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Saudi’s Privileged Status in US Foreign Policy

For thirteen years through legal cases attempting to show Saudi financial support of al Qaeda, and thus bearing at least some responsibility for 9/11, the US court system, the Executive, and in fact the whole apparatus of the government, have played hard-ball, resisting evidence even though the issue directly affects the causation of a seminal event in the attack on America. No, 9/11 was not Pearl Harbor, but it has become its major symbolic equivalent in more recent times,, justifying two military interventions, a global war on terrorism (selectively defined to fit US geopolitical interests), and the last-resort effort of America to maintain its exclusive hegemony in a world-power configuration composed of multiple rising power centers. If the war on terrorism isn’t a sham, it comes close to describing American foreign policy in transition from anticommunism to Islam-phobia, the two interconnected by the US need to conjure up enemies, foreign and domestic, vital to engendering a permanent-war mindset (aka psychosis).

What makes the effort opportunistic is the way prior concerns take precedence: Saudi Arabia is sacred in American policy circles—not to be up-ended through aid to bin Laden in knowledge of his activities. Whether OIL is of primary concern, the Kingdom is looked to as a stabilizing regional force and influence. The latest example is having Saudi oil flood the global market so as to lower prices in order to cripple the oil revenues of Russia, a step in Obama’s confrontation paradigm of containing Russia’s influence while preventing (actually this driving them closer together) a Sino-Russian compact of mutual interests.

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When Zacarias Moussaoui’s accusations that Saudi princes supported al Qaeda was categorically denied by the Kingdom’s officials (as expected), this opened the way for the renewal of legal cases on behalf of the 9/11 families suing the Saudi government, cases deeply embarrassing to the US because realpolitik, especially where a reinvigorated Cold War under Obama is concerned, requires that national priorities trump local concerns, however patriotic in character. How important the Twin Towers, as compared to a global strategy of counterrevolution in which the Saudis have demonstrated maneuverability when it comes to neutralizing the Arab Spring, guarding Israel’s back, and blocking the expansion of Russia and China in the region. Moussaouri’s “tell all” need not be accepted at face value (his meetings with the members of the royal family), but Obama’s adamant refusal to disclose the contents of Moussaouri’s evidence, coupled with the standard Saudi legal motion for dismal when his testimony came too close for comfort, surely argues for an impartial hearing, not the curt dismissal of official Washington.

I’d hate to be Obama should it be possible to weigh Moussaoui’s testimony as over against Obama’s technique of suppressing evidence via the use of redactions or stonewalling. One of the advantages of transparency is that it would do away with both. Instead, Obama sweeps everything under the rug and elevates the state-secrets doctrine to cover over his, his administration, and that of his predecessor’s possible war crimes (not adjudicated before the International Criminal Court because of the US-applied pressures to shape its agenda). Sound familiar? What the US can do to the parameters of the ICC here is analogous to what it can do to that at the UN Security Council, e.g., on Palestinian statehood, and as a further test of American commitment to the rule of law and government transparency (an interrelated whole) its ready employment of the Espionage Act against whistleblowers.—a civil-liberties record that makes Obama’s role on possible revelations of Saudi complicity in 9/11 unsurprising.

His fetishism of obfuscation has been integral to the formation of the National Security State. There is a sufficiency of suspicion, now with Moussaouri’s allegations to re-evaluate Saudi involvement, to warrant Obama’s taking a hands-off position, and instead he prejudges the Kingdom’s innocence to ensure that it receive favored treatment. Consider if we were speaking of North Korea, Iran, or Venezuela, and how forthcoming in its rush to judgment of innocence America would be in a similar situation to 9/11. Why the motion for dismissal as a symbolic response at the highest levels of government? Counterterrorism (a cause to which the Saudis have avidly enlisted) renews—or seeks to–America’s global leadership role.

It gives promise of continuing the Cold War under another name, China and Russia still the prime targets now assuming the guise of only bigger jihadists. The issues, and presumed threats, are separable, yet in practice they have been fused to heighten the fears directed to both. A connective link can be found in the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Russia and China have presumably lurked in the shadows. The Cold War is alive and well, 9/11 merely the catapult in going after jihadists (the aforementioned wars) and continuing earlier practices: worldwide bases, strengthening NATO, promoting regime change as a generic principle, equally applied to Syria as to Russia and China. Opportunism knows no bounds when hegemony is involved.

But that is only a partial picture of America’s ongoing policy framework. There is also China, and with the vast expansion of Cold-War possibilities, still, as before, seeking out areas/nations/regions which might—in fact, do—threaten US global hegemony, counterterrorism is even more serviceable for the creation of tensions justifying huge military expenditures (in the face of a declining if not decaying social safety net at home) and keeping foremost a political culture of angst to be relieved through renewal of further confrontation—hence (and I use the term not to be flippant but to point out the logic of the US position), Obama’s Pacific-first strategy, including a major shift of military resources to the Pacific region to precisely the same end hitherto reserved for Russia: isolation, containment, dismemberment.
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On the global chessboard, one stands by one’s friends. To admit Saudi involvement, even if it were (which it is not) ten degrees of separation in the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, violates the hallowed belief in the falling-domino theory, equally applied to one’s allies as well as adversaries. In the present climate, to abandon Saudi Arabia would raise storm signals about who is next? Lithuania, Greece, Yugoslavia? No, the Fortress must not be breached—the Saudis can do no wrong. And if one followed the logic of this endorsement, the wider opportunism would become apparent, to wit: Empire threatened needs a scapegoat. US policy makers employ counterterrorism in the service of a now-wider Cold War (Russia and China as interrelated threats) through normalizing a state of siege to legitimate long-term geostrategic goals.

If terrorism is not to be discounted, still the US backed the very forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s that would become al Qaeda. Why? To counter in true Cold-War fashion a government in Kabul sympathetic to Russia, an example of attempted regime change which set the stage for the Taliban, thus furnishing the target for permanent US involvement in the region, now having the advantage of simultaneously confronting both Russia and China, from the back door. But US policy makers, if hardly gifted, are not stupid. Defense intellectuals pride themselves on a multidimensional take on strategic planning. For this was a golden opportunity to cement still tighter relations with Saudi Arabia for purposes of stabilizing the international oil market along with indispensible military alliances being perhaps foremost among them. Thus, the clear possibility of a cover-up of 9/11 by the Bush-Obama administrations: direct Saudi support for bin Laden throughout the run-up to the attack on the Twin Towers. Thus too, we now have Part IV of the congressional intelligence committees’ investigation of 9/11 still not made public after 13 years! Part IV, “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain National Security Matters,” the 28-page dark hole which, divulged, might significantly question the rationales used to justify years of war, drone assassination, growing militarism, and stand as an indictment of government policies to shore up a declining American hegemony. Power corrupts; redaction only makes it worse.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

August 13, 2020
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