© Gerald Herbert/AP
After nearly 20 years as de facto
ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah ibn-Abdulaziz al-Saud died last night at the age of 90. Abdullah, who took power after his predecessor King Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995, ruled as absolute monarch of a country which protected American interests but also sowed strife and extremism throughout the Middle East and the world.
In a statement
last night Senator John McCain eulogized Abdullah as "a vocal advocate for peace, speaking out against violence in the Middle East". John Kerry described the late monarch
as "a brave partner in fighting violent extremism" and "a proponent of peace". Not to be outdone, Vice President Joe Biden released a statement
mourning Abdullah and announced
that he would be personally leading a presidential delegation to offer condolences on his passing.
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.
Even more perplexing, perhaps, have been the fawning obituaries
in the mainstream press which have faithfully echoed this characterization of Abdullah as a benign and well-intentioned man of peace.
Tiptoeing around his brutal dictatorship, The Washington Post
characterized Abdullah as a "wily king" while The New York Times
inexplicably referred to him
as "a force of moderation", while also suggesting that evidence of his moderation included having had: "hundreds of militants arrested and some beheaded
" (emphasis added).
While granting that Abdullah might be considered a relative moderate within the brazenly anachronistic House of Saud, the fact remains that he presided for two decades over a regime which engaged in wanton human rights abuses,
instrumentalized religious chauvinism, and played a hugely counterrevolutionary role in regional politics.