Beheading is a tactic utilized by “depraved opponents of civilization itself,” to borrow former Secretary of State George Shultz’s famous phrase; unless, of course, the beheadings are carried out by an ally of the West. Then, quite a different picture emerges.
Saudi Arabia is set to behead yet another of its citizens, this time for the crime of apostasy.
Reportedly, the Saudi man in his twenties made a video cursing God and the Prophet Muhammad and later “ripped a copy of the Holy Qur’an and hit it with a shoe.”
Not only is this decision by the Saudi justice system not criticized in the mainstream media, it does not even appear to be worthy of the briefest mention.
Where are the self-righteous tirades of our brave politicians in defense of so-called American values? Where is the assurance that these actions will not be tolerated, and that aid to Saudi Arabia will cease if they continue on this path?
This, I think, highlights an important point about our so-called free press, which then makes clear the public’s attitude toward U.S. foreign policy: Much of the population watches in horror as ISIS carries out its increasingly heinous atrocities, and of course, the horror is justified.
Yet, amongst the fervor about barbarism and so on, there is shockingly little coverage in the mainstream press of the fact that the U.S., the benevolent, democracy-promoting region that never harmed anyone, is providing aid and support to a state which is carrying out public beheadings seemingly on a weekly basis.
Orwell had something to say about this phenomenon:
The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.
Author Michael Arria quipped on Twitter that,
Beheadings are a new form of evil, unless they’re state-sanctioned and carried out by an ally.
This appears to be the prevailing stance in the mainstream media today: Endlessly rant about the brutal crimes of official enemies, but when it comes to our own crimes and the crimes of our allies, turn the other way.
The point is not to compare atrocities committed by this group or that group, this government or that government; the point is that we should be making an effort to cover atrocities in a consistent manner, and to judge them in a way that actually matches reality, rather than highlighting some while essentially ignoring others.
(Although, it seems necessary to point out that Saudi Arabia’s “justice” system is not exactly above utilizing the tactics that have made ISIS famous over the past several months)
Lizzie Dearden of The Independent reports, “Although the government [of Saudi Arabia] has made limited reforms to its judicial system, it has defended it as fair and shows no sign of reducing the number of executions.”
Hey, so maybe they’re making some changes, perhaps moving in the right direction. Let’s see what it is that they consider “fair”:
In 2014 the number of [executions] rose to 87, from 78 in 2013, and seven people were killed in the first two weeks of this year alone.
Of course, there is nothing new about the West suspending its desire to uphold human rights when referring to its ally Saudi Arabia.
Adam Coogle of Human Rights watch commented:
The US and European governments have always been reluctant to take publicly critical positions on Saudi Arabia. This is a matter of a whole bunch of economic and regional security and stability issues, but human rights typically ends up a low priority in these circumstances.
Nowhere was this double-standard more apparent than the praise garnered by the recently deceased King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
Perhaps it is encouraging that the independent media covered this topic so thoroughly, but this coverage didn’t seem to reach the consciousness of our fearless leaders, who offered their sincerest condolences to the former dictator.
President Obama lauded the king as “candid” and praised him for always having “the courage of his convictions,” John Kerry mourned who he called a “revered leader” and “a man of wisdom and vision,” and George Bush was saddened by the loss of a “dear friend and partner.”
Man, oil sure does affect one’s moral compass.
Murtaza Hussain writes, in The Intercept,
It’s not often that the unelected leader of a country which publicly flogs dissidents and beheads people for sorcery wins such glowing praise from American officials.
Julian Borger adds his thoughts:
The reverential reaction from western leaders to the news of King Abdullah’s death and the expected procession of top dignitaries to pay condolences in Riyadh serve as a reminder that Saudi Arabia, with its abundant wealth and geopolitical influence, is a perpetual exception to the west’s emphasis on human rights.
The outpouring of praise for the king focused on his status as a relative liberal within the Saudi context, especially on women’s issues. But the recent public flogging of a liberal blogger and the video of the beheading of a woman with a sword have offered snapshots of one of the harsher human rights regimes in the world.
The new king doesn’t appear to have any desire to make substantive changes, and predictably, he is facing little to no pressure from the United States.
“Regardless of how venal, reckless, or brutal his government may choose to be,” continues Murtaza Hussain, “as long as it protects American interests in the Middle East it will inevitably be showered with plaudits and support, just as its predecessor was.”
If carried out by anyone other than an official ally, this form of government would be decried as what it is: Brutal and reprehensible.
As long as the U.S. continues to offer its unconditional support for dictatorships like that of Saudi Arabia, its self-congratulatory proclamations about standing up and fighting for human rights worldwide will continue to be laughed off as the most shameless hypocrisy.