Reprinted from Consortium News
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the United States, meeting with President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, on Aug. 27, 2002.
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In the wake of the latest terrorist outrage in Paris, the big question is not which specific group is responsible for the attack, but who's responsible for the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the first place. The answer that has grown increasingly clear in recent years is that it's Western leaders who have used growing portions of the Muslim world as a playground for their military games and are now crying crocodile tears over the consequences.
This pattern had its beginnings in the 1980s in Afghanistan, where the Central Intelligence Agency and the Saudi royal family virtually invented modern jihadism in an effort to subject the Soviets to a Vietnam-style war in their own backyard. It was the case, too, in Iraq, which the United States and Great Britain invaded in 2003, triggering a vicious civil warfare between Shi'ites and Sunnis.
Today, it's the case in Yemen where the U.S. and France are helping Saudi Arabia in its massive air war against Houthi Shi'ites. And it's the case in Syria, the scene of the most destructive war game of them all, where Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states are channeling money and arms to Al Qaeda, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh), and similar forces with the full knowledge of the U.S.
Western leaders encourage this violence yet decry it in virtually the same breath. In April 2008, a Treasury official testified in a congressional hearing that "Saudi Arabia today remains the location from which more money is going to ... Sunni terror groups and the Taliban than from any other place in the world." [See Rachel Ehrenfeld, "Their Oil Is Thicker Than Our Blood," in Sarah N. Stern, ed., Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network: America and the West's Fatal Embrace (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), p. 127.]
In December 2009, Hillary Clinton noted in a confidential diplomatic memo that "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide." In October 2014, Joe Biden told students at Harvard's Kennedy School that "the Saudis, the emirates, etc. ... were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war ... [that] they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda."
Just last month, a New York Times editorial complained that Saudis, Qataris and Kuwaitis were continuing to funnel donations not only to Al Qaeda but to Islamic State as well.
Yet despite countless promises to shut down such funding, the spigots have remained wide open. The U.S. has not only acquiesced in such activities, moreover, but has actively participated in them. In June 2012, the Times wrote that the C.I.A. was working with the Muslim Brotherhood to channel Turkish, Saudi and Qatari-supplied arms to anti-Assad rebels.
Two months later, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that Al Qaeda, Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood dominated the Syrian rebel movement, that their goal was to establish a "Salafist principality in eastern Syria" where Islamic State's caliphate is now located, and that this is "exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition" -- i.e., the West, Gulf states, and Turkey -- "want in order to isolate the Syrian regime."
More recently, the Obama administration made no objection when the Saudis supplied Al Nusra, Al Qaeda's official Syrian affiliate, with high-tech TOW missiles in support of its offensive in Syria's northern Idlib province. It did not complain when the Saudis vowed to step up aid to such groups in response to Russia's intervention in support of the besieged Assad regime.
Two weeks ago, the Times's Ben Hubbard noted that 50 American Special Operations troops injected into northern Syria have been assigned to work with Arab rebels who had previously collaborated with Al Nusra and -- although Hubbard didn't say so -- would undoubtedly do so again as soon as the Americans had gone.
While vowing eternal enmity against Al Qaeda, the U.S. and its Gulf allies thus work hand-in-glove with the same forces in pursuit of other goals. Yet now leaders from Washington to Riyadh are beside themselves with grief that the same groups are biting the hand that feeds them.
This is a pattern that has grown all too familiar in recent years. "Terrorism" is a well-nigh meaningless word that obscures and confuses more than it illuminates. The 9/11 attacks led to a "global war on terror" and, simultaneously, to a vast cover-up concerning those who were actually responsible for the deed.
As a curtain of silence descended around the U.S.-Saudi role in Afghanistan, where the Osama bin Laden network originated, the Bush administration spirited 140 Saudis, including some two dozen members of the Bin Laden family, out of the country after no more than cursory questioning by the F.B.I.
When Saudi regent Abdullah bin Abdulaziz -- he would not formally assume the throne for another three years -- visited George W. Bush's Texas ranch in April 2002, the President barely mentioned the World Trade Center and cut short a reporter who insisted on bringing it up: