Maybe we can’t blame General Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He has seen erstwhile U.S. presidents suck up to the Saudi royal family in ways whose unprincipled excess might nauseate the average citizen. I think we all remember George W. Bush holding hands with King Abdullah and kissing him.
Yesterday, President Obama landed in Saudi Arabia to pay his respects at the funeral of the king, who died five days ago.
Now Dempsey gets his own shot at glorifying the Saudi royals just like his bosses.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has established a research and essay competition in honor of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz hosted by the National Defense University.
The king, who died Jan. 23 at age 90, oversaw the modernization of his country’s military during the time he spent as commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, a position he held from 1963 until he became king in 2005.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the essay competition is a fitting tribute to the life and leadership of the Saudi Arabian monarch. …
“This is an important opportunity to honor the memory of the king …,” Dempsey said in a statement announcing the competition. Dempsey first met Abdullah in 2001, when he was a brigadier general serving as the U.S. advisor to the Saudi Arabian National Guard. “In my job to train and advise his military forces, and in our relationship since, I found the king to be a man of remarkable character and courage.”
We can safely assume that the winning essay will further canonize Abdullah.
Remember, this is the now-dead leader of the same country that produced 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers; the only country in the world where women are not allowed to vote or drive; a theocracy that forbids all protests, and jails human-rights activists; a dictatorship where the gentlest of non-believers can be ordered to receive one thousand lashes (a cause célèbre that, Obama said, he would not raise in Riyadh).
Realpolitik being what it is, I can see having and even nurturing diplomatic relations with countries whose politics the U.S. roundly abhors, if they are strategic allies. How to give shape to such an alliance, however, is where the devil hides in the details.
It’s certainly interesting that, while neither Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry saw fit to join other world leaders for the historic pro-speech “Charlie Hebdo” march in Paris on January 11, both men flew to Riyadh to honor a brutal, free-speech-hating despot. (Filling out the U.S. delegation were former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and James Baker III; former White House national security advisers Brent Scowcroft, Sandy Berger, and Stephen Hadley; and Senator John McCain.)But it’s one thing to attend a strange-bedfellow’s funeral, even with a cadre of dignitaries as preposterously top-heavy as Obama’s; it’s another to prostrate yourself before the contemptible Saudis with a U.S.-military-sponsored essay contest aimed at bestowing bountiful praise on a tyrant who, since ascending to the throne 10 years ago, signed off on this.
By far the bulk of the extremist practices in Saudi Arabia are the doing of the monarchy, which has controlled the country’s economic resources and political and religious institutions since 1932 with very little challenge. The only thing stopping the Saudi ruling family from passing reforms is its fear of losing power to the Saudi people. It is the monarchy that mandates the teaching of extremist religious curricula at all Saudi schools and universities, including banning philosophy, drama, critical thinking and modern social sciences. It is the monarchy that still enforces Dark Age punishments, such as public amputations and beheadings. And it is the monarchy that bars women from gaining legal status as individuals separate from men. The conservative Salafi-Wahhabi religious establishment behind these strict practices is nothing more than an agency of the ruling family, with the king himself appointing the movement’s religious leaders.
And that just the kingdom’s domestic policy. Internationally,
The Saudi government has been the principal financial backer of Afghanistan’s odious Taliban movement since at least 1996. It has also channeled funds to Hamas and other groups that have committed terrorist acts in Israel and other portions of the Middle East.
Worst of all, the Saudi monarchy has funded dubious schools and “charities” throughout the Islamic world. Those organizations have been hotbeds of anti-Western, and especially, anti-American, indoctrination. The schools, for example, not only indoctrinate students in a virulent and extreme form of Islam, but also teach them to hate secular Western values.
Honor the Saudi king? If so-called U.S. values still mean anything, General Dempsey could solicit essays on how to best unseat the self-satisfied, inbred clan that keeps a population of 29 million people in the dark ages.
(Thanks to Richard for the link. Image via Shutterstock)