Saudi Arabia

Bonesaw Diplomacy

How a Saudi crown prince lost U.S. lawmakers.

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Mohammed bin Salman had been crown prince of Saudi Arabia for only a few months, but he was already on his second U.S. visit. In March 2018, the young monarch (usually known as "MBS") spent three weeks on a whirlwind P.R. tour of America, meeting everyone from Jeff Bezos to Morgan Freeman.

But the trip was about more than photo ops and hobnobbing. In the month leading up to the visit, the Saudi government had retained three American law firms—David Kultgen, King & Spalding, and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman—to advise it on and lobby for a potential bilateral agreement on nuclear research. On March 7, a Canadian law firm called Gowling WLG likewise signed a $66,000-per-month contract with the Saudi government related to "the development of a civil nuclear program." (As of press time, none of these firms has responded to requests for comment.)

Saudi Arabia and the United States are engaged in negotiations over just such a program: Under a proposed plan, American companies would build nuclear reactors for the Saudi government.

On March 18, MBS told CBS News that Saudi Arabia intended to build nuclear weapons "as soon as possible" if its enemy Iran acquired them. In November, The New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence has investigated the possibility of an already existing secret Saudi nuclear weapons program.

On October 31, Sens. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.), Todd Young (R–Ind.), Cory Gardner (R–Colo.), Rand Paul (R–Ky.), and Dean Heller (R–Nev.) signed a letter stating that the negotiations "should be suspended immediately and indefinitely." In so doing, they broke from President Donald Trump, the leader of their own party, who had begun the talks.

Although the rapport between Trump and MBS is as warm as ever, congressional discontent with the crown prince has been growing. In particular, the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2 seriously damaged MBS's reputation. (Khashoggi had been an outspoken critic of the Saudi government and of MBS in particular.) In response to the slaying, members of Congress have threatened to cut off everything from military aid to atomic research cooperation.

But congressional debates, diplomatic cables, and lobbying disclosures reveal that the tensions run far deeper than one journalist's disappearance. Between an increasingly restive faction of Republicans in the Senate and Democrats—including a cohort of foreign policy skeptics—taking control of the House of Representatives in January, Saudi Arabia may have a much harder time maintaining its influence on Capitol Hill going forward. From changing energy markets to the spread of Sunni Muslim militancy worldwide, a variety of factors will force the new Congress to make hard calls about America's closest Arab ally. And that wouldn't affect just the Middle East. Lawmakers' willingness to take an increased role in shaping U.S. foreign policy could be a blow against decades of expanding executive power and long-unquestioned "national security" dogma justifying military interventions abroad.

'A Smoking Saw'

The "post-Khashoggi moment" was an opportunity for legislators "to make their displeasure known" about foreign policy trends, according to Emma Ashford, a research fellow at the Cato Institute who has written about Saudi-U.S. relations.

President Barack Obama believed that it "would be more stabilizing in the long run" to balance between Middle Eastern powers by engaging with both Iran and Saudi Arabia, says Ashford. But the Trump administration has switched to "a military-heavy approach" to root out Iranian influence abroad. This strategy is informed by Saudi leadership's belief "that Iran is the biggest problem" in the region.

"The Trump administration has really pinned their strategy of confronting Iran on Saudi Arabia," adds Kate Kizer, director of the Win Without War policy program at the Center for International Policy.

Trump was at first reluctant to confront Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi's disappearance. On October 12, the president stated, "It's in Turkey, and it's not a citizen." (Khashoggi was a U.S. green card holder.) But evidence soon mounted that the journalist had been killed and dismembered with a bonesaw by Saudi special forces waiting inside the consulate. On November 17, U.S. officials leaked the conclusions of a secret CIA report, which found that MBS likely ordered Khashoggi's murder.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's explanations changed from day to day: Khashoggi was killed by a fight he started, or a kidnapping gone wrong, or a plot by rogue elements. Members of Congress began demanding punitive measures, including sanctions on MBS himself.

On November 20, President Trump released a statement on Khashoggi: "It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event—maybe he did and maybe he didn't!" Criticizing unnamed "members of Congress," the president added that Saudi Arabia is "a great ally in our very important fight against Iran."

James Mattis, who was at the time secretary of defense, asserted during a November 28 hearing that there was no "smoking gun" in the Khashoggi murder. But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) came out of a later briefing with the CIA claiming that a "smoking saw" implicated the crown prince himself.

Congress was not pleased.

Back in February 2018, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Mike Lee (R–Utah) had proposed Joint Resolution 54, which would use the War Powers Act to withdraw U.S. support from the Saudi intervention in Yemen. It didn't get a hearing. But after the Khashoggi affair, lawmakers revisited the resolution as a tool they could use to pressure MBS even without the Trump administration's help.

Saudi Arabia had intervened in Yemen in 2015 after rebels known as the Houthis overthrew the government in Sana'a. During the final Senate floor debate around Resolution 54, Rubio said that "this fight will continue, and the reason why is pretty straightforward: The Saudis view the Houthis as agents of Iran."

Kizer calls this view a "self-fulfilling prophecy."

"It's not that [the Houthis] are an Iranian proxy; it's that they're so isolated that they're looking for outside support where they can get it," she says. Iran denies Saudi allegations that it supplies the Houthis, but U.N. investigators found in December that Houthi forces are using Iranian-made weapons shipped to Yemen after the war began.

Resolution 54 notes that America—also eager to counter Iran—has been providing "aerial targeting assistance, intelligence sharing, and mid-flight aerial refueling" to Saudi forces in Yemen. A few weeks before a scheduled vote on the measure, the Saudi military requested a freeze on U.S. aerial refueling. An unnamed Senate staffer told NBC News that it was "a means to pre-empt a potentially damaging debate" in the Senate.

American support for the Saudi-waged war doesn't sit well with some in Congress. In a February 2018 press release, Sen. Chris Murphy (D–Conn.) accused Saudi Arabia of "deliberately using disease and starvation and the withdrawal of humanitarian support as a tactic." He told the Senate in November that the blockade of Houthi-held areas has led to the deaths by starvation of 85,000 children.

As the largest cholera outbreak in recorded history unfolded in Yemen, Saudi bombers struck water treatment plants. On August 9, an airstrike using an American-made bomb killed 40 schoolkids on a field trip. "With U.S. personnel helping the Saudis pick targets, more civilians have been killed," Murphy said, "not less."

Kate Gould of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the self-described "Quaker lobby," says that a variety of groups support Resolution 54: MoveOn, FreedomWorks, Win Without War, and even the disaster relief group Oxfam.

On November 30, the Senate reopened debate on the measure. For the first time in history, the upper chamber was voting on a War Powers resolution.

"This is the only thing that guarantees that this is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people," Lee said during the final vote.

It passed 56–41, with unanimous Democratic support, on December 13. Khashoggi's name came up 24 times that day.

Because the House had narrowly voted on December 12 to table discussion of Yemen, Joint Resolution 54 did not pass before the new Congress assumed office in January. But with the Democratic takeover of the lower chamber, Saudi skeptics may soon have the votes to win—despite a well-funded Saudi influence network on Capitol Hill.

'Relevant Outreach to U.S. Officials'

The Saudi government spent $20.6 million on political activities in the United States in 2017 and 2018, making the kingdom the sixth-highest-spending foreign government in U.S. politics. We know this because the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires Americans to register their political work for foreign entities with the U.S. Department of Justice.

FARA filings made available by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) at OpenSecrets.org show the extent of Saudi activity. The only Middle Eastern state with more FARA-registered political spending was the United Arab Emirates, a federation of monarchies allied with Saudi Arabia. It spent about $30.5 million in the same period.

U.S. lobbying and P.R. firms, including the three mentioned earlier, signed 33 contracts with the Saudi government during those two years. Many of the activities they organized—such as a glitzy conference showing off Saudi technological prowess—were relatively innocuous. But registered Saudi agents also pushed for the Saudi war effort in Yemen, distributing 19 different press releases denouncing the Houthis, promoting the Saudi-led coalition, and praising Saudi "humanitarian" efforts in Yemen. Many of the press releases defended the Saudi-led siege of Hodeidah, a port city that processes 90 percent of Yemen's food and medicine imports.

At least two registered Saudi agents, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and BGR Government Affairs, have terminated their contracts with the Saudi government in response to Khashoggi's disappearance. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher was paid a lump sum of $250,000 to help block the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, a House bill that would have allowed state-owned oil companies to be sued under U.S. antitrust laws. BGR Government Affairs was pulling in $80,000 per month (plus fees) for unspecified "strategic guidance," including "relevant outreach to U.S. government officials."

The CRP says that registered Saudi agents gave $1.6 million to 2018 midterm election candidates. A recent study by Kizer's organization found 12 occasions in 2017 when registered Saudi agents donated to and contacted the same members of Congress about Saudi-related policy on the same day.

Of course, FARA filings show only the money overtly spent on influence. The Daily Beast reported in December that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has, as part of his Russia probe, discovered secret lobbying operations involving "individuals from the Emirates, Israel, and Saudi Arabia." Former Trump adviser Michael Flynn has publicly admitted to violating FARA by secretly lobbying for the Turkish government.

The Trump family has its own connections to the House of Saud, which spends lavishly at Trump hotels. The New York Times reports that Saudi officials have cultivated a personal friendship between MBS and Jared Kushner, the president's adviser and son-in-law.

Trump also claims to have secured over $110 billion in arms deals with Saudi Arabia—promises from that country's government to buy military equipment from American firms. Actual sales so far add up to only $14.5 billion, which still makes Saudi Arabia the biggest importer of American weapons.

"War profiteers of all kinds, including various defense contractors, have aggressively lobbied for more weapons to Saudi Arabia," the Friends Committee's Gould claims. Domestically, the U.S. defense industry spent $26.2 million on the 2018 elections, according to the CRP data.

Saudi Arabia funds both its arms purchases and its lobbying network from the kingdom's massive oil revenues.

American companies first discovered oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s and 1940s. Because of the importance of that oil during World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt declared Saudi security a "vital interest" of the United States. President Jimmy Carter later echoed the idea in his "Carter Doctrine."

Thanks to the growing North American shale oil industry, Cato's Ashford says, Saudi oil production is no longer as important to world markets. But the Arabian-American Oil Company, a Saudi-U.S. consortium that was bought by the Saudi government and renamed Saudi Aramco in 1980, remains the world's most profitable company, according to Bloomberg News. And some U.S. politicians are still focused on keeping cheap Saudi crude flowing.

"Oil prices getting lower," Trump tweeted on November 12. "Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let's go lower!"

'Inflaming Muslim Opinion'

The U.S. has also tried to use its relationship with Saudi Arabia to weaponize Islam against America's enemies—a policy with deadly unintended consequences for Middle Easterners and Americans alike.

The Saudi kingdom began as an 18th century alliance between the House of Saud and the Islamic revivalist Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, whose followers are sometimes known as the Wahhabis. Saudi rulers promoted ibn Abd al-Wahhab's puritanical teachings at home and abroad, especially after Saudi forces captured the holy city of Mecca in 1924.

For decades, Wahhabism served as a bulwark against secular ideologies such as Communism and pan-Arab nationalism, but starting in 1979, it also allowed the House of Saud to fight off rival Islamic movements. That year, the monarchy in Iran—another pro-U.S. petrostate—was overthrown and replaced by the theocratic Islamic Republic.

A few months later, a former Saudi soldier led an uprising in Mecca, claiming that his brother-in-law was a companion of the Messiah. The rebels were crushed, but only after killing hundreds of pilgrims and soldiers—and seriously rattling the legitimacy of the Saudi monarchy.

After an unpopular Communist government took over Afghanistan in 1978, American officials saw an opportunity for "sucking the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire" while "inflam[ing] Muslim opinion against them in many countries," according to national security memos from 1979 republished by Louisiana State University. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia set out to kill two birds with one stone: bog down the Communists with a costly conflict and shore up Saudi religious legitimacy.

Thousands of mujahedin, or holy warriors, traveled from throughout the Muslim world to fight against the Soviet troops propping up the Afghan government. They were encouraged by Saudi clergy, facilitated by Pakistani intelligence, and funded by Uncle Sam, to the tune of $700 million per year.

After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988, a Saudi-born mujahid named Osama bin Laden founded Al Qaeda, the militant group that killed more than 3,000 people on U.S. soil in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Fifteen of the 19 attackers were Saudi citizens.

When the U.S. government's 2003 investigation of the attacks found that Saudi "charities" were a major source of funding for Al Qaeda, Saudi authorities cracked down on the group's overt supporters. But previously classified diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks in 2010 suggest that U.S. officials continued to view Saudi Arabia as a major source of religious violence.

Martin R. Quinn, then consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, complained in June 2009 that "many Saudis find the US position on religious freedom hostile to the very essence and nature of Saudi Arabia, founded and maintained under the rule of the country's strict, fundamentalist interpretation of the Quran."

In December of that year, then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote that Saudi Arabia "has responded to terrorist financing concerns raised by the United States.…Still, donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."

Locals told the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, in January 2009 that preachers funded by the Saudis were indirectly causing an increase in "recruitment activities by extremist religious organizations." And when Judith Ann Chammas, now and then the U.S. chargé d'affaires in Bangladesh, visited "a growing 2,000 student Saudi-backed" religious school in 2005, she noted that its principal was promoting anti-Semitic and anti-Shi'a conspiracy theories.

The Saudi monarchy countered the pan-Islamic message of the Iranian Revolution—which was led by Shi'a clergy but sought to build an anti-U.S. alliance of Sunni and Shi'a Muslims—by emphasizing Sunni identity politics. But that approach has caused problems. According to a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, the Houthi movement's precursors were Shi'a political activists who felt "incredibly threatened" by the rise of Wahhabi preachers and their "discriminatory messages against Shiites." In other words, Saudi-backed sectarianism created the kingdom's own enemies in Yemen.

ISIS, the world's most infamous terrorist group, began as a particularly anti-Shi'a faction of Al Qaeda. In a 2014 email also published by WikiLeaks, Clinton claimed that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were "providing clandestine financial and logistic support to [ISIS] and other radical Sunni groups in the region."

Citing policy, State Department officials declined to "comment on purportedly leaked documents."

It's impossible to know how U.S. officials' opinions have changed since the leaks, but the Commission on International Religious Freedom, which is appointed by Congress, criticized the "dissemination of intolerant literature and extremist ideology," as well as restrictions on Shi'as and Christians, in its latest annual report on Saudi Arabia. And the Associated Press reported in August that Saudi forces in Yemen continue to collaborate with Al Qaeda.

'Prone to Aggression'

Soon after becoming Saudi Arabia's de facto leader in mid-2017, MBS promised to promote a "moderate Islam that is open to all religions and open to the world."

But he seems unwilling or unable to confront the full extent of the problem. The congressional religious freedom report found that "some of the most egregious content promoting violence and intolerance, once thought to have been removed" from Saudi schoolbooks, is still there.

While MBS publicly rejects the label Wahhabism, he often defends the teachings to which it refers. In early 2018, he told the Saudi tabloid Okaz in Arabic that Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab's doctrines were "nothing but a pure teaching that returns to the word of God and the tradition of His prophet."

With much fanfare, authorities allowed Saudi women to drive for the first time ever in June 2018. But in the month leading up to that change, dozens of women's rights activists were arrested. Most of them remain imprisoned, and some have been brutally tortured, according to human rights groups.

United Nations experts warned in early 2018 that they were seeing a "worrying pattern of widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests and detention" of activists across the political spectrum in Saudi Arabia. The country imposed economic sanctions on Canada in August 2018 for criticizing these arrests in a routine report.

A month before his death, Khashoggi wrote that "Saudi Arabia wasn't always this repressive. Now it's unbearable."

Ashford notes that "personalistic dictatorships" tend to be the "most prone to aggression." Introducing fear into the equation only increases that impulse.

The Saudis pursued a "reactionary, counter-revolutionary foreign policy" in response to the Arab Spring of 2011, Ashford says. Meanwhile, former allies Turkey and Qatar have cultivated influence with anti-monarchical Islamic revolutionaries such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which Kizer says the Saudi monarchy views as an "existential threat."

In June 2017, MBS issued an ultimatum to Qatar—cut off support for the Muslim Brotherhood, including positive coverage on the state-funded channel Al Jazeera, or else—and blockaded that country's only land border. The Intercept reports that MBS had plans for a full-on invasion before then–Secretary of State Rex Tillerson intervened. Ashford calls this "another example of [MBS's] impetuous, reckless foreign policy decision making."

According to The Intercept and a separate New York Times report, the Emirates responded by lobbying for Tillerson's firing, which occurred in March of the following year.

That same month, the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee (SAPRAC) hired the Podesta Group—a firm founded in 1988 by future Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta—to run an anti-Qatar website called TheQatarInsider.com. While SAPRAC denied in its FARA filing that it is "affiliated with any foreign government," it has contracts with the Saudi state-subsidized Muslim World League, and SAPRAC founder Salman al-Ansari frequently appears on Al Arabiya, a TV station owned by Saudi princes.

The Podesta Group went out of business in November 2017. SAPRAC has not responded to an email requesting comment.

Kidnapping is also becoming a tool of the MBS regime. When Lebanon's prime minister visited Saudi Arabia in November 2017, he was detained and forced to resign on Saudi television. In August 2018, the Saudi government attempted to trick Chinese authorities into arresting and extraditing a businessman with ties to the crown prince's rivals in the royal family, according to a Washington Post report.

Given this context, the only real surprise about Khashoggi's disappearance is how much backlash it has caused.

'Boycott, Divest, Sanctions'

In March, Sen. Graham voted to table Resolution 54. After his November "smoking saw" comment, he voted to advance the same measure, though he abstained from the final vote.

Kizer cautions that "many Republicans are talking about the Saudi Arabia problem as a problem with MBS"—they want to depose the crown prince in order to "return to business as usual and continue pursuing war with Iran."

But the new Congress may be more skeptical of the kingdom. Only four freshman representatives—and no freshman senators—have taken money from Saudi-linked lobbyists: Jason Crow (D–Colo.), Jennifer Wexton (D–Va.), Joseph Neguse (D–Colo.), and Steven Horsford (D–Nev.). In total, they received $98,937 from these groups. (None of the four has responded to requests for comment.) Outgoing members of Congress—those who retired or lost—took at least $155,626 from registered Saudi agents in the last election cycle.

Asked about donations from the Saudi-linked law firm Brownstein Hyatt, Neguse told Colorado Public Radio that the money was from a Boulder-based employee who supported his campaign. "I'm far more concerned about taking action at the policy level in the Congress to ultimately hold Saudi Arabia accountable," he insisted.

Some new Congress members have made a point of publicly rejecting Saudi money. After a student from that country damaged his car, now–Rep. Tim Burchett (R–Tenn.) told Knox News that he would rather "drive around with a dent" than let the embassy pay for repairs.

In total, 10 out of 90 incoming representatives, plus incoming Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah), have publicly condemned Saudi Arabia for the Khashoggi killing or the war in Yemen. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) even called for a "boycott, divest, sanctions" movement against the kingdom. None of the newly elected members of Congress has publicly defended MBS.

In an interview with PBS, incoming Rep. Tom Malinowski (D–N.J.), a former State Department official, criticized "the notion that the crown prince is helping us to stabilize the Middle East, after he ordered the murder of [Khashoggi], after he launched a blockade against Qatar, after he launched a war in Yemen that President Trump, to his credit, is trying to end," apparently referring to U.S.-backed peace talks in Stockholm.

But the executive branch didn't necessarily have the biggest effect on those talks. Just a few hours before Resolution 54 passed the Senate, Saudi and Houthi negotiators suddenly agreed to "facilitate the freedom of movement of civilians and goods from and to the city of Hodeidah."

A few days before, Kizer had said in an interview with Reason that she was "optimistic" about the effect congressional debate was having on the negotiations. "For the first time, the United States Congress is sending the message that U.S. support is not unconditional, it's not indefinite," she said. Saudi rulers were realizing that "they need us more than we need them."

NEXT: A Libertarian Litigator Dons the Judge's Robes

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  1. When the president assaults the press and the first amendment, how do we not expect people to react with bonesaws?

    1. Mohammed bin Salman is an inspiration and an example for Emperor Trump, who despises His enemies in the media, and their fake news… So we can expect Trump, soon, too, to cut his enemies to and through the bone!

      1. Not only do USA media types need to be looking over their shoulders, for fear of Trump’s bone saws, the USA CIA types (and other spooks) need to be wary of the same!!!

        http://www.businessinsider.com…..nts-2019-2

        US intelligence agents were reportedly warned not to tell Trump findings that contradict his public comments

        1. Intelligence officers have been warned not to give President Donald Trump assessments that contradict his public comments, according to TIME magazine’s anonymous sources.

          Well that sounds totally legit, SQRLSY. Are those the same anonymous sources the fed Buzzfeed?

          1. Did Buzzfeed fabricate the “fake news” that The Donald once promised us that the Mexicans would pay for Der TrumpfehFuhrer’s wall, too? Or did I perhaps hallucinate that one?

            Oh, yes, and The Donald’s inauguration crowd was THE BIGGEST EVAH, and many more along the same lines… The Donald doesn’t live in reality, and He resents those who say that The Emperor has No Clothes!

            1. Anonymous sources, and the people who use them to argue things, have no credibility.

              1. Who is your source on that? Just yourself? If so, then who, exactly, is Rick B.?

                1. Yes me. You’re presenting an argument to the audience, and I am a member of the audience. And I’m telling you your argument has no merit to me because it relies solely on anonymous sources.

                  At least one other person (fancylad) feels the same. Maybe instead of gibberish filled deflection you could internalize the criticism and improve your presentation.

                  If you don’t want commentary on the credibility of your sources, then don’t present it to an audience.

                  1. All commentary here (other than the infantile stuff from Tulpa for example) is welcome here, in my mind.

                    Anonymous people may not have a ton of credibility at times, but they do vote! Also they take surveys! At the logical extreme, we’d all discount the results of surveys, unless all of the opinion-givers identified themselves!

                    1. At no point was anyone talking about either a vote or a survey, so your descent into logical absurdity is beside the point.

            2. “Mexicans would pay for Der TrumpfehFuhrer’s wall… Donald’s inauguration crowd BIGGEST EVAH”

              Can a leftist extremist ever make an honest argument? I pointed out to SQRLSY that the allegation was made by anonymous sources, which is as good as saying “We’re making it up”, and he starts squealing about public statements made by Trump, as if they were the same thing.

              The sheer dishonesty of their arguments is always astounding.

              1. I was making one simple point: To use your phrase of “sheer dishonesty”, the Grande Champion right now of “sheer dishonesty”, in political life, is YOUR favorite asshole, one Donald “TrumpfenFuhrer”-POTUS -Emperor Lying Fat Dickhead!

                His lies are legion!

                1. “…the allegation was made by anonymous sources…”

                  Our entire democracy (basis of voting) is made by (founded on) anonymous sources, AKA voters.

                  You gonna discount them as well? How do we fix it? Do you want all voters to have their votes tied to their names and published? Or what to you want erected in the place of democracy?

                  “Anonymous” NOT = worthless!!!!

      2. but will he use a cheap plastic expectorant flute.

    2. The President has called the Media liars, which they are. He has been rude to them, as they have been rude to every Republican President in my adult life…indeed he has been considerably LESS rude, just more then the little snowflakes (emphasis on ‘flakes’) are used to.

      To my knowledge, he has taken no action even coming CLOSE to ‘assaulting the First Amendment’. I grant that he may have; I’m so tired of hearing that his not kissing Media ass is such an assault that I’ve simply stopped listening.

      Is he an ideal President? No. But climb down of your high horse. He’s better than any Democrat since Truman.

      And, no, I’m not forgetting St. Kennedy.

      1. There has not been a worse president in my lifetime, though Obama and Carter are close runners-up.

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  3. Avoid foreign entanglements. Get rid of all treaties. Get rid of all embassies, ambassadors, and other diplomats.

    If American citizens want to do stupid shit like hike the Iran-Iraq border, that’s on them. If Uncle Sugar isn’t going to come to their rescue, they have far less value as hostages.

    If foreign governments want foreign aid, military sales, and other special favors, let them wage their own PR battle with the American people. Let them discover how foreign aid goes up and down in direct and immediate relationship to what kind of publicity their own actions generate. Get rid of these idiot 2- and 4-year cycles where an election suddenly changes official policies overnight.

    Oh, what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practise to deceive!

    1. Get rid of these idiot 2- and 4-year cycles where an election suddenly changes official policies overnight.

      Advocates for monarchy.
      Get lost.

      1. If you really can’t see what I meant, there may be others as stupid.

        I mean get rid of “official” government foreign policies, which swing from one side to the other at every election, when the national mood has not changed more than a percentage or two. The same applies to everything else government does, where there can be only one “official” position, such as food pyramids, vehicle efficiency standards, and which books and movies are deserving of censorship.

        Government should have no “official” opinions on any of those subjects, much less make them mandatory for all citizens. Majority rule is a pretty sorry institution even for choosing what movie to see or what restaurant to choose for lunch, and in all those case, the dissenters are free to go their own way.

        If you think monarchy is bad, you ought to take a gander at tyranny by majority. Open your eyes, and think about what you read for a second or two before laying fingers to keyboard and proving how dim-witted you are.

  4. Only 15 of the 19 hijackers who boarded CIVIL airline flights and attacked NYC and the Pentagon were actual card-carrying Saudi nationals. So let’s not get too shrill about “the development of a civil nuclear program.” What possible harm could there be in devotees of the unfree exercise thereof on a mission from Allah becoming skilled in the handling of “civil” nuclear technology?

    1. Being a computer coder (‘IT professional’ when working), I do not really understand how the atoms and neutrons and all that stuff know when it is being used peacefully or not. Is the same concept as how a thermos bottle knows to keep the contents hot or cold?

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  6. The United States should give every Saudi royal 24 hours to disclaim any hereditary position and all assets, ensuring the safety of those who renounce the House of Saud, then withdraw all support until every remaining royal is removed from Saudi Arabia by any means available.

    The current Saudis are not our friends. They are our enemies.

    1. We shouldn’t have a “cunt-and-run” foreign policy.

    2. And that would be in service of what goal, exactly?

      1. “And that would be in service of what goal, exactly?”
        It would satisfy flaming assholes like the rev that they had some influence on policy.

      2. Getting lots of troll responses ?

      3. And that would be in service of what goal, exactly?

        Decency.

        Conservatives don’t seem to mind bootlicking — they crave the authoritarianism of organized religion and right-wing dictators, are willing to overlook brutality for the sake of oils or bananas, and they have been obsequiously complying with others’ preferences throughout their lives consequent to losing the culture war — but appeasing royalty in general and the Saudis in particular is the work of low-quality people.

        1. Exactly.

          Look at horribly Venezuela is struggling from its right wing dictatorship.

          Hopefully, they can adopt more socialist policies when they gain democracy.

    3. You’re an idiot. The only surprise is how you continue to escalate the proof.

      1. What is surprising to me is how readily you obey my preferences as a vanquished conservative in America’s culture war.

        So long as you continue to comply, however, you are welcome to whine, moan, and nip at ankles.

        1. you are welcome to whine, moan, and nip at ankles.

          Oh, we wouldn’t dream of intruding on your prerogatives, Artie.

          -jcr

      2. What is surprising to me is how readily you obey my preferences as a vanquished conservative in America’s culture war.

        So long as you continue to comply, however, you are welcome to whine, moan, and nip at ankles.

    4. The problem with recognizing the Saudis to be out enemies, is what do we do then. No matter what, we DON’T WANT MECCA. Turning the city (and Medina) into a sheet of faintly glowing glass sounds satisfying in the short term, but we don’t want to deal with the political effects.

  7. Wait. Is this supposed to be a good thing?

    1. From the standpoint of vanishing resources due to the rape of Ghia, yes. Saudi oil is scheduled for depletion in 2815. Who are we to stand in their road to alternatives.

  8. OT Post, but an EXCELLENT read!

    http://www.sciencealert.com/he…..-confident

    Here’s The Scientific Reason Incompetent People Are Often So Confident

    1. I always thought you were more arrogant than confident.

      1. The entire point of the link I posted is that people are way-overconfident about their skills and knowledge, especially when they lack the needed, relevant skills and-or knowledge. You know jack shit about me other than having glanced at my posts from time to time.

        That tells me all that I need to know about your opinions on this particular matter, but thanks for your valuable time!

        1. Your posts make it seem like you have poorly controlled mental illness.

          1. Can you read? Please re-read… If you have sufficient neurons to process the below…

            The entire point of the link I posted is that people are way-overconfident about their skills and knowledge, especially when they lack the needed, relevant skills and-or knowledge. You know jack shit about me other than having glanced at my posts from time to time.

            That tells me all that I need to know about your opinions on this particular matter, but thanks for your valuable time!

            1. Your posts

              Can you read? Plenty of info to come to my conclusion.

              1. Well thank you SOOOO much for your obviously deeply-pondered-upon conclusions, and all of the profuse details that you have presented for us all to consider!

                You have CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER, and I will always remain profoundly grateful!

                1. You actually presented the details that prove my point

                  1. I guess you’re right, I would REALLY have to have severe mental illness in order to believe that your contributions were “…obviously deeply-pondered-upon conclusions”.

                    1. You keep making my case for me.

                    2. You keep on being Tulpa or a Tulpa clone.

                      In days of old,
                      When knights were bold,
                      And toilets weren’t invented,
                      We stopped by the road,
                      And dropped our load,
                      And walked away contented!

                      The days of old are over now… We have toilets now. Please be considerate of others, and drop your loads there, instead of a nice, clean, rational web site like Reason.com!

                    3. Disconntected fugue state type ramblings aren’t helping you.

                    4. You are a waste of my time, as well as a waste of the Earth’s gravity and oxygen. Now please go away and find something productive to do!

                      I know that you are converting food and oxygen to feces and carbon dioxide, and that the heterotrophs in our biosphere appreciate you doing your part, here. But I am hoping and praying that you might come up with something to do that actually helps out a bit more than that…

                    5. You write rhymes about toilets and feces and then wonder why people think your posts make you look mentally ill.

                    6. Your ego is so utterly huge and all-encompassing that you can’t stand the idea of another person or troll getting the last word on you, right? No matter HOW stupid it gets!

                      Now… Prove me right… Roll over! Fetch! Play dead!

                      PLEASE get thee behind us, ye Hihnister Satulpatanic Satanulpinipulator ye!

                      But I’ll bet you’ll be a predictable Tulpuppy now and bark and growl on my command… Bark and growl, Tulpuppy, bark and growl! Hurl some more mindless insults my way! Bark and growl!

                    7. Is any of that supposed to make you look less mentally ill?

                    8. You just proved my point, thanks!

                      Now bark and growl some more, we are all very amused!

                      (That’s me and the mouse in my pocket = “we”).

                      Are you taking any therapy BESIDES from the voices in your head? You might want to try getting some therapy from a REAL human, ANY human! ANY human as a source for therapy would stand an EXCELLENT chance of out-performing your head-voices as a source for therapy!

                    9. “Requires a medical diagnosis
                      Schizophrenia is characterized by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality, disorganized speech or behavior, and decreased participation in daily activities. Difficulty with concentration and memory may also be present.
                      People may experience:
                      Behavioral: social isolation, disorganized behavior, aggression, agitation, compulsive behavior, excitability, hostility, repetitive movements, self-harm, or lack of restraint
                      Cognitive: thought disorder, delusion, amnesia, belief that an ordinary event has special and personal meaning

                    10. You have a ton of symptoms of Schizophrenia, which I bolded for you in that post. You really need to see your doctor and get that handled.

                    11. And you’re an expert on this, having personally suffered from it for many-many years, amirite?

                    12. Plus being evil… It’s not in the shrink’s books yet, but it should be.

                      There is still hope for you. I would recommend that you start out with M. Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie, the Hope for Healing Human Evil”.

                      http://www.amazon.com/People-L…..7764206768

                    13. Mood: anger, anxiety, apathy, feeling detached from self, general discontent, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, elevated mood, or inappropriate emotional response
                      Psychological: hallucination, paranoia, /b>hearing voices, depression, fear, persecutory delusion, or religious delusion
                      Speech: circumstantial speech, incoherent speech, rapid and frenzied speaking, or speech disorder
                      Also common: fatigue, impaired motor coordination, or lack of emotional response

                    14. Really, go see a professional and please stop lashing out at people who are just trying to help you.

                    15. Sorry tag screwup

                      Should read

                      Psychological: hallucination, paranoia, hearing voices, depression, fear, persecutory delusion, or religious delusion

                    16. So says the narcissistic, egotistical, insecure troll who is UTTERLY incapable of letting anyone else have the last post, and I challenge you to prove me wrong!

                      Now bark and growl, Tulpuppy!

                    17. I don’t even understand the insults you’re using. Is any of that supposed to mean something?

                    18. You don’t understand your own narcissism because you are willingly blinding yourself. You are perfect in your mind, because you are you. Just you being you means that the world needs to worship and admire you, because you are you! No need to cure cancer, work an honest day’s work, or even refrain from shitting all over web sites… NONE of these things are needed for you to gather self-esteem, because you work on the theory that trying to steal the self-esteem of others, makes you more important.

                      Again, I would recommend that you read M. Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie, the Hope for Healing Human Evil”. Do you have the needed brainpower and self-discipline to do that?

                      Do you even have the barest fraction of an atom of humility required to allow me to have the last word? Or does your ego require that you bark and grown on command, yet again?

                    19. When you respond by lashing out insulting me and attempting to manipulate me it just kind of proves my point.

                      Get some help before you hurt someone.

        2. “The entire point of the link I posted is that people are way-overconfident about their skills and knowledge, especially when they lack the needed, relevant skills and-or knowledge.”

          “That tells me all that I need to know about your opinions”

          Lol.

    2. Reader’s Digest version for the “TL;DR”-type readers out there:

      The know-it-alls of the world almost always know nearly-exactly nothing!!!

      1. Those of you who think you know it all
        are very annoying to those of us who do.

  9. The Saudis lost Trump during the humiliating sword dance. It was then he swore he would betray them. Israel is the next country whose congressional support will plummet, and for all the same reasons.

    1. Dajjal, the comment thread’s sword of the Prophet RBUH.

  10. They can buy bombs from Israel if they promise to use them on Iran.

  11. Torturer: “I give you two choices, dog — bound and cut-up with bone saw or ride in auto driven by a woman.”

    Khashoggi: “Merciful Allah – why did you abandon me??”

    1. The joke doesn’t work as well if you happen to know the dirty secret about Arabic drivers….which is that they are all terrible.

      1. How do you blind an Arabic driver?

        You put a windshield in front of them.

  12. All serious libertarians must vote Democrat in 2020. But we should hope the party gives us a better candidate than Tulsi Gabbard.

    The Russian propaganda machine that tried to influence the 2016 US election is now promoting the presidential aspirations of 2020 Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard.

    Although I object slightly to the wording of this tweet ? Russia didn’t merely TRY, they succeeded in hacking the election ? the message is important. Putin’s favorite candidates are Drumpf (R) and Gabbard (D). Therefore patriotic Americans must not vote for either under any circumstances. If John McCain were still alive I’d vote for him before I’d vote for Gabbard.

    #LibertariansAgainstGabbard
    #LibertariansForGettingToughWithRussia

    1. The Russian propaganda machine that tried to influence the 2016 US election is now promoting the presidential aspirations of 2020 Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard.

      That would be Hillary, right, who obeyed her Russian masters in promoting Trump and side-tracking Bernie?

      1. Of all the offensive things I’ve read about Hillary Clinton, this might be the worst. Apparently it isn’t enough to engage in baseless attacks on her character and sexist speculation about her physical health. But to question Hillary Clinton’s patriotism? To assert that the most qualified Presidential candidate ever doesn’t have the American people’s best interests in mind? HOW DARE YOU.

        #StillWithHer

        1. Really? The worst? I am flattered.

          #StillWithHim
          #InternsToo
          $ChildrenToo

    2. “Putin’s favorite candidates are Drumpf (R) and Gabbard (D). ”

      Wow, I didn’t know that the Russians ever heard of divide and conquer.

  13. Just in case it’s still unclear to the hopelessly obtuse, if and when the Iranians obtain nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia will quickly start pursuing a nuclear deterrent of their own.

    Egypt will also want one. Jordan will also want one.

    None of that is in the security interests of the United States.

    Much better to enforce the NPT on Iran. The Iranians forfeited their right to enrich their own uranium when they violated the terms of the NPT by enriching uranium in secret, and any agreement that allows them to enrich their own uranium in the future after having forfeited that right to do so should be unacceptable to the United States.

    P.S. The inflation rate in Iran is up over 40% now.

    Those who imagine that Iran’s motives in regards to enriching their own uranium aren’t nefarious need to explain why the people who run Iran would choose to suffer 40% inflation at the hands of U.S. led sanctions rather than forego the ability to enrich their own uranium. Please note, the Russians would be more than happy to enrich their uranium for them. The simplest explanation is that they don’t care about access to uranium that’s sufficiently enriched for civilian purposes. If they can’t enrich their own uranium for purposes beyond that, then–by their actions–we know that they’d rather suffer 40% inflation.

    1. I’ve sort of thought Saudi already had nukes. Bought probably.

      1. Is that just a feeling, or are you privy to a weapons test the rest of us haven’t heard about?

        1. Is it necessary to be a dick about simple conversations?

          Yes Ken, it is just a feeling. There was a time when Soviet nukes were available, and The Saudis had both reason and the resources. If they didn’t acquire some of those ex-Soviet nukes, it would be a huge lost opportunity.

          1. Is it necessary to be a dick about simple conversations?

            It is the internet, and to not be a dick shows weakness.

          2. Not a big stretch, when you consider that KSA bought, in the late 80s IIRC, ex-Chinese IRBM/ICBMs (CSS-2, I think), which were so inaccurate, their only potential utility would be to deliver a WMD payload to a city. Now, I don’t think the Chinese also sold them the 3-stage fusion warhead RVs that went with the missiles, but I do think the Saudis could have bought pretty much anything from the decaying Soviet Union. I don’t think things like Project Sapphire got all of the weaponizable nuclear material that Russians were willing to sell. While it would be non-trivial to adapt another warhead to that launcher, the Saudis could have bought the engineering know how to do it.

            Not for Israel, but for either Iraq or Iran. I think we’ll be positively amazed at how fast a nuclear deterrent appears in KSA once the Iranians admit they have one.

          3. Not a big stretch, when you consider that KSA bought, in the late 80s IIRC, ex-Chinese IRBM/ICBMs (CSS-2, I think), which were so inaccurate, their only potential utility would be to deliver a WMD payload to a city. Now, I don’t think the Chinese also sold them the 3-stage fusion warhead RVs that went with the missiles, but I do think the Saudis could have bought pretty much anything from the decaying Soviet Union. I don’t think things like Project Sapphire got all of the weaponizable nuclear material that Russians were willing to sell. While it would be non-trivial to adapt another warhead to that launcher, the Saudis could have bought the engineering know how to do it.

            Not for Israel, but for either Iraq or Iran. I think we’ll be positively amazed at how fast a nuclear deterrent appears in KSA once the Iranians admit they have one.

          4. Not a big stretch, when you consider that KSA bought, in the late 80s IIRC, ex-Chinese IRBM/ICBMs (CSS-2, I think), which were so inaccurate, their only potential utility would be to deliver a WMD payload to a city. Now, I don’t think the Chinese also sold them the 3-stage fusion warhead RVs that went with the missiles, but I do think the Saudis could have bought pretty much anything from the decaying Soviet Union. I don’t think things like Project Sapphire got all of the weaponizable nuclear material that Russians were willing to sell. While it would be non-trivial to adapt another warhead to that launcher, the Saudis could have bought the engineering know how to do it.

            Not for Israel, but for either Iraq or Iran. I think we’ll be positively amazed at how fast a nuclear deterrent appears in KSA once the Iranians admit they have one.

          5. Not a big stretch, when you consider that KSA bought, in the late 80s IIRC, ex-Chinese IRBM/ICBMs (CSS-2, I think), which were so inaccurate, their only potential utility would be to deliver a WMD payload to a city. Now, I don’t think the Chinese also sold them the 3-stage fusion warhead RVs that went with the missiles, but I do think the Saudis could have bought pretty much anything from the decaying Soviet Union. I don’t think things like Project Sapphire got all of the weaponizable nuclear material that Russians were willing to sell. While it would be non-trivial to adapt another warhead to that launcher, the Saudis could have bought the engineering know how to do it.

            Not for Israel, but for either Iraq or Iran. I think we’ll be positively amazed at how fast a nuclear deterrent appears in KSA once the Iranians admit they have one.

            1. Really, squirrels?

              1. We are EVERYWHERE, and can steal yer nuts at will!!! Cower in fear!!!!

                BAH-ha-ha!!!!

          6. Honestly? I take this stuff pretty seriously. Have you ever been in a business meeting where people start talking about their feelings? It’s torture.

            it’s bad enough having to read about the feelings of KMW and lil’ Robby.

            The arguments I made weren’t really intended to solicit feelings. If you had something substantial to add, I was hoping to hear about it. There’s a whole internet out there to link, and if SA might already have nukes according to some authoritative source, I might have to reevaluate my argument.

            If we’re just talking about your feelings? I’m not reevaluating much.

            1. ENB!

              ENB and Robby, not KMW.

            2. It’s not a nuke test, Ken, but the Saudis just got done building a test site for solid rocket motors. See, for example Jeffrey Lewis of armscontrolwonk, his tweet from 1/23 of this year.

              Anyway, test stands like those are essential if you want a mobile, land-based long range nuclear deterrent. North Korea has road mobile IRBMs, but AFAIK, they’re liquid fueled. Since you can’t move them while they’re fueled, and it takes an hour or so to field them, this slows down the ability of the Norks to launch on warning of a strike.

              Solid fueled, like the US looked at with Midgetman, or the Russians have with Topol, and as soon as you stop the truck, away it goes.

            3. “The arguments I made weren’t really intended to solicit feelings”

              Who cares? You don’t run anything and you’re a dick.

      2. Knowing that they wouldn’t dare test them, I’m sure plenty of people would be happy to sell very convincing “nukes” to the House of Saud.

        -jcr

  14. Decent people probably shouldn’t watch the NFL given the way the league treats Colin Kapernick. But if you do watch the Super Bowl you must root against the Patriots.

    Their star quarterback, coach, and owner all supported Trump. But that’s not the only thing that makes the Patriots the preferred team of white nationalists

    White nationalists are pure evil. Anything they support must be wrong, even if it’s something that seems kind of trivial like a preferred outcome in a football game.

    #TomBradyIsABadPerson

    1. Robert Kraft is a longtime friend of Donald Trump but more important is an accomplished, educated, decent American, and therefore is not a Republican. He is a Democrat. Lifelong Democrat, if I recall correctly.

      I’m rooting for Aaron Donald today, but Robert Kraft is no gullible bigot and therefore not a right-winger. If the Patriots win, Kraft will be a good champion.

      1. What kind of cousinfucking Miller swilliing rube follows football enough to know that? How can you enbigot yourself by not actively openly boycotting it? You disgust me with your tacit and explict racism.

        1. That’s a little harsh, but I agree with the fundamental point. The NFL is so problematic in so many ways ? racial slur team names, the oppression of Kapernick, outdated gender stereotypes involving big strong male players and petite attractive female cheerleaders ? that we in the progressive / libertarian alliance should find other ways to entertain ourselves. Like re-watching past seasons of the most important show on TV, The Handmaid’s Tale.

          1. I agree. Some of those petite cheerleaders should be out on the field, as running backs.

          2. ” The NFL is so problematic in so many ways”

            Nothing that a few head and spine injuries can’t put to rights.

      2. An educated person supporting Drumpf is even worse because all of the terrible policies Drumpf advocates are things any decent college should teach you are wrong. So there’s really no excuse for ignoring them and supporting Putin’s Puppet anyway. “He’s my friend from back in the day” doesn’t cut it.

        For example, I learned in college that Islamophobia is a form of racism. This allowed me to instantly recognize Drumpf’s Muslim Ban as the equivalent of announcing “I hate POC and don’t want them in this country.” Did Kraft never learn about Islamophobia? Does he just not care? How can his employees of color expect fair treatment knowing their boss supports a literal white nationalist President?

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  16. Martin Luther King’s birthday was last week and I blame that for causing me to HAVE A DREAM.

    In my post-Super Bowl sleep vision, rank upon rank of young women were dressed in hooded long capes, like the Handmaid’s Tale ad, only these capes were blue. The women were undulating in sinuous motions to simulate blue waves. As they swayed, they chanted intoxicating tropes:

    Free Medicare for all!

    Extreme wealth is theft! Don’t ask how much is too much.

    Walls are immoral, walls don’t work!

    Blue Lives don’t matter–they are the problem!

    New York’s abortion law for all 50 states!

    Underneath my hoody I wear a pussy hat!

    (more suggestions welcome)

  17. Martin Luther King’s birthday was last week and I blame that for causing me to HAVE A DREAM.

    In my post-Super Bowl sleep vision, rank upon rank of young women were dressed in hooded long capes, like the Handmaid’s Tale ad, only these capes were blue. The women were undulating in sinuous motions to simulate blue waves. As they swayed, they chanted intoxicating tropes:

    Free Medicare for all!
    Free, Free, Free, Free

    Extreme wealth is theft! Don’t ask how much is too much.

    Walls are immoral, walls don’t work!

    Blue Lives don’t matter–they are the problem!

    New York’s abortion law for all 50 states!

    Underneath my hoody I wear a pussy hat!

    Throw Israel to the dogs! Let those dogs out!

    Impeach Now! YEEEEOOOWWWWW!

    (more suggestions welcome)

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  21. So we’re getting cozy with the Sauds to offset Iran.

    We make the shocking discovery that the Sauds may have killed a citizen one day. Unlike their usual days, when they kill dozens.

    So we throw our foreign policy out the window, and now Iran can build their nukes unopposed by the Sauds.

    Not that I’m anxious for the Sauds to have nukes, but this all just stinks of Deep State machinations to run their foreign policy instead of Trumps.

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