© The New York Times, (November 29, 2002)
Meanwhile: The Arab Gatsby Under a Cloud
WASHINGTON Prince Bandar is known as the Arab Gatsby. Rising from a murky
past in a racist society, born in a Bedouin tent as the son of an African palace servant
impregnated by a Saudi prince, to a glamorous present as dean of the Washington
parties with celebrity entertainment at his sumptuous mansions in Aspen
and England's Wychwood, a royal hunting ground once used by Norman and
and bragging about his fighter-jock exploits at parties at his estate in
McLean, Virginia, overlooking the Potomac, "where there was more chilled vodka in
little shot glasses than I've ever seen," as one guest recalled.
Flying off in
his private Airbus to hunt birds in Spain with his friends George Bush
and Norman Schwarzkopf, entertaining the current President Bush's sister, Doro, at his
Virginia farm, and palling around on the Washington social circuit with Dick Cheney,
Colin Powell, George Tenet, Brent Scowcroft and Bob Woodward.
Spinning a smoky
web of intrigue with his cigars and CIA operations, helping finance
So if Bandar bin
Sultan is Gatsby, his wife, Princess Haifa, must be like the careless
Daisy, her voice full of money that could have ended up supporting two of the Saudi
hijackers. And those 15 Saudi hijackers would be "the foul dust that floated in the
wake" of the Arab Gatsby's dreams.
Bandar's new dream
is that Saudi Arabia will help America get rid of Saddam, and
then the anger over Saudi involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks will fade and the cozy,
oily alliance between the countries can get back on track.
All the millions
the Saudis have spent since Sept. 11 on a charm offensive could not
save them from Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas, who drew fresh
tracks between charitable checks Haifa wrote and two hijackers.
The princess says
she feels as if a bomb had been dropped on her head - an
unfortunate metaphor given the fact that Saudi terrorists funded by Saudi charities
turned planes carrying innocent Americans into bombs.
She is rarely
seen around Washington, abiding by Saudi customs sheltering women.
But she entertains at her many homes, and powerful friends - including Barbara Bush
and Alma Powell - called on Monday night to buck her up.
The case inflamed
public suspicion that the Saudi government is more involved than it
admits, and that the Bushies are less zealous about getting to the bottom of the Saudi
role than they should be.
charge that the FBI has pulled its punches, and that the royal family,
Richard Shelby puts it, has "got a lot of answering to do."
the future, and uncooperative on the past, the Saudis have been
stingy about helping the FBI with Sept. 11. The administration has helped the Saudis
be evasive, with Dick Cheney stonewalling congressional investigators.
It would probably
be far easier for America to reduce its dependence on Saudi oil than
for the House of Saud and the House of Bush to untangle their decades-long
Bandar, the representative
of an oil kingdom, is so close to the Bushes, an oil dynasty,
that they nicknamed him Bandar Bush. He contributed more than $1 million to the
Bush presidential library. The former president is affiliated with the Carlyle Group,
which does extensive business with the Saudis.
It was terribly
inconvenient for all the friends of the bin Sultans when the trail of checks
led to the Saudi Embassy. Many influential people in Washington averted their eyes
from the embarrassment.
The Bush crowd
was praying it wasn't a last-days-of-disco scene similar to the one
when the shah of Iran was overthrown by Islamic fundamentalists, and the jet-setting
Iranian diplomats had to pour all the liquor down the drain at their embassy. Will the
Arab Gatsby end like the original - "borne back ceaselessly into the past"?