If We Arm the Terrorists, Who Detains Us?
Illustration by: Matt Mahurin
It’s not often that Washington Republicans will go out of their way to attack the world’s largest oil supplier and Bush administration ally, Saudi Arabia. But that’s precisely what three GOP House members did yesterday in an attempt to prevent a planned $123 million arms sale to the strategically placed monarchy.
Bush announced on Jan. 14 that he intends to sell the Saudis the weapons — mostly in the form of “smart bomb” kits that transform ordinary missiles into precision-guided models — as part of a much broader deal to deliver $20 billion in arms to allies in the Middle East. The White House says the weapons are vital to keeping both terrorists and Iran in check.
But Republican Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.), Zack Wamp (Tenn.) and Sue Myrick (N.C.) wondered yesterday who will subsequently rein in the Saudis. Between the three of them, they managed to take shots at the country’s religious intolerance, its support for Wahhabist maddrassas, and its dissemination of textbooks that encourage violence against non-Muslims. (Did they forget to mention that 15 of the 19 terrorists responsible for the 9-11 attacks were Saudi nationals? They did not.)
Nor did they mince words.
Here’s Wamp: “The problem with selling arms to Saudi Arabia is there is a clear pattern here of the royal family in Saudi Arabia basically aiding and abetting the enemy.”
Said Myrick: “If they’re our friends, like we keep hearing out of the State Department — Oh, they’re our friends — then they need to act like our friends and stop financing radical elements of terrorist organizations, because as Zach already said, that is exactly what they’re doing.”
Added Wolf: “Saudi-associated individuals and organizations are providing material support for terrorist organizations … So before Congress approves this weapon sale, the administration has to demonstrate that the Saudis have improved their record and are going to cooperate. And as of now, they have not.”
A three-decades-old law allows Congress to block major arms deals within 30 days of their announcement, but that window closes tomorrow. It’s bad timing.
Though a House resolution to overturn the Saudi sale has gained significant support (80 Democrats and 13 Republicans have signed on), it hit a brick wall in the form of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Cal.), who showed no support for blocking the deal. In a complicating twist, Lantos died Monday and will be honored at the Capitol tomorrow.
Wamp acknowledged that the push to kill the sale has no chance of gaining traction so immediately following Lantos’ death. Still, the Tennessee Republican had some words of warning for the country when the deal goes through.
“You know, we’ve tried to buy friends many times in this country’s history,” he said. “And you just don’t — you just can’t do that. And I’m afraid economic interests trump our national security interests often.
“And I think of China and I think of Saudi Arabia. And maybe those are the two best examples in the world, right now, where our economic interests skew our common sense and logic.
“And I think our standards are too low, in terms of what we expect of our allies and our friends. We shouldn’t expect, in terms of our standards, our allies and our friends to aid and abet the terrorists. Period. Period.”