Trump Takes the Right Position (Again) on Khashoggi
Gasp and gasp again! Donald Trump is once more seeming to defend the indefensible. From the AP:
President Donald Trump Tuesday criticized rapidly mounting global condemnation of Saudi Arabia over the case of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, warning of a rush to judgment.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump compared the situation to the allegations of sexual assault leveled against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing.
“I think we have to find out what happened first,” he said. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”
The AP was quick to remind us that the president was again swimming against the tide:
He said it was too early to say whether he endorsed other countries’ actions. “I have to find out what happened,” he said. But his complaint about “guilty until proven innocent” and comparison to the Kavanaugh situation suggested he was giving the Saudis more leeway than other U.S. allies.
Indeed, but which allies? Turkey? In the Despot Derby, their President Recep Erdogan seems to be running at least neck-and-neck with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and may be out front by a nose or more. Which one has more journalists in jail? Turkey hands down. (They lead the world in that respect.) Which one has beheaded more of its citizens? The nod goes to Saudi Arabia. Equal or ahead of them on all counts -- Iran.
In the Middle East, suffused as it is by the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya -- making it permissible, often required, to lie to the kufr (non-Muslim) for the good of the faith -- it's hard to discern who is telling the truth or anything close.
Trump says he is reacting to vehement disavowals from MBS and his father that they ordered Khashoggi's death, but are they to be trusted? Westerners may have good instincts about the hysterics of Dr. Blasey Ford, but are less likely to be able to comprehend a culture more insular, determined, and bloodthirsty than the Mafia.
The Khashoggi story has no one close to a hero, not even, perhaps especially, its subject, who was for decades part of the Wahhabi government so in love with beheadings. The disappeared so-called journalist -- actually a lifelong activist for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that sought, and still covertly seeks, world domination through the likes of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri -- is scarcely someone to be admired, even with his Washington Post byline. (Mr. Bezos, please explain why a man with this history is writing for your newspaper.)
And, of course, the USA has for years practiced targeted assassinations, via drones and other methods. The Israelis are thought to have taken out several Iranian nuclear scientists via drive-by killings and other strategies. Complaints were muted, as well they should have been.
If MBS is responsible for the death of Khashoggi, one wonders why he chose such an obvious and barbaric method, less subtle and deniable even than the way North Korea's Kim poisoned his step-brother. (Perhaps MBS was even inspired by us, thinking we would disregard such an action since we do it ourselves.) On the other hand, if the actions were performed by some of the crown prince's adversaries, it seems to have been a good way to embarrass him seriously and remove him from leadership. In the Middle East, the game is played for keeps. Trump's nastiest insults must seem to them like child's play.
For insight into how this all works, I would recommend the television series Tyrant, written and directed by the Israeli writer Gideon Raff. It's more or less a fictionalization of the rise of Syria's Bashar Assad, who begins in the series as a mild-mannered pediatrician in the U. S. (not an ophthalmologist in the UK as in reality). Raff is the creator of the superb Israeli series Prisoners of War, which was turned into the much inferior American version Homeland.
As for Trump, I think once again he is being smart not following the herd. If MBS turns out to be a total swine, there's plenty of time to react accordingly. If not, the president has properly hedged his bets. In any case, in a world (the Middle East) where practically all leaders, other than Israelis, are various degrees of thugs, it may come down to the regrettable choice of the traditional the "enemy of my enemy," etc. Thanks to Obama's giveaway of billions, we know who that mainly is -- Iran and its client Hezbollah.
Roger L. Simon = co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media - is an author and an Academy Award-Nominated screenwriter.