April 18, 2003

The time bomb of Saudi Arabia

Although I am a Democrat, I have been a staunch supporter of the Bush administration?s foreign policy since September 11, 2001. I supported the campaign in Afghanistan, the 14-month ?rush to war? with Iraq, and the subsequent 20-day ?quagmire.? However, Saudi Arabia is where my allegiance to President Bush ends. The U.S. government has made poor decisions that have come back to harm us. These decisions went against our belief in freedom, pluralism, and modernization. They involved supporting dangerous dictators and regimes because they were the lesser of two evils, the greater evil usually being the Soviets. We outfitted both Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein to fight communism, and either didn?t see or ignored the potential for destruction we had created. Today we are doing the same thing in Saudi Arabia.

Aside from Israel, Saudi Arabia is our greatest ally in the Middle East, if measured in military and economic cooperation. Saudi Arabia supplies us with oil, and we station more military might in its borders than most countries possess. Yet all of the human rights abuses that are present in the Middle East exist in Saudi Arabia. Those not following the extreme Islamic law of Shari?ah are subject to the wrath of religious police. Saudi education has been penetrated by a strain of Islamist extremism known as Wahhabism. Saudi schools, funded by the Saudi royal family, teach hatred and intolerance, and no doubt incite terrorism. Fifteen of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis. This reflects poorly on Saudi Arabia and the U.S. The Saudi royal family trained the hijackers; the Bush administration let them into the U.S. There are immigration laws that screen for people entering the U.S. from certain Middle Eastern countries known as hotbeds for terrorism. Saudi Arabia is not on that list, even since September 11.

Despite all this, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has ?bonded? with President Bush at his Texas ranch about as often as UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has, and the U.S. still sends millions in aid money to Saudi Arabia every year. The decision by President Bush to be buddy-buddy with the Saudis is not random. Though our allegiance with Saudi Arabia is helping us fight terrorism in the Middle East outside Saudi Arabia, but it?s encouraging Islamic terrorism growing inside Saudi Arabia. It?s a ticking time bomb that has already exploded once, on September 11. If we had put as much focus on Saudi Arabia?s terrorism problem as we put on Syria and Iran?s, those 15 hijackers wouldn?t have been as well funded with Saudi government?originally U.S.?money, and wouldn?t have been able to move into our borders as easily as they did.

This time bomb will explode again, and it may be more dangerous than Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. When the latter two turned out to hate everyone, not just the USSR, we reversed our policy. After September 11, we should have done the same with Saudi Arabia. If Bush meant his words on September 11, that ?We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them,? Saudi Arabia must be dealt with now.