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The awful disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi writer, ...

Posted: Oct 8, 2018 5:52 PM
Updated: Oct 8, 2018 5:52 PM

Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi writer, vanished on Tuesday after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork so he could marry his Turkish fiancée. He has not been seen or heard from since.

As a columnist for the Washington Post, Khashoggi was a frequent critic of the Saudi regime. Khashoggi was living in self-imposed exile in the United States.

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On Saturday, Turkish officials told the Washington Post that Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate.

CNN has not been able to independently confirm these reports and a Saudi official has denied them.

Earlier in the week, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had told Bloomberg News that Khashoggi had left the consulate unmolested, but if that was the case, why hasn't he contacted anyone?

Media outlets around the world have reported on Khashoggi's mysterious disappearance. If Khashoggi had left the consulate unharmed, it's inconceivable he wouldn't have informed his fiancée, family, friends and colleagues at the Washington Post.

I have known Khashoggi for more than a decade and am appalled at the possibility that the Saudi government would engineer the disappearance of a writer who worked tirelessly to promote civilized, humane values.

Khashoggi and bin Laden's paths diverged

I first came to know Khashoggi when I was reporting on Osama bin Laden. As young men, Khashoggi and bin Laden knew each other well because Khashoggi was the first journalist from a major Arab news organization to profile bin Laden when he was fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. Both men were idealistic and religious and were opposed to the communist invasion of a Muslim country and the brutal tactics of the Soviet military.

On May 4, 1988, Khashoggi wrote a story for Arab News that quoted bin Laden as saying, "It was God alone who protected us from the Russians during their offensive last year. Reliance upon God is the main source of our strength."

Seven years later, when bin Laden was based in Sudan, Khashoggi visited him there. Bin Laden told his old friend that that he was thinking of returning to Saudi Arabia and renouncing his war against the Saudi regime. That, of course, didn't happen -- and in 1996 bin Laden moved to Afghanistan, where he launched his war against the United States.

While bin Laden became the world's most wanted terrorist, Khashoggi went on to have a distinguished career as a writer and editor and also an adviser to Prince Turki al-Faisal, who was the Saudi ambassador to both the United Kingdom and the United States.

The totalitarian regime in Saudi Arabia

The disappearance of Khashoggi is of a piece with much that the Saudi regime of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is doing.

In 2015, bin Salman, who is often referred to as MBS, launched a war in Yemen in which at least 6,500 civilians have been killed, many of them from Saudi munitions, according to the United Nations in a report that was released in August.

The UN report noted that, "air strikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities."

The Saudis have also arrested a range of civil society activists and conservative clerics, including some who may face death sentences.

Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a 29-year-old Shia female activist accused of organizing demonstrations for greater Shia rights who was arrested in December.

Similarly, the Saudis are seeking the death penalty for a prominent, reformist cleric, Salman Al-Oudah, who has called for elections in the Saudi kingdom.

Saudi Arabia was once a consensus-based absolute monarchy, but under MBS's direction it is increasingly becoming a secularizing totalitarian dictatorship.

While there is much to praise in some of what MBS has done, such as removing the feared religious police from the streets and making real efforts to reform the heavily oil-dependent Saudi economy, there is also much that is inexcusable.

There is no hard evidence as yet that Khashoggi was murdered, but if such evidence were to emerge and the Saudis are found to be responsible, the United States should impose sanctions on the Saudis just as the Trump administration did in August against the Russians following their use of a nerve agent to attempt to kill a former Russian agent and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

Khashoggi, after all, was both a legal resident of the United States and was employed by a major American media institution.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295295

Reported Deaths: 6724
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19672230
Hinds18799386
Harrison16710278
Rankin12685264
Jackson12592226
Lee9687160
Madison9457199
Jones7962146
Forrest7208136
Lauderdale6833226
Lowndes6022137
Lamar588080
Lafayette5733113
Washington5218130
Bolivar4609123
Oktibbeha441393
Panola430394
Pearl River4167130
Warren4129114
Pontotoc408869
Marshall403192
Monroe3989126
Union395374
Neshoba3807168
Lincoln3541102
Hancock347374
Leflore3375118
Sunflower318386
Tate302474
Pike300195
Scott293870
Alcorn291861
Itawamba289975
Yazoo289262
Tippah278765
Copiah277857
Coahoma277568
Simpson274878
Prentiss269758
Wayne253841
Marion252678
Leake252471
Covington248879
Grenada247377
Adams234377
George231745
Newton229652
Winston221675
Jasper213445
Tishomingo212365
Attala206569
Chickasaw201151
Holmes182270
Clay179150
Stone172429
Tallahatchie170539
Clarke169371
Calhoun157828
Smith152731
Yalobusha144836
Greene127633
Walthall124140
Noxubee122829
Montgomery122438
Perry121634
Lawrence120321
Carroll118225
Amite111533
Webster110630
Jefferson Davis101731
Tunica99023
Claiborne98429
Benton93324
Humphreys92827
Kemper90223
Quitman77114
Franklin76119
Choctaw69516
Jefferson62527
Wilkinson62426
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 493769

Reported Deaths: 9931
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson710731374
Mobile36139727
Madison32425455
Tuscaloosa24184410
Montgomery22586500
Shelby21968215
Baldwin19758283
Lee14967153
Morgan13667251
Calhoun13300286
Etowah13184319
Marshall11262209
Houston10104261
Elmore9385185
Limestone9363134
Cullman8897181
St. Clair8827223
Lauderdale8607211
DeKalb8459175
Talladega7523163
Walker6524255
Jackson6495102
Autauga627091
Blount6102127
Colbert6004118
Coffee5249102
Dale4642107
Russell404930
Franklin399177
Covington3960106
Chilton3876100
Escambia377672
Tallapoosa3588142
Clarke343650
Chambers3413110
Dallas3403141
Pike293472
Lawrence283484
Marion281995
Winston246867
Bibb245060
Geneva239970
Marengo236455
Pickens224654
Barbour211651
Hale210568
Fayette200756
Butler196866
Henry182441
Cherokee177038
Monroe166139
Randolph163740
Washington156535
Crenshaw144854
Clay144454
Macon142043
Cleburne137839
Lamar132833
Lowndes131151
Wilcox121825
Bullock116936
Conecuh106724
Perry105627
Sumter98531
Coosa88923
Greene88232
Choctaw55123
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