While our romance with Saudi Arabia began under strange and exotic circumstances ("An odd start to Americas romance with Saudi Arabia," Feb 13), the love affair remains an illicit and sordid one. In exchange for access to its oil reserves, the U.S. embraces one of the worlds' most authoritarian and repressive regimes.
As an absolute monarchy, our trusted ally forbids national elections, political parties and all forms of public dissent. Government policies are not subject to popular choice but are made solely within the Saudi royal family or in consultation with a small number of tribal sheiks and commercial entities.
The Saudi justice system is based upon Sharia law in which the accused is presumed guilty and denied even the most basic legal protections. Trials are often secret, and individuals can be subject to abusive treatment and torture if they do not confess. Capital and physical punishments can be severe and include public beheading, stoning, amputation and flogging. Indeed the death penalty can be imposed for a wide range of offenses from murder and rape, to drug abuse, adultery and witchcraft.
Saudi Arabia has been long criticized for a broad range of human rights abuses including the extremely disadvantaged position of women, and it is one of the few countries not to accept the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Our romance with Saudi Arabia is ironic in light of the U.S.'s longstanding disdain for political repression in Cuba. If that island nation was awash in petroleum rather than in sugar cane, perhaps our love would be otherwise directed.
Irwin Fried, Baltimore