[EDITORIAL] #AnimatED: The Jamal Khashoggi in each of us

He was the conflicted citizen caught between the power of Saudi Arabia’s wealth and the dissident voices that are marginalized by it. He was the family member who dealt with one branch that partied with the mighty and rigged the rules, and another that revolted against them. 

He was the journalist and editor with extraordinary access to the warring factions of his oil-rich but deeply contradicted nation – hobnobbing with the royals at one point, connecting foreign reporters with the clandestine terror network of Al-Qaeda at another.

Like many of us in the profession, he was trolled and would wake up "to the equivalent of sustained gunfire online," according to a New York Times story. (READ: Saudis' image makers: A troll army and a Twitter insider)

Close to home, the mutilated Jamal Khashoggi was the nephew of Adnan Khashoggi, the flamboyant and notorious firearms dealer who was friends with the Marcoses and was believed to have fronted for them. Adnan, in fact, had stood in trial with Imelda Marcos in fraud and racketeering charges in New York; they were acquitted by a jury in 1990.

On the other end of the spectrum, Jamal Khashoggi gained respect among Arab insurgents and knew his way through the terrorist network led then by Osama bin Laden. Again close to home, Khashoggi had contacts with Bin Laden’s brother-in-law, the late Jamal Khalifa, who was in and out of Mindanao in the early 1990s and reportedly funded the Abu Sayyaf through his non-governmental organization based in Zamboanga City.

The October 2 murder of the 59-year-old Khashoggi inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul, where he was chopped to death with a precision supervised no less than by Saudi Arabia intelligence's forensics head, speaks of the current world we live in – a world that America’s unhinged president and his cabal are remaking; a world that’s growing increasingly intolerant of diverse views; and a world that is unleashing a violent onslaught on our freedom to speak, to think, and to dig deep for truths buried in weaponized lies. (READ: Jamal Khashoggi: Murder in the consulate)

MBS cast a wide net in his PR drive – from Washington Post’s own Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, to the UK’s minted names in politics.

Donald Trump was so smitten that Saudi Arabia was his first foreign trip as president in May 2017.

In Bob Woodward’s book on the US president, the investigative journalist tells us how Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner made his bet on MBS early on – even before he would be made crown prince.

“Kushner told [another Trump adviser] that the key to Saudi Arabia was the deputy crown prince, the charismatic 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman…. MBS had vision, energy. He was charming and spoke of bold, modernizing reforms.” Woodward adds, “From decades of intelligence contacts in the Middle East, [Trump adviser] believed that Kushner was right – MBS was the future.” 

Trump’s “America First” gave MBS one good look and saw dollar transactions with it: Saudi’s oil money that would fuel the growth of America’s defense industries. 

This largely explains Trump’s immediate suggestion that “rogues” in Saudi Arabia were likely behind Khashoggi’s disappearance, and his anemic reaction to the cold-blooded killing inside a building in Turkey that was protected by the Saudi flag – a consulate supposedly immune from crime in a foreign land precisely because it is where citizens seek refuge. (READ: Amid global outrage over Khashoggi, Trump takes soft stance towards the Saudis)

In its latest editorial on the incident, the Washington Post, to which the journalist who fell out of favor with the kingdom had contributed, accused the Trump administration of conspiring with the Saudi leadership to cover up the Arab states role in “this act of pure evil.”

What is America, the supposed bastion of human rights and freedom, telling the world? That it cannot wield its might to defeat bestiality and hold to account those behind it? 

How will tyrants read into this crime if the rest of humanity does not rise up and move to punish it?

And how should the Western world – yet again exposed for its hypocrisy – now deal with its faith in unbridled capitalism that was the foundation of its embrace of MBS and the “new Saudi Arabia” that he was selling?

How do we now advise our families and friends abroad to run to the nearest embassy when faced with harm or even, hell, when they need to obtain papers to marry a foreigner, without our subconscious visualizing what had happened at the Istanbul consulate?

This thing could actually happen today, in diplomatic grounds, and to an influential man who is a US resident on “O” or “genius” visa! (READ: What does the US owe Jamal Khashoggi?)

In his last column for the Washington Post, Khashoggi appealed for free expression in the Arab world. He might as well have been appealing for all of us. 

And so, along with decent nations and people around the world, we must see this through and call for justice – the kind of justice that should hurt the power of those who have hurt Khaghoggi. 

For to remain silent and indifferent is to allow tyrants in sheep’s clothing to chop off, piece by piece, our freedom to think, to write, and to be citizens who speak truth to power. – Rappler.com