The United States must retaliate against Saudi Arabia for their role in murdering Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a longtime journalist for The Washington Post, seems to have been murdered for his criticism of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudis claim that they have no knowledge of Mr. Khashoggi’s fate. However, nearly all of the evidence points to the contrary. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Islamabad, where he was reportedly dismembered. Turkish officials have concluded that the “highest levels of the Royal Court” in Saudi Arabia ordered his murder. They report that a fifteen-person team (including some government officials) used a bonesaw to dismember Khashoggi. Yet, Saudi Arabia maintains that the fifteen men—who were in Turkey for less than 24 hours and flew in on a charter plane—were in Turkey for tourism. How often do tourists arrive on a charter plane (from a company that Saudis have previously used for government contracting work) and promptly depart at 3:13 AM? And how often do tourists bring a bone saw on their vacation? The evidence plainly and overwhelmingly suggests that this was the preemptive, orchestrated murder of a member of the free press.
Khashoggi (rightfully) was critical of Mohammed bin Salman in his articles, failing to shower him with praise for his “progressivism.” Ironically, Khashoggi’s murder exposes the superficiality of Mohammed bin Salman and his policies. Although he loves to pose as a more level-minded progressive, Mohammed bin Salman resorts to the same murderous tactics as his father and other similar autocrats when confronted with adversity–even from the press. Of course, now the US must determine how to respond to Saudi Arabia. In DC, there have been bipartisan support for swift retaliation if these allegations are true. Marco Rubio, for instance, promised “a very strong Congressional response” if the Trump administration does not do anything. Unfortunately, Marco Rubio has a history of not keeping promises, particularly when they require him to break with the President. Regardless, Rubio is right in thinking that a failure to respond to this murder would cost America immeasurable moral standing. If the US does not stand up for journalists—particularly the ones that work for American organizations—then the US would be realizing Trump’s image of the United States. Trump, while defending Putin (as he often does), was asked about Putin’s history of murdering journalists. Instead of denouncing Putin for his actions (as any sane person—much less President—would), Trump responded by saying, “What? Do you think our country’s so innocent?” If we did not respond to Khashoggi’s murder, we would indeed be complicit in the murder of journalists. We absolutely must respond and punish Saudi Arabia for their crimes. First, we need to cancel the impending arms deal with Saudi Arabia. This is a win-win; not only are we punishing them for murdering Khashoggi, but we’d also be encumbering the Saudi’s ability to wreak havoc on the Yemeni people. Second, we should do anything in our power to disrupt Saudi Arabia’s upcoming business conference—including withdrawing Sec. of Treasury Steve Mnuchin from the conference. The Trump administration needs to distance themselves from the Saudis. Finally, the US needs to put economic sanctions on Saudi oil. Although the Saudis could retaliate and temporarily drive up prices, doing so would be committing economic suicide for the Saudis, as well-analyzed by this New York Times article.
At first glance, it would seem that proponents of not sanctioning Saudi Arabia may be correct in thinking that the Saudi threat of raising oil prices is threatening to our economy. However, when evaluating that threat, we must consider two things: i) would the Saudis actually drive up their prices, as they claim they will? and ii) how would that affect our economy?
All signs seem to suggest that the Saudi’s threats are empty. If they drove up the price, they would shatter the reputation they’ve built over the past 45 years as a stable, reliable provider. American oil production since 2007 has doubled, making us nearly sustainable. Moreover, of the 800,000 daily barrels of oil we import from Saudi Arabia, many of those barrels go to support Saudi Aramco, the Saudi-owned refinery in the Gulf of Mexico. Cutting off oil trade to the US would cause irreparable damage to the Saudi Arabian economy—something that Mohammed bin Salman (who is solely focused on growing the Saudi economy and reputation) would not risk. In short, if the Saudis retaliate to sanctions by increasing oil prices, it would permanently and irreparably damage its economy and global reputation. Furthermore, although driving up oil prices would admittedly have a some temporary effect on the US economy, we could certainly turn to other countries and ourselves to replace Saudi oil. In fact, experts predict it would end up significantly helping our economy in the long run. The thinking that suggests the US is reliant on Saudi Arabia is outdated and inaccurate.
The barbaric murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an attack on America’s free press, demands a swift response. We can NOT turn a blind eye to our country’s principles because of the mere risk of a hiccup in our economy. There is no price worth sacrificing America’s ideals and morality. Khashoggi’s brutal death has prompted legislators from ALL sides of the political spectrum to reexamine US/Saudi relations. A growing number of Congressmen are beginning to acknowledge our part in exacerbating the horrific Yemen Humanitarian Crisis. We now face a choice as a Nation. We can ignore the inhuman murder of an American resident, succumbing to the fear that the Saudis might retaliate against us. Or, we can adhere to the ideals our nation supposedly values most—human rights, freedom of the press, and basic safeties—and retaliate against Saudi Arabia.
The US is supposed to serve as a beacon of moral leadership to other countries. Our unresponsiveness to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, coupled with our role in enabling the deaths of thousands of Yemeni civilians, is a shameful abdication of that responsibility.
Of course, following this presidency has trained me to expect the worst, and then lower those expectations. Donald Trump likely won’t put sanctions on Saudi Arabia, and Republicans in Congress will probably not defy his agenda. As a matter of fact, Trump has said he likes the Saudis because “they buy apartments from [him].” However, if you feel strongly that there must be a check on the President’s worst impulses, then go vote (and make your friends and family vote) for people who are not afraid to check his worst impulses, unlike the current Congress.
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