U.S. President Donald Trump seems to be moving forward concerns about the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi is believed to have been tortured, murdered and dismembered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey after he went into the building to obtain documents to allow his upcoming marriage to proceed. He did not come out, and leaks from Turkish sources suggest the government of Turkey has wiretapped audio tapes of the torture and murder.
On Sunday, Trump said during an interview on 60 Minutes that, “There’s something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case, so we’re going to have to see. We’re going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment.”
At least Trump seems to have woken up to the fact that there’s actually an issue here — but he’s little late to the dance. U.S. lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, are far more upset about the murder, which is believed to have been undertaken by a 15-member Saudi hit squad. The lawmakers are talking about sanctions against Saudi Arabia. Foreign nations have moved quickly to seek an independent investigation, and businesses and finance experts have pulled out of a major Saudi investment conference in protest.
More telling than his new concerns, though, were Trump’s earlier comments about the case — and keep in mind, this is an apparent attack on a legal resident of the United States by foreign power reaching beyond its borders with impunity.
“We don’t like it even a little bit. But whether or not we should stop US$110 billion from being spent in this country — knowing they have … two very good alternatives. That would not be acceptable to me,” Trump said originally. “I don’t like stopping massive amounts of money that’s being poured into our country — they are spending US$110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs for this country.”
The two alternatives Trump was talking about are Russia and China, two other potential sources of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. Those weapons that will no doubt be used in the ongoing war that is killing so many in Yemen — another thing the U.S. won’t condemn, because it’s bad for the arms business. Perhaps Trump is only saying something about the realpolitik of business and money where politicians before him have been afraid to tread — that cash will make the world close its eyes to torture and repression,
But should that be the first and foremost public concern about the actions of nations really be whether or not a repressive regime is spending money in your nation?
Surely there is more to the role of nations than the size of payoff you expect to receive.
Is this what the United States’ role is now in the international community?
Money talks, and ethics walk?