I get things wrong on occasion, so I am relieved -- if at the same time deeply saddened -- that my prediction that the Jamal Khashoggi Scandal will sink into the sands of Saudi Arabia without a trace is playing out exactly as expected.
As I wrote here the other day, the dissident Saudi journalist, who was living in self-imposed exile in suburban Washington until he was inconveniently tortured, murdered and dismembered, his fingers first with a bone saw before being decapitated by a hit squad dispatched by Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (or MBS for short) at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, is mere roadkill in the long and problematic relationship between the U.S. and oil-rich kingdom.
If memory serves, that oil-rich kingdom was the home base of another hit squad -- the 19 Al Qaeda terrorists, 15 of whom were Saudis -- who hijacked four passenger jets and changed world history on September 11, 2001 at the expense of 3,000 lives. There were no repercussions of consequence in Riyadh after 9/11. In fact, Dubya helpfully expedited the departure of Saudi government officials and nationals in the wake of the terror attacks, so what's one filleted journalist?
Anyhow, back to Everything Going According To Plan:
U.S. tech, media and entertainment companies have dutifully withdrawn from a Saudi investment conference sponsored by MBS.
Editorial writers have been levitating in their ivory towers.
President Trump has belatedly entered the fray by vowing "severe punishment" if it is found the Saudis killed Khashoggi.
The Saudis have responded indigently that they didn't do it as incontrovertible evidence piles up that they did.
The Turks have identifed the hit-squad ringleader as an MBS pal and other hitmen as members of MBS's security detail.
Trump has suggested that Khashoggi was the victim of "rogue killers," kind of like Robert Mueller is a"rogue prosecutor."
Lindsey Graham has gone off his bipolar meds and criticized the boss for his callow response.
Son-in-law Jared Kushner, an MBS buddy who is Trump's go-to guy on the Middle East, is struck with laryngitis.
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has flown to the oil-rich kingdom kingdom to read MBS the riot act.
|STEVE GONZALEZ / THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE VIA AP / THE NEW YORK TIMES|
Uh, check that.
From all appearances -- and we don't need evidence from anyone's Apple Watch recording to verify this -- the purpose of Pompeo's fly-by was to discreetly kiss Saudi ass, whisper that everything will soon blow over, and perhaps get fitted for a camel hair coat. Pompeo flew on to Istanbul on Wednesday as the Turkish government released an audio recording confirming the gruesome details of Khashoggi's last minutes.
My cynicism is warranted.
In days of yore, say a mere three or four years ago, the U.S. would have taken the lead in condemning so barbarous an act. But today the U.S. takes the lead in being a global laughingstock as Trump bromances MBS, who is yet another autocratic thug in the mold of two other presidential heroes -- Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. In fairness, MBS has been far more well behaved. If you ignore his fonds for kidnaping people, including the prime minister of Lebanon, and miring the oil-rich kingdom in a catastrophic war in Yemen notable for the genocide targeting women and children.
And the Jamal Khashoggi Scandal begins to sink into the sands of Saudi Arabia without a trace.
ABOUT THAT MYSTERIOUS GLOWING ORB PHOTOGRAPH: It was taken in May 2017 when Trump visited Saudi King Salman in Riyadh. The third dude is Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. The Big White Hat also briefly touched the orb, but she's off camera here.