King Fahd officially died last night. Not gonna write too much on this right now, as it will take some days to really start to see the politics of this shake out. Right now, the actors are all too busy scrurrying around behind the scenes trying to enact all the plans and deals they have been making since Fahd first drew ill. This also explains why Prince Bandar left the US ambassadorship just a few weeks ago.
So, as this falls in line with the earlier post on compressed history entry on Chalabi, right now, I'm just gonna put up some of the summary history the news services are publishing on Fahd.
Now, please remember, that this death is not a surprise, and that the obit/history parts of these article have been written and waiting for awhile so they are not just a contextual aside, but a fully intentional summation. As you read these clips, take a moment to think of what they're leaving out. This is how history is created.
First APFahd died at approximately 2:30 a.m. EDT, a senior Saudi official in Washington told The Associated Press. President Bush was alerted within minutes of Fahd's death, the official said on condition of anonymity because he's not authorized to talk for the government. The king's funeral was to be held Tuesday evening, he said. ......
During his rule, the portly, goateed Fahd, who rose to the throne in 1982, inadvertently helped fuel the rise of Islamic extremism by making multiple concessions to hard-liners, hoping to boost his Islamic credentials. But then he also brought the kingdom closer to the United States and agreed to a step that enraged many conservatives: the basing of U.S. troops on Saudi soil after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
In his last years, Fahd was more of a figurehead than the actual ruler — so he was sidelined as the close relationship he nurtured with the United States deteriorated after the Sept. 11 attacks. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, and many in the U.S. administration blamed kingdom's strict Wahabi school of Islam for fueling terrorism.
Abdullah oversaw the crackdown on Islamic militants after followers of Saudi-born Osama bin Laden launched a wave of attacks, beginning with the May 2003 bombings of Western residential compounds in Riyadh. Abdullah also pushed a campaign against extremist teaching and preaching and introduced the kingdom's first elections ever — municipal polls held in early 2005.
And Abdullah — who before coming to power had not been happy with Saudi Arabia's close alliance with and military dependence on the United States and Washington's perceived bias toward Israel — rebuilt the kingdom's ties with the U.S. He visited President Bush twice at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, most recently in April 2005. ......
In the 1980s, Riyadh, Washington and Islamabad, Pakistan, mobilized Islam to fight Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan. Millions of Saudi riyals were donated to that effort and thousands of Saudis joined the jihad, including bin Laden, in a recruitment drive encouraged by the government. The king's official biography says Fahd was "an ardent supporter" of the Afghan mujahedeen.
But after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, Fahd, like U.S. and Pakistani officials, gave little attention to the mujahedeen, who turned that country into a training ground for their attacks, including the 9/11 suicide hijackings.
The Reuters version of history
He used the huge oil revenues to back Saddam Hussein's Iraq in its eight-year war with Shi'ite Muslim Iran, but when Saddam invaded neighboring Kuwait, Fahd invited U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia to launch their recapture of the tiny emirate in 1991.
His decision to let half a million non-Muslim fighters into Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest sites, angered Saudi scholars and a Saudi-born mujahideen fighter in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden turned against the royal family and its U.S. allies. Ten years later his al Qaeda network, using mainly Saudi hijackers, carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks which plunged Saudi-U.S. ties, a cornerstone of Fahd's reign, into crisis.
The attacks revealed strains between Fahd's foreign policy, which linked his country inextricably to the world's sole superpower, and the royal family's alliance with largely anti-American and ultra-conservative religious scholars at home. In 2003, al Qaeda launched a violent campaign inside Saudi Arabia, targeting Westerners, security forces and oil sites
And of course, AFP
Believed to have been born in 1921, Fahd took charge in 1982 of a vast kingdom which is the world's largest petroleum exporter and holds a quarter of global oil reserves.
He guided Saudi Arabia through the most turbulent era in its history, which saw the kingdom survive two Gulf Wars only to have to confront the menace of Islamic extremism.
Two years of strife perpetrated by Islamic extremists has claimed the lives of 90 civilians, 42 security personnel and 113 militants, according to official figures.
Saudi's alliance with the United States, the cornerstone of Fahd's foreign policy was sorely tested by the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States, in which 15 out of the 19 attackers were Saudi.
(Interesting this first AFP article has no mention of Iraq/Afghan/Al Quaida.)
Overall, King Fahd's reign, which in effect began with the long illness of his predecessor, King Khalid, was characterized by immense change.
He oversaw the exploitation of the kingdom's oil wealth, the expansion of its private sector and sent a generation of Saudis to be educated in the West. He let hundreds of thousands of American troops be based in Saudi Arabia during the first war against Iraq despite heated criticism from other Arab countries.
His influence ranged from helping the Reagan administration orchestrate and finance its complicated, illegal operation to sell arms to Iran while aiding Nicaraguan rebels; to giving hundreds of millions of dollars to Palestinians fighting Israel, to establishing religious schools, some of which have been described as breeders of terrorists, throughout the Islamic world.
The power and prestige of controlling the world's biggest pool of oil, a quarter of the planet's reserves, spoke for itself. But depressed petroleum prices during much of King Fahd's reign, which began in 1982, engendered economic pressures unthinkable during the high-flying 1970's. As population surged and employment opportunities dwindled, the kingdom's per capita income sunk to a third of what it had been at the time of King Fahd's coronation.
The king nonetheless used his ability to pump more oil almost at will as a damper on oil prices so as not to damage the world economy. But he understandably worried when prices fell too low to pay the kingdom's bills, and in 1986 sacked his famous oil minister, Ahmed Zaki Yamani, for allowing crude prices to fall to $10 a barrel from $30. (Some have also suggested the royal family tired of the charismatic oil minister's news media attention.) .....
In 1994, the king stripped Osama bin Laden of his Saudi citizenship because of his activities against the royal family. The king's other antiterrorist actions, many probably actually performed by Prince Abdullah, included removing more than 2,000 radical preachers from their mosques. .....
The State Department, the British Foreign Office and private human rights monitors, meanwhile, persistently criticized Saudi Arabia's treatment of non-Muslims, women and prisoners. ......
He made no attempt to hide his status as one of the world's richest men. Even when following the traditional Arab passion of visiting the desert, he made the trip in a fleet of 18-wheel Mercedes trucks. In "The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom" (Norton, 1987), Sandra Mackey said he "built one elaborate palace after another," including an exact replica of the White House in Washington, D.C. (He never moved in because of the political repercussions of a Saudi king's imitating an American president.)
In "The Arabs" (Random, 1987), David Lamb reported that King Fahd employed the Washington artist who designed the floating space city in "Star Trek" to refurbish his Boeing 707 with gold-plated hardware, a three-story elevator and plastic chandeliers. His yacht was the size of a luxury liner. .....
After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, King Fahd joined with the United States to aid Afghans fighting the Russians. Hume Horan, a former United states ambassador to Saudi Arabia, wrote in a 2004 article for the American Enterprise Institute that William J. Casey, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, visited the king in 1987.
The American brought a shiny, detailed Kalashnikov. Its stock featured a brass plaque saying that the weapon had been taken from the body of a Russian officer.
"Mr. Casey might as well have been giving the keys to the Kingdom of God itself," Mr. Horan wrote. "The king rose, flourished the weapon, and struck a martial pose." .....
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, King Fahd faced a thorny problem. During the war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980's, Saudi Arabia gave Iraq $25 billion in aid. The king first urged negotiations to encourage Iraq to retreat.
Then Defense Secretary Richard Cheney visited the king to make the case that Saudi Arabia stood a good chance of being Iraq's next victim. He displayed satellite photos of Iraqi missiles aimed at Saudi Arabia and other threats.
The king huddled with his advisers, Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor wrote in their book, "The General's War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf" (Little, Brown, 1995). The authors said the king won over his doubters by pointing out that the Kuwaitis who had fled had been put up in luxury hotels in Saudi Arabia. He asked what country would put up the Saudis in their hotels.
Saudi Arabia allowed the Untied States to station troops in the kingdom. Judith Miller in her book "God Has 99 Names" (Simon & Schuster, 1996) said the king built a consensus for the controversial action partly by convincing one of the country's most respected religious scholars, Sheikh Bin Baz, to issue a fatwa, or order, to sanction the use of force to evict Iraq.
But Ms. Miller said the king was disappointed that the United States ended hostilities before Saddam Hussein was destroyed. She said the disgruntled Saudis briefly prolonged the war by delaying their translation of the surrender document.
In 2003, Saudi Arabia was less helpful when the United States attacked Iraq. The kingdom's rulers again tried, and again unsuccessfully, to convince the United States to use diplomacy, not war. This time, only 10,000 troops were based in the kingdom compared with 550,000 during the first war. The smaller force was quietly removed soon after Mr. Hussein's defeat.
And I'm gonna leave out the WaPost Obit because it is huge and actually, pretty thorough. The bottom line summary seems to be this. Fahd was a great stabilizing influence on Saudi Arabia, who aided the US by funding Iraq in the Iraq/Iran war, then on seeing Iraq in Kuwait, called on the US to save their ass. They were involved tertiarily in the Iran Contra thing, and, although funding the formation of Al Quaida in Afghanistan, they have no connection with anything they've ever done wrong.
Is that what you remember?
No mention of Wahabi madrassas which continue to train youth in a particularly fervent brand of Islam. No mention of the fact that even today, Saudi is the biggest contributor to Al Quaida with significant contributions from the royal family. No real mention of the role Saudi played in Iran Contra or the opening of the Spigots that helped break the Soviets hard currency income. No mention of the vast financial ties to the Bush clan through oil and defense. No real mention of the serious oppression and torture the regime used to stay in power. No questioning of the distribution of the oil wealth primarily to the royal family.
Oh, and don't forget his poor relations with Israel. Only mentioned in the NYTimes piece, as a positive, which it wasn't.
What did I forget?