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Heavy-Handed Politics

"€œGod willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world
without the United States and Zionism."€ -- Iran President Ahmadi-Nejad

Monday, February 13, 2006


Opinion Journal

Our Friend Al Gore
The man who came within a hair's breadth of the presidency in 2000 is denouncing his own government on foreign soil, the Associated Press reports:

Former Vice President Al Gore told a mainly Saudi audience on Sunday that the U.S. government committed "terrible abuses" against Arabs after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that most Americans did not support such treatment.

Gore said Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al-Qaida's hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.

"The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake," Gore said during the Jiddah Economic Forum. "The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States."

There is a comical element to this, as Glenn Reynolds notes: "Only Al Gore could come up with the idea of criticizing Bush for not sucking up to the Saudis enough. Sigh."

Heh. Indeed. But blogger "TigerHawk" makes some serious points:

This is asinine both substantively and procedurally.

Substantively, the idea that cracking down on Saudi visa applications is "playing into al Qaeda's hands" is laughable. Had we scrutinized Saudi visas a little more carefully in 2001, thousands of Americans who died on September 11 that year might well have lived. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on that day were Saudi nationals. If we had denied some or all of them visas, exactly how would that have "played into al Qaeda's hands"? . . .

Procedurally, Gore's speech is repugnant. It is one thing to say such things to an American audience in an effort to change our policy. . . . It is, however, another thing entirely to travel to a foreign country that features pivotally in the war of our generation for the purpose of denouncing American policies in front of the affected foreign audience. It is especially problematic to mess with Saudi political opinions, which are subject to intensive influence and coercion by internal actors and the United States, al Qaeda, and Iran, among other powers. Supposing that some Saudis were inclined to be angry over the American visa policy, won't they be more angry after Al Gore has told them that they're being humiliated? How is that helpful?

Finally, Gore's outrage at the American treatment of Arab and Muslim captives may be genuine, and it may even be worthy of expression in the United States, where we aspire to do better than press accounts suggest we have done. But whatever nasty things we have done in exceptional cases in time of war, they pale in comparison to the standard operating procedure in Saudi Arabia. So this is what Gore has done: he has traveled to Jiddah to explain to the elites of an ugly and tyrannical regime that the big problem in the world isn't the oppression of Arabs by Arabs throughout the Middle East and North Africa, but the mistreatment of a few hundred Arabs in the United States. This is like visiting Moscow in 1970 and denouncing the United States in front of a bunch of Communist Party deputies for the killings at Kent State. . . .

There is simply no defense for what Gore has done here, for he is deliberately undermining the United States during a time of war, in a part of the world crucial to our success in that war, in front of an audience that does not vote in American elections. Gore's speech is both destructive and disloyal, not because of its content--which is as silly as it is subversive--but because of its location and its intended audience.

The only consolation is that Gore likely would have done a lot more damage had he spent four years in the White House. And given the precedent set by Jimmy Carter, it isn't hard to imagine Gore as an embittered one-term ex-president giving the same speech in Jeddah.


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