Were one to survive and return from a trip to this United States, would we tell them that the terror and extremism they experienced was "misunderstood?" Apparently we would if we were writing headlines for National Public Radio.
In a seven and a half minute story titled "Saudi Arabia's Misunderstood Relationship With Extremism" that ran December 13th on NPR's Weekend Edition, Rachel Martin interviewed Tim Lenderking, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Martin began the interview by asking Lenderking how the Saudi regime reacted to the news that Tashfeen Malik, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino massacre, lived for several years in Kingdom. Despite statements from Malik's family to the contrary, Lenderking responded that "as far as we know there's nothing indicating there was a radicalization element" to Malik's life Saudi Arabia.10.11 In an apologetic voice-over, Martin then explains that "Saudi Arabia gets a lot of blame for exporting a kind of extremism that breeds violence in the region. It's often cited that fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden was from a Saudi family, and Saudi fighters continue to join the ranks of the Islamic State." 12 By prefacing her facts with the word "blame," Martin interjects the same doubt espoused by Lenderking when it comes to the Saudi export of extremist ideology. Let's not forget that instead of detaining and interviewing scores of Saudis, some with possible links to the 9/11 hijackers, the FBI helped spirit them out of the country in the days following the attacks. 13,14,15 Nor should we overlook the leaked diplomatic cable dated Dec. 30, 2009 written by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating, "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."16 Martin's voiceover goes on to report, "But Tim Lenderking says any suggestion that Saudi Arabia is responsible for the creation of ISIS is wrong." The story then cuts to the Deputy Chief of Mission: "It's sort of laughable because the Saudis, again, are pretty much in lockstep with us " Saudi Arabia wants [ISIS] destroyed just as much as we do."17
Considering that in 2010 president Obama announced a 60 billion dollar weapons deal with the Saudis, the largest in U.S. history, it's hard to imagine that the Kingdom would step in any other direction then that of the United States.18 And no sitting government, especially a tyrannical one, wants to be challenged by a rival faction. That does not mean, however, that its radical policies are not culpable of generating extremism. As Rachel Marten notes, so far this year Saudi Arabia has beheaded 150 souls.19 She fails to mention, however, that this is more than twice the number of beheadings carried out by ISIS.20
What's "laughable," is the suggestion that Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi extremism had nothing to do with the rise of ISIS.21
Apologetics aside, Martin ends her piece by interviewing Hala Aldosari, a Saudi human rights activists studying at John Hopkins University. Aldosari states:
"Very early on you realize that as a woman in Saudi growing up, there are certain things that you can't pursue - sport, independence, being in the public" I listen to other activists being summoned for interrogation and being threatened and being warned and being silenced and I don't want to end up like that. So I do feel intimidated. I do feel threatened."22
Perhaps like Tim Lenderking, Hala Aldosari simply misunderstands the Saudi "relationship with extremism."
1. Family Tree: http://www.datarabia.com/royals/familytree.do
2. Why Saudi Arabia Gets Away With Murder: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/10/09/why-saudi-arabia-gets-away-with-murder.html
3. Artist's Death Sentence Follows a String of Harsh Punishments in Saudi Arabia: click here
4. Religious Textbooks: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/saudi/etc/textbooks.html
5. Eleven things women in Saudi Arabia can't do: http://www.theweek.co.uk/60339/eleven-things-women-in-saudi-arabia-cant-do
6. Rape Case Roils Saudi Legal System: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/21/AR2006112100967.html