As President Obama prepares to veto legislation giving the families of 9/11 victims the right to sue Saudi Arabia for its complicity in the terror attacks, a prominent and devoted Clinton loyalist, Joe Conason, reveals in his new book that Bill Clinton worked to rehab the Saudi’s damaged image several years after the attack.
The Saudis and Clinton were no strangers. The Kingdom originally donated between $10-25 million to the Clinton Foundation. And, over the years, the ruling family and leading Saudi billionaires added another $24-40 million. So, the total is a staggering $34-65 million. And another $1.2 million paid to Clinton personally for speeches. (See charts at end of column.)
It was in early 2004 that Bill Clinton quietly agreed to help the Saudi Arabian ruling family in their revolting attempts to rehab the Kingdom’s besmirched image. Once considered a strong American ally, Saudi Arabia was widely condemned after shocking revelations about the role of Saudi nationals — and perhaps the Saudi government, too — in implementing and financing the 9/11 terror attack. The kingdom needed a new look, a new brand, a diversion from the 9/11 issues.
And the former President was all too willing to offer his prestige to take on that dubious, but ultimately lucrative assignment.
The Saudis had an enormous problem: Americans didn’t like them. Gallup Polls since 9/11 have consistently shown that almost 60% of Americans have a negative view of Saudi Arabia.
And it’s no surprise. The Saudis fingers were all over 9/11.
Recall that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
And that the FBI found convincing evidence that Saudi citizens living in the U.S. — including the wife of the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. — provided money to support a number of the hijackers while they were in the United States.
But none of that bothered Bill Clinton. Not at all. Business is business and he saw the large piggy bank that was waiting at the end of the expansive Arabian Desert.
According to Joe Conason’s new book, Man of The World, Bill Clinton accepted the invitation of the then Crown Prince, now King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who offered his jet to bring Clinton and an entourage of dozens of his cronies to Saudi Arabia. Amr Al-Dabbagh, a Saudi businessman joined in the invitation, which included featuring Clinton at the Jeddah Economic Forum, where Clinton’s appearance could easily be interpreted as an imprimatur of the Kingdom, whether he wanted it to be or not.
According to Conason, “While Clinton no doubt felt grateful for their largesse, the broader aim of the trip also appealed to him.”
And what was this appealing broader aim? To try and reverse the reputational damage that Saudi citizens had caused by attacking the Twin Towers and helping to fund the terrorists who killed 3,500 innocent Americans.
That was the noble cause.
As Conason puts it: “Hoping to mitigate the public relations damage done by the involvement of their citizens in the 9/11 attacks, top Saudi leaders wanted more Americans to visit their country and meet their people.”
But think about it. Did the Saudis really think that Americans would start viewing Jeddah as a tourist destination? No way.
The true purpose seems obvious: the Saudis wanted Bill Clinton to legitimize them, to flack for them, to show the international community that he was a friend who did not hold their terrorist links against them. That Saudi Arabia was an acceptable country, not a terrorist haven. And that’s what Bill Clinton did by traveling to Saudi Arabia and countenancing their horrific role in 9/11.
It’s true that Clinton mildly criticized the Saudis in his speech, chiding them for not letting women drive, for not making necessary political reforms. But one thing that he did not chide them for was the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from their country. There was no mention of 9/11
Keep in mind that Conason’s revelations are not the rants of an anti-Clinton diehard accusing him of playing with the enemy. No, Conason is a long-time Clinton supporter who has defended him for decades – and he supports the story with details gleaned from interviews with Bill Clinton, Doug Band and many others involved with the Saudi trip. It’s no hit job.
And although Conason insists that Clinton was not paid for the speech he gave during the trip, the fact is that he had already been paid $900,000 by Al-Dabbagh a few months earlier for three speeches in less than a week. Combined with the vast sums sent to the Foundation, it was an easy freebee.
And the amenities were wonderful. The King’s luxurious jet had a huge central living room with lots of couches and chairs so that Clinton’s guests could be comfortable. Included in those who joined him were the Presidents of Brazil and Mexico, Chevy Chase, John Cusack, Strobe Talbott, mega-Clinton donors Elizabeth and Smith Bagley, Alan Patricof, Stanley Shulman. Google Execs Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt rounded out the manifest. And, of course, Clinton patron Ron Burkle was also aboard.
No doubt the trip really convinced them all that Saudi Arabia was a great place. (Except if you’re a woman or a Jew.)
After a week of fun, the King’s jet took the entourage to Switzerland for the Davos Forum. Another perk for Clinton.
And, as mentioned above, it was a wise decision to go there. A $31-70 million decision.
Years afterward, we learned even more damaging information about the Saudis, The 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, asked to speak to a federal judge and claimed that “prominent members of the Saudi royal family were major financial backers of al-Qaeda in the 1990s.” He claimed that Osama bin Laden instructed him to keep a digital database of donors and he identified top Saudi government officials and rulers were on the list.
Who knows what else Clinton has done for the Saudis? But what he hasn’t done is talk to them about terrorism. What he has done is collect millions.
(Note: The Clinton Foundation only reports donations in ranges.)
Clinton’s Take From Saudi Arabia & Contributions To Clinton Foundation
• Saudi Arabia = $10-25 million
• Friends of Saudi Arabia from Sheikh Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi = $1-5 million
• MIDROC (Sheikh Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi’s Company to CGI) = $20 million
• Walid Juffali = $1-5 million
• Nasser Al-Rashid = $1-5 million
• Hamza B. Al Khol = $100.000-$250,000
TOTAL: $34,100,000 – $65,250,000 million
Speaking Fees = $1.2 million
Tanmiah Commercial Group, Saudi Arabia = $300,000 (1/25/12)
Global Competitiveness Conference Co-sponsored by Dabbhagh = $300,000 (2011)
The Dabbagh Group, Dubai = $300,000 (1/17/02)
The Dabbagh Group, Cairo = $300,000 (1/18/02)
The Dabbagh Group, Saudi Arabia = $300,000 (1/20/02)
TOTAL: $1.2 MILLION