President Trump’s stunning decision to stand by Saudi Arabia after our own intelligence community concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s agents murdered and dismembered dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi sent shockwaves of revulsion through Washington D.C. as defenders of the free press responded in fury to the president’s dismissal of basic human rights.
On Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations chairman Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) publicly condemned the president over his shameful excusal of the Saudi Arabian crimes, writing that the Trump White House was operating as a “public relations firm” for the Crown Prince and his authoritarian regime.
I never thought I’d see the day a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. https://t.co/MQ4JsoQtqk
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) November 20, 2018
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He followed this up with a declaration that he and the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), have filed a letter to the president demanding that he invoke the terms of the Magnitsky Act and respond to proof of the murder with a harsh set of economic sanctions like the one President Obama unleashed against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in 2012 in response to the murder of Russian anti-corruption accountant Sergei Magnitsky.
Under the law, the president is now required to determine whether MbS is responsible and report to our committee with a determination and a decision on the imposition of sanctions. Read our letter: pic.twitter.com/G9xFGyw4TH
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) November 21, 2018
Sadly, it’s not likely that Donald Trump, his neocon advisers or his defense contractor backers would ever allow that to happen. It would be astonishing to see any American president, let alone one so flagrantly corrupt as Trump, take any substantial action against Saudi Arabia.
Senator Corker and the rest of the Washingtonian political elite are rightfully very upset over the president’s handling of the Khashoggi murder, but they seem to have all developed a very convenient amnesia in order to wash away the fact that all the United States has done for the past two decades is make excuses for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and sweep their crimes under the rug.
Republican NeverTrump strategist and CNN analyst Ana Navarro decried the President’s statement as “so damn un-American,” but honestly there’s nothing more American than ignoring political repression and atrocities when it’s politically convenient for us. She should know, considering that her own father was a member of Nicaragua’s far-right wing Contra terrorist group, which was created, armed and supported by her hero, Ronald Reagan.
It’s absolutely incredible to see the pundits and the politicians clutch their pearls over Trump’s response to the Khashoggi killing as if the George W. Bush administration didn’t go out of its way to cover up the fact that members of the Saudi royal family were involved in the perpetration of the 9/11 terror attacks and the murder of 3,000 innocent Americans.
It’s not just Republicans either. President Obama turned a blind eye as Saudi Arabia rolled the military equipment we sold them into the neighboring country of Bahrain to crush pro-democracy protests in 2011 and his administration supported Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war in Yemen from its beginning and continued to do so even as the civilian body count began to skyrocket from Saudi war crimes.
So while it is commendable that both Republicans and Democrats are rightfully appalled by President Trump’s casual dismissal of a horrifying crime, let’s dispense with this absurd notion that his justification is fundamentally different from those offered by past presidents when excusing the House of Saud’s behavior; he just doesn’t bother with dressing it up with stern but ultimately meaningless condemnations and similarly empty calls for “restraint.”
But now that the quiet part has been said aloud — that the United States will tolerate any action by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in order to protect the flow of oil money into the coffers of defense contractors, political war chests, and private charitable foundations — and the Saudis have committed such a brazenly flagrant violation of human rights, it’s time for the Democratic Party and the American left to not only take substantial action to not only punish those responsible but also to articulate a new foreign policy that makes a genuine effort to match the practical application of American power with the moral vision of the world that it ostensibly believes in.