President Trump's Statement on Saudi Arabia and Jamal Khashoggi Undermines America's Moral L
Since America became the leader of the free world after WWII, we have had to align ourselves at times with vicious despots in order to combat Soviet expansionism and protect vital national interests. In the Middle East we have often had to cozy up to tyrants to protect the flow of oil to the global economy. Even Jimmie Carter succumbed, reluctantly, to the national interest vs. American values paradox.
However, through it all, America has championed human rights whenever it could, wherever it could. We stood for something above naked self interest even with all our warts and despite frequent, often quite accurate, protests of hypocrisy. International relations is often complicated and it involves painful trade-offs, but in this "very dangerous" world people around the globe looked to us for principled leadership. No more.
President Trump's statement on "Standing with Saudi Arabia" will always be remembered as America's fall from grace, our embrace of despots and murderers, without a hint of conscience and without a vital interest at stake. Our alliance with Saudi Arabia is important, but not so open-ended that we should ignore their brutal assassination of a US resident journalist attempting to obtain marriage documents in a consulate.
Business Insider: "At the end of the day, Saudi Arabia now needs the US "a lot more than we need them," Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, told CNN on Tuesday in response to the president's statement."
"Clark said that the Saudis "need" US protection but the US no longer needs their oil, adding that though it might be "inconvenient" in the short-run for the US government to take actions that hurt the royal family there's also important strategic value in upholding American ideals."
Trump's "statement" is also a dishonest document.
The President's argument boils down to Saudi Arabia is better than Iran, they buy weapons from us, they have oil and Jamal Khashoggi wasn't such a great guy.
The truth of the matter is that the Saudis have to sell oil on the world market no matter how we respond to Khashoggi's assassination, and they aren't buying weapons from us for self defense, but to pursue a barbarous war in Yemen. Iran is certainly not guiltless in Yemen, but we could apply pressure on Saudi Arabia to reduce the toll on the civilian population.
New York Times: "Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen is a humanitarian disaster that has created the worst famine the country has seen. Despite calls from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a cease-fire, Saudi Arabia has stepped up its military operations. The Saudi military’s lack of discipline and planning in its airstrikes has resulted in high numbers of civilian casualties, according to American officials. "
President Trump's most vile lie, however, involves Khashoggi's assassination.
President Trump News Release: Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!
The President impugns the journalist's reputation by repeating Saudi talking points and then simply ignores the best available evidence.
Vox: "Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which he entered to fill out some paperwork. The CIA has concluded that it was a hit ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; it’s not clear what the motivation was, but it seems like retaliation for Khashoggi’s high-profile criticism of the Saudi government in outlets like the Washington Post. US intelligence intercepted a message from one of the hit men to a bin Salman aide, in which the killer informs the aide to “tell your boss” that Khashoggi is dead."
And now Reuters is reporting that the CIA has a recording of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman giving instructions to "silence" Jamal Khashoggi.
So, while Trump's, "maybe he did and maybe he didn't" lie regarding the Crown Prince is typical of this President, it's hardly necessary because he simply doesn't see the advantage of principled leadership. A video of bin Salman confessing wouldn't change his mind. In his closing line, Trump could have replaced his "America First" slogan with "principles are for losers".
And despots across the globe are applauding.