I always hated that English expression “gobsmacked”, meaning “shocked beyond the point of incredulity”.
Nevertheless, I have to accept that the word can serve a purpose – and I was pretty close to smacking my gob as I read this article in Time online about the disappearance of rebel Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi.
Kashoggi’s disappearance is attracting some media attention since he entered the door of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, and hasn’t been seen since. I’ve already posted the Turkish version of the story – but here is, I guess, the beginning of the US spin.
There is a saying in Turkish “Hem suçlu, hem güçlü”– which means something like: “Guilty as hell but toughing it out.” While reading the following, keep in mind that the unelected royal family of Saudi Arabia are close allies of the United States, and currently using weapons supplied by Washington to bomb the bejabers out of poor little Yemen. Don’t lose sight of the fact that: “Since the September 11 attacks, the United States government has carried out drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Libya.
Drone strikes are part of a targeted killing campaign against jihadist militants; however, non-combatant civilians have also been killed in drone strikes. Determining precise counts of the total number killed, as well as the number of non-combatant civilians killed, is impossible; and tracking of strikes and estimates of casualties are compiled by a number of organizations.” (Wikipedia)
“As Donald Trump assumes office today, he inherits a targeted killing program that has been the cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy over the past eight years. On January 23, 2009, just three days into his presidency, President Obama authorized his first kinetic military action: two drone strikes, three hours apart, in Waziristan, Pakistan, that killed as many as twenty civilians. Two terms and 540 strikes later, Obama leaves the White House after having vastly expanding and normalizing the use of armed drones for counterterrorism and close air support operations in non-battlefield settings—namely Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.” (The Council on Foreign Relations)
These are extracts from the Time article:
Jamal Khashoggi’s Disappearance Comes as Autocrats Are Growing Bolder in their Brutality
As of Oct. 10, the assumption is that the Saudi regime took the opportunity to silence one of its more prominent critics.
The mystery is how. Turkish authorities, albeit not the most trusted bunch themselves, believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the building by a team of 15 operatives, his corpse dismembered and transported outside in boxes. The Saudis claim he left alive and have pledged to investigate—though few believe a Saudi regime that has long been unafraid to detain or punish dissidents.
Although the murder of a critic on foreign soil would, if confirmed, be an unprecedented act even for a brutal kingdom,it fits within a larger pattern. Across the world, authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia have developed a rising sense of impunity when it comes to human rights and the rule of international law. Behavior once hidden behind palace doors now happens beyond borders and in the full view of the world.
Take China. Aside from the legion of human-rights abuses committed inside its own borders, including the detention of 1 million Uighurs, Beijing arrested Meng Hongwei, who as head of Interpol was a symbol of the international rule of law. Both have been ensnared by an antigraft campaign that President Xi Jinping and his regime have used to target critics and rivals. Russia too has taken its crackdown on dissenters global, most recently with the brazen poisoning attempt on former double agent Sergei Skripal in the U.K.
This is happening with the implicit acceptance of the U.S., which under President Donald Trump has rejected its role as a champion of universal values like human rights.
But Trump is only one facet of this diminution of the U.S. as a moral lodestar for the world. . . A century of moral diplomacy begun by Woodrow Wilson is coming to an end under Trump.
The U.S. Congress may yet do so. And if Khashoggi’s murder can be confirmed, then economic sanctions will likely follow. But defending and spreading liberal values requires a more patient approach than crude dollar diplomacy.
Worryingly, this trend toward impunity comes as voters worldwide seem more attracted to strongmen and dictators.