I have met Prince Bandar bin Sultan a number of times in the United States in my capacity as a money manager for extremely wealthy international families, and as a financial advisor to governments. I also lean towards political conservatism, although I am deeply disappointed at the extent to which corruption has become common in our government in the last decade or so. It use to under the table, now it's in our face.
William Simpson's book on Prince Bandar is requisite reading if Americans are to begin to understand Saudi Arabia. This is the critical country in the Middle East, and the world's dominant oil producer. Understand that Simpson the author is a personal friend of long-standing with Bandar, having attended together the Royal Air Force College in Cranwell, England many years ago. The Prince has publicly blessed this book. This tells you that this is an authorized biography, which means Bandar has edited every page. He's managing his image, and I must say quite well after reading it.
The problem I have with the book, but it must still be read, is that it is completely self-serving, and the author is in the Prince's pocket. This is not surprising; just about everyone in Washington was in the Prince's pocket. When you have a billion dollar personal fortune at your disposal plus the full financial backing of the world's most liquid country (both oil and greenbacks), who wouldn't want to be Prince Bandar. He's also got political access, and diplomatic immunity to boot.
The real question which is not answered by this book is to what extent did Bandar while the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, use his money and his power to achieve the goals of his country to the detriment of ours. For the most part Bandar was exempt from the normal laws, and procedures that our own citizens must adhere to.
This man became close personal friends with several Presidents including the current President Bush. You may not remember this, but in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, scores of Osama Bin Laden's relatives were still living in the United States. Many of them were students at different universities. Bandar arranged with President Bush for FBI controlled aircraft to pick up these family members, and whisk them immediately outside the United States to Saudi Arabia where they would be protected from our laws.
How startling is this when you think about it. This was the greatest loss of human life via an attack in our country's history, instigated by one man, Bin Laden, a Saudi by the way. The rest of us were stuck at airports throughout the United States for a week. The only non-military planes allowed to fly throughout the United States were planes being sent to pick up family members of the mass murderer so they could be flown out of the country. This shows you Prince Bandar's power, and he used that power for 22 years as he saw fit, for those he saw fit.
Bandar's money and fingerprints were all over the Iran-Contra scandal that could have conceivably brought down Ronald Reagan's Administration. It certainly tarnished Reagan's government, and ruined the last 2 years of his Presidency. You need to know about these events, and Bandar's connection to them. As citizens of the most important democracy in history, we need to know, and keep an eye on what our government is doing. Our founding fathers did not trust governments. Only an informed citizenry can guard our freedoms.
It has been said that POWER CORRUPTS, AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTEY. I believe this is true, and history demonstrates its veracity. Bandar is a man that has moved in very powerful circles. He was the ultimate power player displaying a persona based on public myth while the whole time operating under different private realities. There were only two people in the world that had power over this man who was the illegitimate son of Prince Sultan and a servant. The book talks about these two men in detail.
Bandar's father was the Saudi Arabian Defense Minister during the early 1960's. It was his grandmother who was the widow of King Abdulaziz that recognized the boy's talent. Bandar had a fabulous personality, truly charismatic. When he is in the room, you know someone special is around. It was this charisma that endeared him to King Fahd who controlled Saudi Arabia with an iron fist for decades.
King Fahd was his mentor, and Bandar wielded enormous influence over the King. After all, it was Bandar that lived overseas all those years doing the King's bidding, and in return influencing what that bidding might be by the advice he rendered to the King. There is no question I am told by people in a position to know that Bandar would use his influence on the King to say that he knew what each of our Presidents would do under certain situations. In return, Bandar would tell the President of our country, several Presidents in fact, that he knew what King Fahd would do. He was the ULTIMATE MIDDLEMAN.
This is why you must read this book. Even though it is self-serving, you can't help but get a feel as to who and what Bandar is. You also get a feel for Saudi Arabia, and the power game they play. Even though the Prince tries to limit the reader as to what he wants you to know about himself, and the game he played, the truth still comes out between the lines. This is why you have to spend the time to understand the Prince, and the culture he comes from. Saudi Arabia is a lifeline for us. Without their oil, the oxygen would be sucked right out of our economy.
You might be wondering how influential Bandar was through the years. Look at it this way. More than a generation ago, when Richard Nixon was trying to cover up the Watergate scandal, his aides told him it would take money. The President asked how much? He was told a million dollars in cash, the equivalent of $20 million today. Nixon replied on the tapes, "I know where I can get it." This was before the Saudi connection that is now firmly entrenched.
There are times when every President needs access to large sums of cash. Sometimes it is to bypass the necessity of reporting to Congress. Other times, it is convenience. Bandar always had that access. We will never know in the darkness of the night to what extent he used that access, and what we had to do in return. You have merely to judge the relationship of the United States to Saudi Arabia to figure it out for yourself.
Let me illustrate. A couple of years ago, I was in South Africa working on a project. I usually stay at a certain hotel, because it is secure. They know me, I am private, and we take care of each other. The entire hotel had been taken over by the Saudi entourage for a diplomatic celebration. I saw dozens of Saudis. Here is what was strange. They were wearing business suits, which as you know usually have an outside pocket on the left side of the jacket where some men would wear a handkerchief. Instead of the handkerchief, each of these dozens of Saudis had plastic envelopes, each one containing $10,000 in hundred dollar bills. Some of these people were walking around with five, six envelopes. Other individuals had suitcases full of plastic envelopes.
My associates at the hotel said they had brought tens of millions of dollars in American cash with them. I don't drink, but I do have meetings in bars, and restaurants. I prefer public locations for security reasons, especially in foreign countries. While in the bar, I ran into a group of 9, 10 Saudis celebrating. They started to take bottles of Cristal Champagne, shake them up and shoot them at one another at $350 per bottle. The bill 2 hours later was $40,000 without the tip. When you have that kind of cash, you can buy influence, and that is our problem in this country. The food in the bar was terrific by the way.
Bandar also wielded tremendous political influence. I was doing a study on North Korea years ago in reference to a geopolitical project I was involved in. President Bush announced the potential drawdown of our troop deployment in South Korea, which is 30,000 plus military personnel. All of our soldiers are within artillery range of North Korean armaments just across the border.
I could not understand how President Bush would have made such an announcement without exacting North Korean concessions in return. It then came to my attention that Bandar had talked Bush into it. How is it that the Saudi Arabian Prince could influence American foreign policy on the Korean Peninsula? It did not make sense, until an associate informed me of Bandar's logic. He told Bush the North Koreans were so unreliable politically that he could envision them launching an artillery attack.
If they did, we would have 15,000 dead Americans in hours. Wouldn't it be better Bandar told the President to reduce the American presence, so that if the North Koreans were foolish, you would have a local, regional conflict on your hands, and not a major war? Bush went for it; Bandar has INFLUENCE.
Read the book. It's a great read about a man of many faces. Word is that Bandar is now out of favor with the Saudi leadership, and that is why he is no longer Ambassador to the United States. The publicly stated reason for the change in ambassadorship was Bandar's health. Sure, do you think the Saudi weather is more conducive to his health than American sunshine? As time goes on, the truth will get out. It is also strange how oil prices have come down strongly off their previous peaks, coincident with a critical Congressional election in November. If I believed in co incidents, we could call this the SAUDI VOTE. The question is does it have Bandar's fingerprints on it?