Did “Rogue Killers” Murder Jamal Khashoggi?

Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo may be onto the rogue who will rescue Mohammed bin Salman. The Daily Devil’s Dictionary explains.

We at last appear to be getting somewhere near what Donald Trump likes to call the “bottom of it,” referring to the unfortunate events that may have led to journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s tragic death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Assisted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Saudis are now crafting the story that will purport to describe that bottom in lurid detail. Trump has even offered us a hint that it could involve one or more “rogues,” which is shorthand for saying it wouldn’t implicate kings or princes. Ipso facto, the US will be in a position to resume doing business with them as soon as the well-crafted story is made public.

After speaking to King Salman, the father of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Trump promised not that he would get to the bottom of the story, but that he’s “going to try to get to the bottom of it very soon.”

How hard will he have to “try” to get to rock bottom? That of course depends on the nature of the bottom itself and the view of those who have had a glimpse of it. Trump offered us a hint when he said, “maybe these could have been rogue killers. I mean, who knows?” He’s right, of course. It could also have been a cloud of flying scorpions or an exploding teapot. One never knows what might happen or who might appear out of the blue inside a well-guarded consulate.

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Rogue:

Someone other than the serious, responsible people involved in any nasty story 

Contextual note

We have now learned that Pompeo “thanked the king for his commitment to supporting a thorough, transparent and timely investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance,” according to Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman. Is Pompeo a miracle worker, since before his trip to Riyadh there was only the opacity of categorical denial, but now we are headed toward thorough transparency? What more could one ask from a secretary of state whose prime objective must be to uncover the truth?

Besides uncovering the truth, it would be fair to assume that Pompeo’s mission also consisted of helping the Saudis build, from the bottom up, the story of the rogue killer(s). What other conclusion would it be reasonable to take away from what The Guardian reports: “Mike Pompeo meets King Salman amid reports Riyadh may admit journalist was killed in Istanbul consulate”? They “may” indeed admit it if the new account clears them of accountability.

Historical note

In one of those rare ironies of history, a year ago The Daily Devil’s Dictionary cited a scene from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (II.7) concerning the Roman Triumvir Pompey (Pompeo in Italian). In the article, we mentioned the definition of a well-known tactic in politics called plausible deniability: “[T]he innate human capacity, used consummately by powerful people, to refuse responsibility for whatever they have done or approved, thanks to the existence of subordinates.”

In Shakespeare’s scene, the wily general Menas, loyal to the Triumvir Pompey, suggests to his candidate for emperor that because his “competitors” are all together having a rousing dinner in a boat, he could easily murder them in their drunken stupor, thereby handing Pompey the kind of power over the Roman Empire that MBS currently wields over Saudi Arabia.

Pompeo may have delivered a similar message to MBS, but only after the deed was done. Had the crown prince’s English been good enough to allow him to read Shakespeare’s unique play situated in his region of the world, he would have discovered that some tacit “rules” exist in a rules-based world order that make it possible to get things done without being blamed for it. A modern manager in the position of Pompey and skilled in motivational techniques would have sent Menas to a course in creative thinking, so that, instead of waiting for orders, he should “have done / And not spoke on’t.”

Now there is talk about laying the blame on “a botched rendition,” which translates as an attempt to affirm that the Saudi royals were only interested in kidnapping and torturing, the usual procedure for rendition, but through the fault of some rogue interrogator it turned into murder. How relieved the world will be as soon as the evidence appears that that was “all” they intended.

Saudi Arabia’s blanket denial of the murder of Khashoggi clearly lacked plausibility. So how do you build the plausible version of it? That is what we will be looking forward to in the coming days.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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Author: Peter Isackson