There were two big stories in US news media last week. The state funeral of former President George HW Bush; and the increasing moves by Congress to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia.
Yet, as far as mainstream media coverage was concerned, the two stories appeared completely unrelated. Except, in reality, they intimately connected. It was George Bush Senior as the director of the CIA who brought the US and Saudi Arabia into close partnership for global repression.
Since the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, there has been a growing disgust among US public, the media and lawmakers with the despotism of the House of Saud, in particular Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the oil-rich kingdom. He is accused of ordering the heinous killing of Khashoggi, whose body was hacked to pieces and disposed of, according to Turkish investigators. Even the CIA has pointed fingers at the Crown Prince.
US Senators last week introduced a resolution calling for the heir to the Saudi throne to be held to account over the murder. The senators are also calling for an end to the horrendous Yemeni war and the Saudi-led blockade of neighboring Gulf state Qatar, events which the Crown Prince has personally directed.
There is thus a palpable sense in Washington that the US must dissociate itself from Saudi barbarity, even though the countries have had a strategic partnership going back nearly eight decades. An historic meeting between former President Franklin D Roosevelt and the founding king of Saudi Araba, Ibn Saud, in 1945 near the end of World War II marked the beginning of that bilateral relation.
The US-Saudi relationship has always been about oil supply, maintaining the petrodollar as world reserve currency, and of course massive American weapons sales vital to the US military-industrial complex. The deeply conservative Saudi rulers with their Wahhabi Sunni religion are also important surrogates for Washington to suppress democracy movements in the Middle East, and to act as a bulwark against Iranian Shia influence.
That function was openly expressed recently by President Donald Trump, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis when they said the US could not afford to alienate Saudi rulers with sanctions over the Khashoggi murder “because the Saudis were essential to US interests of countering Iran”.
To a point, American media and lawmakers have shown a degree of ethical awareness in slamming the Trump administration for its “transactional” relationship with Saudi rulers. Business profits and politics are being put above moral values regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen, say critics.
However, those well-meaning concerns seem superficial and ignorant of the inherent and truly abhorrent nature of the US-Saudi relationship. Washington’s foreign policy and in particular the nefarious role played by the CIA and other unaccountable secret agencies are very much dependent on Saudi despotism for reaching their illicit objectives, whether in suppressing democratic movements, overthrowing governments and waging covert war with terror proxies.
Those Americans demanding an overhaul in the bilateral relation, in which Washington stands up for “American values” of human rights and rule of law, do not seem to understand the fundamental nefarious nature of US global power and its reliance on Saudi henchmen.
The person who very much developed that pernicious partnership was George HW Bush. A good reference source is Russ Baker’s book on the Bush Dynasty.
During the 1970s, various congressional committees began investigating the clandestine, criminal activities of the CIA. Probes, such as the Church Committee, were set up out of increasing American public concern over the involvement of US intelligence agencies in assassination campaigns and repression around the world. One of the assassinations included that of President John F Kennedy in 1963. Out of those congressional investigations, there were calls for more public oversight on the financing of the CIA.
George Bush Senior served as CIA director (1976-77) during those heady times of sharp public scrutiny. He would later become the 41st president of the US (1989-93). And his son, George W, would subsequently become the 43rd president for two terms (2001-2009).
It was Bush Senior as CIA chief who oversaw the new role of covert Saudi funding as the means to bankroll clandestine US global repression and regime-change intrigues. The Saudis were assigned this vital role because of US public demands for greater congressional accounting of CIA activities. A neat innovation was found.
A classic demonstration of this arrangement is seen during the past eight years of war in Syria. Washington and its NATO allies, Britain and France, wanted regime change against President Bashar al Assad, a close ally of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. The CIA, as well British and French military intelligence, provided the tactics and logistics for proxy militants trying to overthrow Assad. But it was the Saudis and other Gulf clients who funneled the billions of dollars to wage the war.
This arrangement of American intelligence and Saudi money for entirely criminal purposes involving deployment of terror groups stems from the legacy of George HW Bush.
So, when Saudi despots feel that they can get away with murder and genocidal war, it is because they have been cultivated by Washington despots. The barbarity of head-chopping Saudi potentates is the corollary of American so-called “democratic leaders” who feel entitled to overthrow foreign states and sanction mass murder.
This inherent function of US global power in league with Saudi dictators, among other repressive regimes such as the Neo-Nazi cabal ruling Ukraine, is what escapes those American critics who are demanding that Trump take punitive action against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed.
The proof of that glaring disconnect was the media outpouring of sentimental eulogies to the late President George HW Bush, who was roundly praised as a “great and noble leader”. Why US policy is embroiled with Saudi corruption and criminality is because of criminals in high office like Bush.