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9/8/2004  Political Fix: The Saudi Royals and Michael Moore

I have strange methods of getting my news. I scan headlines in the Times Picayune, and if something seems interesting or relevant enough, I read the article. Nightly, I listen to CNN, Fox, and C-SPAN by default while my significant boy OD’s on the news right outside my office door. I catch All Things Considered when I can. I welcome boy to relay all the relevant news stories of the day to me, and the relevant history behind them. If I’m unsure on something, I get on the net and start hitting CNN.com, Reuters, Associated Press and the BBC. I also religiously watch the Daily Show, which, yes, I know, isn’t exactly news. I think of it as news-lite. I hear about the main stories of the day with a bit of humor thrown in to them to make them less scary and depressing. For what its worth, I watched the Democratic National Convention and plan on watching the Republican National Convention. This stuff is important.

Next, I want anyone reading this to know that I wasn’t a registered voter until this year. There are a million and a half personal reasons for this, but one of the most interesting ones is this: when I lived in Florida (and yes, I was in Florida for the infamous 2000 presidential election Florida cluster-fuck) I tried to register to vote three times. All three times, I got a letter back saying that my registration was invalid because the address I listed as my residence wasn’t zoned for residence. I lived at a commercial address, and since that’s not legal, I couldn’t register. Now, you may ask, why did I go through that two more times? Because I repeatedly asked my landlord to rezone so I could register. Obviously, he never did because I got rejected two more times on the same basis. I guess I could have moved, but I liked my apartment. I guess I could have listed a different address, but I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of fraud that could have kept me from ever legitimately registering. But worry not, kids, I’m registered now, and I plan to take full advantage of that fact. So yeah, read what I’m saying and remember, as the bumper sticker says, that I vote.

The real issue at hand here is the Saudi royals criticizing Michael Moore for his claims in Fahrenheit 9/11 that members of the Saudi royal family and relatives of bin Laden were given a sort of amnesty to fly out of the United States immediately following the attacks on the WTC while U.S. airspace remained closed.

I had heard about a week ago that there was supposed to be something on CNN about this, quite possibly on Wolf Blitzer’s segment. I missed it, or it never happened, because I scoured CNN.com for the story and came up pretty damn blank. I did find a lot of other articles, though.

I seem to recall, way before Fahrenheit 9/11 hit the theatres, hearing little snippets on both CNN and (ahem) The Daily Show about the Saudi royals being flown out of the country blah blah blah. I recall seeing, on both programs, the flight schedules for the airline that flew them out, with names and dates printed right there in bold black ink, and it seemed to me that most of them said September 12. (In case you didn’t know, U.S. airspace remained closed after the attacks until September 13). Michael Moore also showed these flight lists in his movie, and since then, everyone else seems to have dropped the subject entirely, and to conveniently forget that they ever mentioned it. Because Michael is pretty easy to hate and blame, I suppose.

Rather than find Wolf Blitzer’s interview with a member of the Saudi royal family regarding these allegations, I found two articles of the same origin. One posted on the New Zealand Herald crediting the information to Reuters, another crediting the exact same statements to the Associated Press. Whatever. They’re both relatively short and don’t go into specifics. The best article I found on the topic (including many of the same quotes from Prince Turki al-Faisal [Saudi Arabian ambassador to London and half-brother of Crown Prince Abdullah] ) was on www.news.telegraph.co.uk. This article claims that “In a section headed ‘Flights of Saudi Nationals Leaving the United States,’ the report found ‘no evidence that any flights of Saudi nationals, domestic or international, took place before the reopening of national airspace on the morning of September 13, 2001.’ The report also concludes that it found no evidence of political interference by the White House, and states that those Saudis who did leave the U.S. on charter flights in the days following the attacks had been thoroughly vetted by FBI agents.” (BTW: “the report” here refers to the findings of the 9/11 commission).

Okay, I’m prepared to believe that. Though I do still want to know where those flight lists that not only Michael Moore but also CNN and The Daily Show graced us with came from. Were they someone’s sick idea of a hoax, and if so, why?

Next, Prince Turki has “a perfectly reasonable explanation for the decision to fly home a number of prominent Saudis in the days following the attacks. ‘They were allowed to leave because everyone recognised that anyone with the name bin Laden might have a hard time with the American public after the terrorist attacks,' he said.” That’s probably prudent and shrewd, 100% believable, and I can’t say I blame him; what with the numbnut assholes who went on to burn or bomb mosques and beat the crap out of Middle Easterners in the days following Sept. 11. On the other hand, they were (many of them, or so they say) diplomats who are on close personal terms with the current administration who could have easily applied for some type of amnesty or protection from the government, which, on the basis of their assumed (?) innocence regarding the attacks, would most certainly and understandably been granted. I can see how that would have looked really bad on Bush and the gang, though. However, hauling ass out of the country as soon as it was “safe” to fly again does look crazy suspicious.

Interestingly, while Prince Turki has gone out of his way to defend against the flights, not much has been said about the Saudi money that’s invested so heavily in U.S. companies and those little deals with oil companies, cough, Halliburton. Prince Turki did go out of his way to defend against the claim that the Saudi royal family had knowingly funded al-Qa’eda in the form of front Islamic charity organizations; and to point out that Saudi Arabia has worked very hard to oust al-Qa’eda cells in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan. “ ‘Of the 26 known al-Qa’eda hardliners in the kingdom, we have killed or captured more than half of them.’” Okay. I don’t have a lot of resources toward that, but the inevitable question that is raised is: if they’re so for getting rid of terrorism and al-Qa’eda, why did they grant a one-year amnesty to any known terrorist who comes peacefully into Saudi Arabia and announces himself?

In all three of the articles that I mentioned, (as well as one about the families of victims suing Saudi royals, found on CNN.com), Prince Turki vehemently defends against the claims that the Saudi royal family knowingly (that’s the hinge word here, folks, KNOWINGLY) funded al-Qa’eda through front Islamic charities. Prince Turki claims that the Saudis believed that bin Laden was planning to attack them, not the U.S,, and therefore would never have funded him or his organizations. But then, the lawsuit against the royal family (of which, Prince Turki has been fighting for immunity on the basis that he’s a diplomatic official) states that the money was paid to bin Laden’s organization as protection money, to keep him from attacking within Saudi Arabia, and that the charitable organization fronts were just that. Fronts. The way it looks from where I sit, you’re giving them money no matter what the reason. Whether its to knowingly fund them to attack someone else, or to pay them off just so they won’t attack you, you’re still giving money to the cause. Its just like a pimp or a pusher paying off the cops to not arrest them. Everyone involved is still committing a crime, no matter what the reason.

There’s a million fishy ways that the Saudi royal family are tied up in this 9/11 war on terror mess. So what I really want to know, then, is why Michael Moore is getting all the heat?

I’ve seen Bowling for Columbine. I’ve seen Fahrenheit 9/11. I read Michael Moore’s website, though I’ve yet to get around to reading one of his books. I don’t agree with him on all points. But there isn’t anything criminal or un-American about what he’s doing. A crash course here. I imagine that I speak for all the peaceful protesters against the war on Iraq here, and I really want those of you who think we’re un-American to listen up. We DO support our troops. In fact, we care about our troops more than those in support of the war on the simple fact/basis that we DON’T want them there, in harm’s way, fighting bloody wars for unclear reasons. We protesters care about every one of those troops and want all of them home, unharmed ASAP. They shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and I’m sorry, but Mike hit the nail on the head when he tried recruiting senator’s children and made the point that (loosely paraphrased) “It always amazes me that those with the least are willing to give the most so that the rest of us can carry on with our daily lives.”

Additionally, I’m sick and f-ing tired of listening to lunatics who claim to be patriots condemning those of us who actively speak against the war and the current administration as America-haters on the same level as the terrorists. Being against a certain president isn’t being against your country. Questioning the acts of those in power is our civic duty. Anyone familiar with the Federalist Papers can recall Thomas Jefferson pointing out that it is the PATRIOTIC DUTY of the American people to constantly question and scrutinize the acts of our elected officials and, when we find them in the wrong, to actively rebel against them. To not do this, Jefferson thought, was to allow democracy and all that it stands for to degenerate and to pave the way for tyrants, dictators and fascists who only manipulate the public and its interests to further their own agenda.

I don’t think Michael Moore hates America. I think he loves America as much as I do. We are one of the greatest countries in the world, despite our tendencies to jump to conclusions and act in a weird herd mentality every now and then. In an unplanned, on the spot interview with Tom Foreman of CNN, Foreman was digging into Mike about Fahrenheit and how it seems to be actively telling people not to vote for Bush. From the interview (found on CNN.com):

Foreman: But you have no intention of endorsing John Kerry.

Moore: No. No. Nope. I just don’t think that’s my job. When John Kerry becomes president on January 20 of next year, on January 21 that camera lens of mine is going to be pointed at him. Because that’s my job then. Because he’s the one in power and he’s the one who has to be kept honest. I’ve never met the man, I don’t really want to be anywhere near his campaign, because I’m going to have to do my job come January.

So I wonder….if Mike makes a movie that grinds John Kerry into the ground and calls him out on whatever wrongs he may do… will the Republicans work as actively to shut him up as they have with Fahrenheit? Will Mike still be an America-hating enemy to be criticized and ridiculed? Or will he suddenly, suddenly seem to have gotten his head on straight?

“We dance around in a ring and suppose / But the secret sits in the middle and knows.”—Robert Frost (italics mine)

Kami

 


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