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  • Published in Book Reviews

Medea Benjamin unravels the toxic relationship between the West and the oppressive regime in Saudi Arabia, in Kingdom of the Unjust, finds Jonathan Maunders

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Medea Benjamin, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S. – Saudi Connection (O/R Books 2016), 240pp.

Medea Benjamin’s latest book, Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S. – Saudi Connection, attempts to unravel the complicated and convoluted nature of the United States’ dangerous relationship with Saudi Arabia, while also aiming to shed insightful light behind the latter’s borders, illustrating the corruption, violence and inequality that defines the Saudi regime.

While the left has grown increasingly aware of the true nature of the Saudi establishment, a haunting ignorance persists; an ignorance immorally perpetuated by cosy relationships with Western governments and the mainstream media’s reluctance to cover the nation’s deplorable onslaught on the people of Yemen. Benjamin’s book endeavours to cut through the misinformation and media hesitancy to present the complex Saudi administration in its true light, before revealing how this relates to the state’s seemingly symbiotic connection with the United States, illuminating one of the persistent shadows of global diplomacy.

In her thorough assessment of this relationship, Benjamin commences by providing some historical context, describing the founding of the regime and explaining how it was to become the rogue state we witness today. Moreover, Benjamin goes on to unpick Wahhabism, separating it from other forms of Islam and illustrating how it is has formed the basis of Saudi Arabia and its governance. Benjamin, the founder of the US peace movement, CODEPINK, moves on to illustrate the vast corruption and inequalities that exist within the Saudi state, emphasising the horrors of its justice system and the towering barriers that apply to women within Saudi society. Eventually, the book’s analysis begins to unravel the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States, presenting the nature of this connection, the motives behind it and the reasons behind its longevity. Finally, Benjamin discusses what the future might hold and how people could contribute to the breakdown of such an immoral global alliance.

Despite global opposition from anti-war movements, Saudi Arabia’s West-backed bombardment of Yemen has become a seemingly unstoppable campaign of bloodshed and terror, killing thousands and displacing millions more. While a close to this deplorable bloodbath seems distant, the Saudi regime’s horrific actions have begun to spark a global analysis into the country’s relationship with the West, notably both with the UK and the US. Since Saudi Arabia shamefully began its airstrikes in March of 2015, many analysts have begun to shine a telling light on the nation’s complicated relationship with the United States, exploring the murky realities behind an enduring alliance.

Benjamin’s book illustrates how the Saudi monarchy is able to keep millions in desperate poverty whilst it spends vast amounts of money. She explains how a religious police force is utilised to frighten and intimidate citizens, as the royalty feasts on gambling, alcohol and cocaine. They, themselves, disregard the strict religious guidance that they use to control and persecute the population. Furthermore, the religious police will willingly torture, imprison and behead those with the audacity to attempt to follow another religion. Benjamin outlines how they have been known to pummel a man to death for possessing alcohol, how they imprisoned a woman for being in a taxi alone, and knowingly allowed fifteen girls to die by enforcing they remain in a building engulfed by flames because they were not wearing their mandatory abayas.

Under the blanket of Western support, Saudi Arabia bans all non-Muslim churches, prevents Jews from entering the country and is the planet’s primary proponent of global terrorism. Further, it is worth noting that the regime spends three times more per capita than the US does with regards to the military, the majority of that going on British and American weaponry.

Successive Western leaders have let the Saudi regime get away with its cruel programme and the US military continues to train the Saudi military seemingly unaffected. Hillary Clinton, in her role as secretary of state, ensured the US continued to supply the Saudis with weapons after the latter ‘donated’ $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. As Saudi Arabian citizens are jailed, whipped, and killed for speaking out, the West covers its eyes and carries on counting the change.

During the US election, many jumped on the Clinton bandwagon, extolling her feminist credentials, yet Saudi Arabia enforces gender apartheid, with women prevented the majority of rights enjoyed by men and women’s testimony in court often valued at half the worth of men’s. A woman’s reporting of an attack by a man is considered to be a crime by the woman. Saudi women aren’t allowed to compete in the Olympics because the required attire is banned, and Saudi women are not allowed to drive. Despite all of this, Hilary Clinton, branded as a beacon for women everywhere, continued selling the weapons and continued collecting the cheques.

Saudi schools and establishments have aided the creation of divisions of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups across the Middle East over recent decades. Moreover, two years ago, the Saudi Interior Ministry cautiously estimated that 1200 Saudis had travelled to Syria to ISIS, while recent studies have shown that the Saudi regime played a pivotal role in the group’s growth and spread. It has even been revealed that those who conducted the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last year and in Belgium this year, came from a Belgian area with potent Saudi influence.

Medea Benjamin explains that when Tunisians overthrew their country’s dictatorship without war in 2011, the Saudi royalty grew anxious. They took in the Tunisian ruler, moved funds to Jordan and Morocco to support their cruel regimes, backed the military coup in Egypt and crushed a popular peaceful protest in Bahrain with torture, death and detainment. Then, the Saudi regime firmly fixed its sights on the instability in Yemen, continuing to the fill the country with death and destruction.

When pushed to respond on the issue of the Saudi regime’s brutal assault of Yemen and calls to stop supplying the former with bombs, Boris Johnson unconvincingly argued that if the UK didn’t supply them weaponry, another nation would. However, while the government gleefully collects the cheques, it then spends vast amounts more dealing with the legacy of the Saudi regime’s aggressive ideology, namely ISIS. Johnson’s response is devoid of both logic and morality.

Medea Benjamin provides a useful and insightful introduction to the nature of Saudi Arabia’s horrendous regime and its complex relationship with the US and the wider West, illustrating the dangerous cycle that exists between the regime and its Western allies.

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