Saturday, December 01, 2007

Sleeping with the Devil by Robert Baer

Even though this book came out in 2003 the information the author provides and some of his conclusions are still very relevant today. Robert Baer was a former CIA operative/analyst who looks at U.S. policy from a unique perspective. He actually had contact with a number of individuals involved in the events that he discusses, much of his information coming first hand.

Beginning with events then current, Baer goes back to look at just how the U.S. government became involved and in fact helped to ensure the reign of the Saudi royal family. Starting with the a meeting that FDR had with the then king, following WWII (at the behest of SoCal and representatives of American oil companies at the time), and continuing through the Bush II Presidency, Baer follows the money. For, in fact, it does come down to money and lots of it. Great sums which line the pockets of too many Washington insiders, including some who may be running for President and hundreds of others over the past fifty plus years.

It may have started, either as rumor or fact, with a briefcase filled with money left in the home of Richard Nixon, shortly after he had been elected to the office of President. Even if not true, word seemed to leak out that it was okay to do business with the Saudi family and their various businesses, legit or otherwise. Baer does not play favorites and just about every administration since Nixon’s seems to have either openly or behind closed doors done business with the Saudi regime. It is also clear, from the history that Baer discusses, that the Washington elite have not only closed their eyes to that country’s involvement with Islamic radicals, but also knowingly allowed them to cover when things got too hot for some individuals.

The author, naturally, talks about the bin Laden family, still very powerful and doing business with many U.S. firms, but also lesser known individuals in the royal family who are funding the Taliban and Al Quida. Baer really did his research, and spends several chapters discussing the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic radical groups from their creation in the 19th and early 20th century. He also looks at how other countries like Syria dealt with them in ways very different from how the Saudi government pays them off in hopes they will turn their anger outward rather than at the royal family. His examination of just how corrupt the Sauds are and have been is amazing, although it really hasn't been a secret, just not widely discussed by U.S. media.

I can agree with Baer’s conclusions that the American government has to cut its ties with the Saudi royals and other Arab countries, equally guilty of the same sort of corruption. He also makes the point that the U.S. public might have to face the possibility of changing their addiction to cheap Arab oil and look for alternatives. However, I can’t agree with one of the author’s proposals. That is to militarily take over the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others via air strikes and commando raids. The idea is to take them over, rebuild what is necessary and allow the governments to fall around them.

I think that Baer is dead on when he says that it is only a matter of time before what the Saudi royals have allowed comes back to slit their throats. I just hope that he isn’t right that the idea he presents is actually being considered (despite the fact that such a plan was presented to Congress over twenty years ago by the Pentagon). Let’s hope there is another alternative.

All that said, I recommend the book to anybody who wants to know how we got to where we are and why certain Presidential candidates probably won’t change things very much. It does look like every past Democratic as well as Republican resident of 1600 Pennsylvannia Avenue has oil, if not blood, on their hands.
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