General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of staff, wants to honor a particular military hero.

Well sure, who doesn’t admire General George Washington? Or maybe a hero from the Civil War or World War II?

Here’s a twist: Maybe it’s General Buck Turgidson from the Dr. Strangelove movie.

Actually it’s none of those. Dempsey’s choice is even more twisted: King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah, who headed the royal Saud family and became the ruling Saudi monarch in 2005, died in January at age 90. A former U.S. military advisor to the late king’s national guard, Dempsey now lauds the royal zillionaire as “a man of remarkable character and courage.”

Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and General Martin Dempsey

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr

Thus, Dempsey has launched a scholarly essay contest for students at our National Defense University, calling it a “fitting tribute to the [monarch’s] leadership.”


To what end? The king’s militaristic, autocratic, theocratic regime was revoltingly repressive — especially against women and dissidents.

I wonder if Dempsey’s contest will welcome essays about King Abdullah’s gross human rights abuses, including vicious lashings of religious and political dissenters and public beheadings of even minor offenders like drug users?

Then there’s Abdullah’s allocation of billions of dollars from the family’s oil monopoly. This money is still funding the global spread of Wahhabism — the Kingdom’s extremist, violent perversion of Islam that has helped spawn al-Qaeda and the barbaric Islamic State, both of which are at war with America.

Dempsey’s choice for hero worship just proves that generals should stay out of the essay business. And they damn sure shouldn’t be propagandizing students with the notion that autocratic monarchs are worthy models of character and leadership.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower

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