October 20, 2004
Review: "Sleeping with the Devil" by Robert Baer
When an ex-CIA station chief writes a book about the region he worked in for decades you better read it. This is a truly scary and terrifying read. The depth and breadth of our dependency on crude oil and the extent of Saudi control of that market is explicitly laid out. Baer also gives very detailed accounts of how and why we should all be worried about Saudi Arabia's ability to keep the oil flowing. With less than $100,000 in explosives and provisions, a coordinated car/boat bomb attack in three locations could send the world economy into a depression many times worse than The Great Depression. An attack like this would take less resources and less coordination and planning than the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center. Osama Bin Laden has already said he wants to bring down the House of Saud. He has the desire and resources to do it. It may only be a matter of time.
What I didn't realize until reading this book was how screwed up Saudi Arabia is and how totally dependent the American economy and political machine is on the country. Saudi Arabia is run by the Saud family that treats the oil money as it's own personal treasury. It was just desert with a bunch of bedouin's until 1932 when oil was discovered. They had slavery there till the 60s. With multiple wives, the King has a clan of over 15,000 princes and princesses today, growing to probably 50,000 in a decade. While the royal family has grown rich, the average Saudi has actually seen a drop in income over the last 20 years. There is not enough money from oil to feed all these mouths so corruption is rife. On one $5.5B defense deal, a prince walked away with a $900M skim off the top. A prince has the right to expropriate any property he desires for his own use. No middle class has been able to form, because any time a business starts to become successful, a prince comes along and buys it for pennies exercising his "privilege". The country is basically run by a depraved, scared band of nomadic thieves. The royal family saw what happened to the Shah of Iran in 1979 and decided to cut off the fundamentalists at the pass. They started funding all manner of Wahhabi (the most backward, fundamental branch of Islam in the world) causes to encourage their attention outside the country (basically to pay them off to not overthrow the king). The Wahhabi's control the schools, mosques, religious police, and many overseas "charities" that funded Osama Bin Laden's terror training camps in Afghanistan, the Chechen muslims who killed 300 school children, the Muslim Brotherhood bent on overthrowing various middle eastern states, and countless others. The Saudi spend 50% of their GDP on defense (mostly to American defense contractors) and have never been in a war. This is ALL for defense of the monachary against their own people. And a great way to skim billions in bribes.
The Saud are the Taliban with money.
The extent of American complicity and ignorance of the true threat is astounding. Baer details the numerous times the Saudi have bailed out America. He points out the fact that every major politician has a hand in the Saudi cookie jar in one way or another. And the revolving door between politics and Saudi funded positions is astounding. The Saudi Ambassador has better access to the White House than most of the cabinet. Kissinger designed the oil for guns framework that basically recycles American petro dollars through Saudi Arabia and back into American defense companies (with a large percentage going to the princes of course). Baer details the numerous ways our CIA human intelligence is non-existent in the Arab world. We have ZERO agents in Saudi Arabia. That means we have ZERO visibility into what is really going on and how fragile the situation may be. Before the first Gulf war we has ZERO human agents in Iraq. Baer describes an incident when the CIA was trying to figure out if Sadam was moving tanks closer to Kuwait and the only intelligence they had was a phone call to a guy with binoculars in a guard post on the border. If it weren't so scary and such a colossal failure it would almost be funny.
Some truly stunning revelations from the book include:
- Over the past decade, Saudi Arabia has transferred half a billion dollars to al Queda and at least $100 million to the Taliban.
- With America's complicity, the Saudis have provided aid, shelter, and material comfort to the Muslim Brotherhood.
- A single jumbo jet with a suicide bomber at the controls could bring the world's oil-addicted economies to their knees by crashing into one major Saudi oil field.
5 out of 5. Every American should read this book immediately. And go by a Prius or a biodiesel car. NOW!
Posted by Martin at October 20, 2004 9:45 PM
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The "experts" have spent many hours debating who benefits, on the USA side, from this short sighted and potentially disastrous matrix. Entrenched multi-national corporate interests. But ultimately, it is our small businesses and consumers (cheap energy). Now we are finally paying the real costs. With strong and clear leadership, small business and consumers have the ability to shut this valve off. We will innovate our way out of this dead end. We can't allow the invested past to destroy our future. See Lessig: http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/
Posted by: Rob Elam at October 21, 2004 2:13 AM
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