The U.S. Senate recently received a briefing concerning the murder of Jamal Kashoggi, a Washington Post journalist. Kashoggi, a lawful U.S. resident, was originally from Saudi Arabia and often wrote pieces critical of the repressive Saudi regime. The entire world quickly learned that Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman ordered the murder and sent a team of Saudi operatives to Turkey to carry out this heinous act. They cut off his fingers as a form of interrogation and ultimately cut up his body to conceal the crime and disposal. For some inexplicable reason, in the face of overwhelming evidence as well as simple logic, President Trump publicly, repeatedly maintained that Salman was not responsible and refused to hold him or the Saudi kingdom responsible.
True to form, Trump insisted his administration echo his incredible denials. However, this time Congress would not quietly abide. The Senate insisted upon a complete intelligence briefing. President Trump directed CIA Director Gina Haspel not to attend because she would have represented the truth, that Crown Prince Salman ordered the brutal murder and ample, credible evidence supported that conclusion. Senate leaders, including Republicans, refused to allow charade and eventually Trump, under tremendous pressure, relented and allowed Haspel to provide a proper intelligence briefing to a select, bi-partisan group of Senate leaders. Democrats and Republicans alike left the briefing united in the absolute conclusion based on overwhelming evidence that Salman ordered the murder and sent the team to do it, fully aware of the intended brutality.
The Trump administration is full of sycophants who routinely sacrifice their integrity in blind support of the President, even in the face of erratic behavior and errant policy. That said, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has more often served as a voice of reason, quietly deferring improper action in the interests of the country. Until now. After the Senate briefing, Mattis publicly commented that there was “no smoking gun” connecting Salman to the murder. His comments were so contrary to reality that one could only conclude he was lying. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, formerly CIA Director, also left the briefing to engage in public self-humiliation, also attempting to push the President’s lies and despicably cover up for Salman. Pompeo, despite being a highly partisan politician, had been respected for his technical competence with relatively easy confirmation to both positions. Both men lied and sacrificed their integrity to blindly support Trump and protect the deplorable despot responsible for murdering a U.S. resident and respected journalist.
Senator Lindsey Graham, recently among Trump’s biggest and loyal supporters, left the briefing wholly convinced that Salman ordered the ghastly murder, saying it would be illogical to conclude otherwise. Graham said to forget the smoking gun, there was a “smoking saw.” Other Senators left the briefing equally emphatic about the evidence and with strong condemnation of Salman. Haspel had the integrity to tell the truth despite pressure from Trump. Perhaps she knew it was futile to lie in the face of such clear evidence. So why would Pompeo and Mattis blatantly lie in support of Trump’s nonsensical denials? Whatever their flawed reasoning and failed morality, they are now severely tarnished going forward. Congress and the American people should never trust their word absent strong, objective corroboration.
It is no secret that Trump has been waging an ongoing war of sorts against the Intelligence Community going all the way back to the campaign. Two years into his administration, all of these agencies are led at multiple levels by his own appointees. Despite the proven reputation of the collective agencies and dedicated professionals therein, he inexplicably refuses to accept even the strongest of their findings while inexplicably degrading their performance. Trump simply refuses to accept anything contrary to the narrative he desires. He shuns reality, truth, and fact in favor of lies, deceit, and fantasy. He lies so frequently and pervasively that he is unable to discern truth from falsity. Some have reluctantly accepted this as Trump normal, but we deserve better and should never tolerate such abhorrent behavior from our leaders.
The issue remains as to what was President Trump’s motivation for attempting to conceal Salman’s involvement on the murder. Could it be his ongoing business interests with the Saudi royal family? They spend millions of dollars annually in his hotels and properties. They certainly knew how to suck up to him during his first state visit upon taking office. Could it be that simple? If that were the reason, how do career professionals like Mattis and even Pompeo disgrace themselves in support of such ridiculous deception? It is unfathomable, especially in the case of Mattis. First, he betrays the trust of the military by supporting Trump’s outrageous political stunt sending troops to the border, especially over the holidays, for an unnecessary and inappropriate mission. Now he lies to the Congress and American people about Salman. Shameful.
Iran has long since wanted to destabilize Saudi Arabia and that would not be our national interests. We do not want a failed Saudi state that could succumb to Iranian influence. However, that does not mean the U.S. cannot properly address this issue with the Saudis. We can effectively act to emphasize that we will not accept the murder if innocent journalists, et al, especially in third countries, and especially not the extremely inhumane torture suffered therein. If in fact the U.S. could not have sch a dialogue with Saudi Arabia, then that begs the question whether they are any kind of ally or partner in the world in the first place. There are multiple options to address this issue, but the Trump administration chose the worst, the option to tacitly support murder. It is time for change…