The Murderous Saudi Regime, by Ann Wright

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists states that worldwide in 2018, 44 journalists have been Killed. In 2017, 262 journalists disappeared and 61 are missing globally. From 1992 to 2018, 1,323 journalists have been killed.

(Image by Photo by soff.net)

By Ann Wright  OpEd News  October 23, 2018

While the focus of the world’s media for the past two weeks is the horrific murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, that focus has overshadowed the horrendous Saudi five-year bombing of the tiny nation of Yemen, bombing that has killed over 16,000 persons, destroyed water and sewage infrastructure that has left 1 million persons with cholera and a naval blockade that has starved 13 million of the most vulnerable — children and the elderly. The bombing is facilitated by the United States by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, its refueling of Saudi bombers and by providing intelligence reportedly to decrease the number of civilian casualties, which it certainly has not done. One week ago, on Saturday night, October 13, just after midnight, after the closing ceremonies of the conference I was attending in Istanbul, Turkey, I traveled to the Saudi Arabia consulate to stand in vigil for the disappearance, and at that time, probable murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi — and to acknowledge the catastrophic Saudi war on Yemen and U.S. complicity in that war.

(Image by Photo by Ann Wright)

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The barricades set up by police were shining in the lights from the street lamps and from the spotlight that the Saudi consulate had outside its now infamous front door.

No Istanbul police nor Consulate security guards were visible. The street was eerily silent. Barricades blocked traffic. POLIS signs hung on the barricades. None of the daytime activity from domestic and international television crews or print journalists was happening. The Saudi Consul-General’s home, next door to the Consulate, was dark.

New friends from Istanbul whom I met at the conference, accompanied me. They had been to many vigils at the Consulate in the past 10 days.

As we stood at the barricades, lights from a car in an alley flashed on and several men emerged. I thought that we were going to have some sort of interaction with Consulate guards or Istanbul police, but when TV cameras followed the men out of the car, we realized they were journalists. The journalists said they have a 24-hour stakeout on the door of the Consulate.

The journalists were very interested that I was a former U.S. diplomat and asked my opinion of what was happening. I told them that I knew what the journalists were reporting about the disappearance of Khashoggi.

However, I mentioned violent actions have certainly been associated with diplomatic facilities in the past. U.S. government personnel assigned to U.S. Embassies, or using a U.S. Embassy as diplomatic cover, had certainly been a part of rendition, torture and deaths of persons the U.S. alleged were a part of terrorist activities after September 11, 2001. Six days after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush signed a covert memorandum that authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to seize, detain and interrogate suspected terrorists around the world.

(Image by North Carolina Torture Report)

U.S. Embassy personnel arranged for the flights of U.S. government or private aircraft to pick persons up from one country and “render” to them to other countries where they were tortured in “black sites.” Recently, a citizen’s commission in North Carolina published its report — Torture Flights: North Carolina’s Role in the CIA Rendition and Torture Program — that documented the use of private, U.S. government contracted jet aircraft owned by Aero Contractors that originated their flights from small, private airports in North Carolina to destinations all over the world to bring up and deliver alleged suspects. According to the report the CIA abducted and imprisoned at least 119 individuals before the practice was officially ended and repudiated by Presidential Executive Order in 2009 during the Obama administration.

According to the report, “Many of the prisoners were taken to CIA “black sites,” where they experienced beatings, prolonged stress positions, temperature extremes, long-term isolation, various water tortures, mock executions and sexual abuse. In violation of international law, the CIA transported some prisoners to foreign custody where they were subject to torture and abuse. Kidnapping, torture and secret detention occurred without respect for victims’ innocence or guilt and absent any legal process for them to contact their abductions.”

CIA Director Gina Haspel
(Image by Photo of CIA Director Gina Haspel from CIA files

One of the U.S. government employees who was deeply involved in the rendition and torture during this period was CIA station chief Gina Haspel, who is now the Director of the CIA and who flew yesterday, October 22 to Istanbul ominously to represent the Trump administration during the Turkish investigation into the death of Khashoggi.

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On Friday, October 19, the Saudi government finally acknowledged that Khashoggi died in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, claiming his death was the result of a fight that broke out between him and the 15 Saudi government officials, that included four members of the Royal Guard and members of the Saudi Air Force and Army, who had flown into Istanbul that morning and who left later in the day. The audio that the Turkish government has that recorded the cries of Khashoggi as he was dismembered while he was still alive reportedly captured the words of Salah Muhammad A. Tubaigy, chief of forensic evidence in the security division of the Saudi interior ministry, who was cutting him apart, “Put on earphones and listen to music.”

Latest information leaking from the Turkish government indicates that dismemberment of Khashoggi was filmed and skyped to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s senior aide Al Qahtani who reportedly has been sacked from his position. Al Qahtani was reportedly Mohammed bin Salman’s right-hand adviser/enforcer in the kidnapping and interrogation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and of the detention and shakedown in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh of many wealthy Saudi elite.

Other than offering mild condolences to Jamal Khashoggi’s family, the Trump administration has slowly indicated concern about what had happened in the Saudi diplomatic compound. Rather, in a recent campaign stop, he applauded the actions of an official who “body-slammed” a journalist. In a February 17, 2017 tweet, President Trump called the media “the enemy of the people.”

Journalists I spoke with in Istanbul cited President Trump’s comments on the U.S. press as one of the causes of the impunity of authoritarian governments to jail critical journalists.

Istanbul is filled with journalists who are exiled from their countries for their views on authoritarian regimes-Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen. Journalists that I spoke with in Istanbul are very fearful that the authoritarian governments from which they fled may attempt to silence their dissent by violent means such as the Saudi government used against Jamal Khashoggi.

While Istanbul lets Middle Eastern exiled journalists report from Turkey, it is ironic that since the failed coups in July 2016, the Turkish government has jailed more than 150 Turkish journalists on charges of terrorism offenses for articles or social media posts. President Erdogan’s administration has shut down more than 180 media outlets putting around 2,500 journalists and media workers out of work. On the Word Press Freedom index, Turkey is 157 out of 180 countries. Of all the imprisoned journalists worldwide, one third are in Turkish prisons.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists states that worldwide in 2018, 44 journalists have been Killed. In 2017, 262 journalists disappeared and 61 are missing globally. From 1992 to 2018, 1,323 journalists have been killed.

Some members of the U.S. Congress are calling for the Trump administration to distance itself from the Saudi regime due to the murder of Saudi journalist Khashoggi and take serious steps including stopping weapons sales and sanctions. Little connection is made to the horrific number of deaths in Yemen from Saudi and U.S. bombings, with the exception of Senator Bernie Sanders reintroduction after Congress reconvenes (and hundreds more Yemenis have been killed) of Senate Joint Resolution 54 which calls for the end of refueling and intelligence sharing.

As the Saudi regime murders in its own country, its diplomatic missions, in Yemen and through its proxy militias in Syria, Iraq and other countries, the U.S. wrongly continues to support its brutal dictatorship — as a key ally of the United States.

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