Jewish World Review August 12, 2002/ 4 Elul, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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Our Saudi friends,
so eager to help | Washington has always been something of a wonderland, where enemies are sometimes regarded as allies, and Alice is often the very model of a major modern president.

The contretemps this week over a briefing at the Pentagon, by an outside analyst who described Saudi Arabia, as any alert schoolboy might, as an enemy of the United States illustrates just how fantastical intelligent men must sometimes make themselves appear to be.

The briefer, Laurent Muraweic, in remarks to the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, made the perfectly obvious point that the Saudi contribution to the West's war against terror consists mainly of funding terrorists, frustrating American attempts to hunt down Saudi killers, financing the spread of Islamist hatred and bigotry throughout the world, and sending out "missionaries" to incinerate Americans 3,000 at a time. If any country fits George W.'s description of a terrorist nation - those who harbor terrorists are terrorists themselves - it's Saudi Arabia.

When The Washington Post found someone who heard the Muraweic remarks and put them on Page One, obsequious squeaks and squawks rent the air from Foggy Bottom to Riyadh. Colin Powell, whose assignment as secretary of state is to massage the flaccid egos of brain-dead Euro-weenies and tyrants we insist on calling our friends, quickly called Crown Prince Abdullah, the presiding royal, to tell him that Americans do, too, love him. For his part, the prince returned a lover's warning: If George W. goes through with his oft-stated threat to rid the world of Saddam Hussein, he will do it without any help from Saudi Arabia.

No surprise there. But here's the usually straight-talking Don Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, on Saudi Arabia: "There was some outsider came into the department, gave a briefing, left, and the impression is left that there is some sort of a policy decision on the part of the government, or that there's a view that that's the dominant opinion.

"And of course Saudi Arabia is like any other country; it has a broad spectrum of activities and things, some of which, obviously, just like our country, that we agree with and some we may not."

Rarely, if ever, has the straight-shooting Mr. Rumsfeld choked on such argle-bargle. Cabinet ministers, like the presidents they serve, sometimes have to tell whoppers and stretchers, but Mr. Rumsfeld deserves a pass for the rest of his term after having to spin this one. Saudi Arabia is definitely not like any other country, and praise be to Allah that it is not. We successfully fought off Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan at one and the same time, but more than one Saudi Arabia might be more enemies than we could handle. If there was ever a place without "a broad spectrum of activities and things," or even a narrow spectrum of such, it's Saudi Arabia, where the only entertainments are tedious lectures at the mosque on the proper ways to kill infidels, beheadings in the town square and speculations about what might be under those burkas. Saudi Arabia is definitely not "obviously, just like our country," and this time let us thank God. There's very little we - and this surely includes Don Rumsfeld - "agree with," and an awful lot that we do not. (How do we count the ways?)

What the United States do hold in common with the 6,000 Saudi princes (who as authentic royalty rank right up there with the Queen of the Irish Potato Festival of the Ozarks) is a commercial interest. We buy their oil and they buy our weapons (and when they come to visit they buy our booze and our ham sandwiches). Saudi Arabia is, as Mr. Rumsfeld further said, "a country where we have a lot of forces located," but as the crown prince reminds us, these forces are not to be used to protect American interests. They were useful a decade ago when the princes were more terrified than Saudi princes usually are, and were counting on American, mostly Christian, blood to save them from the wrath of Saddam Hussein, which Saudi, all-Muslim, blood could not do. They were so grateful, in fact, that when President Bush the elder wanted to sit down with his troops for Thanksgiving dinner he was told that he couldn't say grace because that would be praying to the G-d of Christians and Jews. The elder Mr. Bush, who sometimes suffers an excess of good manners, should have led his troops in a rousing chorus of "Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound" and left a few Gideon Bibles for the princes, but instead flew out to the USS Nassau for supper with the sailors.

You can't expect presidents and Cabinet ministers to say these things, as obvious as they are, and it is true that over the years the interests of the United States and the House of Saud - it's not really a nation as we understand the term - have coincided on enough occasions to make it worthwhile to maintain the fiction of friendship. But with the Islamist assault on the West, the contradictions in the relationship have begun to outweigh advantages. The Saudi princes may soon have to choose whether they want "friendship," such as it is, with the United States, or to take their chances elsewhere. If he really means to eliminate Saddam Hussein, George W. can get along without the Saudis very well. Which is a good thing, because that's how it has to be. We have the word of a prince.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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