Pretty much what Murtaza Hussain says here:
It’s not often that the unelected leader of a country which publicly flogs dissidents and beheads people for sorcery wins such glowing praise from American officials. Even more perplexing, perhaps, have been the fawning obituaries in the mainstream press which have faithfully echoed this characterization of Abdullah as a benign and well-intentioned man of peace.
Tiptoeing around his brutal dictatorship, The Washington Post characterized Abdullah as a “wily king” while The New York Times inexplicably referred to him as “a force of moderation”, while also suggesting that evidence of his moderation included having had: “hundreds of militants arrested and some beheaded” (emphasis added).
While granting that Abdullah might be considered a relative moderate within the brazenly anachronistic House of Saud, the fact remains that he presided for two decades over a regime which engaged in wanton human rights abuses, instrumentalized religious chauvinism, and played a hugely counterrevolutionary role in regional politics.
Above all, he was not a leader who shied away from both calling for and engineering more conflict in the Middle East.
Like Atrios, I’ve never really understood the realpolitik defense for the extent of the American alliance with the Saudis. But, yes, international affairs often involves alliances with bad actors, and as we’ve learned vividly in the region declaring the House of Saud our Hitlers of the month and actively trying to depose them would probably make things worse rather than better. I’m inclined to think that nothing can justify the extent of Kerry’s praise of this brutal dictator, but perhaps there’s some reason why a more subtle message wouldn’t have served the American national interest that I’m missing.
But the way much of the media has dealt with the death of someone presiding over one of the very worst regimes in the world…there’s no possible defense for that.