×

Robert Azzi: Rich enough to get away with murder

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Oct. 23. AP



For the Monitor
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

‘Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them,” Donald Trump said in 2015. “They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

How many Americans, I wonder, as they said grace on Thanksgiving, prayed that they “like (Saudi Arabia) very much.”

How many Americans, I wonder, over turkey, pumpkin pie and football added prayers for the 85,000 children who have starved to death during the Saudi-led, American-supplied and empowered genocidal war of choice against Yemen.

“Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop. Their immune systems are so weak they are more prone to infections, with some too frail to even cry,” said Save the Children’s Tamer Kirolos.

“(Saudis) spend $40 million, $50 million,” Trump responds. “Am I supposed to dislike them?

My friend, dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is dead because, I believe, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), ordered his death.

I believe that because in my experience in Saudi Arabia over several decades I know no one leaves town with a “bone saw” without permission; no one charters planes for members of MBS’s security team to fly to Istanbul without permission; no one secures cooperation from Saudi Arabian diplomatic missions without permission from the highest authorities.

I know such things to be true.

I know, too, that President Trump, who prefers bling-encrusted castles to Ronald Reagan’s “shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere” has trumpeted that he will stand with MBS regardless of his guilt.

“Maybe (MBS) did and maybe he didn’t!”

In a White House statement so crude, dishonest and inaccurate it cannot be described as other than vulgar, Trump ignored the CIA’s “high confidence” finding that MBS was behind the killing.

Further, cruelly and gratuitously, Trump libeled my friend, repeating false charges that MBS had fed to John Bolton and Jared Kushner that Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The facts about Khashoggi’s death are knowable.

Khashoggi, who was lured, tortured, murdered, dismembered and had his remains dissolved in acid, is dead because the Saudi crown prince was too thin-skinned to allow a Saudi citizen – even one legally living in America – to criticize him and his authoritarian regime, a regime that rules through terror, intimidation, corruption and extortion.

And, equally, the truth is that America will continue to be diminished and corrupted because its president, Donald J. Trump, is too thin-skinned, ignorant and selfish to understand the moral, ethical and political ramifications of the deals he’s making with devils who threaten the very nature of our democracy.

If MBS is not held accountable we risk living in a world where dictators know they can murder and imprison their critics and fear no consequences from what remains of the world’s leading democracy and superpower.

Where dictators know that if they are rich enough – and flatter Donald Trump enough – they cannot only get away with murder but have an American president become their leading apologist.

Where dictators learn that in their eagerness to sell weapons on the global marketplace Americans are willing to obsequiously serve oppressors and tyrants.

Trump’s assertions that Saudis have agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States, which will result in “hundreds of thousands of jobs,” are false. Assertions that Saudis “have been very responsive to (Trump’s) requests to keep oil prices at reasonable levels” is equally unsustainable.

While many Americans, and many Saudis, were seduced by MBS lifting the ban on women driving and promoting popular culture and entertainment – including live performances of WWE – in the Kingdom, I believe such gestures are deliberate distractions meant to be interpreted as reforms while in fact they were cosmetic applications masking increased repression, suppression and fear.

“(Saudis) spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them?”

I believe that there is scant evidence to support the contention that MBS’s Saudi regime is a sustainable and reliable ally both against terrorism and against Iran, a false and dangerous paradigm defined by John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Jared Kushner and Benjamin Netanyahu, that is not shared by most of our allies and partners.

America’s unilateral rejection of the Iran nuclear accord (JCPOA) – which our allies (who all support the accord) asked America not to do – is a measure of how reckless, isolating and dangerous Trump’s foreign policy has become.

In his statement, Trump attempted to divert attention to Iran, arguing that people should “take a look at what’s going on in Iran, the vicious situation that’s taking place there and the number of people that are being killed and slaughtered.”

Whether that’s true or not is not the point.

What Mohammed bin Salman did is the point.

Last week, when asked who should be held to account for Khashoggi’s murder, Trump responded, “Maybe the world should be held accountable, because the world’s a vicious place.”

The world isn’t accountable. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia is accountable, and if you don’t hold him to account, in our name, you’re not only complicit with an unparalleled act of savagery and horror, but you’re telling tyrants around the world they are free to murder and victimize their citizens – and journalists – as long as there is profit in it for Donald J. Trump.

Today, as in Yemen, our vital organ functions are slowing down, our immune systems are weakening and we are more prone to infections.

Today, worn down by lies, deception and ignorance, many of us are too frail to even cry.

(Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. He can be reached at theother.azzi@gmail.com. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.)