Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Sat, Mar 24th, 2018

Washington, Jefferson, Trump, Bin Salman

The Saudi Crown Prince and de facto owner-in-chief of the kingdom’s vast oil wealth and investments visited President Trump at the White House on Tuesday, but he was not alone. Looking down from portraits on the wall of the Oval Office were America’s iconic founders, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. I can only imagine what both of these revolutionaries would say to the visiting Saudi. Would Jefferson remind the prince that “all men are created equal” and have a God-given right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? Would Bin Salman retort that there is no mention of women as equal?

President Trump and Crown Prince Bin Salman in the White House

After listing the abuses of King George, America’s Declaration of Independence declares “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” Of course, the Saudi people and the many foreigners who serve them are not a free people by any stretch of the imagination. Bin Salman, like his predecessors will soon be a “king,” a profession that has bred many tyrants over the years. Like King George’s Britain over two centuries ago, the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia are readily apparent. There is no freedom of expression, nor is criticism of the ruler allowed. As recently as last November, a law was passed that “Critics of King Salman or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will face between five and ten years in jail.” And if you are convicted of witchcraft or atheism, your head will be chopped off.

The visiting tyrant was received by Trump as a “very great friend,” the kind of friend that will buy billions of dollars worth of military hardware. The Saudis and the Emiratis have been buying weapons and relying on American military assistance for the past three years in waging a brutal war in Yemen that has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. “The situation in Yemen – today, right now, to the population of the country – looks like the apocalypse,” declared Mark Lowcock, the head of the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in early January. OCHA estimates that 17.8 million Yemenis out of a total population around 28 million are food insecure, more than 3 million are displaced. According to WHO, the number of cholera cases from April 27, 2017 to February 4, 2018 was 1,055,788 suspected cases and 2,255 confirmed deaths. And, for God’s sake, the number of deaths far exceeds 10,000, a figure first floated by the UN a year ago.

If George Washington were to speak, I strongly suspect he would praise the bipartisan effort of Senators Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee and Chris Murphy to stop military aid and assistance to the Saudis and he would condemn the spineless senate rejection of this effort. The alibi by the Pentagon that they do not know if the U.S. aerial refueling of Saudi planes is for bombing or reconnaissance is absurd, especially when they claim that the Saudis have become better at preventing civilian casualties. Meanwhile the Saudi propaganda machine is out in full force, presenting Bin Salman as a reformer because he has decided that women can drive and attend soccer matches and painting Iran as Satanic.

Bin Salman and Trump are natural allies. Both are losers who are so in love with themselves they do not realize how pathetic their actions are. “A disastrous war in Yemen, the attempted isolation of Qatar, and ratcheting up hostility with Iran are strategic policy failures on the prince’s resume,” writes Ebrahim Moosa. Trump likewise has little to brag about, apart from the continuing success of policies in place before he took office. He failed to overturn the Affordable Care Act, his tax bill is a gift to the rich, his promise of clean coal is a dirty deal, and he has only drained the swamp to fill it with the most unqualified and poisonous critters in memory. Bin Salman comes from a country where infidelity carries a death penalty; Trump revels in his dalliances and is facing multiple lawsuits about sexual harassment. Both exchange mulligans rather than showing any moral courage.

But let Thomas Jefferson have the last word: “The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.” 

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, a Senior Postdoctoral Scholar at the Institute for Social Anthropology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.