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.
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.
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.