For some unfathomable reason, Donald Trump has worked himself into one heavy-duty lather over dictators. Strongmen. Warlords. Kingpins. His love of tyrants is tremendous. It is amazing. It is huge. The man relishes hugging despots. Vladimir Putin. Rodrigo Duterte. Kim Jon Un. Kanye West.
The president backed up his good buddy Mohammed bin Salman, who assured him that Saudi Arabia had nothing to do with Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance from their Istanbul embassy. Not only did the Crown Prince deny any involvement, “it was a forceful denial,” which means it has to be true. How could anybody lie when delivering a forceful denial?
Trump trusted his pal so much he summoned all his public relations skills to offer up the opinion that the columnist might have been slain by “rogue killers.” Yeah. Sure. That’s it. Or maybe he was consumed by spontaneous combustion. Or struck by an asteroid. No, it was the one-armed man. He got stuck in a cave like that Thai soccer team. Flesh eating bacteria? Could have been another 400-pound fat guy on a couch.
We waited breathlessly for the president to rationalize that when it comes to investigative journalists and rogue killers, “you can find good people on both sides.” Surprisingly, he neither tried that or blaming Hillary Clinton.
Turkish officials claim to possess evidence that an autopsy specialist transporting a bone saw was among the 15-member Saudi hit team that dismembered and beheaded Khashoggi during an interrogation. Which you might think would hinder the man’s ability to provide answers to specific queries.
Over a two week period, the Saudis furnished enough explanations to fill the trunk of a limo with room left over for the dismembered parts of many bodies. “We have no idea what happened.” “He left through the rear entrance.” “He’s fine, just sleepy.” “Fell down during an interrogation and couldn’t get up.” “Accidentally died during a fist fight.”
And if that last bit were true, it’s obviously his own damn fault. Only a journalist would get into a fist-fight with 15 guys armed with a bone saw. The man deserved everything he got.
Nobody knows how the Turks are aware of this. They too have spun enough tales to bore Scheherazade. First they floated the story that Khashoggi’s own Apple Watch recorded the deadly rumpus, which confused everyone including Apple CEO Tim Cook. The general impression is that there are more bugs in the Saudi Embassy than in the basement of the Smithsonian’s National History Museum.
The Saudis promised a thorough and transparent investigation, which is like letting Jeffrey Dahmer find out how that head got in his refrigerator. Finally they said the Washington Post columnist was dead but they didn’t mean to kill him. Some rogue killers got into their embassy and were torturing him when something went awry. Not their fault. Just an attempted rendition that screwed the pooch. Could have happened to any murderous regime.
Trump refuses to even consider slapping sanctions on the Saudis because “people are innocent until proven guilty.” This guy sees only what he wants to see, and mostly now he sees hundreds of billions in arm sales. He’s not just myopic, he’s a myopic ostrich, burying his head in the sand. In this case, extremely oil-rich Saudi sand.
Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comic and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin.