“I get along great with all of (the Saudis). They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!” Donald Trump said at a rally in 2015 in Alabama.
“Maybe these could have been rogue killers — who knows?” “Here we go again with guilty until proven innocent,” Trump said in October 2018, excusing the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
It has been more than two weeks since Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter and Virginia resident, disappeared inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. According to Turkish intelligence, he was dismembered with a bonesaw while still alive.
This brutal murder is the latest human rights violation in a long list of atrocities perpetrated by the Saudi regime with the help of their loyal ally, the United States.
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a one-sided war on Yemen, slaughtering civilians and peppering the countryside with unexploded bombs and ammunition. Prior to the war, Yemen was the poorest country in the Arab world; now, it is plagued by famine and cholera. The U.N. has called this situation “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
Rather than working to end the conflict, protect human rights, or hold the Saudis accountable, the U.S. has supplied them with weapons.
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin made the bombs that Saudi aircraft dropped on funerals, wedding parties and school buses. Textron has provided cluster bombs, weapons so indiscriminately deadly that they’ve been banned by 102 countries.
In 2016, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International exposed the Saudi government’s use of cluster bombs in Yemen and the tremendous civilian casualties they caused. Meanwhile, Ellen Lord, then-senior vice president and general manager of Textron Defense Systems, called these weapons “truly the best area attack weapon in the world.”
In 2008, the Pentagon ordered the gradual phasing out of old and imprecise cluster bombs. In 2017, however, Trump appointed Lord as the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics — making her responsible for the purchasing of munitions. Within four months, this directive was quietly and indefinitely set aside.
Trump wants to use the fact that Saudi Arabia is the top buyer of U.S. weapons both to excuse the atrocities they commit with those weapons and to avoid investigating Khashoggi’s killing. In reality, this fact makes the United States complicit in all of these human rights violations.
Trump’s desire to protect the Saudis is also personal. As he’s stated, they buy apartments from him. Lots of apartments. In fact, he sold the entire 45th floor of Trump Tower to the kingdom for $4.5 million. Saudi Arabian officials have also invested large sums in purchasing Trump’s yacht and staying at his hotels. Trump’s tweet that “I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia” is patently false, and was even rebutted by Fox News.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia banned Jamal Khashoggi from writing in newspapers, making TV appearances or attending conferences because he criticized Trump. It is sad, but hardly surprising, that a president who calls the press “the enemy of the people” would help his business buddies cover up the murder of a journalist who opposed him.
Khashoggi died for the freedom of the press. His death will go unavenged for the benefit of the military-industrial complex and the president’s bank account.
Jaz Brisack is a senior general studies major from Oxford.