Sunday, May 02, 2004

If You Knew Saudi

We run an "ask the doctor" column at the newspaper where I work. It's one of my jobs to edit it. Usually the first question is something bland, like, "what can you tell me about sore throats?" But after he answers that, the doctor (I'm not making this up: his name is "Dr. Gott") will print "the second question." And buried down there at the bottom of the column is often something howlingly funny, like, "Dear Dr. Gott: Every day at 4:40 a.m. my cock turns neon blue. Is this usual."

"The second question" is now my way of expressing the really juicy bits of a story that the reporter (or editor) saw fit to work in well down the text, long past the jump break, where not one reader in 5 is likely to see it.

After the carnage this weekend in Yanbu (a city I encountered for the first time last week, reading T.E. Lawrence's "Revolt in the Desert"), the BBC offers this account.

Well down the column comes an interesting bit of description of what the thugs did after they drove into a school compound with the shreds of a Westerner's body tied to their bumper. They got the students' attention with a burst of gunfire:

There the gunmen fired into the air to attract attention before shouting: "God is great, come to join your brothers in Falluja."

One of the schoolboys watching said the men pointed to the bloodied and badly damaged corpse, screaming: "This is the American president."

Yes, very nice, thank you. But after that comes this:

Crown Prince Abdullah, the leading Saudi royal, has promised to use an "iron fist" to crush terrorism.

He also [said?] Jewish interests were behind the attacks.

Now, pick up your jaw, please, and put it back together, because you're going to need to drop it again as soon as you read the line right after that, which is the BBC's way of putting this cowardly lie into context:

It is not clear if those were remarks for domestic consumption or if that really is the Saudi assessment of the source of violence in the kingdom, our correspondent says.

My first thought was, "As if it makes a difference!" But then I realized this is exactly the right question to ask in writing about this two-faced false friend.