On MSNBC's Hardball, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund falsely asserted that the United States has maintained "the same number of troops" in Saudi Arabia "that we had five years ago, about 16,000." In fact, the State Department reported that the United States withdrew its troops stationed in Saudi Arabia after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and a July report by the Congressional Research Service stated that about 300 U.S. military personnel remain there. Moreover, five years ago, there were reportedly about 5,000 troops in Saudi Arabia.
On the August 15 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund falsely asserted that the United States denied Al Qaeda a "signal victory" after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by maintaining "the same number of troops" in Saudi Arabia "that we had five years ago, about 16,000." Fund then challenged Mark Green, a Democratic candidate for New York attorney general who disputed Fund's assertion, to "look it up." In fact, according to the State Department, "[i]n August 2003, following the U.S.-led war in Iraq in March and April 2003, the United States withdrew its troops stationed in Saudi Arabia." And according to a July 11 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), "[a]pproximately 300 U.S. Army and Air Force training personnel remained" in Saudi Arabia as of May 2006.
Even Fund's claim that the United States had 16,000 troops in Saudi Arabia "five years ago" is well off the mark, according to news reports. A September 30, 2001, report by CBS News stated that the United States had 4,500 troops in Saudi Arabia, and, according to a January 20, 2002, report by CNN.com, "[n]early 5,000 U.S. forces are stationed in Saudi Arabia, a presence that dates back more than a decade to the Persian Gulf War."
From the August 15 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
FUND: We have, from the interrogations of Osama bin Laden's lieutenants, their belief that we had pulled out of Beirut, we had pulled out of Somalia, we had not acted to really get Osama after the Tanzania and the Kenyan embassies, and the USS Cole, we never went after them after that, either.
So they presumed that maybe, if we had a cataclysmic terrorist attack, we might just pull our horns out of the Middle East. And that was ultimately -- or Saudi Arabia, at least. Getting our troops out of Saudi Arabia would have been a signal victory for them. I don't think they anticipated the extent of the attack because our previous responses were so weak.
GREEN: We are out of Saudi Arabia.
FUND: No, we have troops there.
GREEN: We have largely pulled out the way bin Laden wanted, and I don't disagree with that.
FUND: We have the same -- we have almost the same number of troops there that we had five years ago, about 16,000. Look it up.
GREEN: All right, I'll defer to you on that. I think it's less, John. But in any event, I don't know why they attacked. And it may have been just to show it to America that he was powerful. And since then, bin Laden has -- that bin Laden is more popular than the American president in Muslim and some non-Muslim countries is only one indication of the immense cost to our goodwill. [Defemse Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld himself says, ultimately, it's a battle for hearts and minds. The military may be able to defeat a fixed state. It can't defeat a guerrilla movement.