Bandar Bush, once more: the BAE scandal

Guess who was on the receiving end of the bribes BAE was paying?

It hasn’t been getting much press here, but the UK High Court just rapped the knuckes of the government hard over the BAE case, in which a UK company, with the approval of the Blair government, made huge payoffs to get Saudi defense contracts and the government then ordered the resulting criminal inquiry shut down. The excuse was pressure from the Saudi government, but keeping egg off the then-Prime Minister’s face seems to have been part of the real motivation.

The Saudi official on the receiving end of $2 billion in bribes? Why, it’s our old friend Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka “Bandar Bush.”

bush and bandar.jpg

The BAE payments went to Prince Bandar’s account at the Riggs Bank, where GWB’s Uncle Jonathan was a senior executive. That was the account from which Bandar withdrew millions of dollars in cash before 9/11 without filling out any of the required paperwork for cash transactions. We still don’t know where that money went. A different account at Riggs, in the name of Prince Bandar’s wife, sent money, through an intermediary, to two of the 9/11 terrorists.

If Michael Moore hadn’t insisted in clogging up Fahrenheit 911 with a bunch of nonsense, that movie might have managed to move the Bush-Saudi connection (more generally, the Saudi connection to many of the power centers in this country) to the political and journalistic front burner. What a pity!

Fortunately for Barack Obama if his staff is alert, there is a US handle to this issue. Because some of the components of the Typhoon fighter involve US-controlled technology, the contract BAE paid those bribes to get can’t be fulfilled without a technology-export license from the U.S. State Department. State wants to issue the license, but to do so it has to certify that as far as it knows no laws were broken in obtaining the contract: a claim that would be transparently false. The Justice Department is resisting, and the matter is currently subject to an inter-agency tug-of-war.

For the US Government to issue the license would clearly put us on the side of the bribors and the bribees as against those trying to bring them to justice. It would be one more act of subservience to the Bani Saud. I’d like to hear my favorite candidate call for withholding those licenses until the criminal investigations, in the UK and here in the US, have run their course.

Stopped Clock Dept.: The Saudis and the Sunni Insurgency

In one of the least surprising developments of the year, the LA Times discovers that nearly half of the foreign militants in the Sunni insurgency come from Saudi Arabia. Some of us predicted this more than a year and a half ago–or at least something close to it.

The Times’ reporting does not take a stand on whether the Riyadh government is facilitating this. But read a little between the lines:

1) The only US source defending the government is an unnamed intelligence official.

2) The White House and the State Department refuse to comment on the story.

3) The spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry, a body not known for its commitment to Jeffersonianism, “defended the right of his citizens to travel without restriction.”

4) The article refers specifically to the Saudis’ engagement with Hamas as undermining US foreign policy efforts.

In one sense, it’s quite hard to blame the Saudis if they are facilitating the Sunni insurgency. The Saudi government’s legitimacy relies on Sunni fundamentalism. It’s chief oil-bearing region, in the northeast of the country, is heavilty populated with Shiites. A Shiite-dominated Iraq could be a threat its existence–or at least it’s not unreasonable for the Saudis to think so. They are thus sponsoring a counterweight to the Shiites.

But it is quite easy to blame a feckless and blinkered US administration for not seeing that this would happen, not making contingency plans for it, and insisting on the simplistic “good versus evil” formula of US foreign policy. On this issue, as on so many others, the administration is looking like a deer in the headlights–and American soldiers are dying as a result.

Who is backing the Iraqi insurgency?

No one would say that the Iraqi insurgents are waging the most technologically sophisticated war in history, but you don’t kill 2,000 American soldiers without some outside military assistance. But where is it coming from?

To the Bush Administration, the answer is obvious: Syria. That is at least the ostensible reason why the United States has taken such a hard line on Damascus. But there is reason to believe that the White House’s argument is as honesty-challenged as…well…everything else.

Syria’s interest in supporting a successful Sunni insurgency is tepid, to say the least. The Syrian regime is of, by, and for the minority Alawite sect, and represses a Sunni majority. It hardly has an interest in fostering Sunni radicalism. Indeed, Hafez al-Assad’s brutal 1982 slaughtering of 30,000 people in the city of Hama was largely driven by his desire to crush Sunni militancy.

So let’s look around the neighborhood to see who else has an interest in this. Who shares a border with Iraq?

Jordan? Hardly. The Hashemites depend upon American military and economic support to keep them in power.

Kuwait? Ditto, except for the “economic” part.

Iran? The mullahs want to see a stable and supportive Shiite client state in Baghdad.

Turkey? Are you kidding me? While they want a strong central government in Iraq, Ankara isn’t about to support a fundamentalist Sunni revolt next door–especially when they are trying to enter the EU.

So who else is there? Hmmm….oh yes: that huge, Sunni fundamentalist, oil-rich kingdom to Iraq’s south, which is terrified of Shiite power and not coincidentally shares a very long–and very unguarded–border with Iraq.

At the same time that this administration cozies up to the powers that be in Riyadh, those same powers may very well be planning the death of thousands of American soldiers.

None of this is confirmed, of course, but the Saudis have a good way of spreading money around Washington to keep unfavorable news out of the media. If it does come out that Sunni insurgents are getting hefty sums from the Saudi Interior Ministry, you heard it here first.

Graham speaks out

Two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, and the Bush administration and FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship, Sen. Bob Graham wrote in a book to be released Tuesday.

Sen. Bob Graham’s new book raises the Saudi-9/11 question, charging a cover-up by the White House.

I hope the press covers this, and that John Kerry starts to pick it up.

Taking on the Saudis

Kerry gets it right.

I’m still hoping Kerry goes after Prince Bandar personally, but Kerry’s speech yesterday already contained tougher language about Saudi Arabia than we’re ever likely to hear coming out of George W. Bush’s mouth:

If we are serious about energy independence, then we can finally be serious about confronting the failure of Saudi Arabia to do all that it can to stop financing and providing ideological support of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

We cannot continue this administration’s kid glove approach to the supply and laundering of terrorist money. As president, I will impose tough financial sanctions against nations or banks that engage in money laundering and facilitate terror in this world, and we will take strong steps against those who fail to act. I will launch a “name and shame” campaign against those that are financing terror, and if they do not respond, they will be shut out of the U.S. financial system.

And the same goes for Saudi sponsorship of clerics who promote the ideology of Islamic terror. To put it simply, we will not do business as usual with any country that does not demonstrate its full will to partner in this struggle. They must all take concrete steps to stop their clerics from fueling the fires of Islamic extremism.

The Saudi Embassy cash scandal

More on the Saudi embassy money story.
I finger the Saudis’ Washington “mole.”

Mike Isikoff at Newsweek has more on the mystery of what Prince Bandar was doing with all those millions of dollars in cash he didn’t want Riggs Bank to fill out currency forms about. (Who does Bandar think he is: Rush Limbaugh?)

The funniest line in the Newsweek story — though Isikoff doesn’t seem to get the joke — is from a Saudi embassy spokesman, pointing out (in Isikoff’s words ) than “an earlier FBI probe into embassy funds that were moved to alleged associates of the 9/11 hijackers has not led to any charges.” Duhhhhhhhh…. can you say “diplomatic immunity?” I was sure you could. People at Riggs bank might face charges; all the Saudis risk is being declared “persona non grata“: i.e., booted out of the country.

Newsweek also runs a picture that may be the answer to a question Glenn Reynolds has been asking: Is there a Saudi “mole” in Washington with access to top-secret information and the capacity to deflect attention from the Saudi/terrorist link, and, if so, who could it be?

bush and bandar.jpg

Please, Your Highness, haven’t I always been faithful?

A speech to be delivered by John Kerry
    (probably only in my dreams)

If he can’t account for that $20 million in cash in a way that shows he didn’t help pay for 9-11, BANDAR MUST GO.

The close relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia goes back decades. At the beginning, it was based on a simple deal: The Saudis kept the oil flowing, bought weapons from U.S. manufacturers, and opposed Communism, and we didn’t ask any questions about their domestic corruption and tyranny or about their financing the spread of the most uncompromising brand of radical Islam: Wahhabism. Even Saudi Arabia’s central role in OPEC’s open conspiracy to inflate the price of oil wasn’t allowed to get in the way.

Until the fall of the Soviet Union, that deal perhaps looked like a necessary bit of Cold War strategy. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And by the time the Wall fell, that deal had become a habit, and most people never bothered to re-examine it to see if it continued to make sense from our side of the table.

9-11, that day of infamy, should have been the occasion for a very rapid rethinking. With 15 of the 19 actual hijackers, and the mastermind behind the plot, all Saudi nationals, it should have been obvious that our supposed friends in Riyadh hadn’t really been acting in very friendly fashion, and that all those fanatical madrassas supported by Saudi “charities” represented a direct threat to the well-being of Americans.

What we have discovered since about the “charitable” flow of money from and through Saudi Arabia, the suspicious generosity of the Saudi Ambassador’s wife to friends of the hijackers, and the evidence about the Saudi/al Qaeda link in the suppressed 28 pages of the Intelligence Committee 9-11 report would make any reasonable person even more concerned.

So when it turns out that the Ambassador himself, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, withdrew $20 million in cash from his bank, which carefully didn’t file the required reports of suspicious activity, and moved tens of millions more abroad by wire, then it’s time for someone to put his foot down.

If I am inaugurated President next January 20, by next January 27 one of two things will have happened: either the Saudi Ambassador will have provided to the Government of the United States a detailed, auditable accounting of where that money went (whether it was nominally his, his wife’s or the embassy’s) and what it went for, or the United States will inform the Saudi Government, that Prince Bandar, having apparently engaged in conduct incompatible with his diplomatic status, is persona non grata and must leave the United States forthwith. If he paid, or helped to pay, directly or indirectly, with whatever winks and nods, for the murders of 3000 of our countrymen, PRINCE BANDAR MUST GO.

And Prince Bandar is more than a symbol. He has been a player on the Washington scene for two decades, and no one knows just how deep his tentacles extend into important American institutions, from law firms and universities to investment banks and government agencies. A Washington without Prince Bandar would be a Washington substantially less congenial to Saudi interests. And even if none of those tens of millions actually paid for 9-11, perhaps we’d better learn what — and who — they did pay for.

It is my judgment that, in the current situation, the Saudi Royal Family needs the cooperation of the United States considerably more than the United States needs the cooperation of the Saudi Royal Family. That will limit, I think, any potential “blowback” from demanding either a full accounting or a new ambassador.

There are times for quiet diplomacy, and there are times for bluntness. This Administration, it seems to me, has been excessively blunt with some of our friends, and excessively quiet in the face of completely unacceptable behavior by the Saudi government.

Was Grover Norquist
    working for Islamic terrorists?

I haven’t seen any follow-up on this [*] since Atrios posted it a while ago. I was waiting for someone to tell me whether John Loftus had any credibility, and whether Keith Olberman of NBC, who seemed to be eating it up, knows the difference between a news break and hot air.

Loftus, a former Nazi-hunting prosecutor for the Justice Department, is accusing Karl Rove’s friend Grover Norquist, the quarterback of the national don’t-ever-tax-rich-folks lobby, of fronting for the people who fund terrorist activity in this country, including Abdurahman Alamoudi. Alamoudi is accused of running money for al-Qaeda and Hamas; he is listed as vice-president of a foundation set up by one of Osama’s nephews. [*] He was also involvedd in setting up the Islamic chaplaincy program that recruited al-Qaeda collaborators to minister to the prisoners at Guantanamo.

As I say, I have no idea whether Loftus talks through his hat or not, but I’d sure like to know. If someone tells me this is bogus, I’ll quote or link as appropriate.

But if no one can tell me it’s bogus, I’d like to hear much more about it.

If this is real, this could be a bigger scandal than the Valerie Plame affair. A direct link between Norquist and an al-Qaeda operative might explain a lot of otherwise inexplicable things, such as the White House decision to allow a sudden evacuation of all the bin Ladens in this country shortly after 9-11, before the FBI got a chance to talk to them, at a time when all U.S. airspace was closed to normal traffic. [*]

Here’s the bulk of the Loftus interview:

LOFTUS: Well, you know, it’s a funny story. About a year-and-a-half ago, people in the intelligence community came and said-guys like Alamoudi and Sami al-Arian and other terrorists weren’t being touched because they’d been ordered not to investigate the cases, not to prosecute them, because there were being funded by the Saudis and a political decision was being made at the highest levels, don’t do anything that would embarrass the Saudi government. So, of course I immediately volunteered to do it and I filed a lawsuit, against al-Arian charging him with being a major terrorist for Islamic Jihad, most of his money came from Saudi charities in Virginia.

Now, Alamoudi’s headquarters were in the same place, he was raided the same day, on March 20. An hour after I filed my lawsuit, the U.S. government finally got off its butt and they raided these offices. And, the stuff that they’re taking out of there now is absolutely horrendous. Al-Arian has now, finally been indicted, an along with Alamoudi, today.

But, who was it that fixed the cases? How could these guys operate for more than a decade immune from prosecution? And, the answer is coming out in a very strange place. What Alamoudi and al-Arian have in common is a guy named Grover Norquist. He’s the super lobbyist. Newt Gingrich’s guy, the one the NRA calls on, head of American taxpayers. He is the guy that was hired by Alamoudi to head up the Islamic institute and he’s the registered agent for Alamoudi, personally, and for the Islamic Institute.

Grover Norquist’s best friend is Karl Rove, the White House chief of staff, and apparently Norquist was able to fix things. He got extreme right wing Muslim people to be the gatekeepers in the White House. That’s why moderate Americans couldn’t speak out after 9/11. Moderate Muslims couldn’t get into the White House because Norquist’s friends were blocking their access.

OLBERMANN: How does this tie back into the thing that apparently pulled the stopper out of the drain, if you will-The developers at Guantanamo bay? How rotten is the system of the interpreters and the chaplains-the Muslim Chaplains that Alamoudi was involved in setting up?

LOFTUS: It’s as rotten as it gets. Think of the Muslim chaplain’s program that he set up as a spy service for al-Qaeda. The damage that’s been done is extreme. It wasn’t just sending home mom and dad messages from the prisoners. These guys, this network in Guantanamo, stole the CIA’s briefing books. Everything that the CIA knew about al-Qaeda is now back in al-Qaeda hands. That’s about as bad an intelligence setback as you can get.

OLBERMANN: John, how does this end up? How far will the investigation into this necessarily have to go to get to the bottom of it?

LOFTUS: There’s a lot more to go. Norquist had a lot of other clients. There’s a whole alphabet soup of Saudi agencies that funded terrorism in this country. They had an awful lot of protection. And, one of the things we may find about 9/11 is that people out in the field weren’t allowed to connect the dots and questions will be asked weather guys like Grover Norquist were part of the problem?

Good questions

Of the many sins of George W. Bush, among the least forgiveable is making me agree with Michael Moore:

If fifteen of the nineteen hijackers had been North Korean, and they killed 3,000 people, do you think the headline the next day might read, North Korea attacks United States? Of course it would. Or if it had been fifteen Iranians or fifteen Libyans or fifteen Cubans, I think the conventional wisdom would have been, Iran (or Libya or Cuba) attacks America! Yet when it comes to September 11th, have you ever seen the headline, have you ever heard a newscaster, has one of your appointees ever uttered these words: “Saudi Arabia attacked the United States”?

Of course you haven’t. And so the question must be asked: Why not? Why, when Congress releases its own investigation into September 11th, do you, Mr. Bush, censor twenty-eight pages that deal with the Saudis’ role in the attack? What is behind your apparent refusal to look at the one country that seems to be producing the “terrorists” that have killed our citizens? Why are you so busy protecting the Saudis when you should be protecting us?

What a Coincidence!

One of the Saudi paymasters for Wahhabbist missionary work in the U.S. just happened to sleep in the same hotel as three of the 9-11 hijackers the night before the attack. When the FBI tried to interview him, he faked a seizure to get out of it. An FBI agent’s recommendation that he not be allowed to leave the country was mysteriously not acted on, and he flew back to Saudi Arabia September 19. Five months later the Saudi government put him in charge of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, which means he helps run the kingdom’s charities. [*] Strange world, isn’t it?