It was a stunning sight. President Obama was in London for a summit meeting in early 2009. He bowed low before King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. President Obama had apparently never learned that Americans do not bow and the American President, especially, should never bow to a King.
Now, with the death of King Abdullah, President Obama has issued a statement that is, to put it charitably, about as far from the truth as the East is from the West. The White House issued a warm statement of appreciation of Abdullah's legacy.
To Mr. Obama, King Abdullah was "a candid leader who had the courage of his convictions, including his passionate belief in the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East."
Should we laugh? Or cry? During Mr. Obama's six years, the always-turbulent Mideast has boiled over. Countries that were thought to be reliable allies of the U.S.—like NATO Member Turkey, like Egypt—have been moving farther away from their pro-American stance.
All the while, our relations with Israel, our only democratic ally in an increasingly tyrannical region, have never been worse. President Obama and Secretary Kerry will go out of their way to snub Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes here to address a Joint Session of Congress. They say it's because the March visit is too close to Israel's national elections. Suggestion, Mr. President: With respect, might you invite the other Israeli candidates to Washington for a visit? It might not be a bad time to point out that Israel has elections.
Contrast Mr. Obama's cold shoulder for Netanyahu with his warm praise of Saudi Arabia's late King Abdullah. The King presided over a country that is as close to a totalitarian state as North Korea or Iran. No Jew can live in Saudi Arabia. No Christian can attend a church there. American contractors who live there are almost walled off. Filipino, South Korean, Yemeni and other foreign workers are virtually enslaved there.
No freedom of the press exists. A Saudi blogger's flogging had to be suspended because he was still too wounded from the first installment of his one hundred lashes. There is no freedom of religion. If you are a Saudi and convert to Christianity, you are beheaded and your headless body is crucified. That's the only way a cross appears in Saudi Arabia.
But Saudi Arabia, with its vast wealth, spreads the Wahhabi version of Islam throughout the world. It's in our U.S. prisons. It's in London mosques. It's in Pakistani schools. It is the seedbed of violent imposition of Islam. And yet serious foreign policy journalists expect us to believe that Abdullah was "a reformer."
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt met Abdullah's father aboard the USS Quincy on February 14, 1945, the President was just returning from his exhausting 14,000-mile journey to the Yalta Conference with Churchill and Stalin. FDR tried to appeal to King Abdul Aziz's humanity. Surely the Saudi king could not object to desperate Jews from Europe—survivors of Hitler's Holocaust—settling in their historic homeland in Palestine. That territory, after all, was hundreds of miles away from the King's desert domain.
Let them live in Poland, or Germany, the King replied. But, Roosevelt informed the Saudi ruler; three million Jews had been murdered at Auschwitz. Well, then, replied the King, nonplussed, there should be plenty of room to house the remnant of the Jewish people in Europe. The Saudi position on Israel's right to exist has not changed since FDR met Abdul Aziz on that bitter Valentine's Day in 1945.
Nor has President Obama's shameless abasement of himself before Abdullah in London helped us with the Saudis. For several years before his death, the Saudi ruler was said to be enraged with Mr. Obama for allowing Egypt's Hosni Mubarak to be overthrown. And the Gallup organization reports that of all the Muslim majority countries in the world, the Saudis are the most anti-American.
Now, with his Mideast policy in tatters, President Obama assures us that the changes in Yemen will come out right. And we can rely on the Iraqis we are training to stop ISIS. Can we?
By failing to uphold American principles of religious freedom and freedom of speech, press, and assembly, we have not gained the affection of many in the Muslim majority lands.
It's a good thing Mr. Obama was awarded his Nobel Peace Prize before he actually had to earn it. He was made a Nobel Laureate simply for changing the tone of U.S. diplomacy. It will make a fine trophy at the Obama Presidential Library. That may be the only place where we find the peace that Barack Obama has achieved.