About a week ago, I caught a documentary on the House of Saud on PBS (in HD, too!).
It was a riveting program that helped shed a lot of light onto historical relationships between Saudi Arabia and the US. It also brought to perspective a lot of the current thinking in Suadi Arabia and view of the geo-political landscape from one of the most prominent Middle Eastern nations.
The full transcripts of the interviews are available from the site and I suggest anyone with an interest in the subject of the current war and an interest in the region in general take a glance at the information available at the site.
In the short history of what we know today as the nation of Saudi Arabia, the country has been lead by visionary leaders such as Abd al-Aziz and King Faisal. It has undergone transformations from a small desert nation of fiefdoms into one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the Middle East.
Most importantly, it is one of the few (the only?) Arab nations that has traditionally been an ally of the United States, throughout the last 60 years.
Prince Amr ibn Mohammad al-Faisal, great grandson of al-Aziz, reveals that at one point in time, the US was actually viewed upon quite favorably:
And so, [in 1945, aboard] the [U.S.S.] Quincy, he met with President [Franklin] Roosevelt.
Early on, [Abd al-Aziz] understood that the British Empire was on its last legs
and that the new power coming out was the United States. And so he
quickly tried to establish contacts with the U.S. ... [At that time]
the U.S. was looked on favorably by most of the Muslim world [because]
it was not a colonial power. On the contrary, it was anticolonial. It
was ... the policy of the U.S. that decolonization was [one] of its
principles, that people should have the right to self-determination.
... It was only Saudi Arabia in the region, and maybe Yemen, [that
were] uncolonized. Everybody else was either under the British, the
French, the Italians or whoever else there was.
So it was a logical and natural alliance between Saudi Arabia and
the United States. The United States was a young, dynamic power, a
growing power, that was not colonial, that was against colonialism, a
people that were religious just like we are religious. They have a very
strong faith in their Christian heritage, and we have a very strong
faith in our Muslim heritage.
While we are not yet enemies (and probably will never be), the consensus in the Middle East, even among the educated Saudis is that the American response in Iraq during this second Gulf War (their third) has been very negative.
When asked about the anger towards America, Bassim Alim, a very progressive Saudi attorney states:
Let me say, it's not that they're not unhappy. They're not; it
doesn't concern them. America is king everywhere. [America] is giving
us a hard time everywhere. So if this happened to America, we will not
stand up and say [that] we are the defenders of America and this should
not happen. We know it should not happen, but they're not going to cry
over it. It's this kind of feeling that took place amongst a certain
segment of society at the beginning.
[At] this stage, many segments of society are actually quite
entrenched in being opposed to America as an idea. They are dismayed;
they are disillusioned by America. We thought that you really meant
what you said in your constitution, all these issues of freedom and
rights and carrying the banner of human rights, and the Wilsonian
doctrine -- it all went out the window because of 3,000 people?
It's a significant number, but there are hundreds of thousands who
are dying all over [because of] this, hundreds of thousands. Look how
many died in Palestine, in Iraq, for all these years when Saddam
Hussein was ruling Iraq -- [who], by the way, was supported by America
-- and you didn't shed a tear. You only shed tears when it starts
affecting your own policies, your own interests. In the Arab world,
that's not right. You don't look at your interests alone. If you claim
something, you have to be fair. It has to be an equal ruling for you
and for me.
In the US, I think many of us are incapable of, to quote the Dalai Lama, "equalizing and switching of self and others"; we readily label others as evil or enemies without first evaluating ourselves and putting us in the shoes of those who would hate us. We do not take the time to seriously evaluate the root cause of the hatred and we do not make the effort to address these issues, nay, we do not even acknowledge these issues. We can't even begin to imagine why we aren't viewed and celebrated as liberators. We tend to be simple minded and view ourselves with righteousness without considering the opposing view and the perceptions of others.
I will give you an example: [What if] today there were 500,000 Saudi
troops armed to the teeth in the middle of England? Wouldn't the
English be [un]happy about that?
Anything controversial, anything that is massive and shocking, like the
[arrival] of 500,000 armed soldiers with their equipment in the middle
of your country, this is not something that is easy. Nobody is going to
be thrilled to know that there is a huge mass of foreign army on his
soil, no matter what the pretext or what the justification is. It is
something that will make anybody uncomfortable.
al-Faisal states the obvious; if the situation were the other way around and half a million armed troops were in the US "liberating" us from GWB, I'm sure even these fighters would be viewed with disdain by the liberal left. "They hate our freedom" is perhaps the embodiment of this ignorant way of thinking; it is masking our faults by expressing a seemingly patriotic statement which gets thrown to the wind with each law that further restricts our rights and freedoms.
Watching this documentary was very insightful. It not only showed some very informative and interesting first-hand perspectives from Saudis, but also showed how our leaders have lost their mastery of diplomacy. Watching the events unfold is simply startling as it starts to expose the history of the conflict, the betrayal of the United States (on multiple occassions), and perhaps why we can never "win" this war that we've started since we have not addressed the root cause of the opposition. It is reflective of the lack of accountability by this administration that is pervasive throughout all of the policy.