We have been granted a reprieve from the down and dirty knife fight that is midterm election news by an unexpected source. Amid rantings over Immigration, collusion, fake news, and political dumpster fires, we have the curious case of Jamel Khashoggi.
Khashoggi is (was?) a Saudi National living in self imposed exile on a green card status while employed by the Washington Post. His exile stems in part from his journalistic work that was seen by many, to be highly critical of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as the Hardline Islamic laws in the Kingdom of Saud.
During a recent trip to Turkey, Khasoggi was seen entering the Saudi Consulate on personal business. That’s the last anyone’s seen him since. It’s been widely reported that once inside the consulate, he was seized, imprisoned, tortured and dismembered at the direction of Saudi officials.
Here at home, the media is particularly frenzied, seeing this disappearance as an assault on their profession. The Democrats, who have historically opposed maintaining a close diplomatic or economic relationship with the Saudis, have taken up the situation as a rally point to halt the Saudi arms deal, but more important to the Democrats, it’s a plump opportunity to rail against President Trump and possibly milk a few votes out of the midterm elections.
His position, rightly so, has been one of caution. The President has states the importance of waiting on the investigations findings before proceeding. Given the confirmation circus of Justice Kavanaugh, the US would be seen as hypocritical in it’s administration of due process if we acted abruptly. If presumption of innocence is, as we Americans believe, a fundamental human right, then caution and patience are indeed warranted.
So, let’s unpack this a bit, and maybe shed some light on the situation. Essentially what we have is a foreign national, travelling abroad in Turkey, which last I checked, is not an American territory. The national entered the consulate belonging to his country of citizenship, which incidentally, is also not a US territory, and disappeared, likely killed.
How then, is the fate of this man, and the prosecution of those who may have done terrible things to him, the responsibility of the US government and by proxy, President Trump? We have no jurisdictional reach in a foreign consulate based here in America, much less in Turkey.
There is an interesting takeaway from this, however. The United Nations, which is actually chartered to handle issues like this, has been largely silent. While some within the organization have called for an investigation, there’s been cricket chirps from the desk of the General Secretary.
President Trump was criticized relentlessly when, in June of 2018, the US ambassador to the UN, Nicki Haley, announced US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights council. The decision to withdraw came after repeated complain and scrutiny of the council and it’s ineffectiveness. This ineffectiveness can be highlighted by the fact that Saudi Arabia is a member of this Human Rights Council, and has yet to receive as much as a censure from the General Assembly.
We need to allow the investigations to unfold. If the findings reveal that the Saudis killed him, then the UN needs to step up as the organization chartered by treaty to handle these issues, and act accordingly. If that’s not possible, then what good is the treaty?