Scientists have yet to invent a device powerful enough to measure the volume of derisive laughter gushing from Riyadh’s palaces these days. No matter what the House of Saud does, no matter how egregious the latest outrage from the Islamist kingdom, Saudi Arabia’s valets in the Bush administration never miss an opportunity to steam-press their masters’ flowing white robes or freshen their virgin daiquiris.
Washington’s most recent addition to its mile-long list of favors to Saudi Arabia is more a gift of omission than commission.
The Justice Department announced August 12 that it will launch the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Starting in selected locations, then reaching all ports of entry by October 1, this initiative will require certain immigrants to be photographed and fingerprinted before stepping into the United States.
“This system will expand substantially America’s scrutiny of those foreign visitors who may present an elevated national security risk,” Attorney General John Ashcroft says. “And it will provide a vital line of defense in the war against terrorism.”
So far, so good.
However, the Justice Department says the program will target nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. Curiously absent from this gang of pro-terrorist states is none other than America’s “moderate ally,” Saudi Arabia.
Never mind that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis. (That’s 79 percent of them, to be precise).
Never mind that all 19 worked for Osama bin Laden, a Saudi exile.
Never mind that Israeli soldiers captured documents on the West Bank last spring that demonstrate that Saudi Arabia finances Hamas and other terrorist groups that deploy homicide bombers. Some of them have killed American citizens, on a Jerusalem bus and in a Hebrew University cafeteria.
Never mind that Saudi-funded madrassas pump anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Semitic venom into the minds of young Muslims around the world and even in the U.S.A.
And never mind that the very same week this immigration policy was outlined, ever-reliable Saudi Arabia announced that its territory would be off limits to any U.S. forces attempting to invade Iraq.
Despite all this, the Bush administration has chosen to exclude Saudi nationals from among those who automatically will get closer looks before coming to America.
“The terrorists were able to exploit what they perceived as weaknesses,” Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman Bill Strassberger told the Associated Press’s Christopher Newton. “We can make sure that won’t happen again.”
Not quite, Bill.
Were this policy in place in recent years, the pro-Saudi loophole would have let all 15 of the totalitarian kingdom’s 9/11 mass murderers waltz into America. How many more Saudi killers will reach U.S. shores thanks to the Bush administration’s continued willful blindness toward Riyadh’s sponsorship of terrorism?
Why does Team Bush continue to cut Saudi Arabia slack? Obviously,O-I-L. But there also is Washington’s time-honored tradition — common to governments of both parties — of avoiding anything at all that might make the Saudi dictators uncomfortable. Somehow, it always is America’s duty to make sure the Saudi regime never feels slighted or embarrassed. Riyadh never is expected to worry about America’s feelings. Being Crown Prince Abdullah means never having to say you’re sorry.
Recall when President George H. W. Bush tried to celebrate Christmas mass with American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia in December 1990. Saudi officials refused to permit such Christian observances on their soil. Non-Muslim worship gives the sheiks the shakes. So, guess who blinked? That’s right — the well-armed superpower whose soldiers were ready to shed blood to protect the Saudis from big, bad Saddam Hussein. The leader of the free world retreated to a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf so he and the GIs he commanded could share a Christmas service.
Washington’s nonstop appeasement of Riyadh should vanish like a mirage at dusk. President Bush should tell the crown prince that if enduring stricter entrance requirements discomfits him and his subjects, they’ll just have to suck it up. We Americans have felt rather uncomfortable for almost a year, thanks largely to the handiwork of 15 of Abdullah’s countrymen and their Saudi boss, Osama bin Laden. It’s high time the House of Saud felt our pain.