Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 21, 2018

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the leftist tilt toward Mohammad bin Salman

Filed under: conspiracism,Saudi Arabia — louisproyect @ 10:10 pm

Leon Trotsky wrote an article in 1938 titled “Learn To Think: A Friendly Suggestion to Certain Ultra-Leftists” that warned about basing your politics on putting a minus wherever your own ruling class puts a plus:

In ninety cases out of a hundred the workers actually place a minus sign where the bourgeoisie places a plus sign. In ten cases however they are forced to fix the same sign as the bourgeoisie but with their own seal, in which is expressed their mistrust of the bourgeoisie. The policy of the proletariat is not at all automatically derived from the policy of the bourgeoisie, bearing only the opposite sign – this would make every sectarian a master strategist; no, the revolutionary party must each time orient itself independently in the internal as well as the external situation, arriving at those decisions which correspond best to the interests of the proletariat.

For most leftists who are still connected to the planet Earth, the focus must be on the brutality of the Saudi state and the Trump mafioso that is finding ways to discredit Jamal Khashoggi. Typical was Glenn Beck who tweeted: “If the Saudis did what the world is now saying they did, perhaps we will see what we all already knew: we should not be in bed with SA! But let’s also remember, Khashoggi was with the Muslim Brotherhood and not a good guy either. Both sides are bad here.”

This is basically the same thing heard from the Angry Arab who was interviewed on the Real News Network. If anything, he was even more vitriolic than Beck: “For much of his life, for the whole of his life mind this last year, this man was a passionate, enthusiastic, unabashed advocate of Saudi despotism. He started his career by joining bin Laden and being a comrade of bin Laden. There are pictures of him with weapons. He fought alongside the fanatic mujahideen, who were supported by the United States in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan among others, against the communist, progressive side in that war. And he was unrelenting in his advocacy on their behalf, as well as for his praise for bin Laden.”

Do the beliefs Khashoggi held 40 years ago when bin Laden was leading jihadists against the Russian occupation really matter today? On that basis, I probably should be denounced by the Angry Arab for having been a member of the Young Americans for Freedom in high school.

It is consistent with the Real News editorial outlook to invite the Angry Arab. For as long as I have been aware, Paul Jay’s broadcasts have featured the kind of people diagnosed by Leon Trotsky in 1938, especially the Grayzone crew that got booted from Alternet. Among them is Ben Norton who got into the act by Tweeting:

So one has to wonder if Norton is taking the side of MBS. If the CIA is the greatest danger to humanity, why not defend someone who they are targeting? As it happens, there are signs that he has shared the analysis of the Saudi state press on important matters especially when it comes to dealing with al-Qaeda, a group that keeps Norton awake at night for fear that one of its agents might put a bomb under his bed.

In July 2017, he and Blumenthal wrote an article fingering one Bilal Abdul Kareem as an al-Qaeda member. Kareem had gotten on their wrong side by interviewing jihadists in Syria. But some of their indictment came from an unlike source—the Saudi press. Given their obsession with Saudi Arabia as the source of Wahhabist terror worldwide, it is odd that they would find its media reliable.

They article states: “In fact, the Saudi Arabian news outlet Al Arabiya reported on June 7 that Abdul Kareem officially joined al-Nusra in 2012.” It turns out that Al Arabia was full of crap. It reported that Kareem was guilty because the man who produced videos with him was also an al-Nusra member according to British authoritiesThis is the same state that is about to suffer economic hardship just so it can keep Muslims out and is also the same state that put down the red carpet for MBS just seven months ago. That doesn’t get in the way of Norton taking its allegations at face value.

As far as I know, the only other person who is warning about a CIA coup against the Saudi monarchy besides Norton is the Moon of Alabama blogger, a German only known as Gerhard, who wrote: “Recently Khashoggi started a number of projects that reek of preparations for a CIA controlled color-revolution in Saudi Arabia.”

What evidence do they offer, other than the fact that some people who formerly held top posts in the Obama national security apparatus go on MSNBC and CNN to denounce MBS? Isn’t it obvious that Donald Trump administration is so committed to that he likens the attack of out-of-power figures like John Brennan to the opposition to Kavanaugh? These conspiracy-mongers don’t really care very much if their predictions don’t bear out. Three years ago, I told WSWS.org cult leader David North that WWIII was not on the agenda just because Nicholas Kristof called for a stepped up defense of Kyiv. For this, I was labeled a NATO tool. When you are dealing with the likes of David North, Ben Norton, the Angry Arab et al, you are entering a fact-free zone unfortunately.

Some on the left (using the term in its most expansive manner) treated news of Khashoggi’s assassination as “fake news”. The Off-Guardian, an Assadist conspiracist website, was one example with an editor weighing in just three days ago: “Do we currently know the man is dead? Let alone who may have killed him? I don’t think we can make that claim. We have an allegedly vanished journalist. We have a number of unproven claims, of varying plausibility. None of this is evidence of anything.” Caitlin Johnstone, who sees the world in exactly the same way as the conspiracy-mongers at Off-Guardian, used the same argument on the same day, almost as if they had been in contact: “So stay skeptical. Just because the talking heads are telling you that Jamal Khashoggi has been brutally murdered and it’s very important that you care doesn’t mean you have to believe them. If this is a propaganda narrative to advance a new oligarchic agenda, there’s no reason to go helping them advance it. Eyes wide.”

Eyes wide? More like the title of Kubrick’s last movie: eyes wide shut.

16 Comments »

  1. Does anyone take the position that the Saudis were ordered by the US MIC to kill Khashoggi in the Turkish Embassy? If so I think that would be putting a minus minus where your own ruling class puts a plus. Maybe it depends on who the ruling class really is. Is it the rich, or just the rich bankers, or rich oil barrons, or just 4 star active generals, or both active and retired generals, or only the rich who belong to some secret organization like skull and bones, or only the rich with CIA connections?
    Why would such an assassination be ordered on such an insignificant figure? Well it clearly wouldn’t ever be done as it does not pass a cost risk benifit analysis. That is probably why no one publically, or even privately, takes such a position. Therefore Louis is probably going to yell at me publcally or privately for writng something so extremely speculative in which not a scintila of evidence is available to support such an assertion.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — October 22, 2018 @ 12:25 pm

  2. There is ‘fact-free’ and then there is ‘anti-factual’. Johnstone is ‘anti-fact’.

    “If this is a propaganda narrative to advance a new oligarchic agenda, there’s no reason to go helping them advance it.”

    What on earth is she talking about? A ‘new oligarchic agenda’? Can the Saudi political system be any more oligarchic? Not clear at all what she even means.

    I know what she’s trying to do, but how clumsy can you get with facts? The Saudi’s have STATED publicly that Kashoggi died in the embassy, and have already thrown a bunch of their own guys under the bus for the murder. I suppose Johnstone will now claim that the Saudi royal family is participating in this conspiracy to overthrow themselves, so that they can go underground and fund all sorts of reactionary politics around the world. But … ahem … they’re doing all that already, and in plain sight.

    Comment by Reza — October 22, 2018 @ 5:28 pm

  3. Here is some further real time speculation. Mr. Khashoggis murder has a carachteristic in common with another (mass) murder that happened 51 years ago, the attack on the USS Liberty.
    Both murders create(d) a public tension between allies. The narrative for both is some sort of accident. That led me for just a moment to consider the possiblity that this operation was set up to make the people calling the shots in Saudia Arabia as having a some independence from the US MIC. But, I dismissed that possiblity in 2 seconds. It is not 1967. Anyone with grey matter between their (y)ears knows that anyone connected to the Saudi securtiy and military apparatus does not even wipe thier ass with out getting permission from the Israelis first.
    So at the moment I am leaning towards the idea that this opperation is aimed at making the Turkish leadership appear independent of the US MIC. A narrative being circulated now is that not only are the Iranians competing with the Saudis for influence in this region but that the Turks are a third player. But if the competition between the US Republican and Democratic Party can be faked to fuck the American people why can the competition between the Turks and the Saudis not be faked to fuck the people of that region.
    An implication of this view is that Erdogan is an anti Turkish Traitor. I know that huge numbers of well meaning Turks will not want to believe that. Shit even I do not want to believe that. It iis outrageous to consider such a thing. Sadly we can not forget that we live on a outrageous planet. If it turns out that Erdogan was part of the conspiracy to attempt his own overthrow so that he could crack down on his opposition it is possible that certian promises were made to him about Turkey’s furture that convinced him to go along with such measures because in the long run they would be in the best interests of the Turkish people. This murder could be providing the cover to build on the narrative that Erdogan is an implicit ally of the Russians and a reluctant ally of the USA, that is willing to disobey the USA, when push comes to crunch.
    The next logical step in this chain of deception would be the assassination of Erdogan by people with shadowy connections to the USA to be able to build up an implicit narrative that the US MIC killed him because he had become to independent for the comfort of the US MIC. There would obviously be no overt connection between the assassin(s) and the USA. There would have to be some rumored connection that could not be proven. But a connection that would be plausible. The real reason for the assination would to create a new myth about how the new leader after Erdogan took control in Turkey and continued Erdogan’s policies at great personal risk to his own life.
    If by chance I my speculations are correct this correctness illuminates the incredible cleverness of the people who come up with these masterful plans to create an alternate reality for the public to consume. Even by bringing the truth to light there is no chance to hold anyone important accountable carrying out such behavior. Such things have been going on for at least a century and no one important has ever been held accountable. As the carrying capacity of the planet rapidly declines in the next several decades the number of such operations is going to have to even multiply to maintain good order and discipline amongh the masses as long as possible.
    When you get right down to it really is perfectly reasonable to blame the US MIC and its numerous allies for everthing that goes wrong in the world unless it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they were not behind it. A collary of this rule is that any evidence that exists which would tend to exhonorate the US MIC from responsiblity for something bad happening was manufactured by the US MIC to hide thier guilt. People who would consider themselves reasonable and American patriots will say that such a view is extraordinarly cynical and extremely stupid. But the last100 years of world history should teach such people that it really is that easy to know where to place the blame. A person can be a reaonable person. Or, a person can be a supporter the US MIC and the government which serves it. A person can not be both. Is my last paragraph preaching to the choir?

    Comment by Curt Kastens — October 22, 2018 @ 11:28 pm

  4. The Angry Arab is one of the harshest critics of the Saudi regime in the US, and he has been for years and years. He is not a supporter of Mohammed bin Salman. He is suspicious that the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia will cut a deal that will allow Saudi Arabia to maintain its favored status. He is critical of efforts in the US media to make Khashoggi into a human rights advocate, but that doesn’t make him a MbS supporter, nor someone who believes that his death is justified.

    Khashoggi apparently turned against MbS when it became apparent that even the elite in Saudi Arabia would be subject to harsh political repression:

    “As a member of the Saudi elite for decades, Khashoggi understood that political expression had strict limits in the kingdom, but M.B.S.’s apparent determination to quell even mild dissent on foreign soil left Khashoggi unnerved.”

    “But a month after his departure from the kingdom, Khashoggi’s view of M.B.S. fundamentally changed. Saudi security services arrested scores of prominent businessmen and imprisoned them inside the Ritz-Carlton under the guise of an “anti-corruption” crackdown. Khashoggi soon began hearing from friends in Saudi Arabia that prisoners were coerced, in some cases tortured, into turning over billions of dollars to the government. “It was tough. Some were insulted. Some were hit. Some claim they were electrocuted,” he said. The purge, which also included intellectuals, media personalities, and moderate clerics, convinced Khashoggi that M.B.S. had sold himself as a reformer when in fact he was a brutal authoritarian. “When the arrests started happening, I flipped. I decided it was time to speak,” he told me.”

    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/10/how-jamal-khashoggi-fell-out-with-bin-salman

    So, it’s understandable why elite US journalists would be alarmed about what happened to Khashoggi, it gives them nightmares that it could happen to them, too.

    Meanwhile, Khashoggi’s perspective about the ongoing US/Saudi genocide in Yemen was, shall we say, ambiguous, as expressed in his last column for the Washington Post. Apparently, if the invasion had been successful, he would have praised it as such, but Saudi Arabia needed to get out of Yemen because of the adverse effects upon the Kingdom:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/09/11/saudi-arabias-crown-prince-must-restore-dignity-to-his-country-by-ending-yemens-cruel-war/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.256f8d737099

    No one should be brutalized like Khashoggi was by the Saudis, and we should strongly condemn his murder. But he was perfectly willing to work with the US and Saudi elites. He did not challenge the fundamental hegemonic principles of their foreign policy. Accordingly, the perplexing questions are, why did it get to this point? Why did Saudi Arabia murder someone who has been historically supportive of the government, even implicitly in his last column for the Post? Is the turmoil within the Kingdom so serious that MbS felt that such an action was necessary?

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 23, 2018 @ 7:53 pm

  5. Richard, I regard the Angry Arab as an apologist for war crimes. Those without sins should cast the first stone.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 23, 2018 @ 8:37 pm

  6. Here is a thought provoking link that has a POV much different than the one that I expressed above.
    https://dissidentvoice.org/2018/10/the-earthquake-in-international-alliances/
    One facet of this article that I find very interesting is the sale of the Russian S400 missles to Saudia Arabia and Turkey. At 2 billion dollars each these sales are just peanuts. I have to ask myself not only what conclusions can be drawn as to why the Turks or Saudis would want to buy this weapon system from the Russians, but also why the Russians would want to sell these suposedly superb weapons to countries that have such aledgedly strained but still close organizational ties to the USA? Byzantine

    Comment by Curt Kastens — October 24, 2018 @ 12:36 am

  7. Strange people around you, Louis. There is currently no conflict putting Jamal Khashoggi against other forces where one would have to take side. Jamal Kaşıkçı (I prefer the Turkish ortography, because the name must be of Turkic origin anyway as the suffix -ci or -chi suggests), is dead, and it is up to us to ponder, not if his killing might have been justified for his vile associations, but how this event stands in the world wide conflicts of classes and empires.

    Well, Kaşıkçı (Khashoggi) was editor of Saudi newspapers, started a satellite TV channel, and was — as already noted — regularly writing a column for the US daily “Washington Post”. So it is fair to call him a journalist.

    And sure, Kaşıkçı was an insider to the Saudi regime, and it is very probable that he had contacts to the bin Laden family, a rich capitalist family. The Saudi regime and their cronies have financed and supported personally various reactionary armed actions in service of US imperialism.

    But after Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) was assigned the role of “crown prince” by his father King Salman bin Aziz, and MBS established kind of a personal dictatorship, Kaşıkçı preferred to stay out of the country.

    In the eyes of the young crown prince, Khashoggi symbolized the three-prong threat to his rule: the Muslim Brothers, the Turkish-Qatari axis and disaffected princes. When Khashoggi moved to America, Salman added a fourth prong: the element of the American elite that sought to downgrade Saudi Arabia’s friendship in US foreign policy.

    .
    .
    wrote Tony Badran and Michael Doran of the neocon misnamed “Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD)” in the October 18 New York Post “Why the Saudis despised Jamal Khashoggi”. About Saudi abductions of Saudi nationals see BBC’s “Saudi Arabia’s missing princes” (15 August 2017)

    So it was decided at an obviously very high level in er-Riyadh to eliminate Kaşıkçı.

    Before the Syrian civil war, this might have succeeded and the event being gone unnoticed in the world press, but the plan went wrong

    • a) because Kaşıkçı’s fiancée was waiting outside of the main entrance of the consulate for her soon to be husband, so that the Kaşıkçı impersonator, whom the Saudis brought with their team, to fake Kaşıkçı by wearing the dead man’s clothes, and leaving the consulate for the CCTV camera which saw him entering , could not get out there, but had to use the back door (which can now be seen in the TV channels), and

    • b) because the Turkish state did not cooperate as it would have done 10 years ago, but which had developed its own imperialist interests and conflicting ones to the Saudi especially in the Syrian war, and which had grievances with the USA for supporting the Syrian sister party of the Turkish PKK, the YPG; so the Turkish state is using this case to extort concessions from the USA.

    The US minister of war, James Mattis, stated on last Saturday at a conference in Bahrain that the Kaşıkçı killing is threatening the stability of the near and middle east. He is right, but he should also note that this murder is also a product of the continuing deterioration of the imperialist “stability” i.e. domination over the Arab East and West Asia and North Africa in general. Which made Mattis now calling for a (fake) “cease fire” in Yemen, so that they might impose a subservient government on the Yemenis without killing and maiming all day long, but only by threatening to resume the mayhem. Mattis laid out a complicated plan, but the US could very simply end the bombing by stopping to in flight refuelling the Saudi bombers.

    We should instead call for the immediate and unconditional end of the Saudi bombing campaign, the immediate and unconditional ending of US support for this war, and the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Emirati, and Saudi and US military and “security” personnel from Yemen.

    Comment by Lüko Willms — November 2, 2018 @ 8:04 am

  8. Addendum on what to do in the Kaşıkçı (Khashoggi) murder case as such:

    • Demand clarifications from the Saudi side about the whereabouts of the victim’s body or what remained of it after the perpetrators had dismembered Kaşıkçı’s body, and “destroyed” it, as the Turkish declaration after the visit of the Saudi public prosecutor in Turkey said;

    • Not to let those who are suspeced to have ordered the killing to lead the prosecution of the actual killers, i.e. for the 18 people arrested in Saudi Arabia to be extradited to Turkey so that they can be judged in the country where they have committed their crime.

    Comment by Lüko Willms — November 2, 2018 @ 8:34 am

  9. There was a report on Yahoo news yesterday that the Iranian government broke in to a crucial CIA communications system in 2009 and this leak was not plugged until 2013. I find this report very likely to be true because there is nothing to be gained by making such a story public. I myself find ths report quite very encouraging. It means that if my suspicions about where Erdogan’s loyalty actually lie can likely be proven or disproven.
    Although this Iranian Intellegence victory was a crucial temporary victory in the struggle against US and NATO (EU) imperialist plans outside of the USA it did nothing to inhibit such plans for inside the USA. The victory wss a defensive victory. Without the abilty to wage an offensive war of any kind against the US and its allies the victory of barbarism is assured.
    OK that is not meant to imply that the Iranians and the Russians and the Chinese are not imperialists themselves. So maybe barbarism is assured anyways. That issue of the extent of the barbarism of those countries is a seperate issue because it is the west that is on the stratgic offensive. (OK it is said by some that a good offense is an effective defence so America’s (the west’s) strategic offense could be a meta strategic defence).
    I needed to get that out of the way before I introduce my second point. If we agree that it is very difficult for socialism to develope in a single country, because such a country would be trapped inside of a global capitalst system, then western socialists should support the growth of anti western transnational regional institutions even if they are capatlistic in nature. If a person wans to see socialism develope in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, or Syria such a person would obviously see the need for socialism to develope in all of these counties. But a fractured socialism in which the national identity of each comes first can be no more successful than socialism in one country trapped in a global capitalst system. The union of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Azerjiban has to happen FIRST. The people of Mashad have to fell as much love for their fellow humans in Izmir as they do for those in Bam, and vice versa.
    It is the USA(the west) that is ultimately responsible for the lack of unity in this region. OK the Russian contributed by proping up Saddam in recent years. But they had crucial GEO strategic reasons for doing so which would not have been in the case if it were not for the actions of the western imperialists.
    If a socialst recognizes that the unity of Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Sryia, Kurdistan. Lebanon, and Azerbijan is a good thing they would not be able to deny that Islam as force could unify this region much much faster than socialism as a force. That would certianly not be good for the secular socialist Kurds in the short run. But these people have to be realistic. Like the Poles were in the past the secular socialists Kurds are screwed by geography. I hope that they believe me when I say that because I am the worlds greatest real estate agent. (Anyways even if I am wrong about that I am probably not wrong about the entire planet being screwed by climate change)
    But just as the real IRA never gave up neither should the socialist secular Kurds. In a region dominated by a belief that it is the Koran which is the foundation of a good society. Kurds and other socialists through out this region can continue to struggle by other means. They can use the same means that the confederates in the USA used after 1865 which led to their eventual triumph back in 1980. If the Kurds form reform movements in Islamic institutions they can attempt to convice people that they have been making mistakes in understanding what the will of God as revealed through the Koran and his prophet Mohammad is. The reformers can introduce the real truth to those Muslims who have strayed from God’s Guidance. The Koran could also be attacked head on. I do not reccomend that strategy.
    What is likely to be the outcome if my advice is followed. Most likey civilaization in the region will breakdown due to climate change by 2060 at the latest and everyone in the region will be dead by 2090. Almost as likely civilization, will break down do to some other environmental cause by 2060 at the latest and everyone will be dead by 2090. But if the effects of captialism do not kill the people in the region first Islam will have evolved to a point that people argue in public forums whether it makes any sense to call the region an Islamic Republic when any Marxist can see that it is in reality either a Marxist Sociailst Republic or a highly regulated MMT mixed economy welfare state, in all but name.
    There could be a role for attacking the Koran directly. But that should not be the primary focus. That will delay the process by creating greater ressitance and an increasein the chance of civil war along with it.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 3, 2018 @ 12:28 pm

  10. Two

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 3, 2018 @ 5:06 pm

  11. Three

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 3, 2018 @ 5:07 pm

  12. Four

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 3, 2018 @ 5:07 pm

  13. Five, that is all the comments that I am allowed to make for one day. Any further comments from me will have to wait until tommorrow. Which is about 6 hours away from here.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 3, 2018 @ 5:08 pm

  14. https://aeon.co/ideas/believing-without-evidence-is-always-morally-wrong
    Ok, but can this idea of evidence be clearly defined? Yes, my conjecture about the death of Kasshoghi is fact free. Does that by definition mean that it is evidence free? Didn`t Columbo start with some thread (aspect) of a case that was really small and insignificant and he would pull on it until the whole sweater than someone was trying to pull over his eyes was unraveled.
    It pisses me off that I am not in a position to ever get to pull on any threads. I just get to point out where some loose threads might be and I never get to learn if they actually went anywhere.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 5, 2018 @ 2:06 pm

  15. in reference to the above comment I might have made a mistake in asking if evidence can be clearly definded. Perhaps more important is questionng whether or not it can be scientifically determined which facts are relevent to belief and which facts are not relevent. If the relevence of which facts count and which facts do not count can not be objectively determined then the only thing that can be established is OPINIONS. Yes TRUTHS can be proven. That should not make anyone very optomistic. It is my opinion that the set of opinions is many many times larger than the set of truths. In my opinion that should not cause anyone to be pessimisstic as opinions can have value, (in my opinion of course.)
    I mention this because what I wrote above was fine for talking about the narrow question of why J. Kasshoghi was murdered. But for the bigger question of science(quantification) versus religion (faith) it is my opinion that it does not make any sense to say that believing without evidence is always morally wrong. Ok in a nutshell I guess my problem is that I do not think that there is anyone who believes something without evidence, evidence as defined by the holder of a belief. A religous person does not believe somethig without evidence. What the religous person accepts as evidence the scientific person does not accept as evidence.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 5, 2018 @ 10:44 pm

  16. Now one other thing that I wanted to point out. The author of that linked piece above was identified as a man who is in charge of Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong.
    It is certianly not written anywhere that a Banker can not be a good philosopher. Yet I believe that since the USA is a criminal rouge state that the Generals who defend this state and carry out its policies should not be assumed to be innocent until they have been proven guilty be a reasonable doubt of crimes. The things that they have done are so obviously crimes that they should be assumed guilty unless they can prove their innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. Because of who wrote the aritcle in the above link I now ask, should high level bankers be treated any differently than Generals?

    Comment by Curt Kastens — November 5, 2018 @ 10:54 pm


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