A British friend of the female persuasion recently visited Saudi Arabia on assignment. She was an exception to the rule, as foreign women are as

welcome in the “kingdom” as Monica Lewinsky would be in Chappaqua, New York. Needless to say, she had a few choice words for the Saudi ruling clique, words that couldn’t possibly be printed in this family-oriented magazine. Let’s take it from the top.

Big Macs, Cokes, Starbucks, Pizza Huts—all the symbols of Western culture, godless decadence, and greed—are everywhere in Saudi Arabia, a perfect illustration of Saudi philistinism if there ever was one. On the other hand, there are no cinemas, no music, no alcohol, and women are not allowed to drive, vote, or attend physical-education classes in school. Sweet young Saudi things must go to segregated classes and pray in segregated mosques. And, of course, they must always wear black headscarves and cloaks.

None of this is news. What is new is that the ruling Saudis have pretended to mend their ways since Sept. 11, 2001, as big a crock as there is, and gullible Uncle Sam seems to have swallowed it. Even eyebrow plucking is considered a religious issue in Saudi Arabia. Nothing has changed, no matter what Bandar and his gang are feeding the White House. Mind you, the towelheads must have a good laugh over what fools we Westerners are. How can they not? Saudi schoolchildren are taught that it is forbidden for a Muslim to befriend anyone who does not believe in Allah, and anyone who makes friends with an infidel is deviating from the path of truth. A textbook for eighth graders explains to pupils that Christians and Jews were cursed by Allah and turned into apes and pigs. No matter how their flacks spin it, that is not tolerance, not peace, not respect for other cultures or other faiths, but institutionalized hatred for “infidels” and “heretics”—namely us.

And it gets worse. The founder of the Saudi state religion, a Neanderthal by the name of Abd al-Wahhab, declared that Muslims like Shias, Sufis, and Ismailis are also heretics, which means in reality that Saudi petrodollars will continue to finance non-stop violence against all and sundry.

What in Allah’s name is going on here? Well, how about this: it is the House of Saud—which has spent its petrodollars not only on armaments, palaces, private planes, yachts, hookers, and booze, but also in funding extremist Wahhabi mosques all over the West—that is responsible. It is this venal plutocracy that has allied itself with the most violently puritanical Islamic sect in order to be allowed to keep its privileges. It is the Saudi so-called royal family that refuses to take on the extremists because it knows if it did, it would lose. Mind you, not a very pretty picture. Corruption dominates Saudi Arabia, with 25 percent of Saudi GDP being spent by some 7,000 ex-camel drivers posing as princes. With oil over $50 per barrel, the royals have never been richer. And as every imam in the country is on the government’s payroll, never has more moolah financing intolerance and terror poured into their coffers.

So there we have it. The oil money buys off critics while it finances terror, however indirectly. The Saudis lie to the West about their efforts to reform, and we fall for it like the fools that we are. In the meantime, hundreds of billions of dollars have been transferred to accounts in foreign banks, which makes surveillance of the traffic impossible. It is the biggest, as well as the sickest, joke of all. Saudi transparency, that is. In fact, Western intelligence agencies have been discouraged from reporting on the excesses of the leading kleptocrats and the activities of the Wahhabi clergy. Everyone who needs their oil is in denial, starting with the White House.

Personally, I thought the case of the Brit who was found guilty of running a prostitution ring for the “royal” Saudi family —and others—was typical. David Barrett, 33, a former model, “acted as an intermediary with male and female prostitutes on behalf of or for the royal Saudi family…” a Paris court said after sentencing him to a four-year prison term. Barrett, who was arrested in March 2003, had some $300,000 in his possession. Not bad for a pimp. No Saudi was booked, of course, which is par for the course.

The latest from the “kingdom” was an announcement that women would neither vote nor run in Saudi Arabia’s first nationwide election. Again, no surprise, but at least not as bad as what took place two years ago in a girls’ school during a fire in the holy city of Mecca. The religious police refused to let girls escape because they were not wearing their hejabs. They fought firefighters to stop them from rescuing the improperly dressed teenagers. Fifteen girls died. Even the supine Saudi press was outraged at this one, although the government promised an investigation. Nothing came of it. Nice friends, these Saudis.