Details about what happened to the three men in the end are not entirely clear, and no one at State was willing to provide any facts about the incident. What is clear, though, is that the three didn’t get anywhere near Crawford, but were also spared the “embarrassment” of arrest. And the House of Saud was spared an “international incident.” That normally staid bureaucrats engaged in incredible acrobatics to bail out three guys who never should have been in the United States in the first place says a great deal about State’s “special relationship” with the Saudis.
While many critics of the repressive Saudi regime like to target President Bush and his oil ties as the culprit of the overly cozy relationship, the roots actually go much deeper. It’s the small favors that are done every day—decisions made far below the President’s pay grade—that truly define the relationship.
That is how you can have three Saudis get special protection, preventing the FBI from doing its job. That is also how you can have American children kidnapped from American parents and taken to the desert prison—and the State Department does nothing to help recover them.
Though it cannot be said that U.S. diplomats do favors for the Saudis in the hopes of lucrative payoffs later on, the Saudis reward those officials who were kind to them while working for the State Department. Scads of former State Department officials now either work directly for the Saudis or for organizations that take Saudi petrodollars.
The Saudis think it is money well spent. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador the United States, once said, “If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you’d be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office.”
Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes recently suggested banning former diplomats from receiving Saudi cash, thereby hopefully lessening the pervasive Saudi influence. It’s by no means a panacea, but it seems as good as any place to start.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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