NEW YORK - The Bush Administration once again heard the cold, hard facts about Saudi Arabia's growing threat. And once again, they covered their ears.
"Saudi Arabia supports our enemies and attacks our allies," Rand Corporation analyst Laurent Murawiec told the Defense Policy Board last July 10. "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader," he said to this advisory panel of former elected officials and security experts.
Senior administration officials would have none of this. When the Washington Post revealed this briefing on August 6, Secretary of State Colin Powell called Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud Faisal to promise that it did not reflect U.S. policy. "The Saudis cooperate fully in the global war on terrorism," Pentagon spokesman Victoria Clarke added.
True, but on which side?
Saudi Arabia routinely antagonizes Americans and Israelis. Behold a small sample of its latest misdeeds:
Saudi Arabia is the Federal Reserve of terrorism. Israeli soldiers recovered records on the West Bank this spring that show that the Saudi Committee for the Support of the Intifada al-Quds (Arabic for Jerusalem) has paid $5,300 bonuses to the families of at least 102 Palestinian homicide bombers. The Committee, controlled by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, raised $109.5 million last April in a Jerry Lewis-style telethon for "Palestinian martyrs."Documents indicate that another Saudi "charity," the International Islamic Relief Organization, gave $280,000 to 14 Palestinian groups including "Hamas-identified committees/bodies." Hamas sponsored the July 31 Hebrew University bombing that wounded 86 civilians and murdered seven others, five of them Americans.
Here's what news accounts say NATO troops found last October at the Sarajevo office of the Saudi High Commission for Relief: pre-and-post-attack photos of the World Trade Center, the USS Cole and American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, maps of federal buildings in Washington and materials for forging State Department badges.
Top Saudis parrot Der Sturmer editor Julius Streicher, perhaps Hitler's loudest Jew hater. Sheik Abdul Rahman al-Saudais, Chief Cleric at Mecca's Grand Mosque, claimed last April 19 that Jews are "the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the killers of the prophets and the grandsons of monkeys and pigs."
The Saudi Commerce Ministry recently banned spoons, toy guns, candies and laser discs emblazoned with Stars of David, the English-language Riyadh Daily reported June 25.
Soon after the September 11 attacks, orchestrated by 15 Saudis among 19 hijackers, Saudi diplomats whisked several of Osama bin Laden's relatives on a private jet from America to Saudi Arabia and beyond the reach of U.S. investigators.
As the Administration considers invading Iraq, it also should pursue regime change in Saudi Arabia. Saddam Hussein is essentially a better-armed Ferdinand Marcos. He is an egomaniac who craves power and crushes opponents. Hussein, a secular Muslim, professes no concrete ideology beyond his own cult of personality. Yes, he has treated his Kurdish minority to poison gas and likely is building chemical, biological and even atomic weapons of mass murder. Still, Hussein seems more of a regional headache than a worldwide menace.
The House of Saud apparently lacks such a weapons program, but it adheres to a globally-ambitious, religious-based ideology. Saudi Arabia aims to hijack Islam everywhere - from Medina to Manila to Manhattan's Islamic Cultural Center on East 96th Street - and infect it with that religion's virulent Wahhabi strain. The goal? An energized, anti-Semitic, anti-Western, anti-American faith. Through the charities, religious schools and mosques they finance, Saudi Arabia would employ Wahhabism to build a bridge to the Eighth Century.
America should confront the Saudi dictatorship. For starters, President Bush and Secretary Powell should stop glad-handing Saudi officials. Statecraft may require them to work with Riyadh, but there is no need for Crown Prince Abdullah to hobnob at Bush's Texas ranch.
Abundant global oil supplies also would diminish Saudi Arabia's relevance. Thus, Washington should help Russia and West African nations boost their petroleum production. Africa needs the money, and a prosperous, Westward-looking Russia would be unlikely to re-aim its ballistic missiles at America.
Topple Saddam Hussein, if we must. But Rand's scholar is right. Team Bush should stop pretending that Saudi Arabia is Holland with sand dunes.