Prince Bandar In A Can

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Craig "House of Bush, House of Saud" Unger and the Council on Foreign Relations' Rachel Bronson, who is said to be writing a book on U.S.-Saudi relations, debate the special relationship in a Slate dialogue that may be interesting enough to make it worth enduring the mutual congratulations these dialogues always seem to involve. ("After months on the talk show circuit, it's a rare pleasure to encounter someone who is not from the Jerry Springer school of politics," Unger says.) I haven't read Unger's book and don't know anything about him, but since his name always seems to inspire an eye-rolling oh him! gesture, I think I'm supposed to be suspicious of him. So far, both debaters take at face value the dubious notion that the Saudi government was strongly opposed to the invasion of Iraq; Bronson rightly notes that the Bushes are not unique among presidents with strong Saudi ties, but then mentions only "many Republican administrations" (wasn't it Franklin Roosevelt who began America's longest-standing diplomatic relationship in the Middle East?); Unger makes the intriguing claim that George W. is in fact beginning to sever the family's ties to the kingdom.

What I find really unsatisfying is the discussion of the 9/13 and 9/14 flights out of the U.S. by the famous 100+ Saudi citizens. This has of course become a big gotcha claim by Michael Moore, and his opponents have come up with the gotcha counterclaims that Richard Clarke approved these evacuations and the 9/11 commission doesn't believe any of the evacuees were suspects. Both Bronson and Unger are content to argue over these terms once again. But shouldn't the burden of proof be on the government rather than its detractors? Why were a bunch of Saudis granted a privilege—civilian air travel—that at the time was being forcibly denied to every American citizen? Is there any possible concern—their personal safety, diplomatic relations, business ties—that would make such a waiver necessary?

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  1. I believe the Saudi nationals in question were not allowed to fly out until full civilain air travel was restored

  2. I believe the Saudi nationals in question were not allowed to fly out until full civilain air travel was restored

  3. I believe the Saudi nationals in question were not allowed to fly out until full civilain air travel was restored

  4. I believe the Saudi nationals in question were not allowed to fly out until full civilain air travel was restored

  5. I believe the Saudi nationals in question were not allowed to fly out until full civilain air travel was restored

  6. I believe the Saudi nationals in question were not allowed to fly out until full civilain air travel was restored

  7. maybe not.

    “The report says that the first Saudi flight took place on Sept. 14. But the first flight actually took place a day earlier, on Sept. 13, when restrictions on private planes were still in place. That means it took place when permission to fly was required from the highest levels of our government. I gave them this information months ago. Since then it has been corroborated by airport authorities in Tampa, Fla.”

  8. The report says that the first Saudi flight took place on Sept. 14. But the first flight actually took place a day earlier, on Sept. 13.

    Charter flights were allowed beginning on September 13th. The three Saudis (and two American law enforcement officers) who departed Tampa on the 13th took a charter flight to Kentucky.

  9. I read this earlier today, and I have to wonder . . . Unger refers to Bandar’s wife funding two of the 9/11 perpetrators, and strongly implies that that funding — by her and by other important Saudi nationals — isn’t necessarily as “indirect and inadvertent” as we’re supposed to believe. Or maybe I’m misreading his tone, but he sure seems to be saying that the indirectness and inadvertness is usually accompanies by a nod and a wink.

    So here’s my question: If that’s true, and if, as Unger also says, the Saudis are invested in the U.S. equity, property and other markets to the tune of $500+ plus, why in the flying fuck would they want to blow them up? If I’ve got a cool half-billion sunk into the U.S. markets, the last thing I want to do is cause those markets to tank.

  10. If that’s true, and if, as Unger also says, the Saudis are invested in the U.S. equity, property and other markets to the tune of $500+ plus, why in the flying fuck would they want to blow them up? If I’ve got a cool half-billion sunk into the U.S. markets, the last thing I want to do is cause those markets to tank.

    The last thing I want to do is fly an airplane into a building, or see anybody else do the same. Other people feel differently. Don’t pretend to look for logic where the will of God is concerned.

  11. But shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the government rather than its detractors?

    is there any proof the detractors would accept? If Clarke is standing up saying a) he made the decision, b) the decision didn’t go any higher and c) the timing seems to show that the Saudi’s left once regular airline travel resumed (see link below).

    Why were a bunch of Saudis granted a privilege?civilian air travel?that at the time was being forcibly denied to every American citizen? Is there any possible concern?their personal safety, diplomatic relations, business ties?that would make such a waiver necessary?

    Snopes has a crack at it

    The usual practice is to let at-risk nationals bug out in a hurry; witness the current expatriate exodus from Saudi Arabia.

  12. But shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the government rather than
    its detractors?

    I would think the burden of proof should be on accusers, given that
    defendants would be required, otherwise, to prove a negative. Just
    because the defendant here is the government doesn’t change things.

  13. Here’s a much more pressing question:

    Why in the hell can’t this window for the Hit & Run blog be maximized when linked pages are displayed (such as the Snopes link above)?

  14. Tim, I don’t get why you think it is so odd that the govt was willing to let Saudis — and Osama’s half-brother — out of the U.S. fucking immediately. Arab Muslims had just caused the worst death and destruction on American soil by an invading foreign group since Pearl Harbor. It was reasonable to assume tempers and passions against Arab foreign nationals were going to be, shall we say, inflamed, and some would be unburdened with discrimination of persons and actual guilt. That for some it would have been “open season” on foreign Muslims was not an unrealistic fear.

    If hordes of civilian Japanese nationals had been in America, matriculating at our colleges and etc. when Pearl Harbor happened, would it not have been right to let them promptly leave? Would they have been safe here?

    *I* think of myself as a reasoned person, but on 9/11 and shortly thereafter I was not well-disposed to any Arab foreign nationals (who have not generally taken many pains to oppose the fanaticism that feeds Al Qaeda). Had I been one of those, my top priority would have been to get out of here yesterday.

    –Mona–

  15. Mona’s point is well-taken. Also, imagine what the charges would be if Bush had ordered bin Laden’s relatives held: “But they’re just bin Laden’s relatives! He’s known to be a black sheep! How unfair and racist to hold relatives responsible!”

  16. This is idiocy of a high order, even for Tim Cavanaugh. First, the burden of proof for crackpot theories is on those claiming the crackpot theories are true. But even if the government has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, it already has, and the nonending lies regarding the whole Saudi flight “controversy” have already been thoroughly exploded.

    But that’s just normal Cavanaugh idiocy. The beyond idiotic statement is that Cavanaugh, against everyone else, all history and common sense, has decided that claiming the Saudis–who publicly opposed the war in Iraq, mind you, just to give you a slight indication of how they might have felt–that claiming the Saudi opposed the Iraq war is “dubious.”

  17. First of all, it isn’t a crackpot conspiracy, it has been proven that the flights took place, although I’m too lazy to go and find the web link (no blog weblink or anything, the airport made the statement that they happened and gave the flight details, but not the actual names of the people travelling), but I do agree on one thing with Larry, the burden of proof for conspiracy theories definitely rests with the person who claims it as truth. Imagine in NASA had to convince every nutball out there that they really did go to the moon ?!

    That being said, this isn’t really a conspiracy theory since I’m sure that it’s been proven that it really did happen. I’m still not that sure that the government has to fess up if it thinks that it did nothing wrong. If people think that the government did do wrong then it’s for them to prove in my opinion.

  18. it has been proven that the flights took place

    but which flights?
    Snopes has a whack at it

    According to snopes, Saudi nationals were only allowed to travel inside the US on the 13th and left the US on the 14th.

    What I find really unsatisfying is the discussion of the 9/13 and 9/14 flights out of the U.S. by the famous 100+ Saudi citizens. This has of course become a big gotcha claim by Michael Moore, and his opponents have come up with the gotcha counterclaims that Richard Clarke approved these evacuations and the 9/11 commission doesn’t believe any of the evacuees were suspects.

    Of course the discussion is unsatisfying, it’s never going to end since there’s a huge political axe to wield. The narrative’s been put in place, the villains have been chosen and a new grassy-knoll has been picked out.

    (my disappointment over the past several years has been to see Reason sink into the same shrill-like, humorless swamp).

    Both Bronson and Unger are content to argue over these terms once again. But shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the government rather than its detractors?

    Is there any proof the detractors would accept? Richard Clarke has publicly stated (not a “claim”) that a) he made the decision and b) the decision didn’t go any higher than him. The flight information tends (because some of it’s ambiguous) to show that Saudi’s were moved around internally on the 13th but (unambiguously?) none left until the 14th; “after the resumption of normal air traffic” (snopes).

    That just leaves the conspiracy-theorists/political-hacks shrieking from their newly turfed knoll.

    Why were a bunch of Saudis granted a privilege?civilian air travel?that at the time was being forcibly denied to every American citizen? Is there any possible concern?their personal safety, diplomatic relations, business ties?that would make such a waiver necessary?

    uhh, because when the excrement hits the rotating cooling device it’s the usual civilized practice to let the foreigners run for their lives? Since the shoe’s currently on the other foot, would anybody be happy if the Saudi’s forced the expatriate community in SA to halt-in-place?

  19. Er, actually Clarke “accepted responsibility” for the flights and said he would do it again. His 911 Commission testimony, however, made it clear that the request came somewhere out of the FBI (he didn’t know from whom), he figured they knew what they were doing and so he approved the request. To this day, nobody knows {or has said) where the request originated.

  20. The decision to approve the flights, Clarke admitted last week, had been his own. The request “didn’t get any higher than me,” he told The Hill .

    “On 9-11, 9-12 and 9-13, many things didn’t get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI,” Clarke said of the plane flight carrying bin Laden’s relatives.

    “I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again,” he added. The Saudis and bin Laden’s relatives were flown from the U.S. out of fear for their safety following the terror attacks.

    from
    When Bush Bashers Collide…

    yes, his 9/11 Commission testimony did have him talking about the “decision process” and making it sound like a committee made the decision. It’s a pity all these hearings and statements are made in “bureaucrat” or “lawyer”, even “reporter” would be an improvement.

  21. Larry’s post, ad hominem drooling and all, is of interest mainly as pathology. Whether the people involved were of interest to the FBI isn’t the question, or at least, not my question. My question is why do these people get a “privilege” that at the time was being denied to every American citizen?

    If the answer is that they needed to be protected from the Rage of the American Street, that’s horseshit. My wife is Lebanese; where was our fucking plane ticket? Her mother was visiting us at the time and had her scheduled 9/13 return flight put off by two weeks. Nobody gave her a second look during those two weeks. The entire anti-Arab backlash was a fairy tale cooked up by multicultural chicken littles.

  22. “My question is why do these people get a “privilege” that at the time was being denied to every American citizen?”

    It wasn’t denied to “every American citizen”. General Aviation traffic was suspended. Airline flights were totally grounded on September 12, but limited airport operations began all over the country on Sept. 13, the first day the Saudis were allowed to fly within the country.

    From the House Subcommittee report on the shutdown:

    On September 13, 2001, FAA, in cooperation with the National Security Council (NSC), began incrementally reopening the NAS to civilian operations, first on a flight-by-flight basis to commercial air carriers and then to other segments of the aviation industry. A detailed time line is attached (Attachment 1).

    So, to be clear here – when the Saudis first flew within the U.S. on Sept. 13, permission was already being granted all around the country for various flights. It’s an absolute fallacy that the Saudis got some super-special clearance available to no one else. On the 13th, waivers were being given to flights all around the country. The Saudis applied for one, and after it was cleared by Richard Clarke and the FBI, the waiver was granted.

    Stupid conspiracies are still stupid conspiracies even when they make your hated enemies look bad. It’s easy to be skeptical when you have no personal stake in a claim. Much harder when the conspiracy concludes something that you desperately want to believe. Just ask any JFK conspiracy nut.

  23. Here’s the complete Timeline for air traffic:

    House Transportation Timeline

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