By Elaine Magliaro
On January 23rd, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz passed away at the age of ninety. To honor the memory of this kind and benevolent (?) world figure, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin E. Dempsey, has established a research and essay competition. Really! I’m not kidding. The competition is being “hosted” by the National Defense University (NDU).
Writing for DoD News, Jim Garamone said that General Dempsey thinks the “essay competition is a fitting tribute to the life and leadership of the Saudi Arabian monarch.” Garamone noted that the good king “oversaw the modernization of his country’s military during the time he spent as commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, a position he held from 1963 until he became king in 2005.”
In a statement announcing the competition, Dempsey said, “This is an important opportunity to honor the memory of the king, while also fostering scholarly research on the Arab-Muslim world, and I can think of no better home for such an initiative than NDU.”
The king was a lifetime supporter of his country’s alliance with the United States. Abdullah ruled Saudi Arabia from 2005 to his death, and served as regent of the country from 1995…
The competition will focus on issues related to the Arab-Muslim world and is designed to encourage strategic thinking and meaningful research on a crucial part of the world. The program will be in place at NDU for the next academic year, officials said.
General Dempsey reportedly met the late King Abdullah in 2001, when he was a brigadier general serving as the U.S. advisor to the Saudi Arabian National Guard. Dempsey said, “In my job to train and advise his military forces, and in our relationship since, I found the king to be a man of remarkable character and courage.”
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Frederick M. Padilla, the president of NDU, welcomed the opportunity to challenge future students while honoring the late king. Padilla said, “This scholarly research competition presents NDU students with a unique opportunity to focus their research and writing efforts on relevant issues at the intersection of U.S. security interests and the Arab-Muslim world.”
The Guardian said the essay competition “is the latest act of flattery directed towards the kingdom and the reigning al-Sauds in recent days by the US, echoing the heavy praise heaped on the deceased 90-year-old monarch by western leaders.” As pointed out by The Guardian, British prime minister David Cameron praised Abdullah for his “commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths” and US secretary of state John Kerry called him a “man of wisdom and vision.” IMF head Christine Lagarde, thread of IMF, called Abdullah a “strong advocate for women.”
The late king was such a fine man! Who knew?
Jenna McLaughlin of Mother Jones said that although she wouldn’t have been recognized by the king as a “full human being” because she is a woman, she decided to contribute an entry to the essay competition. You can read McLaughlin’s essay here.
Award-winning political cartoonist Mark Fiore said he “was curious” how someone “could be king of a country that beheads people, doesn’t let women drive and regularly flogs people and be remembered as a ‘reformer'” after death.
Fiore noted that following King Abdullah’s death, “world leaders beat a path to his door to honor his memory.”
Besides women not being allowed to drive, beheadings continuing apace and regular floggings, it should be noted that King Abdullah apparently held four of his daughters under house arrest, um, indefinitely. Let’s just keep in mind who this guy really was before we go sugar-coating him as a great model for the Middle East.
King Abdullah: Royal Pain
KING ABDULLAH: ROYAL PAIN (Mark Fiore)
Dempsey Sponsors Essay Competition to Honor Saudi King (DoD News, U.S. Department of Defense)