Stephane Dion announced this week that the deal to sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia will go ahead as scheduled -- presumably because Canada wants to be known internationally as a country that keeps its word. But Crawford Killian reminds us that the Saudis have played us for suckers for a very long time now:
Recall the Saudi oil embargo imposed on the West after the Yom Kippur War of 1973. America, Europe and Japan staggered under the soaring cost of oil and gasoline. Then we saw the Saudis spend their new wealth by investing in Western businesses and real estate — and by funding Wahhabist schools all over the Muslim world and the anti-Soviet fighters who evolved into al Qaida and now the Islamic State.
More recently, they’ve been fighting to control their world market share by driving down the price of oil, making American fracked oil too expensive to compete. The Alberta oilpatch has suffered the collateral damage from that move.
We've played dumb because we wanted cheap oil. And we've tolerated just about anything to get it:
Internally, Saudi Arabia is not a nice place. The 2015 World Press Freedom Index ranks it #164 out of 180 nations. (Canada ranks #8; the U.S. ranks #49.) Death is the punishment for a range of crimes, from terrorism to “sorcery”. Like the Islamic State, the Saudis generally prefer beheading, with prison sentences and flogging reserved for less serious offences — like running a liberal blog. The religious police, known as Haia, solemnly warn Saudis that most practitioners of witchcraft are Africans.
You might think that such behaviour would have earned them a nice brisk regime change long before now, but the Saudis have our number and know our price. With a population of only about 31 million Saudi citizens, Saudi Arabia has the third- or fourth-largest military budget in the world (depending on whose numbers you prefer). The 2014 Saudi arms budget was $80.8 billion — over 10 per cent of GDP — and the Saudis spent much of it on hardware from Western defence corporations. The $14 billion they’re spending on Canadian armoured fighting vehicles over four years is chump change, but it’s enough to mute the criticism coming from Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion.
You might think that -- if we really believed our own rhetoric -- we'd cancel the deal. But, obviously, the military-industrial complex is alive and well. And, regardless of which party is in power, it will make sure its interests are met.