Trump – A Clear And Present National Security Risk Part One – Saudi Arabia
Trump – A Clear And Present National Security Risk
Had the framers of the Constitution ever imagined the peril, the clear and present national security risk confronting America from an off the hook, corrupt and treacherous president such as we are exposed to with Donald J. Trump, it is more than likely that they would have included a far more muscular and fast track solution to the imminent threat he poses than the painfully deliberate and mostly ineffective means offered by impeachment.
At the minimum, a simple majority for removal, would have been more suitable. As matters stand, however, we have an individual who represents a moment to moment existential risk to national security and no mechanism to interdict it.
We’ve seen confirmation of three areas of severe vulnerability. In the first of this three part series, we will examine how Trump’s considerations of his personal interests have drawn America closer to a country whose behavior is so reprehensible and at the same time threatens to foment more unrest and tension in a region of the world that we can’t afford to see more of the same.
Trump provides political cover to Saudi Arabia.
Three Navy servicemen were killed by a Saudi national at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida on Friday. Mohammed Alshamrani was a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force and was attending training at the base as a participant in an aviation study program that has been in place for most of the post World War period.
Reports have since surfaced that in addition to examining the background of Alshamrani, who died in the response to the attack, the FBI and the Pentagon are investigating the shooting to determine whether the killings were terror related.
A U.S. official told The Associated Press on Saturday that Alshamrani held a party a few days before the attack, in which he and three other Saudis binge watched mass shooting videos. One of the three students who attended the dinner party, the official says, videotaped outside the building during the shooting spree. Two other Saudi students watched from a car, the official said.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in a Friday press briefing, told reporters that the vetting process for foreign military nationals in the U.S., including screenings by the Department of Defense and U.S. embassy personnel, will be subject to review. “I want to make sure we’re doing our due diligence,” Esper said, “to understand what are our procedures.”
This begs the question – why only after three Navy sailors are murdered, does the Pentagon conduct a review? One could reasonably conclude that vigorously auditing the vetting process is something that should be done to prevent episodes such as occurred at the base, not instead, after lives are lost.
Obviously, Trump can’t be held accountable to a program that had been in existence before he came into office. But what he can be held accountable for, is his history of brushing off behavior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that is reprehensible and in another administration, would call for a sweeping reassessment of our relationship with them as “allies”.
Trump, during his presidency, has refrained from confronting Saudi Arabia on not only its human rights abuses, which are extensively documented, but perhaps in the most egregious example of corrupt and murderous behavior, rationalized and defended by Trump, the vicious killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Trump, after having been briefed by U.S. intelligence, that Crown Prince bin Salman had directed the murder, acted as a P.R. spokesperson for the Saudi government and the prince:
“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t! That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran.”
In July, Trump vetoed a bill passed in the Senate that would have blocked the sale of U.S. defense contractor Raytheon Corporation’s precision-guided munitions and other systems that enable the Saudis to target civilians in neighboring Yemen.
This was essentially a rebuke to Saudi Arabia for war crimes and designed to send a message to the Kingdom to put the brakes on human rights abuses both within their borders and outside them. Human Rights Watch details the data:
As the leader of the coalition that began military operations against Houthi forces in Yemen on March 26, 2015, Saudi Arabia has committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law. As of August, at least 6,592 civilians had been killed and 10,471 wounded, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), although the actual civilian casualty count is likely much higher. The majority of these casualties were a result of coalition airstrikes.
Despite this, the Trump administration and Trump himself, continue to act as an advocate of the Saudis. Of note, is the fact that with respect to bills coming out of the GOP Senate, Trump has vetoed them only 5 times, with four of the vetos pertaining to attempts by Congress to punish Saudi Arabia for behavior that no U.S. president should write a blank check for.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Saturday that he had just talked to the Saudi foreign minister, ”who expressed his condolences and sadness at the loss of life in the horrific attack.″
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan tweeted.
And then Trump, himself legitimized this false empathy. “I spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia. They are devastated in Saudi Arabia,″ Trump told reporters Saturday as he left the White House on a trip to Florida. He said the king “will be involved in taking care of families and loved ones. He feels very strongly.″
These statements lack even a shred of credibility. Not only are the Royal family not devastated, nor shedding any tears about the deaths of Americans, but since 9/11, they have not ceased promoting their homegrown brand of radical Islam, Wahhabism, to the far corners of the planet.
Their words are less than empty; they are a continuing campaign of deception. The three men murdered, in the estimation of the Saudi monarchy, are nothing more than infidels and of no consequence. That, is the reality.
Farah Pandith, writing in Foreign Policy, observes:
One can’t understand the global system underpinning extremism without surveying the pivotal role played by the Saudi government as well as private organizations and individuals within the kingdom.
In recent decades, the Saudis have spent up to an estimated $100 billion spreading Wahhabism and perpetuating the notion that they are Islam’s caretaker. Their methods to persuade and influence run the gamut and include the funding of mosques, schools, textbooks, imams, imam learning centers and exchanges, cultural institutions around the world.
Despite no official conclusion as of yet, on the killings of the Navy Airmen at Pensacola on whether it was specifically terror related, there is every reason to suspect that the perpetrator was exposed to extremist indoctrination that was sponsored by the Saudis.
It’s an open secret that Kingdom’s status as an “ally in the war on terror” is a sham that Trump continues to perpetuate.
Will McCants, a counterterrorism expert and former senior State Department advisor, asserts that the Islamic State or ISIS would not have emerged “in the configuration that we see them today”, without the architecture of radical teaching the Saudis have constructed. McCants added that, “the group justifies its violence by recourse to Wahhabi tenets and teachings that have been pushed by the Saudi state.”
Doug Bandow, in the American Spectator, notes that:
The KSA spends as much as $4 billion annually promoting its uniquely intolerant brand of Salafist Islamic thought, aimed at the “purification” of the faith known as Wahhabism. By enforcing this rigidly intolerant theology the KSA has acted like a housebroken version of the Islamic State. People have been similarly oppressed and brutalized, but with a veneer of legality.
Think about this – $4 billion dollars spent by the Saudis every year ($100 Billion in total), exporting the very hateful and nihilistic ideology that likely will prove, in whole or in part, the motivation behind the Pensacola killings.
And none of this gives Trump or his administration, pause. Former House member, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), chairing a Congressional hearing of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2016, investigating America’s dubious partnership with Saudi Arabia, included in his opening statement an observation on the nature of the school (Madrassa) textbooks distributed by the Saudis internationally:
As of 2014, high school textbooks worldwide contained offensive materials about Jews, Christians, and others. For example, a 12th grade textbook professes that treachery, betrayal and that annunciation of covenants are among the attributes of the Jews. Another 12th grade textbook asserts that the punishment for conversion away from Islam is execution.
Showing the bi-partisan agreement about the true nature of the American – Saudi relationship, another member of the committee, Rep. Brad Sherman of California, told the audience at the hearing that:
What concerns me is the Saudi Government comes to us and says they are our friend and we should protect them from this statute, while funding every day the Wahhabi mullahs who not only preach orthodox practice of Islam but preach violent murder against those who they disagree with. And it is time for Saudi Arabia to come clean. They can’t say they don’t support terrorism. All they do is fund at the hundreds of millions of dollars a year those who plant the seeds of terrorism around the world.
The State Department isn’t convinced that Saudi Arabia is not an arms length sponsor of terror.
In 2009, a State Department memo, which was part of the trove of emails, hacked by Russia and supplied to WikiLeaks, contained this instruction to the diplomatic corps in charge of the Gulf States portfolio, “More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups.”
The cable, signed by Secretary of State Clinton, added, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”
A more recent State Department memo dated August 2014 and released October 2016, warned, “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIS and other radical groups in the region.”
Trump hasn’t always been a stalwart advocate of Saudi Arabia. In 2011, he said this about the House of Saud, “It’s the world’s biggest funder of terrorism. Saudi Arabia funnels our petrodollars, our very own money, to fund the terrorists that seek to destroy our people.” The inescapable question then, is – was he lying then, or is he lying now?
So, what is the impetus behind Donald Trump doing his utmost to pretend the Saudis possess some merit as a pseudo ally that we would be better off cutting loose?
Knowing what Trump’s prime motivations have always been, the leveraging of influence to line his and his family’s pockets – the question centers on what financial motivations are behind his deference to the Saudis.
A partial clue is found in the fact that Trump’s hotel in Manhattan hosted a visit from the Crown Prince last year, boosting revenue by 13 percent in one quarter. Similar expenditures have been discovered in 2016 and 2017, totaling nearly a half million dollars at various of his properties.
Since Trump entered office, he has protested that, “I have no business interests in Saudi Arabia”. As with virtually any such proclamation coming from Trump, which most often are later discovered to be lies, this one was contradicted by Trump, himself.
“I get along great with all of them,” Trump said of the Saudis at a 2015 campaign rally in Mobile, Alabama. “They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”
The president’s son in law, Jared Kushner, is substantially in the mix in terms of fostering positive relations with the Kingdom and there is a pecuniary interest involved, in prospective contracts to develop nuclear power generation, as the Guardian details.
Kushner is entangled in several conflicts of interest around the Saudi project, according to the 24-page report from the House oversight and reform committee. One of the potential beneficiaries of a Saudi nuclear deal is Westinghouse Electric, which is owned by a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, a real estate company that recently bailed out Kushner and his family’s company in their ill-fated, $1.8bn purchase of a Manhattan office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue.
So, it is clear that Trump’s calculus in dealing with a state sponsor of terror is strictly a personal financial one. There is, without doubt, much more that would surface if Trump wasn’t employing a stonewall defense against the release of his taxes and documents from the banks he owes money to.
Next in our series, is an examination of how Trump’s personal agenda has endangered American national security in his gross mishandling of the threat posed by North Korea.