course, a lot of people in the Middle East have a great
deal of knowledge and experience in how to make and plant
a bomb, a fact of which His Highness cannot be unaware.
In the context of the October bombing
of the USS Cole, and the
whole history of the ongoing terrorist
campaign against Western "infidels" sullying the sacred
territory of Islam's holiest sites, the Riyadh incident
angered but hardly surprised Western governments. A terrorist
campaign seemingly directed at British expatriates in the
Saudi kingdom has been going on since the middle of November
2000. On November 18, the
first bomb blast went off in the Saudi capital, where
a British man Christopher Rodway, 47, an engineer
working at the Saudi military hospital was killed
by a bomb planted on his automobile. The Saudi authorities
reacted by dismissing
an offer from Britain for aid in solving the case. A
few days later, four more Brits two of them nurses
who worked at the same hospital as Rodway were injured
in a similar bomb blast: this time, the reaction came from
British as well as Saudi officials. The latter assured reporters
that the "the incident is a rare case" say
what? and authoritatively declared that
it "had no political dimension and was primarily a personal
affair," while the British Foreign Office chimed in with
a similarly lame theory: "The first thing you think of is
a terrorist attack," an anonymous British diplomat told
the London Telegraph, "but the fact that the attacks
have both taken place at the Saudi weekend, and both involved
British nationals who worked in the same hospital, may steer
us towards the theory that it may be some kind of personal
THE LOOKING GLASS
yes, the first thing you think is indeed a terrorist attack,
but apparently the Saudis weren't buying it. The next thing
we knew, an
American was being held in connection with the bombings:
one Michael Sedlak, an employee of the Vinnell Corporation
more on them later had been arrested and was
suspected of ordering the bombings. An American?
What's up with that? As Lewis Carroll put it: "'Curiouser
and curiouser!' cried Alice
(she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite
forgot how to speak good English)."
authorities (both Saudi and British) were still pushing
the "personal grudge" theory hard, at this point, with one
Saudi princeling averring that Sedlak "had some problems"
with one of the victims: at the same time, a number of foreigners
were rounded up and arrested on some vague
alcohol-related charges, among them Alexander "Sandy"
Mitchell, 44, chief anesthesiologist at a military hospital
in Riyadh. The story was put out that some kind of falling
out over money related to smuggling was the motive for the
the third bomb blast went off, however, the expatriate
community began to suspect that things
weren't quite what they seemed: with Sedlak, the alleged
mastermind, in custody, the bomb a seemingly harmless
fruit juice can placed on the windshield of a car
blinded David Brown, a British employee of Coca Cola, in
one eye and blew off several of his fingers. Mr. Brown's
wife was cited in al-Watan as noting that, immediately
prior to the attack, a man in Arab dress had followed them:
another man, she claimed, had given them "suspicious looks"
while they had been shopping in a market that morning.
WITH THEIR HEADS!
Saudis were not about to give up on their personal grudge
theory: instead, without notice to anyone, they paraded
Sandy Mitchell and two others William Sampson, a
Canadian, and Raaf Schifter, a Belgian in front of
television cameras, where Mitchell and his two friends "confessed"
that they had plotted the bombings. Speaking haltingly,
their eye movements obviously indicating they
were reading from a script, all three men gave detailed
accounts of how they blew up their targets using remote
controlled devices: but for all the detail, including maps
showing the routes taken by their victims, one bit of information
was missing: what was their motive? Mitchell said
during the eerie broadcast that he was "under orders" to
carry out the attacks, but did not say from whom. The Saudis
were similarly close-mouthed, and our friend Price Nayef
refused to even say whether there would be a trial, noting
only that his country would not be "pressured" to spare
the death penalty: in accordance with the barbaric strictures
of Shari'a (Islamic law), the accused will be publicly
news set off a public
firestorm in Britain, especially when the father of
Christopher Rodway told the media that he hoped the beheading
was carried out. Mitchell's family and friends rallied around
him, and refused to believe that he and two of his friends
were behind the vicious car bombings. British diplomats
were equally skeptical: only a week before, they had been
told that Mitchell and five other Brits were being held
for offenses against the Saudi prohibition of alcoholic
beverages and "the next thing we see is this man on television
apparently confessing to murder," said one astonished British
official. There is something very fishy going on
here, and it will take some digging to get to the bottom
of it, but please bear with me because the story
requires some sense of context, and an ability (or willingness)
to do elementary research. No wonder it was completely missed
by "mainstream" journalists, who have barely reported it
at all, and certainly not in any depth. The whole thing
seems shrouded in mystery, enveloped in a Saudi (and British)-generated
smokescreen, and the story told by the accused in
their shaky, stumbling voices just does not make
example, Raaf Schifter, emergency coordinator at the King
Fahd Hospital for the National Guard, in his staged "confession"
said he accidentally eavesdropped on a conversation between
Mitchell and Sampson about the bomb plot, and so, to make
sure he kept silent they asked him to become complicit and
plant the second bomb! Riding in a car right behind the
blast vehicle, when the bomb went off Shifter jumped out
and helped the wounded hardly behavior one would
expect from a terrorist. The whole story stinks to high
heaven. As one of Shifter's friends put it: "It hardly sounds
like a master terrorist to spend all day drinking with people
then blow them up while you're driving right behind them."
common thread binds the first two bombings: the victims
were all connected to the various military installations
maintained by the Americans and the British: Rodway was
an engineer at the Internal Security Hospital in Riyadh;
the second attack wounded two nurses who work at the same
hospital, and two men who worked for a Saudi firm, the Al-Salam
aircraft company, which is half-owned by the Boeing Corporation.
Why are Western journalists and, even more obscenely,
Western governments standing by and letting those
Saudi savages round up and behead a bunch of Westerners
who obviously had no connection to the bombings and are
being rather crudely set up? Curiouser and curiouser
and curiouser still. As the plot thickens, the implications
CLINTONIZATON OF THE US STATE DEPARTMENT
what about Michael Sedlak? Saudi officials assured Western
reporters who bothered to ask that the charges against him,
if any, would soon be "clarified" but no such clarification
has been forthcoming. Instead, the Saudis have emitted a
steady stream of squid-like obfuscation, just like their
British and American counterparts. I can't resist the temptation
to quote extensively from this excerpt
from a recent State Department daily briefing, in which
the subject of Sedlak comes up, because it dramatizes rather
vividly the duplicity and cynicism of the US and allied
governments, who are quite willing to throw their own people
to the Saudi dogs without any qualms or even a slight twitch
of conscience. A reporter asks about Sedlak's status, and
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher What?
Is that Clintonian droid still there? answers
that no charges have been filed against Sedlak, he has been
visited by consular officials, and is "well" considering
that he's very likely to be beheaded. An unnamed reporter
says: "So tell us more, and Boucher replies:
think that's about all we know that we can tell you.
"Do we know how long they can hold him under their laws
BOUCHER: "I don't know. I would have to check on that."
"In China, I think a senior US diplomat do you
want to follow up?"
"Can I ask about one more on Sedlak?: Do you have an
age and a hometown?"
BOUCHER: "Probably not. No, I'm afraid I don't have that,
but I'll see if I can get it for you."
"Has he expressed to you why he thinks they are taking
him in, Richard or to consular
officials, I should say?"
BOUCHER: "Again, we just don't have the information on
possible charges that I can give you."
"Do you know who he worked for in Saudi Arabia?
BOUCHER: "He worked for something called Vinell
"Is that "V"?"
BOUCHER: "'V' as in Victor, i-n-e-l-l Corporation."
"Do you know what they do?"
BOUCHER: "No. That I'm sure you can find out."
Boucher can stand there in front of reporters and tell such
bald-faced lies is really a skill that any government will
find useful, and that accounts for the continued presence
this Clintonian holdover. It is a tribute to that old saw
about how the more things change, the more they stay the
same especially in the realm of American foreign
policy, which has an essential continuity no matter which
party is in power. Although there are no pictures to go
along with this briefing transcript, one can almost imagine
the look of barely-concealed contempt on Boucher's face
as he denied all knowledge of the Vinnell
Corporation and added that he was sure they could find
out knowing, somehow, that they wouldn't bother.
is highly unlikely that a State Department official of Boucher's
rank would be unaware of the Vinnell Corporation, and the
essential services it provide for US policy makers. Perhaps
he needs to be briefed by Vice President Dick Cheney, formerly
CEO of the Halliburton Company, whose subdivision, Brown
and Root, has a lucrative contract to maintain military
bases in Turkey in
alliance with Vinnell. Aside from having extensive
contracts in Europe, Vinnell has for twenty years been
awarded the job of training the Saudi
National Guard, a kind of Praetorian guard for the House
of Saud, the ultimate insurer of dynastic power. In
a fascinating article, "Mercenaries,
Inc.," by William
D. Hartung, a senior fellow at the World
Policy Institute at the New
School for Social Research, and author of And
Weapons for All, describes the dicey nature of Vinnell's
story of this obscure American company shows how the U.S.
government, even after Ollie North and Iran-contra, still
relies on unaccountable private companies to do its dirty
work around the world. . . . If anyone believed that the
era of covert policymaking by the United States had ended,
Vinnell' s role in Saudi Arabia proves otherwise."
in 1931, Vinnell started out making a fortune from Los Angeles
road construction, but after the war started getting into
military work in a major way, with clear connections to
US intelligence operations. Their first international contract
was with the Chinese Nationalists, who were receiving aid
shipments from the US: they later branched out and built
a booming business in America's Asian satraps, constructing
huge military airfields in Taiwan, Okinawa, Thailand, Pakistan,
and South Vietnam. It was in Vietnam that Vinnell really
came into its own as a conduit of US covert policy operations.
Hartung points out that the company "won hundreds of millions
of dollars worth of business," and reached a peak of 5,000
employees involved in South Vietnamese army "training" operations.
But clearly Vinnell had a more direct role in the conflict:
one Pentagon official told the Village Voice, in
March 1975, that Vinnell was "our own little mercenary army
in Vietnam," used when they didn't have the manpower "or
because of legal problems." In an Associated Press interview
with Peter Arnett, one Vinnell employee stationed in Riyadh
was asked whether he saw himself as a mercenary. His answer:
"We are not mercenaries because we are not pulling the triggers.
We train people to pull the triggers. Maybe that makes us