Saudi Arabia Tortured and Assassinated A WP Journalist: Routine Oppression Or Unacceptable Atrocity?
In 1982, Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein desperately needed to end the Iran-Iraq War. He turned to his advisers and asked for candid advice. Dr. Riyadh Ibrahim, his loyal Minister of Health, suggested the leader temporarily step down from power in order to make it easier for the Iranian government to accept peace. Soon afterwards, dismembered pieces of Ibrahim’s tortured body were returned to his wife. It was one of many monstrous acts that would force Western governments to abandon their ally against the Islamic state of Iran. The barbaric nature of Saddam Hussein was too much for Westerners to bear. In 2001, Westerners were horrified when Libyan citizens discovered deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi then beat and shot him on video, which made it very difficult for US leaders to work with Libya’s new government. Islamic State video of Jame Foley’s beheading in 2014 helped rally International support against the terrorist group. The alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the Saudi government adds to the growing list of barbaric acts committed by Middle Eastern governments that have elicited Western outrage.
In early October of 2018, Washington Post columnist and former Saudi royal confidant turned critic Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancee, yet he never exited the building. Days later, Turkish authorities have reportedly produced visual and audio evidence of Khashoggi’s torture and murder at the hands of agents working on behalf of the Saudi government. It is a scandal as shocking as it is sickening. The alleged actions of the Saudi government are, however, far from abnormal. They are a fixture of the Middle East’s power structure. It is easy for Westerners, particularly Americans, to recognize the brutality of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other enemies of the West, but US and European allies are often no better. Governance in the Middle East is defined by its medieval nature, which includes the use of brutal oppression. It is both the way by which the powerful police their Peoples and the reason the Middle East is awash in violence.
Although European governments were once just as notorious as current Middle Eastern governments, e.i. the Dark Ages, colonialism, etc., Westerners have become accustom to the boundaries civility has placed on the sadistic impulses of those in power. It is simply not acceptable for public officials in the modern world to brutalize individuals. It is something terrorists and tyrannical governments do. Certainly, there are those in Western governments who would gladly indulge their darker impulses, many assuredly have as exemplified by the CIA’s post-911 torture programs and the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, but open displays of barbarism are not tolerable. The blunt truth, however, is that Western governments and citizens quietly understand the brutal nature of their allies in the Middle East and elsewhere. It is why many of the CIA’s so-called “black sites,” which hosted its torture programs, were located in Middle Eastern countries. It is why the US government under the George W. Bush Administration turned prisoners over to Middle Eastern governments for torture. The brutality of Middle Eastern governments like that of the Saudi government is a well-known secret that is only controversial when it is brought to the light of day.
The quiet complacency with Saudi brutality is so entrenched in the fabric of geopolitics that US President Donald Trump has been able to openly discuss the potential lose of a $110 billion arms deal with the Kingdom as the primary reason behind his support for the Saudis. The fear is that the Saudis and their contemporaries will turn to the Russians for their military needs, thereby strengthening Russia’s economic and military prowess. The greater fear is, of course, that the US will risk alienating its most powerful and reliably Middle Eastern ally over what is most likely a fairly routine execution of a Saudi critic. It is an example of how easy it is for the US and the rest of the West to place military and economic interests over their democratic principles and morals. The irony is that the US, a democratic republic, wants to sell the Saudi monarchy the hardware it needs to keep its population oppressed in an era still defined by the sentiments of the 2011 Arab Spring Revolutions in order to defend against the regional threats posed by extremists created by its oppressive rule. In other words, the US is supporting the very reason the Saudis have to worry about chaotic forces destabilizing their region instead of holding the Kingdom to a higher standard as a US ally.
For their part, the Turks did not offer proof of the Kingdom’s sins out of altruism. Turkey under the tightening grip of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has run afoul of US leadership. While Erdoğan’s own sins against critics and dissenters are well-known, Turkey seeks to make strong US-Saudi relations so unpalatable to the American People that Washington cannot openly work with Saudi Arabia. The Turkish President wants to make his Turkey the only option in the Middle East for United States. Nonetheless, the torture and murder of journalists for political dissent is thoroughly unacceptable and the Kingdom’s tyrannical behavior must be stomped out. The same is true of Turkey and all other governments that engage in such brutal oppression, whether or not these governments happen to be allied with Western government. These governments may help ensure stability in violence-prone regions like the Middle East, but their savagery is also feeding that violence. Instead of supporting the inhumane brutality of these authoritarian powers, the US government and other world powers need to confront those who engage in these kinds of brutality in ways that show the world such behavior is thoroughly unacceptable.
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