Shiam Kannan | United States
The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is only one more entry in a long list of human rights abuses by the Saudi Arabian Government, which also includes their suppression of religious freedom, sponsorship of terrorism, and complicity in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen. However, Khashoggi’s murder is significant because it has brought mass attention to Saudi Arabia’s actions, and has given the United States a window through which to exit its relationship with them. Now is the time to utilize this window and end our partnership with the Saudis. Due to the Saudi Government’s involvement in some of the most abhorrent human rights violations present in the modern era, it is imperative that the United States terminate its friendship with Saudi Arabia if it wants to remain a nation looked up to by the rest of the free world.
Unfortunately, President Trump has refused to censure the Saudi government for its actions and has seemingly taken it for its word that the Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, had nothing to do with the assassination, despite the fact that the CIA has concluded that Salman had indeed ordered the killing. Essentially, Trump’s utilitarian view on foreign affairs has led to his favoring a foreign regime over our own intelligence agencies. President Trump’s cozying up to Saudi Royalty merely punctuates his view of foreign relations as business deals, rather than interactions with moral implications.
However, regardless of the Khashoggi assassination, there are many, many, other reasons why America ought to terminate its alliance with the Saudis, not least of which is the Yemeni Civil War. Over half of all the civilian deaths in Yemen have been due to Saudi airstrikes, and a recent UN report has concluded that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has been responsible for recruiting child soldiers, some as young as 8 years old, and even raping civilians. Saudi Arabia indiscriminately conducts bombings throughout Yemen, which have hit targets such as hospitals, funerals, and even refugee camps. And worst of all, Yemen is on its way to experiencing the “world’s worst famine in 100 years” if the Civil War continues. Saudi Arabia, in coordination with the US, is engaging in a blockade of food and supplies to Yemeni civilians. Approximately 12 to 13 million people are at risk of famine in Yemen right now, which could begin as soon as 2 to 3 months from now if the war does not end.
The airstrikes in Yemen are, for the most part, conducted using weapons purchased from the United States. Indeed, Saudi Arabia is America’s number one arms customer, as they give the US billions of dollars in exchange for laser-guided missiles and other destructive technologies. American-made bombs utilized by the Saudis have led to the deaths of many innocent people in Yemen, such as the 40 students on a school bus in Yemen which was bombed by the Saudis earlier this year. Essentially, this means that by selling the Saudis the weapons they want, which they subsequently use to murder Yemeni civilians, the US is just as complicit in their slaughter as the Saudi pilots dropping the armaments. The blood is not merely on Mohammed Bin Salman’s hands, but America’s as well unless it stops providing the Saudi Government with the tools they seek to massacre civilians in Yemen.
Despite all this, then, why is Trump so ardently supportive of the Saudis? One claim he frequently makes is that arms sales to Saudi Arabia boost American jobs in the defense industry. However the American private defense industry, which only accounts for 0.5% of the American labor force, does not rely on Saudi money; rather, its main client is the American military. Only approximately 8,000 workers in the United States make bombs, including the ones sold to Saudi Arabia, and it does not seem like their jobs are dependent on Saudi sales. Nonetheless, even if arms sales to Saudi Arabia are economically beneficial, the benefits are not worth the lives of innocent women and children on America’s conscience.
Another explanation for Trump’s warm relationship with Mohammed Bin Salman is merely the reason why America has been a Saudi ally for over 80 years: oil. Saudi Arabia has a great influence on global oil prices and thus is of great significance to American foreign policy and the US economy. But our addiction to foreign oil has clouded our moral judgment. Khashoggi’s murder should spark a moment of self-reflection at the very least: we should ask ourselves if cheaper gasoline is truly worth the betrayal of every single one of the values we seemingly espouse. We should ask ourselves if cheaper gasoline is worth the assassination of a journalist for exercising his right to a free press. We should ask ourselves if cheaper gasoline is worth the 7,000 civilians killed in Yemen since 2015. And if we reflect deeply enough, we should all be able to realize that the answer is “no.”
America has been regarded as the leader of the free world for the last century for only one reason: our values of liberty, equality, and democracy make us uniquely morally qualified to lead. We cannot maintain this moral authority so long as we remain allies with a government which openly and brazenly shows contempt for the very ideals we stand for. America’s soul should not be sold in exchange for cheap oil. Our ideals are worth more than the extra dollar at the pump, or the extra workers employed at Lockheed Martin. It’s time that we sent a loud-and-clear message to the Saudi Government that its egregious assaults on human rights, dignity, and equality will not be tolerated by the United States. Khashoggi’s murder has given us the perfect opportunity to end this relationship. It is now up to the President and Congress to do it. Let us all hope they make the moral choice.
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