Rich Lowry

Saddam Hussein never got it. He didn't realize that personal schmoozing in Washington and spreading lots of money around to former and soon-to-be U.S. government officials were the keys to realizing his geopolitical ambitions. He, in short, never learned the Saudi lesson.

How else to explain the differing treatments of the Iraqi and Saudi governments?

The Bush administration included a line in this year's State of the Union address about Saddam's alleged efforts to acquire uranium in Africa that was defensible, but hardly bulletproof -- prompting an (overblown) national scandal. Now the administration is withholding from a congressional report sections dealing with Saudi support and financing for terrorism -- which should prompt a (long-overdue) national scandal.

Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama who co-chaired the panel, said, "This might be embarrassing information, but I don't believe it meets the test of real classification." Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida (and presidential candidate) who was the other co-chair, said that the administration is "protecting a foreign government." That makes a kind of bipartisan consensus on the question.

The only apparent reason to keep the Saudi section under wraps is that it will embarrass Riyadh. If so, President Bush should have, at the outset, announced an important codicil to the Bush Doctrine that foreign governments have to choose between supporting us or supporting the terrorists -- unless it discomfits the Saudi royal family.

Saddam's grossest error, of course, was invading Kuwait. But if he had taken the Saudi route, he probably could have gotten away with presenting much more direct threats to the interests of the United States.

Riyadh created a worldwide Islamic extremist network that provides the sea in which al-Qaida swims. Islamic expert Alex Alexiev has reported that the Saudi push for its extremist brand of Islam represents "the largest worldwide propaganda campaign ever mounted." Saudi "charities," nominally private but really controlled by the government, have pumped funds to terror groups. Saudi-funded Islamic schools promoted the radicalization of Islam in Pakistan and provided the recruits for the Taliban terror regime in Afghanistan.

According to a report in Newsweek, the 9-11 report documents how a Saudi who might have been a government agent had ties to two of the suicide hijackers living in San Diego prior to the attacks.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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