We know Donald Trump and John Bolton both refused to listen to the audio evidence of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Kashoggi’s murder at the hands of a hit team dispatched to intercept him at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he’d gone to get papers to legalize his planned marriage.
“I don’t want to hear the tape, no reason for me to hear the tape,” the President told Chris Wallace of Fox News. Why not? Well, America’s leader all but admitted it was because he was squeamish about hearing that bone saw go to work dismembering the just-murdered contributor to the Washington Post. It was, he said, “very violent, very vicious and terrible.”
As for Blowtush Bolton, who is never squeamish about tearing up treaties or promulgating war, his excuse for shunning the horrific recording was sublime: “I don’t speak Arabic,” he said, as if bloody murder was some kind of mysterious dialect.
I wonder if this pair of professed sports fans will want to watch the Italian soccer Super Cup match between national champion Juventus and Serie A runner-up Milano A. C..
It’s being staged in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, just a couple of months after the Kashoggi murder, which the CIA has said it is highly confident was commissioned by the Saudi leader and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
This sequencing has been denounced as morally unacceptable by human rights groups, various sports commentators and the journalists’ union at Italian state broadcaster RAI: no soccer spectacles rewarding murderers.
Of course, murder most foul cannot be expected to move Trump or Bolton. So, what about something they both profess to care about, especially when beating up on China, protection of intellectual property.
Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia is not only home base for his private execution squad, it is the welcoming home of the biggest intellectual property theft in sports TV history; the pirating of programming paid for by the Qatar-based satellite network BeIn Sports. As part of his campaign against Qatar, MbS, as he is known, has protected the cutely-named BeOutQ network which re-distributes in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere events pirated from BeIn Sports.
Among the highest-priced jewels stolen by BeOut from BeIn is, Serie A, major league Italian soccer. The Qataris paid the Italians $500 million for the rights. The Saudis, of course, paid the Qataris nothing for stealing their programs. Which, the Serie A people seem to think is BeIn Sports’ hard cheese, the same way Trump thinks Kashoggi’s death was “too bad,” but not bad enough to boot the Saudis or their impetuous young Prince of Killers.
The reason is the same: At the Italian Serie A headquarters or at the Trump Organization, money talks and morality walks. Stop American support for MbS’s horrifying war on Yemen if you must, the president has told Congress, but don’t get in the way of American arms sales to Yemen’s murderers. Hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake. Trump lies again, adding a zero to a real, if insufficient consideration – tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to the Saudis that might well go to Russia or China.
Blood money, Trump argues, is real money and you can always refuse to see the blood.
Emile Nakhleh is the Director of the Global and National Security Institute at the University of New Mexico. He was for more than a decade a Senior Intelligence Service officer and Director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program at the Central Intelligence Agency. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World and Bahrain: Political Development in a Modernizing State. He has written extensively on Middle East politics, political Islam, radical Sunni ideologies, and terrorism.