President Donald Trump spoke with the media today and made it clear that the United States would no longer be a proud defender of journalists and the critical work they do to hold dictators and despots accountable across the world.
Instead, he decided to empower those tyrants and whitewash a grotesque murder.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been accused of entrapping Washington Post correspondent Jamal Khashoggi in their embassy in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was allegedly killed. Turkish officials allege that his body was then dismembered and smuggled out in diplomatic boxes.
On top of that, U.S. intelligence has revealed that they intercepted communications exposing a Saudi plot to lure the journalist from his home in Virginia to Saudi Arabia in order to detain him and presumably silence him for his biting criticism of the vicious Saudi monarchy.
This morning, a reporter asked President Trump if Saudi Arabia would have a “price to pay” if it was confirmed that a close military ally of the United States just murdered a dissident journalist out of spite.
He did everything he could to avoid saying anything that might have upset his dear friends in Riyadh, complaining that “he wants to find out what happened” and excused the incident because “this thing happened in Turkey” and Khashoggi “isn’t even a U.S. citizen:”
Trump: This thing happened in Turkey and Khashoggi isn't even a US citizen. pic.twitter.com/3poTLR22jN
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) October 11, 2018
For the record, Jamal Khashoggi is a legal U.S. permanent resident, but obviously, that has nothing to do with the situation.
President Trump’s envious affinity for murderous dictators and his pathological hatred of the media is very well-documented at this point, but it cannot be stressed enough how dangerous a signal this sends to the rest of the world.
As a Trump-style fascist prepares to take power in Brazil and right-wing despots across the world grow bolder as the United States government stops pretending to care about human rights and democracy, Trump’s decision to whitewash and excuse a cold-blooded extrajudicial murder this brazen sends a message to the rest of the world that it is now open season on journalists.
The president’s reaction has been so disturbing that a bipartisan group of twenty-two Senators, led by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), have sent a sternly worded letter to the president demanding an “investigation and Global Magnitsky sanctions determination” against Saudi Arabia in order to “determine whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression.”
But when it comes to potentially angering the monarch who rolled out the red carpet for him and is about to purchase $110 billion in weapons to use in his U.S.-backed genocide of the Yemeni people, Trump has made it clear that he’d rather defy the entire U.S. Congress and side with bin Salman.
Trump indicates to reporters in the Oval moments ago that he opposes stopping arms sales to Saudi Arabia: "I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money coming into our country … I don’t like stopping an investment of $110 billion in the United States."
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) October 11, 2018
For far too long, the United States and its leaders — both Democrat and Republican — have turned a blind eye to the crimes of Saudi Arabia, the kingdom whose citizens committed the 9/11 terror attacks, created and fund murderous extremist groups like al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), and are committing horrendous crimes against humanity in Yemen.
No “strategic partnership” or profits from weapon sales can be worth causing such untold human suffering, especially when that “partnership” directly flies in the face of American foreign policy interests. The next Democratic presidential nominee must have the guts to take a stand against Saudi Arabia and make it clear to every aspiring Trump that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated by the free world.