Jewish World Review May 16, 2003/ 14 Iyar, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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A deadly gift from our Saudi friends | Some of our more credulous officials are getting a postgraduate course in the cynicism of our Saudi friends.

If events can persuade the dedicated Arabists at the State Department - always eager to blame America (and Israel) first - that civilizing Saudi Arabia is a fool's errand, the latest outrage ought to do it. The suicide bombers, who killed more than 30 innocents, including seven Americans, were outrageous enough. The "investigation" of the outrage already looks to be more outrageous still.

Secretary of State Colin Powell applied the State Department's usual generous dose of soothing syrup. "Terrorism strikes everywhere and everyone," the affable, generous Mr. Powell said. Piped up the Saudi foreign minister: "These things happen everywhere." Even George W., ever eager to exonerate "the religion of peace," decried the bombing as the work of "killers whose only faith is hate."

None of this gets it quite right. The president's enigmatic remarks could be read a couple of ways, but what the learned diplomats should have said is that terrorism strikes mostly where Islamic radicals are about, and usually when Saudis make the scene.

It's not polite, or at least not diplomatic, to say the obvious. If the Saudis would wipe themselves off the map - on a day when Allah would run out of virgins - the world would be spared a lot of grief. Saudi Arabia was not only the home of Osama bin Laden and nearly all of the fiends of September 11, but Saudis, according to the U.N. Security Council, have contributed $500 million to al Qaeda over the past decade.

The Saudi security cops, who lean more to brutality than professional competence, bungled an opportunity to prevent this latest outrage, assuming, of course, that the cops had any interest in preventing it. When they earlier uncovered an enormous cache of arms, and the security cops closed in on the 19 men sought for questioning, 18 of them got away. Some of those 18 evil-doers are suspected of having participated in Monday's attack, mounting their devastating attack while on the run.

The Saudis made a show of inviting the FBI to send a team of detectives to the kingdom, a dramatic improvement over earlier incidents of terror. When Islamic terrorists bombed the Khobar Towers in 1996, killing 19 American airmen, 70 FBI agents were dispatched to Saudi Arabia, and all for nothing. The Saudi government refused to let them interview witnesses or see any of whatever evidence the Saudis had collected. What followed was drearier still: The Clinton administration declined to pressure the Riyadh government to cooperate, despite the emphatic urging of Louis Freeh, who was then the director of the FBI.

The Saudis appear to be playing the same transparent game this time. This time, the FBI dispatched only six agents, and they arrived in Saudi Arabia yesterday after being held up in Germany for 24 hours while "visa difficulties" were "worked out." A reasonable man would think that the Saudis, having invited them to help, would have snipped the red tape in a nanosecond. But that would assume that the Saudis really want to ferret out the ferrets.

The Saudi government either will not or cannot come to terms with who the enemy really is. Prince Naif, the interior minister in charge of the investigation, first said the perps were part of al Qaeda. Then he hedged. A Saudi-based organization that calls itself al-Mowahedoon, which vows to rid the Arabian peninsula of all Christians and Jews, preferably with gun and scimitar, boasts that it did the deadly suicide deed. Prince Naif, terrified, scoffed at the claim.

Al-Mowahedoon's members are rabid followers of Wahhabi Islam, the virulent and violent strain of seventh-century Islam that seeks to rule the world by the Koran and evangelizes with bullets, knives and bombs. The Saudi government has contributed millions of dollars to Wahhabi imams, many of whom preach in mosques in America.

The House of Saud owes its survival to the Wahhabists, but the bargain the ruling family struck has not endeared it to the extremist imams. Osama bin Laden and his allies lust to devour the ruling family as well. The ruling family, whose busy princesses crank out princes faster than Burger King turns out cheeseburgers and fries, makes a point of not seeing Wahhabi evil in hopes that the day of devouring can be postponed just a little longer.

The Saudis had ample warning that the Islamists were on the prowl for a target. The United States sent a ranking officer of the National Security Council to tell the Saudis an attack was imminent. He pleaded with the Saudis to, at the least, mount a machine-gun crew at the gates of the residential compound and a "reaction team" just inside the gates. The Saudi brigadier in charge of "security" couldn't be bothered. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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