By now you’ve seen the headlines: An American resident, a Saudi Arabian journalist who wrote for The Washington Post, has gone missing abroad and is presumed dead. Jamal Khashoggi was last seen walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkish security officials believe he was killed “on the orders of the Saudi royal court,” according to The New York Times. He was a vocal critic of the lack of free speech in Saudi Arabia, which makes his sudden disappearance all the more suspicious given the Saudis’ aversion to public dissent.
These are the types of headlines that make my blood boil—because an American is missing and likely dead at the hands of Saudi Arabia, and everyone is feigning shock and bewilderment, as if we’ve never before had cause to doubt that the Saudis share America’s values.
For years, I have decried our country’s involvement in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are a state sponsor of radical Islam, and their war on Yemen, a poor Arab country, has led to many thousands of civilian deaths.
The Saudis have provided at least 2,500 fighters to the Islamic State in Syria, making them the second-largest source of foreign fighters for the group on a per capita basis, after Tunisia.
News reports from 2013 stated that the Saudis offered more than 1,200 death-row inmates a pardon and a monthly stipend for their families to go fight the Syrian government.
In 2009, U.S. officials said Saudi Arabia was the “most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” And in 2014, those same officials wrote that Qatar and Saudi Arabia were “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to [the Islamic State] and other radical Sunni groups.”
So why is America selling arms to a country that has supported terror, has a poor human-rights record, and has waged a reckless war in Yemen?
As they say, follow the money. But no amount of oil business or arms deals justifies our collusion with a regime that sponsors jihadism around the world.
Furthermore, if America is not at war with Yemen—which, technically, we are not—why are we enabling Saudi Arabia to prosecute a war that has killed tens of thousands and left 8 million more “on the brink of famine,” according to The Washington Post? I’m not just talking about bombs being dropped on innocent civilians that bear the words “Made in the U.S.A.” Without American intelligence, logistics, training, and equipment, the Saudi war effort would have fallen apart long ago.
I have spoken out loudly on this for some time, and I’ve also introduced legislation to halt U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia. I have been deeply disappointed with those of my colleagues in Congress who don’t seem to care that Yemenis are being massacred by U.S.-backed-and-armed Saudis.
But I’m giving them another chance. A chance to stand up to Saudi Arabia and say, “America will not tolerate these heinous acts.”
This week, I intend to introduce another measure to cut all funding, training, advising, and any other coordination to and with the military of Saudi Arabia until the journalist Jamal Khashoggi is returned alive.
This oppressive regime must be held accountable for its actions. The United States has no business supporting it, either directly or indirectly.