Even if the Saudi royal family?s latest pledge to cut off direct terror financing is genuine?a huge if, to be sure?one of the major revelations of the 9/11 commission?s recent interim report demonstrates (albeit indirectly) that it won?t make much difference.
Why? Because the 9/11 commission?s best estimate of the plot?s total cost is $500,000 ? 600,000, reaffirming something we?ve long known: terrorist acts are cheap.
What the House of Saud will never stop funding, though, is the environment that produces fertile fields for terrorist recruiters: the religious schools, mosques, and radical Islamic organizations that collectively constitute the infrastructure of terror.
Quite simply, it can?t. So it won?t?not now, not ever.
Given that Saudi Arabia is home to the two holiest cities in Islam, Mecca and Medina, it is understood that any government must have religious sanction to justify its existence. Twenty-five years ago, that almost came crumbling down.
After the Saudi government lost control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979, it struck a Faustian deal to win the support of radical Wahhabi clerics within its borders by becoming their sugardaddies in exchange for them legitimizing the regime.
Which brings us to today. Many Saudi apologists have recently offered the following rationalization: The Saudis have to be taken at their word, because how could they continue to fund those who seek to destroy them?
Easily?they have no choice.
It is entirely possible that the Saudis have been spurred to some degree of substantive action in fighting al Qaeda and even in blocking direct terror financing.
But what they cannot?and will not?do is reduce funding to madrassas (religious schools), mosques, and radical Islamic organizations like World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) that glorify Jihad and ?martyrdom.?
The indoctrination factory starts with small children, poisoning their minds even before they can read, radicalizes them further with Wahhabi mosques that foment both anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, and gives their rage purpose with calls from groups like WAMY and IIRO to take up arms in the name of Islam.
Explains former Treasury Department official and terror financing expert David Aufhauser at a recent Congressional hearing, ?What (Saudi-funded mosques and other Islamic institutions) taught was an unforgiving, intolerant, uncompromising and austere view of the faith that became kindling for Osama Bin Laden?s match.?
For proof, consider the recent survey of some 15,000 Saudis showing nearly half support Osama bin Laden?s ?sermons and rhetoric.? Various Arab and Muslim commentators have attempted to spin this finding as almost inconsequential; after all, they reason, ?it?s not as if they support his actions.?
When it comes to bin Laden, however, supporting his ?sermons? is to support his actions. Actions are all he advocates: death to the Jews, death to Israel, death to the West, death to America.
Bin Laden finds such a receptive audience among Saudis because they have been primed for it from their earliest educational experience.
And because of the pervasive influence of Saudi petrodollars, this is happening not just in the kingdom, but around the world.
Look at Palestinian children who are readied for death almost as soon as they are born. Suicide bombs the terror masters strap on these kids cost maybe $150. And the life of a young, brainwashed Palestinian is not even worth that to a Jihadist.
But buildings, textbooks, and teachers? That costs real money.
Throw in lump cash sums Saudis give to families of suicide bombers, and Saudi support for Palestinian terrorism?not even counting direct aid to terror groups?is literally cradle-to-grave.
Understanding that direct support is but a small piece of the terror financing puzzle, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) recently spearheaded a request, also signed by five of her colleagues, to the General Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate the U.S. government?s progress in tracking?and halting?the funding of the infrastructure of terror.
What the GAO must do, though, is look inside the United States. Saudi cash has flooded Northern Virginia, Los Angeles, and everywhere in between, including Iowa.
Who knows what the GAO might find. Most frightening could be discovering just how many American Muslims feel like the Saudis do about bin Laden?s ?sermons and rhetoric.?
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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