Unelected Saudi king dies, elected Venezuelan president died, US, UK politicians react

King Abdullah, cartoon

By Glenn Greenwald, 23 January 2015:

Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela four times from 1998 through 2012 and was admired and supported by a large majority of that country’s citizens, largely due to his policies that helped the poor. King Abdullah was the dictator and tyrant who ran one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.

The effusive praise being heaped on the brutal Saudi despot by western media and political figures has been nothing short of nauseating; the UK Government, which arouses itself on a daily basis by issuing self-consciously eloquent lectures to the world about democracy, actually ordered flags flown all day at half-mast to honor this repulsive monarch. My Intercept colleague Murtaza Hussain has an excellent article about this whole spectacle, along with a real obituary, here.

From that Murtaza Hassain article:



After nearly 20 years as de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah ibn-Abdulaziz al-Saud died last night at the age of 90. Abdullah, who took power after his predecessor King Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995, ruled as absolute monarch of a country which protected American interests but also sowed strife and extremism throughout the Middle East and the world.

In a statement last night Senator John McCain eulogized Abdullah as “a vocal advocate for peace, speaking out against violence in the Middle East”. John Kerry described the late monarch as “a brave partner in fighting violent extremism” and “a proponent of peace”. Not to be outdone, Vice President Joe Biden released a statement mourning Abdullah and announced that he would be personally leading a presidential delegation to offer condolences on his passing.

It’s not often that the unelected leader of a country which publicly flogs dissidents and beheads people for sorcery wins such glowing praise from American officials. Even more perplexing, perhaps, have been the fawning obituaries in the mainstream press which have faithfully echoed this characterization of Abdullah as a benign and well-intentioned man of peace.

Tiptoeing around his brutal dictatorship, The Washington Post characterized Abdullah as a “wily king” while The New York Times inexplicably referred to him as “a force of moderation”, while also suggesting that evidence of his moderation included having had: “hundreds of militants arrested and some beheaded”. (emphasis added)

While granting that Abdullah might be considered a relative moderate within the brazenly anachronistic House of Saud, the fact remains that he presided for two decades over a regime which engaged in wanton human rights abuses, instrumentalized religious chauvinism, and played a hugely counterrevolutionary role in regional politics.

Above all, he was not a leader who shied away from both calling for and engineering more conflict in the Middle East.

In contrast to Senator McCain’s description of Abdullah as “a vocal advocate of peace”, a State Department diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks revealed him in fact directly advocating for the United States to start more wars in the region.

In a quote recorded in a 2008 diplomatic cable, Abdullah exhorted American officials to “cut the head off the snake” by launching fresh military action against Iran. Notably, this war advocacy came in the midst of the still-ongoing bloodshed of the Iraq War, which had apparently left him unfazed about the prospect of a further escalation in regional warfare.

Abdullah’s government also waged hugely destructive proxy conflicts wherever direct American intervention on its behalf was not forthcoming. Indeed, in the case of almost every Arab Spring uprising, Saudi Arabia attempted to intervene forcefully in order to either shore up existing regimes or shape revolutions to conform with their own interests.

In Bahrain, Saudi forces intervened to crush a popular uprising which had threatened the rule of the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy, while in Syria Saudi-backed factions have helped turn what was once a popular democratic uprising into a bloody, intractable proxy war between regional rivals which is now a main driver of extremism in the Middle East.

Saudi efforts at counterrevolution and co-optation under Abdullah took more obliquely brutal forms as well.

In the midst of the 2011 revolution in Egypt, when seemingly the entire world was rallying in support of the protestors in Tahrir Square, King Abdullah stood resolutely and unapologetically on the side of Hosni Mubarak’s regime. When it seemed like Mubarak was wavering in the face of massive popular protests, the king offered to step in with economic aid for his government and demanded that President Obama ensure he not be “cast aside”.

A few years later when the pendulum swung back towards dictatorship after General Abdelfattah al Sisi’s bloody 2013 coup, Abdullah and his fellow monarchs were there to lavish much needed financial assistance upon the new regime. This support came with the endorsement of Sisi’s unrelentingly brutal crackdown on Egypt’s former revolutionaries.

With increasingly disastrous consequences, Abdullah’s government also employed sectarianism as a force to help divide-and-conquer regional populations and insulate his own government from the threat of uprising. It also cynically utilized its official religious authorities to try and equate political dissent with sinfulness.

This ostentatiously reckless behavior nevertheless seemed to win Abdullah’s regime the tacit approval of the American government, which steadfastly continued to treat him as a partner in fighting terrorism and maintaining regional stability.

Despite recent tensions over American policy towards Iran and Syria, Saudi under King Abdullah played a vital role in U.S. counterterrorism operations. The country quietly hosts a CIA drone base used for conducting strikes into Yemen, including the strike believed to have killed American-born preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. More controversially, Abdullah’s government is also believed to have provided extensive logistical support for American military operations during the invasion of Iraq; an uncomfortable fact which the kingdom has understandably tried to keep quiet with its own population.

Perhaps most importantly however, King Abdullah upheld the economic cornerstones of America’s long and fateful alliance with Saudi Arabia: arms purchases and the maintenance of a reliable flow of oil from the country to global markets. The one Saudi king who in past failed to hold up part of this agreement met with an untimely end, and was seemingly on less positive terms with American government officials.

Given the foundations upon which American-Saudi ties rest, it’s unlikely that the relationship will be drastically altered by the passing of King Abdullah and the succession of his brother Prince Salman. Regardless of how venal, reckless, or brutal his government may choose to be, as long as it protects American interests in the Middle East it will inevitably be showered with plaudits and support, just as its predecessor was.

The Glenn Greenwald article continues, on Venezuela vs. Saudi Arabia:

One obvious difference between the two leaders was that Chávez was elected and Abdullah was not. Another is that Chávez used the nation’s oil resources to attempt to improve the lives of the nation’s most improverished while Abdullah used his to further enrich Saudi oligarchs and western elites. Another is that the severity of Abdullah’s human rights abuses and militarism makes Chávez look in comparison like Gandhi.

But when it comes to western political and media discourse, the only difference that matters is that Chávez was a U.S. adversary while Abdullah was a loyal U.S. ally – which, by itself for purposes of the U.S. and British media, converts the former into an evil villainous monster and the latter into a beloved symbol of peace, reform and progress. As but one of countless examples: last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron – literally the best and most reliable friend to world dictators after Tony Blair – stood in Parliament after being questioned by British MP George Galloway and said: “there is one thing that is certain: wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of [Galloway]”; last night, the very same David Cameron pronounced himself “deeply saddened” and said the Saudi King would be remembered for his “commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths.”

That’s why there is nobody outside of American cable news, DC think tanks, and the self-loving Oxbridge clique in London which does anything but scoff with scorn and dark amusement when the US and UK prance around as defenders of freedom and democracy. Only in those circles of tribalism, jingoism and propaganda is such tripe taken at all seriously.

The death of Saudi Arabia’s 90-year-old King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, the head of one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies, has been met with profuse tributes and open mourning by Washington and its allies, along with the Western media: here.

Abdallah d’Arabie saoudite et Fidel Castro: traitements médiatiques antagonistes: here.

Prince Charles and David Cameron are flying to Saudi Arabia on Saturday to pay tribute to the late King Abdullah amid a growing row over the decision to mark his death by flying flags at half-mast on public buildings in London: here.

Saudi King Abdullah: Britain mourns a tyrant: here.

Dutch king goes to Saudi Arabia, MPs critical: here.

King Abdullah’s friends in the West stayed loyal, but revolution is on the horizon in Saudi Arabia. How long can our Western leaders go on stroking and purring and fawning over – and arming – these Croesus-like autocrats? Here.

30 thoughts on “Unelected Saudi king dies, elected Venezuelan president died, US, UK politicians react

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  13. Witness Venezuela’s Elections This December-6, 2015‏

    Thu Oct 8, 2015 12:39 am (PDT) . Posted by:
    “Williams Camacaro” bosanovanuevoyazul

    This December, witness one of the most important elections in the history of Venezuela, and of the hemisphere. On December 6, the people of Venezuela will exercise their right to vote in elections for deputies to the country’s National Assembly. Voters will decide whether to carry forward the Bolivarian Revolution by retaining a Chavista majority in the National Assembly or return the political intitative to the traditional elites represented by most of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD).

    The stakes are high. Venezuela has been in the forefront of regional integration and independence from U.S. hegemony and push back against the neoliberal agenda over the past sixteen years and it has supported the building of a multipolar world. It has also been a leading force, since Chavez was elected president in December 1998, against the further propogation of those free trade agreements that would compromise the public nature of human services and diminish the sovereignty of participating nations in favor of transnational corporate interests.

    Despite the current fall in petroleum prices, Venezuela has resisted austerity, declined to roll back progressive labor laws and the land reform, and increased social spending targeted to the most vulnerable sectors. For all of these reasons, this will be one of the most closely watched elections in the world. Come witness it from the inside and lend your solidarity to the people of Venezuela as they shape their own future, in the face of episodic attempts at extra constitutional regime change, escalating aggression from the US, which has proclaimed Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat” by executive order, as well as an “economic war” against the people waged by the country’s elite.

    Participants in this delegation will learn about Venezuela’s electoral process and witness participatory democracy in action through meetings with community councils and other grassroots groups in Caracas and the neighboring states of Aragua and Miranda. The group will get a first-hand glimpse of the various areas of social transformation taking place in Venezuela, despite the economic challenges, including in education, healthcare, food sovereignty, and alternative media. The delegation will also include trips to touristic sites of interest.

    Come see the real “threat” posed by Venezuela – as living proof that another world indeed is possible. As the Venezuelan people assert, “Venezuela is not a threat – we are hope!”

    For more information :http://wp.me/puMTZ-w8

    Some important articles:
    Venezuela Takes Control of Its Border as Bogotá and Caracas Bring Their Cases to UNASUR


    Venezuela Recognized by FAO for Halving Malnutrition

    Revolution, Counter Revolution, and the Economic War in Venezuela: Part I

    Revolution, Counter Revolution, and the Economic War in Venezuela: Part II




    When: December 2 to 12, 2015

    Tentative Itinerary: Start and end in Caracas; visits to the states of Miranda and Aragua.

    Cost for Activities: $900. This will cover all lodging, all ground transportation, 2 meals per day, qualified trip leaders, and Spanish-English interpretation. Additional expenses during the trip will be minimal. Airfare not included.

    To Learn more and hold a spot, email cbalbertolovera (at) gmail.com. Please be in touch as soon as possible, as space for this delegation is very limited. Please allow several days for responses.

    Sponsored by the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of NY.
    For more information see:

    Check out these articles from past delegations:

    Reflections on Venezuela: Food, Health, Democracy, and a Hope for a Better World

    The Venezuelan Effort to Build a New Food and Agriculture System


    Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle NY


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  24. Monday 28th November 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Britain

    by Steve Sweeney at Congress House

    US INTERVENTION is destabilising Venezuela and other progressive governments in the region, delegates at the Latin America Adelante conference heard at the weekend.

    Venezuelan ambassador Rocio Maneiro told the gathering on Saturday that her country is under fire more than any other socialist government on the continent.

    She said Venezuela had seen no sign of US President Barack Obama’s so-called friendly relations with Latin America.

    “President Obama signed the executive order saying that Venezuela presents a clear and present danger to the US,” said Ms Maneiro.

    Although stressing that Venezuela remains hopeful and will continue its fight against US intervention she urged British trade unions and “all those who fight for a better world” to lend their support.

    Nicaraguan ambassador Guisell Morales-Echeverry told delegates that the US had used metal prices to destabilise the economy as they had in Chile prior to the coup against socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973.

    She said that the US had tried to undermine the Sandinista government in Nicaragua following the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 by saying it consisted of “communists and socialists” representing a “threat to democracy.”

    But under the Sandinistas, Nicaragua wanted peace, she told delegates. But “it was clear that the US was not going to let us.”

    Ms Morales-Echeverry pointed out how former US president Ronald Reagan had declared at the start of the war in 1984: “I am a Contra” — referring to the US-backed far-right terrorist group which opposed the socialist government.

    “Thousands, including those who came in solidarity to build in Nicaragua, were killed,” she said.

    “In Nicaragua the US is trying to build an economic blockade. It’s been approved by Congress. It will happen.

    “Nicaragua stands in the frontline in solidarity with Venezuela.”



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