President Obama meets with India’s Prime Minister Narenda Modi, currently suspected of allowing a genocide, and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, a nation known for human rights violations and support of the 9/11 attacks.
For a nation and leader that promotes itself as lovers of freedom and justice, the United States government and President Obama sure do keep strange bedfellows. This can be seen quite clearly with the President’s most recent visits to India and Saudi Arabia.
President Obama met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the future of relations between the two nations. Despite much of the media concerns regarding a budding “Bromance” between the two leaders, or wondering whether Modi’s suit was appropriate, there are bigger issues to look at regarding the history of India’s current PM.
Modi is a former state Chief Minister for Gujarat. In 2002 a train carrying Hindu pilgrims returning to Gujarat stopped in the town of Godhra. The town is majority Muslim and has a history of hostility to Hindu’s. After a dispute someone set part of the train on fire. Riots would break out and fires would burn through cities, towns, and villages in western Gujarat. The bodies of 59 people would be put on public display in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Critics blamed Modi for the decision to allow a strike to continue at the same time, further stoking violence.
The initial three days of violence spread throughout the nation and led to three weeks of violence, widespread rape and assault, an estimated 2,000 deaths, and hundreds of thousands of people displaced.
Despite a 2005 investigation by the Indian government concluding the fire was an accident and not intentionally caused by Muslims, the suspicion of a coordinated effort continued. Modi has since said the only regrets he has are not managing the media better. An investigation by India’s Supreme Court reopened around 2,000 cases, convicting hundreds. Mayaben Kodnani, a top lieutenant for Modi, was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in the Naroda Patiya massacre, the largest scene of mass violence during the Gujarat riots.
John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, believes that Mr. Modi should at the least be held accountable for not stopping or controlling the riots. Human rights organization the American Justice Center has filed a criminal complaint on Modi.
At one point the United States actually took a stance against the current Prime Minister. Up until February 2014, when Modi became Prime Minister, the US had imposed a visa ban on him for his role in the riots. One day before President Obama’s most recent visit with Modi, a federal court in New York issued a summons for the leader. Modi is being sued for his role in the 2002 riots. His position as a head of state gives him diplomatic immunity.
The President had to cut his romance with Modi short however, when Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was announced dead and the new King Salman was crowned.
Rather than use the president’s visit to Saudi Arabia as an opportunity to discuss human rights violations or a conversation on why the United States continues to support nations tied to the 9/11 attacks, the Washington Post and other corporate outlets decided to talk about how controversial it was that Michelle Obama did not wear a headscarf. As expected these important factors received minimal coverage from the larger outlets.
The US government’s relationship with the Saudi royalty is not only about oil and the petro-dollar. These days the two nations are partnering together in regime change as well. The Saudi’s want President Obama to push Syria’s Bashar Assad out of power. The US wants the Saudi government to help build a coalition of Arab nations against the Islamic State. The two nations also discusses a partnership against Iran and Russia involving oil and sanctions.
Although these issues are hugely relevant and will play a large impact on the geo-political landscape we cannot ignore the actions of the nations the US government does business with, especially when that business is done using American taxpayer dollars.
Human rights groups around the world have condemned the cruel and unusual treatment and punishment of those imprisoned in the Saudi Kingdom. There are also grave concerns for the treatment of women. Less than a week since the new King has taken office five beheadings have taken place. Four of them took place while President Obama was in the country. The victims were accused of murder, rape, and drug trafficking. One of them maintained that he was framed by the police until his death.
One of the more recent violations of human rights involves the blogger Raif Badawi. Badawi’s case has garnered international attention after he was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for writing about the nations religious laws. He has so far received 50 lashes but they were postponed following medical concerns. When asked if the President would discuss the situation with the new king he said he was going to pay his respects to King Abdullah.
One final point to consider is probably the most outrageous.
The US government continues to partner with this nation despite elected members of Congress stating that classified documents reveal the nation was involved in the funding of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Several members of the House of Representatives recently introduced House Resolution 14 which would force the Obama Administration to declassify 28 pages of a Senate report on the 9/11 attacks.
Upon seeing the pages Rep. Walter Jones said the 28 pages would embarrass the Obama administration. Rep. Thomas Massie said while reading the documents he “had to stop every couple of pages and absorb and try to rearrange my understanding of history for the past 13 years and the years leading up to that. It challenges you to rethink everything.”
Former Senator Bob Graham spoke of the “denial of truth” coming from government officials. Graham asked, “Did these 19 hijackers act alone or did they have support?”. He said the 28-pages “point a strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier” of the attacks. When asked if he was speaking about the Saudi government or independent elements, he stated that he was referring to the Saudi Kingdom.
Graham called the refusal of the Bush or Obama Administrations to release the documents a “pervasive pattern of covering up the role of Saudi Arabia in 9/11 by all of the agencies of the federal government which have access to information that might illuminate Saudi Arabia’s role in 9/11.”
Terry Strada, co-chair of 9/11 Families United for Justice Against Terrorism and widow of Tom Strada, said “Private citizens and Congress must take action against those who are responsible for aiding and abetting the 19 hijackers that murdered nearly 3,000 innocent people on American soil no matter who they may be, no matter what government they are, no matter what country they come from.”
Is it not time for the United States government, and thus the US taxpayer to consider where it throws its moral and financial support?