The media takes a cue from the death of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd to scratch around the files for something to say. In the last twenty-four hours I have heard the late king was either eighty-one or eighty or eighty-four, depending on who was reporting the story. Based on that, I take everything I hear or read with a few reservations about accuracy. Having said that, here is what I have found from this morning's surfing...
John Burgess at Crossroads Arabia reads Arab News and makes comments. His latest post points to today's editorial encomium.
For a person so committed to peace, it was a cruel blow to be blamed by the crowd of “instant experts” for the mindless violence that is now stalking the world. Those who accuse the Kingdom of breeding terrorists because most of those involved in the 9/11 attacks were Saudis and because Osama Bin Laden was Saudi-born are ignorant of the fact that the Kingdom is the primary target of the terrorists and that it has suffered more attacks than any other country in the world. The Kingdom is a builder, not destroyer. The Western media ignore the fact that Saudi Arabia has over the past 30 years spent some 5.5 percent of its GNP on overseas aid. The UN recommended minimum is 0.7 percent, a figure that most developed countries still fail to achieve.
He also has little patience with journalists whose grasp of Saudi affairs runs from ignorant to vapid.
He takes a few others to the woodshed as well, allowing as how the editors had slipped a bit having been "greatly distracted by the events surrounding King Fahd’s death and the change in government. They’ve ceded control of the paper’s editorial page to morally obtuse and historically ignorant sub-editors."
Gwenn Dyer, who writes for Arab News disingenuously notes that Brazil and Japan weren’t the targets of Al-Qaeda bombs because they weren’t involved in Middle Eastern politics. Well, duh! Japan has only had to deal with its own terrorists for the past 30 years. Brazil has had its own problems. They didn’t have the time or the energy to get involved in Middle Eastern politics because those politics weren’t important to them. Watch how involved Japan gets as China starts slurping up Japan’s quota of petroleum. And by the way, aren’t there Japanese troops on the ground in Iraq? Yeah… I thought so.
Several weeks ago he also commented on an interesting post at Solomonia that Saudi Arabia, lacking military resources, has fitted out its petroleum infrastructure with self-destructive capability should anyone but the Saudis attempt to seize control.
If true, the implications are interesting to say the least, and could present at least one reason to worry about Islamists with a medieval suicidal worldview taking power, among other considerations. Far too much power in the hands of a country...a region...with no history of bloodless transfers of power.
The post was in response to a report that Gerald Posner's book, Secrets of the Kingdom, describes the plan in detail.
Burgess did not comment on the book, but pointed out that the reference to "no history of bloodless transfers of poower" was not a good characterization of the region. [Ed. Burgess already reviewed Posner's book, tearing it to ribbons. To recount the errors of fact, omission, and misrepresentation in this book would take a “Fisking” of a length equal to the book...The book is actually a collection of slanders and slurs against Saudis of all stripes... Posner, a muckraker who'd done some good work earlier—see, for example, Cased Closed, his book dismissing the conspiracy theories surrounding JFK's assassination—has gone over to the dark side with this book.]
Actually, the Saudis have an excellent history of "bloodless transfer of power." One king, Faisal, was assassinated in 1975 by a cousin who was nowhere near the threads of ascendancy. Power transfered easily and immediately to Khaled.
Faisal himself came to power when his elder brother Saud was peacefully deposed.
Granted, 70 years isn't a long period over which to track changes, but since that's the only history the contemporary Saudi state has, it's all we have to go on. That history is nothing but "bloodless" transfers of power.
That was in May. It seems we are about to witness yet another "bloodless transfer of power."
Did some King die, or something?
King Fahd died, I hear. Almost as shocking as Hosni Mubarak declaring that he will stand for re-election, only without the drama or the human interest.
.If you want to see the extent of Saudi ownership of the Arab media, just scan the websites and front pages today. Currently, the top five stories on al-Arabiya are about the dear departed King. Both al-Hayat and al-Sharq al-Awsat lead with many stories and pictures of the late King. The very best example: Elaph, the "independent" and "liberal" web-zine, always runs pictures of sexy, partially clad young women along the left side of the page under the title "Women of Elaph"; today, it has four pictures of the very unsexy, quite corpulent, and thankfully fully clad King Fahd in that spot. The only exceptions are non-Saudi owned" al-Quds al-Arabi leads with the murder of one of Ahmed Chalabi's main aides in his office (their front page doesn't even mention the death of the Saudi king - maybe it just missed their deadline?), while al-Jazeera's website grants equal importance to the passing of King Fahd and the death of the pivotal Sudanese figure John Garang.
.Me, I find it hard to care much. I've assumed for years that Fahd was as brain dead as Terry Schiavo (not that I'm any Bill Frist or anything), and that he was just being kept "alive" to prevent a succession battle breaking out in the Kingdom. Since all the Arab media, in their glorious independence, have rushed to assure us that everyone is unanimously and enthusiastically pledging allegiance to Abdullah the King, the only real change here that I can see is that Abdullah finally becomes the king in name as well as the king in practice.
.So, story of the day, I guess, but hard for me to get all that excited about it. But then I don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars of Saudi backing to get my juices flowing either...