Anyone who wants to know what kind of world we are living in should note of the extraordinary diplomatic grovelling that has accompanied the passing of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia this morning. Over here Lord Snooty declared himself ‘deeply saddened to hear of the death of the custodian of the two holy mosques’.
His Lordship was all but pulling his hair out with grief as he went on to list the Saudi monarch’s virtues:
‘He will be remembered for his long years of service to the kingdom, for his commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths. My thoughts and prayers are with the Saudi royal family and the people of the kingdom at this sad time. I sincerely hope that the long and deep ties between our two kingdoms will continue and that we can continue to work together to strengthen peace and prosperity in the world.’
Yeah sure. That’s what we’ve been doing. That’s what al-Yamamah was all about. On the other side of the pond the High Priest of Hope also had a lump in his throat as he praised Abdullah for taking ‘ bold steps in advancing the Arab Peace Initiative, an endeavor that will outlive him as an enduring contribution to the search for peace in the region.’
Obama was also clearly having to restrain himself from hurling himself weeping onto Abdullah’s coffin:
‘As our countries worked together to confront many challenges, I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship. As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions. One of those convictions was his steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond. The closeness and strength of the partnership between our two countries is part of King Abdullah’s legacy.’
And George W. Bush was also teary-eyed, praising Abdullah as ‘a wise and reliable ally, helping our nations build a strategic relationship and enduring friendship.’
Lovely. Elsewhere Indian PM Narenda Mohdi tweeted about the loss of ‘an important voice who left a lasting impact on his country.’ And good old U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also hailed Abdullah’s peace initiative as ‘a tangible legacy that can still point the way towards peace in the Middle East.’
All this goes a long way beyond not speaking ill of the dead. Anyone reading this epic drivel would be forgiven for thinking that King Abdullah was Albert Schweitzer, Mahatma Gandhi , Vaclav Havel and the Dalai Lama all rolled into one, rather than the ruler of a reactionary monarchy that has sentenced a blogger to 1000 lashes and 10 years in jail.
Tyrannical at home, the Saudi royal family has promoted and upheld tyranny abroad, whether throwing money at the Sisi dictatorship in Egypt or sending troops to crush pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain. As for ‘peace and prosperity’, well the House of Saud, like its Western friends, has always been more concerned with the latter. This was the regime that once asked the US to attack Iran in order to ‘cut off the head of the snake’; that colluded diplomatically in Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon; that has funded some of most extremist jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria.
And ‘strengthening understanding between faiths’ you say?’ Lord Snooty’s willingness to please has clearly detached itself entirely from reality at this point, given the bleak, harsh and utterly intolerant version of Islam that the Saudi royal family has used to maintain itself in power and promote its interests abroad.
As for the Arab Peace Initiative – has anybody noticed that both Israel and its Western allies have ignored it completely? That’s why they praise it, and that’s why they praise its architect. None of this matters, as long as Saudi Arabia floats in a lake of oil and continues to buy our weapons, accept our bribes, and invests in our economies.
These connections – and only these connections – explain the river of crocodile tears flowing out of Downing Street and the White House today. It’s not just hypocrisy and double standards, though it is both those things.
But ultimately the praise being heaped on the tyrant is geostrategic praise for a ruler who might have been a tyrant, but he was our tyrant – most of the time, and those who now grovel before his memory clearly hope that this relationship will be continued by his successors.
And as a succession of unctuous sycophants line up to praise King Abdullah’s corpse, I can’t help thinking of Abba’s observation ‘ money, money, money/ must be funny/in the rich man’s world.’
Wise words, and positively profound in comparison with the fake praise oozing from Western capitals for their favourite tyrant.