If, as the saying once went, the road to Riyadh runs through Baghdad, there was no evidence on display during Crown Prince Abdullah's world-leader-leading second visit to President George Bush's Crawford ranch yesterday. The discussion and coverage was mostly about oil prices; some articles didn't even mention Sept. 11, and I only spotted three containing the word "Wahhabi." So much for that whole "U.S.-Saudi relationship on the rocks" storyline.
Besides making sure that all the Kingdom's 26 million oppressed subjects saw multiple images of their unelected theocrat being physically intimate with the Leader of the Free World, Bush and his pal Abdullah issued a mealy-mouthed joint statement that had this to say about domestic Saudi affairs:
While the United States considers that nations will create institutions that reflect the history, culture, and traditions of their societies, it does not seek to impose its own style of government on the government and people of Saudi Arabia. The United States applauds the recently held elections in the Kingdom for representatives to municipal councils and looks for even wider participation in accordance with the Kingdom's reform program.
That's it. Nothing, say, on the recent Saudi floggings and imprisonment of 100 men for "dancing and 'behaving like women,'" or of the continued imprisonment of three dissidents who dared call for elections and free assembly. (Note, too, how the first sentence, in addition to reeking of relativism, does not actually make sense.) Much more ink was spilled, as is the norm for these foul little gatherings, on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. What's more, the Americans came off as downright apologetic compared to the country from which sprang 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 murderers.
We must work to expand dialogue, understanding, and interactions between our citizens. This will include programs designed to increase the number of young Saudi students to travel and study in the United States; ... The United States recognizes we must exert great efforts to overcome obstacles facing Saudi businessmen and students who wish to enter the United States and we pledge to our Saudi friends that we will take on this effort.
Note the serial use of the word "must." Well, forgive me for being cranky about it, but I'll go ahead and place the speeding-up of visas for young Saudis pretty low on my things-I-must-do list.