A Philosopher's Blog

Saudi Justice

Posted in Ethics, Law, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on October 26, 2009
Third Saudi State (present day) (Saudi Arabia)
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When Saudi trials make the news, it tends to make clear the nature of Saudi Society. In a recent incident, a female journalist was sentenced to 60 lashes and a two year travel ban because of her involvement in a Lebanese TV show, A Thick Red Line. This show covers social taboos and the episode that led to the sentence featured a Saudi man bragging about his sexual exploits.

Interestingly enough, the fellow was sentenced to five years in prison as well as 1,000 lashes. As such, his punishment was considerably harsher than that handed down against the woman.

The latest turn in this story is that the king of Saudi Arabia decided to pardon the woman. The king, who is regarded by many as working to modernize his country also pardoned a woman who had been a victim of a gang rape. She was to be punished with six months in prison and 200 lashes for being alone with a man not related to her.

While I see the appeal in whipping people who go on TV to brag about their sexual antics, the sentencing does seem to be rather unjust. After all, a basic moral principle of punishment is that it should be in proportion to the crime. In the case of the man, five years in prison and 1,000 lashes for bragging about his sexual activities seems quite out of proportion to any harm his actions might have caused. In the case of the woman, she seems to clearly not deserve that sort of punishment-or any punishment at all. As such, the king acted rightly in pardoning her.

Given that Saudi Arabia’s legal system is so harsh, that the country has some “interesting” connections to terrorism, and that it is a monarchy (a system of rule which directly opposes our political and moral philosophy of legitimacy) it is sometimes wondered why we are so closely allied to Saudi Arabia. The easy, obvious and correct answer consists of two facts: they have oil and they have an important strategic location next to other oil reserves.

If Saudi Arabia lacked oil and was located somewhere else, we would have no dealings with them-except, perhaps, to be critical of their legal system. Also, we most likely would have invaded the country after 9/11. Of course, without the money provided by the Saudi Osama Bin Laden, there might never have been a 9/11 attack.

As long as our economy relies on oil and as long as certain corporations (and families) maintain close relations to the Saudis, we will continue to stay allied with the Saudis. Of course, this is a marriage of convenience for them as well. If we did not have the money and power they need, they would most likely have nothing to do with us. After all, the sort of sexual bragging that they punish, we so often reward with book deals and TV shows.

 

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9 Responses

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  1. magus71 said, on October 27, 2009 at 3:07 am

    “If Saudi Arabia lacked oil and was located somewhere else, we would have no dealings with them-except, perhaps, to be critical of their legal system. Also, we most likely would have invaded the country after 9/11″

    Obviously, war serves or tries to serve political ends. I liken it to a store whose owner is a Neo Nazi, but it is the only store for hundreds of miles that sells food. People will care little thatthe owner hates Jews; they want food when they’re hungry.

    Utilitarianism gets a bad rap. Most people are utilitarian when it comes to the clinch. Over moralising is for those separated by time and distance from the real problem.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on October 27, 2009 at 6:02 am

    Which is why we should have taken the $700 billion stimulus and built 300-400 nuclear power plants to power our all-electric fleet of vehicles. We would break our dependence on foreign oil and help with climate change.

    This is a no-brainer. Why aren’t we doing it?

    • biomass2 said, on October 27, 2009 at 10:50 am

      Powerful lobbies?

    • magus71 said, on October 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm

      Agreed. But the same leftists who hate oil aso hate nuke plants.

      • biomass2 said, on October 27, 2009 at 4:35 pm

        If you lived anywhere near or downwind of Three Mile Island in the late Seventies, you might better understand the source of “leftist” wariness of nuclear power plants. Then there is, as Michael points out, the question of nuclear waste and what to do with it. Those issues have not yet been answered. And there are security risks.
        On the other hand, dependence on foreign oil includes serious security risks. . .and wide-ranging risks related to climate change.

        There are no quick fixes to these problems. The time to start fixing was 10-20 years ago.
        I say again– we have powerful lobbies to thank for that. The Kyoto treaty was signed over ten years ago. The first notable warnings about climate shifts have spread out over the last thirty years. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that powerful oil lobby interests have “hindered” the quest for and development of viable alternative energy sources. We’ve lost 10+ years in the race for solutions.

        *Then* we should have begun intensifying research on alternative energy sources. We should have begun research to determine just how clean and energy efficient carbon sequestration really is. And whether there truly is such a thing as clean coal. And could we have moved more slowly on the path to energy-efficient transportation?

        *Now*, all we can do is fund to the max existing alternative energy sources, phase out our dependence on foreign oil as we are capable while, for the short run, increasing our use of domestic oil reserves. Corporations are, legally, individuals. So let’s begin to demand, over time, that these big oil companies do what we’ve been demanding of the men and women in our work force for years: (You lost your job? Here, we’ll give you some assistance retraining. Do something else, Change is good for you.). The changes I’m suggesting,however, are anathema to conservatives. These changes cost corporations moneyand perhaps even threaten their market dominance. These changes challenge “progress.”

        Magus, I hate to keep bringing up RL, but I remember way back in the 90’s–when I still took him seriously– when the “environmental wackos” as he labeled them first appeared on his radar. At that time, his main contention was that there was no real environmental problem; the whole movement and all of its claims were merely a plot to undermine capitalism (read corporate profits at whatever expense to the environment and humanity) inhibit progress (to be differentiated from “change”), and destroy the United States. He’s probably still making the same claims; he doesn’t change much. And he only admits he’s wrong .7% of the time. :)

        T J: Sorry to say it’s likely even fewer Republican congressemen would have voted for a stimulus package aimed at any single energy source other than coal or oil. What would that be—anywhere from 1 to 3 Republicans? ( How many of the “no” voters serve in states that eventually refused stimulus money?)

        magus: I’m no leftist (unless, of course, you consider anyone to the right of center a leftist), and I don’t hate oil. However, I’m not blind to its immediate and long term negative effects on the environment and on our national security.
        And I’d love nuke plants, if their safety record would be better. Right now, I wouldn’t want my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson living downwind of one.Please start a list of people you know who would be more than happy to have nuclear plants in their communities or nuclear waste facilities in their states. I’ll wager the list, however large or small it would be, would be dominated by residents of the poorest, most socially desperate states in the Union. And those all went Republican in ’08.

      • biomass2 said, on October 28, 2009 at 8:31 am

        magus:There is a distinction, and it’s in no way a subtle one, between the word “hate” and the phrases “understanding the limitations of” and “having justified reservations about”.

        Like I said: Provide a list of “rightists” (likely) who “love” “nuke plants” enough to volunteer to have them in their communities. They won’t make the choice because they “love” “nuke plants”. They’ll likely make it out of economic desperation–i.e. they’ll drop their “justified reservations about” nuke plants to improve the economy of their area.

        It’s often the poorer nations in the world (like India)who are clamoring for nuclear development. Nations suffering economic turmoil (see evidence of the resurgence of interest in nuclear energy in the US when our economy blew up–a 2003 article reprinted in 2009):

        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=next-generation-nuclear

        Nations willing to risk their human capital for the economic power nuclear power can sustain (China). Nations wanting to use it for political leverage (Iran).

        But I really don’t know of any nation that chooses nuclear power because they “love” it. Do you?
        Does that mean they all “hate” nuke plants? Or do they have rational, justified reservations about the very real problems associated with nuke plants.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 27, 2009 at 1:26 pm

      The problem of dealing with nuclear waste might be factor. More realistically, I’d say that 1) the nuclear lobby is weaker than the Wall Street lobby, 2) many people are still wary of nuclear power, and 3) “Not in my backyard!”.

      • magus71 said, on October 28, 2009 at 4:00 am

        Like I said:the same leftists who hate oil aso hate nuke plants.

      • biomass2 said, on October 28, 2009 at 8:37 am

        The “reply” system is constantly confusing me. I hate to repost this, but I intended it as a reply to magus’ most recent post (more or less identical to his last one) and I would prefer that it appear there. So here goes.

        magus:There is a distinction, and it’s in no way a subtle one, between the word “hate” and the phrases “understanding the limitations of” and “having justified reservations about”.

        Like I said: Provide a list of “rightists” (likely) who “love” “nuke plants” enough to volunteer to have them in their communities. They won’t make the choice because they “love” “nuke plants”. They’ll likely make it out of economic desperation–i.e. they’ll drop their “justified reservations about” nuke plants to improve the economy of their area.

        It’s often the poorer nations in the world (like India)who are clamoring for nuclear development. Nations suffering economic turmoil (see evidence of the resurgence of interest in nuclear energy in the US when our economy blew up–a 2003 article reprinted in 2009):

        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=next-generation-nuclear

        Nations willing to risk their human capital for the economic power nuclear power can sustain (China). Nations wanting to use it for political leverage (Iran).

        But I really don’t know of any nation that chooses nuclear power because they “love” it. Do you?
        Does that mean they all “hate” nuke plants? Or do they have rational, justified reservations about the very real problems associated with nuke plants.


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