Saudi Arabia's pathetic effort to convince the American public that it is a force for tolerance and stability in the world continued in a laughable op-ed published on this site just over a week ago.
Without even a hint of self-consciousness, the Kingdom's new ambassador to the United States made the delusional claim that "Saudi Arabia has and will continue to lead all nations in combating the mindset that foments violent extremism." The newly minted ambassador went on to argue that the Kingdom's religious leaders, including its Grand Mufti, "have loudly and repeatedly condemned extremism and terrorism and have worked to guide those who could be deluded by extremist ideologies away from that misguided path."
Was that the case when, just two years before the 9/11 attacks, the Kingdom's Grand Mufti (who by the way is a government official appointed by the King) published a book stating that "[t]he attack of the Christian crusaders is today at its most intense...The Muslim whose mind has not been corrupted cannot bear to see the infidels wielding authority...[t]herefore such a Muslim strives [to] his utmost to expel and distance them--even if he has to sacrifice his own life, or his most cherished possession for this cause."?
Perhaps the Ambassador was instead referring to the Saudi government textbook which proclaimed that true Muslims "must show the infidels rudeness and violence, and wage Jihad in the way of Allah without fear of the Infidels and hypocrites, or terror of their arms and numbers."
Much as the oil-rich Kingdom would like us to believe otherwise, it is not a coincidence that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers and Osama bin Laden himself were Saudis. To the contrary, they were the horrible products of the multi-billion dollar Saudi hate machine. And lest you think this is a problem of the past, Saudis rank number one among the roster of foreign fighters who have joined ISIS.
Given the actual facts, it should come as no surprise that American political and thought leaders do not share the new Ambassador's implausible view of the Kingdom's role in the world.
Just days after the Saudi Ambassador authored his ridiculous plea, The Atlantic published an interview with President Obama in which the president decried the Saudis as "free riders" whose massive efforts to propagate the Wahhabi variant of Islam have promoted extremist ideologies and sectarian conflicts that imperil our national security across the globe.
The president's assessments echoed the observation of Thomas Friedman of the New York Times several months ago that "all these Sunni jihadist groups -- ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front -- are the ideological offspring of the Wahhabism injected by Saudi Arabia into mosques and madrasas from Morocco to Pakistan to Indonesia."
Friedman's New York Times colleague David Kirkpatrick likewise confirmed the intimate link between Saudi Arabia's propagation of Wahhabi ideology and the rise of ISIS, explaining in 2014 that "For their guiding principles, the leaders of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, are open and clear about their almost exclusive commitment to the Wahhabi movement of Sunni Islam. The group circulates images of Wahhabi religious textbooks from Saudi Arabia in the schools it controls. Videos from the group's territory have shown Wahhabi texts plastered on the sides of an official missionary van."
For these very reasons, Micah Zenko, a veteran of the State Department's Office of Policy Planning and senior fellow at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations, said this week that the idea of the Saudis leading the fight against terrorism was akin to a "[drug] cartel leading a counternarcotics campaign."
In fairness to the Saudis, they're right to be nervous about their state in the world and understandably desperate to make themselves look better. Several world leaders have joined President Obama in denouncing the role of the Kingdom in fueling the tide of Islamist extremism that now envelopes the globe.
Meanwhile, historical allies in Europe and elsewhere are increasingly wary of selling arms to a state that appears unconcerned with the massive civilian casualties resulting from its reckless use of those weapons in Yemen, or the international outcry over its horrific human rights abuses at home.
In the last few weeks the Saudis have lashed out aggressively against allies who have not fallen in line with their thinking, and in the past they have not been above making thinly veiled threats when they do not get their way.
In this moment, we who lost loved ones in the September 11th attacks hope our president and government will finally stand up to our Saudi "friends," and tell them once and for all that denial is not a viable path forward.
Winston Churchill once said that a "lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." Maybe that's what the Saudis (and some in the U.S. government) are counting on. But what they're not appreciating is that, once the truth gets dressed, it catches up really fast, and when it does, you can't hide from it.
Terry Strada, widow of Tom Strada, North Tower
Gordon Haberman, father of Andrea Haberman, North Tower
Curtis F. Brewer, husband of Carol Demitz, South Tower