Saudi princes are real GEMs, just like our Republican overlords

The latest excuse from Saudi Arabia for the death of Jamal Khashoggi is that he started it — he started a fist fight with a team of 15 professional killers, and they had to defend themselves by hacking him apart with a bonesaw. Our president* might well be willing to accept that story, but it’s out of character for Khashoggi and not compatible with the intent of Mohammed bin Salman and the ruling class of Saudi Arabia.

The murder is nothing new: the regime has been vicious and repressive for a long time, and this is just one case that has erupted into the public eye — it is actually a major error by Mohammed bin Salman, who has been trying to misrepresent himself as a progressive reformer. He’s not. He’s just another criminal thug who has been handed vast sums of money and excessive power by an archaic political system. We’ve seen all the warning signs that he was not a power for reform. Remember Raif Badawi?

The kingdom has long been an absolute monarchy that does not tolerate open dissent, but this kind of repression is new. In earlier times, Saudi rulers restricted behavior, often under severe interpretations of Islamic law, and carried out barbaric punishments. We have often called attention to the unjust treatment of blogger Raif Badawi, who was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes — 50 were delivered in a public square in Jeddah before it was stopped — and 10 years in prison for online posts that challenged the religious authorities to allow a more pluralistic and moderate practice of Islam. The system was intolerant and harsh.

The powers-that-be in Saudi Arabia have been reshaping their laws to allow themselves greater latitude to oppress.

Almost all prosecutions of political and human rights activists have been channeled through the Specialized Criminal Court, originally established in 2008 to handle terrorism cases, where defendants often do not have lawyers during the investigative phase, and pretrial detentions can be arbitrary and lengthy. In October 2017, the kingdom updated its counterterrorism law, which was already overly broad, to add a host of tripwires to criminalize free expression. For example, the definition of terrorism was extended to those who “describe” the king or crown prince “in any way offensive to religion or justice.”

Oh, great. Now I’m a terrorist, because I’m going to openly say that the king and crown prince are goddamn evil motherfuckers.

That actually felt good. I’m going to have to curse the elites of Saudia Arabian society more often.

I remember, once upon a time, feeling that maybe Saudi Arabia was making progress — like when they started allowing women to drive. I was mistaken. It seems that one good reason to allow women to drive is that it gives you an easy way to tag a female dissident.

A good example of how the environment has changed is the case of female activists who had long sought the right to drive, and to change the guardianship system, which gives men the authority to make critical decisions on behalf of their female relatives. For years, the women had carefully pushed for change while staying largely within bounds the government could accept. But the new crown prince could not tolerate their voices. He granted women the right to drive — and then punished those who had worked for that reform. In May, 11 of them were arrested. Several remain in jail, accused of serious crimes that could bring long prison sentences, including “suspicious contact with foreign parties” and undermining the “security and stability” of the state. They have been vilified in the media; a pro-government Twitter account posted images of those arrested with the word “traitor” splattered in red across their faces, Human Rights Watch reported.

Cancel that arms deal our goddamn evil motherfucker of a president is so proud of. It’s the least we can do. Unfortunately, our GEM of a president aspires to by the tyrant ruler of a pariah state, just like the Saudi king, and is going to do nothing.


  1. Nemo says

    I wouldn’t call it archaic, because that implies that hereditary tyranny was once, somehow, a desirable or valid political system. It was once more common than it is now, sure. But it was always wrong.

  2. says

    It seems that one good reason to allow women to drive is that it gives you an easy way to tag a female dissident.

    Catching the scent of a hundred flowers? I’m not surprised. It’s a common tactic. I hadn’t heard it applied to driving liberalization in KSA before, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I had heard what you’ve heard: the legalized driving while criminalizing the speech that advocated driving. I haven’t yet heard what you suggest – that which women drive will be watched to determine who the regime might arrest next. But of course that makes perfect sense. It is perfectly analogous with what Mao did: take something that shouldn’t be illegal but previously had been, then “liberalize” (and gain all the international street cred for liberalizing) by decriminalizing the activity, then track those who engage in the once criminal activity, then after a quiescent period where people reveal themselves as willing to use their new freedoms, arrest anyone who took advantage of liberalization.

    MBS is certainly evil. By my lights, he’s also a coward. I wish both my governments would tell him so.

  3. Erp says

    There is also likely a power struggle within the Saud family. Since the death of Ibn Saud in 1953 all the kings have been his sons but now that generation is almost gone and the crown prince is a grandson of Ibn Saud (and a son of the current king) . This means several hundred grandsons including many sons of previous kings who might feel they have as good a right. The crown prince did a pre-emptive strike last year with the arrest and shake down of prominent Saudis including many of his relatives. I could well see an attempt to overthrow the crown prince or further actions possibly deadly by the crown prince against rivals, real or not, within his family. Also having secular courts with extreme power and a few liberal tokens (like allowing women to drive) may be an attempt to undercut and intimidate the religious leadership (ulema) of the kingdom that might possibly challenge the crown prince.

  4. says

    he started a fist fight with a team of 15 professional killers, and they had to defend themselves by hacking him apart with a bonesaw.

    LAPD is probably thinking, “oh that’s a good one!”

  5. robro says

    The assailants were just standing their ground. During the fight, Khashoggi wrestled the bone saw away from them, then attacked them with it. He then managed to chop himself to pieces with it.

    Jamal Khashoggi does have an interesting pedigree. His uncle, Adnan, was arms merchant involved in the Iran-Contra crap. Adnan was also charged with racketeering activities involving Imelda Marcos, and there were other charges of securities fraud from his business activities. Jamal was also a first cousin to Dodi Fayed, the fellow killed with Princes Diana.

  6. dfjo65 says

    An aspect of this case includes work done by CitizenLabs. They reported on a Saudi dissident at Concordia in Quebec. We find out his phone was hacked and monitored by the Saudi government. In addition, The Globe & Mail reports that he had become a close friend of Jamal’s.
    In todays edition, there is a lengthy article about the fight between Turkey and Saudi Arabia regarding the Muslim Brotherhood. On one side, Turkey is working on their behalf. Saudi Arabia and it’s allies, such as Egypt, are using the most extreme measures to suppress the organization. Jamal was close to the Brotherhood, if the reports are correct. This is the result you get when The State fears it’s opposition.
    I invite you to reflect on the nuns who were killed in El Salvador, in the ’80’s or the students who vanished in Guerrero state in Mexico more recently. The Mexican government also hacked the devices of family member who are trying to locate missing students.

  7. =8)-DX says

    Tangentially: stop guzzling oil. Whatever the (relatively easily technically surmountable) disadvantages of wind turbines and solar panels, they’re not going to be as easy to use to prop up brutal foreign kleptocracies.

  8. unclefrogy says

    This is the result you get when The State fears it’s opposition.

    it is absolutely true when the state is identified with anything other then the people as in the king or the president or something as abstract as the government divorced from the people.
    it is progressive and leads to a gulag and a final solution and is in the end destructiveness and futile.
    uncle frogy

  9. unclefrogy says

    that was was supposed to be self-destructive and not destructiveness
    spell check is stupid and can’t read my mind and makes me skip proof reading!
    uncle frogy

  10. says

    Cancel that arms deal our goddamn evil motherfucker of a president is so proud of.

    or go back in time and convince Barack Obama not to have made it in the first place.

  11. mountainbob says

    I was waiting to see how long it would take for Saudi leaders to identify some poor schmuck prisoner to ID as being guilty in the Khoshoggi killing so they could publicly behead someone. They did me one (or eighteen) better by putting a name to the dudes the Turks had already proven guilty. Now the perps have been “fired” and will be disciplined by retiring to a life of luxury. The king has reputedly admonished the crown prince and reigned him in a bit; better would be to make prince MBS the designated schmuck and off him in a public field.

  12. mailliw says

    I think the rest of the world, and especially the middle east is nervous, because whenever the Saudis do anything bad the automatic response of the USA appears to be to invade some other country in the middle east.

    The victim country is not entirely random, it must have oil and be a sworn enemy of Saudi Arabia. So it looks like it might be Iran this time. Apparently even though all the financial supporters of terrorism are Saudis, somehow it is all Iran’s fault.

  13. Cosimo says

    The MSM, who for years didn’t give a toss about the persecution and killings of dissidents or the massacres in Yemen, now are shocked and horrified by the murder of this guy. Suddenly they realize the Saudi regime was evil. There is something else going on here. We still don’t know what it is.

  14. zetopan says

    “Cancel that arms deal our goddamn evil motherfucker of a president is so proud of.”

    That’s not going to happen, look at the hundreds of millions that they have give the Trumps.
    Anyone who gives the Trumps money and/or power is great!*

    *For a suitably depraved definition of “great”.