April 24, 2004

Our Saudi "Allies"

I'd like to see the corrupt and reactionary House of Saud strung up on lamposts as long as they aren't replaced with an Al Qaeda regime. The Bush Administration's coziness with the princes is and has been troubling, but this is as good an explanation as any I've seen.

WASHINGTON - During the Iraq war, Saudi Arabia secretly helped the United States far more than has been acknowledged, allowing operations from at least three air bases, permitting special forces to stage attacks from Saudi soil and providing cheap fuel, U.S. and Saudi officials say.

The American air campaign against Iraq was essentially managed from inside Saudi borders, where military commanders operated an air command center and launched refueling tankers, F-16 fighter jets, and sophisticated intelligence gathering flights, according to the officials.

Much of the assistance has been kept quiet for more than a year by both countries for fear it would add to instability inside the kingdom. Many Saudis oppose the war and U.S. presence on Saudi soil has been used by Osama bin Laden to build his terror movement.

The best that can be said about them is that they are temporarily useful enemies.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at April 24, 2004 07:04 PM
Comments


I tend to view the Saudi people as enemies, and the House of Saud as our allies. Mind you, they walk a tightrope, so it's hard to tell the difference sometimes. I'd say they're doing as much as they can given that they rule over a hostile population in the heart of (wahabi) islam.

Posted by: David at April 24, 2004 07:21 PM

There is also the possibility that SA 'promised' to prevent a debilitating oil crisis and consequently Bush will not be too aggressive in dealing with SA's other transgressions. Rising oil prices are a hardship but I've somewhere that world economy can survive 35 $/b quite fine.

Posted by: marek at April 24, 2004 07:54 PM

Defending the Saudi billionaires and castigating the population under their thumbs. Spoken like a true democrat. Well done, David.

Posted by: flipster at April 24, 2004 08:01 PM

flipster: The measure of war is utility. Perfect idealism is a peacetime luxury. And we are a threat to the dream palace of the arabs. The arab street is not your friend.

Posted by: Eric E. Coe at April 24, 2004 08:13 PM

My hunch is that the hope for SA was that, with a strong American presence in a bordering country, their government could have pressure applied in the short-term by us, and in the long term by their own population, which would (eventually) witness democracy in action. Another important reason that we get this right over there.

Posted by: Jerry at April 24, 2004 08:14 PM

You folks don't seem to understand: The Saudis and the Bushes are friends and business partners since way back when. There isn't going to be any pressure put on them. Bush doesn't want to see them overthrown. That's why we've been protecting them for so long.

Posted by: flipster at April 24, 2004 08:25 PM

The Saudi government is weak, and therefore has to carry out its policy decisions in secret. This genuine need for secrecy also breeds corruption. The government is weak because religion is strong. Separation of church and state, or lack thereof, is the main problem deviling these societies. Sometimes it seems ridiculous in the U.S. that you can't even put a Christmas manger in city hall, but there is sound reason for it. Religion, based on absolute truths, is totally inappropriate for democratic society, which is based on pragmatism and consensus. In the west, democracy was only possible after the temporal power of the state had totally eclipsed the church, sometimes through violent, anti-clerical purges. Ataturk managed to do it in Turkey, so I guess it can be done in Muslim countries as well, but it seems a long way off in places like Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: MarkC at April 24, 2004 09:07 PM

Then there is the fact that whoever takes their place is almost certainly going to be a bunch of Muslim radicals who would love to turn SA into Taliban era Afghanistan.

Posted by: FH at April 24, 2004 09:07 PM

Defending the Saudi billionaires and castigating the population under their thumbs. Spoken like a true democrat. Well done, David.

Hey Flipster,

I'm not a Liberal, so I don't associate righteousness or evil with being poor or rich, as you automatically do. That's why I can see a fanatical wahabi and anti-American Saudi population as the enemy; while viewing the House of Saud as friendly, if they are acting accordingly. And if being under the thumb of the Sauds prevents them from exporting their terrorism, I'm all for it.

Posted by: David at April 24, 2004 11:02 PM

You folks don't seem to understand: The Saudis and the Bushes are friends and business partners since way back when.

What's your point? They sell oil, we buy it.

Posted by: David at April 24, 2004 11:04 PM

And if being under the thumb of the Sauds prevents them from exporting their terrorism, I'm all for it.

I think a polite word for that assumption would be, um, counterfactual.

Posted by: Mork at April 25, 2004 01:29 AM

The duplicitous subject of this story - of the Saudi government toward the Saudi people - bugs the crap out of me; even when it seemingly works to our short term advantage.

Isn't this similar to the way we got into this mess in the first place? Appeasement in public for cooperation in private?

Posted by: steve at April 25, 2004 03:57 AM

I think that this illustrates well the reason that, even with the situation in Iraq deteriorating, that the President is rising in the polls. Americans simply trust conservatives more than liberals* when it comes to foreign policy.

The House of Saud has been supporting our enemies for decades. It is a threat that should, at the appropriate time, be ruthlessly dealt with.

During the Cold War, the principle critique from the Left of conservative American foreign policy was that we were too confrontational with the Soviet Union, and that we had allied with totalitarian regimes that should have been our enemies. Interestingly, for much of the Left*, this is shaping up to be the critique of President Bush's foreign policy (adding that international consensus has not been maintained, certainly an argument with some merit).

Just as during the Cold War, victory against our main enemy required alliances with leaders which we wouldn't have touched in peacetime, our war on terror requires that we sometimes hold our noses and say and do what is required to win.

Success as a superpower in foreign policy requires realizing that there are hundreds of foreign policy issues, dozens of which impact our national security. That each of these issues is complex and multi-facetted, and that our allies' interests will never be completely parallel to ours. A leader's role is to resolve this complexity into an action plan that neutralizes all present threats, and eliminates some of the most pressing emerging threats.

There may sometimes be no good reason to rank one threat over another, but you have to pick one and go with it, because tackling them all at once, you can't do more than slowly lose ground.

So we helped the Mujahedeen during the Cold War (which was overthrown by the Taliban, many of whom were originally Mujahedeen as well). Helping Islamic militancy was bad, but fighting the Soviet Union was more important. Helping the Soviets was also bad, but the Nazis were a bigger threat and I certainly don't harbor any regrets about that, either.

OK, so the Saudis know all this. They've read the same foreign policy literature, went to the same universities, and probably watch the same TV newscasts. They're working very hard to be lower on our priority list. Our job is to keep the pressure up (probably why congressional republicans are conspicuously critical of Administration policy here), while giving the Saudis the possibility of survival if they help us.

We're in a unique moment in global history: we're the greatest, most powerful country in the world. But that won't last, so we have to try to eliminate our worst enemies while the moment lasts. If that means making friendly noises towards the Saudis, by all means let's do it. I'm all for letting them rule for exactly as long as they remain helpful in destroying more pressing enemies.

  • Present company excluded, of course. You have to admit that the Michael Tottens and Roger Simons of the world are in the minority in their party.
Posted by: Rob at April 25, 2004 06:09 AM

I'm not sure that one can say that the Saudi population is under anyone's thumb. My understanding is that, thanks to essentially unlimited oil money, all native born Saudis have government sinecures. That's why they import so many workers from other countries including the U.S. to do the actual work. I've worked with physicians who made >300K/yr tax free for working in Saudi Arabia for 2 years (and that was under Clinton by the way). The Saudi royal family avoids the need to use force by 1. greasing the wheels with cash and 2. allowing the Wahhabist faction a free hand.
And saying that someone who works in the oil field has "close ties to the Saudi Royal family" is just as silly as saying that a "Silk beverage producer" has "close ties to a Soy conglomerate." We demand oil, we demand companies supply it. Those companies will deal with the Saudis.

Posted by: Bill B. at April 25, 2004 07:05 AM

Rob,

"You have to admit that the Michael Tottens and Roger Simons of the world are in the minority in their party."

No I don't.

If the Democrat party were democraticly constituted I believe that MJT & RLS might very well hold the majority view. What I do admit is that current Democrat leadership is so terrified of losing the ABB fringe (about 25%) that they are allowing the fringe to drive the party bus right over a cliff. To repeat myself, I would bet good Yankee dollars that MJT could sit down with RLS and come up with a Dem platform based upon what they have written in postings or comments that would be accepted by the vast majority of the Democrat faithful. The Dem's can't win without the fringe and can't win with them. As a conservative Rep all I can do is applaud politely from the sidelines.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at April 25, 2004 07:07 AM

The House of Saud has anywhere up to 30,000 members, depending on which estimates you believe. All of them are involved in the government to some degree. So making blanket statements about whether or not they are our enemy can be difficult.

There are members who support the US because they are afraid of an Islamist takeover, these are the people who provided support during the war. There are also fundamentalist wahabis who take our oil money and funnel it straight to Bin Laden and other terrorists. The problem is, we aren't entirely sure which members of the House are on which side. Or even which side has the most numbers, the Saudis are not going out of their way to tell us.

Some of these people support us and some of them want us all dead. Personally, I think that people are right to be at least a bit wary of the House of Saud and any potential influence they might have.

Posted by: sam at April 25, 2004 07:36 AM

I think a polite word for that assumption would be, um, counterfactual.

Mork,

Although the House of Saud has ridden the fence for far too long (with its resulting consequences), the facts say that they are indeed starting to come around to our way of thinking.

A perfect example, I might add, of how making people try to please us has far better results than when we bend over to please them (as Liberals would have us do).

Posted by: David at April 25, 2004 08:54 AM

Rob,

I think a little history lesson is in order here. We were arming and training the Mujahedeen for months before the Soviet invasion in order to induce the Soviets into invading. We set the people of Afghanistan up as cannon fodder. Don't believe me? Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor at the time, has openly admitted it. They call it "The Great Betrayal" in that part of the world. One of bin Laden's biggest beefs with us. I know you're not supposed to discuss why he hates us beyond idiot catch phrases like "They hate our freedom", but this is one of the real reasons why, as well as our presence in Saudia Arabia, which he and his followers consider desecration of holy land by infidels.

Posted by: flipster at April 25, 2004 12:06 PM

Flipster,

do you have a cite for the claim you make about Brzezinski? And why is it that we have to hear about this from "Brzezinski" and not from Osama or the jihadists themselves? It seems to me like another case of Liberals putting words in the mouths of our enemies. For example, the palestinians say they want Jerusalem, but Liberals say they are struggling for "water resources and acquifers", etc. Get the picture?

It would be far more convincing if we heard it from THEM rather than from their Liberal spokespersons.

Posted by: David at April 25, 2004 12:36 PM

Some of the 30,000 members of the Saudi Royal family directly fund al Qaeda. Some (like Abdullah) allow the money to flow as they happily watch thousands die. Since 9/11, Saudi terrorist funding has gone down by less than 4%.

Terrorism experts call al Qaeda a Saudi operation. It’s mostly Saudi funded, and many members are Saudi.

None of the members of the Royal family have done anything to cut off funds to their paramilitaries. None are our allies. They show no concrete signs that they ever will be.

If they gave us any aid during the war, that aid is completely overwhelmed by the fact that their paramilitary group, al Qaeda, is doing everything it can to promote instability in the area.

Al Qaeda, is currently waging war against Iraq and America. They’re still killing Americans in Afghanistan. In contrast to the Cold War, waged against nations with powerful armies, Saudi Arabia has an army so weak they would probably lose a war with Belgium.

While Bush’s relationship with the Saudis is disgusting, the Democrats aren’t much better. Jimmy Carter just accepted a $4 million check from Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. He's the one who offered Rudy Giuliani ten million dollars. After Giuliani turned it down, Democrat Cynthia McKinney begged for the money.

The Kingdom is the terrorism we’re supposed to be fighting - the terrorism we would be fighting if our leaders and our state department weren't so busy cashing those large checks.

Posted by: mary at April 25, 2004 03:47 PM

None of the members of the Royal family have done anything to cut off funds to their paramilitaries. None are our allies. They show no concrete signs that they ever will be.

Would you call this a "concrete sign"? :

http://us.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/04/23/jeddah.gunfight/

Posted by: David at April 25, 2004 04:03 PM

I agree. I was kinda unsure before the Iraqi war about whether Bush was going to war. The reason was, up untill the last day before the war broke out, we were buying Iraqi oil. I say say use, abuse, screw these animals.

Posted by: Ricky Vandal at April 25, 2004 04:35 PM

Actually, Mary blogged on that question, David. Check her archives for the post and comments.

Posted by: Jim at April 25, 2004 05:04 PM

David,

Are you, like, living under a rock or something? Osama has never been shy about expressing why he's pissed at us. This stuff is no secret; Where the hell you been?

Posted by: flipster at April 25, 2004 05:28 PM

Hey David,

Just happened to do a search on Yahoo right after my last post. All I did was type "brzezinski" and the very first item to come up was a link to an article which I think ought to be a good enough "cite" to back up what I said about Afghanistan.

Posted by: flipster at April 25, 2004 05:37 PM

David – the Saudis did what they’ve always done – shoot a few of the usual suspects, then continue to spend billions to fund al Qaeda.

Until those funds dry up, there is nothing to prove that al Qaeda & the Saudi government are not working together (although they may have occasional arguments)

flipster – so why is Osama ‘pissed at us’? Is it because our unclean troops were disturbing the purity of Islamic lands? Is it because we (not the Communists - never the communists) singlehandedly endangered Afghan lives? Is it because of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who died as a result of the ‘US’ sanctions and the oil-for-food program? Or is Osama just angry about those thieving capitalists from Halliburton? Which al Qaeda propaganda effort are you referring to?

Posted by: mary at April 25, 2004 05:55 PM

Flipster,

I challenge you to show me where Osama said he's pissed at us because we funded jihadists in order to provoke a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (as Brzezinski claims). If you can show it to me, then I'll happily concede.

Remember, OSAMA has to say it, not some Liberal spokesperson for Osama.

Posted by: David at April 25, 2004 06:18 PM

Flipster,

I googled the very Brzezinksy interview that you cited. And in the first answer, he explains that Carter began funding the mujahedin 6 months before the Soviet invasion IN ORDER TO DESTABILIZE THE COMMUNIST PUPPET REGIME OF NAJIBULLAH--not to provoke a Soviet invasion (as you implied).

And I'm still waiting for you to send me Osama's statments about how he's pissed off about all the Stinger missiles we sent him.

Posted by: David at April 25, 2004 06:24 PM

mary,

Can I assume from the tone of your remarks that you buy into the official administration line that Osama hates us because he "hates our freedoms", period, end of story?

I'm amazed at how folks who argue with me here are so eager to categorize me based on nothing but my criticism of our foreign policy. That line about "never Communists" is absurd; I think it's obvious that invading Soviet troops were the ones who killed people there. There's a not-so-thinly veiled inference there that I must be a Communist.
This is so typical of hawks; If you don't support what we're doing you must be against America. You don't know anything about my politics; There are Republicans and conservatives who aren't interested in empire-building and don't think we have any reason to be in Iraq.

Posted by: flipster at April 25, 2004 07:22 PM

David,

I don't have to send you bin Laden's statements; They're not hard to find. In fact, I ran across a few when I did the Brzezinski search.

Posted by: flipster at April 25, 2004 07:25 PM

David,

As far as the Brzezinski interview is concerned, it's really splitting hairs to make an issue of whether the primary objective was aiding the rebels or provoking the Soviets; They knew there was a strong possibility the Soviets would invade, and of course that's exactly what happened. Note his glee over the Soviets entering "the Afghan trap" and giving the Soviet Union "their Vietnam", casualties be damned. It's pretty obvious they wanted the Soviets to come in. In fact, the Soviets stated that they did it because of our involvement.

Posted by: flipster at April 25, 2004 07:38 PM

Flipster: our presence in Saudia Arabia, which he and his followers consider desecration of holy land by infidels.

What's your point? That they're fascistic bigots? That they're right to hate us? That we should follow their orders?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 25, 2004 07:54 PM

Flipster: There are Republicans and conservatives who aren't interested in empire-building

No shit. I don't know a single American who is interested in empire-building. You just now figured this out?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 25, 2004 07:57 PM

flipster - Can I assume from the tone of your remarks that you buy into the official administration line that Osama hates us because he "hates our freedoms", period, end of story?

The official administration line is that the Saudi government is ‘moderate’, they are our allies and they are our partners in the war against terrorism. I don’t believe any of that. Do you?

Osama, influenced by his Wahhabi beliefs, believes that our lives are worthless because we don’t share his beliefs. Wahhabis call all non-Wahhabis ‘polytheists’ – moderate Muslims are polytheists, communists are polytheists, democrats, libertarians, Buddhists and atheists are polytheists. Wahhabis believe that the lives of billions of people are without value, and they demonstrate those beliefs every day.

Osama is also influenced by more modern writers like Sayyed Qutb. Qutb’s essays (written in the early 20th century) have inspired the current fundamentalist jihad. Since the goal of this jihad is to fight for the establishment of pre-medieval Islamic laws that make the Nazis look like a bunch of hippies, you could say that they hate any sort of freedom. If you want to know something about why Osama hates us, read Qutb.

I may have missed the many comments where you offered criticisms of the communists that equaled your criticisms of America. I’ve just noticed a tendency of the left to erase communist involvement in any cold war conflict, implying that America singlehandedly waged war around the world in the name of imperialism and oil. Your comments may have been more balanced in the past – I just didn’t happen to see them.

Posted by: mary at April 25, 2004 08:18 PM

As far as the Brzezinski interview is concerned, it's really splitting hairs to make an issue of whether the primary objective was aiding the rebels or provoking the Soviets;

No Flipster, not splitting of hairs. You made an OUTRAGEOUS claim, and I called you on it. It proved to be false, what a surprise! It's my job to dig beneath the surface like that and prove you Liberals the blowhards you are.

And no, I didn't expect you would send me Bin Laden's claims in that regard, because I suspected they were equally fallacious.

But I always give folks a chance to say their peace before I officially brand them a blowhard. You've just been branded.

Posted by: David at April 25, 2004 08:25 PM

Can I assume from the tone of your remarks that you buy into the official administration line that Osama hates us because he "hates our freedoms", period, end of story?

An obvious strawman. You get zero points Flipster.

Posted by: David at April 25, 2004 08:27 PM

I think Flipster is simply trolling.

We're all pretty much familiar with the situation in Afghanistan, but the summary is simple: weak monarchy, followed by coup and later a communist puppet regime. When the local populations' uprising became too much for the locals to handle, the soviets were forced to invade directly. US support for the mudjahedeen proved to be a key avenue for ablating away Soviet power.

In other words, we made an uncomfortable alliance because it was in our interest to eliminate the larger threat, the USSR. The rest of the conversation is side banter against the main point: against a larger threat, you sometimes have to hold your nose and form alliances of convenience. Example: the Saudis. Flipster's tone tells me that he knows that well, and nothing he's said (even his WWP-worthy description of the Soviet's Afghan war) contradicts this.

Sam's objection is a good one, but here's my response. Sure, hundreds or thousands of members of the Saudi monarchy may be pro-American. But as an institution that's not the case. Their internal preferences may be interesting, and even useful if we can exploit divisions to influence or damage their operations. But since this is a strategic rather than a judicial process, our objectives have to be... well, objective. I couldn't care less how much they like or hate us; their actions are far more important than their rhetoric or private thoughts.

I'm being emphatic about this because it's my main point: you don't have to like your allies or hate your enemies in international situations. Alignment is determined by national interest. Right now ours requires us to work with the Saudis. Later, it might not. But too many lives depend on this to let sentiment or emotion drive these decisions.

Posted by: Rob at April 25, 2004 09:04 PM

No shit. I don't know a single American who is interested in empire-building. You just now figured this out?

Come on Michael. By any sensible definition, you are interested in empire-building.

What else do you call it when you claim the right to replace regimes throughout the world that you dislike with governments that are more to your taste, and to inculcate a particular, non-indigenous set of values in those countries?

Maybe you're sensitive to the term because most empires have, historically, been pretty bad deals for a lot of the folks in the colonized areas, but I can't see how you could argue that it's an innaccurate description of what America is doing in Iraq, and what you have said you would support America doing elsewhere in the Middle-East.

To put it another way, was the British Empire any less an empire because most of the British honestly believed that they were bringing civilization and progress to their colonies (and in many senses, did)?

I mean, seriously, does anyone think that we don't intend for Iraq to circle in America's orbit in the future? Do you think we would have gone there if we didn't believe that would be the result?

I think this is another example of how your personal conviction of the purity of your motives blinds you to the actual facts of what is occuring, and in particular, how the people who are directly affected by America's policy might regard it.

Posted by: Mork at April 25, 2004 09:53 PM

Mork,

The Phillipines was briefly part of an American empire. You could say Puero Rico and Guam still are.

How about Germany? Was it ever part of the American "empire"?

If we annex Iraq, I'll concede that you are correct.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at April 25, 2004 11:02 PM

Micheal: The US is imperialist, because Lenin said that Capitalism is Imperialism. The cargo-cultist anti-imperialists probably don't know the orgin of their worship, but that is where they are getting their beliefs.

Posted by: Ex at April 26, 2004 04:47 AM

"No shit. I don't know a single American who is interested in empire-building. You just now figured this out?"

Perhaps. But there are a lot of Americans who think that other Americans are interested in it.

http://www.realisticforeignpolicy.org/

I'm too liberal and idealistic to agree with these foreign policy "realists"...I bring it to the attention of you and your readers because I am pissed with the notion that only the far left and the Buchananites have concerns about the neoconservative agenda.

"The best that can be said about [the Saudis] is that they are temporarily useful enemies."

The problem as you know is that Bin Laden and Hussein could have substituted for the Saudis in your sentence twenty years ago. I personally find it hard to believe that the Saudi government wants to do much to destabilize America -- we buy too much oil for them to do that. But I am worried about our other "allies" in the war on terror, particularly this guy:

"Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, formerly the head of the local branch of the Communist Party and now dictator of a proudly independent country. The regime is probably best known for the systematic torture in its prison system, where one inmate was thrown into boiling water in a particularly infamous incident."*

Our pal.

*From American Prospect "Freedom Fraud: Bush talks about democracy. Building it is another matter."
http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewPrint&articleId=7604

Posted by: Markus Rose at April 26, 2004 06:42 AM

Hey Michael,

My point was that they resent our miltary presence on what they consider their holy land. Period.

You're supporting the war in Iraq because you want to bring democracy there, right? I'd like you to ask yourself a few simple questions:

1) If elected, will we allow a Communist government to take control there?

2) If elected, will we allow a socialist or leftist government to take control there?

3) If elected, will we allow a Baathist government to take control there?

4) If elected, will we allow an Islamic fundamentalist government to take control there?

If you can honestly answer "yes" to any of those questions, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell...

Posted by: flipster at April 26, 2004 02:42 PM

flipster --
"If elected, will we allow an Islamic fundamentalist government to take control there?"

I actually think we might allow a fundamentalist government to take power in the south, under some sort of federation or regional autonomy scheme, as long as they don't try to impose themselves on the Kurds (our only real allies, it would seem) and as long as they kill enough of our soldiers first. Principle, along with power, flows from the barrel of a gun.

Posted by: Markus Rose at April 26, 2004 02:55 PM

Hey David,

Do you think that if the Soviets had spent six months in, say, Mexico, training and arming people to overthrow a government we liked, that they wouldn't know that they'd goad us into invading the place? For all we know, Brzezinski and whoever thought of both arming the insurgents and encouraging the invasion at the same time. Or maybe he reversed the events in the interview. What difference does it make? They knew the Soviets would come, and were very happy they did, because it became a quagmire for them just like Vietnam was for us. Sorry, I'm not conceding you anything.

Posted by: flipster at April 26, 2004 02:55 PM

Markus,

You could be right. Of the possibilities I laid out, it's certainly the one I'm most likely to be wrong about. I'm think the preference is the same as during the Cold War, though: A compliant, right-wing authoritarian who'll keep the people in line, keep the oil flowing, and of course allow corporations a free rein to do as they like.

Posted by: flipster at April 26, 2004 03:01 PM

If we annex Iraq, I'll concede that you are correct.

What you're doing here is taking a legalistic approach (sovereignty = empire) to avoid the question of whether what America has done in Iraq (and you want it to do elsewhere) contains the substantive incidents of imperial control. Once again, you are taking an ideological rather than historical view of what is happeneing. What is the substantive difference, for example, between America's position in Iraq and at least the early period (pre-1857) of British rule in India? In short, has not America taken control of Iraq for its own benefit?

How about Germany? Was it ever part of the American "empire"?

There are obvious differences that make Germany a poor comparison. For example, it was conquered as the result of a defensive war, rather than a voluntary decision to expand American control to that territory. Also, America never formally or otherwise controlled all of Germany (you may not remember that America actually had allies in that one, and administrative control in the post-war period was divided among them). Finally, when sovereignty was transferred back, the transfer was complete and genuine.

But here's one for you. During the cold war, it was common to refer to the Warsaw Pact countries as the "Soviet Empire". Was it? If so, why? And if not, why not?

Posted by: Mork at April 26, 2004 03:40 PM

Flipster,

you're welcome to speculate all day long. That's not why you're a blowhard. You're a blowhard because you purported to quote Brzezinski to support you flights of fancy, but your quote was fabricated.

That, at the very least, you should concede.

Posted by: David at April 26, 2004 03:42 PM

mary,

Let me make something clear: I do not critcize America; I criticize the negative aspects of those who govern it. I love America as much as anyone who posts on this blog. I simply think that our country and the world would be a much better place to live if we just minded our own business. This is hardly a radical left idea: It was espoused often by our founding fathers. They were not perfect men, to be sure. But I'll take their prescription for peace and harmony over that of Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, JFK, LBJ, Ronald Reagan and the George Bushes any day of the week.

I'm sorry if I offend you by not offering a criticism of communists every time I offer a criticism of our government. I didn't think we had any shortage of commie-bashing in this country, but obviously you believe otherwise. I promise I'll try real hard to be more critical of commies in the future. Do I get to keep my citizenship now?

Posted by: flipster at April 26, 2004 03:59 PM

I didn't think we had any shortage of commie-bashing in this country, but obviously you believe otherwise. I promise I'll try real hard to be more critical of commies in the future.

Flipster,

Do you feel there is an absence of American bashing in this country? How bout around the world? Does the cosmos need yet another America basher, and that's why you oblige them?

Being an America basher doesn't make you cutting edge or courageous. Far from it. It's the hip and way oh so cool thing to do, and not courageous at all. So keep going with the flow. You're nothing but a follower hoping to get laid by some equally vapid hippie chick.

Posted by: David at April 26, 2004 04:06 PM

David,

Where'd you get the crap you just spewed in that last post? Is there a book called "The World According to Archie Bunker" that I haven't heard about?

I don't give a flying fuck about being cool, hip,or cutting edge. And when, o when will you right-wing bozos get it through your thick heads that you don't own the American creed? That the flag is not the personal property of conservatives?That people can actually disagree with you and not be America-bashers? That continuosly sliming people with different ideas than your own doesn't make you a better person OR a better American than anybody else?

Posted by: flipster at April 26, 2004 04:30 PM

Flipster,

"Archie Bunker", LOL. Good one.

Ok. Have you settled down now? Step back, take a deep breath.

And again.

Better?

Ok. That's great you don't care about being cutting edge. Really. It's encouraging because much of what passes as criticism of America, particularly with the young 'ons is about being cutting edge and hip. That's why a conservative is viewed as a neanderthal. Their words, not mine.

Now, about your claims. YOu yourself referred to your criticism of commies as "commie bashing." Your own words. Go back and check.

Done?

Now, doesn't it logically follow that criticism of America would be "America bashing"? But your criticism tends so much towards the speculative (your crackpot theory about Afghanistan) that it definitely comes off as America bashing. Maybe if you stuck to the basics, the factual, the provable, it wouldn't seem like you have such an axe to grind.

But again, do you really think the world really needs another "critic" of America? Do you feel that you're providing some kind of a service? And why don't you feel any discomfort at the very real America bashing that is everywhere around us, particularly abroad? It's all good, isn't it?

Regarding flags. How many Leftists have you seen carrying the American flag lately? (that they didnt subsequently burn, I mean).

Posted by: David at April 26, 2004 04:46 PM

Friend David,

Okay. Look. I'll toss you an olive branch. I'll admit that you may have a point about the Brzezinski thing. Okay. My bad. I'll make sure my accusations are more crystal-clear in the future. But will you at least grant me that they knew an invasion was probably going to happen because of what they were doing?

Next point: the "commie-bashing" thing. I really don't get your point on this one. There was a context to that which I think you missed. Mary criticized me because I criticize American foreign policy without criticizing communists. I didn't think I had an obligation to give communists equal time, so I told her I promised to try to criticize commies whenever I criticize U.S policy in the future. I thought it was a silly argument, so I made a joke out of it. I get the feeling you didn't catch that.

Last point: You speak often of America-bashing abroad. Have you ever tried to look at things through their eyes? Don't you think these people might feel they have a legitimate grievance against us? I'm not talking about that son of a bitch bin-Laden; He can go to hell for all I care. I'm talking about the good, decent people who don't want to kill anybody but simply feel an animus towards us because of our foreign policy?

Posted by: flipster at April 26, 2004 05:16 PM

flipster - I simply think that our country and the world would be a much better place to live if we just minded our own business

So that’s your response to al Qaeda, the hate they represent and the genocidal Islamic fundamentalist movement – your variation of ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’

I doubt that the founding fathers would approve. But I’m sure that Charles Lindbergh, his America First group, Pat Buchanan, Dennis Kucinich and Noam Chomsky would all be thrilled.

Posted by: mary at April 26, 2004 05:23 PM

Um, Mary, I think it's pretty much indisputable that the founding fathers would agree with Flipster's proposition.

Of course, we live in a very different world today.

Posted by: Mork at April 26, 2004 06:06 PM

Mork - The founding fathers would respond to an unprovoked, direct attack on American soil by 'minding their own business??'

As I said, I doubt it. Even Lindbergh & his 'America First' weren't that lame. But, everyone has their own interpretation of history.

Posted by: mary at April 26, 2004 08:12 PM

mary,

Al-Qaeda is not a country. Last I heard, we were at war in Iraq, which has nothing to do with al-Qaeda. I think if we'd kept our noses out of that part of the world for the last 50 years, there probably wouldn't be an al-Qaeda.

Posted by: flipster at April 26, 2004 08:17 PM

I think if we'd kept our noses out of that part of the world for the last 50 years, there probably wouldn't be an al-Qaeda.

You didn't read anything about Wahhabism or Qutb, did you?

Posted by: mary at April 26, 2004 09:43 PM

Flipster,

no I don't concede to your speculations about Afghanistan. Why in the heck would I? It's PURE speculation.

America bashers abroad have made themselves quite clear, I don't really need to "look at things through their eyes." I only have to listen to what they say. You should do the same thing, instead of putting words in their mouths and trying to be their Liberal spokesperson.

Posted by: David at April 26, 2004 09:46 PM

David,

You're not a nice person. That's all I have to say.

Posted by: flipster at April 27, 2004 09:39 AM

Flipster,

don't be silly.

Posted by: David at April 27, 2004 10:05 AM

David: "Regarding flags. How many Leftists have you seen carrying the American flag lately? (that they didnt subsequently burn, I mean)."

David, from my experience this is slanderous. I read lots and lots of news, and I have not heard of a single reported flagburning incident in years. I observed (not as a participant) two ANSWER-sponsored rallies in DC in spring of last year. There were quite a few flags. I observed no flag burnings, and none were reported in the news media.

"But again, do you really think the world really needs another "critic" of America?"

What the world needs, or what most people who are interested in politics need, is a big huge forced enema dispensing a massive doses of IMPARTIALITY, enabling them to see the faults of America like Chomsky sometimes does while acknowleding its capacity for good like William Bennett sometimes does, and bringing both of these viewpoints together, even if doing so makes sound less equivocol than those cocksure ignoramouses that know which side they are on...

Wouldn't you want the American government to be severely criticized if in fact you thought it was doing something terribly wrong? If someone else, like Flipster and a couple of billion other people, thought it was doing something wrong, say in Iraq, and you disagreed, wouldn't you want them all to speak out, so that you could in turn refute their claims? Isn't this the whole point of the First Amendment, and the main reason for the superiority of liberal, democratic government -- under it, if the people care enough to speak out, leaders are held ACCOUNTABLE for their actions, and weak ideas and viewpoints are refuted?

Posted by: Markus Rose at April 27, 2004 10:13 AM

mary,

I have read about Wahhabism and Qutb. While I find no credible evidence that Osama is affiliated with Wahhabism, it seems fairly clear that he is a devotee of Qutb. However, I stated that there PROBABLY would be no Al-Qaeda if not for our presence in that part of the world. It has been well established that the seeds of Al-Qaeda were planted in Afghanistan under the aegis of the CIA. And while Qutb was radicalized by his stay in America, I am unaware of any advocation of jihad against America by him. He did clearly believe in the overthrow of impure governments in the Muslim world. Read the World Islamic Front's Declaration of Jihad of February 23,1998, and you will find the primary focus on America's presence in their part of the world over the previous seven years (that would go back to the Gulf War and the subsequent stationing of U.S. troops in Saudia Arabia). I think to claim that Al-Qaeda's existence can conclusively be attributed to Wahhabism and Qutb is most likely wrong in the case of the former and far from definite in the case of the latter.

Posted by: flipster at April 27, 2004 05:28 PM

I find no credible evidence that Osama is affiliated with Wahhabism

Wahhabism is the state religion of Saudi Arabia. The practice of any other religion is prohibited in the Kingdom. It’s the foundation that the Kingdom was built on. How could Osama have failed to be influenced by it?

From an essay on by Dore Gold:

"Wahhabism gave teeth to its tenets by arming itself through an alliance between its founder, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, and the head of the Saudi clan, Muhammad ibn Saud, in 1744."

"In the name of Wahhabism, its adherents were extraordinarily brutal toward noncombatants, including women and children, delegitimizing them as mushrikun, or polytheists, who did not have any right to live. Most notably, in 1802 Wahhabi armies slaughtered thousands of Shiites in their holy city of Kerbala, situated in Ottoman Iraq. Wahhabi warriors also destroyed tombs and other Shiite shrines."

"Such brutality is, in fact, at the core of modern terrorism, for the early Wahhabi warriors acted on Wahhabism's claims that entire groups of people have no right to live and deserve to be slaughtered. And delegitimizing other religious groups and labeling them as infidels or, even worse, as polytheists - often based on the imprecations of mainstream Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia - is precisely how Osama bin Laden's mass terrorism works."
...

So what you’re saying is, despite the fact that Qutb declared that violent jihad and the establishment of Shariah law was the solution to Islam’s problems, and despite the fact that his theories are based on Wahhabism and their bigoted hatred of all ‘polytheists,’ and despite the fact that Qutb’s theories were embraced by some Muslims in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran before the CIA was even created, al Qaeda is essentially a western creation.

You’re not giving the Islamists much credit here.

Of course groups like the World Islamic Front blame America for their crimes (when they’re not blaming Israel, that is). It’s what they do.

There’s an interesting story about two Palestinian thieves, who held up a suicide bomber. Rather than give up his bomb, the suicide bomber blew all three Palestinians up.

Hamas blames Israel.

I’m sure you can find some way to blame America. So tell me, how did the CIA manage that one? Or was it all Halliburton's fault?

Posted by: mary at April 27, 2004 09:14 PM

mary,

Growing up in a nation with a state religion does not mean that you adhere to it. Osama's parents were, in fact, Yemenis. He was not brought up with Wahhabi beliefs. You may want to take a look at www.the wahhabimyth.com on this point.

The CIA did in fact arm and train Islamicists in Afghanistan. Bonds and contacts were established during this operation among fighters from many different countries. That's how Osama got there in the first place. You can call pointing this out "blaming America", but facts are facts. This is how the seeds of Al-Qaeda were planted. The CIA trained them to use terrorism as a primary tool to fight the Soviets. Eventually they turned what they were taught against us.

I don't "blame America" for anything. I blame the militaristic ethos of those who have been running the place for the last five or six decades. I'm with Gore Vidal on this: I love the American Republic but hate the American Empire.

Posted by: flipster at April 28, 2004 09:45 AM

The best that can be said about [the Saudis] is that they are temporarily useful enemies.

"Nice Saudi, nice Saudi! (Damn, now where is that stick???)

Posted by: cp at April 28, 2004 11:39 AM

flipster -

The thewahhabimyth.com?? Is that where you’ve been getting your information? Oh, dear.

Wahhabimyth is a Saudi run website with quotes from John Whitbeck, self-proclaimed international lawyer for peace and official Saudi spokesman.

Here’s a quote from this international lawyer for peace:

“Arabs and Muslims are acutely aware of the widespread Western (and particularly American) tendency to view them as less than fully human - or at least not as human beings entitled to basic human rights. Enthusiastic Western (and particularly American) approval of the transformation of the Arab land of Palestine into the Jewish state of Israel (necessarily requiring the dispossession and dispersal of the indigenous Palestinian population) and Western (and particularly American) indifference to the sanctions-induced premature deaths of over half a million Iraqi children under the age of five (characterized by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, without eliciting any discernible outrage in the United States, as a "price worth paying" for America's Iraq policy) cannot otherwise be explained. No one who believes that Arabs are human beings could approve of the former or be indifferent to the latter. Holding both views simultaneously is logically and intellectually impossible”
...
Another quote from Al Ahram weekly:
....
"One should not be surprised that the US vetoed sending unarmed observers to the occupied Palestinian territories. The US would probably give unqualified support to Israel even if it pushed three million Palestinians, live, through a meat-grinder. However, one used to expect better from Europe..."

"..The primordial requirement for peace must now be to make Ariel Sharon and all he represents appear, in Israeli eyes, a worse disaster than Ehud Barak...Unfortunately, this will require that conditions on the ground get even worse in the short term in order for there to be any hope of their getting better...a far greater degree of Arab solidarity with the Palestinian people than has been demonstrated to date...on the practical and financial level -- will be required."

"Unfortunately, this will require that conditions on the ground get even worse in the short term in order for there to be any hope of their getting better. During the difficult months ahead, a far greater degree of Arab solidarity with the Palestinian people than has been demonstrated to date -- not simply on the rhetorical but on the practical and financial level -- will be required. The Arab world has the means to summon the world's attention and to force it to take effective action on behalf of a genuine peace if its leaders can only summon the political will to do so."
..

No America-haters here. No Anti-Semites, either. /sarcasm

This was written in May, 2001.

Whitbeck’s piece was part of an organized bid for funds from Arab nations to finance the pre-planned second Intifada against Israel. An international lawyer for peace asking for cash to blow up babies.

The www.thewahhabimyth.com exposes the ‘fictitious link with bin laden.’ Where did you find the link to this crap, Indymedia? Do you believe this stuff? Do you subscribe to the National Enquirer?

Of course you agree with Gore Vidal.

Posted by: mary at April 28, 2004 06:03 PM

mary,

The only thing I wrote from wahhabimyth was the first paragraph. Is that paragraph untrue?

Do you dispute the stuff about the CIA and Islamicists in Afghanistan? I don't hear anybody denying it...

As far as the Whitbeck quotes, some of it is extreme, but I happen to agree with the first paragraph. I really see nothing there that I can argue with. There has been a callous disregard for the lives of the people of Iraq that continues to this day. The country has been under siege, whether by bombs, sanctions or outright warfare for the last thirteen years. While there is no denying the anti-Semitism of Islamic fundamentalists, I do not believe that every criticism of Israel in and of itself is anti-Semetic. And if people in that part of the world hate America, I can't really say I blame them. Wouldn't we hate Iraq if they had bombing and sanctioning and invading us for thirteen years?

Posted by: flipster at April 28, 2004 06:57 PM

The CIA made a mistake when they believed that the mujahideen were reliable and trustworthy because they were so deeply religious.

Why did Americans work with the mujahideen? Weren’t they fighting a totalitarian form of government that had caused more than 100 million deaths – a form of government that destroyed lives and the economies of many nations? That form of government that ‘progressives’ still can’t bear to criticize – begins with a com – ends with an -ism.

The CIA didn’t ‘create’ al Qaeda – or Hamas, or the International Islamic Front or Jemaah Islamiyah or any of the other Saudi funded paramilitary organizations.

I do not believe that every criticism of Israel in and of itself is anti-Semetic

Do you believe that gathering funds to blow up babies in Israel is anti-Semitic?

If people in that part of the world hate America, I can't really say I blame them. Wouldn't we hate Iraq if they had bombing and sanctioning and invading us for thirteen years.

Arabs have been bombing and slaughtering Americans, Israelis, Hindus, Sudanese and Europeans for decades. According to your line of reasoning, we should hate them right back.

You agree with Whitbeck, rabid anti-Semitic international lawyer for peace. You seem to be ok with hate.

Maybe you should talk to JvR in the comments above. He’s European, so you probably believe that he’s innately superior to all the Americans here. You two have a lot in common.

Posted by: mary at April 28, 2004 08:17 PM

mary,

First off, I'm Jewish myself, so don't even TRY to
insinuate that I'm anti-Semitic.

Never said the CIA created Al-Qaeda. But their operation did bring together the people who would eventually form Al-Qaeda.

You use a broad brush when you say "Arabs" have been slaughtering Americans and others. You're talking about a very small percentage of Arabs who have been doing this. And whatever damage they've done is so miniscule compared to the havok the U.S. military-industrial complex has been wreaking all over the Third World over the decades. Obviously, since we're always the good guys even when we're not, you don't give a crap about that. So you just go on believing the warmongering, jingoistic bullshit the establishment and the mainstrem media keep spooning out every day. I'm not going to waste any more time arguing against your delusions. I've got better things to do.

Posted by: flipster at April 29, 2004 09:55 AM

flipster, there was no implication of anti-Semitism. I was just pointing out that you seem to hate a lot of people, something that you just confirmed.

Posted by: mary at April 29, 2004 02:20 PM

mary,

I HATE PEOPLE??? I'm the one who's heartbroken over what we're doing to the people of Iraq. I don't get a sense that too many other people posting here feel the same way. I will, however, apologize if my last e-mail seemed overly caustic. I'm just angry and frustrated. I didn't mean to take it out on you. I'm sorry.

Posted by: flipster at April 29, 2004 02:53 PM

apology accepted, but I didn't think it was a personal attack..

Posted by: mary at April 30, 2004 08:06 AM
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