decent people do. Westerners actually get pissed off and want to retaliate when people attack Washington. They want to retaliate when the Wahhabists' medieval warriors murder 3000 Americans. What appalling, appalling fundamentalism that is.

The full interview can be seen on BBC World from Wednesday and on Simpson's World on BBC News 24 this weekend (1130 GMT on Saturday, 0230 GMT on Sunday, 1430 GMT on Sunday, 0030 GMT on Monday).

My thanks to the BBC for providing the enemy with a forum in which they can be interviewed softly and easily and without any great questioning of their ridiculous claims.

Actually, I don't think I can quite bear to watch it.

To paraphrase Glenn Reynolds.

Saudi princes. I hate these guys.

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