Oil Rigged

Response to criticism from The Washington Post, Boston Globe, New York Sun Times, CNN, Newsweek, and others: Hey, we asked for it. On December 31, Andover issued an official statement declaring that yes, we have accepted $500,000 from Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal for the George H. W. Bush Scholarship Fund. Never mind that 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists were Saudis; never mind that in Saudi Arabia, women are subject to Talibanesque oppression and injustices Americans decried not so long ago elsewhere; never mind that the Saudi royal family is believed to have terrorist ties and gives money to charities that channel donations into terrorist hands; never mind that the Saudi government is an overt enemy of free speech and democracy. Here is what we know about our benefactor. Twenty-billionaire Prince Alwaleed is the biggest non-American investor in New York and the sixth richest man in the world. He is also a well-known anti-Semite and is believed to have terrorist ties. His interest in political principles is easily trumped by interest from his fiscal principles: he told the London Times last November that he would invest in U.S. companies that make military hardware used by Israel against Palestinians “if the price was right for [him]” despite his outspoken hatred for Israel. Most significantly, though, then-Mayor Giuliani returned Alwaleed’s gift of $10 million for the 9/11 Twin Towers Fund after the Prince in a press statement suggested that U.S. policy in the Middle East was partly to blame for 9-11. Enough about why acceptance of Saudi money isn’t in sync with our school’s mission, character, integrity, and other junk listed in the National Association of Independent Schools Principles of Good Practice. Enough about why acceptance of a gift that Giuliani rejected reflects poorly on us. After PA’s controversial 1999 acceptance of a large gift from Philip Morris, it’s really no surprise that we’ve accepted tainted money; the surprise is that we’re continuing the practice. Alwaleed may have gone to college and graduate school in the US, but he has had no prior affiliation with us preppies. So why did We the Noble approach Him the Ignoble in the first place? Andover’s statement on the donation said that PA “solicited gifts from a group of approximately 60 donors, all known to be admirers of the former president” and that neither W. nor H.W. knew about the gift (though Saudi Arabian news sources say otherwise). It’s an old fund-raising technique. Several years ago, the Anti-Defamation League chose as its annual honoree Tom Stemberg, CEO of Staples. And guess who donated money to ADL in his honor? The CEOs of every office-supply company that hoped to see their products on Staples shelves. And so I do not compare this princely controversial donation with PA’s unsolicited gift from Philip Morris. They would be comparable only if PA had asked the cigarette giant for moolah—and if the moolah were to be given to the Surgeon General David Satcher Scholarship Fund. Prince Alwaleed may declare that he is “not a government official” and acts on behalf of himself alone. But title or not, he’s a financial ambassador on his own motivations. His personal interest in seeing a strong relationship between the U.S. and the very un-American Saudi Arabia, like an invisible fist, helps the national Saudi Arabian interest. Philip Morris’s gift was from a tainted source. Prince Alwaleed’s money is from a tainted source and put to a tainted use. Philip Morris’s gift tarnished the name of and perhaps disfigured the developing principles of the so-often-called “future leaders of America”; this Saudi gift is intended to refract the principles of the current leaders of America. Phillips Academy representatives may say that dirty money is purified when put to good use, and that every dollar of that Saudi donation will go to Andover. But there’s more value to every dollar than its dollar value.