May 7, 2002, - 12:48 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
You might think an event that commences with the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” wouldn’t be home to supporters of terrorism.
But you would be wrong.
In fact, in Saturday’s 128th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, two of the eighteen horses were owned by Arab oil sheiks with more than a little connection to terrorism–despite strict Islamic prohibitions against gambling and taking part in gambling.
There is Dubai’s Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.
Al-Maktoum, Defense Minister of the United Arab Emirates, is also Crown Prince of Dubai-an Arab Muslim country that strongly supported and recognized Afghanistan’s Taliban, one of only three countries to do so. According to “From the Desert to the Derby,” by Jason Levin, 10 of the 19 September 11th hijackers carried documents and identification from Dubai, a country which also has no laws against money-laundering. Why? Maybe, because money to fund September 11th’s terrorism was laundered to ringleader Mohammed Atta, directly from Dubai’s banks.
Like most Arab leaders, Al-Maktoum gives only lip service to condemning terrorism, while his country sponsors, aids, and abets it. On September 11th, he was spending billions on high-priced yearlings at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. After claiming, “We are 100% against it and 100% with America to get those people to justice,” he was busy spending millions, again, on September 12th-spending $6.1 million on two horses. As for the money from September 11th traced back to Dubai, Al-Maktoum will only say, “It’s been taken care of.” Whatever that means–ie., nothing.
Dubai’s entry in the Derby is instructive for the future of the rest of its Arab neighbors. Oil wells don’t gush forever, and in Dubai’s case, they’ve almost run out. Now Dubai must depend on the goodness of American tourists to stay afloat in the future. That’s why pictures of sailboats and glamorous skylines top Dubai’s official website, and a window from Trip.com pops up. Dubai, without apologizing for helping terrorists or price-gouging us on oil, needs the American tourist dollar more than ever.
And Al-Maktoum thought a win in the Derby, with his $2.3 million horse, Essence of Dubai, would garner positive American notoriety, and possibly tourism for his terrorist-enabling nation. That’s why he bragged four years ago that a Dubai-owned horse would win in the next four years, spending over a billion dollars to make this promise come true. It didn’t.
I was praying his horse would lose. And the Essence of Dubai was malodorous. It had the scent of a loser-coming in 9th.
But, as the trite saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Instead of Essence of Dubai, a Saudi owned-horse, War Emblem, won the Derby. War Emblem is owned by Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Salman, a member of the royal family which rules Saudi Arabia.
The irony couldn’t have been thicker. A horse–owned by a member of the ruling family of the country from whence 15 of the 19 September 11th hijackers came, a country that just held a telethon to fund homicide bombers-beats Proud Citizen, an American-owned horse, which came in second in the Derby stakes. Why couldn’t Yankee owner George Steinbrenner’s Blue Burner have won, instead?
It’s enough to make you sick. But even sicker was the gloating of Prince Ahmed, who said it was a matter of Saudi and Arab pride. “It’s not for me,” he told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It’s for the Saudis, the great friends of the Americans. I’m the first Arab to win it, by the way.” He avoided discussing terrorism against Americans, dismissing it as mere “politics.” These “great friends of the Americans,” by the way, include Prince Ahmed’s cousin, Crown Prince Abdullah, who, last week, threatened President Bush at his own Texas ranch, that America “would face grave consequences,” if we do not change our policy toward Israel.
But instead of asking Prince Al-Horsetrader whether or not he agrees with his royal cousin or whether he regrets the anti-Semitic telethon his nation hosted to fund terror, reporters threw him the softball questions. That includes so-called hard-hitting journalists, like NBC’s Bob Costas. Not a peep from him about terrorism. Remember the embarrassing questions put to Pete Rose by NBC’s Jim Gray during the 1999 All-Star Game? Everyone knows that a baseball player’s possible gambling on baseball is much more important than funding terrorism against thousands of Americans and others, right?
The irony is even thicker. The Prince, a member of anti-Semitic Saudi Arabia’s ruling class, won the Derby on the soil of a state, Kentucky, that had its start from the Jews-the very people the Saudis love to vilify and hate. While it’s not a well known part of our Western mythology, the Jewish Hart brothers of Kentucky formed the Transylvania Company, bartering ten thousand pounds of merchandise with the Cherokee nation, in exchange for 20 million acres of land in Kentucky, according to Howard M. Sachar’s “A History of the Jews in America.” Yes, the Jews did give America most of Kentucky, with the help of their hired explorers Daniel Boone and his adopted Jewish son, Samuel Sanders. With the Saudi Prince’s win, they are all turning over in their graves.
The Prince’s racing outfit, The Thoroughbred Corp., spent millions to buy and train thoroughbred horses, even hiring one of racing’s trifecta of trainers, Bob Baffert. But Kentucky is a state, whose theme song, “My Old Kentucky Home, ” speaks of respect for the “old cabin,” while overcoming “hard times come a-knocking at the door”; about respect for how “the head must bow and the back will have to bend, wherever the poor folks may go.”
Kentucky is Mainstreet America, where blood-money billions in oil and horses will never truly buy respect for Arab Muslim sheiks of terror.
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