Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman

             When I was in college, I was lucky enough to meet a Saudi Arabian prince who was attending Princeton at a party. We had friends in common.  When my two eldest children were at university, they met, spoke to, and befriended a number of Saudi princes who were attending their university for a year or so.  I also had a chance to meet them all a couple of times.  I have been fortunate enough to know some Saudis, and to consider them friends. I don't need everyone I speak to to share every view I have.  Because my father was a world explorer, we sometimes had visitors to the house who were from the Middle East, and so I tend to take each person as they come, rather than group them and make decisions about groups of people.

                 I did not know and I have never conversed with Jamal Khashoggi. What I know is that Khashoggi tried to get official copies of his divorce decree from the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC, then tried in London, and that he was told he would have to get the from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Istanbul Turkey. He had planned to remarry a Turkish woman shortly. He made the trip to the Saudi Embassy and they told him they would have his documents that afternoon, and that he should come back.  Then, the Saudi Embassy sent its employees home and waited for Jamal Khashoggi to return.  When he did, he was accosted by what European news anchors have called a "Hit Squad".  He is alleged to have been drugged, murdered and dismembered within a brief period of time following his return to the embassy.  This story has been told again and again by everyone from Turkish Police to British intelligence. What we know is that Jamal Khashoggi has not been seen anywhere since his entry into the Saudi Embassy. This week, the Turkish police in a "joint Saudi operation" have entered both the embassy and the home of the Saudi Ambassador. Evidence has been located indicating that Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered there.

                 This is incredibly disturbing. Traditionally, the US and Saudi Arabia have been strong allies. We sell them defensive weapons and weapons systems. They support us in a number of ways in the Middle East and world wide.   The US has an important strategic air base there, in a place in the world where we now have few friends. The Saudis have also had the most moderate stance toward Israel, our ally.
                Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the de facto leader in Saudi Arabia. He is a young man who has many visions as he diversifies his nations economy and brings both women and men into this century as contributors to it.  However, there is a darker side to the man more commonly referred to as MBS.    In the past, MBS placed royal family members under house arrest and did the same to the elite in his nation. He has had more than one hundred journalists jailed.  Khashoggi's fate should make us wonder if they are actually alive.  MBS does not tolerate opposition. After all, Saudi Arabia is a kingdom and not a democracy. I am not aware of voting there at present.   Many of us have tried to focus on the positive things MBS has been doing.   For the first time, women may drive. Movie theatres are back, and there are attempts to weave women into a more modern world.  He also seeks to diversify his nation's economy from an oil dependent one, to a financial and business hub.  Many nations in the world had joined the Saudis with the intent to make the MBS vision a reality.   Saudi Arabia is also at war with Yemen. Eight million people, mostly children are starving because the area where their food is being sent in, is repeatedly being hit with Saudi air strikes.  An entire generation of children has died or has been damaged enough that they will never reach their intellectual potential.

               However, it is naive and unrealistic to pretend that MBS was not completely aware of the plan to entrap Khashoggi who had spoken against him in the past.  Hit squads don't fly in to other nations because they think their leader might approve of a forced rendition or a murder. They aren't known for their independent thinking. Many experts think the theory of a Saudi"rogue general" is absurd.

              I understand that the US and many other nations have invested heavily in Saudi Arabia. I understand that many young people like the vision of MBS very much for their future, but I urge all of you to think again.  A man who sends a squad to entrap, drug, murder, and dismember so that, in their faith, the subject person cannot reach Heaven, is not someone you should be investing in, or leaving as a guardian of anyone's future.

               I urge President Trump, the US Congress and Senate, and all nations and companies of the world to reconsider your dealings with Saudi Arabia until another leader is managing the kingdom.  I commend Sir Richard Branson for being one of the first to say that, in good conscience, that he would not presently serve on the board of Saudi companies at this time.  Others should follow him. I commend those who are shocked by these revelations and who believe sanctions must be leveled against Saudi Arabia.

             It would be foolish to make a dangerous man, more powerful on the world stage than he already is.  I also believe that as long as MBS is in power there that we should rethink our own dealings with him.

            Please pray for the family of Jamal Khashoggi, for his fiancee, and for his many friends.