King Abdullah, the ‘Man of Peace’

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is dead and the U.S. government, always eager to kiss the ass of a brutal tyrant as long as he does our bidding or has something we need (preferably both), immediately lavished him with praise. Suddenly, he was the second coming of Albert Schweitzer.

In a statement last night Senator John McCain eulogized Abdullah as “a vocal advocate for peace, speaking out against violence in the Middle East”. John Kerry described the late monarch as “a brave partner in fighting violent extremism” and “a proponent of peace”. Not to be outdone, Vice President Joe Biden released a statement mourning Abdullah and announced that he would be personally leading a presidential delegation to offer condolences on his passing.

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.

Tiptoeing around his brutal dictatorship, The Washington Post characterized Abdullah as a “wily king” while The New York Times inexplicably referred to him as “a force of moderation”, while also suggesting that evidence of his moderation included having had: “hundreds of militants arrested and some beheaded”. (emphasis added)

While granting that Abdullah might be considered a relative moderate within the brazenly anachronistic House of Saud, the fact remains that he presided for two decades over a regime which engaged in wanton human rights abuses, instrumentalized religious chauvinism, and played a hugely counterrevolutionary role in regional politics.

The only thing to quibble with there is the claim that it isn’t often that our government praises barbaric dictators. How many names would you like? Batista, Somoza, the Shah (Reza Pahlevi), Montt, Pinochet, Noriega, Hussein, Duarte. One could go on for quite some time. We love tinpot dictators when they have something we want (fruit, coffee, oil) and agree to do our bidding. When they begin to get out of line, like Noriega and Hussein, we suddenly discover that they were terrible human rights violators and that we simply must remove them from power in the name of liberty and democracy.

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  • Michael Heath

    The standard used here to claim King Abdullah isn’t a man of peace would yield very few leaders.

    I was hopeful that our president would forcefully speak-out and advocate for policies that harms Saudi Arabia given their human rights abuses, the most vivid recent example is the “blasphemer” getting lashed. But our president lacks the moral authority given his failure to prosecute the Bush Administration from torturing Saudi citizens and other people.

    This lack of credibility on our part correlates to FDR lacking the moral authority to call out Nazis abuse in the early-1930s given how little was done by the U.S/. government of that time to quell the lynching of black people in the Bible Belt.

    I’m as appalled as anyone regarding the lack of human rights protections in Saudi Arabia. But I must also recognize how King Abdullah spent a lot of time and energy working to end the violence surrounding Israel and the Palestinians. After 9/11 Mr. Abdullah also spent resources responding in a manner that was predominately complementary to U.S. policy that advanced the disempowerment of terrorists and our enemies in that region. Abdullah also instigated internal policies to develop its people to become more capable of sustaining themselves when fossil fuel revenues aren’t a predominant source of the country’s income. This last initiative is a meaningful reaction to what motivates al Qaeda against the powers to control Middle East oil. That the oil revenue is leaving the Middle East and when those revenues dry up, nothing will be left to sustain the people who live there that aren’t royalty.

    So from this perspective, I share Sec. of State Kerry’s perspective. It’s based on the bell curve. Abdullah certainly fails from a normative standard when relying on the U.N.’s standard of a government’s role in defending the exercise of human rights. I’d like to see the U.S. and Europe develop policies that rely strictly on a normative standard consistent with what George Soros has advocated, but we don’t currently live in that world. So we have more work to do to get there where it’s not wrong to laud those, like Mr. Abdullah, who help move the ball forward.

    So I see Abdullah as comparable to Pope Francis, contemptible from a normative standard, but also effectively developing reforms that would create a better world. I also think reformers from within evil organizations can be more heroic than those that quit, where I think the former certainly applies here with both the dead Saudi king and the current pope.

  • magistramarla

    I just finished watching Fareed Zakaria, and a lady who made the first Saudi film to ever be considered for an Oscar said nearly the same thing that Michael Heath just said. She had to make that film by sitting in a van and talking to her actors via a walkie-talkie because she could not be seen on the street among men. She is very westernized and is married to an American.

    She told Fareed that change is happening very, very slowly in her home country and that she feels that patience with incremental change is the only way with very conservative cultures.

  • Trebuchet

    As I’ve said in several comments lately, Bush attacked the wrong country in 2003.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    As I’ve said in several comments lately, Bush attacked the wrong country in 2003.

    You wanted to make sure everyone thinks you’re a dumbass? Mission accomplished.

    Have you noticed how effectively the US brings democracy at the point of a bayonet? Do you think Saudi Arabians would be better off with their country dissolving into anarchy topped by a military dictatorship? Because that’s all the US knows how to build. You want another Libya? Another Nigeria? Another Bahrain? And you want that for the people of Saudi Arabia, you brave internet decider, you! You dumbass.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Too soon! Can’t you wait until his body is cold, at least? His daughter Paula is still shocked at the loss!

  • colnago80

    As I have stated previously here and elsewhere, the Saudi Arabian government and its leadership is contemptible and Fascistic. On the other hand, compared the the likes of the ISIL, Hizbollah, Hamas, and Bashar Assad, they are angels. The sad fact is that, in the Middle East, there are no good guys, just bad guys and very bad guys.

  • hoku

    Don’t forget the mass exportation of Wahhabism.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Don’t forget the mass exportation of Wahhabism.

    Wahhabism is just the “bad guy du jour” – it’s a flavor of political islam, which was ‘invented’ in the US by Sayyid Qtub and popularized in Egypt under Nasser. Wahhabism is ‘merely’ a reinterpretation of political islam attempting to adopt a more conservative doctrine because apparently allah didn’t sweet the muslim brotherhood into power, so “pray harder” But really, Wahhabism is just not that big a deal. It’s like the westboro baptist church with money. Maybe you’ve noticed that the US has a tendency to demonize certain political groups for doing what US political groups do?

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    We love tinpot dictators when they have something we want

    In fairness, the Saudis are “palladium pot dictators”

  • matty1

    @8 Are you sure about that, it was my understanding that Qtubism is a subset of Wahhabism and not the one preferred by the House of Saud due to Qtub’s emphasis on mass political action rather than quiet obedience to a king

  • Francisco Bacopa

    I don’t think we should have attacked Saudi Arabia at any point, but before we praise Abdullah as a man of peace we should remember he was king when Saudi terrorists attacked us on 9/11.

  • Lofty

    Peace = allowing corrupt US corporations to flourish.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    he was king when Saudi terrorists attacked us on 9/11

    Clinton was president during the Oklahoma City bombing. Should we blame him?

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    @#10 – Wahhabism is older than political islam, but the relationship is similar to southern baptism and political christianity in the US: it was an ideology matching the political agenda of the movement, and serving as a convenient rallying-point for the deluded.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    “Suddenly, he was the second coming of Albert Schweitzer.”

    I’m pretty sure that Albert Schweitzer was not quite the humanitarian he’s been portrayed as:

    http://www.tightropeforum.com/showthread.php?17-Dr.-Albert-Schweitzer-on-Blacks

    I think of him as being more like Mother Theresa in Guydrag.

  • Michael Heath

    Francisco Bacopa writes:

    I don’t think we should have attacked Saudi Arabia at any point, but before we praise Abdullah as a man of peace we should remember he was king when Saudi terrorists attacked us on 9/11.

    9/11 didn’t advance the Saudi Arabia’s interests, it hurt it. al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia, more precisely, the House of Saud, became enemies prior to 9/11. Osama bin Laden was successful recruiting young Saudis to al Qaeda because because of their mutual objections to the House of Saud – both economically and religious.

    A couple of examples: The House of Saud’s been enormously successful transferring oil revenue into their personal accounts outside the borders. As I alluded to earlier, the people of the Middle East are well aware there are tribes, clans, and families across the region stealing their resources. When oil and gas are not significant contributors to income in that area, they’ll be left with little. The House of Saud has come to concede this fact and is spending more of its income on building a more sustainable economy, however al Qaeda’s objection to this stealing of natural resources is credible and in play prior to 9/11.

    Secondly, Osama bin Laden was extremely frustrated that the House of Saud allied themselves with the U.S. military rather than recruiting Muslim warriors such as al Qaeda to fight secular authoritarian regimes such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq or when he invaded Kuwait. Or that the Sauds allied themselves with other authoritarian regimes al Qaeda didn’t deem Islamic enough and too cozy with the U.S., e.g., Jordan, Kuwait and Egypt.

    Even more aggravating to al Qaeda was the presence of U.S. military troops in Saudi Arabia after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. bin Laden considered this the worst form of desecration to the “Holy Land” (Saudi Arabia’s Mecca and Medina are where the two most sacred mosques are located).

  • colnago80

    Re democommie @ #15

    That link appears to go to a racist white supremest web site. I would be very careful to take anything posted there with a generous helping of salt and be particularly careful to check it’s accuracy and whether it has been taken out of context (e.g. cherry picked).

  • Trebuchet

    As I’ve said in several comments lately, Bush attacked the wrong country in 2003.

    You wanted to make sure everyone thinks you’re a dumbass? Mission accomplished.

    Comradde Physioproffe shares your opinion of me. Repeatedly. I don’t care. Saudi Arabia is:

    1. The home of Osama Bin Laden, and most of the 9/11 hijackers;

    2. The source of pretty much all of AQ’s money;

    3. The origin of Wahabiism, the biggest danger to the world today;

    4. The country that has blackmailed the US for supporting Israel by witholding oil;

    5. An utterly backward society.

    I blame the Brits, specifically T.E. Lawrence.

    Maybe we can get Tim Minchin to do us a new version of The Pope Song. Fuck the MotherFucking King.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    What they really mean when they say he was a “man of peace” and a “moderate” is that he kept the oil flowing. If he had tried to embargo it like his predecessors, or merely cut back production to keep prices high, that would have been an unforgivable act of violence. But beheading people for sorcery? Meh.

  • dingojack

    Oh yes. A prince among men. @@

    Dingo

  • dingojack

    King Abdullah, the ‘Man of Peace’“.

    … they make a desert and they call it ‘peace’‘.

    @@ Dingo

  • birgerjohansson

    Good riddance of bad rubbish.

  • eric

    @4:

    Do you think Saudi Arabians would be better off with their country dissolving into anarchy topped by a military dictatorship?

    That would not just be about the Saudis., US tanks in Mecca would turn every moderate Islamic nation against us. We’d lose the (albeit partial and often inconsistent) cooperation of Turkey, Egypt, and so on. In the islamic democracies such as Indonesia, we would be handing large amount of votes to islamist parties. It would be a foreign policy disaster. That, of course, does not make the Sauds good guys or excuse their brand of religious authoritarianism. But I (annoyingly and sadly) have to agree with SLC in @6 here; he was bad, but rolling tanks into Mecca would almost certainly result in worse extremist movements arising not just in Saudi, but in many many other Islamic countries to boot. Should we work to liberalize SA? Absolutely. Does that mean working to depose its dictatorship and assist the country in becoming a democracy? Yes. Should we be using the instruments of DOD tanks and CIA assassins to do that? No, that would cause far more problems than it would solve.

  • dingojack

    Eric – you think this ‘Prince among Men’ Abdullah is a bad, and yet you’re throwing your hat into the ring with a guy who virtually salivates and rubs his hands with ghoulish glee over the very idea of a potential genocide in Iran* that would drive even the most moderate into viewing the West as the absolute lowest and crudest of barbarians, the kind who makes this Abdullah person look like the near model of moral restraint by comparison?

    There aren’t words strong enough to express the disgust and disappointment. Nor, an irony meter that could survive quantifying your qualified support.

    Dingo

    ———

    * and the rest of the world, as the effects of darkness, radiation, drought and cold spread to every point of the globe

  • colnago80

    Re Trebuchet @ #18

    Comradde Physioproffe shares your opinion of me. Repeatedly. I don’t care. Saudi Arabia is:

    Citation needed.

    The country that has blackmailed the US for supporting Israel by witholding oil

    True but that was 40+ years ago. Times have changed and Israel and Saudi Arabia are now clandestine allies against Shia Islam and the ISIL, both of which are far greater threats to the Arab world then Israel ever was, even if the previous threat was mostly imaginary.

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #4

    Well, we didn’t do too bad a job on Japan and Germany after WW2.

  • laurentweppe

    a guy who virtually salivates and rubs his hands with ghoulish glee over the very idea of a potential genocide in Iran* that would drive even the most moderate into viewing the West as the absolute lowest and crudest of barbarians, the kind who makes this Abdullah person look like the near model of moral restraint by comparison?

    I’m afraid we don’t need to pull a nuclear Genghis Khan to already be regarded by many as the lowest and crudest barbaric bullies the Earth has ever known. Spending 500 years plundering virtually every nation we come across and raping their populations with self-righteous glee before repeatedly reminding their descendants that we still have enough firepower to take the whole planet down with us should we opt for a final fiery suicidal temper tantrum does not really help improving our reputation.

  • Trebuchet

    @25, SLC1: You can look it up yourself.

    For the record, I was NOT advocating that Bush should have attacked SA, just that there was more justification for that than for Iraq. Just as there was more justification for attacking Syria, Iran, Libya, and of course Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld would have screwed all of those up as well.

  • colnago80

    Re weppe @ #26

    Who’s we? The USA didn’t exist even 250 years ago an thus wasn’t busy plundering anyone.

    By the way weppe, how about showing some respect for the Marshall Plan that bailed Europe out of penury.

  • colnago80

    Re Schweinehund @ #24

    Never heard about stopped clocks have you.