Trump and Jamal Khashoggi. What the Affair Reveals.

Please see for yourself the entire statement released by the White House on 11/20.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-donald-j-trump-standing-saudi-arabia/?utm_source=link

Here’s the 5th paragraph,

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

There’s no evidence that Jamal Kashoggi was an enemy of the Saudi state. He was a critic of it, a man who wanted to help steer the Saudi leadership away from the repressive practices that stifle voices of dissent, the very forces that killed him. He had been close to the leadership but had felt compelled to speak more openly, which is why he chose to move to our country while simultaneously holding residence in Turkey.

The CIA, after careful review of all the evidence produced by Turkey, where the murder took place, concluded that Mr Khashoggi could not have been assassinated without the knowledge of the crown prince. But Trump has no qualms rebuffing such verdict and instead accepting the king and crown prince’s denials. Did the crown prince have knowledge of the event? “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” says Trump. Hard to believe.

But it sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Indeed, Trump said something eerily similar in Helsinki this last July – after a question from a reporter regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections – immediately following his summit meeting with Putin.

“… my people came to me, Dan Coats (from National Intelligence) came to me and others, they said they think it’s Russia… I have President Putin… he said it’s not Russia. I will say this… I don’t see any reason why it would be… I have confidence in both parties… I have great confidence in my intelligence people… but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Why should Trump not trust his intelligence agencies?

If Putin and the crown prince deny strongly their wrongdoing, is that supposed to negate the conclusions drawn by teams of seasoned experts in intelligence gathering?

Additionally, Mr Trump has openly stated that he will not listen to the tape produced by Turkey containing the gory sounds of the killing of Mr Khashoggi.

What does that mean?

When Trump chooses to not listen to the tapes of Khashoggi’s murder it is not just him not listening, it is all of us. It is America not listening.

What image do we project to the world when we behave as such?

Can Trump not find the strength to face the facts?

There’s something sordid and venal about Trump’s willingness to excuse the Saudi prince.

That Saudi Arabia has signed up to invest 450 billion in our country, a sizable portion going to the buying of weapons, is not a reason to hide from the truth.

This is not to say that geopolitical considerations should not be weighed in.

Saudi Arabia is a long term ally of ours and as such a counter to Iran’s aggressive influence in the region, but giving the Saudi elite a pass in this heinous act is not compatible with the Saudi people’s aspirations to become a modern state.

Why not, for instance, call for the prince to stand trial for the offense, in the presence of international observers?

Would that be a destabilizing event for Saudi Arabia? Maybe, but it would be an important step toward introducing political accountability in the country and preventing the crime from happening again.

It may well be resented and seen as interfering with their governance, but in the end, likely to invigorate the forces of reason and enlightened civility.

As a sovereign nation, it will be up to the Saudis to do as they wish, but taking a public stand for justice leaves us in a strong position while sending a message to all of our allies.

If we were dependent on Saudi oil, the geopolitical considerations would be quite different. But we are not. Thanks to the spirit of innovation that our nation retains, we have become the largest oil producer in the world. That matters. And so does our moral integrity, for it fuels courage, creativity and vision.

So far, Mr Trump has been unable or unwilling to grasp this essence.

This is not lost in the eyes of the world. Appearing to be beholden to a ruling elite is not only detrimental to our image abroad but also, and more importantly, to the image we have of ourselves.

Either way, America loses.

Calling for a National Referendum on Immigration

Is Immigration a problem for the nation? Yes or no?

Whatever the answer, let us not let Trump decide the matter.

Let the entire country do it instead.

Let the different sides present their case to all citizens

So that we – all of us – may decide what we should and should not do.

A national referendum on immigration would help us do just that.

The issue is important and complex enough to warrant our full consideration.

Do we allow immigration or not?

Could we do without it?

Do immigrants contribute to the country?

Do they take more than they contribute?

Who would be admitted and who would not?

Every color or some colors?

From every country or from some countries?

Of what age?

Of what religion?

Must they have skills or not?

Which skills?

Answering those questions would allow us to begin to address the matter rationally as it deserves to be.

We are a nation of immigrants but at some points in our history we have chosen to restrict the influx.

That is our privilege.

So let us give it the proper attention instead of letting emotion drive our choices.

Politicians manipulate emotions to get our vote.

We are a sovereign nation and as such need to give the proper thought to matters of great consequence.

Immigration is such a matter.

 

 

A Burden to the Nation

Regardless of what happens in the midterms, the nation will not reelect Donald Trump.

Our country may waver but eventually, it will come to its senses.

For those of us who, while not voting for him and recognizing his flagrant flaws, were willing to give him a chance in the hope that he would grow into a president to all Americans, the disappointment has been painful.

His crude behavior towards women and his treatment of immigrants remains intact.

If the country was polarized before, he has deepened the divisions while appearing to have neither the inclination nor the ability to heal the rift.

In a world with a great need for a model in bridge building, he prefers to boast that America will not rise to the task.

In WWII we reached out and set the standard for nation building. The enormous investment that our brave people made changed the world. But now, rather than boldly facing the difficulties brought by globalization, Trump chooses to retreat.

No amount of tax cuts or tariff raising will change the grim outlook.

We are steadily losing our standing in the world and have at the helm a man who lacks the vision to lead. White supremacists cannot come to the rescue because, at their core, they are resentful people, afraid of competing in the world, choosing instead to blame others for their shortcomings.

America has prospered because of its openness. Openness to people and ideas. They go hand in hand.

That Trump does not see that is precisely why he’s become a burden to us.

To face our new challenges, America needs a person who dares to imagine possibilities without the need to devalue others or scapegoat immigrants.

And so, in the end, history will grade Trump as one of our worst presidents, alongside Andrew Johnson who, in succeeding Abraham Lincoln, blocked Reconstruction, denied protection to former slaves and ushered in a century of Jim Crow.

Pipe bombs sent from Florida, the killings in Pittsburgh and Trump

They are related.

The culprits acted alone but the president’s rhetoric stirred them.

And yet Mr Trump is unable to acknowledge it.

He has denounced the violence but not owned up to his role.

He knows that there are unstable people that don’t need much to be tipped over

Into ghastly acts.

He knows that.

And yet, he keeps broadcasting his message of hatred and rancor.

That a president is elected to govern all Americans doesn’t sink in

And we’re already two years into his tenure.

The experience of being in the Oval office,

Of being the president of the United States,

Not the president of his base,

Does not sink in.

And so he is the burden that we must carry as a nation,

Until we have another chance to go to the polls.

I had hoped that he would have evolved,

That from his lofty position,

Seeing the entirety of our country,

He would have relinquished his extremist views,

But he has not done so.

I fear now,

That he’s incapable of it.

Jamal Khashoggi – Contributing in Life and in Death.

10/20/18

Recep Erdogan, Turkey’s president, moved boldly to expose details of the murder that took place on October 2nd in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Whatever his motivation, whether to regain favor with America, block Saudi Arabia’s ascendancy in the region, avoid a fine for Iran related sanctions, repair Turkey’s international image in the face of its own abuses against journalists and dissidents or all of the above – the information Erdogan provided has been crucial.

The Saudi prince has yet to answer for it.

Innocent until proven guilty? Agreed.

But so far, the kingdom’s account of the events – the delay and contradictions – points strongly in the direction of culpability. That killing a high profile person like Khashoggi would be carried out without the prince’s consent, as Saudi officials have claimed, is absurd.

The prince may have had a modernist streak – allowing women to drive and its citizens to go to the cinema – but all the while he’s jailed journalists and a prominent woman dissident.

A modernist streak does not make a modern leader.

One can surmise that the prince’s upbringing did not prepare him for the task of an enlightened statesman, that he grew up in a gilded cage even as he travelled the world and met with foreign leaders and dignitaries. Despite all of those interactions, some basic attitudes were not modified. In the clash between the old and the new, the old prevailed.

The long history of despotism and oppression that is at the center of Saudi history remained intact.

Turkey’s president has now indicated that in the next day or two he will have even more information about the details of the crime.

Were the evidence conclusive to prove that the prince masterminded the operation, should the US do a dance with him and let him get away with it?

Mr Khashoggi had chosen to come to our land because he felt safe here to continue to speak against the ruthless leaders in his native Saudi Arabia.
He must be defended and spoken for.

Are we worried that Saudi Arabia will seek other alliances if we put pressure on them?

Go right ahead and see where you can find a new partner. Try Russia or China.

If you want to be on this side there are standards to live by and that means transparency.

For America to give the prince a pass is a disservice to the people of Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. Emerging nations pulling from under the chains of tyrants need help.

Whereas we have limits on what we can do with Putin and his gross disregard for human life, we can and should put pressure on the Saudis to put the prince on trial or levy sanctions accordingly.

There will be calls from some quarters to excuse the prince for fear of hindering their continued purchase of American weapons.

But this is a defining moment and standing by Mr Khashoggi will be standing by the people of Saudi Arabia.

To not do so diminishes and corrupts us.

Excuse the prince now and we will do so again later.

The Saudi people are watching.

Tunisia was the only country left embracing democracy after the Arab spring in 2011, but new movements are afoot, even if we’ve not yet heard of them. How can they not?

Man and woman will be muzzled and killed, but the yearning for freedom will never be stopped.

When the time comes the Saudi people will emerge to form a fairer government.

Sometime in the future, repression or no repression, the monarchy will be deposed.

And Jamal Khashoggi will be there at the heart of such movement, along with so many others whose lives have been trampled and cut short, but whose spirits will never die.

Let America be by his side till that day.

 

What’s happened in our land?

10/17/18

What’s happened in our land

That we have stopped talking to each other

Choosing not to listen,

And quick to judge and blame?

 

What’s happened in our land

That we allow others to sow

Seeds of distrust and hatred,

So a group comes to think

It owns the truth and the rest are blind to it?

 

What’s happened in our land

That we seem unable to pause and ponder,

Look inside ourselves

Reach out and parley

Without cursing

Without threatening.

 

Truth is neither yours nor mine

No one owns it

It owns us.

It doesn’t lie within you or me

But between us

Revealing itself when there’s a will

To bridge the gap,

A will to listen

And be listened to

So we both are counted.

 

To hate is to fear

 

Fearful minds cannot build bridges

To help us see that we are and have always been

In our brothers and sisters,

As they are and have always been

In us.

 

But face our fear and we will find the strength

To reach across,

Face it not

And we will see enemies where there are none

And the promise that was our country

Will be lost.

 

So let us take heart and dare to reflect

And ask,

Am I not in my brother and sister as they are in me?

 

Let us take heart and seek to understand,

And when we do

Truth will reveal itself

In the embrace

Of our brother and our sister,

No matter what they have done,

where they have been,

what color their skin.

 

And if our brother and sister can be more than they are now

Then, in the embrace,

They will be more,

And if they cannot be more

Then they will be more as they are,

For in the embrace there will be peace,

For you and for me

And a better chance to be all we can be.

 

Will it happen in our land?

 

 

 

 

Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford

9/29/2018

It comes down to this: should a premeditated sexual assault by a 17 year old boy on a 15 year old girl be held against him as he aspires to be a supreme court justice?

Mr Kavanaugh tells us he was first in his class, which should translate into an awareness of the consequences of behavior.

On the other hand we can say, by way of mitigation, that at 17 he was still developing.

But regardless, to plan and carry out such an assault, with the aid of an accomplice, is a criminal act.

Dr Ford has had to live with the consequences of the assault while her attacker went on his merry way.

And yet, never, in all the intervening years, did the man make an effort to reach out to his victim.

Never, did he reach out to apologize to her.

Never, did he write a note to her saying, ‘May you allow me to speak to you, to discuss that incident, for it may help you heal’.

Why didn’t that occur to a man entrusted with deciding the fate of others?

Judge Kavanaugh has had years and years to ponder the matter.

Years and years of knowing that his victim’s suffering would be the price of his crime.

But he did nothing.

He could have chosen to make amends but did not.

I suppose he thought he could be excused, for Dr Ford was just a girl.

What kind of judge does that thinking make?

On Friday, September 28th, in front of the whole nation, he dared carry on, with the support and incitement of the Republican – male – political establishment, as when he spoke of having told his daughter to ‘pray for the woman’, as if Dr Ford were a liar, a deranged woman putting herself on the spot and baring out her personal pain, as part of a scheming ploy by the democrats to block the nomination of such an exemplar of fairness in America.

No. It won’t do.

That the simplicity of Dr Ford’s statements contrasts with the fake emotions of Mr Kavanaugh’s, is unequivocal.

That those choosing to believe the judge expose deep prejudices against women and thus devalue them, is undeniable.

What then?

Is it not the task of real leaders to confront themselves, and publicly acknowledge that they harbor such prejudices and how their holding them taint their judgments?

Should we not expect that of a judge, let alone a candidate for the supreme court of the land?

We didn’t see that on the floor of the Senate this Friday the 28th of September.

Instead, we saw angry denials by Mr Kavanaugh and over the top denunciations in his defense by Senator Graham.

Sadly, odds are that the Republican majority in a male dominated Senate will ignore the evidence and vote to confirm Mr Kavanaugh. But such action will not be forgotten.

American women, in their relentless march for acknowledgment and respect, will not be daunted. They have had to fight for the right to be educated, for the right to vote, the right to equal pay, the right for control of their bodies, and in every instance it has been men opposing them and wishing to suppress them.

But women will not be stopped.

Today they represent a mere 23 % of Senators and 19.3 % in the House of Representatives, but tomorrow will tell another story.

And when power parity is finally achieved, for it will and sooner than we think, women will then make possible the fullness of America’s potential. And our country will be healthier, more open, more thoughtful and more productive.

I cannot wait.

 

 

 

Diversity

9/20/18

Surely a case can be made for restricted immigration, for the careful disbursement of benefits to the newcomer, for gradualism in the acceptance of those who are different. But a strong case can be made also, that the immigrant enriches the host, bringing new grey matter and strong backs to the mix, challenging the host’s perceptions and broadening his views.

From a culinary standpoint alone, would you rather sample from the world’s dishes, or stick to meat and potatoes? Why, even pizza is an import.

It is no accident that America’s leading position in the world coincides with an openness to the foreigner that is unmatched by other nations. And though this sentiment has fluctuated through the years, inclusivity has more than repaid its costs.

That the current occupant of the White House is closed to that truth, does not alter it. The man went into denial for electoral reasons. After all, he has married two immigrants, and I venture that if a Muslim beauty had crossed his path, he might have married her too.