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.