Friedman criticizes U.S. policy in Saudi Arabia

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(Host) Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist and Middle East expert, said in an address at St. Michael’s College Tuesday that U.S. attitudes toward Mideast oil need dramatic revision.

In a wide-ranging talk on Mideast issues, Friedman said the U.S. need for cheap oil and the Arab reliance on oil sales to support their economies must be changed.

(Friedman) “For the last 50 years, we have been treating Saudi Arabia, Egypt, all these countries as a big dumb gas station. And we simply drove up and said, ‘We don’t care what’s going on out back as long as the gas pumps work out front and the price is cheap. We don’t care how you’re educating your kids, we don’t care what you’re preaching in your mosques, we don’t care what’s in your text books, just fill upmy SUV and be nice to Israel and you can do what ever you want out back.'”

(Host) Friedman said American fears about the elections in Saudi Arabia and anti-Americanism are misplaced.

(Friedman) “I want there to be an election in Saudi Arabia and I want the Islamic radicals to win because I want to them to have to pay retail for their radicalism. I want them to have to look their people in the eye and say, ‘We are Islamic radicals and we’re not selling oil to the infidels. Now that does mean no trip this year to Disney World, that does mean your not sending your kid to school in Vermont.’ We’ll see how long that radicalism we’ll survive.”

(Host) In a strong attack on the Bush administration, Friedman said the president squandered an opportunity to change the country’s attitudes toward energy after September 11. He said the country was ready for energy independence and conservation, but he said the president wasted the opportunity by urging Americans to boost the economy through shopping.

Vermont Public Radio will rebroadcast Thomas Friedman’s speech on Friday, September 13 at 1:00 p.m.

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