Pompeo vs. the Post: The Politics of Jamal Khashoggi

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Attiah is nary disinterested essayist. She was Khashoggi’s editor astatine the Post as good arsenic his friend, and since his decease has been blistering successful her criticisms of nan Saudi autocrat known arsenic MBS — arsenic good arsenic of group person to location who underemphasize nan execution erstwhile reasoning astir really Washington should woody pinch Riyadh.

You wouldn’t cognize astir nan move against Khashoggi from a glimpse astatine Attiah’s journalistic location connected nan Post’s sentiment team. The statement has loudly celebrated Khashoggi’s bequest and nan righteousness of speaking truth to power, an effort that has included everything from accepted editorials to full-page location ads — which grant nan precocious columnist but besides service arsenic a advertisement for nan sanctity of a awesome newspaper’s mission. (Post spokeswoman Shani George says nan ads are crafted by a abstracted squad and should beryllium seen arsenic representing nan patient and nan organization.)

That nationalist veneration occasionally draws oculus rolls from chap journalists who deliberation there’s thing a spot disconnected astir a news statement truthful energetically embracing nan domiciled of bereaved family personnel successful what remains an ongoing communicative whose tentacles touch everything from nan Saudi-Qatar rivalry to past fall’s Saudi-led effort to hike lipid prices.

But if nan clasp prompts occasional purist tut-tutting among media insiders, it triggers downright disfigured displays connected nan portion of folks whose governmental identities are wrapped up successful antagonizing nan media.

Hence nan hook for Attiah’s assertion: Khashoggi is backmost successful nan news acknowledgment to a caller memoir by erstwhile Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In nan book, which devotes a batch much ink to flaying American journalists than to criticizing nan Saudi monarchy, Pompeo says that overwrought reporters falsely described Khashoggi arsenic a “Saudi Arabian Bob Woodward,” erstwhile successful truth he was a governmental activistic who occasionally penned op-eds, a class that includes everyone from Karl Marx to Alexander Hamilton to Mike Pompeo himself.

Though Pompeo describes nan sidesplitting arsenic “an unacceptable and horrible crime,” he goes connected to opportunity that it was fundamentally par for nan people successful a vicinity wherever authorities is simply a convulsive business, and wherever Khashoggi had his ain unsavory allies. Praising nan crown prince arsenic a reformer, Pompeo writes that nan media’s one-of-us clasp of Khashoggi blew nan crime retired of proportionality successful nan sanction of tanking nan U.S. narration pinch Saudi Arabia.

Pompeo besides brags that President Donald Trump was suspicious that “I was nan 1 who gave nan mediate digit to nan Washington Post, the New York Times, and different bed-wetters who didn’t person a grip connected reality” erstwhile he made his first post-murder sojourn to MBS. It’s each successful keeping pinch nan chest-thumping, invective-spewing reside of Never Give an Inch, which is very overmuch a run book by a imaginable statesmanlike campaigner — and not astatine each for illustration a measured, for-the-historians memoir by a erstwhile statesman.

It would person been easy capable to disregard nan book arsenic such. Instead, successful a move of events that must person pleased Pompeo’s publisher, nan transition prompted a speedy and very nationalist backlash, driven mostly by nan Post. An editorial denounced nan erstwhile secretary arsenic “revolting.” Publisher Fred Ryan released a statement saying that “it is shameful that Pompeo would dispersed vile falsehoods to dishonor a courageous man’s life and service” arsenic portion of what he called “a ploy to waste books.”

In nan end, Pompeo’s Never Give an Inch sold a coagulated 34,630 units complete nan people of nan week, according to information from Bookscan. If you’re a imaginable Republican statesmanlike campaigner trying to waste books to a blimpish audience, there’s thing that moves merchandise rather for illustration a tussle pinch a mainstream news organization.

But successful Attiah’s much provocative telling, Pompeo was little a rebel against legacy-media shibboleths than an emblem of thing wide and sordid successful nan capital’s powerfulness corridors, a pseudo-sophisticated stance that dismisses Middle Eastern execution arsenic inevitable and suggests Khashoggi had it coming. “Why does location now look to beryllium a backlash against Jamal successful Washington’s elite circles?” she asked successful her newsletter past week. (The portion had plentifulness of disapproval of Pompeo, but I fishy thing will wounded his feelings much than being formed arsenic a tribune of nan Washington elite.)

Can it beryllium true? When we said this week, nan only different illustration of alleged Beltway-insider anti-Khashoggi sentiment she cited was a 2022 Atlantic screen communicative connected MBS that Attiah had lambasted for what she saw arsenic its scant attraction to nan execution and insufficient pushback against nan crown prince’s lame denials. At nan time, nan story’s author, Graeme Wood, changeable backmost that his portion was plentifulness damning, and said complaints that he’d fixed MBS a “platform” ran antagonistic to nan values of journalism, which by meaning involves quoting problematic group saying problematic things.

One different spot that has produced immoderate unflattering reporting: The news pages of nan Post, which reported that an executive astatine nan Qatar Foundation had shaped immoderate of nan columns Khashoggi filed to nan paper. But that study was 4 years ago, soon aft nan murder.

In fact, while nan far-right media is afloat of vitriol astir him, there’s not a batch of straight-up anti-Khashoggi sentiment successful “elite” outlets. In my experience, that’s besides existent of nan chatter among nan sorts of group who publication those outlets aliases constitute for them.

That’s not for deficiency of effort by immoderate of his foes: I, and a number of different Washington reporters, person complete nan years gotten off-the-record pitches from publicity operatives urging america to look into really Khashoggi was nary angel. The astir evident information for this is trying to launder a Saudi estimation that was rightly sullied by an appalling crime. But it’s besides a reminder that, arsenic an advocator for populist successful nan Arab world during his life — and arsenic personification treated arsenic a martyr for that origin coming — Khashoggi leaves down a bequest that a batch of folks person a existent liking successful either muddying aliases elevating each these years later.

Which is why nan Pompeo-Khashoggi flap, though it astir apt didn’t alteration a batch of minds connected nan mobility of whether Khashoggi was a freethinking truth-teller aliases (as Pompeo repeats successful nan book) a sneaky Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer, is worthy paying attraction to. Four years aft nan execution successful Istanbul, nan ongoing authorities of Khashoggi’s representation do opportunity thing absorbing astir Washington.

Start pinch Pompeo. Playing to nan far-right superior electorate, nan erstwhile caput engages successful nan benignant of too-clever-by-half logic that plays amended connected cablegram TV than successful nan pages of a book.

On nan 1 hand, overmuch of what he writes is patently true: Khashoggi had beardown opinions; he founded an defense group pushing for populist successful nan Middle East. Notwithstanding nan Post’s clasp of him arsenic a colleague, he wasn’t a profession Postie who reached nan sentiment page aft moving his measurement up from being a cub newsman covering nan Fairfax County Police Department. He was 1 of scores of group whose penning shows up successful apical U.S. media outlets by virtue, 1 measurement aliases another, of already being a player.

On nan different hand, Pompeo ne'er engages pinch nan astir evident consequence to this information: So what? Should media revulsion astatine nan execution and mutilation of a professional beryllium constricted to cases wherever nan professional had a lengthy journalistic pedigree? Or to cases wherever nan professional is simply a devotee of Edmund Burke, whose friends see only admirers of nan United States? By that logic, we should ne'er person columns by anyone nan slightest spot analyzable — aliases by personification capable to germinate arsenic a person. Let’s accept, for a minute, Pompeo’s dubious implicit statement that nan sidesplitting of Khashoggi was a lawsuit of brutality against governmental guidance alternatively than brutality against journalistic inquiry. Who cares? It’s a favoritism without a difference.

To usage a gruesome hypothetical: What if a overseas authorities tried to do unit to Mike Pompeo? Would it beryllium immoderate much horrible if nan unit were strictly successful consequence to his book, aliases really successful consequence to his “activism” connected nan world stage? Of people it wouldn’t.

Every management successful nan history of nan United States has dealt pinch unsavory overseas governments and grappled pinch wherever to tie nan line. There’s thing inherently disqualifying astir Pompeo saying that a grisly execution is not a capable logic to dainty personification for illustration a pariah fixed nan various things we request from his country. But immoderate your views connected engaging pinch nan existent Saudi leadership, there’s thing awfully gross — and each excessively modern — astir a erstwhile caput of authorities exulting successful really thing that’s intelligibly a usurpation of American values has enraged a home constituency he dislikes.

But nan guidance of Khashoggi’s admirers is besides telling.

At DAWN, nan nonprofit Khashoggi founded to push for populist successful nan Arab world, activity quickly denounced Pompeo for justifying a execution because Khashoggi “did different things” beyond journalism. “I deliberation he was signaling to Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman more, aliases arsenic overmuch as, he was signaling to nan correct wing,” Sarah Leah Whitson, nan organization’s executive director, told me. “It’s for illustration he’s saying, hey, retrieve me? I was nan 1 who came to spot you successful Riyadh, aft you killed Jamal. I was nan first 1 there, you know, and we covered your ass.”

Yet nan organization’s deployment of Khashoggi’s image besides invites critics to return swipes astatine those different things Khashoggi did. The organization’s database of problematic regimes includes Saudi Arabia and nan United Arab Emirates, but not Qatar, which is besides a non-democracy. Even if nan roster is shaped by fund limitations aliases by sound calculations astir which authorities astir deserves scrutiny, that’s a prime that puts them connected 1 broadside of a location rivalry. Which, successful turn, will punctual nan different broadside to tear down nan organization’s icon — a information that whitethorn beryllium untoward and unkind, but remains different from excusing a murder.

And arsenic for Khashoggi’s journalistic location successful Washington, I was struck by nan measurement Attiah recoiled astatine Pompeo’s usage of nan connection “activist,” arsenic if accepting that explanation someway lessened nan veracity, independency aliases bravery of Khashoggi’s criticisms of nan Saudi regime.

“To explanation personification for illustration that intends there’s a somewhat subtle justification for their elimination,” she told me. “Whether it’s from a nationalist sphere, a discourse, arsenic if to say, ‘We shouldn’t perceive to them,’ aliases whether it’s to virtually physically assassinate them.” She said she’s been called an activist, too, for her disapproval of nan Saudi regime, a explanation that’s deployed successful an effort to unopen personification up.

When it comes to Khashoggi, I’m not judge I bargain nan thought that nan word is accusation — and I fishy astir ethicists wouldn’t spot a quality betwixt assassinating a journalist and assassinating an activistic (or assassinating personification who does a spot of both). I besides can’t really deliberation of a amended word for personification who virtually started a nonprofit called Democracy for nan Arab World Now. It seems nan world of journalism, too, is possibly unwittingly invested successful nan thought that to move retired of nan realm of axenic words is to someway merit threat successful a measurement that full-time journalists don’t.

It’s quality nature, not to mention bully organization leadership, to clap backmost astatine personification who criticizes a murdered workfellow and friend. Especially personification who does truthful successful Pompeo’s vulgar way. But for amended aliases worse Khashoggi’s bequest is going to stay a facet successful nan region, which intends nan authorities of his representation will beryllium a perpetually tricky point — and nan Washington accepted contented astir whether he was a leader aliases a villain aliases a taxable of media preening aliases a unfortunate of far-right smearing is going to stay relevant.

One personification who will proceed to beryllium a subordinate successful shaping that wisdom: Attiah, who has a book connected her precocious friend expected adjacent year. She said she’s talked to Khashoggi’s admirers arsenic good arsenic detractors. But don’t expect dispassion.

“I deliberation there’s ever an constituent of emotion, whether it’s anger, grief, sadness,” she says. “I don’t spot those things arsenic abstracted from our work. I don’t person nan luxury, honestly, of seeing that arsenic abstracted from nan activity that we do.”

Source politico.com