Do we have a more unattractive “ally” than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? In order to find one, we have to go all the way back to World War II, when the US was allied with the Soviet Union while “Uncle” Joe Stalin was murdering millions in the gulag.
The big difference, however, is that the national security propaganda machine isn’t trying to glorify the head-chopping barbarians of Riyadh as they prettified the Soviets: Hollywood isn’t cranking out pro-Saudi movies as they did with the “workers’ paradise” in Song of Russia. Imagine a screenwriter scratching his head over Song of the Saudis! Op ed writers employed by the Saudi lobby aren’t excusing the execution of “heretics” as Popular Front propagandists once praised the Moscow Trials. Not even the Washington “experts” would fall for it. Saudi lobbying is more subtle, with pressure exerted on lawmakers and lots of cash being handed out – e.g. the Saudi “donations” to the Clinton Foundation.
This stealth strategy has been largely successful. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt met with King Abdul Aziz and cemented the US-Saudi relationship as the linchpin of our Middle Eastern policy, our government’s collusion with one of the worst tyrannies on earth has gone largely unexamined – until now.
The New York Times reports that the Kingdom is telling the Obama administration that they would be “forced” to sell some $750 billion in US assets if Congress passes a bill that would give a green light to lawsuits alleging that the Saudis played a key role in facilitating the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The families of the 9/11 victims have been pursuing the Kingdom in the courts for years, with judges routinely dismissing financial claims by the families on the grounds of “sovereign immunity,” i.e. the “legal” doctrine that governments cannot be held accountable for their actions. However, a little noticed Supreme Court decision reinstated the Saudis as defendants. The bill, sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York), has broad support: if passed, it would pave the way for a close examination of the evidence that the Saudi government had a hand in 9/11.
The Obama administration has responded to this blackmail threat by capitulating – and threatening Congress with dire consequences if the Cornyn-Schumer bill passes. Trotting out State Department and Pentagon officials to warn of the “diplomatic and economic fallout,” they claim that US companies and citizens abroad would be endangered. The issue has led to “intense discussions” inside the Beltway, reports the Times, where the Saudi lobby is working overtime to head off the possibility that their role in the worst terrorist attack on US soil will finally come to light,.
That role is coming under increasing scrutiny ever since the campaign to release the censored 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 – dealing with the activities of foreign intelligence agencies in the events of 9/11 – took off. A “Sixty Minutes” segment has spotlighted the issue, and the Saudi threat has done the same: after all, if they have nothing to hide, then why are they throwing such a hissy fit at the prospect of the 9/11 families having their day in court?
Obama’s promise during his election campaign – and subsequently – to release the 28 pages has so far gone unfulfilled. The administration says they are presently “reviewing” the material but have yet to reach a decision.
Don’t hold your breath.
The President will travel to Riyadh on Wednesday, no doubt in answer to a summons by the Saudi monarch, who is miffed at this affront to his majesty. The Saudis are also displeased by the Iran deal, which they – along with Israel – claim represents an existential threat to their security. Arms deals and logistical support for the Saudis’ murderous attack on Yemen haven’t mollified them, and King Salman, along with a gaggle of Gulf sultans and emirs, refused to attend a “summit” called by Washington: the meeting was meant to reassure them that the Iran deal didn’t mean we were abandoning them. And so since Mohammed refused to come to the mountain, Obama, hat in hand, is going to pay court to the barbarian king.
I’ve usually been skeptical of the attempt – mostly by Republican hawks – to depict Obama as a master appeaser, but in this case the shoe fits all too well.
Mindy Kleinberg’s husband was in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, where he died, and she is outraged and baffled by the administration’s defense of the Saudis: “It’s stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens,” she told the Times.
Stunning – yes. Surprising? Not at all.
We are the prisoners of our “allies,” who extort us and lobby in Washington to extract yet more goodies from our bought-and-paid-for legislators. Our NATO “allies” spend billions on their welfare states while luxuriating under the US-supplied defense umbrella, just as our Middle Eastern allies – Israel included – defy and denounce us while we pay their bills and risk war for their sakes.
It is in the very nature of empires to put the interests of their foreign clients and protectorates over and above the welfare of their own citizens. The politicians and lobbyists who profit from the client relationship naturally act to protect their own material interests: does anyone really think that the multi-millions that poured into the coffers of the Clinton Foundation from the Saudis, the Qataris, etc. had no effect on Hillary’s policies while Secretary of State? Are the Saudis handing out cash in Washington hand over fist for nothing?
Economists have long accepted the idea of “regulatory capture” in the domestic economy: the idea is that the very government agencies charged with regulating industries are co-opted by the biggest and most powerful of the companies they oversee, which leads to government mandates favoring those economic actors. The same rule applies to our overseas protectorates: one of the biggest illusions of empire is that the imperialists have effective control of their overseas minions. The reality is that the minions are in charge: while we foot the bill for their defense, risking war if one of the many tripwires we’ve planted across the globe is set off, they employ armies of lobbyists to wring every last penny out of us – and woe unto Washington if one of them feels disrespected! An envoy is immediately dispatched to assuage their hurt feelings, and in this case it’s the President, who will doubtful promise to veto the Cornyn-Schumer bill.
This is the price we pay for empire – not only in terms of dollars and cents, but also the perpetual humiliation we face at the hands of our “friends” and “allies.” Oh, for a President that will put America and American citizens first, instead of kowtowing to the head-choppers of Saudi Arabia! Yet this will never happen until we effect a fundamental change in American foreign policy – cutting off the entangling alliances that bind us to the pleasure of foreign despots, ridding ourselves of parasitical “allies,” and dumping the albatross of empire that weighs us down into the abyss of bankruptcy and perpetual war.
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