This Saudi activist says 9/11 families have right to sue his country’s gov’t–here’s why

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World Trad Center memorial in New York: Visitor rests his hands on the sculpture engraved with names of the victims. Photo Credit: Jason Doiy/istockphoto.com

Widely-known Saudi activist and commentator Ali al-Ahmed is applauding Congress’ decision to allow 9/11 victims’ families to sue his country’s government, while blasting the Saudis for their alleged role in the attacks.

Congress on Friday voted through a bill that will allow families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue the Saudi government for its alleged role in the terrorist strike that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York and Washington. The bill would create an exception to the 1976 law that shields foreign governments from lawsuits in cases in which governments were found to share responsibility for terrorist attacks.

“I think this is an overdue measure by the American Congress. This should have been done a long time ago,” al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, told Borderless News Online.

Al-Ahmed has long argued that a number of key Saudi government figures played a role in supporting al-Qaeda,  contending that al-Qaeda was strengthened and funded by elements within governments such as those of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

He even goes so far as to argue that radical Islamist terror groups would not exist without Saudi Arabia.

“Al-Qaeda and ISIS are the product of the Saudi government policy,” said al-Ahmed, whose criticisms of the Saudi regime have frequently appeared in the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal, and who has testified before Congress on human rights in the Middle East. “It’s very important to realize that Saudi Arabia is to terrorism is what the Soviet Union was to communism.”

“So if the Saudi government ceased to exist, the issue of terrorism, I think, will largely cease to exist,” said al-Ahmed.

Al-Ahmed and other critics say the 13th century radical Islamism that’s coming out of Saudi Arabia — and exported to schools and mosques worldwide — has been a key influence of terror groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. They contend that it is this radical ideology that has created an environment in which terrorism — and the homophobia, sexism and the desire to subjugate non-Muslims that propels it — have flourished.  Critics note that radical group ISIS’ ideology is based on Wahhabi Islam – the brutal version of Islam that was invented by Saudi jurists, and which dictates the law of the land in one of the region’s most powerful, oil-rich and influential countries.

Religious intolerance is severe in Saudi Arabia. Christians in the Islamist state are not allowed to have copies of bibles, which are confiscated and burned by security forces. In the past, Saudis have been executed for owning bibles, and al-Ahmed has written that thousands of U.S. ex-pats living in Saudi Arabia are banned from celebrating Christmas, Easter and even non-religious U.S. holidays. Sex outside of marriage is punishable by public beheading, a scene in which jeering crowds and TV news cameras gather in an outdoor location and watch as the victim is beheaded by a masked swordsman. It’s not so different than the beheadings shown in the TV series The Tudors. 

“The Saudi government desecrates and burns Bibles that its security forces confiscate at immigration points into the kingdom or during raids on Christian expatriates worshiping privately,” al-Ahmed once wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

ITS ALL ABOUT MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

So why does the U.S. have a close ally that, critics say, encourages and even finances terrorism?

There are the usual explanations, such as that Saudi is an ally against terrorism — which al-Ahmed says is untrue — and that the Middle East nation provides oil.

But Ahmed says it’s really just about money.

“The Saudis have been the most generous foreign funders of American presidents,” he said. “From Carter on, they (are) the leading foreign government that has given money to American government,” he said.

“One must realize that the American system of government works on money, and if you get paid, if you get benefits, you are much less likely or certainly not going to take any measure to damage the interest of your funders. And that has been the case in terms of local funders or foreign funders,” he said.

“It’s not the oil,” he said, noting that a number of countries have oil and that the U.S. can get oil from any number of countries worldwide that are more than willing to sell to U.S. markets.

The list of recipients of Saudi money is long, but al-Ahmed noted a few examples. The Bill Clinton Presidential Library received around $10 million in donations from Saudi Arabia, and the George H.W. Bush presidential library received roughly the same amount of contributions, the Washington Post reported. An organization linked to former candidate for President and Arizona Senator John McCain received $1 million from the Saudis in 2014, Bloomberg reported.

Between 2001 and 2014 Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, donated $18 million to $50 million to the Clinton Foundation, reported McClatchy News Service. 

Other politicians have also received Saudi money for projects, such as former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center has received millions from the Saudis.

“You know there’s no free lunch. You don’t pay money and get nothing in exchange,” he said, referring to Saudi money going into the pockets of the Clintons.

“Some of it is not straightforward. One of the ways they do it, they give you a contract through one of their shell companies. It’s very hard to track all these things. It might be public information but it’s very hard to track,” he said.

When asked whether a Clinton White House would be able to tackle terrorism adequately, given Hillary’s deep ties to the Saudi regime, al-Ahmed said “the funders of Hillary Clinton are the same funders of al-Qaeda and ISIS. So she is not going to be hard on them (the terrorists),” he said.

“We saw that in the beginning. Al-Qaeda was born in the Clinton era and he (Bill Clinton) didn’t do anything about it. And the first al-Qaeda bombing took place during the Bill Clinton administration. And al-Qaeda was formally announced during the Bill Clinton administration,” he said.

Al-Ahmed was referring to the 1993 bombing in the parking garage of one of the World Trade Center towers, which some consider a dry run for the massive 9/11 attack that killed thousands.

“They (the Clinton administration) had a chance to attack and destroy them but they left them,” he said. “Because they didn’t want to anger their allies, the Qataris and the Saudis,” he said.

“There was an opportunity after September 11th to tackle that issue, and we would not have had ISIS and all the terrorism that we’ve seen since then, since September 11th. Politics really took over and many more people died because of the decision of president Bush or other presidents who (did not) hold Saudi Arabia responsible for what they do,” he said.

Last year, Zacarias Moussaoui, a former al-Qaeda operative who pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to conspiring to kill Americans in the 9/11 attacks, said members of the Saudi Royal family funded al-Qaeda, although that accusation was denied by the Saudis.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday said he would veto the 9/11 bill so as not to upset relations with the Saudis, but lawmakers said they would try to override Obama’s veto.

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