Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Outrage Fatigue Seems To Be Settling In As Chronic Condition



Mortgaged to the House of Saud
Robert Scheer

August 9, 2005

THE ONLY EVIDENCE you need that President Bush is losing the "war on terror" is this: On Sunday, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia said that relations with the United States "couldn't be better."

Tell that to the parents of those who have died in two wars defending this corrupt spawning ground of violent extremism. Never mind the ugly facts: We are deeply entwined with Saudi Arabia even though it shares none of our values and supports our enemies.

Yet on Friday, Bush's father and Vice President Dick Cheney made another in a long line of obsequious American pilgrimages to Riyadh to assure the Saudis that we continue to be grateful for the punishment they dish out.

"The relationship has tremendously improved with the United States," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal told a news conference in Riyadh. "With the government, of course, it is very harmonious, as it ever was. Whether it has returned to the same level as it was before in terms of public opinion [in both countries], that is debatable."

Well, score one for public opinion. It makes sense to distrust the mercenary and distasteful alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. We protect the repressive kingdom that spawned Osama bin Laden, and most of the 9/11 hijackers, in exchange for the Saudis keeping our fecklessly oil-addicted country lubricated.

Yes, it has stuck deep in the craw of many of us Americans that after 9/11, Washington squandered global goodwill and a huge percentage of our resources invading a country that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, while continuing to pander to this dysfunctional dynasty. After all, Saudi Arabia is believed to have paid Bin Laden's murderous gang millions in protection money in the years before 9/11, and it lavishly funds extremist religious schools throughout the region that preach and teach anti-Western jihad.

"Al Qaeda found fertile fundraising ground in the kingdom," noted the 9/11 commission report in one of its many careful understatements. The fact is, without Saudi Arabia, there would be no Al Qaeda today.

Our president loves to use the word "evil" in his speeches, yet throughout his life he and his family have had deep personal, political and financial ties with a country that represents everything the American Revolution stood against: tyranny, religious intolerance, corrupt royalty and popular ignorance. This is a country where women aren't allowed to drive and those who show "too much skin" can be beaten in the street by officially sanctioned mobs of fanatics. A medieval land where newspapers routinely publish the most outlandish anti-Semitic rants. A place where executions are held in public, torture is the norm in prison and the most extreme and expansionist version of Islam is the state religion.

It's hard to see how Saddam Hussein's brutal and secular Iraq was worse than the brutal theocracy run by the House of Saud. Yet one nation we raze and the other we fete. Is it any wonder that much of the world sees the United States as the planet's biggest hypocrite?

As insider books by former White House terrorism advisor Richard Clarke, journalist Bob Woodward and others have recounted, punishing Saudi Arabia in any way for its long ideological and financial support of terrorism was not even on the table in the days after 9/11. Instead, within hours of the planes hitting the towers, the powerful neoconservatives in the White House rushed to use the tragedy as an excuse for a long-dreamed invasion of Iraq.

Meanwhile, after two wars to make the Middle East safe for the Saudis, wars that cost hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of American lives, the price of oil is soaring — up 42% from just a year ago. Good thing we just passed a pork-laden energy bill that will do little to nothing to ease our crushing — and rising — dependence on imported oil. Federal officials project that by 2025, the U.S. will have to import 68% of its oil to meet demand, up from 58% today.

There are those who argue that the best rationale for invading Iraq was to ease our dependence on Saudi Arabia's massive oil fields, which might allow for a more rational or moral relationship. Yet the dark irony is that with Iraq in chaos and its oil flow limited by insurgent attacks and a bungled reconstruction, Saudi Arabia is now more important to the United States than ever.

It's scary, but these gaping contradictions don't seem to trouble our president a whit.

As the drumbeat of devastating terrorist attacks in Baghdad, London and elsewhere continue, Bush prattles on — five times in a speech last Wednesday — about his pyrrhic victories in the "war on terror." This is a sorry rhetorical device that disguises the fact that the forces of Islamic fanaticism in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the world are stronger than ever.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Deep Thoughts


Karl Rove's Diary
John Kenney
John Kenney's work has appeared in the New York Times and the New Yorker. He just completed his first novel.

August 7, 2005

Why a mezzanine? What does that even mean? Why not just "second floor?"

Who is the man in the mirror? Where did the little boy go? Who is the fish-belly-white man with the protruding stomach and hairless calves, naked as the day he was born? I'll tell you who he is; he's the most powerful man in the world. I'm chuckling. I'm chuckling and watching my belly move.

McCain said something against Arabs. He didn't, of course, but I can make it seem like he did. Yes. I can see it. Something about "towel heads" or "carpet riders." Bedouins. Bedouins. How fun. He'll have to squirm. He'll lose his temper. That little vein on the side of his head will throb. Why do I take such joy in this? Why am I almost instantly brought back to torturing frogs as a youth? Thank God we are not evolved from amphibians and that we simply appeared, fully formed, on the third day (or was it the fourth?)

What is power? Machiavelli suggested that power corrupts. To quote GWB, "Duh!" And yet, in those moments before the three glasses of chardonnay take hold and the nightmares come, I am comforted by the belief that I have helped as many people as I have hurt. OK, maybe it's closer to 30-70.

The dream again. Water (sex?). A bridge. Rickety, dilapidated. I must cross it. Fear. I drop to my hands and knees, cross slowly, looking down into black, roiling water far below. Only, in my hand, the CIA NOC list of the real names of every covert agent in the field. A man appears suddenly. "Give me the list," he says, "or don't if you don't want to. No big." What can I do? I want to put up a struggle. But instead I say, "Sure thing." Then I say, "Also, if you want, I can provide hard copies in a nice binder. Just let me know." Awoke in a sweat, breathing heavily. Clipping my toenails was the only thing that could comfort me (as usual. Did mother clip my toenails? Ask).

Karl Rove. Stove, mauve, tov. A Jewish word. Interesting. Am I Jewish? Maybe. But maybe not. Tequila is my friend. I have no pants on. I stand atop the prow on a great metaphorical ship, arms spread, a breeze through the tiny colorless hairs of my armpits, and shout the words "I love you Captain Kangaroo!" It's very late. Why do I cry suddenly? Bring me lamb chops. "Fava beans and a nice Chianti … Hello Clarice." Why did everyone think Lecter was so crazy?

I only stand behind the president if you look at the photos left to right.

Oh, David Gray, you moody British musician! What happened to you?! Are you the Morrissey of your generation? "Please forgive me if I aaaaaaact a little strange, for I know not what I do ... " Your music touches me.

Sometimes I am a senior in high school and I am the quarterback, and it is Saturday night and I am in a convertible with my arm around my date, Maureen Dowd. We make out. She's totally into me. People say, "Hey Karl, she's a tomata." What great fun. We wink and nod and I am tall. The crowd roars as I hurl the ball down the field, into the waiting arms of a speedy colored boy.

Does Canada need to be its own country? I think not.

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