Friday, August 5, 2011

800 Words: The Weekend America was Young - Part 5

Jacopo: I’d like to get back to the question of America’s fall.

Esteban: Not so fast. First we have to cover the conditions that lead up to it. And you can’t do that without talking about the Four Civil Wars of 2013.

Jacopo: Oh yes, didn’t you ask Bubbie to marry you while watching the Pakistani massacres on television?

Esteban: I was a true romantic.

Jacopo: Must have been an exciting day for everybody.

Esteban: Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.

Jacopo: But weren’t there other civil wars going on already?

Esteban: Yes there were. But those were, at least in retrospect, much slower conflicts. They took longer to erupt, longer to fight and longer to resolve. The Libyan civil war dragged on for twenty years. Neither Sarkozy, nor Le Pen nor Blair could effectively withdraw from France's Libyan strongholds without inviting Mutassim Qaddafi to invade all of Southern France.

Jacopo: I thought Qaddafi fils had only conquered the French coast.

Esteban: Indeed he had. Marseilles, Montpellier, Antibes, Cannes, Arles, Nice, Perpignan, Lourdes, Toulon and Toulouse had all fallen. And all non-Muslim residents of those cities were confined to ghettos. But Lyon, Aix-en-Provence and Saint Etienne were thought to be next and were completely evacuated. But the masterstroke was to arrange a deal with Parisian mullahs to bus rioters in from Paris with the express purpose of torching France’s entire Southern countryside to the ground. And with that, half of France’s wine industry was gone forever.

Jacopo: Neither I nor my kids will never know what real Champagne tastes like.

Esteban: Or Armagnac, or Beaujolais, or Chablis, or Chateau, or Cremant de Limoux, or Cotes du Gascogne, or Premier Cru.

Jacopo: I thought you didn’t care for wine.

Esteban: I like to have the option.

Jacopo: But most of this was already in the later part of the decade.

Esteban: Exactly. The Libyan conflict simmered while the conflicts of China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Mexico exploded. And with them the stage was set for the larger conflicts which soon engulfed us all.

Jacopo: How did they set the stage?

Esteban: The Chinese conflict slowed manufacturing across the world to a crawl. The Pakistani conflict set loose nuclear weapons to any country who wanted one. The Saudi conflict set the price of oil at unimagined levels. The Mexico conflict set the United States on an irreversable path toward authoritarianism.

Jacopo: Why don’t you take us through the fundamentals of each.

Esteban: Sounds great. Why don’t we take this in chronological order. We’ll begin in the Saudi Civil War, which began with the attempt on Prince Abdullah bin Miteb’s life in February of 2013.

Jacopo: This was right in the middle of the Arab Spring. Was it not?

Esteban: Absolutely. The dictatorships of Tunisia and Egypt fell in 2010, and Yemen’s had fallen in September of the next year. By February 2012, the Hariri-Jumblatt alliance had succeeded temporarily in ridding itself of Hezbollah and Syrian influence. We thought it was permanent at the time, but the revolution was stopped in its tracks by a Saudi Prince who was very popular in the West for a brief period.

Jacopo: Abdullah bin Miteb. If I’m not mistaken he’s still the Saudi king.

Esteban: He’s completely senile now and the whole kingdom is waiting for him to die so that the Saudi Central Committee can govern openly.

Jacopo: How did he come to power?

Esteban: During my childhood, Saudi Arabia may have been the very worst of the world’s dictatorships. Even worse than North Korea. The educated population of Saudis consisted almost entirely of its Royal Family, which numbered roughly 7,000 people who divided the spoils of Saudi oil wells between them. Until all too recently, if you were not a member of the Royal Family, your only hope for advancement was to join the army. The other twenty-million Saudis were kept in the most abject squalor imaginable, often tortured, maimed and killed for the slightest possible offenses. Furthermore, the succession issues in Saudi Arabia were always a terrible burden. Most kingdoms are inherited through patrilineal descent. Meaning that the oldest son inherits the thrown from a King who was himself an oldest son. But Saudi succession is fratrilineal - meaning brother to brother. Which makes the succession far more confusing and the kings - who inherit the throne at a far older age - far more prone to conservatism. Since the original Saudi King, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, had 45 sons, questions of succession were always strife-filled affairs. But never moreso than the succession from Abdullah to Abdullah bin Miteb.

Jacopo: Wasn’t there once a close relationship between them?

Esteban: Clearly. Abdullah bin Miteb was the grandson of King Abdullah. His father was Miteb bin Abdullah, the commander of the Saudi National Guard, which was the Saudi secret police. The King saw potential for his grandson to become the Western face of Saudi Arabia. He was articulate, handsome, intelligent and English-educated. He was a public relations dream and his grandfather quickly saw that bin Miteb was the best possible spokesman for the Saudi family in the international press.

Jacopo: And not realizing that he was raising a rival.

Esteban: Being a dictator requires living in a bubble. People are too scared to tell you obvious truths because if a person displeases you, you can simply have him killed or his family tortured. Abdullah thought his grandson would be loyal to him simply because he had plucked him out of relative obscurity for an important role. But what the King failed to realize that featuring one grandson so prominently in the international press might arouse the suspicion of his brothers and cousins.

Jacopo: Was it simply a question of jealousy?

Esteban: Not at all, though I don’t doubt that envy was an important contributor. But the most important factor was that many Saudi princes resented one of their own being so lauded in the West for so many untraditional practices. He’d be featured on American television claiming that the United States is a great friend to Islam, in style section photographs with beautiful film stars, on film at Women’s Tennis matches and shaking hands with Israeli ministers. This was too much for many of his more traditional relatives. In a sense, he may have been forced into rebellion because he came to represent Western Decadence to so many reactionary elements. Even with his father heading the secret police, there was simply no way he could have felt safe.

Jacopo: Which of course led to that famous assassination attempt in Paris.

Esteban: Yes, but what was incredible was that he survived at all. He was in the penthouse at L’Hotel de Crillon with some rich French girl whose name escapes me. They were apparently drunk and the Prince’s guards were outside the door. The assassin was hiding in the closet with a shotgun. The poor girl apparently spotted the assassin from the creak in the door, and screamed right before she was shot - killed instantly with one bullet. The guards were quick enough to knock down the assassin before he got to the Prince, who immediately hit the ground and hid underneath his bed.

Jacopo: Does anyone know who ordered the hit?

Esteban: It probably doesn’t matter. It honestly could have been one of a dozen relatives. In any event, King Abdullah wanted to hush the matter up entirely. But I think the Prince correctly interpreted the coverup as a death sentence. So he had a press contact report to al-Jezeera that he was dead, and for about nine months went into hiding.

Jacopo: Where did he hide?

Esteban: Rural Texas apparently. Some oil buddies gave him security. There’s a statue to him in a town called Hannover which claims he hid there for the entirety of the nine months he disappeared. He used that time to build up a power base among oil excutives, negotiating with them in secret for better deals than his grandfather offered.

Jacopo: Did his grandfather know about him going into hiding?

Esteban: He must have figured it out. He certainly would have known that his grandson survived the attack. My guess is that he welcomed the development of the Prince going into hiding. The world would think he was dead, and he could keep his more conservative relatives at bay.

Jacopo: So how did he return?

Esteban: Nobody’s quite sure. In March, he suddenly marched into Mecca on the day before the Hajj with an army of his own that numbered a hundred-thousand - mostly various African soldiers of fortune recruited by the CIA at orders that came directly from President Romney. The Prince denounced his grandfather as a tyrant and an offender against Allah. He announced in the that on the day after the Hajj’s completion, he would begin a pilgrimage by foot to Medina, and that all able-bodied Muslims were invited to join him. Five-hundred thousand Muslims, most of them Saudis, did exactly that.

Jacopo: Hold on. Wasn’t the CIA virtually blood brothers with King Abdullah?

Esteban: Yes. But the US Government also realized three things: Firstly, that the Prince could give them cover for more leverage over the price of oil. Secondly, that the Prince could be a voice of reform within Saudi Arabia who would remain friends with the US rather than an Islamic dictator who would undermine American interests. Lastly, that the Prince’s Western-Friendly image could give them a far better public relations cover for doing business with a totalitarian dictatorship than King Abdullah ever could.

Jacopo: So the Prince just stayed in Mecca during the Hajj? How could he do that without getting himself killed?

Esteban: So long as the Hajj was still going, he was protected. There was no way that King Abdullah would start a war in Islam’s holiest city during its most sacred pilgrimage.

Jacopo: But even afterward, wouldn’t King Abdullah be able to shoot the pilgrims on the way?

Esteban: That was precisely the point. The people who followed the Prince gave his forces cover. The Prince had given his army half-a-million human shields. Many families would send their disabled, their retarded and their dishonored children on this pilgrimage, assuring them that it would be the highest honor to die on a sacred pilgrimage.

Jacopo: What was the point of the pilgrimage?

Esteban: It gave the Prince time to win over as much of the Army as he could. And during that pilgrimage, 40,000 Saudi troops defected.

Jacopo: Where was the Prince’s father during all this?

Esteban: I'm sure he knew perfectly well that his son had silently been given a death sentence. But even as chief of the secret police, he was as vulnerable to the displeasure of his father as any other Saudi. King Abdullah, who feared divided loyalty, imprisoned him. He probably would have had Prince Miteb killed had Prince Abdullah bin Miteb not immediately taken to the airwaves to broadcast his father’s imprisonment to the world and publicly called for his father’s release.

Jacopo: How was Saudi oil production affected?

Esteban: Ground to a halt. Oil prices skyrocketed around the world. So long as the war continued, the price of oil went up to 450 dollars a barrel. It was yet another problem America could not easily solve. The exorbitant price of oil was one of the four factors, and certainly the most forseeable, that contributed to the United States's fall.

Jacopo: So how did the price of oil stay so high even after the war was over?

Esteban: Realizing that his grandson was advancing, King Abdullah gave orders to torch every single oil well from which his forces had to retreat. Following the first round of burned rigs, President Romney immediately diverted forces from Iraq into Saudi Arabia, who would invade Riyadh from the South while the Prince advanced from the North. Just as it had in Iraq, the illusion of immediate victory was far too powerful to resist. Rather than immediately overtaking the oil rigs, the King ordered a full retreat from the South and burned all the oil in that side of the country as well. The war ended in five months, but in that time a million Saudi’s died and its oil reserves went from 70 years to only 30.

Jacopo: Did this have remifications in the Middle East?

Esteban: Oh yes. The primary legacy of the Saudi Civil War was that it killed all hope for democracy taking hold in the Middle East. This was a revolution of elite against elite, with only the most marginal changes taking place. Every bloody-minded adviser to an Arab ruler now saw a way to manipulate the Western press. They would simply denounce the human rights violations of the current president and promise better. The Western Media would trumpet these aspiring butchers as the savior of their country. And since the most young Arabs wanted a leader that would emulate the Western governments, they would be swindled into supporting a more ruthess leader than they could ever dream. And these new rulers would invariably consolidate far more power than their predecessors ever did. Anyway, that is the story of the Saudi Civil War.

Jacopo: You told it very thoroughly.

Esteban: I know. Old men like telling long stories. And I think all this detail is important. Without it, it’s just a series of events with no real consequence.

Jacopo: I see what you mean. Would you like to break for dinner?

Esteban: Certainly, we can resume later tonight or perhaps tomorrow.

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