Saudi brutality should be ignored no longer

Published 10:02 pm Friday, October 19, 2018

The brutal murder of a journalist — anywhere, anytime — is cause for outrage. If reports are true, Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was tortured, murdered and dismembered because he at times was critical of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

His story has captured the media’s attention because he wrote for The Washington Post, not because his reported murder is all that unusual for the country. This is not a place where justice reigns. It is a place where a family reigns — at times with a bloody fist.

The reports are ghastly: Turkish media say Khashoggi was brutally murdered and dismembered inside the consulate by members of an assassination squad with ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, The Associated Press reported. The pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak on Wednesday stated that an audio recording of Khashoggi’s slaying suggests a Saudi team accosted him after he entered the consulate, cutting off his fingers and later decapitating him, AP reported.

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If true, it is in keeping with the country’s lack of concern with human rights. Saudia Arabia’s airstrikes in Yemen have led to the deaths of thousands of civilians. It has been accused of numerous violations of international humanitarian law there as well.

The country also regularly cracks down on freedoms of expression and religion. Islamic law governs the country, which often leads to a lack of due process for the accused.

In August, it was reported that the country is seeking the death penalty for five human rights activists.

“Any execution is appalling, but seeking the death penalty for activists like Israa al-Ghomgham, who are not even accused of violent behavior, is monstrous,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The crimes they are alleged to have committed are things like protesting, inflaming public opinion and publishing protests on social media.

Saudi Arabia is not a nice place.

So why the shock about Khashoggi’s reported murder? It’s only because he was a high-profile writer who was published by an influential American newspaper. His death has captured the media’s attention because he was part of the media.

But his death is no more tragic and appalling than the countless others at the hands of Saudi Arabia.

America — both the government and the people — has been fine with our arrangement with Saudi Arabia for years. We look the other way on things like senseless murders and human rights violations, and they will continue to buy our weapons and help us when it comes to Iran.

It’s unlikely that the brutal murder of a journalist will upset that agreement in any meaningful way. If America chooses to do business with a country like Saudi Arabia, it must be prepared to look only on the piles of cash and look away from the piles of bodies.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at