Tue. Aug 05, 2003
Bush's Saudi Stonewall
Bush’s Saudi Stonewall – No matter what the news, all we’ve heard for years now from the Bush administration is that the Saudis are our friends, worthy of inviting to a barbeque at the ranch in Crawford, Texas (an “honor” bestowed on very very few). They’ve tried to build a question-proof wall around the US-Saudi relationship, and the decision to classify the 28 pages about the Saudis in the 9/11 investigation is One Big Brick.
Here’s another brick in the wall (via Instapundit): “The Treasury Department said yesterday that it would decline to provide the Senate with a list of Saudi individuals and organizations the federal government has investigated for possibly financing Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups [...] Moreover, the move contradicted an assertion made on Thursday by a senior Treasury official, Richard Newcomb, who told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a hearing on Saudi sponsorship of terrorism that the list was not classified and that his agency would turn it over to the Senate within 24 hours.”
Oops. We’re not talking about some reporter’s demand, this is a request from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. One the Treasury Department said they would fulfill immediately. Until someone up the chain said, “no way.”
So what, you say, who has George made mad now, more Democrats? Someone else running for President who wants the spotlight? How about right wing Republican Senator of 23 years from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter. He’s fit to be tied: “ ‘I’m in a fit to get classified information. They may be looking at a subpoena. The guy made a commitment in an open hearing to produce it.’ [...] Treasury’s about-face on the list follows the White House’s decision last week not to declassify 28 pages of a Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks that detailed possible Saudi involvement in the strikes. Mr. Specter and others in Congress have said the moves create the impression that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer and an important American diplomatic partner, is being coddled in an effort to advance disparate American economic and foreign policy goals.”
“ ‘It’s one thing to say that information in the 9/11 report about the Saudis is classified for national security reasons,’ Mr. Specter said, ‘but it’s quite another when you’re talking about a list of charities. I think these guys are losing it. We did get a commitment on this list, and even in Washington a commitment means something.’ ”
One has to wonder how the administration can be so completely tone deaf on the issue of the Saudis, when someone of Specter’s reputation rips them a new one. Every Republican who has spoken out, every Democrat who has spoken out, even every Saudi who has spoken out, has said “release those 28 pages, we have a right to know what they say.”
There’s only one place you find the stonewall. At the White House. And yet, the stonewall has leaks, and they will surely grow. There’s only one person who can be hurt by this leaking stonewall.
And I don’t think he’s got any rabbits left to pull out of his hat.
In purely political terms, the current consensus seems to be that national security concerns will be what gets George Bush re-elected in 2004, trumping all other issues. If that’s so, the perception of protecting the Saudis will be used as a Big Lever to neutralize Bush’s position. And if it is more than just perception (a perception that is only enhanced by this stonewalling), when it comes out, he’ll be lucky to finish his term.
There is just no even half-obvious winning position in withholding this information, not when multiple people who have read it all say that 95% could easily be declassified with no risk.
There is no “win” here. Unless we believe the very worst. Which is exactly what this stonewall encourages us to do.