The Vile

The disappearance and presumed murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is certainly evoking a long-overdue reaction from the major media outlets. The editors of the New York Times declaim:

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that has long imposed an intolerant form of Islam, with a liberal use of cruel punishments such as beheading, stoning, amputation, lashing and the like. On being named heir last year, Prince Mohammed, 33, generated a reputation as a reformer by allowing women to drive; detaining hundreds of businessmen, including fellow royals, in an “anticorruption” campaign; and proclaiming grand visions for the future. But then he jailed the women who had campaigned for the right to drive and violently overreacted when Canada protested. He is also behind a barbaric war in Yemen, in which American weapons have been used to kill untold thousands of civilians, and a bitter feud with neighboring Qatar.

Basically, he appears to be revealing himself to be a ruthless tyrant, only with a different social and economic agenda from his predecessors. It is not hard to believe that he is behind Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, especially given the reports of American intelligence intercepts in which Saudi officials discussed a plan to lure Mr. Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him.

President Trump is obviously troubled by this possibility. “We don’t like it, and we don’t like it even a little bit,” he said on Thursday. But he seems to like even less losing a $110 billion arms deal and a Middle Eastern comrade in arms.

I guess that’s a start. It beats their prior lauding of him as a reformer when it was obvious to anyone but a gullible fool what he was actually doing. I should add that “absolute monarchy” misrepresents Saudi Arabia’s actual nature somewhat and that last paragraph calls their intentions into doubt a bit. How much is genuine outrage and how much just something else to bash Trump about?

The editors of the Washington Post are equally incensed if not more so:

On Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was still “planning on going at this point” to the conference, adding, “If more information comes out and changes, we can look at that.” That is the opposite of the appropriate position, which would be to suspend official U.S. participation unless and until Saudi authorities provide satisfactory answers. As they did before Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance, Mr. Trump and his aides are sending the message that they will tolerate even the most reckless and unlawful adventures by the crown prince, provided he buys U.S. weapons. It’s hard to imagine a more irresponsible and amoral stance.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal react as well:

Mr. Khashoggi is a more complicated figure than the liberal democrat he is portrayed to be in the Western press. He is a longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood and favors Islamic theocracy, as John Bradley explains this week in the British Spectator. He has longtime ties to the Saudi royal family as a journalist and adviser, and some reports suggest MBS recently offered him a significant government post if he returned from exile in Washington, D.C. Some speculate that his refusal to accept that offer may have triggered the Saudi assault in Turkey.

None of this justifies a brazen murder, if that’s what happened, which would be a blunder and a crime. The fiasco puts enormous pressure on aging King Salman, who put the Crown Prince in charge. The Saudi royal family can be like feuding Borgias in the best of times, and the rivals of MBS will see a moment to strike at his power and agenda.

The episode is not the fault of Mr. Trump or son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, despite the predictable claims of the American left. Any sensible U.S. Administration would support a Saudi reformer willing to help restrain Iranian military adventurism. But a murder of this sordid kind would inevitably have bilateral consequences.

I guess there’s nothing like violence perpetrated against journalists, even journalists with which they have nothing else in common, to get the dander of journalists up.

When will Americans recognize that we have enemies in the Middle East and we have clients there but no allies or friends? It is incomprehensible that two consecutive administrations have supported KSA’s war against Yemen. There is plenty of evidence that Saudi Arabia is supporting our worst enemies in the Middle East. If we were living according to our purported values, not only wouldn’t we be supporting their war or trading with them, we would be blockading them and tossing their royals into jail here. For goodness sake, the Saudis still practice slavery (including here in the United States) and execute people for witchcraft.

I don’t know why we put up with the Saudis’ reprehensible behavior. We don’t need them any more and they’ve hated us for decades.

6 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    “I don’t know why we put up with the Saudis’ reprehensible behavior.”

    You do know. Israel has decided that Iran is their number one enemy. Saudi Arabia opposes Iran. Therefore we must support Saudi Arabia. That, plus the oil. They will promise Trump that they will pump more oil to keep prices down. This will blow over for them.


  • Roy Lofquist Link

    As Henry Kissinger said about the Iran/Iraq war: “It’s too bad they both can’t lose”.

    I can’t think of a much better solution to that part of the world other than “let’s you and him fight”.

  • The Israelis aren’t our friends, either. At best they’re clients. The tail is wagging the dog.

    We don’t need the oil, either. Our oil imports are at their lowest level in 50 years. Were prices to rise we’d become more self-sufficient not less. And I don’t think the Saudis have as much leeway as they pretend.

  • Roy Lofquist Link

    “We don’t need the oil, either.”

    Careful, Dave. Some may get the impression that you might be giving Sarah Palin a little cred.

  • Guarneri Link

    “We don’t need them any more and they’ve hated us for decades.”

    SA’s transgressions, and our looking past them, are longstanding. So why do we do it? Oil, Anti-Iran and military logistics all seem plausible issues, of various degrees of current relevance. Gnashing our teeth at successive administrations may be cathartic, but how do we really account for administrations of rather different foreign policy postures all behaving similarly. Is something missing from the analysis?

  • TarsTarkas Link

    According to Wictor Thomas Al-Jazeera Khashoggi disappeared AFTER leaving the Saudi embassy, then suddenly it’s he never left the embassy amidst a constantly changing storyline (first he was killed by 15 operatives, then it’s not so many, and was there really a bone saw, his death was recorded by his Apple watch but it’s not available for independent analysis, etc. etc.). Plus Khashoggi (who when you look at his activities was much a ‘journalist’ as Mumia Abu Jamal was, which isn’t much) is the nephew of Adnan Khashoggi, a notorious arms dealer; has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda, both enemies of the Saudis; and the man who reported Khashoggi’s death, Khaled Saffuri, is an aide to Abdurahman Alamoudi, an Al-Qaeda fundraiser currently in prison for those activities. Plus I don’t trust Erdogan farther than I throw him (which is not far). Erdogan considers Saudi Arabia an enemy. Finally it would be completely stupid for Saudi Arabia to off a regime opponent in such an obvious way and in such a lurid fashion. Don’t pass the smell test at all.

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