The Magazine

The (Hon.) Shills

Dishonest analysis on Saudi Arabia from former U.S. ambassadors to the kingdom.

Jan 13, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 17 • By JOSH CHAFETZ
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But evidence isn't exactly the ambassadors' strong suit. Murphy, sounding like a parody of himself, told the House Armed Services Committee in May that "the danger of Wahhabism is--and I don't like to even refer to it as a danger--the danger is the export. Because in Saudi Arabia they're not training up people to be bloody attackers, savages of--savagers of the West, of the United States. It's when it is exported into a community where there is no other funding for education, where there's no ministry operable--in the northwest province of Pakistan is one good example." Fifteen of the nineteen "bloody attackers" of September 11, however, were Saudis. None was a Pakistani. Moreover, according to a classified list put together by U.S. intelligence agencies, 7 of the 9 top financiers for al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups are Saudi. And, by some accounts, 80 percent of the detainees at Guantanamo hail from the kingdom.

Even more absurdly, Fowler told CNN's Jeff Greenfield that "Wahhabism . . . does teach tolerance for Jews and Christians." Perhaps Fowler should tell that to Sheikh Muhammad Al-Saleh Al-'Athimein, who, in a sermon at the Great Mosque in Al-'Unayza, Saudi Arabia, said, "The Jews are treacherous and deceitful people over whom lies the curse and anger of Allah. . . . He cursed them and turned them into apes and pigs." Or Sheikh Nasser Muhammad Al-Ahmad, who, in a sermon at the Al-Nour mosque in Al-Khobar, said, "Moral corruption is a general trait of the Jews, all the Jews. . . . If you want to know the Jew through and through, imagine a group of perverse moral traits." Or perhaps he should speak with Sheikh Muhammad bin Abd Al-Rahman Al-'Arifi, imam of the mosque of King Fahd Defense Academy, who recently wrote, "We will control the land of the Vatican; we will control Rome and introduce Islam in it. Yes, the Christians . . . will yet pay us the Jiziya [poll tax paid by non-Muslims under Muslim rule], in humiliation, or they will convert to Islam." In fact, anyone can read these and hundreds of other recent examples of Wahhabi tolerance at, the website of the Middle East Media Research Institute, which performs the invaluable service of translating Arabic media and sermons into English. But when former U.S. arms control director Ken Adelman pointed this out to Fowler on CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports," Fowler dismissively (and cluelessly) responded, "I guess that the last word I think I can say on this is my evidence doesn't come from chatrooms and websites."

But why appeal to evidence, when it can only get in the way of your favorite pastime, which, if you happen to be a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, is probably insinuating that the United States is at least partly to blame for September 11? Fowler, less than a month after the attacks, told a business symposium in Atlanta: "To continually say that 'they attacked our freedom' is not by any means the total picture. . . . It's probably our foreign policy that is the source of several of the grievances." In case there was any doubt about what he meant, he told National Journal the same thing: "The anger that has fueled extremism in the region can be partially tied to [Arab] distaste for U.S. foreign policy."

We needn't bother asking which policy he's talking about: "In the Arab world, the Palestinian cause has become the prism through which all policy is filtered. The Arabs believe in the cause. They know that Israel is on occupied land," Fowler told the Charlotte Observer. Akins told the Boston Globe that, as a result of our stance towards Israel, "there has never been such anti-American feeling." He added, "Abdullah has really put his neck out" proffering the Saudi peace plan. You remember the Saudi peace plan. It was that strikingly banal statement of the stunningly obvious: Peace will come only when Israel pulls out of the occupied territories and the entire Arab world agrees to recognize Israel's existence. The plan, of course, said nothing as to why Israel should begin withdrawing from the territories while Palestinian terrorists were still using the territories as staging grounds for attacks on Israeli civilians. Nor did it suggest a way to put an end to those attacks. But that was no obstacle to Reagan appointee Walter Cutler--now head of the Meridian International Center, of which he says Saudi donors have been "very supportive." Cutler told the Christian Science Monitor: "The Saudi plan provides a framework to work from. The time is ripe to put some major flesh on those bones."