Read Between the Lines of Those 28 Missing Pages

Robert Scheer writes a weekly column for The Times.

Love the truth; it ultimately bows to no master. Even for the president of the United States, the commander in chief of the world’s most powerful propaganda machine, deceptions inevitably unravel.

In the last week we’ve moved from the 16 deceitful words in George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech to the 28 White House-censored pages in the congressional report that dealt with Saudi Arabia’s role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States.

Yet even in its sanitized version, the bipartisan report, long delayed by an embarrassed White House, makes clear that the U.S. should have focused on Saudi Arabia, and not Iraq, in the aftermath of Sept. 11.


As we know, but our government tends to ignore, 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia; none came from Iraq. Leaks from the censored portions of the report indicate that at least some of those Saudi terrorists were in close contact with -- and financed by -- members of the Saudi elite, extending into the ranks of the royal family.

The report finds no such connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda terrorists. It is now quite clear that the president -- unwilling to deal with the ties between Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden -- pursued Hussein as a politically convenient scapegoat. By drawing attention away from the Muslim fanatic networks centered in Saudi Arabia, Bush diverted the war against terror. That seems to be the implication of the 28 pages, which the White House demanded be kept from the American people when the full report was released.

Even many in Bush’s own party are irritated that the president doesn’t think we can be trusted with the truth.

“I went back and read every one of those pages thoroughly,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on “Meet the Press.” “My judgment is 95% of that information could be declassified, become uncensored so the American people would know.”

Asked why he thought the pages were excised, Shelby, a leading pro-administration conservative, said, “I think it might be embarrassing to international relations.”

Quite an embarrassment if the censored pages reveal that the Bush administration covered up the Saudi connection to the terrorist attacks.


Obviously alluding to Saudi Arabia, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, said Sunday, “High officials in this government, who I assume were not just rogue officials acting on their own, made substantial contributions to the support and well-being of two of these terrorists and facilitated their ability to plan, practice and then execute the tragedy of Sept. 11.”

On Monday, Graham, responding to reports that Saudi Arabia would welcome making public some of the pages, called on Bush to fully declassify “the currently censored pages.”

Newsweek, relying on anonymous government sources, reported Monday that the “connections between high-level Saudi princes and associates of the hijackers” included helping Al Qaeda operatives enter the U.S. and financing their residence in San Diego, where they plotted their infamous attacks.

Remember too that it was well known that Saudi charities with ties to the royal House of Saud were bankrolling the Al Qaeda operation in Afghanistan -- even as George H.W. Bush visited the kingdom shortly after his son was elected, eager to secure contracts for his then-employer, the Carlyle Group.

The fact is, Riyadh, unlike Baghdad, has long been a key hotbed of extremist Muslim organizing. By shielding and nurturing our relationship with the Saudi sheiks, Bush & Son have provided cover for those who support terror.

After all, is it really likely that career-conscious FBI and CIA officers would be willing to criticize possible Al Qaeda-House of Saud links when the president’s father is out hustling business ties with the same family?


Even after Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration immediately protected Saudis in the United States, including allowing members of the large Bin Laden family who were in this country to be spirited home on their government’s aircraft before they could be questioned. This at a time when many immigrants from all over the world were being detained arbitrarily.

Bush has used Sept. 11 as an excuse to turn this country upside down, making a hash of civil liberties and bankrupting our federal government with unprecedented deficit spending on war and its materiel. Before we do any more irrevocable damage in the name of an open-ended “war against evil,” we have a right and a responsibility to confront the uncensored truth of what happened that black day -- no matter what powerful people are brought to account.