A columnist for the Washington Post was apparently murdered in Istanbul, Turkey. This was no robbery, not a drive-by shooting. Officially, Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi is a missing person.
This is a story with implications going beyond the unbridled cruelty of the Saudi regime. It goes beyond the 11 journalists currently being detained in Saudi Arabia and the rising tide of violence aimed at the news media worldwide. It should come as no surprise that there are threads back to the Trump administration woven into this story.
First, the facts, and some of the reporting.
There is security cam footage of him walking into the Saudi Consulate, but no evidence that he left. His fiance waited outside the building for 10 hours.
From the New York Times:
Top Turkish security officials have concluded that the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest levels of the royal court, a senior official said Tuesday.
The official described a quick and complex operation in which Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate by a team of Saudi agents, who dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose.
“It is like ‘Pulp Fiction,’” the official said.
Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have denied the allegations, insisting that Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate freely shortly after he arrived. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has demanded that the Saudis provide evidence proving their claim.
Here’s the Washington Post:
The Sabah newspaper, which is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, published images of what it referred to as the “assassination squad” apparently taken at passport control. It said they checked into two hotels in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and left later that day.
Turkey’s private NTV news channel identified one member of the alleged 15-member team as the head of a Saudi forensic science agency. It alleged he may have been responsible for cleaning up any incriminating evidence. The station did not cite a source for its report.
Khashoggi had written a series of columns for the Washington Post that were critical of Saudi Arabia’s assertive Prince Mohammed, who has led a widely publicized drive to reform the conservative Sunni monarchy but has also presided over the arrests of activists and businessmen.
The Washington Post has also reported that US Intelligence was aware of discussions within the Saudi leadership about Khashoggi, although it’s unclear how they’re connected to the actions that took place in Turkey last week.
Before Khashoggi’s disappearance, U.S. intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him, according to a person familiar with the information. The Saudis wanted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and lay hands on him there, this person said. It was not clear whether the Saudis intended to arrest and interrogate Khashoggi or to kill him, or if the United States warned Khashoggi that he was a target, this person said.
There’s a Trump connection to all this, as Chas Danner at the New York Magazine Intelligencer explains:
Saudi Arabia is currently waging a brutal and bloody proxy war in Yemen — fought with U.S. supplied weapons — which has devastated the already reeling country and resulted in the deaths of countless civilians. The Saudis tried to dominate their Gulf rival Qatar last year by leading a multi-nation economic blockade of the country under a far-fetched pretense. The Saudi government has also kidnapped and robbed the prime minister of Lebanon, hysterically tried to cut off all relations with Canada after it criticized the regime for arresting a prominent Saudi women’s rights activist, and initiated a crackdown on political freedoms and dissent within its borders. In addition, the country’s government already held one of the world’s most dismal records when it comes to respecting human rights, has kidnapped and repatriated other dissidents in the past, and employs torture, long-term imprisonment, and even capital punishment in its persecution of political activists.
The Saudi’s brazenness increased following the election of Trump — an autocrat-admirer who always swoons at demonstrations of strength, and who last year effectively told Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, MBS’s father and chief backer, that he considers him the leader of the Muslim world. Previous administrations — particularly President Obama’s — have tried to at least somewhat contain Saudi aggression — though none have stopped supporting and enabling the regime with arms sales. But Trump doesn’t just look the other way — he and his advisers, like son-in-law and MBS friend Jared Kushner, are cheerleaders for the royal family’s power moves. The Trump administration also considers the Kingdom a crucial part of the administration’s efforts to confront Iran, suppress Palestinian self-determination, and institutionalize U.S. Islamophobia.
The last two years have seen what happens when Saudi Arabia no longer feels it has to ask the U.S. for permission to do anything. So it would make sense that MBS could also now believe he could get away with executing a high-profile Washington Post–employed journalist within the borders of a NATO member country.
It’s wrong to look at this as just the actions of a rogue monarchy with financial connections to the United States. Khashoggi’s disappearance is just the latest example of a worldwide movement away from the concept of democracy as a desirable goal for governance.
While the specifics of the Trump administrations actions domestically may differ from those in other countries, the underlying trend is the same.
The President of the United States is staging campaign rallies around the country where his supporters are encouraged to chant “lock her up.” Two years after the presidential election it warms his cockles to hear calls for the imprisonment of his opponent. Last week, the crowd was chanting about Christine Blasey Ford. On Tuesday night in Iowa, it was Senator Dianne Feinstein.
So @USATODAY decides to be state sponsored media today. They have zero integrity for printing this cavalcade of lies.
— Andrew C Laufer, Esq (@lauferlaw) October 10, 2018
The GOP’s lie machine is running full bore. USA Today gave Trump space for an op-ed jam-packed with falsehoods about his political opponents. It’s not a big stretch to go from rhetoric about political rival’s lawlessness to actual repression.
In a speech delivered at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders made the connection between the president’s penchant for authoritarianism and what’s going on worldwide.
“There is currently a struggle of enormous consequence taking place in the United States and throughout the world,” Sanders declared in his speech. “In it we see two competing visions. On one hand, we see a growing worldwide movement toward authoritarianism, oligarchy, and kleptocracy. On the other side, we see a movement toward strengthening democracy, egalitarianism, and economic, social, racial, and environmental justice.”
Sanders continued by drawing a picture in which an increasingly wealthy and powerful set of elites—not just in the U.S., but in Europe, Russia, the Middle East, South America, Asia, and elsewhere—are actively fomenting anti-democratic angst while butressed by the rise of “demagogues” who, like Trump domestically, “exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to gain and hold on to power.”
In response to such forces, argued Sanders, “Those of us who believe in democracy, who believe that a government must be accountable to its people and not the other way around, must understand the scope of this challenge if we are to confront it effectively.”
And so, he added, “We need to counter oligarchic authoritarianism with a strong global progressive movement that speaks to the needs of working people, that recognizes that many of the problems we are faced with are the product of a failed status quo. We need a movement that unites people all over the world who don’t just seek to return to a romanticized past, a past that did not work for so many, but who strive for something better.”
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