The Pentagon announced Monday that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey has come up with a way to honor the recently deceased Saudi monarch, King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz: an essay contest.
Despite Saudi Arabia’s abysmal record on human rights, the contest, to be hosted by the National Defense University, is intended to “to honor the memory of the king, while also fostering scholarly research on the Arab-Muslim world.”
Here is the complete text of the Department of Defense’s announcement:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2015 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has established a research and essay competition in honor of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz hosted by the National Defense University.
The king, who died Jan. 23 at age 90, oversaw the modernization of his country’s military during the time he spent as commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, a position he held from 1963 until he became king in 2005.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the essay competition is a fitting tribute to the life and leadership of the Saudi Arabian monarch.
Lifetime Supporter of U.S.-Saudi Alliance
The king was a lifetime supporter of his country’s alliance with the United States. Abdullah ruled Saudi Arabia from 2005 to his death, and served as regent of the country from 1995. He is succeeded by King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz.
“This is an important opportunity to honor the memory of the king, while also fostering scholarly research on the Arab-Muslim world, and I can think of no better home for such an initiative than NDU,” Dempsey said in a statement announcing the competition.
The competition will focus on issues related to the Arab-Muslim world and is designed to encourage strategic thinking and meaningful research on a crucial part of the world. The program will be in place at NDU for the next academic year, officials said.
‘A Man of Remarkable Character and Courage’
Dempsey first met Abdullah in 2001, when he was a brigadier general serving as the U.S. advisor to the Saudi Arabian National Guard. “In my job to train and advise his military forces, and in our relationship since, I found the king to be a man of remarkable character and courage,” Dempsey said.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Frederick M. Padilla, the president of the National Defense University, welcomed the opportunity to challenge future students while honoring the late king.
“This scholarly research competition presents NDU students with a unique opportunity to focus their research and writing efforts on relevant issues at the intersection of U.S. security interests and the Arab-Muslim world,” he said.
As the Washington Examiner notes, while King Abdullah was one of America’s key allies in the Middle East, and did enact some relatively liberal reforms, the effusive praise of the king from the Obama administration has drawn criticism from human rights groups and political dissidents in the region. Despite his modest reforms, Abdullah presided over a nation marked by religious intolerance, gender inequality, and a brutal and unjust judicial system. Via Human Rights Watch:
King Abdullah passed away on January 23, 2015 after a nine-and-a-half year reign and his half-brother Salman bin Abdulaziz became king. Saudi Arabia has pressed on with arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents, and forcibly dispersed peaceful demonstrations by citizens. Authorities continued to violate the rights of Saudi women and girls and foreign workers. Courts convicted human rights defenders and others for peaceful expression or assembly demanding political and human rights reforms.