The Trump administration has ended its weeks-long silence on the disappearance of the Saudi Arabian Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Following a briefing from Secretary of State Pompeo who has just returned from a visit to Riyadh and Ankara, the president has said that contrary to some hopeful speculation that had emerged early on after his disappearance, Khashoggi does indeed appear to have been killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. If it is determined that the Saudis were responsible, Trump warned that there will be “very severe” consequences. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin has announced that he will not be attending the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh next week.
I’ve been following this story with some interest, but I haven’t been writing about it until now. This is one of those rare stories that has drawn the focus of both mainstream and alternative media, the latter because it’s seen as an opportunity to criticize the west’s extremely immoral involvement in the depraved activities of a murderous theocracy, and because it’s an opportunity to attack the hypocrisy of the establishment in decrying the murder of a single man while ignoring Saudi Arabia’s far more unconscionable behavior like its war crimes in Yemen and facilitation of bloodshed in Syria. Killing one man is very, very far from the top of the list of the most horrific things Saudi Arabia has done; criticizing them for that is like criticizing Henry Kissinger for not tipping well at restaurants.
The dominant anti-establishment criticism of the mainstream coverage of this story has been that they’re only upset at the Saudi royals now because their bloodshed finally touched a member of the political/media class, who are meant to be untouchable. And hey, that could be it, who knows. It is possible that all that we are looking at is the Saudi monarchy killing and killing with impunity until it killed someone the pundits and politicians are likely to meet at a cocktail party, and that’s the sole reason for the extensive coverage this story has been receiving about a government whose crimes are normally ignored. I remain very skeptical that that is the whole truth, however.
I haven’t joined in the fray of commentary about this story because I do not trust it. We are being told that Khashoggi had an unpleasant encounter with the business end of a bone saw, but we’ve seen no evidence of it. We’ve been told that there is audio footage of this happening but only unnamed Turkish officials are cited as the source of this claim. I don’t blame alternative media outlets for jumping on an opportunity to criticize an overtly despicable part of the US-centralized empire and the political/media class’s shameless complicity therewith, but the fact that the propagandists now happen to be focusing on an enemy of truth and peace right now is not a legitimate reason to begin trusting them or their narratives.
Whenever you see the politicians and media all converge in agreement across political lines upon a single narrative with a great deal of focus and promotion, it’s time to turn up the dial on your skepticism, especially when that narrative involves foreign policy. The Middle East is a hotly disputed and strategically essential zone; one need only to read this Saudi media column threatening dire consequences should the US impose sanctions on it over Khashoggi to see this. The article reads like a crash course in the geopolitical relationship between the Middle East and the western empire, saying Saudi Arabia could triple or quadruple the price of oil in response to sanctions, pull out of its extremely lucrative petrodollar arrangement with the US, cut the US off from one of the top 20 economies in the world, form an alliance with the KSA’s heretofore rival Iran, and ending with the assertion that “if Washington imposes sanctions on Riyadh, it will stab its own economy to death, even though it thinks that it is stabbing only Riyadh!”
— OffGuardian (@OffGuardian0) October 18, 2018
This crucial strategic region is a nonstop story of constantly shifting alliances as immensely powerful movers and shakers fight to put themselves in dominant positions like kids playing king of the mountain. Last year alone we saw world-shaking events like the sudden unified pivot against Qatar and the so-called “anti-corruption” purge of high level members of the Saudi royal family by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), the de facto decision maker of the Saudi government who is being openly accused of direct complicity in Khashoggi’s alleged murder. As noted in a solid Off-Guardian take titled “Jamal Khashoggi: or why you don’t trust the MSM even if they say what you want to hear”, we can look a little further back to when Saddam Hussein was the “good guy” in the Middle East because he was fighting Iran. There are no stationary alliances in the region with the exception of the nuclear-armed Israel for however long it exists, so we could be looking at yet another Game of Thrones-like shift in alliance.
Saudi Arabia has been a staunch ally of the US for decades, gaining the support of the most powerful military force in the history of civilization in exchange for the petrodollar deal, a strong military/intelligence/economic asset in a key strategic region, and a completely opaque and unaccountable government that can get away with perpetrating unfathomable evils that the US and its western allies could never get away with. But that doesn’t mean that can’t change as oil and energy dominance shifts and the empire restructures its assets to the benefit of the plutocrats and their lackeys. If it does change, we can expect to see a drastic shift in the narratives the pundits and politicians advance about Saudi Arabia, very much like the shift in narratives we’re seeing now. One thing’s for certain: there’s no way the empire would turn against such a vastly useful geopolitical asset just for making some shady journalist into a jigsaw puzzle.
So stay skeptical. Just because the talking heads are telling you that Jamal Khashoggi has been brutally murdered and it’s very important that you care doesn’t mean you have to believe them. If this is a propaganda narrative to advance a new oligarchic agenda, there’s no reason to go helping them advance it. Eyes wide.