What’s the life of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to US President Donald Trump? Nothing
- Yonden Lhatoo reflects on the horror of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi’s killing and laments there will be no justice for him because of the vast influence the kingdom buys with oil money
“The horror, the horror,” are the last words of a morally and mentally depleted Colonel Kurtz, played to grotesque perfection by Marlon Brando, at the end of the seminal Vietnam war film, Apocalypse Now.
Evoking that same spirit of incredible savagery and inhumanity, our own modern-day descent into the heart of darkness is being played out for real in the horrific case of the missing Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
A former fan of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, who reinvented himself as a dissident and critic of the House of Saud while living in self-imposed exile in the US, where he wrote a monthly column for The Washington Post, Khashoggi was last seen entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
The Saudis first tried to palm off a cock-and-bull story that he had inexplicably left the building by the back door while his fiancée waited outside for 11 hours. But now, in the face of global abhorrence and condemnation, they have finally deigned to admit he was killed inside the diplomatic mission.
Grisly details of what they did to him in all probability, leaked by the Turkish government to the media, make for pretty ghastly reading.
Turkish authorities, citing gathered intelligence as well as audio and video recordings, allege that a 15-member hit squad from Saudi Arabia flew to Istanbul and took a bone saw into the consulate, where they tortured, dismembered and decapitated Khashoggi before secretly disposing of his remains.
According to sources quoted by Turkish media, he was dragged onto a table in the consul general’s study, where his killers proceeded to cold-bloodedly butcher Khashoggi while he was still alive.
The lead killer, identified as an autopsy expert and the head of the Saudi forensics authority, was allegedly listening to music through earphones the whole time and advised his colleagues to do the same. The screaming stopped when Khashoggi was injected with an unknown substance.
Fingers are being pointed straight at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman because, under his all-encompassing and iron-fisted rule, it would be inconceivable for any of his minions to dare carry out such a brazen act of barbarism on the global stage without his approval.
And yet, that’s the implausible story the Saudis are now peddling after their best buddy and business beneficiary, US President Donald Trump, helped them sound out fairy-tale theories about a “botched interrogation” or “rogue agents” being responsible. They’re now claiming a fist fight broke out in the consulate and Khashoggi ended up dead – no further explanation, just a 59-year-old man taking on 15 goons and vanishing without a trace.
As expected, the Saudis have also found some scapegoats: five high-ranking officials have been sacked and 18 others detained. And they’ve bought more time to come up with an investigation report.
Trump, true to form in showing contempt for the truth, seems fine with it. And why not: he’s made it abundantly clear that one man’s life – and that, too, of a journalist and “enemy of the people” – cannot be placed above the billions of dollars the Saudis are pumping into the land of the free and home of the brave. Plus he does not want to give up his deep personal business ties with his oil-soaked cash cows.
“MBS”, as the crown prince is trendily known, gets a mulligan, and although the man once hailed as a visionary reformer by the West is now being mocked with a new nickname – “Mister Bone Saw” – it will all blow over. Money always wins.
Real justice for Khashoggi? It was never going to happen, given how inextricably intertwined America’s strategic and economic interests are with those of the House of Saud. In Trump’s own words, “It’s bad, bad stuff. But we’ll see what happens.”
The horror, the horror.
Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post