Worldwide media has been reporting on what appears to be a horrifying story about the government of Saudi Arabia capturing and murdering a journalist on foreign soil on October 2nd:
The events, as described by Turkish officials, are staggering and have shaken confidence in Prince Mohammed even among his closest allies, who until the past week had been steadfast in their support for his ambitious reform programme. Turkish intelligence and senior officials insist that the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a 15-man hit squad that had arrived from Riyadh on the same day and then dismembered his body.
Ever since, authorities have sanctioned a drip-feed of leaks: of video footage showing Khashoggi entering the building on the afternoon of 2 October, the names of the 15 Saudis who arrived – all of whom were linked to the state security apparatus – and the flight logs of the private jets they flew in and out on. The jets were rented from a Riyadh company that routinely leases planes to the Saudi government.
Turkish intelligence officers have told their counterparts in the CIA that they have an audio recording and partial videotape of the moment Khashoggi was killed. They have suggested that the end of Khashoggi’s life was captured on an Apple watch he was wearing that was synced to an iPhone held by his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, waiting outside. Suspicion in western intelligence circles, however, is that the Turks had the consulate bugged. Khashoggi has not been seen since he entered the building, and Riyadh has been unable to produce evidence supporting its claim that he walked away a free man after finalising his divorce papers. Faced with evidence, Saudi officials have offered strenuous denials and deflection; this, they say, was a conspiracy led by regional foe Qatar, supported by its allies in Ankara.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has been bragging to his supporters about how he sold weapons to Saudi Arabia.
“I mean, look, we get along great with these countries, but take Saudi Arabia. Would you say they have some money? So we defend them and they pay a small percentage. I said, “Excuse me, King Salman” — he’s my friend — “do you mind paying for the military?” “Do you mind? Hey.” They’re paying for 30 percent. I said, “Do you mind paying?” “But nobody has asked me.” I said, “But I’m asking you, King.” He says, “Great.” He said, “But are you serious?” I said, “No, I’m totally serious.”
“We protect Saudi Arabia. Would you say they’re rich? And I love the king, King Salman. But I said, “King, we’re protecting you. You might not be there for two weeks without us. You have to pay for your military.” “You have to pay.””
“I mean, I love Saudi Arabia. They’re great. King Salman, I talked to him this morning, a long talk. And I said to him, “King, you’ve got trillions of dollars, without us Who knows what going to happen? Maybe you’re not going to be able to keep those airplanes, because you know what? They’d be attacked. With us, they are like, you know, safe, totally safe.”
There are dozens of other examples. What Trump is referring to when he talks about Saudi Arabia is a deal he signed on May 2017:
On May 20, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a series of letters of intent for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to purchase arms from the United States totalinUS$ 2 billion. The intended purchases include tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, as well as radar, communications and cybersecurity technology. The transfer was widely seen as a counterbalance against the influence of Iran in the region and a “significant” and “historic” expansion of United States relations with Saudi Arabia.
For some reason, Donald Trump has felt that this was something to brag about.
Besides murdering journalists, Saudi Arabia has been fighting a war against factions within the neighboring country of Yemen, helping to create a horrifying humanitarian crisis. Here is a description from the conservative Cato Institute:
A year ago an estimated 10,000 civilians had been killed and another 40,000 had been wounded. A March update from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported: “Conflict in Yemen has left 22.2 million people, 75 percent of the population, in need of humanitarian assistance and has created a severe protection crisis in which millions face risks to their safety and are struggling to survive.”
More than a million cases of cholera have been reported, the largest recorded outbreak in history. A recent epidemic of diphtheria reached all but one of Yemen’s 23 governates. As many as 18 million people are food insecure and 14 million are at risk of starvation. Meritxell Relano, representing the UN’s Children’s Fund in Yemen, explained: “water and sanitation systems are collapsing. More than half of Yemen’s health facilities are out of service, cutting off nearly 15 million Yemenis from access to safe water and basic healthcare.” As if these woes weren’t enough, it is also estimated that three million people have been displaced.
Saudi airstrikes, described as “indiscriminate or disproportionate” by Human Rights Watch, have caused at least two thirds of infrastructure damage and three-quarters of casualties. Observed Yemeni-American Rabyaah Lthaibani: “For three years now, the Saudi Coalition has bombed hospitals, schools and wedding parties. They have systematically targeted roads and farms and blocked ports so lifesaving aid and other goods could not reach people facing famine and the world’s fastest-growing cholera outbreak.”
This would be outrageous under any circumstance, but attacks on civilians appear to be conscious strategy. A UN panel of experts recently charged that Riyadh was using starvation as a weapon of war. Most obvious is the blockade which, reported Human Rights Watch, “has severely restricted the flow of food, fuel, and medicine to civilians, in violation of international law.”
But the coalition’s crimes go much further. Matthew Reisener of the Center for the National Interest cited “mounting evidence that Saudi Arabia has deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure to manufacture a food insecurity crisis in Yemen’s Houthi-controlled areas. Hundreds of airstrikes have purposefully targeted farms, marketplaces and food-storage facilities, while over two hundred fishing ships have been destroyed in coalition bombings.”
Lest we forget, 15 of the 19 hijackers who orchestrated the terrorist attack of 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia:
The hijackers in the September 11 attacks were 19 men affiliated with al-Qaeda. 15 of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and the others were from the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt, and Lebanon. The hijackers were organized into four teams, each led by a pilot-trained hijacker with three or four “muscle hijackers,” who were trained to help subdue the pilots, passengers, and crew.
And Saudi Arabia has been funding terrorists for decades.
This internal, top-secret report from the Treasury Department gave the intelligence details behind the decision in August of that year to list two branches the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and one of its leaders as banned terrorist entities. The Saudi-based charity, an offshoot of the Muslim World League, supported terrorist organizations beginning in the early 1990s “through to at least the first half of 2006.” Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Saudi suit, who obtained a partly redacted copy of the Treasury Department report through the Freedom of Information Act, said other affidavits and statements from charity officials show it is largely run by members of the Saudi royal family.
Regarding human rights, Donald Trump has been using the same kind of language to deflect criticism of Saudi Arabia as he used to deflect criticism of Russia:
But Mr. Trump also deflected questions about the kingdom’s human rights record. Asked if it had been overlooked for too long, the president directed attention to other countries.
“I think a lot of records are overlooked,” he said. “If you look at Iran, if you look at some of the other countries, if you take a look at Syria, if you take a look at a lot of countries, a lot of countries’ records have been overlooked. But this is a very serious thing and we’re looking at it in a very serious manner.”
Trump memorably downplayed Putin’s human rights abuses in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly before the Super Bowl. “We have a lot of killers,” he said. “You think our country is so innocent?” He had made nearly identical remarks on “Morning Joe” a year earlier.
Yet now Donald Trump is telling the press that he is concerned about the possibility the Saudis killed a journalist. Does anyone actually believe Trump is bothered by the fact that the Saudi Arabian government killed a journalist? Trump has been nothing but an admirer and sycophant for brutal regimes since he ran for President. Whether it be Putin, The House of Saud, Erdogan, Kim Jong-un, or Duterte, their records of human rights violations, of brutal murders, and of attacks against democracy, have all been implicitly or explicitly defended by Donald Trump. He might as well spare us all his “I’m concerned” act, and start bragging about how the Saudis killed the journalist while he brags about selling them weapons.