"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."
- Charles Darwin

Aug 7, 2007

Family of Faith

As Saudi Abuses Continue So Does U.S. Support

Bush hosts Saudi King Abdullah at his ranch in 2005

A recent report from Human Rights Watch criticized the Saudi Religious Police for fatally beating a man in Riyadh. His alleged crime: possessing alcohol.

On May 23, 2007, more than a dozen religious police stormed the Riyadh home of the al-Huraisi family, apparently without a warrant, in search of alcohol, which is banned in the kingdom. Two family members who were present at the time told Human Rights Watch how four religious police then proceeded to punch and kick Salman, the prime suspect, leaving him barely conscious. After taking Salman and 11 other family members to the religious police offices, the religious police beat him again. When he started coughing blood, an ambulance arrived and took Salman away. The autopsy confirmed that Salman died shortly thereafter from the beatings.

Saudi Arabia is the Bush administration's closest ally in the Middle East. Because King Abdullah and the Saudi royal family control the world’s largest reserves of oil, the U.S. government has not acted to oppose the repressive and intolerant actions of their regime. In Saudi Arabia, it still is possible to be executed for witchcraft, flogged for being alone with an unrelated person of the opposite sex and it is illegal for a Saudi citizen to practice a religion other than Islam (one assumes not being religious at all is equally reviled).

And yet, despite Saudi Arabia’s documented human rights violations the Bush administration continues to reward them. It was recently announced that our government plans to offer “the good Taliban” $20 billion in military aid. This was after a senior U.S. military officer reported that half of all foreign fighters in Iraq were from Saudi Arabia. And, according to Rep. Ben Gilman (R-NY) while chairman of the House International Relations Committee:

“Saudi money - official or not - is behind much of the Islamic-extremist rhetoric and action in the world today.”

How this relationship continues is a mixture of realpolitik and family values. The Bush family has maintained close personal ties with the Saudi government for decades and is unlikely to end their connection any time soon. This relationship has had profound business gains for the Bush family (to the tune of $1.4 billion) and has played a key role in foreign policy decisions. As Kevin Phillips wrote in his book American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush:

“Also shaping Middle Eastern relations was the fact that the [Bush] family had cemented unique business and personal ties to the royal families of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the emirates. After he left the White House in 1993, George H. W. Bush made a number of visits. His relationships with the Saudis, in particular, remained so close that the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar, and his wife considered the Bushes ‘almost family.’”

While the Saudi government maintains a faith-based authority that has the most fervent American evangelicals hugging their Bible in envy, it would seem that both the Bush and Saudi royal families have a shared faith of their own. As one hand washes the back of the other they maintain their hold on power despite illegal activities, popular disapproval and a disastrous foreign policy.

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