There is no better demonstration of the moral and political rot at the heart of the American government than its increasingly poisonous alliance with Saudi Arabia. The latest atrocity is the disappearance and alleged murder of Washington Post columnist (and United States resident) Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Turkish authorities have reportedly identified 15 elite Saudis who went into the consulate, and U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted Saudi communications plotting to assassinate Khashoggi. After over a week, he has not left the consulate, and the Saudis have not produced him. In short, there is every indication that the Saudi government murdered him, chopped his body into pieces, and smuggled them out in blacked-out vans. Indeed, the attempt at a cover-up has been so lackluster that it almost seems like boasting.
This alliance must be destroyed. Saudi Arabia is no friend of democracy, liberty, or even common decency.
Let's just review some history. Back in the early 20th century, as European empires crumbled, the basic structure of the Saudi kingdom was established as a bargain between the House of Saud and local hardline clerics. The Saudi kings got political power, while the clerics were allowed great religious authority.
Even at the time, it was an almost cartoonishly outdated system: a tyrannical absolutist monarchy akin to the Papal States of centuries past. But gigantic oil strikes — the largest and most easily accessed in the world — allowed the Saudi government to basically purchase the quiescence of the citizenry and the goodwill of Western power. Oil kept the system tottering along — and the clerics exporting their violent, extremist version of Islam around the globe.
As a result, most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, a fact which sat somewhat uneasily with the Bush administration, who wanted to rely on Saudi support for their plan to remake half the Middle East into right-wing utopias at the point of a bayonet. But the abysmal failure of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the increasing irrelevance of Saudi oil as American and Canadian production ramped up after about 2009 — and the increasing harm fossil fuel energy in general does to the United States — did not dent the Saudi-U.S. alliance in the slightest.
The new Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman came to power in 2017, casting himself as a liberal reformer by stomping on the clerics, holding a few concerts, and doing a big lobbying blitz throughout the United States (including large bribes in the forms of staying at Trump-owned hotels).
Since then, it has become starkly obvious that bin Salman was just setting himself up as a ruthless absolute dictator. His domestic opponents have been reportedly kidnapped, extorted, and even tortured. A Twitter account closely associated with the government baldly threatened Toronto with a 9/11-style attack, after the Canadian government criticized the Saudis for arresting a women's rights reformer with Canadian family. (Later, the Saudis lamely claimed it was all an honest mistake). Even more jarring, it later turned out Saudis have have been arming, paying, and recruiting al Qaeda as part of bin Salman's quasi-genocidal war in Yemen. The Trump administration is aware of it and doing nothing.
And now the Saudis have reportedly straight-up butchered a high-profile U.S. resident and journalist, because he mildly criticized the brutal regime. Once again, Trump has barely mentioned the story at all. He has defended Vladimir Putin's murder of journalists; he clearly is going to make a few concerned noises at most and move on.
As Bernie Sanders noted in a recent speech, it seems pretty clear that the Saudis feel empowered by Trump. Due to his knee-jerk support for and ideological affinity with a violent authoritarian, they are sheltering under American power to commit one atrocity after the next — even against journalists employed by U.S. publications and our largest trading partner. This has nothing to do with American "interests" writ large, no matter how you care to define them — on the contrary, the kingdom is objectively harmful to them. It's nothing but corruption and right-wing political ideology.
And so should any sort of pro-democracy coalition ascend to power in the United States, it should very obviously ditch the alliance with Saudi Arabia immediately. That kind of despicable, murderous authoritarianism has no place in the community of nations.