If you thought comedy was dead, take a look at the newest Napoleon on the block, the one wearing sandals and a tablecloth on his head and striking a heroic pose with his hairy legs wrapped around a camel’s hump. This ludicrous figure resides in Riyadh and is fawned upon by people like Prince Charles and our 45th president, not to mention those with greased palms in Washington who are busy spreading the word that Saudi Arabia invented constitutional democracy, beta blockers, and astrophysics, as well as being the forerunner of the European Enlightenment.
Mohammad bin Salman has been in the news lately because he stuck some 200 thieves, most of whom are cousins of his, in the Ritz-Carlton under house arrest, an act that can prove fatal for the Ritz-Carlton. The arrestees may all be billionaires, but none of them are house-trained. They eat on the floor and defecate there also, which makes it very confusing at times for the poor waiters who have to clean up. (I am not joking. Back in the late ’60s, Saudi leaders visited Greece and holed up at the Athens Hilton. It took weeks to clean up after them. Never again, said the Hilton.) A very close friend of mine who owns Asprey told me that the bathroom amenities in all Ritz-Carlton hotels are provided by Asprey, a fact that makes him very nervous.
Basically, the house arrest of the billionaires is a shakedown. Closer to the truth, it’s a shakedown of gangsters by fellow gangsters. Mohammad Salman has been given day-to-day control of the country’s affairs by his ailing father, Salman senior, and junior has pledged to change Saudi Arabia into a modern nation, half Sparta, half America. But if he manages to change that sandy hellhole into a grubby Albania he will be looked at by future generations as a Julius Caesar, a Napoleon Bonaparte, even a Harvey Weinstein. Let’s take it from the top: These hairy barbarians came out of the desert some eighty years ago, butchered some poor Bedouins, and then declared themselves royal. The head towel had 44 children with 28 wives. Four generations later, there are more than 15,000 towels who strut around European flesh spots like Monte Carlo and Mykonos and call themselves royals. These 15,000 so-called royals have been draining the coffers regularly and very greedily. The new Napoleon has shut them inside the hotel in order to force them to repatriate some moola, but as of this writing, nothing as yet has been returned.
How does one return hotels, real estate, farmland, and other such assets? Even hookers under retainers can be repatriated, as can private jets and very large and ugly gin palaces. But the Saudis own half of London, and those Brit piles are hard to move. Al-Waleed bin Talal is referred to by a compliant and perhaps on-the-take media as one of the world’s richest as he is a major player in the New York stock market. He is under house arrest and made to talk: “How did you make $50 billion, Al?” “Ah, the way you made $550 million last summer when you paid a Russian crook twice what it was worth for his yacht that you needed desperately that afternoon.”
See what I mean about crooks shaking down bigger crooks? All this concerns, of course, the gossip columnists and those on the Saudi payroll in D.C. (probably half of Congress and soon all of it, as Saudi Arabia and Israel are about to kiss and swear to love each other until the oil runs out). What worries me is that our 45th führer has given the green light for Israel and Saudi to provoke a war with Iran, a nation that not only helped us against the Taliban after 9/11, but attacked a foreign country 2,490 years ago. The Saudis, needless to say, could not win a war against Monaco, not to mention Lebanon, yet they will find proxies to do their dirty work. In Yemen the Saudi blockade has turned 10,000 children into Biafra-like ghosts, their bellies swollen and eyes popping out due to hunger. Using starvation as a weapon suits the Saudis, because although U.S.-advised, and with their latest F-16s guided by American navigators, they have not been able to beat 10,000 rebellious Houthis in west Yemen in three years of saturation bombing. But to be fair to the towels, they have managed to blow up hospitals and schools, and in one rare moment of great bravery, a Saudi pilot managed to kill a whole family during a funeral. Or perhaps it was a wedding.
A few months ago, Napoleon gave an ultimatum to his neighbors, a great military power called Qatar, the name deriving from its leader’s permanent nose-dripping. (Too much laughing powder gives boys a dripping nose.) Twenty-four hours or else, they said to the drippy one. Months later the Saudis, in alliance with Egypt and the rest of the towels of the Gulf, are still waiting. And still posturing and threatening. Uncle Sam should be ashamed of himself. To be allied with such scum makes us all pretty scummy.