The corporate media cry crocodile tears over the apparent murder of an elite, CIA-connected “dissident,” while papering over US complicity in Saudi war crimes in Yemen.
The disappearance and presumed murder of Jamal Khashoggi puts the corrupt relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States in high relief. The two countries have been partners in crime over many years. Together they used jihadist proxies to make wars in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria that furthered U.S. interests. The brutal Saudi attack on neighboring Yemen could not happen without U.S. diplomatic and logistical support. The Donald Trump presidency has brought the two even closer. The relationship is now a true love affair complete with personal dealings between Saudi royals and the Trumps.
Khashoggi was a member of a prominent Saudi family with strong ties to the royal house. His uncle, Adnan Khashoggi, was an arms dealer involved in the Iran-Contra and BCCI scandals. But Jamal Khashoggi had a parting of the ways with crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the de facto ruler, and he left Saudi Arabia in 2017. He was a long time Saudi spokesman, CIA asset and a Washington Postjournalist. All of those credentials made him an elite insider in the United States too.
Khashoggi entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2ndand was never seen again. According to media reports the Turkish government has audio and video proof that he was murdered and that his body was dismembered and disposed of elsewhere. The Saudis may kill 50 Yemeni children on a school bus and get only a few mild rebukes. But killing a prominent man who has all the right political and intelligence agency connections is another story entirely.
Ordinarily compliant American senators are now going through the motions of asking questions and proposing sanctions or other punishments against the kingdom. Corporate media like the New York Times, Financial Times, CNN and CNBC have dropped out of the Future Investment Initiative meeting which is known as Davos in the desert. The plight of starving Yemenis gets little attention, but a hit job committed openly and without fear of recourse is too much. Liberal sensibilities were offended by the crassness of the act and by the position of the victim.
The outrage is coming long after the Saudis began their war crime against Yemen. They have been bombing and starving that country since 2014 and are responsible for an estimated 50,000 deaths. They have blockaded ports and denied access to food and medicine. Yemen is in the midst of a cholera outbreak and millions are displaced refugees.
These atrocities were not enough to put Saudi Arabia on the list of infamy where it belongs. Barack Obama, darling of the liberal imperialists, was only slightly less subservient to the kingdom than Trump is today. The Yemen attack began during his term in office. He continued the tradition of $100 billion defense deals with the feudal monarchy and made the relationship a top priority. He cut short a 2015 visit to India in order to meet the newly crowned King Salman and brought along a who’s who entourage including Condi Rice, James Baker, John McCain and Nancy Pelosi. Saudi Arabia was and is a key partner in U.S. imperialism.
Trump differs from Obama and other presidents only in his inability to be diplomatic. When first asked about a possible response to Khashoggi’s disappearance he made it clear that he would do nothing to threaten war contractor profits. In defending the crown prince he mentioned Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed by name as he dismissed any talk of sanctions.
Of course Trump style politics provides further complications. Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner has formed a close friendship with Mohammed bin Salman. Kushner’s security clearance gave him access to information which he gave to the crown prince. Kushner is the likely source who turned in Saudi royals, also connected to the CIA, who opposed the de facto ruler.These people were imprisoned, at least one was killed, their assets were seized and many now live under house arrest. Trump publicly supported the move in one of his famous twitter messages.
It is easy to find yet another reason to look askance at Trump and his vulgar and incompetent family but Saudi Arabia will be a U.S. partner in wrong doing no matter who is in the White House. Prince Bandar bin Sultan was known as “Bandar Bush” because of his close relationship with two presidents and their confidantes.
The nuances of keeping friends on a short leash are lost on Trump. Media reports say that the Trump administration was aware that Khashoggi was in danger of being detained but didn’t protect a man who had worked with and for past administrations since the 1990s. The Saudis started a near war with Qatar in 2017 and were supported by Trump in the effort. Qatar is a close ally of Turkey, the country where they chose to disappear Khashoggi. They would not have acted so recklessly unless they were certain of U.S. compliance.
Trump again tears away the veneer of U.S. foreign policy. He is not smart enough to hide the dirty dealings. He doesn’t know when to reign in friends and he encourages rash behavior. But that doesn’t really make him worse than his predecessors. He is just less savvy and incapable of behaving within the norms laid down by tradition.
The hypocrisy doesn’t end with Trump and Kushner. It can be seen in the corporate media who cover for a war crime against Yemen. They are easily bought off by a prince who opens movie theaters and allows women to drive. But they also know who funds the think tanks and who has the connections with their bosses. They may despise Trump but it isn’t for the reasons they ought to dislike him. They are a party to the hypocrisy, as much as the foreign despots or their presidential partners. There are no heroes in this story. There is only a missing man and corruption in high places in two nations.