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The Saudi-Canada Clash: A Values War

Is it any of Canada’s business whether Saudi women have the right to drive?

Well, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland just made it her business.

Repeatedly denouncing Riyadh’s arrest of women’s rights advocate Samar Badawi, Freeland has driven the two countries close to a break in diplomatic relations.

“Reprehensible” said Riyadh of Freeland’s tweeted attack. Canada is “engaged in blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs.”

The Saudis responded by expelling Canada’s ambassador and ordering 15,000 Saudi students to end their studies in Canada and barred imports of Canadian wheat. A $15 billion contract to provide armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia may be in jeopardy.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has been backsliding on his promises to modernize the kingdom, appears to have had enough of Western lectures on democratic values and morality.

A week after Pope Francis denounced the death penalty as always “impermissible,” Riyadh went ahead and crucified a convicted murderer in Mecca. In Saudi Arabia, homosexuality can get you a death sentence.

Neither President Donald Trump nor the State Department has taken sides, but The Washington Post has weighed in with an editorial: “Human Rights Are Everyone’s Business.”

“What Ms. Freeland and Canada correctly understand is that human rights … are universal values, not the property of kings and dictators to arbitrarily grant and remove on a whim. Saudi Arabia’s long-standing practice of denying basic rights to citizens, especially women—and its particularly cruel treatment of some dissidents—such as the public lashes meted out to (Ms. Badawi’s brother)—are matters of legitimate concern to all democracies and free societies.

“It is the traditional role of the United States to defend universal values everywhere they are trampled upon and to show bullying autocrats they cannot get away with hiding their dirty work behind closed doors.”

The Post called on the foreign ministers of all Group of Seven nations to retweet Freeland’s post saying, “Basic rights are everybody’s business.”

But these sweeping assertions raise not a few questions.

Who determines what are “basic rights” or “universal values”?

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that has never permitted women to drive and has always whipped criminals and had a death penalty.

When did these practices first begin to contradict “universal values”?

When did it become America’s “traditional role” to defend women’s right to drive automobiles in every country, when women had no right to vote in America until after World War I?

In the America of the 1950s, homosexuality and abortion were regarded as shameful offenses and serious crimes. Now abortion and homosexuality have been declared constitutional rights.

Are they basic human rights? To whom? Do 55 million abortions in the U.S. in 45 years not raise an issue of human rights?

Has it become the moral duty of the U.S. government to champion abortion and LGBT rights worldwide, when a goodly slice of America still regards them as marks of national decadence and decline?

And if the Saudis are reactionaries whom we should join Canada in condemning, why are we dreaming up an “Arab NATO” in which Saudi Arabia would be a treaty ally alongside whom we would fight Iran?

Iran, at least, holds quadrennial elections, and Iranian women seem less restricted and anti-regime demonstrations more tolerated than they are in Saudi Arabia.

Consider our own history.

From 1865 to 1965, segregation was the law in the American South. Did those denials of civil and political rights justify foreign intervention in the internal affairs of the United States?

How would President Eisenhower, who used troops to integrate Little Rock High, have responded to the British and French demanding that America end segregation now?

In a newly de-Christianized America, all religions are to be treated equally and none may be taught in any public school.

In nearly 50 nations, however, Muslims are the majority, and they believe there is but one God, Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet, and all other religions are false. Do Muslims have no right to insist upon the primacy of their faith in the nations they rule?

Is Western interference with this claim not a formula for endless conflict?

In America, free speech and freedom of the press are guaranteed. And these First Amendment rights protect libel, slander, filthy language, blasphemy, pornography, flag burning and published attacks on religious beliefs, our country itself, and the government of the United States.

If other nations reject such freedoms as suicidal stupidity, do we have some obligation to intervene in their internal affairs to promote them?

Recently, The Independent reported:

“Since last year, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region in northwest China have been unjustly arrested and imprisoned in what the Chinese government calls ‘political re-education camps.’ Thousands have disappeared. There are credible reports of torture and death among the prisoners. … The international community has largely reacted with silence.”

Anyone up for sanctioning Xi Jinping’s China?

Or do Uighurs’ rights rank below those of Saudi feminists?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the recent book, Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.


33 Comments (Open | Close)

33 Comments To "The Saudi-Canada Clash: A Values War"

#1 Comment By johnhenry On August 9, 2018 @ 10:51 pm

I don’t think Mr Buchanan is playing fair.

The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs was objecting to the imprisonment of a Saudi dissident, Raif Badawi and of his sister, the women’s rights advocate, Samar Badawi. Mr Badwi is the husband of one Ms Ensaf Haider, a Canadian citizen.

I won’t get into whether the jailing of Ms Haider’s relatives came after Kangaroo Court trials in Saudi Arabia, but my understanding of diplomacy between nations is that one government (Canada) is permitted to make formal complaints to another government (Saudi Arabia) about the treatment of their citizens and their families without being tarred with a charges of foreign interference. Am I wrong?

In any case, the Canadian Foreign Minister’s complaint had nothing to do with – as Mr Buchanan’s opening sentence would have us believe – “whether Saudi women have the right to drive”.

It’s quite possible Mr Buchanan has relatives living in foreign countries, as do I. It’s also possible he would consider it right and proper for his government to stick its beak in and question – even complain about – the treatment being meted out to his relatives over there if he believed they were being treated unfairly, as do I. That’s what governments are supposed to do for their citizens and their families.

Of course, Mr Buchanan may choose to split hairs and say that foreign relatives of our citizens are expendable in the interests of good relations with foreign governments.

#2 Comment By Whine Merchant On August 9, 2018 @ 11:49 pm

“We hold these truths that are self evident…”

#3 Comment By Fayez Abedaziz On August 10, 2018 @ 3:19 am

Amazing how some people are telling other nations what they should be doing, sorta like “let’s condemn that place for arresting some demonstrators.”
While the same happens in the critics’ nation.
Now, any word about the civilians being slaughtered in at least several nations by the Western militaries…
Any progress in protecting freedom of speech
in the Western nations? Why, no…the opposite is happening:
Freedom of speech is being attacked and the citizenry is increasingly afraid to give an opinion. Most people believe that they are being monitored everywhere and on any modern device.
And, some people in the US, Canada, Britain, in the guv’ment and in the press are ‘worried’ about someplaces that don’t give certain rights? Ha ha, the hypocricy. And, by the way, these Guv officials and press people really don’t give a rat’s butt about people in other nations(see above-the word ‘slaughter’). They are doing projection and following the neo-con lines… like McCain and Graham aren’t enough of bad news big mouth haters and war mongers and, yeah, hypocrites on any ‘human right’ issues.

#4 Comment By Jeremy 2 On August 10, 2018 @ 5:11 am

Why are you defending Wahhabism, Pat?

#5 Comment By Hrant On August 10, 2018 @ 5:37 am

They crucified a murderer? Really?

I think I went over something like that in the press lately, but thought it an exaggeration.

Now where is our commander in chief twitting about “animal Mohamed bin Salman”? If Assad could be labeled like that why not the MBS? Ohhh…he danced with him with a sward in hand, so…

And let’s not forget, Saudi kingdom is the reason the dollar is what it is, and that ensures the US hegemony much more than all the F22s, F35s and all the aircraft carriers.

So no tweets about Saudi Arabia. They could kill, maim, destroy Yemen, crucify murderers, cut off thief’s limbs, lash out anybody in public and basically treat women like garbage. The state department that is otherwise hyper vocal about Assad, Russia, Masha and Dasha is and will remain tight lipped.

#6 Comment By workingdad On August 10, 2018 @ 7:51 am

If they can do it in a State, why not France or India. I see no difference, other than projectable power.

#7 Comment By Andrew Zook On August 10, 2018 @ 9:20 am

Which is worse: poking Saudi Arabia a little now and then or completely sucking up to/enabling the Saudis like the US does? I get your point about staying out of others business, but I kind like it when someone shows some spine in dealing with Saudi Arabia… Maybe things would be better in Yemen or even the whole region if more western countries did so.

#8 Comment By Youknowho On August 10, 2018 @ 9:20 am

Yeah, we have no right to impose our values on other countries.

Remember this when Christians (esp Catholics) are persecuted, and you ask for help for them.

#9 Comment By Kronos On August 10, 2018 @ 10:02 am

Freeland’s wording was lifted directly from a UN resolution. Remember the UN? The Saudis like chairing its various committees.
Objecting to criticism is one thing, but the Saudis breaking off relations totally is ludicrous. And can we please all admit (POTUS excepted, obviously) that Mohammed bin Salman is every bit as prickly and unstable as Rocket Man in North Korea. He can’t and won’t accept anyone telling him he isn’t all-wise.

#10 Comment By Seamus On August 10, 2018 @ 10:42 am

“When did it become America’s ‘traditional role’ to defend women’s right to drive automobiles in every country, when women had no right to vote in America until after World War I?”

In fairness, the right to drive a car (which we never denied women) has a lot more impact on people’s lives than the right to vote.

#11 Comment By tony55398 On August 10, 2018 @ 10:59 am

Anything goes right Pat. If a Muslim country wants to persecute and kill Christians it’s none of our business, just get along. If Iran puts a Christian in jail, it’s fine with Pat, just butt out. If Saudi Arabia wants to kill children in Yemen, we shouldn’t get involved, it’s their business. We shouldn’t have universal values, it causes bad feelings.

#12 Comment By Michael Kenny On August 10, 2018 @ 11:06 am

Mr Buchanan makes it sound like “Allah” is some sort of pagan god! “Allah” is nothing more than the the Arabic word for “God” and is used by all Arabic speaking-people regardless of their religion (including four cardinals of the Catholic Church!). It’s like saying that when Catholics say “credo in unum Deum”, they’re worshipping a pagan god called “Deus”!

#13 Comment By Slugger On August 10, 2018 @ 11:15 am

We recognize and admit that our nation has not been perfectly righteous in the past and continues to make mistakes. Mr. Buchanan is right in saying that women did not have the right to vote in the US till fairly recently. However, while our focus should be on our flaws, we should not be blind to the flaws of nations with whom we are closely tied. Not very long ago, we went to war to recover the Kuwaiti satrapy for the House of Saud. Shedding blood for the Sauds gives us a certain privilege to criticize them unless we are merely mercenaries fighting their wars. Silence, assent, is bowing our necks to them in ways I find unacceptable. Torturing someone to death via crucifixion is abhorrent to anyone not a slave to them.

#14 Comment By collin On August 10, 2018 @ 11:37 am

From 1865 to 1965, segregation was the law in the American South. Did those denials of civil and political rights justify foreign intervention in the internal affairs of the United States?

Can’t it be argued that the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 main goal was to stop European support for the Confederacy? Lincoln after 1861 made the Civil War a moral crusade against slavery and with the release of the Emancipation in 1862, gave the Union the moral high ground in England and France which stopped any war aide.

Otherwise, Canada and Saudia Arabia are in stupid pissing contest and I tend to agree it best to remain on the sidelines.

#15 Comment By divadab On August 10, 2018 @ 11:45 am

Pat Buchanan – defending the indefensible instead of questioning why the Empire is in bed with a totalitarian regime that oppresses women, has as a spectator sport beheading with a sabre, and is exporting terrorism all over the world, including the USA on 9-11.

#16 Comment By b. On August 10, 2018 @ 12:01 pm


There is free speech in international relations. If you want to consider sanctions an exercise of free speech as well, and not an act of aggressive economical warfare, then the Saudis can be as disproportionately idiotic as they please. If you don’t, then we have to discuss a lot of other sanctions as well, especially secondary sanctions.

Buchanan is so rigidly invested in fighting “cultural marxism”, he would side with inbred power such as MbS and Saudi wahhabism. That’s not even contrarian or reactionary, that’s running on cognitive autopilot.

#17 Comment By b. On August 10, 2018 @ 12:05 pm

Which is unfortunate – Buchanan raises some good questions, on priorities, proportionality, and foreign policy beyond speech, but that miasma of bad faith politicking gets in his own way.

#18 Comment By John S On August 10, 2018 @ 1:10 pm

Is this the same author who praised Trump for inserting himself into the Brexit discussion, as if to impose the “universal value” of nationalism?

#19 Comment By Fayez Abedaziz On August 10, 2018 @ 2:18 pm

What a joke some of the people who deride moslem majority nations are spewing.
Numerous of those nations, such as Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria and all the ones in North Africa, like Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria have Christians and Jews being free and protected…as they should be,have always had freedom of religion and so, to say such asinine things like, “if a Moslem nation does this or that to a Christian blah blah, is ignorant and phony.
Are you geographically, and historical ‘geniuses’ aware that the U.S. tortures and kills people by the millions, since Korea, Vietnam and so on?
By the way, why don’t you say, do something about the US being number one in rape, murders, child abuse and so on?
Your ‘concerned’ that maybe a person was arrested because of that persons whatever in whatever country?
I know, it makes you feel better to point out some intolerance once in a while, to that place or other, that way you don’t have to deal with the cold reality of what crimes against humanity you ‘above’ others are-that’s you phony patriots and the crooks in Britain.
By the way, thanks, for WW1 and 2 and…(sarcasm)
Dig what I’m saying, oh, so clean ones…

#20 Comment By Scorched Earth On August 10, 2018 @ 3:57 pm

“A $15 billion contract to provide armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia may be in jeopardy.”

As a Canadian, I’m ashamed that my government even negotiated this deal with The Beast of Riyadh (aka, Mohammad bin Salman) in the first place, knowing full well those arms would be used to commit crimes-against-humanity in Yemen.

#21 Comment By Robert Madera On August 10, 2018 @ 4:37 pm

I believe our founding documents state that all men are endowed BY THEIR CREATOR with said rights. I’m of that school.

#22 Comment By Nelson On August 10, 2018 @ 6:16 pm

I wouldn’t go so far as to impose sanctions on any country but there is nothing wrong with speaking up against injustice once in a while. And yes we have our own injustices too. If other countries want to discuss them I wouldn’t impose sanctions on them in response.

#23 Comment By Dan Green On August 10, 2018 @ 7:10 pm

Sorry if we were to stick our nose into our northern neighbors affairs they would scream to high heaven as they say. Trudeau has no use for us as did his his Father.

#24 Comment By Odenton My Odenton On August 11, 2018 @ 1:01 am

The Saudis have clearly studied the example of Israel when it comes to threatening and silencing foreign critics. Israel has successfully used diaspora Jews to introduce anti-free speech legislation into Western countries so as to stifle criticism of Israel.

Now the Saudis are getting in on Israel’s act.

It’s ironic, considering that the pretense of “shared values” like free speech is one of the excuses used to justify our over-friendly relations with these Middle Eastern creeps.

#25 Comment By Thaomas On August 11, 2018 @ 9:10 am

“And if the Saudis are reactionaries whom we should join Canada in condemning, why are we dreaming up an “Arab NATO” in which Saudi Arabia would be a treaty ally alongside whom we would fight Iran?”

If Western “meddling” with the Saudi monarchy’s rights to be misogynistic ruins the creation of an Arab NATO to deal with the Yemini treat, that would be a extra benefit.

#26 Comment By bbkingfish On August 11, 2018 @ 11:38 am

It has become, in the past few years, a reflex action for those on the right to blame America first. Sad.

#27 Comment By Cynthia McLean On August 11, 2018 @ 2:26 pm

Didn’t Trump just impose tariffs on Turkey for not immediately releasing a US pastor whom they are holding?

#28 Comment By rufus ‘bama On August 12, 2018 @ 11:24 pm

@bbkingfish “It has become, in the past few years, a reflex action for those on the right to blame America first. Sad.”

Yeah, kind of like all the malcontents complaining about child molester priests. They ought to shut up and support their church, right?

“Sad” indeed.

#29 Comment By Ivo Olavo Castro da Silva On August 13, 2018 @ 5:32 am

Well said! WHO defines that sexual perversion and abortion are “basic human rights” and “woman’s health issue”? Is today’s increasingly immoral society better than it was in the 50’s? Hell NO!

#30 Comment By Thomas B McGowan III On August 13, 2018 @ 10:38 am

We in the West somehow love to impose our values on the peoples of the rest of the world. Not many years ago we all took up the “white man’s burden” to teach the savages about how they should live. Now we are teaching them about intellectual and moral values. It is a new colonialism. The Anglican Church is now being torn asunder by the conflict in the “values” of the North vs those south of the equator. Clearly some things should be condemned, torture as an example. But are we so positive that we are correct because our values have “evolved” as American politicians love to say?

#31 Comment By Paul On August 13, 2018 @ 12:55 pm

There is so much that could be said about Buchanan’s diatribe – but I will confine it to one:

Please stop mentioning homosexuality and abortion in one breath – they have NOTHING to do with each other.

I happen to be a gay person who finds abortion extremely problematical.

Being gay is an inherent trait and gay marriage is good for people, kids and society.

With abortion, someone dies. I find the linking of the two extremely offensive.

#32 Comment By Daniel Shays On August 14, 2018 @ 4:05 am

The whining by the Trudeau Government about its commitment to universal human rights would be a little easier to sell if some of it was also directed at overtly racist governments like South Africa’s.But apparently murdering people and stealing their land is OK with Canada’s PC hypocrites if the victims are white and the perps are black.

#33 Comment By Jeremy 2 On August 17, 2018 @ 4:17 pm

Ivo Olavo Castro da Silva and Daniel Shays—
So you both the support the Wahhabi head-choppers, too, I take it. And when has the Trump administration spoken out on behalf of white South African farmers?