If there is one thing that most people agree on, it is that Saudi Arabia has one of the most brutal, intolerant, and anti-democratic government and judicial systems in the world. So what happens when its long-time ruler dies? Shouldn’t we say “good riddance” and hope that he will be replaced by someone who offers even the hope of positive change.
Of course not, because that country is perceived as a strategic US interest and so its vile behavior is excused and ignored. Murtaza Hussain rounds up the nauseating fulsome praise given to the despot by president Obama, John Kerry, and a whole host of American public figures and the media.
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.
Given the foundations upon which American-Saudi ties rest, its unlikely that the relationship will be drastically altered by the passing of King Abdullah and the succession of his brother Prince Salman. Regardless of how venal, reckless, or brutal his government may choose to be, as long as it protects American interests in the Middle East it will inevitably be showered with plaudits and support, just as its predecessor was.
Glenn Greenwald compares the favorable statements issued by president Obama on the death of the Saudi king with the much cooler statement on death of the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
One obvious difference between the two leaders was that Chávez was elected and Abdullah was not. Another is that Chávez used the nation’s oil resources to attempt to improve the lives of the nation’s most improverished while Abdullah used his to further enrich Saudi oligarchs and western elites. Another is that the severity of Abdullah’s human rights abuses and militarism makes Chávez look in comparison like Gandhi.
But when it comes to western political and media discourse, the only difference that matters is that Chávez was a U.S. adversary while Abdullah was a loyal U.S. ally – which, by itself for purposes of the U.S. and British media, converts the former into an evil villainous despot and the latter into a beloved symbol of peace, reform and progress. As but one of countless examples: last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron – literally the best and most reliable friend to world dictators after Tony Blair – stood in Parliament after being questioned by British MP George Galloway and said: “there is one thing that is certain: wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of [Galloway]”; last night, the very same David Cameron pronounced himself “deeply saddened” and said the Saudi King would be remembered for his “commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.”
That’s why there is nobody outside of American cable news, DC think tanks, and the self-loving Oxbridge clique in London which does anything but scoff with scorn and dark amusement when the US and UK prance around as defenders of freedom and democracy. Only in those circles of tribalism, jingoism and propaganda is such tripe taken at all seriously.