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Letter to His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

October 12, 2001

October 12, 2001

His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed bin Talal
Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037

Dear Prince Alwaleed bin Talal:

I would like to take just a moment to thank you for your recent demonstration of empathy with those suffering from the devastating and heinous September 11 attacks on the United States Pentagon and the World Trade Center. I would especially like to thank you for your most generous offer of $10 million to assist those Americans in need as a result of those attacks.

I was disappointed that Mayor Giuliani chose to decline your generous offer and instead criticize you for your observations of events in the Middle East. Whether he agreed with you or not I think he should have recognized your right to speak and make observations about a part of the world which you know so well.

I think Mayor Giuliani would do well to listen to the words of one of our greatest Americans, former Senator Robert Kennedy. In 1968 he said that America "is a great nation and a strong people. Any who seek to comfort rather than to speak plainly, reassure rather than instruct, promise satisfaction rather than reveal frustration--they deny that greatness and drain that strength. For today as it was in the beginning, it is the truth that makes us free." I believe Senator Robert Kennedy's remarks remain as inspirational and true today as when he first spoke them over 30 years ago.

Let me say that there are a growing number of people in the United States who recognize, like you, that U.S. policy in the Middle East needs serious examination. Indeed, on the same day that you made your remarks about US policy in the Middle East, the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, The Honorable Henry Hyde, spoke on National Public Radio and said, "There's no question in my mind that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most important issue in dispute, and has generated a lot of the animosity towards us because of our unwavering support for Israel, which will remain in place."

At the same time, CNN played an interview with former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski who stated that America must "deal with some of the issues that animate the hostility" against us, like "the treatment of the population of Iraq" and that "the Israelis are stronger, so they're naturally inflicting much more casualties than the Palestinians on the Israelis and that produces frustration and rage."

Your Royal Highness, many of us here in the United States have long been concerned about reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that reveal a pattern of excessive, and often indiscriminate, use of lethal force by Israeli security forces in situations where Palestinian demonstrators were unarmed and posed no threat of death or serious injury to the security forces or to others.

Israeli peace organizations like B'Tselem accuse the Israeli Defense Forces of violating the most fundamental rules of international law in committing atrocities against Palestinians. The Israeli Gush Shalom boldly states that "Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is the root cause of the violence and hatred. As long as the occupation continues, bloodshed will continue and increase."

Indeed, Your Royal Highness, all people of good conscience understand that this kind of mistreatment breeds a hotbed of anger and despair that destabilizes peace in the Middle East and elsewhere. Until we confront the realities of events in the Middle East our nation and the nations of the Middle East will be at risk.

Your Royal Highness, there are many people in America who desperately need your generosity. People who have been locked out, marginalized from America's mainstream. All of those people are poor and too many of them are people of color. A black baby boy born in Harlem today has less chance of reaching age 65 than a baby born in Bangladesh.

Your Royal Highness, the state of black America is not good. It is painfully visible in Washington D.C., where, just a few hundred yards from the White House, one can find black man after black man huddled in bus shelters, doorways, over subway ventilation shafts, sleeping on the street, thrown away like trash. Ironically, many of them are Vietnam veterans who, having served this nation with distinction in Vietnam, now find themselves without adequate care and accommodation. Unfortunately, this same scene is repeated in each and every one of our major cities here in the United States.

I am ashamed to say that my home city of Atlanta is no exception. Just last night my son was out with members of Atlanta's Muslim community who, for years, have been feeding Atlanta's homeless. Sadly, no one in mainstream Atlanta knows about the tireless and generous work of the local Muslim community. But the poor know, and I guess at one level that's all that matters. But on a broader view mainstream America should know.

The Justice Department admits that blacks are more likely than whites to be pulled over by police, imprisoned, and put to death. And, though blacks and whites have about the same rate of drug use, blacks are more likely to be arrested than whites and are more likely to receive longer prison sentences than whites. Incredibly, 80% of people in prison in the United States are people of color. Twenty-six black men were executed last year, some probably innocent; America began 2001 by executing a retarded black woman.

Government studies on health disparities confirm that blacks are less likely to receive surgery, transplants, and prescription drugs than whites. Physicians are less likely to prescribe appropriate treatment for blacks than for whites and black scientists, physicians, and institutions are shut out of the funding stream to prevent all this. I serve in Congress where the Black Caucus is shrinking. Yet, sections of the Voting Rights Act will soon expire, and quite frankly, after crippling Court decisions, there is not much left of affirmative action to mend.

In the FBI's own words, its counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) had as a goal, "to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of black organizations and to prevent black "leaders from gaining respectability." And instead of real leaders, COINTELPRO offers us hand-picked "court priests" who are more loyal to the plan than to the people. Court priests who preach peace, peace when there is no peace.

As you can see, the statistics are very grim for Black America. Although your offer was not accepted by Mayor Giuliani, I would like to ask you to consider assisting Americans who are in dire need right now. I believe we can guide your generosity to help improve the state of Black America and build better lives.

My office can provide you with a list of charities who labor under the most difficult circumstances to try and improve the lives of the people they serve. I hope you will consider reaching out to our charities and to our people who are in need.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have.



Cynthia McKinney

Member of Congress


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