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Who Are Our Friends? Who Are Our Enemies?

By Richard Reeves

SAG HARBOR, N.Y. -- I was so amazed and angry when the White House began talking about invading Iraq that I joked, sort of: "Well, if we're determined to attack Arab countries, why not start with our real enemey, Saudi Arabia?" After all, it was the Saudis, with their whip-swinging, head-chopping religious police protecting the rich little behinds of the royal family, who gave us the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists.

O Freedom! O Democracy! O Monarchy! O Oil! Now the powers that be in Washington want to give the Saudi royal family $20 billion over 10 years in military aid. The princes must have loved it when they were informed by e-mail at their summer places in St. Tropez and Aspen and other high-priced oases.

I was ready to cheer on the New York City congressional delegation, which I often disagree with when they do their more-pro-Israel-than-the-Knesset number, for screaming that Saudi Arabia is our friend only when the princes send out their designated English speakers. In Arabic, they call for jihad everyplace except in the kingdom. The 15 congressmen came out against the deal even though Israel would get another $3 billion a year in military loans never to be repaid.

In truth, the "moderate Saudis," as we laughingly call them, have brilliantly preserved their oil-rich tyranny by exporting their radicals and revolutionaries and their savage Wahabi Islam (and money) to Afghanistan, Pakistan and any other dot on the globe to divert attention from their despicable medievalism at home. The American package, along with Saudi government aid to 30,000 or more Wahabi mosques, should keep the royals in power for another decade -- and keep the oil flowing our way at higher and higher prices, both financial and political.

Moving from the Middle East to South Asia, at least one member of Congress has questioned our relationship with another group of Islamist "moderates," the military dictatorship of Pakistan. These are the people who house and protect the Taliban, probably are protecting Osama bin Laden and gave us A.Q. Khan, who was happily peddling stolen nuclear knowledge and technology to the highest bidders, beginning with North Korea. That questioner last week was Sen. Barack Obama, who said he would use U.S. Special Forces to go after Osama bin Laden and his boys in the "tribal areas" of Pakistan if we had hard intelligence on his whereabouts -- and if the Pakistanis themselves would not do the deed. (If Obama is wrong, it is because the Pakistani Army, whose men don't even speak the languages of the tribal areas, know they cannot prevail against the tribesman. It's not "won't" do anything; it's "can't.")

Obama, of course, is big news because he is running for president, and his rivals and opponents immediately seized on his words to brand him "naive" or call him a warmonger intent on "invading" our great ally. Pakistan, after all, is a nuclear power, thanks to the larcenous Mr. Khan and the American decision not to notice that he was openly developing nuclear weapons at a place called Kahuta in the desert near Islamabad.

That all happened during the decade in which the Americans and the Saudis financed, and Pakistani intelligence agencies trained, Islamic jihadists to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1970s and '80s.

The big result of those secret operations was the defeat of the Soviets -- and arguably the fall of the Soviet Union. The side effect was the creation of trained and armed pre-modern jihadists determined to eliminate Western influence in their precincts.

I was there in those days, and one of the more remarkable things I noticed was that the Islamist fighters saw no difference between Russians and Americans. "Red-faced monkeys," they called all of us, foreigners who wanted to educate their women. That was enough to send them into the hills to fight outsiders as they have since Alexander the Great stumbled by.

The reason we want to throw billions around to buy weapons, which will inevitably be used against us, is to frighten and contain Iran, the Shiite theocracy that has few friends in Sunni Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. But all this will get worse before it gets better, because what our "moderate" friends are trying to do is to buy off their own people. The royal family in Saudi Arabia and the military governments of Pakistan survive by turning over large chunks of their power and countries to fundamentalist mullahs, the whip-wielders and the rock-throwers.

And red-faced monkeys like us are willing to give them the money to do it. This is post-9/11 politics. We do not know who our friends are. We do not know who our enemies are.

Copyright 2007 Universal Press Syndicate

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