NOTE: Over the past few days, I’ve published two new pieces. The first deals with Israel’s arms trade with some of the most genocidal regimes in the world. It’s my first piece published at Jacobin Magazine. The second, published by Middle East Eye, puts into context the recent Gaza hostilities, their impact on Israeli politics, and the likelihood the government will fall leading to new elections. I’d be grateful if you read them and circulated them on social media so they will be widely read.
One of the many great tragedies of the Trump presidency is, just when you thought he couldn’t go any lower, he somehow figures out a way to do just that. Every day brings another insult to decency, democracy, the rule of law, and just plain sanity. But today marks a special new low.
After concocting a plan with the Saudis to paper over their brutal murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, Trump has now doubled down on his whitewash of this horrible crime. According to Middle East Eye managing editor, David Hearst, Trump sent Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director, to Saudi Arabia. He offered Mohammed bin Salman and his father, the King a “roadmap” for insulating MBS from blame and “managing” the fallout from the crime. Hearst summarizes the points of the plan:
When Pompeo declared on 18 October that Saudi Arabia should be given “a few more days” to complete its investigation into the case, he was giving them time to begin implementing his plan, the source said.
“They [the Saudi leadership] have done everything he wanted to execute,” the source said.
Since Pompeo’s visit to Riyadh, the Saudis have allowed Turkish investigators into their Istanbul consulate, offered to coordinate a joint Saudi-Turkish investigation, sent a team to Istanbul to pursue the probe and arrested at least 21 suspects.
The remaining step – pinning the crime on a member of the royal family – may be taken if the arrests of those Saudi suspects don’t work to ease the pressure on Riyadh, the source said.
So far, the Saudis have accused five individuals of the murder and they face the death penalty. But none of the five are members of the royal family. Presumably, if conditions fail to improve and, for example, western nations unite to place an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia (Germany has already done so), the royal family might be forced to implement that drastic element of the plan.
Of course it is ludicrous to pin sole blame for the murder on any of those who actually committed it. That would be like the U.S. arresting the Navy SEALs who assassinated Osama bin Laden. Why would you blame them when they carried out explicit orders given to them by their commanders and presumably the President of the United States? They are the ones who are the authors of the crime and should face judgment for it, not those who shot him dead.
MBS is solely responsible for this murder. All the others were henchmen carrying out orders he gave them. To claim that you are doing justice by executing the hired underlings is a perversion of truth. It is a legal charade.
Trump’s statement is also morally corrupt. He knows who killed Khashoggi. But he doesn’t care. Khashoggi was the equivalent of a peon. Someone serving his meal or sweeping the floors at Mar a Lago. A lowly guest worker who could be disposed of at will. Trump thinks he has bigger fish to fry: selling billions in weapons to the Saudis; selling a peace deal to benefit his Israeli pals and the billion-dollar donor, Sheldon Adelson.
Trump apparently believes that just as he can pardon any of his friends and admirers for their felonious behavior, he can pardon MBS as well. We’ll have to see whether his pardoning power extends as far as the Middle East.
Trump Debases Medal of Honor with Award to Miriam Adelson
Trump bestowed America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Adelson’s wife, Miriam, last week. The purported claims for her meriting the award were her humanitarian medical relief work. But there was only one real reason she was honored: she is the wife of the billion-dollar man. In this way, Trump has perverted the highest honor an American president can bestow. He’s sold it for a few hundred million in GOP campaign donations.
Where Adelson goes the Lobby is sure to follow. Bibi Netanyahu has already weighed in on the Saudis’ behalf. As Clayton Swisher notes in this tweet, the Israel Lobby and he and the Lobby will go into full battle-mode lobbying Congress not to impose sanctions on the Saudis. Because that’s what good friends do for each other…
We’ve become almost anesthetized to Trump’s litany of lies and this statement is more of the same. It is filled with prevarication and distortions about Iran. But even worse is glossing over Saudi Arabia’s war crimes in Yemen. Trump lies when he claims that the Saudis would immediately withdraw military forces if Iran did the same. In fact, Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen well before the Iranians became involved, and the latter only did so after the Saudis threatened to liquidate the Shiite Houthis there. The Saudis have never made the offer Trump made on their behalf in this statement.
Trump continues by claiming the Saudis have offered humanitarian aid in Yemen. That too is a lie. In fact, it has brought 15-million to brink of starvation. It has strangled hundreds of thousands of young children, causing them to die of malnutrition. Only yesterday did a Saudi foundation named, naturally, after the king himself. offer $500-million in humanitarian relief for Yemen. That most certainly was tied directly to the Trump announcement. Though the offer was made the day before so it wouldn’t appear to have been coordinated.
Trump Dares Congress to Face Him Down Over Saudi Sanctions
What the Saudis have done in Yemen is an abomination. MBS should be brought to the Hague for war crimes. Not protected and honored by the President of the United States. Trump, in his statement, threw down the gauntlet to Congress. He practically dared them to oppose him. He knows they plan to impose sanctions on the Saudis. But he knows he can veto such bills. That would require bipartisan support to override his veto.
So far Lindsay-the-Timid, who folded like a deck of cards when Trump fired Sessions, has tweeted his strong support for Saudi sanctions. But my bet is that the enfeebled GOP will not withstand Trump’s scorn if they threaten to buck his lead. As they have so many times before, they will fall into line like good little children who strayed from the path, and needed a bit of discipline before returning to the straight and narrow. Remember how many GOP candidates went down to defeat in the midterms after distancing themselves from him?
This will leave the Democratic minority in the Senate with little to show. They will need at least 20 Republican votes to override a Trump veto. My bet is that they can’t get them. But I’d like to be proven wrong.
Republicans are making a very bad bet by continuing to align themselves with Trump. He may be king of the heap today. But he will be on the political dung-heap tomorrow. Then, anyone in any way associated with his vein of criminality will pay a steep price. Anyone who now bucks the king will be able to say he faced him down, and will reap the reward. Everyone else in the Party will become so much waste to be flushed down the toilet. My bet is that 2020 will be the Day of Reckoning.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.