World War ISIS, Part 2: Saudi Flies in the Couscous

Steve Russell

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Nicholas Kristof published an op-ed in The New York Times on October 29 about Ali al-Nimr, who has been sentenced to have his head whacked off in public and his headless torso crucified. He was 17 at the time of his crime, which was participating in anti-government protests. Another government critic who did not take to the streets but merely disagreed about the role of religion in the government of his country got 10 years, a $267,000 fine, and 1,000 lashes.

So what part of Iran were these unfortunate critics from? Or did the sentences come from the terrorists of the so-called Islamic State, Daesh, most recently heard from in the streets of Paris?

Neither. They are Saudis who dared criticize the House of Saud, a decadent dynasty with more royalty than Daesh has suicide bombers. As this series was being edited, Human Rights Watch announced the outcome of an appeal by Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, who had been sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes for apostasy after a witness testified he heard Fayadh curse Islam. On appeal, the penalty was withdrawn in favor of death, which is almost always carried out by public beheading.

Well, at least Saudi Arabia had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks---oops.

That jibe could refer to the Saudi origins of 15 of the 19 hijackers plus Zacarias Moussaoui, who got arrested and did not make the 9-11 flight to martyrdom. Or it could mean the late and unlamented Osama bin Laden, a scion of the fabulously wealthy Saudi family who bankrolled the Afghan mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan beside the CIA in the splendid undertaking immortalized in Charlie Wilson’s War.

However, Saudi responsibility for terrorism is not limited to a few thugs who happened to sport Saudi passports. The Saudi government funds madrassas where a poisonous fundamentalist strain of Islam is taught all over the Arab part of the Muslim world. That fundamentalist reading of Islamic scripture was the ultimate source of 9-11 and most other terrorism perpetrated by Islamists.

That fundamentalist sect of Islam, Wahhabism, is the state religion of Saudi Arabia, with roots in a political alliance between sect founder Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Muhammad bin Saud, a patriarch of the House of Saud.

Without Saudi money supporting Wahhabism all over the Islamic world, it’s hard to account for the rise of Daesh. The great irony in this observation is the flaming hypocrisy of the Saudi royals with their endless supply of hedonistic princelings. Daesh, claiming the Quran commands an ascetic lifestyle within an austere society, will call out criminal activity by the Saudi royal family involving pleasures of the flesh. The U.S. will not.

Foreign Policy reported October 26 on what it called “Saudi Arabia’s Royal Drug Problem” in response to the arrest this year of a Saudi prince in Lebanon with over two tons of cocaine and amphetamines. Another Saudi prince skipped bond in Venezuela in 1999 during his trial for smuggling two tons of cocaine---and is facing a felony drug indictment in the U.S. Saudi Arabia will not turn him over to Venezuela or to the U.S.

This would be the same Saudi government that beheaded a Pakistani in June and another in August---for drug trafficking. The Saudis appear to be moving a lot of Captagon, an amphetamine Daesh fighters use to stay alert and Daesh sells on the black market to buy weapons. Captagon is a brand name amphetamine that has been taken off the market for being excessively addictive, but it has continued to be made in the Middle East in underground labs operated for the twin political purposes of jacking up terrorist bank balances and jacking up terrorists for combat. Saudi involvement in the Captagon trade is about support of terrorism, not recreational drug use, but Saudi royals do have tastes haram (forbidden) according to the theology of Wahhabi Islam, let alone the older traditions that Daesh trumpets as the only true Islam.

CNN reported that Los Angeles authorities have dismissed felony charges of sexual assault, false imprisonment, and battery against another Saudi prince accused of cocaine-fueled parties in which he preyed on female employees. The tabloids have published alleged details that the prince ordered all of them to disrobe so he could “see some naked pussy” and ordered one to fart in his face.

Criminal charges have been moved to the misdemeanor level—it is California---but there are civil cases pending against the prince that contain the same allegations.

This sort of conduct, when noticed in the U.S., is seen as a foible of those born with more money than sense or a confirmation of anti-Arab prejudice. For Daesh, it is proof the Saudis are unworthy to be guardians of Mecca and Medina and because they claim to be Muslims it brands them as apostates who need lose their heads---literally.

Now is a good time--as we watch charges of hypocrisy in one direction and mendacity in the other, switching sides periodically--to remember how we got into this quicksand. The Sunni dictator ruling Shi’a Iraq, Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait in 1990, apparently to settle disputes about money of the kind that customarily go to the Permanent International Court of Justice.

Representatives of Saddam Hussein and Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Emir of Kuwait, met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in July of 1990 to talk about their differences. Iraq demanded $10 billion; Kuwait offered $9 billion. Saddam Hussein apparently did not think he had to sit still for being nickeled and dimed while he commanded fourth largest army in the world.

It was not a fair fight. Iraqis took all of 12 hours to occupy Kuwait. Combat operations ended within two days with the Emir and his family ensconced in a Sheraton hotel in Raif, Saudi Arabia--except the Emir’s youngest brother, who was killed in the battle to defend the Emir’s palace.

At the time, the U.S. public was told that Iraqi tanks were massed on the Saudi border, poised to take the rest of the Middle Eastern oil fields. An investigation by the St. Petersburg Times cast doubt on that. Kuwait engaged a U.S. public relations firm to build public support for military action. The Kuwaiti royals got their money’s worth.

While the truth was suffering at the hands of professionals, it was bad enough without embellishment, and President George H.W. Bush was able to get a resolution of the U.N. Security Council authorizing military force to liberate Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia, fearing the army that had rolled up Kuwait so easily, asked for protection by the U.S., and Operation Desert Shield was born. On August 7, 1990, Desert Shield led to infidel boots on some of the holiest sand known to Islam. Osama bin Laden was outraged at what he viewed as desecration and said as much. At that time, Al Qaeda (“The Base”) had been in existence about two years, started from a list of volunteer fighters on bin Laden’s hard drive.

Speaking out against the Saudi government, bin Laden was forced by that government into exile in Sudan. In 1996, bin Laden issued a fatwa against the U.S. and its allies, commanding observant Muslims to kill Americans at every opportunity. Mainstream Muslims do not believe bin Laden had the proper credentials to issue a fatwa, but by that time bin Laden was holding himself and Al Qaeda out as representatives of true Wahhabism and therefore Islam.

Al Qaeda’s first foray against the U.S. was an attempt to assassinate President Bill Clinton by planting a bomb in the path of his motorcade on a 1996 visit to Manila. The plot came to nothing when the Secret Service was tipped off.

Two years later, Al Qaeda drew blood with bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. This was followed by the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen and finally with the spectacular destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

All of this and Al Qaeda never declared a new Caliphate, although they made no secret that was their long-term goal. During Al Qaeda’s high-water mark in Iraq, before the so-called “Sunni awakening,” it continually admonished the Iraqi locals about excessive brutality in areas where they were trying to govern.

If the purpose was winning the hearts and minds of ordinary Sunnis, the Al Qaeda leadership was correct to ease off on beheadings and stonings and even floggings. If the purpose was to recreate some golden age of Islam before modern philosophy and accommodation with other civilizations sanded off the rough edges, then the Al Qaeda leadership lacked the courage of their convictions.

The forsaking of the Al Qaeda brand by the Iraqi branch that became Daesh made perfect theological sense, if not practical sense. What, after all, was the difference between Wahhabi Islam as practiced by Al Qaeda and Wahhabi Islam as practiced by Saudi Arabia? Nothing, Daesh answered, but the petrodollars that purchased indulgence on human rights issues by the United States and Western Europe. Is this what the Prophet would do?

“Petrodollars” define Saudi power in relation to the U.S. Saudi Arabia agreed in the early seventies to price their oil exports in U.S. dollars and eventually was able to bring the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) along. It is the pricing of the international oil trade in dollars and not just the oil that the U.S. needs from Saudi Arabia, and it is to maintain petrodollars that the U.S. will send troops to defend the House of Saud and turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s barbarism and to Saudi money expanding the reach of Wahhabi Islam.

The petrodollar arrangement requires Washington’s hypocrisy regarding human rights and Saudi hypocrisy in choosing comfort over the expansion of Islam. Viewed through the 7th century lens Daesh favors, hypocrisy by Muslims amounts to apostasy and is punishable by death.

It is only U.S. entanglement with Saudi Arabia for the sake of the petrodollar arrangement that made Al Qaeda our enemy. In Al Qaeda’s view, the U.S. put infidel boots on holy soil to preserve our corrupt modus vivendi with the corrupt Saudi government.

Daesh is different. They claim to be the restoration of the Caliphate and that the End Times have come. Good does not compromise with Evil. Nations are not enemies for what they have done but rather for who they are or, more precisely, who they are not. If they are not part of the Caliphate, they are to be conquered. If not now, soon.

Yes, this is fantastic. Unlike the Prophet, Daesh represents a tiny fraction of the professing Muslims that make up about a fourth of the world’s population. It is not Islam but that tiny fraction of Islam that preaches conquest of Shi’ite Islam and Sunnis who profess allegiance to nations rather than the Caliphate, after which the rest of us may convert or die. Of course it’s fantastic. So is the Daesh body count.

Why is the Daesh fantasy not sound and fury signifying nothing to those of us shaking our heads a hemisphere away? Because of globalization, a term from economics that describes both communication and transportation in these times, and a fact of life that means we have no place to hide from thugs who recognize no national borders and consider us players in the fruition of a prophecy leading to the End Times.

Part 3 will detail our assigned role in the coming apocalypse and pose some questions we have to answer about taking part in Daesh fantasies.

Steve Russell, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is a Texas trial court judge by assignment and associate professor emeritus of criminal justice at Indiana University-Bloomington. He lives in Georgetown, Texas.

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