America’s repugnant bootlicking of Saudi Arabia

September 28, 2015 • 10:30 am

According to Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia’s human-rights record is one of the most abysmal in the world. Freedom of expression and assembly are severely curtailed, there are many arbitrary arrests, with many held without being charged, those jailed are tortured and beaten, women have institutionalized second-class status, as do migrants, and there is flogging, amputation of limbs, and, of course, death sentences for “crimes” like sorcery and adultery. It’s a place of medieval barbarity.

One case that has recently come to world attention is that of the Saudi Ali Mohammed Baquir al-Nimr, now 21, who was sentenced to death by beheading for “crimes” committed when he was 17. After beheading, he’s slated to be crucified, with the headless body displayed to all on a cross. As Amnesty International reports:

In May, the SCC [Special Criminal Court in Riyadh] sentenced Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr to death after convicting him on charges that included demonstrating against the government, possession of weapons and attacking the security forces. He denied the charges and told the court that he had been tortured and forced to confess in pre-trial detention. The court convicted him without investigating his torture allegations, and sentenced him to death although he was aged 17 at the time of the alleged offences.

See here for more information about the case; the “weapons” and “attack” charges are bogus.

Despite the Saudi’s dismal record, the United Nations appointed a Saudi diplomat as head of a human rights panel. It’s not clear how much power Faisal bin Hassan Trad, head of the Saudi delegation to the UN in Geneva, will have, but the UN Watch site suggests that he will certainly have more than symbolic power, as his council selects representatives to monitor human rights throughout the world.

The U.S., especially under a Democratic President, should be a beacon in defending human rights. To be sure, Obama is trying to close the disgraceful Guantanamo detention facility, whose existence is indefensible. But we have several blind spots, and one is defending—or rather refusing to criticize—Saudi Arabia. After all, they’re our “ally” and give us lots of oil.  The wages of diplomacy, apparently, include the dissimulation demonstrated by State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner, who went through this song and dance about Saudi human rights with reporters at last Tuesday’s daily press briefing:

QUESTION: Change topic? Saudi Arabia.

MR TONER: Saudi Arabia.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Saudi Arabia was named to head the Human Rights Council, and today I think they announced they are about to behead a 21-year-old Shia activist named Muhammed al-Nimr. Are you aware of that?

MR TONER: I’m not aware of the trial that you – or the verdict – death sentence.

QUESTION: Well, apparently, he was arrested when was 17-years-old and kept in juvenile detention, then moved on. And now, he’s been scheduled to be executed.

MR TONER: Right. I mean, we’ve talked about our concerns about some of the capital punishment cases in Saudi Arabia in our Human Rights Report, but I don’t have any more to add to it.

QUESTION: So you —

QUESTION: Well, how about a reaction to them heading the council?

MR TONER: Again, I don’t have any comment, don’t have any reaction to it. I mean, frankly, it’s – we would welcome it. We’re close allies. If we —

We welcome it as close allies? Seriously?

QUESTION: Do you think that they’re an appropriate choice given – I mean, how many pages is – does Saudi Arabia get in the Human Rights Report annually?

MR TONER: I can’t give that off the top of my head, Matt.

Translation: “They’re our close allies so they can do what they want to their citizens”

QUESTION: I can’t either, but let’s just say that there’s a lot to write about Saudi Arabia and human rights in that report. I’m just wondering if you that it’s appropriate for them to have a leadership position.

MR TONER: We have a strong dialogue, obviously a partnership with Saudi Arabia that spans, obviously, many issues. We talk about human rights concerns with them. As to this leadership role, we hope that it’s an occasion for them to look at human rights around the world but also within their own borders.

Translation: “I am going to move my lips but say nothing.”

QUESTION: But you said that you welcome them in this position. Is it based on improved record? I mean, can you show or point to anything where there is a sort of stark improvement in their human rights record?

MR TONER: I mean, we have an ongoing discussion with them about all these human rights issues, like we do with every country. We make our concerns clear when we do have concerns, but that dialogue continues. But I don’t have anything to point to in terms of progress.

Translation: “Well, we’re concerned, but the Saudis don’t seem to be doing anything, so they’ll remain our friends and close allies.”

QUESTION: Would you welcome as a – would you welcome a decision to commute the sentence of this young man?

MR TONER: Again, I’m not aware of the case, so it’s hard for me to comment on it other than that we believe that any kind of verdict like that should come at the end of a legal process that is just and in accordance with international legal standards.

I’m not sure what “international legal standards” Toner’s talking about, for as far as I can see international criminal law applies only to issues like genocide and crimes against humanity. Clearly, though, the Saudi legal process, at least for Muhammed al-Nimr, is unjust. But we dare not say that.

I’m not a diplomat, so clearly there is some delicate balancing going on here that’s beyond my ken. Still, it’s disgraceful for the United States to countenance the barbarity of Saudi Arabia simply because they cooperate with us (to their advantage, of course) in the war on terrorism, and also sell us one million barrels of oil per day. What if North Korea had oil?

At the very least, Obama and the State Department should take the position that the Saudi treatment of dissent, women, and prisoners is unacceptable. We cannot at the same time excoriate ISIS for torture, murder, and beheadings while turning a blind eye to the same acts by the Saudi government.

The leader of Britain’s Labour Party, severely etiolated as it  is, has called for David Cameron to condemn the treatment of this young man. As a final irony, the UN’s Office of the Commission of Human Rights has urged Saudi Arabia to spare Al-Nimr’s life because of trial irregularities and his age at the time of the supposed crime. Can’t the U.S. do at least as much as the U.N.?

71 thoughts on “America’s repugnant bootlicking of Saudi Arabia

  1. IS/Daesh beheads and crucifies people, mistreats non-Muslims, has slavery, and exports its Islamist religious ideology worldwide – we bomb them and call them evil.

    S.Arabia beheads and crucifies people, mistreats non-Muslims, has slavery, and exports its Islamist religious ideology worldwide – we applaud their nomination to HRC and reiterate support for them as our dear allies.

    State Dept and UN: moral cesspool of cronies who cuddle dictators and fascists.

    1. You’re neglecting to mention that it is a “racing certainty” (i.e. , it hasn’t been proven in a court of law, but I’ve never heard anyone outside the “diplomatic lying industry” who isn’t sure it is true) that much of the initial funding for IS/Daesh came from Saudi citizens. Whether they were actively encouraged to do this by the Saudi state is less clear, but the Saudi state certainly hasn’t taken effective steps against such funding ; it is possible that the Saudi state is divided on the matter.
      A lot of the violence in the Middle East has been funded by the Saudis, though for quite what purpose really is not clear. State-level schizophrenia remains a credible interpretation.
      Quick question : was the proportion of Saudi citizens in the 2011/09/11 attacks in America (i) greater than 3/4 or (ii) greater than 2/3 ? I honestly can’t remember, but not less than one of those questions is true. The answer certainly explains the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and (coming soon) Iran.

      1. Quick question : was the proportion of Saudi citizens in the 2011/09/11 attacks in America (i) greater than 3/4 or (ii) greater than 2/3 ?

        The exact answer is 19/20 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.

        For the bonus round, Osama bin Laden was a Saudi prince.


        1. I thought there were a couple of Lebanese or Jordanians in the brew, but I don’t follow the details. Religious whackjobs the lot of them.

  2. Irony is sometimes painful. This reminds me of Senator Jim Inhofe, global warming denier extraordinaire, being chosen to chair the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. It still snows, ergo, no global warming.

    1. The nomination likely only required the approval of a hand full of leading Republican senators. For sure Mitch (the turtle) McConnell would have been involved.

    2. Please, pretty please, tell me this senator’s second name is Jack.

      If not, the universe really doesn’t have a sense of humor!

    1. Their proposed ‘contribution’ to the refugee crisis is to offer to build 200 mosques for Muslim refugees in Germany. As Richard Dawkins commented, the only proposal worse than that would be to offer to build 201.

        1. I’ve spoken with a few Syrians recently while living in Saudi, and they’ve all had to pay their way in like any other expat here. The language in Saudi’s recent statements could just as easily apply to the tens of millions of exploited Southeast Asian workers in the Kingdom: they also “receive residency permit, housing, and education”… they just have to work and pay for it.

          Also, it’s almost impossible for a Syrian to get into Saudi without knowing someone in the Kingdom willing to sponsor him, and the down payment is required is hefty, at least $2000 (but I’ve heard some Syrians here quote much higher numbers).

          So although the Saudi Government has given millions in aid, they have no programs in-country for helping to resettle Syrians fleeing the war.

          ..and while I’m in Saudi I thought I’d snap a belated FvF contest picture from The Prophet’s Mosque in Al-Medina:
          Like Mecca, it’s off-limits to infidels. WoooOOooo!

          1. Judging from your picture, that mosque is a beautiful place. I hope some day they can embrace human rights for all and truly become a religion of peace.

    1. 1. The Saudi Arabian Oil Company (all Saudi owned) has an estimated value of $10 trillion (with a “t”) and generates a revenue of $1 billion daily. I suspect ARAMCO is a major share holder in the State Department.

      2. This is the same duplicitous State Department that guides public opinion on Syria, Yemen, and Iran that is ultimately beneficial to the Saudis.

    2. My understanding is that it’s very simple. The 1970’s oil crisis scared the shit out of the US gov’t. The result was that we told the Saudis that we would protect them as long as they never turned off the oil supply. Such is the price of oil.

  3. I think to call it medieval barbarity is to be unfair to the medieval (or mediaeval) world. To behave like that then was understandable, but now in the 21st century it does not conform to the norms of civilised or acceptable behaviour.

    1. “It saddens me that voters in this state continue to elect a man…”
      It’s downright depressing across the country. I want to be able to wholeheartedly support democracy, but I’ve pretty much had to give up on the idea that people are voting rational choices. Maybe better to simply roll dice for any public decision. Diceocracy.

  4. Obama is not trying to close the Guantanamo prison, just relocate it. By that I mean that he supports indefinite detention without charge or trial. He just wants that to be integrated into the normal justice system, which in my opinion is even worse than keeping Guantanamo Bay open as an exception.

  5. I really wish we had a better moral high ground from which to criticize Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record. We can justly criticize their farcical judicial system, which doesn’t even have a penal code . And we can criticize their execution of people for “crimes” like apostasy and atheism. Likewise their barbaric torture and mutilation as official sentences. But as to execution in general? not so much. Beheading is likely more humane (to the extent execution can be called that) than our various legal methods of execution, which include the electric chair (the first of which too many minutes to kill its first victim – and has still yet to be “perfected”) to botched, over complicated, lethal cocktails of drugs.

    The US justice system has been expanded under GW Bush and Obama to include a “Constitution free-zone” everywhere within 100 miles of the border or international airport, the entire country subject to possible secret warrantless searches, secret arrests, secret detentions without access to council or a judge, secret torture, secret jails, secret trials, secret evidence. And the torture to heinous for us to hide under the rug we’ve outsourced to other countries and sent prisoners there to be tortured. We still have prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, who have neither been accorded Geneva Convention protections nor trials under the US Constitution. And then there is our non secret, regular justice system, which incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, both in absolute numbers and per capita – with **60%** of incarcerated adult males being black. In prisons so violent that prison rape is almost an expected part of a prison sentence. Our Justice system isn’t.

    I won’t say we are no better, because I think we are at least that, but we aren’t as much better as we ought to be. There isn’t the bright line between the Good Guys and the Bad Guys – it used to be really simple: Good Guys don’t torture people, bad guys do. Now we have a sliding scale of *how much* the Good Guys vs. the bad guys torture, and what kind of torture… :-p

    As long as our justice system is so heinously in need of reform, we really don’t have the standing we need as a country to make strong, non-hypocritical criticism of Saudi Arabia – we need to fix our system. But that doesn’t mean that we, as individuals, can’t criticize both, and recognize Saudi as being worse.

    1. ^^ This is why liberals suck.

      No matter how heinous or awful the behavior being criticized, theres at least one that will ooze moral equivalence and ‘yes, BUT..’ and soften the argument against this barbarity by pointing out that US court system is not perfect and how US is really almost as bad as this, etc etc.

      The only right answer to what S.Arabia and much of Muslim world is doing to free thinkers, gays, women, apostates and minorities is to say unequivocally that our civilization and our ideals and our culture is not only better, its vastly superior, even with its blemishes.

      Oh, S.Arabia will behead and crucify a political prisoner? Yes thats bad.. BUT, US has a death penalty in some states.. so we arent in any position to judge.

      Yes we are!

      1. “^^ This is why liberals suck. “

        Yes, yes, it is so *wrong* of me to be *consistently* against injustice, whether it be foreign or domestic. Consistency bad.


        Your post seems a tad knee jerk to me. Rather than address what I actually wrote, you opine on an imaginary version of my post: “so we arent in any position to judge. ”

        Yet, in fact, I did judge Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and justice system as “dismal,” “farcical,” “barbaric,” and “worse” than ours. It is possible to criticize more than one country’s deficiencies, and to judge one worse than another, all while criticizing them both.

      2. I read Scote’s comment looking for something to criticize because I really wanted to write something similar to what you wrote, but it’s not there. It’s very well stated. There’s no hyperbole or false equivalence. In fact, your only point seems to be, “we shouldn’t talk about that so much.” But we should welcome comments like Scote’s. It’s certainly better than prohibiting self criticism or going full Chomsky and declaring the US to be even worse than the Saudis.

    2. Just to add to your comment, I’ll point out that the “constitution-free zone” within 100 miles of the border is where about two-thirds of Americans live.

      And I remember reading news articles describing how other countries have explicitly pointed to our injustices this past decade in order to justify doing similar things in their countries. So our own failings aren’t irrelevant to the existence of injustice in other countries. (To be fair, the injustice in Saudi Arabia predates all that, and many countries may have ratcheted up their abuses regardless. But, for example, would the UK have gotten caught up in kidnapping and torturing people to death if we hadn’t led the way?)

      1. The UK… One of the things that Corbyn is also rightly calling for is the withdrawal of the bid by Britain’s Ministry of Justice (!) to provide prison services to the Saudis. I recall reading somewhere that certain British companies do rather well out of providing shackles, etc to the Saudis. That’s the wonderful thing about the free market! Invest in prison ‘services’! In private companies that provide such services! It’s a growing market! Good rates of interest on the torture & incarceration of others! And the more who are incarcerated and tortured, the better! I wonder to what extent the high incarceration of people in America, and the comparatively high incarceration of people in Britain (in comparison with the rest of Europe – I’m pretty sure I’m right in saying this), derives from ‘privatisation’ – something that also puts governments in the convenient position of being able to refuse to take responsibility for the maltreatment of people in who are in custody. A win-win situation.

  6. Whilst the US of A is executing the mentally backward, minors, and innocents i think they can have little to say about others without being the biggest hypocrite in town.

    OK, the Saudi ‘crimes’ wouldn’t be in other places, but this is a fig-leaf defence….

  7. Toner:

    “…we believe that any kind of verdict like that should come at the end of a legal process that is just and in accordance with international legal standards.”

    So as long as it comes at the end of a just legal process beheading is *not* ludicrously barbaric? I’d suggest that if a “legal process” leads to a beheading it is not just.

    1. Beheading is already barbaric, but what about the rest of the sentence? His body to be crucified until putrefaction for the public to see?

  8. Just today I saw our President give a very good speech at the U.N. meeting now in N.Y. It was very good and one that should make anyone proud to be from America or at least proud to have voted for Obama. If I had to give the talk a name it would be — conversation and not confrontation. Something lacking every where today.

    At the same time, when our Ambassador to the U.N, Samantha Powers was asked the other day about this appointment to the human rights council, she said it would really make no difference. If we know anything, it is that talk is cheap.

  9. I wish they would just honestly admit that the Saudis get a free pass because they give oil at nice low prices. At least cut the double speak.

  10. It’s once again worth noting that, as bad as pre-war Iraq was, Saudi Arabia then and still today is worse. So why did we invade Iraq, and / or why are we not today invading Saudi Arabia?

    The answer, of course, is a single three-letter word….


  11. I may be missing something here, but I don’t see how the fact that Saudi Arabia sells us a million barrels of oil per day should mean that they can hold that over our heads if we press them on human rights. Given this represents 5% of our oil consumption, it is hardly crippling and having this exchange shut down would surely be problematic for Saudi Arabia too. Sure, maybe they could find replacement buyers, but once the precedent is set by a world leader, it would be easier to have other countries to follow suit. Hell, if everyone could get it together, we could impose sanctions on them for these atrocities.

    1. You have a point, and I think political inertial plays a role, but don’t forget that the energy crisis of the 1970s was caused by a drop in oil production of less than 5%.

      If Saudi Arabian oil was taken off the market, it could be very bad.

      1. True, but I don’t see a crisis like that happening if we pressed the issue. It’s a matter of calling Saudi Arabia’s bluff that we need that oil more than they need to sell it and that they’d find importers willing to look away from the human rights violations were we to set this kind of precedent. Of course, this is easier for me to say, being that I could (at some minor inconvenience) do completely without automobiles for an extended period if there were another gas crisis. Even still, if we had long lines at the pumps, that hardly compares to being lashed 1000 times and imprisoned for sharing opinions…

        1. Oil is much, much, much more than driving to the office. It’s no exaggeration to state that it’s a significant part of our diet, from the fertilizer that lets us grow crops in poor soil to the pesticides that keep other critters from eating it before we do to the equipment to till the soil and tend and harvest the crops to the trucks that deliver the food to the stores. And that’s before we get into plastics or the whole rest of the economy.

          Don’t fool yourself. Without oil, civilization as we know it crashes.

          We might be able to transition to a solar-based economy. Maybe. Probably not, but maybe. But, even if we do, it’ll be an herculean effort unlike any other attempted in human history, and it’ll take generations to fully make the switch.

          In the mean time, without oil, we all die.

          The good news is that Saudi Arabia is running out of oil, so they won’t be in a position to pull this kind of shit much longer.

          The bad news, of course, is that Saudi Arabia is running out of oil…and so is everybody else….



          1. On the brighter side, Kennedy announced, in 1961, that we would be on the moon before the decade was out. At the time that seemed very ambitious. 9 years and $20 Billion later, we did it. But, there was a recognized national need to beat the Soviet Union in space.
            Global warming is definitely a harder problem. First it’s international, not just a U.S. problem. But, reduction of carbon and switching to alternatives will very soon be seen as a similar challenge which will bring the world together in one big effort. So, now we are talking trillions, not billions of dollars and we have perhaps several decades to accomplish the task. I’m thinking over the next 5 years the worlds leaders and peoples will begin to take on the challenge in a serious way and beat current expectations. With a good effort, we may be able to prevent the worst effects of warming and gradually get control of Earth’s climate. At least I hope so.

            1. Were political will adequate to the task, Carter would have succeeded in his attempts to set us on the path and we’d long since be done by now.

              The only reason for even a little bit of hope is that rooftop solar is cheaper than grid-supplied electricity, and electric vehicles are (just barely) cost-competitive with gasoline-powered ones. And the trends are for rooftop solar and electric vehicles to keep getting cheaper while the grid and gasoline will keep getting more expensive.

              If the progression of those price trends hits exactly the right pace, the Market’s Invisible Hand will save the day. But much more likely is that we’ll simply hit the wall.


          2. Don’t fool yourself. Without oil, civilization as we know it crashes.

            Too few people appreciate this. I think appreciating this is the first step in moving past oil, because if you think oil is some kind of luxury it perpetuates the illusion that we can kick the habit any time we choose, maybe tomorrow, or that if we just install the right kind of lightbulbs all will be well. I think it’s only by feeling, in your bones, how much what we think of as civilization relies on oil, that you can justify in your mind the herculean effort of moving off of it. And it’s only when you couple that knowledge with a visceral feeling for the fact that oil is finite that the sense that the need to engage this herculean project now presses itself upon you. When people complain about the government losing a few tens of millions of dollars to a failed solar business, it’s obvious they have no idea that civilization is at stake. Losing a few hundred billion dollars should be of no concern in pursuit of this end.

            1. Yes. Scarcity of oil and global warming are two different problems. Even if you take global warming out of the picture, if you could magically fix it so that it was no longer a concern, oil scarcity is still a major problem.

              Energy production is just the beginning of it. Oil is at the base of just about every major industry that modern civilization is built on. Energy, feed stock for all kinds of very important and ubiquitous materials from medicines to plastics. It is fabulous stuff.

              Changing to other methods of power production is likely the easy part. There is solar, as Ben says, and additionally we know that we can make nuclear fission power reactors that can extract nearly 100% of the available energy from the fissile material, including the 90% still left in all the nuclear waste that is sitting around from previous and current era reactors, and that have failure modes that inherently lead to a shut down without any active control or input necessary.

              The harder part is going to be figuring out how to make all the stuff we currently use oil as feed stock for. We are making progress on some of it, but not as much as with energy production. Basically we need to make our own petroleum products synthetically. In principle this is no problem. Realistically it is because it takes a heck of a lot of energy to do.

              1. Basically we need to make our own petroleum products synthetically. In principle this is no problem. Realistically it is because it takes a heck of a lot of energy to do.

                You’ve pretty much nailed it. The technology to turn atmospheric CO2 into syngas, and syngas into any other hydrocarbon, dates back to at least WWII. It’s just something that the basic physics demands be energy-intensive.

                With current technological advances, my understanding is that synthetic petroleum-equivalents would be competitive at something just under $200 / barrel.

                The problem isn’t so much that oil today is half that price…it’s that it’s not even clear that our economy can function at such price levels. It could well represent a case of nobody being able to afford to pay those prices, no matter how much they want to.

                Again, people fail to realize this, thinking that, since gas in the US is currently in the $2 – $3 / gallon range, doubling that to $4 – $6 would be painful but not an existential crisis. But it’s not just gasoline we’re talking about doubling, but basically everything.

                The inverse way of looking at it…how would your life be changed by a 50% salary cut? What kind of chaos would you expect for an across-the-board 50% salary cut? Worse, we know that the rich will find ways to pass the expenses on to everybody else, making it much more than just a 50% effective salary cut for the majority.

                How many businesses would collapse when people cut spending because their own income was cut? Imagine the resulting unemployment…

                …and now ask yourself: how are all these unemployed people and those with their income cut in half (by way, again, of having their expenses doubled) supposed to pay for that $4 – $6 / gallon gasoline? And if nobody can afford to buy the gasoline or anything else made from petroleum (that is, everything)…where’s the money to come from to develop the technology to make it in the first place?

                That’s the heart of the paradox we face. Oil may become too expensive to buy at the same time that it’s too cheap to extract or make. If there’s no overlap, as there is today…economics as a discipline collapses, and it takes out the civilization with it.


          3. Oil is much, much, much more than driving to the office.

            I don’t disagree when we talk of long term survival. Long term we’re severely fucked if we don’t move to renewable resources.

            My scenario here strictly deals with the U.S. calling Saudi Arabia’s bluff and pushing for better human rights there. Were SA to cut off their exports, the first place we’d immediately feel it is at the gas pumps and in our heaters (for those of us unfortunate enough to heat our homes with oil). It would be some time before the durable goods that are made out of oil-based products start being effected, and at a 5-6% decrease, I’m not sure they would be. Prices would also likely sky rocket consumer goods would go up due to shipping costs. So, yes, I agree such a scenario would be painful to the average consumer, but I’m talking short term effects that would occur while Saudi Arabia still has oil to give us.

            As for the long term view, such a scenario ultimately won’t matter since everyone is going to run out of oil.

        2. I don’t pretend to know the international oil market well enough that anyone should listen to me, but I don’t think SA would have much trouble finding other people to sell their oil too. They might have to settle for a bit less money, but I don’t think that would hurt them too much.

          1. They are already flooding the market driving prices down for reasons unclear. Obviously they are price insensitive in the short term.

            1. There’s good reason to suspect that it’s a combination of knowing that their own reserves are near depletion and trying to get as much as they can while the getting is good, and to drive the competition into insolvency so they’ll still be the least-worst game in town when the taps start to run dry.

              It’s certainly not because of any newly-discovered reserves….


          2. I’m not sure anyone has the expertise to say one way or another in a scenario like this because it pretty much involves analyzing the collective psyche of a lot of irrational individuals. Before we worry about them selling all their oil to someone else, I’d guess there’d be a continuum where we start pressing buttons and seeing what kind of concessions can be extracted.

            I don’t think it would be a binary choice of getting our million barrels a day or getting zero barrels a day. I say this only because political scenarios rarely come down to such black and white choices (recent Tea Party shenanigans aside). My point is, we shouldn’t sacrifice our Western ideals for human rights in exchange for a relatively short term supply of oil. When Saudia Arabia can’t give us oil anymore and they’re presumably still a backwards theocracy, what’s the next move? Try to enforce human rights since we have nothing to gain? I don’t think it takes a political expert to say that our credibility would be approaching zero at that point.

            1. Oh, regardless of how it might affect SA I agree 100% that the US, or anyone else for that matter, shouldn’t buy oil from SA and kiss their ass in every other way.

              And the ethical considerations you mention are more than enough reason by themselves, let alone pragmatic reasons like they actually behave more like an enemy towards us than pretty much any other group we actually label as an enemy. The old saying “with friends like these who needs enemies” is applicable.

              I only meant to say that I don’t think that the US refusing to buy oil from SA would hurt SA very badly.

              Now, discontinuing our political and military support might have a very significant impact on them. At least if no other patron stepped in to take our place. They have plenty of enemies and despite all the military hardware we have supplied them with they are not very skilled in using it. But a new patron, China, Russia, ??, would almost certainly step in to take our place.

  12. “barbarity of Saudi Arabia simply because they cooperate with us”

    This is, of course, nothing new for the U.S. We’ve supported barbaric dictators all over the world when it’s suited our purposes.

    1. That’s just realpolitik.

      France bombs ISIS & sells ships to Egypt so that Egypt can attack ISIS supporters in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has been defeated at the yemeni border and finannces the purchase of the ships, Russia was not delivered the ships but is defending Syria against ISIS(for the purpose of keeping its so important naval base over there), etc… And USA is trying to push its advantage in the middle of this bag of shit.

      Like everyone else involved.

      Plus oil, as other mentioned. But that’s nearly a detail, today.

      Nothing surprising. It’s like that since the world is world, and some Bible stories are of the same kind(Joshua’s book and the reconquest of Canaan. Same story, other era – and in those times like today, everyone says he’s the only one with God on its side).

  13. I don’t mean to derail this conversation but I’ve a question that perhaps others here can answer.

    Dr Coyne wrote; “To be sure, Obama is trying to close the disgraceful Guantanamo detention facility, whose existence is indefensible.”

    I know that congress “controls the purse strings” and therefore their approval is needed, but isn’t it possible that Obama can simply order the military out of Guantanamo? As president he is the commander in chief and like all presidents before him he has the authority to order deployments -and re-deployments- of military personnel. I know that politically this would be very difficult, but if he really feels strongly about Gitmo, couldn’t he force the hand by shutting off military support with a stroke of his pen?

    I probably do not understand the limits of his authority but I also suspect he simply isn’t as concerned about Gitmo as he claims he is.

    1. As president he is the commander in chief and like all presidents before him he has the authority to order deployments -and re-deployments- of military personnel.

      I keep trying to make that point, myself….


    2. Congress has blocked Obama from transferring Guantanamo prisoners to US soil, at least for the duration of the conflict with Al-Qaida. He can release the prisoners any time he wants though, if he can find a place to send them. But he resists doing so. The UK had been trying since 2007 to get Shaker Aamer released, and finally succeeded a couple weeks ago. And they’re one of our closest allies.

      He can also unilaterally declare the conflict with Al-Qaida to be over, and potentially transfer them to a US prison then. But I think he wants to keep the war going.

      Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, Obama is not in favor of ending the primary injustice of Guantanamo: indefinite detention without charge or trial. He’s only opposed to Guantanamo itself, because it’s a PR problem. His stated plan is to incorporate indefinite detention into the normal US legal system.

  14. I think the west’s appeasement of Saudi Arabia is its single largest ethical blindspot, in that it’s the most blatantly hypocritical example of western nations practicing the direct opposite of what they preach. It’s all very well having the philosophical moral high ground, it’s all very well being able to point to secular, liberal democracies as examples of Enlightenment politics in practice, but it doesn’t take much for theocrats, conservatives and cultural relativist left-wing apologists to sniff out hypocrisy and the disgusting way we fawn over probably the single most barbaric regime on earth(whilst describing ISIS in pantomime villain terms) is an open goal with a mile-wide neon signpost above it.

    Mind you, voters don’t seem to give much of a shit either…
    Although I can think of many reasons why it won’t, I’d love it if the government were to float the idea of introducing some kind of ‘human rights tax’, to offset the inevitable cost of refusing to trade with countries like Saudi Arabia, etc..

    I know we’re going through a tough economic spell but relatively speaking Britain, as well as a lot of the rest of the western world, is well-off. I certainly think we could afford it. It’d necessitate being a bit more honest about our current, cynical, realpolitik approach, and we could at least have a conversation about whether we want our country to be the kind of country that turns a blind eye to murder, rape and torture just so its people can buy cheap oil.

  15. I see a pointed political cartoon that compares the number of beheadings, other executions, and other crimes between Saudi Arabia and ISIS. We see that ISIS is the kinder of the two. The caption reads: To whom do we maintain friendly diplomatic relations?

  16. Avaaz are doing a petition for the young Saudi. It is one way to let them know what we think of their human rights record and how they (the Saudi’s)conduct themselves, let alone declaring we are watching you!

  17. Why are people surprised at this ? Everything the Saudis do is allowed in their odious “holy book” its a disgrace that the West will kowtow to these deranged Regimes simply because they have OIL.

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