The Campaign for Peace and Democracy & Robert Fisk / CounterPunch – 2016-01-17 15:59:31
The Saudi Rules
Robert Fisk / CounterPunch
(January 13, 16) — Only six of our British military chaps, it seems, are helping the Sunni Saudis kill Shia Yemenis. And they’re not actually in Yemen, merely helping to choose the targets — which have so far included hospitals, markets, a wedding party and a site opposite the Iranian embassy.
Not that our boys and girls selected those particular “terrorist” nests for destruction, you understand. They’re just helping their Saudi mates — in the words of our Ministry of Defence — “comply to the rules of war”.
Saudi “rules”, of course, are not necessarily the same as “our” rules — although our drone-executions of UK citizens leave a lot of elbow-room for our British warriors in Riyadh. But I couldn’t help chuckling when I read the condemnation of David Mephan, the Human Rights Watch director.
Yes, he told us that the Saudis “are committing multiple violations of the laws of war in Yemen”, and that the British “are working hand in glove with the Saudis, helping them, enhancing their capacity to prosecute this war that has led to the death of so many civilians”. Spot on. But then he added that he thought all this “deeply regrettable and unacceptable”.
“Regrettable” and “unacceptable” represent the double standards we employ when our wealthy Saudi friends put their hands to bloody work. To find something “regrettable” means it causes us sadness. It disappoints us. The implication is that the good old Saudis have let us down, fallen from their previously high moral principles.
No wonder the Minister of Defense has popped across to Riyadh to un-crease the maps and explain those incomprehensible co-ordinates for the Saudi leaders of the “coalition against terror”. Sorting this logistics mess out for the Saudis does, I suppose, make it less “unacceptable” to have our personnel standing alongside the folk who kill women for adultery without even a fair trial and who chop off the heads of dozens of opponents, including a prominent Saudi Shia cleric.
Those very words — regrettable and unacceptable — are now the peak of the critical lexicon which we are permitted to use about the Saudis. Anything stronger would force us to ask why David Cameron lowered our flag when the last king of this weird autocracy died.
And exactly the same semantics were trotted out last week when the Tory MP and member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Daniel Kawczynski — who was also chairman of the all-party UK parliamentary group on Saudi Arabia — was questioned on television about the 47 executions in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s misogynistic policies and its harsh anti-gay laws.
Faced with the unspeakable — indeed, the outrageous — acts of a regime which shares its Wahhabi Sunni traditions with Isis and the Taliban, Kawczynski replied that the executions were “very regrettable”, that targeting civilians would be “completely unacceptable” and the anti-gay laws “highly reprehensible”. “Reprehensible”, I suppose, is a bit stronger than regrettable.
It was instructive, also, to hear Kawczynski refer to executions as “certain domestic actions”, as if slicing heads off human beings was something to be kept within the family — which is true, in a sense, since the Saudi authorities allow their executioners to train their sons in the craft of head-slicing, just as we Brits used to allow our hangmen to bring their sons into the gallows trade.
This familial atmosphere was always advertised by its ambassadors and their friends. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, when he was Saudi Arabia’s man in Washington, spoke of his country’s religion as part of a “timeless culture” whose people lived according to Islam “and our other basic ways”.
A former British ambassador to Riyadh, Sir Alan Munro, once advised Westerners to “adapt” in Saudi Arabia and “to act with the grain of Saudi traditions and culture”. This “grain” can be found, of course, in Amnesty’s archives of men — and occasionally women — who are beheaded each year, often after torture and grotesquely unfair trials.
Another former ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles — or “Abu Henry” as he was affectionately called by his Saudi friends — used arguments back in 2006 that might have come from David Cameron today. “I’ve been hugely impressed by the way in which the Saudi Arabian authorities have tackled and contained what was a serious terrorist threat,” he said then. “They’ve shrunk the pool of support for terrorism.”
Which is exactly how our Prime Minister justified his support for Saudi Arabia’s place on the UN Human Rights Council last October. “It’s because we receive from them important intelligence and security information that keeps us safe,” he told Channel 4’s Jon Snow.
But wasn’t there, nine years ago, a small matter of the alleged bribery of Saudi officials by the British BAE Systems arms group? The Financial Times revealed how Robert Wardle, the UK director of the Serious Fraud Office, decided he might have to cancel his official investigation after being told “how the probe might cause Riyadh to cancel security and intelligence co-operation”. The advice to Wardle was that persisting with his official enquiry might “endanger lives in Britain”. Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara ordered the investigation closed.
The advice to Wardle, I should add, came from none other than Sherard Cowper-Coles, who later became UK ambassador to Afghanistan and, on retirement from the Foreign Office, worked for a short time as a business development director for BAE Systems. Our former man in Riyadh now has no connection with BAE — yet it would be interesting to know if the Saudis are using any of the company’s technology in the bombing of civilian targets in Yemen.
But relax — this would elicit no expressions of outrage, condemnation or disgust at Saudi Arabia — nor any of the revulsion we show when other local head-choppers take out their swords. Any such UK involvement would be unacceptable. Even regrettable. We would be sad. Disappointed. Say no more.
ACTION ALERT: “End All US Support for Government of Saudi Arabia”
Campaign for Peace and Democracy
(January 14, 2016) — We are writing you to invite you to sign the Campaign for Peace and Democracy statement entitled “End All US Support for the Government of Saudi Arabia.” A large number of signatures can make a real difference and will help let people in the United States, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world know that the US-Saudi alliance is shameful and unacceptable.
If you wish to add your name to the statement, see the emerging list of signers and their affiliations, and/or make a tax-deductible donation to publicize the statement, please go to our website. The text of the statement is below. We hope to collect a large number of signatures very quickly, and then publish the statement as widely as possible in this country and internationally with press announcements and ads in The Nation and other media. You do not have to donate in order to sign, but please do give if you can, and as generously as you can.
Individuals can sign as indicated above. If your organization would like to endorse the statement, please send us an email at email@example.com
END ALL US SUPPORT
FOR THE GOVERNMENT OF SAUDI ARABIA
Statement by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy
(January 14, 2016) — We call on the Obama administration to end the US alliance with Saudi Arabia and to stop providing the Saudi regime with military and diplomatic support.
The grisly beheading in January of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an opponent of both Sunni and Shiite sectarianism and an advocate of a non-violent strategy, is only the most recent example of the barbarity of the Saudi dictatorship; the government carried out at least 157 executions in 2015, many of them by grisly beheadings. (1)
Saudi Arabia’s outrageous oppression of women is well known and, as Amnesty International has documented, the regime systematically represses dissent with flogging and other forms of torture, equates criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism, and continues to discriminate against the country’s Shia minority. Washington has issued only pro-forma expressions of “concern” about these human rights violations, while in practice maintaining solid support for the Saudi regime.
The Saudi Kingdom has long played a reactionary role across the Middle East with such actions as supporting Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak to the bitter end and then supporting the repressive Sisi regime that came to power in a coup. When the Arab Spring spread to Bahrain, the Saudi government sent troops into that country to buttress the brutal repression of protesters.
In Yemen, the Saudis are engaging in indiscriminate bombings resulting in the death of thousands of innocent civilians. Notwithstanding Saudi Arabia’s reactionary domestic and regional policies, the Obama administration has approved new arms sales agreements with the regime, amounting to $50 billion, while American companies train thousands of Saudi military personnel.
And Washington supports Saudi Arabia’s deadly war in Yemen, supplying bombs (including deadly cluster bombs), refueling, and logistical assistance.
Washington justifies its alliance with the Saudis and other dictators in the name of defeating ISIS and preserving regional “stability.” But the effect of US policy is the opposite. Authoritarian regimes, both secular and sectarian, that have been consistently or intermittently supported by Washington — like those in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Iran under the Shah, and Iraq both before and after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein — have fueled the rise of Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other murderous theocratic movements.
The only way such groups can be decisively and sustainably defeated is by the victory of grassroots movements for democracy and social justice across the region — from Saudi Arabia and Egypt to Iran, Syria and beyond.
The United States and other Western powers bear responsibility for enabling the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda not only because of their support for repressive regimes, but also because of their disastrous military interventions.
In addition, the West has pressured countries throughout the Middle East to adopt harsh neoliberal policies that have cut social programs and reduced the already miserable living standards of ordinary people.
When most of the mass movements of the Arab Spring for democracy and basic economic rights were crushed, jihadism gained in appeal. Moreover, Israel’s denial of the basic rights of the Palestinian people — a policy that receives massive support from Washington — has produced legitimate anger across the region, anger that has often been hijacked by authoritarian fundamentalists in the absence of a progressive solution.
To be sure, the United States and the other Western countries are not solely responsible for the rise of groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Other regional powers like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran share responsibility, and Russia, by backing Assad’s brutal dictatorship, has made its own catastrophic contribution. However, a new democratic, peaceful and just US foreign policy could start to reverse the horrific downward spiral of politics in the Middle East.
An important element of such a policy would be for the United States to end all forms of support for the Saudi government. At the same time, we offer our solidarity and support to the brave Saudi women and men — many of them behind bars — who are working for democratic change, as we offer support to all movements in the Middle East that struggle for democracy and challenge inequality and repression. They are our hope.
Note:1. Although many of the 47 prisoners executed by Saudi Arabian authorities on Jan. 2, 2016 were beheaded, at this writing the Saudi government has given no information as to how al-Nimr was put to death or released his body to his family. The text of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy statement, which had originally stated that al-Nimr was beheaded, has been changed to reflect the lack of clarity on this issue.
Affiliations for identification only
Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York
Bashir Abu-Manneh, Barnard College
Janet Afary, Iranian author
Michael Albert, Z Communications
Kevin B. Anderson, University of California-Santa Barbara
Stanley Aronowitz, Board of Directors, Left Forum; Co-author of The Manifesto for a Left Turn
David Barsamian, Journalist
Rosalyn Baxandall, Prof. American Studies, SUNY Old Westbury
Eileen Boris, Hull Prof. of Feminist Studies, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
Sam Bottone, Retired, American Nurses Assn and California Nurses Assn representative
Laura Boylan, MD, Neurologist, NYU School of Medicine, Dept of Veterans Affairs
Richard J. Brown, MD, Physicians for a National Health Program, NY Metro
Leslie Cagan, Peace and justice organizer
Roane Carey, Managing Editor, The Nation
Donna Cartwright, Pride at Work
Noam Chomsky, M.I.T.
Joshua Cohen, Stanford University, Boston Review
Margaret W. Crane, Communications Consultant (The Write Formula, Inc.)
M. Phyllis Cunningham, Granny Peace Brigade NY
Gail Daneker, Peace and Justice activist, St. Paul, MN
Manuela Dobos, Brooklyn For Peace
Ariel Dorfman, Author
Martin Duberman, Distinguished Prof. of History, CUNY
Lisa Duggan, Professor, American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies, Dept. of Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU
Steve Early, Labor journalist; member, National Writers Union/UAW
Carolyn Eisenberg, Brooklyn For Peace
Daniel Ellsberg, Former Defense and State Departments official who revealed the Pentagon papers
Mark Engler, Author, Foreign Policy in Focus senior analyst
Jodie Evans, Co-founder CODEPINK
Gertrude Ezorsky, Author, Freedom in the Workplace?
Samuel Farber, Author
Thomas M. Fasy, MD, Brussels Tribunal
John Feffer, Co-Director, Foreign Policy in Focus
Barry Finger, Editorial Board, New Politics
Robert (Gabe) Gabrielsky,
Barbara Garson, Author, MacBird, All the Livelong Day
Jack Gerson, Oakland Education Association
Joseph Gerson, Director of Peace & Economic Security Program, American Friends Service Committee in New England
Suzanne Gordon, Author; member, National Writers Union/UAW
John D. Gorman, Tenants Attorney
Arun Gupta, The Indypendent
Ernest Haberkern, Center for Socialist History
Mina Hamilton, Writer
David Hartsough, Peaceworkers, San Francisco
Nader Hashemi , University of Denver
Howie Hawkins, Green Party, Teamsters
Judith Hempfling, President, Yellow Springs, Ohio Village Council
Bill Henning, Vice President, CWA Local 1180
Michael Hirsch, National Political Committee, Democratic Socialists of America
Adam Hochschild, Writer
Nancy Holmstrom, Board of Directors, Left Forum
Doug Ireland, Journalist
Marianne Jackson, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Mark C. Johnson, PhD, Executive Director, The Fellowship of Reconciliation
Richard Kim, Senior Editor, The Nation
Naomi Klein, Author
Dan La Botz, Teacher, writer, labor journalist
Nydia Leaf, Resistance Cinema
Roger Leisner, Founder/Owner of Radio Free Maine
Jesse Lemisch, Prof. Emeritus of History, John Jay College, CUNY
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, TIKKUN Magazine
Nelson Lichtenstein, Director, Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy, UC Santa Barbara
Amy Littlefield, Providence Students for a Democratic Society
Martha Livingston, Physicians for a National Health Program, NY Metro
Betty Reid Mandell, Co-editor, New Politics
Marvin Mandell, Co-editor, New Politics
Dave Marsh, Writer-broadcaster, Sirius Satellite Radio
Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action
Michael McCally, MD, PhD, Physicians for Social Responsibility
Scott McLemee, Intellectual affairs columnist, Inside Higher Ed
David McReynolds, Socialist Party Presidential candidate, 1980 and 2000
Erika Munk, Writer
Mary Nolan, Brooklyn For Peace, Prof. of History, NYU
Mary E. O’Brien, MD, Physicians for a National Health Program, NY Metro
Christopher Phelps, University of Nottingham, UK
Charlotte Phillips, MD, Chairperson, Brooklyn For Peace
Danny Postel, Writer; Chicago Committee in Solidarity with the People of Iran
Leonard Rodberg, Queens College, CUNY
Ruth Rosen, Historian and Journalist
Peter Rothberg, Associate Publisher, The Nation
Matthew Rothschild, Editor, The Progressive
John Sanbonmatsu, Animal liberationist
Jennifer Scarlott, Director, International Conservation Initiatives, Sanctuary Asia
Jay Schaffner, Moderator, Portside
Jason Schulman, Editorial Board, Democratic Left
Peter O. Schwartz
Stephen Shalom, William Paterson University
Alix Kates Shulman, Writer
Alice Slater, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, NY
Gar Smith, Co-founder, Environmentalists Against War
Stephen Soldz, Board Member, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
David Swanson, Co-Founder, After Downing Street
Chris Toensing, Executive Director, Middle East Research and Information Project
David Vine, American University
Judith Podore Ward
Lois Weiner, Prof. of Education, New Jersey City University
Steve Weissman, Journalist
Suzi Weissman, St. Mary’s College of California; Beneath the Surface KPFK radio
Naomi Weisstein, Prof.r of Psychology/Neuroscience Emerita, SUNY, Buffalo
Chris Wells, Humanist Movement
Cornel West, Princeton University
Reginald Wilson, Former Director, Office of Minorities in Higher Education, American Council on Education
Emira Woods, Co-Director, Foreign Policy in Focus
Kent Worcester, Marymount Manhattan College
Julia Wrigley, Board of Directors, Left Forum
In peace and solidarity,
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy
2808 Broadway, #12, NY, NY 10025.
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