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Trump Weak on Khashoggi Disappearance

Each day for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been tweaking a post about Jamal Khashoggi. The post never quite gets to the completion stage, and developments overnight mean much of the post is redundant. Now, the story has been headline news for so long, as it should be, that there’s nothing I can say most people don’t already know.

The whole situation is absolutely appalling. It seems clear to me that there was a murder in the Saudi Arabian consulate, and from the start the Saudis have been trying to cover that up.

It also seems clear that the Turkish government knows exactly what went on, though they are not admitting to that. From the beginning they’ve been leaking details to friendly media, but not saying outright what they know. My assumption is this is because they have electronic surveillance inside the consulate. They can’t, of course, admit to that.

Turkey probably has human assets in the consulate too, but they would not be much help in this situation because it was an outside group that committed this atrocity.

 

What Happened to Jamal Khashoggi?

My guess is that the consulate staff in Turkey were under orders to detain Khashoggi, but were not part of the next part of the operation. It’s now common knowledge the murder squad came directly from Saudi Arabia for the job.

Initially it was possible to question what we were hearing about what happened for two reasons. Firstly, it was like a plot from a movie – it just didn’t seem real. Secondly, the source of all information appeared to be the Turkish government, which has reason to paint the Saudi government in the worst light possible. Therefore, Trump supporters had valid excuses for Trump’s reaction, or rather non-reaction.

However, since then the New York Times in particular has given us independent verification of much of he detail. They have evidence of who at least nine of the murder squad are, and their senior positions in the security services, military, and similar occupations in Saudi Arabia. In particular, that the head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics, Dr Tubaigy, was part of the squad and did indeed take his BONE SAW on the trip to Turkey. Unless it’s his equivalent of a security blanket that he needs to take everywhere, I can’t see the need for a bone saw on a rendition operation!

If you have a spare seventeen minutes, this video from Rachel Maddow/MSNBC includes a good summary of what happened and includes the information from the New York Times.

 

 

Since those in charge in Saudi Arabia began to realize they’re not getting away with the story that Khashoggi left the consulate by another door where the cameras weren’t working, they’re trying a new story. That, as we know, is that Khashoggi accidentally died following the injection of a tranquilizer. Why did he need a tranquilizer? So he could be taken back to Saudi Arabia against his will. Because that, in the eyes of a government that does whatever it wants to its people, would be okay. This shows an appalling attitude to Press Freedom and explains why Saudi Arabia ranks at 169/180 on the World Press Freedom list. (Just think though – eleven countries are even worse!)

 

Donald Trump’s Reaction

President Trump’s reaction to this situation is about as weak as it gets. For someone who has such an obsession with letting everyone know how strong he is, he is signalling the exact opposite.

In what little he has said publicly, and only once it became impossible to deny that Khashoggi was likely dead, Trump has tried to blame “rogue killers” for the incident. Seriously? A fifteen-man team flew in two private jets with special clearance from Saudi Arabia virtually as soon as Khashoggi got to the consulate. Khashoggi was killed INSIDE the consulate, his body dismembered, and it was taken to an OFFICIAL residence for disposal. Then the men got back on the private jets and went back to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government knows who the men were, and none appears to have suffered any consequences for their actions. This is Trump’s idea of “rogue killers.”

Of course, despite what he says, he is beholden to the Saudis. There aren’t that many people in the world who can afford apartments in Trump Tower. Most of those who aren’t Russian mafia and actually want to live in a building emblazoned with the “TRUMP” in big, gold, letters, are corrupt Saudis. Further, there was plenty of boasting about Saudi money on the campaign trail and since. It’s only now that it matters that suddenly he says he doesn’t have any financial connections to them.

Trump fans can make all the noises they like about arms deals, but surely a man’s life is more important than selling a few killing machines?

 

International View of US Leadership

Donald Trump has an obsession with appearing strong. In his opinion, before he came along the US didn’t have the respect of the rest of the world because it was weak. Now, he thinks that thanks to his leadership the US appears strong again.

International 27% confidence in Trump, 70% no confidence

Source: Pew Research (Click graphic to go to source)

It’s hard to know where he gets that impression. Polling by respected organisations like Pew Research and Gallup show the opposite is true. Respect for US leadership is currently lower than it has ever been.

In January this year, Newsweek published a piece with the title, ‘GLOBAL RESPECT FOR U.S. LEADERSHIP DROPPED SHARPLY UNDER TRUMP—THE OPPOSITE HAPPENED UNDER OBAMA‘. It got its data from Gallup.

There are plenty of other surveys I could quote, and they all have the same result. The opinion of the rest of the world towards the US has gone down since Trump became president. And, it’s because of Trump. It’s specifically him that’s the problem as the graphic from Pew Research shows.

Before Trump became president, the US had the respect of the world for the stance they took on human rights. Even if they didn’t always do the right thing, they always spoke up for what was right. Other world leaders felt that the most powerful voice in the world, whether he was a Democrat or Republican, was on the side of protecting human rights and freedom of speech. They no longer feel that.

Global Approval of US leadership

Source: Gallup (Click graphic to go to source.)

 

By aligning himself with the world’s dictators, Trump frequently appears like a gang prospect, willing to demean himself in any way to get in with the group. They use him to make themselves appear more legitimate, as he imagines he appears stronger for being in their company.

 

Trump Attitude to Freedom of Speech

Trump took an oath to “… preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”. He has not been living up to that.

Trump’s commitment to one of the core values of his country – freedom of speech – appears to be lacking. There was plenty of evidence of this before he became president. His people should be able to expect that would change on swearing his oath of office. It seems it hasn’t. He is siding with the leader of a foreign country against the principles of his country’s constitution. Jamal Khashoggi may not have been a US citizen, but he was living and working there and entitled to the protection of its laws. Khashoggi’s fiance, who waited outside the Saudi consulate for eleven hours before calling authorities, has a right to expect the US president to at least speak up on his behalf.

 

PEN Suing Trump for Violation of First Amendment

According to AP:

In the three years that Donald Trump rocketed from candidate to president, the PEN American Center has criticized him as a bully, an autocrat, a user of hate speech and an enemy of free expression. It has published studies, organized petitions and established a Press Freedom Incentive Fund.

Now the literary and human rights organization, which includes thousands of authors and journalists, is taking a more direct step: PEN is suing the president.

In a suit filed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan, the center, also known as PEN America, alleges that “official acts” by Trump have “violated the First Amendment and his oath to uphold the Constitution.” PEN cites such examples as reports that Trump was meddling in the proposed merger of AT&T and CNN, a frequent target of Trump’s anger (The Justice Department has sought to block the merger).

The suit also notes Trump’s comments on Washington Post owner and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. Trump, unhappy with the Post’s coverage, has threatened antitrust action against Amazon and suggested raising its shipping costs. According to the Post, he has pressured U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rates. (Last week, the United States Postal Service proposed some hikes for 2019, among them increases which would affect Amazon. Shipping costs have been raised several times over the past decade).

 

The Legacy of Jamal Khashoggi

Khashoggi was working for the Washington Post while living in the US. Today they published his last column. His editor received it the day after his disappearance. She says:

I received this column from Jamal Khashoggi’s translator and assistant the day after Jamal was reported missing in Istanbul. The Post held off publishing it because we hoped Jamal would come back to us so that he and I could edit it together. Now I have to accept: That is not going to happen.

Jamal Khashoggi with his fiance Hatice Cengiz in happier times.

The title of the column is ‘What the Arab world needs most is free expression’. It was for writing columns like this that Khashoggi fell afoul of the current Saudi regime. In the long run, “the pen is mightier than the sword”. However, Khashoggi is another writer who gave his life to the cause of Freedom of Speech. We must stand up to those who try to silence free speech, especially those of us lucky enough to live in a country where there is no fear attached to expressing our opinions openly. They cannot kill us all.

 

Cartoon: Trump deciding where he stands on press freedom

 


 

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35 Responses to “Trump Weak on Khashoggi Disappearance”

  1. Yakaru says:

    I fear, or rather assume, that Trump is just softening people up for when he starts arresting journalists in the US. that is clearly where he is heading.

    • The US is slowly slipping down the press freedom rankings. (So’s NZ for that matter, but at #8 we’re still one of the only countries Reporters Without Borders has almost nothing to criticize. They only feel like that about the top 17 countries. At #18, Canada is the first of those they feel less cool about, even though they consider it “Free” for reporters.)

  2. Randall Schenck says:

    Nice posting and good to see you are still at it. We must have clarity and truth although in this land there is little of it. I think maybe the phrase – Trump supporters had valid excuses for Trump’s reaction, could have left out the valid part. They always have excuses in the cult but are not close to valid. In less than three weeks we will have an election (midterm) here in crazy land and we will see if the no more Trump group has their shit together or not. The House of Representatives must turn over or this thing is a failure. It is that simple. This will allow the proper inquiries to start and all the failed parts of the past two years will come out. Also Mueller is getting closer to providing all the impeachable and otherwise disgusting practices of this pathetic president. His report will provide tons of reasons to get rid of this fak, hairless idiot, as if we needed more. The republicans are doing their best to screw with the vote in various states so we will have an interesting couple of weeks ahead. Aren’t you glad you live somewhere else?

    • Any excuses lost their credibility pretty quickly. I want to make that clear! It was really only on day one that Trump’s sheep could get away with excusing him, and even then the balance of probability was against them.

  3. Mike says:

    Everything he does, points toward at some point in the near future,an ateempt to put himself in there for life. At his core the man is a petty Dictator, who would love to be in his controller Putins position. I expect some False Flag incident near to his re-election campaign that would give him the excuse to cancel Elections, start arresting Journalists for spreading “Fake News” and arresting and imprisoning “brown people” as the cause of all that is wrong with America. Ring any bells Heather ?

    • nicky says:

      I doubt whether he will cancel elections.
      I mean, electoral fraud we’ve seen (in all probability), but actually cancel elections? No, I can’t believe he’d get away with that. (No’ I didn’t say he wouldn’t want to).

    • I agree he would like to do this. John Boehner’s statement yesterday that there are actual Nazis in Congress from the GOP means Trump would get support too. I think Trump is racist, though Boehner doesn’t. I suspect Boehner would at least agree that Trump does think some people are better than others and somehow deserve to be treated better though. We know from his own admission that Trump thinks he has superior genes.

      • Yakaru says:

        Thanks for posting that. I think very many people on both sides enormously underestimate the extremity of his delusion and ignorance. He is genuinely baffled at the fact that his brain produces thoughts all by itself. It must be a gift from God. He really thinks he’s the smartest person who ever lived. Luckily he is far too stupid and ignorant to have realised exactly how much power he has.

  4. Lee Knuth says:

    The actions of this President in not denouncing the Saudi government for their despicable action is truly troubling. He seems more concerned with profit than human life. I hope our Congress will take action even if he does not.

  5. Mark R. says:

    This from the LA Times:

    A Double-Barreled Defense of Saudi Arabia

    Can the Saudi government be trusted to investigate the disappearance and suspected murder of Virginia-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, despite the likelihood that senior Saudi officials were involved? President Trump and Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo have expressed confidence that it can be, while emphasizing the extensive ties between Riyadh and Washington. But Saudi Arabia is far less popular in Congress than in the White House, and reports of more gruesome details about Khashoggi’s fate continue to create an international outcry.

    So apparently Trump and Pampeo think the Saudi’s are capable of a thorough investigation into this murder. Reminds me of Trump’s confidence in the FBI mock-investigation of Ford. And the meeting between Pampeo and the prince is just a smile-fest and photo-op. Hopefully the Times is correct and congress will act independently.

    At least Mnuchin and Wall Street execs (along with many other government leaders) canceled the “Davos in the Desert” investment conference. That’s the least we can do though.

    Everything will eventually come out regarding this atrocity, and Trump’s weakness towards the Saudis will be all the more apparent. Gaslight away Trump, it’s the only thing you’re good at.

    • Initially Mnuchin was resisting cancelling his trip. I think it was looking like he would be the only prominent Westerner still attending and it would have been too embarrassing to turn up in the end and he had to cancel.

      • Mark R. says:

        Oh yes, that’s for sure. He didn’t bow out because of anything one could regard as moral concerns.

        Is this Trump’s “I can kill someone on 5th ave.”…meme? We’ll see. I think this one has legs though. I thought the same on many horrors this admin. has done. 3 weeks, we’ll see if normal=thinking Americans can gain a semblance of hope, or we sink even deeper. As an atheist, I’ll only say, I have hope in the American people. (I’ve heard a lot of liberals say they have faith in g*d that Americans will win because good vs. evil and all). The stupid folly of faith. Both sides use it. Either way, if we don’t get at least the House in 3 weeks, this 200 year experiment will be kaput.

        • Yes – the election is a real worry. As everyone is aware, turnout of young people will be key and they’re notoriously good at protesting, but notoriously bad at turning up when it really counts – the ballot box. Obviously, a lot of Republicans are motivated too because they’re scared there’s going to be a blue wave. The thought of losing power and control is a terrifying prospect for conservatives – it’s what makes them conservatives of course – and conservatives are good at voting.

  6. nicky says:

    Great to see your site is not ‘dead’, it has been about three weeks!
    And you come with a fantastic post, so many pertinent points. I really missed it.

    “none appears to have suffered any consequences for their actions.” That might not be true, I read that one of the ‘execution team’ died in an ‘accident’. The first one? I would not be surprised if all 15 of them will disappear or die by ‘accident’, ‘suicide’, ‘heart attack’, etc., one by one. After all, dead witnesses don’t talk.

    • Thanks Nicky. Thanks to a wonderfully kind and generous US reader (he wishes to remain anonymous) and the NZ health system I now have the proper chair. I’m not quite used to it yet – my body is still adjusting – but I’m much better than I have been for a long time.

      As for the execution team: if somebody’s killing them I’d say they’re taking revenge, and my money is on Turkey.

      When this first happened, the Saudi government were spreading a story at home that Khashoggi’s fiance was a fake. https://www.newsweek.com/saudi-media-claims-jamal-khashoggi-fiance-fake-linked-qatar-1165146

      • nicky says:

        It is not sure Mashal Saad al-Bostani did not die in a genuine car crash though. But if others start disappearing or dying it becomes very suspect.
        However, why would your money be on Turkey?

        • Because of the antipathy between Saudi and Turkey. Saudi did this on Turkish soil and Khashoggi’s fiancee is Turkish. Turkey could be taking revenge.

          But you’re right too – it could just as easily be Saudi cleaning up afterwards. Maybe the guy killed was a weak link and felt guilty about the murder, and they felt he might flip on them and tell Turkey or the US what really happened.

        • I now think you were right all along Nicky. It’s MsB who’s killing his own citizens as part of his cover up. I was wrong to think Turkey might be taking revenge for their citizen (Khashoggi’s fiancee).

  7. nicky says:

    I guess that the US international standing is good among the ‘wolves ‘ of your cartoon, Russia, Philippines, Poland. etc. And of course Saud. I always note how much Mr Mr Trump’s populism and Jingoism closely resembles that of Mr Putin. And I always wonder whether that is convergence or grooming….
    I notice that the bottom 20 countries on freedom are either islamic or ‘communist’ (in name), with the exception of Equatorial Guinea. BTW, I’m surprised at the low rating of Rwanda. When I visited in 2014, it did not give that impression (and I have been to countries such as the DDR, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran and the like, where this lack of freedom was very clear).

    • I’ve always thought that restricting access to information is a requirement to getting someone to believe the claims of repressive regimes including religion.

      It’s interesting what you say about Equatorial Guinea, but I know nothing about the country. Perhaps there’s been a recent change?

  8. Randall Schenck says:

    So now I have the advantage of all the news coverage of the day and it appears this circus is nearly over. At least the fact that Jamal Khashoggi is dead and even the chief lying Trump admits it. How Saudi will pay for this evil is the only thing left to determine. I suspect it will be substantial but never enough.

    Some people in this country are beginning to see just how fully corrupt and amoral this president really is. There is nothing that compares to his sick and bottomless behavior. I will just mention one little additional piece of corruption directly caused by this guy and it was covered by the Maddow show tonight.

    Just across the street from the Trump, Washington DC hotel is the FBI building. This building is in bad shape and there has been a working plan in place to move the FBI to another location into a new building. So what to do with the current crumbling building. It was planned to turn it over to a developer who would remove the old and build new in it’s place. It has been fully discovered that Trump stepped in and put a stop to this whole plan. He did this earlier this year. The whole thing appeared very odd and it was. So why would Trump do this and then say he had nothing to do with it? It would be bad for business at his place. The head of the GSA even lied under oath about this to congress. It is all out in the open now and uncovered. The corruption continues.

    • Mark R. says:

      Much is coming out from this (as I see it) Saudi Arabian folly that they wouldn’t have tried if Obama… This Khashoggi is not what we’re led to believe either. He’s not just a “Washington Post column writer” his family is rich and connected, and he had the dirt. I speed read some of his background ties, and this dude was seriously connected and decidedly against the Saudi regime. This story so far (like what we know about the Mueller investigation) has only scratched the ice-berg’s surface…the dam is going to burst.

      • I think there will be more on this too. Khashoggi is a cousin or something of Dodi al Fayed of Diana, Princess of Wales fame, whose father owns half of London, including Harrods. Khashoggi’s son has made it out of the country. He came to New Zealand about a week ago, and is now living here. I’m not sure about Khashoggi’s father.

        Unlike Saudi Arabia, New Zealand is not an ally of the US. We stopped being allies in the early 1970s when we stood up to them over our nuclear free status. We are a nuclear-free country and it’s a condition of coming into our ports that all ships etc have to state whether they are nuclear-powered or carrying nuclear weapons. If they have nuclear weapons, they can’t come here. The US wanted to, “neither confirm nor deny,” but that wasn’t good enough for the government of the time, so the US said if you won’t accept that you’re no longer allies thinking we would buckle. We didn’t.

        Even last year there was a war games exercise in Hawaii and to make the point that we’re not allies, the NZ ships etc that were part of the exercise were put in a different port than the dozens of other countries taking part. We’re still part of “Five Eyes” and essential for that.

    • I was thinking of writing a post about that FBI building yesterday – you’ve reminded me by mentioning it. There was an extensive piece about it on CNN too, but I can’t remember which show – Anderson Cooper I think. It was absolutely outrageous!
      https://edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2018/10/18/fbi-headquarters-move-trump-ath-vpx.cnn

  9. Jenny Haniver says:

    If I were a theist, I’d say that an angel came to your rescue with just the kind of chair you need; but for a biblical referent that even an atheist can relate to, the Good Samaritan works. What a kind person.

    Like most others, I’m morbidly fascinated with the gruesome death of Khashoggi and the murderous hubris of MBS and everything else he’s done, Trump’s now all too typical sucking and spreading his cheeks up to murderous dictators– it’s all of a piece; but I wonder just how long MBS will last. I could well be completely off-base, but for several reasons, I don’t think that he’ll be around very long. I think he’s made too many enemies within Saudi Arabia — members of the royal family, businessmen, the religious establishment, and more — and I’m speaking about loyal Saudis, not dissidents (or Shia). I’ve heard that many young people feel that he is one of them and champion him; but I’ve also heard that everybody in Saudi is terrified because nobody is immune from his wrath. I’d bet that some in the royal family think that junior really fucked things up with this murder. He’s dispensed with the usual ruling council (or whatever it’s official name is) and makes all decisions on his own, I’d bet that is a big source of anger and resentment, especially among other potential claimants to the throne. He’s jailed and extorted big bucks from Saudi billionaires in the name of ‘ending’ corruption. They’d be out for him. He’s undermined the power of the religious authorities, and who knows what else (I omit his jihad against progressive Saudis). He seems to think that bread and circuses are enough to buy the loyalty of his subjects — movies, women driving, that and the threat of prison, torture and death if you dare breathe even the slightest word of dissent. He was named to his current position by the Saudi king, so theoretically, the king can remove him and appoint somebody else. I’m not saying that I think the king and his close associates have any compassion in their sclerotic hearts for Mr. Khashoggi, but MBS has no shame and no discretion, and how he’s fucking things up for the entire kingdom and endangering everything (all their filthy lucre).. People liken MBS to al-Assad and Kadhafi; but the ruling structure is entirely different. When MBS becomes a liability he could disappear just like Khashoggi — he’d have to be ‘eliminated’ because I doubt that he’d go quietly into to the desert to spend his time racing camels, writing poetry, and polishing his sword dancing skills.

    All of this is, in its gruesome way, typical Middle Eastern modes of doing business — though such barbarities are by no means unique to the Middle East; but I was reading about the byzantine machinations of the last Qagar rulers in Iran — lots of palace intrigue, dissent ruthlessly stifled, etc., etc.; but one of their favorite ways to execute enemies of the state by tying them to a cannon and blowing them to bits.

    A few hours ago, I read a report that one member of the alleged hit squad just died in an auto ‘accident’ — will they kill them all, one by one, off (save Dr. Bonesaw) to keep them from making incriminating statements?

    • The problem is that it’s up to the king to name his successor, and he named MbS because he was his favourite son. The king is only lucid for a short time each day, and it’s hard for others to get to him and persuade him that MbS is screwing up big time.

      So the world has to put up with Crown Prince MbS and Crown Prince Jared Kushner and we have to hope that people can get to the king, and young people make the effort to get out and vote.

  10. TrevorN says:

    What did Nikki Haley know and when did she know it?

  11. Randall Schenck says:

    Update from news today. Now the Saudi’s have their story. They have found roughly 14 suckers to blame it on and arrested or dismissed another. It is about as believable as a screen door in a submarine.

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