Parker column: Remember Khashoggi
WASHINGTON — The midterm elections are finally over, more or less, and we got what we got – Donald Trump is still president.
Sorry, but someone had to say it.
Now, back to the cold realities of everyday life in the White House of Weird, beginning and ending with: Who ordered the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and what consequences will there be?
You remember Khashoggi — the self-exiled Saudi reporter/U.S. resident and contributing columnist to The Washington Post who, upon entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul looking to secure a marriage document, vanished. His horrific fate allegedly involved being tortured, murdered, dismembered and removed piecemeal by a squad of hitmen who were waiting for him with a bone saw.
For a few days, at least, Khashoggi was the lead story for many media outlets, but then, trickle by trickle, his name has largely faded from the headlines, with the exception of the Post. Everyone was off to the races or to cover the next Trump campaign rally.
Day after day, Trump did what Trump does — said preposterous things so the media would break out in hives and move away from unpleasantness, such as whether the U.S. would hold the Saudis accountable for Khashoggi’s murder. The House and Senate have discussed curtailing the arms sales about which Trump has boasted, but otherwise, the status quo is relaxed and tanned.
Obviously, such global intrigues involving murder, money, oil, arms and conspiracy are complex, and this one is multipronged enough to ignite wars and destabilize global markets. The Trump administration early on apparently decided to make nice with Saudi Arabia and, as the president keeps saying, the consequences of bad blood between our two countries would be costly, both monetarily and perhaps geopolitically (to Iran’s benefit).
There’s surely nothing nefarious about any of the above unless you don’t like supporting the continuing Saudi bombing of Yemen or the flow of Saudi money to Islamic extremists. But Saudi Arabia is the center of the Muslim world, and this fact is not to be trivialized.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, meanwhile-friend of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, had been generally viewed as the great, new progressive hope of the desert kingdom. He wanted to put women in the driver’s seat, literally, and move away from the strict enforcement of some Islamic dictates, such as stoning for certain offenses.
While stoning may be on the decline, murdering critical journalists and others who cross the royal family seems to be an acceptable practice.
So, what has happened in response to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi? Really, not much.
Saudi Arabia has detained 18 people implicated in Khashoggi’s murder and sent a team of investigators to help Turkey figure out what happened — although, according to a Turkish official, two members of the delegation (a chemist and a toxicologist) were there only to clean up evidence.
Turkey, meanwhile, has all but accused the crown prince of issuing the order for Khashoggi’s murder, while knowledgeable people in the field say it is nearly impossible anyone else could or would.
Thus, we’re left to speculate about a whodunit of the bloodiest sort. Depending on what the Saudis conclude, the U.S. may (or may not) impose sanctions on “the individuals … engaged in that murder,” according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
That’ll show ‘em.
Meanwhile, Trump has imposed sanctions on other countries buying oil from Iran, with the apparent expectation that Saudi Arabia will fill the void with its oil and prevent markets from misfiring. Arms will continue to be bought and sold on some basis, and Yemenis will continue to die.
Life, in other words, will go along as before. But Americans should never forget Khashoggi, nor our president’s apparent willingness to look the other way.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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