No Justice for Jamal

At least not yet

I’m Scott Nover. Welcome back to Pressing, a newsletter about press freedom. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you can do so here and receive this letter in your inbox every Tuesday morning.

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No Justice for Jamal

What is there to say about the disappointment of the week? What is there to say about Joe Biden, president of “c’mon man,” who campaigned on an anti-malarkey platform, would completely balk on holding the Saudi crown prince accountable for ordering the gruesome dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist residing in exile in Northern Virginia in the last year of his life? The whole ordeal reeks of putrid malarkey.

What is there to say about a broken campaign promise? Joe Biden said he would make the murderous fiend “pay the price” if elected president.

What is there to say about what we already knew? U.S. intelligence agencies, once again, found the Saudi heir guilty of prescribing an extrajudicial bone saw killing for one of our own. And that these conclusions supported a 2019 UN report and a 2018 CIA report.

What is there to say that Trump, who openly stated that the relationship with Saudi Arabia was more important than justice for Jamal, at least imposed sanctions against 17 members of the hit team? Scores of Saudis were sanctioned, but not MbS himself?

What is there to say that the director of national intelligence’s office took down the original version of its report on Friday and replaced it with a version that omitted three names of people responsible?

Jamal Khashoggi’s death was a tragedy of spectacular proportions, a comic book killing of a larger-than-life figure. Donald Trump failed in responding because he did not care. Joe Biden failed too. I doubt it’s because he does not care. But he clearly lacked the imagination necessary to see an American foreign policy that shunned Saudi interests.

What is there to say that Trump bragged that he “saved his ass,” referring to MbS, but Biden did so without bragging about it?

CNN’s Jake Tapper put it best:

"Is the only difference between Trump bragging about saving MBS' ass, and Biden acting as if he has no choice but to save MBS' ass... Is the only difference the words surrounding the decision? Either way, the ass of the man who ordered the barbaric slaughter of an American-based journalist has been saved."

What is there to say?

The Knight Institute’s Jameel Jaffer and the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Joel Simon have suggestions for the U.S. government’s next steps, as published in Slate. Forgive me for stripping this article, which you should read, for parts:

  • First, the Biden administration should disclose other key documents relating to Khashoggi’s murder. 

  • Second, the administration should ban the crown prince from the United States under laws including the Global Magnitsky Act, which authorizes the president to deny entry to, and block the assets of, foreign nationals determined to be “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognizes human rights.”

  • Third, given the personal responsibility of the crown prince for the crime, the administration should extend and expand the freeze it has already instituted on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

  • Fourth, Congress should hold hearings to consider what legal reforms are necessary to ensure that American courts can hold accountable those who persecute U.S.-based journalists and human rights activists.

  • Finally, American civic and business leaders must do their part [to isolate Saudi Arabia].

I have read too many moving articles about this affair in the past few days. Here’s my recommended reading list:

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