We finally got one!
After repeated disappointments in attempting to acquire additional missions for Mountain Home Air Force Base, the Air Force has decided we're probably the best place to locate a training squadron of the Royal Saudi Air Force.
That will give us four squadrons on base -- two operational combat squadrons from the USAF, and two training squadrons, one from the Republic of Singapore Air Force and one from the Royal Saudi Air Force. That's still down from the five-squadron days of the composite wing in the 1990s, but it will help -- a lot.
The construction alone will help generate a lot of jobs locally, and we desperately need that. Plus, the Saudis will be buying and renting houses and shopping locally. We need that, too.
If the Air Force expedites the full National Environmental Policy Act process -- scoping meetings, a draft Environmental Impact Statement, public comment periods and meetings and a final EIS -- then a formal Record of Decision could come as early as next year. We think the Air Force is inclined to move the process along as quickly as possible. This strategic partnership with an ally in the Middle East is too important to delay.
But until that final Record of Decision is announced, it is not a done deal. That's why we need to generate broad community support for this deal.
What we don't need are a bunch of irrational people, who've succumbed to blind anti-Muslim hysteria, to get in the way. Believe me, the Saudi government will be reading the blogs, where anonymous "electronic graffiti artists" have been venting their hate-filled spleens. We do not believe now, or on any issue in the past, these people are representative of our general population. But they don't help.
Nor do clowns like Glenn Beck, when, without any fact checking at all (what a surprise), he announces that ten percent of all Muslims in the world are terrorists. With nearly two billion Muslims in the world, almost a third of the world's population, that statement is patently ridiculous on its face. The fact that people believe it is sad.
In fact, al-Queda is estimated to have about 30,000 supporters world wide (and support varies from suicide bombers to those who just sent in money to help them). That doesn't count another 30,000 Taliban fighters, who should be included in the total of terrorists. Add in the active members of Hamas and Hezbollah, whose target is pretty much exclusively Israel, and you might, if you're lucky, crack 100,000 active supporters of terrorism worldwide (a far cry from Beck's 200 million).
There are a couple rogue governments who support these groups. Most do not. In fact, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia (the world's largest Muslim nation) today are among the most aggressive in trying to stamp out terrorism. They are among the leaders in providing intelligence and other forms of support to the United States in the highly nebulous and shadowy "war on terrorism."
Time and time again we have stressed the difference between terrorists and the religions they claim to represent (the carnage in Northern Ireland during the 20th century would be a good example of terrorists who clearly didn't represent the majority of the world's Catholics and Protestants). Like most Christians, most Muslims believe their religion is one of peace. They're no happier with the terrorists than anybody else. Automatically linking terrorism to all Muslims is just flat wrong -- on so many levels.
Furthermore, every one of the Saudi troops who come here will have been fully vetted by both the Saudi government and the United States. We'll be getting some of their very best representatives. Any fear that they might be anything else would be totally groundless.
Let's not let the hatemongers get in the way of helping the United States and the U.S. Air Force forge an important strategic partnership with a key ally and influential player in the Middle East. Everyone, not just Mountain Home, will benefit from this deal.
When the public comment hearings begin, we hope the vast majority of intelligent, reasonable citizens that we have here will show up in force to overwhelm that small minority of narrow-minded individuals who cannot see how valuable this basing arrangement would be.
We fully support the Air Force in its efforts to bring the Saudi squadron here.
-- Kelly Everitt