WASHINGTON I was dubious at first. But now I think Dick Cheney has it
Making the case for going to war in the Middle East to veterans on Monday,
the vice president said that "our goal would be . . . a government that is democratic
and pluralistic, a nation where the human rights of every ethnic and religious
group are recognized and protected."
O.K., I'm on board. Let's declare war on Saudi Arabia! Let's do "regime change"
in a kingdom that gives medieval a bad name.
By overthrowing the Saudi monarchy, the Cheney-Rummy-Condi-Wolfy-Perle-W.
contingent could realize its dream of redrawing the Middle East map.
Once everyone realizes that we're no longer being hypocrites, coddling a corrupt,
repressive dictatorship that sponsors terrorism even as we plot to crush a corrupt,
repressive dictatorship that sponsors terrorism, it will transform our relationship
with the Arab world.
We won't need Charlotte Beers at the State Department, thinking up Madison
Avenue slogans to make the Arab avenue love us. ("Democracy! Mm-mm, good.")
If America is going to have a policy of justified pre-emption, in Henry Kissinger's
clinical phrase, why not start by chasing out those sorry Saudi royals? If we're
willing to knock over Saddam for gassing the Kurds, we should be willing to knock
over the Saudis for letting the state-supported religious police burn 15 girls
to death last March in a Mecca school, forcing them back inside a fiery building
because they tried to flee without their scarves. And shouldn't we pre-empt them
before they teach more boys to hate American infidels and before they can stunt
the lives of more women?
The vice president declared on Monday, "This nation will not live at the mercy
of terrorists or terror regimes." I am absolutely with him.
Why should we (and our S.U.V.'s) be at the mercy of this family that we arm
and protect and go to war for? The Saudis have never formally apologized to America
for the 15 Saudi citizens who came here and killed 3,000 Americans as they went
to work one sun-dappled September morning. They have never even tried to rewrite
their incendiary terrorist-breeding textbooks or stop their newspapers from spewing
anti-American, anti-Semitic lies, like their stories accusing Jews of drinking
children's blood. They brazenly held a telethon, with King Fahd and Crown Prince
Abdullah giving millions, to raise money for families of Palestinian suicide bombers,
or "martyrs." Last week the Saudi embassy here put out a glossy brochure hailing
their "humanitarian work" at the telethon.
It was embarrassing yesterday, given President Bush's swagger on Iraq, to
watch him fawn over the Saudis. At lunch at his ranch he entertained Prince Bandar,
the man who got private planes to spirit Osama bin Laden's relatives out of the
U.S. after the attacks. Mr. Bush also called Crown Prince Abdullah yesterday to
assure him of the "eternal friendship" between their countries and to soothe hurt
Saudi feelings over a lawsuit filed by 9/11 victims charging Saudi support of
Mr. Cheney argues that we must invade Iraq while we have a strategic window
for action, while Saddam's army is still reeling.
But attacking the Saudis would be even easier. They are soft and spoiled.
Only yesterday Jerome Socolovsky of The A.P. wrote about how King Fahd brought
thousands of members of the House of Saud to Marbella, Spain, where they stocked
up on luxury items and hired North African servants. Women in veils and waterproof
robes rode Jet Skis and members of the royal family talked about the 9/11 attacks
as an Israeli-C.I.A. plot.
A Saudi invasion would be like the Panama invasion during Bush I. We already
have bases to use there. And this time Mr. Cheney won't have to beg the royals
to use their air space, or send American forces.
Once we make Saudi Arabia into our own self-serve gas pump, its neighbors
will get the democracy bug.
The Saudis would probably use surrogates to fight anyway. They pay poor workers
from other countries to do their menial labor. And they paid the Americans to
fight the Iraqis in 1991. The joke among the American forces then was: "What's
the Saudi national anthem? `Onward, Christian Soldiers.' "
We haven't been hit at home by any of Saddam's Scud missiles. But the human
missiles launched by Saudi Arabia have taken their toll.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company