The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia should trouble Americans.
We, along with the UAE and UK, are currently supporting the horrendous and illegal Saudi Arabian attacks on Yemen, offering logistics and weaponry in what can only be described as a terror campaign launched to interfere in Yemen’s internal politics. Because of this Saudi/US war on one of the poorest nations on earth, a child in Yemen starves to death every ten minutes. Tens of thousands of Yemenis have died, and millions more are likely to before this is over. The Saudis have recently renewed their attacks on Hodeida, the major port city in Yemen, to deliberately keep food from entering the country. Cholera, a preventable disease, is rampant. The price of food and gas has doubled. Yet we are making commitments to sell the Saudis even more weapons and both Obama, while he was in office, and now Trump tout the jobs that will be created by the sales of US-made weaponry, as though what these weapons will be used for is an utterly irrelevant bit of marginalia.
The personal ties of US politicians to Saudi Arabia were most obvious under the Bush regime, for the Bush family has had oil business ties to the Saudis going back generations. [One may want to read “House of Bush, House of Saud”, by Craig Unger for information on that.] Trump and his son-in-law have extensive business dealings with Saudi Arabia, as well, which no doubt contributes to Trump’s reluctance to take the still-evolving story about the Saudi murder of the US-based (but Saudi-born citizen), Jamal Khashoggi, very seriously. See:
We remember that Bush allowed wealthy Saudi Arabians to fly out of the US after the 9/11 attacks, while no-one else, American or foreign, was allowed to board a plane.
15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian. There is a new book about the Saudi involvement in 9/11 which came out in August of this year. In “The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark: The CIA, NSA, and the Crimes of the War on Terror”, authors John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski dismiss the official story of 9/11. The book shows that the CIA covered up Saudi complicity in the event. See:
I think perhaps the above mentioned book has serious merit, as clearly Saudi Arabia was involved in 9/11, but am of the same opinion as Dr. Kevin Barrett, who has been studying 9/11 since 2003:
[…] US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists – 15 of them were Saudi citizens — but many experts have raised questions about the official account.
“It’s a welcome development that we are getting some skeptical reportage in the mainstream about 9/11 during the run-up to the holy, sacred anniversary. The 9/11 human sacrifice event has been turned into a sort of religious myth here in the United States—and that has been done so that they can demonize the people who question the official story as heretics. And that way they can prevent any rational scrutiny of the story, because the official story falls apart instantly. It crumbles to dust under the most superficial scrutiny,” Dr. Barrett said.
[…] “They were CIA assets from Saudi Arabia who were brought to the United States. And the FBI saw that they were actually sheep-dipped in al-Qaeda, that is that they were made to look like they had some kind of relationship with al-Qaeda, and the FBI wanted to investigate them, and they were told by higher-ups not to, hands off,” the analyst noted.
[…] “The reason they are giving is that, well, perhaps the CIA was interested in recruiting these guys, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi among them, and therefore the FBI would be getting in the way of their recruitment. But that is a baby-step towards the actual truth, which is of course that the people who ordered the FBI not to investigate these patsies, did so precisely because these guys were being set up as proxies to be blamed for the September 11 events that they really had nothing to do with other than playing the role as patsies,” he stated.
“So this information does lead to the destruction of the official story of 9/11. And it leads towards the full truth that this was a false flag event, that the World Trade Center was blown up with explosives. It just did not fall down because of the minor office fire kindled by kerosene,” Dr. Barrett argued.
The events of 9/11 aside, it is simply a mystery as to why the US, which holds itself up as the bastion of democracy and equality, would consider this repressive country with its horrific human rights record a staunch ally worthy of support. Saudi Arabia is a sharia nation which shares the fundamentalist Wahhabism values of ISIS and is known to support ISIS. Crimes such as witchcraft, sorcery, repeated drug use, armed robbery, and adultery carry sentences of beheading (the last known execution for sorcery was carried out in 2014). Other physical and/or capital punishments for various crimes include stoning to death, amputation, crucifixion, and whipping. Some crimes lack harsh sentences; notably the crimes of rape or wife-beating.
Public gathering places are segregated by gender and this is enforced by law. This is true even under the “reforms” that the new crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, has ushered in. Just last month, a man who was dining with a woman co-worker was arrested after a video surfaced of him engaged in this “crime”. Of course, most of the reforms promised by the crown prince, known chummily as MbS by the media, Hollywood stars, Silicon Valley moguls, and American politicians who enjoy kissing the ass of royalty, have turned out to be so much bullshit; in fact, arrests and persecution of human rights activists have risen under his rule. The reform most praised by Western press, that of allowing women the right to drive, has resulted in women activists who fought for this right suddenly disappearing or going into exile.
Now, apparently the House of Saud has murdered one of their own, a journalist named Jamal Khashoggi, who has been a legal resident of the US since last year and who worked for the Washington Post, while he was inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey to get wedding papers. Now to be clear, Khashoggi did not have too many objections to the basic policies of the Saudi government. Prior to his relocation to the US, he worked for the Saudi government as a media editor and media advisor. He did not like the aforementioned MbS, whom he felt did not support the Saudi principles fully or properly enough. He wrote some relatively mild articles criticizing MbS while at the WaPo, and felt (correctly, as it has turned out) that he would be targeted with reprisal for those articles.
All across the US, the media and some of our politicians are calling for justice in this case, demanding that Saudi Arabia be held to account. The WaPo took out a full page ad regarding the matter and one of the editors, Karen Attiah, said in an interview with Reuters, “We’re not going to let this go….Attacking or detaining or murdering a US resident…is unacceptable. If whoever did this can get away with silencing him, just imagine all the other journalists who they could go after without consequences.”
This is the correct and laudable position to take, obviously. The silencing of journalists is inexcusable. The murder of anyone based solely on his/her opinions is inexcusable. It is egregiously wrong, and Trump’s persistent habit of calling the media the “enemies of the people” and urging his crowds of cultish followers to mindlessly chant nasty slogans about reporters (or anyone else, for that matter), does not alter that fact. Before you start muttering about the Fake News and the Lamestream Media, let me say that I understand the sentiment. A whole lot of media outlets are doing terrible jobs at covering any real news, and some of them – hell, a lot of them, especially in the US – are little more than propaganda outlets. On the other hand, if you don’t have any reporters, if you reject them all, you are left with only the lies put forward by politicians, and those suckers lie for a living. Discernment, people. Find some reliable sources. Read with your bullshit detector tuned to high. The internet is huge and there are some honest reporters affiliated with news organizations, and a vast number of independent journalists and writers around the world trying desperately to get the truth out into the public realm.
While the Saudis do need to be accountable for the death of Khashoggi, the hypocrisy being displayed by the US is astounding. It’s unfuckingbelievable, in fact. The Washington Post itself, in May of this year, ran an article about two journalists who are currently facing death every day. One is an American journalist and one is a journalist who holds dual citizenship with Pakistan and Syria.
They are threatened with death every day. By the United States of America.
They are on the president’s remarkable, extra-constitutional “kill list”, officially dubbed the “Disposition Matrix”. This is a list of names compiled by a secret cabal of CIA operatives, certain unknown governmental officials, and the president, which designates the intended target as a “capture”, an “interrogate”, an “assassination” (carried out by drone bombing), or as “extraordinary rendition” (yes, we still do that; ask our new CIA director, Gina Torture Queen Haspel, about it). The targets are usually picked by a computer algorithm that finds people suspected of terrorism mainly through their associations, phone calls and computer activity. In the case of a war correspondent, such as these two journalists are, it should be clear that during their daily activities, where they may be carrying out interviews or reporting on various rebel groups in places like Syria or Afghanistan, what may look like “nefarious connections” to “terrorist groups” might actually be simply the gathering of pertinent material for an article.
I first read about this case in the WaPo, as a matter of fact, whose editorial board seems to have forgotten their own article about it in their furor over Khashoggi and his alleged murder. Or perhaps they just don’t think that our own government needs to be “held to account”.
I will summarize the case in brief, and then give some quotes from an article on it written by Matt Taibbi in July and published in the Rolling Stone.
This is a current legal case working its way through the US court system brought by two journalists. It was presented to the court last year and the first hearing was held in May of this year. Bilal Abdul Kareem is an American freelance journalist and photographer. Ahmad Zaidan is a Pakistani who was formerly an Al Jazeera bureau chief. Both say they have been mistaken as terrorists, or “national security threats”, because they have contact with members of al Qaeda or other such groups, which they frequently report on. Zaidan is mostly working out of Qatar these days, and Kareem reports from Syria. The US is not legally at war with either of these countries; Syria is in the midst of a US-instigated civil war but not a threat to or at war with the US, and Qatar is not at war with anyone.
They have joined as co-plaintiffs, represented by the legal group Reprieve, and have brought forward a case pleading to have their names removed from the kill list. They say their inclusion on the list is erroneous, and ask that they be given a chance to show that they are not, in fact, terrorists, preferably before a drone blows them into pieces. It now appears that at the initial hearing, the judge pretty much decided that Zaidan, the Pakistani journalist, is shit out of luck and has “no standing”, since he couldn’t sufficiently prove he was on the list. (He had found his name listed as a “highest scoring target” on one of Edward Snowden’s leaked NSA documents, but that was apparently not enough proof for the judge.) Both these men were originally targeted under the Obama administration, but their names remain on the list under Trump. Both wrote, separately, to Trump asking for mercy before being summarily killed, but neither received an answer. Trump, who endorses drone bombings and targeted killings just as much as Bush and Obama before him, has loosened the rules (if one can claim such egregious activities can even have exist under what might be called “rules”) about where these drone killings can take place and who can be targeted. On the campaign trail, he said he would “take out their families, as well” as the targets; we may never know if he has made good on that promise. Obama increased the assassination program ten fold over Bush’ numbers, and Trump has increased the numbers some four to five times over Obama’s, according the best estimates that reporter Matt Taibbi could find.
While the list was originally designed to go after suspected al Qaeda terrorists specifically in Pakistan, the Disposition Matrix database now includes operations in Afghanistan, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Mali, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and parts of east Africa. US officials state that the kill lists will expand for at least another decade, if not indefinitely.
US drone “warfare” has killed 10,858 individuals since 2004, when Bush first initiated the practice. We are left uncertain as to how many of these people were “targets”, and how many were simply bystanders. We do not know if the ones deemed terrorists really were; they are executed without charges being brought, without any hearings in any court being held, without any witnesses or evidence being presented. We don’t know how many people are on the kill list or why they are on it. But once a drone drops a bomb on your head, you can be pretty sure your name is not on the list any more.
Excerpts from Matt Taibbi’s July article on this case; the original is a long article and well worth reading in full:
[…] Kareem appealed for help to Clive Stafford Smith, an Anglo-American attorney he’d met in his travels, who’d founded a London-based human rights organization called Reprieve.
With Reprieve’s help, Kareem did what the system asks a law-abiding American citizen with a grievance to do. He sued, filing a complaint in district court in Washington, D.C., on March 30th, 2017, asking the U.S. government to take him off the Kill List, at least until he had a chance to challenge the evidence against him.
The case, still unresolved more than a year later, has awesome implications not just for Kareem but for all Americans – all people everywhere, for that matter.
It’s not a stretch to say that it’s one of the most important lawsuits to ever cross the desk of a federal judge. The core of the Bill of Rights is in play, and a wrong result could formalize a slide into authoritarianism that began long ago, but accelerated after 9/11.
Since that day, we have given presidents enormous power – to make war, to torture, to detain indefinitely – and our entire legal system has been transformed on a variety of fronts, placing huge questions about illegal searches, warrantless arrest, indefinite detention, torture and other matters behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy, outside the reach of courts.
And yet, nobody is paying attention. While America obsesses over Russia, Stormy Daniels and Kim Jong-Un, almost no one is covering Kareem’s trial. His race-against-time effort to escape the American killing machine is too surreal, even in the Trump era. But it’s also a potentially devastating last-straw moment in the history of America’s recent dystopian slide, with the executive branch asking for the ultimate in dictatorial powers: the right to kill even its own citizens without having to explain itself.
[…] In the week after 9/11, the House and Senate passed a joint resolution called the AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force) that gave the president license to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons” who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the 9/11 attacks.
Robotized killings began almost immediately. The first known drone assassination took place in Afghanistan in 2001. By 2012, we were flying at least 16 drone missions per day, mostly for reconnaissance but some for more deadly reasons, and we had committed lethal drone attacks in six countries…
[…] A crucial Rubicon was crossed in 2011, when the Obama administration decided to drone-bomb New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and suspected Al Qaeda terrorist.
There was some outcry about the president now having authority to kill even Americans without due process – “I think it’s sad,” said U.S. Congressman Ron Paul – but the uproar soon faded, and America’s assassination program accelerated still more. By late 2011, we’d killed more than 2,000 “militants.”
[…] Is the case against Kareem based upon a mistake, or is it based on something more substantive? The answer to that question represents the difference between killing a terrorist, and creating one.
We need to know if we’ve become the very thing we ostensibly created the drone program to combat: a secret authoritarian sect that confuses murder and justice.
We have wasted enough time avoiding a discussion about our national sins, which we surely have committed, just as all countries and all governments make mistakes. We need to face them and strive to correct them, as all we are doing is creating terrorists and destroying the lives of millions of people for no reason other than to use up the weapons we spend all our tax money on. And then we spend more money to make more weapons and name more “enemies” so we can use those up in a viciously pointless cycle. Our resources and our youth are being squandered on endless wars that aren’t even really wars, as they are illegal, undeclared police actions taken against countries that were never a threat to us, had nothing to do with 9/11, and do not threaten us now. And this is the main reason why we won’t do a thing about Saudi Arabia for killing a journalist, abusing their own people, bombing Yemen, or sending terrorists here to perpetrate 9/11; they buy a huge amount of arms from the US. And unlike Israel, they actually pay for them. We have allowed ourselves to be misinformed and uninformed on everything.
We are ignoring issues that we should be working on together along with all other nations: the threat of nuclear war, climate change, new “super-bugs” that are resistant to antibiotics, genetically altered foods whose effects to the human genome are unknown, the degradation of the environment, the rampant abuse of human labor across the planet. We are being driven by politicians, here and abroad, into not only hating other societies – about whom we do not care to inform ourselves – but into hating each other. I get it: human beings are a hot mess. People kill each other every day in every country and always have. But I’ll tell you straight up that if we can’t figure out a better way to travel the hard road ahead of us than by creating more exotic and lethal weapons to kill each other off and looking for more excuses to use them on some “others”, we deserve to die off as a species. The earth will go on without us.
Further reading on the Kareem/Zaidan case:
On the ad taken out by the WaPo, and statements from their editor regarding the murder of Khashoggi:
ACLU blog post regarding Trump’s expanding use of targeted killings”
Over 5 million children face starvation as US-backed forces attack Yemeni aid port
Sometimes we can stop the wars. Sometimes we can work together and make the war pigs listen to us. Sometimes, we can reject the vile creatures who would have us tearing each other apart, who want to separate us by race, or ethnicity, or gender. Sometimes, we do heed the calls of the angels of peace. Sometimes. We did it back then, when this song was written, and we can do it again. We, us, together, have to create a new and better system that spurns personal greed and the learned, useless hatred of those different from ourselves that is fed to us daily by the masters of war. We must reject, with prejudice, their grotesque ways and their savage methods. It starts with one person at a time, one individual making the choice to think for himself, and then another joins him and another, and then we become an “us” that has a voice to be reckoned with.
For What It Is Worth
Buffalo Springfield, 1967
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Songwriter: Stephen Stills
For What It Is Worth lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc