April 17, 2003

More on the Saudi-U.S. Love...

More on the Saudi-U.S. Lovefest: Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball hagainst the Sauds by the fami1 victims. From their most recent:

[M]embers of the Saudi royal family and the country's wealthiest businessmen — many of whom are defendants in the case — have offered up seven-figure retainers to some of the toniest and most politically connected law firms in the country.

Baker Botts, [Prince] Sultan's law firm, for example, still boasts former secretary of State James Baker as one of its senior partners. Its recent alumni include Robert Jordan, the former personal lawyer for President Bush who is now U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Nasty, nasty. Prince Sultan, you'll remember, is the Saudi Defense Minister ... and Prince Bandar's dad.

Newsweek names a bunch of law firms litigating against the Sept. 11 widows, and then there's this encouraging bit:

One former Clinton administration official at a big law firm said he was personally approached to represent a high-ranking Saudi prince in the case but turned it down. "I kept asking myself, 'do I want to be representing the Saudis against the 9-11 families — especially after all the trouble we had getting cooperation from the Saudis on terrorism'," the official said. "I finally just said no."
Glenn Reynolds, who flagged this item, has a recurring line about how it should be "expensive" to cross America in the War on Terror. If anything, I think, it should be expensive to collude and pal around with the corrupt House of Saud. France may be part of your "axis of weasels," but whatever axis Saudi Arabia represents produced 15 of the hijackers who murdered 3,000 of us on Sept. 11, 2001. And even one week after that vile event, Bush thought Bandar more of a buddy than Jacques Chirac. From that March 24 New Yorker profile:
On September 18th, Condoleezza Rice called Bandar to tell him that the President wanted to see him at the White House. Cheney and Rice were there when Bandar arrived; Bush's two dogs nudged people's legs, and Bush joked that he wanted to see a friendly face before his next meeting with Jacques Chirac, the President of France, who had been critical of him. ("Let him wait," Bush instructed at one point during the two-hour meeting, when an aide announced that Chirac had arrived.)
Appalling.

Posted by at April 17, 2003 05:07 PM
Comments

Do you really consider the Sept. 11th lawsuit part of the "war on terror"?

Anyway, something interesting that seems to be a subtext of your post, is that your mutual disgust for Bush's closeness to the Saudis, and their legal "maneuverings" would seem to imply that Bush himself is guilty of crossing America in the War on Terror. He, his family's, and many other pillars of American business' 'collusion' with the House of Saud has been going on forever.

If a law firm representing Saudi businessmen is guilty, well then how about the people who actually do business in Saudi Arabia? There are hundreds of them, and they are some of the wealthiest and best-connected people in the country.

While I agree that those who are involved in terrorism should be singled out and made to pay, do you really want to live in a country where a law firm is penalized for representing someone thought to be connected to nefarious deeds? To me it is one of the cornerstones of justice in America that anyone can get the best representation that they can afford. Yes this means that lawyers can be ethically 'slippery,' but the alternative (McCarthyite backlisting of those who represent anyone even remotely connected with "the war on terror") is far worse.

Posted by: fred at April 17, 2003 05:41 PM

Fred -- I hear you about the right to defense, and I would never call a law firm who represents *anyone* "guilty." But at the same time, I am heartened to see *one* politically connected firm reject the case on moral grounds. Do I consider the Sept. 11 lawsuit part of the War on Terror? I don't really know. But I think it will certainly *assist* the War on Terror, by helping to unravel information about Saudi financing of Al Qaeda, while hopefully shaming those who have engaged in a colossal suck-up to one of the worst regimes on earth.

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 17, 2003 05:49 PM

Sidebar comment: If the neocons really had the influence inside the Oval Office (and the ear of the President), it seems to me that Bush wouldn't be making such gestures or behaving this way towards the House of Saud. I'm sceptical of the Josh Marshall "the neocons are comming, the neocons are coming". This, it appears, to be one small (albeit very) piece of evidence against the charge.

Hey, where's Wolfowitz when you need him?

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 17, 2003 06:42 PM

So you are "appalled" that merely a week after 9/11, President Bush met with Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, because 15 of the 19 suicide terrorists were citizens of that country.

Since you find this so appalling, let me ask: When did you learn that those 15 were Saudis? If you knew that information within a week of 9/11, then you must be a terrorist yourself to have known that, because that information was not reported publicly until more than a week after 9/11 as it took some time to identify all 19 of the attackers.

What I find truely appalling is that people with 20-20 hindsight would hold public figures accountable for information that they could not possibly have known at the time.

Posted by: Jay Stannard at April 17, 2003 07:20 PM

SMGalbraith-
Of the various distict ideologies vying for control of the Republican party - conservative, neoconservative, libertarian, fundimentalist Christian, ect., I think it is safe to say that the neocons are in control of the ideological reins.

But you forget, this is the REPUBLICAN PARTY. Idelogy be damned if it interferes with the business elite. I mean on Suadia Arabia, ALL the various ideologies vying for dominance in the Republican party are in agreement that it is an evil place. But forced to choose between what their own theorists call evil, and selling out to big business, this administration has made its choice, the only choice a Republican administration WOULD make.
-Decnavda

Posted by: Timothy Roscoe Carter at April 17, 2003 07:29 PM

Fred,

"To me it is one of the cornerstones of justice in America that anyone can get the best representation that they can afford."

I believe that is the cornerstone of corruption, not justice, and corruption is what this is all about.

The Sept . 11th lawsuit IS an integral component of the War on Terror as it will ultimately reveal the anger that caused the terror. In fact we might have all been better served if this war had been called the War on Anger and not the War On Terror so as to look more at the causes rather than the effects, but we all know who had the naming rights don't we?

Posted by: Warren Celli at April 17, 2003 07:33 PM

Jay Stannard-

1. The administration almost immediately suspected Al Queda, and they already knew a good deal about al Queda's membership, leadership, and financing.

2. Mr. Welch here probably could not have known within a week that 15 were Suadis. But that information did come out fairly quickly, and Bush does have access to at least SOME information that is not reported publicly. They got the names from passenger lists. I would bet you money that Bush knew within a week that 15 of the highjackers were Suadis. He had just already decided to attack Iraq.
-Decnavda

Posted by: Timothy Roscoe Carter at April 17, 2003 07:36 PM

TRCarter:
Sorry, way too simplistic. I've never been a fan of the economic determinism school of thought. We've got, oh, about 5,000 years of history to show the weaknesses in its explanation of human behavior; man is motivated by lots of things - not just money, hell, especially money. Y'know, things like, fame, glory, selflove, hatred, notoriety, vanity et cetera.

Too many contradictions to fit your observation.

(1) Bush is considered by many Jewish Americans to be the best President the State of Israel has ever had. We can debate that; but certainly he's been a strong supporter of it. No financial interest there; cui bono?

Jewish Americans will overwhelmingly support (financially and at the ballot box) the Dem nominee (unless it's a real whackjob). The Republicans across the board (except for the isolationist far, far Right) support Israel over against the Arabs (read oil). If Big Oil/Big Business ran the White House, why support Israel in this way? No financial gain there.

Hell, as you probably know, the K Street fat cat Republicans are entirely against all of this talk of imposing democracy in the Middle East. Baker, Scowcroft et al. are vehemently agaie not allowed as much as having a little chapel-tent on their bases (George Bush the first was forced to celebrate Thanksgiving 1990 on a ship parked offshore, rather than actually say grace in a tent). The Royal Family is notoriously, fantastically corrupt. The kinds of democratic reforms that George Bush the second is demanding in Palestine would be totally unheard of in Saudi Arabia. It is one of the least free countries on the planet, by just about every measure I have ever seen. These are not our values, yet the public face behind this appalling misgovernance is the only person not named Dubya that "Bar" lets smoke cigars in the house. I find that appalling. We should have better values than that, no matter how neato the Prince is.

2) That cozy relationship wins Saudi Arabia special concessions and loopholes, through which murderers waltz into this country, and try to kill as many of us as possible.

3) Those murderers, as you rightly point out, are trying to overthrow the House of Saud, and install an even more vicious theocratic state. Two of their motivations on this front are related to the cozy U.S.-Saudi relationship -- A) They are disgusted by the corruption and hypocrisy of Saudi leaders (who are, it turns out, corrupt and hypocritical), and B) they are horrified by the presence of American troops in the land of Mecca. While there is an extremely limited length to which one would want to attempt to mollify the complaints of madmen, it seems logical to me that by encouraging more democracy in the Middle East, we will be *dis*couraging both anti-Semitism and murderous anti-Americanism. Our cozy relationship with Bandar and his family, and our hyper-concern over their influence on the global oil supply, restrain us from pushing for democratic reforms. It puts us on the side of the oppressors.

The question is & will always be -- do we favor the "stability" of being pals with this dictatorial family, who do all kinds of off-the-book favors for American presidents (stabilize the price of oil, fund the contras, what have you); or do we risk some crazy Algerian-like instability of letting the oppressed Bin Ladenites have more of a say. It's a false choice, I think -- I'd say that the status quo has created something that is flat untenable & dangerous, and that we can no longer afford to be chums with a dynasty that pays billions in bribe money to whack-jobs who want to blow us up, runs its own country into the ground, and exerts an unhealthy influence on the American government ... especially when it's run by someone named Bush.

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 18, 2003 12:11 AM

I agree with your comment above about the Bush relationship with the Saudis but why do you consider the French allies? They certainly didn't conduct themselves like allies in the years leading up to the war.

Posted by: MikeE. at April 18, 2003 01:43 AM

MikeE.-
France's opposition to the war against Saddam was selfish, hypocritical, and wrong. That said:
1. Elightenment democratic theory grew out of two places, Scotland and France. America put it into action.
2. Without French aid, we would have lost the Revolution.
3. French Revolutionaries were greatly inspired by the American Revolution.
4. The French sold us half our country for virtually nothing.
5. The French gave us the Statue of Liberty.
6. The French fought on our side in WWI.
7. The French fought on our side in WWII.
8. The French were an integral part of NATO preventing Communist expansion during the Cold War.
9. France has never vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution proposed by the United States.
10. France is a democracy.
11. France has supported our war against al Queda (you know, the guys who actually ATTACKED us.)

I'm sure I have left something out here.

The U.S. and France are classic siblings. We have loud disagreements over petty matters but we always stick up for each other when its really important. You don't abandon your siblings just because they are sometimes rude and selfish.

(I guess. Actually I'm an only child, so maybe I'm giving the sibling relationship more credit than it deserves.)
-Decnavda

Posted by: Timothy Roscoe Carter at April 18, 2003 10:21 AM

"France's opposition to the war against Saddam was selfish, hypocritical, and wrong. That said:
1. Elightenment democratic theory grew out of two places, Scotland and France. America put it into action."

And as you point out below, we inspired their revolutionaries in turn. I'd say that debt has been paid.

"2. Without French aid, we would have lost the Revolution."

True, but after the Revolution things soured for a while--we almost went to war with them twice between 1797 and 1812 (the latter time we decided to go to war with England instead, over the forced impressing of American sailors--something that France was also doing).

"3. French Revolutionaries were greatly inspired by the American Revolution."

Good for them. Somehow, we got through ours without such liberal usage of guillotines or other gaudy implements.

"4. The French sold us half our country for virtually nothing."

Russia sold us Alaska for a song. Does that mean that Russia/the USSR was really our bud during that whole Cold War business? Napoleon needed cash, and we gave it to him--after which he started kidnapping our people to help him in his war against England. Thanks for nothing, runt.

"5. The French gave us the Statue of Liberty."

Yes, that was very nice of them. We actually *provided* liberty for them in 1944.

"6. The French fought on our side in WWI."

Meaning "we went in and saved their butts after the Germans insisted on messing with us." After which they thanked us by refusing to smother Hitler in his crib in the mid-1930's. Thanks a lot, guys.

"7. The French fought on our side in WWII."

*insert collaborationist/hair triger surrender joke here*

"8. The French were an integral part of NATO preventing Communist expansion during the Cold War."

Funny how they were rather unwilling to contribute to the military side of that effort in later years.

"9. France has never vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution proposed by the United States."

ROFLMAO! You *were* watching the news in March, right?

"10. France is a democracy."

Run by people who apparently don't like the U.S. very much.

"11. France has supported our war against al Queda (you know, the guys who actually ATTACKED us.)"

Good for them--doesn't make their conduct in this matter any less contemptible.

"The U.S. and France are classic siblings. We have loud disagreements over petty matters but we always stick up for each other when its really important. You don't abandon your siblings just because they are sometimes rude and selfish."

No, but you might smack him around a little and sit on him until he says "uncle" if he's been whacking you with a stick to annoy you. I don't want to nuke France--I just want them to learn rather thoroughly that it is a *bad* idea to consciously and openly try to screw us over. If they learn that lesson and apologize sincerely, I'm all for letting bygones be bygones.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at April 18, 2003 11:50 AM

M. Scott Eiland-
Refuting my list point by point the way you did misses the point. Rather than denying their truth, you say they don't matter. None of them matters in isolation, but they add up to over two centuries of close alliance, with no war ever fought between us. Russia's sale of Alaska is an isolated event, not part of a pattern of close cooperation. Individually, I am sure we have repaid every good thing France has done for us, but when there are many mutual repaid kindnesses over many years, you have a strong alliance, not a mercintile repayments of debts.

"...you might smack him around a little and sit on him until he says "uncle" if he's been whacking you with a stick to annoy you."

Thank you for reminding that I am lucky to be an only child, and wise to have only one child of my own.
-Decnavda

Posted by: Timothy Roscoe Carter at April 18, 2003 12:43 PM

SMGalbraith-
"Hell, as you probably know, the K Street fat cat Republicans are entirely against all of this talk of imposing democracy in the Middle East. Baker, Scowcroft et al. are vehemently against Bush's policies. Their clients want stability not this talk of nation building out of sand."

Your right. In fact, if I remember correctly, when Cheney was officially speaking for Big Oil as the C.E.O. of Halberton, he wanted the sanctions lifted so that American oil companies could return to doing business with a stable, chastized Saddam. So I concede.

So then why IS Bush sucking up to the House of Saud? Just because of personal freindships? That is more insulting to Bush than saying he attacked Iraq just because Saddam tried to kill his dad. Heck, if I were President, I would be tempted to abuse my powers to get someone who tried to kill my dad. But if a freind of mine ran the most repressive government on Earth, I would stop inviting him to dinner.

"So, who's running the Republican Party? Neocons? K Street? Christian Right? Big Oil? Big Business? Israel?

How about (g) none of the above?"

Well, here in California, the Republican Party certainly is being run by "none of the above". I just hope someone's in charge at the White House.
-Decnavda

Posted by: Timothy Roscoe Carter at April 18, 2003 01:55 PM

TJC:
"So then why IS Bush sucking up to the House of Saud?"

Don't know. It's a great question about an odd situation. Doesn't fit any discernible pattern of Admin. policies.

Scorecard for those scoring at home (and congratulations for those who are):
Neocons are against it; K Street is for it;
Cato Institute for it; Religious Right against; Big Oil/Business - see K Street above.

Grabbing here, it seems to me from my readings of the internal politics of the Royal Monarchy that there are schisms/factions in the family. I'm not as sour on the House of Saud as Matt appears to be. I think there are, well, "moderates" in the Kingdom struggling with the "radicals". Maybe Bush thinks that the "moderates" can still win out and that, in addition, challenging Saudi Arabia at this time is too much for us.

Combination of his personal like for Bandar (W seeing into person's souls again?); attempt to help the less radicals; taking things sequentially.

Or maybe Kissinger and Associates have more influence than we think .

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 18, 2003 02:38 PM

The French are not "long time allies" We have been at odds with them for much of the past 100 years. The Saudis however were a staunch ally during the cold war, and to this day they are always defending the U.S. in the face of criticisms in the Arab world. I even see them defending us in interviews with Iranian news publications. You have to remember there are factions among the Saudi Royal family. Just recently the Saudis started cracking down on and arresting people in mosques who were preaching political hatred and violence against the U.S.


By the way.
Here is an article by Pierre Rinfret on French U.S. relations the past 100 years.

http://www.parida.com/frenchdefense.html

Posted by: brandon adamson at April 18, 2003 11:04 PM

The head of the Saudi government has not opposed and impeded US policies in public as has Chirac, the head of the French government. Last time I looked, Bush was the head of the US government. There's a difference between domestic and foreign policy.

Posted by: Robert Speirs at April 20, 2003 08:03 AM

Bandar smiles like a cobra. He's our friend till he opens his mouth.

Posted by: Mark at April 21, 2003 09:07 AM
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s Right against; Big Oil/Business - see K Street above.

Grabbing here, it seems to me from my readings of the internal politics of the Royal Monarchy that there are schisms/factions in the family. I'm not as sour on the House of Saud as Matt appears to be. I think there are, well, "moderates" in the Kingdom struggling with the "radicals". Maybe Bush thinks that the "moderates" can still win out and that, in addition, challenging Saudi Arabia at this time is too much for us.

Combination of his personal like for Bandar (W seeing into person's souls again?); attempt to help the less radicals; taking things sequentially.

Or maybe Kissinger and Associates have more influence than we think .

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 18, 2003 02:38 PM

The French are not "long time allies" We have been at odds with them for much of the past 100 years. The Saudis however were a staunch ally during the cold war, and to this day they are always defending the U.S. in the face of criticisms in the Arab world. I even see them defending us in interviews with Iranian news publications. You have to remember there are factions among the Saudi Royal family. Just recently the Saudis started cracking down on and arresting people in mosques who were preaching political hatred and violence against the U.S.


By the way.
Here is an article by Pierre Rinfret on French U.S. relations the past 100 years.

http://www.parida.com/frenchdefense.html

Posted by: brandon adamson at April 18, 2003 11:04 PM

The head of the Saudi government has not opposed and impeded US policies in public as has Chirac, the head of the French government. Last time I looked, Bush was the head of the US government. There's a difference between domestic and foreign policy.

Posted by: Robert Speirs at April 20, 2003 08:03 AM

Bandar smiles like a cobra. He's our friend till he opens his mouth.

Posted by: Mark at April 21, 2003 09:07 AM
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