While George Bush was expressing intimacy and friendship with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Abdullah, there were some other Riyadh-related items in the news:
* Forty Pakistanis were arrested April 21 for practicing Christianity.
* One of Abdullah's entourage was denied entry into the United States because he was on a no-fly list of suspected terrorists.
* The chief justice of Saudia Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council was caught on tape "encourag[ing] young Saudis to go to Iraq to wage war against Americans."
Did these issues come up in bilateral discussions? We'll probably never know; unlike other world leaders who visit Crawford, Abdullah is protected from having to answer questions from the American press. (We wouldn't want to be culturally insensitive, don'tcha know.) And the Americans sure didn't sound like they were busting his chops. "I would rate the trip a success in terms of relationship-building," U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James Oberwetter told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "The two countries regard their relationship as an essential relationship, so they want to make it as smooth as possible."
Oberwetter, just like his predecessor, is a Texas oilman with ties to the Bush family and business experience in the Mideast. In a Feb. 14 Cox News Service profile, the American ambassador uttered this remarkable statement, one that I hope (against experience) we will be able to look back on some day, and laugh:
"Saudis aren't all terrorists. They have a lot (of qualities) that Americans admire, especially Texans. They believe strongly in family values. They are very religious. They are proud. They are also conservative," Oberwetter said. "These are values Texans can understand."