THERE IS NO MYSTERY, and there is no need for complicated theorizing, about the scandal that has struck the family of Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz, the ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Washington. U.S. authorities are investigating a financial link between Prince Bandar's wife, Princess Haifa, and two of the September 11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. Money the princess gave, ostensibly for an operation needed by a Saudi woman in San Diego, was passed through two cutouts, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan--the latter reported to be an overt, public, and loud sympathizer of Osama bin Laden--to the soon-to-be hijackers. Now, the royal family's apologists in the U.S. government and media are engaging in contortions to help the Saudis explain away the money trail.
But the relationship between Prince Bandar, his wife, and the world of Saudi "charities," "relief workers," and "Islamic missionaries," in which diverse Saudi functionaries serve as donors, recruiters, protectors, and simple enthusiasts of terror, is elementary.
Prince Bandar, like almost all members of the Saudi royal family, belongs to the Wahhabi sect of Islam, the extremist state religion of Saudi Arabia. The involvement of the Saudi royals with Wahhabism is so inextricably close that it misses the point to ask if Princess Haifa knowingly contributed to the welfare of al-Midhar and Alhazmi while they lived their conspiratorial lives, preparing for their degraded deaths, in the United States.
Prince Bandar and Princess Haifa know that the Wahhabi religious hierarchy in Saudi Arabia preaches hatred and contempt for Christians, Jews, traditional Muslims, Shiites, Hindus, and Sikhs. They know that the same religious hierarchy has operated Islamic outreach and charitable institutions like the Muslim World League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, and the International Islamic Relief Organization (all with offices in the United States) that have served as cover for terrorism. They know that financial gifts or donations to these bodies or their hangers-on are likely to end up in the hands of the terrorists. They know that the cash-rich Saudi Joint Committee for Relief in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to cite the outstanding example, was used as a cover for terrorist infiltration into Europe.
The intentions of Princess Haifa in handing off money that wound up in terrorist hands are irrelevant, for the issue is not a charitable contribution gone astray. Rather, the issue is the overall nature of the Saudi state, the Wahhabi hierarchy, and the charitable and other institutions they control.
Since September 11, the Saudi representatives and their apologists have composed numerous pseudo-explanations for the presence of 15 Saudis among the 19 hijackers. The oleaginous Adel al-Jubeir, foreign policy adviser to Saudi crown prince Abdullah, who has made himself unwelcome among Americans with his patronizing sermonettes on fairness and recommendations about how to conduct investigations, repeats the silly claim that Osama bin Laden "chose" 15 Saudis as a gambit to ruin the U.S.-Saudi relationship. But 15 out of 19 was not a tactic. Saudis are the largest national contingent by far in al Qaeda. Their profile in the September 11 attacks reflects their profile in the Islamofascist international. More important, September 11 was an outcome of the indoctrination of Saudi society in the Wahhabi mentality.
The same is true of the money trail that now turns out to have soiled the princess's expensive shoes. The tracing of terrorist funds to the royal family cannot come as a surprise to anyone who understands the intimate relationship of the Saudi state to Wahhabi extremism. The Saudi royals are so embedded in Wahhabism they are conditioned to ignore the consequences of such "charity."
It is unsurprising, then, that U.S. authorities have questioned personnel from the Saudi embassy's Islamic Affairs section about their relationship with Omar al-Bayoumi. Recently, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (my employer), in conjunction with the Saudi Institute, issued a report (available at www.defenddemocracy.org) on the role of the Islamic Affairs section in distributing Wahhabi hate literature in the United States. But those who have followed the activities of Islamic terror charities also recognize an interesting fact about al-Midhar and Alhazmi, the hijacker recipients of the princess's largesse. These men were not mere foot soldiers in the conspiracy. They are the same two men who were tracked by Malaysian intelligence and the CIA after their attendance at an al Qaeda planning meeting in Kuala Lumpur in 2000, as they traveled across the Pacific and into this country--where their trail went cold thanks to bureaucratic infighting between the CIA and the FBI. They were big fish--perhaps among the biggest in the team.
Further, the global travels of al-Midhar and Alhazmi fit exactly the pattern of Wahhabi "missionaries" and "relief workers" serving in the terrorist apparatus: plenty of movement, plenty of cover. If everybody else knew these two were bad news, and everybody else knew that Osama Basnan was a bin Ladenite, why did Bandar and his wife remain supine about these facts until they were exposed in the media? How does that square with the status of the chief of the Washington diplomatic corps, representing our oldest ally in the Arab world?
We need no advice from the Saudis on how to investigate these issues, especially since they themselves refuse to fulfill their responsibilities in this area. The deep social crisis of the Saudi kingdom has been aggravated by the consequences of September 11. The outcome will affect the destiny of the Islamic global community for generations. It is time for the United States to insist on a full accounting of Saudi involvement in September 11, justice for the perpetrators, and a complete break with Wahhabism by the Saudi state. Nothing else will do--for our moral health and theirs.
Stephen Schwartz is senior policy analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and author of "The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror."