Why is the president of the United States entertaining Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheik Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at Camp David when his own State Department has singled out the Sheik’s homeland, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), for its continuing violations of human rights?
Abu Dhabi is one of seven oil-rich — and anti-Israel states — in the U.A.E. Using its massive sovereign wealth fund of over $875 billion, Abu Dhabi has been gobbling up American assets, buying considerable stakes in U.S. businesses like Citigroup, the Carlyle Group, Advanced Micro Devices, and Toll Brother and is now bidding on the Chrysler Building.
At the same time, the U.S. Department of State has singled out the U.A.E. for its continuing violation of human rights. Here’s what it said in its latest report for 2007: “Citizens did not have the right to change their government. In some cases, security forces reportedly employed flogging as judicially sanctioned punishment. Arbitrary detention and incommunicado detention remained problems . . .
“The judiciary lacked full independence. The government restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press (including the Internet), assembly, association, and religion. There were limited reports of corruption, and the government lacked transparency.
“Domestic abuse of women remained a problem, and there were allegations that it was sometimes enabled by police. Trafficking in women and children and legal and societal discrimination against women and non-citizens also remained problems.
“The government severely restricted workers' rights, and the abuse of foreign domestic servants remained a problem . . . Political organizations, political parties, and trade unions are illegal.”
Last year, Sheik Mohammad was dismissed from a Houston lawsuit brought by a former adviser to the U.A.E. royal family, alleging that he aided and abetted his brother Sheik Issa in brutal torture and false imprisonment. Without ruling on the merits of the plaintiff’s claims, the court held that Sheik Mohammad had sovereign immunity and could not be tried because, among other things, such torture had not been demonstrated to be illegal in the U.A.E.
And, apparently, torture it was: tapes provided to The Associated Press “showed a man who appeared to be Sheik Issa beating another man with lumber, firing an automatic weapon into the sand around him and forcing an apparent cattle prod into his anus. The victim also appeared to have been partly run over by a SUV and had salt poured on his wounds . . . Lawyers said the video also showed the victim's genitals being lit on fire. They said the abuse began because the sheik felt he had been overcharged in a grain deal.”
The suit against Sheik Issa continues. After the release of the embarrassing tapes, the embassy of the U.A.E. in the U.S. refused to comment on the lawsuit, since it is not actually against the government of the U.A.E., nor has the embassy commented on the brutality of the documented torture. No action has been taken against the crown prince’s brother.
The U.A.E. does not permit Israeli citizens to enter the country and gives special scrutiny to those with Israeli stamps on their passports. Here’s what the U.S. State Department reported on institutionalized anti-Semitism: “There was a small resident non-citizen Jewish population of unknown size. There were no synagogues. There were no reported acts of physical violence against or harassment of Jewish persons; however, anti-Semitism in the media was present in articles and editorial cartoons, which depicted negative images of Jews.
"These expressions occurred primarily in the government affiliated daily newspapers Al-Ittihad (government-owned) Al-Bayan (government-owned), and Al-Khaleej (pro-government, privately owned). The articles and cartoons appeared without government response.”
So why is the crown prince at Camp David? Maybe they’re talking about the obscene price of oil. Or, if history is any guide, one outcome of the visit might be a big donation to the George W. Bush Presidential Library.
If Bush follows Clinton’s example — and his own father’s — he’ll be spending a lot of time at Camp David with prospective rich donors in the next six months.
One thing that is likely missing from the agenda is a discussion of human rights.
© Dick Morris & Eileen McGann