What’s Driving Mr. Kerry? Clearly It Is Not Human Rights

220px-Driving_Miss_Daisy_On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Saudi King Abdullah to deal with increasing tensions with the Kingdom. What I thought was the most interesting moment came when a female reporter asked Kerry about the continued bar on women driving in the Kingdom. We just discussed how a Kuwaiti woman was arrested for driving her father to a hospital during a diabetic seizure. Kerry’s response was remarkably muted on an issue of human rights.


The question is a tense one since Saudi Arabia does many of the things that we condemn in Iran in denying freedom of religion, equality of religion, democratic rights, free press, and free speech. The Kingdom flogs citizens and beheads those found guilty of certain crimes. It has been accused of torture and exporting extreme religious views. Yet, the visit is to convey that it remains our closest Arab ally.

After first joking with male reporters that they did not ask the question, Kerry said:

“It’s no secret that in the United States of America we embrace equality for everybody . . . [but] it’s up to Saudi Arabia to make its own decisions about its own social structure.”

I realize that this was a diplomatic trip to stroke the Saudis and repair damage over problems related to Iran and Syria. Moreover, I think that our position is clear. However, the response was immediately noted by civil libertarians as coming off as remarkably relativistic and restrained. Yet these responses are clearly scripted on diplomatic trips. Women’s rights is not a question of “social structure.” That is how the Saudis view it. It is their religion and social structure that is cited for the medieval treatment of women. Equality is a human right that by definition transcends “social structures” and national preferences. Otherwise, racial and religious discrimination would be simply a matter of cultural tastes.

Not surprisingly, the Saudis appear pleased by the American fawning over what Prince Saudi al-Faisal described as “a true relationship between friends is based on sincerity, candor and frankness.” Of course, it is a shame that more woman could not see it . . . they couldn’t get a ride.

36 thoughts on “What’s Driving Mr. Kerry? Clearly It Is Not Human Rights

  1. Spot on with this write-up, I honestly feel this website needs a great deal more
    attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for
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  2. rafflaw:

    I agree with you. And you’ll note that the overthrow of dictators in South America has always been accompanied by anti-American demonstrations. People are not fools.

  3. Mike A.,
    I agree that Kerry’s memory lapse on human rights is just another example of how dollars have been driving our foreign policy for decades. I believe that the fear of socialism that you refer to in Central and South America was related to the loss of corporate interests in those regions that would occur if socialism or communism governments came to power and nationalized the corporate interests…including oil.

  4. Our constitutional commitment to human rights has never governed our political commitment to them, either domestically or internationally. In the Middle East, concern for human rights has always been subservient to the geopolitics of oil. Hence Secretary Kerry’s embarrassing deference to one of the most repressive, autocratic regimes in the world.

    But Saudi Arabia is only one example. Throughout the last century, our foreign policy in Central and South America was dominated by our fear of socialism, so we protected our commercial interests by supporting a seemingly endless supply of tyrants and dictators.

    And when the inevitable occurs, and the Saudi royal family is deposed, and people take to the streets in Riyadh to voice their rage against the United States, we will all scratch our heads in bewilderment, unable to fathom the ingratitude of those we have proclaimed to be our friends.

    • “And when the inevitable occurs, and the Saudi royal family is deposed, and people take to the streets in Riyadh to voice their rage against the United States, we will all scratch our heads in bewilderment, unable to fathom the ingratitude of those we have proclaimed to be our friends.”

      Mike A.,

      Elegant statement of the reality of the situation.

  5. Mike Spindell 1, November 6, 2013 at 10:21 am

    I been explaining for years that Israel is neither truthfully considered America’s “closest ally” in the Mid East at the highest levels of our opaque foreign policy establishment, nor does this country act in Israel’s interest.

    Balderdash, the US government has been providing political cover for Israeli militarism/expansionism and the denial of Palestinian humanity via 41 UN Security Council vetoes from 1972-present (1). The great majority of US, pro-Israeli, UN Security Council vetoes are in direct contravention to US interests in the Middle East and beyond.

    In the early 60′s with the USSR competing with us for the control of the ME, Israel was used as a surrogate for the US in the cold War struggle.

    That is malarkey in the early 1960’s the Israeli’s were still smarting over the US intervention and their forced Sinai withdrawal in 1957 ending the Suez Crisis. Additionally, the US used Iran from 1953 – 1979 as a surrogate. Iran sits on the defunct USSR’s Southern border and the US feared the Soviets would roll their tanks into Iran and park them atop Iranian (Western controlled) oil wells. It wasn’t until 1981, the Iranians expelled the US in 1979, that the US (Reagan Administration) first turned to Israel as a cold war partner in Soviet/communist ideological containment(2). This a fallacy in and of it self as the Israeli’s are known to have sold the USSR many sensitive US military secrets (see Johnathon Pollard).

    Though still reluctant to formalize the relationship, strategic cooperation became a major focus of the U.S.-Israel relationship when Ronald Reagan entered office. Before his election, Reagan had written: “Only by full appreciation of the critical role the State of Israel plays in our strategic calculus can we build the foundation for thwarting Moscow’s designs on territories and resources vital to our security and our national well-being.”

    Reagan’s view culminated in the November 30, 1981, signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on “strategic cooperation.” On November 29, 1983, a new agreement was signed creating the Joint Political-Military Group (JPMG) and a group to oversee security assistance, the Joint Security Assistance Planning Group (JSAP).(2)

    Source(s):

    (1)http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/UN/usvetoes.html

    (2)
    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/evolution_of_strategic_coop.html

    • “In 1952, Gen. Omar Bradley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believed the West required 19 divisions to defend the Middle East and that Israel could supply two. He also expected only three states to provide the West air power in Middle Eastern defense by 1955: Great Britain, Turkey and Israel. Bradley’s analysis was rejected because the political echelon decided it was more important for the United States to work with Egypt, and later Iraq. It was feared that integration of Israeli forces in Western strategy would alienate the Arabs. This was no doubt also a reason why NATO turned down Israel’s request for membership and the United States declined to sign a bilateral defense treaty that Israel hoped would counterbalance the Western alliance with Arab states that would eventually become the Baghdad Pact.

      Israel’s crushing victory over the combined Arab forces in 1967 caused this view to be revised. The following year, the United States sold Israel sophisticated planes (Phantom jets) for the first time. Washington shifted its Middle East policy from seeking a balance of forces to ensuring Israel enjoyed a qualitative edge over its enemies.”

      Personanongrata,

      When one provides links to sites and quotes sites it sometimes becomes a two-edged sword. Your quotation of Reagan (from your site) is taken out of context and the quote I’ve provided above is the opening paragraph of the thread. This reinforces my position, rather than denies it. While General Bradley wanted Israel as an ally his analysis was rejected by who may I ask? It was rejected by the Eisenhower Administration whose foreign policy leader was Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Defense Secretary Charles Wilson and presumably CIA head Allen Dulles. The reason was that these men did not want to offend the Arab States.I read “Arab States” to mean the Saudis and the Iranians. However, since Iran was being run by the Shah, who became Iran’s absolute leader after the Democratically elected Government was ousted via CIA coup. The coup was because Mossadegh nationalized Iran’s oil industry which marked him for removal. The Saudis, didn’t owe their power to America, quite the reverse. The Saudi’s were allied with the “Seven Sisters” oil interests and thus had power over the U.S. You will note that the Israeli’s were denied U.S. fighter planes until after the 1967 War. Yet the U.S. had been supplying Jet fighters to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan all through the 50’s and 60’s, which was a strange way to treat our “closest ally” in the ME.

      It was only after the Israeli’s had unexpectedly defeated all comers in the 1967 War that the U.S. began to arm them and begin to pretend that they were our close ally, when in fact the motive behind it was to keep a rein on Israel for the good of the Saudis and of course Big Oil interests. You will note that this was as I stated.

      It is interesting that you use the dismissive and mildly insulting terms “balderdash” and “malarkey” to deny my thesis, yet provide no data to actually discredit what I’m saying, you in fact reinforce my point. Now you wrote:

      “It wasn’t until 1981, the Iranians expelled the US in 1979, that the US (Reagan Administration) first turned to Israel as a cold war partner in Soviet/communist ideological containment(2). This a fallacy in and of it self as the Israeli’s are known to have sold the USSR many sensitive US military secrets (see Johnathon Pollard).”

      Wherever you are quoting this from it is not dis-positive of what I am stating.
      There are three pieces of evidence as to what the Reagan Administration really felt towards the Israeli’s. 1. Secretary of State George Shultz who in “In 1974, he left government service to become executive vice of Bechtel Group, a large engineering and services company. He was later its president and a director. 2. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger who was ” An accomplished private sector businessman, he later became vice president and general counsel of Bechtel Corporation”. 3. The Bitburg Affair in 1985. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitburg . Reagan’s visit to Germany included visiting a cemetery that contained the remains of SS Officers, but refused at the same time to visit Shoah death camps. This was despite great protestations from Israel, Jews and many others worldwide. The insistence on doing this despite protests was not only curious, but it seemed to be sending a particular message with intent. Now you can also look up Bechtel, which among other things built the Trans Arabian Oil Pipeline and also in keeping with the Arab boycott of Israel would not hire Jewish employees.

      My point was that specific “official government positions” are often not what they appear to be. In the case of Israel, the U.S. uses its money to try to control this country and has served as its “minder” in the ME to protect Saudi interests. Because of oil interests the U.S. has become “Hessians” for the Saudi Royal Family and nowhere was that more apparent than in the first Iraq War. This is already a long comment and there is so much more I could write to defend my position. However, your dismissiveness and derision, albeit mild, do not enhance prospects for a fruitful dialogue.

      • MS I don’t deny the facts you present, but I do disagree with some of your conclusions. Since I was at Incirlik AFB during the Six Day War, I saw what the US did with the Jordanian Air Force when the US pulled all the F-104s that we had sold them. Thus leaving the Jordanians defenseless against the Israeli Air Force.

        The reason the US was not an immediate ally of Israel was that it was viewed as an extremely leftwing government and thus not worth supporting. At the time of Israel’s declaration of a Jewish state, all of the arms for the IDF came from Eastern Europe with the support of Stalin. In fact, most of the planes the Israelis used in the 1948 war were recovered German ME-109s from Czechoslovakia as well as most of their small arms. The West had an effective arms embargo against shipping arms to the region which left the Arab states at a real disadvantage in terms of arms. So the US was not acting only at the behest of Saudi Arabia.

        The reason for the US not supplying aircraft to the IDF was not because of a desire to placate Saudi Arabia, but because the French were doing a good job of providing those aircraft which were superior to anything the Arabs had. Thus it was the ISRAELIS who did not need US planes. As for the US being a brake on Israel, you forget the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty and the shameful conduct and treatment of its crew and commander by the US military.

        The First Gulf War was not done because of Saudi Arabia, but because the UN HAD to go to war to enforce its charter. Indeed the WHOLE WORLD supported the war, including such well known clients of Saudi Arabia as the Soviet Union, Red China, Cuba abstained on the vote. Let’s not go overboard on conspiracy and influences.

        • “The reason for the US not supplying aircraft to the IDF was not because of a desire to placate Saudi Arabia, but because the French were doing a good job of providing those aircraft which were superior to anything the Arabs had. Thus it was the ISRAELIS who did not need US planes. As for the US being a brake on Israel, you forget the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty and the shameful conduct and treatment of its crew and commander by the US military.”

          Randyjet,

          I bow to your knowledge of aviation, but my knowledge of politics and being alive at the time, informs me that the Israeli’s bought the French Jets, not because of their design, but because of necessity. The Egyptians were flying MIG’s back then.

          Secondly, you miss my point. I don’t believe that the U.S. and Israel are allies and I would prefer they weren’t. I believe that Israel is quite capable of taking care of itself without U.S. dominance and I believe a peace settlement would come quicker.

          • MS The Israelis managed to get the drawings for the Mirage and started making their own. When Israel became a member of the UN, there was no longer any need for the arms embargo and all parties went out and got what they could. I think the Israelis got the better deal since the French build very good airplanes, just look at the Falcons. They are far superior to the British Hawkers and most British aircraft. The Mig is good for a basic no frills plane and low tech countries, thus the reason for Egypt and others taking the Soviet ones.

            I quite agree that Israel should not be an outright US ally since they feel no need to negotiate at all. They can simply live off the US dime and arms, but that is not a function of the US trying to control Israel for Saudi Arabia. The tail wags the dog in US/Israel relations.

            • “They can simply live off the US dime and arms, but that is not a function of the US trying to control Israel for Saudi Arabia. The tail wags the dog in US/Israel relations.”

              Randyjet,

              I don’t believe in any U.S. aid to Israel. The Israeli economy is strong enough and diverse enough to go it alone. All U.S. aid carries restrictions and that is the problem. As far as the tail wagging the dog, AIPAC (which I don’t support) may have the publicity, but their power is nothing compared to the Saudis and Big Oil. When it comes to U.S. foreign policy all we citizens see is the surface and the game really being played out is hidden from us, though we can infer it by what we know. The Saudi’s are far more powerful and sophisticated than we are given cause to understand.

  6. davidbluefish 1, November 6, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Rich men speak with forked tongue. Politicians speak with forked tongue. Royals speak with forked tongue.

    Democracy is forked. .
    ====================
    Don’t forget “forked man speak with white tongue” grasshoppah.

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