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The saying used to go, “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.” Americans eligible for membership in AARP will recall the line as a clever dig at the breathless reporting of not-so-“breaking” news during the first season of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” way back in 1975.
In our own times, NBC and other mainstream media outlets consider it “breaking news” to pronounce day in and day out since October that Jamal Khashoggi is still dead.
Alas, the incessant reporting of Khashoggi’s demise is not a running gag nor any sort of laughing matter. The man was assassinated in a grisly fashion.
Still, there is something funny—according to that word’s secondary definition, “difficult to explain or understand; strange or odd”—about the persistent breathless bulletins that restate the fact that Khashoggi, a wealthy and influential Saudi Arabian operative, was assassinated eight months ago on orders from his own government. These repetitions of the story are always coupled with denunciations of President Trump for maintaining a close relationship with the Saudi government.
This week NBC published a news item with intense fanfare and the headline: “Khashoggi murder: U.N. report finds Saudi crown prince could be liable.”
It’s a sensational headline, but the United Nations report itself was a giant “nothing-falafel.”
According to NBC, the U.N. special investigation on extrajudicial killings stated: “No conclusion is made as to guilt. The only conclusion made is that there is credible evidence meriting further investigation.”
A U.N. special commission recommends creation of another U.N. special commission: Stop the presses!
U.S. taxpayers should remember that we foot the bill for the largest portion of U.N. expenses.
Not an Independent Journalist
The ceaseless propaganda campaign concerning Khashoggi is founded on a big lie. Khashoggi is constantly described as a “journalist.” He was a talented communicator and a charming human being; I know this first-hand because, a few years ago when I lived in the Middle East, I had occasion to meet him and to have a lengthy conversation with him. But it should be well known he was never an independent journalist in Saudi Arabia, because there is no independent journalism in that country.
Khashoggi had a long career as a Saudi government propagandist and as an operative of the Saudi secret intelligence agency. About a year before his assassination, Khashoggi had fallen out of favor with the new rulers in Saudi Arabia. He left his country and began writing occasional columns for the Washington Post, highly critical of his former employers. After Khashoggi’s assassination, the Post itself acknowledged it had learned that Khashoggi had been writing his columns not independently but as an agent for Saudi Arabia’s wealthy Arab Gulf rival, Qatar, whose regime supports the radical anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood.
Khashoggi, in short, was a turncoat. He was killed by his own government, and heads of governments are responsible for such deeds. All assassinations are ugly and gruesome. Why should Khashoggi’s assassination—and only Khashoggi’s assassination—call for a total reversal of U.S. diplomatic, economic and security relations in the Middle East?
Necessary Alliances With Nasty People
The world is a violent place, and extrajudicial killings, while always ghastly, are now commonplace as tactics in national self-defense.
In the “global war on terror” the United States frequently commits extrajudicial killings, also known as assassinations or murders, in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere. Our government sometimes announces these “targeted killings” as something for which Americans ought to be proud and grateful, as indeed we probably should be in most instances. Sometimes U.S. forces carry out extrajudicial killings of “enemy combatants” who happen to be U.S. citizens. This is grim business, but the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all have called upon us to applaud these assassinations.
U.S. allies that are democratic and regarded as civilized—for example, Israel, the United Kingdom, and France—have no compunction about committing “targeted killings” in the struggle against ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups.
Saudi Arabia is not a democracy, nor is it a model of civil liberties and respect for what Westerners properly recognize as universal human rights. But Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally of the United States and the West, and it is not by any means the only ally or vital trading partner of the West to have an authoritarian government.
China does not face Saudi Arabia’s vulnerabilities. China does not have to defend itself against ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Iran as Saudi Arabia does. It has no reasons of national self-defense upon which to justify extrajudicial killings. Nevertheless, China goes about largely uncriticized as it carries out a virtual bloodbath of extrajudicial killings of its own citizens.
Meanwhile, the West’s profound investment and trading relationship with China continues. The United Nations and the Western media are not clamoring for China’s president to be indicted or deposed. The mainstream media, Wall Street, and all the rest of the establishment consider it beneficial for peace and stability, and rightly so, when President Trump talks with and finds points of agreement with the president of China notwithstanding the nefarious nature of the Chinese government.
The Khashoggi-is-still-dead propaganda campaign won’t bring Khashoggi back to life. It won’t cause the royal family of Saudi Arabia to change rulers nor will it change the Saudi government’s behavior internally or externally. What is the propaganda effort accomplishing? It is driving a wedge between Saudi Arabia and the West at a moment when Saudi Arabia draws ever closer to making a game-changing move towards peace with Israel.
Rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel has been in the works for quite some time. President Trump’s diplomatic efforts to broker Arab-Israeli peace have reached a critical stage with a conference on establishing a basis of economic support for Israeli-Palestinian peace scheduled to take place on Tuesday in Bahrain with prominent roles for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Who would like to sabotage the progress of Saudi-Israeli accord and cooperation? Iran, with its Shia Muslim theocracy, certainly is one such party. Others who want to thwart Arab-Israeli peace include revolutionary Sunni Muslim movements including ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood enjoyed the sympathy of Jamal Khashoggi, and it receives support today from Qatar and Turkey, as those states maneuver for advantage in the balance of Middle Eastern power.
When Jeane Kirkpatrick was Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the United Nations, she harshly criticized the organization for its “selective indignation” against the United States, Israel, and other U.S. allies.
Almost four decades after Reagan and Kirkpatrick, the U.N. and the left-wing media are still dead set in their old habits of hypocrisy and dalliance with anti-Western radicalism.
Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images