Saturday, January 24, 2015

What Has Happened to America’s Moral Compass?

I have just read that President Obama, who arrived in India today on a planned visit, will shorten his trip in order to travel to Saudi Arabia next week to pay his respects to the newly appointed Saudi King Salman.  Vice President Biden was to join other world leaders in Riyadh today to honor Salman’s predecessor, who was buried yesterday, but once again American exceptionalism raises its ugly head and Obama will make a special appearance at the Saudi court.

Just recently the President was too busy to join other world leaders as they stood by France, our oldest ally, and marched through Paris in solidarity against terrorists who had murdered several writers and artists and other innocents.  Yet Obama does have time to visit the repressive Saudi kingdom which continues to persecute its own women, minorities, and the LGBT community.  I think the Vice President’s presence in Riyadh today would have been more than enough to honor protocol.  Why does Saudi Arabia, and not France, deserve an additional visit by the President?  Look to the Saudi oil fields for your answer.

Saudi Arabia is no true ally of the United States.  May I remind you that Osama bin Laden and most of the terrorists responsible for the September 11 atrocities were Saudis?  America supposedly cherishes personal freedoms, including the freedom of speech, and still we honor and support a country that ignores these as a matter of course.  At the moment the Saudi government is in the process of administering 1000 lashes of a cane to Raif Badawi, a young Saudi blogger, for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s powerful clerics.  His sentence also includes a fine and ten years in prison.  The blog has been shut down by the Saudi government and Badawi’s attorney has been jailed for fifteen years for “undermining regime officials,” for ‘’inciting public opinion,” and for “insulting the judiciary.”  Badawi’s wife and three young children are living in exile in Canada.  We have no time to stand by a traditional ally like France yet our president makes a special effort to stand by the Saudis?

Amnesty International has adopted Badawi as a prisoner of conscience and calls his cruel punishment “macabre and outrageous.”  Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a member of the Jordanian royal family, has pointed out that “[s]uch punishment is prohibited under international human rights law, in particular the convention against torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified” and he has appealed to the now deceased Saudi king to exercise his power to halt the public flogging.  So far the new King Salman has pledged continuity after his accession to the throne.  Our neighbors in Canada have described the flogging as “a violation of human dignity and freedom of expression”.  And still our President feels honor bound to pledge the United States’ continued support of Saudi Arabia and its repressive ruling family.

President-elect Obama:
When the United States stands up for human rights, by example at home and by effort abroad, we align ourselves with men and women around the world who struggle for the   right to speak their minds, to choose their leaders, and to be treated with dignity and respect. We also strengthen our security and well being, because the abuse of human rights can feed many of the global dangers that we confront -- from armed conflict and humanitarian crises, to corruption and the spread of ideologies that promote hatred and violence.

So why does he feel compelled to visit Saudi Arabia?  How soon we forget.  One again I feel like I am standing on the edge of America, scratching my head and wondering what has happened to America’s moral compass.  

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