'Atrocities in America are equal, or worse': Trump confidant defends Saudi Arabia's Khashoggi murder

  • President Donald Trump’s close confidant Tom Barrack recently defended Saudi Arabia in the face of international condemnation over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi critic killed in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
  • Barrack said “the atrocities in America are equal, or worse,” but later apologised for not making it clear that Khashoggi’s murder was “inexcusable.”
  • Trump has also equated the US to its enemies.
  • The US has a checkered past on human rights, but today enjoys significantly freer speech and media than Saudi Arabia.

President Donald Trump’s close confidant Tom Barrack recently defended Saudi Arabia in the face of international condemnation over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi critic killed in the kingdom’s Istanbul consualte, by saying the US sees equal or worse horrors on a regular basis.

Barrack, an Arab-American real-estate billionaire who gets put straight through to Trump when he calls the White House, has been close to Trump for 30 years, and spoke at the Milken Institute MENA Summit in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, GulfNews.com reports.

Asked about the reputational damage to Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s killing and the following series of less-than-credible excuses from the kingdom, Barrack defended the Saudis.

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“Whatever happened in Saudi Arabia, the atrocities in America are equal, or worse” Barrack said.

“The atrocities in any … country are dictated by the rule of law,” he continued.

“So for us to dictate what we think is the moral code there, when we have a young man and regime that is trying to push themselves into 2030, I think is a mistake,” Barrack said, referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” plan to reform the country and diversify the economy as he inherits power from his father, the king.

Barrack then accused the West of failing to understand how things work in Saudi Arabia and being the biggest trouble-maker in the kingdom.

“The corrupt hand of the West has been the primary instigator in the kingdom, and in the resource curse across the region forever,” said Barrack, before praising Saudi Arabia and other Arabian states of having some of the “best organised leadership in the world.”

Saudi Arabia and the other countries praised by Barrack represent some of the world’s last few real monarchies.

Barrack apologised, but Trump may agree

Barrack later would apologise for “not making this clear” in Abu Dhabi that the killing of Khashoggi was “atrocious” and “inexcusable,” the Washington Post reported.

But Trump took a similar line in defending the kingdom, and has previously equated the US to its enemies, once responding to Bill O’Reilly calling Russian President Vladimir Putin, an accused war criminal, of being a killer by saying the US has killers too.

“We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?” Trump said in an interview with Fox News.

Trump responded to Khashoggi’s killing with an unusual statement that pushed the same moral relativism promoted by Barrack by bashing Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, and hyping up US-Saudi business ties. Trump has since blown through a congressionally imposed deadline to investigate and report on Khashoggi’s killing.

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The US routinely faces severe criticism from foreign countries for its colonial-era genocide of Native Americans and centuries of codified, legal slavery. Often, countries like Iran, China, or Russia will bring these historic atrocities up in propaganda messaging.

Barrack mentioned the rule of law in his discussion of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia allows for people to be killed for homosexuality or not obeying the kingdom. Saudi Arabia still sentences people to death via cruxificion and classes women as legally under the protection and care of men.

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Today, the US represents one of the great champions of human rights internationally and one of the first countries on Earth to guarantee equal rights for all citizens, though it still faces criticism for how it wields its military power.

Saudi Arabia has blamed Khashoggi’s murder on “rogue agents” with no connection to the Crown Prince, but the CIA has assessed with “high confidence” that the Saudi leader did order the killing. The kingdom claims to not know where Khashoggi’s body is.

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