Response to Something does not add up

We'll never know in my lifetime what happened on that day ? Why were the Bin ladens flown out of the US after wards on a private jet and were not questioned ? The Guardian today describes the role between Washington and Riyadh -------------------------------------------------------------------- An axis of junkies Classified pages in the Congress report on September 11 have stirred curiosity about the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia, says Julian Borger Wednesday August 6, 2003 Washington abhors a vacuum, and loves a mystery. Plenty of aficionados here are still obsessed with the 18 and a half minutes missing from the 6,000 hours of tapes of Richard Nixon's White House. Likewise, many are devoted to guessing exactly who Deep Throat was. Now a new gap has opened up in the capital's collective consciousness, becoming just as great a source of fascination. It is the 28 pages blanked out in the Congress report on September 11. Whoever had the bright idea of classifying it should have known that, just like Nixon's missing minutes, those pages would attract more attention than the other 800-plus put together. Consequently, attention has been focused on a subject that the Bush administration would prefer to be ignored: the strange, dysfunctional and incestuous relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. The bond is far more relevant to the events of September 11 2001 than the absurdly-hyped connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida. According to the inevitable leaks, some of the 28 pages concern the career of a mysterious Saudi called Omar al-Bayoumi, who was living on the US west coast at the start of the new millennium. An elusive character, he had a tangle of financial relationships with Saudi officials and, at the same time, was well acquainted with two of the September 11 hijackers. The authors of the report suggest that he might represent the missing link between Washington's closest ally in the Arab world and the arch-nemesis of the US. Certainly, there is a lot there that is worth investigating. Even according to the report's declassified section on al-Bayoumi, he is a troubling figure. After a visit to the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles in January 2000, he went to a restaurant where he met the two future hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar. When they moved to San Diego a couple of weeks later, al-Bayoumi put them up and then found them an apartment. Officially, al-Bayoumi was an employee for the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, but he seemed to do no work for them. However, that did not prevent him from receiving large amounts of money from Saudi official sources, in payments which grew significantly after he made the acquaintance of al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. Some intelligence people in Washington argue that the link has been overstated in the congressional report. Although al-Bayoumi forked out for the first month's rent and deposit for the al-Qaida pair, there is evidence that he was paid back. Days after September 11, he was picked up in Birmingham, where he had moved from the US two months earlier, and questioned by both British and US officials before being released and returning to Saudi Arabia. In the wake of the new report, there is pressure for him to be questioned again. A team of investigators left for Riyadh at the beginning of this week to discuss, among a host of outstanding issues, the possibility of a new interrogation. From its previous session with him, the FBI is, apparently, more or less convinced that al-Bayoumi knew no advance details of the September 11 attack. On the other hand, they are pretty sure that he was an intelligence agent of some sort, possibly given the job of spying on Saudis in California and reporting back to Riyadh. But even if he was just a clueless spy - and there is evidence to suggest he did not just bump into the hijackers - the tantalising link is fairly extraordinary. After all, under the president's new doctrine of pre-emption, a country can get itself invaded for more tenuous links than that. The reason pages about the Saudi link to the hijackers (15 out of 19 of whom were Saudi nationals) are blanked out, while al-Qaida's questionable ties to Iraq and Iran are taken to the UN, is an old but crucial story. You could argue that the violent modern world revolves around the Washington-Riyadh axis. It is sometimes described as an uneasy marriage, but a more fitting analogy is the mutual dependency of two wealthy junkies dragging each other ever deeper into squalor. The US is addicted to cheap oil, and shows no inclination to wean itself off it. Meanwhile, Washington officialdom is hooked on the easy money Riyadh offers in the world of consultancies and thinktanks when they retire. If they play their cards right, senior US officials need never worry about a pension plan. George Bush senior, his secretary of state, James Baker, and the former CIA director, defence secretary and national security advisor, Frank Carlucci, have all picked up big consultancy fees and commissions for visiting Riyadh after leaving office. So has the former British prime minister John Major. In fact, on September 11 2001, Carlucci's Carlyle Group of investment managers and defence contractors was holding a meeting at Washington's Ritz-Carlton Hotel when the planes struck. Carlucci was there, as was Baker, and so was Shafiq bin Laden, Osama's brother and the head of the Bin Laden Group construction company. The Saudi royal family, meanwhile, has its own addictions. It depends on the US arms industry, of which it is the biggest foreign customer. Officially, it spends 16% of the country's GDP on arms, more than any country on earth, even though its security is essentially guaranteed by US forces. Even after those forces leave by the end of the year, they will not be far away, in Qatar and Kuwait. The Saudi monarchy is fixated on buying US weapons for two main reasons - to defend itself from its own people, and because it is a quick and easy form of kickbacks for a constantly growing clan finding it increasingly hard to live in the style to which it has become accustomed. Some of that money ends up in the fleshpots of Europe and the US, where it supports the dissolute lifestyle of the princes, and some of it goes in the form of insurance payments to the ultra-conservative Wahhabist clerics and their theological schools, which teach that the princes' lifestyle is the road to hell. Whether or not the cash is deliberately channelled to al-Qaida through middle-men, it is inevitable that millions will end up in the hands of people like Osama bin Laden, who are taking the Wahhabist cause to its enemies. Robert Baer, a former CIA official who saw the US-Saudi relationship up close, describes this axis of junkies in detail in his new book, Sleeping with the Devil. "We can't get around the fact that the House of Saud underwrites the mosque schools that turn out the jihadists, just as it administers the charities that fund the jihadists. It channels the anger of the jihadists against the west to distract it from the rot in the House of Saud," Baer writes. Soon, he believes, this "infernal merry-go-round" is going to come crashing down, triggering a recession in the west and a political earthquake in the Gulf. The only escape from that fate is for both sides to kick their habits. Baer thinks that Saudi Arabia has a better chance, particularly if the reformist Crown Prince Abdallah can outlive his stroke-crippled brother, King Fahd, being kept alive by a coterie of princes and hangers-on who know how much they have to lose. In Washington, there is no prospect that any administration in the near future would seriously tackle the country's love affair with oversize cars, and its consequent dependency on imported oil. Nor is there any sign that administration officials will stop looking to Riyadh to fund their retirements. Of the two junkies, it is the US that is probably beyond help.

Created By: David Brennan