It’s not even a few weeks since a gaggle of world leaders attempted to co-opt the genuine mourning and defiance of the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ marches, ostensibly standing with the marchers in the spirit of freedom of speech and against oppression, but in reality merely looking for a photo opportunity and to use the atrocity of the previous week as an excuse to further erode civil liberties in the name of the ‘war on terror.’
This has rarely been more obvious than in the UK government and other world institution’s decision to fly flags at half mast and offer obsequious eulogies to the recently deceased Saudi monarch, King Abdullah.
Of course, such lip service is common practice when a world leader passes away, but so soon after a public support of freedom of speech and widespread fear mongering about ‘Islamic extremism’ it is hypocritical in the extreme to refer to such an iniquitous leader/regime as ‘a great man’ or a ‘reformer.’
Let’s remember that aside from practicing one of the most extremely conservative brands of Islam (Wahhabism) the Saudi royal family also preside over a country where women are forbidden to drive (amongst other things,) homosexuals are beaten with sticks or killed, and where blogger Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 1000 lashes (humanely spread over 20 weeks, of course) and seven years in jail for practicing freedom of speech… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Abdullah himself married one of his wives when he was 48 and she was 13 years old. That would be statutory rape in most western countries.
So… why do western leaders pay lip service to such an awful regime, while simultaneously demonizing other similar regimes or marginalizing far more democratic and civilized movements in the Arab world?
In short, oil and compliance.
The Saudi royal family was put in place by the British following the world wars and has been an ally of the west ever since, happily selling us oil and allowing us to have military bases on their soil in return for us not objecting to how they run their country.
Essentially, the West have sold out the human rights of Saudi citizens in order to keep the black stuff flowing and have an ally in a region full of hostile sentiment towards our imperialistic and exploitative ways.
This is not defensible. I do not feel it to be idealistic that we should not trade or ally with countries with such despotic regimes and abysmal human rights records.
Many would say that trade and having a lever in the tender geopolitics of the region are good enough reasons to fudge principles, but I disagree.
If anything, it is illustrative of the western leader’s desire for power over the true tenets of freedom that we can ignore the considerable crimes of an ally in the name of continuing to suck fossil fuels out of the ground and exert undue influence over a distant part of the world.
I can pretty much guarantee that if Abdullah or his predecessors had refused to trade so freely with the West, we would currently be demonizing Saudi Arabia every bit as much as Assad, ISIS and Iran. After all, Osama Bin Laden was a Saudi and his family is deep in the circles of the Saudi royal family and nations have been illegally invaded by the West for less…
At the same time as fawning over Abdullah, western leaders are looking to restrict freedom of speech, privacy and due process in our own countries, supposedly in the name of defeating terrorists that our own invasive policies created.
We do not live in a completely free or democratic country and never forget that our government or wider western civilization does not stand for freedom or equality any more than the despotic, religiously extreme regimes we sometimes invade and sometimes ally with. However, it doesn’t need to be this way.
We could cease trade (over time) with such regimes and divest from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, for political reasons as much as environmental. While retaining diplomatic ties, we could press for any nations indulging in such iniquitous policies (floggings, persecution of minorities/women etc.) to amend their ways.
The threat of terrorism and religious extremism would quickly fade if we weren’t putting boots on the ground in the middle east all the time and we could become energy self sufficient in a short period of time, which would be of tremendous benefit to the economy and environment.
Furthermore, we wouldn’t be giving support to despotic regimes, which would also lose a prime source of income and be thus pressured to reform, without need for military intervention.
Explain to me again why we need to be involved in such murky practices and overt hypocrisy?