Eric Lichtblau has an article in this morning’s New York Times about a lawsuit the survivors of 9/11 victims brought against the government of Saudi Arabia. The thing has been thrown out of lower courts and the Supreme Court is deciding whether to hear the case. They won’t.

The lawyers for the 9/11 families have accumulated a lot of hearsay and circumstantial evidence that members of the Saudi Royal Family provided financial support to radical militant groups and the Taliban. From the article, it looks like much of the evidence tracks back to the civil war in Bosnia in the 1990’s. And that’s the problem with the lawsuit. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia entered into a joint program of financing mujahideen to fight the Soviets in 1980, under the presidency of Jimmy Carter. The practice did not suddenly stop when the Soviets abandoned Afghanistan. Those same soldiers were sent to Chechnya and Bosnia during the 1990’s. They were also co-opted by the Pakistani government for use in Kashmir and to influence the post-Soviet civil war in Afghanistan.

Usama Bin-Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were special anomalies within the larger movement. They each had burning resentments towards their home countries. Bin-Laden had been exiled from Saudi Arabia and forced to surrender much of his inheritance. Zawahiri had been tortured in Egyptian prisons. The Saudi government didn’t have any interest in financing bin-Laden because he was giving speeches about overthrowing the Royal Family and expelling the U.S. armed forces from the country. They may, however, have paid him to focus his energies elsewhere in what really amounted to protection money.

In any case, if you’re looking for evidence that the Saudis funded mujahideen, that’s in every history book and was done with the blessing and encouragement of the U.S. government. If you’re looking for evidence that they financed al-Qaeda, you have to be very specific about what you are calling ‘al-Qaeda’. We know that the wife of the Saudi ambassador gave money, indirectly, to the two San Diego-based 9/11 hijackers. But, that appears to be part of the overall plot, rather than something she did advertently. In other words, whoever mapped out the 9/11 plot wanted to implicate Prince Bandar’s wife. She would not have intentionally left a money trail to the 9/11 hijackers.

There is some tantalizing evidence that some members of the Royal Family may have been in on the plot. But the lawsuit seems to have been offered mainly as a fishing expedition to get more evidence. Unfortunately, I don’t think they have a case that can stand up in court, and the Justice Department is forced to argue against the suit to protect U.S.-Saudi relations.

I’d love to know more about the real story behind the 9/11 attacks, but we’d be a lot less surprised about articles like this if we hadn’t been fed a very unsophisticated narrative by Bush administration officials to explain why 9/11 happened. It wasn’t because they hated our freedoms.

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