On October 2nd, famed Saudi journalist and critic of Mohammed Bin Salman’s new regime, Jamal Khashoggi, walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and did not walk out. Reports leaked by the Turkish government say that Khashoggi was drugged, tortured, murdered, then dismembered (the assassination team that flew in from Saudi Arabia had high-ranking Saudi military coroner, Salah al-Tubaigy, with them).
After initially denying any involvement, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said in a Fox News interview that “this was an operation that was a rogue operation. This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had. They made the mistake when they killed Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate and they tried to cover up for it.”
Trump then literally repeated Saudi state media talking points that new ruler, Mohammed Bin Salman and the rest of the ruling regime had no knowledge of this assassination carried out by these high-ranking “rogue” Saudi officials.
Turkey, which has evidence of this gruesome murder and has been forcing the Saudis to admit more and more culpability by slowly releasing information that they obtained by definitely not spying on the Saudi consulate in their nation's capital, is now calling the Khashoggi killing a “political murder,” according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who is no stranger to strongman tactics himself).
Today, the Saudis, in an attempt to either further humiliate the Khashoggi family, or in a clumsy attempt to mollify the outrage building around this seeming assassination, invited members of the Khashoggi family—including Jamal Khashoggi's son, Salah—to accept their condolences (on camera) for the murder carried out by their men.
This is all so horrifying. America's second-most important ally in the middle east is carrying out a war in Yemen (with significant help from the United States) that is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the United Nations, and now we are assisting in the cover-up of a murder of a journalist. We have always bent over backwards to help a country which funded, trained and indoctrinated most of the 9/11 hijackers, but the hypocrisy has degraded into outright cynicism under Trump. Obama helped initiate the war in Yemen, so he has plenty of children's blood on his hands, but he at least helped maintain the façade in the international community that Saudi Arabia was a “normal” country and forced them to at least try to resemble one by avoiding brazen autocratic instances like this. In reality, Saudi Arabia is a theocratic petrostate ruled by an oppressive, regressive, undisciplined regime which funds terrorism throughout the world. The United States has historically been best buddies with them, and now we're getting closer.
Here is how the President of the United States spoke about Saudi Arabia before he became the most powerful man in the world.
Given Trump's history of outright corruption, it's clear what's driving him to help them murder children in Yemen and cover up the assassination of a journalist, and he felt the need to get out in front of the obvious.
I say “obvious,” because at a rally in Alabama in 2015, he said this:
”Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
America’s colonialist state has always prioritized working with authoritarian governments (like right now in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Thailand, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Morocco, Djibouti, Cameroon, Chad, Uganda and Rwanda; or in the past in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, Guatemala, Peru, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Haiti, Panama, Chile, Peru, South Korea, Pakistan, South Vietnam, Cambodia, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Syria, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Ethiopia, Zaire, Chad, South Africa—yup, Nelson Mandela’s apartheid government—Tunisia, Spain, Portugal, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Romania, Thailand and the Republic of China), so don’t look at this mess as some isolated incident. Autocratic regimes that we support murder journalists all the time—and we have looked the other way before.
The difference with this current American colonialist regime is that its ruler is so clearly personally financially invested in Saudi autocracy, that his greed may surpass the insatiable desire of the colonialist state to do business with Saudi Arabia. It’s hard to tell where this is all going—especially since Turkey seems to hold all the cards right now—but Saudi Arabia is becoming more ostracized from the global stage by the day, and we are one of their lone supporters in the face of a certain political assassination ordered by Mohammed Bin Salman or someone in his orbit. America used to at least feign global leadership in these situations and that did have some tangible benefit as far as international norms are concerned, but we have ceded that responsibility in order to stoop to the abominable level of the Saudi regime’s autocratic kleptocracy.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.