Terrorism: May 3, 2002

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The increasingly strained relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia are causing many incidents from the past to be examined anew. It's never been a secret that Saudi Arabia is home to some very fundamentalist Moslems. The fact that 14 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudis is hard to ignore. During the Gulf War, the United States and Saudi governments went out of their way to prevent incidents between half a million U.S. "infidel" soldiers and Saudi fundamentalists. Just how extensive that effort was may be seen by some of the stories now making the rounds in the Pentagon. For example, it is asserted that fourteen Americans, listed as having died in accidents, were actually murdered by Saudis. While it is not uncommon for foreigners to die under mysterious circumstances in Saudi Arabia, you never hear about it. The Saudi government strictly controls the local media, and foreigners are warned to be careful what they say and who they say it to. For example, anyone using the Internet in Saudi Arabia quickly learns to avoid certain subjects in their email, otherwise they get a visit from the police. The story about murdered Americans is probably something of an urban legend, since most American troops came home, where they could speak freely. But during the 1990-91 campaign, thousands of American troops were driving trucks through isolated parts of Saudi Arabia. So there was opportunity for misadventure out in the desert. Then again, some of these deaths may have just been a few dishonest Bedouins out to do a little hijacking. That's a tradition that goes back several thousand years in that part of the world, and the custom has usually been to leave no witnesses behind.


 

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