Last night I was hitting the new gym — this one has TVs on the treadmills, so I rocked the informative running action — when this story came on CNN:

Saudi Court Ups Punishment for Gang-Rape Victim

The gist of the story is that a woman was gang-raped by seven Saudi men, yet the Saudi court’s sense of justice resulted in 10-month to five-year sentences for the attackers, while the victim got 90 lashes with a yard-long bamboo reed for committing the ultimate sin of talking to a dude. (Thankfully, her hair must have stayed covered during the process, as the misogynistic nature of this sentence would seem to indicate that a stray tress would see her locked her up for 25 to life.) But, it gets worse: When her lawyer — seemingly the only sane person affiliated with the Saudi Shari’ah legal system — appealed the lenient sentences for the attackers, the court agreed with him and gave the attackers two to nine years, but it also decreed that the lawyer be disbarred and the rape victim now get six months in jail and 110 more lashes. This is all for taking the incredibly selfish action of being raped and then following proper legal channels to complain about the lack of justice.

I knew the U.S. government would be leery of angering King Abdullah because of both oil and any Saudi anti-terror efforts, but not to the level of calling the punishment only “astonishing” and going no further:

QUESTION: Just to be clear, you’re in no way condemning the sentence at all?

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I’ve said what I’m going to say about it.

We all know that governments say things in public that are not followed up in action, but here the U.S. government isn’t even making the public statement. I can think of many better words than “astonishing”; “savage miscarriage of human decency” comes to mind.

Suffice it to say that this is exactly the sort of thing that al-Qaeda and its sympathizers believe in, and exactly the reason I believe that such fundamentalists need to get utterly wrecked. Tuesday the Saudi government released a statement “clarifying” things by saying the victim received the extra punishment because she illegally talked to the media. I can’t say that 110 extra lashes for contempt of court makes any sense to me as a rational human, but this statement doesn’t even address the gross miscarriage of justice that is the original 90-lash sentence except for a weak non-explanation.

Today I was looking for more on this story and on Iraq when I came across this blog post — on a side note, Reuters, you’re really sending mixed messages by saying you don’t approve of any third-party BlogBurst opinion items but then wrapping them in your own site branding — echoing the usual “The Democrats want America to lose in Iraq” sentiment. Sure, a detached analysis of the situation would find that yes, the more anti-war party will do better if the war is going badly, and therefore would potentially lose ground should the war effort improve. But, we aren’t operating in a vacuum; Democrats are paying the same costs in blood and treasure as Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, Lyndon LaRouchers and any other party that lives under the American government, and therefore Democrats too ultimately rise and fall from the war’s effects just the same as Republican war supporters. Do they want to lose? No, they want to see success for all the sacrifice, and perhaps demand it even more having opposed the invasion in the first place.

It’s ill to see someone make that kind of circa-2004 divisive statement because this Saudi thing is a clear example that the real fight is much broader than what’s happening in Iraq — remember that Saudi Arabia is an American ally, yet does these things and produced the 9/11 hijackers — and that wasting energy condemning an anti-stable-Iraq sentiment that doesn’t even exist outside of the fringes displays a failure to grasp that global reality. I agree with this piece by Anne Applebaum that explains how invading Iraq did more damage than good to the anti-fundamentalist fight by shoving away our potential allies and hurting long-term American strategic goals. There’s never a need for “We told you so” here — lots of us opposed the Iraq war for realist strategic reasons instead of childish fringe anti-Americanism, and an improved Iraq would help those interests that have been so heavily damaged by the invasion in the first place. The Saudi verdict shows that the bigger fight is both larger than Iraq and more complicated than supporting one thing or another.

In regards to the Saudi non-condemnation, perhaps the government wrongly skipped the public shaming part but is somehow working on the private part I’d love to see: massive scientific alternative-fuel projects to get us out of the Saudi stranglehold. It’s doubtful. If not that, then the government needs to offer amnesty to this woman and allow her to live in the U.S. At least we’d be showing the sense of justice that’s so sorely lacking in our ally.

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3 Responses to “Divisive”

  1. World politics will always remain the same: Let’s do what is good for us (not human rights, not the environment). This is why there will never be any sanctions against Saudi Arabia (what strange bedfellows)! The government loves their oil–to hell with the indecent lives their women and children must face. I only wish the women of Saudi Arabia would wisen up and use their greatest (and only) strength against the men who literally rule their lives: child bearing. I know they are more than likely not allowed birth control and would be raped by their husbands upon refusal of sex (the woman would definitely be punished in the “court of law”), however, there must be a covert birth control method somewhere. In the old days, prostitutes used vinegar (from what I have read). Oh, by the way, where are the human rights organizations????

  2. 1. Are we offering political asylum?
    2. Can a person actually live through so many lashes?
    3. Will they provide her with healthcare if her wounds from the lashes get infected?

  3. Human rights organizations have been all over them for this, so they don’t really deserve any criticism.

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