18 October 2018

The martyrdom of Jamal Khashoggi

The political internet has been shocked by the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi (if you want to know just how gruesome, Booman has some of the currently-known details).  Bloggers who rarely posted about the Saudi regime before are calling for it to be sanctioned and ostracized, while disgust at Trump's excuse-making and coddling of yet another tyranny is arousing widespread condemnation.

I too have been feeling shocked since this story broke, but in my case it proceeds from a different cause.  I'm shocked that everyone else is so shocked.  Have they really not been aware, all along, of what the Saudi regime is like?  Do they really imagine that its hideous treatment of Khashoggi is unusual?

This is a government that beheads people, that cuts off hands for petty crimes in accordance with Sharî'ah law, that inflicts public floggings, that restricts women's freedom so severely that it makes the Iranian regime look practically feminist by comparison, that brutalizes gays even more harshly than most Islamic states do.  At every turn, the comparisons with Dâ'ish (ISIL) force themselves on one's attention.  The Khashoggi murder is entirely within the norms generally displayed by the Saudi despotism.

Maybe some of the net's naïveté stems from the fact that the current de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Bone Sawman, has (rather like Pope Francis) managed to bamboozle some Westerners into considering him a "reformer" of a traditionally highly-conservative regime.  I'm a little skeptical that this is a major point, though.  Most Westerners don't pay anything like as much attention to Saudi Arabia as they do to the Catholic Church.  Far more likely they simply don't know, and don't care to know, about the utter barbarism of a tyranny (arguably the worst in the Middle East, with the possible exception of Asad's in Syria) which has been propped up by US support for decades.  Perhaps flying into hysterical rage every time Israel dares to defend itself exhausts all the energy they have available to devote to that region of the world.

In any case, the murder of Khashoggi seems to have lifted up the rock a little, and drawn attention to some of the slimy things underneath.  If his death finally wakes up Americans to the true monstrousness of the theocracy which has so arrogantly subjugated the ancient land of Arabia for almost a century, then perhaps it will not have been in vain.

[Image at top found via Scottie]


Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yes, America has cozied up to Saudi Arabia for decades because of its oil wealth and its purchase of US weapons.Like the saying goes -- "when you lie down with dogs, don't expect to get up with lions"

18 October, 2018 20:25  
Anonymous NickM said...

Absolutely. For years things like the BAE Systems deals with Shoddy Absurdia (they execute people for "sorcery" FFS) and we sold them 72 Typhoon jets with full kit and kaboodle (the latter somewhat disposed over over Yemen). So, up to a point, I'm also surprised that people are suddenly surprised.

But... This is so grotesquely blatant it crosses a line of obviousness. It is like Putin in Salisbury (can 007 sneak something "interesting" into his botox?)

It is a shame that it has to be so blatant to be taken seriously but then that is life.

19 October, 2018 02:21  
Anonymous PsiCop said...

I'm not surprised the Saudis had someone bumped off. But, I am surprised at the way they did it ... effectively, in a fish bowl. They can't possibly have been unaware their consulate was under surveillance by the Turks. All consulates and embassies in the world are carefully watched, all the time. They had to have known that, at the very least, the Turks would know Khashoggi had gone into the building but never (visibly) came out. They had to have been aware that, all by itself, this would call attention to what they did.

As for the outrage, the dramatic circumstances of this (he walked into a building but never walked out) were likewise bound to pique interest, in the media at least (it being Khashoggi's own field) and among the public, too. It's almost Hollywoodesque. I also think we've been sensitized to conspicuous executions (or attempts at it) like this, for instance by Vladdie Putin's poisoning of the Skripals in the UK and perhaps the poisoning of Kim Jong-nam a year and a half ago.

I'm also surprised that harsh regimes like those of the Saudis, Vladdie, and Kim Jong Pudge in the DPRK, seem to want to conduct these executions as openly as they do. I mean, they all have competent clandestine intelligence services working for them; the killings of Khashoggi, Kim, and the attempted murder of the Skripals, all could have been done in more secretive ways ... but they weren't. It's as though those regimes all wanted to be seen, by the world, having done these things. But aside from giving them global reputations as harsh, tyrannical, and murderous ... which, honestly, they already have! ... I can't imagine what purpose was served by these very-public murders or attempted murders.

As for cozying up to the Saudis ... I have no love for them either, and as a matter of fact I think they ought to have been sanctioned after the 9/11 attacks, since 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis and Saudi operatives had worked with them (as explained in the famously-blocked 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission's report). The Saudi regime literally got away with murder inside our borders ... thousands of them on one day.

But, I'd like to point out, what are the alternatives? They have more oil ... which the world still needs ... than any other country. They're also a major player in Middle Eastern relations, a region which is home to many repressive and violent regimes. So, do we jettison them, and then make deals with, say, Iran? I can't see how that would be any better, assuming Iran would even want to ally with us (after the Shah's fall, it's safe to say that won't happen even if we wanted it to). Not allying with a power-player in the Middle East is not an option, either; our only closer ally is Israel, and they're rivals of pretty much everyone else around them, so that alliance doesn't help us there.

Oh, and not getting involved in the Middle East is also not an option ... it's a pivotal region in the world, a commercial hub as well as a repository for oil (which, as I said, the world, including the US, still needs). I don't think we have many other options. I agree we should have dealt with the Saudi regime in a far more stern way than we have, and ought to have pushed back on their fierce repression for decades, but chose not to ... but aside from having done so in a poor way, the choice of allying with them does make a certain amount of sense.

19 October, 2018 05:05  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Even though this is pretty cut and dry (no pun intended) and uncomplicated, somehow, as usual, it has been twisted into a complicated mess. I'm also shocked how "shocked" some folks are, like yourself. But ... yes, I believe that Prince Salman knows about this, even the details ... I dont know who ordered what, I just think that circle knows everything. Booman's piece was pretty straight forward ... and that is becoming more rare these dayz, as far as folks speaking out. Saudis have a pretty open history though about what they're about. I was one of those years ago, that had no idea just how extreme Saudis government were ... simply because I never looked that deep into them. Trump was saying he dont want to screw up a $120 billion deal (may be more like a $100, but being Trump, he inflates it), the jobs (defense) it creates, etc. And that is the reality, I know, that the contract money makes most in Washington cringe at the idea of putting too much pressure on Saudis ... I dont know the solution ... bottom line, you cant have your cake and eat it. But yeah, Everyone for decades has had to close their eyes to Saudi Arabia in Washington, because of money/ business, in my view ... and we should have known what Trump's reaction would be ... every President I think of in my life, been kissing up to Saudi's. Kind of like our politics, how bank's corporations got them by the balls, with campaign financing.

I have an associate, I cant say his name here, not even his first name, because this is "online". Weird that this guy loves talking to me about these things and much more, we are at way different levels in life as far as class and upbringing. But we met, because he bought so many properties in my area, then he leases them. He's NOT Saudi, but middle easterner, fluent in Arabic, comes from an affluent familia, was schooled in private American schools, dad was the CEO of a major pharma company ... so we are as different as night and day, he's about 10 years younger than me. This guy was the first to tell me in depth, of how the Saudi goverment works. He had preferred treatment in SA, during his 11 years there ... in other words, he dont even get traffic tickets, because of who he is (and this guy has several luxury cars himself). Basically he told me that Saudi government is like the hardest in the world when it comes to brutality, and very talented on propaganda, and keeping their people in fear (almost like what I would expect out of a place like North Korea). This guy's job was in communications/ intell/ security for Saudis. He is/ was (havent talked to him in weeks) very impressed with Salman, kind of looked at him as liberated, a reformer or whatever ... I told him that I question the guy. Understand that Salman also impressed so many, because he allows for women to drive, it's not a big thing to us ... but Saudi folks and like this guy I know, look at this as like a huge transition from the traditional royal power (I dont). He told me that he thinks this Salman will bring change to SA. When I see him next, I'm gonna see what he thinks about this case with Khashoggi, because he knows how things are over there, and the way they are. I mean, he cant look at Salman so favourably, unless he thinks that the king just does all this.

19 October, 2018 05:50  
Blogger Nan said...

"If his death finally wakes up Americans ..."

I wouldn't count on it. Too many people in this country live in their own little cocoons and pay little to no attention to what's happening in the world. Some of this is by necessity (too focused on putting food on the table and paying medical bills), but much of it is simply due to disinterest. As tRumpsky would say ... "Sad."

19 October, 2018 09:28  
Anonymous Scottie said...

I was not surprised at the murder, not even at the brutal nature of it. I was surprised at the reaction by both our current administration and the other world leaders. Only Turkey seems to be pressing it hard, and they have an axe to grind against the Saudi's. Other world leaders have been muted and hesitant about criticising the Saudi's. Thanks for keeping us informed. Hugs

19 October, 2018 09:42  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I also wanted to drop off a short video below for ya ... a view from one of America's most worshipped God loving icons ...


19 October, 2018 12:48  
Blogger Martha said...

I wasn't surprised or shocked (this is something I expected could happen), but I was deeply saddened. It's all about greed.

19 October, 2018 16:48  
Anonymous Zosimus the Heathen said...

I'm one of those who probably should know better, as I've read a few books about Saudi Arabia now, but I'm still shocked by the Khashoggi story and what it says about the Saudi government. While I'm aware of just how brutally repressive that country's regime is, I still find it hard to appreciate just how nasty it is, though I'm not sure why. I suspect it may be something as silly and superficial as the fact that Saudi Arabia looks nicer than many other dictatorships. Its cities, for example, are all gleaming and modern-looking, unlike those of, say, one of the old Communist dictatorships where everything was grim and grey and seemingly stuck in the 1960s; or those of some dystopian Third World failed state where everything's falling down and the piles of rubbish in the streets tower over the buildings around them. That said, I'm under no illusions about how awful life is there for women (as you say, even Iran is more enlightened in its treatment of its female citizens than the Kingdom), LGBT folk, anyone who's not a Wahhabi Muslim, and most of the people who comprise its vast migrant workforce.

I think 9/11 helped open a lot of people's eyes to the rottenness at the heart of the Kingdom; it certainly did for me (before then, I think, I realized that the country wasn't a very nice place but still had a vague sense that it was "on our side"). In a similar way, I think the above incident made me realize there was a lot wrong with a place like Pakistan too (before then, my attitude to the latter place could probably be summed up as "Dash it all! They can't be all bad! They play cricket for God's sake!").

Interesting that a lot of people are holding up the current Saudi ruler as some kind of great reformer; I sometimes got the sense that people thought the same about his predecessor, King Abdullah. I did for a while myself, as one of the aforementioned books I read went on and on about how awesome he was. After he died, though, I heard stories that he literally kept his own daughters prisoners in their house (and in none-too-comfortable conditions too), so, yeah, it turns out he wasn't such a swell guy either!

19 October, 2018 19:29  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Debra: And these dogs aren't even particularly friendly.

Nick: I think the thugs have been getting away with this shit for so long they think we'll tolerate anything.

PsiCop: I suppose the visibility of the atrocities ups the intimidation factor -- part of the point is to scare off others among their own people from speaking out.

If we need the Saudi regime, it needs us also. We could have pressured them to reform over time. And the Iranian example shows the long-term results of coddling gangster regimes. When the Saudi monarchy goes the way of the Shah -- and it will -- the people it brutalized will never forget that we supported their oppressors.

Ranch: I suspect a lot of people who have been there and know the score don't speak up because they're given privileges like that. The regime knows how to ingratiate itself.

The very fact that letting women drive cars is seen as such a huge reform shows you how backward the regime is. I mean, is there anywhere else on Earth where that's an issue?

Nan: Some people will always be determinedly oblivious to anything outside the US. But this is getting attention from a lot of people who normally never think about Saudi Arabia.

Scottie: Leaders seldom lead, unfortunately. I guess bloggers will have to do it.

Martha: It's shameful. 40 years ago the same kind of people thought we had to coddle apartheid South Africa, because of the minerals.

Zosimus: Nice to see you again! Yes, oil money buys a lot of gleam, but that's the thing -- it's bought. All that superficial modernity is the product of an accident of geology that enables the regime to bring in talent from outside to build whatever it wants. Places like Jordan or India may not look as developed, but everything they've accomplished is driven by their own abilities.

People believe Bone Sawman is a reformer for the same reason they swallow it about Pope Francis -- they want to believe it because they want to believe the institutions those men lead are reformable. Revelations about Francis's same-old same-old role in the endless child-molestation cover-ups are starting to break down that wishful thinking; I think the Khashoggi murder is doing the same about the Saudi state.

20 October, 2018 04:30  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

" Most Westerners don't pay anything like as much attention to Saudi Arabia as they do to the Catholic Church."

Well, in their defense, their kids are a lot less likely to be raped by a Saudi.

20 October, 2018 10:35  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Green: You have a definite point there.

20 October, 2018 12:17  
Anonymous Blurber said...

Good article on Khashoggi!

22 October, 2018 09:26  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Blurber: Thanks!

22 October, 2018 16:11  

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