America’s slavish, closed-eyed devotion to Saudi Arabia has come to this: a former guest at President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch provided funds that reached the pockets of two of the September 11 hijackers. Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdar, both Saudis, spent that crisp morning smashing American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 184 innocents.
Bush’s visitor on August 27 was, of course, Princess Haifa al-Faisal, daughter of former King Faisal and wife of Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar. For a woman from a nation where females are not supposed to be seen or heard, she has been quite a busy little lady.
According to an eye-popping report by Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas in the December 2 Newsweek, in January 1999, Princess Haifa began sending a series of $2,000 cashier checks to a San Diego woman named Majeda Ibrahim Dweikat, supposedly to help her combat a thyroid condition. The ailment apparently was manageable enough that she started in early 2000 to endorse many of those checks to her friend, Manal Ahmed Bagader. She is the wife of Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi man who told law-enforcement officials that, around New Year’s 2000, he happened to overhear the future hijackers chatting in Arabic in a restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport.
Al-Bayoumi claimed he virtually adopted Alhazmi and Almihdar, driving them to San Diego, throwing them a welcome party there and shelling out $1,550 in cash to pay the first two months’ rent on an apartment he found them near his own. He went on to help them secure Social Security cards, bank accounts and those crucial flight lessons. With strangers like that, who needs friends?
For his part, al-Bayoumi worked for Dallah Avco, a firm with numerous contracts with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. And who runs that ministry? None other than Saudi Prince Sultan, Princess Haifa’s father-in-law.
This all may be one giant series of coincidences. There even may be innocent explanations for the fact that records U.S. officials found in al-Bayoumi’s San Diego residence (and similar papers discovered by British authorities after he moved to England in July 2001) document his frequent calls to two aides in the Islamic Affairs Department of the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Perhaps there also was nothing unusual about the fact that thyroid ailment sufferer Dweikat’s husband, Osama Basnan, reportedly traveled to Houston to meet a prominent Saudi prince involved in intelligence around the time he accompanied Crown Prince Abdullah en route to the Bush ranch last April. Basnan also befriended the two hijackers. After the terrorists struck, authorities say, Basnan “celebrated the heroes of September 11.” He also discussed “what a wonderful, glorious day it had been.” Basnan and his wife were arrested for visa fraud on August 22. She was deported earlier this month; he was shipped back to Saudi Arabia — yet another coincidence? — last week.
“I find that the accusations that I contributed funds to terrorists outrageous and completely irresponsible,” Princess Haifa said in a statement. Maybe she is the victim of one huge mix-up.
Or maybe this episode finally exposes the Saudis for who they really are: either deliberate supporters of anti-U.S. terrorism or people with a toxic disregard for where their petrodollars flow.
The time is long past for America to climb out of the bed it has shared with leading Saudis. Despite State Department fantasies to the contrary, Saudi Arabia simply is not Denmark with oil wells.
The Saudis routinely provide private and public funds to support radical mosques and madrassahs that spread anti-Westernism and Anti-Americanism — overseas and in the United States. These hate factories, along with Saudi mullahs and media outlets, preach a fiery brand of anti-Semitism that must have Josef Goebbels waltzing joyously in his boiling corner of Hell. Just days ago, the Saudi press blamed the current controversy on “circles linked to the Zionist lobby.” Again with the Jews!
The Saudis have dragged their feet when it comes to investigating terrorists tied to the Kingdom. In the case of the June 25, 1996 bombing of a U.S. military barracks in Khobar, Saudi authorities beheaded the perpetrators before FBI agents could question them.
U.S. officials defend their Stepinfetchit approach to Riyadh as the price for access to American-built military bases in Saudi Arabia. But just this month, the Saudi foreign ministry announced that the Pentagon could not use such bases to attack Iraq, even if the United Nations adopted an invade-Baghdad resolution.
Washington policymakers must recognize that they are standing at the bottom of a one-way street down which the Saudis’ garbage cans tumble. Consequently, America should take the following, immediate steps:
‐Commence a full, honest, and open investigation into Saudi complicity or cooperation in the September 11 massacre. An incisive probe on Capitol Hill will help disclose things the Bush administration would rather keep under wraps. The question to answer is simple: What did the Saudis do, and when did they do it?
‐Demand Saudi assistance in these inquiries and publicize their help or lack of it.
‐As Rep. Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) proposed on Fox News Channel on November 26, add Saudi Arabia to the list of states at high-risk of containing terrorists (such as Algeria, Libya, and North Korea). The citizens of such countries must face greater scrutiny before and after they enter the United States.
‐Congress should explore the possibility of requiring Saudi agencies and subjects to declare their monetary transfers into the U.S. As a free-marketeer, I am hesitant to suggest such a measure. As an American who does not want to see any more of my countrymen murdered by Saudi subjects sponsored from Riyadh, I believe such a step may be necessary.
‐Washington must demand that Saudi Arabia cease its funding and support for radical mosques, Islamic schools, and publishing houses that inspire hatred and homicide. The Saudi government can express its differences with Israeli and U.S. public policy without calling for the destruction of world Jewry and the murder of Americans, Westerners and non-Muslims. This is not too much to ask of our so-called “friends.”
In short, America must demand better of the Saudis. They have learned to live down to Washington’s low expectations. When — despite their government’s misdeeds — Crown Prince Abdullah, Princess Haifa and her diplomatic husband tour the Crawford ranch and are treated like the Windsors, why should Riyadh change its evil ways?
American officials respond that the House of Saud spreads bigotry and stokes the fires of terror to cool the embers of domestic political opposition. Memo to State Department: If Crown Prince Abdullah terminated the terror money and told his country’s Jew-hating imams to clam up (or else), he would not lose the Jeddah primary. There is no Jeddah primary. Saudi Arabia’s rulers need not worry about elections, opinion polls, or focus groups. Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship. As long as it is, Washington should lean on Riyadh’s thugs to dictate the right thing, namely the cessation of behavior that jeopardizes America, its people, interests, and allies.
Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf is a stalwart soldier in the war on terror. His government has turned over terrorists, reigned in the madrassah hate factories, and allowed U.S. troops to hunt al Qaeda and Taliban killers on the Pakistani-Afghan border. Musharraf has done this openly, forthrightly, and proudly. Whether he truly was horrified by September 11 or simply read the American writing on the wall, he did the right thing last fall and continues to do so. If he can be a true friend in a country with elections, what is the Saudis’ excuse?
The Bush administration and Washington’s permanent foreign-affairs establishment should snap out of it. Riyadh’s bouquets have wilted, and the chocolates it once sent melted long ago. These days, Saudi Arabia is, at best, a gas station with a government. The earlier American leaders face that fact, the sooner U.S. foreign policy will approximate reality.