It is true that most of the 9/11 principals were Saudi. It's true that women's rights are "meager" in Saudi. (Kuwaiti women got the Right to Vote yesterday!) It is also true that the internal terrorist threats in Saudi are high enough that my hotel had a camouflaged artillery piece at the front driveway (yes, I said artillery piece).
None the less ... I HAD A BOFFO TIME IN THE KINGDOM! Post 9/11, Americans have avoided the country like the plague, and thence a visitor was looked upon as an Excellent Aberration. Fact is, I met an extraordinary group of public & private & university execs yesterday who were exceptionally personable and who aim for nothing more than the improvement of their country and the lot of their fellow citizens. I considered myself an ambassador as much as a "speaker," and feel that I made several true friends, a couple of whom I invited to my Vermont farm.
To survive, we must learn (or re-learn) to be friends, while reserving the right to chide that of which we disapprove—e.g., the absence of women's rights (Saudi has allowed women to do the full bit in schooling, and apparently there are now more women than men with PhDs ... but the women still cannot work). I must also add that while I unflinchingly support our energetic efforts to deal with the War on Terror, I was appalled to hear the stories of our officials' harassment of senior Saudis on obviously innocent missions to the U.S. (I haven't confirmed this—Newsweek take note—but one Veeeery Senior Saudi Exec refused to visit the U.S. because he wanted to bring his wife, but on her Visa application she apparently had to certify that she was not a prostitute. If true ... )
The "back from" means, alas, not Spring-y Vermont but arrival into my "second home country" ... England. I'm taking R & R today and being cosseted by my Great Pals at the Four Seasons London as I prepare for my assault on Warsaw tomorrow.
NB: And re the above, as long as California Governator Arnie keeps driving his Hummer, we're gonna need the Saudis as pals! Q.E.D.