woensdag, november 27, 2002

Ululate This

In light of the recent allegations that money from the Saudi royal family indirectly helped two Sept. 11 hijackers, the Washington Post reports that the NSC task force is recommending a plan to force Saudi Arabia to act against terrorist financiers or face unilateral U.S. action against the suspects. The report quoted U.S. officials as saying the United States would present the Saudis with evidence against individuals and businesses suspected of aiding al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, along with a demand that they be put out of business. More specifically, as The Sydney Morning Herald reports, US intelligence agencies and financial investigators have put together a classified working list of nine wealthy individuals believed to be the core group of backers for al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups. Of those, seven are Saudis, one is a Pakistani merchant and one is an Egyptian businessman. In a separate move, the CIA was reported to be providing banks worldwide with a secret list of 12 Saudi businessmen accused of continuing to funnel millions of dollars to Osama bin Laden. The list was said to include Yassin al-Kadi, a multi-millionaire involved in banking, chemicals and real estate. He and other listed businessmen all had business and personal connections to the Saudi royal family.

In what must have been an audition for a new Comedy Central program, Secretary of State Colin Powell Tuesday did a little damage control on behalf of the Saudi kingdom following meetings in Mexico City, calling Riyadh a "strategic partner" in the war on terrorism and a "friend" of the United States.

Some friend. The United States helped Saudi Arabia transform itself into a rich, modern state with many trappings of an American- style consumer culture. Washington dispatched 500,000 troops to protect the kingdom and expel Iraqi invaders from neighbouring Kuwait in 1991. In return, the Saudis gave us 15 of the 19 September 11th hijackers, led by Saudi expat Osama bin Laden. In return, we've had the pleasure of watching video footage of bin Laden dining and laughing with a guest Saudi sheikh. Bin Laden's questions on the tape and the Saudi sheikh's answers, concerning the "joy" of other Saudi clerics at the news of the damage and casualties in the Sept. 11 attacks, was a new reminder of the kingdom's pivotal — and shaky — role in the U.S. -led anti-terror coalition. And now, of course, news reports and criticism from congressional leaders about the kingdom's possible involvement in financing terrorism.

One might think that this "friend" of ours would be tripping all over their thobes and twisting their tagiyahs in their hands for a chance to kiss up and make it better. Instead, the Saudi English language daily, Arab News, prefers to question "who we think we are" by administering "such a slap in the face or make such imperious demands."

Another editorial in the same paper complains that the allegations of terrorist funding by the Royal Family are "shocking — not in themselves but in the way they have been scooped up, twisted, sensationalized and wholly misrepresented by certain American congressmen intent on using them to embarrass the US government and gain glory for themselves and by editors desperate for a story, no matter how untrue," and further grouses about a "clear malice in the way the story has been built up and presented in certain sections of the US media." Hmmm. One wonders how the eminently free and vigorous prophets of say, the Saudi press, would pan themselves as purveyors of verisimilitude and chastity.

But hey, the Saudis are our friends. Their embassy in Washington says so. And, according to the spurious Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Kingdom’s Ambassador to the United States: “Government officials who are privy to current law enforcement efforts know and appreciate the close cooperation the United States and Saudi Arabia have in the war on terrorism. The Task Force is clearly out of touch with current activities.”

Lip service aside, if you're looking for a few Saudi flags to burn in street demonstrations in front of your local embassy or consulate, it looks a little like this and is, I hear, just as flammable as the American flag. No word yet on where to purchase your King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud effigies but as Thomas Henry Huxley once wisely counseled, "Patience and tenacity of purpose are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness."

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