Yesterday, President Trump released a statement, as well as later told reporters, where he announced that he will not punish Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the targeted assassination of the Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi. In the statement, Trump stated:
King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi.
Except, the C.I.A. concluded last week that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi’s killing. This is yet another time that Trump has taken the word of dictators and thugs over his own intelligence agencies. Previously, Trump has stated that he believed Vladimir Putin that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election despite the U.S. intelligence community finding that they did.
Trump’s move has drawn bipartisan scorn, with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeting “I’m pretty sure this statement is Saudi Arabia First, not America First.”
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham released a statement that said, “It is not in our national security interests to look the other way when it comes to the brutal murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.” He then went further, “While Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally, the behavior of the Crown Prince — in multiple ways — has shown disrespect for the relationship and made him, in my view, beyond toxic,”
And Trump’s reason for standing by Saudi Arabia? Because of business deals.
This is part of a disturbing pattern where Trump backs down from taking a moral stand, as well as holding leaders accountable when they engage in wrongdoing throughout the world.
However, when it comes to tyrants and autocrats, Trump has repeatedly created false moral equivalences between the actions of dictators and the United States. When asked in interviews to condemn the evils in the world perpetrated by brutal regimes, Trump chooses to attack America and its own past. He refuses to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors from both sides of the aisle and hold up the United States as the beacon of freedom and hope that the world knows us to be. Trump seems oblivious to the fact that people throughout the world bleed and die to achieve the very freedoms and values that we have been fortunate enough to be gifted.
And bin Salman’s sins don’t extend to just Khashoggi. Since he assumed power, Saudi Arabia has engaged in significant wrongdoing, including:
- Kidnapped the prime minister of Lebanon and then forced him to resign his office.
- Imprisoned and tortured women’s-rights activists, and continues to do so today.
- Detained and tortured rivals, while forcing them to sign over massive quantities of their wealth in order to gain their freedom.
- Used U.S.-provided armaments to bomb a school bus full of children in Yemen. 40 children were killed in the attack.
These are the actions of a dictator and a thug. Trump’s failure to not only call Mohammed bin Salman such, as well as hold him accountable is silent condonation that only emboldens the crown prince’s unacceptable behavior.