Memo To: Bob Woodward
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Our Saudi Friends
When I tuned in to the Larry King show last night to hear you discuss your terrific new book, "Plan of Attack," I was glad to see Larry went to the trouble of getting the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan, on the telephone to fence with you over some facts. Through books like yours, the American people are just now beginning to learn how much propaganda the Bush administration employed in making the case for its pre-emptive war with Iraq. Other journalists like you might eventually dig into the first Gulf War where they will find plenty of propaganda. Even then, they will find Prince Bandar playing a key role in persuading a skeptical U.S. Congress that Saddam Hussein's invasion of of Kuwait was more than a clash over oil revenues between Saddam and the Emir of Kuwait. It was Bandar who, using photographs supplied to him by the warhawks in the Pentagon -- Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and his undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz -- first persuaded King Fahd of Saudi Arabia that Saddam was poised to attack and conquer Saudi Arabia itself once he had swallowed Kuwait!
We now know this was a bunch of baloney. Iraq was not only broke, it also owed a debt of gratitude to Saudi King Fahd. The ruse did, though, have its effect on skeptical Democrats, those who voted for the war after earlier skepticism. Even I was snookered by Prince Bandar when he made a big show of the aerial photographs showing tanks lined up in the desert, supposedly ready to thrust into Saudi Arabia from their positions in Kuwait. I had opposed U.S. intervention, smelling a rat when I noted that the other Arab nations in the region seemed not at all upset with Saddam's move into Kuwait. The Emir of Kuwait had been pumping oil way above his pledge to the other OPEC nations and had driven the world price so low that all of the OPEC nations were suffering. Iraq, which was almost bankrupt anyway because of the debts it had run up in fighting Iran in their eight-year war, suffered most. Saddam thought the monarchies he had protected from the wrath of Ayatollah Khomeini would be grateful to him, and King Fahd was, telling Saddam he would not have to pay off the Iraqi debts to his Kingdom. The Emir of Kuwait not only demanded payment in full, but also waged obvious economic warfare against Iraq with his oil policies -- including drilling under the Iraq/Kuwait border to steal Iraqi crude. He had been assured by Dick Cheney that if Saddam moved into Kuwait, the U.S. would rush to his aid. Remember all that?
If you remain puzzled why, after 9-11, the Bush administration was so eager to hustle the Saudi families out of the U.S., including relatives of Osama bin Laden, you need only realize the debt of gratitude the Pentagon warhawks and Vice President Cheney owe to Riyadh in general and Prince Bandar in particular. It should be no surprise at all that Bandar was a primary cheerleader for the pre-emptive war against Iraq and now expresses great delight that Saddam is gone for good. Saddam of course knew of Bandar's propaganda role and Bandar knew he knew, which must have been slightly unsettling to the Prince.
If you wish to read more about all this, I did write a "Memo on the Margin" in 2002 about that 1991 briefing I got from the Prince. Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who had been U.N. Ambassador in the Reagan administration, was in the same private briefing and was snookered too.