Photo by Peter Drew on Unsplash

Saudi Arabia Scores A Perfect Hole In One

A group of 17 of the nation’s top professional golfers shot quadruple bogeys when they signed up to accept hundreds of millions of dollars to play in Saudi Arabia’s inaugural LIV Golf tournament and help Saudi Arabia cleanse its murderous reputation.
The tournament began on June 9 at the Centurion Club, St. Albans, Britain. As a sign that the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) means business, the golfing organization speedily suspended the 17 from the PGA tour. It’s safe to say that the wounds will quickly heal for the well-healed golfers, including Phil Mickelson, who is reported to be paid $200 million and two-time major winner Dustin Johnson will pocket a reported $125 million to help with the Saudi PR effort.
Tiger Woods conspicuously declined to play, even though he could have made an obscene $500 million. Woods may have turned down the invitation out of patriotism but more likely it was because he is still recovering from serious injuries sustained when he totaled his car in 2021 and besides, $500 million is chump change for billionaire Woods.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan officially announced that players participating in this or any future LIV Golf events will no longer be allowed to play on the PGA Tour.
“I am certain our fans and partners — who are surely tired of all this talk of money, money and more money — will continue to be entertained and compelled by the world-class competition you display each and every week, where there are true consequences for every shot you take and your rightful place in history whenever you reach that elusive winner’s circle,” he said.
LIV Golf responded that the announcement is “vindictive and it deepens the divide between the Tour and its members. It’s troubling that the Tour, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for golfers to play the game, is the entity blocking golfers from playing.”
Give an at-a-boy to the PGA and a thumbs down for the anti-patriotic golfers who have no shame as they are played as pawns in Saudi Arabia’s ugly efforts to sportswash its murderous human record, which includes butchering Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, jailing dissenters, criminalizing homosexuality, oppressing women, not to mention being the home of the majority of the terrorists who destroyed the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
Don’t these golfers understand that they are violating the strong and clear message that the U.S. has sent that it will not support anti-democratic forces, that is unless gas prices continue soaring, threatening to send Joe Biden’s approval ratings into subterranean depths and send the Democrats packing after the next election.
The U.S. is desperate to isolate Russia politically and cut off funding for its war machine by banning Russian oil exports but it won’t happen if Saudi Arabia isn’t on board to boost oil production. CNN reported that last week, U.S. officials conveyed to Saudi Arabia that the U.S. is prepared to move forward with a “reset” of the relationship, and effectively move on from the 2018 murder of Khashoggi in order to repair ties with the key Middle East ally, which happens to be the world’s biggest oil exporter.
President Biden was morally outraged when he said in the campaign leading to his victory over trump that Saudi Arabia had “no redeeming social value.” When he came to the White House, Biden vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over Khashoggi’s murder after the administration released an intelligence report that directly accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, referred to lovingly as MBS, of orchestrating Khashoggi’s killing.
Biden’s moral outrage, however, has been tempered and he is willing to sing kumbaya and bury the hatchet or if you will, the sword that the killers used to decapitate Khashoggi. It’s all because of oil and the skyrocketing costs to U.S. consumers as a result of the war in Ukraine.
“Both sides have decided that for the sake of achieving peace and stability in the Middle East, we need to move past it,” said one senior U.S. official.
A letter send last week to Biden from concerned members of Congress said,“The highest levels of the Saudi government, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are culpable in the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, and there is no escaping that stark truth laid bare in the U.S. Intelligence Community’s 2021 public assessment. We must continue to insist on justice for this horrific crime.”
The State Department website explains the relationship with Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia plays an important role in working toward a peaceful and prosperous future for the region and is a strong partner in security and counterterrorism efforts and in military, diplomatic, and financial cooperation,” the State Department said with no reference to beheadings.
In the world of international realpolitics, it’s “do as I say, not as I do,” “Nothing changes. Everything remains the same” and lastly, “If you can cut the cost of a gallon of gas, I don’t care how many heads are lopped off.” Or, as FDR said in 1939, referring to continuing aid to Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, “he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”
Biden may seem pragmatic or plain hypocritical but he is the knight in shining armor compared with trump, who groomed a bromance with Vladimir Putin and once called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sissi his “favorite dictator.”
For Biden, it is a complicated high wire world of political compromises, even with countries that deny basic human rights. But for Trump it was always only about money. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, brazenly showed how profit trumps morality, when he negotiated a multi-billion deal with Saudi Arabia.
According to The New York Times, a Saudi sovereign wealth fund led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman invested $2 billion in Kushner’s fledgling private equity firm six months after trump left office. During the Trump administration, Kushner was trump’s main advisor on Middle East policy and diplomacy.
The U.S. likes to burnish its longstanding image of a freedom-loving country that supports freedom-loving countries around the world and does not support dictatorships who deny citizens basic human rights, unless it’s in the U.S. national interests.
Statista reported that in 2020, the most available report, the countries receiving the most U.S. military aid, in order, included:
Israel, $3.3 billion.
Afghanistan, $2.761 billion.
Egypt, $1,302 billion.
Iraq, $548 million.
Jordan, $504 million.
Ukraine, $284 million, exclusive of $200 million in added military aid approved this year.
Lebanon, $245 million.
Somalia, $138 million
Concernusa.org reported the countries receiving the most U.S. foreign aid, exclusive of military aid, in 2021, included:
Ethiopia, $1.13 billion.
Jordan, $1.03 billion.
Afghanistan, $860 million.
South Sudan, $821 million.
Congo, $814 million.
Yemen, $814 million.
Nigeria, $803 million.
Syria, $774 million.
Sudan, $488 million.
Somalia, $475 million.
Many of the countries receiving U.S. aid are listed as “not free,” in the annual survey by Global Freedom, a non-profit organization that examines countries around the world for their level of freedoms. In its latest survey, Global Freedom determined that countries considered “not free” and lacking in civil liberties included: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Brunei, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Republic of the Congo, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tibet, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
The non-profit organization, freedomhouse.org, assesses human rights and civil rights around the world. In its latest report, the organization concluded that “the past 16 years have shown in stark terms that neither the prevalence of democratic ideas around the world nor the certainty of global progress toward democratic governance can be taken for granted.”
“As authoritarians continue to extend their reach, often facing little more than rhetorical denunciations from governments that declare their support for human rights, there is increasing evidence of homegrown illiberal streaks within democracies,” the report said.
In a reference to trump and other leaders of nominally democratic countries, the report said that “undemocratic leaders and their supporters in democratic environments have worked to reshape or manipulate political systems, in part by playing on voters’ fears of change in their way of life and by highlighting the very real failures of their predecessors.”
The report singled out trump for “sowing distrust in elections.”
“Though the (Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol) insurrection was ultimately unsuccessful and a peaceful transfer of power took place, the same forces continue to exert significant influence on the U.S. political system,” the report said.
The report said that as Brazil prepares for its October 2022 general elections, President Jair Bolsonaro has echoed Trump by preemptively claiming that the vote will be fraudulent.
“Bolsonaro also alleged electoral fraud years ago, while still on the margins of Brazilian politics. Today such claims have become normalized,” according to the report.
Elsewhere in the Americas, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele has “systematically undermined democratic institutions intended to check executive power.”
India “has suffered a series of setbacks to political rights and civil liberties” since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reelection in 2019. Since taking power in 2015, Poland’s Law and Justice Party has undermined the rule of law by packing the country’s top courts with loyalists who reliably uphold its policies and decisions. In October and November 2021, the Polish constitutional court threatened to further subvert international and regional legal standards by ruling that it can ignore European Union (EU) legislation and judgments, the report said.
In Brazil, Eduardo Bolsonaro, the son of Brazil’s president, is a member of a far-right nationalist group founded by Steve Bannon, an adviser to trump. Fox commentator Tucker Carlson spent a week in Hungary in 2021, “warmly introducing millions of American viewers to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s xenophobic propaganda, contempt for democratic principles, and rejection of international human rights standards.”

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Phil Garber

Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer