How do you recalibrate with a murderer?

By | February 26, 2021

Graeme Wood writes:

Today the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its report on the murder of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. If the report were the denouement of a dinner-theater murder mystery, most of the audience would be so confident of the conclusion that they would already be walking out to the parking lot. The crown prince ordered it. In the consulate. With the bone saw. Even the Saudi government admits most of these details—with the exception of the claim that the order to kill came from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 35-year-old de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

The public version of the report is barely longer than a page and contains no real secrets. It answers none of the outstanding questions about Khashoggi’s assassination: Why did the Saudis kill Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate—the one building in Istanbul where no one could doubt that the perpetrators were Saudis? Why didn’t they send a lone, untraceable gunman to shoot him dead in the street? Instead, they sent a kill squad approximately the size of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The assassins flew on chartered aircraft, together, back to Riyadh. In identifying Bin Salman as the figure responsible, the report hedges slightly, confirming only what we already knew: that bin Salman ran a tight operation, and those who killed Khashoggi were loyal to him. It is therefore “highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization.”

The most important questions unanswered by the report are moral and political. How many dead dissidents is too many? Khashoggi wrote columns for The Washington Post (or he at least signed them; the Post has reported that staff at an organization funded by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Qatar proposed and even drafted some columns), and as a fellow writer, I put a hard limit on murdered journalists at zero. [Continue reading…]

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