Friday, November 24, 2017

New York Times Puff Piece on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

As thousands starve and die because of a war in Yemen and an accompanying blockade, which can be directly attributed to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,  The New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman flew to Saudi Arabia to tell us:
 I never thought I’d live long enough to write this sentence: The most significant reform process
underway anywhere in the Middle East today is in Saudi Arabia. Yes, you read that right. Though I came here at the start of Saudi winter, I found the country going through its own Arab Spring, Saudi style.

Unlike the other Arab Springs — all of which emerged bottom up and failed miserably, except in Tunisia — this one is led from the top down by the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and, if it succeeds, it will not only change the character of Saudi Arabia but the tone and tenor of Islam across the globe....

He has not only curbed the authority of the once feared Saudi religious police to berate a woman for not covering every inch of her skin, he has also let women drive.
Ah yes, the tyrant lets women drive. Wonderful.

The man is a serious warmonger:
His general view seemed to be that with the backing of the Trump administration — he praised President Trump as “the right person at the right time” — the Saudis and their Arab allies were slowly building a coalition to stand up to Iran...
Iran’s “supreme leader is the new Hitler of the Middle East,” said M.B.S. “But we learned from Europe that appeasement doesn’t work. We don’t want the new Hitler in Iran to repeat what happened in Europe in the Middle East.” 
And as for the reports of torture of some of the 11 crown princes that MbS has had arrested as a power and money grab that he is calling an anti-corruption campaign , Friedman writes:
The stakes are high for M.B.S. in this anticorruption drive. If the public feels that he is truly purging corruption that was sapping the system and doing so in a way that is transparent and makes clear to future Saudi and foreign investors that the rule of law will prevail, it will really instill a lot of new confidence in the system. But if the process ends up feeling arbitrary, bullying and opaque, aimed more at aggregating power for power’s sake and unchecked by any rule of law, it will end up instilling fear that will unnerve Saudi and foreign investors in ways the country can’t afford...
 While foreigners, like me, were inquiring about the legal framework for this operation, the mood among Saudis I spoke with was: “Just turn them all upside down, shake the money out of their pockets and don’t stop shaking them until it’s all out!”
So in the end, what does Friedman conclude about the feminist tyrant who is starving people in Yemen and expects U.S. help in confronting Iran?
He has his flaws that he will have to control, insiders here tell me. They include relying on a very tight circle of advisers who don’t always challenge him sufficiently, and a tendency to start too many things that don’t get finished. There’s a whole list. But guess what? Perfect is not on the menu here. Someone had to do this job — wrench Saudi Arabia into the 21st century — and M.B.S. stepped up. I, for one, am rooting for him to succeed in his reform efforts... 
.I told him his work habits reminded me of a line in the play “Hamilton,” when the chorus asks: Why does he always work like “he’s running out of time.”
Bottom line: The Deep State appears to be behind MbS.

It appears that Friedman was sent to Riyadh to send smoke signals to the establishment that MbS needs to be protected.

And Trump is acting as if he is bought and paid for.

Pat Buchanan correctly observes:
[W]hat the Saudis, with U.S. support, are doing today with this total blockade of that impoverished country appears to be both inhumane and indefensible.

Almost 90 percent of Yemen’s food, fuel and medicine is imported, and these imports are being cut off. The largest cities under Houthi control, the port of Hodaida and Sanaa, the capital, have lost access to drinking water because the fuel needed to purify the water is not there.

Thousands have died of cholera. Hundreds of thousands are at risk. Children are in danger from a diphtheria epidemic. Critical drugs and medicines have stopped coming in, a death sentence for diabetics and cancer patients.

If airfields and ports under Houthi control are not allowed to open and the necessities of life and humanitarian aid are not allowed to flow in, the Yemenis face famine and starvation.

What did these people do to deserve this? What did they do to us that we would assist the Saudis in doing this to them?

The Houthis are not al-Qaida or ISIS. Those are Sunni terrorist groups, and the Houthis detest them.

Is this now the American way of war? Are we Americans, this Thanksgiving and Christmas, prepared to collude in a human rights catastrophe that will engender a hatred of us among generations of Yemeni and stain the name of our country?...
Without U.S. targeting and refueling, Saudi planes could not attack the Houthis effectively and Riyadh could not win this war. But when did Congress authorize this war on a nation that never attacked us?

President Obama first approved U.S. support for the Saudi war effort. President Trump has continued the Obama policy, and the war in Yemen has now become his war, and his human rights catastrophe.

Yemen today is arguably the worst humanitarian crisis on earth, and America’s role in it is undeniable and indispensable.

If the United States were to tell Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that we were no longer going to support his war in Yemen, the Saudis would have to accept the reality that they have lost this war.



Daniel Larison writes:
Sometimes newspapers publish credulous fluff pieces about their subjects, but Tom Friedman leaves them all in the dust with his encomium to Mohammed bin Salman (MBS):
Unlike the other Arab Springs — all of which emerged bottom up and failed miserably, except in Tunisia — this one is led from the top down by the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and, if it succeeds, it will not only change the character of Saudi Arabia but the tone and tenor of Islam across the globe. Only a fool would predict its success — but only a fool would not root for it.
It would be more accurate to say that only a fool would be so quick to take all of this at face value. I don’t see the news value in having a prominent columnist working as a foreign leader’s publicist, but it is extremely useful for the crown prince to be given a major platform to deliver his spin to someone who will uncritically endorse it. There is practically nothing in the long profile that might displease its subject, whose assurances are taken as proof that he is the zealous “reformer” that his cheerleaders say that he is. Friedman tells us that he couldn’t find anyone with a bad word to say about MBS’ purges, as if anyone there would feel free to do so after the dramatic mass arrests that the crown prince has orchestrated...
The Saudis have been spreading one of the most virulent, destructive forms of Islam around the world for decades, and they have been doing quite a lot to stoke sectarian hatred against Shia Muslims even more in the last decade. Even if Islam in Saudi Arabia before 1979 was “more open and modern” than it is now, I don’t buy for a second that that the same person who has been busy destabilizing the rest of the region in the name of hostility to Iran has a genuine interest in creating a “more open and modern” Islam. This is the sort of thing one says to get credulous Westerners to overlook the enormous crimes being perpetrated right now by the Saudis and their allies in Yemen.


  1. NYT leftist, collectivist, progressive, liberal Western logic circa 2017:

    Look, the people of SA just had to give up any and all political freedoms, including the freedom to offer the slightest public dissent. In return, the people of SA can now choose what flavor of ice cream they want to eat. Failure to comply will get you a trip to the Ritz (or much, much worse if you're not a royal and/or your net worth is less than $80 billion) for a date with some rubber hoses and other medieval torture handed out by some American mercs.

    I mean, someone had to drag these cretins into the 21st century, right? You libertarians are so picky.

  2. Walter Duranty, you may have competition for the title of Biggest Useful Idiot!

  3. I'm sure Tom Friedman loved the idea of hanging the rich from their feet and shaking them until all their money falls out. Very Jacobin. That's probably what really sold him on the new Saudi regime.

    1. Which is funny because, if you do some Googling, you can find reports that Friedman earns at least $300K per year and $40K + per speaking engagement (putting him solidly in the top 5% of the US), and that he is married to real estate heiress Ann Bucksbaum and lives in an 11,400-square-foot house on a 7½-acre parcel of land.