Immediately following King Abdullah's passing, world leaders began to tout his contributions to the development of the Saudi Kingdom. President Obama characterized him as having a "steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship." Others described him as a "reformer," although his country remains one of few systems in the world still putting people into prison for demanding basic human rights.
Despite the skillful eulogies and diplomatic flattery, in reality, most these accolades were entirely unearned.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia acquired enormous wealth while limiting civil freedoms. Silencing opponents, it waged a vigorous war on words more so than it ever did on terrorism. On the contrary, Saudi nationals played a leading role in financing political violence.
Under the reign of Abdullah, Saudi Arabia ignored measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, hampered interventions to prevent and combat global terrorism, and turned a blind eye to the respect for human rights for all and the rule of justice as the fundamental basis for the fight against violence.
The principles and policies throughout the presence of the throne have been narrowly tailored to achieve the goals and appeal to the interest of the men who wear the crowns.
Women are still considered property, and it remains unchanged, and political authority remains inherited. The press is not free, and dissenters are silenced, often permanently. Because of its financial impact, its archaic customs shrouded with repression are shielded from worldview. The House of Saud lacks honest inspection or humane control by its international allies.
The United States' disregard of present-day Saudi cruelties and cold, calculating dishonesty has significantly decreased the potential of discouraging compliance of human rights in countries where it is needed the most. This soft-touch tactic also promotes the suppression of collective human rights and individual freedoms in a country with an untrustworthy regime. Abdullah's unruly reign involved both king and his royal underlings in positive affirmation of a barbaric system of justice - one that tortured, flogged and beheaded those found guilty of dissent.
King Abdullah's power went beyond his own part of the desert. He sabotaged Egypt's first democratically elected presidency by financially orchestrating the coup while pretending to be a proponent of peace.
So, while Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the king "a powerful voice for tolerance, moderation and peace - in the Islamic world and across the globe," he was not. This kind of fiction is not an abrupt end-result of diplomacy. Statesmanship of this kind makes perfect sense in the realm of vested interest. Saudi Arabia's oil output is crucial to the U.S. economy; therefore, King Abdullah's crimes may be forever exiled from the public conscience and our leaders need not clarify democracy's stance as they struggle to remain immune from any charges of moral impropriety.
Khalilah Sabra is executive director of the Immigrant Justice Center of the Muslim American Society in Raleigh.