Freedom is just another word

By Bill O'Reilly

Pat Roush has lost all respect for your humble correspondent. She said that to me on my television program and I understand her disenchantment. You see, for 16 years, Mrs. Roush has been trying to get her two daughters, Alia and Aisha, back from Saudi Arabia and now it looks like that will never happen.

In 1986, the girls – then ages 7 and 3 – were abducted by Mrs. Roush’s ex-husband, a Saudi national named Khalid al-Gheshayan who took them to his homeland. The State Department did not help the grieving mother and the press took a passing interest, but little more.

Years later, I saw the suffering in Mrs. Roush’s eyes and mobilized my staff to find out the truth behind this troubling story. Since the State Department responds to nothing, it was hopeless going that route. So we put an enormous amount of pressure on the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, pounding them for being human-rights violators. After all, these young women are American citizens, the Saudis had no right to keep them hidden for 16 years.

Finally, the pressure paid off and Saudi foreign-affairs adviser Adel al-Jabir agreed to produce the women. I gave him two options: The first was that during Congressman Dan Burton’s trip to the kingdom, he would be allowed a private meeting with the women. To my suprise, al-Jabir agreed, but Congressman Burton demurred, saying Mrs. Roush was not comfortable with that scenario for reasons that were somewhat hazy to me, but had to do with the threat of retaliation against the daughters or some such.

OK, fine. Mrs. Roush is certainly entitled to make her feelings known.

The second option I gave Mr. al-Jabir was to have an “O’Reilly Factor” producer meet with the women at a neutral location since al-Jabir claimed the women did not want to go to America.

On Sept. 1, that happened in London. In a hotel room were producer Stacey Hocheiser, an interpreter hired by my employer Fox News, and an American public relations woman hired by the Saudis, as well as Alia and Aisha.

There is no doubt that the women were uneasy and, in my opinion, brainwashed. They said all the expected things about how great Saudi Arabia is and how they did not want to see their mother. But then we asked them about Osama bin Laden.

Now, I expected that the women would say they didn’t know anything about him or that he was a bad man. Instead, the women put forth that “he was a clean, good man.”

That sealed it. If two American citizens are that far gone – for whatever reason – there is little anyone can do.

While in London, the ladies also met privately with the American Consul. Apparently they reiterated to him that they do not want to leave Saudi Arabia.

As you can imagine, this entire incident has devastated Mrs. Roush, who has dedicated her life to re-establishing a relationship with her daughters. She and her allies are furious with me and the State Department, accusing us of being dupes for the kingdom of Saud.

Well, I don’t know about State, but I have been a ferocious critic of that country and believe it is a place that wants to hurt America. The most telling moment of the conversation we had with Alia and Aisha came when they praised bin Laden. That says it all about the free flow of information in Saudi Arabia.

But the hard truth is that human beings can be brainwashed, especially when they are kidnapped as young children. Both Alia and Aisha are married to Saudis, and Aisha has a baby. They are not going to fight for their freedom. They are going to stay where they are.

Mrs. Roush and her supporters blame me for making that fact public. But I am simply the messenger. My job is to find the truth. Are these young women frightened? Definitely. Most women in Saudi Arabia are frightened. Have they been coerced? The evidence says absolutely.

But freedom cannot be imposed. The women had a worldwide spotlight and the ear of the American government. Any hint they wanted to see their mother in America – and we would have done everything on earth possible to make the Bush administration respond to that.

But there was no hint. Only the praise of Allah. And of Osama bin Laden.