Defending the Sauds after 9/11 | Richard Cohen in the Washington Post

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Saudi Switcheroo

Saudi Arabia, the home office of oil and a key American ally in the Middle East, is being bashed with abandon. In right-wing circles, there is a palpable hankering for the overthrow of the ruling House of Saud or, at the least, for treating the kingdom as a pariah state — maybe not part of the axis of evil but more problem than solution. Just what and who will replace the ruling family is not mentioned. It just could be an anti-American regime, something like Iran’s.

In the United States, Saudi-bashing has reached a ludicrous stage. A casual newspaper reader would be forgiven for concluding that somehow Princess Haifa al-Faisal, the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, passed money to two of the 9/11 terrorists. But her link to them turns out to be so tenuous, so virtually nonexistent, that it amounts to a parody of guilt by association.

For the record, here’s what happened. It appears that Princess Haifa contributed money to a Saudi woman in California who said she needed funds for medical services. Some of that money may have been passed to a Saudi man who, in turn, may have helped two of the 9/11 terrorists rent an apartment in San Diego. Put the local grocery store on the list too. It may have extended the two Saudis some credit.

Yet from Congress and the media came an outcry that set the Saudis back on their heels. It seemed not to matter that for Princess Haifa to have knowingly aided the terrorists, she would be committing suicide by checkbook. The 15 terrorists of Saudi nationality were the sworn enemies of her family. (Her father was the late king.) Prince Bandar himself could be the poster boy for everything the terrorists hate — a cosmopolitan, cigar-smoking, sybaritic downhill skier who, for a time, effectively moved the Saudi embassy to Aspen. Ain’t no way Bandar is going to give a nickel to anyone who’s going to take away his Cohibas.

The current anti-Saudi frenzy is just the latest example of Congress and the federal bureaucracy doing their irresponsible thing — and the media merely taking it all down. It happened not too long ago with China. You will remember how serious it was — a downright threat to the American way of life — that Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign had gotten some money from people in China. You would think Clinton had sold the Washington Monument to Beijing.

You will remember, too, that dangerous, pernicious spy, Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at Los Alamos, the top-secret weapons lab. He had given America’s most valuable nuclear secrets — the “crown jewels,” they were called — to the Chinese. Yet in the end, Lee was never tried for espionage — and, on second thought, maybe China did not have the crown jewels after all. Sorry.

As with China, it’s downright impossible to say anything nice about Saudi Arabia. It’s an authoritarian regime. Its human rights record is abysmal. It has no freedom of religion. It treats women abominably. It punishes criminals with amputations and beheadings. It sanctions anti-Semitism under the guise of anti-Zionism. The government is sometimes cooperative, sometimes not, in assisting the United States in fighting terrorism. Some wealthy — as well as ordinary — Saudis have helped fund Islamic radical organizations, including al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden himself is a Saudi.

But it is what it is: a feudal society feeling its way into modernity. Its government is the product of its culture — not something imposed from elsewhere. If it is reformed too fast — and it is reforming a bit — it could go the way of Iran (remember the shah?) or Iraq (remember the king?). Whatever happens, it’s not going to be a democracy. There are, with the exception of the so-called Zionist entity, none of those in the Middle East. Reform, as Louis XVI found out, can cost you your head.

The current impatience with Saudi Arabia, the compulsion to somehow hold it accountable for terrorism worldwide and, in particular, for the events of Sept. 11, 2001, emits the ugly scent of intolerance — both cultural and religious. The Saudis have much to answer for, but in the vitriol of the criticism and the refusal to make distinctions (Princess Haifa, for crying out loud!), so do some others.

The early blog (whataretheysaying) started as just links:Archived

Officials Worry U.S. Extremists May Team Up With Foreign Groups (Fox News)

ISRAEL: Jewish Supremacy in Action by David Duke (Radio Islam)

David Duke: Israeli Terrorism and American Treason Caused the September 11 Attacks (Islamweb)

The Fabricated Holocaust of the Jews (Islamweb)

White Hope (The New Republic)

The hatred that won’t die Why isn’t the left protesting against the growth of anti-semitism? (Guardian)

The bloody Jordan river now flows through America (Salon)

U.S. brokered peace won’t stop Islamic revolution (Working for Change – 10.17.00)

Muslims Burned To Death In India (CBS News)

Gujarat riot toll climbs to 70; Army on stand-by (The Times of India)

Radical Hindus went on rampage in the Indian state of Gujrat (Paknews)

Old blog (whataretheysaying) archived links

Call for calm after Indian train attack (CNN)

Defusing tension top US priority: Envoy hopeful of early Indo-Pakistan talks (Dawn)

10 shot dead in mosque attack (Dawn)

 

Our opinion: Fires of fanaticism (Times of India)

It’s him or us It’s time to start saying that the Sharon government is irresponsibly It’s time to start saying that the Sharon government is irresponsibly cooperating in the slaughter of its citizens. (Ha’aretz)

No easy answers for Afghanistan (Guardian)

Scott Simon’s Reflections on Afghanistan NPR Host Recounts Travels Through Ravaged Nation (NPR)

Beware the axis of hubris (Japan Times)

Japan discovers kitten behind the roar (Sydney Morning Herald)

U.S. Islamic Schools Teaching Homegrown Hate (Fox News)

Psychiatrists make case for retention of suicide grounds A group of 10 consultant psychiatrists have said a total ban on abortion on the grounds of suicide would endanger the lives of some vulnerable women (Irish Times)

No Tears for Terrorists (Washington Post)

 

Cyanide in spaghetti did mobster in (Kathimerini)

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Warlords pose threat to Afghanistan: US envoy (Dawn)

Afghan leader arrives in India (BBC)

Tehran, Kabul pledge new era of brotherly ties (Paknews)

U.S. presses for Saeed’s extradition (MSNBC)

Journalist Daniel Pearl Was Killed for Being a Jew The Chosen One (Village Voice)

Daniel Pearl’s widow warns of world terror network (CNN)

Bush voices support for Saudi plan Proposal gains momentum EU envoy to meet Abdullah (MSNBC)

Saudis nix Israel visits Abdullah warns against ousting Arafat (Ha’aretz)

Bold US move needed (Dawn)

Unborn baby saved mom Thirty-three-year-old Tamara Fisch-Lifshitz Thirty-three-year-old Tamara Fisch-Lifshitz was hit by a bullet in her belly during the terror attack at Nokdim yesterday, but gave birth to a healthy baby girl (Ha’aretz)

3 Palestinians, 2 Israelis killed In the second such incident in as many days in the city of Nablus, Israeli occupation soldiers opened fire on a car carrying a pregnant woman to a hospital. (Jordan Times)

Honda, Toyota missing from White House ‘hybrid car’ event (CNN)

The Toyota Prius

The Honda Insight

Thanks to Price, Lada Stays Queen of the Road (Moscow Times)

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Colombian rebels kidnap presidential candidate (Guardian)

Kidnappings make Mexico as dangerous as Iraq: Firm Colombia is the region’s only country where kidnapping rates surpass Mexico’s… (TheNewsMexico)

Israeli President, Peres Support Saudi Peace Plan (Xinhua News Agency)

Arafat welcomes statements by Saudi crown prince on Israeli- Arab solution (Arabic News)

Middle East conflict can turn into war, warns Annan (Dawn)

Fatah and the Saudi crown prince peace initiative with Israel (Arabic News)

Without transparency, democracy doesn’t merit the name (The Daily Star)

Report: FBI Focuses on Former U.S. Scientist as Chief Anthrax Suspect (FoxNews)

Brother Pearl The good man is gone; the bad men are left to deal with. (National Review)

Post-WTC, an Actress Goes On Tour of Duty (Daily News)

OK, George, make with the friendly bombs If only the UK had done something similar in Northern Ireland, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in today… (Guardian)

Ritual slaughter kept off the streets at Sidon (The Daily Star)

Toyota to make car fuelled by hydrogen (Bangkok Post)

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Britons in Cuba Could be Repatriated Rumsfeld wants returnees tried (MSNBC)

Reporter Daniel Pearl Is Dead, Killed by His Captors in Pakistan (Wall Street Journal)

A Selection of Daniel Pearl’s Work (Wall Street Journal)

Mariane Pearl: Husband’s spirit lives on (CNN)

Daniel Pearl’s family shares their grief (MSNBC)

Remembering Danny Timothy Noah (Slate)

Pledge to ‘liquidate’ Pearl killers Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says he will “liquidate” the killers of US journalist Daniel Pearl and other terrorists from his country.(BBC)

Face to face with Sheikh Omar He appeared repentant, but clearly not enough. (BBC)

Pearl’s murder technique proves Jaish link The brutal way in which WSJ journalist Daniel Pearl was murdered is a clear indication of the involvement of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. (Times of India)

 

The ‘New Anti-Semitism’ A new wave of anti-Semitism is sweeping Europe. (Ha’aretz Daily)

‘Intriguing’ offer: Saudi prince’s pitch to recognize Israel (Miami Herald)

EurasiaNet Culture A photo essay by Vladimir Syomin (Eurasia Net)

Can boards be held accountable? Enron Code of Ethics Handbook…in mint condition — never been used. (Jamaica Gleaner)

No end to stress in modern Japan (Japan Times)

 

Jacket of the future makes its own heat For centuries, winter coats have worked on a pretty straightforward premise: trap the heat the body generates. (CNN)