Government for Sale…to Saudi Arabia?

by | Dec 9, 2002 | POLITICS

Bush administration officials and leading U.S. senators responded very differently to the news that Princess Haifa al-Faisal, wife of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, had given many thousands of dollars to a person connected to two of the 9/11 suicide hijackers. Their difference highlights a problem that needs addressing through congressional legislation; […]

Bush administration officials and leading U.S. senators responded very differently to the news that Princess Haifa al-Faisal, wife of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, had given many thousands of dollars to a person connected to two of the 9/11 suicide hijackers. Their difference highlights a problem that needs addressing through congressional legislation; ways to prevent undue Saudi influence through the spread of its money.

Senators spoke out forthrightly and honestly on the issue raised by the princess donations.

  • Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.): “Either [the Saudis] have to change or the relationship that we have with Saudi Arabia is going to change dramatically. For too many generations, certainly years, they have pacified and accommodated themselves to the most extreme fanatical elements of Islam.”
  • John McCain (R-Ariz.): “The list goes on and on of Saudi failures and the central role that they have played in one way or another in the rise of Islamic fundamentalism all over the world.”
  • Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): “The Saudis are on all sides of every issue. We, in some ways, have had a good relationship with them over the years, and in other ways, it appears as if they’re funding our enemies.
  • Richard Shelby (R-Ala.): “The Saudis have got a lot of answering to do in my judgment.”

The senators also criticized U.S. law enforcement’s reluctance to deal with the problem of Saudi financing of terrorism. Lieberman noted, “The FBI and maybe other parts of our government have seemed to want to almost defend the Saudis, or not be as aggressive as they should be about the Saudis.” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) concurred: “It seems every time the Saudis are involved, we stop [doing a proper investigation].”

In contrast, the Bush administration offered excuses for the couple and glossed over the problems of law enforcement. Secretary of State Colin Powell poured cold water on the revelations: “I think it’s unlikely that Prince Bandar or Her Royal Highness would do anything that would support terrorist activity” – a most unusual endorsement, given that the FBI is actively investigating this matter.

The State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, praised Saudi efforts to prevent the financing of terrorism as very strong, though he did concede that there is always more to be done.

The president’s press secretary, Ari Fleischer, promoted the self-serving Saudi line that Osama bin Laden specifically recruited Saudi hijackers for the 9/11 attacks to “drive a wedge” between the United States and Saudi Arabia. (This idea is palpably false: That 15 out of 19 hijackers were Saudi was not a political ploy but the result of the fact, as Stephen Schwartz explains, that “Saudis are the largest national contingent by far in al Qaeda.”)

[The most embarrassing display by the administration, however, came from the distaff side. Colin Powell’s wife Alma and the president’s mother Barbara – both of whom have a history of socializing with the princess – called Haifa al-Faisal on the telephone to express what the New York Times delicately termed their “support and sympathy.”]

Why this undue solicitude for Saudi feelings? This hedging by the executive branch fits a pattern going back almost 60 years, to when President Franklin D. Roosevelt met the Saudi king in 1945.

Since then, U.S. politicians, diplomats, flag officers and lobbyists have enjoyed a cozy relationship with their counterparts on the Saudi side. The tie is premised on Americans – Democrats and Republicans alike -accommodating the kingdom’s wishes and in return, being plied with substantial sums of money, either at the time or after they leave government service.

A culture of corruption, in other words, pervades the upper reaches of the White House and several departments; it does not, however, extend to Congress, perhaps because the Saudis do not understand the workings or importance of an elected body and so have not tried to buy it.

Effectively fighting the war on terror urgently requires the passing of legislation that breaks up the cozy power-money nexus in the executive branch by making sure that U.S. officials cannot tap into Saudi funds after they retire from government service.

Such laws should be high on the new Congress agenda when it convenes in January.

Originally published in the New York Post.

Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and a columnist for both the New York Post and The Jerusalem Post. His website, DanielPipes.org, offers an archive of his published writings and a si

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

Related articles

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest