This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, July 25, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right. Ever since that 9/11 report came out, there are a lot of questions about what the Saudis (search) knew and when they knew it and were they cooperative. In fact, a U.S. congressman is leading an effort to say forget it with the Saudis, just cut them off and be done with it.
But this next guest isn’t quite so convinced of that. Let’s ask Ali Al-Ahmed. He’s director of the Saudi Institute.
Mr. Al-Ahmed, thank you for joining us.
ALI AL-AHMED, SAUDI INSTITUTE DIRECTOR: Thank you.
CAVUTO: A lot of people don’t trust your country in this country. What do you make of that?
AL-AHMED: Well, I think we have made a lot of mistakes, and America also made some mistakes in that regard. There is not open communication between the two countries. At the moment, there is no open line of communication. It’s still very hesitant on both sides, and I think that leads to suspicion and weakening of the relationship.
CAVUTO: But you can’t blame a lot of Americans for being suspicious, right? It really wasn’t until your Riyadh compound was attacked, 30-some-odd lives lost, nine Americans -- that you sort of got off your duff and started responding to terror.
And the way Americans look at it is, before and after 9/11, we were asking for and seeking cooperation and your government didn’t give it. What’s to prevent Americans from still thinking that?
AL-AHMED: Well, I think again more communications, more cooperation on both sides would lead to results. And everything is still in secret, and I am an advocate that this should be in the open, more transparency in the communication on both sides.
CAVUTO: All right. When you say transparency, though, transparency means answering questions. A lot of the victims of 9/11 -- their families are trying to get answers from your government, and the government has said it’s a legal matter, let the courts decide it, and have not helped those families.
Furthermore, when we look at what was happening leading up to September 11, we realize there were a number of prominent Saudi officials who might have, in fact, been funding at least two of the terrorists who were in this country.
What’s to stop Americans from thinking the Saudis smile at us and then screw us?
AL-AHMED: Well, there is a case of that. There are Saudis who have supported Al Qaeda.
But, again, ask the American government why didn’t they ask our government to say why don’t you interrogate these people? I suggest that a commission between the two governments, a commission to investigate the allegations on both sides.
I think that is the most constructive, instead of calling names -- constructively, a commission between the Saudi government -- a joint commission -- and the American government to discuss these matters we are talking about with...
CAVUTO: But, Mr. Al-Ahmed, it’s a bigger issue than that, right? I mean what galls a lot of Americans of this country are these telethons that go on in your country to raise money for homeless Palestinians, many of who are the families of terrorists who have blown up Israeli discotheques and buses. They -- they see this again and again, they see you talking about wanting to be a friend, but they see you acting like anything but.
AL-AHMED: I agree. I think we need to spend our money on our people first and not in America or in some other countries. We’ve been spending more money in the United States on ads on FOX and CNN and other stations than on the Palestinians.
CAVUTO: All right. Ali Al-Ahmed, we’ll see what happens. Thank you very much.
AL-AHMED: Thank you, sir.
CAVUTO: All right. Joining us now to explain his position on this, fair and balanced, Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner in New York, leading an effort to hold the Saudis accountable.
Congressman, thanks for coming.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER, D-N.Y.: It’s my pleasure.
CAVUTO: What do you want to do?
WEINER: Well, on one level, I want to make a symbolic gesture that we are tired of having the duplicity of the Saudi Arabian government, and, on another level, I want to make a very real point that we should not be paying a single dime to this nation for any purpose. We don’t give them a lot of money, but, frankly, one of the richest kingdoms on earth -- I don’t see any reason why we should.
Right now, about one-third of those that are being held by the U.S. government for concerns about being connected to Al Qaeda are Saudi citizens. We know 15 of the 19 suicide bombers that took 2,800 of my neighbors in New York City on September 11 were Saudis.
We know that over 50 percent of the money going to Hamas for terrorist bombings in Israel and elsewhere are Saudis. We know that they’re the leading fundraiser for terrorism all around the world.
CAVUTO: So what would you do?
WEINER: Well, I believe we shouldn’t have a single penny, dime, shekel from U.S. taxpayers going for direct aid to Saudi Arabia. We should treat them...
CAVUTO: Well, let’s go even further. Would you then pay money for Saudi oil? We need that.
WEINER: Oh, well, I’m not sure that we should cut off all ties, economic and otherwise, with that government, but one thing is sure. We certainly don’t treat them like a nation that is high on the list of those that export terrorism. I believe we should. We should treat them with just the same skepticism that we treat others.
You know, when President Bush stood up after September 11 and said you’re either with us or against you, so far, the record has been that the Saudis are against us.
CAVUTO: Yes, but, Congressman, that would be analogous to me saying I’m going on a diet, but I’m going to continue eating the baked potatoes with the extra butter because I like the baked potatoes with the extra butter.
The fact of the matter is we need the Saudi oil, and there’s where you’re drawing the line. I guess we’re so beholden to this country that maybe we need them more than they need us, and therein lies the rub, right?
WEINER: Well, that’s the philosophy at the State Department. That’s why they fought tooth and nail to defeat my amendment this week. But, frankly, the opposite is true.
The Saudis need us. They are a kingdom teetering on their point because they are a kingdom that is being attacked by terrorism themselves. They are already in a region of the world that we have had to go be their big brother once and shed U.S. lives protecting them.
I would really dispute the notion that we need them at all.
CAVUTO: Could you then put your money where your mouth is, Congressman, and just say a lot of Americans clearly agree with you and are enraged just like you and just say, all right, if we’re going to suffer, they’re going to suffer more, if we do without their oil and send an unequivocal message, that’s it.
WEINER: Well, I mean, I’m not in a great position. I own a Ford Explorer.
But all of that being said, this was an opportunity this week for us on the day that the September 11 report came out say to say to one of the nations whose record is so miserable that there are pages and pages in the report about them that were redacted for fear of ruffling their feathers -- the point I was making this week was not so much an economic one. Let’s face it. We don’t give them a great deal of aid.
The point I was making was that we need to start treating nations based on the record of their performance, not simply how good a P.R. campaign they do, like your last interview.
CAVUTO: So, ultimately, it’s up to us, though, to really say if we’re ticked off, start acting like it.
WEINER: Well, ultimately, one of our best weapons against those we dislike in the Middle East is to improve our energy policy, and I’ve been on about that issue in the past, and it’s a subject that we should discuss, but I’ve got to tell you having foreign aid money going to Saudi Arabia is outrageous. And, today, because of the leadership of President Bush, we’re still going to have it.
CAVUTO: All right. Congressman Anthony Wiener.
Thank you. Appreciate it.
WEINER: Thank you.
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