Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why the King Won’t be Coming to Dinner

It’s hard to know how things could go much worse for the president. But then I thought that a couple months ago and the beat goes inexorably on.

Bushpointingout It’s hard to know how things could go much worse for the president. But then I thought that a couple months ago and the beat goes inexorably on.
There is hardly a foreign head of state more securely wedded to the Bush family that that of the Saudi king. The Saudi Kings, this one and his predecessor, are not only family friends, but business associates. Prince Bandar bin Sultan practically lived in the White House, he was there so often over the 22 years he Saudiprincebandar served as Saudi ambassador to Washington. He was the first outside the control group around Bush to know the Iraqi war plan and schedule.
Before the American people, before the Congress.
The day after 9-11, when you and I and all other American civilians were grounded, at least one private plane was cleared for flight out of the country. It carried a number of Saudi nationals, including members of the bin Laden family. They were not a threat, that’s not the issue. The point is, at a time when 14 of the 17 September11 terrorists bore Saudi passports, a day when all American private and commercial flights were grounded, Saudi nationals had a priority high enough to leave the continental United States.
That’s not a cheap-shot, it’s merely the truth. And I mention it because it’s an indication of how deep and personal the business-personal relationship was between the Bush Family and the House of Saud. Columnist Jim Hoagland writes today;
President Bush enjoys hosting formal state dinners about as much as having a root canal. Or proposing tax increases. So his decision to schedule a mid-April White House gala for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah signified the president's high regard for an Arab monarch who is also a Bush family friend.
Now the White House ponders what Abdullah's sudden and sparsely explained cancellation of the dinner signifies. Nothing good -- especially for Condoleezza Rice's most important Middle East initiatives -- is the clearest available answer.
Prince Bandar flew personally into Washington to cancel the King’s April 17th dinner-date with the prez, lamely excusing (for the record) a matter of scheduling conflicts.
Arableaguesummit Today, at the opening of the Arab Summit in Riyadh, the shoe dropped;
(Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 28, Hassan Fattah reporting) — The king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, condemned the presence of American forces in Iraq as an “illegitimate foreign occupation” in a speech today, and said the withholding of aid to Palestinians should end.
The king’s speech, at the opening of the Arab League summit here, appeared to distance his country’s position from that of the United States. Saudi Arabia has been a powerful Arab ally to the United States in the Persian Gulf region.
The speech was wide-ranging, but in referring to the Palestinians and the conflict in Iraq he touched on two of the biggest issues in the Middle East. “In our dear Iraq, the blood is spilling between our brothers in light of an illegitimate foreign occupation,” he said.
At the start of the two-day meeting of Arab states, King Abdullah called on Arab governments to increase their unity.
“In Palestine, the people are suffering and the occupation is denying it stability and nation,” the king said in the speech that also touched on Sudan and Lebanon, and other issues in Arab countries.
“It has become necessary to end the continued losses of the Palestinian people,” King Abdullah said. “So the peace process must move far from the realm of tragedy and sadness to lead to an independent state.”
‘Appeared to distance his country’s position from that of the United States’ is pretty diplomatic language for essentially drop-kicking the President of the United States through Middle Eastern Arab goal-posts.
Kingabdullah The Bush administration has illegitimately imposed our military into Iraq and, call it what you will domestically, King Abdullah has finally called it what it is. Small wonder Bush looked so strained today, a video of his address to the Cattleman’s Association calling again for the House and (soon) the Senate to give up their timed-withdrawal attachments to the Iraq war funding bill.
This president is marching, all flags flying, down to an eventual constituency of one.
He dares not look back. There is no one marching behind him. The American public left, apparently without his noticing. Then the Brits. Now, impossibly, the Saudis.
Prince Bandar was called home abruptly on June 26th of 2005. He submitted his resignation as ambassador to the United States for "personal reasons." Ah yes, the old tried and true personal reasons that serves so well when something else entirely is up. I wondered at the time what could possibly be the reason and now we know (or think we know) the rest of the story.
The House of Saud was moving away from this disaster and closer to the Arabs, who happen to be their brothers in a world where brotherhood counts for quite a lot.
The Saudis provided basing for George the First’s quick war with Saddam. We rapped his knuckles in support of another Arab kingdom, Kuwait, destroyed his air force, wrecked his ability to threaten Arab neighbors and then got the hell out. Those goals were really more Arab than American.
We tend to think in terms of our own country, as though American politics and elections occur in a vacuum. They don’t.
George Bush apparently feels the Congress and the American people are undermining his strategic plans in the Middle East. Every time a video is shown, Bush forges ahead with a plan and a time-table and an implementation of his own choosing. We are wrong, he tells us. The stakes are too high to leave.
Which is a misstatement of fact. The stakes were wrong and stakes being wrongly gambled upon do not make them too high for anything, when the alternative is intolerable.
In this country of ours, we, that famous we-the-people, determine when the stakes are intolerable. Kennedy and Johnson and Nixon were all wrong about Vietnam. It was, ultimately, no longer their choice to make when the nation left them on the issue.
The nation has left you on this issue, Mr. Bush.
There is no choice but leaving, while something remains of hope for an eventual Palestinian-Israeli linkage, while balances can be struck among the Arab nations to prevent the entire area from becoming a black hole. Statesmanship is quite often required in place of the bullying of those with power. There is not much chance of this president displaying a sense of statesmanship. But there is a chance.
We can only hope he takes it.
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