On Blood Money

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Our ally at work, Reuters photo. Front photo by AP/Evan Vucci.

In another tragi-comic round of gross hypocrisy - dubbed "Alice in Wonderland policy-making" by one critic - the U.S. State Department says it "welcomes" the new appointment of Faisal bin Hassan Trad, our "close ally" Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN, to lead the U.N.'s so-called Human Rights Council panel. The group, whose five members are often described as the U.N.'s "crown jewels," are tasked with overseeing global human rights abuses much like the ones Saudi Arabia regularly, famously, horrifically commits.

They include this year's record hundred-plus beheadings; the jailing and flogging of Raif Badawi and many others for unacceptable political convictions; the killing of thousands of Yemeni civilians, including many children; the repression of women, religious minorities and political opponents; and the execution of minors such as Ali al-Nimr, nephew of a well-known Shiite cleric who was arrested at 17 for calling for  social and political reforms, convicted after a bogus trial, and at 21 now faces not just beheading but crucifixion - a verdict that Saudi Arabia, in all its humanity, has refused to reconsider.

The appointment comes even as human rights groups document what Amnesty International calls a “macabre spike” in Saudi use of capital punishment, including beheadings. They've been so busy killing people this year for grotesquely inadequate reasons the country's civil service jobs website recently posted advertisements for eight new executioners; the ad cites no specific qualifications for the task of “executing a judgement of death,” or, in the case of less serious crimes, performing amputations. It describes the executioners as  “religious functionaries.”

This then, is our "close ally." America's complicity in Saudi crimes, most notably today in Yemen, is a time-honored tradition. Notes one anonymous senior U.S. official: “The U.S. loves human-rights-abusing regimes and always has, provided they ‘cooperate’... The only time the U.S. government pretends to care in the slightest about human rights abuses is when they’re carried out by ‘countries that don’t cooperate.'” That willingness to turn a blind eye when it suits our purposes was played out last week in a press conference where State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner was asked about the Saudi-U.S connection and specifically the Ali al-Nimr case. His non-response was classic see-no-evil-hear-no-evil politico-speak: "We have a strong dialogue, obviously a partnership with Saudi Arabia that spans, obviously, many issues. We talk about human rights concerns with them....We make our concerns clear when we do have concerns, but that dialogue continues." Blah blah. Just follow the money.  “It is scandalous,” says U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. “Petro-dollars and politics have trumped human rights.” Again.

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