In part one of this series I compared the foreign policy of the United States to Oscar Wilde's nineteenth century novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Gray, you'll remember, "gives his soul" to remain young and beautiful while a painting of him records his every depravity until it becomes a grotesque depiction of the "degradation of sin." With the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudi Government, many public intellectuals and cross-party politicians are lamenting Trump's public propensity to excuse the Kingdom's wickedness. While I in no way agree with the president's response to Jamal's murder, he has lowered an historical shroud on the ugly portrait of American statecraft.
Take September 13, 2001. While all commercial air traffic was commanded to remain cuffed to the earth, George W. Bush allowed 140 Saudis - twenty-four of whom were related to Osama bin Laden - to escape back to their homeland, ground zero for the practice of Wahhabi Islam, the ideology that drove the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudis. The subsequent 911 report found evidence of ties to the September slaughter to members of the royal family. Sound familiar? Yet Bush ignored this foul truth altogether. No, "Maybe they knew, maybe they didn't know," from him.
Or how about President Obama's intelligence community learning that the Saudis helped harbor Osama bin Laden in Pakistan years before he was assassinated by a U.S. Navy Seal? Not a peep from the young president. In fact, it hasn't mattered what the Saudi government does, not its sponsor of terrorism abroad, nor its long practice of publicly dismembering the bodies of its own women, gays, clerics and intellectuals -- Khashoggi's private butchering not withstanding -- the Kingdom retains its "favored nation" status with the U.S. Between 2008 and 2015 the Obama administration sold the Saudis 94 billion dollars worth of arms, including internationally banned cluster bombs.
A particular vulgar policy brushstroke is U.S. support of Saudi terror in Yemen. For example, on October 8, 2015 two American made GBU-12 Paveway II missiles were dropped on a Yemenis funeral hall. The "double-tap" strike, meaning two missiles fired, the second while funeral attendees and emergency personnel were in the process of providing aid to the injured, killed over a hundred mourners and injured more than five-hundred others, including women and children. The Associated Press reported that "hundreds of body parts were found strewn in and outside the hall" and that "rescuers collected them in sacks." Obama's response to the carnage? The approval of 1.29 billion of additional arm sales. Because of direct U.S. involvement, Yemen has become one of the most tragic examples of man-made suffering on earth.
If the sad death of Jamal Khashoggi leads to the cessation of U.S. sponsored war-crimes in Yemen, I most definitely support it, but let's not be fooled into thinking that the portrait of American foreign policy will have become beatified by this one decent act. There is, however, a way for the portrait to change. For that, I refer you to the last pages of Mr. Wilde's novel.
(Article changed on December 2, 2018 at 05:04)