After the first Opec oil embargo in 1973, the Saudi Arabian colossus of oil and money acquired a clout to which its power entitled it, but which it had not exercised before.
Emerson chronicles how the Saudis and other Arab interests have worked to influence American foreign policy to their advantage. His implicit assumption is that the Saudis have been wrong to do as they have done. I find their purpose reasonable and their methods acceptable in a pluralistic society in which every interest can hire lobbyists to advance its cause. The only shock is the kind of people the Arabs have bought with their wealth.
Leading the parade of the gullible and the greedy is Spiro Agnew, whose sticky fingers in Maryland highway construction projects cost him the vice-presidency. Quipster of the "nattering nabobs of negativism" and other attacks on the press, Agnew turned his verbal skills to denouncing Jews and "Zionist influences" in the U.S. after his resignation in October, 1973. Asked by Barbara Walters to be a tad more specific, Agnew said they resided in "nationwide impact media." At the time, Agnew was receiving $80,000 from Saudi interests and $10,000 from a U.S. businessman involved with Arab projects.
The Saudis found they could also buy the good guys of American politics. Following his 1974 defeat for the Arkansas Senate seat he had long held, William Fulbright opened a public relations office and accepted Saudi clients. Fulbright registered as a foreign agent for Saudi Arabia and proceeded to write pro-Arab articles for Newsweek, articles in which the byline failed to mention that he had become a front for his clients.
William E. Simon, who served as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1974 to 1977, worked as a middleman for Saudi interests after his departure from public service, combining his position as a director of such huge firms as United Technologies (weapons and aerospace) and Citibank with the chairmanship of a multibillion-dollar Saudi business empire in the U.S. Other prominent Republicans fronting for Arab interests included Richard Kleindienst, one of the many Nixon lawyers whose public careers crumbled. Convicted of perjury in an ITT campaign finance scandal, he was suspended from practising law for a time. Yet Algeria hired him to represent its interests for $10,000 a month.
Top Democrats have served Arab interests, including the eminent Clark Clifford. In many ways the dean of the Democratic Party, Clifford acted as chairman of an Arab holding company for U.S. banks.
Emerson is a superb investigative reporter. Previously an investigator for the foreign economic policy subcommittee of the Senate foreign relations committee, he has excellent sources and a mass of information unavailable to reporters who have not worked within the foreign policy establishment. In the end, what is sad is not that Arabs should use their wealth to hire advocates for their interests, but that so many highly placed American polticians should have been bought. Some at a high price, others cheaply, but all traded on their public careers and their accomplishments for cash.