Dissent's a Bitch, Huh?


From the Dept. of Boo-fuckity-hoo:

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has complained that criticism in the US is harming Saudi efforts to fight terror.

Prince Saud al-Faisal blamed parts of the US media for demonising Saudi Arabia, citing several recent books which said it nurtured extremism. [?]

"It is ironic that those who most vociferously attack Saudi Arabia are unwittingly serving the purposes of al-Qaeda," Prince Saud said.

"The attacks lead to undermining a country that is probably most capable of not only waging the war against [al-Qaeda], but also in preventing them spreading their cultist ideology in the Islamic world."

That's our Saudi Arabia—preventing the spread of Islamic hate-cults! Actually the irony here is that Bush Administration diplomats basically agree. Robert Jordan, a Dallas oil guy who was ambassador to Saudi Arabia from Oct. 2001 to Oct. 2003 (and replaced by another Dallas oil guy, Jim Oberwetter), gave this snippy little warning to American critics of Saudi oppressors back in 2002:

If we strike out blindly against perceived enemies and undermine the ability of our friends to work with us against the scourge of global terrorism, we will have a lot to answer for. ? Do we agree with the Saudis on every issue? No, of course not. If that were the criterion for friendship with the United States, we wouldn't have a friend in the world.

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  1. It’s ok if they clamp down on democracy and support the preaching of hate, because every once in a while, they swat a fly for us. We need to support the House of Saud, but Hugo Chavez, now HE’S a threat to our security.

    Damn Bush oil whores.

  2. joe: What are you talking about? The oil is where the similarities between Venezeula and Saudi Arabia end. Venezuela is a constitutional democracy. Saudi Arabia – well you know the rest. I hope.

  3. The Bush administration has worked to topple the Chavez government, which poses no threat to us other than possibly reducing profits for oil companies and slightly increasing the cost of gasoline. That same adminstration has performed what zoologist call “presenting” in its dealings with the Saudis, whose activities clearly pose a threat to the lives of Americans.

    The dissimilarity between the two countries is rather my point.

  4. The media pretty well toes the administration line on Venezuela, too. Last month when Chavez threatened to cut off oil in the event of a U.S. invasion or coup attempt, the cable news headline was “Chavez Threatens Bush.” Yeah, threatening to fight back–that’s pretty harsh, all right.

    One of my beefs with Kerry (whom I intend to vote for, despite his being a douchebag) is that he criticized Bush for not being TOUGH ENOUGH on Chavez. The freeper types who think mainstream Democrats are “dovish” on national security issues must be living in a McGovern time-warp.

  5. Saudi Arabia does not work like a Western nation state. There is nothing resembling the rule of law or other formalisms. There is nothing resembling our political institutions.

    Politically the country is nothing but a collection of factions based on family and religion. No government official in SA can give an order to any theoretically subservient official and expect it to be obeyed. He must give the order to specific individual within a specific faction. Nothing gets done without endless discussions and the development of a broad consensus. The Saudi government can’t fight terrorism because by our standards they don’t actually govern the country.

    The House of Saud doesn’t so much rule the country as manage it. They have survived to the present by setting faction against faction and by paying internal danegeld. They tried to exile the worst of the lot. From their prospective, they have a tiger by the tail. Traditionally, the stablist within the US government have supported this strategy to protect the flow of oil.

    But eventually this strategy will fail catastrophically. From the American perspective, it already has. The country must eventually have a responsible government. We might as well lance this boil sooner rather than later.

  6. Shannon-

    When you say “lance this boil” are you suggesting invasion or some other forcible “regime change” in Saudi Arabia? If not, then what are you suggesting?

    I agree 100% that a freer and better-governed SA would be a VERY VERY VERY GOOD THING. I just wonder how wise it would be to pursue that end via American force. Actions have consequences, and not all of them are intended or desirable.

  7. “The Bush administration has worked to topple the Chavez government”

    I guess this is where my questions should begin. First.

    1) What?
    2) No, really, What?

  8. The story’s just too funny to really comment on seriously. Like… who does he think he’s kidding? Oh, you’re right Your Majesty, I’m sorry. It wasn’t you exporting Wahhabism for years with billions of dollars of funding flowing around the world to set up extremist mosques. It was us. Sorry! And you’re right, the Jews told us to.

  9. Brennan,

    We provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the political opponents of Chavez. Along with approving of the brief overthrow of Venezuala’s democratically elected government, there’s even evidence that administration officials encouraged the plotters to go through with it.


    “That same adminstration has performed what zoologist call “presenting” in its dealings with the Saudis, whose activities clearly pose a threat to the lives of Americans.”

    That’s a fucking hilarious way of putting it. I can’t promise I won’t steal it.

  10. The Saudi people hate us a lot more than the Saudi government does. We should support the current Saudi government simply because there is absolutely no chance of replacing it with anything preferable.

  11. thoreu,

    We won’t have to invade. Saudi Arabia is a soap bubble, an artificial construct created by the West. SA not only relies on the West for military protection, but for banks, food, technical talent virtually everything. Their only power lays in their threat to go crazy and burn their own house down and take the oil field infrastructure with them. They are so dependent on western institutions that their soap bubble can be popped at anytime by non-violent means.

    Since 9/11 we have gradually ratcheted up the pressure on SA mostly by restricting their access to the western banking system. The country is currently under going unprecedented levels of internal violence. Its a slow motion civil war. The clans outside of the power circle are starting to actively rebel. Various factions have begun to attack actual SA targets (instead of just Westerns within the country). The place is starting to come apart.

  12. Shannon-

    I’m not a fan of the House of Saud, nor am I a fan of the way we support it. But I’m not sure I’d relish the idea of the whole place descending into chaos either. I don’t claim to know what the solution is (maybe there’s no solution, at least no solution involving US action), I just know that I’m not thrilled by the prospect of the place descending into chaos. I believe that’s sort of what Bin Laden is hoping for, incidentally.


    If Shannon’s analysis is correct, and the Saudi regime is kept in place by Western support, then the fact that the Saudi people are anti-American might have something to do with Western support for that corrupt regime.

    I don’t claim to know what the solution to any of this is. If I were a little more gung-ho on the isolationism I’d simply start yammering that “If we had just minded our own business way back in [insert some date from decades ago here] this would all be fine!” but that doesn’t help with the present day situation. I don’t know what would help with the present day situation. I just know that I’m not enamored of the House of Saud, but neither am I eager to see the place descend into chaos.

    Bleak thoughts.

  13. A year or so ago I had to teach a lesson on “propaganda” to my high-school students. Wanting to find something very obvious and in-your-face, I checked out Arab News, “Saudi Arabia’s English-language daily.” There on the opinion page I found an essay explaining, in “rational, scientific” terms, why Jews are inferior to everybody else on Earth. (The one part I remember is that they were “chosen” by God to spread their religion through the world, but since Judaism is the smallest major religion they are therefore a failure.)

    I didn’t show the essay to my students, of course, but I DID think, “Good God! If this is what they write for consumption by English-speaking Westerners, just IMAGINE what kind of vitriol they spew in their own country!”

    Since then I have tried to find the essay again, and print it out, but have had no luck.

  14. Jennifer,
    As “one of them” I’m privy to a lot of the stuff that is censored for Western consumption (at least conversationally, I’m functionally illiterate in Arabic). I’m pretty moderate in the Israel-Palestine debate, though I tend to sympathize more with the Palestinian cause, if not their tactics. Yet, I am all but a Zionist because I find the tactics morally reprehensible and think that both sides are at fault. Not to mention the belief that the J.E.W.S. are responsible for 9-11 is still popular (thankfully, not in my family).

    The belief that the Jews rule the world is pretty popular because, and I quote, “Why would the US support Israel when it would be in their interests to support the Palestinians and get cheap oil and reduce terrorism?” Of course, I love to counter, “Why don’t the Arab countries just let Israel do what they want since they won’t take on Palestinian refugees? It would make them look better in the eyes of the US, reduce involvement in the area and increase aid.”

    Admittedly, I’ve never heard anything as extreme as the scientific proof that Jews are inferior. Most of the anti-Semitism I hear is low level. Sadly, there’s always some intelligent discussion intermixed with the vile stuff (things like, “Why aren’t Jews more suspicious of end times fanatics that only want them to go to Israel to convert or die?”). The fact that these otherwise intelligent, well-spoken people can have some of these vile thoughts only make it worse. Thank God my family, especially my mom’s side, is far more enlightened than most Arabs in this regard.

    You can tell I was quite the favorite of the school marms at my Sunday religious schools. In fairness, my family (and other Muslims I know) would prefer I marry a Jew than an atheist like you, Jen, a Buddhist or a Hindu. You know that whole pagan/infidel thing. I’m convinced that my mom becomes deaf the second I tell her that I’m not Muslim.

  15. From the Dept. of Boo-fuckity-hoo:

    You know, we should actually *have* an official Department of Boo-fuckity-hoo. They could field Saudi complaints of internal strife, Palestinian complaints about the wall, Puerto Rican complaints about the closure of the Vieques base… the possibilities are endless.

  16. ” If I were a little more gung-ho on the isolationism I’d simply start yammering that “If we had just minded our own business way back in [insert some date from decades ago here] this would all be fine!” but that doesn’t help with the present day situation.”

    To do my best impression of the thoreauian irono-post:

    Yelling that if we had just minded our own business decades ago is the PERFECT solution to all of the world’s problems. We would have no enemies, Islamic crazies would love us and our wacky western ways one the Jews were all in the ocean, and the world would be a better place under the thumb of the KGB. There would be no suffering at our hands, and while we watch others suffer we could bask in the righteousness that only comes from minding your own business.

    Back to reality …

    I am very glad to read a single other person in these parts who at least acknowledges that wistful sighs and a healthy dose of fantasy concerning the powers of disengagement do not a foreign policy make.

  17. I dunno, Dan. I’m afraid the unelected Secretary of Boo-Fuckity-Hoo would accumulate too much power that should, really, be left to Congress or reserved to the people …

  18. Mo-
    For what it’s worth, your mom probably wouldn’t want you to marry me even if I converted to Islam AND could prove male-line descent back to Mohammed, because I’m a lousy housekeeper with no desire to turn in-laws into grandparents. I AM a pretty good cook, but my best recipes all seem to involve pork.

    But back to the topic: I wonder if Faisal really believes what he’s saying, or is it a knowing lie told for the benefit of the folks back home? Does he really believe that the terrorist attacks in Arabia itself are spurred by people listening to American anti-Saud propaganda? And, at the risk of sounding flippant, I wonder how much Saudi rage would dissipate if the Kingdom would end its revolting gender segregation and allow young Saudi males to meet and hang out with girls? I think a lot of that rage may just be warped, repressed sexual urges.

    I read an article once which made the analogy that Palestinians are to Arabs as Jews are to modern Christians: a despised minority, viewed as more intellectual and resented because of it. . .well, actually that’s all of the analogy I remember.

  19. Jennifer,
    A lot of the Saudi sexual rage is let out … in the form of homosexuality. I’ll give you a second to let the irony soak in. That’s one of the (many) dirty secrets of Saudi Arabia and is a common joke behind closed doors. It’s like Catholic priest jokes here.

    Though it isn’t fair to say that sexual repression is the cause of the rage. My brother spent a year abroad and one of the first things he said is “The girls out there aren’t as much of prudes as you would have thought.” Women dress pretty hot and sexy, especially by the pools and beaches and the girls are gorgeous. Granted, Egypt is one of the more liberal countries as far as women and men go, but it’s also the hotbed of Arab nationalism and Islamist terrorists groups. The sexual repression doesn’t help things, but it’s not that big a deal.

    P.S. Mmmmm, pork. One of the benefits of leaving Islam was discovering the wonderful world of bacon.

  20. A lot of the Saudi sexual rage is let out … in the form of homosexuality.

    Homosexuality should read homosexuality and pedophilia. I do not mean to equate the two.

  21. Yep the sexual repression leads to homosexuality. Teenagers start to have feelings and there are no one of the opposite sex around and those feelings have to go somewhere. The same effect happens in Utah because of the Mormons. SA is like a giant gay bar, there are no women to meet anywhere you go.

    I don’t think that the sexual repression is the reason for the terrorism. I think the cause for the sexual repression is the same as the cause for terrorism, I have not nailed it yet, but I think it has something to do with a misplaces sense of pride.

    Saudi Arabia is going to come unraveled anyways. Well it will probably become unraveled and have a violent war ending up in a new Taliban.

    Saudi Arabia is becoming more and more moderate albeit very slowly. That is really irritating a lot of people. The head guy is progressive and pro western, but most the other royalty is not. And from what I gather about 51% of the population thinks SA is too liberal already. Some speculate that the terrorism in SA is covertly from one prince against another, and that soon there will be a full blown war.

    I think that no matter who is in charge they will have to figure out how to keep getting us the Oil. They will starve to death without oil money to pay foreigners to do all the work needed to keep their society going.

  22. Shannon Love, good job expaining the situation in SA.

  23. So I was at a house with my secret girlfriend, and we were watching arabic MTV, and it was a video with Bush and Sharon, and planes going into the twin towers.

    The video was showing what monsters those two are, and how pathetic the leaders of arab nations are. And I think the video was talking about how 911 was a jewish conspiracy. And everyone in the room was looking at me because I was the only American.

    So I said that it was a ridiculous conspiracy theory, and that to have the 4000 jews that were supposedly in the building keep a secret was ridiculous. We can’t even have people in the white house keep secrets.

    But it was a losing argument. They were convinced that jews control America, they own all banks and the media.

    When I returned to base, and I laughed about the subject with my fellow Americans, they all agreed that the 911 conspiracy was ridiculous, but most of them believed that the jews do indeed control America. So I guess it is not just an Arab myth. The Arabs are just a little more vitriolic about it because of the whole Palestinian thing.

  24. Shannon,
    Good explanation. Part of the reason they need to import so much foreign expertise is because of the educational system. Everyone gets a free college education (anywhere in the world, I believe), but because there is little cultural respect for science and human advancement. So a lot of people get degrees in religion and other assorted crap. As a result there’s a high level of unemployment and dissent and very little technical expertise to run their own oil fields, which only further fuels resentment. SA is bad, but it could be much, much worse (as scary as that sounds).

    This is why keeping religion out of government is good. Religion, by it’s very nature, is backwards looking and traditional. While this serves well to ground a society and keep it from overheating or changing to quickly for consequences to be recognized, it’s a bad for a society to organized around religion to the exclusion of al else. Otherwise, stagnation is sure to follow.

  25. I dunno, Dan. I’m afraid the unelected Secretary of Boo-Fuckity-Hoo would accumulate too much power that should, really, be left to Congress or reserved to the people.

    Probably not Congress. I’m not sure the power to Not Give a Rat’s Ass About Other People’s Problems is among the enumerated powers of Congress, actually. 🙂

  26. Interesting…if we criticize the people who have been funding terrorism for decades, we’re supporting the terrorists. So, by that logic, if we support the people who have been funding terrorism for decades, we’d be fighting terrorism. Hm.

  27. The behavior of most middle eastern governments friendly to the United States and the United Kingdom are relative to that of the child refusing to do something specific because their parents want them to do it.

    “Go to your room!” – Mother
    “No. I won’t do it because you said so.” – Child

    “Crack down on the financing of terrorism.” – United States
    “No. Not until you stop telling us to. We don’t want to look like US lackeys in the eyes of our region even though its understood we really are.”

    Prince al-Faisal is basically sounding the call for the Jews to stop writing critical books about them.

  28. Doesn’t the existance of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict disprove the idea that Jews control America? If the Jews controlled America, the Palestinians would have lost long ago. I mean, come on! Jews control the most powerful nation in history and they can’t even properly defend their homeland?

    About Venezuela:
    That nation used to be a constitutional democracy. Chavez has used his office to rewrite their constitution to give him dictatorial power, basically eliminating democracy from that country.

  29. The State Dept.’s recognizing a “new government” while the soon-to-be-failed-coup was still going on was enough in my book.

    Out of curiousity — why shouldn’t we have recognized the coup?

    I see no particular reason to favor a dictator over a collection of coup plotters, or vice-versa. When given two bad choices, a government should pick the one that is best for its own people.

  30. Les said, “We provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the political opponents of Chavez. Along with approving of the brief overthrow of Venezuala’s democratically elected government, there’s even evidence that administration officials encouraged the plotters to go through with it.”

    “We” as in the United States Government?
    Define “political opponents of Chavez”? Chavez defines them as anyone that doesn’t agree with him even if he’s rewriting the Venezuelan constitution.

    Joe and now you are saying this, but I’m still not hearing it. Can you offer some evidence to support these statements?

  31. The State Dept.’s recognizing a “new government” while the soon-to-be-failed-coup was still going on was enough in my book.

    Look, I don’t the receipt for the crates of AR-15s or anything, but I’ve seen this before. It walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, and Otto Reich called in “Daffy.”

  32. Chavez was elected, and can be voted out. This is not just an ethical reason to support him, but a hard headed realist one. Unless you don’t think there is any difference between the type of government likely to result from established democratic processes, and those likely to result from coups d’etat, it is clearly better for us to see peaceful, democratic changes in power occur in countries with whom we have close geographic and economic ties.

    Look at Argentina: don’t you agree that it would have been in Britain interest to foster democracy and oppose takeovers by force?

  33. I nominate Dan for Assistant Secretary for Hoo.

  34. You can’t argue with joe about this kind of stuff. He goes all weak in the knees when it comes to Castroites like Chavez.

  35. Fuck Chavez. I hope they vote that bullet head by a landslide. Whatever good he’s done could have been done better by a liberal.

    It’s democracy and civil order than make me weak in the knees.

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