December 6, 2018

About the Khashoggi Affair: When is Enough, Enough?

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsRight now. That’s when enough is enough.

Let’s get serious. Given the clear and compelling evidence the United States has amassed regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, what would likely happen if our government advised the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia it could no longer deal with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?   King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud would likely determine that the Crown Prince had his shot and blew it, and the Crown Prince would be removed from his current leadership position as heir apparent to the Saudi throne.

The world would not go to pieces. The Saudi’s, in the current world environment, need the goodwill of the United States.  Russia is an ally of Iran. Saudi Arabia’s security is tightly linked to the United States.

Everyone who has heard the evidence of his complicity is thoroughly convinced that the Crown Prince approved, if not ordered, the murder of American resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And he had the deed done, in of all places, the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

The inanities spouted by President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton are a national embarrassment, actually a national disgrace. “He vehemently denied having anything to do with what happened, maybe, five times when we spoke on the telephone,” President Trump told us. Duh! Most murderers deny their guilt or complicity, some maybe even six or more times.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also chose to punt when asked during a Senate hearing into the matter, “Do you believe that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s killing?” Pompeo answered, “I do believe I’ve read every piece of intelligence unless it’s come in the last few hours. I think I’ve read it all, and there is no direct reporting connecting the Crown Prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi.”

But here’s the thing, no one in the Kingdom could have ordered the Crown Prince’s men to do the dirty deed except the Crown Prince. The Saudi Public Prosecutor has admitted that several members of Crown Prince Mohammad’s personal security detail were part of the “hit team,” and that they flew to Istanbul on Saudi aircraft, committed the murder and then flew back to Saudi Arabia. The notion that The Crown Prince’s men (and, let’s face it,  they were his men) flew to Istanbul to murder Khashoggi without the  Crown Prince’s knowledge, and that they were acting on their own as rouges  is ludicrous. Everyone knows that. And Mike Pompeo and President Trump know that. The intercepted calls (“tell your boss the deed is done”) also tell us the deed was done and at whose instruction.

Trump Administration defenders are quick to tell us that people get knocked off all the time in the dark, cloak-and-dagger world of foreign intrigue. We’ve had American journalists and others unreasonably detained and confined by our adversaries in the past. They knock off people and we knock off people, etc. etc. Well, maybe. But there comes a time when decent people and decent governments have no choice but to say enough is enough. This is such a time.

When Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, defended President Donald Trump’s decision to stand by the Crown Prince saying, “We have to have a relationship with some players that we don’t agree with. Journalists disappear all over the country. 20 journalists have been killed in Mexico. You don’t think it happens in Turkey and China? Of course, it does. And yet we have to have a relationship with these individuals, or with these countries.”  That’s an interesting distinction…these individuals or these countries.

Trump’s equally inane comment, “I’m not going to destroy the world economy and I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia.” What an incredible message that sends – not just about Saudi Arabia or the other countries referenced, but about us.  It tells us, and the world, that principle has become the lowest coin in the realm.

Telling the Saudis that we can’t deal with the Crown Prince any longer would not destroy the world economy or our economy. It would probably destroy the Crown Prince’s ability to flit around the globe as an important and respected world leader. He warrants no such respect and therefore he is no longer an important world leader…unless we prop him up and make him one.

National Security Advisor, John Bolton demurred from listening to the murder tape. “What would the point be?” he asked. “I don’t speak Arabic.” We would guess the sound of pain sounds pretty much the same in Arabic as in English. Certainly, the sound of a saw cutting through bone sounds the same. The tape was important, if for no other reason, then to make us think twice about the people we embrace.

Nations, through the men who lead them, have moral compasses. That’s what civilization demands. Like most nations, our moral compass has been compromised on more than one occasion over the years. This should not be such an occasion. When President Trump next visits Saudi Arabia is this the man with whom he wants to hold hands and with whom he wants to dance at Al Murabba Palace?


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5 responses to “About the Khashoggi Affair: When is Enough, Enough?”

  1. Joel Cooper says:

    Hal, my comments below are not intended to downplay yet another murder by another autocratic economic ally, who they considered “an enemy of the state”.
    It seems that in the world in which we now live, this is a relatively common occurrence, and, because of economic and political inter-dependence, economic and diplomatic life goes on.
    As a relatively contemporary example of these killings, think of the number of Iranian citizens who have been killed at the commend of the Ayatollahs, some very openly.
    That reality did not deter Obama and Kerry from doing the “Iran Deal”

    But what about when, without due process, an American President, Obama, ordered the drone killing of an American born citizen, whom he considered an enemy of the state, Anwar al-Awlaki.

    Did the main stream media, or the American judicial spokespeople, or law enforcement or political commentators raise their voices in the manner that they are doing in response to the Saudi state ordered assassination?
    Would the murder of an American citizen qualify as a “high crime or misdemeanour?
    If so, why were the cries of impeachment never raised?

    Can you explain the different responses, beyond the release of the ghastly audio that amplified the gruesomeness of the murder?

    And can you devote a future article on how and why international intelligence gathering has evolved and changed, from the days when the naive Henry L. Stimson said “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail”?


  2. Robert borns says:

    I disagree with your analysis and conclusion. The real situation is not morality or animal behavior. It’s life or death for the USA,Israel, Egypt,Jordan,the Iranian people,etc. At best getting rid of the prince would be trading a headache for an upset stomach. The possibility of unintended consequences from your concept is open ended. Trump and Netanyahu are right on this one.

  3. Mr. Cooper raises interesting questions.
    There were many reasons (on which we have opined) why the US negotiated a bad nuclear deal with Iran. It represented a huge retreat from our long-held position that any deal had to end Iran’s nuclear arms program, not merely delay it — their miserable human rights record notwithstanding. The Khashoggi murder was particularly egregious because he was lured into the Saudi consulate in Turkey ostensibly to obtain required documents to allow his marriage. We agree, however, that murder is murder. In the case of Khashoggi, however, there was no pretense that he was an enemy of the state. They just hated him, so they killed him. That he was a resident of the United States and a journalist for one of America’s leading newspapers didn’t seem to phase the Saudis. If we are to draw a line in the sand, the Khashoggi murder seems an appropriate time to do it.
    As for the elimination of Anwar al-Awlaki, President Obama relied on a 2001 law, Authorization to Use Military Force -AUMF -, which was probably enacted for the sole purpose of going after al-Awlaki. The government’s rationale was (is) that al-Awlaki was a US citizen who left the US and became an enemy combatant, who participated in the planning of attacks against the US. The AUMF is, to this day, controversial and has been challenged by the ACLU as well as members of Congress. It did, and does, however, protect President Obama for authorizing the al-Awlaki strike. So, no, the issue of “high crimes and misdemeanors” would not apply.

  4. Our good friend Mr. Borns has, essentially, echoed the Administration’s rationale. We disagree, however, that the stakes in this case are part of a life or death struggle for “the USA, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, the Iranian people, etc.” We think it is somewhat more simple. If there is to be a line drawn in the sand, the murder of a journalist for an American newspaper by someone (anyone) who simply could not tolerate the journalists criticism, is a good place to start drawing.

  5. gloriaguttman says:

    Thank you for your keen insightful thinking: gloria guttman

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