Hearing on "Should the United States Do More to Help U.S. Citizens Held against Their Will in Saudi Arabia?"
by Daniel Pipes
Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives
House of Representatives
Rayburn House Office Building 2154
Chaired by: Rep. DAN BURTON (R-IN)
Panel II Witnesses
HUME HORAN, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia;
DANIEL PIPES, Middle East Forum;
DOUG BANDOW, Cato Institute;
DIANNE ANDRUCH, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Overseas Citizen Services; and
RYAN CROCKER, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs
REP. BURTON: Dr. Pipes.
MR. PIPES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is the Government Reform Committee, and I think we should look at U.S. government performance. I have prepared a fairly lengthy testimony, and I will attempt to summarize it. I will argue that the key question is why the State Department and other agencies of the U.S. government have done so little to support the rights of U.S. nationals abducted to Saudi Arabia.
I shall try to account for this hesitance by noting that it fits into a much larger pattern of caution and even obsequiousness that has, for decades, characterized Washington's relations with Riyadh. Over and over again, the U.S. government has made unwanted and unnecessary concessions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. One could see this, obviously, in the case of children that we've been discussing and hearing about this morning. But there are many other cases.
Let me quickly mention three very important cases.
There is the case of the status of American women in Saudi Arabia. It has been a practice now for a decade to have female military personnel of the United States who are off-base to wear abayas, the head-to-foot black covering, to have to sit in the back of cars and to have to be escorted by male military personnel. This is against everything we stand for.
I'm happy to report that just a month ago, on the 14th of May, this House voted unanimously to prohibit the Pentagon from formally or informally urging service women to wear abayas. But here we have a problem. For 10 years American service women were subjected to a regimen that is unique to Saudi Arabia.
Another example having to do with women is that just two weeks ago, Crown Prince Abdullah was traveling to Crawford, Texas. He insisted or his entourage insisted that no female air traffic controllers be in control of the plane. Not only did the U.S. government concede this point, but hid it afterwards.
A second question has to do with Christians, the practice-
REP. BURTON: Excuse me. They hid it afterwards, you say?
MR. PIPES: Yes. When queried about this matter, both the FAA and the State Department joined with the Saudi foreign minister in flat-out denying that the Saudis asked for exclusively male controllers.
The second issue would be-
REP. BURTON: You have documented evidence?
MR. PIPES: I do.
REP. BURTON: We'd like to have that.
MR. PIPES: I have-quick evidence would be the Dallas Morning News, 27th of April, 2002.
The second issue would be the practice of Christianity in Saudi Arabia. We've had many examples where American officials have acquiesced to the Saudi demand that there be no formal public practice of Christianity. The most spectacular case was just over 10 years ago when the first President Bush was told by the Saudis he could not say grace before the Thanksgiving meal he was to have with the American troops building up for the war with Iraq on Saudi soil. And so the president went to international waters and had Thanksgiving meal there.
More routinely, we see that the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia has generally acquiesced to the Saudi demands that there be no public display of any Christian practice.
Third point would be Jews. Jews are systematically excluded, or have been on occasion systematically excluded by the U.S. government, from working in Saudi Arabia. I have a long quote from a former service officer about how this is done. A 'J' is put in front of certain people's names not to go to Saudi Arabia.
There's the case of a contractor for the Defense Department that explicitly said that no Jews or Jewish-named personnel would be sent as part of a team to Saudi Arabia. The U.S. government-the Defense Department was breaking U.S. government laws in not sending Jews to Saudi Arabia. There are many other such cases. I won't give you the details now.
My conclusion is that one sees here a pattern that is unique in American foreign policy, where the United States-representatives of the United States government-are not willing to stand up for American interests. And while there can be explanations having to do with oil and the like, I think the explanation lies elsewhere.
One finds over and over again that Americans in position of authority are acquiescing or even preemptively acquiescing to what they imagine the Saudis would like. An answer to why this is happening can be found in a statement by the current Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.
He said the following, and this was quoted in the Washington Post of the 11th of February, 2002. He boasts of his success cultivating powerful Americans who deal with Saudi Arabia. "If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you'd be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office."
The heart of the problem is a very human one. Americans in position of authority bend the rules and break with standard practice out of personal greed. One finds over and over again that old Saudi hands are doing very well once they leave office. Over and over again, ambassadors-and I give names in my testimony-are now in positions of authority. Two or three of the individuals mentioned previously here today are in my testimony-Walter Cutler, Edward Walker, Wyche Fowler. Former Ambassador Horan has noted this pattern. Others have noted it.
I would argue to you, sir, that the rot in the executive branch renders it quite incapable of dealing with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the far-sighted and disinterested manner that U.S. foreign policy requires. That leaves the responsibility with you, with Congress, to fix things. The massive preemptive cringe of American officials requires your urgent attention.
Without going into detail here, I suggest that steps be taken to ensure that the Saudi revolving-door system documented in my testimony, be made illegal. Only this way can U.S. citizens regain confidence in those of their officials who deal with one of the world's most important states.
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R-CT): Mr. Pipes, I'm just going to ask you one question. If you were president of the United States, when the president came to visit our troops, was that pre the Gulf War or after the Gulf War?
MR. PIPES: November of 1990 -- two months before.
REP. SHAYS: Okay. Can you give a little slack here to suggest that if you're president of the United States you are not going to give anybody an excuse in the government to basically prevent you from doing what you think you need to do as commander in chief? Is there a little bit of-
MR. PIPES: Well, Mr. Chairman, it's a judgment call.
REP. SHAYS: Yeah.
MR. PIPES: But I gave that as an example of something which is much more widespread. For example, a month later, in December of 1990, the troops in Saudi Arabia, hundreds of thousands-half a million-were not permitted to have any public display Christmas celebration. What they-
REP. SHAYS: You mean public display within their own ranks?
MR. PIPES: Within their own ranks.
REP. SHAYS: It wasn't like they were going to go to some city in Saudi Arabia?
MR. PIPES: Absolutely not. They had what were called "C-word morale services"-in other words, Christmas morale services. That was the term. These were held in unmarked tents, unmarked mess halls, and within that people could do things.
REP. SHAYS: I might if I were a soldier be a little resentful, thinking I might be giving up my life for obviously our own national interests, the stability and concern that we didn't want Saddam Hussein to contain 20 percent of the world's oil, potentially threatening another 40 percent.
MR. PIPES: Absolutely not.
REP. SHAYS: But, having said that, that would have taken-I would have sucked it in if I were one of the servicemen thinking I might end up dying in this land.
MR. PIPES: If I could read you one more paragraph, this is the testimony of a former foreign service officer in Jeddah. He was given kind of informal duty of being in charge of what he called the Catholic catacomb. And he explained afterwards, when Catholic Americans-this is official Americans, this is Americans on the embassy staff-"sought permission to worship on the embassy grounds, I was to receive the telephone inquiries and deflect them by pretending not to know about the so-called Tuesday lectures." By the way, Sunday services took place in Jeddah on Tuesday because the only priest, subterranean priest, who could get there got there on Tuesday, so they're called Tuesday lectures. "Only if a person kept calling back and insisted that such a group existed was I to meet with him and get a sense of his trustworthiness." This is on American territory. This is part of the same phenomenon of throwing Mrs. [Monica] Stowers out of the embassy.
REP. DOUG OSE (R-CA): Now, I do want to pay a compliment to the State Department. The State Department has posted on its website an advisory to Americans considering marriage to Saudis. But what I don't understand is why that advisory has been taken off the website.
MS. ANDRUCH: I was not aware that it was taken off the website? There's one on Islamic law that's on our website, it's a travel-dot- state-dot-gov.
REP. OSE: Travel-dot-state-dot-gov.
MS. ANDRUCH: Yes sir.
REP. OSE: So, this one that refers specific to Saudi Arabia has or has not been removed?
MS. ANDRUCH: I-I don't know if it's on there right now, so I'll have to check.
REP. OSE: Dr. Pipes?
MR. PIPES: If my recollection is correct, it was taken down at the behest of an Islamic group in the United States.
REP. OSE: It was taken down at the behest of an Islamic group in the United States? Which Islamic group?
MR. PIPES: I believe it was the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
REP. OSE: And with whom did they communicate their interest-
MR. PIPES: They protested this document to the State Department, which proceeded to take it down.
REP. OSE: Well, did they protest it on the basis of inaccurate information?
MR. PIPES: They said it was discriminatory. This is all from memory it was a couple of years ago. I believe they said it was discriminatory.
REP. OSE: Is there information in this material that's inaccurate?
MR. PIPES: I don't think that was their point. I think it was that posting this about marriage to Saudis, as opposed to, say, marriage to Canadians, was discriminatory.
REP. OSE: Have we had any protests about the postings on Sharia?
MR. PIPES: I'm not sure.
REP. OSE: Did the Council of Islamic Relations-are those-is that an American group, or is that a group of foreign citizens who are trying to advance American-Islamic relations?
MR. PIPES: Both, sir. It was founded in-it's founding meeting was in Philadelphia in 1993. It was tapped by the FBI. It's become apparent that the founding of this group was done by operatives of Hamas, the militant Islamic Palestinian group. But the Council of American-Islamic Relations portrays itself as an American group interested in American interests, however it does have a very close connection to foreign-foreign terrorist entities, I might add, since the Hamas is declared a terrorist entity-
REP. SHAYS: I would like to know before I leave is there any comment that any of you wished we had asked that we didn't ask? Anything that you want to put on the record that you feel we need to put on the record? Yes, Mr. Pipes.
MR. PIPES: I've had a chance to look up Mr. Ose's question about the Web page, and I found the particulars. I had actually the wrong organization.
REP. SHAYS: Okay, what I am going to do is I am going to let Mr. Ose sit down, and then I'm going to stay while you give your answer.
REP. OSE: Dr. Pipes, continue please.
MR. PIPES: It was the American Muslim Council, which issued a press release on March 10th, 2000, titled "AMC expresses satisfaction over change in U.S. advisory on marriage with Muslims. The American Muslim Council has expressed dissatisfaction over the positive changes brought about in the U.S. Department of State's Islamic family law brochure," and it goes on to give the particulars.
It says, "The State Department has removed the hurtful statements from its web page that were derogatory and biased against Muslims."
REP. OSE: Dr. Pipes?
MR. PIPES: Two points. First, a small one about the visas. So far as I know at this time, there still is a Web page on the Riyadh embassy information about U.S. visa express. This permits Saudis and non-Saudi residents-Saudi citizens and non-residents of Saudi Arabia who are not Saudi citizens-in other words third-party-third country-I am not too good at this lingo. Anyway, they can all apply for an expedited visa. It was my understanding that in the aftermath of 9-11 this program was shut down. I believe it is still up, and I would hope that you would look at it. This means that the Saudis and others coming from Saudi Arabia can go through the system expedited, without even showing up, having travel agents do the work.
MS. ANDRUCH: That has been shut down.
MR. PIPES: It's still there.
MS. ANDRUCH: Okay, we will look into that, but that is shut down, because now there's a waiting period as well for male applicants.
MR. PIPES: Okay, do make sure that it's-clear.
REP. OSE: Your second point?
MR. PIPES: And the second point would be more general, and I think we have a culture here, a culture of obsequiousness that is very distinct to Saudi Arabia, and I think requires your urgent attention to think through mechanisms to prevent the Saudi government in effect from preemptively bribing our officials, by keeping a lure out there for them, just as was done, say, with the insurance companies.
REP. OSE: Thank you.