Why does Saudi Arabia
need military aid?
The Saudis are getting $13bn. How can they spend that? Have
Prada moved into tanks?
By Mark Steel
Independent" -- -- Here's something they
sneaked out this week with hardly anyone noticing - the
Americans have announced a "military aid package" of sixty
billion dollars for their allies in the Middle East. Or, to
be grammatically correct, sixty billion, that's sixty
thousand million bastard dollars!!!
How can they spend that? Have Prada moved into tanks? Maybe
they now buy these things at fashion shows, where a
commentator gasps: "Ooh, my, my!" as down the catwalk comes
this exhilarating design for the very latest
satellite-guided armour-penetrating missile modelled here by
Kate Moss, designed, of course, by Stella McCartney, and
"sure to be this summer's big bold hit when it comes to
melting the Hizbollah".
This is $250 for every living American, $10 for everyone on
the planet. Are they taking each weapon out individually for
a meal at the Ivy? And $13bn of this is for Saudi Arabia.
Because if there's one family on this earth in need of
financial aid, it's the Saudi royal family. Who's getting
the rest - the Bee Gees? Anyway, why do the Saudis need
military aid at all? Their favourite weapon seems to be the
stone. I suppose now if a woman commits adultery or speaks
out of turn she'll be battered to death with a bloody great
To get all this in perspective, after the G8 summit two
years ago in Scotland, after the Make Poverty History march
and concerts, a beaming Tony Blair announced a
record-breaking global amount of aid of fifty billion
dollars. This time they seem to be a bit more modest. No one
came galloping out of the White House joyfully to explain
that, after a whole week of negotiating, they've come up
with more laser-guided firebombs than ever.
But they shouldn't be so modest. Because a sign of how hard
it is to come up with such sums can be seen from this year's
G8 summit, when they admitted that instead of the $50bn they
promised in Scotland, it was back to $25bn after all. So all
those balloons, celebrations, smiley press conferences and
declarations of a new start for Africa, were about the
entire western world donating to an entire impoverished
continent less than half of what one country has quietly
coughed up in weapons for the Saudis, Egypt and Israel.
They do it quietly because how many people would agree with
these priorities? On Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, when
Chris Tarrant asks: "What would you do with the money if you
won a million pounds?", very few people say: "I'd buy some
cluster bombs." How many people, if they were taken on a
tour of the Middle East, through Gaza and the wreckage of
Iraq and the slums of Cairo, would say: "I know what this
place needs above all else - $60bn-worth of deadly weapons."
How many people would support a charity record called "Death
Aid", or a night of TV comedy called "Smiles for Missiles",
in which Vernon Kay wandered through Angola grimacing: "This
village hasn't had a landmine for over a month. Please,
please, please, send your donation so they too can know what
it's like to watch someone explode", followed by a special
edition of A Question of Sport.
One of the reasons given for the difficulty in providing aid
to Africa is their leaders are corrupt, so there's every
chance they'll swipe the money. So luckily, when it comes to
Saudi Arabia they can rely on that country's rulers, who
would never fiddle a billion dollars from British Aerospace
or do illegal deals with, to pick someone at random,
Maybe the complaint about corruption has been misunderstood
and the Africans aren't doing enough of it. So the White
House gets reports that say: "Some ministers in Malawi go a
whole month with barely a single prostitute being procured
by the arms companies - how can we possibly do business with
such people?" And half this generous gift, $30bn-worth of
arms, is being given to Israel. Surely the problem here is
where will they put them all? They'll be like parents at
Christmas when an over-generous grandparent delivers sacks
full of presents, and you have to have a clearout of all the
old stuff to make room. So if you want a cheap battleship,
nip down to a charity shop in Hebron and you'll be able to
pick one up for a score.
But more weapons is the answer to everything. For example, a
US defence report on global warming has concluded it could
lead to global instability and mass migration, proving the
necessity of acquiring more weapons to deal with this.
If anyone from the Pentagon visits Moss Side or Peckham,
they'll announce: "Hey, these places are in bad shape. So
we've given everyone under 25 a pistol, a sword and a tank."
If someone from the Pentagon ever worked as a chef, he'd
taste the sauce and say: "Hmm, it needs something - basil,
perhaps, or a sprinkle of fennel? I know, it needs a Stealth
How does anyone get to see the world from the point of view
of the Pentagon? Who would look around a world in which
5,000children a day die for lack of clean water and decide
that can wait, but the weapons can't?
But the biggest mystery is the official reason given for
handing over this fortune to Egypt and Saudi Arabia - that,
according to Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador to the United
Nations, it's because "Saudi Arabia and others are not doing
all they can to help us in Iraq". So they're rewarded like
that. Well, I've done bugger all to help America in Iraq.
Can I have a helicopter?
© 2007 Independent News and Media Limited
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