Posted by Lilly from D007072.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu (220.127.116.11) on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 at 2:08PM :
Ibish always argues so well.
CNN TALKBACK LIVE 15:00
November 25, 2002 Monday
GUESTS: Stephen Schwartz, Hussein Ibish
ARTHEL NEVILLE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. Welcome to TALKBACK
LIVE. I'm Arthel Neville.
What kind of an ally is Saudi Arabia? Top lawmakers are asking that
question today as investigators trace a money trail that reportedly
starts with the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., and could
lead to some of the September 11 killers.
Among many questions is whether Princess Haifa al-Faisal knew who she
was giving -- or giving money to when she sent checks to two Saudi
students in California?
Now, the students apparently have ties to two of the hijackers who
flew the plane into the Pentagon. Saudi officials say the princess had
no idea there was a connection.
ADEL AL JUBEIR, SAUDI FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Al Qaeda's objective is
to come after Saudi Arabia as much as it is to come after the U.S.,
and the last thing we would do is fund people whose objective is to
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: You can't have it both ways. You
can't finance terrorists. You can't finance charities that you have
reason to believe that will finance terrorism around the world, aid
and abet it, and say, oh, we're great friends of the U.S.
AL JUBEIR: I think a lot of what is being said in Washington, I would
subscribe to, the political debates that are going on. And I think we
happen to the political football these days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEVILLE: OK, here to talk about U.S.-Saudi relations, and whether
money is being funneled to terrorist, is Hussein Ibish, communications
director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. Hello.
HUSSEIN IBISH, AMER.-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CMTE.: Hi, great to be
NEVILLE: Good. And Stephen Schwartz, a senior fellow at the Foundation
for the Defense of Democracies, he is the author of "The Two Faces of
Islam: The house of Saud, from tradition to terror." And welcome to
you as well, sir.
STEPHEN SCHWARTZ, FDN. FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Good to be here.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you.
NEVILLE: Mr. Schwartz, actually, I'm going to start with you today. Is
NEVILLE: Is it possible that Princess Haifa did not know the money was
going to supporters of the 9/11 attack?
SCHWARTZ: Well, yes, it's possible. But one has to understand that the
issue is not how much Princess Haifa knew or any of those details. The
issue is that the Saudi states, the Saudi monarchy is wedded to an
extremist Islamic ideology called Wahhabism. It's the state sect in
Saudi Arabia. It's the Saudi -- a section of the Saudi monarchy's
finances, Wahhabism, and its extension throughout the world.
Wahhabism is what led to 9/11. Wahhabism is a form of Islam that
attacks traditional Muslims, it attacks Shiites, it attacks Jews,
Christians, Hindus and Sikhs (ph). But at the same time, historically
over the last 250 years, the Wahhabi Sabi (ph) alliance that rule in
Arabia has had a two-face policy of attacking the other face and
attacking the traditional Muslims, while depending on the Christian
powers -- Britain, the United States and France -- to keep them in
power in the Peninsula. And that's what's going on today.
I don't think there's any doubt that the whole political culture of
the Sudari (ph) -- that is King Fahd, Prince Sultan, the father of
Prince Bandar, Prince Bandar himself and Prince Nayef -- is a
political culture that fosters extremism. There is simply no doubt
And to try to make it a question as to whether or not we can find some
particular check signed over to some particular person is not the
issue. The issue is that everybody in the kingdom is indoctrinated in
this extremist ideology.
NEVILLE: So, then...
SCHWARTZ: And what happened on 9/11 was not about Osama bin Laden
having a tactic to separate the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. It was an
inevitable outcome of the extremist ideology that is the official form
of Islam in Saudi Arabia.
IBISH: Well, of course, Mr. Schwartz is wise not to try to make the
allegations that have been made about this check, because to draw
anything suspicious about it, you have to make four huge leaps.
First you have to assume these men were involved in the 9/11 attack.
There is no evidence of that. Secondly, you have to assume that their
wives, to whom the checks were sent, actually signed the money over to
them and that they received it. Then you have to assume that the money
was used somehow for some nefarious purpose. And the fourth step, you
have to assume that the Princess Haifa knew about this. So, this is a
big sort of to-do about nothing.
However, there is an important question lurking behind it, which has
to do with unanswered questions about the way in which al Qaeda
emerged at fringes of Saudi society. Now, Stephen Schwartz has said
it's an inevitable result of all of Saudi political culture. I think
SCHWARTZ: I don't think all of Saudi political...
IBISH: Hold on, I think it's...
SCHWARTZ: I said of Wahhabism.
IBISH: Let me finish, Stephen. What I'm saying is, it's pretty clear
that the Saudi government has been a very close ally of the United
States, and that bin Laden is not only attacking the United States,
it's actually attacking also the government of Saudi Arabia.
NEVILLE: So then, having said that, Mr. Ibish -- excuse me, Mr.
Schwartz. Having said that, Mr. Ibish, so you can say with 100 percent
certainty that there is no direct link on the money trail between
Saudi Arabia and terrorism?
IBISH: No, of course I can't say that. What I'm saying is in fact --
actually, in fact, I'm saying the opposite. What I'm saying is that
there are unanswered questions about how people like Mr. bin Laden and
people like the 15 hijackers emerged. What part of Saudi society do
they come from? What is going on inside the fringe of Saudi discourse
that allows this? I don't think those questions have been answered
NEVILLE: Can you answer those?
IBISH: Well, I'd like to -- I'd like to...
SCHWARTZ: I can answer them.
IBISH: Oh, no, hold on. I'd like to tell you why -- no, we know what
Stephen Schwartz says. He says it's all an inevitable outcome of Saudi
NEVILLE: Guys, Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Schwartz, I will give you an
opportunity to answer after Mr. Ibish.
IBISH: Yes, what I'd like to say is that, you know, it's obvious that
both the United States and Saudi Arabia did promote right-wing Muslim
extremism, especially with regard to the war in Afghanistan in the
1980s. It was our American idea, in the Regan Administration, to
collect, you know, radical Islamic militants, like bin Laden, and send
them to Afghanistan. It was our idea to launch the first great global
I mean, this is a mistake that has been made by Saudi Arabia, by the
United States, Pakistan, by a bunch of countries at a time when we
thought it was a good idea in fighting the Cold War. Now, it's classic
blow-back that's come back to haunt us.
NEVILLE: Mr. Schwartz, I know you want to respond to that. I will give
you an opportunity. I have to take a break right now. When we come
back, are Saudi-U.S. relations in a crisis mode? We'll find out.
Plus, I want to take your calls and e-mails later about today's
question of the day: If the government changes the way we are all
warned about terrorism alerts, attacks and other crises, how would you
like to be notified? By phone, pager, Internet, television, radio or
Give me a call, or you can e-mail me, and we're back in a moment.
Don't go anywhere.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWSBREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: What's going on is the Saudis are
trying to catch up with 10-12 years of very bad policy. I am doubtful
that there was an intentional transfer of money from the ambassador's
wife to the hijackers. There's a long pattern of the Saudis
essentially buying off extremism in their country. They have built
thousands of madrasas. They have charities that they know were not
doing good things. (END VIDEO CLIP)
NEVILLE: And welcome back, everyone. I'm Arthel Neville.
We're talking about U.S.-Saudi relations in light of an investigation
into money that possibly made its way from the wife of the Saudi
ambassador to the U.S. to a couple of students with alleged ties to
September 11 terrorists.
And, Mr. Schwartz, before the break, I promised I would let you
respond to Mr. Ibish's comments.
SCHWARTZ: Well, first of all, this fairy tale created by the Saudis
and their apologists about how Osama bin Laden is a bigger threat to
them as he is to us is just ridiculous. There has been no terror
campaign by Osama bin Laden inside Saudi Arabia. There were...
SCHWARTZ: Please don't interrupt me, Hussein.
IBISH: All right.
SCHWARTZ: There have been two incidents that were ambiguous, one of
which the Saudis tried to blame on Iran. The fact is, Osama bin Laden
has never called for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy, Osama bin
Laden has never even named or attacked by name a single member of the
royal family, and Osama bin Laden does not call for armed struggle or
terrorism inside Saudi Arabia.
NEVILLE: And that implies, what, sir?
IBISH: Well, it's not true.
SCHWARTZ: And that implies...
IBISH: That is absolutely not true.
SCHWARTZ: He represents an ultra radical wing of the monarchy.
IBISH: You know, you should try listening to some of his speeches
sometime. And the man...
SCHWARTZ: I have read all of Osama's text.
IBISH: Hold on, Stephen. The guy goes on endless diatribes about the
corrupt governments that have defiled... (CROSSTALK)
SCHWARTZ: He does not name names. He does not call for overthrow. He
calls for it...
IBISH: He condemns all of them, but he specifically condemns...
SCHWARTZ: No, you're wrong, Hussein. You're wrong.
IBISH: He specifically condemns...
SCHWARTZ: Hussein, you're wrong.
IBISH: ... those that are in bed with the United States.
SCHWARTZ: You're wrong, Hussein. You're wrong!
IBISH: I am absolutely right.
SCHWARTZ: Osama bin Laden calls for a change in the policies of the
government, and his discourse...
IBISH: Well, he...
SCHWARTZ: ... in addressing the royal family is that of a loyal
opponent. He does not...
IBISH: I don't agree with that at all. I think that that is a
SCHWARTZ: ... calling for the overthrow of the Saudi regime.
IBISH: No, that's a ridiculous mischaracterization.
SCHWARTZ: It's not a mischaracterization. It's a fact.
IBISH: Listen to me. Now, Stephen, listen to me. He has condemned...
SCHWARTZ: Wait! I don't see how why I should have to listen to a
continuing diatribe by you.
IBISH: ... in the strongest terms all governments that cooperate with
the United States...
SCHWARTZ: In defense of the Saudi regime.
IBISH: ... and that's clearly his...
SCHWARTZ: Why are you defending the most reactionary regime in the
IBISH: I'm not defending anybody.
SCHWARTZ: You are defending them!
IBISH: I'm telling you what exactly, bin Laden says, which you don't
seem able to comprehend.
SCHWARTZ: You're an apologist for them!
IBISH: Where do you get that? I'm not an apologist of anyone, you are
misrepresenting some basic facts.
SCHWARTZ: You're trying to clean up their skirts. Why are you doing
this? I don't understand it.
IBISH: What is this absurdity? I'm simply telling you what bin Laden
says all the time.
SCHWARTZ: I'm telling you what bin Laden says, and bin Laden has never
called for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy...
IBISH: That's your -- what he has done...
SCHWARTZ: ... has never mentioned a single member of the monarchy by
IBISH: What he has done...
SCHWARTZ: ... and does not conduct terror inside in Saudi Arabia.
IBISH: Steven, first of all, all I'm doing is telling you the truth,
which is that...
SCHWARTZ: No, no, I'm telling you the truth, Hussein!
IBISH: Will you stop interrupting me?
SCHWARTZ: You're masking the truth.
IBISH: No! What I'm telling you simply what he says, but you somehow
NEVILLE: OK, gentlemen, I am going to step in right here, because I
have Art in the audience from California.
IBISH: Thank you! What nonsense!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. If I can get a word in edgewise here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just would like to ask Mr. Schwartz, to what
extent he thinks the Saudi royal families in fact are committed to
this brand of extreme Islam, and to what extent they are appeasing the
radicals just to keep the lid on?
SCHWARTZ: They are the radicals. They are not appeasing the radicals.
Wahhabism is the state religion of Saudi Arabia. Now, inside the royal
family there is a faction of hard Wahhabis represented by the King
Fahd, by Prince Sultan, Prince Bandar and Prince Nayef. There's also a
faction of the royal family that's not Wahhabi. Crown Prince Abdullah
is not a Wahhabi. I reject completely and reset Hussein Ibish saying
that I said the whole of Saudi political culture is Wahhabi.
IBISH: You know...
SCHWARTZ: The whole of it is not.
IBISH: The problem is...
SCHWARTZ: Crown Prince Abdullah is not a Wahhabi.
IBISH: Crown Prince Abdullah is the senior-most member of the
SCHWARTZ: Let me finish -- let me finish my time.
IBISH: You're using a sledgehammer when you need to be using a
scalpel, and you're totally confused about this subject.
SCHWARTZ: Look the point is, there is a section of the royal family
that is not Wahhabi.
IBISH: It makes no sense. You've just contradicted yourself, by the
way, and not for the first time this afternoon.
SCHWARTZ: There is a section of the royal family, a faction of the
royal family that represents the extreme Wahhabi point of view. There
is a tension between them and Crown Prince Abdullah. There is growing
tension between the monarch, the royal family and the people of Saudi
Arabia and I'm on the side of the people in Saudi Arabia against these
IBISH: If you can readily distinguish between Crown Prince Abdullah's
views and King Fahd's views, but you can't see a difference between
bin Laden's view and Fahd's views, then you're missing the picture
SCHWARTZ: I'm not missing the picture.
IBISH: And it's so obvious.
SCHWARTZ: I'm not trying to pretty up a bunch of terrorists.
IBISH: Oh, back to that foolishness again. I'm not prettying anything.
I'm telling you exactly what it is.
NEVILLE: So, gentlemen, I ask both of you this question, which I want
the answer after the break: Can the U.S. trust Saudi Arabia?
We're going to talk more about this. I've got some audience comments
to share with you as well. Don't go anywhere. TALKBACK LIVE continues
in a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWS ALERT)
NEVILLE: And welcome back, everybody. We talking about U.S.- Saudi
relations. Are they extreme, those relations? I want to ask Mr.
Schwartz if you think this latest information regarding a possible
money trail from Princess Haifa to some suspected supporters of the
SCHWARTZ: Look, the Saudi government right after 9/11 should have done
what any normal government in the world would have done. They should
have declared they were going to carry out a full investigation, a
thorough and transparent investigation of every aspect of 9/11 and
they would hand the results off to us. For a little over a year now
they have been stonewalling us. They sent al-Jubir (ph) on to give
these patronizing little lectures about fairness. They refuse to tell
us the truth, they refuese to be up front with us. It's time for the
United States to get the accounting from Saudi Arabia that we need of
the funding, recruitment and backing...
NEVILLE: But will they do that, Mr. Schwartz? Will they do that?
Because the U.S. depends on Saudi Arabia for oil and for military...
SCHWARTZ: Well, they have to do it. They have to do it. And if they
don't do it, then we have to find ways to compel them to do it. And if
they still do not do it, then we have to completely revise our
relationship with them.
IBISH: Do I get to answer the question?
NEVILLE: Yes, you do.
IBISH: OK. I mean, I think it's clear the Saudi government is a close
ally of the United States. I also think it's clear that there are
serious strains within that relationship. And the fact that this non-
story has become a story indicates that those...
NEVILLE: How do you say that this is a non-story, Mr. Ibish?
IBISH: Well, it's a non-story because of the four leaps of faith you
have to make to make this almost certainly innocent thing into
something that's suspicious.
NEVILLE: Not necessarily, sir, because 15 of the 19 hijackers were
from Saudi Arabia. So there are some dots that people might connect.
IBISH: Well that's my point. That's exactly my -- that's my point. My
point is, this check business is, obviously, you know, not a story.
But the fact is, that there is this problem between the United States
and certainly an element of Saudi society. That's what actually
propels this non-story about checks into being something that makes
And I think also that it goes further than that, because there's a lot
of hostility towards Saudi Arabia in this country as well. And I think
NEVILLE: And why is that?
IBISH: It also...
NEVILLE: If that's the case, why is that, sir?
IBISH: Well, I think there's mutual recrimination here. I think
there's alienation, and I think that it comes from a mixture of anger
about the attacks. I think that also there are people with an agenda,
frankly, an anti-Arab agenda, who want to trash all Arabs --
especially Arab countries that are close to the United States. And I
think that there's been a lot of anti-Arab propaganda in the
entertainment industry and in the news media that has effected --
deeply and badly effected U.S. relations with all of its Arab allies.
NEVILLE: I'm going back to the Dr. Acadia (ph) to hear your response
ARCADIA: Well, only thing I can say about this, if you are a friend,
this is the time the United States is at war with -- or about to enter
war. Show us the friendship. Do not play games like this. If you are a
true friend, show your friendship.
NEVILLE: Thank you very much, sir. And Mehesh (ph) here had something
MEHESH: Saudi Arabia, which is ruled by religious sacks that are
heavily controlled by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and they've been funding the
organizations that are extreme in their thoughts. Like in Kashmir,
India, the Taliban was funded heavily by Pakistan at that time. And
they were funded by (UNINTELLIGIBLE) also. Any time you fund the
organizations like that, you can never be sure if the money will not
go in the hands of terrorists.
NEVILLE: Thank you very much, sir. And I have Mark Anthony (ph) over
here in the audience who has something to say.
MARK ANTHONY: Yes, just a basic comment. I really believe that Saudi
Arabia is not an ally of the United States. And it's not because of
anti-Arab or anything like that. I mean, if a person shows exactly
their true colors, you only can call a spade a spade. The bottom line
is this, over the past year the Saudis have done x, y and z, as far as
not helping with the war on terrorism.
IBISH: Well, that's not what the government says. You know the Bush
administration, every senior official who has been asked about this,
has said that Saudi Arabia has been very cooperative. I agree, that
there are unanswered questions, but I think that they're not being
asked by the Saudis, they're not being asked by us, because we're both
afraid of the answers, frankly. We are afraid of our own history in
promoting this kind of horrible politics. They are afraid of theirs.
There are no clean hands in this mess.
MARK ANTHONY: The bottom line is this: the United States asks for
military assistance to use bases to launch attacks on Afghanistan. As
a prior military service man that served in Desert Storm and Desert
Shield, I believe that it's a slap in the face for all of the families
that lost people over there in Saudi Arabia fighting to gain freedom
for their country, because our country is already free. We went over
there to help them out, and now that we need them to fight this global
war -- hold on second, this global war on terrorism, the Saudis said
no. And I really believe that is a slap in the face. But the last
point is this. I real believe that the United States should rethink
who their true friends are. And remember, you need to keep your
enemies close -- correction -- well, thank you. The bottom line is we
got to do a little bit better in choosing our friends, and the Saudis
they're not one of them.
NEVILLE: We know what you were saying. Thank you very much, Mark
Anthony (ph). Mr. Ibish, I'll give you 10 seconds. I'm out of time.
SCHWARTZ: Wait a minute, what about me?
IBISH: I don't understand what he is talking about. You must mean
Iraq, because the United States has not asked for permission with
regard to Afghanistan. If it's about Iraq, the war on Iraq is not
9/11. Iraq was not involved in 9/11; this is a very different thing.
And if the Saudis don't want to get involved in something that many
people in our own government, our own generals, our own CIA, our own
State Department, many people think is a terrible idea, they certainly
have that right. Maybe we should listen to them. (CROSSTALK)
NEVILLE: OK, Mr. Schwartz 10 seconds to you.
SCHWARTZ: Thank you. Ten seconds is fine.
IBISH: I mean, they're not obliged to embrace all our policies,
especially unwise ones.
SCHWARTZ: Well, all I have to say is this is not about being anti-
Arab. I am not anti-Arab. I have no hidden agendas except that I want
the people of Arabia to enter the road of a transition to democracy. I
want this powerful wealthy society called Saudi Arabia right now to
become a modern normal state.
NEVILLE: That's been ten seconds.
IBISH: And I'll go along with all of that. Yeah, I'll go along with
OK. Hussein Ibish and Stephen Schwartz, thank you very much, both, for
the lively discussion. We enjoyed both of your perspectives. Thanks so
much for being here on TALKBACK LIVE today.
And up next, some therapists say the only way most alcoholics can
regain those lost weekends is to part company with the bottle forever.
But our next guest insists problem drinkers may not have to be that
dry. Could there be sipping room for the reforms? We'll find out after
this break. TALKBACK LIVE continues in a moment.
(APPLAUSE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
THE ABRAMS REPORT
18:00 November 25, 2002 Monday
GUESTS: Frank Gaffney; Hussein Ibish
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Hi, everyone.
On the agenda tonight: With U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq, is it
time to send financial inspectors to Saudi Arabia or at least look
real hard at all of their finances? A report out today says a Saudi
princess who also happens to be the wife of the Saudi ambassador to
the U.S. may have helped fund the hijackers. And, remember, 15 of the
19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. Question: Is it time to crack
down on our supposed ally in the war on terror? Also tonight: A judge
in Texas allows a camera into jury deliberations in a capital trial.
Cameras in the courtroom are one thing, but the jury room during a
death penalty case?
Plus: Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz under fire from a group of
Muslim lawyers who want him punished, maybe even disbarred, for what
they call inciting war crimes by saying Israel should destroy
Palestinian homes or villages following terror attacks. What, he's a
lawyer, so, therefore, he can't have an opinion?
Tell us what you think about the show. Send us an e-mail at
But topping our agenda: Is Saudi Arabia playing both sides in the war
on terror? Is it time to effectively send in finance terror
investigators? At issue now: checks written by the wife of Saudi
Arabia's U.S. ambassador that may have ended up in the hands of two
9/11 hijackers. Now congressional investigators are taking a closer
MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell has the story.
NORAH O'DONNELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a royal mess
with huge diplomatic ramifications. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the
Saudi ambassador to the U.S. for two decades, now fighting allegations
charitable donations by his wife, Princess Haifa al-Faisal, may have
unwittingly helped two of the 9/11 hijackers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the last thing the Saudis needed right now,
was some type of direct linkage to the 9/11 plot from no less than the
O'DONNELL: Sources tell NBC News the transfer of money began in 1998.
Prince Bandar sends 15,000 to Osama Basnan, a believed al Qaeda
sympathizer, who asked for money to help with his wife's medical
Then Princess Haifa begins sending Basnan's family $2,000 a month. But
at least one of those checks is endorsed over to a woman believed to
be the wife of Omar al-Bayoumi, an alleged al Qaeda advance man in the
U.S. who may have helped two of the 9/11 terrorists who hijacked the
plane that crashed into the Pentagon. (on camera): Both Basnan and al-
Bayoumi, who befriended the hijackers, were interviewed and released
by the FBI. And that has led members of Congress to accuse the Bush
administration of failing to fully investigate a possible financial
connection between the government of Saudi Arabia and the terrorists.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I think it's time for the
president to blow the whistle and remember what he said after
September 11. You're either with us or you're with the terrorists.
O'DONNELL (voice-over): Lieberman accuses the administration of being
unwilling to criticize the Saudis, as the U.S. walks a tightrope,
preparing for a possible war with Iraq and hoping for the support of
Saudi Arabia. Norah O'Donnell, NBC News, the Capitol.
ABRAMS: So, with weapons inspectors now in Iraq, is it time for
effectively money inspectors in Saudi Arabia, or at least in this
country, looking at Saudi finances? Isn't this an even more immediate
concern than Iraq?
Joining us now is Frank Gaffney, former assistant secretary of defense
in the Reagan administration, now president of the Center for Security
policy; and Hussein Ibish, spokesperson for the American Arab Anti-
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.
All right, Frank, let me start with you.
Isn't it time to really crack down on the Saudis? And I don't know if
it's terror finance investigators. But the bottom line is somehow
thoroughly investigating whether the Saudis have been behind terror,
even indirectly, against the United States.
FRANK GAFFNEY, FORMER ASST. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think it is time.
It's past time, frankly.
This is a case that, unfortunately, isn't really confined to this
particular episode, troubling though it is, of an ambassador's wife
giving money that may have percolated down to terrorists. What's
really troubling and what really needs investigation and what really
needs the FBI and other agencies of the U.S. government to leave no
stone unturned is: What is the Saudi government, the royal family, and
entities associated with them doing to promote the organizations, the
Wahhabist theology and the agenda that is embraces?
It's very hostile to the United States, very hostile to the West,
around the world, as well as in this country. That's what really
ABRAMS: Mr. Ibish, aren't you troubled by this possible connection and
the fact that, again and again, we keep hearing about Saudi financial
links to terrorism?
HUSSEIN IBISH, AMERICAN-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE: Well, I
think, in this particular case, it's a great big nothing, because, in
order to find something suspicious about these checks that were sent,
you have to make four huge leaps of faith: first, that these
individuals were involved in the 9/11 plot. There's no evidence of
that. They were let go.
ABRAMS: Let me just interrupt you for a second. You mean that there's
a question as to Khalid al-Midhar...
IBISH: No, of course not them -- the two individuals whose wives
received money, Basnan and al-Bayoumi.
ABRAMS: Ah, OK. Fair enough. OK.
So, you have to assume that those two individuals were part of the
plot, which there's no evidence of. And, apparently, the government
doesn't believe it or they wouldn't have let them go. Then you have to
assume that their wives actually gave them this money. Then you would
have to make a third assumption, which is that they used that money
for nefarious purposes; and, fourth, that Princess Haifa knew about
all this. So you have to make four big leaps of faith.
ABRAMS: Let's just even assume for a minute that she didn't know.
Let's give her the benefit...
IBISH: What about the other three wild leaps of faith you need to make
ABRAMS: Hang on. That's what I'm going to ask you about.
ABRAMS: Let's give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn't
know anything. It still smells.
IBISH: I'll tell you why.
ABRAMS: It still feels like the Saudis, because it still feels like,
again and again, indirectly, the Saudis are behind terror. (CROSSTALK)
IBISH: Of course.
Here's the problem. The problem is, 15 of the hijackers were Saudi.
Bin Laden is a Saudi. So, obviously, there is this element of Saudi
society that has produced al Qaeda and has manned it at its muscle and
at its leadership end, and so that, since the hijackers were Saudis,
we now find that they knew other Saudis who knew other Saudis who got
money from a third Saudi. And this is going to keep coming back, since
Saudis know and deal with other Saudis.
I think that that doesn't mean that the Saudi government is behind
terrorism, but it does mean that there is a problem between the United
States and Saudi Arabia. And it does mean that a part of Saudi
society, no doubt a fringe, is definitely sort of a bastion of
fanatical groups like al Qaeda. But it doesn't mean the government is.
GAFFNEY: May I jump in on that point?
ABRAMS: Yes, Mr. Gaffney, respond to the point specifically about the
government. What Mr. Ibish is saying is: no proof that the government
is behind any of this just because there's some bad apples out there.
GAFFNEY: The part of the society that -- he's absolutely right --
there's ample evidence is not only troublesome, but murderously so,
and their murderous enmity is aimed at us -- and the West more
generally, by the way, and, for that matter, others, even Sunni
IBISH: And the Saudi government itself.
GAFFNEY: Who are not Shia -- or, excuse me, not of the Wahhabist view
of Sunni Muslims.
IBISH: That's right.
GAFFNEY: This group, unfortunately, is the object of largess from the
GAFFNEY: The Wahhabists are the state religion of Saudi Arabia.
They're the problem that we are confronting in so many places,
including here in the United States. They're getting money from the
IBISH: Here's the problem. Well, no. Al Qaeda, no one has been able to
show that al Qaeda...
GAFFNEY: The Wahhabists...
IBISH: Wahhabism is this huge concept - by no means a monolith. You
ascribe a coherence to Wahhabis and a political homogeneity which
And, by the way, Frank, I'm surprised you're not blushing crimson when
you say that, because it was you and your buddies in the Reagan
administration who came up with the brilliant idea to collect all of
the most extreme fanatical Muslims in the Middle East, including in
Saudi Arabia, like bin Laden, send them to Afghanistan, launch this
global jihad against the Soviet Union, promote not only Wahhabism, but
this extreme version of fanatical and revolutionary Islamism.
ABRAMS: Even if that's true, it always seems to me it is a cop-out,
because it doesn't deal with today. That's the problem. It always
seems like you're sort of throwing out smoke and mirrors to avoid
dealing with today's issues.
IBISH: These are today's issues, for heaven's sake. Recent history and
our own mistakes and misjudgments are a major issue.
ABRAMS: You just made an allegation to Frank. Let me let him respond.
IBISH: OK. Then you have made one to me, so I get to as well.
GAFFNEY: The problem of Wahhabism is one that been, I think, aborning
for 40 years. There is no question that Osama bin Laden and the
jihadists around him gained an operational base and capability during
the war that the Afghans were waging against the Soviet Union, with
The problem that we face now is, a decade or two afterwards, the
Saudis government is intimately involved in promoting this same
ABRAMS: Hussein, final word. I've got 20 seconds. Go ahead.
IBISH: Here's the thing. I agree that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and
others in the region made a mistake promoting extremely right-wing
Islamic fanaticism. We made that same mistake.
GAFFNEY: Talk about today.
IBISH: Yes, today. By the way, I think that they've realized their
mistake. I hope they have. And I hope we all have.
GAFFNEY: I don't think so. And we ought to hold them accountable.
IBISH: Well another thing that's happening now is that there are a lot
of people in Washington, including Frank here, who wants to use
religious extremists in Iraq against Saddam Hussein. So some people
are not exactly learning their lessons.
ABRAMS: Hussein Ibish, thank you very much for coming on the program.
The reason I'm only thanking Hussein is because I'm going to take on
Frank in our next segment.
Frank, I'm going to ask you, as a supporter of the war on Iraq,
whether we are spending too much time focusing on Iraq and ignoring an
important issue like the one we've just been talking about, like the
Saudi money trail and the war on terror. Are we sacrificing those by
going so hard after Iraq?
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