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May 09, 2005

How Interesting And/Or Terrifying

Today marks the kickoff of Arianna Huffington's Huffington Post. While I don't believe America has a desperate shortage of celebrity opinions, I do like Huffington and her large head, and hope this works out. (This is partly because, in all seriousness, I have a large head myself. It's part of my Wendish heritage. So I feel a sense of large head solidarity.)

Anyway, the Huffington Post today tells this fascinating and horrifying story:

According to a new book exclusively obtained by the Huffington Post, Saudi Arabia has crafted a plan to protect itself from a possible invasion or internal attack. It includes the use of a series of explosives, including radioactive “dirty bombs,” that would cripple Saudi Arabian oil production and distribution systems for decades.

Bestselling author Gerald Posner lays out this “doomsday scenario” in his forthcoming “Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Saudi-US Connection” (Random House).

According to the book, which will be released to the public on May 17, based on National Security Agency electronic intercepts, the Saudi Arabian government has in place a nationwide, self-destruction explosive system composed of conventional explosives and dirty bombs strategically placed at the Kingdom’s key oil ports, pipelines, pumping stations, storage tanks, offshore platforms, and backup facilities. If activated, the bombs would destroy the infrastructure of the world’s largest oil supplier, and leave the country a contaminated nuclear wasteland ensuring that the Kingdom’s oil would be unusable to anyone.

Every day, being alive gets more exciting!

ON SECOND THOUGHT: I'm sure it's worth being skeptical about this. I can imagine Saudi Arabia would have considered such a scheme during the seventies, when Americans were openly musing about "Seizing Arab Oil." On the other hand, it would be somewhat crazy to keep it in place today; given the domestic unhappiness in Saudi Arabia, the royal family couldn't be sure someone unauthorized wouldn't blow everything up. On the other other hand, insulated ruling classes do all kinds of crazy things.

Perhaps they simply talk about it when they think the US is listening, as a deterrent. In any case, one thing's for sure: it would be a good idea to make the world economy even more reliant on oil.

Posted at May 9, 2005 10:52 AM | TrackBack

That's one of those things where if you were watching 24 and "the terrorists" were going to do that, you'd think -- wow, that's brilliant. But if the idea is mentioned in the context of "real life," you'd think -- wow, we'd be really fucked if that happened.

Speaking of 24, I hope that Jack Bauer is able to stop the terrorists from launching a nuclear bomb. The one thing I've always wondered about that show, though, is whether there's something wrong with an anti-terrorist organization whose entire functioning is based on this one guy who is able to take on armies unaided and who has a cavalier disregard for the rule of law.

When the new season started, there was a lot of talk of how 24 knew more about terrorism than Bush does, but I don't think that Bush can be blamed for not having hired a superhero to single-handedly take on any potential terrorist attack that occurs. And in this example that you've cited, not even Jack Bauer could get to every oil facility in time to stop it single-handedly.

Posted by: Adam Kotsko at May 9, 2005 11:39 AM

Actually, they can indeed be blamed for not hiring a superhero. I applied for the job at least seven or eight times.

They told me that they'd already hired someone, by the name of "Jeff Gannon," to dress up and protect them.

Posted by: Matthew Sullivan at May 9, 2005 11:59 AM

I thought Gerald Posner was part of the crowd that thought the U.S. should take over the Saudi oil fields....

And if GP can get access to NSA intercepts, why can't Joe Biden and Chris Dodd?

Posted by: eb at May 9, 2005 01:16 PM

Dr. Strangelove: Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you KEEP it a SECRET! Why didn't you tell the world, EH?

Ambassador de Sadesky: It was to be announced at the Party Congress on Monday. As you know, the Premier loves surprises.

Posted by: Conor at May 9, 2005 05:20 PM

This is exactly the sort of Doomsday device that many people would like to activate. Heck, I know a scad of primitivists who (if it didn't involve a huge loss of life) wouldn't think twice about setting this thing off. I am therefore highly skeptical it exists. What the hell is the Kingdom spending trillions of dollars purchasing weaponry for, if they have to implement such a dumbass system in the end anyway? And why are they cultivating such a close relationship with the U.S. despite the fact that it makes everyone hate them? Highly suspect. I don't know anything about Posner, but other people have certainly had no qualms lying to sell books. (Also, what a weird word, "qualm".)

Posted by: saurabh at May 9, 2005 07:39 PM

What to expect from a nation that relies on suicide bombing to instill fear in its opponents?

Posted by: En Ming Hee at May 9, 2005 09:26 PM


Yes, the Premier is a man of the people.


You're looking at this from an exterior, rational perspective. It actually makes sense if you put yourself in the place of the Saudi royal family. Their grip on power has always been dicey; that's why they originally made the deal with FDR during World War II. They then became more frightened after the Iranian revolution, more frightened still after the invasion of Kuwait, and most frightened of all by the rise of bin Ladenism. They want a close relationship with us because we're literally the only people on earth who like them. But they're concerned (and rightfully so, from their perspective) that if they were overthrown we would just deal with whoever took their place. It makes sense they would want insurance to protect them.

Qualm is a weird word, but not as weird as claw, which I lay awake saying to myself over and over last night.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at May 9, 2005 09:35 PM

Was confusing Posner with some of the other people found on the Opinion Journal page. He's the "it's all as officially proclaimed" author on the MLK and Kennedy assassinations. The post-Sept. 11 piece linked by Harry captures his tendency to hail our new insect overlords.

All the more reason to give some credence to the Saudi booby-trap possibility, since it flies in the face of c.w. I'm still curious how he gets access to NSA intercepts if they're so all-fired secret.

Posted by: eb at May 9, 2005 11:20 PM

Probably meant "reliant on oil," rather than "reliable on oil." Although I guess being more reliable, and on oil, is preferrable to less reliable, and on oil.

Posted by: C at May 10, 2005 08:43 PM


HOW DARE YOU PRESUME TO KNOW WHAT I MEANT? Look, just because it didn't "make sense" to your limited perception doesn't mean it's not perfectly comprehensible to those in the know.

However, I've changed it to "reliant" just so you won't be embarrassed.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at May 10, 2005 09:01 PM

OT, I just wanted to say that as another large headed person, I commend this blog and Arianna Huffington for affirming large-headedness. We face discrimination in many walks of life -- i.e. we will never be hired as television newscasters since our heads would disconcertingly fill the entire screen.

Posted by: Catherine Liu at May 11, 2005 10:39 AM