Forgive Me If I Don't Believe Saudi Arabia.
Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
The disappearance of Saudi Arabian nationalist and Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi from the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Turkey was a reprehensible event of immeasurable proportions. The repercussions are sending shockwaves across diplomatic communities in ways we had not previously contemplated.
The tragedy began when Khashoggi presented himself to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey on October 2 seeking documentation in support of his upcoming wedding to his fiancé. Khashoggi had left Saudi Arabia because he had been highly critical of the country's 33 year-old Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman and feared for his continued safety in Saudi Arabia because of it.
There are varying reports as to what transpired inside the consulate once Khashoggi arrived, and little evidence to confirm them. Claims exist of an audio recording from within the building indicating that Khashoggi was tortured, drugged, decapitated, and dismembered prior to having his remains clandestinely removed from the building. Supporting this contention is the arrival of Saudi Arabian agents in Turkey the day prior to the murder, the same agents who then made their way to the consulate. They left the consulate hours after Khashoggi's death and returned to Saudi Arabia shortly thereafter. At least one of them is a close associate of the Crown Prince.
The United States has been caught on its heels over the events. The American government has been working zealously to improve relations with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, the same country from which the 9-11 terrorists proceeded, has been reaching out to American corporate leaders to engage in commercial ventures. Additionally, the United States has entered into a trade agreement with Saudi Arabia valued at over $100 billion in aviation exports. And perhaps most importantly, the Saudi government is figuring to be a key ally in the battle against Iran.
Initially, the story looked like it was going to gain limited traction, but quickly, the horrific nature of the events attracted the attention of the news media, and shortly thereafter, members of Congress. The response of disbelief and disdain towards a regime that would actually engage in this type of activity has been overwhelming, but the Administration has been hesitant to act. Instead, President Donald Trump sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia seeking more information on the matter. Trump also reports having a conversation with the Crown Prince where the latter denied participation in Khashoggi's death.
As is routine practice, many, including the President, have called for caution as we wait on Saudi Arabia to conduct its investigation on the events.
There's only one problem with that call: I just don't believe anything Saudi Arabia says.
First, despite his public facade of trying to promote progressive ideas within Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is known to be ruthless towards anyone who disagrees with his positions. Further, Saudi Arabia is a country that engages in corporal punishment of the worst kind. Amputation of the hands and feet are accepted punishments for robbery. Flogging is routinely employed for sexual deviance. Women are lashed for adultery even though in countless cases, they were actually the victims of rape. Saudi Arabia tortures it citizens and utilizes beheadings and crucifixions in its application of capital punishment.
Moreover, in Saudi Arabia, there is no such thing as religious freedom even for none Sunni Islamic groups like Shia and Ismailis. Sharia law is the law of the land, and Christians are not only persecuted, they are beaten for praying in their own homes!
And finally, the judicial system in Saudi Arabia is a joke. Arrestees are often not informed of the crime of which they are accused, not given access to a lawyer, and they often get tortured into confessing.
Unquestionably, I appreciate the difficult situation in which the United States finds itself as a result of its efforts to improve ties with a murderous dictatorship, but forgive me if I don't give a lick of credence to anything Saudi Arabia has to say in this matter.
And therein lies the rub.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and serves in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.