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Justice, Saudi Style:

In Saudi Arabia, a 19-year-old woman is sentenced to 200 lashes. Her crime? She had been sitting alone in a car with a man who was not her husband when the two were abducted and raped by a gang of seven men. Had she not been raped, her "crime" would not have been prosecuted. Were that not obscene enough, now it seems her attorney will lose his law license for handling her defense too aggressively.

GV_:
This regime is the full of the same animals that our current President is buddy, buddy with. Makes me proud to be an American.
11.24.2007 10:04pm
Chris_t (mail):
"Though [the woman's lawyer] was disappointed with the verdict, Lahem said, he realized as he was driving from Qatif back to Riyadh, where he is based, that its excess was actually a sign of hope.

"That verdict signals the death throes of the judiciary's old guard. They can see the end is near," he said. "As black as it looked for me . . . I saw that the overkill in that verdict was a sign of desperation."

.
I wonder if he's right. I hope he is.
11.24.2007 10:55pm
Kevin P. (mail):

GV_:
This regime is the full of the same animals that our current President is buddy, buddy with. Makes me proud to be an American.

Yes, this is obviously George W. Bush's fault. Has anyone told you that you suffer from BDS?
11.24.2007 11:01pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
There's a lot more to this story than is being picked up by the major media. If you'd like to learn more about it, including how Saudis are reacting, you're invited to read about it at Crossroads Arabia.
11.24.2007 11:22pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I checked out a couple of feminist sites. They're outraged, but the discussion of what to do sort of fades out.

Mostly frothing.
11.24.2007 11:23pm
Frank Bynum (www):

Yes, this is obviously George W. Bush's fault. Has anyone told you that you suffer from BDS?

I think you've misunderstood. This incident surely is not George Bush's fault, and GV_ did not say that. GV_ did lament that Bush has such a close personal relationship with such a barbaric government. Unfortunately for you, dispensing with the President's critics is going to take a lot more than three letters.
11.24.2007 11:36pm
Random Commenter:
"I think you've misunderstood. This incident surely is not George Bush's fault, and GV_ did not say that. GV_ did lament that Bush has such a close personal relationship with such a barbaric government. Unfortunately for you, dispensing with the President's critics is going to take a lot more than three letters."

BDS refers to the condition some political partisans suffer from that makes them incapable of engaging a subject without trying to turn it into a referendum on Bush. We saw the same affliction strike a different group of people when Clinton was president.

You've provided yet another fine example of the syndrome.
11.24.2007 11:49pm
Bender (mail):
John Burgess: Thank you for the link. I consulted to the Royal Saudi government in my youth and had some contact with the culture. I suspected that there was something more to this story than has yet been reported in the western media. I also suspect most Saudis feel that the punishment of the girl was much too harsh and certainly nugatory in light of what she has already suffered.

A primary foundation of Saudi law is restoring social equilibrium after a dis-equilibrating act. Thus the killing of a person is usually "punished" by having that person or his family, tribe, or other social group pay a pre-determined sum of money to the family of the dead person. The amount paid is usually determined by the status of the dead person. This may seem odd to western jurisprudence but it repairs critical social ties that might otherwise be broken by a human-caused death (whether accidental or purposeful).

Here, the woman's actions prior to the rape and contributing to the rape situation posed a major threat to social stability. The Saudis recognize, as western law used to, that acts such as adultery, which threaten the social fabric, need to be discouraged.
11.24.2007 11:52pm
Cornellian (mail):
I can't imagine what it must be like to be a woman in Saudi Arabia. You'd think every last one of them would be looking for every available opportunity to escape to a civilized country. How does that country function with half its population on lockdown?
11.25.2007 12:04am
The River Temoc (mail):
There's a lot more to this story than is being picked up by the major media. If you'd like to learn more about it, including how Saudis are reacting, you're invited to read about it at Crossroads Arabia.

I looked at the website you referenced. Its leading article helpfully explained how many Saudis feel the rape victim's increased punishment was unreasonable with this little gem:

Rape is not a little thing. Gang rape is even more horrendous. Most people think that this was more than adequate 'punishment' for whatever crime the girl and her companion may have committed.

If this website is meant to help Westerners understand the Saudi psyche, I'd say it's failing miserably.
11.25.2007 12:27am
tvk:
Bender, at the risk of fanning your flame (very obvious that is what it is), let me offer what is hopefully a fairly level headed rebuttal.

On one level, our basic problem with Saudi justice is that it still criminalizes what Western society regards as harmless behavior. Here, that is being in the company of an unrelated male. You describe this as "adultery", but the inference of adultery in the classic sense (sexual contact with a married person outside of marriage) seems pretty weak here.

But even putting aside the fundamental normative disagreement, and accepting for the moment that being in the company of an unrelated male should be criminally punishable (or, at least, that Saudi Arabia as a sovereign nation and foreign culture can choose to make it so punishable), the facts of this case suggests that the dynamic is very different here. When the selective prosecution dynamic is figured in, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the victim is being punished not because she was in the company of an unrelated male, but because she was raped.

Take a hypothetical to remove the culture difference objection. Suppose that, instead of being in the company of an unrelated male, the woman was an underage drinker. The fact that she got raped, of course, should not immunize a particular victim from paying an appropriate penalty for underaged drinking. But if a court for no apparent reason imposes the maximum sentence on the underage drinker/rape victim, well above the typical sentence, we may well figure that the sentence is not being driven by a desire to deter underage drinking, but by a desire to silence rape victims.

Deterring underage drinking is not doubt important to many social values (whether deterring meetings with unrelated males is I leave to another day). No culture that I can conceive of would openly suggest that the policy is best served by increasing the penalty when a particular "offender" happens to be raped and reports it.
11.25.2007 12:28am
Hoosier:
It is a sign of psychological imbalance when one's first reaction to this horrible story is to take a swipe at George Bush.
11.25.2007 1:18am
Brian G (mail) (www):
I couldn't agree more with the BDS commenters above. Saudi Arabia laws are from the 12th Century, and to blame Bush is sick. Where is the outrage from the U.N. or women's groups? Nowhere to be found! I read all types of sites, from liberal to conservative to libertarian to just plain wacko both ways. If it weren't for this site, and a few conservative sites, I would have not known a thing.

Here's another thing. What about Iran? They pull this nonsense and worse. Can't blame that on Bush. Where's the outrage against them? Oh, that's right, Bush considers them an enemy, so nothing can be said about them lest it be remotely linked to supporting Bush's disdain for Iran.
11.25.2007 2:05am
GV_:
Hoosier, this story did not just break now, and so my first reaction to this story had nothing to do with Bush. Have you really avoided hearing about this story until now?

To the others who thought I was “blaming Bush,” if you could please show how somebody could interpret my first statement as “blaming Bush” -- or what, exactly, I was blaming Bush for -- I would appreciate it.

Brian, just because you do see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Organizations and blogs (liberal and conservative) have been expressing outrage over this story. For example, Talk Left first had a post about this over a week ago. Crooks and Liars first posted a link regarding the story a week ago. CNN has been reporting about this for over a week as well. As far as organizations, the Human Rights Watch first issued a condemnation of the judges’ decision over a week ago. What liberal blogs do you read?

And do you have any comment on why our President is friends with a country’s leaders who support these “12th Century” laws?
11.25.2007 2:55am
Frater Plotter:
The same logic applies here that applies to people who want to hold Israel to a higher standard than other nations: Saudi Arabia is held to a much lower standard of human rights than are other nations.

People are frequently called antisemites for holding Israel to a higher (arguably, unachievable given its situation) standard of behavior. What does this reasoning make of a person who holds Saudi Arabia to an unreasonably low standard?

I think it makes that person a pro-Saudi bigot.

The reasoning used by the Bush administration in refusing diplomatic relations with Cuba, in criticizing the regime in Iran, and in claiming of Iraq that our troops would be welcomed as liberators -- this reasoning hinged in part on holding these nations to particular standards on human rights. The Bush administration refuses to hold the supposed ally of the United States, Saudi Arabia, to these same standards.

This shows pro-Saudi bigotry on the part of the Bush administration -- just as surely as academics who hold Israel to unreasonably high standards are held to be anti-Israel or anti-Jewish bigots.
11.25.2007 3:20am
HappyConservative:
As a conservative who supports Bush, I do blame Bush.

We shouldn't be coddling these fuckers. We should nuke them out of existence. They are savages and should be treated like animals.
11.25.2007 3:36am
Bottomfish (mail):
Please consider that if a revolutionary regime were to arise in Saudi Arabia, there would probably be a civil war like nothing we've seen in Iraq. The number of deaths and atrocities would likely be enormous.
11.25.2007 4:09am
Hewart:
It is a sign of psychological imbalance when one's first reaction to this horrible story is to take a swipe at George Bush.

It also seems a sign of psychological imbalance to be pathologically incapable of acknowledging the role our government plays in enabling such oppressive regimes.

A knee-jerk response to a political post is one thing. A leisurely hypocrisy and willful ignorance of our government's role in supporting a country guilty of these kinds of human rights violations is quite another.
11.25.2007 7:25am
David Smith:
I checked the URL that was posted "explaining" additional factors. Here's a choice quote:

"Islamic law is also very different from Western law in that it assesses responsibility not only to the actor, but to those who, through their own actions, established the circumstance under which the crime was committed. For example, if a car hits your legally parked car, you are nevertheless partially to blame. Had you parked elsewhere, your car would not have been hit."

This is so ludicrous it's hard to know where to begin. First, Western law does indeed recognize the concept of contributory negligence. Second, this is very much not it. I park legally, and without any negligence, and yet I am somehow "partially to blame?"

Give me a break!
11.25.2007 7:53am
Michael B (mail):
"... Talk Left first had a post about this over a week ago. Crooks and Liars first posted a link regarding the story a week ago. CNN has been reporting about this for over a week as well. As far as organizations, the Human Rights Watch first issued a condemnation of the judges’ decision over a week ago." GV_

The question concerns a gross imbalance and negligence and crassly distored emphases, not a failure to merely mention such instances. (E.g., Talk Left's post on the topic, the subject is often used as little or nothing more than a rationale for yet additional Bush bashing, Israel bashing, anti-American motifs, etc., rather than a better directed attack on the injustice reflected in the Saudi legal system.)

Or consider the referenced HRW, Human Rights Watch. This is the same HRW which failed to mount a campaign against slavery in Sudan or Mauritania (both Arab Muslim states); the same HRW which has failed to condemn Hezbollah as a terrorist org; the same HRW which stated they somehow couldn't corroborate instances of Hezbollah using civilian centers for launching sites during the summer war last year (when video of such instances was readily and abundantly available on the web); the same HRW which participated in the Durban conference only a week prior to 9/11 wherein overt anti-Israel and anti-Semitic initiatives were deployed under the banner of "human rights" - so overt and casually that Colin Powell withdrew the U.S. delegation from that conference, while HRW (which facilitated some of the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel actions) proceeded to condemn Powell rathen than condemn the farce that was taking place in Durban.

(Or read Anne Bayefsky more recently covering the U.N.'s lead agency responsible for the promotion and protection of women's rights the world over, the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women.)

Farce and pretense, flim flams and shell games, ideologically and politically motivated posturing and machinations - concerning moral and political and social and cultural issues that should command gravitas.
11.25.2007 7:54am
A.C.:
Everybody KNOWS Saudi Arabia is awful, and everybody who isn't blinded by either oil money or multiculturalism says so rather freely. My uncle, who travels extensively and has been there, says it's the only place he has ever been that feels like it isn't on the same planet as all the other countries.

But that doesn't mean anyone wants to see any of the plausible alternatives to the current regime. There's a lot of "better the devil you know" thinking out there, combined with the notion of applying diplomatic pressure for changes at the margins. Which is really all you ever get with most countries, right up until someone starts arguing for regime change. I doubt that we're ready to go down that road with Saudi Arabia, and there doesn't seem to be a solid commitment about Iran either.
11.25.2007 7:57am
PersonFromPorlock:
Gosh, isn't "the law is the law" a recurring theme here on VC? So long as this sentence is in accordance with Saudi law, we may feel sympathy for the victim and even for the court officials who are compelled to implement it, but no legal positivist is in a position to say that the Saudi court did anything wrong.
11.25.2007 8:57am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The question, "What is to be done?" leads to two categories of responses:
One category almost certainly accomplishes nothing, although the argument that you can't tell if you don't try is sometimes hauled out to overwhelm common sense.
The other involves noise, blood, and death.
Pick one.
Or neither.
11.25.2007 9:00am
33yearprof:
Please consider that if a revolutionary regime were to arise in Saudi Arabia, there would probably be a civil war like nothing we've seen in Iraq. The number of deaths and atrocities would likely be enormous.


Yes, but they'd all be Saudis who have chosen their society and the consequences of it. Just like the post-civil war US, the new society which emerges could be worth the cost. There is no "free" lunch, you know.
11.25.2007 9:29am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
33.
Yeah, it would be THEM suffering.
Now, I have an opinion which probably isn't relevant here. Instead of sharing it, I'd ask what proportion of the American public thinks it is a moral thing to do to for US promote the civil war so THEY can both suffer and improve.
11.25.2007 9:41am
AF:
[N]o legal positivist is in a position to say that the Saudi court did anything wrong.

Wrong. First, according to reports Saudi law appears allow for discretion in sentencing, so the sentence can be condemned as unduly harsh. Second, and more importantly, a legal positivist can very much say that following an immoral law is wrong. They just can't say it's illegal.
11.25.2007 10:23am
Bootsie LaTootsie (mail):
I think we should invade Saudi Arabia and put out troops there to protect the women and children.

We need to just take over their oil fields with corporate help, help them set up a democratic government, and capture, try and hand their leader.

We are Americans. We police the world. Wherever a young girl or woman experiences injustice, we will be there. Now, who's still with me folks? Invade................!
11.25.2007 10:32am
DiverDan (mail):
While I firmly believe that a Hilary Clinton Presidency would be a disaster for America, even the darkest cloud has a bit of a silver lining - if Hilary were president, she would make such an international brouhaha over these events that Saudi Arabia would have no choice but to open up its society to greater women's rights. Which raises the question, why isn't Condoleeza Rice doing the same right now? Is it because she is so focused on an almost certainly doomed hope for an Isreali-Palestinian peace, which she know requires the participation of Saudi Arabia, that she is willing to sweep this under the rug?
11.25.2007 10:42am
MDJD2B (mail):

If it weren't for this site, and a few conservative sites, I would have not known a thing.


Toi be fair, the site linked to an NY Times article. There is nothing more MSM than the Times


If Hilary were president, she would make such an international brouhaha over these events that Saudi Arabia would have no choice but to open up its society to greater women's rights.


This is, I believe, incorrect on both counts. First, Sen. Clinton, if president, would be no more likelu to offend the largest friendly producer of oil than would any other potential president. She would be, after all, president of the United States, and not of Saudi women. Second, Saudi Arabia would have lots of choices if we withdrew support from its government. These range from economic pressure to diplomatic/military pressure (think a destabilizing flow of jihadists to other friendly states like Kuwait, the Gulf, and Iraq) to outright alignment with China. They could refuse to take dollars for oil, a la Iran.

I am not defending the Saudi justice system. But our own government's statements and acts have consequences for our own country, and prudent statemen take this into account before interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, however odious.

BTW, it is not obvious that Saudi women universally feel oppressed. Clearly, the wives, sisters and daughters would feel oppressed if they suddenly had to live as Saudi women do. But it does not follow that Saudi women consider the disadvantages of their status to outweigh the advantages. If Western armies marched in to change the regime to one that was inclined to make the roles of men and women more similar, it might or might not be the case that Saudi women would strew the troops with roses (or whatever flowers they grow there). I am skeptical.
11.25.2007 11:04am
Bama 1L:
For example, if a car hits your legally parked car, you are nevertheless partially to blame. Had you parked elsewhere, your car would not have been hit.

This may be ludicrous, but I can guarantee you it's going to appear on a significant number of torts exams this semester!

As I understand it:

1. Clemency was shown to the attackers, who could have gotten more severe punishments.

2. The complaining woman is being punished so harshly because she went to the media and her lawyer is an agitator.

This suggests that the problem is not so much that the Saudis have bad laws--which they do--but that Saudi judges are too averse to public scrutiny and too prone to blame the client for the lawyer's faults.
11.25.2007 11:25am
resim (mail) (www):
How can one take anyone seriously when they seem to lack even the basic instinct for self-preservation?
resim
11.25.2007 11:52am
PersonFromPorlock:

[T]he sentence can be condemned as unduly harsh... a legal positivist can very much say that following an immoral law is wrong. They just can't say it's illegal.

Actually, the sentence can be condemned as barbaric, and should be. But since it was within the court's competence to impose it, it wasn't legally 'wrong'. And while a legal positivist can say that following an immoral law is 'wrong', as long as his philosophy requires him to follow it regardless -- and that's how it plays out in practice -- he isn't saying much.

What would you be willing to see an American court do in similar circumstances, for instance being required to impose a mandatory life sentence -- on a minor -- for a first offense possession of one marijuana cigarette? Have the judge say "TS, kid, but maybe the law'll be revised before I have to do this again?"
11.25.2007 11:54am
Gaius Marius:
I don't know we are allied with these animals. Most of the 9-11 hijackers and Osama Bin Laden were Saudi nationals.
11.25.2007 12:07pm
GV_:
Michael, you’ve just changed the question I was answering and then claimed victory because I didn’t answer the question you wanted me to answer. Lame.

A.C., regardless of whether the current regime is the best possible regime that could exist in Saudi Arabia, that doesn’t mean our current President (and former President Bush) need to be personal good friends with the Saudis. I'm not saying he shouldn't have a cordial professional relationship with them. He should as President.

PersonFromPorlock wrote: “no legal positivist is in a position to say that the Saudi court did anything wrong.” People are complaining about the morality about what they did, which is (according to any legal positivist) a different question. I believe you recognize this in another post, but seem to think it’s somehow a point against legal positivism that you can only say what the Saudi court did was deeply immoral, as opposed to illegal. What point are you trying to make?

Aren't you known by the company you keep? What does it say about our current President that he is close friends with these animals? What would Regean do?
11.25.2007 12:23pm
frankcross (mail):
Porlock, you misunderstand legal positivism. Positivism is just descriptive. And this decision may have been legally appropriate. But positivism never says the law should be followed. Only that it is the law, however immoral it might be.

Indeed, positivism does not even say the law on the books is the law. Had the judiciary ignored the law on the books and let the woman go free, a positivist would say that was the law. The law was that the judiciary would ignore certain legal commands under certain circumstances.

You are confounding a descriptive definition with normative considerations.
11.25.2007 12:28pm
Bender (mail):

John Burgess and I seem to be the only posters so far who have bothered to learn the reason the girl faces punishment under Saudi law: She is a confessed adulteress. She is not being punished because she was raped. She is not being punished because she was found alone with a man. She is being punished because she committed what is regarded as an extreme offense against social order in Saudi Arabia.

You may disagree that adultery should be a crime or that it should be punished. But at least recognize and acknowledge that until recent times adultery was a felony in the US and Europe and it is still a severely punished crime in many countries besides those practicing Sharia law.

You may disagree with physical punishments like flogging. But judged objectively such punishments are are probably far more humane than imprisonment for an extended period in most US jails.
11.25.2007 1:13pm
Prof. Ethan (mail):
For Bender and for John: From Crossroads Arabia:

UPDATE: A helpful commenter says that one should not over-read the Saudi press statement. It does NOT say she had confessed to adultery, only that she was not properly attired (in Arabic, المرأة في حالة غير محتشمة). Her ‘illegal affair’ does not necessarily imply adultery, only behavior with a man that does not fall within the concept of ‘proper Islamic behavior’ with an unrelated male. That covers a lot of ground.
11.25.2007 1:23pm
LN (mail):
We shouldn't be coddling these fuckers. We should nuke them out of existence. They are savages and should be treated like animals.

That's a good one -- these animals have no moral sense, so let's solve the problem by obliterating them out of existence. Now that's moral and selfless for you!
11.25.2007 2:14pm
ATM (mail):
Clinton was pretty buddy buddy with the Saudi's. Hey they are paying for his presidential library. Let's face it, the roots of our Saudi problems go all the way back to Roosevelt.
11.25.2007 2:26pm
Hoosier:
Hewart:
"It also seems a sign of psychological imbalance to be pathologically incapable of acknowledging the role our government plays in enabling such oppressive regimes.

A knee-jerk response to a political post is one thing. A leisurely hypocrisy and willful ignorance of our government's role in supporting a country guilty of these kinds of human rights violations is quite another."

Well, now . . . we are sure jumping to conclusions, aren't we?

Please explain the reference to /Bush/ in GV's original post, in light of your 'analysis.' There has been a succession of American administrations that supported "such oppressive regimes." If GV was NOT simply displaying the symptoms of his BDS, why was /Bush/ the focus of his post? Why not the American policy that he--after all-- inheritted?

Also, what would you have me do? Replace the House of Saud with a bunch of Swiss teenagers?
11.25.2007 2:30pm
James of England:
FWIW, it's worth noting the immense differences between the NYT and early BBC versions. The latter suggested the ex-boyfriend went unpunished, talked about the low punishments for the rapists without mentioning the lashes that comprised a significant portion of the sentence, inaccurately stated the rapists' prison sentence, and made a whole series of other basic and fundamental mistakes. A lot of why this didn't produce useful discussion on feminist sites is because the BBC's story is much closer to the cliche than the truth and many of them went with the BBC.

I'm not always a fan of the NYT, but their coverage on this seems pretty good. Although the BBC was far and away the worst, there were a number of news organisations that appear to have taken most of their information direct from the defense attorney. Three cheers to the Grey Lady for offering us outrage unadulterated by falsehoods!
11.25.2007 3:40pm
tryptic (mail):
I seem to recall an Economist article from before 9/11 saying that Prince Bandar (who was great buddies with WJC and HRC) was feeling left out in the cold because W wasn't extending him the same hospitality as the last occupant of 1600 Penn. Avenue.

In his rush to try and tar W, GV apparently forgot that. He probably has forgotten Soros was in the oil business too.
11.25.2007 3:55pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
The Saudi legal system is in for a major make-over. The reforms that have been announced will go a long way in excluding idiosyncratic preferences in sentencing, but a major weakness is yet to be announced: the formal codification of laws. At present, a judge decides whether or not a crime has been committed, based solely on his understanding of Sharia law. I think the setting down, in black and white, of definitions of what constitutes a crime is critical to major reform.

Issues like transparency in the courts, enforcing regulations that permit the presence of both the public and defense attorneys, and the like are still needed and not yet there.

Prof. Ethan: Thanks for noting the update. One of the better reporters for Arab News is on her way to Qatif, trying for an interview with 'Qatif Girl'. Her report may help clear up some of the ambiguities in what's being said and reported.
11.25.2007 4:13pm
AdamL:
Is it possible to survive 200 lashes? Is this essentially a death sentence?
11.25.2007 5:20pm
GV_:
I’ve already said it three times, and I suspect saying it once more won’t really matter at all, but in case it does: my comment was limited to the fact that Bush, in his personal capacity as a citizen, has chosen to befriend the Saudis. Or, as I put it in my first post, Bush is
“buddy, buddy” with the Saudis. Or, as I put it in my second post, the President is “friends” with the Saudis. Or, as I put it in my third post: “regardless of whether the current regime is the best possible regime that could exist in Saudi Arabia, that doesn’t mean our current President (and former President Bush) need[s] to be personal good friends with the Saudis. I'm not saying he shouldn't have a cordial professional relationship with them. He should as President.”

This has nothing to do with whether he needs to have diplomatic relations with these people. (Although, as an aside, Bush won’t even talk to the President of Iran, but I see little difference between his form of barbarianism and the Saudis.)

Hoosier, is this clear enough for you now? Or are you going to continue to reflectixely dismiss my complaints about who our President is “buddy buddy with” because past presidents have had to support Saudi Arabia’s Government?

If Clinton also had a personal relationship with these barbarians, he should be lambasted too. I didn’t like Clinton, don’t like Clinton now, and hope his wife loses the democratic nomination.

Can we all agree that we should have a president (democratic, republican, whatever) that isn’t personal friends with thuggish regimes? If the next President is personal friends with Chavez, wouldn’t at least some of you find that disturbing?
11.25.2007 5:55pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Well, how about looking at both Bush and the Saudis as multi-dimensional?

Bush is president. Bush is also an individual human being. The barber who shaves himself, in other words.

Who are 'the Saudis'? An affable individual like Bandar? The King? The Ulema? The ordinary Saudi who's more concerned about his kids' schooling than some jihad in foreign places?

As President, Bush has to make nice, at some level, with all sorts of people. Even Democrats. He can appreciate King Abdullah for the reforms he's pushing through. He can appreciate him for playing an active role in the Middle East on a lot of issues: Iran, Israeli/Palestinian peace, Iraq.

But he can also see him as the head of an ultra-conservative Muslim state that doesn't mesh well with the rest of the world.

He can acknowledge the fact of oil. He can acknowledge the fact that the US military still relies on Saudi Arabia for critical things like permission to fly across Saudi air space. He can also acknowledge, that reactionary as some might see it, the Saudi government still casts a big vote when it comes toward things Islamic.

Saudi foreign policy does not, on the whole, represent a threat to the US. It's mostly its internal politics that get people upset. With Chavez, it's both.
11.25.2007 6:04pm
jaed (mail):
AdamL: no, this isn't a death sentence. The way flogging is normally done in the Saudi justice system, it doesn't cause severe injury. (This doesn't make such a sentence, in these circumstances, any less repulsive so far as I am concerned, but it may allay some fears for the victimized woman.)
11.25.2007 6:46pm
Polly:
Jaed:

I like your saying the flogging will not cause "severe injury" to allay our fears.

Just what exactly is severe injury? That she will be not be dead?

There is no way anyone can be flogged like with the implements used by the Saudis (like whips with heavy metal tips and big bamboo sticks) and not be maimed for life.

And yes, I know that the floggings are supposed to be distributed in increments of 50. No one would want the fun to stop too quickly.

If anyone wants to see what flogging does, take a look at Amnesty International's website. (Not for the faint of heart--and these are descriptions from men).
11.25.2007 6:58pm
frankcross (mail):
Here's a report

I looked back over my shoulder - and saw that one of the other guards had raised a long thin bamboo cane and was about to bring it down. I closed my eyes and braced myself.

There was a loud swishing sound and I felt a sharp, stinging pain across my butt, as if I had been stabbed with a knife. I winced and tears began to roll down my cheeks, but I was determined I wouldn't give the onlookers the satisfaction of hearing me scream.

One after another, the strokes whipped down across my back, thighs and buttocks in a crisscrossing pattern. And every time the cane cut into me, the crowd shouted in delight. I heard one woman cry out, "Give the infidel what she deserves!"

Finally, I couldn't hold it back. I began to howl in agony and begged for mercy - then I collapsed into unconciousness.

When I came to hours later, I was back in my bunk in the jail cell. The backs of my thighs, my bottom and my lower back were striped with dozens of painfully swollen welts.
11.25.2007 7:27pm
Barry P. (mail):
I'm not sure about Saudi, but in the UAE when a person is flogged, the flogger has to clasp a Koran between his upper arm and torso, meaning that only the forearm can provide leverage for the lash. Also, the lashes are delivered in small groups, IIRC about a dozen at a time, with a couple of weeks passing between each dozen. Also, pregnant or nursing women sentnced to lashing have the punishment postponed until the nusing period is over.

This punishment is not as harsh as it appears at first light to the uninitiated. Probably less barbaric than the canings in Singapore that so many American approve of.
11.25.2007 8:27pm
Dave N (mail):
I don't know we are allied with these animals. Most of the 9-11 hijackers and Osama Bin Laden were Saudi nationals.
I am not defending this sentence or how this woman is being treated, but sentiments like this one are a non-sequitor. Bin Ladin deliberately used Saudis on 9/11 because he was attempting to drive a wedge between the American and Saudi governments. He loathes and despises the current Saudi government--mainly for allowing American troops to be based on Saudi soil during the first Gulf War. And the Saudi government loves bin Ladin so much they have sentenced him to death in absentia.

While the Saudi government suffers a multitude of sins--support of the 9/11 terrorists is not one of them.
11.25.2007 10:06pm
Hoosier:
GV--Don't get snotty with me just because you said something foolish. It does not come with good grace. And, for the record, "buddy, buddy" is not a recognized term in the diplomatic parlance. Thus, one has the tendency to not know what the hell you were trying to say. Doesn't one?
11.25.2007 10:23pm
Perseus (mail):
What would you be willing to see an American court do in similar circumstances, for instance being required to impose a mandatory life sentence -- on a minor -- for a first offense possession of one marijuana cigarette? Have the judge say "TS, kid, but maybe the law'll be revised before I have to do this again?"

Absolutely, just as judges before the Civil War were right to enforce the constitutional and legal provisions regarding slavery (where usually there was no original offense committed at all), however odious they may have regarded those provisions.
11.25.2007 10:26pm
GV_:
So, to be clear then Hoosier, it is "foolish" to think less of our President because he is friends with powerful individuals who head a Government that is a notorious human-rights abuser. Okay. We can leave it at that.

(I can only hope that you are able to understand what I've written here because even though each word I’ve used has a commonly understood meaning, I make no representation as to whether each word is a "recognized term in the diplomatic parlance.")
11.25.2007 11:07pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Barry P: Yes, the same routine applies in the KSA. Quran under the arm so that only the forearm is used. Lashes (with a whip, not a cane) administered in groups of around 10, with days or weeks between sessions.

Further the person being flogged can wear whatever clothing (or multiple layers of clothing) s/he chooses.

Public humiliation, with some pain, is the major intention of floggings, not beating the miscreant to death.
11.25.2007 11:20pm
GV_:
To follow up on Dave's point, it is worth noting that at least some of Bin Laden's animus against the United States is rooted in his belief that Al Qaeda should have been liberating Kuwait, not the United States, during the first Gulf War. The Saudis would not allow Bin Laden to make an attempt, however, because, among other things, they believed that there was no way Bin Laden could be successful. In that light, it was always puzzling when some members of the U.S. Government claimed that Saddam and Bin Laden were friendly. The Saudi Government wants Bin Laden dead just as much as the U.S. Government does. He's probably a bigger threat to the Saudi Government as an institution than the U.S. Government as an institution. Bin Laden couldn’t bring down the U.S. Government, even in the most wild scenarios. But he could bring down the Saudi Government.
11.25.2007 11:27pm
Polly:
John:

All news reports say that the lashes are delivered in bouts of 50. The descriptions of those subjected to lashes talk about them being delivered in very large increments (wasn't one of them given 60 or 70 at one go)?

The photographs of flogging circulating around the net don't show the flogger holding a Quran. At least nothing I have seen suggests that the this is actually done.

Your description is so far removed from what survivors are reporting, that I just do not find it credible. I rather feel that the hideousness and barbarity of the punishment is somehow being played down to placate the outrage.
11.26.2007 12:10am
TheRadicalModerate (mail) (www):
At the risk of sounding like a Saudi apologist, it is important to remember the following:

1) The West (especially the US) needs an uninterrupted supply of Saudi oil. Without it, our society literally grinds to a halt.

2) The Saudi royal family is the guarantor of that oil supply.

3) The House of Saud in turn uses the Wahabis and other fundamentalists as a stabilizing force to remain in power.

4) Hence, the US can't really attack the Saudi legal system without bringing the wrath of the fundamentalists down on the royal family, which in turn would destabilize the oil supply, which in turn would severely damage our society.

Yes, this is completely screwed up. But the chain of logic is inevitable. If you want to see reform in the Saudi legal system, you have to find a different way to maintain the stability of the oil supply. You can hope that liberalization occurs if enough money trickles into the society around the edges of the royal family. You can find an alternate energy source. Or you can find a way to guarantee that whoever replaces the royal family will continue to send the oil out through the Straits. Beyond that, there just isn't very much room to maneuver.
11.26.2007 12:28am
Public_Defender (mail):
Thanks for posting this. The Saudi government deserves to be denounced for such disgusting behavior.

Of course, as others have pointed out, we fund the prosecution of this lawyer. Not so long ago, I remember one of the conspirators defending his choice to drive a large SUV. The Saudi judges and prosecutors are grateful for his support and sponsorship.
11.26.2007 4:44am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Polly: I'm not "playing it down". I'm telling you what I know of the practice, based on my experience in the country.

The Saudis have laws and practices that I thoroughly condemn. No one, including the King of Saudi Arabia, has the ability to change those laws and practices with the wave of a royal writ.

Culture, religion, and fear of changed being forced from the outside all work to keep the status quo. Only as ordinary Saudis themselves realize that they need to change will those changes happen.

Moral condemnation of the Saudi system has its uses. Shaming the Saudis is even more effective. But it is also somewhat counterproductive in that it gives opponents to reform ammunition. It allows them to point out that it is foreign, non-Muslim pressure to adopt foreign, non-Islamic values. The opponents to reform are just as capable of cherry-picking quotes as anyone else.

That should not stop denunciation of atrocious behavior. It should moderate what we actually expect to happen.

The US is not directly dependent on Saudi oil supplies (pace Mike Huckabee). Saudi Arabia is in 3rd or 4th place in terms of US oil imports. Instead, the world economy is dependent upon it. The Saudis can sell whatever oil the US chooses not to purchase. If Saudi oil production is taken off the market, then we can start looking for new descriptions for global economic collapse.
11.26.2007 9:22am
Wallace:
A lot of people have seen this case as a femisist issue because one of the rape victims who was punished was a woman. The other person in the car was a man, was raped by the same gang in the same incident, and both were initially sentenced to be lashed 90 times for adultery. The woman's sentence was increased when she appealed. So while the Saudi system of justice is cruel, one must admit that it treats rape victims of both genders equally.
11.26.2007 10:37am
Hans Bader (mail):
This is a violation of Saudi Arabia's own treaty commitments. It has signed the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading, or Inhuman Treatment (CAT), and the CEDAW convention against sex discrimination (although with broad reservations as to the latter).

It violates basic human rights norms observed throughout the world, including in other Muslim countries like Indonesia.

In truth, nothing in the Koran justifies this savage and pretextual verdict. But even if the verdict were rooted in religious or cultural tradition, that would be no excuse. The Old Testament is full of genocide, but you don’t see it being cited to justify genocide today.

My sentiments are akin to those of Charles Napier. He is the British general who helped put an end to the terrible Indian practice of burning widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres. The story for which Napier is famous involves a delegation of Hindu locals approaching him and complaining about prohibition of suttee, by British authorities. This was the custom of burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands. He responded:

“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

This kooky action by Saudi Arabia’s General Court in Qatif is reminiscent of an earlier outrage perpetrated by the Saudi religious police, in which they violently blocked girls from leaving a burning school lest unrelated males see them, resulting in 15 deaths. Saudi public outrage in response to that tragedy was intense, but it appears to have had no lasting effect on the Saudi government’s mistreatment of women. The same brutal stupidity continues in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is an absolute monarchy, not one governed by the rule of law. In newspaper ads taken out in American newspapers, the Saudi Embassy claims the Saudi government is responsive to public opinion on “main street.”

Apparently, that’s total bunk.
11.26.2007 12:05pm
Dennis Spain (mail):
The Founders of this nation warned us of entangling alliances. I would say we have had a fair number of entangling alliances with a lot of unsavory regimes over the past 60 years, which has only resulted in disastrous blowback to the our country. We court and support the Saudis because of oil and because we have become a nation of fearful sheep. Where is our pioneering spirit? Do we have so much fear of the future that we will sell our souls for a barrel of oil? For myself I know there is enough creativity in the American people to surmount any difficulty and for that reason I support Ron Paul for President and look forward to an era in which America defends itself strongly but is no longer an intervening military force in so many areas of the world, no longer an arms supplier to the world, and no longer in bed with every oppressive regime (including the Israeli government), simply out of our fear of running out of oil.
11.26.2007 12:22pm
Elena:
Dennis Spain:

Since when has Israel sold oil? More to the point, since when has Israel been an oppressive regime?

Geez, man, get your facts straight, at least...
11.26.2007 2:16pm
Hoosier:
"The Founders of this nation warned us of entangling alliances."

Actually, only ONE of the Founding Fathers did so. And he himself was bullish on alliance with France.

So . . .
11.26.2007 2:34pm
Hoosier:
Dennis Spain=Tom Paine (?)
11.26.2007 2:35pm
Alec:
Let's be clear: the Saudi's do not have a "justice system," "laws" or anything approaching governance by 21st century standards.
Nor is this limited to Saudi Arabia. In Dubai, attorneys warned a 15 year-old French male rape victim that he could be prosecuted for "forced homosexuality," for the "crime" of being raped.
Truly, these convictions and sentences are an outrage and an affront to the overwhelming majority of people on the planet. But what more can one expect from a society permeated by religious fundamentalism?
11.26.2007 3:38pm
Public_Defender (mail):
This is a violation of Saudi Arabia's own treaty commitments. . . .

Citing treaties in Saudi criminal cases is probably about as effective as citing treaties in U.S. criminal cases.
11.26.2007 7:14pm
Hoosier:
Alec: So these rules are not 'laws'? (I'm not being argumentative, by the way. Just a non-lawyer interested in your point.)
11.26.2007 11:10pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Hoosier: I'll step in for Alec.

Saudi Arabia has very few codified laws. Instead, its judges refer to the Quran, the Hadith, and the Sunna to determine--at their sole discretion--what crime may have been committed and the appropriate punishment. Some crimes are spelled out clearly in those sources, as are their punishments, though a judge can increase or decrease that punishment, again at his sole discretion.

The Saudis have announced a major reform of the system. I'll have more about it at Crossroads Arabia tomorrow. In the meantime, you can visit the blog and search on "legal reform" if you're interested in what they have in mind. Unfortunately, codification of the laws is not yet on the planning board.
11.26.2007 11:36pm