The Saudi ‘Reformer’ Who Uses Torture

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Many of the detainees seized during Mohammed bin Salman’s purge last year were subjected to physical abuse, and one later died from his injuries:

During months of captivity, many were subject to coercion and physical abuse, witnesses said. In the early days of the crackdown, at least 17 detainees were hospitalized for physical abuse and one later died in custody with a neck that appeared twisted, a badly swollen body and other signs of abuse, according to a person who saw the body.

Mohammed bin Salman’s power grab and subsequent shakedown of detainees were always aimed at consolidating power and extracting money by force. That seemed clear enough at the time, and this report just confirms it. The “anti-corruption” spin was always a pretext for doing these things and never a very convincing one, and it is a measure of how easily seduced by Mohammed bin Salman’s promise of “reform” they are that so many Western observers accepted his explanation at face value. Obviously, torturing people into handing assets over to the state is a crude abuse of power that has nothing to do with fighting corruption. Abusing detainees into signing over their wealth is consistent with Mohammed bin Salman’s heavy-handed crackdown on internal dissent and his prosecution of an atrocious war that is creating one of the worst famines of modern times. If foreign investors were nervous about the prospects of doing business in the new Saudi Arabia before now, this story should make them extremely wary. When the crown prince comes to the U.S. later this month, his hosts should force him to address the many abuses committed by his government. With any luck, he will find that many of his would-be investors don’t want to do business in a country ruled by such a reckless and incompetent man.

Before the US wades any deeper into the muck with Mohammed bin Salman, there is an opportunity to extricate the US from the disastrous war on Yemen that our government has been helping the Saudis and their allies wage for the last three years. The resolution introduced by Sens. Sanders, Lee, and Murphy, S.J.Res 54, can put an end to US involvement in the war, but only if it passes. Voting to end US involvement in the Saudi-led war on Yemen would be a fitting rebuke to the crown prince in response to the appalling war crimes committed by coalition forces in Yemen. An end to US support would make it much more difficult for the coalition to keep their war going, and that creates an opening for a cease-fire and a more enduring peace settlement. Yemen desperately needs peace, and our government needs to respect the Constitution. Passing S.J.Res. 54 offers an opportunity to reject illegal involvement in a foreign war and cuts off the support that the Saudi-led coalition needs to continue waging their war.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

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