Not Enuf Ado About US Ignoble Ally Saudi Arabia
Christopher Brauchli in “With Friends Like These... Intolerance, Saudi-Style” chronicles some seriously unpleasant prosecutions from one of the USA’s closest allies, Saudi Arabia:
1) In early Nov. King Abdullah’s advisory council advised an easing of the ban on female drivers. (Religious edicts had pronounced that permitting women to drive “encourages licentiousness”). The easing would have let women over 30, not wearing makeup, conservatively dressed, and with the permission of a male relative drive alone 7am to 8pm on Sat.-Wed. and 12pm-8pm Thurs & Fri. Outside the city a male relative would have to accompany the woman in the car.
An official DENIED the modification.
On Dec. 1, 2014 two Saudi women were arrested after driving into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. They were at first detained for one week’s time. Then it was announced they would be held until Dec. 25th. On Dec. 25th they surprisingly were referred to a “terrorism” court in Riyad. They are still being held for prosecution until this day. They have been confined longer than any other Saudi women charged with illegal driving.
2) On Dec. 18, 2014 Saudi Arabia passed a new law that imposes the death penalty on anyone smuggling a Bible into the country. [North Korea has a similar law. Owning a Bible is a capital offense punishable by death.]
3) Raif Badawi, a Saudi citizen, started an Internet forum entitled “Free Saudi Liberals” back in 2008. It discussed the role of religion in Saudi Arabia. In July 2012 Badawi was arrested and charged with cyber crime and disobeying his father. At his first trial he was sentenced to 7 years in jail and 600 lashes. In July 2014 an appellate court ordered a new trial. At the second trial he was sentenced to 5 years in prison, fined one million riyals for creating the website and an additional 5 years in prison and 1,000 public lashes for “blasphemous phrases on his Facebook page and disobedience to his father”. The lashes will come in 20 sessions, 50 lashes each.
4) Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Ab al-Khair, received a 5-year prison sentence for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses in media interviews and on social media.
5) The same day Badawi was sentenced, another administrator of a website was sentenced by Badawi’s court to six years in jail and a fine of 50,000 riyals. His crime: "supporting Internet forums hostile to the state. . . which promoted demonstrations."
6) Another website administrator was sentenced to five years for publishing a column written by a Sh’ite Muslim cleric.
7) Fahdil al-Manasif helped out journalists from abroad as they covered protests involving the treatment of Shia Muslims in the eastern portion of the country. He has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for this.
8) On Nov. 3, 2014 Mikhlif al-Shammari was sentenced to two years in prison and 200 lashes for visiting “a prominent Shia figure … as a goodwill gesture.”
Christopher Brauchli reminds us that all of these offenses had nothing to do with physical violence and relate to “intellectual activities.” Brauchli also asks how Saudi authorities might react to satirist cartoonists making fun of them.
Tom Carter in “Obama administration continues to block report on Saudi financing of 9/11 attacks” explores the “cloud of secrecy” over the events of 9-11-2001 over 13 years ago. Those terrorist attacks have been the justification for countless US military aggressions abroad and the build-up of an astounding police-state infrastructure at home. Though there are always “official” sentimental remembrance rituals for 9/11, the US government continues to obstruct the release to the public of a particular collection of “factual information” – 28 pages that are deemed classified from a Dec. 2002 congressional report, entitled “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Activities Before and After the Terrorists Attacks of September 2001.”
On Jan. 7, 2015, some current and former members of Congress and some families of the 9/11 victims held a press conference to demand the release of this report, first deemed "classified" by the George Bush administration and now by Obama’s.
Former Democratic Senator Bob Graham, who had been the co-chair of the original inquiry and who co-authored the report declared at the press conference:
The 28 pages primarily relate to who financed 9/11 and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier.
While the 28 pages are maybe the most important and the most prominent, they are by no means the only example of where information that is important to understanding the full extent of 9/11 has also been withheld from the American people, … This is not a narrow issue of withholding information at one place, in one time, … This is a pervasive pattern of covering up the role of Saudi Arabia in 9/11, by all of the agencies of the federal government, which have access to information that might illuminate Saudi Arabia’s role in 9/11.
Terry Strada whose husband was killed in the World Trade Center attacks and who is co-chair of “9/11 Families United for Justice” asserted:
When former President George W. Bush classified the 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry, he effectively protected the people who gave financial and logistical aid to at least some of the 19 hijackers while they were here in this country.
Carter points out that even without these 28 pages, there is ample evidence that Saudi Arabia was “principally involved in financing the September 11 attacks” and that such evidence is “covered up by the media and the US political establishment.”
Remember the two hijackers in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon? Their names were Nawaf al-Hazami and Khalid al-Mihdhar. They had flown to the US using their own names, just having attended an Islamist training camp in Malaysia that was being monitored by the US CIA. When they arrived in Los Angeles they met up with Omar al-Bayoumi who was tied to Saudi intelligence and according to the unclassified sections of the congressional report had “seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia.”
Bayoumi met al-Hazami and al-Mihdhar at the Saudi consulate and took them to San Diego, where they moved in with an FBI informant in the months preceding the September 11 attacks. An associate of Bayoumi, Asama Bassnan, received checks from the then-Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, and his wife—money that was used to assist the hijackers.
While in San Diego, the pair had meetings with Anwar al-Awlaki, the cleric and US citizen who was assassinated by the Obama administration in September 2011. Al-Awlaki had his own strange ties with the US state, having attended a meeting with military officials at the Pentagon only months after the September 11 attacks, as part of a supposed “outreach” effort.
In October of last year, Zacarias Moussaoui—the so-called “20th hijacker” who is currently serving a life sentence in maximum security prison—released a letter to the Oklahoma Western District Court alleging that he was personally assisted by Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud. Moussaoui took flight lessons in Norman, Oklahoma along with Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, two of the alleged 9/11 hijackers.
According to Moussaoui, the Saudi prince financed his flight lessons “and was doing so knowingly for Osama bin Laden.
Carter insists that since Obama came into office his administration has worked hard to prevent a full public disclosure of the actual ties between the 9/11 hijackers and Saudi Arabia. In 2009 the Obama administration blocked release of documents that were "gathered by" the families of the 9/11 victims.
Carter also points out that the January 7 press conference attended by Senator Graham, other congresspeople and 9/11 relatives was almost entirely ignored by mass media. The media is earnest in positively propagandizing the US role in the “war on terror” but equally earnest in keeping the real narrative of events and the role of US ally, Saudi Arabia, vague. The Saudi monarchy, ultra-reactionary, has been a US “principal client” since the 1950s. The majority of 9/11 attackers came from Saudi Arabia.
Carter explains that Senator Graham contended that the classified report indicates “incompetence” of our US intelligence agencies. Carter sees what limited information we have available about the tragic event as revealing a “deliberate indifference” or WORSE!
Carter goes on to say that US intelligence agencies had been cultivating ties with fundamentalist groups for decades before 9-11-01. This included Islamic fundamentalist group Al Qaeda to help with the Soviet war in Afghanistan 1979-1989. Carter quotes President Ronald Reagan back then as declaring the jihadist militias in Afghanistan “freedom fighters.”
Islamist groups are often used by the US military as “shock troops”, as in Libya, Syria and elsewhere, more recently. Saudi Arabia is, according to Carter, “a significant source of funding for these groups.”
Carter concludes that there were “conspicuous failures to investigate in the aftermath of the attacks.” It seems to him that it is hardly credible that the ENTIRE “national security apparatus” was “unaware of the activities of the hijackers until the airliners slammed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Did the US intelligence agencies know, before the attacks, that Saudi Arabia was financing Al Qaeda? Was Saudi Arabia, in fact, financing Al Qaeda at the behest of sections of the American state and US intelligence agencies?
[cross-posted on open salon]