Regime Change Roulette

At first it looked like it was going to be Syria: Baghdad had no sooner fallen, you’ll remember, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld began glowering in the direction of Damascus. Colin Powell’s powwow with Syrian President Bashar Assad cut the War Party off at the pass, however, and the focus soon shifted elsewhere: when an American compound in Riyadh was attacked by suicide bombers, the hate campaign against the House of Saud resumed with renewed force. A.M. Rosenthal, writing in the New York Daily News, accused the Saudis of bombing themselves:

"It is long past time we said so: The central guilty party in this week’s massacre in Saudi Arabia – and many that took place in other countries – is painfully easy to identify, but almost never is. He is Crown Prince Abdullah, the ruler of Saudi Arabia."

The proof? Rosenthal is above proof. The whole idea behind the current campaign to defame Prince Abdullah and his country is to put the Saudis on a level where no proof is required. Unburdened by any facts, one has merely to make assertions, as Rosenthal’s does, the more lurid the better:

"Under the crown prince’s monarchical dictatorship, he and his vast family gave at least a half-billion dollars, probably more, to Al Qaeda, ….The crown prince has given Al Qaeda not just money, but armor, training and safe haven. He has lied repeatedly about his intent to fight terrorism. And he has ignored warnings about imminent terrorist attacks, including the latest one in Saudi Arabia."

How does Rosenthal know any of this? Sources, quotes, evidence – all of that goes out the window where this former executive editor of the New York Times is concerned.

Rosenthal should either put up or shut up. If he has any evidence that the Crown Prince personally aided and abetted Al Qaeda’s terrorist campaign, why doesn’t he come out with it? Because he’s too busy venting about the Saudis’ textbooks, their intolerance, and, of course, their anti-Semitism. The latest outrage: a sign put up in toy shops by the volunteer Saudi religious police that "Barbie Doll is Jewish." Disgusting, in a weird off-the-wall way, but what has any of this got to do with Abdullah’s alleged personal responsibility for 9/11? Rosenthal calls the Crown Prince a mass murderer, and then blithely goes on to pour out enough vitriol to give his readers an acute case of acid reflux:

"Crown Prince Abdullah has at least three mouths for dealing with diplomats. No. 1 is the good-guy mouth. No. 2 is for replying to foreigners who have come looking for oil and military contracts. No. 3 is for promising again that one day he will take real action against the terrorists. I doubt there is a diplomat in the country who believes a word from any of the mouths."

"One more lie," he screeches at the Saudis, "and it’s three strikes, if you get my drift." Yeah, Abe, we get your drift, alright. As if anyone could possibly avoid it.

How many mouths does Rosenthal have? He only needs one, albeit a big one, because his braying is relentlessly consistent: War! War! War!

There is a strange anomaly in Rosenthal’s argument, however, because his basic thesis – that the Crown Prince is in league with Osama bin Laden – contradicts the demand for "real action." Against whom – himself?

Perhaps it is a mistake to look for logic in Rosenthal’s screed: it is an exercise in pure defamation, a mud-ball launched by a slime-ball.

What if, shortly after 9/11, someone had gone on television and said that the President of the United States was behind the worst terrorist attack in our history? It’s unthinkable. Indeed, there are people who believe that, but since their tinfoil hats make too much of a glare on television one rarely sees them on the Sunday talk show circuit. Yet the networks think nothing of interviewing Stephen Schwartz, a.k.a. Comrade Sandalio, a.k.a. Suleyman Ahmad, the ex-Trotskyist turned neocon whom one wag called "the philosophical whore of North Beach," now marketing himself as the world’s leading Saudi-phobe:

Brit Hume: "So, what should the U.S. policy be? How do you deal with this?"

Schwartz: "From 9/11 on it was necessary, and it’s still necessary, for our president to do three things. First of all, tell Saudi we have to have a complete accounting of this. We have to know who in the Saudi government supports these actions, who in the Saudi government made 9/11 and made these most recent bombings happen."

Hume: "You think – do you think the people in the Saudi government made 9/11 happen?"

Schwartz: "Let’s put it this way – they didn’t order it, but they didn’t stop it."

Hume: "Could they have, in your view?"

Schwartz: "This is the most powerful police state, and most repressive police state in the world."

Hume: "Boy, it couldn’t stop that terrorist attack, though, could it?"

Poor Schwartz. Clearly flustered by this confrontation with the essential absurdity of his conspiracy theory, he retreated into the self-referential hall of mirrors that is the monomaniac’s mental universe:

"Well, that’s because when a powerful bombing conspiracy takes place in the most repressive police state in the world, it’s because somebody in the government is asking … acquiescing to it."

This is the same song the "Bush knew" crowd is
singing, only in a different key. Challenged to justify a premise that seems counter-intuitive, to say the least, they aver that when a powerful bombing conspiracy takes place in the country with the most well-funded, extensive, and powerful law enforcement and intelligence apparatus in the world, it’s because somebody in the U.S. government is acquiescing to it.

Bush knew! Abdullah knew! They all knew! Where does it end?

The Schwartz-Rosenthal school of character assassination is working overtime, these days, but they are rendered largely ineffective by their own kookiness. Of course, none of these people have any evidence for their fantastic assertions: they have an agenda, and that’s about it. And the top item on their agenda is more war in the Middle East: against the Saudis, the Syrians, the Iranians, take your pick.

Right now, Teheran is in the hot seat. Unable to find either weapons of mass destruction or an Al Qaeda connection in conquered Iraq, the administration turns its gaze eastward, where it espies both: Iran stands accused of harboring Al Qaeda leaders and developing nuclear weapons. And it just so happens that, as The Forward reports:

"A budding coalition of conservative hawks, Jewish organizations and Iranian monarchists is pressing the White House to step up American efforts to bring about regime change in Iran."

Iranian monarchists, eh? Now that‘s the way to bring "reform" to the Middle East – bring back the Pahlavis! Iran, today, has an elected President, the popular reformist Mohammed Khatami. Leave it to the neocons to call for the return of the hated U.S.-backed dynasty – in the name of spreading "democracy."

In a sane world, such people would address an audience numbering in the dozens; in our post-9/11 Bizarro World, where up is down and cranks are seers, they hector us ceaselessly over network television and from the op ed pages of the nation’s newspapers.

– Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].