In a move that received little publicity in the US newspapers, a bipartisan group in the US Congress inserted an amendment into a US spending bill that essentially stopped all US aid to Saudi Arabia.
Similar amendments had been placed into bills in the past, but this amendment closed a loophole that allowed a waiver if funding was needed for the war on terror. The US has used the aid in the past for anti terrorism training
Various reasons for this ban are mentioned in several news reports, including the resentment against giving a rich oil producing country a handout of aid, civil rights problems including religious intolorance against Christians and Shiite Muslims living in Saudi Arabia (there are 900 000 Philippine overseas workers in Saudi, 90% Catholic, yet the Saudis allow no Christian church in that country). Also disturbing is discrimination against women, who cannot drive cars and must remain covered in public.
But perhaps the last straw to congress was the Saudi backing of Hamas, which has recently waged a bloody battle to control Gaza and is a sworn enemy of the state of Israel.
Those supporting the bill also cited the 3000 known Saudis fighting against American troops in Iraq, the fact that 61Â suicide bombers are Saudi citizens, and that the head of the Saudi Judiciary approved the transfer of funds to Al Zarqawi, the late head of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Supporters of the amendment also noted that government paid Saudi preachers routinely preach hatred of Christians and Jews in their sermons.
Some of the reports say this is a setback for the Bush administration, but it also goes against Nancy Pelosi’s embrace of the Saudis and other anti Israel dictators last April.
(Pelosi and others at the head of the Democratic party are much influenced by the extreme left, which includes groups that oppose Israel. )
The bill will probably be vetoed by President Bush over an unrelated spending matter in the bill.
But the symbolic gesture does warn the Saudis that there is bipartisan opposition to their human rights policies and to the government’s looking the other way when their charities are used to fund terrorist groups or more commonly to launder money so that it can be diverted to terror groups not just in the middle East but also to terrorist groups here in the Philippines..
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind clinic and FishmarketÂ