Relocations: New light on a trio of old subjects

President Joe Biden Saudi Arabia fist bumps with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud on July 15, 2022. Still from Voice of America video
November 3, 2022

MBS pokes Biden in the eye; what Gorbachev was promised; no conclusive data yet on decriminalization in Oregon

By Herbert Rothschild

The cozy relationship that the U.S. has long maintained with Saudi Arabia is a subject about which I began writing when Relocations was being published in the Ashland Daily Tidings. The human rights record of the “Kingdom” is worse than several nations we habitually criticize, and there is no pretense of democracy. Further, it works hard, and often subversively, to institutionalize its very dogmatic version of Islam in countries that resist it. Nonetheless, Saudi oil and money have trumped human rights and democracy, which for public consumption we put front and center when we don’t like a regime.

Herbert Rothschild

So, it’s been that for seven years the U.S. has aided and abetted Saudi Arabia’s devastating bombing campaign in neighboring Yemen. As Sen. Bernie Sanders said when he, Patrick Leahy and Elizabeth Warren introduced SJR 56 on July 14 to prohibit any more military involvement, “This war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis today and it is past time to end U.S. complicity in those horrors.”

But the Biden administration has persisted, even though candidate Biden declared he was going to “cancel the blank check” Trump had given Saudi Arabia. On July 15, Biden was in Jeddah with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, doubtless trying to get him to put more oil on the market to bring down prices at our pumps in this election year. Instead, on Oct. 5 at the 24-nation OPEC+ conference, Saudi Arabia and Russia announced a major cut in production.

Shortly thereafter, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, spoke at the Future Investment Initiative, an investment conference held in Riyadh. He said, “I keep listening (presumably to U.S. voices), are you with us or against us? Is there any room for, ‘We are for Saudi Arabia and for the people of Saudi Arabia?’” Asked about jeopardizing the partnership between Riyadh and Washington, he said: “I think we as Saudi Arabia decided to be the maturer guys and let the dice fall.

So much for kissing the royal bottom. Maybe now we’ll stop killing the men, women and children of Yemen.

• • •

As Russia was mobilizing to invade Ukraine last February, I wrote about how provocative NATO’s offer of membership to Ukraine was. I indulged in the vain hope that the U.S. might at least try to prevent the invasion by pledging not to include Ukraine or Georgia in the military alliance. In the column published Jan. 27, I recounted the history of NATO expansion up to Russia’s borders, Russia’s persistent protests, and its contention that Western powers had assured Mikhail Gorbachev, at the end of the Cold War, that no such expansion would occur.

In that column I wrote, “There is scholarly debate about whether the Soviet Union was given assurances at the time of the Paris agreement that NATO’s military presence wouldn’t expand eastward.” Shortly after that, a reader referred me to a cache of declassified documents on the website of The National Security Archive at George Washington University. Those documents leave no room for debate. They record such assurances by President George H.W. Bush; James Baker, his secretary of state; Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain; Francois Mitterrand of France; Helmut Kohl of West Germany, and others.

The National Security Archive is a treasure trove of information about events since the end of World War II. It contains more than 100,000 U.S. records, as well as similar records from other nations. Most of them were never meant to see the light of day, but were declassified in response to Freedom of Information Act suits. I encourage you to visit the site and search for documents related to events that interest you. It’s eye-opening.

• • •

Closer to home, in November 2020, Oregon voters approved a ballot measure removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of all recreational drugs and dedicating revenue from the state marijuana tax to drug prevention, treatment and rehab programs. I editorialized for its passage. The utter failure of the War on Drugs to reduce drug trafficking and its great success in allowing white America to incarcerate people of color made it one of my perennial subjects.

Given that Oregon is the first state in the union to declare that addiction is a public health problem, not a criminal justice problem, it’s hugely important to discover how well this approach is working. Unfortunately, to date that’s been impossible because of bureaucratic ineptitude.

In the year following legislative passage of the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act that implemented the voters’ wishes, just $31 million of the $302 million of funds available in the biennium was allocated. Only on this Sept. 20 did the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announce that the last of the grants to service providers had been made.

Steve Allen, OHA’s behavioral health director, responded to criticism that the agency didn’t get the funding out the door quickly enough. “We understand the frustration this caused in our communities,” Allen said. “When you do something for the first time, you’re going to make mistakes.”

Still, Tera Hurst, the executive director of the Oregon Health Justice Recovery Alliance, an advocacy group focused on successfully implementing Measure 110, is optimistic. Speaking with Dave Miller, host of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s show Think Out Loud, she urged people to have patience as the newly funded programs make use of the newly stable funding stream: “This is five times more money than we have put into these types of services before, as a state. There will be transformational changes from it, but we do have to give it time.”

Herbert Rothschild is an unpaid board member. Opinions expressed in columns represent the author’s views and may or may not reflect those of Email Rothschild at

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at
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