Pax Americana

Khashoggi’s murder reveals the moral decay of the White House. Trump has thrown out the defense of freedom.

The brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who disappeared in his country’s Istanbul consulate two weeks ago, illustrates not just the well-known barbarism of Saudi Arabia but also the moral collapse of the White House.

Ever since Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States, the ethical standards of political action in this country have been sinking to the point of impunity. Trump’s actions, a faithful reflection of his misogyny, racism, contempt and brutal ignorance, are based on the support of his voters (who aren’t even in the majority, given that Trump lost the 2016 election by almost 3 million votes and only prevailed over his opponent because of the peculiar nature of the U.S. electoral system). These voters are white, lower-middle-class, jingoistic, with a fairly primal far-right ideology, living in the middle of the country. But there’s an even more serious loyalty: that of the Republican congressmen and senators, who follow Trump almost unwaveringly, out of self-interest. They believe, essentially, that Trump, the energizer of their electorate, is the guarantee that they’ll stay in power. We’ll see what happens in the midterm elections next Nov. 6 and if the Democrats take back control of Congress. But in the meantime, they’re betting on Trump.

It’s well known that America’s international policy has always obeyed changing strategic criteria (accurately reflecting the concerns of each moment) and fixed economic interests. But, at least in appearance, for decades, the moral guide of its actions was always freedom and democracy for all, and the United States was the custodian of these essential values.

That’s all fallen by the wayside. Trump’s desire to maintain his alliance with Riyadh at all costs (to fence in Iran, out of a mixed-up conviction that it’s the true enemy, and to keep the supply of Saudi oil open, as well as to maintain Saudi purchases of American weapons) makes him offer explanations to justify his Saudi ally having ordered a critical journalist to be cut up. You can understand this if you remember that, in Trump’s opinion, the press is the enemy of the people. He even supports a Republican candidate who, a few days ago, pounced on a journalist who had asked him a simple question.

In Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi is not the first and certainly will not be the last to be sacrificed: In the desert kingdom the disdain for freedom and life is absolute. It’s based on the arrogance of money and the only valid rule: staying, above all, in power. Everything else is the trick that all other international actors fall for, especially when the excuse for their tolerance is the conviction that through tolerance, Saudi Arabia can be brought to civilized ways.

The crown prince, MBS (acronym not just of his name, Mohammed bin Salman, but also Mr. Bone Saw, as The New York Times called him) is an efficient killer, no matter how much he’s presented as a young, liberal, modernizing prince. A young prince whose only big opening-up has been allowing women to drive. Meanwhile, he’s participated in international politics like a bull in a china shop: disastrous military venture in Yemen; failed attempt to isolate Qatar; stupid kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister, whom he had to release after a few days; cracking down on domestic policy. A disaster of a modern, Western prince.

This time it will be said that democratic countries, horrified by the spectacle, are saying, “Enough!” All of them? No. Not Washington. Just as in the conflict with Vladimir Putin over the involvement of Russian secret services in the American electoral process, Trump’s response is always the same, especially if the person he’s speaking with is a despotic ruler: “He looked me in the eyes and denied it firmly, and I believe him.”* Perhaps this time his fellow party members will stop him, as much as he may invoke the presumption of innocence, which he applies exclusively to his friends.

Germany, France and the United Kingdom, horrified by Saudi savagery, have demanded explanations and cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Curiously, Spain hasn’t. Our moral indifference hurts.

President Trump changes position according to what he senses is in his interests. That’s all he cares about: passing the buck and proclaiming his greatness “urbi et orbi“ (to the city and to the world) like the Pope, even when he’s laughed at in the U.N.

He also does this with his uncontrollable Twitter verborrhea every morning, where he insults and lies non-stop. It’s certain that if he supports someone one day, he insults that person the next. He affirms one thing and its opposite. His behavior in the face of Khashoggi’s murder (constantly changing what he’s saying) proves this.

The “Pax Americana,” the umbrella that sheltered the free world, is on shaky ground. If Trump is re-elected in 2020, we’d all better look for more certain shade.

*Editor’s note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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