It is an honest puzzlement. So let’s get riyal.
On the one hand, we have a $110 billion pending arms deal with the Saudis. That amounts to tens of thousands of American jobs. That money helps partly replenish some of the $150 billion in cash that Obama and Kerry secretly flew out of the United States treasury when they cowardly paid ransom to the Ayatollahs as an adjunct to their shoddy and now-buried “Iran Nuclear Deal.” Moreover, we have agreed upon another $300-400 billion in new trade agreements with the Saudis, signed relatively recently. In the aggregate, that is approximately half a trillion bucks.
We already know how certain individuals have used us to get rich off America — consider: (i) a $60 million Obama book-deal signing bonus, (ii) six-figure honoraria paid to Bill Clinton for speeches in the Putin-Russian orbit, (iii) six-figure Wall Street honoraria to Hillary for secret fifteen-minute speeches (Clinton speaking honoraria collectively aggregating to approximately $50 million), and (iv) several seven-figure (i.e., in the millions) Saudi donations to the Clinton Foundation.
So it is nice and reassuring to know that the American people can benefit financially from the Saudis, too. And our intersectionality with the Saudis is not only about hard cash.
“Our friends the Saudis” are the bulwark of America’s defense against Iranian Shiite and related Arab Shiite expansion, terror, and domination. As Sunni Muslim Arabs, the Saudi Arabs are immersed in a life-or-death struggle against the Shiite Persians. (Importantly, Persians ethnically are not Arabs, and they look down on Arabs as their ethnic inferiors, reminiscent of the classic Star Trek episode, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” centering around the two remnants of planet Cheron.) Most Christians and Jews have no clue as to the difference between Shiite Islam and Sunni Islam. Both Islamic denominations seem — at their extremes — to generate equal spasms of medieval terror, equally disposed to induce children and women to wear suicide belts as human sacrifices while blowing up mosques and innocent bystanders. Consider these flavors — and pick your favorite: Hezbollah in South Lebanon is Shiite. The Iranian Ayatollahs are Shiite. But Hamas in Gaza are Sunni. The Taliban in Afghanistan are Sunni. Al Qaeda are Sunni. ISIS is Sunni. (Yes, the Sunnis have a Junior Varsity.) Terrorism in Saudi Arabia itself is a microcosm of international Islamic terror.
In a musical composition that may be the most poignant and beautiful song written these past twenty years, country singer Alan Jackson confessed, in a deeply moving meditation on the 9-11 terror attack at the Twin Towers:
Did you burst out in pride
For the red white and blue,
The heroes who died just doing what they do?
Did you look up to Heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself to what really matters?
I’m just a singer of simple songs.
I’m not a real political man.
I watch CNN, but I’m not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran.
(In Jackson’s defense, he wrote the song in 2001, well before CNN detached itself fully from all remaining pretensions of journalistic objectivity and professionalism. Nowadays, for example, CNN telecasts and despicably even encourages previously unimaginable Black-on-Black racism.) For most of us — certainly until the past score years — we, too, knew little or nothing about the difference between Iraq and Iran, except that the former was worth more points in Scrabble. They simply were two centers of perdition, spiritual quicksand to be avoided by the civilized, enmeshed in an endless war that merited our determined non-intervention through eight years of violent conflict that consumed 500,000 lives. In the one corner, the butcher with the moustache and beret, Saddam Hussein, and in the other corner, the turbaned white-bearded Nazi Ayatollah.
Alas, Bush II took us on a journey of Mideast regime change, based on his naïve belief that, if offered the chance to get one’s finger dipped in purple, there beats inside the heart of every Baathist Sunni Muslim in Iraq, from Baghdad to the wine-presses of Basra to Fallujah, a yearning passion to enjoy American-style freedom and liberties. As a result, Bush unleashed Haboob sandstorms of dust that had lain dormant for decades swept nattily under Persian rugs. Yet, while American boys fought Saddam and the plethora of killers in Iraq, the Ayatollahs patiently bided their time. They knew from America’s Vietnam saga that U.S. national determination to fight eventually would dissipate during an inevitable cyclical change of government. Once Obama emerged, and the Iranians sized him up along with his respective Secretaries of State, they knew they were dealing with self-impressed but naively effete rubes, book-smart Ivy Leaguers unschooled in street-fighting, kicking, and biting; and susceptible to the brazen falsehoods of Middle East diplomacy and treaties. Hitler had outsmarted Neville Chamberlain, and the Ayatollahs repeated history by convincing Obama and Kerry that they, too, had brought peace in our time with their nuclear deal and ransom payout. Obama squandered the Surge in Baghdad and Anbar Province, and Iran stepped in.
We are back to Vietnam-era “domino” concerns, as Shiite Iranians proceed feverishly aiming to rebuild a Persian empire by extending their Shiite hegemony throughout the Arab world. Buoyed by the wealth-bonanza they gleaned from Obama-Kerry ransom payouts and from the tragic “Iran Deal” breakthrough that ended crippling international sanctions, they are trying to topple Sunni regimes. They export terror. Their improvised explosive devices (IEDs) tore off so many limbs of our heroic wounded warriors in Iraq. They supply and buttress the Assad regime in Syria that butchers hundreds of thousands of Syria’s own people. Iran supplies the weapons and advanced missiles to Hezbollah that have re-stocked South Lebanon as a primary terror center, a tragically enriched Ground Zero for launching a new major Mideast war.
Against all that Shiite, we Americans have only three realistic options in our arsenal to deter the Iranians, and two of them are non-starters: (i) ourselves, assuming that we Americans are in the mood to engage in yet another mega multi-decade multi-billion-dollar Mideast war (hint: we are not); (ii) our one and only rock-solid dependable and loyal ally in the region, Israel, whom we can use only strategically against Iran because we know that it will not work politically to have a Jewish ally as our overt bulwark against Islamic terror in an otherwise-all-Muslim Middle East. Therefore, we are left with only one other option: It must be an Arab Muslim ally who leads the way to block Iranian expansionism and adventurism.
So go find that ally: Our NATO alliance partners, the Muslim but non-Arab Turks? Nope. First of all, Erdogan is a butcher. He is a dictator, a hater, aims to ethnically cleanse the Kurds and despises Armenians. We fight his surrogates in Syria, and one day he will drag all of NATO into an existential crisis. Erdogan actually supports ISIS, even has been called the “father of ISIS.” Thus, at the present time, our best bulwarks against Iran are the three Sunni Arab countries — not because they are sweet and cuddly but because they are the ones most terrified by the Ayatollahs: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. All three are imperiled by radical destabilizing internal Islamist forces that have demonstrated the capacity to inflict terror and assassinations. The present King Hussein’s great-grandfather, Abdullah I, was assassinated in 1951 by Jordanian terrorists, and his father contended with Black September. Egypt has the Muslim Brotherhood, whose terror successes have included assassinating Anwar Sadat and nearly executing Hosni Mubarak. And the Saudis’ extreme Wahhabi Islam, a severe tweak of Sunni Islam, comprised the breeding grounds for Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
So it is a puzzlement. The Saudis are sordid. They are brutal and bloodthirsty. While our flag has stars and stripes, and the Canadian flag has a cute maple leaf — the Saudi flag has a sword. (The better to cut off your hand and head, my dear.) They are medieval and vicious. But we kind-of need them.
On the other hand, how can we ally with such goons? How could we ever? They chop off the hands of pickpockets. They throw gay people off rooftops or torture them or hang them — or combinations thereof. They throw women out of windows. Or hang them or behead them. They still allow men to kill daughters or sisters whose choices in spouses displease their male relatives. The Saudis allow “honor killings” of women. Some poor guy, Raif Badawi, who posted a blog advocating rudimentary liberalizations, got arrested, was sentenced to a thousand lashes of whipping and ten years imprisonment; we probably never will see him again. Linda Sarsour and her “Women’s March” #MeToo crowd look the other way, even as Sarsour has tweeted of wishing genital mutilation on women who do not march to her beat. Kirsten Gillibrand is a big Sarsour fan.
As one President Bush after another praised “our friends the Saudis,” how could we not wince? “Our friends”? For goodness sakes, 15 of the 19 animals who perpetrated 9-11 were Saudis. Coincidence? If it had been mass-murderers by a different nationality — say, Pakistan — and if the date had been 7-11, that would have been a coincidence. But it was no coincidence that 75% of the animals who destroyed 3,000 American lives on the “day when the world stopped turning” were Saudis. Indeed, some 133 of the accused international terrorists brought to Guantanamo Bay have been Saudi nationals.
Theirs is the brutal, hateful anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-Hindu Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam. They flog those who listen to certain music, who dance, play backgammon or chess. It is forbidden to give flowers. Women may not travel or work outside the home without their husbands’ permission. Christians and Jews are second-class, even barred from setting foot in certain Saudi cities.
The Wahhabis have spent some $10 billion around the world on Wahhabi Islam schools (“madrassas”) to reeducate Muslim children in Western society from England to Germany to the United States towards their excessively extreme form of Sunni Islam. Of that money, some $2 billion has ended up getting diverted towards Al Qaeda and other extreme terrorist groups associated with that heinous world view. Children educated in the madrassas they have built grow up with a toxic view towards Christians and Jews. Saudi-funded textbooks spread the poison. All this has been happening under our noses, as they have built hundreds of mosques and madrassas here in the United States and have directed tens of millions of dollars to American universities for establishing chairs and departments of study in Middle East subjects.
They also manipulate their media stooges in America to help amplify their propaganda. Primary among them has been the naïve and decades-long consistently wrong Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, whom the Times promoted to “Mideast expert” status simply by saying that he is one. Here is the gullible Friedman less than a year ago, reflecting his years of consistent ignorance and gullibility:
The most significant reform process underway anywhere in the Middle East today is in Saudi Arabia.… [¶] I flew to Riyadh to interview the crown prince [Mohammed bin Salman], known as “MBS,” who[se] government arrested scores of Saudi princes and businessmen on charges of corruption and threw them into a makeshift gilded jail… until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains.… [¶] The second-most unusual and important initiative launched by MBS is to bring Saudi Islam back to its more open and modern orientation — whence it diverted in 1979. That is, back to what MBS described as a “moderate, balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples.” [¶] MBS is on a mission to bring Saudi Islam back to the center.… [¶] Can MBS and his team see this through? Again, I make no predictions. He has his flaws that he will have to control, insiders here tell me. They include relying on a very tight circle of advisers who don’t always challenge him sufficiently, and a tendency to start too many things that don’t get finished. There’s a whole list. But guess what? Perfect is not on the menu here.…
Embassies and consulates universally are recognized as safe havens. When someone enters a consulate or embassy to obtain certain papers or documents that will permit him to marry, he is presumed to be entering in safety. All the more so, those entering an embassy or consulate of a Muslim country should expect that they will honor the millennia-old tradition of their Patriarch Ibrahim (whom Jews know as Avraham Avinu, and whom Christians know as Abraham) that assures safety and protection to all who enter under their roof. Abraham welcomed the wayfarer, and that has been a hallmark sacrament of all three major Abrahamic faith systems. Gen. 18:1-8.
Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul under an understanding of safe passage. Let it be clearly understood that Khashoggi was not Mother Teresa. Rather, he was an apologist for the bloodthirsty Hamas terrorist gang. He cheered on the murderous Hamas, praised its network of terror tunnels, and celebrated the deaths of Israelis at Hamas hands. He supported the Muslim Brotherhood and he described Hamas as “much maligned.” Yet, regardless of the vile and detestable Hamas ideology that Khashoggi warmly advocated, his murder is outside the pale of what a civilized society can tolerate or abide. It must be punished severely.
So what to do? We benefit from the $110 billion Saudi arms deal and likewise benefit from the half-trillion financial boon in trade. We need the Saudis to stand as the front-line Arab Muslim bulwark against Iranian Shiite expansionism and terror. But we know the Saudis are horrible and bring shame on us every time we call them “our friends.” Ultimately, notwithstanding the evil depth of Hamas sympathy that Khashoggi advocated, a civilized American society simply cannot abide or acquiesce to such barbaric behavior as murdering (and probably dismembering) a person who has a valid American green card upon his entering an embassy or consulate. But what to do?
We need to hit the Saudis hard, in a way that they will feel acutely but that will not spite our own faces. We must target what they value deeply. For the Saudis, there is no priority more precious than spending lavishly in the West on mosques, madrassas, and specifically targeted university Middle East and Islamic Studies departments. Towards that end, they have spent more than $10 billion. It is their highest priority to plant the seeds of extreme severe Wahhabism throughout the West and to relegate a more socially accommodating Sunni Islam to oblivion. Therefore, our Khashoggi answer must be to put that precious program of theirs out of business.
Back in 2005, a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud, donated $40 million — $20 million to Harvard and another $20 million to Georgetown University — to advance “Islamic studies,” Saudi-style. The money funded four new senior staff professorships and an endowed chair at Harvard, and three new faculty chairs and certain targeted scholarships at Georgetown.
The influx of Saudi millions into American universities has generated the expected surge in Saudi students now enrolled at such American schools. In 2005, there were 3,000 Saudi students in American universities. That number had grown to nearly 60,000 by 2014-15. Equally pernicious, several high-caliber American universities like University of Texas at Austin, Stanford, and UC Berkeley reciprocated in recent years by establishing satellite schools in Saudi Arabia. This manipulative Saudi campaign to influence American universities seems to date back to a 1976 million-dollar grant to the University of Southern California. By 1979, the Saudis were giving Duke University $200,000 for a program in Islamic and Arabian Development studies. Soon, Harvard was given at least another $10 million. The Middle East Studies center at the University of Arkansas was given $20 million. The University of California at Berkeley was given $5 million for its Middle East Studies Center. Cornell was given $11 million. Texas got half a million. Rutgers University of New Jersey got $5 million, and Princeton got $1 million. Like Saudi oil, the spigot flows unabated — and always so crude. Stanford. CalTech. Georgia Tech. Saudi influence peddling and bribing everywhere.
While the Saudis have been spending billions of dollars funding Middle East Centers at our universities, hundreds of madrassas for children in our country, and as many as 80 percent of all mosques in the United States, they bar anyone anywhere from building churches or synagogues there. Jews and Christians even are banned from setting foot in cities like Mecca and the main parts of Medina.
It therefore seems appropriate, in light of the butchering — literally, it seems, the butchering— of Jamal Khashoggi, that America respond by barring Saudi Arabia from sending any more money into the United States for madrassas, mosques, or universities unless and until they structurally reform their society and accept at least the following terms and conditions:
And that is how to solve a problem like Khashoggi.