Trump, les valeurs américaines et le meurtre de Kashoggi

Trump’s dangerous message to tyrants: Flash money and get away with murder
Fred Ryan from The Washington Post
November 21

Fred Ryan is publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post. He served as assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

Trump’s dangerous message to tyrants: Flash money and get away with murder

A clear and dangerous message has been sent to tyrants around the world: Flash enough money in front of the president of the United States, and you can literally get away with murder.

In a bizarre, inaccurate and rambling statement — one offering a good reminder why Twitter has character limits — President Trump whitewashed the Saudi government’s brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In the process, the president maligned a good and innocent man, tarring Khashoggi as an “enemy of the state” — a label the Saudis themselves have not used publicly — while proclaiming to the world that his relationship with Saudi Arabia’s 33-year-old crown prince was too important to risk over the murder of a journalist. Whatever objections people may have to our turning a blind eye to Khashoggi’s assassination, the president argued, they do not outweigh the (grossly inflated) revenue we can expect from U.S.-Saudi arms deals.

For many at The Post, Khashoggi’s murder is personal. He was a well-respected colleague, and his loss is deeply felt. But we are also mindful of our mission of public service. When officials here in Washington abandon the principles that the people elected them to uphold, it is our duty to call attention to it. For our part, we will continue to do everything possible to expose the truth — asking tough questions and relentlessly chasing down facts to bring crucial evidence to light.

Throughout this crisis, the president has maintained that he’s looking after our “national interests.” But Trump’s response doesn’t advance the United States’ interests — it betrays them. It places the dollar values of commercial deals above the long-cherished American values of respecting liberty and human rights. And it places personal relationships above the United States’ strategic relationships. For more than 60 years, the U.S.-Saudi partnership has been an important one based on trust and respect; Trump has determined that the United States no longer requires honesty and shared values from its global partners.

Security, as Trump noted in his statement, is an important U.S. interest. But we do not make the world safer by setting a double standard for diplomacy under which the United States abandons our values for anyone who offers to buy enough of our weapons.

We do not make the world safer by abandoning our commitment to basic freedoms and human rights. Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has committed atrocities that, if perpetrated by other countries, would draw a strong rebuke from the United States. Its intervention in Yemen has created a humanitarian disaster. Female activists have been imprisoned and brutalized simply for demanding the right to drive. Inconvenient Saudi business leaders were tortured inside a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Lebanon’s prime minister was kidnapped. The crown prince, in the role for barely 17 months, has led a reign of terror and has already established a dark legacy of opposing press freedom.

Failing to demand accountability for these crimes does not make the United States more secure. Stable, peaceful societies, governed by leaders who respect the rights of their people, need journalists who can expose wrongdoing and hold the powerful to account. It is no mere coincidence that many of the worst abusers of press freedom are also some of the world’s most dangerous actors.

The Central Intelligence Agency has thoroughly investigated Khashoggi’s murder and concluded with high confidence that it was directed by the crown prince. If there is reason to ignore the CIA’s findings, the president should immediately make that evidence public.

In the absence of such evidence, and given this failure of leadership from Trump, it now falls to Congress to truly put America first by standing up for America’s sacred values and lasting interests. As we’ve seen from the strong support of both Republicans and Democrats, this is not a partisan or political interest; it is an American interest. Congress should demand more than scapegoating and slaps on the wrist. Instead, it should use its investigative and subpoena powers to press for an independent, thorough inquiry — no matter where it leads. It should use its power of the purse and authority to regulate foreign commerce to impose effective penalties on Khashoggi’s murderers and suspend the sale of U.S.-made weapons to the Saudis.

Presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan — and many before and after — took courageous stands for human rights and press freedom when much more than weapons sales were at risk. Through these acts of presidential leadership, the world has come to know that America’s power is derived from America’s principles.

On Thanksgiving Day, Americans can be grateful that we live under a Constitution that ensures the rule of law rather than the rule of one capricious man, and that it enables one branch of government to correct the failure of another. We are eternally thankful for the brave men and women whose military service has long preserved those rights, and for the courage of first responders who are there to protect us when disasters strike at home.

We can also be thankful that we have a vibrant press, protected by the First Amendment, that relentlessly seeks to hold the powerful to account. We can trust that they will fulfill this mission in the case of Jamal Khashoggi. This pursuit of truth and justice is what an innocent man, brutally slain, deserves — and what America’s real values demand.

Fred Ryan
The Washington Post

No, Trump isn’t putting ‘America first.’ He’s putting himself first.

By Greg Sargent from The Washington Post

President Trump’s extraordinary response to the horrifying murder of Jamal Khashoggi has renewed attention to what is widely described as his “America first” doctrine. But an error of logic has seeped into the coverage of this alleged doctrine and the bearing it has on the Khashoggi killing — and many other matters, as well.

It’s a subtle error, but a serious one.

In the media discussion of Trump’s response to the murder, you often see variations of the claim that Trump has revealed an unpleasant, unstated truth about his worldview — that Trump will put America first even if it requires sanctioning the most reprehensible conduct, or doing things that are necessary even if people find them deeply unsettling.

The lead story on Trump’s response in the New York Times, for instance, describes it as “a stark distillation of the Trump worldview,” which is “heedless of the facts” (correct!), but also “remorselessly transactional” and “determined to put America’s interests first.” A Post piece claims Trump is prioritizing America’s “bottom line.” A CNN analysis notes that “America first” means Trump will look the other way “as long as a foreign power enriches the United States,” adding: “Perhaps Trump should get marks for frankness.”

The suggestion here is that we are now seeing what “America first” really looks like. That is, when Trump says “America first,” he means it.

But this concedes too much. In an inadvertent but pernicious way, it supports Trump’s preferred framing of his presidency. In this case and many others, Trump is not being “frank” about his real priorities, and he is not putting America first. He’s putting his own naked self-interest over what’s good for America, and prioritizing the real-world policy realization of his own prejudices and hatreds over any good-faith, fact-based effort to determine, by any discernible standard, what might actually be in the country’s interests.

Trump’s idea of a ‘dangerous’ world

Trump’s core claim that we must overlook the killing to maintain our current relationship with the Saudis, and that this is good for us, is itself mostly nonsense. As a Post editorial points out, the failure to sanction those responsible for the murder — including the Saudi kingdom, per the conclusion of the CIA — buttresses a world in which “dictators know they can murder their critics and suffer no consequences.”

Trump’s response to this notion is the idea that “the world is a very dangerous place!” and that he will pursue our “national interests” in this dangerous world. But Trump’s statement on the killing relies on falsehoods to depict maintaining our relationship with the Saudis as in our “national interests.” As we’ve noted:

The Saudis did not agree to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States, a number Trump seems to have just made up; they did not order $110 billion in military equipment; and they will not be creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States.

But I’d like to take this further and point out that here Trump is not actually operating from any meaningful conception of what is good for the country. It isn’t just those lies. It’s also Trump’s insistence that we’ll never know whether the crown prince actually ordered the killing, which breaks from the intelligence community’s conclusion, and the subtle slandering of Khashoggi via the floating of the Saudi claim that he was an “enemy of the state.”

I challenge you to read those things as driven by any conception of what’s good for America. They are arguably damaging to the country, since they weaken faith in efforts to determine the truth, and could further distress Americans who are deeply upset by the murder. But what’s undoubtedly true is that they can only be about making Trump’s current stance politically easier for himself.

The bigger idea at stake here in Trump’s response is the notion that our commitment to international standards of human rights are to be jettisoned when they get in the way of our “interests.” It’s true that the United States has a long history of turning a blind eye to Saudi human rights abuses. But this does not preclude responding to this particular atrocity, and merely claiming Trump is revealing “the truth” about our previous realpolitik does not justify the current absence of any response.

More to the point, Trump is not merely acquiescing to this unfortunate “truth.” He’s actively weakening our commitment to human (and civil) rights on many other fronts as well, both at home and abroad.

The idea that adherence to international standards on human rights — but also international commitments other matters, such as reducing climate change and taking in asylum seekers and refugees — is a zero-sum negative for America is of course supposed to be foundational to Trump’s worldview. But the administration has never actually defended this proposition on any of these fronts in a fact-based manner.

Lies, lies and more lies

This is most glaringly true on asylum seekers and refugees. Limiting their entry is also foundational to “America first” Trumpism. But Trump has not merely tried to reduce asylum seeking; he has justified this with all manner of lies about the supposed threat it poses to us. Trump has not just slashed refugee levels to historic lows and employed bureaucratic chicanery to reduce those levels further. His administration deep-sixed internal data showing them to be a net economic positive.

The point here, again, is that Trump is placing his prejudices — his determination to implement a white nationalist agenda — over any good-faith effort to determine what the actual impact of this agenda will be on the country. On the migrants, the self-interest runs even deeper than this. The lies about the “caravan” were all about keeping the House in GOP hands — he even used the military as a prop in this exercise — to prevent Democrats from taking the House and subjecting him to accountability.

Other aspects of Trump’s white nationalism underscore the point. Trump’s “many sides” comment after Charlottesville, which emboldened white nationalists rather than calming racial tensions; his pardoning of racist Joe Arpaio; his attacks on African American athletes — Trump reportedly believed these things would help him politically, never mind that they stoked civil conflict that harmed the country. Over and over, Trump’s prejudice and naked self-interest trump (as it were) any conception of the national interest.

Need more? The New York Times reports that Trump privately wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey. There is no possible way this is based on any conception of the national good, unless Trump is totally delusional, which would itself mean there’s no such operative conception here. Everyone knows Trump appointed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general not because of his qualifications, but for the sole purpose of protecting him from the special counsel.

There is no big and unpleasant truth at the core of Trump’s vision of what’s good for the country. That vision is largely a void filled with unchecked self interest, both disguised and sustained by lies.

Greg Sargent 
from The Washington Post

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