Trump Is Not a Champion of Human Rights. He Is a Clueless Clown

Eugene Robinson

In Riyadh, they must be laughing at [US] President [Donald] Trump. In Pyongyang, too, and in Tehran. In Beijing and, of course, in Moscow, they must be laughing until it hurts. They look at Washington and they don’t see a champion of freedom and human rights. They see a preening, clueless clown.

Trump’s reaction — or non-reaction — to the Saudi regime’s brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a holiday-season gift to autocrats around the globe. It shows them that if you just shower Trump with over-the-top flattery, feed him some geopolitical mumbo jumbo and make vague promises to perhaps buy some American-made goods in the future, he will literally let you get away with murder.

Recall what happened: The Saudi government lured Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Post, to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where a team of assassins lay in wait. Khashoggi was killed and his body dismembered. The CIA has reportedly concluded with “high confidence” — as close to certainty as the agency gets — that the assassination was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the nation’s de facto ruler.

After weeks of hemming and hawing, the White House put out a statement Tuesday from Trump making clear that for the murder of Khashoggi — who lived in Virginia, was a permanent US resident and had children who are US citizens — the Saudi regime will face no consequences. Zero. Not even a slap on the wrist.

Despite the CIA’s assessment that the crown prince ordered the killing, the White House statement waffles on whether he even knew about it in advance: “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said the same thing later to reporters, adding, “We are with Saudi Arabia. We’re staying with Saudi Arabia.”

Even more appalling, the statement — which is littered with exclamation points, suggesting Trump himself had a hand in writing it — attacks and defames the victim. Khashoggi was a respected journalist who sometimes criticized the Saudi government. The president of the United States suggests he deserved to die.

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that,” the statement says. That is a rhetorical device known as paralipsis — saying something by professing not to say it — and its use to suggest the Saudis were somehow justified in killing Khashoggi makes me want to throw up.

In the statement — which is headlined “America First!” — Trump emphasizes what he calls the “record amount of money” that Saudi Arabia is supposedly prepared to spend in the United States. Trump goes on to make a series of false claims. No, there is no agreement for the Saudis to spend $450 billion on US goods, despite Trump’s assertion. No, there is no firm agreement for $110 billion in arms sales; the actual figure is $14.5 billion. No, what Trump reckons as “hundreds of thousands of jobs” are not at stake. And no, the Saudis could not simply decide to buy Chinese or Russian arms, instead.

The truth is that in the US-Saudi relationship, the United States holds all the cards. We don’t need the Saudis’ oil and can easily do without their arms purchases. By contrast, without US military assistance and American-made spare parts, the Saudi armed forces could not function.

But leave aside Trump’s inability to calculate the power equation here — perhaps he should read “The Art of the Deal” — and consider the factors that are absent from his thinking. There is no mention in his statement of human rights, no mention of freedom of the press. There is no notion of the United States as an advocate for liberty or a foe of despotism. There is only the amoral pursuit of what Trump sees — not very clearly — as US national interests.

The Saudi royals got on Trump’s good side by hosting his first foreign visit and fawning over him as if he, too, were an absolute monarch. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was gracious and deferential to Trump at their summit — and now continues his nuclear and ballistic missile programs unmolested. Russia’s Vladimir Putin complimented Trump’s political skill — and escaped any meaningful punishment for meddling in the 2016 election. There cannot be a strongman ruler in the world who fails to see the pattern — and the opportunity.

Lavish Trump with praise. Treat him like a king. Wave a fistful of money in front of his face. And if you want to, say, kill an inconvenient journalist, he’ll look the other way.

Source: The Washington Post, Edited by website team

Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia

Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Standing with Saudi Arabia

November 21, 2018

Note: A friend of mine sent me this today with the following words:

We are post honor, post decency and post rules based society and into perhaps the final step before total collapse in the West now in my view. Floating on oil fumes.

I can only agree.
The Saker

——-
America First!

The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.

After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!

The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!

I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!

Source: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-donald-j-trump-standing-saudi-arabia/

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