At The Daily Beast, David Keyes of CyberDissidents.org notes that for all the criticism of the Bush administration for being too soft on the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Obama has been much worse, asking Congress to approve a $30 billion arms deal with the Saudis without asking the Saudis to improve the treatment of their people at all. Saudi women’s rights activist Wajiha Al-Huwaidar wrote an open letter to Obama in June saying in part:
When you meet with King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz next week, we kindly request that you bring to his majesty’s attention the issue of reforming the Saudi male guardianship system.
As I’m watching the Gulf of Mexico birds which are totally covered with black oil stain I can relate to their suffering as a Saudi woman. These birds can hardly move: they have no control over their lives, and they cannot fly freely to go to a place where they can feel safe. This describes Saudi women’s lives. I know that kind of pain. I have been living it most of my life.
Here is what Obama said to King Abdullah about women’s rights: ” ”
That’s right, he didn’t mention the topic. Keyes writes:
President Obama missed a golden opportunity to talk about women’s rights with King Abdullah in late June at the White House, said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. “It’s disappointing that President Obama didn’t raise women’s rights when he met with the Saudi king,” she said in an email from the Middle East.
Instead, Obama praised the dictator’s “wisdom and insights” and thanked him for his “good counsel.” Among the many issues discussed between the two leaders were combating extremism, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, the peace process, Palestinian statehood, the global economic recovery, people-to-people contacts, educational programs, and commercial ties. Left out was the single most important issue: human rights.
Abe Greenwald remembers all the conspiracy theories surrounding the Bush administration’s relations with the House of Saud (which at least included a push for reform that resulted in the country’s first municipal elections), and sarcastically wonders when we’ll see the same attacks from the left regarding Obama and the Saudis. But of course, this isn’t just about Saudi Arabia. Obama’s reluctance to stand up for American values — in Syria, Egypt, Iran, and around the world — is a natural consequence of his discomfort with American power.