How the American press is being used by Middle East potentates and lying to the American people ... big time.
Reality ceased to be very important in inbred Washington elite circles long before the cosmic war of Trump and anti-Trump. Yet the October murder of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi gave the jaded nerves of Washingtonians a jolt, because it wasn’t part of anyone’s playbook. The free-for-all that followed was a chance to see how well the players could improvise off-script.The lies fly thick and fast. We were treated to weapons grade FAKE NEWS by the Washington Post and the NY Times and their paymasters in the Middle East..
The play, as it developed, was like a page from a comic book: The narrative held that since the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia himself, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), had directly ordered the grisly assassination of a dissident journalist who wrote for an American publication, the Washington Post, and was a green-card holder, the Trump administration must hold Riyadh accountable.
Thus, the Khashoggi affair became a platform for Turkish intelligence, Qatari agents, Democratic political operatives, and the media to tilt Trump policies against Saudi Arabia. Should the American president not heed their alarums, he himself would be guilty of murder—in addition of course to treason.
The specific goals were easy to spot: Ending U.S. support for the Saudis’ war against the Iranian proxy Houthi forces in Yemen; curtailing U.S. arms sales to Riyadh; and compelling Riyadh to push aside the crown prince, presumably in favor of someone who was less enamored of Trump, or otherwise less of an impediment to turning the U.S. foreign policy ship back towards the course set by Obama, which in truth was endorsed by both Democratic and Republican D.C. elites.
Yet holes had already appeared in the story. Jamal Khashoggi was not, as the press had insistently reported, a U.S. person, meaning a permanent U.S. resident, a green-card holder, or an American citizen. Rather, he was a foreign national who owned an apartment in northern Virginia, and was in the country on an O-1 visa, granted to individuals with “extraordinary ability.”
The media patched that hole by inventing a new category for Khashoggi. Rather than a U.S. person, he was a U.S., or American, resident—a phony designation that could just as easily apply to an exchange student or an undocumented alien.
Then, in the wake of the operation’s success, a week after the Senate vote, the Washington Post dropped a story in the middle of the holiday lull that sought to launder the paper’s role in the operation. Buried halfway through an article describing Khashoggi’s difficult and lonely American exile was evidence that he was neither a dissident nor a journalist. He was something else, evidence of the new direction the press has taken in the Trump era, a sign of something troubling that no one really wants to explore in prime time.
Khashoggi had requested $2 million from the Saudi government for a think tank in Washington, which, according to the article, would “work on behalf of Riyadh ‘to regain its positive role and image.’” In other words, he was brokering his services to influence U.S. policy and public opinion on behalf of MBS, until he was pulled in the other direction—by Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Cooperation Council rival, Qatar.
The background of this bidding war was that, in June 2017, Saudi and its allies, particularly the United Arab Emirates, had launched their own campaign against Qatar. The reason, according to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, was Doha’s support for Sunni extremism, its flirtation with Iran, and efforts to interfere in the domestic affairs of other GCC states. A major battleground in this inter-Arab conflict is Washington.
It is no secret that much of Washington is now getting paid directly by one side or the other, or otherwise drawing on the deep pockets of oil-rich Arab states who are engaged in a vicious propaganda war against each other, with the aim of influencing U.S. Middle East policy. The New York Times, for instance, sourced a story about Trump donor Elliott Broidy to emails that Broidy alleges were stolen by Qatari hackers—the Times euphemistically described the source as “an anonymous group critical of Mr. Broidy’s advocacy of American foreign policies in the Middle East.”
Did you know that Khashoggi didn't write English?
Yet the entire story about Khashoggi—that he was a U.S. person, a dissident, a journalist—was false. He was a Saudi national whose murder was used to launch a successful intelligence operation targeting his home country and U.S. policy. The news was fake, but the information campaign set off by his murder was real....
Which is it? Those lamenting the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the deaths of thousands of Yemeni children appear to have few qualms about sticking American boys and girls in the middle of the Syrian desert as a tripwire, and with no coherent policy to confront Iranian aggression.
This glaring contradiction exists in plain sight because much of the Republican establishment is still sucking on the fumes of George W. Bush’s Freedom Agenda, a Middle East strategy that privileged the ostensible aspirations of foreigners at the expense of American lives and resources.
That strategy failed in nearly every way possible. Moreover, it’s not at all clear what political or philosophical principles America is now supposed to be exporting to a region that Obama torched after Bush smashed it. If America is an exceptional nation, what’s the logic in squandering American power in the effort to remake foreigners in our own image?
While we were engaged in this Alice-in-Wonderland adventure, it seems likely that we imported the wrong things from the countries that we decided we could somehow Americanize.
Narratives like the Khashoggi operation are not part of any rational debate about American foreign policy. Nor are they attempts to explore any kind of human truth. Nor are they politics as usual. They are a new kind of weapon, like an improvised explosive device, stuffed with rat poison, loose screws, broken glass, whatever is at hand and seems likely to kill or maim. No one cares what they’re made of.
And it’s not Trump who’s being targeted anymore, either. It’s us.