Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fawning Obituaries for a Saudi Monarch

U.S. officials are expressing their condolences on the death of Saudi Arabia King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and to the people of Saudi Arabia. Obama praised him for his "enduring contribution to the search for peace in the region" and the "the courage of his convictions" noting that "the closeness and strength of the partnership between our two countries is part of King Abdullah's legacy".

This is the absolute monarch who has ruled Saudi Arabia for 20 years; a country that has earned the following summary review from Human Rights Watch in 2014:

Saudi Arabia stepped up arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents, and forcibly dispersed peaceful demonstrations by citizens in 2013. Authorities continued to violate the rights of 9 million Saudi women and girls and 9 million foreign workers. As in past years, authorities subjected thousands of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention. In 2013, courts convicted seven human rights defenders and others for peaceful expression or assembly demanding political and human rights reforms.

In the mainstram media there was virtually no mention of his brutal dictatorship or the routine use of beheadings as part of the criminal justice apparatus. Instead he was praised as a "man of peace".

As one critical report noted:

It’s not often that the unelected leader of a country which publicly flogs dissidents and beheads people for sorcery wins such glowing praise from American officials. Even more perplexing, perhaps, have been the fawning obituaries in the mainstream press which have faithfully echoed this characterization of Abdullah as a benign and well-intentioned man of peace.

In another, there was an interesting comparison and contrast between the US obituaries for King Abdullah versus Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, the latter a democratically elected leader. It represents a powerful lesson in the priorities of US foreign policy.

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