I think strict Islamic law is as awful as the next guy, but if you want to use someone's country as a launching point for your air wars, it seems to me not too much to ask to conform to their stupid local laws in off-duty time. It's their country, they can do whatever the hell they want with it. This is a basic tenet of proper behavior in a foreign culture: you respect their customs, even if you don't like them. I can almost understand the female officers suing the U.S. army, but I can't see the U.S. getting upset with Saudi Arabia over this -- we have no right.
Then there's this passage:
"In the Pentagon, a growing number of commanders are frustrated with the Saudis' refusal to allow American warplanes based at a sprawling airfield south of Riyadh to bomb Iraq and other Islamic countries, except in self-defense."
What a thing to get upset about! The Saudi's won't let us bomb anyone, except in self-defense!
It doesn't get much crazier than this. The Saudis, remember, live next to Iraq, Iran, and our other potential enemies. Long after America is out of the picture and our once-mighty air-bases are buried in sand, they'll still be sitting there within a stone's throw of the people we once bombed. They'll be the ones to suffer when the pendulum swings, not us.
This is to say nothing of the fact that offensive war is considered morally wrong by most of the civilized world; not only the Saudis, but the United Nations frowns upon offensive bombings (in fact, they violate international laws). It's one thing for us to do it; it's another thing to ask a weaker ally to be complicit in it; and it's a third and much crazier thing to get upset when an ally refuses to be an accomplice in it, particularly when the victims are their heavily-armed neighbors.
Times vermin mugshots: Left, a person. Right, a stinky pissing bird
But the most remarkable passage was still to come:
"In the sharpest and most recent expression of frustration, Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said today that he had 'an uneasy feeling' that the Saudis were not doing enough to crack down on Islamic terrorists and that American forces were 'not particularly wanted' there. 'They act as though they're doing us a favor,' Senator Levin told reporters. 'And I think the war against terrorism has got to be fought by countries who really realize that it's in everybody's interest to go after terrorism."
When I read this, I immediately thought of a scene from the movie Office Space, in which Jennifer Aniston, a waitress at a TGI Friday's-style restaurant, is confronted by her boss about the small number of wacky buttons (called "flair" in company logo) she's got on her costume. The minimum number of "pieces of flair" is fifteen, and that's how many she's got, but her boss -- played hilariously by Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge -- decides that's not enough. "But I thought you wanted to express yourself," he whines. Then he explains that it's the atmosphere of fun that makes people want to eat at the restaurant, and when she only puts in the bare minimum, that's not fun enough.
When Aniston answers that if he wants more pieces of flair, she'll put on more pieces of flair, he shakes his head and sighs, like she doesn't get it. He wants her to want more pieces of flair.
This is the same situation. It's not enough that the Saudis let us have our base. They have to want us there as well.
And this business about the Saudis acting like they're "doing us a favor" -- well, goddamnit, they are doing us a favor. It's not like we're not there because we have a charitable urge to protect the Saudi people. We're there to extend the reach of our military and protect our oil supplies. It we let the Japanese have an air base in New Jersey, wouldn't we feel like we were doing them a favor? Can you imagine our reaction if the Japanese or the Russians got pissed off at us because we didn't act grateful enough to have their drunken buzzcutted soldiers running around in Newark discos? And we're not even Muslims!
THURSDAY, JANUARY 17