- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

   Cyprus clarification
   Without any intention of nitpicking the otherwise balanced article “Political rift remains as Greek, Turkish sides cross border” (World, Monday), I wish to point out that the reference to “a ‘popular revolution’ in the face of the intransigent slogans and political deadlock since the 1974 Turkish invasion” is incorrect and misleading.
   Turkey did not “invade” but legally intervened, as per the Treaty of Guarantee of 1960, in order to stop the bloodshed on Cyprus, save the Turkish Cypriots from extermination and prevent the union of Cyprus with Greece.
   As far as slogans are concerned, it is the very notion of “enosis,” or union with Greece — which dates back not to 1974, but to 1963 or even before — that caused the bloodshed and “political rift” on the island. The deadlock is not likely to go away as long as the Greek Cypriot side continues to entertain the ambition of uniting with Greece, albeit indirectly through the European Union, of which Greece is a member and the Greek Cypriot side has all but become.
   Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
   Arabia a la Potemkin
   In his Tuesday Op-Ed column, “Verifying all the facts,” Nail Al-Jubeir, director of information at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, writes that, fortunately, there are “true experts” on Saudi Arabia’s record on terrorism. However, he cites not a single expert, per se. And for good reason, as genuine experts will tell you that the Saudi record is at best mixed.
   For example, Richard Murphy, Hasib Sabbagh senior fellow in Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has opined that he would never assert that Saudi Arabia is an ally, but rather, only a country that we could rely upon for a supply of oil at reasonable rates.
   Mr. Al-Jubeir does refer to favorable comments about Saudi Arabia from President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, but these are taken out of context, as the actual statements do no more than reflect Saudi Arabia’s mixed record.
   The “true” information he would impart is that “the government of Saudi Arabia has done an incredible amount to combat terrorism and terrorist financing.” Not surprisingly, he only cites actions taken after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Yet, his government clearly was on notice long before those events of the urgent need to change its practices. As the Council on Foreign Relations’ Independent Task Force on Terrorist Financing recently reported: “For years, individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most important source of funds for al-Qaeda; and for years, Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem.”
   Why were the many steps which he credits Saudi Arabia with having undertaken to combat terrorist financing not done before September 11? In any event, it is important to put these steps in perspective. As former Treasury Undersecretary for Enforcement Jimmy Gurule made clear at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last November, these measures are still but “baby steps.”
   Moreover, even today, while claiming to combat terrorism, Saudi Arabia supports resolutions at the United Nations that legitimate terrorism, albeit selectively.
   If Saudi Arabia is truly trying to work its way out from the morass of the past, it must begin by acknowledging what went wrong and then accepting responsibility.
   Charleston, S.C.
   Editor’s note: The writers are lead co-counsel to the Sept. 11 Families to Bankrupt Terrorism in their lawsuit against various Saudi Arabian interests.
   Nail Al-Jubeir seeks to discredit the free American news media and belittle the intelligence of the American people. I, for one, am insulted by his brashness.
   I consider myself a student of the Middle East, and I have traveled and lived extensively throughout the region. I even speak Arabic with moderate fluency. Based on my experiences, the Arab world is not nearly as complex as Mr. Al-Jubeir would have us believe. The region is tribal, harsh, led by a collection of archaic dictators, and it is materially poor, yet rich in culture and hospitality. And Mr. Al-Jubeir’s country is home to one of the most repressive regimes — anywhere on Earth.
   I lived there for two years and saw with my own eyes the gleeful celebrations that broke out on September 12, 2001. A Saudi doctor at my wife’s hospital proclaimed the previous day a “great day for Muslims.” I saw the foot soldiers of the Saudi government’s Taliban-like Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice rambling through the dusty streets and shopping malls of Riyadh, subjectively berating and jailing people for crimes against Islam. I experienced the outright hatred many of Mr. Al-Jubeir’s countrymen exhibit toward Israel and the West.
   On the other hand, I also experienced the fear ordinary Saudis show when asked to opine on anything related to the royal family or the Saudi government. Why is that?
   Much of the reporting that I have seen and read on the Middle East, and especially Saudi Arabia, has been accurate and objective. Mr. Al-Jubeir has a difficult job, but he has taken to it with vigor that only Saddam Hussein’s ex-information minister could admire. Despite his efforts to whitewash reality, it is a relief that Western media outlets have exposed Saudi Arabia for what it is: a terrible place that spawns and sponsors terrorism.
   Constitutionally breaking gridlock
   The article “GOP senators keep ‘nuclear option’ in reserve for judges” (Nation, yesterday) is too timid. There is no need to call for an up or down vote on a Senate rule that frustrates the Constitution. The Senate’s president merely needs to call the question, and any attempt to use a filibuster to thwart the confirmation process should be ruled in violation of the constitutional command of majority rule.
   Let the Democrats cry foul all they want about the sanctity of a Senate rule, but the last time I checked — even though the Constitution provides that the Senate may make its own rules — it may not use a Senate rule to change the Constitution, which is exactly what they have done.
   This entire debate is frustrating and shows, unfortunately, a weakness among Republicans to use their majority status, and I have to wonder why. I fear that if the Senate gets into a rules debate and the question goes before the Supreme Court, the court will bind the Senate to its rules. By arguing the constitutional point, it reframes the issue. On that plain, there can be no doubt but that the confirmation of judges is by majority rule. Affirmed.
   Dorchester, Mass.
   No to immigrant military
   The nation’s warm feelings about the outstanding performance of the military shouldn’t blind Congress and produce a rush to grant citizenship to those who enlisted as legal aliens (“Congress eyes speeding citizenship for aliens in military,” Nation, Tuesday). We don’t want to create incentives for a mercenary force filled with foreigners who are attracted by a program that grants expedited access to benefit programs. (Precedents, such as foreigners filling the ranks of the army of the Roman Empire in decline — native-born Romans increasingly shirked military service — are not heartening.) Surely there are enough homegrown young people to fill the ranks.
   In addition, Congress should not forget the case of convicted terrorist Ali A. Mohamed. A native of Egypt, he came to America, became a naturalized citizen and joined the military. While serving with the Special Forces, he passed on information about American military strategies to the Egyptian Islamist Jihad. He trained Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards and helped plan the embassy bombings in 1998 in Kenya.
   If anything, Congress should reconsider the wisdom of permitting any foreign-born persons to serve in these dangerous terrorist times.
   Berkeley, Calif.

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