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Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All

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Theresa May has oddly declined to comment on the reported arrest of the mini-skirted lass who was videotaped cavorting through an ancient Najd village this week, provoking unexpected roars of animalistic male fury in a kingdom known for its judicial leniency, political moderation, gender equality and fraternal love for its Muslim neighbours.

May should, surely, have drawn the attention of the rulers of this normally magnanimous state to the extraordinarily uncharacteristic behaviour of the so-called religious police – hitherto regarded as extras in the very same kingdom’s growing tourism industry which is supported by its newly appointed peace-loving and forward-thinking young Crown Prince.

But of course, since May cannot possibly believe that a single person in this particular national entity would give even a riyal or a halfpenny to “terrorists” – of the kind who have been tearing young British lives apart in Manchester and London – she’s hardly likely to endanger the “national security” of said state by condemning the arrest of the aforementioned young lady. In any event, a woman so proper that she would not risk soiling her hands by greeting the distraught survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire has no business shedding even a “little tear” for middle class girls who upset what we must now call The Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All.

Or at least, we do not dare to speak its name. It’s now a week since this extraordinary woman – our beloved May, not the cutie of Najd – declined to publish perhaps the most important, revelatory document in the history of modern “terrorism” on the grounds that to identify the men who are funding the killers running Isis, al-Qaeda, al-Nusrah and sundry other chaps, would endanger “national security”. Note that Amber Rudd, May’s amanuensis, intriguingly declined to specify whose “national security” was at risk. Ours? Or that of The Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All – henceforth, for brevity’s sake, the KSA – which must surely be well aware which of its illustrious citizens (peace-loving, moderate, gender-equalised, etc) have been sending their lolly to the Isis lads.

Was it not, after all, Lord Blair who ten years ago also closed down the Serious Fraud Office’s enquiry into a bribery scandal allegedly involving BAE Systems and The Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All? On that occasion, I seem to recall, our “national interest” prevented us knowing what was going on because this might result in the end of “security cooperation” between us and the KSA. Blair talked of “extremely difficult and delicate issues” in the bribery enquiry.

So let me try and get this right. In 2006 and 2007, we were not allowed to know anything about potential bribery between BAE and the KSA because of our “national interest” – and the danger to our “security”. But now we’re not to know who is funding the Isis boys and girls because this too would damage our “national security” – even though the funders apparently came from among the people whose “security cooperation” was so important to us ten years ago. I trust those in the UK who have survived the knife-wielding, suicide-bombing cultists of Isis can follow this tomfoolery.

It’s not just a question of Aunty Amber scribbling on her piece of paper to get a man to ring a bell and then switch off a microphone to stop us hearing a fatal reference to the KSA – though this widely circulated snatch of video is highly instructive. What gets me is the whole idolisation of political secrecy that now surrounds The Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All. Her Majesty’s Opposition, after much waffling about the hypocrisy of the Government, appear to have now accepted that the access of Privy Councillors – keeping everything secret from the public but not from themselves – salvages the matter for now.

In a real world of responsibility, of course, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner would be asking why dark and criminal deeds cannot be fully exposed with all the rigour now being promised on the Grenfell deaths. But no, Commissioner Cressida Dick will be taking no such action – even though she was mightily involved in anti-terrorism in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings when she was commander of the police control room in the operation in which poor and very innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes was slaughtered by the cops after being wrongly identified as a potential suicide bomber. The inquest jury exonerated Dick from this disaster. But doesn’t she have a few duties when Lady May and Aunty Amber are covering up a document that fingers those who fund the real suicide bombers?

But no. The Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All is now as sacred as Israel used to be; that is, largely inoculated from all criticism. Once, we all feared to condemn Israel for its war crimes in Gaza for fear that we would be accused – falsely, as usual – of anti-Semitism. Now we must fear to condemn or even mention the KSA lest we be accused of endangering our national interest. It’s a real dog’s breakfast, this closing of national debate. Why soon, we will be afraid to ask why Israel strategically bombs the Syrians, Hezbollah and the Iranians – but never Isis – in the Syrian civil war.

Yet one moment, ladies and gentlemen. In less than three months from now, our beloved Prime Minister – perhaps or perhaps not still May – will travel to Jerusalem to commemorate jointly with the Israelis the hundredth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. This manual for refugeedom which the Government now extols as such a fine document, one in which the British – for heaven’s sake – will feel “pride”, according to May, is the same wretched paper (a single sentence) which effectively created the Palestinian refugee tragedy that remains with us to this day.

Now there’s a document to suppress in the “national interest”. There’s a statement of disgrace and hypocrisy that might well be deleted by our Government on the grounds of “national security”. Or at least quietly forgotten. But no, in the orgy of secrecy in which we are invited to share, it is that for which we should be most ashamed that is to be praised – and that which we should read which is to be hidden from us.

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Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

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