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Fully-Owned Subsidaries Of The House Of Saud

| 40 Comments | 1 TrackBack

I'm hammered pretty regularly for claiming that the core of the Democratic Party's foreign policy "cloud" really doesn't do a good job of standing for American interests. I'm reminded that Kos isn't the Democratic Party, Cindy Sheehan isn't the Democratic Party, Michael Moore isn't the Democratic Party.

Well, Al Gore is actually pretty damn close to the epicenter of the Democratic Party.

In case you've missed it, here's what he said in Saudi this weekend:
Gore said Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al-Qaida's hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.
He was in good company in donning kneepads:
Also at the forum, the vice chairman of Chevron Corp., Peter Robertson, said President Bush's desire to cut U.S. dependence on Mideast oil shows a "misunderstanding" of global energy supply and the critical role of Saudi Arabia.

In his State of the Union address this month, Bush pledged to cut U.S. dependence on Middle East oil by 75 percent by 2025.

"This notion of being energy independent is completely unreasonable," Robertson said at the economic forum, which opened Saturday.

I can forgive Chevron - he's an oil company executive; if he wasn't venal and shortsighted, I'd worry.

But what the hell is Gore thinking? I know that the House of Saud owns a substantial portion of Congress, but I didn't think they invested in has-been candidates.

And where is someone, anyone in the Democratic Party to smack some sense into him? This is just embarrassing.

1 TrackBack

Tracked: February 14, 2006 9:41 AM
Excerpt: I shudder to think how close we came to having this ignorant self-centered low-life son of a bitch in the White House in the aftermath of 9/11. [image] It's a damned shame it didn't go off. al-Dumbass can't even shoot himself right. ...

40 Comments

Gore's comments reflect the "heart and soul of the Democratic Party." The Democratic Party quite simply denies that 9/11 ever happened or that Freedom of Speech is under assault from Muslim fanatics or that terrorism exists.

Gore made these comments in the House of Saud. With nary a Dem rebuke (how and why would they, it's VERY popular with the Democratic Base).

Like it or not, this what the Party has come to. Fullscale surrender to terrorists.

Note Gore's deafening silence supporting Denmark or freedom of speech.

Dems simply cannot be trusted with National Security.

...And reading the rest of the article (I think I'm starting to see a pattern with your posts here, AL,) we see these graphs:

On Iran, Gore complained of "endemic hyper-corruption" among Tehran's religious and political elite and asked Arabs to take a stand against Iran's nuclear program.

Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes but the United States and other Western countries suspect Tehran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

"Is it only for the West to say this is dangerous?" Gore asked. "We should have more people in this region saying this is dangerous."

Gore also refused to trash-talk Israel. And the conference was also attended by "hacks" such as Tony Blair's wife, who urged SA to improve women's rights, and the president of Ireland, who told SA to emulate Ireland's economic transformation.

So, let's get this straight: Gore goes to Saudi Arabia, criticizes the Bush administration for making the visa process a nightmare for Arabs... which, based on what I've heard from various grad students and the like, is more or less true. But apparently he shouldn't have said it. Gore urges that SA step up on criticizing Iran's nukes (the bastard!), and... well, we're supposed to conclude something bad about him because of something an oil executive said.

Ok...

If you really think this kind of stuff is completely irresponsible, AL, then I don't know what to say except you've become pretty much unhinged on the issue. This is grasping at straws raised to the Nth degree, man.

And, Jim?

Gore made these comments in the House of Saud. With nary a Dem rebuke (how and why would they, it's VERY popular with the Democratic Base).

So... the House of Saud is very popular with the Democratic Base? Wow... has Bandar Bush been briefed about this?

Chris, if he'd limited his remarks to the issue of cooperation over Iran, all good.

But let's see...a bunch of Saudi's cause 9/11; the Saudis fund the Wahabbi imams and probably a substantial amount of Al Quieda's funding. His response? Why are we making it harder for them to get into the country? Are you kidding? Getting a visa from Saudi in 2001 was not much harder than going to Canada; I'm sorry if I can't agree with you. Bummer for the Saudi students, genuinely.

And you missed the pitching to the crowd that the post 9/11 actions were "anti-Arab"; did you miss Bush visiting a mosque? The efforts taken to distinguish between the Islamists and Muslims?

And you want to give him credit for dodging the question on Israel? A courageous answer would be to say that the United states will ensure that Israel remains safe; the question for us all to resolve is how to build a secure, prosperous Palestine. His answer was a dodge.

No, Chris, Gore doesn't get credit for this - and I'll stand by my criticism.

A.L.

I was almost tempted to take issue with A.L.'s claim that Gore is near the epicenter of the Democratic party, as the once-sensible Gore has been on a left-diagonal downward trajectory for some time now.

Then Chris had to jump right in there and remind me that the epicenter of the Democratic Party is wherever the biggest jackass of the moment is. At least, Democrats are somehow morally obligated to pretend that it is.

I bash Gore all the time, but mostly in a good-natured way. I used to like Gore a lot, and even after he went off the deep end he still had a kind of putzy appeal. BUT THIS TIME IT'S NOT F****G FUNNY.

It is an absolute jaw-dropping disgrace and outrage for Gore to go to Saudi Arabia and score brownie points by saying that ending the State Department's "Saudi Express" visa program (apply for two and get one free) is some kind of civil rights abuse.

It was the program itself that was the outrage. It was the way the State Department tried to intimidate Joel Mowbray for exposing it that was the double outrage.

So Gore, there you are. In a room full of Saudi princes and Chevron execs - a complete collection of gravy-sucking pigs. Why the hell don't you just stay over there and wait for the revolution, and see if you can save all your buddies from decapitation?

And I can't believe I forgot to say Saud Delenda Est. Saud Delenda Est!

I agree that "Al Gore is actually pretty damn close to the epicenter of the Democratic Party." IMO his comments here are not off-base for Democrats. For the American mainstream yes, but not for Democrats.

How close Gore's comments here are to the Democratic mainstream I leave to Democrats, but they clearly reflect at least a significant element of the party and are at least not "off the reservation."

The consequences of that I've discussed elsewhere. I also suggest an article by James Q. Wilson in the February 2006 issue of Commentary, titled How Divided Are We?
"Since the late 1980’s, Republicans have been more willing than Democrats to say that “the best way to ensure peace is through military strength.” By the late 1990’s and on into 2003, well over two-thirds of all Republicans agreed with this view, but far fewer than half of all Democrats did. In 2005, three-fourths of all Democrats but fewer than a third of all Republicans told pollsters that good diplomacy was the best way to ensure peace. In the same survey, two-thirds of all Republicans but only one fourth of all Democrats said they would fight for this country "whether it is right or wrong."
... How deep does this polarization reach? As measured by opinion polls, the gap between Democrats and Republicans was twice as great in 2004 as in 1972. In fact, rank-and-file Americans disagree more strongly today than did politically active Americans in 1972."
... But what, one might ask, is wrong with having well-defined parties arguing vigorously about the issues that matter? Is it possible that polarized politics is a good thing, encouraging sharp debate and clear positions? Perhaps that is true on those issues where reasonable compromises can be devised. But there are two limits to such an arrangement.
First, many Americans believe that unbridgeable political differences have prevented leaders from addressing the problems they were elected to address. As a result, distrust of government mounts, leading to an alienation from politics altogether. The steep decline in popular approval of our national officials has many causes, but surely one of them is that ordinary voters agree among themselves more than political elites agree with each other—and the elites are far more numerous than they once were.
In the 1950’s, a committee of the American Political Science Association (APSA) argued the case for a “responsible” two-party system. The model the APSA had in mind was the more ideological and therefore more “coherent” party system of Great Britain. At the time, scarcely anyone thought our parties could be transformed in such a supposedly salutary direction. Instead, as Governor George Wallace of Alabama put it in his failed third-party bid for the presidency, there was not a “dime’s worth of difference” between Democrats and Republicans.
What Wallace forgot was that, however alike the parties were, the public liked them that way. A half-century ago, Tweedledum and Tweedledee enjoyed the support of the American people; the more different they have become, the greater has been the drop in popular confidence in both them and the federal government.
A final drawback of polarization is more profound. Sharpened debate is arguably helpful with respect to domestic issues, but not for the management of important foreign and military matters. The United States, an unrivaled superpower with unparalleled responsibilities for protecting the peace and defeating terrorists, is now forced to discharge those duties with its own political house in disarray.
We fought World War II as a united nation, even against two enemies (Germany and Italy) that had not attacked us. We began the wars in Korea and Vietnam with some degree of unity, too, although it was eventually whittled away. By the early 1990’s, when we expelled Iraq from Kuwait, we had to do so over the objections of congressional critics; the first President Bush avoided putting the issue to Congress altogether. In 2003 we toppled Saddam Hussein in the face of catcalls from many domestic leaders and opinion-makers. Now, in stabilizing Iraq and helping that country create a new free government, we have proceeded despite intense and mounting criticism, much of it voiced by politicians who before the war agreed that Saddam Hussein was an evil menace in possession of weapons of mass destruction and that we had to remove him.
Denmark or Luxembourg can afford to exhibit domestic anguish and uncertainty over military policy; the United States cannot. A divided America encourages our enemies, disheartens our allies, and saps our resolve—potentially to fatal effect. What General Giap of North Vietnam once said of us is even truer today: America cannot be defeated on the battlefield, but it can be defeated at home. Polarization is a force that can defeat us."

Chris -- Dems deny that terrorism, 9/11, or that Muslim fanatics exist. The evidence Americans see with their own eyes. They are also incoherent. Michael Moore (the one thing he was right on) makes much of Bush being soft to the point of weakness on the Saudis, binLaden Group, and the bin Laden family (who sponsored this conference). I would have respected Gore (and admired his guts) had he dose the Saudis with some much needed realism that Americans know this and by and large hate the Saudis and House of Saud for funding terror against us around the world and hatred inside US mosques (about 80% of which are controlled by Saudi Wahabbists and spew hatred against the West and Jews, Hindus).

Gore needed to tell the Saudis to shut the hell up about Visas when their own kingdom is the source of the worst sort of vile trash about the West, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. Stuff on Saudi TV and Radio is straight out of Die Sturmer.

Instead Gore's new policy is pre-emptive surrender. It's shameful. Dems should be ashamed of him and making that clear. Don't think for a second this won't be a national TV ad reminding everyone on how weak Dems are on National Security.

Clinton is a gutless disgrace too, pandering to the Saudis and calling for Sharia in the US and worldwide (no offending Muslims anywhere with friggin cartoons).

When even Frank Miller is fed up with Muslim terrorism, Dems have a big problem (Dark Knight Returns trashed Reagan but good).

The sad thing is that we've gotten so used to seeing Jimmy Carter (and to a lesser extent, Clinton) pull this Jane Fonda crap that we're totally jaded to it now.

Joe, I know your are very much interested in Sufism and its practice.

Iranian government's thugs have attacked hundreds of Sufis in south of Tehran

Read it HERE

When even Frank Miller is fed up with Muslim terrorism...

You say this as if it's somehow surprising that Miller would disapprove of islamic terrorism, simply because he didn't like Reagan. Which is not only ridiculous on the face of it, but it amazes me that anyone could read anything by Miller and come away with the idea he was the sort of person to make excuses for al Qaeda.

(I'd be curious to know what Miller's politics are, actually. The recent Dark Knight Strikes Again trashed the Bush administration pretty badly; one of the Sin City stories in vol.6 features a housing estate gone to hell as a result of misguided liberal policy frustrated by intransigent unions.)

(For the curious, Miller's writing a Batman comic featuring an al Qaeda attack on Gotham .)

Chris,

Why would Gore get points for echoing the Saudi concern about Iranian nukes?

Tom,

There is more going on here than a simple flaming datum for where the center of the Democratic Party resides.

Consider for a moment the finances of the Democratic Party that Gore has to pull a trip like this.

The Democrats are going over seas for cash because their pet leftist activists internet contributors and trust fund liberals cannot provide enough lucre to compete with the big business contributors plus the large base of small 'subscription' contributors in the Republican Party.

Your enemy’s enemy is your Friend, mentality. Especially when it comes to Bushitler all stops must be pulled.

I used to joke about how it was just a matter of time before the radical LLL’s outright took up arm or got caught actually assisting terrorist. Unfortunately I am now beginning to believe that it’s just a matter of time.

Not by the leadership they are just double talking hot air but their followers?

I think the Dem party has become like the Muslim population today. Many good people but they have a radical base that is so loud and violent they have taken over the whole.

I think after 06’ if the Dems don’t fracture anyone in the Dem party that still considers themselves Americans should seriously start thinking about the Libertarian party for their own safety. Its just a matter of time befer one of these young radicals jump and do something stupid.

Btw, unless you are a muslim or an oil consultant it is virtually impossible to get into Saudi Arabia. Whats good for the goose?

AL-

But let's see...a bunch of Saudi's cause 9/11; the Saudis fund the Wahabbi imams and probably a substantial amount of Al Quieda's funding. His response? Why are we making it harder for them to get into the country? Are you kidding? Getting a visa from Saudi in 2001 was not much harder than going to Canada; I'm sorry if I can't agree with you. Bummer for the Saudi students, genuinely.

Let's get this straight - there's no problem with making it harder for Saudis to get in to the US. You want to do background checks, fingerprints, retinal scans, colonoscopies, be my guest. The problem is, once people are over here the process to extend, renew or otherwise modify a visa is insanely backlogged, meaning that a lot of the time (certainly immediately post-9/11) even if a foreign visitor wanted to, they couldn't get their paperwork in order. And if your paperwork's not in order, then the Bush administration can pretty much throw you in a crappy "holding area" indefinitely, and deport you at will, with little hope of appeal.

That's what the people I know are upset about, and that's what it reads to me like Gore was criticizing.

Saudi Arabia was a major contributor to 9/11, it's true, and they're not our super-best-buds by any stretch of the imagination. On the other hand, they are not, as of yet, completely and totally against us yet, and allowing sane, polite, thoroughly-checked out Saudis to come over here and interact with us is one of the best ways to encourage Saudi moderates. (That is, the guys who can do the most to actually change Saudi society.)

On the other hand, I can't think of any better way than to piss off moderates than to treat them badly when they come over here... and pissed off moderates are likely to say, "y'know, you Wahabbis have a point, America sucks, here's a bunch of money for suicide bombers." And given that we still have to deal with these guys for oil, (thanks in no small part to Bush's failure to push energy independence) I think the first option's considerably better than the second.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but I don't think following that line of reasoning makes one a paid agent of the house of Saud.

And you missed the pitching to the crowd that the post 9/11 actions were "anti-Arab"; did you miss Bush visiting a mosque? The efforts taken to distinguish between the Islamists and Muslims?

Hrm... Bush visits mosque on one hand, mistreats (some) honest and friendly Saudis on the other. Were I a Saudi, I know which I'd weigh more heavily. (And given that many of the post-9/11 roundups of foreign visitors were simply on the basis that they were Arab, I don't think "anti-Arab" is a completely illogical way to perceive the actions... although I admit that wasn't the Bush administration's intent.)

And you want to give him credit for dodging the question on Israel? A courageous answer would be to say that the United states will ensure that Israel remains safe; the question for us all to resolve is how to build a secure, prosperous Palestine. His answer was a dodge.

Two points here: A) for all your bitching about how Democrats want to "throw Israel to the wolves," it's worth pointing out that Gore, in the middle of Saudi Arabia, surrounded by people who'd like nothing better than to hear an American politician condemn Israel, declined to do so. I know you won't give the guy credit for that, but I think it says a good deal about what his actual intensions are.

B) Gore goes to Saudi Arabia, gives them some sweet ("The Bush administration messed up your visa process! Boo!") and some sour ("Y'all need to speak up against Iranian nukes.") You don't think it's possible, just possible, that getting into an argument about Israel might have obscured the other points he was trying to make? And that he might, just possibly, have been aware of that, and acted accordingly?

No, Chris, Gore doesn't get credit for this - and I'll stand by my criticism.

Your criticism basically seems to boil down to the idea that Gore has become a shill for the House of Saud. This is highly suspect for two reasons: one because you cherry-pick and spin the article to argue against Gore as much as you possibly can, and two because, even granting for the sake of argument the worst possible interpretation of Gore's actions, he's still not gonna be 1/100th as bad as GWB, a man who's damn near considered family by the Saudi royals.

Ya think you might be applying a double standard here, AL? Just maybe possibly at all?

And, Jim?

Dems deny that terrorism, 9/11, or that Muslim fanatics exist.

Yeah, if you honestly believe this, you're completely delusional. G'bye now.

" And if your paperwork's not in order, then the Bush administration can pretty much throw you in a crappy "holding area" indefinitely",

Source?

"and deport you at will, with little hope of appeal."

Newsflash: if you are a guest in our country we can toss you out with or without good reason. Its our country. A guest is a guest.

"Bush visits mosque on one hand, mistreats (some) honest and friendly Saudis on the other. "

Give me a name. Just one.

"Your criticism basically seems to boil down to the idea that Gore has become a shill for the House of Saud."

No, Gore is a shill for anything that is Anti-Bush. Doesnt matter what. I guaruntee you if Bush wasnt holding Saudi foriegners to higher scrutiny, Gore would be out screaming about how the Bush's are in bed with the Sauds and sacrificing national security by letting the Saudis run around without valid papers. No question.

Chris:

And if your paperwork's not in order, then the Bush administration can pretty much throw you in a crappy "holding area" indefinitely, and deport you at will, with little hope of appeal.

If Gore and the Dems believe that aliens have a right to come to the US and overstay their visas as long as they want (which untold numbers of them are doing now) then they should explain this to the American public, not the Saudis.

I can't think of any better way than to piss off moderates than to treat them badly when they come over here... and pissed off moderates are likely to say, "y'know, you Wahabbis have a point, America sucks, here's a bunch of money for suicide bombers."

And there's the argument you can use. If we don't let the Saudis come and go as they please, THEY'LL KILL US.

BTW, Chris, do you think the Wahabbis are some kind of fringe minority in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia was a major contributor to 9/11, it's true, and they're not our super-best-buds by any stretch of the imagination. On the other hand, they are not, as of yet, completely and totally against us yet, and allowing sane, polite, thoroughly-checked out Saudis to come over here and interact with us is one of the best ways to encourage Saudi moderates. (That is, the guys who can do the most to actually change Saudi society.)

I didn't know there were "Saudi moderates". Do tell.

Chris, you seem to know a lot about the Saudis. Can you name a few of these Saudi moderates?

I agree with Mark Levin's comment:
"So, Gore goes to Saudi Arabia — which has funded terrorism for decades, which is a proponent of one of the most radical forms of Islam, which was the home of Osama bin Laden and most of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers — and denounces our government's response to the worst attack on U.S. soil in our history. The Democrat party is very sick right now. The hot-heads are in charge. And there are no mature voices with enough clout to temper the current party leadership. There was a time when ex-presidents and ex-vice presidents behaved as statesmen. Gore, Clinton, and Carter — all of whom weakened their party — are now committed to weakening our country."
Trent, Gore went to SA to get money for himself, not Democratic candidates. Democrats aren't the only ones so filled with rage they say stupid things.

Once more, the dogpile.

Mark, Here's a link to a transcript of a 2003 NPR story that pretty much backs up what I've been saying.

Newsflash: if you are a guest in our country we can toss you out with or without good reason. Its our country. A guest is a guest.

This completely erases the distinction between legality and prudence: yes, we can kick any visitor of the country at will. That's a completely different issue from who we kick out, and why and how we do so.

Glen-

If Gore and the Dems believe that aliens have a right to come to the US and overstay their visas as long as they want (which untold numbers of them are doing now) then they should explain this to the American public, not the Saudis.

Wow, no straw man there! My point is different, and simple: if we have visitors over here, who aren't breaking any laws and generally being productive and minding their own business, but who, because of the backlogs in what used to be INS, cannot renew or modify their visas in a timely manner, then it's not necessarily a great thing that we deport them in the manner we have been.

And there's the argument you can use. If we don't let the Saudis come and go as they please, THEY'LL KILL US.

No, but treating them in a slightly more sensitive manner (i.e. not screwing them over because of a bureaucratic glitch on our end) might make them less inclined to support people who do want to kill us.

Subtlety. Nuance. Look into those, Glen.

And last but not least, Mary:

I didn't know there were "Saudi moderates". Do tell.

Chris, you seem to know a lot about the Saudis. Can you name a few of these Saudi moderates?

So, Mary, there are no Saudi moderates? Is it then the case that we have no hope of reforming Saudi society? Why, then, don't we just go to war with them right now, and get it over with, if they're all incorrigible supporters of terrorism?

Chris,

Don't confuse the Saud clan with the rest of the country. They're moderates compared to some, extemist nutballs to some, and corrupt greedy ***holes to all.

The problem here is that the Saud clan has systematically eliminated or co-opted all possible plausible successors to minimize the rewards for a U.S. sponsored coup d'etat. "Apres moi, le deluge."

This includes preventing their population from acquiring the technical skills, work habits and social/individual discipline necessary to operate the civil infrastructure required for the existence of such a large population in such a harsh environment. This pretty much guarantees demographic catastrophe when the Saud regime goes, and at this point we're looking at less than five years left for them.

It is literally true that there are "no effective" moderates in Saudi Arabia, and no hope of reforming the place.

We won't have to go to war with them. The place will disintegrate on its own soon enough, and we can't stop that. There are more pressing things to do, notably with Iran.

I saw all this coming four years ago, and said so in print - the piece even made the WSJ's Best of the Web.

"This completely erases the distinction between legality and prudence: yes, we can kick any visitor of the country at will. That's a completely different issue from who we kick out, and why and how we do so"

Fair enough. Should we take a poll asking the American people if it is ok to kick out Saudis that have overstayed their visas? Or can we stipulate the vast majority of Americans would support that?

The point is once again guys like Gore are trying to garner support for a pov championed only by CAIR,the cult of the politically correct, and the Kneejerk Anti-Bush coallition (which Gore is a charter member of). Just like the NSA intercepts these supposedly grave stories just dont pass the 'duh, we're at war' test with the American people. Particularly when nobody can ever produce a name and a face of a supposed victim. Theoretical civil rights just dont cut it when there are real life plots being unraveled by these techniques (techniques that would be considered ridiculously mild in any other war era).

Chris, you said:

On the other hand, they are not, as of yet, completely and totally against us yet, and allowing sane, polite, thoroughly-checked out Saudis to come over here and interact with us is one of the best ways to encourage Saudi moderates. (That is, the guys who can do the most to actually change Saudi society.)

So, who are these moderates? Can you name any of them? If you can't name a few, try naming a village where they live. A tribe?

I know of one moderate, Jamal Khashoggi, an editor of the reformist newspaper Al-Watan. He was fired at the request of the Saudi information ministry.

A Saudi schoolteacher once said that the bible and Judaism were not all bad, and he was sentenced by the state to be flogged.

That's two moderates.

But the fact that those two people exist is not proof that they could be capable of doing something to change Saudi society. Wahhabi/Saudi society is based on a tradition of genocide, grave desecration, apartheid and terrorism. Wahhabism is the philosophical and financial basis for all Islamist terrorism. The Saudis are committed to their beliefs and their traditions.

According to the Washington Post, most of the suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudis. They have been sent to Iraq by higher level members of the Saudi government, including the chief justice of Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council, Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan. The nation is currently at war with us, whether we want to admit it or not.

So, again, why should we let them into the country?

why don't we just go to war with them right now, and get it over with

I've been asking that question since October 2001. You're guess is as good as mine.

Gee, I was in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, not as an oil company exec. nor a Muslim. I applied for a visa as a blogger and got one in three days (plus $108, the same visa fee charged by the US to Saudi visa applicants).

One thing I heard consistently when I was there was that it was impossible to get visas. Actually, it's not impossible; it just takes a hell of a long time, up to six months or sometimes more. And all visa applicants get screened closely. There're even DHS personnel in the US Embassy to oversee the issuance of each and every visa.

But it is very much in the US interest to have (preferably young) Saudis visit and study in the US. There is simply no better way to learn about a country than to live in it.

The US does need to balance security with access. There's no question about that.

But with the Saudi gov't willing to fund scholarships for up to 10,000 students to study in the US--including, thankfully, at the undergraduate level--visas become the choke point. The US Consulate in Jeddah has been closed to visa applicants for security reasons since last October. The US Consulate in Dhahran stopped issuing visas years ago. Today, all applicants must go to the Embassy in Riyadh, in itself not a small encumbrance--the country is as big as the US, east of the Mississippi. And the Embassy's visa section is understaffed to handle its own caseload.

Visas are a real problem, both for Saudis and for the US when it seeks to create Saudis with real experience and information about the US. Would you rather leave their information to come from regional media and satellite TV?

Gore took advantage of the situation to lay down some home-crowd talking points. He probably learned from Clinton's experience at the JEF in 2003, where he, too, praised the Saudis, but then trashed them on his next stop.

[Disclaimer: I worked at the US Embassy in Riyadh from Sept. 2001-Oct. 2003, as Counselor for Public Affairs. Part of my responsibilities was exchange programs between the US and Saudi Arabia.]

treating them in a slightly more sensitive manner (i.e. not screwing them over because of a bureaucratic glitch on our end) might make them less inclined to support people who do want to kill us ... Subtlety. Nuance.

Do you think it might also make them slightly less likely to kill us if Gore isn't over there telling them that we abuse Muslims and the rights of Muslims?

Or are Saudi terrorists finely tuned in to all the subtle nuance of Gore's "Buy Yourselves a Better America" sales pitch?

As long as you're thinking, do you think it might make people like me slightly less contemptuous of Democrats like Gore, if those Democrats didn't go to foreign countries and embrace hostile forces as allies against Bush?

So John, you've got political strings to pull and applied for a visa as a journalist. Yet you admit the Saudis are notorious for making visas difficult, you're kinda proving my point. I read somewhere that the Kingdom gets 8000 non-muslim visitors a year. From the whole world. If Florida only got 8000 on a given week the economy would probably collapse and Mickey would be driven to alcoholism.
The point is, Saudi Arabia is hardly the most welcoming place for Americans, be they students or tourists. I dont get why we should bend over backwards and sacrifice our security when they have no interest in returning the favor.

Is it a good thing for young Saudis to come to America? Well yes, unless of course they are sleeper agents waiting to blow up something. The 911 hijackers were for all appearances young go-getters just like the ones we are talking about. Add to that a history of coming to America, living it up, taking American wives, and then snatching the kids back to Saudi Arabia (who wont obey American custody rulings). The Saudis have not acted as very good guests in general. The rich kids come here, get an education, sow their oats, and then back to their feudal serfdoms. I dont know that we should be facilitating that to begin with.
And again, isnt turn about fair play? I dont see the Saudis going out of their way to encourage Americans to come over and soak up their culture, to promote some understanding. For all the world it seems like theyre hiding something (madrassas). Basically I kinda feel like maybe when I can get my picture taken in Mecca i might start feeling bad about some Saudi princeling having to bust his buns to get his visa renewed on time.

Glen-

Do you think it might also make them slightly less likely to kill us if Gore isn't over there telling them that we abuse Muslims and the rights of Muslims?

Interesting... by this logic, we're fine so long as nobody admits we might be, just maybe, doing non-ok things to Muslims. The moral fault is on the snitch, not the abuser.

Nice ethics system you've got there, Glen...

Or are Saudi terrorists finely tuned in to all the subtle nuance of Gore's "Buy Yourselves a Better America" sales pitch?

People from every country are gonna think better or worse of us depending on what their personal experiences with us are like. Tick people off, they won't like us, and maybe they'll do stuff to help people who actively want to harm us. Treat people nicely, and maybe they'll do stuff to stop people who actively want to harm us. This is really, realy basic "golden rule" type stuff, Glen... did you not pick this up in Sunday School, or what?

Now, on the one hand, we can't operate in the real world without unavoidably upsetting some people. But it has not been shown that the visa process falls under this category, and the burden of proof would seem to fall on you before you can start talking about what Al Gore should and shouldn't be allowed to say.

As long as you're thinking, do you think it might make people like me slightly less contemptuous of Democrats like Gore, if those Democrats didn't go to foreign countries and embrace hostile forces as allies against Bush?

Glen, I think that you, and many other people on this board, are already so embittered and set in their ways that nothing I say could possibly change your opinion one iota. I just enjoy picking your arguments apart - and thanks for offering up such great targets, by the way.

Gore has been moved left from his pre-2000 position. If hes not on the fringe, Id say hes become fairly popular with the folks who like Dean.

But in any case I dont think his personal suck up to the Saudis has much to do with where 'epicenter' dems are. IIRC there was one moderate/liberal GOP congressman from Illinois, (Findlay?) who was pretty rabidly anti-Israel. Most moderate/liberal GOP congressment werent. Sometimes a position is a personal quirk, and not tied to position on the ideological spectrum. (in the case of Gore the quirk is his quasi-oedipal rebellion against Martin Peretz, his one time mentor and long time advocate - who is A. Extremely pro-Israel B. Pro Iraq war and C. Not too fond of KSA)

Tom-

It is literally true that there are "no effective" moderates in Saudi Arabia, and no hope of reforming the place.

(And in answer to Mary's question, as well...)

I know, and have worked with, decent, moderate, intelligent people from Saudi Arabia. I have no desire to name them, any more than I care to expose my own name to this board. You can take my word on it, or not, as it pleases you.

The question of whether these moderates are "effective" requires a distinction to be made: are we talking about the current Saudi government, which probably is a lost cause? Or are we talking about the society as a whole? If the latter, I'll point out that there have been many, many revolutions over the past half-century, good, bad, and ugly, carried out both peacefully and violently by people who also arguably had "no effective means" of reforming their countries.

But that question aside, one thing's become pretty clear: if you come at this from the position that Saudi Arabia is irredeemable, and worthy only of our condemnation, then Al Gore's crime becomes much clearer. It's not that he went over there and talked about problems the Saudis feel they have with the US, it's that he went over there and acknowledged that they might have any legitimate grievances at all.

And if that is what you believe, then I believe our world-views have become too divergent for us to meaningfully communicate.

JRA -- Miller's villains in Dark Knight Returns included the "evil-stupid" Ronald Reagan promoting nuclear war. So when most of the liberal intelligentsia and "artistic class" denies that terrorism is a problem, exists, or if it does it exists only because we are evil (and the terrorists are the good guys) the reaction of Miller is instructive.

Which of these does not belong with the other: Munich (terrorism is all our fault anyway and fighting terror only makes them madder, give up); Syriana (Hamas is peaceful and filled with compassion, evil oil companies turn innocent Muslims into suicide bombers); Paradise Now (poor Muslims oppressed by Israelis and Americans have no choice but to blow themselves up and it's really cool too!); or that other movie about how evil Americans imprison an innocent Muslim who has no choice but to become a terrorist (and murdering people is really cool!) vs Frank Miller saying Terrorism is evil. Heck even "Maus's" creator Art Spiegelman said the worst thing about 9/11 was Bush squandering the sympathy of the world and not understanding "why they hate us."

You have people commenting on Miller being "Jewish" explaining all this, and saying he can't be "trusted" because of his background (I don't know if he's Jewish or not, and don't think it matters). What does matter is how even a very liberal, grounded in the artistic left mainstream like Miller will reject Orthodoxy for the heresy that terrorism is evil and must be fought.

It's one giant backhand across the face of American Liberalism from 1968-present. It indicates to me a tipping or inflection point in American society.

[I understand why Miller and Alan Moore were so alarmed by the nuclear standoff and viewed Reagan with alarm (at the time); however the fetish for "stability" mirrors the transition from 1914 to 1938. Stability is not our friend.]

Chris I believe my point stands. Go over to Kos, Moveon, Code Pink, Michael Moore, or see Syriana or Munich. When Howard Dean meets with Code Pink who sent $650K to terrorists fighting Marines in Fallujah there is no possibility of Dems even understanding terrorism is a threat. Your statement holding the tender sensitivities of Fanatic Wahhabist Muslims from Saudi Arabia over the security of this country indicates the PC Multi-Culti moral relativism that elevates non-Westerners hostile to our values over US Citizens. It's appalling you could make such a statement and proves my point with emphasis.

Saudi Arabia is our enemy. It's that simple. Sayid Qutb visited America. He found Baptist church socials so "sexually scandalous" he founded the Muslim Brotherhood. The 9/11 Hijackers (excluding the "muscle hijackers") like Atta all grew up in the West and had a great deal of exposure to Western culture. Evidence shows your thesis "they will love us if they just know us" does not work.

Gore's comments are quite seditious, and prove even further about how anti-Americanism is the shadowy second superpower of the world .

Chris:
Tick people off, they won't like us, and maybe they'll do stuff to help people who actively want to harm us. Treat people nicely, and maybe they'll do stuff to stop people who actively want to harm us.

Let's review events one last time (with special attention to sequence!): Before 9/11 (and for some time afterwards) Saudis were receiving preferential treatment on visas, and we were just nice as pie to them.

Then a bunch of them flew a plane into the WTC.

After 9/11, Saudi inroads into the US were sharply criticized - by both left and right, mind you. Exposes of the "Visa Express" (notably by Joel Mowbray, please see here) forced the State Department to end the preferential treatment.

Since then, no Saudi terrorists have carried out attacks in this country.

As my old Sunday School teacher would say: Damn straight.

Here's the thing: why does Gore (and his pals) have to constantly use the most hyperbolic (to the point of flat out falseness) rhetoric? I dont necessarilly have a problem with critiquing America or the administration, even on Saudi soil, but why does the language have to be so screedy to the point of simply being bull? Language is important, and it seems to me that the left has gotten so used to the Michael Moore school of taking a legitimate issue and crafting it into the next holocaust that they cant get their language under control, even overseas.

Arabs were not 'indescrimately' rounded up. That is flatly false if we are paying any attention to what the word means. Arabs who had illegally overstayed their visas were rounded up, particularly Saudis. So there you have 2 'descriminants' just in the context of the question. When someone says Arabs were indescrimately rounded up, the common usage of the term indicates every Arab had an equal chance of being arrested, without rhyme or reason. Why did Gore say this when it is simply untrue?

"held in conditions that were just unforgivable."

What conditions are they and what defines 'unforgiveable'? Is a holding cell unforgiveable? Because we hold thousands of American citizens in them every single day before they are so much as charged with a crime. A term like unforgiveable conjures some much more dire images, no? And without any further context, Gore simply leaves that impression (and remember who he is talking to!). Are we chaining visa-violators in the fetal position and dousing them with ice water? That would be unforgiveable. Who knows, because Gore doesnt provide any specifics. Just the worst sort of demagogery.

Same thing with terms like 'terrible abuses'. What do you think your average citizen of Saudi Arabia would consider a 'terrible' governmental abuse?! Cutting your fingers off?

The point is, Gore blazenly and carelessly tossed bombs in a nation that is already a nitroglycerin factory. WHY? What would be wrong with speaking the plain truth of the situation, if indeed it lives up to the seriousness you guys are trying to claim?

If Gore just said, "A lot of Saudis and other Arabs were gathered up for minor violations and often deported unfairly. Oh, and they had to put up with some pretty annoying inconviences too. This is a bad thing." what would be wrong with that? Why throw bombs that simply dont stand up to reason?

Chris,

My definition of "effective Saudi Arabian moderates" is:

"a group of the right kind of people (political standing sufficient to confer legitimacy plus adequate political/technical skills) which is large enough to avert the collapse of Saudi Arabia as a single country".
If they can hold the place together for 4-5 years after the Saud clan departs for lucrative exile, then I'll consider them to be effective.

And they'll have to be "moderate" by any reasonable standard just to have any chance of doing that.

one moderate/liberal GOP congressman from Illinois, (Findlay?) who was pretty rabidly anti-Israel.

Paul Findley, was a Republican Congressmen from 1961 - 1982. He has said far more idiotic things than Gore. But he's clearly a far more marginalized figure, known today mainly by his former constituents, anti-Israeli activists and the foreign media. I would say he is or was a paleoconservative who became anti-Israel in the mid 70s. I don't think he's expressed any political views in the last 20 years that did not begin and end with Israel, so its kind of hard to pin his politics today.

re Frank Miller

Pretty sure that he's a libertarian in the Ayn Rand mold. Googling Miller today, I read this from a recent interview in Greece:

Look at the world. Almost half my country equates flushing a Koran down a toilet with sawing the head off an innocent contractor, or using airplanes those barbarians could never have invented to slaughter thousands of my neighbors. Much of Europe shrugs off the disgusting murder of director Theo Van Gogh. And Paris Hilton and Michael Jackson's noseless face get the headlines. You can't make this stuff up.

I anticipate depictions of the Prophet in his new book.

Chris,

The Saud clan has been thorough in eliminating potential successors. You and John Burgess together might not be able to find a single person outside the Saud clain with both the political legitimacy and skills to be among the top 50 people in a successor regime.

Glen-

Let's review events one last time (with special attention to sequence!): Before 9/11 (and for some time afterwards) Saudis were receiving preferential treatment on visas, and we were just nice as pie to them.

Then a bunch of them flew a plane into the WTC.

After 9/11, Saudi inroads into the US were sharply criticized - by both left and right, mind you. Exposes of the "Visa Express" (notably by Joel Mowbray, please see here) forced the State Department to end the preferential treatment.

Since then, no Saudi terrorists have carried out attacks in this country.

A few logical fallacies here. You say that the visa reformations (which were warranted, no question) have been the factor, or one of the major factors, preventing us from being attack. Such a statement ignores that A) a billion other things (wars, new security policies, rollback of Al Qaeda cells) have been going on at the same time, most of which probably had a much stronger role in preventing terrorism, and B) that even prior to 9/11, AQ was using "clean" operatives to carry out their missions. As many, many people have noted, many of the 9/11 hijackers would be able to get visas even today.

Furthermore, there are two related, but still distinct issues here - how do we stop dangerous terrorists from coming into this country, and how do we deal with the people of Saudi Arabia as a whole? Prior to 9/11 we favored the latter over the former, now we seem to be tilted in the exact opposite direction. A better balance can probably be achieved...

...unless, of course, you believe that there's no possible use engaging with and trying to reform Saudi society, as many here have argued. But if that's the case, I wonder if the firewall being proposed between us and Saudi Arabia doesn't strike at the heart of the "reformation of the Middle East" idea that's supposedly at the heart of the Iraq war. Like it or not, SA's an integral part of the Middle East - they've got money, influence, and a huge amount of oil. Tom apparently has a great deal of faith that the country will tear itself apart within the decade, I have somewhat more faith in the ability of corrupt plutocracies (especially those controlling billions of dollars worth of a currently irreplaceable resource) to hang on a good deal longer. Shutting them out's just gonna piss them off, and endanger any chances of reforming the region as a whole.

On the other hand, if you don't believe that the Middle East can be reformed, then we're probably best off cutting as many ties to the Middle East as we can, including getting the heck out of Iraq and learning to live without much of their oil, and leave the region alone. But that runs entirely counter to what’s been espoused here at WoC for the past few years.

Food for thought.

Jim: Miller's villains in Dark Knight Returns included the "evil-stupid" Ronald Reagan promoting nuclear war... What does matter is how even a very liberal, grounded in the artistic left mainstream like Miller will reject Orthodoxy for the heresy that terrorism is evil and must be fought.

...and this is my point: you're assuming that anyone who bashed Reagan is liberal, and that generic lefty artists always sympathise with terrorists. These are unwarranted assumptions, and can be seen to be so from the fact that you then talk as if Miller is like some typical celebrity liberal, when he isn't. The guy who gave the world Sin City was always unlikely to start making excuses for al-Qaeda (except maybe as black satire), though the whole of Hollywood stand against him. The fact he isn't making excuses for al-Qaeda now is entirely unsurprising - to me, anyway.

(I find it a massive surprise that anyone's surprised by it. It's not evidence of a sea-change at all - just that not all artists are particularly concerned with celebrity-liberal orthodoxy. As you said, one of those artists is not like the other...)

(I'll note also that comics don't have much to do with the "artistic left mainstream" - there's not enough money in comics for a real celebrity culture. There's more room for expressing opinions that aren't bland platitudes, I think.)

PD Shaw: thanks for the link. It's interesting reading. Libertarianism of some form seems to fit. (Tangentially, I loved the commie vs. objectivist bickering of Green Arrow and The Question in Dark Knight Strikes Again. Also, "JIHAD!" "Ah, shaddup...")

Whether Miller depicts the Prophet in his new series or not, the cartoon riots present a challenge I can't imagine he'll ignore forever. Last I heard, he was wishing the demise of the Comics Code Authority ("Frank to Comics Code: Die") which is hardly a threat to freedom of expression - not these days, anyway...

JRA: I'll note also that comics don't have much to do with the "artistic left mainstream" - there's not enough money in comics for a real celebrity culture.

A lot of my thots (sic) on comics and culture at Canis Iratus.

It doesn't cover the new comic culture that rose in the 80s. I'd stopped paying much attention to comics by then, but I greatly enjoyed The Dark Knight Returns. Not as much as I enjoyed Alan Moore's The Watchmen, though.

Chris - I feel like I'm talking to Dick Cheney here. Do you work for the oil industry, by any chance?

You say: Like it or not, SA's an integral part of the Middle East - they've got money, influence, and a huge amount of oil.

Saudi/Wahhabi culture is based on a history of terrorism, slavery, grave desecration and apartheid. This culture is brutal compared to other, more moderate Muslim cultures. It's brutal when compared to nearly every culture on the planet. The international community's policies and the global need for oil have allowed this culture to basically buy most of the Middle East and the Muslim world. Should we encourage their influence to grow, or should we do the Muslim world (and everyone else) a favor and diminish their influence?

You ask: how do we stop dangerous terrorists from coming into this country, and how do we deal with the people of Saudi Arabia as a whole?

The US government could do their homework. Currently we trust our Saudi friends more than we trust ourselves:
A former top Homeland Security official reveals in a forthcoming book that the FBI failed to examine "stacks of boxes" of potential evidence containing the applications of thousands of young Saudi men who had applied for and received visas to travel to the U.S. around the same time as the 15 Saudi hijackers.

While the FBI says it can find no evidence of al-Qaida cells here, the agency has not looked at all the Saudi-based evidence since 9/11, warns former Homeland Security Department Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin.

Ervin, who resigned early last year, says he discovered several unexamined boxes of Saudi visa applications in a storage room at the U.S. Embassy during a trip two years ago to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. He was told by consular officers there that FBI agents neglected to go through the boxes and pull the files to see if there might have been any connections -- tribes, families, villages, occupations, addresses, phone numbers and so on -- between those applicants and the hijackers.

Even in the aftermath of 9/11, "predictably, the FBI fell woefully behind in vetting these applications," Ervin says in the galley proof of his soon-to-be-released book, "Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable To Attack" (Palgrave MacMillan). The FBI missed clues to the first World Trade Center terror plot in 1993 because they were buried in boxes of unexamined evidence from an earlier terror case.

Ervin says a team of FBI agents did visit the embassy in the months after the 9/11 attacks and asked the consular section to pull some of the files.

But for some unexplained reason, he says the agents left the embassy in Riyadh without examining the thousands of other applications stored in the stacks of boxes, even though Saudi Arabia is a known al-Qaida hotbed.

Gore wants us to have even less security than we already have.

I believe that most the Middle East can be 'reformed', but only after Saudi and other Islamist/fascist influences have been removed.

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