I wasn’t surprised to learn that Ben Carson was justifying the recent political execution of Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others in Saudi Arabia. According to him, this is all about our nuclear deal with Iran, which in his twisted brain makes it more likely that Saudi Arabia will get a nuclear weapon. This is what we expect from the tribalistic Republican Party. Saudi Arabia is an official ally, so of course whatever they do is great. Iran is an official enemy, so whatever they do is horrible. Carly Fiorina justified dismissing Iranian outrage because, “This is a regime that tortures citizens routinely, that thinks nothing of executions, that still holds four Americans in jail.” Yeah, those four Americans in jail really does make the Saudi Arabian executions just fine.
As Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani documented in The Intercept, After Executing Regime Critic, Saudi Arabia Fires Up American PR Machine. The only thing more predictable than the US government supporting anything done by official allies is that the “free” US press will push the official government line. Imagine how this story would have been covered if the countries had been reversed. There would not only be blanket outrage, there would be calls for war. Instead, we get Ben Carson saying that Saudi Arabia had to execute all these people because of our nuclear deal with Iran.
The main issue at hand is Nimr al-Nimr. He was a political activist in Saudi Arabia. He was a Shia Sheikh in a Sunni autocracy. He was put to death for “foreign meddling” and for “disobeying” the Saudi government. His actual crime was supporting mass political protests against the Saudi regime back in 2011. The court didn’t have to put him to death, but I’m sure that there was extreme political pressure on it to do so. Everywhere you go you hear people like Fahad Nazer say things like, “The primary message appears to be aimed at Saudi Arabia’s own militants, regardless of their sect…” Nazer used to be a political analyst for Washington Saudi Embassy — a fact not mentioned when he was quoted.
Of course the whole thing just shows what a farce the whole idea of terrorism is. Fang and Jilani quoted Sarah Lea Whitson of Human Rights Watch, “Saudi Arabia’s terrorism law includes as acts of terrorism merely criticizing the government, merely criticizing the monarchy.” That’s really what the definition of terrorism is: doing anything that the government doesn’t like. I still stand by the honest definition of terrorism as acts designed to terrorize a population, but this definition used in Saudi Arabia is generally the one used by American media.
The US government has not condemned what Saudi Arabia has done, but only “expressed… concerns. At the same time, everywhere in the US it is ISIS all the time. We must close down the internet because of ISIS. We can’t allow refugees in the country because of ISIS. Screw the Constitution, we’re afraid of ISIS! Yet it has largely been Saudi money that built up ISIS. And Iran has been fighting ISIS since the beginning. But Saudi Arabia is our “friend.” And Iran is our enemy — as far as I can tell because we are still angry about the embassy attack in 1979.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia continues to be a backward country. But they’ve got oil, so we just love them. If they got nuclear weapons, we wouldn’t blink an eye; our only concern would be that it would cause Iran to get nuclear weapons. Pretty much Saudi Arabia can do anything it wants because we’ve defined it as a Good Guy™. It is a horrible country. It commonly commits crimes against humanity. Still, we give them billions of dollars in aid and justify their crimes like the execution of Nimr al-Nimr.