Tuesday, August 01, 2006

All for the Dollar: While Lebanon burns, Saudis Launder Billions for Bush

by Ahmed Amr

Behind Condi Rice's cult-like smile, lurks a crazed neo-con fanatic immersed in apocalyptic fantasies. It remains to be seen just how many Lebanese mothers will lose their babies while she entertains her demonic hallucinations...Not to be outdone, the demented war criminal who pollutes the corridors of the White House has vetoed UN cease-fire resolutions and derailed an Italian effort to end the hostilities in Lebanon. To assure the success of his war-mongering obstructionist policies, Bush dispatched Paul Wolfowitz to the gathering in Rome. Just to rub it in, the architect of the Iraqi war was all smiles as he pressed a handshake on the visibly distraught Lebanese Prime Minister.

As Karl Rove will tell you, the path to victory in November depends on rallying the Armageddon-worshipping, end of time Protestants who drool every time a Palestinian or Lebanese family is blown to smithereens. In their estimate, every crisis in the Middle East brings us one step closer to the rupture. Pray for the end of times and pass the ammunition.

Given their dismal poll numbers, Bush and the Republicans can hardly afford to alienate Israel’s amen corner at the New York Times. Neither can the Democrats afford to lose the affections of militant Likudnik operatives at CNN and FOX. Until the polls close in November, both parties will be competing to determine who can best lick the boots of Ehud Olmert.

In America, Israel is a domestic affair. The ethnic Zionist lobby gets what it wants or sets off brigades of media hyenas to eat the raw flesh of any politician who displays squeamishness about wasting Arab lives. Witness the ‘anti-war’ Howard Dean accusing anyone opposing Israeli war crimes of ‘anti-semitism.’ He can’t have forgotten that he lost his White House bid when he called for a more ‘even-handed’ foreign policy in the Middle East. As chairman of the Democrat leadership, he seems to be applying the valuable lesson learned on his ill-fated campaign – don’t mess with the Israeli lobby ninety days before a mid-term election.

Some Arab-Americans still entertain silly notions about changing the minds of their congressmen by explaining the other side of the story. Fat chance. One hundred Senators gave unequivocal support to Israel. Under normal circumstances, you can’t line up that many Senators to support their own children. True enough, you can always find the occasional Senator willing to express concern about war crimes committed by US marines. But when it comes to Israel, they all studiously avert their eyes from the deliberate targeting of civilians and the systematic destruction of vital infrastructure.

The Israelis can nuke the entire Middle East and still have the audacity to bill the American government for the cost of the operation. Any dissenting Senator can and will be taken to the shed for re-education sessions – but not before getting a campaign crippling lashing from Israel’s spiritual brethren who toil in the mass media monopolies.

Every member of our parliament of whores has innocent Palestinian and Lebanese blood on their hands. By giving their unconditional blessings to the mayhem in Lebanon, the Senate was just making the obvious point that no Arab child is safe while the U.S. Congress is in session.

Of the many actors responsible for this blood bath, the Israelis are perhaps the easiest to understand. They never had a need for fig leaves to begin with. As far as Tel Aviv is concerned, this is just an exercise in low intensity warfare. The Israelis simply do whatever they can get away with. Without ever bothering to charge them, Israel can hold thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians prisoner. But if the other side decides to detain a few soldiers, Lebanon and Gaza can be incinerated. In exercising the ‘right to defend itself’, Israel reserves the privilege to indiscriminately carpet bomb South Lebanon with guided missiles and cluster bombs. And America gets to replenish Israel’s arsenal.

The newest Israeli rule is that all the fighting, killing, abductions and mass destruction can only take place in designated ‘Arab’ areas. The Israeli army can murder, maim and terrorize anyone on the other side of the Green Line or the Blue Line. In fact, they can cross any red line they want and commit any war crime that satiates their appetite for brutalizing their subjects. And to engrave that rule in stone, Tel Aviv has secured a permanent American license to use collective punishment measures up to and extending to starvation and the systematic destruction of vital infrastructure. Any resistance to Israeli unilateral measures is considered the work of terrorists. Any questions?

As for the United Nations and ‘Coffin’ Annan, they have become nothing more than an annex of the State Department. Following in the footsteps of his son, Annan is not the kind of man to refuse a lucrative offer – like killing the investigation of how his first born looted Iraqi oil revenues. He has presided over the gutting of the world organization to the point where the UN is now merely another tool of convenience in the arsenal of the Bush administration.

To their credit, some European nations – notably France and Italy – have used their limited influence to bring the hostilities in Lebanon to an end. But, the Bush administration had no problem circumventing these efforts. For an American politician, Israel is more important than the entire continent of Europe.

Moving on to Egypt - a country that no longer matters. Does it really make a difference that 99% of Egyptians are against the war in Iraq and the fire bombing of South Lebanon? The Egyptian government granted a tacit endorsement of Israeli aggression against Lebanon. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are seen as extensions of the Muslim Brotherhood – the only real domestic opposition to the Mubarak regime. As they say in this corner of the planet, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

As always, the real Arab elephant in the room is the House of El Saud and its allies in the surrounding oil sheikdoms. Why exactly did the influential Gulf monarchs decide to cast their lot with Tel Aviv? Here we are at peak oil. Petro dollars are flowing by the tens of billions into Gulf coffers. And Saudi Arabia drops its last fig leaf and demonstrates to one and all that it has struck an alliance of convenience with Israel and given the Israeli war machine a green light to ravage Arabs in Lebanon and Gaza.

On the face of it, it doesn’t make much sense. The one Arab country that has the leverage to shelter the region from American-financed Israeli mass murder decides to publicly turn on its own people. And King Abdallah has announced that he will pick up the bill for some of the damage inflicted by the Israeli bombings. Israelis bomb. Saudis pay. Such a deal.

Unfortunately, for all their wealth, the Saudis have yet to perfect a way to bring back the dead or reattach missing Lebanese limbs. For the Saudis, the Lebanese and Palestinians are ‘throw away’ people. All this nonsense about Arab solidarity is merely a circus act to shore up the legitimacy of the kleptocrats in the Gulf.

We may never know the precise nature of the secret Saudi agreements with the United States and Israel. In this case, the Saudis probably signed on to fight a proxy war with Iran – which is seen as the sponsor of Hezbollah. The Saudis are experts at proxy wars – having supported and financed Saddam’s war against Iran – a conflict that lasted eight long years and cost a million lives on both sides. They participated with gusto in the systematic decimation of the secular Arab national movement. It’s no secret that the Saudi monarchy was elated at the outcome of the six-day war – hoping it would bring down Nasser’s regime. And the Kingdom’s role in the first and second Gulf war is a matter of public record.

Still, it’s worth taking a guess as to why the oil monarchies went public with their support for Israel’s plan to bomb Lebanon into rubble. Perhaps the Bush administration promised to dampen the influence of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. Can it be a mere coincidence that Washington is suddenly increasing its troop levels in Baghdad and taking on Moqtada Sadr’s militias? Did the Saudis strike a bargain to increase Israeli influence in Lebanon in exchange for a decrease of Iranian influence in Iraq?

Any proxy war against the government in Tehran always finds ready support on the Arab side of the Gulf. As administration insiders have already hinted, ‘the new Middle East’ will revolve around Saudi leadership of the Arab camp with a supporting cast that includes Egypt and Jordan. It’s doesn’t seem to matter that the Saudi regime is not exactly a brilliant model of democratic evolution in the region.

It matters not that Israeli guns are now battering the two most democratic governments in the Arab Middle East – the popularly-elected leaders of Lebanon and the Palestinian authority. All Bush's talk of democracy is nothing but a marketing campaign for domestic American consumption. The Arab intellectuals taken in by this neo-con ruse need to start taking commonsense supplements on a regular basis.

To harness this moment of clarity, it is essential to understand that America’s invasion of Iraq needs to be divorced from the Likudnik fantasies of reshuffling the Levant to suit Israel’s expansionist whims. At the end of the day, America’s military entanglements in the Gulf are a service performed for the richest families in the history of the world. Far from supporting democracy, the grunts in Iraq are there as a mercenary expedition to protect the absolute monarchs who act as custodians of the oil plantations. When it comes to wagging the tail of the American dog, Saudi Arabia and the Israelis get equal opportunity access.

Saudi Arabia and their Gulf allies are major partners in American-Israeli ventures. Most astute observers know that King Abdallah can permanently end all foreign military adventures in the region without firing a single shot. Every last American soldier would be home for Christmas if the oil sheikdoms stopped taking dollars in exchange for their oil.

No oil cut off is required. If the Arabs just stopped accepting American currency – the dramatic effect on world economies would lead to major realignments that neutralized American influence in the region. The economic rationale for the American Empire would dissipate into thin air. Washington would pressure Israel to implement resolution 242 in the same manner that it is squeezing Lebanon to implement resolution 1559.

Of course, King Abdallah and his ruling clan are fully aware of this. While they feign impotence, they retain immense leverage over developments in the region. It’s not about their lack of ability to influence events in Lebanon. Rather, it is because the Saudis have other priorities – like smuggling oil revenues denominated in petro-dollars to American and European capital markets.

The business of the House of Saud is money laundering on an epic scale.The business of America is currency exporting. Together, the Saudis and Americans impose the dollar as an international currency that accounts for eighty per cent of all international transactions. This allows the United States the luxury of running huge trade deficits by obliging other countries to maintain huge reserves of the only currency the Saudis accept in exchange for their black gold – the American dollar.

The Saudi support for the devastating Israeli assaults on Lebanon and Gaza is nothing more than a political transaction to maintain their lucrative money-laundering franchise. Lebanese and Palestinian civilians need to understand that this is not personal. It’s just the way the Saudis do business.

For years, Saudi sponsored media outlets have propagated an image of a benevolent regime that defends the faithful against foreign crusaders. Most recently, the Saudis regime took a high profile role in confronting the insolent Danish publication that insulted the prophet. They went so far as to recall their ambassador. But here we are – a few short months later – and the Saudis are making nice with the American-financed Israeli campaign to dismantle Lebanon and enforce the “Condi/Weisglass” accord – the secret agreement that will allow Olmert’s government to annex half of the West Bank.

The key to Arab salvation is in passive resistance to American-Israeli designs on the region. Unfortunately, that key is locked away in the House of Saud. All Arab intellectuals need to harness their efforts to open a public debate to help explain why the Saudis are feigning impotence while Lebanon and Gaza are being mercilessly torched.

To effect a full disclosure of Saudi rationales for supporting the invasion of Iraq and Lebanon, we need to understand and propagate the nature of the American imperial project in the Gulf and the full extent of the Saudi money-laundering racket. Once the average citizen in the Middle East and the US understands that this is a war to protect the almighty dollar – we can call on people of good will around the world to dump that blood soaked currency. The onus will then fall on the House of Saud to explain why they will not participate in a straightforward dollar boycott to defend their ‘Arab brothers.’

Of course, Arab intellectuals can always revert to their old habits of taking inventory of how many innocent women and children are being slaughtered. They can continue to document the vicious destruction of infrastructure and make a fuss about collective punishment and American double standards. There will still be those Arab-Americans who will continue to bang their heads on the wall and waste endless efforts in letter-writing campaigns to convince a single senator that Palestinians and Lebanese are part of the human race.

Forget all that. George Bush doesn’t care about Arabs – unless they have deep Saudi pockets. It’s a waste of time to appeal to non-existent American compassion. And it’s a pipe dream to expect a sudden moral awakening among the policy makers in Washington. You can parcel post a dismembered Lebanese or Palestinian child to the homes of every Senator in Washington and still be met with a blank stare. One of the qualifications for career advancement at the State Department is to demonstrate complete indifference to the death and mutilation of innocent Arabs. That’s just the way America is, and Arabs – especially Arab-Americans – should stop deluding themselves about what makes Washington tick.

So, what to do now that all the fig leaves have fallen? Gather them and burn them with the dollar.

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