Tag Archives: Jamal Khashoggi

Mistake-free presidency: out of the question

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A bit of clarity is in order.

Many of you who read this blog might have presumed that I expect President Biden’s term in office to go without hiccups, missteps, mistakes. You would be wrong.

I do not expect perfection from the president. All I demand of him should be that he own his mistakes when they occur and he is able to understand that they, indeed, are mistakes. It is a quality we did not see in the man who preceded Biden in the nation’s highest office.

Donald Trump was incapable of owning a mistake. A misstatement? That was even more out of the question! He never admitted lying to us … about anything!

President Biden has been in office for a little more than 50 days. By my count, he’s made one semi-serious goof: He declined to issue sanctions against the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, for ordering the ghastly murder of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

There will be more errors. Joe Biden is as human as the rest of us, which of course goes without even mentioning.

I am not setting the bar too high for President Biden. Nor should anyone who expects honesty and truth-telling from our president.

He’s already scored a big legislative victory in getting congressional Democrats to hang together in approving a $1.9 trillion relief bill aimed at helping Americans survive the COVID pandemic. Next up? It appears to be a huge bill to improve our infrastructure: roads, bridges, airports, rail lines.

Donald Trump talked a great deal during his term about improving infrastructure, but he never delivered the goods. Why not? Because he did not have a lick of political/legislative/government experience when he became president.

President Biden cannot claim inexperience as his fallback in the event of failure. He served 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president in the Obama administration. Now, whether he succeeds in pushing infrastructure improvements over the finish line will depend on whether he brings his vast experience to bear.

If he does, great! If he doesn’t, he’ll need to tell us why he failed.

I expect that level of honesty from our president and I remain hopeful we’re going to get it from Joseph R. Biden.

It’s out: MBS ordered killing

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The world knew already what U.S. intelligence officials released for public review: the Saudi crown prince ordered the assassination of a renowned Saudi dissident journalist who also happened to be a U.S. resident at the time of his hideous murder.

Jamal Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered. His remains haven’t yet been recovered. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered it because of critical columns that Khashoggi had written for the Washington Post.

The Biden administration today released the findings of the probe. The Trump administration had refused to let us know what the spooks determined.

I am glad to see President Biden reversing his predecessor’s hands-off policy regarding MBS. I wish, though, he would level harsh personal sanctions on the crown prince rather than backing off. Yes, the president intends to sanction others within the Saudi government and will sanction the nation as well; he will suspend arms sales and other deals intended to strengthen the Saudi position in the Middle East.

However, the bad guy in all of this — the crown prince — is going to skate away without punishment.

CBS News is reporting on the intelligence findings: “We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decision making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi,” the report says.

Intel report finds MBS approved “capture or kill” Khashoggi (msn.com)

So, still, there is no punishment being handed out to this evil character? Amazing!

We are proud in this country of standing up for liberty and for the free flow of information and dissent. Khashoggi wasn’t a U.S. citizen, but he lived here and worked for a leading U.S. newspaper, the Post.

President Biden has whiffed on this one.

How in the world can POTUS ‘like’ a murderous tyrant?

Donald Trump’s best friends among the ranks of world leaders seem to have something in common. They’re tyrants, strongmen, autocrats, dictators . . . any and/or all of the above.

His latest demonstration of such were his statements about how much he likes North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un. It begs the critical question: How is it that the president of the United States of America “like” someone such as Kim Jong Un.

For the record, Kim Jong Un is starving his people while he lives in relative opulence; Kim has murdered members of his own family because they disagree with his policies; he terrorizes his subjects mercilessly; he threatens South Korea with nuclear annihilation.

Then he lied about not knowing about the imprisonment of an American college student, Otto Warmbier, who then was relegated to a vegetative state and released; Warmbier died as a result of his captivity.

Trump said he believes Kim’s denial that he was aware of Warmbier’s mistreatment.

He groveled at Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, who denied attacking our electoral system in 2016. Trump swallowed Putin’s denial over the assessment of the nation’s intelligence community that determined the Russians did attack us in 2016.

When a U.S. resident journalist was killed in Turkey by Saudi agents, Trump accepted the denial that Saudi prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump’s latest display of infatuation with a tyrant — Kim Jong Un — reveals a dangerous trend. The president of the United States — who occupies the most powerful office on Earth — acts with astonishing weakness when he takes the word of a killer.

Yes, Trump could have been our Person of the Year

I am thrilled with Time’s choice of the journalists who have become the symbols of international persecution of their craft to be the magazine’s Persons of the Year.

It’s an inspired choice. They’re called “The Guardians.” I said so in an earlier post on this blog.

However, let’s talk about the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump Sr. Could the president have deserved such a designation? Yes, by all means.

Trump had bloviated something a few days earlier about how he deserved to be Time’s Person of the Year. Then again, would he want to read Time’s explanation of why it bestowed him with such an “honor”? Oh, I forgot: He doesn’t read.

Then again, consider something. Time’s criteria include those who make the biggest difference in the nation and the world, for better or worse. It has put Josef Stalin on the cover, as it did the Ayatollah Khomeini. Adolf Hitler got the nod one year. Those men all made a profound difference.

I am not equating Trump with those monstrous despots. However, his presidency has continued to spiral out of control. He has sought to redefine the parameters we set for presidential success and/or failure. The chaos that continues to swirl around him provides an astonishing display for all to see.

He has lied continuously and gratuitously. He lies when he doesn’t need to lie. He has redefined the way presidents and other public figures communicate through his use of Twitter.

He has fired at least two Cabinet members this year alone. He has burned through his second chief of staff in less than two years. He alienates himself and, therefore, this nation he leads from allies around the world. He has launched trade wars with economic powers and longtime trading partners.

Yeah, this guy has been “consequential” as president. He has made a difference in the nation and the world. Trump sought to made the case for his own significance as an international figure. He did so with typical Trumpian inarticulateness.

If only Time had seen fit to put this guy on its cover . . . and then sought to explain it to the rest of the world. It would have been a hell of a good read.

GOP schism with Trump growing over Saudis

Well, what do you know about that?

U.S. senators have heard from the CIA director herself about what the spy agency has concluded about the conduct of our key Middle East “ally” involving the gruesome murder of a U.S. resident and journalist.

Senators weigh in on Khashoggi murder

The senators, Republicans and Democrats alike, are siding with CIA Director Gina Haspel’s view that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Haspel actually has heard the recording that purports to depict Khashoggi’s death screams while he was being murdered and allegedly dismembered by his Saudi captors.

GOP senators who heretofore had become Donald Trump’s strongest allies now are siding with Haspel and her agency and against Trump, who is trying to give the crown prince the benefit of the doubt. The president says bin Salman “might or might not” be culpable. The president, who has said he relies on his “gut” more than he relies on “other people’s brains,” is taking the prince’s side because the Saudis do so much business with the United States, buying jets and other weapons they use against terrorists and their terror-nation sponsors.

Khashoggi’s life? It’s not nearly as important as those deals, according to Trump.

I’m done going soft on Trump. The president is in growing trouble politically. The special counsel might be closing in on Trump in his meticulous probe into the “Russia thing.” Meanwhile, the president continues to demonstrate his hideous blind spot as it regards despots and authoritarian regimes.

He does so even at the expense — to his great discredit — of the intelligence agencies and their leaders who take essentially the same oath that the president does: to defend the United States of America.

Those agencies are doing their job. The president, it pains me to say it, is not.

Listen to the lame duck senator

Let’s connect a few dots.

CIA Director Gina Haspel, who was kept away from an earlier congressional briefing on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, today told senators that the Saudi crown prince ordered the journalist’s death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Donald Trump has cast doubt on the CIA’s findings. He said Prince Mohammad bin Salman “may have or may not have” played a role in the murder of Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who worked for the Washington Post.

OK, then Haspel tells senators what she and her agency believe.

Senators from both parties then came out of the closed-door meeting and talked publicly about what they believe. The crown prince is dirty; he’s filthy; he did what the CIA says he did.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who is leaving office at the end of the month, said there is “no doubt” that if the crown prince were put on trial for the murder, he would be “convicted in 30 minutes.”

Corker isn’t a lawyer by training. However, he’s a smart fellow who listens to what others tell him.

If only the president of the United States would trust implicitly the intelligence experts’ view that our so-called Middle East “ally” is a cold-blooded killer.

And if only he would act appropriately with that knowledge.

Bolton has lost his spine

I am going to concur with Paul Begala, a former Bill Clinton political confidant and pal, who says national security adviser John Bolton has shown himself to be a coward.

Yes, Begala is a partisan. For that matter, I suppose you can argue that I am, too. Sure, I lean in the same direction as Begala, but I’ve never worked for politicians.

Begala is angry that Bolton has chosen to avoid listening to the recording of slain U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi being slaughtered by his Saudi Arabian captors, who killed him in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Reporters asked Bolton why he hadn’t listen to it. He said: “Unless you speak Arabic, what are you going to get from it?”

Begala responded in an essay: A lot. You will, presumably, hear struggle. You will hear beating, according to a Turkish newspaper, citing Turkish security sources. You will hear torture. You will hear an innocent man’s final, desperate words: “Release my arm! What do you think you are doing?” You will hear one of the alleged conspirators, who allegedly put on Khashoggi’s clothes to act as a body double, comment that “it is spooky to wear the clothes of a man whom we killed 20 minutes ago.”

Bolton didn’t want to hear that. Nor did he want to ask an interpreter to translate it for him. He said he could “read a transcript” if he could find an Arabic speaker to listen to it.

Read the essay here

Bolton’s crass and callous response defies human decency, in my humble view.

He is the national security adviser, for crying out loud! He needs to hear the screams of a journalist based in Washington, D.C., a Saudi national and a champion of political dissent. He had the temerity to insist on reforms in the land of his birth . . . and this is the response reportedly from the crown prince who allegedly ordered the man’s murder.

The CIA has determined that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder. The president has blown that assessment off. So, too, I guess has John Bolton, choosing to join Donald Trump in the hideous game of disparaging the nation’s intelligence experts.

Cowardly.

What’s with this ‘MBS’ crap?

Hey, what gives with the TV news talking heads and their various “contributors” and their casual reference to a guy who ordered the murder and alleged dismemberment of a U.S.-based Saudi journalist?

The individual to whom I refer is Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The CIA says this monster issued the order to kill Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

He’s a bad dude, man!

The talking heads, though, are calling him “MBS.” MBS? I always thought we reserved that kind of reference — call it an endearment, if you wish — for public figures we held in much greater esteem.

You know who I mean. MLK Jr., JFK, RFK, LBJ, FDR. That’s all you need with these folks. No full names are necessary. We assign nicknames to others. Such as Ike, The Gipper, Give ‘Em Hell Harry, Dubya.

Mohammad bin Salman does not deserve this level of familiarity from our talking heads. I hereby call on them to knock it off.

Call the guy what he is: a cold-blooded murderer.

MBS. My keister.

Trump once again undercuts our intelligence experts

Donald John Trump has a limitless array of weapons that he uses — against our own nation’s intelligence experts!

He deployed some of them again today by undercutting the CIA’s assessment that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the ghastly murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Trump said in a highly unusual statement that he won’t take any action against the government of Saudi Arabia, despite what the CIA analysis has concluded. That’s right. He sides with another authoritarian leader, taking his word over the learned view expressed by some of the finest intelligence experts in the world.

I suppose the president had that $110 billion order for jet fighters that Saudi Arabia has placed with the Defense Department on his mind, too.

To be sure, the president called Khashoggi’s murder “terrible” and said it is an action that our country “does not condone.” He stopped short of joining the CIA assessment of the crown prince’s involvement.

Now, a word about the CIA and its current leadership.

Gina Haspel, a career spook and a former deep-cover agent, is Trump’s appointed CIA director. She is a highly trained professional who has spent her entire professional life working to protect this country against its enemies. Yes, she had some issues for which she had to answer when she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, but I do not doubt her skill or her management ability in running the agency.

For the commander in chief to say, in effect, that the CIA is mistaken does the agency a disservice. Moreover, it disserves the search for the truth behind the slaughter of a U.S. resident who worked as a columnist for the Washington Post. Khashoggi’s final column, in fact, called on Saudi Arabia to exercise tolerance for those who disagree with government policy.

It is reasonable to presume that Khashoggi’s insistence on reforming Saudi government policies led to his hideous and ghastly murder.

The CIA concluded that the Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s assassination. The CIA is full of experts who know what they’re doing. The president, meanwhile, is full of delusions about his own instincts. He has chosen to give the Saudi government a pass on what the nation’s intelligence experts say it did to a journalist.

If only the president of the United States would take dead aim at the bad guys and quit undermining the good guys’ work on our behalf.

Time for Saudi sanctions, Mr. President

OK, Mr. President, you’ve got a problem.

Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement in the brutal assassination of a Saudi-born journalist in Istanbul, Turkey. But wait! Now the CIA has determined that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

What are you going to do about it, Mr. President?

You see, the United States has some skin in this game. Khashoggi was a journalist employed by the Washington Post. He was a U.S. resident who wrote columns for the newspaper and, indeed, his final essay called for greater tolerance of political dissent in Saudi Arabia. The crown prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, took umbrage at Khashoggi’s view.

So he had him killed. Maybe he even ordered the reported dismembering of Khashoggi, torturing him while he was still alive, screaming for his life.

How in the world do we let this pass, Mr. President?

I wish I could presume you’ll accept the CIA assessment. I mean, you had to be dragged kicking and screaming to endorse the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia attacked our electoral system in 2016.

But the CIA now is being run by one of your appointees. Gina Haspel is a career spook. She is a first-rate spymaster. Her agency also is among the best intelligence outfits in the world. But you know that already. Right?

You need to set aside that top-dollar arms deal the Saudis want done. Those high-performance jet fighters the Saudis ordered ought to be put back in the hangar.

The Saudis are bad actors at many levels. Sure, they’re our “allies” in the effort to corral the Islamic Republic of Iran. They are brutal, though, in their handling of political dissent, as Jamal Khashoggi’s hideous fate would attest.

The CIA says the crown prince is involved. You, sir, need to act.