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U.S. journalist tortured, murdered, dismembered by Saudi hit squad in embassy

By Dave Schneider |
October 13, 2018
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On October 12, Turkish authorities announced that video and audio recordings confirmed that the brutal torture and murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi took place inside the Saudi embassy building in Istanbul. Kashoggi, a U.S. resident and Saudi citizen, disappeared almost two weeks ago after visiting the embassy to obtain paperwork to marry his fiancé.

The news came after more than a week of investigation and public pressure on the Saudi government by journalists and state officials around the world. Days earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called on the Saudis to release whatever surveillance footage they had of the embassy, which was met by Saudi denials of involvement. Even President Trump gave into pressure from U.S. lawmakers and others to acknowledge the disappearance, by calling Kashoggi’s fiancé and making a statement.

But the revelation of Turkish surveillance footage within the Saudi embassy has adds another layer to this complex web of brutality and intrigue.

According to officials, these recordings show a Saudi special forces team of 15 men – called an “assassination squad” by Turkish media – capturing Kashoggi upon entry to the embassy. In a scene suited for a horror film like Saw, video and audio show this hit squad torturing and interrogating the U.S. journalist for hours before ultimately killing him and dismembering his body. They likely loaded Kashoggi’s remains onto a plane headed back to Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

As a well-known journalist for a prominent U.S. newspaper, Kashoggi heavily criticized the Saudi royal family’s repressive monarchy and its murderous war on Yemen – the likely motivation for his murder at the hands of the Saudis.

On October 10, the Washington Post published a report by the U.S. State Department showing they knew of a Saudi plot to capture Kashoggi. In response, State Department officials commented on the disappearance. Whether U.S. officials warned the journalist of his imminent danger remains unknown.

The news brought a renewed wave of criticism and disgust aimed at Saudi Arabia, which had previously denied any involvement in Kashoggi’s disappearance. Activists and some politicians in the U.K. and the U.S. have called for a full stop of arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to this murder.

Erdogan’s decision to make public the Turkish government’s own surveillance footage will likely shake the uneasy relationship between the two states, as well. Saudi Arabia has provided crucial investment for Turkey’s energy sector in recent years, and the two have cooperated, if unevenly, in attempts to overthrow Bashar al-Assad’s national democratic government in Syria. The existence of these recordings paints a different picture: two regional rivals spying on each other to get the upper hand.

The U.S. has relied on Saudi Arabia as one of its main proxies, along with Israel, to dominate the Middle East. As the world’s largest producer of petroleum, Saudi Arabia remains critical to global energy markets, and the U.S. has maintained a close relationship with the repressive royal family to secure its cooperation.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has strengthened this toxic relationship. On his first major international trip as president, Trump signed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia totaling around $110 billion – money that would go towards their disastrous three-year war on Yemen. During the trip, the Saudi royal family rolled out the red carpet for Trump and his advisors and won the egotistical president’s favor through flattery. Since then, the Trump administration has consistently backed Saudi actions, whether through direct support or providing diplomatic cover – even as it threatens key U.S. allies like Canada.

Under the rule of Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has become increasingly bold and vicious in its actions, both at home and abroad. Last November, Saudi forces kidnapped Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, forcing him to issue statements denouncing Hezbollah aimed at stirring up civil war. Increasingly aligned with Israel, Salman’s monarchy has ramped up efforts to destabilize other nations, including other Gulf states like Qatar, and to push for war with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Domestically, Salman jailed rival members of the royal family in the name of ‘anti-corruption’ in 2017. He ordered the public beheadings of dozens of dissidents, including a prominent Shi’a cleric. Internal terror, always a fixture of Saudi society, has become more brazen and far reaching under Salman’s reign.

Saudi Arabia’s almost complete dependency on oil and low-paid foreign labor has plunged the ruling family into a sustained crisis. A global drop in oil prices and revenue from petroleum forced the monarchy to take on massive foreign debt, even as it continues to wage unrelenting warfare on neighboring Yemen. Salman’s anti-corruption campaign, backed by the Trump administration and praised by liberal journalists like Thomas Friedman, has nothing to do with government accountability – it is a move to eliminate internal challenges to Salman’s authority and consolidate wealth in the increasingly desperate Saudi state coffers.

As the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war on Yemen continues, officials have ceased reporting casualty numbers and UN offices have withdrawn much of their aid to victims. Civilian casualties now number in tens of thousands, according to most observers. Saudi Arabia’s blockade of its neighbor – the poorest nation in the Persian Gulf – has stopped critical food and medical aid from reaching the people. Devastation of public health infrastructure and water sources, deliberately targeted by Saudi warplanes, has led to the resurgence of diseases like cholera. War is literally starving the people of Yemen to death.

The brutal murder of the journalist Kashoggi reflects the monstrous nature of U.S. imperialism and its wars, whether waged through proxies like Saudi Arabia in Yemen or directly in places like Afghanistan. It’s an important event that should draw vocal criticism from people across the U.S. who value peace and free speech.

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