The brutal murder of sometime Washington Post visiting columnist Jamal Khashoogi, apparently on orders from Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has many American journalists and columnists in high dudgeon. How, they ask, can the US be allied to a country run by such a blood-thirsty leader? How can the US ally itself, and contract to sell $100 billion worth of arms, to a country so medieval in its behavior?
Perhaps a classic example of this professed outrage is Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg, who wrote a column headlined “The Khashoggi case is far more complicated than the news media are making it out to be.”
Goldberg is no journalist. He is a neoconservative political analyst and columnist on the staff of the conservative magazine National Review (columnists, unlike reporters, aren’t required to back up their opinions with facts), and rather than condemn Salman as many do, he makes the more slippery argument that bin Salman is just one in a line of autocratic leaders who, while being “reformers” of their countries, are also brutal, and that in terms of US foreign policy, “when dealing with murderous regimes, the choice is often between the more tolerable of murderers.” His implication is that as brutal as bin Salman is, others might be worse.
Okay, fair enough. That’s realpolitik he’s advocating, much like former Sec. of State Madeline Albright’s excusing the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children because of the US ban on chlorine exports to Iraq as “worth it,” or Henry Kissinger’s ordering of carpet-bombing of North Vietnam by B-52s allegedly to get North Vietnam to the peace table. But what’s not real is ignoring the reality of which regimes we Americans are labeling “murderous.”
There’s an incredible blindness and intellectual dishonesty in the US media when it comes to such matters.
In truth, for at least the last three US presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, our leaders have been arguably the number one murderers in the world, cooly ordering the offing of people from the comfort of the Oval Office on a weekly basis with the dismissive signing of a “kill” order, to be carried out by Pentagon or CIA drone pilots firing high-explosive Hellfire missiles which have a nasty habit of killing and maiming disturbingly large numbers of innocent bystanders, including children. These three presidents’ many extra-judicial executions have included a number of American citizens too, not just alleged foreign “enemies.”
It would be far more honest, and useful in informing and educating the American people — in other words it would be much better journalism — if our corporate media editors would insist that when criticizing the Cosa Nostra-like behavior of thug regimes like the ones in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, their reporters and columnists include at least a modicum of balance by noting the similarly murderous mob-like actions of our own government over the years.
The reality is that the only difference between the killings ordered by Saudi Arabia’s bin Salman (or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan) on the one hand, and the killings ordered by a President Trump, Obama or Bush — or for that matter an Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — on the other, is that our media, if they report on the slayings at all, don’t criticize the latter.
Sadly it is not just autocratic and tyrannical regimes that murder journalists and political opponents. It is governments of the supposed democracies that commit these crimes too — especially powerful ones like the US that rarely have to answer for their actions.
In fact, arguably, what our presidents, with their ongoing drone assassination campaign, are doing is far worse than what autocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia’s or Egypt’s do. That’s because autocratic regimes are just doing what autocratic regimes do. They’re not undermining a system or a rule of law; they’re just keeping a bad thing going. What our presidents, with their “kill lists,” are doing is destroying what little democracy and moral standing we have left in this country.