Saudi Arabia’s Implausible Explanations
Published: October 24th, 2018
By: Joe Angelino

Saudi Arabia’s implausible explanations

Anyone who has spent any length of time in Saudi Arabia knows their culture is much different from ours or any other western country for that matter. For starters, it is a kingdom where there is no separation of church and the state. The Qur’an is their constitution which means the church IS the state. Secondly, it is a country of immense wealth beyond the comprehension of many Americans.

My time in Saudi Arabia was a quarter-century ago as a tank commander during Desert Shield and Storm. The impressions from that time are seared into to my memory. The Saudis had such a laid back, almost lackadaisical attitude toward even the most serious of situations. Topics such as planning to defend against an Iraqi tank division approaching their border from already devastated Kuwait would elicit a response of “insha'Allah” meaning if it is God’s will, it shall be.

Other interactions would consist of a Saudi telling us something was scheduled to happen at a specific time and seldom did that actually occur – again, insha'Allah. Most maddening would be when a Saudi would lie right to our faces. When confronted about the falsehood we would receive the equivalent of “oh well, you caught me. Let’s now move on to other things”.

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Two weeks ago Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and nobody has seen him since. At first, the Saudis denied any knowledge of Khashoggi even being at their consulate. When Turkish officials provided video proof of the missing man walking into the building, those who know Saudis knew the far-fetched stories were soon to begin.

Those in power in Saudi Arabia don’t like Mr. Khashoggi because he writes his opinions in US newspaper columns about how Saudi Arabia should and could be governed much better. The rulers of Saudi Arabia are easily frustrated because they don’t know how to deal with a free press, but they do know how to punish those who break Saudi laws.

During my all-expenses-paid trip in 1990 there were hundreds of laborers from the Philippines and Bangladesh doing all manner of things that a Saudi never would do. One of these lowly laborers was caught passing a bottle of forbidden alcohol through a fence to a US military member. For that violation, the laborer’s hand was lopped off and he was sent home as a warning to others.

Mr. Khashoggi did much worse than violate the no alcohol policy of the Qur’an; he had the audacity to disparage the ruling class in writing and irritate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Prince is a man who has lived an entire lifetime never hearing the word “no.” He is the poster boy for the saying “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” His most petty whims are considered orders to those around him. It’s not too hard to imagine a princely off-the-cuff comment setting into motion a 15-man hit-team traveling to Turkey.

In a country where there is no free press, the Saudis have no experience managing a reputation crisis. Their attempts at a cover-up seem amateurish and comical compared to the well thought up whitewashes contrived by westerners. Saudis are used to telling their people an outrageous tale and having the people of the kingdom shrug their shoulders and move on with their lives.

Implausible Arab explanations to the world will continue even after the truth is revealed, most likely by the Turks. From the small bits of Turkish surveillance the world has seen so far, it is likely a large-scale shadowing operation was targeting the Saudis. Again, the Saudis are not used to having their authority questioned, so they aren’t very good at covering their tracks. Once the truth is disclosed, the Saudis may pretend to show justice to the Khashoggi family by executing the entire “rogue” hit-team. (One has already died in a traffic accident) Again, the Saudis are good at swift punishment.

The Crown Prince MbS should soon begin to worry if he knows how, because he has drawn unwanted attention to his country. At a time when the US is producing more oil than anyplace else on earth, coupled with the inevitable demise of fossil fuels, the Saudi Royal family needs the US as an ally to remain relevant. An ill-worded tweet from President Trump portraying the Kingdom in poor light could be the impetus for an internal hit squad to begin their anonymous work. The next time we hear about Prince MbS could be reports of a tragic car accident ending his succession to the throne.

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If the Saudis are going to continue making people disappear they should take lessons from the Chinese. The Chinese government quietly took Meng Hongwe out of circulation last week. Hongwe isn’t just a random Chinese citizen. He’s the Police Chief of Interpol, headquartered in Lyon, France. Interpol is the world’s police department investigating international crimes. I bet only a few of you even heard about this missing person case - now that takes some expertise.