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Saturday, September 30, 2023
Photo from a conference advocating for justice for Jamal Khashoggi.

The Moral High Ground

How Khashoggi’s murder highlights US weakness

On Oct. 2, 2018, journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Istanbul, Turkey. While his wife-to-be waited outside, Khashoggi ventured into the Embassy to obtain certain documents he required to certify his upcoming marriage to her. When behind closed doors, goons set upon him. They drugged him, strangled him from behind and, when they were sure he was dead, dismembered him and then removed pieces of his body from the premises. 

What was the crime this man committed that resulted in such a gory murder? He simply wrote about what he considered unjust in Saudi Arabia, perpetrated by King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

His fiance stood out there for hours before the alert went out and the missing persons case began. The worldwide outcry was deafening, and it was not long before many set their sights on who they saw to be the most likely culprit: Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi government. Before long, those suspicions were confirmed, as the CIA concluded that MBS, as he is commonly referred to, was undoubtedly responsible for the ordering of the hit.

Despite the intelligence community agreeing that MBS was responsible for the brutal murder, the United States took no action to repudiate the slaying of a Washington Post columnist. The U.S. was silent and no meaningful steps were taken to punish Saudi Arabia for believing they had a license to kill in whatever country they wished.

Looking back on it now, however, it is astoundingly clear as to the reason for the silence from America. In the Fall of 2020, investigative journalist Bob Woodward released a new book titled, “Rage” which dove into the true beliefs of Donald Trump behind closed doors. In it, he claims that Donald Trump claimed that he “saved his [MBS] ass” and that he was “able to get Congress to leave him alone.”

When former President of the United States Donald Trump and Congress willingly submit to tyrants who murder journalists for the crime of speaking the truth, how could anyone expect justice to be delivered onto Mohammed bin Salman and his hired thugs?

Though, with the transition of Joe Biden into the presidency, many had hoped he would take a more strict approach when dealing with Saudi Arabia, especially within the recent shadow of this grim murder. So, when multiple intelligence agencies of multiple countries agreed in late February that Mohammed bin Salman definitively ordered the murder, his critics came out in full force demanding the U.S. take action.

In turn, President Biden did essentially nothing. In the face of a stunning human rights violation committed by an alleged ally, Biden mimicked the actions of his predecessor and gave MBS a slap on the wrist. Hoping not to cause further rifts in an already tenuous allyship, Biden decided not to proceed with legitimate punishments for the royal murderers, as he deemed the ensuing diplomatic relations debacle would be less than beneficial.

In the end, this is a deplorable sign from two administrations who are willing to look the other way to human rights violations and brutal slayings. How can our government have any credibility going forward to accuse others of travesties? It was only last week that Chinese representatives, in response to the objection of the Uyghur genocide, responded to U.S. condemnation that “the U.S. government needs to pay attention to its own affairs that its people care about, and solve such issues well, instead of interfering in other people's affairs.”

It is a sad fact that China, as disgusting as it is to say, has a legitimate point in regard to how the U.S. deals with human rights. We have lost our moral high ground in the international arena. While China and their Uyghur camps are certainly as horrific as the Nazi concentration camps or the Soviet Guglag system, they were able to disarm American diplomats with one sentence. 

The United States and its government can no longer stand in front of the world and proclaim that we are consistent in the face of human rights violations. Apparently President Biden will respond to injustice when a partnership with the perpetrators is no longer beneficial, just as Trump had. 

There has to be consistency when dealing with such evident slaughter and humiliation. Jamal Khashoggi was just a writer who was pushing for democracy in the Arab world. He saw and reported on the criminal activities of the Crown Prince, and he was silenced for it. He was living in America for years, under U.S. protection, and the moment he stepped foot outside it, he was assassinated, with the utmost evil intended.

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If President Biden and the U.S. cannot respond to such crimes with the harshest of penalties, how can we, as a nation, continue to view ourselves as the moral superiors to such brutes and not simply accomplices?

Ian-Michael is an Opinion Editor for The Daily Cardinal and is a freshman studying psychology on a Pre-Med Track. Do you feel as though Biden’s actions are indicative of appeasement? Send all comments to

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Ian-Michael Griffin

Ian-Michael Griffin is an Opinion Editor for The Daily Cardinal, and a member of the Editorial Board.


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