By Michael Barone, June 3, 2002
Fifteen of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis. Perhaps as many as 80
percent of the prisoners held at Guantanamo are Saudis. Osama bin Laden is a
Saudi, and al Qaeda was supported by large contributions from Saudis,
including members of the Saudi royal family. The Saudis’ cooperation with our
efforts to track down the financing of al Qaeda appears to be somewhere
between minimal and zero. They got us to let members of the bin Laden family
scamper out of the United States on a private jet shortly after September 11.
They refuse to provide – as almost every other country has – manifests of plane
passengers flying to the United States.
Such behavior is nothing new. The Saudis stymied the FBI investigation of the
1996 Khobar Towers bombing. The Saudis refused a U.S. request in 1996 that
they take custody of bin Laden; he went to Afghanistan instead. They refused
in 1995 to hand over Imad Mughniyah, believed responsible for the bombing of
a Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983. Far from aiding our efforts against
terrorism, the Saudis have worked against them – to protect the terrorists in
their own ranks.
Also, the Saudis have praised suicide bombings and raised money for the
families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Government-controlled Saudi media
have frequently spread the vilest kinds of anti-U.S. and anti-Jewish propaganda.
Such has been the behavior of those the State Department has long referred to
as “our friends the Saudis.” It would be more accurate to call them our enemies
Freedoms? Zero for seven. The Saudis run a totalitarian society. Not one of the
seven freedoms identified by President Bush in his State of the Union speech –
the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private
property, free speech, equal justice, religious tolerance – is honored by the
There is no free speech and no freedom of religion (during the Gulf War
the Saudis did not allow President Bush to conduct a religious service on Saudi
soil), and women are restricted and physically assaulted by religious police who
prowl the streets (and, by some accounts, would not allow teenage girls to
leave a burning school, lest they not be properly clad; 15 girls died).
But the Saudis are not content to run a totalitarian society at home; they are
trying to export their totalitarian Wahhabi Islam around the world. Since the
Gulf War, the Saudis have financed Wahhabi clerics and Wahhabi-run mosques
and schools in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Western Europe, and the
The results can be seen on the Edgware Road in London or Leesburg
Pike in Northern Virginia: Journalists have no trouble finding young people
spouting the most vituperative anti-U.S. and anti-Jewish propaganda and
swearing that they would fight for Islam against the United States. The Saudis
are waging war against us, financing the spread of the idea that our free
society must be overthrown and totalitarian Wahhabi Islam must be imposed by
So why do some still call the Saudis our friends? Because they have the power
to keep oil prices down? That leverage is being reduced by increased oil
production by our friends Russia and Mexico. Because they are
anti-Communist? Communism is no longer a threat. Because they are used to
heeding the mellifluous advice of Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar? What has
he done to stop al Qaeda or the propagation of totalitarian Wahhabi Islam?
Because we depend on Saudi military bases? Despite Pentagon denials, it seems
we are wisely dispersing our forces in the gulf.
It may not be prudent yet to speak the truth out loud, that the Saudis are our
enemies. But they should know that it is increasingly apparent to the American
people that they are effectively waging war against us. And they should know
that we have the capacity to destroy their military, presumably in a matter of
hours. The Saudis’ eastern provinces, with their oil, could be given to their
Shiite Muslim majority, now oppressed by the Sunni Muslim Saudi rulers. The
holy cities of Mecca and Medina could be returned to the custody of the
Hashemites (Jordan’s King Abdullah’s family), who unlike the Saudis are direct
descendants of the prophet Mohammed. Let the Saudis have the sands of
central Arabia and their bank accounts in Switzerland, hotel suites in London,
and villas on the Riviera.
President Bush has said that we must have regime change in Iraq to be safe
from terrorism. It is increasingly clear that we must have regime change in
Saudi-ruled Arabia as well.