Journalist Jamal Khashoggi apparently wrote one last column before he was savagely murdered by agents of the the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within its consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. There is mounting evidence that Khashoggi was killed by a team sent from Saudi Arabia including a forensic expert and a close security aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Turkish sources released the contents of a tape indicating that Khashoggi was literally cut up while alive by the Saudis and may have taken seven minutes to die. There are strong indications that the United States is desperately seeking any way not to sanction Saudi Arabia or lessen such sanctions, including the suggestion by President Donald Trump that “rogue” elements might be responsible. While Trump initially promised severe punishment if Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate, the fear of many is that the Administration will find a way to protect Saudi Arabia in the face of the torture and dismemberment of a respected intellectual. For some, Khashoggi is merely a name while Saudi Arabia represents billions in contracts and thousands of jobs. However, he was a person living in the United States and a journalist who fought for freedoms in the Middle East. While he also praised the Saudi Crown prince for some reforms (particularly in giving women more rights), he was a danger precisely because he bravely spoke of freedoms of speech and the press in a region where such expression often results in arrest or execution. The Crown Prince has insisted that Khashoggi was a “friend” and that he exited the building, but the Saudis can offer no proof of the exiting.
Now the Washington Post has published his last column. As fate would have it, Khashoggi wrote about press freedom and his dream that Middle Eastern nations could some day join the West and free and open nations. Khashoggi moved to the United States in June 2017 and wrote for The Washington Post.
He was a permanent U.S. resident working as a journalist in this country when he was brutally dismembered.
He often criticized the Saudi government for its repression of critics, journalists, and women. He was an advocate for democratic reforms and freedom of speech and the press.
The evidence is now overwhelming that he was murdered by Saudi agents at the consulate in Istanbul.
What is most painful to read in this column is Khashoggi’s discussion of how atrocities by Arab authoritarian nations are no longer treated as newsworthy or at least worthy of condemnation:
“My dear friend, the prominent Saudi writer Saleh al-Shehi, wrote one of the most famous columns ever published in the Saudi press. He unfortunately is now serving an unwarranted five-year prison sentencefor supposed comments contrary to the Saudi establishment. The Egyptian government’s seizure of the entire print run of a newspaper, al-Masry al Youm, did not enrage or provoke a reaction from colleagues. These actions no longer carry the consequence of a backlash from the international community. Instead, these actions may trigger condemnation quickly followed by silence.”
The question is whether the United States will use some facially implausible excuse to ignore a murder of a journalist committed by the close aides of the Crown Prince. The question is whether we have reached a point where we are simply unwilling to risk the loss of military contracts or economic benefits in responding to such an atrocity. Evangelist Pat Robinson has said that responding to the brutal murder of a Washington Post journalist is not worth endangering $100 billion in arms sales. The question is whether our policies will now be entirely decoupled from any moral or ethical standards.