In a case of impeccably bad timing, a group of American evangelical leaders traveled to Saudi Arabia on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks planned and executed by Saudi citizens. The group was hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the man whom many believe bears the ultimate responsibility for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and was seen as an effort by the Arab nation to bolster its public image in the United States, particularly among the conservative evangelical sector that it believes will be most receptive to its theocratic policies.
According to an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, this was the second such delegation to visit the Muslim kingdom this year. The nine-member evangelical group was led author and Christian activist Joel Rosenberg, a Jerusalem-based dual citizen of both Israel and the United States, and also included one of Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Councilors, Reverend Johnnie Moore.
In case anyone thought that the timing of the visit was inadvertent, the delegation’s joint statement thanking the Saudi Royal family for their hospitality disabused them of that notion.
“While it may surprise some that we would choose the week of September 11 to visit the Kingdom, we actually feel there is no more appropriate time to focus on where the Kingdom must go, can go, and where we believe it is going,” the evangelical representatives said in the statement.
“Our visit here on this profoundly important week is in defiance of those that aim to derail reform in the Kingdom through an embrace of hate and fear rather than courage and moderation,” the statement continued.
The evangelical delegation issued its statement supporting the rule of MBS and his family while ignoring the 15 Saudi citizens involved in the 9/11 attacks and despite the Crown Prince’s alleged involvement in ordering Khashoggi’s killing and dismemberment. Instead, they chose to focus on the surface reforms that Bin Salman has enacted allowing Saudi women some limited relief from the harsh restrictions they have been forced to endure until very recently.
Rosenberg, the leader of the Christian delegation, complained that only two U.S. Senators had seen fit to visit the kingdom since the beginning of the year, again ignoring the stigma that Khashoggi’s brutal murder and the Saudi involvement in the genocidal conflict in Yemen has brought upon American interactions with the oil-rich nation.
“Saudi Arabia is one of America’s most important strategic allies in the war against radical Islamist terrorism and in countering the rising Iranian threat,” Rosenberg claimed. “Yes, there are significant challenges in the U.S.-Saudi relationship,” he said. “But we urge more Senators to come here, see the sweeping and positive reforms that the Crown Prince is making, and ask him candid questions directly rather than sniping at him from Washington.”
One question for MBS could be “Did you listen to Khashoggi scream as your minions used a bone saw to dismember him in the Istanbul Saudi consulate?” Another could be “What does it say in the 28 redacted pages of the U.S. Congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the planning and execution of the terrorist plot and why did the Saudi government evacuate 300 of its citizens from the U.S. immediately after the attacks?”
The increasing importance to foreign powers of supplicating Donald Trump’s evangelical base is demonstrated by the fact that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally has hosted both the current and previous delegations that Rosenberg has brought to the Sunni Muslim nation. He has also led delegations of Christian leaders to Jordan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates as the importance of the evangelical voting block to the Trump administration’s chances of continuing beyond 2020 become ever more apparent.
No matter what, the vast majority of Americans are sure to see the timing of the evangelical delegation’s visit as highly inappropriate and insulting to the memory of the thousands of victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.