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The Saudi-Canada Clash: A Values War

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By Patrick J. Buchanan, August 10, 2018:

Is it any of Canada’s business whether Saudi women have the right to drive?

Well, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland just made it her business.

Repeatedly denouncing Riyadh’s arrest of women’s rights advocate Samar Badawi, Freeland has driven the two countries close to a break in diplomatic relations.

“Reprehensible” said Riyadh of Freeland’s tweeted attack. Canada is “engaged in blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs.”

The Saudis responded by expelling Canada’s ambassador and ordering 15,000 Saudi students to end their studies in Canada and barred imports of Canadian wheat. A $15 billion contract to provide armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia may be in jeopardy.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has been backsliding on his promises to modernize the kingdom, appears to have had enough of Western lectures on democratic values and morality.

A week after Pope Francis denounced the death penalty as always “impermissible,” Riyadh went ahead and crucified a convicted murderer in Mecca. In Saudi Arabia, homosexuality can get you a death sentence.

Neither President Donald Trump nor the State Department has taken sides, but The Washington Post has weighed in with an editorial: “Human Rights Are Everyone’s Business.”

“What Ms. Freeland and Canada correctly understand is that human rights … are universal values, not the property of kings and dictators to arbitrarily grant and remove on a whim. Saudi Arabia’s long-standing practice of denying basic rights to citizens, especially women — and its particularly cruel treatment of some dissidents — such as the public lashes meted out to (Ms. Badawi’s brother) — are matters of legitimate concern to all democracies and free societies.

“It is the traditional role of the United States to defend universal values everywhere they are trampled upon and to show bullying autocrats they cannot get away with hiding their dirty work behind closed doors.”

The Post called on the foreign ministers of all Group of Seven nations to retweet Freeland’s post saying, “Basic rights are everybody’s business.”

But these sweeping assertions raise not a few questions.

Who determines what are “basic rights” or “universal values”?

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that has never permitted women to drive and has always whipped criminals and had a death penalty.

When did these practices first begin to contradict “universal values”?

When did it become America’s “traditional role” to defend women’s right to drive automobiles in every country, when women had no right to vote in America until after World War I?

In the America of the 1950s, homosexuality and abortion were regarded as shameful offenses and serious crimes. Now abortion and homosexuality have been declared constitutional rights.

Are they basic human rights? To whom? Do 55 million abortions in the U.S. in 45 years not raise an issue of human rights?

Has it become the moral duty of the U.S. government to champion abortion and LGBT rights worldwide, when a goodly slice of America still regards them as marks of national decadence and decline?

And if the Saudis are reactionaries whom we should join Canada in condemning, why are we dreaming up an “Arab NATO” in which Saudi Arabia would be a treaty ally alongside whom we would fight Iran?

Iran, at least, holds quadrennial elections, and Iranian women seem less restricted and anti-regime demonstrations more tolerated than they are in Saudi Arabia.

Consider our own history.

From 1865 to 1965, segregation was the law in the American South. Did those denials of civil and political rights justify foreign intervention in the internal affairs of the United States?

How would President Eisenhower, who used troops to integrate Little Rock High, have responded to the British and French demanding that America end segregation now?

In a newly de-Christianized America, all religions are to be treated equally and none may be taught in any public school.

In nearly 50 nations, however, Muslims are the majority, and they believe there is but one God, Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet, and all other religions are false. Do Muslims have no right to insist upon the primacy of their faith in the nations they rule?

Is Western interference with this claim not a formula for endless conflict?

In America, free speech and freedom of the press are guaranteed. And these First Amendment rights protect libel, slander, filthy language, blasphemy, pornography, flag burning and published attacks on religious beliefs, our country itself, and the government of the United States.

If other nations reject such freedoms as suicidal stupidity, do we have some obligation to intervene in their internal affairs to promote them?

Recently, The Independent reported:

“Since last year, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of innocent Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region in northwest China have been unjustly arrested and imprisoned in what the Chinese government calls ‘political re-education camps.’ Thousands have disappeared. There are credible reports of torture and death among the prisoners. … The international community has largely reacted with silence.”

Anyone up for sanctioning Xi Jinping’s China?

Or do Uighurs’ rights rank below those of Saudi feminists?

6 thoughts on “The Saudi-Canada Clash: A Values War

  1. I am afraid I don’t really agree with this, as the basic premise is that any country’s rulers should be allowed to do what they like regarding the repression of human rights in their countries.

    I think Canada shoud be congratulated for taking its stand on attempting to put the spotlight on the imprisonment and mistreatment of activists in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is to the strong detriment of its own economic interests. It is the very nature of international pressure that changes systems from within.

    According to your argument, the world should have ‘looked on’ when the minority white South Africans were implementing apartheid against the majority blacks. It was principally because of international intervention and the boycott of goods that the government eventually caved in and the human rights abuses were put to an end.

    For most people – particularly in the West – there has to be a standard that needs to be upheld in terms of how a country treats its civilian population. If countries are seen to be imprisoning people, torturing them and mistreating them then it is up to the international community to highlight this.

    1. No that isn’t the basic premise at all. Merely that there are no such thing as ‘universal values’ in the shape of human rights. These are very subjective measurements. And while I disagree with whipping gays to death, when our countries butcher the most innocent people to death (in their millions), we have no right (and it doesn’t serve our interest) to pressure others into conforming to our values.

    2. As a Canadian I must disagree.

      The Trudeau government was only too happy to turn a blind eye when it suited them to accept Saudi financed Green anti-Canadian oil sands advocacy to help them win power. This campaign is an inept government playing morality politics; if Canada were the independent energy super power it should be, it could take a consistent approach to the kingdom.

      In the USA, rights come from God. Human rights come from the state and it is the members of the Atheist Church of Man who advocate them. If you argue for universal human rights you argue for the demise of the Declaration of Independence the USA was founded on. Furthermore, you advocate for a coalescing global social engineering body to meddle in everyone’s affairs.

    3. That’s precisely right. It is a prescription for endless conflict over a cause that is inherently subjective and arbitrary.

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