A Heavy Dose of Ranting: A Journalist, A Martyr

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabian foreign and domestic policies. He took aim at the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen, the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and the continued extremist policies used within “The Kingdom” (i.e. Saudi Arabia). He had been a reporter, journalist, and editor within Saudi Arabia for decades. He was the editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper, but was forced to resign by the government multiple times due to his willingness to publish critical views of the Saudi government. Eventually, He “voluntarily exiled” himself to avoid arrest. He didn’t want to cease his criticisms and seemed to realize that a reluctance to do so would lead to his arrest, or worse.  Due to his journalism experience in The Kingdom, he had numerous sources, connections, and routes to collect information from Saudi insiders.

It’s been reported that Khashoggi was going to release information related to chemical weapons usage in Yemen, obtained from the aforementioned insider connections [1]. The war in Yemen has been filled with “issues”: targeted hospital bombings [2], targeting locations with a high number of civilians [3], and reports of torture against the Yemeni population [4]. Although numerous organizations had repeatedly reported on these matters, the UN and the world seemed to collectively shrug in response. Generally, chemical weapons usage triggers a bit more of a response from the international community given that the Geneva Protocol starts to come into play. This is a far more straight-forward war crime act, which can prompt consequences via the International Criminal Court [5].

Let’s keep in mind that most of the world has been aware of the prominent issues in the Saudi-Yemen war. The US had even taken a supportive role providing logistical support [6]. Recently, they’ve withdrawn a bit of that support, but not entirely [7]. It seems as if maintaining favour with The Kingdom is more important than avoiding the facilitation of war crimes. This has been the general theme throughout the world: refrain from denunciation of the Saudi government to avoid economic consequences.

Recently, worldwide sentiment towards Saudi has shifted in light of the fact that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in a Saudi consulate in Turkey. He had gone into the embassy for the purpose of collecting a document to marry his fiancée [8]. There was no political purpose to it whatsoever. His soon-to-be wife was waiting outside the embassy for 10-hours, but never saw him again. When his disappearance had been reported, the Saudi government pretended they had no idea what had happened to him [9]. As reports emerged, the Saudi government continued to deny any and every allegation.

Numerous revelations materialized to suggest that the Saudi government played a key role in orchestrating this killing.  1. A private plane carrying Saudi officials and intelligence officers arrived in Turkey within 24-hours of Khashoggi entering the embassy [10]. 2. Saudi officials carried torture devices and “cutting tools” through the airport, as they were leaving Turkey [11]. 3. Video evidence has revealed that a “body double” of Khashoggi was spotted leaving the embassy. Potentially for the purpose of dissuading any allegations of a death at the consulate.

The Saudi Arabian government has now admitted that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the consulate, but that it was performed by rogue agents [12, 13]. These “rogue agents” have been brought to the Saudi courts; 5 of the 11 have been sentenced to death.

However, the Saudi monarchy has insisted that the ruler of Saudi Arabia took absolutely no part in the order of the murder [14]. Many have been incredibly skeptical of this claim given that the monarchy is generally considered to be all-powerful when it comes to domestic and foreign policy decisions. Recently, a CIA investigation came to the conclusion that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did indeed order the assassination of Khashoggi [15].

The world has finally started to respond. Foreign investors have begun to sell their Saudi stocks [16], companies have pulled out of a Saudi investment event [17], and a number of companies are debating if they’ll even accept Saudi funding. Although I’m happy to see some consequences for this incredibly bold, yet disgusting act, I’m curious how long it will truly last. It seems a bit odd to me that the killing of one journalist trumps the deaths of tens of thousands, when it comes to moral or economic repercussions. Amidst the war, a humanitarian crisis is growing in Yemen with reports of famine [18] and disease [19]. Will the world’s collective outrage be re-directed to a large-scale crisis once the Khashoggi murder blows over? Or has international sentiment shifted?

What has been the Trump response since the CIA revelations? Well… he’s literally declared that Saudi is a “spectacular ally” [20]. Moreover, Trump has maintained that the US is going to remain a “steadfast partner” with Saudi regardless [21].

Expectedly, Turkey has been incredibly upset with the fact that Saudi had the gall to execute a journalist in their country. They’ve been putting a significant amount of pressure to come clean about the situation. In response, Trump had debated extraditing a US citizen that was critical of Turkey’s policies in order to please the Turkish government. Yes, you heard that right. Kidnapping a US citizen, shipping them over to Turkey, and allowing who knows what potential consequences… to ultimately remove Turkish pressure on Saudi [22].

Why do this? Well… Trump has an extensive history of business ties with the Saudi’s. This suggests that his business interests are over-riding holding the Saudi government responsible [23]. It also turns out that Khashoggi had criticized Trump in 2016 and was subsequently banned from writing in Saudi Arabia [24]. All the more incentive for Trump to be pro-Saudi, anti-Khashoggi. Trump is attempting to defend his position by highlighting $450 BILLION in Saudi investments and MILLIONS of US jobs. Unsurprisingly, he inaccurately inflates the numbers beyond belief [25].

It’s now been revealed that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent 11 messages to his adviser that oversaw the killing of Khashoggi hours before and after the murder took place [26].

It’s been a mind-bogglingly bizarre situation. The audacity of how it was carried out speaks volumes to how empowered the Saudi’s feel on the world stage. The next question will be: is anything going to be actually done in regards to the war with Yemen or will the criticism be focused solely on the killing of a journalist? It appears that media pressure is the key factor here. Will the media re-direct pressure to the war, as Khashoggi desired all along? We’ll see.

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