After several days of speculation, yesterday President Trump finally acknowledged that Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi is very likely dead and could potentially have been killed by the Saudi Arabian government. As for the how, where and when we've heard reports of a very graphic audio and video recording created shortly after Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey where the journalist was very likely tortured and murdered with a bone saw. We don't know much else - the reports are unconfirmed. We don't even know if the tapes are real (but Occam's Razor suggests they could be).
So how did we get to this point in the investigation? In short, Jamal Khashoggi is (was) a Saudi Arabian-American journalist who has been extremely critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), including the Prince's intervention in the country of Yemen. Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia in September 2017 and went into exile. On October 2, 2018 Khashoggi traveled to the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey to obtain documents related to his divorce. He went in, but he never came out. President Trump is now threatening action against the Saudis if he can prove they're responsible for the murder. This could come in the form of sanctions, embargo or even military action. Trump's Treasury Secretary,, Steven Mnuchin has already pulled out of a major upcoming Saudi investment conference.
For some reason Trump thinks he needs to appear tough on the Saudis. Trump's biggest critics in America have pointed to his own harsh tone on American journalists and suggested Khashoggi's death might be Trump's fault, but they have no idea what they're talking about (more on that in a bit).
Some of Trump's allies also want action taken against the Saudis - Senator Lindsey Graham says he feels "betrayed" by the Saudis. He thinks retaliation is necessary and he's been very vocal about the idea.
With people on both sides of the aisle suggesting we need to intervene, President Trump is now suggesting he may follow their advice. But if Trump decides to take action against the Saudis, he'll be as wrong as the liberals in America who are blaming Trump for Khashoggi's death.
The people criticizing Trump for this news are just blatantly ignorant - they fail to understand Saudi Arabia (or even the Mideast as a whole). Khashoggi's death might seem shocking to American news consumers, but this was just another day in Saudi Arabia. He's one of many journalists who have been killed in that region. If you speak out against high ranking Mideast leaders in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Turkey, or Lebanon, you're probably gonna get murdered. That's just par for the course in the Mideast. It's been happening for centuries before Trump's presidency and, sadly, it will probably happen for centuries more. Seriously, we never heard a peep from American liberals about the countless number of other journalists murdered in that region just like we never hear from them when journalists are murdered in Mexico (and don't tell me that's different - the corruption and influence of Mexico's cartels runs all the way up to the highest level of the Federal government in that country).
As for the Republicans who want Trump to take action (like Lindsey Graham), these are nothing more than neo-cons masquerading as concerned statesmen. I'm glad we all enjoyed Lindsey Graham's performance at the Kavanaugh hearings, but that doesn't mean he knows what he's talking about when it comes to the Mideast (McCain was just as confused).
So the question becomes: does taking action against the Saudis do anything to serve America's interests? This is a particularly important question to ask because God knows we can't change the Mideast, so what do we get as a result of "taking action"? We've been trying to change the Mideast decades and we have little to show for it. Remember the so-called Arab Spring? We couldn't change Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen or Syria, so why would we be able to fix Saudi Arabia?
Short answer: we can't and we shouldn't.
Last year the US engaged in a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudis. It was nice for the US economy but now some of the loudest voices in the American progressive movement think we should renege on that deal. Why? What the benefit be? I'm not even sure doing a 180 on that deal would be possible at this point but, even if we could, would it somehow more helpful for the US if the Saudis bought those weapons from Iran or China instead of us?
No, we'll never fix Saudi Arabia and we shouldn't try. No trade embargo, sanction or military action is going make a difference to those of us here in the flyover states.
So while we can't do much to change Saudi Arabia, as we reflect on the sad death of Khashoggi, let's use this incident as a sobering reminder of who we're dealing with the next time we make a deal with the Saudis: a country where human rights don't exist, slavery is common place, women are treated as second class citizens and beheadings take place openly in public places. Saudi Arabia has always been horrible. They funded 9-11 during the George W era and laughed at President Obama from 2008-2016. Saudi Arabia is basically what a country would be like if ISIS had a seat at the United Nations.
Now, in the age of Trump, we have two chances: we can make deals with the devil while being mindful of their corruption, or we can try to go to war with them (both in business and militarily). While the first option isn't great, the second option is clearly much worse.
A Saudi Arabian national flag flies from the roof of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. Saudi Arabia has begun an internal investigation into the disappearance of a prominent journalist at its Istanbul consulate and could hold people accountable if the evidence warrants it, according to a Saudi official. Photographer: Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg via Getty Images