25 January 2015

Almost wholly malign

So, when Kim Jong Il died back in 2011, did President Obama reroute his itinerary for a personal visit to Pyeongyang, to pay his respects to the late dictator’s next of kin? Did Obama give a public statement valuing Dear Leader’s perspective, cherishing his genuine and warm friendship, and praising the courage of his convictions? On the day that Fidel Castro gives up the ghost, will Prime Minister Cameron (or whoever holds office at that time) publicly remember his long years of service to the revolution, his commitment to peace and his strengthening the understanding between faiths?

For the first, absolutely not. And for the second, I’m not holding my breath. And both would have good grounds, because each regime as represented by its respective head of state is unworthy of our sympathies.

But far, far less worthy is the Saudi regime.

Remember that this is a country where mutilation is the prescribed punishment for theft and other crimes; where women are not legally allowed to drive, to give their own sworn testimony in a court of law; where slavery is still openly permitted; where people are still beheaded for witchcraft; and where a Burmese woman was recently paraded through the streets and then beheaded publicly whilst being held down by four Saudi policemen, protesting her innocence until the end. This horrifically brutal dictatorship has sentenced a man to 1000 lashes for the crime of blogging. And for the poor people who are unfortunate enough to live under Saudi rule, even those who are not migrant labourers, everyday existence is an almost intolerable oppression from which the only psychological escape is in casual homosexuality, extreme motor stunts and other high-risk behaviours. Not even North Korea under the Kims, for all its forced labour camps and its own culture of summary executions, is as animalistically brutal or callous as Saudi Arabia.

And it should also be considered that private Saudi oil barons have been some of the most lucrative and steady supporters of al-Qaeda, the al-Nusra Front and, more recently, Daesh. And the Saudi royals turned a blind eye when they weren’t actively helping themselves. As Andrew Brown put it, ‘Saudi’s influence on the outside world is almost wholly malign. It has spread a poisonous form of Islam throughout Europe with its subsidies, and corrupted western politicians and businessmen with its culture of bribery. The Saudis have always appealed to the worst forms of western imperialism: their contempt for other Muslims is as great as any American nationalist’s.’

There is only one reason why Obama and Cameron have been so obsequiously assiduous in paying their nausea-inducing, toadying respects to someone who for his entire public life represented one of the legitimately most evil regimes on the planet – to reiterate, worse than Kim Jong-Il or his son – and it does not speak well of us. It’s not even all about the oil anymore, though that will certainly always remain in the background for such a massive producer as Saudi. But really – it’s the guns, stupid. Never mind that these guns work their way into the hands of people who use them to extort, rape and butcher innocent people – not only Christians and Shi’ites, but Sunnis as well – in Syria and Iraq, and would love to use them to kill us. Weapons contractors in the West must be made wealthy at any cost, and the Saudis are willing to do it.

Hell, even all of the news outlets which I have referenced above, who cannot even rightly claim ignorance on the abuses the House of Saud have perpetrated around the world and in their own backyard, have joined in this vile song-and-dance routine, portraying the late tyrant in the most flattering possible terms. The New York Times was of course dutiful and punctual with its obsequies. Predictably, CNN praised him as a ‘cautious reformer’ and FOX News as a ‘powerful US ally’ in the War on Terror. NPR went even further, quoting Ford Fraker in hailing him as a ‘charismatic’ leader who ‘actually moved people to tears’.

Even worse still, they give this ovation to a man who ruthlessly and viciously stomped all over all manner of freedom of expression in his own country with the sentencing of Raif Badawi, just after having pounded their chests about standing up for the same in France.

Lord, have mercy upon us. We desperately need it.

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