Saudi Arabia

Responding to the death of King Abdullah

This seems to be one of those topics which brings together people who usually agree on very little.  With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to discuss this short post by Ben White (which I reproduce in full because I am not sure whether it can be accessed if you don’t have a Facebook account).

The leader of a particularly horrific, dictatorial government has just died. Under this regime, dissenters and human rights defenders were arrested and tortured. Women were discriminated against by law. Sentences of flogging were handed down. Dozens of prisoners were executed annually – including through public beheadings.

So how was news of his death greeted? Pres. Obama praised him for the “courage of his convictions.” Tony Blair hailed his passion for “inter faith relations.” Others called him a “reformer” and “moderniser.” The British government requested the nationwide half-masting of flags, as a sign of mourning and respect.

Why? Because this was King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Three comments about these responses to his death.

1. The vacuous hypocrisy of Western foreign policy, neocolonialism and imperial barbarity conducted in the name of ‘human rights’, is exposed.

2. We get a big clue in understanding the real meaning of the “extremists vs. moderates” narrative, the talk of ‘good Muslims’ vs. ‘bad Muslims’. It’s not about “terrorism” – it’s about attitudes towards Western power.

3. The West’s political classes are clearly confident enough in the timidity and compliance of those who might otherwise hold them to account (the media, ‘analysts’, and, yes, the general public) that they simply don’t care how nauseatingly transparent a spectacle this all is.

I assume that all readers will agree with some elements of White’s analysis, if not with all.  Guido Fawkes (not someone whose views often coincide with White’s) reacts rather similarly here – he points out that the punishments prescribed for various crimes by the Saudi regime and by ISIS are pretty much identical. How far can Realpolitik excuse the inconsistencies of Western foreign policy?