President Bush rejected a personal appeal from Saudi Arabia's foreign minister yesterday to release a classified section of a congressional report that has fed accusations the kingdom aided the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.At first glance, my response was "why on earth would the Saudis be objecting to this?" It may be, however, that to use the term "Saudi support" is somewhat inaccurate.
Foreign Minister Prince Saud Faisal called it 'an outrage to any sense of fairness' that the 28 blacked-out pages were causing Saudi Arabia to be 'wrongfully and morbidly accused of complicity in the tragic terrorist attacks. '
This accusation is based on misguided speculation, and is born of poorly disguised malicious intent,' he said after a hastily arranged White House meeting.
Saud said his nation is being 'indicted by insinuation' and cannot reply to wordless pages. 'We have nothing to hide,' he said. 'We do not seek, nor do we need, to be shielded.'"
Other sources that I've read on this subject imply that individual members of the royal family have given money to organizations that indirectly aided Al Qaeda, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the family as a whole or the Saudi Arabian government as a whole is responsible for these acts. They may have been unaware, or they may have been unable to stop it.
As it stands now, however, there's no way of us knowing one way or another. Faisal would be understandable concerned, however, if it looked like the conclusion that everybody has made is that the Saudis are basically bankrolling Al Qaeda. He doesn't their country to become a target for either economic or political backlash for the attacks, and this perception has not helped matters. Bush could assert that the Saudis have been supporters of the U.S. since the attack, but his poor current credibility (outside of traditional constituencies) and the question of Saudi beliefs before the attack will endlessly haunt any such assertion. With a lawsuit on the way, the Saudis aren't going to be satisfied by that, and neither is everybody else.
Don't get me wrong; I can respect that classified information should remain so, as it could endanger lives and the security of both the United States and its allies. I am also entirely aware (unlike others) that the Saudis are the one group in the region nigh-immune to the prospect of invasion, because of their hold over oil prices and the likelihood of an outraged Islamic backlash against the U.S. were they to be the new owners of Mecca and Medina.
In any case, there's only one way to resolve this: get the information out. If the Saudis want it out so badly, then Bush should accede to their wishes. Unless, of course, there's something else they're hiding...