It is no news, now, that Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was lured to a Saudi Consulate in Istanbul early this month, and that he never came out again. He was a Saudi national but a US resident (he lived in Virginia), and he was a known critic of his government, and …while this is still unproven…the general betting is that he was murdered by Saudi intelligence agents who were laying in wait for him. There have also been some pretty grisly stories about how he died, and what was done with his body afterwards.
And, to top it all off, the Washington Post is now reporting that USA intelligence agencies knew that Khashoggi was in danger. The agencies had, says the paper, intercepted communications among Saudi officials that revealed the details of the plot.
But things get worse. The White House, i.e., Trump, may have had access to that intelligence. John R. Schindler, writing in the Observer, says the NSA conveyed its concerns to the White House even before Khashoggi left for Istanbul. But, it seems, the White House did nothing to warn him or to protect him, even though as a legal American resident, not to mention an important journalist, he was entitled to at least a word of caution.
Of course, we have to be careful here. We know nothing for certain. We are not even sure that Khashoggi is really dead. And it could be there is much more here than meets the eye, particularly given that Saudi Arabia and Turkey (where Khashoggi vanished) are hardly friends.
But…if the White House knew of the threat, and if it did nothing to protect the man, and if he really was killed…then the Trump administration is complicit in a murder.
And we would then have to ask why Trump and his people would permit the slaughter of an American resident. The first answer, of course, is that the Saudis are important to Trump. The Trump family, and Trump himself, have long had tight connections with the Saudi elites. Indeed, shortly after Khashoggi’s disappearance, Trump said he was “unhappy” with the situation, but also tacitly referred to upcoming deals with the Saudi government.
So, money, probably, has something to do with it.
But let me make another suggestion. Let me propose an alternative.
Khashoggi was working for the Washington Post, hardly Trump’s (or the Right’s) favorite publication.
What if…what if…Trump and his people saw an opportunity to deliver a little warning to the Post, and to Journalists (those “enemies of the people”) in general?
In other words, the real subtext here might be, “If it can happen to Khasohggi, it can happen to you.”
In other words, a not terribly subtle death threat…
If so, then we have to wonder how far we are from a dictatorship, and how we can fight back, while the Constitution still has something like meaning, and freedom is still ours to defend.