Thanks for the Base . . .Here’s Your Hat!
Vol: 19 Issue: 29 Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Thanks for the Base . . .Here’s Your Hat!
Ever since the United States went to war in 1991 to prevent Saddam Hussein from using Kuwait to invade Saudi Arabia, it has been necessary to keep a military presence there to keep Saddam at bay.
Here is how it worked. The Saudis were threatened by Saddam. The Saudis asked the US to maintain a presence there. Once Saddam was defeated, the Saudis wanted us to get out. Until they realized Saddam wasn’t defeated, just contained. At that point, the House of Saud magnimously granted the US ‘permission’ to stay on Saudi soil while it defended Saudi interests.
Nice of them. In return for this Saudi ‘generosity’ in allowing the US to stay and defend them, all the Saudis asked in return was to keep our troops away from their people, that women soldiers not be allowed to drive, that all soldiers not be allowed to express their religion (unless they were Muslims) and that we pay for a big base there that we could use to protect them without actually having to be seen by them.
By protecting the Saudis, we earned the emnity of the Arab world, including the hatred of the Saudi religious fanatic Osama bin-Laden. Not to mention the hatred of the Saudi people themselves.
To bin-Laden and other Wahabi Muslims, the presence of infidel troops on holy Saudi soil was an affront.
I’ve listened to the useful idiots argue that we don’t understand their culture and that we shouldn’t expect them to love us. Why not? They expected us to die for them. Suppose it were a case of Americans treating Saudis as less than full equals. What would the useful idiots say about that?
In any case, we accepted the responsibility (and expense) of maintaining our troop presence for twelve long (and for the troops, mind-numbingly dull) years, despised by our ‘hosts’ as hired mercenaries.
And in gratitude for our protection, nineteen mostly Saudi terrorists — at the direction of their Saudi leader — murdered 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced yesterday that the United States was ending its military presence in Saudi Arabia. When asked if we were leaving at the request of the Saudi government, Rumsfeld said only, “It was by VERY mutual agreement.”
Rumsfeld said that the key air combat control center had already been switched to Qatar and that the US-built and maintained Prince Bandar al Sultan airbase will become Saudi property. “Thanks for the multi-billion dollar base. Here’s your hat and coat. Don’t forget to write.”
The fall of Saddam Hussein means a brand-new world for the Saudis — but it won’t be the one they were expecting. The ever present threat of an Iraqi invasion is over — but so is the cozy relationship the Saudis had with the world’s only hyper-power.
The Saudis contempt for the United States was never more than thinly-veiled, but we were content to put up with it because we needed their oil. And we still do. But not like we have for the last twelve years while Iraq’s oil was embargoed.
It’s a new day for Riyadh.
The House of Saud’s hold on the country is tenuous at best; Wahabi Islam is so powerful in Saudi Arabia that if Osama bin Laden were to run for office, he’d be elected hands down.
In 1975, the population of Saudi Arabia was 7.3 million. Last year, the Saudi population had swelled to 22.8 million with almost ten million of those younger than age 14.
This is a deadly combination for any society: a pampered, highly literate and youthful population; a government run by old men with inbred princelings getting all the plum jobs; crushing unemployment; and, a deteriorating standard of living.
It is no wonder that Osama bin-Laden is a hero to millions of Saudis. He s pledged to bring down the House of Saud. Of course, he has no intention of turning the government over to the people, but for many Saudis, any change is an improvement.
The House of Saud hopes the removal of the US presence on Saudi soil will heal all wounds among their restive population. In point of fact, the US has pulled more than its troop presence. It is unlikely that King Abdullah will get another invitation to the ranch at Crawford.
If the House of Saud gets any future support or consideration from Washington, it will only be in the event that it serves our interests.
There are big changes ahead. Changes that will reshape the face of the Middle East.
In the coming weeks, we’ll look at how those changes line up with the rest of the Big Picture. Meanwhile, keep looking up.