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Republicans' Saudi Arabia Derangement

It's a good demonstration of how deep the moral corruption has gone in the GOP under Trump, and the extent to which their foreign policy "thinking" is dictated by foreign lobbying

While practically every Democrat bigwig has at least expressed concern about the Khashoggi story, many Republicans have actually doubled down on their support.(Photo: Illustrated | abadonian/iStock, Wikimedia Commons)

While practically every Democrat bigwig has at least expressed concern about the Khashoggi story, many Republicans have actually doubled down on their support.(Photo: Illustrated | abadonian/iStock, Wikimedia Commons)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman may have miscalculated when it came to the missing (and presumed butchered) Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. New details keep coming out, most recently an alleged recording of Khashoggi being beaten, tortured, and beheaded. Many former regime apologists have turned on bin Salman, who's looking more and more guilty of ordering the apparent assassination by the day.

Elites from both parties have long had close ties to the Saudi regime, going back decades. But while practically every Democrat bigwig has at least expressed concern about the Khashoggi story, many Republicans have actually doubled down on their support. It's a good demonstration of how deep the moral corruption has gone in the GOP under Trump, and the extent to which their foreign policy "thinking" is dictated by foreign lobbying.

One way Republicans have argued Saudi Arabia's case has been to just give in completely to seething cultural grievance and make excuses for Khashoggi being slaughtered. The Federalist, which has become the prime source for fire-eating anti-anti-Trump coverage, suggests the entire thing might be a Turkish operation. Meanwhile, the website's co-founder Sean Davis discovered that Khashoggi reported on the Arab fighters who joined the Afghan mujahedeen fighting the Soviets back in the 1980s, some of whom went on to found al Qaeda. He's quite obviously suggesting (helped along by Donald Trump, Jr.) that Khashoggi was a terrorist sympathizer who got what was coming to him.

There are a number of ironies here. First is that the mujahedeen war effort was heavily subsidized by the United States (both the CIA and bin Laden denied receiving any of the money directly, though other journalists have reported otherwise). Back in those days, before al Qaeda became a globally notorious terrorist group, numerous Western journalists gave bin Laden relatively generous coverage — like Robert Fisk of The Independent back in 1993. Khashoggi's reporting was perhaps a bit credulous, but it was not at all out of the ordinary for the time.

More obviously, it is Saudi Arabia who is today directly arming and funding al Qaeda, as part of their genocidal war in Yemen. One would think that would cast some doubt on the regime's excuses for Khashoggi's disappearance, but apparently not. I guess many conservatives just can't be bothered to keep their smear campaigns internally consistent these days.

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at TheWeek.com. His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.

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