The recent release of 28 pages of 9/11 investigative material has been praised by some for highlighting the degree of Saudi obstructionism which undermined American efforts against jihadi elements – al Qaeda in particular – prior to 9/11. It was downplayed by others who complained that it contained nothing particularly new. After no more than a day of news stories the dialog has all but disappeared, overwhelmed by the news of the next hour and the next day. If you didn’t see the stories, you can make your own judgement:
Short attention spans are a curse of contemporary news, there really is no such thing as analysis any longer – discussions of political relevance, yes, but otherwise the news has become important only in context of what it means for a campaign, for political figures or political parties. The real story of the Saudi pages would have led back through the Saudi government (which is actually a Royal family primarily concerned with remaining in power and acting in accordance with that focus). Up to 9/11 that meant pushing threats out of the Kingdom, just as Pakistan originally had tried to deal with the jihadi threat by pushing it all into Afghanistan. There is absolutely no doubt that the Saudi government obstructed American investigation of attacks tied to Saudi nationals prior to 9/11, to what extent they have done so since is another story completely – and of course it’s complicated by the fact that there are factions within that government and its intelligence agencies.
The real story that the 28 pages should have triggered would have been a retrospective on the current state of jihadi terrorism, one going all the way back to the Reagan administration and the William Casey’s covert agreements with the Saudi’s and Pakistani’s to “bleed” the Soviets in Afghanistan. That will go down as one of the most horrendous moves in recorded history, one which allowed the Saudi’s to channel huge funds into the jihadi movement, and in particular the madrasas (religious schools) that were built up in western Pakistan. An extension of the radical Wahhabi sect schools in Saudi Arabia, the schools in those two nations have now fueled the world wide violence which created the international terror complex that has evolved over the past several decades. For those that recall 9/11 one of the first post attack tapes obtained of Osama bin Laden involved his covert meeting in Afghanistan with an associate who had traveled from Saudi. Bin Laden’s first concern was how the attack had been received in the “schools”; he was assured it had been hugely inspirational. For further background on contemporary schools, check the following from PBS.
The impact of the Saudi religious schools in generating radical violence is actually nothing new, in the late 1800’s the Dutch colonies in the western Pacific were largely Muslim and the religious practices there were both inclusive and tolerant. However beginning in the late 1880’s numbers of students who had traveled for schooling in the Arabian Peninsula arrived back in the islands and “extreme religious zeal” began to appear, with totally unanticipated and brutal murders and fanatic attacks. That provided the context for a much more widespread “peasant revolt” in the Dutch East Indies. Details are available in The Peasants Revolt of Bantan in 1888 by Sartono Kartodirjo, 1966. It was bloody and ultimately its roots were traced back to the religious murders associated with students coming back from the radical schools in Arabia.
For a full understanding of where we are today, and how the Saudi schools became so influential, you have to go back to National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski who began the Saudi/Pakistan entanglement (targeting the Russians in Afghanistan) under President Carter. However it was with the next administration, under Ronald Reagan and his “push-back” policies, that William Casey exponentially deepened the relationship, while allowing the full American financial involvement to be placed under the control of Saudi Arabia and Pakistani intelligence. All this has been well researched and written about, I deal with it in Shadow Warfare, beginning in chapter 18. That history is critical to understanding the total jihadi threat and to what extent it has compromised both Saudi and Pakistan…and is in the process of doing the same to Bangladesh and very possibly Turkey. It’s a matter of politicians acting strictly into survival mode, allowing private elements ranging from financial contributors, charities and radical social networks to function in support of jihadi oriented Islamist’s. To be clear, as detailed in some degree of the 9/11 incidents outlined in the newly released 28 pages, that support may sometimes unknowing. Given the cultural nature of the nations involved, charities and religious schooling have always been heavily supported, and frequently compromised; I outline that story in Shadow Warfare as well.
Of course all this is well known and well documented – it’s a shame nobody really wants to talk about it or more importantly to deal with it. It will be even more a shame if Saudi, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey remain in what appears to be a state of denial. There are signs Saudi understands the situation, even if they cannot admit it openly. There are no signs that the current leadership in Turkey and Bangladesh understand or wants to deal with the true threat to their nations. To date their covert dealings (Turkey) and total denial (Bangladesh) with ISIS have all the look and feel of the way Pakistan approached the jihadi threat, up to the point it subsumed them.