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Why have we normalised the Sauds?
Since the collapse of the Ghani regime and the rise of the Taliban 2.0 I have observed with fascination an intense outrage at the Taliban and a chilling apathy at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)—simultaneously. It all feels fuelled by propagandist narratives. Spend some time digging into the connection between the Sauds, al-Qaeda, and 9/11 and it becomes clear that we don’t seem outraged enough at the Sauds and their contribution to extremism and terror and the danger they pose to people in the west. I mean, shouldn’t things that happen closer to home draw more interest and outrage? Why don’t we want to see the real KSA?
Over the past few weeks I’ve heard outrage about the Taliban being on the UN Women’s Committee. Well, so is KSA. Also, in 2015 KSA was appointed Chair of the UN Human Rights Council panel on choosing UN rights experts. The world leader in capital punishment, known for its brutal treatment human rights activists, gets to be among those who choose UN human rights experts—it’s farcical, a charade. I’ve also heard outrage at the lack of women in the Taliban cabinet. Well, Saudi Arabia has no women in it’s ministerial council, and there are several other countries as well. But the treatment of women. KSA has had guardianship, a ban on women driving, considers women’s right’s campaigners enemies of the state. But terrorism. By the USA state department’s own admission, more financing of Sunni terrorism comes from within Saudi Arabia than anywhere else in the world. Not to mention the fact that the Sauds supported bin Laden’s resistance efforts against the Soviets and did not expel him for his al-Qaeda work, but because he opposed American military bases on Saudi soil—the Sauds expelled bin Laden for being critical of the Kingdom’s regime, not for his involvement in or promotion of terror.
Definitive proof exists that ibn Salman, aka MBS, ordered the assassination of a Saudi dissident—the intellectual, journalist, and former kingdom insider Jamal Khashoggi. America went ahead and sold arms to the Sauds anyway. The Sauds infiltrated Twitter and hacked into a few accounts of known critics of the Saudi regime. The Sauds have targeted the lives of certain dissidents living in the west, have forced individuals to live like fugitives or under police protection, away from their families. The Sauds held Loujain al-Hathloul in prison for 1001 days, where she suffered mistreatment and torture, for her women’s rights campaigning.
The Sauds held a trial for al-Hathloul in a Specialised Criminal Court — ie one for terrorists in which activists are often tried in abusive trials and receive harsh sentences — in which she received a six year prison sentence under the Kingdom’s counterterrorism law. You can read the timeline of al-Hathloul’s arrest and incarceration here. Rights organisations have … documented the torture and sexual violence al-Hathloul has been subjected to since her arrest, reported Al-Jazeera earlier this year on al-Hathloul’s release from prison. You can read about the documented abuses here, on the Human Rights Watch website.
The Sauds are world leaders in capital punishment—in 2019 the kingdom committed a mass execution of 37 nationals, including children and the disabled, based on testimony obtained under the coercion of torture. Despite judicial reforms promoted as progressive—ie commuting death sentences for minors—prosecutors routinely ignore them and continue to operate in an opaque manner, dodging any accountability for the sketchy human rights practises operating within the criminal justice system. Human rights organisations fear another mass execution may take place in Saudi Arabia.
More pointedly—you know in a Machiavellian sense—in 2010 Wikileaks released a secret state memo written on December 30, 2009 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Kuwait Treasury Department which acknowledged donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.
American Geopolitical Self Interest
Despite all these facts about the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy and the support of terrorists from within the country itself, the west appears to have normalised international relations with KSA. Westerners seem quite apathetic about the damage rendered by the Sauds. Yet this very same west has an apoplectic fit at every single little thing the Taliban has done since taking Kabul a few weeks ago. I find this phenomenon quite strange and intriguing—I don’t really see why one sect of extremists gains approval and the other remains terrorists. (Well in a cynical way I do, read on to find out).
So, one is a Gala apple, the other a Honeycrisp apple—they are both apples though. The Taliban emerged in reaction to corruption and abuse, both intensified and promoted by American occupation, and fuelled by decades of war. Corruption and abuse unchecked provided a great recruitment opportunity for the Taliban—extremism is a response to suffering. The Taliban have nothing that interests the Americans in a Machiavellian sense. The Sauds, as the largest exporter of oil, second largest producer of oil, with a significantly smaller debt to GDP ratio, and a healthy appetite for arms purchases, have a specific importance to American imperial self interests. So KSA gets an extremism pass and Taliban = terrorists. America and KSA are both Machiavellian regimes with imperial goals, let’s be clear about that.
Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, KSA backed him in his resistance against the Soviets, as long as he was useful they kept him around. 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. Rumours linger regarding the connection between the Sauds and al-Qaeda a full 20 years after 9/11 and the lawsuit of the Saudi regime by some of the 9/11 families continues. KSA denies any connection between itself and al-Qaeda—OH OF COURSE IT DID! Um, yes—this is the same KSA that denied any culpability for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi which took place on Turkish soil. Someone’s pants may be on fire.
Intelligence Investigations and A Cover-Up: KSA
We live in an era in which political leaders make denials in the face of compelling contradictory evidence. Perhaps we’ve become so accustomed to hearing the lies, to the point of apathy. We have been lied to in a massive way about the war on terror. Bush the younger received advice that Sadam Hussein was not working with al-Qaeda to produce WMD, he chose to dismiss that expert opinion, and the British at the time seemed quite happy in their sycophantic pandering of America to play along. What really did happen to David Kelly, the UN weapons inspector who challenged the ridiculous theory which led to the war in Iraq? That’s a good question. Does it matter? In the end—his life was destroyed by political machinations.
In 2005 a joint FBI-CIA report on the nature and extent of Saudi government support of terrorism concluded no evidence existed to suggest any involvement of the Saudi government or royal family and denied any evidence that individuals named al-Bayoumi or Bassnan provided support to the hijackers. That’s interesting because vast evidence exists to contradict this claim.
A 2002 report of U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence provided extensive details of Saudi government employee involvement in supporting the 9/11 hijackers, including detailed information about al-Bayoumi, who received funding from a Saudi company affiliated with the KSA Ministry of Defence, and Bassnan, a supporter of bin Laden and possibly an intelligence officer who received funds from a member of the Saudi Royal Family as well as from the Saudi Ambassador to the US, and others who assisted the hijackers al-Hazmi and al-Midhar. Considerable evidence exists to suggest al-Bayoumi also worked as for KSA intelligence.
In her 2018 sworn declaration Catherine Manherz Hunt stated that, in addition to al-Thumairy, al-Bayoumi, and Smail Mana, FBI investigated the following 6 individuals employed by the Saudi government in connection with 9/11: Abdullah al-Jraithen, Khalid al-Sowailem, Mussaed Ahmed al-Jarrah, Adel Mohamed al-Sadhan, Mutaeb Abdelaziz al-Sudairy, Omar Abdi Mohamed. The six individuals named worked with al-Thumairy, al-Bayoumi, and Mana—three individuals known to have assisted the hijackers upon their arrival in Los Angeles. The hijackers spoke no English and had no pilot training, so obviously an extensive network had to exist in order to support them to carry out their 9/11 mission.
In her 2020 sworn declaration Jill Sanborn mentioned persons who directed al-Bayoumi and al-Thumairy with assisting the hijackers then names al-Jarrah. Earlier in her declaration Sanborn mentioned that the identity of one of the officials is sealed by an FBI Protective Order and Yahoo News noticed that al-Jarrah had been mistakenly named.
Interestingly, Mussaed Ahmed al-Jarrah was a mid-level official at the Saudi Embassy in DC during 1999-2000. His identity is considered a state secret, a matter of national security because of his status as a mid-level KSA embassy official. Did the FBI/Court forget to redact that name in the Sanborn declaration? Yes, and apparently the court withdrew the Sanborn declaration from the docket, stating the document was incorrectly filed in this case. Did anyone notice that Hunt’s 2018 declaration named al-Jarrah, and that this violated the Protective Order? Alas (sarcasm), electronic copies of both declarations exist.
Also interestingly, al-Thumairy was an accredited diplomat at the Saudi consulate and one of the Imams at the King Farah Mosque in Culver City, California. The King Farah Mosque, built in 1998 with funds from Prince Abdulaziz and known for it’s anti-Western views, received regular attendance from the Los Angeles Saudi consulate staff. Smail Mana worked at the Los Angeles Saudi consulate and also lectured at the King Farah Mosque. A witness puts al-Thumairy speaking with the hijackers in the mosque.
The cover-up appears more obvious at this point, in particular after the FBI’s accidental revelation of al-Jarrah as connected to the hijackers. Really, the only way out is through the truth—admission of the lies and cover-ups and KSA involvement. The lawsuit of a group of 9/11 families against KSA continues, with the Saudis exhibiting a spirit of uncooperativeness. The US District Court in New York ordered KSA to release the relevant documents related to Mana, and Jarrah. Biden has committed to declassifying the documents related to the FBI’s Operation Encore, which investigated the Saudi connection to 9/11.
Geopolitical Revenge Fantasy Chess and A Reckoning
Imagine the all the death, destruction, human displacement, abuse, torture, surveillance, profiling of Muslims, and sharp rise in anti-muslim hatred happened because some unelected men with a malignant narcissism complex decided to play enemy of my enemy. Very poorly thought out military revenge fantasies and geopolitical chess games created power vacuums which cultivated the emergence of terrorism. The military industrial cult of American Imperialism and Evangelical Christian Nationalism must face a reckoning. Uncomfortable truths must see light, families of 9/11 victims, and the whole world really, must know the truth about the involvement of KSA and sources within Saudi itself. America needs to stop giving KSA a pass—how much more evidence do we need to see on multiple levels? Corruption and lies are the anathema to freedom.
A full 20 years after 9/11, having devastated millions and spent a trillion dollars in a bogus and illegal war on terror that destroyed countries, having funded foreign forces committing human rights abuses, having violated the Geneva Convention and the spirit of its own constitution with Gitmo detainment, and having suppressed truth to promote an imperial war narrative and avoid accountability—can we finally have a reckoning, now that America has walked away from Afghanistan? Is it even possible to ever hold accountable the architects of the war on terror?
America is the terror, a geopolitical menace.