Claims that Saudi Arabia was behind the 9/11 attacks on America have been circulating since 2001. The Saudis have denied all such claims even though 15 of the 19 aircraft hijackers were Saudi citizens.
This week, allegations of Saudi involvement reignited as one of the men convicted in the 9/11 plot, Zacarias Moussaoui, reasserted the allegations. Moussaoui, who is in US maximum security prison, charges senior Saudi princes and officials bankrolled the 9/11 attacks and other al-Qaida operations. He may have been tortured and has mental problems.
Among the Saudis Moussaoui named are Prince Turki Faisal, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, two of the kingdom’s most powerful and influential men. Turki was head of Saudi intelligence; Bandar ambassador to Washington during the Bush administration.
These accusation come at a time when there is a furious struggle in Washington over releasing secret pages of the Congressional Intelligence Committee report on the 9/11 attacks that reportedly implicated Saudi Arabia. The White House claims the report would be embarrassing and damage US-Saudi relations.
I have been following this twisted tale since the 1980’s when I was in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Peshawar, Pakistan’s wild border city, I met with Sheik Abdullah Azzam, founder of al-Qaida.
At the time, al-Qaida was a tiny, store-front information bureau supporting the “mujahidin” fighters being sent by Saudi Arabia and the US to fight the Soviets occupying Afghanistan.
Sheik Abdullah, a renowned exponent of “jihad,” told me something that shook me: “when we have liberated Afghanistan from Soviet colonialism, we will go on and liberate Saudi Arabia from American colonial rule.” This was the first time I had ever heard America called a colonial power.
Azzam was assassinated soon after. But his star pupil, one Osama bin Laden, carried on Azzam’s quest to drive western influence from the Muslim world.
At the time, “our” Muslims fighting Soviet occupation were hailed as “freedom fighters” by President Ronald Reagan. Today, in a re-writing of history, they are widely called “terrorists.”
What Moussaoui reportedly said is that the two aforementioned senior Saudi princes, Turki and Bandar, donated money to the Afghan mujahidin during the 1980’s, not to al-Qaida. Many Americans will fail to understand the distinction
Saudi Arabia funneled large sums of money to militant groups in the Mideast, Balkans, Caucasus, Africa and South Asia. The purpose was twofold: first, to keep young hotheads as far as possible from the kingdom; second, to combat Iran’s spreading influence. Washington gave tacit backing.
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Iran, gripped by Islamic revolutionary zeal, was sending preachers and teachers all over Asia and Africa, notably so in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Saudis, deathly afraid of the Islamic revolution in Tehran that called for sharing oil wealth with the Muslim world’s poor, waged a long proxy war against Iran that pitted Wahabi Sunnis against Shia. Washington, gripped by anti-Iranian fever, backed the Saudi religious offensive.
In the midst of this religious-political conflict arose the Saudi exile bin Laden. Though his father was one of the kingdom’s wealthiest men, bin Laden opposed the Saudi ruling princes whom he charged were stealing the Muslim world’s wealth and helping enable continued American domination of the Muslim world – what I called in my second book, “the American Raj.”
Having followed bin Laden’s career since the late 1980’s, I am convinced that he had no direct support from the ruling Saudi princes – nor from CIA. The Saudis were even more afraid of him than Iran. But I have no doubt, as I said on CNN back in 2001, that numerous wealthy Saudis and Kuwaitis were giving private donations to al-Qaida and other militant groups.
To the Americans, cutting off al-Qaida’s finances was a primary objective. They never understood – and still do not – that resistance to US influence may be facilitated by money but is not driven by it. The US’s enemies are motivated by ideology and revolutionary fervor, not cash. It’s hard for some westerners to understand that money is not behind everything.
What the media never talks about is that there has long been boiling dissent in Saudi Arabia, perhaps the world’s most rigid, reactionary nation. It comes from both the nation’s second-class Shia as well as the growing numbers of young Saudis who yearn to break out of the stultifying society in which they live. There are even rebels among the kingdom’s 22,000 princes.
A sizeable number of Saudis believe their nation is occupied by the United States. This is no chimera. There are some 40,000 American “technicians” and “contractors” in Saudi serving the oil industry and military. US forces in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Diego Garcia overwatch Saudi Arabia. There are secret US bases in Saudi. Israel is a secret ally of the Saudi royal family.
The Saudi royal family is protected by the America’s CIA, FBI, NSA, and military intelligence. This, however, is not guarantee of absolute security: the same arrangement was in place to guard Egypt’s military dictator, Husni Mubarak, yet failed. In the 1980’s, a full division of Pakistan’s crack army guarded the royal family. “The Saudis don’t trust their own military,” Pakistan’s late leader Zia ul-Haq told me after being seconded to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia maintains two parallel armed forces: a feeble army, which is denied ammunition, and the Bedouin or “White Army,” that protects the royal family. Most of the tens of billions of US and British arms bought by the kingdom sit rusting in warehouses, or are operated by western mercenaries. US mercenary firms direct the White Guard.
As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason for the Saudi royal elite to have funded Osma bin Laden or the 9/11 hijackers. But the attack was clearly an attempt by Saudi dissidents to strike back at US domination of their country.
In fact, the reasons for the 9/11 attacks have been all but obscured by a torrent of disinformation and hysteria. The attackers were quite clear in their reasons: to punish the US for supporting Israel and oppressing the Palestinians; and for its “occupation” of Saudi Arabia and keeping a tyrannical regime there in power.
The Bush administration claimed the attacks were caused by religious fanaticism and hatred of western values, a false dialogue that continues to this day as we just saw with the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris. Muslims are to have no legitimate political motivations; they are all mad dogs. Even if we attack their homelands, they have no right to attack us.
Saudi Arabia remains at a low boil, as western intelligence services hunt for opponents of its feudal government. The intense US preoccupation with remote Yemen reflects Washington’s deep concern that millions of Yemeni expatriates in Saudi could become a revolutionary vanguard. The bin Laden’s, of course, were of Yemeni origin.
Yes, men and funds for the 9/11 attacks likely came from Saudi Arabia; yes, the royal family knew about this – after the fact – but remains mum to this day; yes, Washington knows the Saudi princes knew, but remains mute and keeps trying to censor Part 4 of the damning 9/11 report. Too many senior US officials and legislators have been on the Saudi payroll.
While in office, Britain’s former prime minister, Tony Blair quashed a major report by the Serious Fraud Office into tens of millions in illicit kickbacks by British arms makers to Saudi royals…for “national security reasons.” Expect the same from Washington.
Few in official Washington want to know that America’s key ally, Saudi Arabia, was involved in 9/11. Even fewer want to reopen the 9/11 investigation which was full of holes and omissions and perhaps likely to raise questions about some of America’s other allies.
The change of ruler in Saudi has so far made little difference. The song remains the same. But behind the scenes, pressure is growing.