After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many questions were asked about U.S. intelligence failures. Asked less frequently, however, is the question of how and why the U.S. failed to pay attention to the simmering anti-Western rage that ...
had been swelling up in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, as their economy faltered, their youth sat idle, and their oil profits enriched the already wealthy and did nothing for the vast majority. As the U.S. government and the Saudi royal family cemented their ties and became closer than ever, young extremists who felt betrayed by the Saudi government concentrated their anger on its American allies, partly because it was safer than criticising their own authoritarian rulers. Although many went no further than engaging in anti-American rhetoric, some meant what they said, and some acted, with tragic consequences. Mark Caudill was there, in the ancient port city of Jeddah, the Kingdom's commercial capital, at a critical time. From September 1999 to July 2002, he served as an American diplomat at the U.S. Consulate General. He was engaged in cultural research, writing dispatches to his superiors in the U.S. State Department about what he learned of the Saudis from participating in the most important rituals and activities of their lives. A converted Muslim, he often went incognito, attending weddings, funerals, and the pilgrimage to Mecca; visiting markets, mosques, and holy cities; and learning all the while about this little understood kingdom. His essays served as the inspiration for this enlightening book, and which reveals what the U.S. government knew about Saudi society, and when they knew it.