Commentary: Thinking the unthinkable
By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large
When ailing Saudi King Fahd decamped from a Geneva clinic where he had spent the last two months, no less than 12 large jet aircraft, including a hospital jumbo, were required to move him and his entourage to one of his summer palaces at Marbella, Spain. Local shopkeepers were gleeful. Marbella's chamber of commerce estimates the royal household drops $80 million a week on hotels and designer knickknacks.
For Fahd, suffering from multiple life-threatening ailments, the growing tumult surrounding the House of Saud and its relationship with the United States was not his principal concern. But the hundreds of royal relatives and courtiers, glued to their TV sets in the posh resort's five-star establishments, watched with growing horror as prominent American talking heads described their kingdom as "no friend of the U.S." -- that was the polite version -- and as an "adversary," or even an "enemy."
The loud bang that triggered the anti-Saudi avalanche was a RAND Corp. briefing for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's private think tank -- the Defense Policy Board -- that described Saudi Arabia as "a kernel of evil" that was involved at every level of the transnational terrorist food chain. Unless the Saudis clean up their act, the briefer suggested, the United States should consider moving in militarily to take over the Saudi oilfields.
The problem with the briefing was that the briefer -- Laurent Murawiec -- was a resident French alien, and a long-time follower of Lyndon Larouche, the paranoid conspiracy theorist and perennial candidate for the presidency of the United States. By his own admission, Murawiec doesn't know the Middle East. Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official during the Reagan years, had introduced him. For 10 years, Murawiec had worked as the German-based correspondent of Larouche's Executive Intelligence Review, an anti-Semitic potpourri of disinformation, factoids, rumor, gossip, loony tunes and an occasional fact.
To his credit, Murawiec objected to the March 1986 publication of an EIR special report titled, "Moscow's Secret Weapon: Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Mafia." He continued working for EIR till 1990, but as an anti-Larouche mole, according to sources close to AEI. Perle organized his U.S. debut at AEI in 1999. EIR now describes Murawiec as "a pathetic, broken, babbling turncoat." That is probably a badge of honor when it comes from an organization that claims the Queen of England and the Rothschilds control the illicit narcotics traffic in the United Kingdom.
RAND quickly denied it had anything to do with their analyst's briefing. Henry Kissinger, who was present at the briefing, was the only member of the Rumsfeld panel to object.
Did anyone actually buy in to the Gallic recipe for setting fire to the Middle East? Listening to some of the members talking off the record, it now emerges that a number of geopolitical luminaries liked what they heard. "There's no harm in rattling the Saudi cage," said one privately. "Got to keep the Saudis guessing about our intentions," said another.
Kenneth Adelman, a former Reagan arms controller, and one of the world's leading Shakespearean scholars -- his consultancy company is called Movers & Shakespeareans -- is a member of the Defense Policy Board but was not present for Murawiec's sortie in July. On C-SPAN Aug. 21, Adelman, speaking matter-of-factly, almost insouciantly, said Saudi Arabia is "a terribly barbaric society ... at the bottom of the human rights list, worst of the worst, along with North Korea."
The Saudis didn't wait for a multitrillion-dollar (not billion-dollar) lawsuit against Saudi institutions and charities and three members of the royal family, filed by families of the victims of Sept. 11, to start pulling out some of the estimated $600 billion they have invested in the United States.
Already long forgotten is Crown Prince Abdullah's peace plan for Israel. Looming larger these days is the Saudi refusal to let the United States use its Saudi bases, first for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and now for an attack against Iraq.
As a result, the United States is spending more than $4 billion for alternative facilities across the border in the mini-state of Qatar.
The Pentagon is also readying plans to move out some 6,000 military personnel from the kingdom and revert to an "over-the-horizon" presence with aircraft carriers.
"Why should we keep troops there to defend the Saudis?" Adelman asked. "(It) makes no sense." The only reason they are still there is as additional insurance for the Saudi regime. The Saudis, however, think they are doing the United States a favor by letting the military stay.
The United States has also moved swiftly to reduce dependence on Saudi oil. Almost unnoticed, the United States now gets less than 8 percent of its oil needs from the kingdom, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
Sept. 11 revealed an ugly House of Saud secret. The scheme was brilliant in its simplicity. Saudi's fanatical Wahhabi clergy was allocated untold billions during the past 20 years to turn the Koran into a book of holy war against the United States and Israel and spread its teachings in mosques and Koranic schools in much of Asia, Africa, Western Europe and North America. In return, the Saudi clergy agreed to keep the 25,000-strong royal family out of its crosshairs. What the House of Saud still cannot accept is that it has sown the seeds of its own destruction. It is now reassessing its strategic relationship with the United States.
Washington's reassessment of that relationship started after Sept. 11. It is now almost complete.