- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2002

American women haven't fared very well under Saudi Arabian law. Air Force Lt. Col. Martha McSally was one of the many American servicewomen forced to wear the Muslim abiyya while off base in order to observe Muslim religious law. The fact that she is not a Muslim made no difference under Saudi law. Last Wednesday, in a congressional hearing, the mothers of some American women and children being held against their will in Saudi Arabia testified about the horrible situation Saudi law has created.
It is hard to make sense out of the Saudi government's refusal to help Pat Roush's two daughters both American citizens who were kidnapped from the United States and taken to Saudi Arabia by her estranged husband in 1986. Mrs. Roush testified that both of her daughters now over age 18 desperately want to return to the United States. They cannot, because, under Saudi "law," they need their father's permission to do so. Indiana Rep. Dan Burton has sent a letter to the president asking him to pressure the Saudi government to allow Mrs. Roush's daughters, and 44 other such Americans, to come home. The president should do that and more. He should rethink our relationship with the Saudis, who have done little to earn our trust. He should begin with Thanksgiving 1991, when his father visited American troops in Saudi Arabia who were preparing to free Kuwait. The first President Bush was informed he couldn't say a Christian prayer of thanks on Saudi soil. That act of disrespect to our president and our troops set the tone for what has followed.
Since then, nothing has changed. Given the Saudis' thorough lack of cooperation with our war against terror, it is very hard to see why the president would want to continue handling them with kid gloves. To this day, they have not even investigated the events leading to September 11, despite the fact that most of the September 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. As more suspected terrorists are arrested for planning strikes against Americans as they were this week in Morocco they often turn out to be Saudis. In May, Morocco arrested three Saudis for allegedly planning attacks on U.S. Navy ships and has now arrested some of their wives for complicity in the plot.
Mr. Bush should demand that each of these 46 Americans be brought to the U.S. Embassy and asked in private, with no Saudis present if they want to return to the United States. Their choice should be final in the matter and enforced with whatever means necessary. The right of Americans to freedom and self-determination cannot be sacrificed to Saudi law or diplomacy. The Saudi government opposes our plan to remove Saddam Hussein, and its plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians amounts to little else than a surrender of Israel's security. We cannot buy Saudi support for the campaign against Iraq, because the price will be too high and the support too shallow. Mr. Bush should tell the Saudis that while they may be an ally, they are clearly not an indispensable one.

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