The western criticism of the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi is hypocritical argues comment’s Holly Pittaway
On the 2nd October, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist known for covering the stories of the rise of Osama Bin Laden and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, walked into the country’s consulate in Istanbul and never came out. He went to the consulate to pick up a certificate of proof that he had legally divorced his ex-wife, a document that he needed in order to be able to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. This was the second time he had visited the consulate to try and pick up these papers, and so, was confident that nothing bad would happen to him once inside the building since last time he was there he was reportedly treated “very warmly”, despite being an open critic of the Saudi regime. But when he entered the consulate at 13:14 that day what he received was far from a warm welcome.
Following his disappearance, for two weeks the Saudi government denied any involvement in the case, but on 20th October an official statement was made on television in which it was reported that the journalist died following a fight in the consulate. According to this statement, Khashoggi was held in a chokehold after resisting officials who were trying to take him back to Saudi Arabia; his body was then rolled into a rug and disposed of, while one official put on the dead man’s clothes and exited the building, presumably posing as the journalist. While the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman spoke in apparent disgust of the crime vowing to bring the culprits to justice, some, notably the Turkish government, have claimed that the killing was planned days in advance and that this goes beyond just a small-scale attack.
Since the killing, countries all around the world have rallied together to publicly denounced the Saudi regime, with the British and American governments even revoking the journalist’s suspected murderers’ visas to stop them seeking refuge in the UK or US. Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, went on record to say that Khashoggi’s killing was ‘a shocking act by a dictatorial regime’, while US President, Donald Trump, said in the understatement of the year that those responsible ‘should be in big trouble’.
But all of this seems a little hypocritical to me. Certainly, the killing of Khashoggi is tragic and deserves recognition around the world – but what makes this journalist’s death more shocking than the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths caused by Western involvement in the Middle East? When looking at the cold, hard evidence, the West are in no place to comment on such atrocities.
For years, the UK has fuelled the conflict between Saudi Arabia (in coalition with the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Morocco, Jordan and Sudan) and the Huthi armed group in Yemen. Since the first air strikes were launched against Yemen in March 2015, thousands of civilians have been caught in the crossfire, and millions more have become internally displaced, with many more are at risk of famine and disease – all the while, we are profiting from this destruction. As of 2017, UK weapons companies have made £6 billion from the conflict, despite only a small portion of this (£30 million) being declared to the public. British-made bombs are responsible for many Yemeni civilian casualties, as well as the destruction of essential infrastructures such as schools and hospitals; a total number of 254 schools have been completely destroyed in the conflict, while 608 remain partially damaged, and another 421 are out of use as shelters.
The US government is not an innocent bystander in this situation, as for 16 years Yemen has been the target of anti-terror drone strikes. While these operations are meant to kill terrorists, they have also murdered women, children, and entire families. In 2017, President Trump signed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia which will run over a ten-year period, providing the Saudis with unlimited access to weapons from US arms and energy companies, as well as to training and close-cooperation with the US army. In August of this year, a laser-guided Mark 82 bomb that was sold to the Saudis by the US was used in a deadly airstrike on a Yemeni school bus. 51 people were killed, with 40 of the casualties being children.
So, what right does the West have to comment on the appalling murder of Jamal Khashoggi? Why has there not been the same government uproar about the thousands of men, women, and children murdered by Western weaponry in Yemen? Well, at least we, as members of the public, have something to say – since Khashoggi’s murder there have been multiple outcries (this article included) for the West to pull out of the Saudi-Yemeni conflict and end the multi-billion-dollar arms deals we hold with them. Khashoggi’s brutal murder has at least put the discussion back on the table for the US Congress, with 56 members voting to support a recent bill proposed by Californian Congressman, Ro Khanna, urging the withdrawal of US military involvement in Yemen that had not been authorised by Congress. So to end on the words of Shireen al-Adeimi, an Assistant Professor at Michigan University, ‘if the 50,000 Yemeni deaths didn’t do it, maybe this will’.