Earlier today, while sitting in front of the television with my sick child, the strangest thing happened. While watching an episode of "Spongebob Squarepants" called "Opposite Day", during which the characters intentionally do everything backwards, I decided to change the channel during a commercial. Much to my surprise, I found out that "Opposite Day" was not only being observed in Bikini Bottom ( for those without kids that's Spongebob's undersea hometown) but apparently cable news was practicing their own brand of dyslexia. Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to Washington, in an attempt to strongarm President Obama into sending Americans to die to protect Israel from a weapon that doesn't exist, was the main topic of conversation. While most of the comments were the usual pro-Israeli boilerplate bullshit, I was made aware of a new, and even more convoluted, rationale for starting an unprovoked war with Iran. Apparently, according to some, another reason we may need to confront Iran militarily is to ensure the security of Saudi Arabia and its tyrannical government. When I heard this, ( to steal line from Lewis Black ), "I had to remind myself to breathe". Protect Saudi Arabia? Wow, I don't even know where to begin.
No relationship with a foreign country causes the United States to compromise, not only its own values but its own security, more than our relationship with Saudi Arabia. First off, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, meaning its royal family, not its citizens, have all the power and control every aspect of daily life. It is one of the most repressive regimes in the world, crushing the smallest dissent with tortue and murder. Saudi Arabia is also an Islamic theocracy in which all other religions are outlawed. Iran, contrary to media reports, is a democracy in which all religious faiths are represented. Iran is home to over 300,000 Christians, over 60,000 Hindus, and over 40,000 Jews, all of whom have elected representatives in the Iranian parliament.
The government of Saudi Arabia follows Wahabbism, an extremely strict code of Islam that believes other faiths to be blasphemy and that women have no rights or public place. In order to enforce this code on its population, the most common public presence in Saudi Arabia is that of the Mutaween, the government's religious police, who patrol the streets looking for anyone who may be violating the rules of morality. The extremes they go to are absolutely shocking. In 2002, at a school in Mecca, the Mutaween locked the doors, preventing young girls from escaping a fire because they were not properly covered in accordance with the Wahabbist dress code. In 2008, after finding out his daughter had converted to Christianity, a Mutaween officer was permitted to cut out her tongue and burn her alive. Not surprisingly, these incidents received little or no coverage by the American media.
In the eight years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq we have been bombarded by stories of Iranian meddling in Iran. It would be naive to think that Iran wouldn't be trying to shape the future of Iraq. After all, Iran fought off a brutal invasion by Iraq during the 1980s, in which a million of its citizens died. Further fueling Iranian distrust, the United States immediatedly dispatched Donald Rumsfeld to offer support to Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi forces. This support came in the form of military aid, including chemical and biological weapons which were used against Iran, and intelligence support in the form of satellite surveillance so the WMD we gave Saddam could kill the most Iranians possible. Another black mark was the shooting down of an Iranian passenger jet by the American Navy ship USS Vincennes, killing all 290 civilians on board.
Despite receiving no media criticism, Saudi Arabia has been a major instigator of the violence in Iraq. A 2007 West Point study, showed that the majority of foreign fighters in Iraq killing American troops came from Saudi Arabia. On top of that many of the non-Saudi fighters had been let into Iraq through Saudi Arabia. Despite the findings, our government chose to publicly contradict their own report and continued to suggest that Iran and Syria were responsible for the violence against our forces in Iraq.
As bad as Saudi involvement in Iraq was, it pales in comparison to their role in the September 11th attacks. It is widely known that Bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis and that the Saudis are the main financiers of Al-Qaeda. Not publicized at all was the Saudi government's involvement in helping the hijackers. A Saudi government official, living near Tampa, hosted thirteen of the hijackers in the weeks leading up to the attacks. That official and his family fled the country on August 31, 2011, abandoning their house and all of their possessions. Another Saudi government official, based in San Diego, hosted two of the hijackers and provided them with funding while they took their flight training. He fled the country shortly before the attacks as well, leaving under similar circumstances.
In the three days after the attacks, while average Americans were not able fly, the United States government arranged for several special flights to allow certain Saudi citizens to be secretly flown out of the country before they could be questioned by authorities. All of the information pertaining to the Saudi involvement with 9-11 was deliberately hidden from the 9-11 Commission by the FBI. When the 9-11 Commission requested to be granted access to intelligence reports on Saudi Arabia, the Bush Administration refused to do so. Any information the commission learned on its own about Saudi Arabia was blacked out by the Bush Administration before its public release.
It appears our government will go to any length to protect Saudi Arabia, even if it comes at the expense of justice and security for its own people. In contrast, there has not been a shred of even circumstantial evidence linking Iran with 9-11. This was reaffirmed in the 9-11 Commission Report. Despite this, the Justice Department is allowing a lawsuit alleging Iranian invlovement in 9-11 to go ahead. Conversely, despite overwhelming evidence, American citizens were blocked from suing Saudi Arabia by the Supreme Court. Hopefully, recent efforts by former Senators Bob Graham and Bob Kerrey will help lift the lid on this shameful cover-up and force the Obama Administration to stop continuing the Bush-era policy of protecting the Saudis at all costs.
What's the reason for protecting this brutal regime that has killed so many Americans while pursuing a war with Iran? The answer is simple, 360 million is a much bigger number than zero. Those numbers represent the amount of oil the United States imports from Saudi Arabia and Iran, respectively. Now we often are told that the United States is dependent on Saudi oil and therefore we have to be involved militarily in the Middle East. However, that statement is somewhat incomplete. A more accurate statement would be that American oil companies are dependent on Saudi oil in order to keep screwing the American consumer. As of 2011, the United States is now a net exporter of petroleum products. This means that we actually ship overseas more petroleum products than we bring in. In fact, petroleum-based fuels are the United States' top export product. However, while oil companies see record profits the American consumer sees record prices. This is because they make a bigger profit selling gasoline overseas as opposed to selling it domestically, which would help lower prices.
Now before someone accuses me of being against capitalism, I want to state unequivocally that I have no problem with oil companies selling gasoline wherever they want in order to maximize profit. However, I do have a problem with the fact that I, as an American taxpayer, have to fund the protection of their overseas operations through our bloated Pentagon budget. Free market capitalism, as it has been explained to me, means a private entity takes a risk and is entitled to the rewards. When the United States government spends trillions to make the Middle East safe for American oil companies that is not capitalism, that is the very definition of socialism. If the oil companies really were the capitalists they claim to be they would higher a private company, like Blackwater, to ensure their safety overseas instead of looking for a handout from Washington. As an example, Shell Oil, based in Holland, is the world's second biggest oil company after Exxon. They have operations all over the world yet no Dutch soldiers are deployed outside of their home country. When Shell seeks reward overseas they assume their own risks. Who would have thought the Dutch, with their crazy drug laws, high taxes and universal healthcare, are bigger believers in capitalism than Americans?
As usual, the American stenography ( sorry, I meant "media" ) industry avoids saying anything negative about Saudi Arabia, apart from this outstanding rant by MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan. Sometimes the media's support for Saudi Arabia reaches a level that can only be described as sickening. While doing some research for this post, I stumbled across this clip on Fox News, in which Charles Krauthammer suggests that the United States should intervene militarily to save the Saudi monarchy from a popular uprising. Think about how fucked up that is. If the people of Saudi Arabia rose up against their oppressive dictatorship in pursuit of freedom and self-determination, Krauthammer would want it crushed. In other words, he wants young American men and women to die to save the brutal Saudi regime. I wonder if this is what he is referring to when he talks about "American exceptionalism"?
Or maybe it has something to do with the Saudi Royal Family being the second largest shareholder of News Corp., the parent company of Fox News. In fact, the Saudi Royal family stepped in to prevent Rupert Murdoch from being ousted in a hostile takeover of News Corp. in 2004. Now I'm not saying there is a direct connection between Krauthammer's comments and Saudi ownership of News Corp but, to borrow a phrase from an unnamed television network, "we report, you decide". Two hints: the network isn't Nickelodeon and when they say "fair and balanced" it's really "opposite day".
It is not my intention to single out Fox News or Charles Krauthammer. As guilty as they are for ignoring certain realities in the Middle East, publications like the New York Times and their idiot-in-chief Tom Friedman, are just as culpable. They represent a new generation of media, where the chosen narrative is more important than the facts, and access and ratings are more important than their responsibility to the public. When I consistently hear tougher questioning on sports radio than I do on cable news something is drastically wrong. Unfortunately, the days of Mencken and Murrow are long gone. I guess I'll have to settle for Spongebob.