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Spare me America’s tears for Jamal Khashoggi – this excuse for
Trump-bashing ignores the CIA’s past crimes

A generation ago, the CIA’s ‘Operation Phoenix’ torture and
assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the
Saudi intelligence service. And have we forgotten about the thousands of
Muslims still perishing under our bombs and missiles and mortars?

Can I
be the only one – apart from his own sycophants – to find the sight of
America’s finest Republicans and Democrats condemning the Crown Prince of Saudi
Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi a bit sickening? “Crazy”. “Dangerous”. A
“wrecking ball”. A “smoking saw”. These guys are angry. CIA director Gina
Haspel, who was happy to sign off on the torture of her Muslim captives in
a secret American prison in Thailand, obviously knew what she was
talking about when she testified about Mohammed bin Salman and the agony of
Jamal Khashoggi.

government leaks suggest that Haspel knew all about the shrieks of pain, the
suffering of Arab men who believed they were drowning, the desperate pleading
for life from America’s victims in these sanctuaries of torment in and after
2002. After all, the desperate screams of a man who believes he is drowning and
the desperate screams of a man who believes he is suffocating can’t be very
different. Except, of course, that the CIA’s victims lived to be tortured
another day – indeed several more days – while Jamal Khashoggi’s asphyxiation
was intended to end his life. Which it did.

generation ago, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” torture and assassination
programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence
service. In spook language, Khashoggi was merely “terminated with maximum
prejudice”. If the CIA could sign off on mass murder in Vietnam, why
shouldn’t an Arab dictator do the same on a far smaller scale? True, I can’t
imagine the Americans went in for bone saws. Testimony suggests that mass rape
followed by mass torture did for their enemies in Vietnam. Why play music
through the earphones of the murderers?

still it goes on. Here’s Democrat senator Bob Menendez this week. The US, he
told us, must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not
acceptable on the world’s stage”. The “action”, of course, is the murder of
Khashoggi. And this from a man who constantly defended Israel after its
slaughter of the innocents in Gaza.

what on earth is going on here? Perhaps the “world’s stage” of which Menendez
spoke was the White House – an appropriate phrase, when you come to think about
it – where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has been no stranger. Yet when
at least one recent US presidential incumbent of that high office can be
considered guilty of war crimes – in Iraq – and the deaths of tens of thousands
of Arabs, how come American senators are huffing and puffing about just one
man, Mohammed bin Salman, who (for a moment, let us set aside the Yemen war) is
only being accused of ordering the murder and dismemberment of one single Arab?

all, world leaders – and US presidents themselves – have always had rather
a soft spot for mass murderers and those who should face war crimes indictments.
Trump has infamously met Kim Jong-un and invited him to the White House. We are
all waiting for Rodrigo Duterte to take up his own invitation.

lavished hospitality at the White House on a host of bloody autocrats – from
Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon – before we even recall Suharto, whose death
squads killed up to half a million people; and Hosni Mubarak, whose secret
police sometimes raped their prisoners and who sanctioned the hanging of
hundreds of Islamists without proper trials, and his ultimate successor,
Field Marshal-President al-Sisi, who has around 60,000 political prisoners
locked up in Egypt and whose cops appear to have tortured a young Italian
student to death. But Giulio Regeni wasn’t murdered in an Egyptian consulate.
This list does not even include Ariel Sharon, who as Israeli defence minister
was accused by an Israeli inquiry of personal responsibility for the massacre
of 1,700 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Chatila camps in Beirut in

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CIA director

what is this “clear and unequivocal message” that senator Menendez is rambling
on about? The message has been clear and unequivocal for decades. The US
“national interest” always trumps (in both senses) morality or international
crime. Why else did the United States support Saddam Hussein in his attempt to
destroy Iran and his use of chemical warfare against Iran? Why else did Donald
Rumsfeld plead with Saddam in December 1983 to allow the reopening of the US embassy
in Baghdad when the Iraqi dictator (a “strongman” at the time, of course) had
already used mustard gas against his opponents? By the time Rumsfeld arrived
for his meeting, more than 3,000 victims had fallen amid Iraqi gas clouds. The
figure would reach at least 50,000 dead. Which is, in mathematical terms, Jamal
Khashoggi times 50,000.

Yet we
are supposed to recoil with shock and horror when Haspel – who might herself
have a few admissions to make to senators on other matters – suggests that
America’s latest favourite Middle Eastern tyrant knew about the forthcoming
murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Does Menendez think that Saddam hadn’t signed the
death sentences of thousands of Iraqi men and women – which, as we know from
his later “trial”, he did – before meeting Rumsfeld? Or that Duterte, who has
compared himself to Hitler, doesn’t sign off on the killing of his murdered
drug “suspects”? Or that Suharto had absolutely nothing to do with half a
million murders in Indonesia?

instructive, indeed, that the thousands of innocents killed in the Yemen war,
an offensive undertaken by Mohammed bin Salman himself with logistical support
from the US and UK – and it doesn’t need Haspel to tell us this – hasn’t
exactly left US senators shocked. Just another bunch of Arabs killing each
other, I suppose. Starvation didn’t get mentioned by the senators emerging from
Haspel’s closed hearing. Yet the senators know all about the mosque bombings,
wedding party bombings, hospital bombings and school bombings in Yemen. Why no
tears for these innocents? Or is that a bit difficult when the US military – on
every occasion by accident, of course – has bombed mosques, wedding parties,
hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?

the shock and horror and the need for full disclosure about the Saudis is
primarily about Trump, and the need to tie him in to the cruel murder of a Washington Post journalist
and US resident whose gruesome demise has been blamed by the American president
upon a “vicious world”.

there is something more than this, the appalling fact – albeit only a folk
memory, perhaps, for many with scarcely any institutional memory at all – that
15 of those 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, that
George W Bush secretly flew bin Laden family members out of the US after 9/11,
that the Saudis themselves are heir to a blighted, rural, cruel version of
Sunni Islam – based on the pernicious teachings of the 18th century Muhammad
ibn Abd al-Wahhab​ – which has inspired the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Isis and all the
other killer cults whom we have proclaimed to be the West’s Enemy No 1.

Mohammed Bin Salman to a crucifix – a method of execution favoured by the
Wahhabis – is an easy kill for US senators, of course. You hit the president and
smash those unhappy historical details all in one fell swoop.

don’t bank on it. Oil and arms are a potent mix. Old Abd al-Wahhab’s home is
protected in a new tourist haunt in the suburbs of Riyadh. Come to think of it,
the national mosque of Qatar – hostile to rapacious Saudi Arabia but another
recipient of US weapons and a supporter of Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq – has
a capacity for 30,000 souls, was built only seven years ago and is named after
Abd al-Wahhab himself.

is the dangerous world in which America and its allies now tread, disdainful of
the thousands of Muslims who perish under our bombs and missiles and mortars
– proxy-delivered by those we should distrust – ignorant of the religious
currents which rumble on beneath our feet and beneath the House of Saud. Even
the virtually useless information Haspel learned in the CIA’s “black centres”
could have told senators this. If they had bothered to ask.

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