ECLECTIC RANT: The Kashoggi Matter

Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday October 17, 2018 - 03:42:00 PM

Jamal Khashoggi is a permanent U.S. resident in self-imposed exile from Saudi Arabia. He is a journalist for The Washington Post who has written critical opinions of Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince, Mohammond bin Salman, and its king, Salman of Saudi Arabia. He has also criticized the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.  

Video evidence shows that Kashoggi entered the Saudi consulate but none show him leaving. Reportedly, audio and video evidence shows that while in the consulate, he was beaten, tortured, murdered and then dismembered. 

When questioned about Khashoggi disappearance, President Trump initially said he would not sacrifice $100 billion in arms deals with the Saudis and the corresponding job losses, to criticize the Saudis. To an ethically challenged businessman, that may be a common sense response. To a defender of human rights and freedom of the press, his response was outrageous but yet not out of character. If the U.S. is willing to sacrifice its moral standing for $100 billion (most of which will never materialize), why should any nation ever look to it for leadership? 

The question must be asked, why would the Saudi leadership murder a journalist for a major U.S. newspaper and thus endanger its relationship with the U.S.? Perhaps, Trump’s anti-media rhetoric is partly the cause. Trump has called the media “the enemy of the people.” In a tweet, Trump wrote, “I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is. Truth doesn’t matter to them, they only have their hatred & agenda. This includes fake books, which come out about me all the time, always anonymous sources, and are pure fiction. Enemy of the People!”  

Unfortunately, these attacks on the media increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence. Some media organizations are quietly beefing up security at their offices. Security guards now accompany network news reporters to Trump rallies. 

How does this anti-media talk resonate outside the U.S., especially where freedom of the press is not a sacred value? Maybe, Saudi Arabia took Trump at his word and brutally silenced a severe critic of the Saudis without fear of much blowback from the Trump administration. The Saudis, however, didn’t count on the audio and video evidence. 

The Saudi government is reportedly planning to say that rogue agents killed Khashoggi during an interrogation. The Trump administration has given early indications of accepting this hard-to-believe tale. 

Trump has extensive personal economic dealings with the Saudis which leaves him in an awkward position in dealing with the Koshoggi murder.