Please see for yourself the entire statement released by the White House on 11/20.
Here’s the 5th paragraph,
“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!”
There’s no evidence that Jamal Khashoggi was an enemy of the Saudi state. He was a critic of it, a man who wanted to help steer the Saudi leadership away from the repressive practices that stifle voices of dissent, the very forces that killed him. He had been close to the leadership but had felt compelled to speak more openly, which is why he chose to move to our country while simultaneously holding residence in Turkey.
The CIA, after careful review of all the evidence produced by Turkey, where the murder took place, concluded that Mr Khashoggi could not have been assassinated without the knowledge of the crown prince. But Trump has no qualms rebuffing such verdict and instead accepting the king and crown prince’s denials.
Did the crown prince have knowledge of the event?
“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” says Trump. Hard to believe.
But it sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Indeed, Trump said something eerily similar in Helsinki this last July — after a question from a reporter regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections — immediately following his summit meeting with Putin.
“… my people came to me, Dan Coats (from National Intelligence) came to me and others, they said they think it’s Russia… I have President Putin… he said it’s not Russia. I will say this… I don’t see any reason why it would be… I have confidence in both parties… I have great confidence in my intelligence people… but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Why should Trump not trust his intelligence agencies?
If Putin and the crown prince deny strongly their wrongdoing, is that supposed to negate the conclusions drawn by teams of seasoned experts in intelligence gathering?
Additionally, Mr Trump has openly stated that he will not listen to the tape produced by Turkey containing the gory sounds of the killing of Mr Khashoggi.
What does that mean?
When Trump chooses to not listen to the tapes of Khashoggi’s murder it is not just him not listening, it is all of us. It is America not listening.
What image do we project to the world when we behave as such?
Can Trump not find the strength to face the facts?
There’s something sordid and venal about Trump’s willingness to excuse the Saudi prince. That Saudi Arabia has signed up to invest 450 billion in our country, a sizable portion going to the buying of weapons, is not a reason to hide from the truth.
This is not to say that geopolitical considerations should not be weighed in. Saudi Arabia is a long term ally of ours and as such a counter to Iran’s aggressive influence in the region, but giving the Saudi elite a pass in this heinous act is not compatible with the Saudi people’s aspirations to become a modern state.
Why not, for instance, call for the prince to stand trial for the offense, in the presence of international observers?
Would that be a destabilizing event for Saudi Arabia? Maybe, but it would be an important step toward introducing political accountability in the country and preventing the crime from happening again. It may well be resented and seen as interfering with their governance, but in the end, likely to invigorate the forces of reason and enlightened civility. As a sovereign nation, it will be up to the Saudis to do as they wish, but taking a public stand for justice leaves us in a strong position while sending a message to all of our allies.
If we were dependent on Saudi oil, the geopolitical considerations would be quite different. But we are not. Thanks to the spirit of innovation that our nation retains, we have become the largest oil producer in the world. That matters. And so does our moral integrity, for it fuels courage, creativity and vision.
So far, Mr Trump has been unable or unwilling to grasp this essence. This is not lost in the eyes of the world. Appearing to be beholden to a ruling elite is not only detrimental to our image abroad but also, and more importantly, to the image we have of ourselves.
Either way, America loses.