Patricia Roush is executive director of the Center for Children's Issues, a San Francisco-based advocacy organization specializing in international child abductions. She has testified as an expert witness on this subject at congressional hearings and has made frequent appearances on national television. She is the author of At Any Price: How America Betrayed My Kidnapped Daughters for Saudi Oil (WND Books, 2003).

Under the guise of securing "national interests," America has allowed Saudi fathers to abduct their own children to live under the worst conditions of theocratic repression. I am one of many victims of this complicity. My daughters were abducted from me by my Saudi ex-husband when they were 3 ½ and 7 years old. In my struggle to win back my children I encountered not only the hostility of Saudi officials, but also the shocking indifference of State Department bureaucrats. As America wakes up to the problem of the kingdom's role in allowing abusive fathers control over the fate of their children, other dimensions of this relationship become evident, including Saudi support for terrorism.

A Fragile Relationship

My battle to regain custody over my children must be placed in the wider context of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, which at best is a rather tenuous exchange of security for oil. However, in light of the atrocities committed on September 11th, the status quo is no longer escaping the scrutiny of the outside world. The tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia have magnified.

This is not a surprise, given the kingdom's history. In the eighteenth century, the Saud family made a pact with the devil in forming an alliance with the Wahhabis, followers of a puritanical sect of Islam. Wahhabism then flourished because of the muscle behind its doctrines due to the expansionist energies of the Saudi clan. And in turn, the Saud family maintained control over the Arabian Peninsula because of the legitimacy conferred by the Wahhabis.

Starting in the 1940s, U.S. support became part of the Saudi support system. To keep this support active, the Saudi leadership developed a vast apparatus to lobby offical Washington on its behalf. Highly paid and scripted spin-doctors make guest appearances on national television. Glossy ads appear in national magazines. A mountain of apologetic scholarship undergirds these efforts. These gimmicks, however, are increasingly undermined as enterprising journalists and others reveal the climate of religious extremism that reigns through the kingdom. There is a growing perception that Saudi Arabia is an enemy rather than an ally.

Preferential Treatment for the Enemy

As more Americans learn about the truth of Saudi Arabia's religious extremism and its role in fomenting terrorism, the more too they learn about the U.S. government's complicity in the Saudi actions. One aspect of this is the State Department's abandonment of American children in Saudi Arabia. There are thousands of tragic family stories written off by the State Department.

To further add insult to injury, Saudi Arabia continues to receive preferential treatment, even after September 11th. Prince Bandar, the most senior member of the Washington diplomatic corps, enjoys the unique distinction of being protected, at the U.S. taxpayer's expense, by State Department security officials. Saudi elites continue to fund so-called charities that serve as front organizations for terrorists with little U.S. counter-action. The Visa Express program, which allows Saudi citizens to secure passage to America without going through the usual consular and embassy channels, was not shut down after the September attacks (even though three of the nineteen hijackers infiltrated the country through this system). Saudi visa applicants are rejected at much lower rates when compared globally to other nationals, 3% versus 25%. Some modest reforms have been made but the abuse, neglect, and mismanagement still persists. It is time for real change.

Summary account by Zachary Constantino, research assistant at the Middle East Forum.