In U.S. foreign policy, there are bogeymen and allies. Bogeymen are evil tyrants who oppose freedom. Allies are stable international partners. What one realizes (once they stop watching cable news) is that whether the U.S. considers you a bogeyman or an ally is entirely independent of how those regimes treat their own people.
Here’s a tweet from CFR’s Micah Zenko, based on data from Amnesty International:
Global executions, 2012
Saudi Arabia: 79
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) October 27, 2013
Granted, state executions is merely one measure of tyranny, but as you can see, there is a mix of bogeymen and allies on this list. Washington consistently cites China’s human rights abuses and I can’t tell you how many times neo-cons have made note of the Iranian regime’s penchant for executions to justify taking a hard-line against the Islamic Republic. But we rarely, if ever, hear that U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan – all supported with American tax dollars – also make the top of this list.
You’ll note too of course that the U.S. makes an honored appearance on this list. What great company to have in some of the worst despotisms in the world.
For more on a related issue of disgrace for the U.S., see Anthony Gregory’s piece on America’s prisons.