American Hypocrisy

Jamal Khashoggi is a casualty of the Trump administration's disregard for democracy and civil rights in the Middle East. The international crisis over whether top Saudi Arabian leadership murdered US-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a striking example of the consequences of Donald Trump's blanket disregard for democratic politics and human rights in other countries.

Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists on October 18 appealed to the UN to investigate the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It's unlikely that the UN would take any action against America's age-old ally Saudi Arabia—the centre of medieval religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism based violence in the Middle East.

However, in the Middle East this Trump policy shift opens the door to exactly the sort of flagrant attacks on individual freedom and safety that likely recently claimed Khashoggi.

The Trump administration's abandonment of support for democracy and civil rights hurts the interests of both Middle Easterners and Americans as well.

The lack of attention to current US disregard for democracy and rights in the Middle East has to do with Washington's double standard and perceived hypocrisy in the region.

In the Middle East democratic talk could be seen as a cover for more imperialistic policies in the region during and after the Cold War.

Yet these days even the pretense is gone that US policy in the Middle East—or elsewhere—should advance political freedom. The reverse is true. It is designed to curtail freedom of expression and give tacit support to the Kings, Princes and Sheiks to do whatever they like in suppressing right to dissent.

Meanwhile, the Saudi government uses US-supplied weapons to wage war in Yemen. The White House has not responded to the devastating civilian casualties. The unending civil war—there is a human catastrophe.

More broadly, and as the Khashoggi affair highlights, the US's current lack of interest in political and civil rights emboldens Middle Eastern governments to crack down on dissent and the dissenters. After the Khashoggi episode Saudi Arabia is going to purchase weapons from America to silence even the mild critics like Khashoggi of the despotic kingdom.

The volcano of popular resentment against authoritarianism that erupted most notably in 2011 known as the Arab Spring, may have been capped temporarily. It has not quieted.

People in the Trump administration purport to care a great deal about potential violence from Middle Easterners. This is why it is puzzling that they side strongly with unelected leaders willing to use intimidation and violence to quell dissent.

The so-called US efforts to further democratic values in the region means that these efforts don't matter.

At least in the Middle East, racked by ongoing war, the rising influence of autocrats, and increases in flagrant attacks on critical speech like Khashoggi's death, the Trump administration's abandonment of such efforts will in fact fuel more misery and anti-Americanism.


Vol. 51, No.20, Nov 18 - 24, 2018