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Who smuggled al Harbi to bin Laden?

or The good cop/bad cop games theocracies can play

Via Ken Layne [1]: ABC News commissioned a full translation of the Bin Laden video, revealing that Khalid al Harbi says he was smuggled into Afghanistan by Saudi Arabia’s religious police. A subsequent Washington Post account, again via Layne [2], differs on this important detail, stating that it was Iranian religious police who did the smuggling. After the first report, Ken Layne commented:

So, let’s get this straight: A Saudi millionaire from one of Saudi Arabia’s richest families plotted a massive attack on the United States using 15 Saudi citizens as hijackers, and this attack was praised by members of the Saudi Arabian government’s religious council while Saudi officials smuggled a fanatic Saudi cleric into Afghanistan to give praise to the Saudi who led the attack. The Saudis hustle the bin Laden family out of the United States within hours of the attacks — and with the White House’s help — and refuse to cooperate in the investigation of the 15 Saudi hijackers. Meanwhile, Saudi royalty runs loose in the United States, breaking the law and claiming diplomatic immunity whenever they’re caught.

Folks, Saudi Arabia attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. It doesn’t matter whether the command came from that bloated hog King Fahd or the fanatic religious leadership he can’t control. What is obvious to everyone except the Bush Administration is that our ally, Saudi Arabia, harbored, supported and created the terrorists who launched a war against the United States 100 days ago.

However, there is the “sting” angle I mentioned [3] a few days ago — so take your pick:

1) the Saudi religious police were doing U.S. bidding to get the weasel Al Harbi and his HandyCam to Bin Laden. (I doubt the Iranian religious police would.)

2) the Saudi or Iranian religious police were doing their own nasty pro-Bin Laden business, and we were lucky to get the videotape.

Someone in Washington, D.C. knows, and I think the American people should know, too. I’m getting a little bit sick of the mantra about “protecting our sources”; we need the information to know just where we stand with Saudi Arabia. Even if it’s door number 1 above, Layne outlines very well why Saudi Arabia has a long, long way to go before I consider them an ally in any important sense. Al Harbi presumably wasn’t hallucinating about the prominent, non-fringe clerics who supported the 9/11 attacks. If it’s door number 2, and it was Saudis, then we have a very serious problem with Saudi Arabia (as if we didn’t know that already), and my most important reason for not going to war with Iraq does not apply: they are harboring, aiding, and abetting 9/11 attackers, before and after the attacks.

Final thought about the convenience/inconvenience of uncontrollable religious clergy: both Iran and Egypt are very similar in this respect. “Yes, but what do Khameini/Al Azhar University leadership say?” should be the constant question whenever “moderate” voices from these countries are mentioned.

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Update, 10:45pm: Justin Slotman (“Insolvent Republic of Blogistan”) points out [4] this MSNBC article [5], which pins down the religious police involved as ““jalad alhayaa” (meaning, the article says, Saudi “religious police”) … So there you go.” Although those words may just mean “religious police,” perhaps still leaving it a matter of context and guesswork whether Al Harbi meant Iranians or Saudis.