Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum blasted President Donald Trump and his administration on Sunday for choosing Saudi Arabia as the destination for Trump's first international trip as president.
Citing the oil-rich nation's extensive record of human rights abuses, its all-powerful royal family's grip on the nation's finances and its abuse of women -- who are forced to cover their faces, not allowed to drive and who must ask a male relative for permission to travel -- Applebaum took Trump and his advisers to task on a number of points.
"(H)ere is a list, for the record," she said, "of just a few of the ways in which President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia was bizarre, unseemly, unethical and un-American."
Saudi Arabia was a rotten first choice, she said, of all the nations in the world the new president could visit.
"The past four American presidents, two Republicans and two Democrats, made their first trips to either Mexico and Canada, countries that are close trading partners, close allies, compatible democracies and of course neighbors," she said. "Trump chose, instead, to make his first presidential visit to an oligarchic kleptocracy which forces women to hide their faces and forbids them to travel without a male guardian’s permission."
However desperate the administration might be to distance itself from the ever-expanding Russia investigation and last Friday's bombshell revelations about Trump's conduct with a Russian delegation in the Oval Office, making a speech about radical Islam from the heart of Saudi Arabia, Applebaum said, was a blunder.
"Although Saudi Arabia is afraid of some forms of Islamist extremism, it supports others. Saudi Arabia sponsors extremist Wahabi mosques and imams all over the world; Osama bin Laden was a Saudi citizen, as were 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers," she noted.
She also dinged the administration for its participation in the "sinister" sword dance ritual -- given the Saudi government's practice of beheading criminals -- and hammered Ivanka Trump for using the visit as an elaborate "public relations gambit" and an opportunity to line her charitable foundation's coffers with a $100 million donation from the House of Saud and the government of the United Arab Emirates.