Jamal Khashoggi was a resident of the United States and a journalist for The Washington Post. I am sure you all know at least some of the story of Mr. Khashoggi and his recent disappearance and likely murder, and some may have wondered why Filosofa had not yet written about Mr. Khashoggi. I have not, to date, even touched upon this story, for there were too many unknowns and too many conflicting bits of information. I try to ensure that what I write is fact-based, and frankly I could not discern what was fact in this story, for the story changed almost hourly it seemed. Tonight, I am breaking my silence, for I think I know at least enough to make a start. I am appalled and horrified at some of the responses from members of our government, including Donald Trump, and I will not remain silent.
Jamal Khashoggi was a citizen of Saudi Arabia and a journalist and author who had for years written for both Arabic and English-language newspapers. He was among the first to cover the war in Afghanistan and had also covered the first Gulf war. During the 1980s he had contact with Usama bin Ladin (aka Osama bin Laden) as he covered the battle of Jaji.
Always a defender of human dignity, freedom and reform in Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi came under fire in 2016 for remarks he made about his own government, as well as Donald Trump after his election. The government of Saudi Arabia shut him down … he was no longer allowed to write or even tweet, and he knew the time had come for him to leave. In early 2017, he self-exiled to the U.S. where he was provided temporary asylum, and later permanent resident status.
On September 28th, Khashoggi visited the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain the necessary paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, but he was told he would need to return four days later on the afternoon of October 2nd. Long story short, he did return while his fiancée waited outside for him, but he never left the embassy. He must have sensed something was off, for he told Ms. Cengiz to get help if he did not return. After a few hours, she called the police and the search began.
A few pertinent facts of the matter:
- Turkish staff at the consulate had been told to stay home that day
- Two charter planes carrying nine Saudi officials and intelligence officers had arrived in Istanbul from Riyadh and the passengers had gone to the embassy
- At around 4:00 p.m., six vehicles left the consulate carrying the nine Saudis. Two other vehicles with unidentified passengers drove to the Saudi consul’s residence and remained there for the next four hours
- On the night of October 15th, Turkish officials searched the Saudi consulate and reported that it had recently received a coat of fresh paint throughout the interior
Those are the only absolute, verifiable facts in the case to the best of my knowledge. The Saudi government has changed their story enough times to arouse suspicion. A Turkish official claims to have an audio tape of Mr. Khashoggi’s brutal murder, dismemberment and beheading, and the Turkish government claims that senior figures in the Saudi royal court had ordered his killing. As yet, this is not verifiable, and I offer it at face value. U.S. Intelligence agencies are reportedly convinced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is culpable in the killing, although they have not yet been able to collect direct evidence. The Turkish government has reiterated what they say happened and with great detail, but they have declined to share such evidence as they have with the U.S., and so I cannot speak to the veracity of their claims.
What I will address, however, is the U.S. official response to the disappearance and likely murder of Jamal Khashoggi which is, in a word, shameful. Abominable. Sickening. Disgusting.
Donald Trump, first of all, came out in support of Prince bin Salman and said he would not cut off arms sales to the Saudi government because Saudi Arabia would spend their money elsewhere, and for Trump, it’s more about money than human lives. He also at that time stated that while it should be looked into, Mr. Khashoggi was not an American citizen and since the disappearance had taken place in Turkey, it was not a great concern, although, “We don’t like it”. We don’t like it, but oh well, not my monkeys, not my circus is basically what he is saying.
This, as much as anything, exemplifies why the U.S. pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council in June. The U.S. is, itself, in violation of human rights by the detention of children we separated illegally from their parents on our southern border, and Trump has no desire to be constrained by rules that dictate human rights or his response to violations.
Next week is the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, an event Trump swore he would not pull out of, even as other nations, horrified by the Khashoggi disappearance and the likely scenario, had dropped out of the conference. Finally, yesterday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that we, too, would withdraw from the conference, only because of the bipartisan backlash over his intent to attend.
And let’s not leave out the evangelicals. None other than Pat Robertson said …
“You’ve got a $100-billion worth of arm sales which is, you know, that’s one of those things, but more than that we’ve got to have some Arab allies. I know it’s bad, but I mean we’ve had all kinds of stuff, but you don’t blow up an international alliance over one person. I mean, I’m sorry.”
I side with Stephen Colbert on this one when he responded, “Thank you, Reverend, for capturing the core message of Christianity. How important can one man’s death be?”
And now for the real kicker. A ‘whisper campaign’, for those who may be unfamiliar with the term, is an unethical attempt to spread lies and venom about a person to discredit them. Another term is ‘smear campaign’. Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that …
“Hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators are mounting a dark whisper campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist’s alleged murder by Saudi Arabian operatives — and support Trump’s continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom.”
The right-wing media, starting with none other than Trump’s state-run media Fox News, has indeed launched a smear campaign to attempt to convince the public that Jamal Khashoggi was a ‘bad guy’. And why? To cover Donald Trump’s fat, white arse. If you cannot convince Trump to act as a human being, then make the rest of the world look like they are donkeys too! Angry? Moi? You betcha!
Conservative House republicans, read members of the House Freedom Caucus, have assisted in the effort, attempting to begin conspiracy theories about the time that Khashoggi covered bin Laden some 14 years before 11 September 2001. It has even spilled over onto the campaign trail. In Virginia, republican Corey Stewart who is running against Tim Kaine for his seat in the Senate, claimed with no facts or knowledge that, “Khashoggi was not a good guy himself.”
A Tuesday broadcast of CR-TV, a conservative online outlet founded by popular talk-radio host Mark Levin, labeled Khashoggi a “longtime friend” of terrorists and claimed without evidence that Trump was the victim of an “insane” media conspiracy to tarnish him. The broadcast has been viewed more than 12,000 times. A story in far-right FrontPage magazine casts Khashoggi as a “cynical and manipulative apologist for Islamic terrorism”.
None of these stories are true. Remember, Khashoggi was a journalist. Journalists often have contact in the course of their reporting with unsavory people. It doesn’t mean they are affiliated or share their beliefs … it simply means they are doing their job.
I am sickened by this entire thing, starting with the murder of a good man, Donald Trump’s inhumane response, and ending with the attempts by Donald Trump’s boot-lickers to cover his utter inhumanity. Thankfully, I am still able to believe that the vast majority of people in this nation are better than this, but unfortunately those in our government are naught but low-lifes.