Here they are:
Hani Hanjour, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, Waleed al-Shehri, Abdulaziz al-Omari… and the rest of the 15 Saudis who were among the 19 terrorists who hijacked planes and killed almost 3,000 people in America on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Saudi government may have disowned them, but it has not shut down the hate machine that spawned them. And, as the Wall Street Journal just put it in an editorial on “Beseeching the Saudis“: “We await the explanation for why the world needs another politically unstable Islamic theocracy in possession of radioactive fuel rods.”
What’s going on here? You couldn’t make it up. With Americans reeling over gas prices, President Bush for the second time this year goes to Saudi Arabia and asks the Saudis to increase oil production. The Saudis yawn, and their foreign minister says there’s no big demand: “Customers, where are you? I want to sell oil, but where are the customers?” (Apparently, in the darkest heart of OPEC, neither soaring prices nor a direct request from the president of the United States are deemed to represent any interest on the part of customers. If anyone else wants to try communicating with the customer-bereft oil potentates of Saudi Arabia, here’s the contact information for the Saudi embassy in Washington).
But that’s just for starters. On Friday, as part of this same diplomatic adventure, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a memorandum of understanding with this same Saudi foreign minister, in which the U.S. government agreed to help Saudi Arabia develop a nuclear program. This is supposed to be a peaceful nuclear program, described by the State Department as envisioned for such uses as “medicine, industry, and power generation.” … Power generation? We are talking about Saudi Arabia, swimming in oil, run by the same folks who just told Bush they are home alone, waiting to hear from customers who don’t call.
Perhaps the White House rationale is that the Saudis are raking in enough money to buy themselves a nuclear program by hook or by crook, so America might as well try to exert some control over the process. Perhaps the idea is to set up in Saudi Arabia the very model of peaceful nuclear power in the Middle East. Or perhaps the diplomacy of the Bush administration in its final years has gone right off the rails, and in the interest of national security Condi Rice ought to sign her own memorandum of understanding with the American people that she will first do no harm, stay home and keep quiet till January. As it is, you can now read on the White House site about how America will cooperate with the Saudis in “meeting Saudi Arabia’s expanding energy needs in an environmentally responsible manner.” Who wrote that? Was it done with a straight face?
The real problem here is not that Saudi Arabia has no customers, or that the Saudis cannot meet their own “expanding energy needs,” or that Saudi Arabia’s domestic fuel consumption threatens the climate of the planet. The real problem is that Iran, with its nuclear program, is setting off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. If the Saudis aren’t interested today in listening to requests to pump enough oil to bring down the price, will they be similarly deaf should concerns arise about where the line lies between peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and the related boost toward making bombs? Who will deal with that? The metaphysicians of the IAEA?
The most environmentally friendly action this administration could take right now in the Middle East would be to stop the nuclear program in Iran, not help start one in Saudi Arabia. And maybe help out the Saudi foreign minister — get him a phone line to a couple of customers.
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