Murder Not-So-Mystery: Salman, Kashoggi, and Trump
November 8th, 2019
Early last month, on October 2nd, Saudi Arabian progressive journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by fifteen hitmen. He entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to obtain documents officializing his marriage. His fiancé waited outside for him until one in the morning, but according to video surveillance, Khashoggi never left the building. This disappearance has since caused a rift in the international community over the identity of the culprit and proper repercussions for them. According to police reports, Khashoggi was abducted, murdered, dismembered, and hidden in his fifteen killers’ briefcases. His murderers had been flown in the night before and left immediately following the killing, leaving behind a body double whom they dressed in Khashoggi’s clothing and sent out in an attempt to fool any surveillance. Most jarring, however, is the evidence that points to the root of the killing, the man who allegedly ordered it to be carried out in the first place: Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that points to this assassination being his doing, and many leaders worldwide, such as those of France, Germany, and Britain, have acted to sanction Saudi Arabia accordingly. Despite this, one world leader has not only refrained from imposing sanctions but has actually spoken in thinly veiled defense of Saudi Arabia: our own President Trump.
To understand this inaction by the United States’ government, it’s important to keep in mind our previous interactions with Saudi Arabia. Although we have had an alliance of sorts since World War II, it has always been a tenuous one. The morals between these two countries have never truly been in alignment; we seem almost the antithesis of each other: one a secular democracy, the other a conservative Islamic monarchy. Nevertheless, the relationship has persisted. We needed their land for our military bases; we needed their support against Iran; we needed their vast oil reserves.
This lack of moral alignment between Saudi Arabia was one of the primary reasons that much of the United States has been in support of crown prince Salman: in opposition to much of his country, he has been quite a progressive leader. So when he visited the Trump white house in March of 2017, his modern policies were well received. Salman wooed Trump with his new policy of allowing women to drive, his anti-Iranian rhetoric, his investors conferences for Western investors, and, most importantly, his $110 billion arms deal with the United States. This amounted to a stable, personal relationship between Trump and Salman, one which was reflected in Trump’s inaugural presidential trip to Saudi Arabia: it was the first time any U.S. president had ever set foot on Saudi soil.
But complications quickly presented themselves, for Salman was not nearly as progressive as he claimed to be. He rounded up rich Saudis and imprisoned and tortured them until their yielded up their wealth to him. He imposed a food blockade against Qatar. He kidnapped the Prime Minister of Lebanon and forced him to resign. He ordered airstrikes against civilians in Yemen and then prevented any aid from getting to them. And perhaps most jarringly considering his relationship with President Trump, he has not followed through on his arms deal with the U.S., having only bought $14 billion worth of arms, only about an eighth of what he originally promised. Assassinating Khashoggi seems to be in this vein. Considering that Khashoggi had, over the course of his career, been extremely critical of Salman, for him to order the killing of a troublesome journalist is not out of character in the slightest.
When Khashoggi was first reported missing, the Saudi government vehemently denying any involvement, Trump sided with them. He said that he had spoken with Salman; that perhaps “rogue agents” were behind the disappearance. Then, on October 20th, once the Saudis admitted that yes, Khashoggi had been killed in what they called self defense, claiming that he had attacked agents at the consulate, Trump said nothing. Since then, as evidence has continued to mount, Trump has done something rather uncharacteristic: he held his tongue. But when a man has been killed by an oppressive regime, silence is complicity. When you have the power to speak up for the free press, especially in a time when it is regularly demonized, but you do nothing, you’re the problem. When you bow down to oppressive, deceitful, murderous regimes because its leader has flattered you in the past, you’re not just a symptom, you’re the disease.
Please note: I originally wrote a shorter version of this story for Teens Resist, Highly Indy’s sister-in-arms. You can find it here: https://www.teensresist.com/lists/confronting-the-storms-oct-10th-22nd-2018