A Murder Most Foul - And A Machiavellian Prince (#76)
The current World, which has been generally indifferent to mass murder of tens of thousands of people by ongoing wars, under some pretense of political necessity, the murder and possible butchering a one Saudi journalist, in a Saudi Consulate in Turkey, has inexplicably caught the attention of World and made it collectively retch in horror and disgust, perhaps by the sheer cold-blooded foulness of the deed. By most assessments, the killing was carried out by the direct order of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler and Crown Prince.
Jamal Khashoogi was a Saudi national, but a resident in the United States, a well known journalist writing for the Washington Post and prominent Arabic newspapers, and perhaps more pertinently to the story, a prominent critic of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MbS), who had risen to be the heir apparent and the Crown Prince, when his father King Salman elevated him to that position in June 2017.
During the relatively short period of time that Prince MbS has been at the helm of the Kingdom, he has been very active in attempting the transformation of the ultra-orthodox Islamic country from its almost medieval social structures and religious orthodoxies, to a slightly more modern society within the generally unchanging overarching fundamentalist Islamist foundation. Prince MbS brought some leniency, like allowing women to drive in the country (yes, in the 21st Century women in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to drive!), allowing women to attend sports events (properly escorted by family male relatives of course) more acceptability of women in the work force, and such, plus allowing the opening of cinemas to show carefully selected ultra-mild ‘family movies’.
Prince MbS also undertook some initiatives towards broadening and modernizing the Saudi economy from being almost entirely dependent on oil, to being a bit more diversified. All of these initiatives were necessarily in the early stages due to his recent ascent to controlling power in the Kingdom. Most of these initiatives were lauded by the World in general as good first steps towards a more tolerant and modern Saudi Arabia. But the Prince was no modern reformer.
“it is much safer to be feared than loved because ...love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”
― Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
The Prince chose fear as the primary means towards exerting total control over his Kingdom, and hence the title of this piece.
In November of 2017, the Prince shocked the World by having hundreds (reportedly 200 plus) of the most powerful of the Royal Family Princes, along with some of the other wealthy and powerful Saudis, summoned to the Hotel Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, where their phones were taken away, and had them held hostage in the hotel till they signed over Billions of their wealth in physical assets, shares of their companies, properties, and private planes to the Prince MbS (the State Treasury) without any transparency or legal recourse, but under the guise of a campaign against rampant corruption.
Reports of the siege of the most wealthy and powerful, indicate evidence of isolation, physical abuse, torture, threats and coercion, ankle monitors, and ban on any travel, even for the families and children. The absolute fear that the Prince’s harsh actions instilled in the powerful being stripped of everything was compelling enough to ensure total silence from those thus stripped, abused and humiliated. It was reported that apart from the many signs of physical abuse and torture, from the doctors treating such patients, they also reported one death.
Saudi Arabia, in many ways, is still a medieval Kingdom where public executions by beheading, by sword, are still the norm. Saudi Arabia is ruled by the doctrines of the Sharia law (almost akin to the Old Testament laws), so harsh and brutal punishments are not uncommon. Saudi Arabia is also the ‘Keeper of the Islamic Flame’ to the World, with some of the most important Holy sites in the Muslim World. So to the Prince, brought up in an environment of harsh retribution, silencing a journalist and sending a message of terror would not have been unthinkable.
Khashoogi was critical of the heavy handed measures the Prince employed to bring the large Royal Family and other powerful Saudis under his personal control through sheer intimidation and coercion. He was also critical of the Prince in Saudi’s apparent ties with Israel, its muted response to Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and the aggressive stance it was taking in the wars in the Middle East, including the brutal campaign Saudi was leading in Yemen under the direct command of the Prince that has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemeni civilians indiscriminately, and where millions more face starvation and famine.
Jamal Khashoogi was critical of the Prince, and it is widely believed the Prince had him murdered to send a message of fear to all those who might even think of opposing him, within Saudi Arabia or abroad. According to Turkish sources, Jamal Khashoogi was tortured, beheaded, dismembered in the Saudi Consulate, and made to disappear with the help of a local ‘collaborator’. The sheer audacity of having a Saudi national murdered in such a brutal manner, in a Consulate, on foreign soil, was designed to send an unequivocal message of terror to any and all dissidents, wherever they may be. Control by fear, as advised by Machiavelli to the Prince.