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Despotic kingdom makes good recruiting sergeant.

THE most fed-up looking person I have ever seen was a British expatriate buying cigarettes in the fly-blown Saudi Arabian town of Al Jubayl.

If someone had given that grey haired Yorkshireman the option of swapping the desert scrub for a wet Tuesday afternoon in Hull, where the world's clumsiest dentist was waiting to carry out root canal surgery without anaesthetic, I'm quite sure he would have jumped at the chance.

Saudi Arabia does that to people. They go there with one intention only - to save money - and pay the price by going quietly bonkers.

The first thing that surprises any visitor to the world's most despotic kingdom is the number of poor people wandering about. If ever there was proof that the trickle down effect of wealth creation is a myth, this is it.

Some of the poor are migrant workers from countries like Bangladesh but others are Arabs riding aimlessly around on camels who presumably slept in on the day the oil wealth was divided up.

In Saudi Arabia, if you're poor you also have to be very careful. While I was there a hapless migrant worker was due to have his head cut off for being involved in a fatal traffic accident. The entire officers' mess from the nearby British army camp - this was just after the Gulf War - was invited to the spectacle on the grounds that the most ignominious thing for a Muslim criminal is to have his execution witnessed by a front row full of grinning infidels.

They pleaded a prior engagement and respectfully declined.

The point of recalling all this is for us to remember that the only significant difference between the regime in Saudi Arabia and the one in Afghanistan is the size of their respective bank accounts. Neither are representative of the Islamic world as a whole and yet they have more influence over the world economy than all the moderate states put together.

The West's unquestioning support for Saudi Arabia, whose ruling elite buys our weapons and wastes its money in our casinos, is the best recruiting sergeant the terrorists could have. Osama bin Laden, who grew up as a member of that elite before he embarked on a new career as the Lenin of Islam, knows this better than anyone.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 29, 2001
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