While the world and media were captivated by events more orange in nature, the Central Intelligence Agency honored Saudi crown prince Muhammed bin Nayef for his contributions to “realizing world security and peace.” The George Tenet Award was presented by CIA director Mike Pompeo in Turkey last week.
I’d find this hilarious if it wasn’t so saddening. Here’s why:
Saudi Arabia Shares ISIS’s Ideology
While being increasingly admitted in most circles, it is not openly being admitted on the diplomatic world stage. In the words of the New York Times’ Kamel Daoud, Saudi Arabia is ISIS that made it.
Pre-oil, Saudi Arabia was a struggling newly-unified kingdom reliant on agriculture. It was also founded on Wahhabism, or Salafism, an ultraconservative, extremist, literalist, fundamentalist version of Islam. When large reserves of oil were discovered in Saudi soil and promptly developed by—shocker—an American-controlled oil company, the kingdom’s importance inflated exponentially. Economic development skyrocketed while one defining feature remained the same: Saudi Arabia remained a Wahhabist regime.
Today, the powerful kingdom, controlled by the House of Saud, boasts the continued oppression of women, public beheadings, lashings, political oppression and a puppeted press. Its distinct charm doesn’t end at their borders, though. The kingdom remains a Islamist industrial complex, influencing millions of young impressionable minds across dozens of countries mostly concentrated in the Middle East and the Maghreb. Add to that their ongoing massacre in Yemen and funding of questionable armed factions in Syria and terror groups around the world, and one would think their time was nearing an end.
The priority for the United States, the champion of democracy and liberty, however, is the Saudi’s continued control of most of the planet’s oil. Donald Trump has only confirmed his country’s long-standing position.
The CIA’s Record Remains Questionable
In a way, the CIA awarding Saudi Arabia is maddeningly perfect. The Central Intelligence Agency isn’t exactly an advocate for peace. Well, maybe it is, but for more of a Pax Americana, a peace on the United States’ terms.
Whether by assassinating statesmen, influencing elections or overthrowing entire governments in carefully planned coup d’états, the CIA has been the United States’ shadow arm around the world.
The Agency’s interventions span multiple continents and have killed thousands. Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, the Dominican Republic, South Vietnam, Brazil, Chile and many others have all seen their democratically-elected governments overthrown in the name of peace and, hilariously, democracy.
The widely-accepted Oxford dictionary’s definition of terrorism is as follows:
“The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”
Make of that what you may.
The Award is Named After an Iraq War Supporter
George Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence or head of the CIA under George Bush, threw his entire weight behind the possible invasion of Iraq in 2002. He assured President Bush the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction presented them with “slam dunk” cause. The slam dunk cause ended up in the disaster that was the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which facilitated the rise of Daesh.
One would hope the rhetoric of prioritizing human rights, democracy, peace and justice would be backed by concrete action and attitudes. It’s a bleak hope, an unlikely concept, yet one that must be sought after tirelessly.