The Saudi government has launched a U.S. radio advertising campaign to reinforce its image as an ally in the war on terror.
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. initiated the campaign Aug. 13, unveiling two different one-minute radio ads to air in 19 U.S. cities.
One of the ads, called "Speculation," begins: "Americans have questioned Saudi Arabia's allegiance since the 9/11 attacks. The comprehensive findings of the 9/11 Commission finally reveal the facts."
The ad quotes portions of the commission's report, stating that no evidence shows the Saudi government or its senior officials supported Al-Qaeda. The ad also points out that the Saudi government arrested members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist cells as far back as 1998 "with no publicity."
The other ad, "Fear," pulls similar quotes from the commission's report, though it adds the commission's finding that no Saudi nationals left the United States while national airspace was closed in the days immediately after Sept. 11, 2001.
Both ads end, "A message from the people of Saudi Arabia. Strong allies, committed friends."
The Saudi embassy is playing offense by releasing the ads, using the 9/11 Commission report to bolster its campaign.
"The 9-11 Commission has put to rest the false accusations that have cast fear and doubt over Saudi Arabia. For too long, Saudi Arabia stood morbidly accused of funding and supporting terrorism," said Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal in the press release.
"The government and the people of Saudi Arabia are engaged in a determined and deadly battle with Al-Qaeda forces. This is a battle that we cannot and will not lose, God willing," Al-Faisal said. "But to succeed, we need encouragement, not recrimination; we need partners, not prejudice; and we need cooperation, not condemnation."
An Associated Press article pointed out that the ads don't mention the commission's criticisms of Saudi Arabia, one of which termed the country "a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism." The commission also said extremists have been able to exploit Islamic schools that are funded by Saudis.
In fact, the Saudi government's campaign has already drawn criticism.
Daniel Pipes, in the New York Sun, wrote, "The Saudis are engaging in an underhanded propaganda campaign that subverts the U.S. debate concerning Arabian issues." Pipes purported to expose how Saudis allegedly pay impartial commentators to do their bidding. Pipes fingered five individuals, including two former U.S. ambassadors to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi embassy responded by issuing another press release stating that Pipes' claims were unfounded.
"Neither the government of Saudi Arabia nor any public relations firm compensates these individuals for their activities," the release said. "These esteemed experts on Middle East issues speak their own minds and on their own behalf."
Michael Moore's recent film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," paints President Bush in league with Saudi businessmen. Moore's project also suggests that Saudi Arabia has gotten a sort of free pass because of its alliances with monied interests in America.
Nail al-Jubeir, a Saudi embassy spokesman, told AP that the ad campaign wasn't a response to Moore's film. He said the commission's report itself contradicted a lot of misinformation, and the embassy wanted "to make sure that people are aware of this."
The Saudi embassy has run various ad campaigns before, including radio and TV spots dating back to 2002.
The current radio spots will run until Sept. 6 in the following cities: Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Oklahoma City; Phoenix; Portland, Maine; St. Louis; Seattle; Tampa, Fla.; and Washington.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
The Saudi embassy's Web site is here.