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Why Mourn King Abdullah?

If the outpouring of condolences emanating from the upper echelons of the U.S. government over the death of King Abdullah last week are anything to go by, one could easily be led to believe that the world lost a truly humane, wise, perhaps even visionary leader. In fact, Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted as much, calling Abdullah a “man of wisdom and vision.” President Obama issued a statement calling the deceased despot “a force for stability and security in the Middle East” while the UK’s David Cameron—in addition to ordering flags to fly at half-mast—praised Abdullah’s role in “strengthening understanding between faiths.” The IMF’s Christine Lagarde even went so far as to claim Abdullah was “strong advocate of women.” Gloria Steinem, call your office!

But this really is all a bit de trop.

Making matters worse is the fact that President Obama is rushing off to Riyadh to pay his respects in person. This is all the more egregious since the administration sent no senior officials to the Je Suis Charlie solidarity march in Paris earlier this month, which the ever tin-eared presidential confidante Valerie Jarrett dismissed as a mere “parade.” Further, Mr. Obama, as the New York Times pointed out on Sunday, rarely travels abroad solely to pay his respects to departed foreign leaders, one notable exception being his decision to travel to South Africa on the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s passing. This, it hardly needs pointing out, is not that.

There are two ways of looking at this situation. One is that these fulsome expressions of grief over the loss of this be-robed and bejeweled tyrant are nothing more than ‘the usual hypocrisies’ endemic to the art of diplomacy. The other, worse, is that our own wise, humane, and visionary leaders really are sorry to see Abdullah pass on to his final reward. And if such is the case, it might be worth recalling some unpleasant facts about the king and his nearly decade-long rule.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Abdullah regime beheaded 19 people over the course of 16 days last August; one of the executed was, according to a report issued by Amnesty International, mentally ill, while another was beheaded for the crime of “black magic sorcery.” Meanwhile, a blogger by the name of Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, while only recently a video emerged of a Saudi policeman beheading a Burmese woman in the middle of a street in Mecca as she screamed for her life. She is one of 10 people beheaded in Saudi Arabia so far this year.

Then of course there is Saudi Arabia’s role in providing material support for the 9/11 atrocity that took the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans. Obama continues to protect the Saudis by refusing to release the 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission report having to do with Saudi Arabia’s funding of and complicity in the attacks. This despite his own promises to the 9/11 families that he would do so. Efforts by U.S. Congressmen Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) to force the administration to release the redacted pages are ongoing. In addition, former senator and Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham (D-Fla.) has also called on the administration to release the 28 redacted pages, whose content he says, “points a finger in the direction of Saudi Arabia.”

Meanwhile, the Saudis continue to fund—to the tune of billions of dollars a year—the propagation of the most sinister and violent branch of Islam throughout the world, leading to, among other things, the ritual slaughter of a staff of cartoonists in the very heart of Europe, hostage taking in Sydney, and murderous rampages in Ottawa and Brussels, to say nothing of a series of subway bombings in Madrid, London, and Moscow.

It is by now bindingly clear that the regime in Riyadh will resort to the most medieval of measures towards anyone—within or without its borders—who is not in thrall to the violent tenets of Wahhabi Islam. So the question remains: why does our own government pretend that this is not so?

Meanwhile, we are treated to the spectacle of certain of our own Middle East experts worrying that the Obama administration—because it supposedly has paid insufficient attention to the wishes of the Saudi tyranny—faces “an uphill struggle to regain the full trust of the royal family.” Pardon me, to regain their trust?

The expression of even a modicum of sorrow—even if disingenuous—by Western leaders is far more than the death of King Abdullah deserves.

James W. Carden served as an advisor to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission at the State Department from 2011-2012.

17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "Why Mourn King Abdullah?"

#1 Comment By AGD On January 27, 2015 @ 2:39 pm

King Abdullah and his principal henchman, Prince Bandar, will be regarded as villains by the historians — once, that is, the Saudis stop giving billions to purchase the silence of western academics.

If there is a Hell, King Abdullah belongs there.

#2 Comment By GregJ On January 27, 2015 @ 2:59 pm

I would need to see those 28 redacted pages before I could level the charge that King Abdullah was actually ‘complicit’ in the murder of over 3,000 of my countrymen. That is a serious accusation and one the seems counter to what the Saudi government actually did in assisting us after the attacks. What some Congressmen have said on the subject is vague, unspecific, and not enough for me to accuse the departed king of that treachery.

#3 Comment By William Dalton On January 27, 2015 @ 3:03 pm

If King Abdullah’s plan for a settlement of the Israel-Palestine question had been followed, particularly by the United States and Israel, the world, and certainly the Middle East region which the Saudis inhabit, would be much more at peace than what has occurred because of American reaction to 9/11. That attack, as much as it was conceived on Saudi soil, was not nearly as destructive as the the knee-jerk reaction of warfare in which the U.S. and its allies indulged themselves afterwards. Capital punishment, as practiced in Saudi Arabia, may be seem barbaric by Western standards, but the U.S., which practices legal execution only by lethal injection, can’t seem to get the process down without inflicting more pain and torment than does a swift beheading. There is much to complain about in terms of justice and injustice in Saudi Arabia, not the least of which is its prohibition of the practice of Christianity, a right which is freely enjoyed in Iran, and was in Iraq and Syria before the West’s interventions. But, the bottom line is that Abdullah, far from suppressing the rights of his people in the enforcement of medieval Islamic laws and customs, has been a moderating force in contrast to what will occur if the House of Saud falls and Arabia is governed by a popularly elected emir or potentate.

For all his faults, the funeral of King Abdullah will be a far more respectable event for our President to attend than that which prompted the gathering of Western leaders who marched in the streets of Paris for the right of France’s favored minorities to print disgusting cartoons designed solely to infuriate and demean its disfavored ones.

#4 Comment By Mario On January 27, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

The founding fathers accepted slavery in order to secure a union
Was slavery any less brutal?
The King is credited with starting the long process of reform in Saudi Arabia that only he could have done.
It would have been unthinkable, even two years ago that Saudi jets will be attacking Islamic militants in Syria but yet they are.
I say that’s a good enough reason to mourn

#5 Comment By stef On January 27, 2015 @ 4:50 pm

We should instead be mourning for the US citizens (women and their female children, even adult ones) being held prisoner in Saudi Arabia, for the crime (aka bad judgment) of marrying Saudi nationals.

Once they entered Saudi Arabia, they came under Saudi law. Their passports were taken and they were forbidden to leave the country. The US State Dept. wrote them off, with the platitude that “we have to respect the laws of the country.”

Bull-hockey. Feed them to ISIS.

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On January 27, 2015 @ 5:29 pm

“Then of course there is Saudi Arabia’s role in providing material support for the 9/11 atrocity that took the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans. Obama continues to protect the Saudis by refusing to release the 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission report having to do with Saudi Arabia’s funding of and complicity in the attacks. This despite his own promises to the 9/11 families that he would do so. Efforts by U.S. Congressmen Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) to force the administration to release the redacted pages are ongoing. In addition, former senator and Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham (D-Fla.) has also called on the administration to release the 28 redacted pages, whose content he says, “points a finger in the direction of Saudi Arabia.””

This seems over the top since those pages remain hidden. While the Saudis did offer some financial remuneration based on Bin Laden’s involvement as a Saudi citizen from the upper echelon’s of the same. I am not sure those pages reveal some active involvement in the conspiracy. maybe but without the data, we just don’t know.

Though I agree, it should released. And even that doesn’t make it accurate.

#7 Comment By J Pittman On January 27, 2015 @ 6:57 pm

Mr. Carden, Why write an article that you clearly didn’t research. Why ask questions to which the answers are obvious and public. The al-Saud family will never interfere with the Wahhabi, because the Wahhabi are a critical part of the coalition that put them in, and keeps them in power. The royal family must keep the Wahhabi happy to continue to rule Saudi Arabia. This is why a brutal justice system is tolerated and this is why a blind eye is often turned toward support for extremist Islam in Saudi Arabia. You are making the mistake of confusing allowing something to happen and supporting it. The article is totally misleading because you are ignoring the realities of politics within the monarchy.

#8 Comment By Ken Hoop On January 27, 2015 @ 7:23 pm

William Dalton

Are you sure that King Abdullah did anything of substance to pressure the US to effectuate his peace plan? Not sure how many Palestinians believe so.

#9 Comment By EngineerScotty On January 27, 2015 @ 7:54 pm

Diplomacy?

Distasteful as it may be, dancing on the graves of foreign leaders with whose countries cordial relations are maintained, is not beneficial to international relations. Even if everyone knows they are nasty fellows.

#10 Comment By sean On January 27, 2015 @ 8:29 pm

Interesting President Obama can make it to King Abdullah’s funeral but not to Paris.

#11 Comment By Winston On January 28, 2015 @ 3:00 am

The Saud bond was cemented with marriage. No body talks about that.

#12 Comment By Keith J. Kelly On January 28, 2015 @ 8:05 am

The question is not “Why Mourn King Abdullah?”

The question is “Why do the political and financial leaders of the North America and Europe mourn King Abdullah so much?”

#13 Comment By port arthur On January 28, 2015 @ 12:29 pm

For a thorough account of Saudi duplicity prior to 9/11, read Steve Coll’s excellent “Ghost Wars”.

#14 Comment By Clint On January 28, 2015 @ 4:17 pm

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called Abdullah “an example of balanced and responsible leadership rooted in deep religious tradition.” As a “guardian of holy sites” for Islam, King Abdullah “worked to honor the sensitivity and sanctity of Jerusalem and sought to promote his vision for a prosperous region,”

#15 Comment By Cass On January 30, 2015 @ 10:24 am

Thank the late king for his last decision: raising our living standards and whacking the Shia in Bagdad and Teheran and the producers of expensive and polluting oil with their Wall Street backers. Why? The House of Saud owns Aramco which produces 10 million bbls/d = 33% of OPEC production of 30 million bbls/d which is 33% of world production of 93+/- million/d. Since late 2014 production exceeded demand by 1+/- million bbls/d so the accumulation since created over supply and downed the price from $110. All the king had to do was cut production by 10-15% t maintain balance at high teens but he didn’t and now the price and his income is down 60% to $45.
Geopolitics manipulating market forces. Lets see what the new king decides. Stay the course. Ins’allah

#16 Comment By Kim Walker On January 30, 2015 @ 5:19 pm

It’s been noted but shall be restated here in the interests of accuracy:

For all his faults his Peace Plan of 2002 was a plan that would have brought a measure of justice to the Palistinian people and solved the most intractable and destabilizing problem of the of the Middle East and of the larger world in general. It was a serious and brave proposal by a serious and brave leader.

#17 Comment By Barry On February 2, 2015 @ 9:12 am

“This seems over the top since those pages remain hidden.”

Um, why are they hidden?