On Oct. 2, Jamal Khashoggi, a member of a notable Saudi family and a dissident of the regime, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. There’s no record of him coming out. Though it is unclear what exactly took place, one thing is clear: The Saudis have either killed or kidnapped the Washington Post contributor.
The attack on Khashoggi has shattered the facade of reformism that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been trying to cultivate. Known simply as MBS, the crown prince has bewitched Western neoliberals, inspiring column inches chock full of praise. Media outlets knew that Saudi Arabia was horrible when they were lauding MBS. They just really liked how he acted ‘Western’ and wanted to buy American arms. Now, all these organizations, from the New York Times to the Financial Times, pretend to be absolutely shocked that the man who dazzled them with plans of structural adjustment, an investment vision away from oil and lots of Saudi wealth, could also be behind the murder, or at least the kidnapping, of a well-respected journalist and thought leader. These hypocritical organizations have been pulling out of their commitments as media sponsors for Saudi-led conferences in droves.
Did these people realize that Saudi Arabia, a regime that arrested a women’s rights activist and plans to behead her, is not a normal country? MBS’s edifice is just a pretension. The Saudi government pays off its citizens with oil wealth and lulls them into accepting the royal family’s absolute control.
Saudi Arabia is the most reliable ally of the United States, a long-time buyer of U.S. military equipment and an absolute monarchy. Saudi Arabia is an ally that embodies everything the United States supposedly stands against. Yet, the U.S. tolerates every negative aspect of Saudi Arabia that it criticizes in Iran, a milder regime by comparison (that’s how absolutist and religiously controlled Saudi Arabia is).
To Westerners playing along to the the Saudi regime’s and MBS’s farce, Jamal Khashoggi’s murder/disappearance has been a wake up call. Khashoggi has been respected and accepted by the West as an interlocutor against the regime. He lives in the United States and has a green card. As a green card holder, the U.S. has a legal obligation to him, yet President Trump insists on covering the Saudis and coming up with crazy theories about “rogue killers” to get the totalitarian regime off the hook for a journalist’s murder.
The case has been unignorable. Khashoggi is present; he is not simply a local dissident that is far away. The Saudi government can try as much as it wants to cover up the facts, not cooperate with the Turkish police investigation or hope the investigation goes nowhere. But the cat is out of the bag: The murderous, corrupt, absolutist, fundamentalist, misogynistic government of Saudi Arabia is not normal and cannot be kept as a close U.S. ally. Do not normalize the U.S. sponsorship of this regime; it is unacceptable.