Garfield's Ad Review - Lies in advertising: spinning the 'moderate' Arab state

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Saudi Arabia thinks it has an image problem in America, which it blames on a "campaign" by Western media against its kingdom.

Sure, it's the media's fault.

"Read the editorials," says the voice-over in one of four spots from Qorvis Communications, Washington, on behalf of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia. "Tune in the Sunday-morning news shows. Or listen to talk radio if you want opinions. Listen to America's leaders if you want the facts."

Then a disingenuous (partial) quote from President Bush 10 days after Sept. 11: "As far as the Saudi Arabians go ... they've been nothing but cooperative."

Interesting strategy. Go to the American people, who in poll after poll express contempt for the media, and advise them not to be distracted by negative talk about our good friends and allies. Instead, Americans should listen to President Bush and other politicians who, of course, would never lie to us. Would never put diplomacy in front of truth. Would never let principle stand ahead of strategic military bases and the free flow of crude oil.


But, of course, where the real contempt lies is with the Embassy of Saudi Arabia and its image consultants. Because what the polls also show is that Americans, even those who imagine some sort of leftist media conspiracy, still understand that the priceless Fourth Estate keeps the three official branches of government in check, that leaders of necessity say what is politic in place of what is true and that it is the height of disrespect for some autocratic royal family to advise us to forsake our freedoms to preserve their petrofortunes and power.

The ads are signed "The People of Saudi Arabia," but that's a lie.

And so is the premise. For decades, the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia and other so-called "moderate" Arab states has been a deal with the devil. We sponsor their corrupt, repressive, authoritarian regimes with cash and weaponry. They sell us oil. Such unholy alliances, dictated by Cold War realpolitik, were bound to create backlash, and so they have, in the 1979 Iranian revolution and decades of state-sponsored terrorism. In Saudi Arabia and Egypt, meanwhile, we have continued to deal with the devils we know rather than risk the Pandora's Box of popular Islamism. The results:

A Saudi regime that pays protection money to radical fundamentalists by underwriting hate-spewing madrassas around the Muslim world, spreading the virus of radical Islam while inoculating itself from revolutionary threats within its kingdom.

Obstruction (according to our leaders) of the FBI probe into the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, in which 19 American servicemen were killed and 370 others injured by terrorists of the Saudi Hezbollah.

Sept. 11, perpetrated by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden and 15 Saudi nationals.

The refusal to let U.S. forces use Saudi bases for attacks on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Yeah, good friends, thanks for everything.

Another spot says that "conflicting views can distort what you see and hear." And indeed they can. It's a phenomenon we call "democracy," a concept that Saudi Arabia clearly cannot grasp. How unfortunate that they should invoke advertising to subvert it.

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