On the second anniversary of the darkest day in recent American history, U.S. relations with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia remain clouded by an undeniable reality: the conspiracy to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as other probable targets, was a product of Saudi society.
There can simply be no doubt about these facts:
- Al-Qaida is a product of, an embodiment of, indeed the quintessential expression of Wahhabism, the state ideology of the Saudi kingdom.
- All nineteen of the participants in the 9/11 atrocities were Wahhabis, of which 15 were Saudi subjects.
- Osama bin Laden is an exemplary representative of Wahhabism and of Saudi society, who, with other rich Saudis, financed al-Qaida and its associated groupings.
- Saudi/Wahhabi official institutions including the Muslim World League (MWL), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) have been complicit in the financing, recruitment, and operational aspects of al-Qaida terrorism.
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia refuses to accept responsibility for its subjects' involvement in terrorism.
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has failed to participate as a trustworthy partner with the U.S. in the antiterror coalition.
In other words, put bluntly, two years after 9/11, nothing has changed.
This is an appalling matter to contend with, for American citizens. A long tradition of apology for and accommodation with the bloody, repressive Saudi regime, by the American political and business elite, has left a hole in the history of the American nation.
This gap is unacceptable. The U.S.-Saudi relationship represents an inveiglement with corruption, repression, and terror as bad as or worse than that between our country and any left- or right-wing dictatorship in the past. Can we really imagine that if 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 murderers had been Cuban agents, even the Hollywood left that adulates Castro would call for a hands-off approach to the Havana regime? And if 15 out of the 19 had been representatives of one of the right-wing dictators of the past, like Pinochet, we can only imagine liberals calling for the most extreme sanctions against the regime with which it originated. But in the Saudi case, an uneasy silence prevails in the executive branch of government, and even in influential media.
Americans cannot pretend to have achieved "closure" about 9/11; "closure" about 9/11 would be as inappropriate as "closure" about the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, the Soviet gulag, or the enslavement of Africans. Indeed, nobody would ask for "closure" about these topics. Nobody has asked for "closure" about 9/11, because to do so would invite rage by the American people; but it is clear that the rulers and representatives of the Saudi kingdom, as well as their American apologists, would like nothing more.
Since September 11th, a number of additional incidents have occurred, which illuminate the pernicious nature of the Saudi-Wahhabi order.
After the attacks, impoverished, war-ruined Bosnia-Hercegovina, feeling it owed the U.S. a debt for the rescue of its Muslims from Serb aggression, immediately raided Saudi "charities" in Sarajevo, seized key documents, and handed them over to Attorney General John Ashcroft. By contrast, Saudi representatives, claiming they have joined the war against terror, announce arrests in which the identities of malefactors are seldom disclosed. And although the Saudis tell us they will curtail extremist preaching by Wahhabi clerics, who are paid officials of the state, every Friday sermon in the kingdom features incitement to terror by hundreds of imams. Few clerics have been removed from their posts, and those who have been are mainly old men who failed to justify their paychecks by regular attendance at work.
Meanwhile, dissident Saudi subjects (with whom I communicate regularly in person and by e-mail) tell me that the the "terror suspects" allegedly arrested and killed by the Saudi authorities, in the typical mysterious circumstances, are most often imams themselves.
Back here at home, we heard that Princess Haifa bint Faisal, wife of the Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, donated money that somehow wound up in the pockets of two leading participants in the 9/11 plot, thanks somehow to the activities of Omar al-Bayoumi, who appears to have been a Saudi government agent. Then the congressional report on intelligence failures leading to 9/11 appeared, and although it included transactions between al-Bayoumi and the terrorists, Princess Haifa was shielded from further scrutiny.
In my view, September 11th was not about us. It was about them. It was not about American power, hegemony, oil interests, Christianity, or relations with Israel. It was about the inevitable pressure from millions of Saudi subjects who possess satellite dishes and computers, who have been educated in modern technology and have seen the world, and who desire to live in a normal society that, while Islamic in traditions and essence, would more resemble Malaysia.
Thus, I reject the claim advanced by the Saudi reactionaries and their apologists, who argue that the vast majority of Saudi subjects are ignorant bigots who consider Bin Laden a hero and who want more, rather than less, Wahhabi meddling with their lives.
I reject the claim advanced by the Saudi reactionaries that the only alternative to their misrule is the horror represented by al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is a creation of the Saudi state, intended to frighten the West, and to impress the people it oppresses, as well as the rest of the world's Muslims, that Wahhabism remains alive, violent, and dangerous, and that the Saudi reactionaries will never fall from power.
But just as Stalinism could not change human nature, and inevitably gave way, Wahhabism has been unable to change human nature.
To emphasize - Saudi subjects are pressing for reform. Shi'a Muslims are the most oppressed victims of Wahhabism in the kingdom, but they are also the majority in the Eastern Province, where the oilfields are found. Sooner or later they will strike out for their freedom.
In Mecca and Medina, non-Wahhabi Muslim clerics, as well as devotees of the schools of Islamic spirituality known as Sufism, have functioned underground for four generations. They will inevitably demand the right to preach and teach, and will break the Wahhabi monopoly on Islam's two holiest sites.
Indigenous Christians (and even, it seems, a few Jews from Yemen) have carried on a clandestine existence on Saudi territory for 75 years. Thousands of foreign guest workers in the kingdom are Christian, but are prevented from any observance of their faith, while in neighboring Oman, and other Gulf states, Christians and Hindus worship openly. Some Jews have remained in Yemen, and even Bahrein has a synagogue! Sooner or later, Saudi Arabia must come into the light of religious freedom.
And of course, women are in the forefront of the discontented in the kingdom. Few foreigners can imagine the absurd obstacles to ordinary existence presented by Wahhabism, which dictates that women cannot even drive automobiles.
How will the subjects of the Saudi monarchy be freed?
I do not believe a revolution is necessary, or the seizure of oilfields, or anything else leading to bloodshed.
I do believe that although September 11th was an expression of the internal crisis of the kingdom, the key to the Saudi future lies in Washington.
Two years later, our government faces the same urgent task it faced on September 12, 2001: we must obtain a full and transparent accounting of the involvement of Saudi subjects and institutions in the horrors of September 11th, no matter how high such involvement may reach in Saudi society.
Daylight on Saudi involvement in that horror will be the beginning of an inquiry into the broader nature of the Saudi order, and will empower Saudi subjects to open a new road for their society. Such is necessary for our own moral health as well as the future of the Arab nation and for Muslims in general.
Disclosure, rather than a phony "closure" about 9/11, may even lead to a new, federal order in the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is an artificial construct, much like the old Yugoslavia. If there is anything we must avoid - and I say this from direct and painful personal experience - it is a repeat of the post-Yugoslav horrors of the 1990s in the peninsula.
A managed transition to a new political order is the only way forward for the subjects of the kingdom. But in this regard I must add a mea culpa. I have often expressed disregard for the libertarian writings of Murray Rothbard. I was wrong, for in August 1990, Rothbard wrote with great intelligence, "If we were residents of Yugoslavia, for example, we should be agitating in favor of the right to secede from that swollen and misbegotten State of Croatia and Slovenia (that is, favoring their current nationalist movements), while opposing the desire of the Serb demagogue Slobodan Milosevic to cling to Serb domination over the Albanians in Kosovo or over the Hungarians in the Vojvodina (that is, opposing Great Serbian nationalism)."
Something similar holds true today for the people of Mecca and Medina, in the region known as Hejaz, which, like Croatia, once had its own geographical identity and protodemocratic institutions, and for the Shi'as of the Eastern Province, who like the Bosnian Muslims represent an autonomous tradition that cannot be forcibly assimilated. In addition, the residents of the southern border area, like the Albanians of Kosovo, feel more affinity with Yemen than with Riyadh.
Let Yugoslavia be a warning: there is still time for peaceful change to be affected in the Arabian Peninsula, and for the Saudi equivalent of Milosevic - Prince Nayef, the ultra-Wahhabi minister of the interior, who blames Zionists for 9/11 - to be removed.
The concept of federalism in Arabia brings up another and, if possible, even more urgent issue: that of Iraq, which might more appropriately have been put at the top of this text.
The Shi'a, Kurd, and Sunni populations of Iraq may very well opt, in the end, for a federal system of rule. But from the beginning of the liberation of Iraq, Saudi clerics have incited Saudi subjects and other adherents of Wahhabism to go north of the long Saudi-Iraqi border to die in "jihad." The so-called "Sunni" extremists attacking Shi'as in Iraq, terrorizing the Kurds, and murdering coalition troops as well as international humanitarian workers are Wahhabis. That is what the Iraqis call them and that is what we should call them. Behind them stands the Saudi kingdom. Wahhabis have always reserved their worst hatred for Shi'a Muslims, and the Saudi reactionaries look with the most extreme horror at the possibility of a Shi'a-led protodemocratic regime in Iraq.
The only way Iraq can be normalized will be through an ultimatum to Prince Nayef: call off your Wahhabi dogs in Iraq. The tragedy of Vietnam was created, in large part, by an unwillingness of the U.S. to call on Moscow to stop supporting North Vietnamese aggression in Indochina. Let us not repeat the error in Iraq, which we would do by failing to interdict Saudi-Wahhabi participation in mass murder there. If necessary, the Iraqi-Saudi border should be closed.
I accuse: The blood of the martyrs of September 11th remains unatoned, and those we Americans have trusted to gain justice have, as yet, failed us. The blood of coalition troops and innocent Iraqis is at stake, and our country's leaders have yet to face the truth about the danger to these potential victims. But the sands of the vast desert hourglass are running out, for us as well as for the rest of the victims of Saudi-Wahhabi tyranny.