Thursday, January 5, 2012
The following is a quote from the book, Sleeping With the Devil:
It wasn't long before the Saudis were spreading money everywhere, like manure on a winter's field. The White House put out its hand to fund pet projects that Congress wouldn't fund or couldn't afford, from a war in Afghanistan to one in Nicaragua. Every Washington think tank, from the supposedly nonpartisan Middle East Institute to the Meridian International Center, took Saudi money. Washington's boiler room — the K Street lobbyists, PR firms, and lawyers — lived off the stuff. So did its bluestocking charities, like the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Children's National Medical Center, and every presidential library of the last thirty years. The Saudis even kicked in a quarter of a million dollars on a winter sports clinic for disabled American veterans.
Saudi money also seeped into the bureaucracy. Any Washington bureaucrat with a room-temperature IQ knows that if he stays on the right side of the kingdom, some way or another, he'll be able to finagle his way to feed at the Saudi trough. A consulting contract with Aramco, a chair at the American University, a job with Lockheed — it doesn't matter. There's hardly a living former assistant secretary of state for the Near East; CIA director; White House staffer, or member of Congress who hasn't ended up on the Saudi payroll in one way or another, or so it sometimes seems. With this kind of money waiting out there, of course Washington's bureaucrats don't have the backbone to take on Saudi Arabia.
What's going on here? The way I look at things, it amounts to an indirect, extralegal tax on Americans. Saudi Arabia raises the price of gasoline, then remits a huge percentage to Washington, but not just to anyone. A big chunk goes to pet White House projects; part goes into the pockets of ex-bureaucrats and politicos who keep their mouths shut about the kingdom. And a lot goes to keeping our defense industry humming in bad times. Add it all up, and Saudi Arabia is one of Washington's biggest hitters.
Washington likes to describe all this with an inoffensive, neutral economic term: recycling petrodollars. But it's plain old influence peddling.
Sleeping With the Devil: was authored by Robert Baer, a former case officer in the Directorate of Operations for the CIA from 1976 to 1997. His overseas assignments included stints in Iraq, Dushanbe, Rabat, Paris, Beirut, Khartoum, and New Delhi. He speaks Arabic, Farsi, French, German, and English. He has handled agents who infiltrated Hizballah, Fatah-Hawari, and Al-Qaeda.