A Second Look at the Saudis
 

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A Second Look at the Saudis

Part 1: Jumping the Tracks

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Part 2: Cause and Effect

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Part 3: A Global Agenda

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Part 4: The Tangled Web

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Last Updated: 4/6/08

Of the nineteen hijackers who attacked this nation on September 11, 2001, fifteen were Saudi Arabian.  Moreover, each and every one of the nineteen hijackers was personally chosen and provided with training and financing by yet another Saudi native – Osama bin Laden.  Yet from that day to this, in spite of these disturbing and incontrovertible facts, members of the Bush administration have glibly and incessantly insisted that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of our closest friends and allies in the War on Terror.  Fifteen Saudis murdered nearly 3,000 Americans on live TV, all at the behest of one of the Kingdom’s prodigal sons.  How can these basic facts about 9/11 possibly be mere trivia? 

In fact, they are just the tip of the iceberg.  In the years since September 11, a growing body of evidence has emerged illuminating the central role Saudi nationals have played in the rise of Al Qaeda and its terrorist attacks against the United States.  In our national obsession with the fiasco in Iraq, we have somehow glossed over these important and alarming clues about the nature of the threat we confronted on September 11.  But they are just as striking as the events of that day itself.  Consider the following:

  • Not only were 15 of the 19 hijackers Saudi Arabian, but The 9/11 Commission Report also identified the missing 20th hijacker.  He was yet another Saudi national named Mohammed al-Kahtani, who was prevented from entering the U.S. by an alert customs agent at Orlando International Airport just weeks prior to the attacks (p. 248).  In fact, the 9/11 Commission went on to identify by name and nationality nine other Al Qaeda operatives who had, at one time or another, been personally chosen by Osama bin Laden to participate in the hijackings, but who (for a variety of reasons) dropped out of the plot before September 11.  Of the nine, eight were Saudi Arabian (p. 235).
  • The 9/11 Commission Report ultimately went on to explain why so many Saudis were involved in the hijackings to begin with.  According to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 plot, as he toured Al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan in the years leading up to the attacks, he found that the vast majority of the recruits being trained there (by his count 70%) were from Saudi Arabia (p. 232).  That assessment has been further corroborated by two other prominent Al Qaeda operatives: Tawfiq bin Attash (p. 524 n. 91) and Dr. Saad al-Faqih.  Dr. Al-Faqih, a long-time Al Qaeda insider, estimated that a full 80% of Al Qaeda’s members were Saudi nationals in an interview with the PBS news program Frontline
  • The New York Times has done a remarkable job placing these claims in contextThe Times first reported on a poll of educated Saudi men between 25 and 41 years of age, taken by Saudi intelligence just weeks after September 11, in which 95% of the respondents indicated that they approved of Osama bin Laden and his agenda.
  • The Times later reported that, according to Saudi intelligence, an estimated 25,000 Saudi nationals received paramilitary training and/or combat experience abroad in the years prior to September 11.  Each of these young men took it upon themselves to travel to Al Qaeda training camps and/or other jihadist hotspots around the globe to wage holy war in the name of Islam.
  • Predictably, in virtually every major terrorist attack against the United States over the last twelve years, the men actually pulling the trigger at the end of the day have been Saudi Arabian.  These include:
    • The Saudi National Guard bombing in November 1995, which killed five Americans.  All four of the men convicted and executed for the bombing were Saudis.
    • The Khobar Towers bombing in June 1996, which killed 19 Americans.  Of the 14 men indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for that bombing, 13 were Saudi Arabian, including all five of the men who drove and detonated the truck bomb on the day of the attack.
    • The Nairobi embassy bombing in August 1998, which killed 12 Americans.  Both of the men who drove and detonated the truck bomb were Saudis.
    • The USS Cole bombing in October 2000, which killed 17 Americans.  According to both the Prime Minister of Yemen and a well-known former Al Qaeda operative, both of the men who drove and detonated the explosives-laden boat used in that attack were Saudis.
    • The Riyadh residential compound bombings in May 2003, which killed nine Americans.  All nine of the suicide bombers killed in the attacks were Saudis.
    • The Mosul mess tent bombing in December 2004, which killed 18 AmericansThe lone suicide bomber responsible was identified in numerous press reports as a foreign insurgent from Saudi Arabia.
  • Saudi nationals have also played a leading role in financing these efforts.  In March 2002, Bosnian authorities raided the Sarajevo offices of a Saudi-based charity called the Benevolence International Foundation.  Inside, they discovered an electronic file containing numerous internal Al Qaeda documents.  Among them was a list of 20 prominent financial donors who were referred to within Al Qaeda as the “Golden Chain”.  The document appeared to date from the very first year of Al Qaeda’s existence, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has described these men as the “funding fathers” of Al Qaeda.  Of the 20 donors listed, all were Saudi Arabian.
  • In fact, Saudi Arabia has now been financially linked to the Bali nightclub bombings on October 12, 2002, which killed 202 people; the Madrid train bombings on March 11, 2004, which killed 191 people; the Beslan middle school massacre  on September 3, 2004, in which 330 hostages were killed (including 186 school children); the London subway bombings on July 7, 2005, which killed 56 people; and the Mumbai train bombings on July 11, 2006, which killed 209 people.

Between the financiers and the foot soldiers, it is clear that every strata of Saudi society has been intimately involved in making Al Qaeda happen.  But as disturbing as these facts are, they are just the beginning. 

The Bush administration is once again banging its war drums, this time directing their hostility at Iran.  However, as they have begun laying out questionable evidence of Iranian meddling in Iraq, a number of commentators have already picked up on a major disconnect in the administration’s rhetoric.  As they blame Iran for our failure to stabilize Iraq, they have consistently ignored much more compelling evidence that Saudi nationals have played a pivotal role in fueling the sectarian violence which has torn Iraq apart.

While these commentators have rightly picked up on the administration’s inconsistency on this matter, I have yet to see any of them take the time to really lay out the full case against the Saudis.  As a brief primer, here are a few of the pertinent facts:

  • In March 2005, Israeli terrorism expert Reuven Paz analyzed a number of the more credible jihadist websites profiling the foreign “martyrs” of the Iraq insurgency, and published a report on those who had been killed fighting in Iraq over the proceeding six-month period.  Of the 154 reported deaths, he found that 94 (or 61%) were Saudi Arabian.  When he focused specifically on those who died as suicide bombers, Paz found that a full 23 out of 33 (or 70%) were Saudis.  These findings were subsequently reproduced by investigative units from The Washington Post, and NBC News.  Indeed, in June 2005, NBC News reviewed the biographical information of more than 400 foreign insurgents who had died in Iraq over the previous two years, and found that 55% were from Saudi Arabia.  American terrorism expert Prof. Mohammed Hafez later conducted a similar review.  He reported that, of the 92 suicide bombers in Iraq that he was able to identify by name and nationality, 44 were Saudi Arabian.
  • In November 2005, the above investigations into the origins of the suicide bombers in Iraq were finally confirmed on the ground by the National Security Adviser of the new Iraqi government, Mowaffak Rubaie.  As reported by The Washington Post, he acknowledged to a group of Arab reporters that, “We do not have the least doubt that nine out of 10 of the suicide bombers who carry out suicide bombing operations among Iraqi citizens . . . are Arabs who have crossed the border with Syria.  Most of those who blow themselves up in Iraq are Saudi nationals.”  And Rubaie isn’t the only one who has confided as much.  For instance, in June 2005, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) visited Iraq where he spoke privately with military and intelligence officials on the ground.  Upon his return, he reported that “a disproportionate number” of the foreign insurgents in Iraq were from Saudi Arabia.  More recently, in January 2007, a senior U.S. official confirmed to The Financial Times that “75-80 per cent of the estimated 75 suicide bombings a month were carried out by foreigners, and that Saudi Arabia and Sudan were the most common countries of origin.” [See the Updates below for more recent developments.]
  • In addition to the big-picture assessments above, there have been a number of reports fingering the Saudis in particular attacks.  These have included some of the most deadly and provocative attacks in Iraq to date.  For example, one of the first major car bomb blasts inaugurating the post-invasion era of carnage in Iraq occurred on August 29, 2003, outside the Imam Ali Mosque – the holiest Shiite shrine in the country.  The bomb killed Iraqi Shiite leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, along with 85 of his followers.  According to The Boston Globe, among those arrested by Iraqi police in connection with the bombing were at least three Saudi nationals.   
  • On December 21, 2004, an explosion went off inside the mess facility of an American military installation in Mosul.  Fourteen American military personnel and four American civilian contractors were killed, making it the deadliest single attack on Americans in Iraq to this day.  As reported by the Associated Press, about two weeks later, the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat identified the bomber as Ahmed Said Ahmed al-Ghamdi, a 20-year old Saudi medical school student.  That report was later independently corroborated by The Washington Post.    
  • On February 22, 2006, a group of Sunni insurgents bombed the historic Askariya Mosque (the “Golden Mosque”) in Samara, sparking immediate and widespread retaliation by Iraqi Shiites which soon drove sectarian violence in Iraq to an all-time high.  This attack has been cited by numerous commentators, including President Bush, as the straw that broke the camel’s back, inciting a full-blown civil war in the streets of Baghdad.  The insurgents who executed this bombing have now been identified by the Iraqi government and the U.S. State Department.  They were a gang of eight – four Iraqi Sunnis, and four Saudi Arabians. 
  • On top of all this, it has now been reported that wealthy Saudi individuals and charities are now playing a leading role in funding the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.  According to a 2006 report by the Associated Press, these Saudis have funneled (at a minimum) tens of millions of dollars in cash into Iraq, money which has been used to arm and finance attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi Shiites.  These findings has now been corroborated by both The Iraq Study Group Report and Mike McConnell, the Bush administration’s new Director of National Intelligence.
  • What makes the above fact especially damning is that the vast majority of U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq have been killed by Sunni insurgents, not the Shiites allegedly backed by Iran.  For instance, ABC News has reported that more than 80% of the U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq during the month of October 2006 were killed in Sunni-controlled areas.  Likewise, The Boston Globe conducted an extensive review of where U.S. servicemen had been killed in Iraq throughout the war.  They found that over 60% of U.S. fatalities had taken place in Sunni controlled provinces, while only 4% occurred in Shiite provinces.  The Globe did not attempt to break down the remainder of U.S. fatalities, most of which had taken place in Baghdad which has an intricate mix of Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods.  But running the numbers, the clear implication is that outside Baghdad over 90% of those U.S. servicemen who have been killed in Iraq have died in Sunni controlled areas.

Looking over the facts above, it is impossible to ignore that something is very wrong with this picture.  While Al Qaeda may well be seeking to recruit the “best and brightest” from throughout the Muslim world, there is clearly something unique (and uniquely bad) happening in Saudi Arabia.  As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen recently wrote, “Ever since the September 11 attacks, the trail back from al Qaeda to Saudi Arabia has been an intriguing path, but one that very few American investigators have been willing to follow. . . . Those links are much stronger and far more troubling than has ever been previously disclosed, and until they are thoroughly investigated, the roots of Al Qaeda’s power, and the full story of 9/11, will never be known.” 

The purpose of this website is to shine a light on that relationship in a way which neither the Bush administration nor the mainstream media have been willing to. That is what I hope to accomplish in a series of reports to be self-published via this website.  Part 1: Jumping the Tracks traces many of the facts outlined above, providing further context on the unmistakable pattern of Saudi involvement in (and indeed, leadership of) Al Qaeda’s jihad against the United States.  Part 2: Cause and Effect takes a closer look at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to explore some disturbing answers as to why Saudi nationals have been so hostile toward the West, and so aggressive in attacking the U.S.  Part 3: A Global Agenda examines the efforts of Saudi radicals to export their hateful and violent ideology around the world, demonstrating that the rise of Al Qaeda is just one piece of a much larger puzzle.  Further reports will follow in the future.


Update (7/18/07)
:  After years of reticence and equivocation by the Pentagon, they’ve finally decided to pull back the curtain on what the Saudis have been up to in Iraq.  As reported in The Los Angeles Times this weekend:

About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer.  Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.

Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. . . . In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis.

This disclosure was apparently coordinated with Iraqi government officials, who were planning to confront Saudi officials about the threat.  Indeed, the very next day Mowaffak Rubaie would confirm to CBS News that, “We believe most of the foreign terrorists who are blowing themselves up in this country, killing Iraqi citizens, are coming from Saudi Arabia.”  He also revealed to the Arab newspaper Okaz that, “Some 160 Saudi nationals arrested in Iraq have been put on trial while hundreds others await their trials.”

However, I can’t help but wonder if even now they are low-balling these numbers.  Consider the fact, reported by CIA veteran Robert Baer in Newsweek, that Syrian officials had arrested approximately 1,000 Saudi nationals trying to sneak across the Iraq border to join the jihad against the U.S.  And that was back in August of 2005 – nearly three full years ago.  Indeed, as early as August 2003, Dr. Saad al-Faqih had estimated that 3,000 young men from Saudi Arabia had already embarked for Iraq to wage jihad against the U.S. there.  This estimate was later corroborated by Gen. Wesley K. Clark, in his 2003 book Winning Modern Wars (p. 159).  Given these accounts, while there is simply no way of knowing just how much of the violence in Iraq the Saudis are responsible for, it certainly appears to be substantial.


Update (7/29/07)
:  A number of interesting developments to report.  First, I’ve decided to post a preview of Part 4: The Tangled Web.  Recently I’ve seen, in a number of contexts, the argument being made that it is appropriate for the U.S. to target Iran, but not Saudi Arabia, because the alleged Iranian meddling in Iraq is being sponsored by the government of Iran (or so we are told), whereas all those Saudi suicide bombers are ostensibly acting on their own initiative.  This is a fatuous argument on any number of levels, but it is also based on a false assumption about the relationship between the Saudi government (and in particular, the Saudi royal family) and Al Qaeda.  In particular, I wanted to direct people’s attention to the reporting of Gerald Posner on this topic, reporting which has now been substantially corroborated by James Risen of The New York Times.  This is a striking new development which deserves much more attention than it is currently getting.  Please feel free to take a look and draw your own conclusions. 

The full Part 4 will be available soon, and will go on to track the broader pattern of official Saudi government lies and false promises in the wake of 9/11, as well as their repeated attempts to obstruct and even sabotage our efforts to fight back against Al Qaeda.

          Second, The New York Times has now weighed in with a follow-up report on the Pentagon’s newfound openness as to what the Saudis have been up to in Iraq.  The Times confirms that U.S. officials now acknowledge that “the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia,” and goes on to provide a number of new details about the Saudi government’s own meddling in that country.  This passage in particular stuck out to me:

During a high-level meeting in Riyadh in January, Saudi officials confronted a top American envoy with documents that seemed to suggest that Iraq’s prime minister could not be trusted.

One purported to be an early alert from the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr warning him to lie low during the coming American troop increase, which was aimed in part at Mr. Sadr’s militia. Another document purported to offer proof that Mr. Maliki was an agent of Iran.

The American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, immediately protested to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, contending that the documents were forged. . . . American officials said they had no doubt that the documents shown to Mr. Khalilzad were forgeries, though the Saudis said they had obtained them from sources in Iraq.

So the Saudis are now using forged evidence in an attempt to sabotage the Maliki government, while smearing their geo-political rivals in Iran in the process. 

In Part 1, you’ll see that I’ve raised a few questions regarding who is ultimately responsible for the Khobar Towers attack in June 1996.  Specifically, the consensus in Washington, during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, has been that certain operatives within Iranian intelligence played a role in supporting and instigating that attack (although no one disputes that it was carried out by Saudi nationals).  But other evidence seems to contradict this theory.  And one point that sticks out, after reading numerous accounts of the Khobar Towers investigation, is that almost all of the evidence implicating Iran in that attack seems to have been handed to us by the Saudi government.  At the time, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials (including the former Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh) seemed more than happy to take that evidence at face value.  In light of the story above, it may be high time to revisit that assumption, as well.

Finally, in Part 2, I pointed out a number of reports describing celebrations inside the Kingdom when word of the attacks on 9/11 first reached that country.  Add to those accounts this striking piece by Tariq Ali, published in The London Review of Books just this month:

The day after the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, a Saudi woman resident in London, a member of a wealthy family, rang her sister in Riyadh to discuss the crisis affecting the kingdom. Her niece answered the phone.

‘Where’s your mother?’

‘She’s here, dearest aunt, and I’ll get her in a minute, but is that all you have to say to me? No congratulations for yesterday?’

The dearest aunt, out of the country for far too long, was taken aback. She should not have been. The fervour that didn’t dare show itself in public was strong even at the upper levels of Saudi society. US intelligence agencies engaged in routine surveillance were, to their immense surprise, picking up unguarded cellphone talk in which excited Saudi princelings were heard revelling in bin Laden’s latest caper. Like the CIA, they had not thought it possible for him to reach such heights.

The Saudis are not our friends and allies; not in the War in Terror, or in anything else.

Update (1/2/08):  I’ve now completed Part 4: The Tangled Web.  The attached PDF file now includes both the initial sections previously published as a “Preview,” and much more.  One common argument I’ve heard made by apologists for the Bush administration’s foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia is that, despite all their shortcomings, at least the Saudi government and royal family are people we can work with in the War on Terror.  Unlike the “rogue nations” of Iraq and Iran, they argue, Saudi Arabia is a willing partner in our efforts to push back against Al Qaeda – a mutual threat to both our nations.  My hope is that Part 4 will help people better gauge how that approach has been working out for us so far.  I believe it demonstrates that, far from being capable and committed allies in the War on Terror, the Saudis have served up a seemingly never-ending series of lies, evasions, false promises, and outright frauds to American officials engaged in the desperate pursuit of Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization.  Indeed, in some instances official Saudi conduct cannot be adequately described as anything less than a slap in the face to the American people.  In other instances, it seems quite clear that elements of the Saudi government have actively sabotaged our nation’s effort to defend itself in the wake of September 11.  Again, I have tried my best to lay out and diligently document the facts, and hope this analysis will encourage others to take a fresh look at this disturbing (and nauseating) spectacle.

In addition to the new material on our wonderful partnership with the Saudis, I’ve also expanded on the last paragraph of the section on “The Prince Who Paid”.  This is to note an important new development in the reporting of Gerald Posner on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.  This reporting has obviously taken on new resonance given the CIA’s recent admission that they have destroyed hundreds of hours of videotape of the Zubaydah interrogations, as Posner himself has recently observed.  And members of the 9/11 Commission have now gotten involved in the videotape controversy, as well, asserting that they were stonewalled by the CIA in their repeated requests for any material relating to these early interrogations of key Al Qaeda operatives.  As you’ll see in the revised material, in the back and forth over the videotape controversy, Philip Zelikow, the 9/11 Commission’s lead investigator, has now corroborated Gerald Posner’s original reporting on this very topic from back in 2005.

One more note, regarding the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto, this tragedy immediately brought to my mind Saudi meddling in Afghanistan, and the effect that has had on Pakistan, as well.  As detailed in Part 3, there is ample reason to believe that the Saudis practically engineered the Taliban from scratch as a means to counter the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.  To accomplish this, they established a myriad of radical Wahhabi mosques and madrasas along Pakistan’s northwestern border, with the help of Pakistan’s own intelligence service.  But in addition to producing an entire generation of Taliban recruits, these mosques and madrasas ended up radicalizing Pakistani society itself.  In fact, it turns out that Bhutto herself has confirmed as much directly.  In the wake of her assassination, Joe Klein of Time magazine offered this disturbing recollection in tribute to Bhutto:

I was with Hillary Clinton when she met with Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan in 1995. . . . I had a brief, but telling conversation with Bhutto that day. I asked her how the country had changed since she was a girl. She immediately railed against the increasing religious orthodoxy. ”I used to be able to go out into the streets wearing jeans,” she said. I asked her why that had changed. “The Saudis,” she said, disgustedly. “The schools they are funding,” she said referring to the radical madrasas. “They are undermining this country.”

Moreover, investigative journalist Jason Burke has reported that the Saudis sponsored an assassination attempt against Bhutto back in 1993.  In his book Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror (pp. 99-100), Burke wrote:

In July 1993, [Ramzi Yousef] was asked by unidentified Pakistani militants to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, then starting her second term as Pakistani prime minister, but the bomb he was planting outside her home in Karachi detonated prematurely, injuring his face. The sources Ramzi had drawn on to bring together the elements he needed for the attack are interesting. . . . the materiel required for the bomb was purchased with money from a mysterious Saudi donor passed to Yousef by a Middle Eastern businessman known as ‘Khaled’ and was picked up from a refugee camp in Pabbi.

It will be interesting to see if similar connections to “mysterious Saudi donors” emerge in the case of Bhutto's assassination last week, but in light of all that has transpired since 1993, it seems a predicable outcome.  Indeed, with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and the resulting blowback against Pres. Pervez Musharraf, this all seems to put Nawaz Sharif in prime position to make a significant political move in Pakistan.  Needless to say Sharif, who has openly advocated turning Pakistan into an “Islamic state” founded on Sharia (Islamic law), has been very conspicuously sponsored by the Saudis for years.  In fact, one former Pakistani intelligence officer is claiming that Sharif was first introduced to the Saudi royal family by none other than Osama bin Laden himself, back in the late 1980’s.

Update (3/9/08):  And the beat goes on.  Just last week the Associated Press reported on yet the latest example of Saudi fanatics with American blood on their hands:

A U.S. military helicopter fired a guided missile to kill a wanted al-Qaida in Iraq leader from Saudi Arabia who was responsible for the bombing deaths of five American soldiers, a spokesman said Sunday.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said Jar Allah, also known as Abu Yasir al-Saudi, and another Saudi known only as Hamdan, were both killed Wednesday in Mosul.

According to the military, al-Saudi conducted numerous attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces, including a Jan. 28 bomb attack that killed the five U.S. soldiers.

We can now add the names of these brave young men to those murdered at the Khobar Towers in 1996, at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, on the USS Cole in 2000, in the Mosul mess tent in 2004, and on September 11, 2001, itself.  Five more Americans dead, and there can be little doubt that we still have not been given a full accounting of just how many American casualties in Iraq the Saudis are responsible for.  In fact, the article above went on to describe Abu Yasir al-Saudi as “one of four Saudi Arabians appointed to supervise al-Qaida activities in Mosul.”  And recently, both The New York Times and The Times of London have published yet more evidence confirming that Saudi nationals are playing the lead role among the foreign jihadists in Iraq, and have done so from the very beginning.  In particular, The New York Times documented how over a one-year period, in one training camp alone, hundreds of young men from the Kingdom have slipped into that country in search of the golden opportunity to murder an American. 

            Moreover, it’s simply no wonder why the young men of Saudi Arabia persist in attacking us so relentlessly.  Why would they quit when our so-called “leaders” refuse to even acknowledge where these attacks are coming from?  Why would they quit when those charged with defending this nation refuse to lift a finger against them, but instead shower the Saudi royals with gifts and dance around like fools for their personal amusement?  Why would they ever quit when, despite our overwhelming military superiority, they have no need whatsoever to fear retribution for their actions?

            Indeed, it has become painfully obvious that the current administration has not only willfully ignored the overwhelming evidence implicating the Saudis, but has actively tried to conceal that evidence from the American public.  Take, as but one example, Congress’s Report of the Joint Inquiry Into the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.  While the joint inquiry was underway, the administration continually sought to obstruct the scope and effectiveness of its investigation.  And when the final report was published, the administration classified an entire 28-page section.  That section dealt almost entirely with connections between the 9/11 hijackers and the government of Saudi Arabia.  Both Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) agreed that, judging from their years of experience in dealing with intelligence matters, 95% of the material in that classified section posed no risk whatsoever of revealing sensitive sources and methods of intelligence gathering.  Over 40 other Senators, including Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), joined them in urging the President to declassify the material.   Indeed, one official who read the full report claimed, “If the 28 pages were to be made public, I have no question that the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia would change overnight.”  And CIA veteran Robert Baer reported that, “I am told there's enough evidence in those 28 pages to indict several Saudi officials.”  Yet Pres. Bush personally refused to reveal this information to the American people, and that evidence remains classified to this day.  So on top of all of the other evidence demonstrating Saudi Arabia’s seminal role in both the rise of Al Qaeda and the carnage now taking place in Iraq, on top of all that, there are those 28 pages.  And neither you, nor I, nor the family members of the victims of 9/11, nor the troops who are fighting and dying to protect us in Iraq, know what is in those pages, because this President will not allow us to know. 

Moreover, it has now become clear that this same policy of obstruction continued through the investigation of the 9/11 Commission.  In his 2008 book The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation, investigative journalist Philip Shenon recounted the Commission’s repeated efforts to obtain the Bush administration’s cooperation in their investigation of Saudi ties to Al Qaeda and the attacks on 9/11.  In particular, commission member John Lehman, formerly the Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration, repeatedly confronted administration officials on this issue.  As Shenon reported (p. 185):

Lehman was struck by the determination of the Bush White House to try to hide any evidence of the relationship between the Saudis and al-Qaeda.  “They were refusing to declassify anything having to do with the Saudis, for some reason, it had this very special sensitivity.”

He raised the Saudi issue repeatedly with Andy Card.  “I used to go over to see Andy, and I met Rumsfeld three or four times, mainly to say, ‘What are you guys doing? This stonewalling is so counterproductive.’ “

Indeed, during the Commission’s April 2004 interview with Pres. Bush and Vice Pres. Cheney, Lehman grilled Bush repeatedly on the mounting evidence implicating the Saudi government and asked him why the administration was so deliberately ignoring the facts.  But as Lehman recounted (p. 344), “He dodged the questions.” 

I’ll have much more to say about the Bush administration’s disgraceful policy toward the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as that of the ineffectual Democrats, soon.  But again, it should be asked, why on earth would they stop attacking us when they have so clearly (and deliberately) been given the license to murder Americans with impunity?

Update (6/9/08):  In observing the links between the Saudis and global terrorism over time, one repeatedly gets the impression that the other shoe is about to drop.  And then, invariably, it does.  A prime example of this is the recent resurgence of the Taliban, and the corresponding upsurge in terrorist violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

           As I’ve tried to document in Part 3, the Saudis are responsible for practically engineering the Taliban from scratch.  This effort grew out of the campaign to push the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980s.  The U.S. and Saudi governments worked together on the campaign, with the U.S. surreptitiously pumping money and arms into the Afghan resistance, while the Saudis matched us dollar-for-dollar.  But the Saudis also set up an enormous logistics operation on the ground in northern Pakistan, through which countless Arab (and mostly Saudi) Muslim volunteers entered the fight directly.  As a part of that effort, the Saudis also set up hundreds of mosques and madrassas in northern Pakistan to help recruit and motivate (i.e., indoctrinate) local young men to rally to the jihad against the Soviets.  It is from those Saudi-funded mosques and madrassas that the Taliban first emerged. 

A wide range of sources confirm, and expand on, this basic sequence of events, including reports by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (p. 116) and the Council on Foreign Relations (pp. 21-22).  Two of the more striking accounts which I’ve come across are from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Thomas Friedman of The New York Times.  In a speech on the House floor just days after September 11, Rohrabacher, who served as the Reagan administration’s point man on Afghanistan, discussed his experience dealing with the Saudis in the wake of the Soviet pullout in 1989.  In particular, he recounted a conversation he had with Prince Turki, then the head of Saudi intelligence:

I suggested to bring back the king of Afghanistan [King Zahir Shah] because he was a wonderful person and beloved by his people.  He was a person who was a moderate in his approach and never killed other people.  He, in fact, was truly a moderate and, I might say, pro-western or western oriented, although a devout Muslim.  But the Saudis wanted nothing to do with bringing back a moderate good-hearted king from exile.  They and their Pakistani allies were in the process of creating a secret third force that I did not know anything about: the Taliban. But during my conversation, it was mentioned that a third force was being created, one that could take over Afghanistan and bring stability, but, of course, one that would do the bidding of their Pakistani and Saudi handlers.

One must wonder why the Saudi Arabians and the Pakistanis are even to this day so involved in Afghanistan.  This is an important fact of history that we need to understand.  Number one, the type of religious fervor they have and the type of Islam they have in Saudi Arabia is very similar to that in Afghanistan.  It is unbending and intolerant and they do not permit any other faith in their country.

The fact that the Taliban embraced the same radical form of Islam as is practiced in Saudi Arabia – Wahhabism – is key here.  As Rohrabacher recounted, it’s well documented that elements of the Pakistani government, and in particular Pakistan’s intelligence service (the “ISI”), played a key role in facilitating all of this.  But the fact that those mosques and madrassas taught a fundamentally Saudi Arabian curriculum confirms who was really calling the shots at the end of the day.

Indeed, the word Taliban itself means “students” in Arabic.  And it’s not very difficult to figure out who the teachers were.  Shortly after 9/11, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman visited the Haqqania Madrassa in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan in an effort to better understand our enemy.  Haqqania is famous for having graduated more members of the Taliban's senior leadership than any other madrassa, including the leader of the Taliban at the time of the September 11 attacks, Mullah Omar, and at least seven other ministers in the Taliban government.  When Friedman visited the school, he made a telling observation.  In the school’s main classroom he saw a plaque prominently displayed on the wall declaring the facility “A Gift of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.  Talk about the writing on the wall.

            Fast forward to 2008.  This past month we’ve seen the highest number of violent incidents in Afghanistan since we first drove the Taliban out of power back in 2001.  This culminates a steady decline in the security situation in both Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past two years.  How is it that we can never seem to turn the corner in Afghanistan, or in any other front in the War on Terror, once and for all?  And just who do you suppose is propping up the Taliban this time?  Several weeks back, The Los Angeles Times revealed the answer to those questions:

Stuart A. Levey, a Treasury undersecretary, told a Senate committee that the Saudi government had not taken important steps to go after those who finance terrorist organizations or to prevent wealthy donors from bankrolling extremism through charitable contributions, sometimes unwittingly.

“Saudi Arabia today remains the location where more money is going to terrorism, to Sunni terror groups and to the Taliban than any other place in the world,” Levey said under questioning.

Sure enough, the financial pipeline from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan, responsible for funding the Taliban from day one, is still intact. 

Taking a closer look at the public record, one can glean the names of some of the men responsible for perpetuating jihadist terror in the region.  For instance, a recent issue of the CTC Sentinel, the journal of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, identified a key Saudi middleman:

Since 2002, one of Al Qaeda’s main roles has been diverting wealth from the Arab Gulf States to funding the struggling Taliban.  One recently killed Saudi shaykh named Asadullah was described as “the moneybags in the entire tribal belt.”  Men like Asadullah have paid bounties for Taliban attacks on coalition troops, provided money to Taliban commanders such as Baitullah Mehsud to encourage them to attack Pakistani troops and launch a suicide bombing campaign in that country, and used their funds to re-arm the Taliban.

Clearly these efforts have begun to pay off for Al Qaeda.  Moreover, it’s increasingly evident that Saudi involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan goes far beyond mere financing.  The Washington Post reported on another Saudi meddler last year:

Police in Kabul, meanwhile, detained a man from Saudi Arabia whom they accused of planning suicide attacks against high-ranking government officials.

The 35-year old man, identified as Yousuf Ibrahim, from Saudi Arabia's capital of Riyadh, was detained after a brief scuffle with police in the capital on Tuesday, said Gen. Ali Shah Paktiawal, the head of criminal investigations for Kabul.

More recently, the counterterrorism website The Long War Journal has reported that two prominent Al Qaeda operatives who were recently killed in Afghanistan were both from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Adding it all up, it would seem fairly obvious that the reason we can never make any real progress in the War on Terror is that our government refuses to lift a finger against the true source of our problems.  Of course, if we did that, it might jeopardize all the wonderful things the Saudi government has been doing for us lately, like driving the price of oil past $139 a barrel.

Finally, another disturbing report has recently emerged from Iraq which drives the point home.  As noted above, over the past few years there have been over a half-dozen independent reports concluding that a majority of the suicide bombers in Iraq have been Saudi nationals.  Last year, officials from the Pentagon and Bush administration finally conceded the point.  Now it appears that even this seminal fact may understate the depth of the Saudis’ responsibility (and depravity) in perpetuating the carnage in Iraq.  As CBS News reported:

The Iraqi military on Monday displayed a group of weeping [Iraqi] teenagers who said they had been forced into training for suicide bombings by a Saudi militant in the last urban stronghold of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Four of the six boys were lined up for the media at police headquarters in the northern city of Mosul, where they said they had been training for a month to start suicide operations in early June. . . .

“The Saudi insurgent threatened to rape our mothers and sisters, destroy our houses and kill our fathers if we did not cooperate with him,” one of the youths, who were not identified, told reporters in Mosul, where security forces are cracking down on al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni insurgents.

How much more obvious could it be?  How could they possibly make it any clearer?  These people will not stop until we make them stop.