An uncommon event is happening right now in the U.S. mainstream media: our government’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is being fundamentally questioned. Political commentators are pointing out the contradiction between the U.S.’s professed values — democracy, human rights, political freedoms, etc. — and the behavior of our the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The cause for this national conversation has been the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist in exile. Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and he never came back out.
The story of Khashoggi’s disappearance gained traction in the U.S. because last year Khashoggi and began writing for the Washington Post. Even though Khashoggi was not a U.S. citizen, his ties to the U.S. got the White House entangled in this affair, and brought on the attention of the American media.
President Donald Trump has been widely criticized for giving too much credence to the denials by the obvious culprit — the Saudi government. One of his first public comments on the affair compared the treatment of the Saudi royals to the treatment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation process.
The Saudi royals are hoping to blame this entire incident on rogue elements, rather than Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and top officials. They know that even if most of the world doesn’t buy their story, if they can get American approval, Europe, Turkey and Canada will have no choice but to fall in line and let things go back to normal.
The U.S. should support a truly independent, international investigation into the incident, and the Saudi government should face consequences for its involvement in Khashoggi’s death.
But hiding behind all this discussion of Khashoggi is a deeper question: why has it taken until now for lawmakers and media pundits to question the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia?
The killing of a journalist should receive special attention, of course, but why wasn’t there this level of outrage a Saudi jet dropped a U.S.-supplied bomb on a school bus in Yemen, killing 40 children and 11 adults?
As for the people of Yemen, they have no reason to hope for an end to the nightmares inflicted upon them by Saudi Arabia and the U.S., and Trump. Trump has the idea of stopping arms sales to the kingdom as a punishment for the Kashoggi incident.
If American foreign policy is ever to live up to its claims of promoting democracy and human rights, the U.S. will need to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its actions.
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