Jamal Khashoggi, Drone Missiles, and Us

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi, from what we know so far, is a goddamned nightmare. Lured to the Saudi embassy in Turkey, he was captured and tortured, brutally, by psychopaths under the direction of the leader of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince (and, you know, fuck you if in this day and age you’re still getting to lead a country because some inbred jizzed you out) Mohammed bin Salman.

His fingers were cut off with a bone saw while he was awake. Think about that for a second or two. Put aside that he was a writer and that the message was clear that his ability to type was being taken away. Think for a moment about knowing your fingers are being removed. Think about that pain and the awareness that, even if you live, everything in your life just got fucked up. And then they injected him with something, perhaps sedating him, perhaps just paralyzing him, before beheading him and slicing him to pieces with the bone saw for easy transportation.

The idea that we would want to sell weapons to a country led by someone who could order such a thing on anyone, let alone someone who was a permanent resident of the United States, is abominable beyond comprehension (as are most of weapons sales). The idea that anyone would justify not condemning the murder and the murderers because they don’t want to miss out on the chance to sell those murderers weapons is unspeakable. Yet here we are.

But what if Khashoggi hadn’t been butchered by savages with a bone saw? What if, instead, Saudi Arabia had used missiles fired by drone aircraft to destroy a building that held Khashoggi? The use of drone missile and other airstrikes has rained death upon civilians for years. Both the Saudis and the United States have done and continue to do this in Syria, in Yemen, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And let’s not be naive that it was always unintentional.

While civilian deaths are called “mistakes” and occasionally (if rarely)  apologized for, any outrage over them is quickly forgotten as casualties of war. Presidential adviser and the guy you totally pictured when you read “Bartleby the Scrivener” in college,  Jared Kushner, has told Trump that he thinks the outcry now will blow over, just like it did when the Saudis bombed a schoolbus in Yemen. And he’s right in one respect. Most people don’t think twice when someone is killed by drone missile because we’re told the dead are evil or adjacent to evil. Or “oops, our bad.”

I’m not trying to take away from the horror of this killing. And I’m not merely trying to say the pedantic, if true, “Well, the United States does some brutal shit, too.” What I’m trying to say is that it’s not that big a leap from the United States using a missile attack to take out a propagandist for ISIS or al-Qaeda to sending men to dissect a writer a prince doesn’t like.

Of course, another way to see this is that bin Salman didn’t give a shit about anything other than punishing a heretic as a message to anyone who might dare criticize him and his “progressive” regime. It’s not even outside the realm of possibility that Kushner or Trump just winked at this as a plan. Jesus, just last night our goddamn miserable son of a bitch of a president praised Rep. Greg Gianforte for body slamming a journalist, a crime for which he pleaded guilty.

And, as part of a cover-up to defend bin Salman, who is getting ready to pin this on a rogue intelligence official who let an interrogation go bad, Republicans are starting to discredit Khashoggi by intimating that he had ties to terrorist groups (or groups that some see as terrorist). That assertion has already made its way into conservative asshole media, and if this trial balloon floats, Trump will go whole hog and his idiot hordes will accept it as gospel.

If that happens, then any opponents of Trump and his owners (the Russians, the Saudis, the screaming ghost of Roy Cohn, who knows who else anymore) are absolutely in danger. They will concoct a story that appeases any qualms of those who are on Trump’s side.

It’d be so simple: “That CNN reporter in Iraq was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when our drone missile was taking out a cell of 10…no, 20…no, 30 terrorists. And what was she doing there at the time anyways?”

Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on October 19, 2018, on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.

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