Trump Won't Let A Little Murder Ruin A Literally Rewarding Friendship With Saudi Arabia
Diplomacy is complicated. So, when a journalist walks into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and leaves in an assortment of boxes that aren't part of a David Copperfield special, US leadership can't immediately throw around blame or frankly even care all that much.
Donald Trump, known for his measured approach to everything, stressed that Saudi Arabia is an important ally, and we shouldn't unfairly judge them like liberal mobs did the inoocent-as-O.J. Brett Kavanaugh. Besides, the missing journalist wasn't even
white an "American citizen." Jamal Khashoggi lived in Virginia and worked for the Washington Post. He was also a member of the human race.
This is why so many turn to people of faith for moral clarity in these fraught times. We know their priorities are in order, as gay-hating televangelist Pat Robertson demonstrated this week when he told his viewers that although the Saudi Royal Family's faith is "obnoxious," they're also really, really rich. Amen.
"We've got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of […] it'll be a lot of jobs, a lot of money come to our coffers. It's not something you want to blow up willy-nilly."
Yeah, what are you gonna do? Especially when Saudi Arabia coincidentally goes down to the Walmart and does a Moneygram for a quick $100 million, straight to the US treasury, check memo "for Syria, definitely not for MBS Khashoggi stuff"?
I know! How about a sham investigation and a coverup? Saudi rulers pinky-sweared to get to the bottom of everything and planned to pursue such promising leads as "rogue killers" with diplomatic passports, bone saws, and the perfect opportunity to isolate and murder Khashoggi. Trump thought that sounded legit. Did he mention how wealthy Saudi Arabia is? They could cut us off from that sweet, sweet petroleum or dump us for China and Russia. It's like that Eddie Murphy routine about how a woman will put up with almost anything from her man if the sex is good enough. The young, dashing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known colloquially as "MBS," insists, "Wasn't me." And Trump just shrugs and says, "Maybe it wasn't you."
Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee has expressed "disappointment" that the Trump administration has "clamped down" on sharing information related to Khashoggi's slaying. They've cancelled intelligence briefings and flat-out told the Senate to go chase themselves. If Corker belonged to a branch of government designed to provide oversight over the executive, he might have some options. But in the absence of an actual Constitutional remedy, Corker always just states the obvious.
"I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia," Corker said.
Wow! That's some first-rate surmising. Your deerstalker hat and Calabash pipe are in the mail. Operation: Coverup grew more complicated Wednesday when the Turkish government leaked audio recordings that provided gruesome detail of Khashoggi's death. Reportedly, Saudi agents with ties to "MBS" were waiting for Khashoggi when he arrived at the consulate to pick up documents for his wedding. He was dead within minutes -- beheaded, dismembered, and his fingers severed. The latter was likely a cruel slap at Khashoggi's profession and how his words had allegedly offended "MBS." The Saudis were apparently going to claim that Khashoggi died during an "interrogation gone wrong," but even first-year interrogators from the lowest-ranked post-graduate interrogation programs understand that removing someone's head is not the best way to either keep them alive or get them to talk.
Trump has asked for copies of any audio or video evidence of Khashoggi's killing "if it exists." This is the same president whose old VHS collection probably contains FOX's "Alien Autopsy: (Fact or Fiction?)" but suddenly now he's a skeptic.
"I'm not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does," Mr. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, adding: "I'll have a full report on that" when [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo returned. "That's going to be the first question I ask."
No way Trump is so disciplined that his first question to Pompeo will be something relevant. He's more likely to immediately ask if he should've called Stormy Daniels "Horseface" or "Mulehead."
There's growing evidence that "MBS" was involved in Khashoggi's brutal death. It's certainly highly unlikely that this would happen without his knowledge. Unfortunately, it's also growing less likely that the Trump administration will pursue this in the manner Khashoggi deserves and a shred of respect for human life demands. The Washington Post published Khashoggi's last column Wednesday in both English and Arabic. His final words were an impassioned call for free expression in the Arab world. He'll be missed.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.