Prince Turki accuses US government of doublespeak
Barbara Ferguson | Arab News —
WASHINGTON: Former Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Turki Al-Faisal asked American policymakers and their surrogates to cease sending disparaging messages that the Kingdom would be better with a change of regime.
Speaking at the National Council on US-Arab Relations’ annual conference on Friday, he said Americans should stop saying it was inconsequential whether Osama Bin Laden is captured. He also said he was confused by what he saw as US policy “doublespeak” on some Middle East issues.
Prince Turki condemned Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state under President Richard Nixon, who, during the Republican Party’s National Convention in September, in responding to a question about the US relationship with Saudi Arabia, said: “Nobody has been willing to face the consequences of overthrowing the system.”
“From one who is considered the elder statesman of America ... (this is) not very statesmanlike. Is Dr. Kissinger calling for the overthrow of the Kingdom? And for what?” asked Prince Turki.
He urged US policymakers to “discard such jingoistic propositions” and to resist using such terms as “them and us” when referring to Americans and oil-producing countries.
“The United States should also stop deluding itself, if that is the case as Mr. Kissinger has described, that Saudi Arabia can be overthrown,” said Prince Turki, to an audience visibly astonished that he would tackle this issue so forcibly and so openly.
He then reminded the audience that Kissinger allegedly threatened the late King Faisal with an oil embargo in the 1970s, to which King Faisal is said to have replied: “If that is the case, we will go back to our tents in the desert and live on camel’s milk and dates. But you, Mr. Kissinger, what will you do if there is no more oil?”
“This is probably an apocryphal account,” said Prince Turki, “but it is indicative of the Kingdom’s resolve to survive, regardless of what Mr. Kissinger believes or advocates.”
Prince Turki then shifted his criticism to challenge current Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs James Glassman for a speech he gave to correspondents last July at the Washington-based Foreign Press Center. He quoted Glassman as saying: “The key goals today are to diminish the threat to America and the rest of the world posed by violent extremism and weapons of mass destruction, and to help people around the world achieve freedom ... Our survival of liberty at home increasingly depends on the success of liberty abroad.”
At this, Prince Turki paused, asking: “How true, Mr. Glassman. How about living up to those words and championing freedom for the Palestinians?”
He quoted Glassman again: “In the war of ideas, our core task is not to fix foreigners’ perception of the US. These perceptions are important, but America’s image, indeed American itself, is not at the center of the war of ideas.”
Describing this statement as “extraordinary,” Prince Turki noted that Glassman explained that the US “shorthand” of this policy is “diversion, powerful and lasting diversion, the channeling of potential recruits away from violence with the attractions of entertainment, culture, literature, music, technology, sports, education, business, in addition to politics and religion.” Again, quoting Glassman, Prince Turki criticized his statement that there is a widespread belief in Muslim nations that the US and other Western powers are out to destroy Islam and replace it with Christianity. And that this root belief underlies much of the passive support for the violent extremism of Al-Qaeda and similar groups. “I don’t see how he squares this statement with its previous one. Can you?”
He asked how the root cause that brings in recruits to Al-Qaeda is the view of America as a destroyer of Islam and say at the same time that America’s image is not at the center of the war of ideas?
“I cannot understand this doublespeak,” said Prince Turki.
Condemning Glassman for saying it was not “particularly important” to capture Bin Laden, and saying whether Bin Laden is killed or captured “is not of great consequence,” Prince Turki noted this opposed President Bush’s pledge that “We will get Bin Laden.”
“Every day that Bin Laden lives, after the president’s promise, he gathers more prestige and an aura of invincibility,” warned Prince Turki. “His image as the untouchable enemy of the greatest power on earth is the best recruiting means for him.”
Prince Turki ended his speech saying he was “very much opposed” to a US policy that’s formulated “only because of public opinion in the world.” Instead, he called for a policy that addresses “what the secretary admits is a view among 80 percent of Muslims that America is out to destroy Islam.”