A foul despot has just passed on, and the Western world is singing his praises. Speak no ill of the dead? There are always exceptions to that rule. And King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, one might have thought, should be a glaringly obvious one.
We may never again have such an opportunity to observe the West's paramount value -- hypocrisy -- showcased in glitter, tinsel and neon quite so spectacularly. In the U.K. the government has ordered that all flags be lowered to half-mast. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sucks hard enough to implode. Here at home, our Prime Minister sings Abdullah's praises: "the monarch also undertook a range of important economic, social, education, health, and infrastructure initiatives in his country." Just another Economic Action Plan, with a few severed limbs and rolling heads. What's not to like?
Under this bloated tyrant, women have been arrested for the crime of driving. A blogger has been sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes for cautiously endorsing mildly liberal values. But these are, comparatively speaking, mere peccadilloes, a few national idiosyncrasies.
During Abdullah's kingship, assisted by countless parasitic family princelings and a tame and compliant judiciary, a reign of terror has prevailed. There have been mass arrests of dissidents since the Arab Spring. Atheists have been declared "terrorists," emptying that label further of any meaning. Amputations are routine. Surgical paralysis has been ordered in one egregious case. And there are enough beheadings to sate the most seasoned ISIS psychopath. In Saudi Arabia, you can be publicly decapitated for such "crimes" as sorcery, false prophecy and blasphemy. Between 2007-2010, there were 345 of them. And the numbers have surged in recent years.
Hypocrisy abounds on the Right side of the aisle, too -- now they're saying pretty much what this post is saying, but as a stick to beat Obama with. They would like us to forget this sort of thing:
Recall, also, that 15 of the 9/11 flyboys were Saudi, but somehow Bush got away with continued support for the Saudi regime, and the double-thinking Right commentators were silent.
Weigh the official rhetoric against the reality: this time, our Western leaders are making it childishly easy. Abdullah's death is one of the best teachable moments, in fact, that I can recall. This vile creature squatted on his people, one of the worst dictators we could ever conjure from a fevered dream. We’re all for freedom, of course, when it comes to state-defined "enemies." But when it's friends, anything goes: our governments judge by a completely different standard, if "standard" is the proper word, when access to oil or geopolitical strategic advantage is concerned. There is no act too heinous to be wished away, no viciousness that cannot be airily excused.
We'll get no phoney ambassadors of religion showing up to criticize the treatment of Saudi Arabia's Shia minority. Our government's oh-so-pious defence of human rights abroad will vanish into thin air. Saudi Arabia is an ally, its dearly departed leader a "moderate reformer." He supposedly offered women a public role (they were permitted to run in meaningless municipal elections), but they were still not allowed even to be behind the wheel of a car. He had 13 wives, but, we are assured, no more than four at once.
None of the West's fawning will be any surprise to students of Realpolitik, of course. But for the majority who dutifully swallow all the nonsense about "terrorism" that our governments spew by the barrel, and profess moral outrage when they are directed to do so, the current period of state-sanctioned mourning for a monstrous criminal who ran a mediaeval torture-state for a decade might be a welcome wake-up call. There is surely a limit to what such excruciating political cognitive dissonance can bear. Isn't there?