My roommates went to Coachella this weekend. When they got back I made them talk about Saudi Arabia. They were pretty beat, but it’s still a more useful conversation than you would ever get on Fox News or CNN. The talk is a bit rambling, but it’s super useful. It gave us a chance to enlarge on some of the issues brought up by the videos. It also brings in some of the issues covered by the “Everybody’s Lying About Islam” essay that may not get covered in the videos.
The most important issue that the talk covers is my personal attitude towards Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabians. It’s important to emphasize that as angry as I am about the US-Saudi relationship, I bear no ill will towards Saudi Arabians. The whole country, even its leadership is caught in a trap. It’s not a trap that’s entirely of their own making. Find out more by reading the essay…
Video Transcript after the jump…
Hey, there, it’s been quite a heavy week, and there’s more to come, but I thought it might be interesting, sort of halfway through, to do a little discussion.
This channel is committed to providing a higher level of discussion than is typically provided in Washington, DC or in Mass Media outlets. On the topic of Saudi Arabia, that’s not very hard to do.
So, today, I’d like to present a discussion with my two, absolutely exhausted roommates who are just back from Coachella.
How was Coachella for you Travis?
I don’t even know where to start… Amazing, Ray? I didn’t expect less but it was everything I needed.
Our selfie game is strong right now.
Still in the flow, still in the flow
Well I’m glad you guys are back. Today I think we’ll be discussing Saudi Arabia and related issues that I’ve brought up with the video. Yeah, what do you guys think about the videos?
Thanks Rob, Honor for you to bring us on here. I appreciate being on… I’ve watched a few of your videos. I follow pretty closely and I think it’s great stuff. I’m really excited about this series on Saudi Arabia, it’s opened my eyes in a lot of ways.
Well it’s not just on Saudi Arabia, we’re trying to cover more widely, but we’re definitely starting out with Saudi Arabia, because I think the issues surrounding that country are like pretty… pretty serious.
Right. You raise a great point, you had one of your videos, just one or two days ago was about Saudi Arabia specifically, and there were things in there that opened my eyes for sure, that I hadn’t expected. I appreciate the hard work on that.
I definitely didn’t watch all the videos, like Travis, sorry. But I did watch one video, just now, before we did this… very informative….
Ray’s super prepared.
Very informative video, however… it’s something, I would say just because, to play devil’s advocate, I have had an issue in the past, and still do kinda with Rob’s obsession with Saudi Arabia. Now, it may be justified. However, he definitely has a hard on for Saudi Arabia, and I don’t know that that whole region all their problems come down to Saudi Arabia.
So Rob, what do you have to say about that?
Yeah, so why the hard on Rob?
Let’s turn the questions to you.
I think that’s a, I think that’s a very good point, and it’s something that I struggle with a bit, because I don’t want to come across as being against Saudi Arabia, or against Saudi Arabians. I think there’s two parts to what you’re saying:
A: Why the obsession, and
B: Do I hate Saudi Arabia?
As far as A, Why the obsession, it’s… people don’t realize what an incredible impact this country has had. Across the Muslim world folks have been at a lower level of development, due to, just the way that industrialization happened, Imperialism, Colonialism, all of that. And what happened was Saudi Arabia very quickly jumped from a low level of development to a much higher level development… and
And they were dramatically ahead of the rest of the Muslim world, so they had this sort of first mover advantage that allowed them to shape the way the religion was practiced, not just in their own country… which I am completely for… I am not someone who wants to go in and control what people believe in their own country… but what bothers me, and the influence that isn’t appreciated enough, is the incredible influence they’ve had on the practice of Islam of every country, even in this country.
That’s a great point Rob, and I want to thank you for making that point because from a bottom up angle I have a lot of friends, from school, from work, from travel, or from Saudi Arabia. And just like when somebody critiques the US and our system and our foreign policy, they’re not critiqueing the people, necessarily, the individuals? I think that’s an important point about Saudi Arabia, is that are an incredible number of industrious people who are doing great things, and it’s not, it’s certainly not a look specifically at a nation of people, it’s a look at a system that’s grown from these historical forces.
I’m not as optimistic on Saudi Arabia as you’re sort of presenting there. I think that they’ve been kind of… I think that the greatest victims of Saudi Arabia’s sort of public profile, approach towards religion, and just sort of development model are the Saudi Arabians. Because I think that they’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities that develop normally in a development process if that makes sense? Because they have been given so much, it’s difficult to develop a lot of the skills that are necessary for a modern economy.
So, while of course there are brilliant industrious individuals in Saudi Arabia, I think that the societal forces in the country are a bit negative. And I think that as the oil price continues to fall, we’re going to see a lot of fall out from that. And I think individual Saudi Arabians are going to suffer, like I think there’s probably going to be a change of model.
I completely agree, and I think it’s worth emphasizing, when some people generalize Islam or generalize Muslims, they lose the nuances that make the fact important…
… and none of us here are here to say all Saudi Arabians are bad and that’s why…
No, no, no
I definitely want to distance myself from that. I think there’s… to an extent, as I’ll get to later in the week, I think that Saudi Arabia, by being put in this position, because it’s not, it’s not like this is, what I’m talking about, the sort of link between ideology and money and what not was some sort of sinister Saudi plan. These were sort of the facts on the ground in a predominantly tribal society, and people in the West, initially the British Empire, and then the United States, made the choice to put them in this position.
Well, T, you both mentioned this already once each, and I don’t know that anyone made a choice. I think once they found out they were sitting on the most important resource in the modernized world, which was oil, that all of a sudden, yeah, they’re going to prop them up, and install governments that are friendly, and let them get away with whatever they want.
Because this isn’t just an American problem, it’s not a Middle Eastern problem, the entire world is addicted to oil. Oh, absolutely.
So there are several entities that are going to be OK with putting them on the UN’s council for women’s rights, even though they oppress women, because this is where they get there dope. They get their dope, their oil… from them.
At the end of the day, they’re going to let them run roughshod, and spread whatever fundamentalist crazy religious stuff they want to do, have us attack their enemies like Iraq and Iran, for them to keep them oil fields secure and safe. We been in two wars… both started by people from the Bush family, mind you. And I…
Ray vs. the Republican party, you can’t get through a video without it.
It’s a fact, it’s a fact.
Cant’ go through a video without it.
However, it’s all about oil in my opinion. This is the main issue that we are not willing to discuss. I mean your video goes into great detail to talk about their influence and what we’ve done as a result of their influence, and you said even the British had their backs, and they funded and helped us in Afghanistan… helped the Afghanis when they fought the Russians. At the end of the day, they’ve been able to do all this, and be propped up like this, and given free reign, and no one investigated, supposedly investigated the 15 of the 19 people that came from Saudi Arabia that attacked us on 9-11, because they control all the oil.
You see, I think there were periods of time when that was true. And…
What period wasn’t it true?
Now, and it’s a very new thing. Since 2014, obviously due to a bunch of trends that had existed before, the uh… in 2014 it was when the markets sort of woke up to the fact that Saudi Arabia, and OPEC more generally does not have the pricing power that it used to. Like if Saudi Arabia disappeared tomorrow, then yes, we’d all be screwed, oil would be back up at 200 dollars or something like that… but Saudi Arabia can’t just disappear tomorrow, whereas it used to be that Saudi Arabia could like fiddle with things by a percentage point or two and make the oil price do whatever they wanted. That’s over.
Well I think that’s very premature. Very premature to say that their influence, with their vast reserves of oil… their influence is over.
No, I’m not saying that their influence is over… like I said, if they just cut the taps then yes, it would be a disaster , but they can’t do that.
Well they can do more than cut the taps, I mean they can restrict the flow, they can stop trading with certain nations, they can do a lot of things if they want.
At the end of the day though, you’re talking about all this stuff from 2000, 2001, you’re talking about wars that led up to now. We’re not talking about 2014 and beyond. So, regardless, it’s still, all of our history, their influence over that whole region… how does it not come down to the fact that they control this most precious resource?
Of course it does, I’m not disputing that Ray.
If we wanted to put them, not necessarily back in their place or take away their influence, then we need to stop relying on finite fossil fuels.
I agree completely, I agree completely.
Which potentially is also a part of this factor, you’re saying oil is coming down, well renewables are going up, biomasses are going up, all these different countries are leading the way in Europe and across the western world, with doing more with renewable energy and sustainable energy resources, but at the end of the day, we are still full-on hooked on oil.
There’s no disputing that.
And that’s not going to change in our life times.
So, so Ray, let me ask you this real quick, so I remember as 9/11 happened, and there was confusion in the US, we got attacked by terrorists for the first time… and what’s going on…
Well it wasn’t the first time.
Well, yeah, but it was the most
It was the largest
Biggest thing since Pearl Harbor
And we were looking for the people who did this, and we wanted to make it right, and we found them… and they were the Taliban, and none of us knew who the Taliban were, but let’s go get them, and then Iraq is suddenly involved, and we’re like “all right, Iraq!”
But, why Iraq?
Years later, right, like 2001 Afghanistan 200
and now, and the post- 9/11 commission report came out, and all these other investigations, and so suddenly the narrative shifts a bit and it leaves it a bit hollow, so Ray, with that context of Saudi funding 9/11 to the extent that they have, and the spread of radical Wahabism, and supplying these terrorists, the ones who actually executed the attacks, how does that make you feel about what the government and the military were doing, and what was being sold and told to the public.
Well, we’ve been lied to from day one when it comes to Iraq. Even the first war, we Bush senior went in because they said Saddam was invading this country.
Well that did happen.
Of course, but there’s a lot of dictators, and a lot people that invade a lot of countries, we don’t just go to war with all of them, we don’t go and start dropping hella bombs all over… bombs over baghdad son. We don’t do that just because somebody invades another sovereign nation. I mean at the end of the day there’s a lot of made up lines on the map, and people cross them all the time and kill others, and we don’t invade. At the end of the day we invaded because we have to have a stable democracy there, and the access to oil.
The initial, the initial invasion, not invasion, but Gulf War I is something that I’m very conflicted about.Because it’s interesting, and you can actually see that action by George H.W. bush, the first Bush, who I generally respect, I think he managed the end of the cold war very well. But that action, I mean all this, all of this sort of disaster in the Middle East, can be traced back to that initial decision. Yes, people have made decisions since that have made things worse. But, you know, Osama Bin Laden, his main complaint was…
I don’t think that’s the big issue people have… Kuwait’s a sovereign nation, they were being invaded, you can argue that both sides, but generally you’re defending a sovereign nation. But let’s move forward now and 9-11 happens, and then we’re going into Iraq, and we never hear anything about Saudi Arabia. They’re not listed in the “Axis of Evil” speech, they’re not… Where are they?
And as we’re finding out these details, in the back of my mind somewhere i’m like well, ok, why Saudi Arabia, are they like Jordan, are they just an ally that keeps quiet, that we don’t mess with, y’know, what’s going on? And now, I’ll be honest, now that I’m going through some of these, these, your essay, and I’m going through some of these videos, and doing some research on my own, there’s a big gaping hole there.
That says wait, why didn’t we connect the line through what actually happened.
Because it wasn’t in our best interests.
And there’s a bunch of… there’s a couple in particular, simple stories that we’re told that aren’t really true. In 2004 and 2005 Al Queda did attack Saudi Arabia. And after that happened… there were mass terror events, it was a very rough thing. And after that happened Saudi Arabia did take some steps… towards arresting actual Al Queda members, cleansing the religious hierarchy a bit, of those that would actively celebrate things like 9/11, and push that forward. And it did change the country, it was a change, but it was, I would argue, a cosmetic change.
This happened before we went to war based on the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” or when that…
Well Al Queda is 04-05, Iraq is 2003, but… I’m sorry, Al Queda attacking Saudi Arabia, so this is a specific thing, and Rudy Giuliani in particular loves to point to this, to this attack that Al Queda made on Saudi Arabia, and likes to say that “oh, no, no no Saudi Arabia is different now, because they see, you know, what matters, and they see what’s serious” and linked to that is the “We’re going after the funders of terror, we’re gonna shut down these networks”, which even at the time, people acknowledged and acknowledged publicly that a lot of the funding for Al… I want to be careful about using terms like the vast majority, but I think it was the vast majority of the funding for Al Queda came from Saudi Arabia. Not from the Saudi Arabian government, necessarily, though some did, but from private sources in Saudi Arabia.
So we’ve talked about how, and the standard story from Washington, DC is “we’ve shut down these networks of terrorist funding” but we…
You can’t do that without going into… Saudi Arabia and getting these prominent individuals…
No that’s what’s frustrating, and that’s something that we should look at more seriously going forward, is that we don’t have to get individuals, the United States controls finance world-wide to a degree that is not appreciated. And they have the tools, they’ve developed the tools, to sort of single out certain charities, because it’s sort of, Islamic, certain kinds of Islamic charities that were funneling…
We can freeze your assets…
Exactly! We can do all these sorts of things, and the story is that this happened. But it didn’t.
Because the Bush administration, the Obama administration to a lesser extent, and certainly the Trump administration, it’s one of their rallying cries, have decided that what’s more important is worrying about Iran. And when we took down Iraq, that made Iran much more powerful in Iraq. So, the sort of Sunni radical networks, the guys that were killing our guys in Iraq, there are, there’s actually some of the same personnel from Iraqi insurgents to the Syrian war now, those guys became valuable to us again, so there have been some small, oh, we’re shutting down this network, we’re shutting down that network, but Sunni, radical Sunni militants are still a tool of US policy in the Middle East, so we’re actually, which is… and I would argue, doing things that are not worth doing, like destabilizing Syria, fighting in Yemen, which is something that merits its own series, down the line.
So… So you mention the leverage that the US has, but then Saudi Arabia has some leverage too.
Absolutely. And one of those levers is its control of at least a lot of the Sunni practice across the Middle East, by virtue of their funding of many different flavors of it. By virtue of Mecca and Medina both being located within its own borders. You know Iran would not agree with me that Saudi controls Islam, and that’s fair.
And I wouldn’t agree with that statement either, but, but…
They’ve got leverage.
They’ve got incredible leverage that is not appreciated.
And religious and influence and other sorts of power… leverage.
Of course, but if you take the funding away from this religion… like if the Romans didn’t have a bunch of money back in the day they wouldn’t be as big as the Roman Catholic church is.
So if the Sunnis didn’t have this funding… coming from oil rich families or prominent families in Saudi Arabia, you’re saying that the radicalization of Islam wouldn’t have perpetuated the way that it did.
Yes. Absolutely… what’s extraordinary, if you look at every, not every single, but an extraordinarily high number of high profile terrorist events, there is a Saudi connection. The founder of Boko Haram. The initial, not the guy… well I think they’re on their third or fourth leader at this point, but Boko Haram… really nasty radical militants in Northern Nigeria right? Their founder spent serious time in Saudi Arabia. I’m not sure if it was that guy who got a degree in Saudi Arabia…
So you’re saying we are protecting the one country that is not only spreading the fundamental radical version of Islam, but also financing terrorism to a great degree, and we are protecting, ignoring, and pretty much letting them run roughshod over the area because of…
Because they’re useful.