Thursday, August 08, 2002

Bill Quick opines:

But even terrorists don't exist in limbo. They must have money, communications, weapons, places to train, places to hide, places to store up supplies and otherwise create the infrastructure that even a non-territorial organization needs to maintain effectiveness. And that is where real states come in. For various reasons, (usually of deniability or unpredictability), certain states find the ability to make use of terrorist organizations not directly controlled by themselves to be highly useful. And in order to make use of such groups, they offer to trade the things the terrorists need in return for the right to task the terrorists with missions favorable to their own goals and interests.

Like, for instance, Saudi Arabia, which conducts telethons on government-sponsored TV for the families of suicide bombers, in which government-connected clerics exhort the Palestinians to enslave Jewish women.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq is such a nation.


Quick goes on to make a few more points which fail to distinguish between the two:

The documented connections between Hussein's regime and innumerable terror groups are legion. Even today, it is Iraqi and Saudi money that principally bankrolled the various Palestinian Arab terror groups - even to subsidizing the families of the suicide bombers.

But I exaggerate --- there are distinctions. The Saudis live in idle luxury and still have money to burn on terrorists elsewhere; Saddam is starving his civilian population to keep his own army together, and doesn't have a whole lot of cash these days to blow on anyone else's. And as for his connections for terrorism, they aren't numerous enough to keep the Iraq hawks from trying to invent more, such as the supposed meeting of an Iraqi agent with Mohammed Atta, whose significance would be far from clear if it even happened in the first place.

Other people as well see Saudi Arabia as the more active threat. A briefing at the Pentagon the other day by Rand Corporation analyst Laurent Muraweic, has this to say about the Saudis on just one slide:

The House of Saud today

  • Saudi Arabia is central to the self-destruction of the Arab world and the chief vector of the Arab crisis and its outwardly-directed aggression
  • The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader
  • Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies
  • A daily outpouring of virulent hatred against the U.S. from Saudi media, "educational" institutions, clerics, officials -- Saudis tell us one thing in private, do the contrary in reality

It further describes the Wahhabi muslim sect, Saudi Arabia's official religion, as Islam's "lunatic fringe", strongly and violently opposed to democratic government and Western values. It credits the sect and Saudi oil money for creating the Taliban, and describes a state strategy of creating Wahhabi-aligned Muslim regimes "throughout the Moslem world and beyond", the goal being to establish Saudi Arabia as "the indispensible state" for wild-eyed Muslim lunatics everywhere.

Long-time readers may sense, in my citing this briefing, a different level of confidence in Dubya's advisors than I've heretofore displayed. But then again, its point of view is hardly unanimous in the administration. Other officials, including prominent hawks like Donald Rumsfeld, are scrambling to dissociate themselves from it, explaining that we would never do anything to offend our dear, dear friends the Saudis. Even Richard Perle is ducking questions. Perle is the guy who invited Muraweic to the Pentagon (though he is still apparently trying to pretend he doesn't work there himself).

As for the briefing, Muraweic (a former disciple of Lyndoan Larouche) concludes with a cryptic slide labeled "Grand Strategy" which explains that Iraq is the "tactical pivot" in the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia the "strategic pivot", but concludes that Egypt, which Muraweic doesn't otherwise mention, is "the prize". This has Slate's Jack Shafer baffled. But unlike me, he hasn't seen the "Yes, Prime Minister" episode in which Sir Humphrey Appleby, prince of bureaucrats, persuades his befuddled boss that British nuclear strategy not only is, but ought to be guided by the same unwavering principle which has steered English foreign policy for hundreds of years --- containing the threat from France. Muraweic is simply casting his keen eyes even farther back, to when Egypt was the breadbasket of the Roman Empire. My faith in the wisdom of Dubya's advisors is restored. And remember --- Dubya's own inexperience, particularly in matters of foreign policy, doesn't matter much because he knows how to pick good advisors.

In the meantime, we may note that there are other potentially threatening states with which Dubya's administration has managed varying degrees of constructive engagement, or even alliances:

  • North Korea, a slave state run by a madman and his sycophants, which starves its population and sells advanced missile technology to all comers, with which the administration is cautiously resuming dialog.
  • Pakistan, an unstable state with nuclear arms, whose leader claims now to be restraining Kashmiri terrorists but who has been their ally in the past, and whose intelligence service, a likely source for a coup d'etat, built the Taliban.
  • Saudi Arabia, which more or less spawned al-Qaeda.
  • China, whose growing embrace of the market economy has led it to butcher its citizens and sell them for spare parts. China has massacres in its recent past, and lent crucial technical assistance to both the North Korean missile program and Pakistani nuclear weapons development.

As for Saddam, as Jim Henley has noted, he was America's creature for years (during which the governments of the day, mostly Republican, turned a blind eye towards his unseemly domestic activities). He even tried to clear his invasion of Kuwait with the United States --- receiving an answer from George H.W. Bush's ambassador, April Glaspie, which may not have exactly said "yes", but which even she has admitted was hardly a firm "no". On one occasion, asked what she was thinking, when she told Saddam, face-to-face, "We have no opinions on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.", she replied, "I didn't think . . . the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait;" on another, she told the Senate that "we foolishly did not realize [Saddam] was stupid." (And note well that her veracity on other matters has been questioned).

It's not support for terrorists which make Saddam Hussein unique, nor the occasional foreign adventure; plenty of tinpot dictators have done as much. Even his yen for weapons of mass destruction is hardly unique. But Saddam Hussein has done the one thing that the current occupant of the White House can never forgive. He embarrassed daddy.

(Quick quote via Meryl Yourish, who won't much like what I've done with it).


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