Saudi Arabia radicalized U.S. soldiers

Saudi Arabia vigorously attempted to convert American soldiers to fundamentalist  Islam during the First Persian Gulf War, according to the Middle East Strategy at Harvard project.

Gal Luft, an energy security expert, quotes Rick Francona, an aide to General Norman Schwarzkopf:

Saudi officers appeared to have been directed by their senior military or religious leadership to spot and assess potential converts to Islam among American military members. Once a particular American was ‘targeted,’ […] a few Saudi military officers, including a military imam, would attempt to meet the American in either a purely social setting or at least outside of the work area. These approaches usually included fairly generous gifts and of course, literature about Islam. The gifts included expensive briefcases, pens, books and other personal items. Americans who decided to convert to Islam were rewarded handsomely […] including all expenses paid trips to Mecca, and payments as high as $30,000.

Luft quotes Saudi Prince Khaled Bin Sultan as claiming that 2,000 American soldiers converted to Islam, though as with any proselytizing campaign that bribes converts, I’d take those numbers with a grain of salt.

To answer the obvious question, the Fort Hood shooter did not serve in the First Gulf War and was never deployed to Saudi Arabia. And as Luft notes, the Saudi conversion campaign was 20 years ago, though that would be enough time for a young soldier or officer to reach the rank of colonel or senior NCO. Incidentally, U.S. soldiers have attempted to proselytize Christianity among Afghans, though I haven’t seen evidence that this is an official U.S. government effort.

Luft suggests there is a possibility that there are radicalized cells of Muslim soldiers in the U.S. military as a result of the Saudi effort. That may be a bit paranoid, or it may be that no one has been alert to the issue. And it could be an issue, because there is nothing wrong or illegal about a soldier to converting to Islam, I would be interested in how a  U.S. soldier reconciles his oath to defend the Constitution with Wahhabi Islam doctrine on a believer’s duties when non-Muslims war against Muslims. Converts do tend to be the most zealous.

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