You're either with us or against us, has been President Bush's clear mantra. Well, I'm with the president in the war against terrorism on everything -- except -- his stance towards Saudi Arabia. That's because the Saudis aren't with him on terrorism.
Oh, they may be with him officially -- in the narrow confines of government-to-government ties -- but they're sure not with him in the real world beyond.
Seen through the narrow lens of official dealings, U.S.-Saudi relations are close, tightened by the glitzy Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar.
"Oozing charm from every pore, he oils his way across the floor," said Henry Higgins of another fawning diplomat in My Fair Lady.
Prince Bandar oils his way across Washington with oil dollars to lobbyists and PR flacks. He treats our capital something like Jakarta or Kiev, where government officials can be bought outright.
Consequently, the Saudi ruler gets the big prize: A visit to the Bush ranch. Even the ambassador gets hours in Crawford, Texas, with the president in blue jeans. Other foreign ambassadors -- whether they're from Britain, Mexico or Russia -- can't get even a 10-minute meeting with the president.
No wonder Secretary of State Colin Powell last week called Saudi Arabia "a great friend to the United States for many, many years and a strategic partner."
Yet looking beyond government-to-government relations makes Secretary Powell's remarks simply mind-bending.
For Saudi Arabia is no "great friend" to our values. Saudi Arabia ranks rock bottom on granting civil or political freedom. Along with the "axis of evil" states, it stands among the most repressive regimes on Earth. And without doubt it is one of the most corrupt regimes in the world, probably even worse than the three "axis of evil" states.
Saudi Arabia is no "great friend" to religions most Americans practice. Christians cannot hold Mass or a church service anywhere in Saudi Arabia. Even carrying a Bible into the country, or handing out Christian literature, is grounds for deportation or arrest.
Most infuriating, U.S. soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia -- risking their lives to protect that regime -- cannot walk down a Saudi street with a crucifix showing around the neck.
Saudi Arabia is no "great friend" to the real war on terrorism. Recently, Prince Bandar's wife was in hot water over allegations that she indirectly gave money to the Sept. 11 terrorists. This has been hotly debated. Saudi spin doctors claim she'd never try to help terrorists, since her own father was murdered by Islamic extremists in the 1970s. Further investigation shows that her father, the king, was indeed murdered in the 1970s -- not by an Islamic fanatic, but by his nephew, a drug addict long tripping on LSD.
Regardless, it's certain that Saudi royal family members have been paying protection money to Saudi-led terrorists for a long time now. Court documents filed last fall claim that Saudi royal family members met with Usama bin Laden and gave over $300 million to Al Qaeda terrorists for a pledge of no terrorism in Saudi Arabia itself.
The Saudis adamantly deny any involvement in terrorism, or even the reality of Sept. 11. Just last week, the Saudi minister of interior, Prince Nayef, returned to the old canard that the 19 terrorists didn't hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
"I think they [Zionists] are behind these events," he said. According to the Saudi press, the prince "noted that it is impossible that 19 youths including … Saudis carried out the operation of September 11, or that bin Laden or the Al Qaeda organization did that alone."
That sure doesn't sound like the words of a "great friend" of ours.
The Saudis have long funded groups promoting terrorism -- to the tune of $3 billion to $4 billion yearly -- but as an export item, and not for home use. This grand deal has worked just dandy.
Once the whispers of diplomats and dealings among officials determined everything. A few men, with all the power, dealt with another few men from another country. Each small group controlled the knowledge, weapons and big decisions of its people.
That world's gone.
The most critical knowledge has spread beyond the corridors of government. Destructive weaponry obviously is no longer the monopoly of governments, as we've been reminded recently in Mombasa and Bali.
Big decisions in most of the world are made by rough consensus -- often molded by great leaders, for sure -- but nonetheless sticking only if widely accepted. What counts nowadays is what happens beyond government-to-government dealings. That's where the bulk of power has gone.
The Saudis may be with us officially, but they're sure not with us where it counts nowadays.
Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of TechCentralStation.com.