Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Khashoggi case: Erdogan implies possible resolution

President Erdogan delivered a much trailed speech today to the Turkish parliament. He provided a detailed timeline of the events that led up to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The president alluded to the much leaked evidence that the Turkish authorities claim to have, but did not explicitly refer to the alleged recording. His remarks were particularly interesting in respect to King Salman.

According to Erdogan, the Turkish authorities were allowed access to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul only as a result of a conversation between himself and the king. Erdogan also stressed that he was convinced that the king was sincere and wanted a thorough and complete investigation of the crime and all those responsible, no matter how high, to be held to account. Erdogan went on the say that the trial should be held in Istanbul.

Reading between the lines, Erdogan appeared to be offering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a possible resolution to the crisis. The president was implying that eighteen people the Saudis have already identified as suspects should be put on trial for the murder of Khashoggi. Erdogan did not mention Mohammed bin Salman by name, but the implication was clear that Mohammed bin Salman should (in some way) be held responsible. The vagueness here was doubtless deliberate. He was probably suggesting that the Crown Prince by seen as incompetent, rather than as having actively ordered the killing.

Erdogan obviously left unstated the possible publication of the alleged recording of the crime. This possibility is what has driven the Saudis to change their story; it is what forced the Saudis to allow the Turkish authorities access to the consulate; it is what forced the Saudis to agree to cooperate with the Turkish investigation; it is what forced the Saudis to name the eighteen suspects. Erdogan clearly thinks he can use the same possibility to force King Salman to remove Mohammed bin Salman from the position of Crown Prince, and de facto leader, and replace him with someone else; someone who would pursue policies favourable to Turkey (and doubtless Qatar).

In the world of international relations, it is clear that blackmail can be carried on in plain sight.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

The Saudi story changes

Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the second of October. He has not been seen since. Initially, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stated that Mr Khashoggi had left the consulate after an hour or so. However, whilst there was closed circuit television evidence of his entry, there was none of his exit. For eighteen days, the Saudi authorities stuck to their claim, in the face of constant leaks from the Turkish authorities claiming that Khashoggi had been tortured and murdered. Then the Saudi authorities issued a new story. They claimed that Mr Khashoggi had died in the consulate during a fight. The new story did not explain why Mr Kahashoggi had decided to engage in a fist fight with a number of younger and fitter men. It did not explain why the Saudis had not informed the Turkish authorities of the death at the time. It did not explain, why they had falsely insisted for eighteen days that Khashoggi had left the consulate, alive and well. Nor, did it explain what had happened to Mr Khashoggi's body. The Saudi story is nothing but an obvious fiction. Yet President Trump asserts that he finds it credible.

The case of Jamal Khashoggi can be reasonably compared with that of Sergei Skripal. The two cases involve allegations of state agents killing or attempting to kill persons on foreign soil. In the case of Khashoggi there is clear and overwhelming evidence of the involvement of the Saudi state. In the case of Skripal there is no evidence of the involvement of Russian state. A disinterested and impartial observer would find the allegation against Russia to be unsupported. The same observer would, however, find that senior Saudi state officials had, at least, killed Khashoggi and that this was almost certainly premeditated and planned in detail. Given the differences between the two cases, one would expect reasonable people to respond very differently. And the responses have been very different. Yet the responses of western governments have been precisely the opposite of what a reasonable person would have expected.

In the unproven case of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, western governments have pronounced Russia guilty and imposed punishments, including the expulsion of a record number of Russian diplomats and the imposition of sanctions. Whereas in the proven case of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, western governments have repeatedly stated that there needs to be a thorough and complete investigation to establish all the facts. They, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, have stressed the importance of their relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This relationship has been emphasised for its substantial economic ties, and a role that Saudi Arabia plays in combatting jihadi terrorism, which is not only completely bogus, but is the exact opposite of the truth.

A dispassionate comparison of the responses of western governments to the two cases clearly reveals the complete hypocrisy of the ruling elites in the western liberal democracies. The application of double standards could not be more blatant. The much vaunted values of the liberal democracies are shown to be nothing but mere propaganda. The Russian Federation, in comparison to the barbarous Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a model of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has none of these. It routinely kills people for non-crimes, such as the expression of opinions. It has no democratic institutions and it is ruled by an absolute monarch, a dictatorial tyrant. Its pretence to a rule of law is just that: a complete fiction. Yet, the governments of the western liberal democracies ignore the systemic human rights violations, the war crimes and crimes against humanity of the Saudi regime; whilst condemning and punishing Russia on the basis of nothing more than unsupported allegations and false facts.

As can be seen from a comparison of the two cases, the elites of the west are sociopaths, for whom words such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law are nothing more than rhetorical tools to be exploited as propaganda.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Khashoggi and media disinformation

Two weeks ago Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey. He has not been seen since. The Turkish authorities claimed they had proof that he had been tortured, murdered and dismembered by the Saudi regime. The western corporate media, led by the Washington Post, a newspaper for which Khashoggi worked, made a scandal out of the disappearance and possible murder.

The Washington Post represented Mr Khashoggi as a journalist, who was a critic of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They represented him as being an advocate of human rights and democracy. They suggested that the regime had sought to silence his dissent. Everything about this representation was completely false.

Mr Khashoggi was not a journalist. There is no journalism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He was a propagandist. He was not a critic of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, he was a well connected member of the Saudi establishment. His so called journalism consisted solely of the promotion of Saudi propaganda and, as an editor, the censorship of opinions and facts that did not suit the interests of the regime. This propaganda promoted both the absolute rule of the monarchy and its Wahabist version of Islam, neither of which recognise human rights nor democracy. Indeed, Khashoggi had helped to support Osma bin Laden. He did this right up until there was a parting of the ways between bin Laden and the House of Saud, as would be expected from a state propagandist.

About a year ago, Mr Khashoggi went to America, an act of self imposed exile. This was not because of some mythical conversion to the values of human rights and democracy. It was because the princes he had aligned himself with had fallen out of favour with the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The rift between Khashoggi and the Saudi regime was not a conflict between a freedom loving dissident and an autocratic regime, but an internal power conflict within the ruling elite of Saudi Arabia. Mr Khashoggi had picked the wrong princes.

However, the simple facts of the case do not suit the Washington Post. Hence the fairy tale about him being a critic of the regime. Mr Khashoggi was not a critic of the regime any more than the Washington Post was a critic of the regime. He, just like the Washington Post and the rest of the US elite, was a supporter of the barbarous regime in Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the Washington Post narrative, which has been amplified by the rest of the corporate media, is to hide the inconvenient fact that the US elite fully supports the murderous regime in Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, it should be obvious to all that the expressed outrage is completely confected, given the fact that the regime routinely and systematically violates human rights; that it tortures and kills people for non-crimes, such as the expression of opinion; that it is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in its war on Yemen, a war the US and its allies fully support; that it promotes jihad and terrorism across the globe. None of this is news. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always been a barbarous state. Yet, the Washington Post has not seen fit to demand action be taken when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has persecuted genuine critics of the regime. On the contrary, it has acted as a PR arm of the regime.

The case of the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi is a textbook illustration of the propaganda role of the corporate media. A few actual facts, embedded in a mendacious narrative that inverts reality and turns the world upside down, claiming black is white, tyranny is freedom, and sociopathy is altruism. If this sounds like Orwell's 1984, it is simply because ever since the common people gained the right to vote, the ruling elites have felt compelled to lie in public.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Jeff Bezos: richest man in the world

Jeff Bezos is reportedly worth one hundred and fifty billion dollars. The figure is staggering.

Mr Bezos has come under some criticism of late. This has focused on his ruthless, exploitative approach to his workers, many of whom are paid minimum wages and forced to endure bullying management. So, Mr Bezos listened to his critics and decided to announce that he intends to raise the wages of his lowest paid workers to fifteen dollars an hour. He didn't say anything about the bullying management practices, which Amazon have always defended.

Prior to announcing his decision, Mr Bezos had asked the world what they thought he should do to improve things. Pay your workers decent wages proved to be a popular response. So I guess he was listening, sort of.

However, given his obscene wealth, there are a number of other things Mr Bezos might consider. For example, according to the United Nations, it would cost a mere ten billion dollars to ensure everyone has access to clean water. When you have a hundred and fifty billion, surely ten is not too much to save millions of lives. However, I am not expecting Mr Bezos to turn up at the UN and hand over ten billion any time soon.

You see, when you look at Mr Bezos' promise of increased wages, it turns out to be far less generous and enlightened and altruistic than it looks at first sight. For what Mr Bezos giveth with one hand, he taketh away with the other. All those workers expecting pay rises, will also find that their rights to other benefits have been stripped away. Moreover, Mr Bezos is facing a job market that is tilting in the interests of employees and other employers have already been forced by these changes in the labour market to increase the wages they pay. And Mr Bezos has to compete with those employers.

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise. No one gets to be a billionaire by being kind and compassionate, by being just and fair. They get to be billionaires by being sociopathic, self-interested, exploitative monsters. That's how capitalism works: the rich use their economic (and political) power to steal (legally, for the most part) from everyone else, especially the poor.