Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bush and Abdullah

It's been several days now since a Saudi court sentenced a nineteen year old gang rape victim to two hundred lashes and six months in prison. This sort of blatant violation of basic human rights in Saudi Arabia is not uncommon. The Kingdom has an atrocious record of arbitrary detentions, torture, repression of woman and minorities, and other crimes against humanity. In its annual list of the world's worst dictators Parade Magazine has pegged the kingdom's monarch, King Abdullah, ahead of Burma's Than Shwe, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi, and Syria's Bashar al-Assad, among others as the fifth worst dictator in the world. Abdullah had turned his people's vast oil reserves into his own personal piggy bank, indulging in extravagant decadence while many Saudis live in poverty. He also vigorously represses woman, minorities, and political opponents with torture, intimidation, arbitrary detentions, and executions. However, this tyrant is rarely criticised in the west. His vast oil reserves and his stated support for the war on terror have made any condemnation of his barbarism politically dangerous for western politicians.

That is why the attention given to this latest atrocity offers a rare opportunity for western leaders to condemn the Saudi plutocrat without endangering their political carers. Disapproval over this specific case has already led to a broader condemnation of the west's close relationship with the kingdom. If nothing else comes from this case, then it will hopefully spur a much needed debate over the west's support for Abdullah and other dictators.